Thursday, 20 October 2011

Le Marche Futile

At last, we have arrived. After centuries of trying to improve our lot, become more humane, democratic, better educated, after getting to a point where we started to believe in our best ideas and finest ideals, to actualize them, to become inclusive of difference, to explore the world under the umbrella of multiculturalism, we have arrived at an unexpected destination. We have arrived at "teh stoopid".

This misspelling appeared on the Internet a few years back in response to some inanity posted by some looney on some forum. It was a rightwing comment that elicited this wonderful riposte. The original was something along the lines of "Teh STOOPID! It hurts!!"

This covers our current situation. All our collective efforts to create a "better world" have produced the opposite effect. The current state of our world is not good. It is our sad fate to have ushered into this world almost exactly what we have been trying to delete.

A sober contemplation of our world reveals that we have failed to achieve our visions of justice. We have failed to achieve peace, brotherhood, equality, solidarity. Instead of caring about each other, a viciousness has set in and hardened our hearts against each other and against the beauty that is this world.

Not because we reject our ideals as unworthy, no. This has happened to us because we didn't care enough to do anything about the incremental steps that led us here. Instead of extending ourselves for the good of our neighbors and society, we turned our compassion on its head and decided that the needy were somehow unworthy. We did this by denying in our hearts that human suffering is a condition of humanity and not of the one or two examples we cite to alleviate our own suffering. The poor, the homeless, the less fortunate all became the scapegoats for the hollowness that we feel inside. It is this hollow that has emptied out our world of all the qualities we aspired to express.

Many will say that this prognosis is naive or too idealistic, but I reject such self-serving criticisms from those whose real effort is to deny that what I am writing is indeed true. All of us who bought into the idea that money is more important than humanity, that acquisition of wealth is superior to distribution of resources, that privilege trumps the rights of all other humans, it is we who are the destroyers of our world.
For when we choose for ourselves and forget to choose for others as well, we end up choosing for the others all that which we would never choose for ourselves. In choosing for ourselves ruthlessly, we negate all the others who lack the opportunities that come our way.
But these choices were as fake as the consumer choices one makes in the soda aisle at the supermarket. Selfish choices create a selfish world. In choosing for the lies of market freedom and political liberty, we have fallen in step with those who know only greed and selfishness. We march in a futile parade, because the parade is not about any social values, only about personal and alienating values.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

...Mr. Nice Guy...

As the stream of police trucks and machinery arrive around the US to stop the legitimate protest and free exercise of rights by the citizens of the "world's greatest democracy", it is hard to see the end of this in anything but misery and violence, and triumph.
The people have spoken and the special interests have reacted with mace, lies, beatings, deception. How do they think this will end? The beauty of this moment lies in the history of social movements that demanded justice and fairness. "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.", said Ghandi. The man who helped free India, the father of that nation, the world's greatest democracy, knew of what he spoke. Obviously, such wisdom is wasted on the anti-democratic forces of the right, but rest assured The People of United States and the people of this planet know the value of Ghandi's struggles and insight.
"...then you win."

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Disappointing satisfaction

Disappointment implies satisfaction, but where is it born? Not in the same heart that feels the Void.
Not the emptiness that we fear, that friend called Death; that pure emptiness. Disappointment rides on the back of our attractions and commitments, scourging them with whips of prejudice and rejection. We fail as we choose and we are less as we become our choices. To not ally ourselves with the failed spectacle of daily life is to choose for ourselves in our empty hollowness.
Can’t see it? Can’t open our eyes to the blindness of preference and the failure of identifying with a world that can’t deliver what we really need? This constant choosing that claims to manifest us, make us belong, is weakness writ large.
The blind, at least, have the satisfaction that comes with their darkened sight. They know that they will never see. That must bring some peace, surely? Something less to have to choose for?
The rest of us, striving in this other darkness, have the illusion of light and understanding. We, the slaves of the sun and moon, see much less, because we deploy obstructions of preference. Embellishment is colour, form and structure.
What we like and what we hate stand in our way, and we think it is a bridge. But what bridge is so certain that it won’t collapse when overburdened?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The order of things

Chaos is the bed of creation. It affords possibility and being.

Order arises from chaos, yet the 2nd law of thermodynamics claims the opposite.
Entropy is the supreme chaos, yet affords no possibility.

Human affairs; the will to power and the order imposed on beings.
For all the reasons we inherently accept, we allow an order to be imposed on us as individuals.
This imposition is defining. It becomes you as you acquiesce to its dictates.
You become the role describing your behavior, your attitudes, your concerns and values, ultimately.
The myth of individual liberty claims for each of us the choice of being who we are.
The considered view of this myth against the backdrop of imposed order reveals unfreedom.

Even in democratic moments, the order is evident. Debates are limited to issues, these defined by the interests vested in the process of political economy.

But the consideration should address childhood, primarily. By the time one has matured into oneself defined by the context of imposed order/culture, very little originality remains from which to effect a deconstruction. Such attempts usually end in demolition.

The problem is encountered at birth and deepens with time. It is not enough to be born. One needs to become. And here is the crux of the problem. What to become, who to become. As if the self you are, your original consciousness is unacceptable.

The Ethic of Rejection

"Why?" Perhaps the most important question that arises in the quest for meaning, “Why?” is the standard for action and belief. By asking it, we can arrive at the validity of our logic.

Why, for example, do I choose to be a kind person, or why do I choose to be dirty...basically, why do I choose anything? Choice is a necessity, surely, but the chosen is queried or ought be. It is the mark of the examined life, it defines our position in the moral universe, so to speak.

The most basic form of the question is why am I alive? Why do I exist? These questions are fundamental in the quest for meaning and identity. Despite being essentially unanswerable with any certainty, the questions put us in the position of having to justify our existence and help define the quality of our lives.

When we act, when we choose to act in a given way, when we choose to be ethical it is because the question “why” informs us that our choice has inherent meaning for the kind of person one wishes to be.

From this beginning I want to explore the choices that flow from the asking of why.
In particular, I wish to explore the “problem of choice” and the nature of offerings, temptations and desires. In the attempt to find or construct meaning, I must choose carefully, and it is here that the issue of acceptance or rejection enters into the discussion.

Our world is a realm of choice. When we in the West speak of freedom, we mean freedom of choice, the biblical variant that allows us to choose between good and evil, specifically. But choice extends from the base of good and evil to the store shelves that display a myriad of products. Do good and evil apply to these quotidian choices? Does choosing a soda instead of a fruit juice amount to an ethical choice? Does brand loyalty imply moral characteristics? Is choosing one product over another a choice of one way of being over another way?

On the face of it, it seems a dubious proposition, afterall, most economic choices are a matter of price and affordability. But when we choose to boycott a product or manufacturer for use of slave labor or inhumane work conditions, the economics flow into ethics and morality. Buying products that cause physical harm to the workers who produce said product is a choice that some would call evil. Buying FSC trademark lumber can be seen as good. But where does this lead? In a consumer culture, the availability of new model goods seems to be the defining quality of choice. The latest phone or game console, the new model car or fashion item hardly seem to require much soul-searching. However, as the boycott represents a moral choice made through economics, the choice of any product is fraught with grave ethical consequences.

In the larger context of culture, choice has great import. Whether one chooses a given political ideology, party or policy is a matter of life and death in some cases. Nazism remains abhorrent, except to those who choose racism and genocidal policies. History is replete with ideologies that have been relegated to the ash heap. Our time seems to be no different as regards these choices.
Our age of consumer capitalism has already shown us that we choose deforestation, strip-mining, nuclear power and sweatshop manufacturing. We generally choose for these things in an act of willful ignorance, much the way “good Germans” chose the evil of the Nazi reign of terror and war.
The consequences for such willful ignorance was the destruction of Germany and it's subsequent partition. The choices made had dire consequences indeed.

Bringing us back to today; the economics of our lives should be a constant reminder of the necessity of making the good choice and not just the affordable, popular or trendy choice. Despite our thinking that our money is honestly earned, we fail to consider how easily that can become blood money.

I am not interested in writing a moral diatribe against our way of life, but I may have little room for anything less. Though I am loathe to agree with the extreme judgment that we are all just so many “little Eichmanns”, working at the levers of a system of death and destruction, the choices we make and pay for are inescapably tied to this system. As surely as pulling the trigger on an M16, buying Israeli products helps injure and kill Palestinians. I am not intentionally ascribing to antisemitism any moral authority, on the contrary, I am suggesting that the immorality is of our own making. By choosing to support economically the State of Israel, we choose to support its policies and practices.
To avoid such moral turpitude requires a firm commitment to an ethic of rejection.

What is meant by ethic of rejection? “Ethics” is the start of morality. The choices we make for ourselves, the choices that tell us who we are and what kind of person we are derive from acceptance or rejection of ethical premises and imperatives that are intimately tied to our quotidian practice.


It is an unfortunate development in post-modern societies that populations accept extreme psychological and behavioral control.
 The question deserves to be asked, "Why do we permit subjugation of our right to decide how to live?"
 There co-exists in this tolerance for control a tendency toward willful ignorance and avoidance. If we can just avoid the issues we can avoid having to choose for our selves and our lives.

 I am not a libertine or a libertarian, but I feel constrained by societal limitations placed on my experience of my own freedom and right to choose. I reject political claims that a human cannot be trusted to choose and to control ones own destiny. I reject the rules imposed on me by those who profit from terror, those who restrict and profile us for the sake of avoiding their own sins. I reject those who would tell me what I can drink, watch, smoke, think, say...I reject those who expect me to be what they want me to be.
I refuse this vile conformity that makes us all poorer, with the exception of those who are getting richer from our subjection. It is time to reject and to refuse the corrupt authority that is enslaving us incrementally.