Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Thought 622: The God-Like Quality of Camera and Screen

The picture above is taken from the 1963 French film Le Mépris which, in an opening sequence, draws attention to the contrived nature of film-making by filming with a camera (a) a facing camera (b), itself seemingly in the process of filming given it has a cameraman at its helm, which is pointed at us the camera (a)-enabled screen-watching audience.

It has struck me for a number of years now, to the point where my sanity was questioned by my father over the issue, that the camera that enables the motion pictures of video to manifest by means of a screen that displays visual media, be it a TV, a smartphone, a cinema silver-screen or the laptop computer I'm currently typing into, can be read as being a character in and of itself, whether it be the all-seeing eye, God, the omniscient narrator of story-telling, human Da-sein as Master of the World (see How to Become Master of the World) or as the evil one of Christian metaphysics (see Lucifer, Light Bearer and God as Symbol), a self-effacing, i.e. screen-ing, window into another world or even Kubrick's 2001 monolith as disclosed by film analyst Rob Ager...

The camera enables not only the display but the recording of that which lies before its eye, in a way far more accurate and unforgiving than that offered by the distracted vagaries of average human perception and the fallibility of its memory (see A Brief Anatomy of Perception). As such, the camera is a form of technological witness to whatever is being displayed and recorded, consciously or not (as in the case of the hidden cameras of closed-circuit television), before its artificial lens that enables our human eyes, themselves embodied to our mind, to witness and evaluate that which is being (as in live recordings) or has been (as in most YouTube videos) captured by said lens, provided we have a screen on which the moving-images of video can be displayed.

Perhaps of more fruitfulness for philosophy is that, similarly to human perceptual apparatus, a camera's lens necessarily offers a point of view, i.e. one angle out of an infinite number of possibilities of a more or less persuasive, creative and manipulative nature, depending no doubt on the wielding consciousness - together with its intentional biases - behind and responsible for the camera's operation. Moreover, what one chooses, with more or less awareness, to 'put on film' - i.e. digitally record and show to the world - is itself a statement, just as the mere titles of all my 'thoughts' blog posts on ScruffyOwlet's Tree are themselves statements revealing only of my point of view.

Thought 621: Most Powerful Words

A case could be - and has been - made that, at least in the English language, but no doubt too in other tongues of the Indo-European family,

(1) the single most powerful word is no, which may usefully be contrasted with this electoral campaign banner for Hitler's successful bid for the 1933 German chancellorship, 

"One People, One Leader, One Yes"

since saying no, on top of its essential psychological role in interpersonal boundaries, is the beginning of selfhood which avoids the pitfalls of a slavish and unquestioning obedience, which is to say support
["for politics is not like the nursery: in politics, obedience and support are the same." - Hannah Arendt in her Eichmann in Jerusalem]
that pays no heed to the morality or meaning (i.e. truth) of the more or less veiled and coercive nudges towards conformity by powers of all shapes and denominations, including and especially that of money (see, inter aliaThe Power of Money).

(2) the three most powerful words are I was wrong which signal not only basic humility but the acceptance that truth lies outside the ego's perception and preferred comfort zones to decipher reality as well as a willingness to better oneself rooted in a psychology of continual life learning, understood as self-amending truth-seeking - as opposed to an established and fixed dogmatic truth-holding that wishes to impose its views on others (see point (1) of Truth: Six Aphorisms by NietzscheIdeology and Mathematics, The More You Know the Less You Think You Know) - that we may philosophically conceptualise for our purposes as knowledge.

(3) the five most powerful words are I would prefer not to as spoken by American author Melville's character Bartleby and by way of which the latter challenges with utmost effectiveness and to the utter perplexity of his employer the capitalist work ethic which relentlessly places its emphasis on capitalising (see Capital as Head - Capitalism as Capitalisation) preoccupations with obedient and productive doing (see also Limitations of the Work Ethic as Moral Paradigm and The Shining: All Work and No Play)

Bartleby's statement is an implicit appeal to (Aristotle's) philosophy of potentiality, thought through at length by the contemporary Italian thinker Giorgio Agamben in his book Potentialities (which includes the essay Bartleby or On Contingency), where it is stated that
"'I would prefer not to' is the restitution in integrum of possibility, which keeps possibility suspended between occurrence and nonoccurence, between the capacity to be and the capacity not to be"
drawing as it does from Aristotle's observations according to which
"potentiality (δύναμις) is impotentiality (ἀδυναμία) of the same with respect to the same" 
"what is potential can both be and not be, for the same is potential both to be and not to be"
which philosophy later came into conflict with the doctrine of God's divine omnipotence, the will of whom, for the purposes of theo-logical consistency, is bereft of potentiality and binds even God himself, since God cannot not be and cannot want what is other than his good will or divine economic providence for a Christianised mankind (οἰκονομία χριστοῦsince, if he did, that would lead to a nihilism and evil contrary to the very presupposition of an almighty God of Morality (see too Economy v Morality and The Cult of Capitalism).

With Bartleby's Christ-like intervention in the human spirit by means of Melville's pen, we are brought back to a salutary awareness of the fact that
"other living beings are capable only of their specific potentiality; they can only do this or that. But human beings are the animals who are capable of their own impotentiality. The greatness of human potentiality is measured by the abyss of human impotentiality."
Addendum - To provide an example for point (3), one employed by Agamben himself, the magnitude of Glenn Gould's pianistic genius can most effectively be measured by the abyss that would occur - at least, for those of us who appreciate this particular artist's artistry - should he have decided not to bring his piano-playing genius into actuality, in other words, if we measure his accomplishment against the nothing, das Nichts, which inheres in the non-Being or the privation with which all potentiality to do (or not to do) maintains itself. 

Agamben's argument is that a Glenn Gould playing the piano can only be matched by a Glenn Gould not playing the piano. However, what Agamben neglects to point out is that the impotentiality or non-Being that inheres in all human bringing forth (ποίησις which includes τέχνη - see Man Without Content) as well as what is pre-given (φύσις), such as the existence of humans itself, and against which we may measure all beings and deeds, including ourselvescan only be gaged from the perspective of that which actually is and has been brought forth, i.e. actualised. 

Actuality, or so it would seem at this preliminary stage of thinking, is the only prism through which potentiality (to be or not to be, to do or not to do) can be appreciated, let alone measured. By the same token we can say that only (human-)beings (as opposed to non-(human-)beings) can question Being and its beings and evaluate them in relation to the Nothing (of Being) and (the) non-Being (of beings) respectively.

Thus, had the aforementioned Glenn Gould been content with the mere option (potentiality-impotentiality) - available only to his particular genius (on which see the addendum to The Mulholland Drive Cowboy Scene) - to play piano à la Glenn Gould and not actually brought it to public awareness (actuality-inactuality), we of today would not be at means to appreciate and measure both the fully realised potential and simultaneous im-potential abyss that would have come to pass by his actually having been so content.

Thought 620: Heidegger's Silence

A sympathetic and thus necessarily controversial reading of Heidegger's post-war 'silence' on the unspeakable Nazi-led atrocity of the Final Solution - save the controversial (and not un-grotesque in its amalgamating simplification) first passage, one of two, taken in isolation from his Bremen lectures according to which
"Agriculture is now a mechanised food industry, in essence the same as the production of corpses in the gas chambers and extermination camps, the same as the blockading and starving of countries, the same as the production of hydrogen bombs"
- is that perhaps Heidegger felt the wordless statement that silence is was a more apt, respectful (see The Meaning of Respect) and philosophically literate measure of the horror-beyond-words of the death camps than a hasty, cheap and inevitably self-interested confession of guilt, whether individual or pseudo-collective, for the dire reality that involved the technological plundering and production of corpses on an industrial scale, robbing human beings like you or me not only of their lives but also of their very own deaths (see The Human Body..., the first addendum to 'The Life Doesn't Make Sense Paradox' and the Inevitability of Cosmic Ordering and the second addendum to Capital as Head - Capitalism as Capitalisation).

Indeed, the second passage of those lectures concerning the camps reads
"Hundreds of thousands die in masses. Do they die? They perish. They are put down. Do they die? They become pieces of inventory of a standing reserve for the fabrication of corpses. Do they die? They are unobtrusively liquidated in annihilation camps."
It is equally possible that, apart from the technological and being-robbed-of-one's-death angles cited above, Heidegger's thought, and therefore the man named Heidegger himself, did not have the resources and necessary distance in time for a properly philosophical appraisal of the Jewish Shoah - which also involved other groups of human beings, such as the Roma, homosexuals and people with disabilities, deemed unworthy to live by eugenicist Nazis - as was attempted - in my opinion, with great sensitivity and a lack of hypocrisy - by Giorgio Agamben's 1998 much-resisted-effort Remnants of Auschwitz.

However, I read Heidegger's failure to publicly apologise - in the modern sense of saying sorry as opposed to the Greek sense of Plato's Apology - for his voluntary implication in the Nazi regime, both in that involvement's more disturbing-damning as well as tempering-redeeming aspects, all - or most - of which have come to light in recent years due to the research occasioned by polemics and debates as to Heidegger's nazism and latent anti-semitism, in a much less favourable light, since there is nothing so noble and true - as opposed to vile and false - about nazism that it can be cheapened or falsified by a confession of guilt or a simple repudiation of all that it stood for (see the text and attached addendum to Amorality of Nature - Knowledge of Good and Evil). 

It is at this juncture that I will reiterate the point made in Relative Failure of the Nietzschean Project and, in a different way, in Heidegger & Arendt Controversies that, if feeling charitable and forgiving, we may be grateful for the errors of thinkers, condemned, according to Nietzsche, to be the 'bad conscience' of their time, in so far as
"they can teach us, provided we think for ourselves, as much if not more from their errors of judgement than their accurate and true statements." 
And wasn't it Heidegger who claimed
"He who thinks greatly must err greatly"? (see point (2) of Five Sentences from the Thinker as Poet)
Addendum - I would like to add, perhaps even more controversially, that what I have read or got wind of in terms of the polemics and newspaper articles attacking Heidegger and, more recently, Hannah Arendt as well, whose invaluable and insightful work is shockingly equated with the imbecilic contemporary 'ideology', more aptly termed 'hate vehicle', of 'white supremacy' (see A Fresh Look at Genealogy of Morality), that Nietzsche, a century and a quarter ago, pre-empted the lazy, lectio facilior tactics of the philosophically un-initiated (also referred to as the 'un-begun' or simply 'the dead' by dark occultists as per the testimony of contemporary de-occultist Mark Passio) when he wrote
"The worst readers are those who behave like plundering troops: they take away a few things they can use, dirty and confound the remainder, and revile the whole."

Thought 619: The Batty-Man

The iconic comic-book hero that is Batman is perhaps a little too well named in that in British-English, the adjective 'batty' - which is close enough to Joker's term of endearment for his alter ego nemesis, 'batsy' - has connotations, depending on context, of madness or homosexuality, both of which qualities have at times been attributed to the caped crusader, whether it be through pointing out, such as in Batman Begins, the evident lunacy of dressing up as a bat to fight crime or by means of the long-running gag - also referred to in an episode of Friends - that Batman and Robin are partners in more ways than just fighting homicidal bad guys.

Thought 618: Talking to Oneself

"Talking to oneself is the first sign of madness"  
says convention.
"Talking to oneself is the first sign you have any depth at all" 
says philosophy.

[Let us recall the case of Dostoyevsky's isolated and impoverished law student of Crime and Punishment fame, Raskolnikov, who gets into the habit of talking to himself in public such that he be deemed mentally ill by passers-by and yet, despite that, clearly possesses a profound soul such that it is riddled with a conflict between Nietzsche's so-called master and slave moralities, i.e. between the opposing examples of Napoleon's ruthless drive to superiority on the one hand and the Nazarene's self-sacrificing spirit of compassion on the other, at times combining both with mixed results (for a survey of these moralities in today's world see A Fresh Look at Genealogy of Morality). 

Nietzsche himself regarded Dostoyevsky as his only contemporary equal in psychological insight and held the novelist's tragic, existential-theologic heroes, such as, no doubt, Raskolnikov himself, as having admirable depth, a quality that is indeed valued by philosophers of rank.]

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Thought 617: Nietzsche's Fiery Zarathustra and Tolkien's Hobbling Hobbits

In the section entitled 'On Virtue that Makes Small' of his work Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche, as the prophet of Persian origin named in the book's title, chances upon "a row of new houses" and asks himself
"What do these houses mean? Truly, no great soul placed them there, as a parable of itself!
Probably some feeble-minded child took them out of its toy box? If only another child would put them back into its toy box!"
The prophet then proceeds to observe that
"Everything has become smaller!
Everywhere I see lower gateways; whoever is like me can still pass through, but - he has to stoop!"
filling him with the wish to
"return to my homeland where I no longer have to stoop - no longer have to stoop before the small ones!"
In the subsequent "speech on virtue that makes small" - one which I will not reproduce here but merely paraphrase by stating that, in Zarathustra's eyes, the (bourgeois) ideals of comfort, happiness and contentment and the accompanying duties of employed servitude, whereby even the rulers are merely the first jobholding servants (on which see point (2) in Four Ideas), are compatible only with a modest and increasingly captious virtue, i.e. one which continuously raises petty objections to the strong winds of free-thinking, leading to accomplishments and lives of a diminished stature since shying away from the creative juices that flow from the risks of danger and the dangers of risk - the following formulation has always greatly resonated with me
"Even they, of course, learn to stride and to stride forward in their way - this is what I call their hobbling. This way they become an obstacle to anyone who is in a hurry."
[The German term that 'hobbling' translates is Humpeln but as Walter Benjamin observed in his essay 'The Task of the Translator' (collected, inter alia, in Illuminations), translations enable written works to acquire new lives in foreign tongues which, as modes of intention that also belong to the realm of 'pure language', i.e. that which makes meaning (and thought) possible at all (which is my definition of truth - see Lathoron, a Philosophical Dialogue), contain the echo of the original within them but in the cultural vernacular of the translating language.]

The reason the choice of the term 'hobbling' - like the word 'perish' for 'zu Grunde gehen', also used in the English translation of the work (see Idle Note on Zarathustra) - strikes me as both thought-provoking and thought-worthy is that it creates a parallel and simultaneous discordance, which itself presupposes an underlying unity of focus, with English author J.R.R. Tolkien's (opposing and much more popular) ideal of the anarchist commune of Hobbiton, as inhabited by a well-known and Hollywood-depicted people of small physical stature named hobbits

In Tolkien's universe of Middle-Earth - as portrayed, inter alia, in his books The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales - we have remnants of a Christianised and romantic worldview that is arguably a literary equivalent of Wagner's musical operas, the very ones Nietzsche took issue with in minor works like Der Fall Wagner and Nietzsche contra Wagner as belonging to the tradition of post-platonic nihilism (see, in this regard, Heidegger's brilliant Nietzsche books), with the important proviso that in Wagner's case the inspiration comes to a great extent from the Arthurian legends, the very ones with which Tolkien sought to distance himself in his mythologising, in large part because they are of French as opposed to specifically English descent (see Founding Poet: The Christian from Troy). 

[And who do the English love to look down on more and consider infinitely inferior to themselves than their 'continental' neighbours across the Channel, usually on grounds of a purely projected snobbery and rudeness - including by the likes of a J.K. Rowling, an author I otherwise admire and who apparently shares my, and according to some estimates, Nietzsche's personality classification (see, inter alia, her stereotypical anti-French jibes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) - and who were referred to by the proudly thoughtless and vile ochlocracy, i.e. mob-rule, that currently prevails in the British Isles (see Thoughts on England, Divided Sickdom) - whether in Parliament, in Government, in the Media or in the comments sections that pollute the intertrap (see Daily Mail Readers) - as 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' - at least at the time of the build-up to the disastrous Iraq Invasion (see Immorality of Rome and Empires)?]

What more of a contrast in archetypes than a fiery Ancient Persian wanderer, condemned to an estranged solitary life, who exclaims
"Decline! Decline! The world has sunk so low!
Rome sank to whore and to a whorehouse too,
Rome's Caesar to beast, God himself - turned Jew!" 
and the gregarious, peaceable, pipeweed-smoking and beer-drinking people of small intellect and small ambition that are hobbits, forced to confront the evils of the totalitarian machinations of a Dark Lord intent on reuniting with his ring of domination?

[Do we not also have portrayed here, in parabolic form, the conflict between a little England of pubs, cricket and thatched-roofed cottages turned on itself and a European, particularly German and maybe even Russian, will to federate and to rule

And where do the United States of America fit into all this (see Heidegger's Oedipal Anti-Americanism)?

Isn't it the case today that the USA are the true heirs to Hitler's Germany, effectively forming a Fourth Reich?

But I digress.]

Addendum - To be sure, the implied analogy made in this post between Middle Earth's anarchist hobbits and the Nation State's petit bourgeois, such as I, as they appear in England, Europe and America, is both tendencious and stretched, save to note Walter Benjamin's true, if amusing, insight according to which
"there is nothing as anarchic as bourgeois capitalism!"

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Art 46: Manly Palmer Hall | drawing

Thought 616: Words and Peoples

As has become clear in this age of online verbal invective (see Twitter as Word Warfare, Bellum Omnium Contra OmnesUgly Word Warfare), nothing quite divides like words do, but the words as divisive sounds or groups of letters may themselves be reflecting divisions already present between individuals and group-identified humans (see The Warfare of Standpoints).  

Yet, if words-as-fractious cause friction and factions, it could be argued by the same token that nothing quite brings peoples together as much as words and, indeed, languages and tongues do.

Is it an accident that the three major religions of our age are book-based religions?

From a personal perspective, I wrote in Five Sentences from The Thinker as Poet that
"[the] ultimate aim in post Christian society is to find one's people, i.e. a people who think and speak the same language."
It was my distaste with dominant political and theoretical rhetoric - and their woeful lack of beauty and poetry - that made me turn to the writings of Plato, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Benjamin, Arendt, Agamben with all of whom I not only feel kinship but also recognition in the sense of co-belonging: we are the same animal and our fate as a species or type is a shared one (see, in this regard, Tentative Musing on Heidegger's Last God). 

It was also my distaste with the increasing commodification and cheapening of language as a mere tool for communicative, manipulating, levelling and judgemental intent (see Language is No Tool) that led me to (re)engage, on purely therapeutic-aesthetic grounds, with the treasures of Ancient Greek, Latin and German vernacular.

We have, in recent years, heard much of Martin Heidegger's moral flaws, but it is noteworthy that in a passage in his lecture Introduction to Metaphysics discussing what philosophy is and what it isn't, what it can achieve and what it cannot achieve, the German philosopher states 
"The burdening of historical Dasein, and thereby at bottom of Being itself, is rather the genuine sense of what philosophy can achieve. Burdening gives back to things, to beings, their weight (Being). And why? Because burdening is one of the essential and fundamental conditions for the arising of everything great, among which we include above all else the fate of a historical people and its works." (my italics)
Whether or not by 'historical people' Heidegger meant the German Volk as nationally determined or some yet-to-be defined - in the sense of delimited -  community (see The Meaning of Community) - I heavily lean towards the latter possibility, particularly in light of passages in Contributions to Philosophy concerning Die Zukünftigen, 'The Ones to Come' -  we can see that Heidegger understood what became clear to me in the midst of giving birth to Rank Ordering: philosophy at its root is essentially law-giving for the sake of a people, which would make Moses (and the Hebrews), Mohammad (and the Muslims) and Jesus (and the Christians) as philosophical as Pythagoras (and the Pythagoreans), Aristotle (and the Aristotelians) and Kant (and the Kantians) are legislators.

Please note that I am talking of law-giving, not law-making or law-imposition. The law is not arbitrarily contrived and imposed from above but rather gained from a philosophical struggle for truth and agreed to in advance by those who recognise, within themselves, the law's truth - i.e. its rootedness in that which makes meaning possible (see Lathoron, a Philosophical Dialogue) - for their welfare and prosperity as spiritual beings, thereby driving them to heed its call.

P.S. In light of the above, we can see that Nietzsche's Zarathustra is indeed correct, in his sermon On The New Idol, when he points to the lie of the State standing for the people for
"Creators it was who created people and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served the cause of life" 
as opposed to the will-to-dominate of the 'great brute' that beckons 'the preachers of death'. 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Thought 615: Anti-Zionists Should Blame Anti-Semites

Modern-day anti-zionists who take issue with the State of Israel and who, for whatever reason, see its actions and even its very foundation as a source of evil in the world should, if they are consistent, also blame the tradition of anti-semitism that reached its peak with the technological implementation of the Final Solution by the Nazis and their collaborators, since without the long-standing and widely-spread persecution of Jews occasioned by anti-semitic sentiment and praxis among Gentiles, modern Jews would have had less of an incentive and may not have been at all driven to seek a safe haven in the form of a recapture of the Holy Land by means of the political ideology of Zionism that gained strength and momentum in the late nineteenth century, at both the ground-level and within more established circles (these latter being the ones with which Rothschild-type conspiracies are uniquely focused).

Friday, 20 April 2018

Thought 614: Remnants of the American Dream in The Disaster Artist

The film The Disaster Artist is an entertaining and generally feel-good portrayal of the story behind the cult movie The Room, which some have termed "the Citizen Kane of bad movies" due to its hilarious and almost subversive low quality in all areas of motion-picture-making, including script, acting, decor, shooting, continuity and so forth. 

The Room is one of the best examples of a film being so bad it is actually rather good and even addictive, due to its high level of absurdity and amusing faux pas that jar and make one laugh all the more, given the higher and more predictable professionalism of almost all other movies in existence, thereby offering a degree of cognitive dissonance and spontaneity that the clinical methods of most Hollywood productions sorely lack. 

The more standard Hollywood recuperation of The Room in the form of James Franco's The Disaster Artist very much fits in with an American Dream type narrative, whereby two wannabe actor friends - Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero - make an oath to hit the movie big time in Los Angeles and, in a very roundabout way, achieve an unexpected celebrity outside the Hollywood studio system despite or even because of the ineptitude of the film Wiseau creates with his friend Sestero in mind (The Room currently has a rating of 3.6 on on the Internet Movie Database). 

The American Dream aspect is in fact present in the content of the original movie, since the plot concerns a rich banker Johnny who lives in San Francisco with a seemingly desirable fiancée, but crucially also applies to the fact that Tommy Wiseau, who plays Johnny as well as being director, producer and writer of the cinematic feature, is of unknown immigrant origin, together with unusual facial features and a distinctive Eastern European accent.  

The Disaster Artist provides an American Dream lens on the phenomenon that is the original movie The Room since it is that phenomenon that gave fame, over a number of years and against all odds, to a nobody immigrant (Tommy Wiseau) and a wannabe handsome actor (Greg Sestero) in the competitive, uprooted hell-hole that is the Los Angeles film and TV-making scene, this (2017) American Dream lens itself helping to restore faith in that Dream, called as much according to one cynic because "you have to be asleep to believe it", in today's more dis-illusioned (see Growing Up as Dis-Illusion-ment) and perhaps simply less naive world, especially as against a recent context of seemingly endless Hollywood sexual abuse scandals and increased polarisation in public 'political' opinion. 

There is, however, a caveat - or is it a confirmation? - to this feel-good story which is that it was Tommy Wiseau's formidable yet unexplained monetary wealth (see Spiritual Wealth) that enabled him to fund the making and showing of The Room in the first place and therefore bring his American Dream - at least as portrayed in The Disaster Artist - to realisation. 

This to say, therefore, that the variant of the American Dream that is in question here with The Room, together with its Hollywood appropriation in The Disaster Artist, is not so much one of a rags-to-riches story but rather one of a more mundane riches-to-fame variety, giving credence to the view that the faith in money in the United States of America is so entrenched that it can buy you anything, thanks in part to word-of-mouth and the intertrap, even when shunned by the established way of doing things and being bad at your chosen craft. 

In fact this is where the character of Greg Sestero, who plays Johnny's best friend in The Room, Mark, is key because the American Dream aspect is greater from his point of view, despite not being of visibly foreign-stock, having benefited from Tommy Wiseau's formidable wealth and memorable, meme-worthy demeanour that was immortalised in their film. It was indeed Sestero who wrote the book on the making of The Room that inspired James Franco's The Disaster Artist

Appearing from nowhere - to this day, nobody knows which country the maker of The Room originally comes from nor to what or whom he owes his fortune - the James Franco incarnation of Wiseau appears as an almost Christ-like figure, sudden, charismatic, child-like and life-changing all in one, initially crucified by critics but resurrected by popular demand in the long run, bringing a glimmer of hope and good-humour not only into the cut-throat and contrived reality of the acting and film-making trades of the Hollywood area but also into the bleak and blasé pessimism of our disillusioned epoch.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Thought 613: Market Victory

It would seem, after decades of enforced and - by and large - approved ultra-capitalist and anti-collectivist dogma, that the justifications for market-based forms of monetary (re)distribution - where the producers of 'goods' and providers of 'services' are enslaved to the whim of money-giving investors and consumers who, in the latter case most of all but also in the former, can be nudged, more or less forcefully and legally, by 

(1) the psychological techniques of marketing departments (such as perception management that induces a fear-based sense of scarcity and a false sense of urgency, subversive and subliminal symbolism and imagery in advertising, the easy-to-spot preying on compassion in the so-called charity sector, the very designs, brand names and even prices of luxury, non-essential items like smartphones and video games consoles, the capitalisation on herd-instinct imitation and conformity and not wanting to be the odd one out who is habitually bullied or, more politely, sidelined), 

(2) the use of addictive properties, including in engineered junk food and the interface mechanics of, inter alia, social media and gambling websites, not to mention hook-based exposure contrivance in current mainstream pop music, 

(3) the formation of market cartels and monopolies and the buying (or legislating) out of practicable alternatives, including in vital areas like food and medicine,

(4) the (government-enabled) privatisation of life necessities like healthcare, shelter, transport, together with the underpinning energy sources required for technological existence,

(5) the driving down of prices through the increased exploitation of cheap labour and the accompanying capitalisation (see addendum 2 to Capital as Head - Capitalism as Capitalisation) on liberalised, 'market-friendly' legislation - as expressed in the 'relaxation' of labour, corporate, financial, tax, health and safety, anti-monopoly laws and regulations - that allows even greater leeway for corporate incorporation and employer predation (see Corporations as Incorporators and Culture of Fear in the Workplace),

(6) popularity contests, such as on YouTube and sister websites like Patreon and others that use PayPal and BitCoin, for the donations of viewers and readers,

- have finally come to be seen as more legitimate, natural, beneficial and fairer than tax-enabled sectors - such as, indeed, ScruffyOwlet's Tree - which are kept afloat in defiance of the so-called free market (so-called because markets are never really 'free' from the tyrannies of human need and monetary greed), which is to say consumer demand (see No Money in Philosophy), in so far as many of these sectors (apparently) respond to considerations - such as those of a redistributive, educational, artistic or safety-net kind - not immediately pertaining to money-making-money (capital) and the profit motive but do nevertheless entail the enforcedcoerced and therefore involuntary taxation of a nation's population that oftentimes disagrees with the legitimacy, efficiency and need for these sectors (see The Problem of Taxation - Importance of Morality)

In fact, as I have stated several times before, taxation these days is precisely being used to dismantle opposition to market victory - such as still stands in yet-to-be fully privatised public services like the National Health Service and in the form of those who claim on the State for their living - and the further financing of the (despoiling and plundering) merchandising trade of business entities known as corporations which in some but not all cases are first enabled by ground-level market feedback in the form of a high volume of sales and investment money.

Another point of consideration would be how the internet together with its dominant platforms (Amazon, Google, YouTube, Ebay) also shapes and even pre-determines the market, including prospects of earning an intertrap (internet) based livelihood (see God as Leviathan - The State as False God), as well as consumer behaviour and preference (see also Rite of Passage - Commercial Predation and Amorality of Nature - Knowledge of Good and Evil). 

[Indeed it would come as no surprise to me if Google knew me better than I know myself, despite years of exploring my psyche's data (see Know Thyself - My Example and Stages and Contexts of my Thoughts), not least because Google has at its disposal a gigantic pool of inter-trap based human activity to draw from in its mathematical calculations (see too The Internet as Apocalyptic Motor and Computed by Computers) and the fact that it has exhaustive and objective data on the type, content, time and place of my daily internet usage as accumulated over years, the entire history of which I cannot possibly begin to archive and get to grips with without being, well, Google.]

Philosophically speaking, and with the dubious perspicuity of hindsight, it seems that market victory in the form of State-enforced and State-supported (corporate) capitalism (see Eighteen Ideas, point 17) was more likely to gain ascendancy, power and favour than less market-driven alternatives for being more in line with the interests of the powerful as well as the democratic instincts of the many (see Considerations on the Right-Wing Working Class Vote) who dislike, not without justification, those, like your humble narrator, who are afforded a privileged status in the sense of not being (currently and temporarily) as enslaved by the rat race and the dominance of the most competitively ruthless in contemporary life, not to mention long-standing majority disdain for exceptions to the rule, such as philosophers, who are routinely blamed for all the ills that befall mankind as though the multitudes and their 'leaders' play no role in shaping human destiny (see Thinkers as Exception-al, Rank Ordering, Leaders and Followers, Morality and the Big & Powerful, Amorality of Nature - Knowledge of Good and Evil, Nietzsche's Position on Morality in Six Paragraphs).

To take this blog post to a deeper level we could say that, further down the line, both market and tax-enabled sectors are premised on the talismanic, occult qualities of money (see Money) which lend credence to the statement that
"God didn't die, he was transformed into money"
uttered in this interview with Giorgio Agamben, albeit with a proviso that could be made as to the possibility that even the (sociologically and technologically) entrenched cult of money in today's world (see The Cult of Capitalism and Truthfulness and Money) consists in little more than what Nietzsche's madman called the inevitable "divine putrefaction" of the Christian God "who bled to death under our knives" in his famous speech of section 125 of La Gaya Scienza (and discussed at length in Heidegger's essay Nietzsche's Word: God is Dead, collected in Off The Beaten Track).

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

En français 7: L'élevage des élèves

Autre particularité sympathique de la langue française: le mot élève, l'enfant qui est (bien ou mal) élevé par l'élevage tant familial, environnemental-social, qu'écolier.   

En français 6: Se Livrer - Être délivré

Se livrer en tant qu'individu - par exemple sur les réseaux sociaux ou aux médias tant de masse que (dits) alternatifs - signifie tant se donner dans la forme d'une livraison personnelle que, en quelque sorte, s'emprisonner, si on considère le sens et le fait d'être dé-livré, c'est à dire libéré de la pression des autres permettant à nouveau d'être maître de soi-même et de sa destinée.

Ainsi, pour me prendre en exemple, le fait que je me livre spirituellement sur ce blog me rend à la merci du jugement, favorable ou défavorable, de tout internaute et co-habitant planétaire, bien que je suis en réalité fort bien protégé, d'abord, par l'anonymat de l'internet en tant que vaste banque de données digitales où pratiquement tout se perd, ensuite, par le fait que la lecture philosophique n'est pas une (pré)occupation de masse et, finalement, par le fait que j'ai désactivé la possibilité du commentaire par souci de minimiser la tendance à l'hostilité verbale envers laquelle est proie toute pensée ou action autonome et ce, sans doute, depuis le commencement.

En anglais, livraison, dans le sens où par exemple un paquet est livré, se dit delivery et la délivrance, comme celui que Nietzsche préconisait dans son Ainsi Parlait Zarathoustra au sujet du "ressentiment contre le temps et son 'il était'", se dit de façon analogue deliverance.  

La distinction riche-en-pensée entre se livrer et être dé-livré, entre la livraison et la délivrance, est pour moi un joli détail de la langue française.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Thought 612: Six Ideas

(1) A glaring and therefore easily overlooked point about the 1984 movie Amadeus - which is a fictionalised account of the life of Mozart as seen through the eyes of a rival, lesser composer named Salieri - is not only that Mozart's genius was, as portrayed in the film, of a higher order as well as more facile, popular and less hard-earned in terms of personal sacrifice (to God) than the more hard-working, puritanical and sexually abstinent genius of Salieri - thereby breaking the popular myth of a mathematical proportionality between expounded effort and resulting reward  - nor is it simply that Mozart spontaneously and therefore unconsciously rubs his superior musical and artistic gifts in Salieri's face, but that it is only Salieri who recognises with accuracy the extent of Mozart's genius within the latter's lifetime, long before his ever-rising and spreading posthumous glory. 

Following the principle according to which it takes one to know one in the sense that it is more readily given to the great to recognise greatness as well as the truthful to recognise truthfulness (and therefore also their opposites, pettiness and deceitfulness - see Truth: Six Aphorisms by Nietzsche), we may provide a sympathetic reappraisal of the screenplay character of Salieri who, although self-admittedly responsible for Mozart's untimely death, was also Mozart's best, i.e. most understanding and most appreciating, audience as well as witness, preserving the measure and quality of Mozart's gift to the world in the form of a belated confession of his crime against humanity in having deprived it early of one of its greats. 

(2) A distinction of classical philosophy that may need reviving for the benefit of our self-understanding and our self-flourishing as free spirits in this, our technologically driven world of systems, is the one - first popularised by Aristotle's immediate successor Theophrastus in his Φυσικῶν δόξαι (see Heidegger's essay Anaximander's Saying collected in Off The Beaten Track) - between what owes itself to nature (φύσει ὄντα) - or "that which brings itself forth by arising out of itself" - and what owes itself to artifice (τέχνῃ ὄντα) - or "that which is brought forth through human planning and production". 

This distinction might be of particular relevance and use for those who wish to follow their own nature and instincts, which is to say all that arises spontaneously from their being and understanding, including cosmifying desires of an aesthetic-artistic or spiritual-intellectual kind (see The "Life Doesn't Make Sense" Paradox and the Inevitability of Cosmic Ordering), in a way that does not conveniently fit in with the planned preferences and expectations of established institutions and conventions (see How to Avoid Regret and The Superficiality of Normality), nor with the countless distractions and (com)petitions (see The Meaning of Competition) for our time, energy and attention as they arise, more or less compellingly, coercively and unavoidably, from human apparatus (as newly defined by Giorgio Agamben in What is an Apparatus?), such as money's empire and the necessities for biologic, technologic and sociologic existence that are obtained and won only through monetary purchase and the neg-otiation it requires (on which see The Meaning of Negotiation; for attempts at understanding money as a social technology see Belief and the Value of Money Meme, the addendum to The Shining: All Work and No Play, The Cult of Capitalism and Capital as Head - Capitalism as Capitalisation). 

(3) A merit of the Bridget Jones films, however mediocre and unpalatable one finds them to be, is to bring to cinematic light a phenomenon well and long-known to philosophical speculation, literary art and popular experience: the preponderance of love triangles to form around existing and potential couples which, being tri-angular, add spice, complexity and conflict to what would be boring and, from the viewpoint of life's constant need to overcome itself, all-too-easy monogamous settlements, whether legally recognised as marriage or not, between one person and one other person (for more on relationships see Reading Early Signs in Relationships, Negotiation in Relationships and Romantic Relationships).

(4) Revolution is not evolution in so far as the word revolution implies a mere rotation going from point A at the top all the way forward (and back) to point A, admittedly only after a midway point at which the bottom part of the circle temporarily reaches the top. 

Similarly the number 12 on a clock dial can mean both midday (see The Great Noontide) and midnight, just as the sun's equinox happens at Spring and Autumn and its solstice at Winter and Summer (see Esoteric Wisdom with Mark Passio (1): Christianity). 

Thus we could say that, while in a political or a spiritual revolution, however long it takes, the bottom rungs reach the top at the halfway point, which is to say at a 180 degree rotation, the revolution would only be fulfilled, i.e. complete, when those previously at the top return to the top and those at the bottom return to the bottom in accordance with the original positions - which itself might prompt a further revolution and so on ad infinitum

Thus, strictly adhering to the semantic, intended content of words, a workers' revolution against capitalist exploiters would indeed result in a 'dictatorship of the proletariat' at the halfway point - the great midday, so to speak, where the downtrodden become the mighty and the mighty the downtrodden - but would not evolve into a classless society of limitless leisure as prophesied by Karl Marx but instead revolve into a return to capitalist exploitation as the order of the day - once, of course, the revolution's cycle comes to its concluding which is to say starting point (the great midnight?). 

(5) Aside from choosing which part or wing of the self-branded and self-appointed political class is to (apparently and visibly) rule the State government, one could make a case that elections serve a deeper, more pervasive and hidden function of diffusing, through the demo-cratic weight that comes with the announcement of intermittent majority preference (although in practice the majority preference as expressed in the popular vote is not always victorious due to how votes are counted, even without deliberate rigging), the intensity and quantity of (party-)political bickering and contention and thereby enable a greater degree of freedom from (party-)political invective and strife in everyday civil existence, in so far as those who voted hold the belief that the election, once the results media-tised, actually decided and changed something, whether for better or worse, that is no longer up for decision, which is to say, debate. 

In this vein of analysis we could interpret elections, once they come to a close, as having a cathartic, release-valve-effect for a nation state's body politic in terms of the passions of narcissism, resentment and hatred, particularly after the accumulated emotional effects (poison) of weeks of political campaigning in all it has to offer in terms of cheap thrill and horror (for more on elections see The Electoral Process as DeceptionThe Problem of Taxation - The Importance of Morality, Elections, Political Diversity, Thoughts about Voting, Electioneering, Trump and Clinton, Personal Presidents, Commonplace Thinking: Winners and Losers, Modern Politics is for Children, Brown Fingers, Resentment and Politics). 

It could be argued that even a defeat of one's preferred wing of the party-political bird still serves a cathartic function of self-clarification, in so far as it forces one to come to terms with the numbers of (opposing and perhaps dominant) public opinion.

[I am aware that the last US presidential (s)election did not result in a lessening of political bickering by commentators - not least because Trump's victory was achieved through the popular vote being trumped - and that the preceding Obama administration also met with constant hatred and invective from 'the opposition's' media parrots but please note that the argument above was explicitly stated as constituting a case that could be made.]

(6) Philosophy and politics as callings and life vocations are clearly at opposing ends of the extroversion-introversion spectrum, philosophy being largely an introvert's domain concerned with (wo)man's salvation through wisdom as opposed to the socially-oriented field of politics that concerns the relations between (wo)men in all they have of glorious contradiction and tension (see The Dangerous Quest for Political Consistency). 

[In fact, myers-briggs-based personality websites that give four-letter types for the famous and infamous, past and present, tend to confirm a pattern whereby philosophers are introverts and politicians extroverts (see Effects of Personality Type).]

Indeed, it might even be the case that the more the politics, the less the philosophy and the more the philosophy, the less the politics. It is noteworthy in this respect, to use a classic example, that Cicero wrote his philosophical tracts only when his political career was on the wane, suggesting that, for the Roman senator, politics was the priority and philosophy the consolation, implying that both could not be reconciled or combined simultaneously, except by means of an idealised discourse of political philosophy (the 'square circle' of which I discussed in Eighteen Ideas).

Of more import, perhaps, than the discourse of political philosophy is the manifest relation between politics and philosophy, which is to say, between the philosopher and his fellow (wo)men. In this respect, let us recall Martin Heidegger's words, "I cannot help you", uttered to the self-avowed semi-politician and journalist-interviewer of Der Spiegel who, throughout the exchange of "Only a god can save us", seemed to be speaking on behalf of das Gesellschaft, i.e. society, which is to say public opinion - the inauthenticity of which, not without irony, Heidegger had already pointed out in Being and Time as the rule of das Man, the they-self (but really of no-one) over the authentic self of Dasein - together with the they-self's reactive habits of moralistic reprobation and indignation.

For my part, I suggested in the final addendum to Five Sentences from The Thinker as Poet that it may be the case in our current world era that the contemplative and the active life, the βίος θεωρητικός and the βίος πολιτικός, are in fact one and the same in the sense that both aspire to the condition of being free, the meaning (as opposed to the goal or the end) of (properly-understood) politics lying in the freedom to move and speak among one's equals, as Hannah Arendt opined in her notes posthumously published under the title Was ist Politik?, What is Politics? (yet and perhaps never-to-be translated into English).  

[In that book, Arendt distinguishes between the meaning of an action (or phenomenon), which inheres in the action's being, i.e. its very taking place, as seen against Being, which is to say philosophically, the goal, purpose or aim of an action which provides its why or what-for as a means (the wozu in German) and the end of an action which is the used standard or measuring scale that lies outside its taking place against which the action is (or should be) judged.

So, to use an everyday example, the meaning of cooking is to prepare food for eating (i.e. what cooking is), the purpose of cooking is to replenish the organism with life-sustaining nutrients and energy (i.e. why cooking is), and the end of cooking might be whether or not it brings an increase in quality of life through being tasty, healthy or both (i.e. how - or the measure against which - cooking is - or ought be - judged).]