Monday, 23 January 2017

Amorality of Nature - Knowledge of Good and Evil

Neither moral nor immoral, Nature is amoral. There are predators, there are prey, the frail and injured not to mention the vulnerable young and old are doomed to be either preyed upon or left to rot by nature's stubborn mercilessness and even the most superficial viewers of natural documentaries will realise that life in the wild is no piece of cake, weakness being promptly and summarily punished with premature death not to say extinction. 

However, a more profound view of such documentaries will highlight the fact that even the most merciless and cruel of predators, such as sharks or wolves, have a key role to play in the natural world and its essential balance. 

For example, my father reported to me an upsetting scene in the documentary series Blue Planet where a mother whale is fleeing a group of killer whales along with her baby offspring and these killers just bide their time knowing full well that the calf whale will not be able to keep up in the long run, thus falling under their teeth and providing them with their next meal. 

Yet, for all the upsetting quality of this predation and the mother whale's loss of her youngling, the food as eaten by the killer whales and processed by them is essential for smaller, scavenger types of fish to survive so that there is dependency on the predators who often also have a function of population control, a function necessary for green food not to grow too scarce through over-grazing. 

In the documentary Yellowstone, it is clear that the reintroduction of wolves in that American Natural Park located in the Rocky Mountains actually led to the reappearance of beavers because the wolves reduced the amount of elk who ate the beavers' food and prevented them from erecting their dams. 

It is also clear in that documentary how some species scavenge and scrounge food off weaker species who worked hard for it, just like the boom and bust financial credit system parasites off genuine human labour in return for virtual debt money that was created out of nothing.  

In popular culture, the series Breaking Bad in its second season makes character Jessie out to be a blowfish, i.e. a fish that is harmless but able to scare bigger fish away through the deception of growing in size at will. This is because he is believed to be a ruthless killer when in fact he is not at all.

Nature's cunning indeed knows no limit where survival is concerned. Witness the attractive looking, carnivorous plants that attract insects with their tasty secretions only to close in on them when these insects do get attracted and land on them.

We would be seriously fooling ourselves if we failed to acknowledge that such dynamics of deception, predation and cunning not to mention interdependency and inter-relatedness apply to the human kingdom as well. 

In fact rampant capitalism itself constantly preys on the weaker, the smaller, the more frail and, like the ecosystem, everything is financially interconnected in commercial society so that if, for example, motor cars were to disappear all manners of business, be it tyre companies, garages, driving instructors, traffic wardens, road and motorway constructors as well as oil giants would be out of a livelihood (at least theoretically). 

The same is true of the internet. Were it to disappear masses of businesses and private individuals would have their financial livelihoods annihilated and would have to find alternative means and platforms to make money and publicise themselves, resorting back to old-fashioned market squares or even barter. 

Taking myself as an example, I know to be a most predatory, damaging company for many retailers and that Amazon are known to treat their labour force very poorly, whether blue collar in their massive storage houses or white collar in the form of their corporate headquarters which employ cruel psychological techniques to get the most out of their employees.

Yet the platform is so universal and effective I have managed to make money from it via Amazon marketplace which enables individuals like myself to sell their stuff, recouping some of the loss I incurred impulsively and imprudently buying from Amazon! And of course Amazon took a cut from each sale I made despite the fact I was selling items purchased from them!

It is noteworthy that Amazon too is dependent for its business on the internet but also a working postal and home delivery service as well as a system of electronic payments online. 

Looking to the natural world in all its glorious if ruthless balance, Nietzsche went so far as to consider evil to be 'man's best strength' since forcing him to become strong and overcome his weaker instincts and impulses.

And there is no doubt that, historically, evil men have fared better in wars, politics and wealth than moral peoples. Indeed modern England itself is the fruit of a ruthless invasion involving brutal killing, raping and starvation started by predatory French Normans led by William the Conqueror.

The anti-war banner never saw the light of day in the Ancient World because giving up on war in those days would have meant de facto being conquered and sold into abject slavery and living at the behest of cruel tyrants and masters. 

Pre-socratic philosopher Heraclitus expressed this insight most laconically and earnestly when he stated
"War is father of all and king of all; and some he has shown as gods, others men; some he has made slaves, others free."
Perhaps eating from the Tree of Knowledge as Adam and Eve did in Genesis was the moment we as a species removed ourselves from Nature's 'Divine Law' as English poet Ted Hughes put it, however unforgiving and predatory that 'Law' happens to be, making us understand moral reality and thereby introduce moral evaluations into Nature's mix.
"Man means the evaluator." (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) 
After The Fall occurred, we experienced shame for the first time (including at our naked bodies) and became conscious of our baser and higher natures whereas before The Fall we were entirely at one with Being without the need for reflection or moral decision-making. It is now necessary to wilfully choose rightful action over wrongdoing if one is to be deemed moral. 

Now I am not preaching social darwinism, preying on the weak or some such satanic ideology - readers of my blog will know that I believe in the concepts of good and evil and Natural Law - but the fact is there are those who use people as means rather than ends, deceive them, exploit them, harm them every which way, including the young and infirm, and that by virtue of our Knowledge of Good and Evil such actions need always be condemned and never tolerated precisely because we have removed ourselves from pure Being and thereby have become, some of us at least, attuned to right-ful and wrong-ful conduct. 

A right is anything that is not a wrong (not some centrally granted legal entitlement) and a wrong is any action that violates the bodily and mental integrity of other sentient beings without their consent. Such violation constitutes violence. Violence is always a wrong under Natural Law since force used against violence as self-defence is just that - force. Force does not violate the rights of others if these have wrongfully initiated force (violence) against us. 

In conclusion, before moral evaluations are introduced into the mix, amorality is the rule, neither good nor evil. The acquisition of knowledge of good and evil introduces said evaluations into the human kingdom - which means that the concept of morality and therefore also its opposite, immorality, takes the place of a-morality, that level of existence which lies, as philosopher Nietzsche would say, 'beyond good and evil.' 

That philosopher regarded the transition from amoral evaluations to moral ones as a decadent regression, creating neurosis and instinctual corruption within mankind eventually leading to the advent of nihilism, the devaluing of the highest values manifesting in spiritual exhaustion. His hope for the overcoming of nihilism lied with creative individuals who would come to offer means of evaluation that do not pass judgement but instead apprehend and redeem the world as it is, not how it should be (see also Nietzsche's Position on Morality in Five Paragraphs and Relative Failure of the Nietzschean Project). 

Addendum - It is interesting to note that the substance of my position in this post regarding morality hinges on a book, Genesis, in the Hebrew Bible which of course became the Old Testament in the Christian tradition. Without 'knowledge of good and evil', i.e. without morality, how could one even begin to criticise the strong preying on the weak and other forms of social darwinism? To be sure Socrates attempted to challenge the perceived justice of the strong exploiting the weak in Plato's Republic. Nevertheless, it would seem that, despite the alleged conspiracies of Jewish Zionists to bring the world to ruin, the Jewish heritage is a great thorn in the side of those intent on global domination. Witness the statement by one of them, Adolf Hitler, according to which 
"The Jews have inflicted two wounds on mankind - circumcision on its body and conscience on its soul. They are Jewish inventions. The war for the domination of the world is waged only between these two camps alone, the Germans and the Jews." 
In other words Hitler hated the Jews precisely for their moral conscience whereas I am grateful for that moral conscience, my intentions being opposite to Hitler's and his ilk. 

Confidence & Con Men

The amusing comic above pinpoints a serendipitous linguistic truth with regards to the expression 'con man'. A con man is nothing more than a confidence trickster and to con someone entails gaining their confidence through deceit and cunning. 

It could be argued, moreover, that it helps to be con-fident (from the Latin con, with and fidere, to place trust in), or at least project an outgoing image of confidence, as did the iconic creator/business man Walter Disney - who privately was an insecure and shy man (at least according to his Wikipedia entry) - in order precisely to inspire confidence in others so that, if such is the intended purpose, they may be conned, i.e. misplace their faith. 

Successful politicians, such as US presidents, are masters at inspiring confidence in their populations giving a firm, sometimes friendly, face to a heinous imperial power and agenda. 

As the movie Back to the Future observes, Reagan's acting career would no doubt have helped him give off an effective, TV-friendly appearance as President in order precisely to inspire confidence and therefore con the American public which, let's face it, is the prime skill required of any presidential figurehead owned by bankers and other established spheres of interested influence. 

Barack Obama went back during his presidential tenure on practically the entirety of his campaign promises (see this video by James Corbett) and yet, despite the continuous lying, enjoys a vast approval rating now that he has finished his two-term presidency because he and his team have managed to engineer an image of affable, competent, man-of-the-people, straight-talking, unphased and cool respectability. 

To take these points further, one could say that psychopathic individuals - of which the political realm has no shortage - are the masters of confidence trickery as they are well known to give out surface, seductive charm in plenty and as being able to mimic relatable human emotions. This is on top of the natural predisposition and expertise they possess at manipulating others, e.g. by gas lighting them and subversively and covertly managing their perception, e.g. through transference of blame. 

Ethos of Revenge in Tarantino Movies

Django Unchained - a revenge movie both for the wrongs committed to the main character's wife by the despicable and affected slave-owner as well as the wrongs, more generally and abstractly, perpetrated by US black slavery generally. It is in fact the liberal-minded Christopher Waltz character, a white man, who kills the white slave owner, on grounds mostly of his boiled-up hatred of racism and its justifications for slavery, expounded at length by said slave-owner (Leonardo Dicaprio), not the black man who has himself undergone slavery played by Jamie Foxx. The latter takes his sweetest revenge against another black man, a house slave sold heart and soul to the cause of the slave-owner's immoral slave practice and even more sadistic in his treatment of black slaves than his master, despite being, well, black. No wonder did this movie provoke a degree of anger among black commentators. 

Deathproof - a movie of revenge against a particular psychopath who preys on young women and thereby also one of revenge of the female sex, portrayed very assertively in the film, against old-school macho men who delight in denigrating women. This is done also through making some of the women be just as interested in and partial to kick-arse cars and other typically male preoccupations like sex and drink. 

Inglorious Basterds - a highly fictional yet entertaining counter-factual movie where World War Two Jewish protagonists kill the entirety of the Third Reich high brass in a revenge storyline which only art and its imagination can bring forth after the fact of the historical events themselves. It is interesting to note that it is the Jewish woman (a self-proclaimed 'Jewess') whose family was massacred at the beginning of the movie who wreaks the most damage as opposed to the toughened up Jewish men known as the Inglorious Basterds who wind up playing a more minor role. 

Kill Bill, Volumes 1 and 2 - This is a marital, couple-based form of revenge which I'm sure many who've fallen out with romantic/marriage partners can get something out of. What's interesting here is that the main protagonist enjoys the revenge process for its own sake, as revealed by the end of Volume 2, and that she goes all the way, leaving no stone unturned, until she, the so-called Bride, is reunited with her offspring. The husband/father is utterly expendable despite taking care of the child in the mother's absence - a plot point that can be read from a feminist angle, an ideology not without some basis in revenge, as showing that men are somewhat redundant when it comes to the raising and nurturing of children. 

My Take: Tarantino in both his themes and his - let's face it - attractive aesthetic of violence and gore, not to mention foul language, can be seen as somewhat of a sick genius. He seems to have a fascination for themes of revenge in the hands of traditionally underdog demographics, be it African-American slaves, teenage women, female spouses or Jews. 

Oliver Stone I believe took umbrage with Tarantino's beautification of violence in his movie Natural Born Killers which is an ultra violent movie that seeks to put one off gratuitous violence in movies through precisely over exposure to gratuitous violence. Unfortunately Tarantino's gory efforts are in my opinion artistically more successful, not only in terms of direction but also in terms of light-heartedness and humour, than Oliver Stone's moralistic and largely misunderstood gory opus in all its heavy-handedness and barely concealed seriousness. 

Let it be noted, as a final word, that revenge is a very ancient artistic preoccupation, whether it be Homer's epics The Iliad and The Odyssey (where Achilles avenges his friend Patroclus' murder in the most brutal and unforgiving fashion in the former and where Odysseus kicks everybody's arse at the end of the latter, whether it be the suitors who attempted to seduce his wife and depleted his property in his absence or even the house maids who merely slept with them), Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy where Orestes kills his own mother out of revenge for his father's death at her hands which was itself committed out of revenge considerations or the heartfelt tragedies of playwright Euripides, such as Medea, Hecabe and Electra which show revenge in all its gruesome, raw reality. 

Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes

Irony was in plenty when I posted on Facebook
"Facebook is a great medium to realise how little one has in common with one's 'friends'"
only for the comments to this post to highlight precisely that fact!

The internet does show to a large if not complete extent how pissed off we are a as a species, constantly fighting, disagreeing and even hurling abuse at others that we've never met.

Looking at it all with some ironic distance, this permanent (online) war of all against all (bellum omnium contra omnesis rather amusing if a little pathetic. 

Perhaps South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had it right in satirising planet earth as a disjunctive, tragicomic and highly entertaining reality TV show for sentient beings throughout the universe to enjoy. 

Fertilisation in the Creative Process

The creative process can be understood both in terms of the feminine principle of receiving and the masculine principle of germination.

To take an example, creative writers are often vociferous readers of texts and as such follow the feminine principle of reception. 

In this state of receiving, something may catch and germinate in them, just as male sperm may at times fertilise female eggs, inciting and encouraging them to produce their own output: the child. 

Ditto, musicians will listen to and 'receive' the songs/compositions of other musicians and then, if this artistic wad catches so to speak, will somehow be moved to bring forth their own musical creation, often referred to as 'their baby'. 

As a creator myself it is always interesting to note which of the authors I read, artists I look at or musicians I listen to will be potent enough to germinate creative yearning in my own being and, by extension, new creations, i.e. artistic children, just as not all sperm comes to play the role of egg fertiliser.

Moreover, what we receive in-forms us just as the DNA contained in male sperm comes to combine with the DNA in a female egg to form a new, unique, child. 

That is to say, a creator's work, in whatever medium, may come to fertilise my own creative being which will bring forth a work (child) as a result and this child will represent a combined association of the (artistic) information that I received (the sperm) along with my own inner (artistic) sensibility/information that is already present in me (the egg). 

This is most obvious in music where bands are said to be inspired by and replicate the musical ideas of other bands, e.g. Nirvana and the Pixies, or in classical music where a specific musical tradition goes from composer to composer, e.g. Beethoven and Haydn, so that the artistic creation, the child, combines the DNA, i.e. information, of both the artist who inspired/fertilised as well as the artist who, so fertilised/inspired, brought forth/gave birth to the actual work. 

We can see therefore that art is rather like the long sexual chain of human generations, as artists fertilise (i.e. inspire) other artists who in turn fertilise others, all this creative information coming down through the centuries to shape the art we have today. 

The operative difference with sexual creation, however, is that the artist constitutes in himself both the fertilising man and the fertilised woman, if you will, since in receiving the work of other artists he is inspired (fertilised) to create (give birth) and this creation (child) in turn may inspire (fertilise) other artists who will bring forth yet more artistic children (creations), all this information passing down the line, just like D.N.A./genes in the (human) reproductive process.