December 14, 2010

but convincing:

“There’s a little book I like by the Quaker activist and educator Parker J. Palmer called Let Your Life Speak. Instead of trying to work out the right thing to do, the right way to live, where one should put their energies, he suggests an introspective listening. “The soul,” he says “speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions.” It is my experience also that insights arise when the bodymind is quiet, whether through meditation, walking in the woods, gardening, or simply through a certain acceptance of everything as it is. Even the things that hurt or trigger fear. This acceptance can also make space for a very different mode of politics that is not based around the idea of struggle, but on the direct experience of connection. It’s like that line from Guattari’s Chaosophy that you noted in your copy, Anja, something like “we don’t need to destroy capitalism but to stop producing it.” For what is there to struggle against? What does it mean to struggle against a way of relating to ourselves, each other and the land of which we are a part? For myself, I’m more drawn to methods of relating differently, in ways that may not produce capitalism or other patterns of domination. And to do this effectively, I’m learning to work with where I and others are at rather than to struggle against anything. I’m particularly inspired, here by the practice of nonviolent communication (NVC) which is based on the radically compassionate assumption that everyone is doing the best thing they can imagine to meet their life serving needs. And so for me, the key to revolutionary change is in nurturing our capacities for imagination, for empathy, so that each of us is able to imagine ways of meeting our needs but also respect those of other beings.”

Enlightenment is the human being’s emancipation from its self-incurred immaturity (“immaturity is a translation of Unmündigkeit ((…)) Mund means “mouth”, and a primary connotation of the term is not to be able to speak (and decide) for oneself). Immaturity is the inability to make use of one’s intellect without the direction of another. This immaturity is self-incurred when its cause does not lie in a lack of intellect, but rather in a lack of resolve and courage ((…))

It is not necessary that I think if I can just pay; others will take such irksome business upon themselves for me. The guardians who have kindly assumed supervisory responsibility have ensured that the largest part of humanity (including the entirety of the fairer sex) understands progress toward maturity to not only be arduous, but also dangerous ((…))

Statutes and formulae, those mechanical tools of a rational use, or rather misuse, of his natural endowments, are the shackles of a perpetual state of immaturity. And whoever would throw them off would nonetheless make only an uncertain leap over even the narrowest ditch, because he is not used to such freedom of movement ((…))

It is much more likely that an entire public should enlighten itself; indeed it is nearly unavoidable if one allows it the freedom to do so. For there will always be some independent thinkers even among the appointed guardians of the great masses who, after they themselves have thrown off the yoke of immaturity, will spread the spirit of rational appreciation of one’s own worth and the calling of every human being to think for himself. What is particularly noteworthy here is that the public that has previously been placed under this yoke may compel its guardians themselves to remain under this yoke, if it is incited to such action by some of its guardians who are incapable of any enlightenment. So harmful is it to instill prejudices, for they ultimately avenge themselves on their originators or on those whose predecessors invented them ((…))

Nothing but freedom is required for (()) enlightenment. And indeed it is the most harmless sort of freedom that may be properly called freedom, namely: to make public use of one’s reason in all matters.


December 13, 2010

What is the equitable degree of fame?

– assuming half the population as adults living out fame for one year through a 20 year generation, there can be 150,000,000 (or 5%) simultaneously famous people in the world

– this would mean that each person would have to have no more than 20 exclusive fans, that is the egalitarian threshold of fame; if someone is the object of significantly more recognition, they are idols

There’s nothing wrong with giving credit where it’s due. The question is, at what cost. Certainly, attention is not mutually exclusive, and posthumous recognition cannot be foretold. Also, depending on how we define the values, fair recognition can be extended significantly, at least from the standpoint of the ordinary person. But let the number be 200, the proportions in question don’t change the relevant equation by very much, because to be famous in the world today one must be recognized by at least millions of people (egalitarian fame solution / existing fame in global society = 20/gazillions = 200/gazillions = n/near infinity = about zero). These numbers speak not to the fact, but to the exaggerated valuation of some people over others, some values over others. Millionaires don’t take much from me personally, but they do take from what each of our little surplus could yield when gathered on our account. The same, I suspect, hold for fame.


December 13, 2010

He was of that sort of men whom experience only, and not their own natures, must inform that there are such things as deceit and hypocrisy in the world, and who, consequently, are not at five-and-twenty so difficult to be imposed upon as the oldest and most subtle. He was possessed of several great weaknesses of mind, being good-natured, friendly, and generous to a great excess. He had, indeed, too little regard to common justice, for he had forgiven some debts to his acquaintance only because they could not pay him, and had entrusted a bankrupt, on his setting up a second time, from having been convinced that he had dealt in his bankruptcy with a fair and honest heart, and that he had broke through misfortune only, and from neglect or imposture. He was withal so silly a fellow that he never took the least advantage of the ignorance of his customers, and contented himself with the very moderate gains on his goods; which he was the better enabled to do, notwithstanding his generosity, because his life was extremely temperate, his expenses being solely confined to the cheerful entertainment of his friends at home, and now and then a moderate glass of wine, in which he indulged himself in the company of his wife, who, with an agreeable person, was a mean-spirited, poor, domestic, low-bred animal, who confined herself mostly to the care of her family, placed her happiness on her husband and her children, followed no expensive fashions or diversions, and indeed rarely went abroad, unless to return the visits of a few plain neighbors, and twice a-year afforded herself, in company with her husband, the diversion of a play, where she never sat in a higher place than the pit.

To this silly woman did this silly fellow introduce the Great Wild, informing her at the same time of their school acquaintance and the many obligations he had received from him. This simple woman no sooner heard her husband had been obliged to her guest  than her eyes sparkled on him with a benevolence which is an emanation from the heart, and of which great and noble minds, whose hearts never swell but with an injury, can have no very adequate idea; it is therefore no wonder that our hero should misconstrue, as he did, the poor, innocent, and simple affection of Mrs. Heartfree towards her husband’s friend, for that great and generous passion, which fires the eyes of a modern heroine, when the colonel is so kind as to indulge his city creditor with partaking of his table today, and of his bed tomorrow. Wild, therefore, instantly returned the compliment as he understood it (…)


Mrs. Heatfree was no sooner informed of what had happened to her husband than she raved like one distracted but after she had vented the first agonies of her passion in tears and lamentations she applied herself to all possible means to procure her husband’s liberty. She hastened to beg her neighbors to secure bail for him. But, as the news had arrived at their houses before her, she found none of them at home, except an honest Quaker, whose servants durst not tell a lie. However, she succeeded no better with him, for unluckily he had made an affirmation the day before that he would never bail for any man. After many fruitless efforts of this kind she repaired to her husband, wo comfort him at least with her presence. She found him sealing the last of several letters, which he was dispatching to his friends and creditors. The moment he saw her a sudden joy sparked in his eyes, which, however, had a very short duration; for despair soon closed them again; nor could he help bursting into some passionate expression of concern for her and his little family, which she, on her part, did her utmost to lessen, by endeavouring to mitigate the loss, and to raise in him the hopes from the count, who might, she said, be possibly gone into the country. She comforted him likewise with the expectation of favor from his acquaintance, especially from those whom she had in a particular manner obliged and served. Lastly, she conjured in him, by all the value and esteem he professed for her, not to endanger his health, on which alone depended her happiness, by too great an indulgence of grief; assuring him that no state of life could appear unhappy to her with him, unless his own sorrow of discontent made it so.

In this manner did this weak poor-spirited woman attempt to relieve her husband’s pains, which it would have rather become her to aggravate, by not only painting out his misery in the liveliest colors imaginable, but by upbraiding him with that folly and confidence which had occasioned it, and by lamenting her own hard fate in being obliged to share his suffering.

Heartfree returned his goodness (as it is called) of his wife with the warmest gratitude, and they passed an hour in a scene of tenderness too low and contemptible to be recounted to our great readers. We shall therefore omit all such relations, as they tend only to make human nature low and ridiculous.

December 11, 2010

“J’étais sur la Bourgogne, tu sais, le jour où elle a fait naufrage. Javais dix-sept ans. C’est te dire mon age aujourd’hui. J’était excellente nageuse et pour te prouver que je n’ai pas le cœur trops sec, je te dirai que, si ma première pensée était de me sauver moi-même, ma seconde était de sauver quelqu’un. Même je ne suis pas bien sûre que ce n’ait pas été la première. Ou plutôt, je crois que je n’ai pensé a rien du tout; mais rien ne me dégoûte autant que ceux qui, dans ces moments-là, ne songent qu’à eux-même ((…)) La manœuvre fût si mal faite que le canot, au lieu de poser à plat sur la mer, piqua du nez et se vida de tout son monde avant même de s’être empli d’eau. Tout cela se passait à la lumière de torches, de fanaux et de projecteurs. Tu n’imagine pas ce que c’était lugubre. Les vagues étaient assez fortes, et tout ce qui n’était pas dans la clarté disparaissait de l’autre côté de la colline d’eau, dans la nuit. Je n’ai jamais vécue d’une vie plus intense; mais j’étais aussi incapable de réfléchir qu’un terre-neuve, je suppose, qui ce jette a l’eau. Je ne comprend même plus bien ce qui a pu ce passer; je sais seulement que j’avais remarqué, dans le canot, une petite fille que cinq ou six ans, un amour; et tout de suite, quand j’ai vu chavirer la barque, c’est elle que j’ai résolu de sauver. Elle était d’abord avec sa mère; mais celle-ci ne savais pas bien nager; et puis elle était gêné, comme toujours dans ces cas-là, par sa jupe. Pour moi, j’ai dû me dévêtir machinalement; on m’appelais pour prendre place dans le canot suivant. J’ai dû y monter puis sans doute j’ai sauté à la mer de ce canot même; je me souviens seulement d’avoir nagé assez longtemps avec l’enfant cramponné à mon cou. Elle était terrifiée et me serrait la gorge si forte que je ne pouvait plus respirer. Heureusement, on a pu nous voir du canot et nous attendre, ou ramer vers nous ((…)) dans ce canot,  nous étions, entassé, une quarantaine, après avoir recueilli plusieurs nageurs désespérés, comme on m’avais recueillie moi-même. L’eau venait presque à ras du bord. J’étais à l’arrière et je tenais pressé contre moi la petite fille que je venais de sauver, pour la réchauffer et pour l’empêcher de voir ce que, moi, je ne pouvais pas ne pas voir: deux marins, l’un armé d’une hache et l’autre d’un couteau de cuisine ((…)) ils coupaient les doigts, les poignets de quelques nageurs qui, s’aidant de cordes, s’efforçaient de monter dans notre barque ((…)) “S’il en monte un seul de plus, nous sommes foutus. La barque est pleine.” Il a ajouté que dans tous les naufrages on est forcé de faire comme ça; mais que naturellement on n’en parle pas.”

“Quand je suis revenus à moi, j’ai compris que je n’était plus, que je ne pourrais plus jamais être la même, la sentimentale jeune fille d’auparavant; j’ai compris que j’avais laissé une parti de moi sombrer avec la Bourgogne, qu’à un tas de sentiments délicats, désormais, je couperais les doigts et les poignets pour les empêcher de monter et de faire sombrer mon cœur.”

Elle regarda Vincent du coin de l’œil, et cambrant le torse en arrière:

“C’est une habitude à prendre.”

Puis comme ses cheveux mal retenus s’étaient défaits et retombaient sur ses épaules, elle se leva, s’approcha du miroir, et, tout en parlant, s’occupa de sa coiffure.

“Quand j’ai quitté l’Amérique, peu de temps après, il me semblait que j’étais la toison d’or et que je partais à la recherche d’un conquéreur. J’ai pu commettre des erreurs… et peut-être que j’en commets une aujourd’hui en te parlant comme je fais. Mais toi, ne va pas t’imaginer, parce que je me suis donnée à toit, que tu m’a conquise. Persuade-toi de ceci: j’abomine les médiocre et ne puis aimer qu’un vainqueur. Si tu veux de moi, que ce soit pour t’aider à vaincre. Mais si c’est pour te faire plaindre, consoler, dorloter…, autant te le dire tout de suite: non, mon vieux Vincent, ce n’es tpas moi qu’il te faut: c’est Laura.”

((…)) Vincent, tout en marchant, médite; il éprouve que du rassasiement des désirs peut naître, accompagnant la joie et comme s’abritant derrière elle, une sorte de désespoir.

In many respects, those who aspire to fortune or security, or anything that rests on money and privilege, could just as well aspire to such things under more challenging circumstances. But it seems as though the circumstances themselves are negotiable, despite these being mutually exclusive. They are lazy, those who are above others, because they don’t want the extra work that less money, less recognition, less space, and less patient assistance would entail. Nevermind that many more hustle with very little, though they can’t be as sure of themselves, despite the crazy stories they could tell. Perhaps the successful rich think themselves enlightened and better acquainted with what is worth wanting. God knows how they explain why such naturally desirable things cannot be obtained by every natural and real flesh-and-blood person of this world, either now in the richest countries and richest cities of the world, on in any empire of civilised history going back as far as when much of the world was uncolonised.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being lazy. Though the same cannot be said of denial and projection of shame.

privilege is disabling

December 7, 2010

To say that the poor are not otherwise because they cannot be or are prevented is to say that they would be were the tables turned. If they were in our place, they would be us, they would not be them. Poor people are different, they are not like us (though they are in other respects, just not with us as we are with them). There is no need to begrudge them, much less to make them or help them be like us. As far as we’re concerned, they are generous toward us insofar as we are rich. After all, they could with relative ease take over everything we’ve parceled-off parts of our lives for. If anything our anger, awkwardness, distancing and simplification ought to be directed at ourselves. These sentiments allow us to ignore that it is better to give than to receive. We do not trust that in their position we could rely on those who could to help, or negotiate with them to fulfill some of our desires. We do not believe in ourselves. That is why we do not do what we can. What we can do is to renounce othering ourselves, atomisation and isolation; to embrace the alterior, other selves, belonging, meaning, mutual inclusion and so on.