Category Archives: Personal Life
Wendell Rodricks’ “The Green Room” (2012) is a surprisingly well-written, candid and gritty memoir. As a gay man in homophobic India, with consensual intercourse between adults not conforming to the penovaginal staple being punishable by law until recent reforms, he stands an exemplar of what cunning, silence and a well financed itinerary can do for non-conformists, even more so for the quickly ascendant nouveau rich set in the industrial complex of glamour. It is a testament to the branding power of lucre, capable as it is of making minorities the fulcrum of its most vaunted and feted strongholds: the business of fashion.
Being appreciative of his cut in matters sartorial I was still sceptical of the cut of his prose, yet, this here work has allayed my prejudice against the gilt-set potentates of fashion and H/Bollywood, at least until such a time as their inept memoirs are published to contrived fanfare. Having said that, the memoir in question is beset with punctuation related and lexical errata, convincing me strongly that Wendell’s hand may have yet held to the keyboard through the introspective roiling that is autobiography; my pet peeves being the numerous blundering periods, which continue on despite their fatal obstinacy in between a running sentence; there are also a small number of grammatical stillbirths prepped up on otherwise impressive paragraphs.
Wendell’s tastes in food and wine are laboriously diverse, and refined, in a ménage of cacophonous European indulgences and Goan fare; his eye as a traveler is set on historical currents, local cultures and his aesthetic is informed by a penchant for leisurely cultivated synesthesia, by which he seems to translate the geographical, the topographical, into clothes/ money periodically in his dreamt on vacation collections. All in all, the memoirs are a satisfying read, breezy as sheer net and sharp like Wendell’s cubist ensembles.
Today, I sat in front a small gaggle of Korean students, each more studious than the ones I remember from my earlier days as teacher in Georgia, and watched them try to decode “Politics and the English Language” by Orwell. The essay seems archaic now, although the Marxiod cant I speak about has been in my life recently, but the other “degenerations” of which Orwell speaks seem so common place now that the human is almost lost on us, and definitely lost on those whose knowledge of English is, at best, fluent in only daily speech.
What struck me was that Orwell seemed only too correct about the direction of political jargon: the meaningless phrases, the bizarre and clumsy grasping for the Latinate to substitute for an air of the scientific, the softening of the euhemerism, and the braying dishonesty of it all. Yet something else struck me: an anthropologist, whose name has left me, said “language was designed to hide communication.”
Indeed, my students know my body language, without special attention, will betray my truths: be those students from Georgia, South Korea, or Germany. The fundamental facet of most languages is that they enable dishonesty in and of themselves. The reflection of the sign and of the signified—the various systemic syntaxes and semiotic games—they miss the fundamental beauty of the language game; it has nothing to do with truth, but perhaps cohesion.
This doesn’t take away the danger of jargon mongering. The words which Orwell already saw so emptied of meaning that they could only be used dishonestly: freedom, equity, the various ramble of class classifications, progress, degeneration, and so on. These prime virtues, without the rooting in a concrete context, are not even lies.
So I stared at my students awhile and thought about the ways I had tortured language. I am a poet: I torture language knowingly, breaking it into more rhythmic form, adding the necessary metaphors and overlays, and reassembling the day. Plato kicked us out of the Republic, but mostly out of jealousy. So the bewitchment of the language games we play, the reification games which make our thoughts both thinkable and empty, are my stock and trade.
But even the good “honest” plain English which Orwell lamented the slow decline of was rooted in the fundamental shielding of language. Big Brother or no big brother, the game is not about truth.
I am unsure if the river cranes lie, although, even if they could, they do not do so with the symbolic toolbox with which we have developed.
Yet another thought comes to mind, as I type this in the common room of a faculty apartment drinking a cheap German important beer—South Koreans sadly seemed to learn to make beer from Americans and thus have the thin-water “pilsner”, made with mostly with rice grain that one can find in most American mass market swills. I am listening to some music from a decade ago, and I am reminded of how un-semiotic music can be. It is representative but in a way which is not entirely tied to any sign, and, as I listen, I remember a car fire.
The summer after 9-11, M. and I were driving to see his family in Atlanta. The 1992 Mercury he was in started a plume of gray-black smoke from the undercarriage, and in a traffic re-direction on the interstate, passer-bys started honking at us in the consistent and annoying hum that only almost made cars seem smug. The radiator was noticeably overheating, but being an hour from any city or a pay phone, we kept on.
As the smoke whipped the sides of the Mercury, we noticed he was wearing a “Burning Airliners” t-shirt: a band almost forgotten now which had the unfortunate name after 9-11. I had been inspired by the band name to write a poem, somewhat problematically entitled “Burning Airliners Remind Me of Patriotism,” which became unintentionally a painfully obvious joke. We started laughing about this when we realized the car was on fire and our smoke had its heat.
We coasted the car into a parking lot and waited for M.’s family to pick up us from a pizza parlor in the strip-mall which I doubt survived the last American economic downturn. The music brought it back to me, but it also brought back this conversation from the same trip:
“You knew something like that was going to happen?” M. stared into the road waiting for traffic to pick up.
“I suppose I guessed.” I stared off.
“That night, you watched two girls make out on your couch watching a movie about DeSade as you waited to hear from your girlfriend.” M. slightly sucked spit out of his mouth as some math rock band came on the c.d. player.
“Yeah. You did too.”
“Did it surprise you?”
“No. I figured some dumb fuck flew into a building by mistake. Then I just shrugged. Thought maybe some militia man like in Atlanta a few years ago. Things are going to change. We’re heard that shit for a long time.”
“Yeah. I was afraid. I figured a pretentious movie, maybe some sex, and beer would take the edge off. It felt like the end of something.”
“I suppose it did. I was scared shitless for S.” I said¸ letting my guard down. She was in Eerie, PA, but Johnstown was her home and a plane had gone down near it. When I married S., we would visit it as a defining moment: trinkets and memorial plagues lining a gate in an empty field surrounded by the white bars of birch trees.
“So why’d you watch them?”
“Because they were both crying earlier that day, I guess. C.’s father is in Mexico and stuck outside of the border. L. is just numb. Tension, I guess.”
Then there was no words between us, a crescendo of Miles Davis on the mixed c.d. came across the car. Soon the radiator would be on fire, and we would have other things to talk about. Burning Airlines and all.
I was no stranger to tragedy or stress, but the collective mourning inspired hedonism as a way of coping with tears. Words failed me. Watching two friends kiss each other to avoid being afraid and being invited to watch as a voyeuristic distraction was as close to mourning as I could get. The word games couldn’t hide that about me or about the anxieties of the five students we were rid that day. My future ex-wife being away across the country, and I had a fictionalized account of DeSade keeping me company.
As I write this, there are no birds outside the window here in Jeonju. I am over a decade and an ocean away from those events. I may be in the world of Orwell’s double speak, and I learned more about double speak in the years since those days. But what about false insistences of action? What about double-praxis?
I still can’t tell if this bird flies.
I periodically disabuse myself of a kind of writing that is more interesting to me, and generally hid it in poetry on the left hand and dense, grammatically botched philosophical reflections on the right. Being an intensely personal and guarded man about a few things, and yet quite open about things which most people would hide in shame. Perhaps I have a certain disconnection—a hint of the autistic glare, the mad boundaries of the diasporado, which I am increasingly.
In short, for most things, I find myself—despite or even perhaps because of my own self-absorption—a bad subject.
So if you’ll forgive the indulgence, the past two years have been a world wind to ride me across the ocean, watching the shards of economies and opinions which, frankly, left me with the notion that I am not alone in being a bad subject. Since the 1970s, there has been the never-ending boomer and Gen-X prattle about the fragmentation of the society and subjects. In a way, this may be an illusion of communication: we record so much of our thoughts that there is no revision to make unity or coherence.
What the old American fascist, Ezra Pound, called a will to order is perhaps a will to value itself, and the flood of expression, in its twitter debris and Facebook flotsam, makes necessary revision towards cohesion impossible, or at the very least, impractical without the artifice showing like poorly formed rafters. In this sense, the narratives of our life, produced in milliseconds after experience itself but even in the instance is still almost immediately reflection, is also the jumbled half-created flotsam that gives birth to man and woman it’s very duck-faced iphone image is the same just the jumbled Demiurgic urge that has always been at the root of the way we construct and see ourselves, despite the imperatives of biologic and cultural being.
But where is the concrete here? The order of abstraction is just superimposition (Superstition), the order of the rock, the demarcated concrete abstraction, may be superimposed upon, but if I throw it at your face you’ll know it, and I’ll probably need to clean the blood from the floor.
I was walking down the Osan River outside of Yongin-shi, I noticed what looked to be kingfisher on the water and a few cranes. The air smelled of spring and raw sewage, although it was likely just plants down the way from the mountains. Living outside Seoul in a time of “river renewal” led to a lot of sporadic and unfortunate wafting off the thinning fresh water outlets. Recently divorced and expatriated, chewed up and spit out from three years of the working in as a non-union teacher in an area filled with the normal racial tensions, good ol’ boys, obesity, and diabetes I came to expect from living in the exurban South Eastern US, I couldn’t take my mind off of the bird. In the strange high-rises which perforate the even the outskirts of farmland in Korea, I had noticed the birds through the yellow dusted air.
“Every thought derives from a thwarted sensation” says another philosopher of near fascist pedigree, E. M. Cioran. In the wing of bird, I thought back to Marx’s writing on species-being, on the animal without alienated impulses, and for a moment I allowed myself that romantic notion. Only for a moment though. A second thought came to my mind, a paraphrase of Nietzsche on mercy: “if you cannot help a bird fly, help it fall faster.” Then I thought of my ex-wife.
I suppose it is clear why I wasn’t married anymore.
The thwarted sensation at hand was recognition of something like freedom. I had broken with my past, broken with the onus of trying to save poor Southern kids from Walmart hotdogs and poverty from day labor, broken from a woman who should have just been amongst my bestfriends, and broken with the conventions of America.
Notice, however, the thwarted sensation led to a thought that was thwarted. I could have as easily watched kingfishers in Georgia. My cell phone, a colleague was asking me to join him for lunch, and perhaps mid-afternoon rice wine. One of the advantages of no longer driving a car was that after wine became a much common occurrence in life.
“What we want is not freedom but its appearance. It is for these simulacra that man has always striven. And since freedom, as has bene said, is not more than a sensation, what difference is there between being free and believing ourselves free?” says Coiran.
The naïve realization from birds: I wanted the romantic narrative, and I knew it’s a lie. To help a bird fly or fall, one must know what the bird truly is and what direction the wind is blowing.
So we begin.
I realized that Americana now seems a little worn down and even a bit alien to me after living in Asia, officially, two years. I don’t blog on my life here much and the blog may be on haitus for a few weeks as I move to a new job in Jeonju city, working for a high school and university there. I will also be visiting Japan, so posting my be sporadic, and this is why it has been sporadic. Anyway, I am beginning a new interview series on writing and ethics, and adding to the marginalia on skeptical thinking.
So when I while they may be a few more posts, if the hiatus is more than a few days, but sure to check in because I have some stuff gearing up for August.
Some self-reflection in light of the Yeon Deung Hoe Festival and my exhaustion over reification, plus my fiancee.
“Why don’t you blog more about this?” my girlfriend asks as another lantern rolls out of the plaza near Insadong neighborhood in Seoul.
“You mean commenting on flying Buddhas with weird television screens going down the center of a parade in Seoul?”
“My readers have come to expect an impersonal obtuseness and a reliance of strange readings of Hegel that makes one seem hip.”
“To say ‘seems hip’ means you’re not, love.”
This was the first bit that started this reflection after seeing the fifth or sixth traditional Korean drum dance at Hoehyang Hanmadang. I avoid writing that way because there is some small solace in an impenetrable writing style and an insistence on absolute consistency over time. But there is a limit to that sort of thing when you realize that many of your readers are reifying concepts in a way that makes you wonder if you are doing it too: if you wonder this, it is probably too late. So when I talk about liberals or the left or regression, I realize that language is obfuscating and alienating. It’s part of a “discourse community” that frankly most people could not give two flying fucks about.
It also artificially lowers my own interests which are about left politics, but also the philosophy of science, ontology, epistemology, Buddhist and Confucian Studies, and poetry. While watching the lotus lantern parade, I kept thinking about objects, subjects, and the strange history of Korean and Japanese Buddhism. I kept them about how much I enjoyed a Subway sandwich after not eating them much for almost two years, and about how beautiful Korean started to sound to me, and how close Japanese sounds to it. I kept thinking about endless discussions about history and regression in which history is treated as a ontological force, like a good, which is both human and not. I kept thinking about all the reification of the idea of the left, which, like the reificaiton of religious concepts, becomes both emptier of cognitive and more full of intuitive content over time.
All these axioms can become exhausting, so I am trying to shift gears: To focus on my daily life and its context, the objects of philosophy and the limits to philosophy. More about religion and other cultural elements, and maybe less obscurity and more humor from my daily life.
You can thank a lantern of Buddha and my lovely fiancee for a reminder than even those of who spend time in highly abstract places need to be more rooted in daily life.
For that, I thank her, and move on to other notions: So coming up are more reflections on life here, more interviews in both politics and outside of it: An interview series on the Skeptic’s Movement and the Philosophy of science, a interview series on continental philosophy outside of Hegel, and an an interview series on various religious lefts as well as other things.
Also, a poem for you to enjoy, an excellent one by Gwendolyn Brooks, called “kitchenette building,” which despite it simplicity, one can feel the soft, almost dialectical build-up, of the tension between the humanizing of hope and the abstraction of dreams leading to despair. The simple rhythms build in a way that causes you to miss how much is pasting between the simpler shifts of pronouns and abstractions, which almost seem to dance between symbolic and non-symbolic uses.
People who read my short stories and, more likely since more of it is in print, my poetry, or even editorials I have written, are generally surprised by the strange idiosyncratic density to way I use language in polemic and philosophical writing. Often technical in a odd way, favoring very specific uses of the word, and privileging the technical to the everyday, but in a non-analytic way, which can be infuriating. I, like a strange macrobrew made from bitters, pumpkin, and ashes of Hegelian philosophers, can be an acquired taste in this form. I know it limits my readership, and often, pisses people off. You know, fine grain distinctions that I assume are sort of obvious really aren’t obvious. It’s my fault that I can’t seem to communicate without really subtle caveats, but I can’t. It is frustrating, however, to get accused of holding opinions you don’t hold: I get read as a post-modernist, anti-science, scientistic, conservative, liberal, moralistic, immoralistic.
I think everyday language, however, is often more obscure than the difficult to parse language I use here. My poetry is dense, but in a different way: one that involves expressionistic juxtaposition and odd imagery. I suppose using convoluted syntax, and somewhat arcane, technical language is a bad habit I picked up from continental philosophy, but in also, in a perverse way, ensures that when people understand me, they actually understand me. What is frustrating though is that the assumption of understanding can’t be made most of the time.
I suppose understanding is always a relative affair.
“Is pessimism necessarily a sign of decline, decay, malformation, of tired and debilitated instincts [. . .]? Is there a pessimism of strength? An intellectual preference for the hard, gruesome, malevolent and problematic aspects of existence which comes from a feeling of well-being, from overflowing health, from an abundance of existence? Is there perhaps such a thing as suffering from overabundance itself? Is there a tempting bravery in the sharpest eye which demands the terrifying as its foe, as a worthy foe against which it can test its strength and from which it intends to learn the meaning of fear?”. - Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings. Trans. Ronald Speirs. Ed. Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.
Lacking strength, Beauty hates the Understanding for asking of her what it cannot do. But the life of Spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power that converts it into being. — G. W. F. Hegel, “Preface” to Phenomenology of Spirit
“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” ― Antonio Gramsci, Gramsci’s Prison Letters
“Other dogs bite only their enemies, whereas I bite also my friends in order to save them” – Attributed to Diogenes of Sinope by Stobaeus
I am an admitted pessimist, but my gloomy mood is actually rooted in something different from the caustic cynicism that has dominated the past two decades of popular entertainment. This is frustrating because this gloom and ironic gloom is a pessimism that trains be to identity as positively what they should probably reject in themselves. The writers at the rather enigmatic blogger at Spass ohne Grenzen cut to what I like to call “pessimism” of the will, which masks itself as an ideology of the gleeful ,ironic every-man:
I’m so intensely tired of cynicism, and particularly with the ways new entertainment encourages emotional atrophy by proliferating the archetype of the apathetic pseudo-anti-hero to normalize feelings of isolation so people can go, “hey I feel like shit too!” Here’s lookin at you Louis C.K. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the guy, but maybe if we didn’t have a communal comfort-fest culture making light of isolation, people would feel more motivated to get out of it. It’s as if almost every sitcom in both the United States and the UK are working to relieve people of a guilt that should not be relieved, by giving them something to identify with when they should not be allowed to identify; “Lol that guy has trouble with empathy! It must not be a big deal because I’m laughing about it!” I started watching a Houellebecq film adaptation today and had to turn it off because it’s such a dead end. Maybe the ending would have redeemed it, but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out. (Don’t get me wrong, I still love the guy.) I try to avoid any itch of negativity like the plague now, and I’d rather be vain than depressed. By this I mean that I’d rather this paragraph contain weak reasoning to get the point across; yes, shows about emotional detachment are “working through” something in our society. I’m indifferent to this argument regardless of its validity because it’s all been going on for so long. It’s the equivalent of Jezebel articles which amount to little more than an effort to make lonely people feel happy and comfortable with themselves just as they are. Go ahead and have that extra cookie, and turn on some Louis while you’re at it.
Pessimism of the intellect is how an intelligent person colors their glasses: they see the world as it is. As studies that depressives are more likely to think critically and be self-honest, optimists live longer. False hopes keeps many people alive, literally. Yet the turn of the gleeful pessimism who makes these faults not seem like faults seems like the most perverse dialectical move: Indeed, it brings the hope to the strange place. Your negative traits aren’t negative and you are fool for seeing them as such is the the implicit ideological impulse in the gap. This move is the inverted Diogenes: the man who bites himself so his friends can ignore their wounds.
So I want to dream Yes to the Nietzsche’s question and ignore this the excuse function that we see in the 1990s irony and the aughts lovable failures. We need to look at things as they with respect that what we should reject. To put Nietzsche into the dialectical mode of Hegel: Amor Fati most be opposed by self-overcoming and sublated into something not yet seen.
But the yes must be larger than this: we can not help but battle the dehumanizing pessimist in our heads but we must not step their. We cannot want to see the world in the a certain way, but must see the world as it is to change it. We should not be merely identifying with social faults and shrugging our shoulders and accepting our fate. Yet that is the tenor of our media these days.
Thought is not enough to overcome anything where it be a cracked means of production or over-eating or the idea of the state. One sees this pessimism of the will from even the likes of Eric Hobshawm. An ethic settling. Of lesser evil. Of gradual reform. Of lessened expectations.
To say the Yes to a better a world, one must see things as they are. One must learn to say no.
Exhaustion sets in over time: Or how I learned to quit arguing about “the left” and started see politics for what was (meta-relationships).
In the rush of cars outside in cool evening air calms me. I have written about a page on my short story today, gotten more house work done around my fiancee’s apartment, and went back to a politics and philosophy group I started almost a year ago. I must admit: I am tired of the concept of the generic, non-liberal left. I am tired of even the generic Marxian left as a concept and as a practice. I would rather listen to the cars outside because it is about of the same usefulness.
I have already spelled out that I doubt that the teleological view of history, even the contingent or “dialectical,” teleological view of history avoids the fact that we speak as if we know what is good or possible, and we do not. We only know the probable. We can only have probable knowledge through a variety of processes. We may call them “truth” processes. Meta-theories about these processes, the content of philosophy and non-philosophy (to use term by Laruelle), are necessary just like science is justified in a variety of epistemological frameworks, but they cannot in any strict sense be known to be true. Our evidence for them is in the effects. Hence, my point about Hegel’s, History is the judge of human ideas. These things can only be seen in hindsight, and the conservative caution about them is not unwarranted.
The problem with the conservative position is that historical contingencies do change: material conditions change, cultures interaction, events happen. The rupture of an event changes everything, and just like the you who is a person tomorrow is not the same as a person today nor totally distinct from it, the needs of a culture do change over time. The needs of an ecological system changes. The needs of an individual changes. The individual is a complex system and the ecology is a complex system: neither a unitary nor a plurality. Yet we can’t assume the needs of either scale up. This is why the personal is political is a too reductive and simplistic to be useful.
One of the things I have noticed, sitting here thinking about it, is that I have been forced to try to defend or condemn the subject impulses of anarchists or Leninists, the pluralism of Lenin whose next moves after said pluralism were to ban all political parties opposed to him? Or to defend Bakunin who endorsed “invisible dictatorship” and whose associations with barrack’s anarchist Sergey Gennadiyevich Nyechayev blacked his name when Nyechayev killed many of his own comrades. Nor I can defend Nestor Ivanovych Makhno, hero of so many left anarchists, who tried to ethnically purge the German Mnennonites from his city. It is not that I don’t understand that politics contains violence. Violence is a fact of human relationships. It is that I cannot make excuses for it.
To say that history has judged this harshly is to say that events have emerged that show the problems of these positions. The subjectivities or fidelities to the intention of these ideas is irrelevant, ultimately.
Don’t worry, I am not going to hand in my cards, and become a Democrat, and retire as a head of a non-profit. Nor will I take the false pretense of being a moderate: I do think violence is sometimes necessary, but these aims have historically been against real people. Marxism dominates among scholars, I think, because we can disconnect events from theories. After all, Marx only gave us critique: critique of the socialist movement (Blanquists, Saint-Simonians, LaSalleians), critique of political economy (against Proudhon, against Bentham, moderating and expanding Ricardo and Smith), and critique of Hegel and the Young Hegelians. The dialectics in Marx and Frankfurt School have only ever been negative, and in most Leninism and Maoism have only ever been justifications. That’s a huge generalization, but the incoherence of the practice indicate that theory lacked, not led, the discussion. In all “communism” states, positive political economy was given by another theory beyond Marxism. Take the Soviet example: for NEP-period and for Stalin, Taylorism. For the 1950s and early 1960s, US cybernetic theory. For late 1960 and 1970s, limited forms of social democracy. In China, you have similar issues: Mao borrowed much of his positive proscriptions from Chinese Legalism and from Stalin’s forced collectivization, and after Mao, we saw Mercentilism and development along state-capitalist lines like an accelerated form of policies from 17th century Europe. One of my friends says this because of the managerial class infecting Marxism, I go much further them him: it is from from lacking a positive vision of social organization that could actually work.
In a different way anarchists too have been primarily about opposition: to various forms of rulership, to the state, etc. Syndicalism was the only form of anarchism that I know actually developed a long-range coherent political economy, although Murray Bookchin’s dialectical naturalism did attempt to do this as well. Mostly, however, this is been active critique. Anarchist victories have been, well, small. Confederations have never been able to counter well-heeled states, nor have autonomous zones really been able to resist. Most anarchists I deal with instead of offering real fixes this, justify loses as virtues. Yet there is much to admire in the anarchist vitality and the Marxist historical rigor: much to admire and I used to think bring these groups together would lead to a way through this impasse. A lot of people believe this as it was the zeitgeist of Occupy. To be honest, I don’t think this works now.
I could go on about Social Democrats being unable to resist market forces, and left-liberals almost always letting conservatives define the debate for them.
Chastising the left alone, though, is a form of posturing. An exhausting one which hollows out one’s tactical political goals, and leaves one a husk of a person. Critique should always have an axiomatic aim: a dialectical process must be able to handle the sublation and know what it is not acceptable as an answer. Dialectics isn’t politics though, its a form of logic.
The “revolution”–which has become an over-full signifier–will not be televised. It will not be an “inner” revolution. In fact, I don’t know what it will be, but I am pretty sure it won’t be televized. I also have a feeling that most of the existing ideologically-driven left will not recognize until it hits them square in the head. Until then, we have to do the hard work: this is issue work, and its outside of electoral spectacles. Of course, we must make concessions to the societies we actually live in, but let’s not be false about it.
IF I go searching for pathology, I will find disease or possible disease, particularly if my guide isn’t anything objective. There is a point where this is a waste of time. I have issues I care about, I have axioms for what I find unacceptable: I don’t think electoral reform will fix these issues, but trying to battle this as a totality seems, well, like a recipe for failure.
History is the judge of ideas. This not mean there is some meta-historical or trans-historical meta-logic to which we will be able to have a theory of the correct idea, it can, however, show us with ideas where botched, maladjusted, and counter-adaptive. This is the way history shows us things. Anything thing else reifies the concept.
I am going to go back to listening to cars.
It is election day in South Korea, so the dancing girls and old woman handing fliers with numbers on them (as candidates are assigned a number here) with the booming trucks trying through small city streets and crowding the corners. There is not much in American style attack ads and the spectacle is limited for a month or so. In Mohyeon-meon on the outskirts of Yong-in, where my university is nestled in the side of a mountain, I see little of this, but in visiting my beloved in Daejeon and travelling through Seoul, which I do weekly, I see the carnival of democracy.
Of all forms of democracy, I value representative democracy the least: in either its American or Parliamentary form. The tendency for “rational irrationality” to creep into deliberation and the human inability to intuitively understand probabilities make this almost a given. There is one maxim that Badiou gives from his various sets that I take more seriously as I get older: Politics is what cannot be represented. However, I am not taking the purist stance of many anarchists who wish that there are no concessions to spectacles as people’s lives are made and broken in public policy.
At least, in Korea, election day is a national holiday, so people do not work in the mildly warm spring air, one sees children playing in the knocks of the side walk and the edges of the street while street vendors , I stopped by my local fruit vendor and bought some naval oranges. I don’t drive here in South Korea and “New Urbanism” is just, you know, the way cities organically function here for all their problems. So I stop by and interact more with people, even as just as respite from the carnival.
I keep mulling some of my new story in my head: It’s refreshing to be writing something other than critical theory or political blogging for once. Not that there isn’t politics in my short story, even in the long arm of the Hegelian geist: I deal in science fiction because I can critique what is and what could be.
Yesterday I completed most of my spring book buying: I tend to seasonally allot myself reading. In Kyobo Bookstore in Gwanhamoon in Seoul, there is little fiction so no new Paolo Bacigalupi that I wanted, although I have quite enjoyed re-reading his “Pump Six” collection of stories, which rank up their with Philip K. Dick and early J.G. Ballard, as well as China Mieville for writing that truly deals with issues substantively without reading like it is a fictionalized version of a Berkeley culture studies class. So I got a few more shorter Badiou works after looking fruitlessly for anything else by Francois Laruelle.
I noticed a few more “skeptical” titles on religion that I considered: I have become re-engaged with Skeptical Thinkers in both the classical tradition and in the so-called “Skeptic’s Movement.” I am still highly critical of the positivistic inclination in many of the Skeptic’s movement, and the want of consensus of scientists to decide norms from descriptions. In many ways, I find it philosophically undeveloped, and politically naive. The rampant soft-libertarianism, un-reflective left-liberalism, and the acceptance of bad economic thought as well bothers me. Furthermore, I doubt I could get a one of them to put Bertrand Russell, quit whining about relativism and post-modernism without understanding them (or even knowing what isn’t Post-modern or Post-structural.), and realize that criticizing scientific practices in both practical and scientific grounds is often not done out a fear of science, but a love of it within its demarcation.
I consider this a sign of the times, though. The radical Enlightenment never completely one and the few truths of those in the Counter-Enlightenment never really took hold. It is, however, cowardly not to engage with skeptics. After all, I started blogging in order to combat bad science in education and misreadings of science in the humanities, then started combating naivete realism in “Skeptical blogs”–structural frameworks have to be engaged in. As I am not a believer in anything that could be called supernatural, and I detest ignorance as much as arrogance, I should engage with as a person who has come to similar conclusions from radically different means to illustrate the point.
So instead of science fiction, I picked up Jonathan Israel’s massive, “Enlightenment Contested?,” because at the core isn’t this what it is all about? The skeptic’s movement is sort of a popular form of the French Newtonians which pretty much influenced all analytic philosophy. But this book not only goes into thinkers like those considered Counter-Enlightenment, but also Asian influences on the Enlightenment, and how three different variants of the mood of the Enlightenment set the stage for most of political theory in the modern period. As I think we are living in a time when these ideas and the political arrangements, even the aesthetic trends in this, have begun to hit a limit and we can see how they transform.
The spring air calls through the window. One can forget it is an election sense or that even the environment is beginning to show severe signs of wear-and-tear.