Missed Connections

I haven’t done this in so so long, but it’s too good to pass up this time:



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An Excerpt from “Brothers Karamazov”

“I shall be told, perhaps, that Alyosha was stupid, undeveloped, had not finished his studies, and so on.  That he did not finish his studies is true, but to say that he was stupid or dull would be a great injustice.  I’ll simply repeat what I have said above.  He entered upon this path only because, at that time, it alone struck his imagination and seemed to him to offer an ideal means of escape for his soul from darkness to light.  Add to that that he was to some extent a youth of our past generation–that is, honest in nature, desiring the truth, seeking for it and believing in it, and seeking to serve it at once with all the strength of a soul, seeking for immediate action, and ready to sacrifice everything, even life itself.  These young men unhappily fail to understand that the sacrifice of life is, in many cases, the easiest of all sacrifices.  They fail to understand that to sacrifice five or six years of their seething youth to hard and tedious study, if only to multiply ten-fold their powers of serving the truth and the cause they have set before them as their goal, is utterly beyond the strength of many men.”

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Excerpt from “On Voluntary Servitude”

I am having trouble finding my own voice as of late.  Fortunately, many underrated thinkers have already said much of what is on my heart and mind.

“Poor, wretched, and stupid peoples, nations determined on your own misfortune and blind to your own good!  You let yourselves be deprived before your own eyes of the best part of your revenues; your fields are plundered, your homes robbed, your family heirlooms taken away.  You live in such a way that you cannot claim a single thing as your own; and it would seem that you consider yourselves lucky to be loaned your property, your families, and your very lives.  All this havoc, this misfortune, this ruin, descends upon you not from alien foes, but from the one enemy whom you yourselves render as powerful as he is, for whom you go bravely to war, for whose greatness you do not refuse to offer your own bodies unto death.  He who thus domineers over you has only two eyes, only two hands, only one body, no more than is possessed by the least man among the infinite numbers dwelling in your cities; he has indeed nothing more than the power that you confer upon him to destroy you.  Where has he acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves?  How can he have so many arms to beat you with, if he does not borrow them from you?  The feet that trample down your cities, where does he get them if they are not your own?  How does he have any power over you except through you?  How would he dare assail you if he had no cooperation from you?  What could he do to you if you yourselves did not connive with the thief who plunders you, if you were not accomplices of the murderer who kills you, if you were not traitors to yourselves?”

-Etienne de la Boetie (1552)

Boetie is clearly referring to the despotic grasp of the monarchist establishment.  However, as I read through this particular passage, it reminded me a lot of our current political system.  The author was quite prophetic in his assessment of what was as applied to what is now.

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Fighting Terror with Terror

The Dutch pacifist, Bart de Ligt, promoted the idea that revolutions can not adopt the means of their oppressors without also adopting the ends of their oppressors (i.e., becoming oppressors themselves).

In the recent fictional film, Avatar, the commanding officer of a Blackwater-esque mercenary force shockingly declares that they will have to “…fight terror with terror…” in order to overcome the “terrorist” indigenous people of the fictional planet that is the subject of the story.  This declaration is shocking because of its honesty.  In reality, such a direct admission is absent from the lips of our leaders–but it is present, nonetheless.  It was present, for example, when Dick Cheney vocalized a need to operate on the “dark side.”  It was also present this weekend when Joe Lieberman and other politicians insisted that the changes and upgrades which have allegedly been made recently to facilities at Guantanamo have actually made it okay for us to continue its operations (completely ignoring the arguments for its closure in the first place; the operation as a whole–not just the facilities–is unconstitutional and inhumane).  The continuance of Guantanamo and our counterterrorist initiatives will never produce anything but more violence.

“For it is a fixed law that all means have their own abiding end, proceeding from the function for which they came into being, which can only be subordinated to other, loftier ends as far as the latter are attuned to the essential and, as it were, innate end.  Besides, every end suggests its own means.  To transgress this law inevitably brings about a tyranny of the means.  For if these lead away from their intended goal, then the more people use them, the farther they get from the objective and more their actions are determined by them.  For example, it is impossible to breathe by coal gas.  Life must have fresh air.  And freedom must be awakened and stimulated by freedom and in freedom.  It can never be born of violence.  At the most, we may seek liberty as an antidote to our bondage, just as we cry out for fresh air when we are threatened with asphyxiation.”

– Bart de Ligt: The Conquest of Violence (1937)

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The New Law of Righteousness

“The man of the flesh judges it a righteous thing, That some men that are cloathed with the objects of the earth, and so called rich men, whether it be got by right or wrong, should be Magistrates to rule over the poor; and that the poor should be servants nay rather slaves to the rich.  But the spiritual man, which is Christ, doth judge according to the light of equity and reason, That al man-kinde ought to have a quiet substance and freedome, to live upon earth; and that there shal be no bond-man nor beggar in all his holy mountaine…”

-Gerrard Winstanley “The New Law of Righteousness” (1649)

Here, we find, bolstered, the idea that we should strive for more than we now have.  Ideals are utopian, and as such, quite impossible.  However, we should never stop moving towards the impossible.  Whatever the reasons may be, it seems that humans will not take care of themselves and take care of those around them unless there is some ulterior motivation.  Thus, we have a system in which, a mechanic will want to fix my car because I can pay for it to be done.  We also have a system in which the government will help someone out when they are in need.  The point thrust forth in the excerpt above is that humans should be moving and preparing for a system in which neither of these will be necessary.  Even if it never comes to fruition, at the very least, we will be evolving into a more independent species and not into a fully dependent species.

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New Post

Re-read last post on Chomsky on Anarchism. Think about what is being said–how much truth is presented? I will update shortly.

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Chomsky On Anarchism

“Predatory capitalism created a complex industrial system and an advanced technology; it permitted a considerable extension of democratic practice and fostered certain liberal values, but within limits that are now being pressed and must be overcome. It is not a fit system for the mid-twentieth century. It is incapable of meeting human needs that can be expressed only in collective terms, and its concept of competitive man who seeks only to maximize wealth and power, who subjects himself to market relationships, to exploitation and external authority, is antihuman and intolerable in the deepest sense. An autocratic state is no acceptable substitute; nor can the militarized state capitalism evolving in the United States or the bureaucratized, centralized welfare state be accepted as the goal of human existence. The only justification for repressive institutions is material and cultural deficit. But such institutions, at certain stages of history, perpetuate and produce such a deficit, and even threaten human survival. Modern science and technology can relieve men of the necessity for specialized, imbecile labor. They may, in principle, provide the basis for a rational social order based on free association and democratic control, if we have the will to create it.”
– Noam Chomsky, “Language and Freedom” (1970)

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The “Torture Debate” Normalized

A recent tweet by Gleen Greenwald led me through a very important line of thought.

We are debating about torture.  It has become okay for us as Americans to consider at what point we cross a line from making someone uncomfortable to torturing them.  The crazy thing is, we are actually arriving at agreed upon, empirical lines of demarcation.  Case in point: I heard someone speaking on the radio yesterday and they were drawing a line between a detainee being slammed up against a wall 30 times as being torture, and less than 30 times as not being so.  To wit, 29 wall-slams is okay.  30 wall-slams, and you’ve tortured someone.  This sort of debate is dehumanizing.  It’s part of an overall strategy to get you to forget that you’re dealing with other humans and not cyborgs sent to kill us from the future like in some sort of sci-fi plot.

My point is the this: we have risen as a nation from the oppressive regimes of imperial monarchies, with liberty and freedom as our banner.  Now we are trying to toe an imaginary line between torture and not-quite-torture.  This concept has become acceptable or “normalized”.  You’re still consciously hurting another to save yourself.  This is not what I have been taught about the purpose of life.  This is not what I have been taught about the value of life.  This isn’t even what secular Americans have believed about life.  Americans, since the Revolutionary War, have believed, “we die so our children can be free.”  Today, it’s, “they die so our children can be free.”  Remind me how is that different than jihad.  Here, in this “debate,” life is being devalued.

“Torture” is a definition that floats with the shifting winds of our “morality”: today it’s 30 wall-slams, tomorrow, it may be 50.  We also seem to be sure of the definition of “terrorist”: today it’s Islamic fascist-driven jihad, tomorrow, mere christianity?  Who is setting these definitions and why do you trust them?

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Secret Torture Memos released

The Obama administration has just released the Bush OLC Memos justifying the use of torture.  Read them.

ACLU has them here.

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I Don’t Like Coldplay

I’ve never liked Coldplay.  I’ve always been indifferent to Coldplay.  That is until I heard the uncanny similarities between one of their hit songs (bonus points for anyone who can name the Coldplay song, because I can’t) and Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love.”  Kraftwerk’s song is my favorite song in the entire world.  My indifference towards Coldplay quickly froze in to a solid block of dislike.  Yesterday, that solid block of dislike petrified into absolute disdain.  Check out what NPR has covered.

Is Coldplay capable of writing their own hit songs?  I’m sure they can, but they almost certainly can’t write songs with any musical merit by themselves.

Note: to be fair, it is now my understanding that Coldplay “sampled” Kraftwerk.  Nevertheless, my last two sentences remain unaltered.  Further, if you really love an artist, do you pay homage by simply using one of their melodies as the melody for one of your completely unrelated song (I fail to see how the Coldplay track references Kraftwerk even slightly except via melody).  I would submit that Coldplay has merely taken an amazing melody, re-couched it in a completely different song and sold it to a multitude of people who may never know who is Kraftwerk.  Paying homage would have meant magnifying Kraftwerk’s melody.  Instead, Coldplay has taken their glory.  Of course, if the melody is truly sampled, Kraftwerk only have themselves to blame as they would have had to approved such a use.

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