Ask a politician something and what do you get? The same answer as if you asked him something else entirely. But of course, politicians can also operate (malfunction?) in reverse. Ask a politician the same question and receive a different answer, depending on the audience.
The abundance of capitalism is not received as a blessing but rather as a curse. In the past, it took a whole country to feed itself, now the job is done by 1% of the population. The production of cars is done mostly by machines. All industries are affected by the automation of labour. What took ten men to do is now done by one machine. The result is these ten men are now unemployed. We see it as a terrible disgrace to be unemployed. But rather than a sign of failure, this is a sign of success! We now need less people to work in laborious, often spiritually unfulfilling jobs. The goal should not be to reduce unemployment but to increase it! Imagine an economic system that views the creation of unemployment as a sign of progress, as freedom from the chains and fetters of labour. That would be a novel approach indeed.
As humans, we give ourselves to each other in what are acts of tremendous courage. We offer ourselves up. We may be cared for and cultivated, blooming into a magnificent flower, or, alternatively, brushed aside like a weed. Neither conclusion is determined, both options remain consistently, almost persistently, open. It is the cause of great anxiety, but likewise the wellspring of what makes being with others so exciting and liable to interesting discoveries.
It is not only in acts of love that we give ourselves to one another. We do the same in communication. To speak is a leap of faith into the arms of another. You may be misconstrued and rejected or understood and acknowledged. Once more, neither path is laid out for certain and both possibilities remain open despite, sometimes, our best efforts to the contrary.
Every act of communication is a leap of faith. Or oppositely, it is like the game one plays where friends stand behind an individual who must close his eyes and let go, trusting that his friends will catch him. Just as we trust our friends in this game, we trust in our partners in conversation. We trust that they will try to catch and carry our words, working with us as partners in the game of language.
To speak, not simply casually as one does in light conversation; but to do so honestly, earnestly and in a considered manner, is to open yourself up to another. Words are like mirrors, reflecting and revealing who you are to others. Of course, people try to warp, distort or otherwise break these mirrors, as to stop others from seeing who lies within. After all, words can be used to obfuscate or clarify, encourage or hinder understanding between two people. But there is a message encoded with words themselves: they are an invitation, an invitation to participate in the world together. All it takes is that first step, an act of courage, a hand held out to understand together.
Silence is more than a phenomenon marked by the absence of sound. Silence is an ideal. It manifests in at least two forms. The first is what we may call ‘imposed silence’. Imposed silence stems from an inability to speak up. It is the disempowered silence of the listener who is denied access to a voice.
The second is ‘composed silence’. Composed silence is not the absence of a chattering mouth but a chattering mind. The chattering mind receives nothing but echoes of its own thoughts; the person who, so busy thinking up possible responses to what you have said, does not bother listening to what you are saying. Composed silence is the silence of the mind, whereby the listener listens fully and attentively, treating their mind as an empty cup which creates the possibility for it to be filled with something new.
In the first instance, silence is a negation of possibility, a castration of the vocal cords of the other. In the second instance, silence appears as the negative space of possibility. The absence of sound provides the room for the discovery of truth. Silence, by virtue of being empty space between speech, establishes space between assertions and certainty, creating room for inquiry to occur.
Heidegger once said, man is infinitely more than what he would be if he were reduced to being what he is
And what is this if not a passionate exclamation of the importance of human freedom For man, in order to change (and not be changed), must change freely and of his own volition.
In this conception, man is not reducible to what he is because he is also potential. Every person, in this sense, is also the person who is yet to come. Every moment in our lives is a new window of opportunity for us to redefine and change who we are, and to become better versions of ourselves.
I have been thinking considerably about rhythm lately. I appear to be stuck. I know what I want to write. I know the logic, the premises, the arguments and conceptions. But I can’t seem to write any of it down. It all just sits there, in the back of my mind, waiting. I too must wait, patiently. Each time I attempt to write down these thoughts, it comes out forced and fake. So, these thoughts remain lodged. I like to think they are like the inanimate objects in Fantasia, waiting for the right rhythm to bring them to life.
I believe we all have our own rhythm. That is why I think it is so dangerous and threatening to copy the text and style of other writers. That won’t make you good because what makes you a good writer is finding that rhythm, that inner harmony that resonates throughout your soul and your work. To mimic another is not only the cheapest form of flattery, but it is also to steal your voice away from yourself like Ariel in the Little Mermaid. Trading your voice for legs, or your rhythm for words is a devils bargain.
Everything in life is flow. The constant rotation of celestial objects; the stream that ripples over stones, later to cascade down cliff faces; the grace of a dance, the movement of notes in a symphony, and the rhythm that comes forth, as Ursula Le Guin said, like a ‘wave in one’s mind’. You cannot beckon the wave , you can only wait, patiently, and ride it to the shore.
David Bohm in his essay ‘On the Relationship of Science and Art’ wrote that a scientist (but really any of us), before he can verbalise his thoughts, will “feel” a new idea. “These feelings are like very deep and sensitive probes reaching into the unknown” which, if contemplated with a patient mind, will return with something creative and new. Virginia Woolf said it perfectly,
Style is a very simple matter: it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can’t use the wrong words. But on the other hand here am I sitting after half the morning, crammed with ideas, and visions, and so on, and can’t dislodge them, for lack of the right rhythm. Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it; and in writing (such is my present belief) one has to recapture this, and set this working (which has nothing apparently to do with words) and then, as it breaks and tumbles in the mind, it makes words to fit it. But no doubt I shall think differently next year.
Writing to Vita Sackville-West,
16 March 1926
You cross the street under the warm, one could even say, comforting gaze, of the neon sign. It was there yesterday and will be tomorrow. It will still be there, beaming down upon you when you are buried beneath the Earth. Neon arrows penetrate the soil and pierce the cityscape.
Its message will surely change. Today red lipstick shows you are fierce and independent. Tomorrow it will indicate you are banal and outdated. This phone will demonstrate to others you are up-to-date on the latest trends, but not for long. Best to keep your eye on the ad in case anything changes. Indeed, the message changes, but something else is being said, a consistency beneath the inconsistencies:
You will be richer, even if you spend your money and become poorer.
Transform yourselves by purchasing another good.
You are not enough, but maybe, if you buy this good, you will be good enough in the eyes of those around you.
Second hand people. Reflections. Seeing ourselves through other’s eyes.
You want to transform. You want to be different. You want to be glamorous. Just like they are in the ad. You want to be envied by others just as you envy those in the ad. Perhaps, if you can be wanted by others, to be envied, to be desired, to be glamorous, perhaps then you may become real to yourself. A simulated real.
It is, after all, just a dream. None of it is quite real. Advertising is the dream of capitalism. You can never have it because it does not exist in the real world. You are chasing vapours, soon to discover the insubstantiality of it all. The only question of importance is, do you understand it before you have wasted living your life through advertising, filling a hole in yourself that was never there to begin with? For the greatest trick of advertising is not convincing us to fill the hole within ourselves. No, not at all. The greatest trick of advertising was to make people believe there was ever a hole that needed to be filled. You only need to realise one important, indisputable truth: advertising is not the solution, it is the problem.
Pornography has become the cultural frame of reference for sex. As we watch pornography we appropriate its invisible metaphysics: a metaphysics of raw physicality. Of penetration. Of domination.
Pornography, beneath the shouts of false orgasms, whispers to us that sex is only about raw, lascivious, carnal pleasure. Pornography is human intimacy without procreation, without love, and without tenderness, affection, and care. It is a symbology of death.
To the extent that we draw our knowledge and values from pornography, we believe that this is what sex is. When the time comes for us to have sex, we act out what we have seen on the screen. Life imitates art.
Guy Debord writes in his work Society of the Spectacle, ‘everything that was once directly lived has moved into representation’. Indeed, pornography is not real but pantomime, caricature, representation. The body parts and orgasms are often fake, there is no smell or sweat, the scenarios are scripted, the scenes shot multiple times. Pornographic videos are sex re-presented. When we have sex based upon how we have seen it acted out in pornography, we are not really having sex, we are acting, pretending at it, representing ourselves as something we are not.
In Friends, we do not have friends but actors pretending to be friends. The show is a simulation of friendship. Similarly, pornography is a simulation of sex. But, people base their sex lives’ off what they see in pornographic videos. So what is happening? Real life imitates videos which themselves are just imitations of real life. In this circle of confusion, real life becomes less than real and it is the simulations which become real to us.
The liberal class divides itself into two parts. There are those who pay lip-service to the ethics of liberal humanism. They give arias about the immediate need for environmental action while taking food out of plastic packaging. They wax lyrical about the imperative of democracy to friends over a hot dinner, punctuating their conversation with clinking wine glasses as the homeless continue to starve. Then, there are those who do not keep their beliefs to themselves or their small group of friends. They place the sticker of the sea-shepherd on their car, they drive the Prius and ensure to tell people why; they protest down streets cleared of traffic, singing songs of solidarity in self-congratulating tones, before going home to bed before anyone can be mildly inconvenienced by their actions. To be vacuous or innocuous? The first is politics as empty gestures; the second is politics as theatre.
The function of action is to interrupt/disturb/interfere/change the world; this is opposed to mere behaviour or habit, which is mechanical/repetitive/automatic, such as being a cog in a machine. A cog ‘acts’ in a certain sense, but really all a cog does is submit to its role within the machine.
Modern politics is, in part, defined by the absence of action. We passively submit to outside forces, just as the cog submits to the mechanics of the machine. ‘We cannot renounce Israeli abuse of Palestinians, think of the diplomatic inconvenience! We cannot tackle housing affordability, think of the damage to property prices! We cannot entirely remove fossil fuels, think of the export market!’
We tend not to think of ourselves as masters of our destiny. We no longer make history, instead, we submit to it. Our internal politics is no longer about determining the fate of our nation, but merely foreseeing the future and trying best to respond to it. Politics, then, ceases to be ‘political’ in the sense of action and instead confines itself to management.
Perhaps this explains, to an extent, the managerial politician’s obsession with data. Data provides the only defence against the exigencies of an uncertain future. Perhaps, if only we could have enough data, we would be able to properly navigate an ambiguous and ill-defined future. There it is, it is about navigating/traversing/negotiating a future, not directing/creating/determining it. We simply submit to the present and what may result of it in the future.
All of this is immensely disheartening for the citizen. The vote is an expression of a citizen’s will, but this will is annulled if nothing comes of it but continued submission to the present. The vote loses the essential feature giving it meaning: the capacity to act, and therefore, change the world. The conclusion of this should simply be to suppress the vote, as it only achieves a continuation of the same thing, which is to say, it achieves nothing. Emptied of the potential for action, the vote is a token gesture and democracy, insofar as it is meant to represent the will of the citizenry, is a ruse.