fredag den 28. september 2012

Dagens Citat: Adorno.

"Menneskene har i den grad manipuleret med begrebet frihed, at det ender med at betyde den stærkeres og rigeres ret til at fratage den svagere og fattigere den smule han endnu har." - Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia.

torsdag den 27. september 2012

mandag den 24. september 2012

George Carlin: The American Dream.

The Crisis of Representative Democracy

..we keep shuffling around the same deck of cards, hoping that this meaningless exercise will somehow make a difference. Hope abounds when the US elects its most progressive President in decades — but even he ends up bailing out Wall Street at the expense of millions of families who lose their homes. Heck, he even keeps a personal kill list and forsakes his #1 election promise to close Guantanamo! In the UK, a Liberal leader pledges never to raise tuition fees — only to abandon this promise the moment he smells power.

Similarly, a sigh of relief resounds across Europe when France elects its first Socialist President in two decades. Surely his victory will hail the end of Merkel’s austerity pact for the eurozone? ‘Lo and behold: only a few months later Hollande is suddenly Merkel’s closest ally, happily “turning the screws on Greece” and quietly forgetting about his election promise to rip up the eurozone austerity pact. In the end, everybody bows before the power of the market.

Clearly the divorce between politics and power has instilled great fear and confusion in the electorate. Like a flock of panicking sheep, voters head towards the political fringes, desperately clinging on to the idea that it’s the parties and their leaders who are at fault, not the system as such. Unwilling to face the reality of national governments that no longer possess true fiscal or monetary policy autonomy, voters continue to hate the player; not the game.

In the process, national elections are reduced to some meaningless provincial popularity contest. Like “survivors” in some stupid reality TV show, politicians try their very best to avoid being voted off the island. Election campaigns degrade into marketing campaigns as the electorate is bombarded with flashy Google and TV ads, party posters and random party paraphernalia in the streets. An election victory is celebrated like a World Cup win. Somehow everyone seems to believe that this is a completely natural way of organizing society.

Both ordinary citizens (those “too unsophisticated” for the spectacle) and critical thinkers (those “too sophisticated” for the new culture of one-liners) are filtered out of public view in a sort of quasi-natural selection process that systematically favors the technocratic mediocrity of bland career politicians over the great diversity and complexity of opinions that society has to offer. Given enough time, electoral politics automatically descends into some childish blame game that no one really takes seriously anymore.

Cookie-cutter election programs, cheap sloganeering, negative publicity and inauthentic, overly-manufactured interviews riddled with lies, insults and and clichés take all the creativity, joy and weight out of the art of public debate. Instead of talking about issues, we now talk about personalities. Representative democracy has long since ceased to be about competing visions for the future of society. With the owners out of reach, we are relegated to electing managers...”

From Roarmag.

søndag den 23. september 2012

Two Paradigms of History.

By Richard Tarnas

A paradox concerning the character and fate of the West confronts every sensitive observer: On the one hand, we recognize a certain dynamism, a luminous, heroic impulse, even a nobility at work in Western civilization and Western thought. We see this in the great achievements of Greek philosophy and culture, and in the profound moral and spiritual strivings of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. We see it embodied in the Sistine Chapel and other Renaissance masterpieces, in the plays of Shakespeare, in the music of Beethoven. We recognize it in the brilliance of the Copernican revolution and the long sequence of dazzling scientific advances in many disciplines that have unfolded in its wake. We see it in the titanic space flights of a generation ago that landed men on the Moon, or, more recently, in the spetacular images of the vast cosmos coming from the Hubble Space Telescope that have opened up uprecendented perspectives reaching back in time and outward into space billions of years and lightyears to the primal origins of the universe itself. No less vividly, we find it in the great democratic revolutions of modernity and the powerful emancipatory movements of our own era, all with deep sources in the Western intellectual and spiritual tradition.

Yet at the same time, if we attempt to perceive the larger reality beyond the conventional heroic narrative, we cannot fail to recognize the shadow of this great luminosity. The same cultural tradition and historical trajectory that brought forth such noble achievements has also caused immense suffering and loss, for many other cultures and peoples, for many people within Western culture itself, and for many other forms of life on the Earth. Moreover, the West has played the central role in bringing about a subtly growing and seemingly inexorable crisis – one of multidimensional complexity, affecting all aspects of life from the ecological and economic to the psychological and spiritual. To say that our global civilization is becoming dysfunctional scarcely conveys the gravity of the situation. For many forms of life on the Earth, catastrophe has already begun, as our planet undergoes the most massive extinction of species since the demise of the dinosaurs. How can we make sense of this tremendous paradox in the character and meaning of the West?

If we examine many of the major debates in the post-traditional intellectual culture of our time, it is possible to see looming behind them two fundamental paradigms, two great myths, diametrically opposite in character, concerning human history and the evolution of human consciousness. As genuine myths, these underlying paradigms represent not mere illusory beliefs or arbitrary collective fantasies, naive delusions contrary to fact, but rather those enduring archetypal structures of meaning that so profoundly inform our cultural psyche and shape our beliefs that they constitute the very means through which we construe something as fact. They invisibly constellate our vision. They filter and reveal our data, structure our imagination, permeate our ways of knowing and acting.

The first paradigm familiar to all of us from our education, describes human history and the evolution of human consciousness as an epic narrative of human progress, a long heroic journey from a primitive world of dark ignorance, suffering and limitation to a brighter modern world of ever-increasing knowledge, freedom and well-being. This great trajectory of progress is seen as having been made possible by the sustained development of human reason and, above all, by the emergence of the modern mind. This view informs much, perhaps most, of what we see and hear on the subject and and is easily recognized whenever we encounter a book or program with a title such as The Ascent of Man, The Discoverers, Man's Conquest of Space or the like. The direction of history is seen as onward and upward. Humanity is typically personified as man” (anthropos, homo, l'uomo, l'homme, el hombre, chelovek, der Mensch) and imaged, at least implicitly, as a masculine hero, rising above the constraints of nature and tradition, exploring the great cosmos, mastering his environment, determining his own destiny: restless, bold, brilliantly innovative, ceaselessly pressing forward with his intelligence and will, breaking out of the structures and limits of the past, ascending to ever-higher levels development, forever seeking greater freedom and new horizons, discovering ever-wider arenas for self-realization. In this perspective the apex of human achievement commenced with the rise of modern science and democratic individualism in the centuries following the Renaissance. The view of history is one of progressive emancipation and empowerment. It is a vision that emerged fully in the course of the European Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though its roots are as old as Western civilization itself.

As with all powerful myths, we have been, and many perhaps remain, largely unconscious of this historical paradigm's hold on our collective imagination. It animates the vast majority of contemporary books and essays, editorial columns, book reviews, science articles, research papers, and television documentaries, as well as political, social, and economic policies. It is so familiar to us, so close to our perception, that in many respects it has become our common sense, the form and foundation of our self-image as modern humans. We have been so long identified with this progressive understanding of the human project, and particularly of the modern Western project, that it is only in recent decades that we have begun to be able to see it as a paradigm – that is to be able to see, at least partly, from outside of its sphere of influence.

The other great historical vision tells a very different story. In this understanding, human history and the evolution of human consciousness are seen as a predominantly problematic, even tragic narrative of humanity's gradual but radical fall and separation from an original state of oneness with nature and an encompassing spiritual dimension of being. In its primordial condition, humankind had possessed an instictive knowledge of the profound sacred unity and interconnectedness of the world, but under the influence of the Western mind, especially its modern expression, the course of history brought about a deep schism between humankind and nature, and a desacralization of the world. This development coincided with an increasingly destructive exploitation of nature, the devastation of traditional indigenous cultures, a loss of faith in spiritual realities, and an increasingly unhappy state of the human soul, which experienced itself as ever more isolated, shallow and unfulfilled. In this perspective, both humanity and nature are seen as having suffered grievously under a long exploitative, dualistic vision of the world, with the worst consequences being produced by the oppressive hegemony of modern industrial societies empowered by Western science and technology. The nadir of this fall is the present planetary turmoil, ecological crisis and spiritual distress, which are seen as the direct consequence of human hubris, embodied above all in the spirit and structure of the mordern Western mind and ego. This second historical perspective reveals a progressive impoverishment of human life and the human spirit, a fragmentation of original unities, a ruinous destruction of the sacred community of being.

Something like these two interpretations of history, here described in starkly contrasting terms for the sake of easy recognition, can be seen to inform many of the specific issues of our age. They represent two basic antithetical myths of historical self-understanding: the myth of Progress and what in its earlier incarnations was called the myth of the Fall. These two historical paradigms appear today in many variations, combinations, and compromise formations. They underlie and influence discussions of the environmental crisis, globalization, multiculturalism, fundamentalism, feminism and patriarchy, evolution and history. One might say that these opposing myths constitute the underlying argument of our time: Whither humanity? Upward or downward? How are we to view Western civilization, the Western intellectual tradition, its canon of great works? How are we to view modern science, modern rationality, modernity itself? How are we to view man”? Is history ultimately a narrative of progress or of tragedy?

John Stuart Mill made a shrewd, and wise, observation about the nature of most philosophical debates. In his splendid essay on Coleridge, he pointed out that both sides in intellectual controversies tended to be in the right in what they affirmed, though in the wrong in what they denied.” Mill's insight into the nature of intellectual discourse shines light on many disagreements: Whether it is conservatives debating liberals, parents arguing with their children, or a lovers' quarrel, almost invariably something is being repressed in the service of making one's point. But his insight seems to apply with particular aptness to the conflict of historical paradigms just described. I believe that both parties to this dispute has grasped an essential aspect of our history, that both views are in a sense correct, each with compelling arguments within its own frame of reference, but also that they are both intensely partial views, as a result of which they both misread a larger story.

It is not only that each perspective possesses a significant grain of truth. Rather, both historical paradigms are at once fully valid and yet also partial aspects of a larger frame of reference, a metanarrative, in which two opposite interpretations are precisely intertwined to form a complex, integrated whole. The two historical dramas actually constitute each other. Not only are they simultaneously true; they are embedded in each other's truth. They underlie and inform each other, implicate each other, make each other possible. One might compare the way the two opposites coalesce while appearing to exclude each other to those gestalt-experiment illustrations that can be perceived in two different equally cogent ways, such as the precisely ambigous figure that can be seen either as a white vase or as two black profiles in silhouette. By means of a gestalt shift in perception, the observer can move back and forth between two images, though the figure itself, the original body of data, remains unchanged.

One is reminded here of Niels Bohr's axiom in quantum physics, the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth,” or Oscar Wilde's A truth in art is that whose contradictory is also true.” What is difficult, of course, is to see both images, both truths, simultaneously: to suppress nothing, to remain open to paradox, to maintain the tension of opposites. Wisdom, like compassion, often seems to require of us that we hold multiplies realities in our consciousness at once. This may be the task we must begin to engage if we wish to gain a deeper understanding of the evolution of human consciousness, and the history of the Western mind in particular: to see that long intellectual and spiritual journey, moving through stages of increasing differentiation and complexity, as having brought about both a progressive ascent to autonomy and a tragic fall from unity – and, perhaps, as having prepared the way for a synthesis on a new level. From this perspective, the two paradigms reflect opposite but equally essential aspects of an immense dialectical process, an evolutionary drama that has been unfolding for thousands of years and that now appears to be reaching a critical, perhaps climactic moment of transformation.

Yet there is another important party to this debate, another view of human history, one that instead of integrating the two opposite historical perspectives into a larger, more complex one appears to refute them both altogether. This third view, articulated with increasing frequency and sophistication in our own time, holds that no coherent pattern actually exists in human history or evolution, at least none that is independent of human interpretation. If an overarching pattern is history is visible, that pattern has been projected onto history by the human mind under the influence of various non-empirical factors: cultural, political, economic, social, sociobiological, psychological. In this view, the pattern, the myth or story – ultimately resides in the human subject, not the historical object. The object can never be perceived without being selectively shaped by an interpretive framework, which itself is shaped and constructed by forces beyond itself and beyond the awareness of the interpreting subject. Knowledge of history, as of anything else, is ever-shifting, free-floating, ungrounded in objective reality. Patterns are not so much recogized as read into them. History is, finally, only a construct.

On the one hand, this robust skepticism that pervades much of our post-modern thought is not far from that necessary critical perspective that allows us to discuss paradigms at all, to make comparisons and judgments about underlying conceptual structures such as those made above. Its recognition of the radically interpretive factor in all human experience and knowledge – its understanding that we are always seeing by means of myths and theories, that our experience and knowledge are always patterned and even constituted by various changing a priori and usually unconscious structures of meaning – is essential to the entire exercise we have been pursuing.

On the other hand, this seemingly paradigm-free relativism, whereby no pattern or meaning exists in history except as constructed and projected onto history by the human mind, is itself clearly another paradigm. It recognizes that we always see by means of myths and interpretive categories, but fails to apply that recognition consistently to itself. It excels at seeing through,” but perhaps has not seen through enough. In one sense, this form of the postmodern vision may be best understood as a direct outgrowth, possibly an inevitable one, of the progressive modern mind in its ever-deepening critical reflexivity – questioning, suspecting, striving for emancipation through critical awareness – reaching here in its most extreme development what is essentially a stage of advanced self-deconstruction. Yet this perspective may also be understood as the natural consequence of the Enlightenment vision beginning to encounter its own shadow – the darkly problematic narrative articulated by its opposing historical paradigm – and being challenged and reshaped by that encounter. For just this reason, the deconstructive postmodern perspective may present a crucial element in the unfolding of a new and more comprehensive understanding. There is a deep truth in this view, though it too may also be a deeply partial truth, an essential aspect of a much larger, more embracing, and still more complex vision. The postmodern mind may eventually be seen as having constituted a necessary transitional stage between epochs, a period of dissolving and opening between larger sustained cultural paradigms.

tirsdag den 11. september 2012

Sept. 11, 1973: A CIA-backed Military Coup Overthrows Salvador Allende, the Democratically Elected President of Chile.

The Corporate Right Wing Earthquake.

9-11 - Skammens dag.

På denne dag for niogtredive år siden militærkuppede Augusto Pinochet Chile med USAs hjælp. Landets præsident, Salvador Allende, blev fundet død i sit præsidentpalads og mange tusinder civile forsvandt og/eller blev tortureret under Pinochets fascistiske militærdiktatur. Gennem Pinochets 27 voldsbetonede år ved magten gennemførte man en neoliberal økonomisk politik der forvoldte omfattende armodiggørelse af civilbefolkningen og en markant stigning i landets økonomiske ulighed.

For elleve år siden kollapsede tvillingetårnene. En begivenhed der burde have bragt eftertanke og opmærksomhed i dens kølvand, men som allerede få måneder senere udmøntede sig i en krig i Afghanistan. En krig der som bekendt fortsat er i gang uden nævneværdige positive resultater: Et yderst korrupt regime styrer landet med nød og næppe, opiumsproduktionen er eksploderet og der er intet der tyder på, at de rabiate religiøse kræfter i regionen på nogen måde er svækket, ligesom der heller ikke er meget der peger i retning af, at elleve års krig har bragt civilbefolkningen tættere på fred.

Man brugte desuden på løgnagtig vis 9-11 som undskyldning for, at angribe det af Saddam undertrykte Irak og man drev med krigen millioner på flugt, skabte grundlaget for stadig igangværende sekteriske konflikter og lagde flere hundredetusinder i graven. Altsammen i en krig der inkluderede kemisk krigsførelse og umenneskeliggørelse af soldater såvel som civile irakere. Denne påståede krig for menneskerettigheder vurderes (konservativt) af økonomerne Linda Bilmes og Joseph Stiglitz, at have kostet over tre billioner dollars.Til sammenligning vurderer FNs landbrugsorganisation (FAO), at effektiv bekæmpelse af sult i verden, på årsbasis vil koste omkring 30 milliarder dollars.

Frygtens politik viste for alvor sit grimme ansigt i kølvandet på tvillingetårnenes kollaps, idet begivenheden ikke alene gav nationalkonservatives frygtbaserede had en langt større megafon, den resulterede også i at man indførte diverse politistatslige initiativer i det meste af den såkaldte frie verden. Vores retssikkerhed har således været i frit fald lige siden, ligesom vores frihedsrettigheder og privatliv i dag er under så voldsomme angreb, at man har god grund til at frygte, at de måske snart blot er tomme floskler.

I den tredje verden terroriseres civilbefolkninger af vestlige eliters krigeriske udenrigspolitik, mens vestlige civilbefolkninger terroriseres af den frygtbaserede indvandrings-, sikkerheds- og retspolitik. Terrorismen kommer i mange versioner og de er alle forstyrrende, men den værste er nok alligevel den vi intet gør for at bekæmpe og derfor tillader at lade foregå i vores navn.