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Compassion Is Our New Currency: Notes on 2011’s Preoccupied Hearts and Minds

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Posted on Dec 24, 2011
NIMATARADJI | photography (CC-BY)

By Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

If what’s been happening locally and globally has some of the characteristics of an uprising, then there has never been one quite so pervasive—from the scientists holding an Occupy sign in Antarctica to Occupy presences in places as far-flung as New Zealand and Australia, São Paulo, Frankfurt, London, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Reykjavik. And don’t forget the tiniest places, either. The other morning at the Oakland docks for the West Coast port shutdown demonstrations, I met three members of Occupy Amador County, a small rural area in California’s Sierra Nevada.  Its largest town, Jackson, has a little over 4,000 inhabitants, which hasn’t stopped it from having regular outdoor Friday evening Occupy meetings.

A little girl in a red parka at the Oakland docks was carrying a sign with a quote from blind-deaf-and-articulate early twentieth-century role model Helen Keller that said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.” Why quote Keller at a demonstration focused on labor and economics? The answer is clear enough: because Occupy has some of the emotional resonance of a spiritual, as well as a political, movement.  Like those other upheavals it’s aligned with in Spain, Greece, Iceland (where they’re actually jailing bankers), Britain, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Chile, and most recently Russia, it wants to ask basic questions: What matters? Who matters? Who decides? On what principles? 

Stop for a moment and consider just how unforeseen and unforeseeable all of this was when, on December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian vegetable vendor in Sidi Bouzid, an out-of-the-way, impoverished city, immolated himself. He was protesting the dead-end life that the 1% economy run by Tunisia’s autocratic ruler Zine Ben Ali and his corrupt family allotted him, and the police brutality that went with it, two things that have remained front and center ever since. Above all, as his mother has since testified, he was for human dignity, for a world, that is, where the primary system of value is not money.

“Compassion is our new currency,” was the message scrawled on a pizza-box lid at Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan—held by a pensive-looking young man in Jeremy Ayers’s great photo portrait.  But what can you buy with compassion?

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Quite a lot, it turns out, including a global movement, and even pizza, which can arrive at that movement’s campground as a gift of solidarity.  A few days into Occupy Wall Street’s surprise success, a call for pizza went out and $2,600 in pizzas came in within an hour, just as earlier this year the occupiers of Wisconsin’s state house had been copiously supplied with pizza—including pies paid for and dispatched by Egyptian revolutionaries.

The Return of the Disappeared

During the 1970s and 1980s dictatorship and death-squad era in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Central America, the term “the disappeared” came to cover those who were kidnapped, held in secret, tortured, and then often executed in secret. So many decades later, their fates are often still being deciphered.

In the United States, the disappeared also exist, not thanks to a brutal army or paramilitaries, but to a brutal economy.  When you lose your job, you vanish from the workplace and sooner or later arrive at emptiness in your day, your identity, your wallet, your ability to participate in a commercial society. When you lose your home, you disappear from familiar spaces: the block, the neighborhood, the rolls of homeowners.  Often, you vanish in shame, leaving behind friends and acquaintances. 

At the actions to support some of the 1,500 mostly African-American homeowners being foreclosed upon in southeastern San Francisco, several of them described how they had to overcome a powerful sense of shame simply to speak up, no less defend themselves or join this movement. In the U.S., failure is always supposed to be individual, not systemic, and so it tends to produce a sense of personal devastation that leaves its victims feeling alone and lying low, even though they are among legions of others. 

The people who destroyed our economy through their bottomless greed are, on the other hand, shameless—as shameless as the CEOs whose compensation shot up 36% in 2010, during this deep and grinding recession. Compassion is definitely not their currency.


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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 17, 2012 at 8:27 pm Link to this comment

There is something screwed up about the page.  It does not recognize an existing login.  When you use the login link at the top of the page, it returns from the login to a different page.  Not the first time such things have occurred around here.

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By Foucauldian, January 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm Link to this comment

The site is acting up in not letting me to comment on
the latest Chris Hedges’ thread.  Has anyone else
experienced similar difficulties?

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By Foucauldian, January 16, 2012 at 9:52 am Link to this comment

That’s what I’m looking for, this kind of universal
message:

http://tinyurl.com/6my7mll

BTW, Grady’s been censored from Bill Moyers’
discussion site.  You might hear from him or his wife
directly.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 16, 2012 at 9:35 am Link to this comment

Actually, I was astonished at the resonance which OWS had with the general public.  There have been innumerable actions like OWS in the last two or three decades and none of them seemed to do anything except blow off steam.  OWS (and Wisconsin before that) may not have attracted a majority of the citizenry, but it certainly engaged a good many of them, and it changed the public discourse.  The coherence of ruling-class interests—war, imperialism, surveillance, repression, and favoritism for the rich—is creating a coherent opposition.

That opposition need not be anything like a majority to be effective.  The most successful movement in recent history, Civil Rights, was disliked and opposed throughout its career by most of the White majority.  But it turned out to be too much trouble for them to ignore or repress.

I’m wondering what will happen next.  There is some kind of NATO conference in Chicago in May; I imagine a good many activists will invite themselves to that.

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By Foucauldian, January 15, 2012 at 10:48 am Link to this comment

Of course they’re all connected, Anarcissie, for
you, for me and no doubt for elisalouisa as well—
at least on the intellectual level.  But most
people, and the reasons are many, don’t make all
those connections.

I realize it’s too early to tell, but the movement
doesn’t generate (yet) a very widespread appeal. 
It certainly doesn’t speak with the kind of
powerful voice with which Martin Luther King Jr.
spoke.  True, the question he was addressing could
be construed as narrow - “only” the question of
segregation and civil rights for the blacks.  But
everyone knew that what he was talking about was
social injustice.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm Link to this comment

It was my impression that high unemployment, the foreclosure epidemic, and rich people’s bailouts were frequently mentioned by OWS from the beginning.  Of course, they’re all connected.

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By Foucauldian, January 14, 2012 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

Of course I don’t disagree with your statement of
the consequences.  The point is, we all allowed
this to happen by standing by and going with the
flow.  And we the consumers continue to do so.

People are very slow to connect the dots, they
don’t want to, they don’t want to give up the idea
of the American Dream. 

I don’t have to point to the Tea Party as an
example.  OWS will do just as good.  It’s one thus
far expressed complaint, students’ debt, sounds
petty compared to the kind of violence that’s being
perpetrated this land of the thief and the slave. 
No wonder it has fallen on deaf ears thus far. 
Narrowly conceived demands fail to inspire.  We
have to embrace in our struggle all who are being
marginalized—the blacks, the women, the Latinos,
the gays, all our poor, our homeless, our
“invisibles.”  And until we do, OWS is destined to
remain just another lily white protest, no more
consequential in the larger scheme of things than
the Tea Party had been.

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By elisalouisa, January 14, 2012 at 10:08 am Link to this comment

All of us share part of the blame.

That is what the oligarchy wants us to believe, that we are complicit in such happenings thus letting the criminals off the hook. I don’t buy it. The People are not to blame for Wall Street crimes. If lawyers find it difficult to understand the legal maneuverings of such matters, how can one expect that of the everyday man.  What do “The people” know of the high interest rates that students pay on their loans? What do they know about questionable mortgage lending practices? Or stock market insider trading for that matter? How their pension funds have been knowingly ravaged? About corporate power and tax exemptions; much less the puppet government in Washington put in place through corporate donations? These most heinous crimes that the power/elite have committed, as serious as they are, pale in comparison to the closing of factories throughout America leaving millions unemployed and desperate.  Factories that have been relocated throughout the world where workers must accept whatever meager wages they are offered for the privilege of working 12 hrs. a day in deplorable sweat shops, virtual slaves to their corporate masters.

Just think about it, meditate on it. You may see that such comments are not so preposterous.

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By Foucauldian, January 13, 2012 at 10:08 pm Link to this comment

Not just one percent, elisalouise.

All of us share the part of the blame for being
complicit.  We should stand high and tall against
this genocidal regime, a greater scourge on the
face of humanity than South Africa.  Instead, we’re
being complacent.

Outstanding student loans is the extent of OWS
grievance, our grievance.

Shame!

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By elisalouisa, January 13, 2012 at 9:59 pm Link to this comment

Radicalism is like a corporation???

As the oligarchy tentacles reach even further and control every aspect of life, “The People,” under a hypnotic trance that Fox news has cast upon them, slowly fade into the Pacific sunset. A corporation induced tsunami will soon engulf them, mercifully ending their now pathetic lives. No longer of use and having served their purpose, Christian Fundamentalists who fell prey to the neocon fascists rapacious conservative stand are included in this group. If any “one” is to blame Michael it is the one percent.

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By Foucauldian, January 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm Link to this comment

Ozarkmichel, elisaluisa, gerard.

Let me introduce you to a series of essays on the
subject of the discussion, “An Ethic of Virtue and
the Modern Condition, Part I,” as per the following
link:

http://tinyurl.com/7tg37sa

Please feel free to comment on either comments space. 
Your contributions are always welcome.

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By Foucauldian, January 11, 2012 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

In re:  the liberal elite, one would be remiss not to
allude to the underlying psychological explanation:

white guilt and atonement for sins

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By Foucauldian, January 11, 2012 at 8:46 am Link to this comment

Good comments, as usual.

It was a turn of phrase made popular in the
sixties, especially in the academic circles, rather
synonymous with “bad faith.”  Existentialism was
still the most familiar aspect of the Continental
philosophy.  My employment of the terms comes down
more a less to a degree of pretentiousness.  Don’t
forget, the term “troll” is a relatively new one.

And yes, your critique of the liberal elite is spot
on.  There was a recent report on NPR, I’ll dig it
up and post a link, contending that the Democratic
Party had become the party of professionals,
relying and experts and expertise as a way not only
of solving social problems but, more importantly,
of communicating to the public at large.  A
politician has thus been morphed into a technocrat. 
So aside from the Ivory Tower type of syndrome,
this too surely contributes to the major
disconnect.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 11, 2012 at 8:05 am Link to this comment

The article on authenticity was amusing.  Erich Fromm was confused (as I have always found him), but the disagreement between Sartre and Adorno about jazz was hilarious—two major bigdeals of European philosophy expounding on a subject they seem to know nothing about, either as to its content or its context. 

As the criticism section of the Wikipedia article points out, authenticity is a pretty ambiguous concept.  Of course, we think we like authenticity in art—but then we buy tickets for Picasso, Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga.  Or the better practitioners of traditional Blues.  But they’re good!  (Sometimes.)  They know what to steal!  Evidently de gustibus non est disputandum, but plenty of ‘theft’ may be involved.

In regard to freedom, I suppose it is ‘inauthentic’ to attempt to escape from freedom, since surely every willful being desires freedom to work its will.  But we willful beings, coming into the world, find it is already full of other willful beings or inert matter which are not interested in allowing us to work our will—which indeed may be terrifyingly hostile.  Some kind of strategem must be constructed to deal with the problem, and for many people, the easiest is submission in exchange for some consideration like being allowed to go on living.  Good children, good students, good slaves.  Sure, we’d like to see them on the barricades—our barricades—but it may be their experience of life hasn’t provided them with the spirit and the motivation for that kind of move.

Nevertheless, just to contradict all I have said, I do find the talk of ‘compassion’ in association with the Bismarckian Welfare state many liberals seem fond of rather inauthentic and therefore unattractive.  (There’s nothing like returning to the ‘original’ subject, is there?)  Are they actually feeling compassion for actual poor and destitute people?  Why don’t I see them in the slums, then?  Or is it all ‘currency’—something one writes a check for and forgets about?

However, I’m willing to take on what seems to be fairly inauthentic speech and try playing with it, if it’s not too dumb and repetitious.  Why not?  I’m not trying to save anyone’s soul here.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 11, 2012 at 7:31 am Link to this comment

I would say the strong emphasis on nonviolence in many leftist and leftish quarters derives from the negative historical experience of such events as the French and Russian revolutions, and the positive, if somewhat mythologized, experiences of the Civil Rights movement and Gandhi’s various struggles.  It is difficult to ‘take responsibility’ for things you don’t believe in.

(For anarchists, the association or identity of violence with the state would also be important regardless of historical experience.)

Likewise, I would not expect conservatives as such to take responsibility for fascism, since fascism was (is) in fact a revolutionary movement.  Conservatism, if it was serious conservatism, would actually be an antidote to the tendency of rightists to go off into the fascist abyss.

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By Foucauldian, January 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm Link to this comment

Just a teaser, Michael, about the vision thing:

http://tinyurl.com/6vmt2mk

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By Foucauldian, January 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm Link to this comment

If you don’t trust me, Michael to at least try to be
fair, then why bother posting such a lengthy comment?

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, January 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm Link to this comment

No, that’s not the reason, Michael, unless you want
it to be the reason.  The truth is, authentic speech,
even if wrong, is always preferable to inauthentic
speech.

So yes, it is a matter of values.

What you dont realize is that at the beginning of our conversation I was a bit wary to express myself, trying to figure out where you were coming from and why. It seems from your initial favorable response that you preferred me to be less authentic since it left you more room to maneuvre without any resistance from me.

As the conversation moved forward i was actually being more authentic, exploring my own reason and values concerning Communism. I was more clear about my objections. I will be even more clear now.

One fault of corporations is that while profit is concentrated, bankruptcy or blame for wrongdoing is completely dissipated. It is a moral problem at first, but it becomes an economic problem on a large scale, and then it becomes a problem for democracy on as it reaches a wide scale. The worst part is you cant find anyone who will stand there and take responsibility and learn from it. And many people need to do that. The morality, the money, the corruption. No one seems to learn anything because you cant take someone by the hand and lead them to the mess and make them bow their heads. No one ever seems to acknowledge a problem. Thats lack of acknowledgement is the biggest problem, ensuring its not going to get better. Do you understand this? I bet you do.

Lets talk about fascism and Nazism. The people who propelled it, supported it, compromised with it, ‘didnt think it would be so bad’, all had to learn a lesson. the lesson was forced on them. Years later people still had to visit the closed concentration camps. They took the opportunity to offer some words to show they understood how bad it was and in at least some small way admit they were wrong.

Which maybe is not enough, but it was good. I bet you understand that. And to this day, coming up in public school, universities, and in the mainstream media, conservatives have to deal with the possiblity of guilt by association, since fascism is viewed as being ‘far-right’ and we are playing with fire the farther right we go. How many times in my life i have stood and delivered at the accusation? I cant count. I think it was good for me to go through the first 100 times or so. One episode lasted two years.

Now lets talk about the Communism. There were Anarchists/Socialists/Communists at the vanguard of a revolution. They were the same loveable mix of radicals that we see here on Truthdig. Most of them wanted some high ideal to be realized for Russia. Very few of them hoped for violence, none foresaw the murder of millions. But thats what they caused.

Now today we have Anarchists/Socialists/Communists.  Aree they ashamed or at least embarrassed at what happened in the past? Because lets remember, they arent merely at some distance from the Russian radicals, they are pretty much the same mix as the Russian radicals. This ought to give them cause to hesitate. But do they? Ever? Once? For a minute?

No, and that is why radicalism is like a corporation. No one actually takes blame, no one stands and delivers, and thus… no one learns anything. Only this time we arent talking about money(oh so precious!) we talking about life and death, about liberty and abject slavery. Radicals dont acknowledge that there was a problem, so its not going to get better next time around. That is biggest problem of all.

Although it was unpleasant for you to engage with my evaluation of Communism, you really had no cause to call it inauthentic, except as a tactic to avoid what i was saying.

Now understand that i am not asking you to rejudge my case. I suspect any change in your verdict would merely be a tactic. In other words, i dont trust you at all, so dont bother.

Plan to deal with my comments on future threads.

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By Foucauldian, January 10, 2012 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

Thanks, elisa.  I don’t hold any grudge against
Michael, not have I accused him of condescension
(except for occasional willful misrepresentation of
meanings).  I think for the most part, he is a
thoughtful conservative, and I wish both of us
could honestly try to breach our differences in
vision.  I’m always game when it comes to honest-
to-goodness discussion, and I’m certain both of us
would stand to gain from it. 

So yes, I’d never accuse Michael of “trolling.”  I
think he’s too honest for that.

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By elisalouisa, January 10, 2012 at 8:46 am Link to this comment

Foucauldian:The truth is, authentic speech, even if wrong, is always preferable
to inauthentic speech.

Well said and if truth be told, I have seen no wordplay and also no derision under the guise of failed wit in Michael’s writings. His manner is not condescending. Verbally “Kicking one to the curb,” most of all in the context of this thread, reveal undesirable values that must be brought to the fore.

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By Foucauldian, January 10, 2012 at 7:58 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie,

The following sort of connects to you earlier link
about Fromm:

http://tinyurl.com/fm6bc

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By Foucauldian, January 10, 2012 at 7:42 am Link to this comment

No, that’s not the reason, Michael, unless you want
it to be the reason.  The truth is, authentic speech,
even if wrong, is always preferable to inauthentic
speech.

So yes, it is a matter of values.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, January 10, 2012 at 6:35 am Link to this comment

Foucaldian said: “You stand in the way of progress by
saying we stand too much to lose for trying to do
better—an argument as ancient as ... I don’t
even want to remember.”

I am not against trying to do better, and its a good thing that the system we have provides for that. I am against devaluing what we have.

As for me, Michael, all you’re gonna get from me from here and now is an occasional (and not so
honorable) mention.

Not unless of course your inauthentic speech
becomes authentic.  And guess what, I’m the
ultimate judge.

Wow. Is that because of your superior Reason? If its your Reason, then we observe that your appeal to values collapsed before your “values project” even began.

If its your values that kicked me to the curb, then we observe that values dont form a bridge across chasms… instead it seems that values actually creates chasms between people before reason has a chance to figure out what the hell was really going on.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 10, 2012 at 6:06 am Link to this comment

What about the ‘flight from freedom’?

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By Foucauldian, January 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment

Ozark says:

“Liberty is lost when people who have it do not
appreciate it, and trade it in for something else.
Isnt that our problem now?”

No, this isn’t the problem now, nor has it ever
been.  People always appreciate their freedom and
never willingly submit themselves to slavery.  If
anything, people always strive for the better, not
the worse.  Your talk, Ozark, is an talk of a
demagogue.  You stand in the way of progress by
saying we stand too much to lose for trying to do
better—an argument as ancient as ... I don’t
even want to remember.

Doesn’t do you much credit, Ozark.  You’ve got to
try harder.  Anarcissie, out of the goodness of her
heart—there’s no other reason I can think of—
may choose to respond to your inauthentic speech. 
Good for Anarcissie, for she’s certainly a better
and a more virtuous -  God, I know she hates that
term!—man than I am.  More power to her. 

As for me, Michael, all you’re gonna get from me
from here and now it an occasional (and not so
honorable) mention.

Not unless of course your inauthentic speech
becomes authentic.  And guess what, I’m the
ultimate judge.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 9, 2012 at 7:54 pm Link to this comment

OzarkMichael, January 9 at 12:31 pm:

Anarcissie said: “You said the outcome of revolution was ‘Communism’, not I.”

If i said that, it was totally wrong. thanks for the correction and i must get some Ritalin.

But if i was talking about Communism at your request(!) as the outcome of radicals(!)(anarchist/socialist/communists) promoting revolution, then it is highly irregular to survey the Maccabee revolt against the Seleucid Empire or the Songhai revolt against the Mali Empire for the correctness of my statement. Perhaps you are the one who needs some Ritalin to focus your thoughts.

After the radical alliance succeeds to the point of revolution, then what? Historically, Communists have won the ‘after revolution’ tussle. That historic fact should be important to you, or you can diffuse that hard lesson by irrelevent considerations of revolutions everywhere throughout time and of every type, including fashion revolutions perhaps. ...

If we are talking about state revolutions only, then my reading of history is that they are usually followed by what Machiavelli calls ‘severity’, that is, military rule and a reign of terror.

This is logical, because the state is based on violence.  One might indeed say it is violence.  Once the habits of obedience and submission are broken (as by revolution) they must be restored, an effort which requires more force than the maintenance of the old order would have required, since the new rulers will not be assisted by legitimacy. 

Hence, most of the anarchists I know are not interested in state revolution.  I suppose I avoid the ones who are.  In the 19th century, there was a widespread theory that if only people got rid of the ruling class, an anarchist utopia would immediately follow.  I don’t think many people believe that these days, at least not if they read history and do any thinking.

So some other kind of revolution must be necessary—the kind you call ‘irrelevant’ above.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, January 9, 2012 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment

Foucaldian said: “You talk of Liberty very loosely, Michael.  If our history serves us as any kind of reliable guide, it’s never given, always won.”

And lost.

Liberty is lost when people who have it do not appreciate it, and trade it in for something else. Isnt that our problem now?

If you wish to trade in your liberty(or whatever-it-is that we have) for what is behind door #3, my greatest wish is that you could do so without throwing everyone else’s liberty in with your own gambit, yet that is the very thing you would do.

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By Foucauldian, January 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment

You talk of Liberty very loosely, Michael.  If our
history serves us as any kind of reliable guide, it’s
never given, always won.

Consequently, I don’t hold our liberal democracies in
the kind of esteem you seem to.  Any kind of liberty
that has ever been won, whether under what
masquerades as a democratic system or ruthless
dictatorship, has always been won as as result of a
bitter struggle.  And I certainly don’t regard
America as an exception.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, January 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie said: “You said the outcome of revolution was ‘Communism’, not I.”

If i said that, it was totally wrong. thanks for the correction and i must get some Ritalin.

But if i was talking about Communism at your request(!) as the outcome of radicals(!)(anarchist/socialist/communists) promoting revolution, then it is highly irregular to survey the Maccabee revolt against the Seleucid Empire or the Songhai revolt against the Mali Empire for the correctness of my statement. Perhaps you are the one who needs some Ritalin to focus your thoughts.

After the radical alliance succeeds to the point of revolution, then what? Historically, Communists have won the ‘after revolution’ tussle. That historic fact should be important to you, or you can diffuse that hard lesson by irrelevent considerations of revolutions everywhere throughout time and of every type, including fashion revolutions perhaps.

Foucaldian, i appreciate your fine effort to delineate our differences. One more comparison please, and this is a vital one: You think we have almost nothing to lose. i think of Liberty, which the human race has not enjoyed very often, and thus i think we have a great deal to lose. You hold Liberty very cheaply, as if it is a common commodity that can be reconstituted anywhere and at any time.

Let this serve as my first talk about values.

I observe that radicals think and talk about ‘stuff’ all the time, you worry over who has what and fret over how did they get it, and how you can take it from them.

My primary value is elsewhere. You can take my money and stuff from me and i would submit to that. Upon my death bed, I would nod in weary agreement if the state intercepted every penny of my wealth and my children inherited nothing. However, if you threaten the inheritance of Liberty to my children…  i will rise from my deathbed and fight against you.

If my stubborness on this question of Liberty serves the interest of some fat-cat somewhere, well, so be it. You can take it as an expression of my carnivorous nature, or the fault of conservative ideology. Or you can chalk it up to my faulty reasoning. At the very least it is what I value most, not only for myself, but for you, and for those to come.

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By Foucauldian, January 9, 2012 at 9:26 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie, January 9 at 7:13 am

Now you’re taking things unnecessarily abstract. 
Murdoch was important to bring to your attention
for general, philosophical reasons.  My comment
concerns specific applications, your “debate” with
Michael Ozark, in this instance.

It’s apparent, as Michael has just shown his hand,
that the kind of differences existing between you
two (not to mention myself as well) will not be
resolved by any rational argument. 

Examples:

—You and I think the system is broken; Michael
thinks it can be fixed

—You and I think the system doesn’t deliver on the
promises upon which it was presumably founded;
Michael thins it potentially can

—You and I think a liberal democracy is an
ideology on behalf of capitalism; Michael thinks
it’s a real McCoy

—You and I think capitalism is ridden with
contradictions, exploitative, and dangerous to
human health; Michael doesn’t share this opinion,
and whatever the ills of the system (he pays lip
service to), he’s certain they can be fixed

—You and I view the rule of law as essentially an
expression of the will of the ruling class [with
few minor concessions thrown now and then (won
through a bitter struggle), reluctantly and for
appeasement; that’s certainly not Michael’s view

—Michael points to the accomplishments of liberal
democracies and the underlying economic system; we
point to the failures.

I could go on, of course, but you get the idea. 


Now, each of these points of disagreement have
propositional content (and therefore a truth
function), which is to say they can be argued back
and forth among rational beings as to their truth
or falsehood.  In addition, however, there is an
attitudinal component attached to each and every
one of them—in this case, a form of belief (see
first essay in the Davidson volume I referenced
earlier).  Taken all together (for no thought or
belief can exist in isolation and independently of
one another, but each reinforce the other), they
form a belief-system, a kind of vision, if you
will.  Now, I submit, Anarcissie, that the
difference between such disparate system of beliefs
is not logical in basis, or resolvable in terms of
logic or rational argument, but value-laden.

You and I have different conceptions of what is
just, Anarcissie, way different from what Michael’s
conception may or may not be.  Different
conceptions of what is courage and intellectual
integrity, different conceptions of what is
progress and what is not, different conceptions of
what is freedom or oppression.  Mind you, I’m not
saying Michael has no conception of such things,
only that his conception is different, way
different.  Too different to breach by resorting to
logic or rational argument while debating each of
the mentioned bones of contention, for then you’ll
be only scratching the surface rather than dig
beneath.

As to examples of what regard as “inauthentic
speech” issuing from the mouth of Michael, just
look at the remainder of your last comment, devoted
to clearing up his misinterpretation of your words,
connecting, say, the American Revolution, with the
specter of Communism.  Unless you’re willing to
assume that Michael suffers either from severe ADD
or reading comprehension skills—and I have no
reason to assume that—you must conclude that the
misinterpretation was willful.  There’s more where
it came from, but you get the idea.

Well, perhaps the larger point I’m making, it makes
no sense as far as I am concerned to seriously
engage with inauthentic speech; and I’ll take the
lead here from Socrates himself, when debating the
Sophists. 

Granted, we all need the sharpening of our
rhetorical and logical skills, but I can surely
think of many occasions we can do that while
putting our energies and resources to better use. 

— 

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By Anarcissie, January 9, 2012 at 8:13 am Link to this comment

Foucauldian, January 8 at 5:44 pm:

Why not establish first some agreement on values?
Don’t you think that’s more fundamental?

If you like.  However, it seemed to me that Murdoch and company, with their nonspecific, unbounded notion of Goodness, were talking about objective, that is, universal values.  I know what I value, and I can communicate with you about what you value, and maybe we can form an alliance or at least a deal.  But I don’t know what the universe or God may value, if anything, which would be the requirement for objective, universal values.

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By Anarcissie, January 9, 2012 at 7:56 am Link to this comment

OzarkMichael, January 8 at 7:09 pm:

Foucaldian said:

  At least Burke’s claim to conservatism rested on the premise, “why fix it if it ain’t broken.” But you seem to defending a broken system.

Burke’s motto would be, “Dont break it if you can fix it instead.” and furthermore… “If you cant fix it, dont break it!”

Please note that after you succeed in breaking this system, if things get worse instead of better, you cant undo the damage, you cant regain what was lost, you will have wasted our inheritance on a gamble and we cannot have it back again.

I think the system could be fixed so I am defending the system in spite of its flaws. However, i have an advantage… I can change my mind later.

As for Anarcissie’s critique of my comment on radicals and revolutions; To assign credit for the outcome of the American Revolution to Communists/Anarchists/Socialists is a bit of a stretch.

You said the outcome of revolution was ‘Communism’, not I.  I said the outcome of actual revolutions had been highly variegated, and gave several examples.  And that was just confining myself to state revolutions; there are all kinds of revolutions.

In regard to fixing what is or isn’t broken, there are different ways of looking at a social order (‘society’).  One can regard it as a big machine, or as an organism.  (And in some other ways.)  I associate the machine view, generally, with liberalism, and the organism view with (classical) conservatism.  One can pull apart a machine and put it back together again in various ways, and maybe it will work; but if you pull apart an organism, it will probably die, or at least behave in unpredictable and possibly undesirable ways.  Hence, conservatives tend to be very dubious about changing even what seem to be archaisms, as for instance an explicit hereditary class system and a monarchy as in Great Britain.  There was considerable debate in the 18th century as to whether a nominally classless society, such as that proposed for the White citizens of the United States, could ever work.  Lincoln refers to that debate in the Gettysburg Address.

As I see it, the conservative position is fairly reasonable—it seems likely that an assemblage of organisms has to be itself considered an organism.  However, the assumption underlying the conservative position is that the existing social order is tolerable even if far from perfect.  For some people it isn’t, of course.

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By OzarkMichael, January 8, 2012 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment

eheheh. That was quick response and a snappy comment.

i have not read the moral/value books you recommended, Foucaldian. If thats where the conversation will go then i shall read them.

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By Foucauldian, January 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm Link to this comment

Tooting your own horn, ha?

Sorry, look for donations elsewhere.

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By OzarkMichael, January 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm Link to this comment

Foucaldian said:

At least Burke’s claim to conservatism rested on the premise, “why fix it if it ain’t broken.” But you seem to defending a broken system.

Burke’s motto would be, “Dont break it if you can fix it instead.” and furthermore… “If you cant fix it, dont break it!”

Please note that after you succeed in breaking this system, if things get worse instead of better, you cant undo the damage, you cant regain what was lost, you will have wasted our inheritance on a gamble and we cannot have it back again.

I think the system could be fixed so I am defending the system in spite of its flaws. However, i have an advantage… I can change my mind later.
 
As for Anarcissie’s critique of my comment on radicals and revolutions; To assign credit for the outcome of the American Revolution to Communists/Anarchists/Socialists is a bit of a stretch.

Those two sayings I put in Burke’s mouth were quite good. Playful, yet highly informative. Although i am falsely accused of being a hired “agent provacateur”  I really should get paid by the people who read Truthdig. Anarcissie, how much was my very compact summary of Burke worth to you?

Foucaldian, you should put something in the jar too, because you pretty much got an entire college course concentrated in two pithy phrases.

I accept PayPal!

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By Foucauldian, January 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm Link to this comment

Why not establish first some agreement on values? 
Don’t you think that’s more fundamental?

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By Anarcissie, January 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm Link to this comment

I read that (I think).  However, you seem not to have read my second paragraph.

As you can see there is some distance between my vocabulary and Ozark Michael’s, to say nothing of our axioms.  Before we could discuss much we would have to establish a common realm of discourse.  The same might have been true if I had gone to argue with Iris Murdoch back in the day—I can’t tell from the material I’ve read, which starts in medias res, which is fine for fiction, but less amusing in philosophy.

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By Foucauldian, January 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment

I was referring to the language of morals, not her
fiction.

To get a better feel where Murdoch is going with her
essays, take a look at the review by Christopher
Mole, as per earlier link.  It is a short read and a
good summary.

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By Anarcissie, January 8, 2012 at 12:58 pm Link to this comment

I like Murdoch’s fiction because it is knotty, gothic and weird—the kind of language I would avoid if I were trying write philosophy.  Well, maybe not; I guess it depends on the purpose.  Wittgenstein allegedly said that philosophy was the disease for which it was supposed to be the cure, but I can see it as a kind of fizzy entertainment, like the more abstruse forms of mathematics.  You have to watch it, though: booze up on Hegel, and next you get into Nietzsche and Marx, and then what....  You may find yourself in the attic with Raskolnikov.

I read the bits of Sovereignty available for free and it appears to start far, far down the road from any place I know about.  It seems there is some to-do about a mother who resolves to think better of her daughter-in-law, which is given as a moral good that exists as a purely mental state, controverting somebody who apparently said that morals existed only with reference to actions.  But (1) it is practical, rather than moral, to think well of your daughter-in-law, because you’re stuck with her anyway—do not sinners and publicans do so also?—and (2) mental states are obviously real things.  So as I say, it’s way out there in country I seldom traverse.

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By Anarcissie, January 8, 2012 at 11:48 am Link to this comment

OzarkMichael, January 8 at 6:49 am:

‘...  When I refer to Communism, it is the reality after radicals and other dreamers succeed in overthrowing the system. ...’

That is mighty vague.  When I look at history, even narrowing my focus to modern state revolutions—the various English, American, French, Mexican, Russian, Chinese and other revolutions—I see a great variety of realities resulting.  One can’t even say that ‘disorder’ or ‘insecurity’ always results.

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By Foucauldian, January 8, 2012 at 11:09 am Link to this comment

Grim, very grim scenario, Michael.  At least
Burke’s claim to conservatism rested on the
premise, “why fix it if it ain’t broken.”  But you
seem to defending a broken system.

It’s highly debatable whether liberal democracies
gave rise to the concept of “social justice.”  If
so, it’s only by the letter of the law, not the
spirit.  It created the illusion, that’s all.  You
can go as far as Euripides’ tragic plays, if not
further back, to see that the idea was quite alive
and well.

I don’t condone a revolution, and I’m certain
Anarcissie doesn’t either.  A mass-scale
withdrawal, refusal to participate, are powerful
enough measures for my taste in order for the
requisite kind of social change to emerge, just the
right kind of push and shove.  The system is bent
on destroying itself of its own accord, as evident
by the growing dissatisfaction on the part of the
majority whose human needs are not being met. 
It’ll die of its own obsolescence and will be
replaced by something more functional.

In any case, human events have a trajectory all
their own, and it’s impossible for anyone to
foretell the exact shape of the future, just as
it’s impossible for any single leader or a group of
leaders to dictate their future course.  If
anything, “leaders” emerge in the course of
emerging events to provide a unitary voice, but
they don’t cause the events.  The events just
happen, and the rest becomes history.

So yes, Michael, my vision of the future is not
quite as grim as yours.  I’m quite open to the
possibility that we’re undergoing a period of
significant social change not just in the US but
worldwide, and am willing to look reality straight
in the face.  Change is a fact of life, Michael.

As to OWS, I’d say it’s most important contribution
thus far is to give voice to the growing sentiment
that our government is no longer legitimate.  And I
couldn’t agree more.

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By Foucauldian, January 8, 2012 at 9:16 am Link to this comment

The language of Murdoch, Anarcissie, except that it’s
in bad form, if not inappropriate, to use that
language when speaking in the first-person singular
and referring to one’s own stance.  But in the
exhortative or the all-embracing voice, “we,”
definitely.

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By Anarcissie, January 8, 2012 at 8:02 am Link to this comment

I didn’t think you were finding fault with me.  Anyway, you’re free to do so—it’s possible that I am not perfect.  In any case, what kind of language would be more appropriate for what I do?

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By OzarkMichael, January 8, 2012 at 7:49 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie said

And then there are the contradictions.  People talk about the environment and put an ecology sticker on their SUV.  They talk about the unborn or the poor and support politicians who start wars killing, maiming, and torturing hundreds of thousands of people for political and economic gain.  They talk about being reasonable and support crazy crimes against humanity like the Drug War.  They talk about compassion and eat pork chops.  All with completely innocent sincerity, as far as I can tell.

And they talk about social justice while they dream of destroying the system that developed the concept.

Ozark Michael—I was just wondering what you meant.  Different people mean very different things by ‘communism’  For instance, I see communism as the predominant social substrate of daily life—people in fact mostly live and work in groups where goods and services are passed around pretty freely, not bought and sold or distributed by authorities.  But people often mean something quite different—for example, you might be referring to the program of the Communist Party and Soviet-style ‘socialism’.

When I refer to Communism, it is the reality after radicals and other dreamers succeed in overthrowing the system.

Earlier I said that to overthrow an entire system (economic/social/political) requires many people all pushing the same way. Now i see that was an error and i want to correct it. The people who push dont need to have the same goals at all, they merely need to withdraw support from the current system.

Each person can have a completely different vision of what the end result will be. One might think that the system just needs a good cleanup, another might think that the system needs to be torn down and replaced with something new. Another might think that the system needs to be scaled back, another might wish to see the system replaced with no system at all.

Everyone can have stars in their eyes as they participate in a negative movement. Everyone can have a completely different goal as they band together against the inequalities of the system. Everyone can chant “this is what democracy looks like” even though the end result will not be democracy at all. How do i know that? I know because they are already confused, since they are confusing ‘democracy’ with themselves. OWS is a faction making demands, a faction threatening revolution if they dont get what they want. They are confusing revolution with democracy.

If the revolution succeeds there will be a brief celebration among many dreamers, each anticipating that their particular dream has triumphed at last, but those dreams cannot all come true. The truth of the matter will eventually become evident: only one dream will be fulfilled, while other dreams become subsidiary.

At this point Anarcissie’s principle of a huge “alliance” has served its purpose, but at least there is honesty in the word “alliance”, since it promises no loyalty beyond the moment. New alliances must form later. Isnt that so?

Also at that that point Foucaldian’s appeal to emotions will have served its first purpose, because his emotive talk encouraged many to dream. But we must awake to a particular and always imperfect reality. The few will use Reason(not emotion) to direct and build a new reality. True, one can appeal to love to support the new reality, but the concrete results will be difficult for a time, imperfect at best, or ruinous at worst. There is going to be bitterness amongst those who dreamt a perfect dream. You can’t appeal to their reason after emotion has triumphed. Love turns to hate in an instant. What then?

After destroying the hated system, there will be no going back to that hated system which cultivated the dreaming and allowed such freedom to express the dream. On that regretful day we find out who is best prepared to enforce their will, and who was just dreaming.

“Communism” is the likely result.

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By Foucauldian, January 7, 2012 at 11:34 pm Link to this comment

Perhaps I haven’t expressed myself correctly.  Of
course you’re consistent,  All I meant you’re not
using the kind of language I think is most
appropriate for what you do.  And I may understand
the reason, since action always speaks louder than
words (whereas words when not backed by action are
empty).

In any case, I didn’t mean for this dialogue to
take a personal turn.  It’s clumsy on my part that
I allowed it to happen by not staying at the level
of the abstract.  Just know I wasn’t finding fault
with you or anything like that; quite the contrary.

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By Anarcissie, January 7, 2012 at 11:06 pm Link to this comment

What I do and what I say and what I think are all fairly consistent, as far as I know.  (Excluding dreams, fantasies, fables, etc., which I imagine we all indulge.)  Other than those due to cowardice, laziness, or intellectual shortfall, where do you see a discrepancy?

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By Foucauldian, January 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, you’re practicing the very thing which
you deny, because you don’t want to come to terms
with the language.  I mean, your mode of engagement
with the world is precisely of the right kind.  You
walk the walk, but don’t want to talk the talk, 
Perhaps I understand that.

And virtues aren’t in anybody’s private domain, so as
to lay any claims on “superiority.”  They’re no more
private than our language is private (which isn’t to
deny privatized use of concepts).

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By Anarcissie, January 7, 2012 at 9:18 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian, January 7 at 5:43 pm:

‘You know the reason, because they’re selfish and
don’t want to give up their selfishness.’

I am most strongly doubtful of any rationale about anything which is based on my superiority of either virtue or intellect.


‘On the other hand, Anarcissie, let me pose a
question of my own.  Why should anyone take at face
value the sentiments you expressed so eloquently in
your previous post—about the many injustices in
our society?  But I do, and many posters here would
agree with you as well.

So don’t we share here some agreement as regards
values?’

Certainly, but each may possess a different set, and have come by them differently.  We will most likely agree on some things, and disagree on others.  Whereas there is supposed to be only one reason, and one reality, or at least people talk as if that’s what they think.

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By Foucauldian, January 7, 2012 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

This link should work:

http://tinyurl.com/76lty8g

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By Foucauldian, January 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment

I heartily recommend Iris Murdoch’s little book, “The
Sovereignty of Good.”  Should be available in any
good used-books store for a few bucks.  It’s
problematic at spots but a delightful read.

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By Foucauldian, January 7, 2012 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment

You know the reason, because they’re selfish and
don’t want to give up their selfishness.

On the other hand, Anarcissie, let me pose a
question of my own.  Why should anyone take at face
value the sentiments you expressed so eloquently in
your previous post—about the many injustices in
our society?  But I do, and many posters here would
agree with you as well. 

So don’t we share here some agreement as regards
values?

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By Anarcissie, January 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment

If values, including that most comprehensive and vague value of all, the Good, are susceptible to discovery and proof through the agency of reason, then why do not all reasonable people agree with me?

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By Foucauldian, January 7, 2012 at 10:54 am Link to this comment

Re: previous post, here’s a link to Philippa Foot’s
argument (a review):

http://tinyurl.com/84zm26s

More available upon request.

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By Foucauldian, January 7, 2012 at 10:29 am Link to this comment

‘Reason’, of course, includes rational arguments
about morals.  Morals are values.  Values, like
perceptions, differ from person to person and
generally have pre-rational sources.  This is why
argument, rational or not, does not usually change
people’s morals or other values.  Indeed, it is
difficult to change people’s beliefs even about
demonstrable physical facts, much less the beliefs
and abstractions to which they have become
accustomed and to which they have attached strong
emotions.

Disagree with you there, Anarcissie.  There are
sophisticated philosophical arguments to the effect
that values are just as objective as other
statements of propositional content.  See, for
example, Donald Davidson volume, “Problems of
Rationality,” Clarendon Press, 2004, not to mention
a long line of modern philosophers—e.g.,
Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot and Iris Murdoch
—who argue quite competently against the fact-
value distinction.

I’ll be covering aspects of the subject in my
forthcoming article or two, and will provide the
respective links, naturally.  Am glad, however,
we’re coming to an understanding as to where are
disagreements lie.

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By Anarcissie, January 7, 2012 at 9:47 am Link to this comment

I hate to be repetitious, but—‘Reason is one way to deal with conflicting interests and desires if there is some kind of common ground to reason from.  But in some cases there is not—people are starting from different axioms about what really is, what is good, how we know what is good, what means are permissible to obtain the good, and so on.  The problem is compounded by the fact that most people have no trouble entertaining contradictory mental images of the world, and by the fact that most people regard their axioms as part of their selves, and cling to them as if they were their property or even parts of their bodies.

‘Reason’, of course, includes rational arguments about morals.  Morals are values.  Values, like perceptions, differ from person to person and generally have pre-rational sources.  This is why argument, rational or not, does not usually change people’s morals or other values.  Indeed, it is difficult to change people’s beliefs even about demonstrable physical facts, much less the beliefs and abstractions to which they have become accustomed and to which they have attached strong emotions.

And then there are the contradictions.  People talk about the environment and put an ecology sticker on their SUV.  They talk about the unborn or the poor and support politicians who start wars killing, maiming, and torturing hundreds of thousands of people for political and economic gain.  They talk about being reasonable and support crazy crimes against humanity like the Drug War.  They talk about compassion and eat pork chops.  All with completely innocent sincerity, as far as I can tell.

Alliances on particular issues are all I hope for at this point.  The rest is poetry and few people want to hear it.

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By elisalouisa, January 7, 2012 at 8:43 am Link to this comment

Compassion is just a word to some. What does it mean, if one’s heart is in the right place? Is there more than one room in “the right place?” Is the heart compartmentalized as to love?  Reason cannot enter the heart and the many dimensions of love. So, understanding is lacking between individuals.

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By Foucauldian, January 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment

If I was “protesting” against anything, do tell.  I
think I was simply to get the discussion on track. 
I happen to believe that these issues are
fundamental and that apart from them, any
discussion of politics is only at second remove, as
Plato would say.  Moreover, I happen to think that
between you, Gerard and yours truly, we could come
to significant conclusions.  I’ve come to a
realization of late that unless we couch our
political discussions in purely moral terms, not
only with respect to what is the just thing when it
comes to our brothers and sisters but also, just as
importantly, what we as individuals ought to do,
we’ll never be free of the suspicion that we’re not
being authentic, of suspicion, that is, that we’re
merely using politics to justify ourselves instead
of undertaking the infinitely more difficult task
of looking into our own soul.

To give but one example, I’m rather perturbed by
Anaricissie speaking of nothing but alliances.  I
surely understand the importance of such speech if
only from pragmatic standpoint, and yet ... in the
long run I find it lacking, less than satisfying,
leaving a great deal to be desired.  The perturbing
part is, I know that Anarcissie’s heart is in the
right place, I know we share pretty much the same
values and ideas of how we both envisage a future
and better society.  And yes, there appears to be
this disconnect between the two of us, as though we
didn’t really speak the same language.  So that’s
just one example of what I mean by failure of the
rationality.

In any case, I’m in the process of composing an
article on the subject, and I’ll make certain to
provide you with a link once done.

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By OzarkMichael, January 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment

The seeming irrelevence of moral language is certainly a great topic. I would say it is important to revive it, nourish it, exercise it, and ultimately strengthen it, so we can better communicate the old ideals, fortifying people’s individual lives with purpose and understanding so they contribute to their community and have a better quality of life. That might lead to some political changes I like, but mostly it will strengthen and have the effect of conserving the good principles that conservatives and many liberals cherish. You would perhaps believe that the same goals are better achieved in another system and that love/beauty/justice is better fulfilled in that system. Perhaps you call for radically different means, but you want to appeal to the same moral instincts that i do.

I wouldnt mind having a conversation about it, or if you want to focus the discussion more thats ok. But please dont be bothered that I tried to guess what you are up to. It is a natural and important question. I will probably do it again. Thats just the way of it.

Also, we make little jokes all the time. Do not take offense. It is type of play that is enjoyable and over time becomes almost affectionate.  Strangely, you protest against something that comes closer to love than any erudite discussion about ‘love’ could ever do.

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By Foucauldian, January 3, 2012 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment

“The one task at hand, what is it?”

I was simply referring to our past conversation about
values, the seeming irrelevance of moral language and
all that.  That was the context.

It would appear that conversation was never
concluded; it assumed a wholly different dimension.

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By OzarkMichael, January 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment

The one task at hand, what is it?

I suppose your task is moving people to act. You notice that your Reason doesnt work on them.Now we wonder why. Is it because reason is not enough of a motivation? Is it because people do not use reason at all? Or because they have good reason of their own to ignore you?

Either way, that is your dilemma. That is the problem to solve in order for you to move forward. Am i correct Foucaldian?

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By Foucauldian, January 3, 2012 at 11:28 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie displays a touch of humor.  That’s nice.


“I would have to write a book to answer, so lets
focus on the one task at hand.”  Michael Ozark

And Michael throws the book at me, which I without
question deserve.

That’s nice too.

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By Anarcissie, January 3, 2012 at 10:10 am Link to this comment

Ozark Michael—I was just wondering what you meant.  Different people mean very different things by ‘communism’  For instance, I see communism as the predominant social substrate of daily life—people in fact mostly live and work in groups where goods and services are passed around pretty freely, not bought and sold or distributed by authorities.  But people often mean something quite different—for example, you might be referring to the program of the Communist Party and Soviet-style ‘socialism’.

Am I playing?  To some extent I suppose that’s true.  If I were thoroughly in earnest, wouldn’t I being posting articles about Walter Benjamin replete with quotations in German on that kind of web site?  But instead here I am on poor little old Truthdig.

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By OzarkMichael, January 3, 2012 at 9:14 am Link to this comment

by Anarcissie January 3 at 6:08 am

What do you see as the entire ethos of communism?

Naughty, yet clever of you in many ways. I can barely resist.

And I can barely resist asking you to reflect, to explain your own answer to the same question, for you would be happier and far more successful if all you radicals thought and valued the same things. It is a monumental task to overthrow a particular aspect of the status quo, but to overthrow the entire system requires lots of unified shoulders pushing the wheel to turn the same way. Alliances to accomplish Herculean taskst must be made of concrete and steel(figuratively), not vague commitments and flimsy words.

Normally i would attempt to distill my thoughts, then keep trimming it back and making it more concise until it can fit into one Truthdig post. That takes a lot of effort(and it is a thankless task here since i am the gadfly/consciencious objector to almost everything). The fact that i am able to condense a gestalt to one page pleases me, and I flatter myself that the compactness attained downsizing to one page increases the quality of each sentence.

I think it needs to be done but I resist that urge and respond: “I would have to write a book to answer, so lets focus on the one task at hand.”

However, Anarcissie, if you werent just playing with us, and if you have some reason for wanting to know, i would write that post for you. You know i cant resist an honest question, especially for you, who fields the hard questions from me.

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By Anarcissie, January 3, 2012 at 7:08 am Link to this comment

OzarkMichael, January 3 at 5:27 am:

‘... I remind you that my objection to communism isn’t based on any one particular but rather on the entire ethos. ...’

What do you see as the entire ethos of communism?

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By Foucauldian, January 3, 2012 at 6:49 am Link to this comment

Glad you responded, Michael.  For a while I wasn’t
certain you would.  Just couple of points for now,
since I have to take care of my car problem.

By settling things, I simply mean coming to an
agreement (more or less) on a point or two.  And
then we move on to the next one, and so on and so
forth. 

Also, when I was deprecating Reason (my
postmodernist influence), it was in a restricted
context, predicated on there being a major
disagreement as regards values:  it’s precisely in
those kinds of situations that I find reason
particularly unhelpful.  Which also should clarify
that “emotion” is not really what we want to talk
about here, but rather about “values” as being what
I regard as primary spring of thought and action. 
(It goes without saying that we’re not neutral with
respect to our values, call it an emotional
attachment, if you will:  I prefer the term
commitment.)

And on the final note, I gave you my reasons as to
why I find the ethos of capitalism morally
repugnant; you have yet to say why you think
likewise of communism.  But we may shelve this
question for the time being, especially if there
are still some fundamentals which remain to be
resolved.

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By OzarkMichael, January 3, 2012 at 6:27 am Link to this comment

Foucaldian said:

What I’m trying to say, I suppose, none of us should be expected to present a complete rebuttal in this or any other comments space (at least I refuse to do so), because this isn’t the proper forum.  One should write a book instead.  So I
suggest we limit the scope of our conversation to
one point at a time.  Otherwise, I don’t see how
any of us can make any progress.

Progress towards what? Or as Lenin asked, “Who? Whom?”  If a little reason wont resolve the question, i am not sure that a long book would succeed either. Perhaps to answer your objection about capitalistic exploitation I would retreat to the same position… “sorry, I wont answer… I would have to write a long book”)

I remind you that my objection to communism isn’t based on any one particular but rather on the entire ethos.

But “progress” towards exactly what? Even if the question needs a book, just hear me out a moment. One sentence… really, it isnt merely a matter of what your intended goal is. The real question is about the practical result, the inevitable destination that results from your efforts.

If these objections and concerns(both yours and mine) are beyond the reach of reason, then attempts to explain them, short post, long discourse, or in pdf format, are all going to fail. What we are left with is emotion.

I am beginning to find your analysis a little frightening. If reason cannot steer us at all, we are going to be tossed around by every wave. Emotion is very easily manipulated.

Okay, I had my say. off topic and all. Appreciate the ranging discussion discussion, but I will settle to the topic henceforth.

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By Foucauldian, January 2, 2012 at 9:56 pm Link to this comment

I know you were not, but it’s because my turn of
phrase was suggesting precisely what I knew better,
that my apologies are in order.

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By Anarcissie, January 2, 2012 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment

There is nothing to forgive.  I was just curious about what you meant, especially if it seemed that I was being unusually tricky.

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By Foucauldian, January 2, 2012 at 9:27 pm Link to this comment

Actually, Anarcissie, I see that I have misread what
you said in between your comments, and then Michael
citing your comments and adding on.

In any case, I didn’t mean any harm, only wanted to
clarify.  Please forgive.

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By Foucauldian, January 2, 2012 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment

Not a fortunate expression but it conveyed the
meaning.  There was a doubt for a while as to the
weight you placed on Reason in settling disputes.

The doubt is no longer.

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By Anarcissie, January 2, 2012 at 9:15 pm Link to this comment

‘Came clean’?

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By Foucauldian, January 2, 2012 at 10:31 am Link to this comment

Well, Michael, I’m sure glad Anarcissie came clean on
this reason thing, so we don’t have to deal with that
aspect anymore.

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By Anarcissie, January 2, 2012 at 9:45 am Link to this comment

OzarkMichael, January 2 at 8:16 am:

A.: “Reason is one way to deal with conflicting interests and desires if there is some kind of common ground to reason from.  But in some cases there is not—people are starting from different axioms about what really is, what is good, how we know what is good, what means are permissible to obtain the good, and so on.”

‘If that is the case, and if our economic/political/social question of the day is far more complicated and provides far more variance of emotion, philosophy, and loyalty then abortion ever could, then we must realize that the only way to build an alliance large enough to overthrow the current system is to fool large groups of people into believing that is not your intent at all. ...’

That is not my method.  There is also ‘propaganda of the deed’, which at one time seems to have meant blowing things up, but more recently means to simply demonstrate that there are other ways of doing things than what has become the default.  One example of this was the famous Greensboro sit-in, where four young Black people showed the public a social order in which Black people could sit at a lunch counter.  It is true they temporarily violated the property rights of Woolworth’s, but otherwise the demonstration was entirely non-violent.

At that time, people had been arguing about race and segregation, especially in the South, for generations.  Reason did not succeed in convincing segregationists and those who went along with them that the world would not come to an end if segregation was not practiced.  Someone had to show it, which created a new empirical fact.

Similarly, Food Not Bombs goes into parks and other public spaces and gives food away.  I don’t think anyone is being fooled.  It is my belief that when people see a better way of doing things they will abandon the older ways.  Fooling people is a technique of domination, not peace, freedom and equality, which require truth and sincerity.

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By Foucauldian, January 2, 2012 at 9:45 am Link to this comment

This is getting to be an overextended discussion,
Michael, too handle it by way of any single post. 
To get anywhere, all of us have got to focus, deal
only with one point at a time.

For one thing, I would differ with Anarcissie in so
far as her faith in reason is concerned.  Reason
can be of help but only when we presuppose
agreement on values.  That agreement must come
first.

As to objections against the entire economic
system, capitalism in this case, the event in Japan
is just one example of efficiency, cost-cutting and
profitability taking precedence over public safety. 
Besides, I’m a Marxist when it comes to
organization of production, and my objection to
capitalism isn’t based on any one particular but
rather on the entire ethos which is based on
exploitation.  Any any form of exploitation is
immoral in my book (as per Kant’s categorical
imperative).

What I’m trying to say, I suppose, none of us
should be expected to present a complete rebuttal
in this or any other comments space (at least I
refuse to do so), because this isn’t the proper
forum.  One should write a book instead.  So I
suggest we limit the scope of our conversation to
one point at a time.  Otherwise, I don’t see how
any of us can make any progress.

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By OzarkMichael, January 2, 2012 at 9:16 am Link to this comment

Reason is one way to deal with conflicting interests and desires if there is some kind of common ground to reason from.  But in some cases there is not—people are starting from different axioms about what really is, what is good, how we know what is good, what means are permissible to obtain the good, and so on.

If that is the case, and if our economic/political/social question of the day is far more complicated and provides far more variance of emotion, philosophy, and loyalty then abortion ever could, then we must realize that the only way to build an alliance large enough to overthrow the current system is to fool large groups of people into believing that is not your intent at all.

True, you will say you are helping them, but I must remind you of your sensitivity about ‘help’. Regarding people as weak and in need of help, and approaching them as a helper, is by definition placing oneself in a superior, dominant position. But not only that, you further have a secret dominance because you decieve them as to the true goal of your alliance. It is a double episode of dominance, a double envelopment against their humanity.

First you dominate them as a helper, then you dominate them as a deciever. It may be unavoidable at times, but it is a politically and a morally perilous position twice over.

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By elisalouisa, January 1, 2012 at 8:09 pm Link to this comment

A joyous 2012 to all.

Interesting and thought provoking posts.

Thanks especially to Michael for your 1/1 8:24 am and 2:21 pm posts. You are treading lightly on some very sensitive important, moral issues.Photos of a fetus/baby being sucked out of its home(the womb) would most likely not be shown on msm but if were would viewers respond in a manner similar to videos of suffering animals? I would venture to say “no” because such a response would not be politically correct.

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By Anarcissie, January 1, 2012 at 6:51 pm Link to this comment

Foucauldian, January 1 at 1:14 pm:

‘The issues of war, race, property and the like are
theoretically at least reconcilable on moral grounds
among rational beings; the issue of abortion may not
be.  Is rationality the only issue here?’

Reason is one way to deal with conflicting interests and desires if there is some kind of common ground to reason from.  But in some cases there is not—people are starting from different axioms about what really is, what is good, how we know what is good, what means are permissible to obtain the good, and so on.  The problem is compounded by the fact that most people have no trouble entertaining contradictory mental images of the world, and by the fact that most people regard their axioms as part of their selves, and cling to them as if they were their property or even parts of their bodies.

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By OzarkMichael, January 1, 2012 at 3:21 pm Link to this comment

Perhaps your analogy is somewhat less than fair. The anti-abortion-freedom of choice issue has not exactly reached the point of clear moral resolution; admittedly, there are credible moral arguments on both sides of the divide.

Not so in the case of the nuclear fallout from the
reactors—an MO in all too many cases of any
industry cutting corners in the interest of
profitability above public safety, the ethos of the
business world, I venture to say, and plainly human
hubris.

I want to know: If the people are divided(such as with abortion today) so that there isnt a clear moral resolution, does that make the status quo moral?

I consider those who support abortion to have certain rights and truths on their side, but they accentuate the wrong rights, much as slaveholders did when they argued with abolitionists about slavery. Did the lack of moral resolution justify the status quo?

One person looks at an event and focuses on the victim, wishing to change the system to protect the victim, but another person pulls back and focuses on a larger system and defends that system.

As a fair comparison consider the Leftist response to the Japanese reactor. Anarcissie sees an evil result, focuses on one factor(among many causes) and wants to combat that, but more importantly… please note that Anarcissie takes the fight to a much larger arena than the Japanese Power Plant.

In other words, the rage is generated from a particular, which not only supports a powerful indictment against that particular, but more: that rage is added to the urgency of an indictment against a larger systemic problem, and not only that but it elicits a solemn vow from Anarcissie against the entire economic system.

For Anarcissie, other people’s rights and the benefits we all enjoy within that system become overshadowed by what is lacking in certain particulars.

In contrast, I only see the sad particular problem. My thoughts run like this: If there were improvements to the safety and inspection of nuclear plants maybe it would have been avoided. It is sad. I might make an indictment against the larger system of nuclear power plants if I knew more about them. But would i lodge a standing indictment against all businesses generally? Or rich people? Or the entire system? No I would not.

To me, the particular issue must be placed in the balance against a complicated system, which has interwoven problems with human nature as well as the rights of human beings, and many benefits which we all enjoy as if they were permanent birthright.

So i do not look at the Japanese power plant and feel a rage that supports a great crusade against capitalism, since that system has been and continues to be a vehicle for more freedom and greater health for more people than the long sorry history of the planet has ever seen. Meanwhile, i view with great concern the agenda of the communist/anarchist/socialist, an agenda which tends to overheat and melt down whenever their crusade succeeds.

Radicals see the faults of the system, they see the damage to human life and to all forms of life. Every particular is fuel for their vows to overthrow the system.

I see that whenever radicalism succeeds the results are catastrophic meltdowns that have devastated humanity more than any nuclear accident. I would like to catalogue that devastation with the same care that we document the faults of our current system(!), but Radicals never consider their own safety record worth discussing. They consider themselves the de novo that has never been implemented before. Which is what radicals always say just before the explosion.

Do you still think this issue has reached a clear moral resolution? Do you still think the only credible moral argument is on your side?

And if you also think that change should not be made until there is a clear moral resolution(as with abortion) then how can you demand progressive changes without complete consensus?

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By Foucauldian, January 1, 2012 at 2:14 pm Link to this comment

The issues of war, race, property and the like are
theoretically at least reconcilable on moral grounds
among rational beings; the issue of abortion may not
be.  Is rationality the only issue here?

Of course, none of the above—perhaps because it’s
permeated by potential conflict between humans acting
as agents—compares to cruelty we exact on the
innocents.

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By Anarcissie, January 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

Actually, I’ve meditated on abortion quite a bit.  But it is one of those areas where rational, civil discussion doesn’t seem possible, and only a contest of power is left.

However, there is a difference between fundamental and perhaps irreconcilable issues like abortion, war, race, property, and the like, and the death and destruction being visited on non-human nature, and that is that the latter is gratuitous.  No one had to torture those seals to death.  No one really benefited from it, or escaped loss or injury by means of it.

Of course the fate of the seals is nothing compared to the monstrous fate of food animals, which I manage to forget about almost every day.

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By Foucauldian, January 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

correction:

To do philosophy ...  first line.

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By Foucauldian, January 1, 2012 at 11:09 am Link to this comment

Since you presented me, Michael, with a valuable
quote, let me return the favor:

“To so philosophy is to explore one’s own
temperament, and yet at the same time to attempt to
discover the truth.  It seems to me that there is a
void in present-day moral philosophy.  Areas
peripheral to philosophy expand (psychology,
political and social theory) or collapse (religion)
without philosophy being able in the one case to
encounter, or in the other case to rescue, the
values involved.  A working philosophical
psychology is needed which can at least attempt to
connect modern psychological terminology with a
terminology connected with virtue.  We need a moral
philosophy which can speak significantly of Freud
and Marx, and out of which aesthetic and political
views can be generated.  We need a moral philosophy
in which the concept of love, so rarely mentioned
now by philosophers, can once again be made
central.”

The opening paragraph of “On ‘God’ and ‘Good’” from
Iris Murdoch’s three-essay collection, “The
Sovereignty of Good.”

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By Foucauldian, January 1, 2012 at 10:01 am Link to this comment

Re antecedent comment,

it would be interesting in this connection to
review the works of George Bernard Shaw, presumably
one of the last “moralists” (and satirists) of the
modern era.  I know for a fact the predominant
concern for Shaw lied in the realm of cultural and
social mores (as was the case for Oscar Wilde). 
Were there any political overtones in his plays
(not his tracts) is the question of interests. 
Anarcissie might be able to chime in as she’s more
versatile than I am in Irish literary history.

In any case, it would appear that the
inapplicabilty of moral critique to things
political is one of the stamps of modernity.

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By Foucauldian, January 1, 2012 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

Christopher Dawson, a historian and theologian?

Yes, I’ve read one or two of his works.  A lucid
mind.

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By Foucauldian, January 1, 2012 at 9:46 am Link to this comment

Hello, Michael, and Happy New Year.

Perhaps your analogy is somewhat less than fair. 
The anti-abortion-freedom of choice issue has not
exactly reached the point of clear moral
resolution; admittedly, there are credible moral
arguments on both sides of the divide. 

Not so in the case of the nuclear fallout from the
reactors—an MO in all too many cases of any
industry cutting corners in the interest of
profitability above public safety, the ethos of the
business world, I venture to say, and plainly human
hubris.

I can’t fault Anarcissie even if she appears less
than perfectly comfortable to couch some of the
discussions in moral terms; most of us have
forgotten how to do that.  Which is why politics is
politics to her, and morality is another thing. 
I’m too much of an idealist perhaps; she, too much
of a realist.  Perhaps there’s a common ground to
be found somewhere.  I do know, however, her heart
is in the right place, and that’s all that matters
to me.

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By OzarkMichael, January 1, 2012 at 9:41 am Link to this comment

A quote for us to consider, Foucaldian:

Every society rests in the last resort on the recognition of common principles and common ideals, and if it makes no moral or spiritual appeal to the loyalty of its members, it must inevitably fall to pieces.

And here is a nice quote in regard to crusades generally:

As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.

both from Christopher Dawson.

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By OzarkMichael, January 1, 2012 at 9:24 am Link to this comment

Happy New Year everyone.

Anarcissie, in fact you are right. In the realm of politics it is always about alliances, and rarely more than that. It is about power, and that is all OWS is really about. Some of the participants are looking for more and found it there.

I wasnt making a criticism of you or OWS, in fact it was a compliment,  which, since I oppose OWS politically, is something I would not be inclined to give. It was also good advice.

You saw the seals, poor creatures, and felt rage and anger. You say there is evil to fight, and that sort of statement counts quite high on the list for motivation, and commitment.

I wonder if you have ever seen an abortion victim? Would you feel rage and anger if you did? Would you commit to fighting the great evil?

No you would not. You would feel sadness, but not rage. Let me guess why, and you correct me if I am wrong. You would see the sad outcome of a complex situation, and you wouldnt have desired it to happen, but you would disperse the responsibility for the sad event to more than just the doctor, or the mother, or the absent father, or the lawmakers, etc etc. In other words, you would not feel rage, just sadness. You would not call it evil, because you would see that there are too many good things that you would have to ruin in order to place abortion in the catagory. You might endorse some changes of policy, but you would not feel provoked to a great crusade against “evil”. You would worry that my crusade might have blindness for the good it would have to ruin in order to eliminate the sad scene of an abortion. In short, you are not ‘for’ abortion, but you would not join my crusade against it.

If i am right about you, please understand that is how I feel about the seals. It is the sad outcome of a complicated situation. It doesnt make me feel like going on a crusade. I might make some changes to policy, but a crusade means blindness to the good things that are also in the balance.

That is also how I react to the complaint of OWS. I am not ‘for’ greed. I am not ‘for’ the government being so harnessed to corporations that it hands over money time and time again. But I also see a very complicated situation, and I see much good that would be ruined of OWS succeeds with its crusade, and for the sake of that good i am just as willing to fight as you are.

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By Foucauldian, December 31, 2011 at 7:12 pm Link to this comment

Happy and better New Year, Anarcissie.

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By Anarcissie, December 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm Link to this comment

People—and non-human nature—are being attacked, every day, every minutes.  This morning, as I looked through some news on the Net, I saw pictures of dying seals whose bodies are literally degenerating and falling apart because of exposure to radiation from the Fukushima meltdown.  I am not particularly a lover of seals, but it was several minutes before I could quiesce my rage and get on with my day.  And this, of course, is to say nothing of man’s humanity to man, which was widely on display in the news as well.  But I’m used to that. 

There is evil and it must be opposed.  For that, you want allies.

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By Foucauldian, December 31, 2011 at 4:53 pm Link to this comment

Happy and better New Year, everyone.

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By OzarkMichael, December 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm Link to this comment

“Alliance” is all about power, which is a pretty cold business.  Allinace has a serious, almost militant flavor, and most important alliances are made between groups or classes of people. There is no an individual aspect to it. The very thing that Bell was hoping to build is missing, and the attactive force that Foucaldian was looking for is also absent.

Alliances are made to take advantage of the Other. After you acquire what you need, the alliance is easily broken, one could say alliances are made to be broken.

Love, if we define it as a happy feeling, truly it not a firm foundation. Love, if we define it as a commitment, is what has potential to last. And it is an individual commitment to an individual. Imperfect because we are imperfect, but an attractive goal.

I percieve OWS wanting that Love. They want to build a community, which means relationships, which implies commitment. I wager its something many of them never experienced before.

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By Foucauldian, December 31, 2011 at 9:24 am Link to this comment

Well, sure.  I see why you’re objecting to the
term, because oftentimes it’s used as a touchy-
feely kind of thing.  I don’t believe, however, I
meant to be glib (and I know you’re not saying
that).

Empathy is a better term, but they again, it’s got
to be meant properly, not just as a feeling or
sentiment but a kind of commitment connoting a
lifelong stance.  Hard work again, so here too we
don’t disagree.

I do like your term—alliance. 

I would add as well that encouraging people,
especially when they’re down, is another thing we
can do.  I don’t think you’d disagree.

In any case, this conversation is to the good (I’m
taking it that way and I hope you too)—in that
we’re exploring alternative ways of putting things.

As Grady pointed it out on my recent thread (yes,
he’s back after a long bout), “to convey truth you
must call things by their right name.” 

http://tinyurl.com/83v48d  (#105)

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By Anarcissie, December 31, 2011 at 8:59 am Link to this comment

What we do about those who have been beaten down is show them that they still have the strength to overcome or escape from their oppressors.  We offer an alliance, not a handout.

I distrust glib and easy talk about compassion.  Compassion is hard.  What happens when you wake up one morning and you don’t happen to feel compassionate?  Especially, what happens to those you have taught to depend on your compassion?

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By Foucauldian, December 30, 2011 at 10:06 pm Link to this comment

... what do we do ...

Sorry.

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By Foucauldian, December 30, 2011 at 10:04 pm Link to this comment

Which is exactly what I’m saying. And do we do about
those who have been beaten down? 

So where do we disagree?

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By Anarcissie, December 30, 2011 at 9:48 pm Link to this comment

People want to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, at least they do until they’re beaten down.

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By Foucauldian, December 30, 2011 at 8:29 pm Link to this comment

It’s like you’re expecting everyone to pull
themselves by their own bootstraps.  No question
that some do and will.  But even apart from that,
it’s my experience we all need encouragement from
time to time.  But the stance you seem to be taking
is that of an outside observer, watching the events
unfold.

It’s not exactly fair what I just said, because you
are an activist and do your bit to make things
better.  So perhaps I just have to fall back on
what I said before, namely, our apparent
disagreement about the language you and I use to
describe pretty much the same thing.

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By Anarcissie, December 30, 2011 at 7:30 pm Link to this comment

What am I demanding?

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By Foucauldian, December 30, 2011 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

But I don’t regard them as weak.  Hell, they’re
stronger in all likelihood that both of us put
together in order to be able to endure.

Which isn’t to say we don’t need moral support.

Aren’t you being somewhat harsh here and too
demanding?

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