Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Bike In Trumpland

Image result for beverly hills peninsula









- How's Beverly Hills?
- For me, or for the majority?
- For the majority. Then we'll get to you.
- Beverly Hills is an enclave in the middle of Los Angeles where live and work thousands of people who voted for Trump thinking he'll help them make more money,* who at the same time won't admit to voting for him because he's not politically correct and political correctness is good for business.
- And Beverly Hills for you?
- I told you about my bike?
- It was stolen. That was in Beverly Hills?
- Yes. Late last night I went to Police Headquarters. It's hidden at the end of a maze of walkways within the openly fake Renaissance-Deco addition to City Hall. The interior layout is a combination office building and bank, with lobbies, passages and stairs up to a room divided by a wall of windows over a counter. After a minute a policeman comes from the other side to the wall: they'd had to buzz me in from the main entrance downstairs so I was expected. I repeat what I said at the door: I am there about my stolen bike. The police officer says he will send someone out to talk with me. I sit down with a book. A couple minutes later two officers, a man and women, come out of a door off the lobby and approach me. I say hello, put down my book and stand. Neither man nor woman officer offers a return greeting. The policeman asks:
- Where was your bike stolen from?
- Starbucks, Wilshire and Santa Monica.
- When was it stolen?
- Five, Six days ago.
- Why didn't you come then?
- I didn't see anything you could do.
- Why are you here now then?
- The man who probably stole my bike was wearing a fez, a hat you don't seen worn around here. I was at Starbucks this morning when a man came in wearing a fez. The uniform he was wearing bore a badge of the Peninsula Hotel** just across the street.
- Tell us what happened. What time? Where were you?
- Eleven thirty to twelve at night, sitting outside. The bike was a few yards away, leaning against railing of the terrace where I sat at a table with my computer. There was only one other person on the terrace. A couple times he turned around completely to look at me then immediately looked away. When I got up to go I found my bike was gone and the man with the fez gone.
- Did you see him take your bike?
- No. My attention was on the video I was watching.
- If you didn't see, you don't have the basis to make an accusation.
- I'm not making an accusation. I want you to investigate at the hotel, talk to the employees, see if the bike is there at wherever the employees are allowed to keep bikes. The hotel insists it is your responsibility and won't cooperate with me.
- Suppose we find the bike at the hotel. How do we know it is yours? Do you have a serial number?
- No. I bought the bike second hand. It is seventeen years old. I have the name, phone number and email of the student who sold me the bike.
- Does he have the serial number?
- I doubt it. But I know every scratch on the bike.
- Maybe you saw the bike earlier and saw the scratch.
- Hundreds of people in Beverly Hills have seen me with the bike. The people at Starbucks have.
- But if we take a report from you, you realize that this is a serious accusation you are making in a criminal matter?
- Yes. That is why I went to the hotel first and asked them to help.
- You went to the hotel. That was not necessary. What exactly do you want us to do if you don't want to file a complaint?
- Since you don't want to do anything I guess tomorrow when I'm at Starbucks when the police come in for their coffee as they do every day I'll ask them to go across the street with me to the hotel.
- You can call our non-emergency number and have officers meet you there.
- I'll do that.
- Where do you live? What is your exact address?
- Why do you ask?
- We're helping you so you should help us.
- But you're not helping me.
- Ok.
The conversation ends there. Man and woman police officers go out through the side door in the lobby. The next morning I return to the Peninsula Hotel.
- I was here yesterday.
- You were plainly told that this was a police matter. You came here, talked to us. There is no reason for you to come again here.
- If you want this to go away you're going to have to be more polite.
- I'm Chief of Service in Charge of Room Management.
- I have no idea what that means.
- I'm basically the manager of the hotel.
- And?
- I'm telling you what is hotel policy.
- What is the hotel's policy?
- We don't support accusations against our employees.
- I'm not accusing. I'm investigating. Yesterday you told me to get the police to investigate. I went to the police and they told me to come here and call them to meet me and they would with your cooperation look for the bike wherever employees usually put their bikes.
- Let me call our security director.... Hello, can you come here? Now. You, or send someone. Right now.
The house detective arrives.
- What is this about?
- I'm looking into the theft of my bike from across the street. The only person around at that time was wearing a fez, as many of your employees do. He disappeared at the same time as the bike.
- And what do you want from us? You should go to the police and make a report.
- I went to the police. They didn't want to take a report, suggested I go back, call their non-emergency number for officers to come, and they could go with you to look for the bike here in the hotel. I don't think this is necessary. You could look for the bike yourself.
- That is acceptable to you?
- Yes.
- You'll trust I'll look?
- Why would the hotel want to keep a stolen bike on its property?
- Is this your coffee? Take it. Wait outside. I'm going with another of our managers. He's going to look with me and be a witness. We'll be back in a minute.
- Did they find your bike?
- No bikes were there. The detective promised to keep a look-out for my bike. I told him there was a chance he might see it because the night after the bike was stolen I was back at Starbucks at the same time, I hear a load ticking, and look up to see across the street a bike approaching, the rider wearing a fez, who seeing me immediately makes a sharp turn down the side street.
- What was the ticking?
- The sound of the gears disengaging when you're moving and stop peddling. It is unusually loud on my bike. The detective suggested I return to Starbucks same time every night to look for rider and bike again. I said I might.
- To summarize: For others life in Beverly Hills is about waiting for the profits to roll in, for you it's about waiting for the return of a thief on your stolen bike.
- That's about it.

Further Reading:
Dozing Off
____________________
* The majority of those making less than $50,000 a year voted for Clinton, while a majority of those making more than that voted for Trump. Almost two in three white men, 63 percent in all, voted for the far-right Republican candidate.
** Rooms from $575 /night.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Dozing Off

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Rich & Poor In L.A.

- I don't know how you stand it.
- Then invite me to stay with you.
- My landlady won't allow it.
- Let her complain.
- She's my friend. 
- You pay rent, a lot of rent. A friend would let you stay for free. 
- We talk all the time. She lets me pay late.
- So if she's your friend she'll let you have a guest. 
- Why don't you get some job?
- I apply, never get an answer.
- Why not?
- I'm too old, have no employment history.
- You could wash dishes.       
- I applied. Rejected. Want to see the emails?
- You could work as a guard. Or a taxi driver. 
- I applied. No answer.
- Apply again.
- I've had enough. I have to go on with my life.
- What is your life? 
- What's yours? 
- I'm a graduate student in the Department of Middle East Studies, or was until a week ago. But who are you? What do I or anyone know about you? I do know you're a tutor of English: I was here when one of your students came for her lesson. A beautiful woman.
- Yes, She was my one and only, very wonderful student from one of the 'i-stans of the old Soviet Union. I couldn't quiet make out which when she told me. 
- Tutoring might be a good way out for you.
- Except that all my students quit. 
- Why?
- They don't learn unless they become friends.
- And they want to learn English, not make friends with you.
- They don't get what they want and quit.
- But not the woman from the former Soviet Socialist RepublicShe's stunning. Tall, thin like a fashion model. Exotic. Are you still teaching her?
- I'll tell you how that went. I kept her waiting for almost an hour at our first meeting. I hadn't forgotten the appointment, but with my year of accumulating sleep deficit sometimes the minute I relax I doze off. I woke at couple minutes before the appointed time, finding myself in the University library instead of the museum courtyard where I should have been. I sent a message saying I was on my way, sent several more messages updating my progress. I got there finally but by that time, furious at being forced to wait, she'd left the courtyard and was upstairs on the balcony considering visiting the museum galleries. She'd resolved not to meet me, and spy down from the balcony on my waiting for her in vain. But she got a look at me at the table in the courtyard, and "saw something". She changed her mind. 
- What did she see? 
- My ragged old multi-pocket coat over suit jacket, my "homeless fashion" as she later called it. 
- She told you this? Weren't you offended?
- No, it was praise from an expert. She was taking a course in fashion design. She made a lot of her own clothes: you should see the tender way she touches the fabrics when complemented on her work. So down she went to the courtyard and introduces herself. I explain I'd lost track of the time, express my pleasure at hearing of the far away place she was from. I'm reminded of a world of days gone-by where people thought it was possible to like each other, not just use each other for profit. She smiles at my innocence.
- And then she told you about your "homeless fashion"?
- No. That was a month later. We were sitting at three o'clock in the morning in her car that cost more than I've made in my entire life. 
-  She's rich?
- Married to and constantly embattled with a Ferrari driving criminal lawyer twenty years her senior.
- Battling over what? Money?
- Over his fault finding with ever little thing she did. That night, sitting in her car, three in the morning. She had been out driving. When her call came I was on my bike in Beverly Hills. She wanted to know if I was hungry, could she buy me dinner at the supermarket? Did I want to come to Westwood? What did I want? How about sushi? In fifteen minutes I'm with her sitting with in her car, and she suddenly turns to me, asks do I want to know what she thought of me when we first met? Sure. She says the state I was in was disgusting, is now still, why didn't I do something about it, go get cleaned up at a gym? She pauses, then asks like you did, wasn't I offended by her telling me this? No, I said, I was charmed. Why charmed? she asks. - Because you came down anyway. You thought maybe my appearance was just a disguise, not really me. - Your lessons are cheaper than anyone else's. - But I'm sitting in the car with you now at three in the morning. - I've got to go home. - You wanted me to come just to give me food? - Yes.
- She must like you to buy you sushi at three in the morning.
- Late night food deliveries were already an established custom with us. Once or twice every week when she worked she'd bring me dinner from the restaurant.
- She worked as a waitress? Why if she was rich?
- To be independent, have some money of her own. She was sending money every month to her sister overseas. Time passes. At midnight one evening I get a call from her: she's in Hawaii. She'd jumped on a plane after a fight with her husband. For the next couple of week she'd call every night about midnight and talk for an hour or more. She'd tell me about her day, the places she'd visited.
- Was the call her English lesson?
- No instruction. We just talked. She'd told me I was the only person she talked to besides her husband, and usually she and her husband were not on a talking basis. It looked like we were becoming friends. Sometimes when we'd be meeting at a cafe, supposed to go over her assignments for school, she'd change her mind and say no study for tonight, she only wanted to have dinner with me. I found things on my walks or bike rides she allowed me to give her: an illustrated history of typical costumes for all history the world over, a pair of sunglasses, designer jeans jacket, whatever came my way.
- And you don't know if you were friends?
- Friendship lasts only when friends are kept in each other's company by a shared home and the draw of philosophy. One or the other alone are not enough. Both are required.
- Maybe you were friends but not the lasting kind. What about you and me?  
- You got yourself suspended from UCLA. You'll be going home to New Haven soon.
- I suppose I will. Weren't your midnight phone calls and food deliveries a kind of home, your conversations philosophy? I think your student, friend or not, was falling in love with you. Lucky you.
- Luck comes and then luck goes. My life doesn't embarrass you because it doesn't reflect upon you, you're on your way out...
- Oh.
- She accepted me because she cared. But did I care about her? She began to wonder. Wasn't I really an embarrassing person who deserved the life he was leading? Suddenly it appeared to her that I liked too much the food she was bringing me. How make her understand I was eating to keep myself awake? Suddenly she thought I cared not enough helping her with her school work when it had to be done. How make her understand my hesitation was the very same reluctance I had in the beginning editing any writing including my own? She stopped calling. She replied to my emails that she was busy, didn't have time to meet. I got sad. I got careless. Reading on my computer - the new little computer she gave me - I dozed off for a minute sitting outside at Starbucks, long enough for my bike to be stolen only a few feet away. Sad, careless, without bike, I called her again. She repeated she was busy, had no time, no, she couldn't meet. I insisted, tell me what's happened. She repeated she had no time. No, I said, she had turned cold toward me. In anger she told me about my only wanting to eat, not wanting to work, thinking only of myself. She misunderstood me, I said. She could call on all my time, all day every day. She said she didn't want to hear from me and broke the connection. 
- You lost your student.
- I did, as always. I don't have anything more to say about this story.
- It's a terrible story.
- It's a beautiful story.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Stories Of The Election

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1. Political Correctness
Since childhood, I’ve passed through a flow of milk, smells, stories, sounds, emotions, nursery rhymes, substances, gestures, ideas, impressions, gazes, songs, and foods. What am I? Tied in every way to places, sufferings, ancestors, friends, loves, events, languages, memories, to all kinds of things that obviously are not me. Everything that attaches me to the world, all the links that constitute me, all the forces that compose me don’t form an identity, a thing displayable on cue, but a singular, shared, living existence, from which emerges – at certain times and places – that being which says “I.” - Julien Coupat (presumed), The Coming Insurrection

- Your friend, the graduate student who got thrown out of UCLA for sending insulting emails to his professors, he wasn’t the guy who killed the professor in his office a couple weeks ago?
- No. That was someone else.
- Professors don’t seem to be too popular at UCLA. After this students won’t be able to say anything critical without being considered potential killers. Political correctness will reign supreme. What do you think? Should we talk about political correctness?
- Fine with me.
- How would you define it? A claim everyone has on each other for tolerance? Everyone can think and do anything without challenge except use violence?
- What do you mean by “without challenge”?
- We may not like what we see but we won’t demand it be changed.
- Everyone is free to do anything that is desired?
- Except use violence.
- And what would you say is being tolerated: individual acts and words and thoughts, or identities?
- People get upset about what other people do all the time. But tolerance is not about accepting individual acts: that is something psychological, something maybe calling for forgiveness. Tolerance is political. So I’ll say it is about social roles, identities.
- We are told to tolerate types of people unlike our own type, types which in some way interfere with the actions types like us perform.
- Yes.
- Why do we choose to see ourselves and others as types?
- Because we think we and they really are types. The types of people we are are our identities. Our Identities identify ourselves to ourselves and to others.
- Why do we need to do that?
- Why?
- Could it be for security? A sense of our own power to do the kind of things the type of person we are does?
- Could be.
- But then, why do we feel insecure in the first place? Are we missing something we need in order to feel safe and powerful?
- What are we missing?
- You know Plato’s three part division of the human soul: the rational, the spirited, the irrational. The rational part thinks and reasons, the spirited part has courage and becomes indignant, the irrational part desires.
- Why do we need the spirited part? Aren’t anger and courage irrational forces like sex and aggression?
- We are passionate when a physical need is not being satisfied. Spirit is a passionate response as well, but to a social world, the world of people we live with who we have become accustomed to, a need of their company that has become “second nature”. Follow?
- Yes.
- Political correctness, the demand for tolerance bars spirited action.
- Because spirited action makes a demand on the others in society?
- Yes.
- And because the politically correct aren't allowed a home in the social world to protect, they are insecure. They still though have the other two parts of self.
- And what do they do with them?
- They have reason and desire: they think about how to most safely and regularly satisfy their desires.
- How do they do that?
- By adapting their identity to circumstances.
- That’s all?
- What else?
- Don’t people secure their satisfactions by acquiring possessions, even hoarding them as symbols of power and security?
- They do.
- Don’t people attempt to make other people their possessions, to dominate them? To force an identity on them as dominated?
- Not always.
- If people are fundamentally insecure wouldn’t this always be an attractive possibility, a desire that reason would choose to satisfy?
- But how do spirited people maintain security? Wouldn’t they be always undermining for each other the social world each makes a home in?
- Constantly. But when you live with people without identities to be protected accommodations are easily reached.
- I don’t see it.
- If you don’t have an identity to protect you don’t have to have things any one particular way. No one ever has to face the catastrophe of loss of self. All you want is that the new way can be relied on, and it be a good way, which it will be because you’ll naturally be at home with people who’ve reached agreement with you.
- Naturally. So you argue that the crime of political correctness, respect for identities, is that it leads to possessiveness and domineering. Which political correctness tell us we have to tolerate.
- And worse. One class of people identify themselves as political and business leaders. In their insecurity they pursue endless accumulation of possessions, taking advantage of the dispossession of the rest to dominate them, to force them to sell themselves as employees or to adopt a submissive identity. Political correctness, by repressing the spirited part of ourselves, eases the way to dispossession and domination.

Further Reading:
Killing At The University
UCLA Stories


2. Spectacle & God

- So. It's Donald and Hillary.
- If not the end of the world. Did you watch Bernie Sanders' capitulation speech, Hillary Clinton standing by his side?
- No. What did I miss?
- As he talks about his campaign, boasting of the millions of individual donations received and the number of delegates won, Clinton goes through a whole series of gestures apparently at random, smiling, nodding, turning her head to the side. Sanders is talking about his battle against her. What can she be agreeing with, if that is what she is doing, nodding her head? Is she letting herself go, showing the world now it no longer matters that it is in fact literally true she is a puppet? Finally Bernie Sanders says with spirit, 'The revolution continues!' But, he says, 'She won,' and wraps his arm around her shoulders for about a quarter of a second before he thinks the better of it.
- That's worth watching. I'll take a look.
- Sanders, the presumed honest politician, who ran a campaign that, as one comedian put it, went to the extreme of offering the people everything they want, with his arm around Hillary Clinton, the epitome of the dishonest politician who has spent the last decade going around with her husband from one corporation to the next giving speeches at two or three hundred thousand dollars a pop, collecting more than a hundred million dollars in what can only be called bribes: corporation executives are required by the terms of their employment to seek profit for their shareholders and can't be seen as throwing away money expecting nothing in return but the words of a woman who never in her life said anything memorable.*
- You think Bernie Sanders is a hypocrite?
- I think he is a politician who wanted to be a politician and asked himself what would be the least bad position he could get away with taking and went ahead and took that position.
- But it was a honest position, honestly representing the people's wishes, promising to give the people what they wanted: free health care, education, etc.
- Is it honest if he is not willing to do what it takes to make good on his offer? To follow in the footsteps of the Prime Minister last year in Greece, who when presented with the choice between doing what he said he would do and taking a risky path, or going against his own principles and the expressed will of the people keep doing his job under fairly regular circumstances, chose the latter?**  Guy Debord, the Situationist philosopher of the '68 student revolution in France, said that in our times spectacle has become real, and real become spectacle.
- If Bernie Sanders allowed himself to tell the truth about what might be better politics it was because he knew it would only be a show? What's real then?
- Politics based on the power of money.
- What is the spectacle become real?
- Our entertainments. For Aristotle an exchange economy was destructive because it was potentially infinite. Money accumulation can go on forever, destroying the order and limits necessary for life lived well. He allowed trade to the extant it served home life. But our times have turned Aristotle upside down, and home life is dedicated to achieving maximum efficiency in the exchange economy. The consequence is that for respite from the endless striving of money making we throw ourselves into our entertainments which still do have ends.
- And because Aristotle was right and we are ordered things who have limits our games which return limits to our lives feel more real than the reality of our money making.
- Yes.
- This statement is by the Eleatic Stranger in Plato's dialog The Sophist (247E):
I suggest that anything has real being that is so constituted as to possess any sort of power either to affect anything else or to be affected, in however small a degree, by the most insignificant agent, though it be only once. I am proposing as a mark to distinguish real things that they are nothing but power.
- I see. Bernie Sanders' 'real' words of truth about what the people want and think would be good for them, being without power are not real. And our games, which giving us conclusions and rests we need, having that power, are real. That leaves what goes on in 'politics based on the power of money'.
- Real, but not a spectacle.
- It is what goes on in the background while the people are occupied with the spectacle of their unreal games and the spectacle of truth equally unreal because without power to have any effect. Everything for us is spectacle.
- Yes.
- But only for us. For those in power, life is real, because they do have power. But they don't have the power to tell or act on the truth except if that makes them money and they don't have the power to rest, because money making has no end.
- A real bad life on one side, on the other, an unreal life of unacted upon truths and meaningless games. Such is the Situationist analysis. Plato's definition of real as power reminds us that our ideas don't exist independently as things (or if they do they are imitations, unreal, that is, spectacle), rather they arise in movement: they have a past and they have a future. We see and identify a thing because we have a past with it, learning what it is by repeated encounters with it, and once we have a name for a thing we more easily see it. Note that this is the real Plato, not the Christianity influenced misinterpretation prevalent more or less for the past two thousand years. However, with life as spectacle mowing down everything in its path, religion too has become a casualty, with the result that theologians and philosophers of religion have turned to the process philosophy we talked about*** and gone back to Plato looking for answers, this time with more open eyes, adopting Plato's idea that the world has a soul just as individual animals do and interpreting our god in accord with this idea of world soul.
- But in process philosophy there are no things.
- Only patterns in flux.
- Then, to paraphrase a popular song, what's god got to do with it?
- Ideas, which are unchanging, are moment by moment brought into being by the demiurge, an aspect of the soul in operation at each individual moment. God, the world soul, persuades us to participate by our own free will and realize eternal ideas in our lives. God is aware of us and of eternal ideas, just as we are of our own particular situations and eternal ideas we strive to bring to reality.
- No things, but we have us, animals with souls, we have the demiurge, and we have god, the world soul. A lot of things for a world without things!
- Which is why Plato presents these ideas and moves on.
- You explained last time,**** quoting his predecessor Heraclitus: language is a sacred disease, to be used with caution.
- Let's go back to the people with power who run the world of buying and selling. What about their ideas?
- You mean the ideas they use to justify what they do?
- Yes. Are they real? Do they have any power?
- No serious economist says they are anything other than the most provenly false ideas in social science history.
- But we, the powerless people, live in worlds of spectacle, where ideas put on a show but have no power, and the ideas we play with we know are false.
- Our overlords get away with imposing on us their false ideas, their Neo-Liberalism, their Free Market economics, because we have no use for truth?
- Yes.
- Why can't we put our true ideas into practise?
- The world of power struggle over money has no place for them.
- Then why can't we do something about that world?
- Change the system? Real change?
- Yes.
- You'd have to first change the way we the poor people think.
- How?
- We'd have to stop thinking of ourselves as things.
- As long as we think of ourselves as things we'll be easy to convince it's right that we be manipulated by supposed natural laws regulating exchange of things, right that we be reduced into beings fit only for a world of spectacle. Well, we've got the process philosophers and theologians to help us. They're even Americans mostly.
- I wonder what it would mean if we as a people were able to read Plato right. A new renaissance?
- You say while this very year we may have a fascist president waiting for us.

Further Reading:
Philosophy & Politics, Saving The World 
The Society Of Spectacle (pdf)
__________________
WikiLeaks Exposes Clinton Connection to ISISCorporate Cash
** Bernie Sanders: "The structure of American politics today is such that I thought the right ethic was to run within the Democratic Party." Armed with Wikileaks documents showing DNC bias in favor of Clinton and systematic influencing of the news media in her favor, the outcome of the primary could be contested. (A report by Election Justice USA, a national coalition of attorneys, statisticians, journalists and activists, estimating the distortion of results from electoral cheating and fraud concludes Sanders to be the actual winner.) A run as an Independent looks to stand a chance. Voters by party affiliation: 39% Independent, 31% Democratic, 29% Republican.
*** Consciousness (For Sale)
**** The First Loser


3. Kant & Compromise

- We're told it's unreasonable to expect we'll ever have someone represent us in government who is not
a sociopath or clinical narcissist, (who has) failed to be the target of fraud lawsuits, sexual-harassment claims, or federal criminal investigations...(who hasn't) the capacity for unspeakable evil that is generally considered necessary to win higher office.*
We're told we have to vote for Clinton to make sure we don't get Trump. We have to choose the lesser of two evils. Do we?
- We don't.
- Why not?
- Because it is a compromise that is sure to have drawbacks and is sure not to have benefits.
- How can that be? The benefit is to save the world from Donald Trump, who with nuclear launch codes in hand can basically end the world.
- Aldous Huxley's 'Ends And Means'** argues that the only end we could choose bad means to reach was there being greater charity in the world. Choosing any other end we'd be doing certain bad for the sake of uncertain good, at the cost to both ourselves and others, losing our integrity and becoming a bad example.
- We'll have our integrity while the nuclear bombs are exploding over our heads.
- In the 18th Century Immanuel Kant wrote an essay,*** drawing on Plato's allegory of the cave,**** that argued that people are weakened by dependence on others and don't dare to take back their independence. But once they do,
free thought gradually reacts back on the modes of thought of the people, and men become more and more capable of acting in freedom. At last free thought acts even on the fundamentals of government and the state finds it agreeable to treat man, who is now more than a machine, in accord with his dignity.
- And what if there is no time?
- Kant advocated freedom only in public speech, not in personal life:
Thus it would be very unfortunate if an officer on duty and under orders from his superiors should want to criticize the appropriateness or utility of his orders. He must obey. But as a scholar he could not rightfully be prevented from taking notice of the mistakes in the military service and from submitting his views to his public for its judgment.
- Then Kant advocated compromise too.
- He advocated obeying the rules in our personal lives when combined with free speech in public life, because that was he believed sure to result eventually in change for the better in our lives. If we merely call on each other to compromise in our personal lives, without the free speech in public life, our compromise will cost us our integrity and our good example and get us nothing.
- Except maybe not having nuclear bombs falling on our heads.
- Wouldn't that risk be better taken care of by people coming out and talking to each other, looking to another candidate or another political party rather than voting for the lesser of two evils?
- If there is time and if you can get people to talk to each other.
______________________
* From the Borowitz Report, July 24, 2016 issue, The New Yorker Magazine
** Ends And Means, (An Enquiry into the Nature of Ideals)
*** What Is Enlightenment?
**** The Allegory Of The Cave


4. Crimes Of The Rich

- I've done a little research. According to Kant, because ability to be free develops slowly and is limited by present conditions, we have no choice but to accept present political conditions, in his case a more or less benevolent dictatorship, in ours oligarchy, and talk our way into more and more enlightenment which will in time change the present political circumstances. Correct?
- Yes.
- As incredible as it may seem, my research shows that present conditions may not be a restraint for us much longer. Want to know why?
- Why?
- A few years ago you talked about throwing out the existing Congress and electing a whole new one.* There now is a political movement called Brand New Congress** for doing just that in 2018 when all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be up for grabs. You also talked about criminal prosecution and taxing of the rich to fund economic freedom for the majority of the people. The charity Oxfam, hardly a radical organization, in 2013 calculated that half of the income of the world's hundred richest people would be enough to save the lives of millions dying every year of starvation.*** Existing law in the United States makes it a crime to fail in the "duty to save".**** Putting this research together I come up with the surprising conclusion that in 2018 it is not impossible to elect a Brand New Congress with the exclusive mandate of criminally prosecuting and confiscating the wealth of our country's richest citizens for gross negligence of duty to save.
- Save from what?
- Poverty, conditions of violence and social injustice, all of which can be directly laid to the door of their hoarding of wealth, not to mention their bribery of the government in the service of that hoarding. Two years ago you wrote all this should happen.
- I did. And it is true, we have the wealth, we have the law, we have the political organization necessary for change. But part of the restraining conditions are the use of advertising and political speech to convince people change like this is impossible. Voters are allowed to choose only between images of leaders that make them feel better about themselves.
- Even if in public life they are told about other possibilities, they won't be able to act on them because in their personal lives they have been made idiots by advertising, movies, TV, music. I'm not so sure.
- Why not?
- Because as statistics tell us Americans are some of the most religious people on the planet, and really all we are talking about here is the golden rule: act with others as you would like them to act with you. Right now Americans are being told, Let those guys be billionaires as they like to be billionaires, because wouldn't you like to be a billionaire too and act as you like with your billions? But Americans haven't had the opportunity to see that those billions were acquired and maintained by criminality that costs million of lives every year, many of them in their own communities.
- They haven't had the opportunity to see because their minds are controlled by those same rich people who are criminals under current law.
- But Kant's theory of the enlightenment, and despite all our faults we are creatures of the enlightenment, predicts that that control can't indefinitely be maintained against public talk of new political parties, the world's increasing wealth, and existing law.

Further Reading:
Be My Guest
______________________
A Spiritualist Campaigns For Congress, An Anarchist Attends
** Brand New Congress
*** Oxfam report
**** Duty To Save 


5. Puppy & Politics

- I don't know. It's so abstract. When's the last time you were at Starbucks?
- Why do you ask?
- Things happen to you there. You probably tried out these ideas on someone. Did you?
- I did.
- Let's hear it. The conversation.
- Three characters, four including me. A woman in her early twenties, a man somewhat older, and the woman's dog, a Pomeranian, who stood impressively still on his four legs to his full six inches of height. The man I'd talked to before. He made angry, raging videos about prejudice against his race.
- Which was?
- Black. First asking and receiving permission I went to make friends with the dog. He remained quiet, not sure if I was worth noticing. I asked the young woman if as often the case with dogs and their masters he got his manners from her. She said unfortunately she wasn't so calm. She was busy day and night. Busy with what? She tended bar, and the rest of the time, like the young black man, made YouTube videos. And they were about?
- My generation. We're different. We're organized.
- Organized to do what?
- To make a difference. Your generation made a mess. We're trying to clean it up.
- Do you think you can?
- Yes. We have the internet. We're connected to each other. There are millions of us. I'll show you someone I like. He has millions of followers and he's still a teenager.
- What's his subject? Political satire?
- Yes. He makes people laugh telling the truth.
- What about you? Are you satirical?
- Sometimes.
- Your generation entertain each other, put on shows for each other. Do you think shows change anything?
- I think artists and creators are the only one's that change the world. We're serious about what we do. Entertaining we build an audience.
- You expose injustice, the criminality, stupidity of your opponents. Yet satire works by adjusting the relative power of roles in the imagination of the audience, makes the audience feel more in control, more comfortable living in a world with what they've satirized so they end up doing nothing.
- We elected a black president for the first time.
- Elected another artist, a talker, a creator of an image, a role to be played out, not something real. And consequently nothing much changed.
- A lot changed. The country's perception of itself changed.
- Do you agree? I asked the black YouTuber. He took out a vintage micro-cassette recorder and placed it on the table. This time around, he said, he chose to listen and get a recording. For this he asked and was given our permission.
- You two are very polite with your permissions.
- Have to be. Everyone is touchy about other's treatment of their image, especially those whose business it is to make images of themselves. I continued to the YouTuber:
- You're not silent like your dog, but maybe he takes after you in another way.
- What?
- As a puppet.
- People often make the mistake. He's little, but almost four, he's not a puppy.
- Not puppy, puppet: little figure of a person or animal moved around on strings. In Plato's allegory of the cave puppets are moved on top of a wall built inside the cave, a fire behind them projecting their shadows upon the back wall. Between the puppets and the back wall prisoners are chained so that all they can see are the shadows. For them, the shadows are the only world they know. They make predictions of which shadow will follow another, and this is their knowledge. If the prisoners could escape and leave the cave and see the world outside, they would at first be blinded by the light, and not understand what they see of the real world, and prefer to go back to the cave and watch the shadows of the puppets. It seems to me your generation of performers are alike in making shows of yourselves, are alike in moving puppets casting shadows in the cave. You make the show, move the puppets along the wall, fight with the other puppeteers for precedence, but your audience sees only the show, your shadow, only your words and gestures, knows nothing of why you do it or the techniques you apply to hold your audience's attention.
- If our videos are shadows, that's for the best. Our generation are not dogmatists and ideologists. We know anything anyone makes is partial, one view of the truth. Nothing is the whole truth. Get used to it. We avoid fanaticism of all kinds including Plato's idealism, his religion that in some other world ideas live eternally. We live in the real world, I think we live in a more real world than the older generation. We have to deal with global warming, nuclear weapons, economic collapse. That we don't hide that our ideas are shadows, that makes them more not real and truthful, not less.  
- What did you say to that?
- I said:
- Here's my experience of the past 24 hours. Listen, and then tell me if role play brings people together or separates them. The night before at midnight I was at FedEx's office on Wilshire sending off the memory book* to the Washington Holocaust Museum. The young man on the other side of the counter, making small talk, asked me where Washington was. There were two of them, he knew. Up near Oregon? This was going to the other one. Oh. he said. 'D.C'. Did I know what 'D.C'. stood for? Didn't he? I asked. No. Where, I asked, was the capital of the U.S? He didn't know. And you, our sound recorder, you told me you were working towards revolution. And is it true or not that when I brought up the recent wave of revolutions in the Middle East, that was the first you'd heard of them? Still recording this? And at Ralphs supermarket, where a guard lurks at the exit all night, stationed there glaring at all who come and go just to have the opportunity to catch people like this one, a mad man I often see wandering in filthy rags by the L.A. Country Club. He was cleaned up, in new clothes, but still mad, holding aloft a plastic tray with day old rolls, now after midnight, 2 days old not legally to be sold. The guard stop him, says, Where do you think you are going! He says, What? The guard says, You can't take that. He says, Oh? The manager comes over, says to him, You have to pay. You have to pay! He says, What? He moves more towards the door at which point a customer waiting and watching at check-out says he'll pay the two dollars for the two day old rolls, saving the madman from arrest and possible a week locked up in a mental hospital before being returned to the streets.
- I listened. What conclusion you draw?
- Our friend here wants to play revolutionary. He's not interested in what revolution is enough to study it, not even in very recent history. And the FedEx kid, old enough to vote, identifies himself to himself and others by his tattoos. For him that is enough, he has his role and not an idea in his head. Consequently no politics either, not curiosity enough to know where the capital is. And the corporate supermarket, those who work there are forced into slavery and most abject role practise, no humanity or reasonableness allowed.
- If roles separate us, what brings us together?
- You know your Plato, the analogy of the sun.
- Sure:
As goodness stands in the intelligible realm to intelligence and the things we know, so in the visible realm the sun stands to sight and the things we see.**
- Politics requires ideas. Ideas are shared, bring us together. Roles separate.
- Roles are based on ideas too.
- But they are not good ideas, not drawn out from a shared human nature that strives toward good. The playing out of roles and protection of roles, those made up things, is done in the dark, unilluminated by the good.

Further Reading:
How To Read Plato's Republic
__________________________
The Memory Book
** The analogy of the sun is found in the sixth book of Plato's 'The Republic' (507b–509c)


6. Better People

- I want to go back to what you said last time: 
Satire works by adjusting the relative power of roles in the imagination of the audience, makes the audience feel more in control, more comfortable living in a world with what they've satirized so they end up doing nothing.*
Our political freedom has greatly increased in the last century, but has that has made us into better people?
- Do we lead better lives as individuals? 
- Yes.
- I doubt it. 
- Isn't that strange? A year ago ** you were talking about the atrophy of good: like our muscles the minute we stop exercising them start being weakened, when we stop being good we start being bad. Apparently the opposite is not true: When we stop being bad we don't start being good. Satire reminds us not to be bad, but that reminder doesn't help us become good, in fact it can make us worse. Why do you think that is? Is it that we never lose the ability to be bad, so when good declines we immediately become more bad. But we do lose the ability to be good, so when bad lessons we simply are less bad, but no more good? 
- Something like that must be right.
- But why? Why do we forget how to be good, but not how to be bad? Are we bad by instinct which never leaves us and good only by education?
- Wouldn't the difficulty of recovering good be accounted for if we have it in us to be both good and bad, but our education is unrelenting towards the bad?
- Then the reminder to be good would be the exception, which when it ends leaves us chained to the bad influence of our social education.
___________________
Puppy & Puppets
** The Atrophy Of Good


7. American Character

- Sometimes I think I've got these ideas almost worked out but then, when I need them most, I'm lost. Will you help me out?
- If I can.
- You know how when someone asks, 'How are you?' and you answer honestly, 'Not too good, there are these problems I just can't manage to solve, not for lack of trying, I've tried everything I can think of.' And the person you're talking to answers that he is a great believer that it's possible to do anything you set your mind to. You've been through this?
- Many times.
- It makes me angry. I am being told to do what I never was willing to do in the past in order to allow me to do what I want to do now. I'm being asked to do things I fundamentally don't want to do, like lie, disrespect strangers, turn completely around the direction of my life and go another way. Follow?
- Yes.
- So tell me, what exactly defines this wrong way we refuse to go in order to get to where we won't otherwise ever be? They, the good Americans, tell us traitorous complainers, if only we turned our minds to it, repeated to ourselves over and over anything is possible, anything would be possible. We traitorous complainers answer, 'Maybe, much is possible, if we're willing to destroy ourselves, but we aren't.' And the good strong positive thinking true Americans ask us what we're talking about. 'Destroy what about yourselves? Your inflexibility? Yes, now you're talking, destroy that! Do it right now!' What do we say to them?
- We ask them, Isn't it true that if we have a certain character, we have certain habits, ways of doing things, and these habits make it easier for us to do some things and harder to do others? And if so, how can a person of strong character do everything and anything?
- By strong character they mean the strength to go against their own habits when necessary.
- And that is the American character that anything is possible to.
- Yes.
- A sort of instantly renewed character to suit constantly changing circumstances.
- Yes.
- Where would such a character be at home?
- In America, obviously.
- But would there be any particular place they'd be more at home than another that would suit their character best?
- That would have to be the place where instant adaptation of character would get most exercised.
- And where would that be?
- America.
- Would such a character find any rest in America?
- How, if being at home meant constant change and adaptation?
- Then being at home would mean constantly moving, inventing, producing. For those who have the un-American character of having habits rather than having a habit of change, the reward and goal of activity is rest at home when activity has come to an end. What is the reward and end for those who have a habit of changing their habits? Do they never rest?
- I'd say they don't. The more money they make and possessions they acquire the more they want to make money and acquire more possessions.
- Would you agree that if it is true to say they rest at all, it is a rest in their confidence in and satisfaction at the thought they can continue to perform and acquire new habits successfully in any conditions?
- Yes. They gloat over their sense of power.
- But only to go on and acquire more power, because only in their thoughts is there a sort of rest, not in the world itself, there is no comfort anyplace for them when they stop doing things.
- So, when they tell us, if we only turned our mind to it, we like them could do anything, we answer, maybe, maybe not, but we don't want to lose our sense of home, we don't want to lose our character.
- And they tell us, yes, you say it yourself, you have another character, you are different from us, you are un-American losers.
- They do.
- What do we say to that?
- That they are the true losers.
- What have they lost? Themselves? Truth?
- Yes. But what I was thinking particularly to tell them was that they have lost exactly what they think they have gained.
- Which is?
- Freedom. Call it a bad habit, a character flaw if you will, but one last time will you let me make use of Plato's allegory?
- Prisoners are chained in a cave...
- Behind and unseen by them is a wall on which puppets and objects are paraded. And behind that wall the puppets are moved along is a fire which throws their shadow on the back wall of the cave the prisoners face. Outside the cave are the real people and things the puppets represent, but the prisoners only see the shadows of the puppets. Let's say the American 'we can do anything' character is that of a prisoner who has broken his chains but rather than escape to the upper world of real things remains down in the cave to be a puppeteer. In his bets with his fellow prisoners about what the shadows will do he almost always comes out on top because he is no longer simply himself, he can do what he wants with all the shadows including the one that the other prisoners are now told represents himself. He can do anything he wants, subject to the need to avoid the danger of losing his advantage by teaching too many of the other prisoners to do the same he has. What do you think? Does this describe the American character of having no character we've been talking about?
- It's not really true the prisoners can do anything: it's true only that they can do anything with the shadows.
- Yes. Outside the cave is the real world illuminated, not by the artificial light of a fire, but by the sun, which is the source of good. Getting up and getting out of the cave we establish a real relation to the world we come to know. We find that known part of the world to be good, and rest in the feeling of being at home.
- The unchained but still in the cave prisoners are free to produce for themselves the most powerful representation of themselves. It's like magic to the other prisoners who can't change their own representations and are afraid to break their chains and do what true Americans can do.
- We know though that among the prisoner puppeteers there can be no discussion about truth: each tries in his own way to put on the show that brings the most possessions into association with his own puppet. There is no truth to the show except that it is a show.
- But it's all about things. It's a show about things.
- What else could it be about if there never is any home or rest?
- So the prisoner puppeteers are capitalists: there is no fixed right and wrong, there is nothing but the fact a show is to be performed, a show about things being produced and exchanged, and in that show they can do anything, they can destroy competitors' puppets and the things associated with them, do it behind the scenes or openly on the wall, whatever they can get away with. But no matter what they do their world is exclusively a world of things.
- To people without character everything is allowed, everything except getting out of this world composed only of things and their shadows. Or to put it another way: Americans are entirely free to do anything they can get away with except question property, the idea that meaning in life is to be found in associating oneself with things. They never get out of the cave. They are not free to make their lives good.
- But, you know, I allowed you the cave, allow me to risk making myself ridiculous and speak for the whole country: these people we are calling Americans are not Americans. You and me are Americans. We don't want freedom to move around things and images of ourselves. We want freedom to do good with our lives. These people are 'doers for the sake of doing'. They are materialists, they are restless, they are without home.
- Altogether too much character for people who claim to have no character.

Further Reading:
Puppy & Puppets
Hybrid Fates
Hannah Arendt, Totalitarianism, Doing For The Sake Of Doing
Zagreb Stories


8. Politics & Philosophy

- Going to the museum?
- Where's the museum?
- On the corner. 
- No. I haven't been there yet.
- Where are you from?
- Greece.
- Tell me something. Why didn't you Greeks try to get rid of your prime minister when he ignored the results of the referendum and betrayed you and democracy?
- What should we have done? Make a revolution?
- Why not?
- Violence. And whoever we got next in office would be the same.
- Is that what Greeks believe? They weren't surprised by the prime minister's betrayal?
- I wasn't.
- How did you know? Had he done anything, said anything, that was a giveaway that he didn't really believe in making life better for the people who elected him?
- No. Just that all politicians are puppets on strings held by the true powers.
- There have been exceptions.
- There are some now in Greece.
- But not with real power. And if they got it, nothing better could be expected of them. Power corrupts.
- It's human nature to be self-interested.
- Not fundamentally. You're waiting for someone?
- No. I need this coffee before I go to work.
- What work do you do?
- Biology.
- At UCLA?
- Yes.
- Ok, I'll stand here at the table and talk until you tell me to go away. If the world is ever to be saved from politicians it is by people talking to each other.
- Will that help? People everywhere are taught to be obedient. The world will never change.
- Assuming it's human nature to be mostly self-interested and there is no alternative to political decisions made by a class of leaders with interests separate from the people they lead. But both assumptions are false: political arrangements don't have to remain as they are, and that because human nature is not fundamentally selfish.
- What is human nature? We're not very different from animals.
- We're distinguished from other animals by our greater ability to arrange our ideas so that they refer to each other, develop each other hierarchically. We do that in language and technology. Animals can do it in thought and behavior, but lack hierarchical language, haven't the ability it gives of communicating and concentrating on alternative models of what is preferable to do in what situations, what tools to make, when to change habits. This distinction in itself wouldn't be very much, but we are also the only species that is evil: empowered by our hierarchical ability we alone put language to use making models that undermine our cooperative nature.
- And what is evil?
- Knowing what is good as an individual but doing bad for rewards from acting in a group. A political representative of a radical socialist party deciding to defy the mandate he was elected to pursue for the benefits of being among the ruling class.
- We don't have to be selfish, but then, evil is human nature? You're serious?
- Evil is what most distinguishes our species. But it is not our unchanging nature, rather it is a liability or weakness, a susceptibility of our nature to be overpowered in our inborn tendency to cooperate, and to lose its ability to remake itself, to use creatively its ability to build model upon model.
- If we are evil what hope is there?
- If we get things right we can use our power of language to remake ourselves and our technology to keep at a distance our susceptibility to evil.
- How?
- Shouldn't something that creates also be able to save? 
- Maybe. Not always.
- The philosophy that began in your country gave us what good politics we have. I think philosophy is the only thing that can save us.
- You shouldn't idealize the ancient Athenian democracy. It didn't work well.
- The new better ways beginning were mixed with the old bad ways, and the bad ways won out, just as they do in our times.
- Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
- He was talking about the kind of ideas that make a world for us and leave us there in it. Evil ideas. Ideas that justify social relations and define human nature in relation to them. Nothing real in our relation to the world is fixed like that. Sometimes we choose to act, sometimes we rest. Sometimes the world betrays us and we have no choice, we have to act. Sometimes when we act we have a choice which way to go, sometimes we don't. The world we live in is of alternative selves acting, or not, in alternative worlds. Looking at a world permanently described by a single model, seeing a fixed conception of human nature in relation to fixed social relations, is the outcome of "evil", of an individual giving up seeking knowledge out of personal experience for the sake of the rewards of group conformity. It is not accurate to our experience. Do you understand?
- Yes. But philosophizing you aren't going to change the world. People don't have time to think anymore.
- Ideas of only a few people, many in your country, made our world. Why should it take more than a few to save it?
- I couldn't say. I've got to go to work.

Further Reading:
Spectacle & God
It's All Good
Against Leaders
The Technology Of Good


9. Detour

- On the occasion of today's presidential election: What are we to think about this setback to the cause of enlightenment? The 18th century's Emanuel Kant proposed that free speech, without revolution, would progressively insinuate better ideas into political institutions: you told me that. You also told me about the atrophy of good, how when we stop acting to better ourselves we start acting worse, and how when we stop acting bad, we don't automatically start acting better,* this because our educational institutions overpower our habits, what's in us that urges us to live well. For hundreds of years our progressive ideas have been working their way into our institutions, but now it seems the character our institutions educated us into having protects the institutions from the influence of our ideas.
- What character is that?
- Isolated one from the other, "atomized". The good of self-questioning and authenticity taught us by modern institutions turns into vanity and self-absorption. The prosperity of our economics and the large scale generosity it allows turns into selfishness and greed. The love of truth that guides our technological advance turns into technical practise for its own sake, doing for the sake of doing. I'll read you something from a Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, from his book 'The Ethics Of Authenticity':
What our situation seems to call for is a complex, many-leveled struggle, intellectual, spiritual, and political, in which the debates in the public arena interlink with those in a host of institutional settings, like hospitals and schools, where the issues of enframing technology are being lived through in concrete form; and where these disputes in turn both feed and are fed by the various attempts to define in theoretical terms the place of technology and the demands of authenticity, and beyond that, the shape of human life and its relation to the cosmos. But to engage effectively in this many-faceted debate, one has to see what is great in the culture of modernity, as well as what is shallow or dangerous. As Pascal said about human beings, modernity is characterized by grandeur as well as by misere. Only a view that embraces both can give us the undistorted insight into our era that we need to rise to its greatest challenge.
The Canadian philosopher, a practicing Catholic, thinks the atomized state our institutions have put us in can be overcome by an act of conversion, in which selfishness becomes authenticity, competitive trading becomes cooperative and well-intentioned, technology becomes again love of truth, and thus the project of enlightenment continues after not much disruption.
- And let me guess. You're all in favor of spiritual conversions, even on a mass scale. But like Kant said of revolution, progress will not be lasting because the character of the people has not changed. We might for the moment stop being bad, but under the continuing atomizing pressure of institutions and the character they have educated us into having, we won't start being good. And with no experience acting in different circumstances there is no consensus which way to go, the institutions easily resist any pressure to change.
- What then?
- We look for institutions of a kind that don't isolate themselves from the people by educating them into isolation from each other.
- How do you imagine these, call them self-immunized institutions?
- A Catholic philosopher imagines that with enough love we can get back on the track of enlightenment and progress. But think about our relation to dogs and cats, our pets, or as they are now known, companion animals. We provide the home, the institution within which they live. And we could hardly love them more than we do, without question we love them more than we love each other. And what is the result, what sort of world do our companion animals live in? A world very much like our own. We keep about one percent of us human beings locked in cages, another few percent in and out of the cages in any one year. About the same numbers are true of dogs and cats in our animal shelters! We kill every year a few million of them. And about the same number of us humans are killed every year ten or more years before their time, poisoned by bad air, water, food administered to us all by our corporate leaders and government officials controlled by them.
- If love is not going to save us from our institutions what will?
- We have to look at new forms that can continue to guide our progress while preventing our atomization and consequent end to the enlightenment project, doing as much as possible democratically, as much as possible without leaders. Leaders have a technical relation to those they lead. Objects of technique are things. Things are by definition isolated, separate from each other.
- Why do I find that answer so satisfying? After a lifetime of being told we have to wait, submit to the demands of our institutions, progress is slow but continuous, you tell me now, love each other all that we want, progress is at an end unless we turn our technological prowess to the invention of the institutions themselves.

Further Reading:
Beyond Voting
Kant & Compromise
Against Leaders
You Have To Have A Story
The Technology Of Good
Compassion & The Story
______________________
Better People 
The Atrophy Of Good


10. Dying To Get Back Home

- You've been putting me off for a week.
- What do I have to say about our new president? Those who voted for him amount to less than twenty percent of the population, and a little more than a quarter of eligible voters. What should be done? Immediately upon his being sworn into office impeachment proceedings should be started against him for the many crimes he is known to have committed. The other eighty percent who didn't vote for him, children included, should start posting on social media and demonstrate in the streets for the entire congress, who otherwise can be expected to be bribed into complicity with the new president, to resign, with special elections called for replacements.
- 'Children included'. Why should members of Congress start impeachment proceedings if they have to quit anyway?
- Because they want to buy-off their constituency from prosecuting them for breach of contract to represent voters not corporations. One organization, Brand New Congress,* is already at work selecting candidates for the 2018 elections in all congressional districts who've pledged to actually represent the people once in office.
- Are these real possibilities?
- Our new president is a surprise; why not the surprise of getting rid of him?
- You're letting yourself get carried away with your rhetoric.
- You wanted to know what I think of our new president, what I think is the significance of his winning the election?
- Yes.
- The election means that about about a fifth of the American people are entirely ignorant of the fact of human character.
- They believe they can and therefore should make what they want of themselves, that nothing restrains what is possible to them in achieving their goals.
- They believe that there is no such thing as good human conduct, nothing in their own nature, for the sake of their own sanity and happiness, to restrain them from making certain choices rather than others towards achieving their dreams.
- Characteristics such as honesty, compassion, love of justice, etc. Characteristics our new president has made it obvious he lacks.
- Yes.
- You think that the fifth of Americans who voted for this man without honesty, compassion, justice, themselves must be lacking in these qualities?
- Yes. What about you? Do you agree?
- It's said that people voted for him not because they liked him but because they were desperate for change.
- Could anyone with any honesty, compassion, and love of justice imagine that the change made by this man would be the kind of change they looked for?
- No. I don't think so.
- So the rest of us have been taken by surprise that such a large number of us could be, to speak plainly, completely worthless human beings. You, me, the people who live in this liberal part of liberal Los Angeles, in liberal California, we expected the poorer and badly educated, together with the greedy better educated rich, to be seduced by promises of improved life and profits; we thought however they'd wake up, be disabused of the illusion of safety in their selfishness when confronted by the constantly accumulating evidence that the man making the promises was a pathological liar, tax evader, sexual predator, defrauder of creditors, advocate of war crimes, the greatest bankrupt in the country's history...
- It must be as you say: sixty million of us don't see or care about bad character. Do you think they even know what bad character is?
- No. Thus the character of their bad character is invisible to them as well.
- And what is the character of their bad character? How can we describe it?
- By what it has and what it lacks. It lacks compassion, honesty, love of justice. It has...
- Fascism.
- Yes. Fascism in a previously unseen form, fascism of the cheater that doesn't care about anything, not even politics, other than material possessions and money as symbol of power to acquire more possessions. Getting closer, seeing enlarged can help us at times, but our new president is such an outrageous, outsized figure, maybe seeing him in small would better help us place him in his true pettiness. Imagine then him stripped of his inherited hundreds of millions of dollars, stripped of everything he has and everyone he knows, of every penny in his pocket. Imagine him living in our part of town, attending the lectures at the university and museums where free food is offered, making a game out of it, going where he is technically permitted but unwanted because going only for the food, coming to pride himself on his skill to please himself with no concern for others' disapproval. This miniaturization of Trump's way of life is in fact the way of life of a little middle aged woman who used to sleep in the basement vents of Palazzo Corporate Housing in Westwood Villiage and has moved on to sneaking into the grounds of a religious institution for the night. Like our new president she is wildly inconsistent in her fascism. You remember how we've defined fascism: love of violence, an enemy within, a sense of dangerous weakness, need of a total response encompassing all of society. Like Trump, she has immigrants in her family. Her father was an immigrant from South America, but that doesn't stop her from expressing virulent hatred even or especially against those of Latin American origin. Her father was legal, she explains, unlike the twelve million undocumented trespassers on our country's land. Anyway, she adds, her father was half European, so she has only a quarter of the offending blood.
- Our new president put fascism to use to get elected. What does she use it for?
- To feel good about herself. There's a reason Fascism always involves race: an inferior race that comes and makes unanticipated demands on our own superior race.
- And that reason is?
- Fear of losing our character from having to deal with the disruption of people different from us coming within our midst.
- How can people without character fear losing their character?
- Because they feel a sense of loss and fascism promises them recovery. This little old woman, profiting by cheating and proud of it like our new president, is proud to be a verbally violent defender of her race. Having a race is at least having some kind of character, something to be relied upon in a dangerous world. Should I make use of another comparison to show you what I mean?
- Go ahead.
- In some of the warehouses of the giant internet company Amazon goods are stored haphazardly: they are shelved as they arrive in the nearest found vacant space. The warehouses look like immense secondhand stores. With many more possible "stowage" places, work-time is saved compared to transporting to a predetermined location. Time is also saved in retrieval, what Amazon calls "picking" for shipping out, because the same things are scattered around in many places, not only one perhaps distance location. The efficiency gained depends on a computer knowing exactly where every single individual item has been placed.
- That's amazing.
- Isn't it? Now imagine if we humans did the same with all the things in our lives and our relations to people. Ever have the experience of someone you love accusing you of being inattentive, incapable of returning their love, even being bored by them, unwilling to share a spontaneously offered confidence?
- Obviously you have.
- I have. I defended myself, or tried to, saying, 'No, give me time, my mind was elsewhere!' There's a verse in 'On The Level', one of Leonard Cohen's last songs:
I knew that it was wrong
I didn't have a doubt
I was dying to get back home
And you were starting out
- Your character, whatever that is, was restraining you, keeping you from paying attention to your lover?
- That's how I see it. Think of all these foreigners coming into our lives as demand upon demand that attention be turned to them as required, independent of whatever inertia our habit of character loads us with to stay home with it. Imagine that like an Amazon warehouse we had to pile up our experience as it came and somehow remember the location and timing, instead of our "characteristic" way of dealing with life of keeping each thing in its own place.
- Race is our piled up things each in its own place, our own blood and no one else's in our veins. And then foreigners with their own blood seek to impose their own immediate demands for attention and response, demand we take them on making our lives worse with an Amazon style character-less, however efficient solution. Our new president and his supporters have no character, and they embrace racism and fascism out of a nostalgia for the character they lack. But if that is the case, then there's really nothing new about this election.
- Fascism may be new to our country but by no means is unknown to our times.

Further Reading:
The Way To Stop Trump
Ken Knabb: Out In The Open
Close Elections & The Fashion Business

Viewing:
Elections won by party, not candidate
____________________
Brand New Congress


11. Correct Me If I'm Wrong

- Here's what I think about our recent presidential election. You place the blame on voters' complete lack of character,* ignorance that such a thing as character exists, and the resulting lack of ability to understand the consequences of their voting for someone with bad character. Voters, you argue, have no character at all, always adapting to conditions as consumers of products that produce for them a sense of identity. as the rich have no character always adapting to the requirements of producing not a character but profit in money or power. Others cite particulars of bad character of the electorate - greed, racism, chauvinism, etc - with some saying corporate media is deliberately destroying American character. Others say the election illustrates not character but a primal urge in response to correctly understood corruption to throw over the game of politics, to bomb the election. Some say the electorate actually believes our new president when he says he is against "Washington insiders", and without caring for what he says one way or another, simply voted for the enemy of their enemies. Others are said to actually buy into the new president's program, inconsistent as it is. But do you know what I think?
- You asked already. What do you think?
- Actually I got the idea from you. How many times have you said to someone after you've criticized them and they responded you were entitled to your opinion and they to theirs, that in fact No, they were not entitled to their opinion, at least not without further response from you. Why do you have that right? they demand. Because, you answer, you have to live in the same place with them, and leaving them in a state of ignorance actually is dangerous to you. 
- And what do you make of the argument?
- The danger we face now of our new president is the fault not just of those who voted for him, but also those who didn't, as it is the product of our politically correct failure to correct each other. 
- And a very nice irony it is. Political correctness has give us the most politically incorrect president ever.

Further Reading:
The Character Of Donald Trump
Political Correctness
Capitalism & Freedom / American Character
___________________
* Dying To Get Back Home


Epilog: Close Elections & The Fashion Business

- Fashion: remember our definition?
- Uniformity and revolt together.
- Too many people wearing the same uniform, and the new style doesn't seem very revolutionary anymore. Too revolutionary, not enough people adopt the new fashion and it doesn't become a uniform.
- Why should revolutionaries want to wear a uniform?
 Because they are revolutionary only in the choice of role.  They must have one role or another. They don't want to stand out alone.
- Ok.
- Fashion is a tool of monopoly economics.
- Why?
- Because of the power of advertising. Advertising is the deliberate creation of fashion. The more advertising, the more the sense of uniform community created around the product being sold, and the more the product can be sold as a revolutionary improvement. Do you follow?
- Yes.
- The techniques of selling fashion can be applied to selling political candidates to voters. Some basic uniform is produced, a simple story of how life should be lived. For Republicans, it is small government and individuality, for Democrats, a fair and caring society. These ideas are sold as revolutionary, constantly threatened by the encroachments of the opposite party. Have you ever wondered why the Presidential elections are often so close?
- I've assumed it was because both sides are using the same techniques of persuasion and are equally good at it.
- That's what I first thought.
- Not anymore?
- I think that like in advertising fashions, political persuasion comes up against a natural limit: a too successful campaign, throwing a uniform on too many people, stops delivering the thrill of being in revolt.
- So the less successful campaign recovers and gains a more equal position.
- Yes.
- I never thought of it that way before. But if you are right why do monopolies arise?
- The goal of business is not making or selling products, but profit. Competition is eliminated by mergers, buyouts, underpricing, government subsidies, exclusive agreements with suppliers and distributors. Customers of monopolies don't get to vote.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Correct Me If I'm Wrong

Related image

- Here's what I think about our recent presidential election. You place the blame on voters' complete lack of character,* ignorance that such a thing as character exists, and the resulting lack of ability to understand the consequences of their voting for someone with bad character. Voters, you argue, have no character at all, always adapting to conditions as consumers of products that produce for them a sense of identity. as the rich have no character always adapting to the requirements of producing not a character but profit in money or power. Others cite particulars of bad character of the electorate - greed, racism, chauvinism, etc - with some saying corporate media is deliberately destroying American character. Others say the election illustrates not character but a primal urge in response to correctly understood corruption to throw over the game of politics, to bomb the election. Some say the electorate actually believes our new president when he says he is against "Washington insiders", and without caring for what he says one way or another, simply voted for the enemy of their enemies. Others are said to actually buy into the new president's program, inconsistent as it is. But do you know what I think?
- You asked already. What do you think?
- Actually I got the idea from you. How many times have you said to someone after you've criticized them and they responded you were entitled to your opinion and they to theirs, that in fact No, they were not entitled to their opinion, at least not without further response from you. Why do you have that right? they demand. Because, you answer, you have to live in the same place with them, and leaving them in a state of ignorance actually is dangerous to you. 
- And what do you make of the argument?
- The danger we face now of our new president is the fault not just of those who voted for him, but also those who didn't, as it is the product of our politically correct failure to correct each other. 
- And a very nice irony it is. Political correctness has give us the most politically incorrect president ever.

Further Reading:
The Character Of Donald Trump
Political Correctness
Capitalism & Freedom / American Character
___________________
* Dying To Get Back Home

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dying To Get Back Home



- You've been putting me off for a week.
- What do I have to say about our new president? Those who voted for him amount to less than twenty percent of the population, and a little more than a quarter of eligible voters. What should be done? Immediately upon his being sworn into office impeachment proceedings should be started against him for the many crimes he is known to have committed. The other eighty percent who didn't vote for him, children included, should start posting on social media and demonstrate in the streets for the entire congress, who otherwise can be expected to be bribed into complicity with the new president, to resign, with special elections called for replacements.
- 'Children included'. Why should members of Congress start impeachment proceedings if they have to quit anyway?
- Because they want to buy-off their constituency from prosecuting them for breach of contract to represent voters not corporations. One organization, Brand New Congress,* is already at work selecting candidates for the 2018 elections in all congressional districts who've pledged to actually represent the people once in office.
- Are these real possibilities?
- Our new president is a surprise; why not the surprise of getting rid of him?
- You're letting yourself get carried away with your rhetoric.
- You wanted to know what I think of our new president, what I think is the significance of his winning the election?
- Yes.
- The election means that about about a fifth of the American people are entirely ignorant of the fact of human character.
- They believe they can and therefore should make what they want of themselves, that nothing restrains what is possible to them in achieving their goals.
- They believe that there is no such thing as good human conduct, nothing in their own nature, for the sake of their own sanity and happiness, to restrain them from making certain choices rather than others towards achieving their dreams.
- Characteristics such as honesty, compassion, love of justice, etc. Characteristics our new president has made it obvious he lacks.
- Yes.
- You think that the fifth of Americans who voted for this man without honesty, compassion, justice, themselves must be lacking in these qualities?
- Yes. What about you? Do you agree?
- It's said that people voted for him not because they liked him but because they were desperate for change.
- Could anyone with any honesty, compassion, and love of justice imagine that the change made by this man would be the kind of change they looked for?
- No. I don't think so.
- So the rest of us have been taken by surprise that such a large number of us could be, to speak plainly, completely worthless human beings. You, me, the people who live in this liberal part of liberal Los Angeles, in liberal California, we expected the poorer and badly educated, together with the greedy better educated rich, to be seduced by promises of improved life and profits; we thought however they'd wake up, be disabused of the illusion of safety in their selfishness when confronted by the constantly accumulating evidence that the man making the promises was a pathological liar, tax evader, sexual predator, defrauder of creditors, advocate of war crimes, the greatest bankrupt in the country's history...
- It must be as you say: sixty million of us don't see or care about bad character. Do you think they even know what bad character is?
- No. Thus the character of their bad character is invisible to them as well.
- And what is the character of their bad character? How can we describe it?
- By what it has and what it lacks. It lacks compassion, honesty, love of justice. It has...
- Fascism.
- Yes. Fascism in a previously unseen form, fascism of the cheater that doesn't care about anything, not even politics, other than material possessions and money as symbol of power to acquire more possessions. Getting closer, seeing enlarged can help us at times, but our new president is such an outrageous, outsized figure, maybe seeing him in small would better help us place him in his true pettiness. Imagine then him stripped of his inherited hundreds of millions of dollars, stripped of everything he has and everyone he knows, of every penny in his pocket. Imagine him living in our part of town, attending the lectures at the university and museums where free food is offered, making a game out of it, going where he is technically permitted but unwanted because going only for the food, coming to pride himself on his skill to please himself with no concern for others' disapproval. This miniaturization of Trump's way of life is in fact the way of life of a little middle aged woman who used to sleep in the basement vents of Palazzo Corporate Housing in Westwood Villiage and has moved on to sneaking into the grounds of a religious institution for the night. Like our new president she is wildly inconsistent in her fascism. You remember how we've defined fascism: love of violence, an enemy within, a sense of dangerous weakness, need of a total response encompassing all of society. Like Trump, she has immigrants in her family. Her father was an immigrant from South America, but that doesn't stop her from expressing virulent hatred even or especially against those of Latin American origin. Her father was legal, she explains, unlike the twelve million undocumented trespassers on our country's land. Anyway, she adds, her father was half European, so she has only a quarter of the offending blood.
- Our new president put fascism to use to get elected. What does she use it for?
- To feel good about herself. There's a reason Fascism always involves race: an inferior race that comes and makes unanticipated demands on our own superior race.
- And that reason is?
- Fear of losing our character from having to deal with the disruption of people different from us coming within our midst.
- How can people without character fear losing their character?
- Because they feel a sense of loss and fascism promises them recovery. This little old woman, profiting by cheating and proud of it like our new president, is proud to be a verbally violent defender of her race. Having a race is at least having some kind of character, something to be relied upon in a dangerous world. Should I make use of another comparison to show you what I mean?
- Go ahead.
- In some of the warehouses of the giant internet company Amazon goods are stored haphazardly: they are shelved as they arrive in the nearest found vacant space. The warehouses look like immense secondhand stores. With many more possible "stowage" places, work-time is saved compared to transporting to a predetermined location. Time is also saved in retrieval, what Amazon calls "picking" for shipping out, because the same things are scattered around in many places, not only one perhaps distance location. The efficiency gained depends on a computer knowing exactly where every single individual item has been placed.
- That's amazing.
- Isn't it? Now imagine if we humans did the same with all the things in our lives and our relations to people. Ever have the experience of someone you love accusing you of being inattentive, incapable of returning their love, even being bored by them, unwilling to share a spontaneously offered confidence?
- Obviously you have.
- I have. I defended myself, or tried to, saying, 'No, give me time, my mind was elsewhere!' There's a verse in 'On The Level', one of Leonard Cohen's last songs:
I knew that it was wrong
I didn't have a doubt
I was dying to get back home
And you were starting out
- Your character, whatever that is, was restraining you, keeping you from paying attention to your lover?
- That's how I see it. Think of all these foreigners coming into our lives as demand upon demand that attention be turned to them as required, independent of whatever inertia our habit of character loads us with to stay home with it. Imagine that like an Amazon warehouse we had to pile up our experience as it came and somehow remember the location and timing, instead of our "characteristic" way of dealing with life of keeping each thing in its own place.
- Race is our piled up things each in its own place, our own blood and no one else's in our veins. And then foreigners with their own blood seek to impose their own immediate demands for attention and response, demand we take them on making our lives worse with an Amazon style character-less, however efficient solution. Our new president and his supporters have no character, and they embrace racism and fascism out of a nostalgia for the character they lack. But if that is the case, then there's really nothing new about this election.
- Fascism may be new to our country but by no means is unknown to our times.

Further Reading:
The Way To Stop Trump
Ken Knabb: Out In The Open
Close Elections & The Fashion Business

Viewing:
Elections won by party, not candidate
____________________
* Brand New Congress