Saturday, June 5, 2010

All the pretty little chickens...

Almost every day I go for my morning walk, on a fixed rout (like Kant...), and I pass by one of our suburb's last wide grassy spaces, with a newly dead but still majestic grandaddy walnut tree, a nicely enclosed little paradise for hens and an occasional rooster.
I stop to say hello to the hens and try out hen language on them, which either interests them, or amuses them, or both, because they cock their heads and look at me, and cluck in response to MY clucks. (By the way, in case you haven't noticed, generally speaking, if you say hello to an animal, while REALLY giving.. it ? him ? her ? your FULL attention, generally it ? he ? she ? will respond back in some form or another...)
Last week there were no hens in the enclosure...
When I finally crossed paths with the hen owner (do you OWN hens ? not sure...), I asked her where her hens were.
And she pulled a long face, and told me the following story.
About two weeks ago, over the weekend, she woke up and went to feed the hens in the early morning, and found... six or seven of them still outside (she keeps them in a hen house at night) dead, mangled, and half eaten.
The remaining two were in the hen house, along with the... badger that had got them, and was sleeping off his hangover in the hen house. She and a neighbor took care of (!!!!) the delinquant badger ( a clear cut case where MAYBE three strikes and you're out was overly generous...), and cleaned up afterwards. No more hens to put in the freezer.
When I related this incident to one of my friends who, in all fairness, has ALREADY kept hens, and knows just what it means to lose them to the occasional predator (that is NOT human), she took the badger's side, saying that the lady should have taken better care of her hens.
Maybe. And the lady probably was negligent in shutting up her hens that night.
But i say that an animal that has already got THAT kind of a taste for hen's blood stood a good chance of coming back for more, and that... a swift execution was probably merited in order to keep the lady's hens safe NEXT YEAR, for instance. This may simply be my prejudice. I am not an expert in this matter by any means. And I don't extrapolate to hold that THIS solution is good for human beings, either, by the way. I am firmly opposed to the death penalty in all cases... for HUMANS.
Now... WHAT could possibly have been going through the head of that badger that made him take off after 9 hens, kill them, and then NOT eat them ?
Shall we say... the badger was NOT acting very rationally, now, was he ?
I hope you get a belly laugh out of that one...
i say that MAYBE what went through the badger's.. mind ? OTHER organ ? was similar to what went through... a particular trader's mind ? OTHER organ ? when he pushed a button and lost millions for his bank...
It's NOT for nothing that we have now come up with the expression "predatory capitalism", and I find this expression... appropriate at the same time as it WILL induce certain things in the way we consider doing business, and in our attitudes towards the world around us.
So.... WHAT can be done about predatory capitalism ?
Lots of people STILL seem to believe that making up lots of rules and regulations to limit this kind of behavior is the appropriate thing to do.
I'm not so sure.
Because... in the same way that the badger was NOT being rational (lol) in going after those hens, the rules and regulations would work IF man were SOLELY a rational animal.
But... he's not. And no amount of wishful thinking is going to MAKE HIM a solely rational animal.
So...
While waiting for the second coming (of pure rationalism...) why not BUST UP the big banks, the big companies ? Shouldn't we be busy trying to put a face and a name on business, and on customers again ?
THIS is the BIGGEST INSURANCE against ill doing that I know.
And the BEST WAY of recreating empathy.
There is NO reason to have empathy for a number. There is EVERY REASON to have empathy for a person who has a name, and a face AND A BODY, too while we're at it.
One of the other things that we could also do to limit this kind of behavior would be to... recruit more women WHILE AT THE SAME TIME organizing the workplace so that they could have lives outside the workplace too. Having and raising children. All this towards the goal of social MIXITY, avoiding having too many people of one sex together in any one organization or structure.
Instead of self righteously going on about psychopathy, sociopathy, and all the rest, we SHOULD be taking a long, hard look at all the ways our society these days goes about.. DEHUMANIZING us for each other.
The real problem is there. In my opinion.
And it's been going on now for a long time.
Now... if we REALLY WANT to have our (business as usual) cake, we are going to have to admit that we will not be able to eat it too.
And so... shut up about predatory capitalism.
Sorry for all the capital letters.

20 comments:

Toby said...

To what degree does an appeal to rationality affect intelligent and wise solutions in dealing with problems what don't go away because they are systemic? To some degree. How long is a piece of string?

Systemically (naturally) badgers and other predators will hunt and kill one's livestock if they can. Which is the easiest way of dealing with that issue? Killing the predators, making the livestock inaccessible to predators, or not keeping livestock? There will be different answers for different situations, and it will take some kind of rational process to decide on what is the best course.

Same thing for 'capitalism.' Capitalism has systemic problems related to scarcity and ownership, money and ambition etc., and these problems will keep on occurring with increasing intensity as the world gets smaller. We are at what John McMurtry calls the "Cancer Stage of Capitalism." Money makes more money for people who have money. We have money 'growth' for the sake of money growth, and call this wealth. In pursuit of ever more money 'predators' prowl corporations, which are also predatory, line governmental pockets with bribes, and populate the financial world, all to suck as much money as they can to themselves from a money-pool they control anyway. That's what they do. This predatory behaviour is a totally naturally outgrowth of the capitalist mode.

What do we do about it? Back to Mom and Pop shops? Little towns with friendly neighbours? Been there (yeah, right), done that, and we 'progressed' away from it in the necessary heat of competition and got here. Systemically, capitalism can only get here, is cancerous at its core. It is all about perpetual growth.

The only 'solution' is transition to a different set of problems, those engendered by a resource-based economy. In a RBE we would have no ownership and no money. Ambition would therefore be channeled by different cultural myths and modes. We would have a different system, a different structure, a different set of incentives for our technological endeavours, and so on. Hence we would have different problems. In that system, dealing with the issue of badgers slaughtering chickens might err on the side of prevention rather than cure, or we'd all be vegetarians, or some other solution that might not apply today. In terms of predatory humans preying on the poor, that problem simply cannot arise in a RBE; there is no money and no ownership. Predation would happen, perhaps, in strictly social spheres, although even here, because a RBE would be global and have a radically different education system, social predation would most likely evolve away, become extinct. Dehumanization would be virtually impossible.

However, I suspect capitalism will shortly become full-on fascism, unnecessary competition over 'scarce' resources will become war, and the BP oil volcano or some other ecological disaster (problems arising directly from capitalism) will collapse a system that cannot develop a sustainable relationship with its supporting environment, planet Earth. Capitalism cannot give rise to a sustainable relationship between human society and planet Earth. CANNOT. It is doomed to fail. This is so obvious it hurts, but who wants to address this? Only nutters like me.

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." Krishnamurti.

Because the things I say seem madness to most, I fear terrible collapse is the path we have 'chosen.' That's how we're going to deal with predation. We're going to ignore it as best we can until it's too late.

Debra said...

But... how long have we been at the cancer stage of capitalism ?
Interest was put in place even in Italy, in the Medicis banks, before the Protestant Reform.
So making money for making money has been around for a while.
I don't think that condemning capitalism is the answer, but then I am not really sure I know just exactly what capitalism IS, while we're at it...
We are all predators. More so, even, than when our ancestors worried about being attacked by wolves during particularly hard winters.
But it is not the fact that we are ALL predators that justiifes an attitude of "dog eat dog" about our place in nature.
That badger's behavior was rather excessive, even for HIS species.
We have put in place structures, and ways of doing business that exacerbate.. OVERKILL, shall we say ?
Perhaps we have done this for elaborate psychological reasons, moreover.
There is overwhelming collective pressure on us, as individuals, to NOT express agressivity in any way, shape, or form, or we will be labeled antisocial.
But by NOT allowing ourselves, as INDIVIDUALS to feel and express our agressivity, we have set the system up for... sticking OTHER people in prominent places who we will be able to... IDENTIFY WITH, to a certain extent, charging THEM with OUR repressed agressivity.
The more you try to get rid of something that is an integral part of yourself, something that is consubstantive of yourself, and your being, the MORE it will haunt you, and manifest itself in a twisted, destructive manner. Freud knew this, and taught it. On agressivity...
And, you guessed it... the Wall Street traders, for example, are some of those people.
THEY are in a particularly paradoxical position : that of... EXPRESSING our repressed agressivity, at the same time they get stuck with our condemnation of that very same agressivity.
This is why I say that there is NO outside the system. You could stick the Wall Street traders, or the prison guards, whatever, in scaphanders ten miles under the sea, where NO ONE could see them, and... they would STILL be part of the system... We fool ourselves when we think that exclusion, of whomever, removes people from... the system that constitutes society. That is wishful thinking in a big, big way.
Man is a very complicated animal. "Civilization" makes him even more complicated than the badger.
And... guilt is the number one symptom of civilization, I think.
I disagree that capitalism can ONLY take us to competition that will destroy us.
I will post on this, shortly.
There are... smart, and DUMB ways to envision competition. When I mean dumb, I mean.. competition that takes your society down along with YOU. Big problem.
I don't think you sound mad, Toby.
I think you sound... utopian.
Take heart. Utopists, (or should I say... eutopists, like Jacques Barzun) created social models that we built on to create OUR modern societies.
But... it still always has to be done again.
No once and for all in this domain.

Toby said...

Yes I definitely sound Utopian, but it is not Utopia I am after, simply a more balanced relationship with the environment. I have no problem with aggression, which is I guess part of the drive to 'succeed', nor do I have a problem with competition, I have a problem with a system which blindly trashes the health of the planet it needs to keep healthy in order to thrive, in pursuit of perpetual growth. That it does so arises inevitably out of two inherent qualities of capitalism; the presumption of scarcity and the notion of ownership.

Scarcity and ownership are also related; who owns the air? When things are in abundance ownership is less of an issue. Of course one can own an abundantly available thing and ration it out to make it scarce, but to want to do so is already part of the scarcity-based system in the first place.

I think capitalism is a cancerous process because of its core properties, so to my mind all stages have a cancerous outcome hardwired into them. I guess McMurtry would say the cancer stage has occurred often throughout history and precedes collapse.

As for what Capitalism means precisely, that is a very good question. Marx came up with the word I believe and meant by it private ownership of the means of production. Certainly that is part of it but also I would chuck in elitism and perpetual growth. (Those two things together are particularly unhealthy.) So; the presumption of scarcity, private ownership, elitism, and perpetual growth. That's capitalism.

We need another path, another harness, not to smooth out all 'unsmooth' things so that all humans are lovely and happy, but so that we aren't focused on demonstrating our success and prowess by having lots of money and property, and certainly more than the other guy. There's far more to life than owning shiny stuff. We all know this, we just need a system which allows us more freedom of expression and freedom generally. Freedom to shop for what you can (and cannot) afford is not freedom, especially when doing so slowly destroys the planet you live on. Where is the sense in that?

What frustrates me most is how obviously silly it is to burn through resources without concern for sustainability. The argument that humans, badgers, mice, genes and plants are selfish, aggressive and competitive so therefore Capitalism, does not wash, does not hold water. Capitalism enables the cementing in place of the successful to lord it over the poor virtually in perpetuity. In what other of nature's domains does this happen? And how is it competitive? How is it healthy aggression to oppress those who happen to have no money?

Healthy and useful competition and aggression occur on a level playing field. If there is one thing capitalism does not offer us, it is a level playing field. For example, how can we ensure an excellent education for all within capitalism? How can a profit-based system embrace clean, renewable energies? The UK has recently ruled that no more than 35% of its energy should be renewable, even though it could be 100%. There's not enough profit in a sustainable, reliable and abundant energy supply. In capitalism (and all money-systems in the end) money always assumes priority number 1. You need it to get anything done, and need to make profit to get other subsequent things done too. While you have money, I see no way out of that trap. That which is valuable is that which generates monetary profit. Trust; healthy community; good education; clean air, water and soil; prevention instead of cure, etc., can wait till we get round to them, or just go to hell.

(Part II follows.)

Toby said...

(Part II)

We should be keeping it simple, keeping it 'natural.' We must transition away from money -- which locks hierarchies too stiffly in place and prioritizes itself above all other concerns -- by removing the presumption of scarcity and notion of ownership from the socioeconomic system with which we manage our resources. Only pursual of a resource-based economy can do this as far as I can tell, though Bernard Lietaer plus MMT might make a good fist of it.

We will never create a Utopia since they are by definition perfect and finished. They need no further correction, no tweaking. Set it up and watch it run. Of course there is no such thing, nor will there ever be. A RBE will be a transitional phase to whatever follows it, and will create new problems we have never seen, nor that we can foresee. It's always that way. Capitalism has been through various phases and some argue it has yet more to offer, but I believe is now out of rope and creative juice. It is a poisonous system whose demise is probably going to be very destructive indeed. I dearly hope I am wrong.

A parting question: why does it sound Utopian to seek to transition away from capitalism?

Debra said...

Toby, maybe you are under the assumption that "utopian" (but I said... eutopian which means " a good place", NOT "utopia" which means... NO place..) is a BAD THING.
This is part of the... scientific materialism prejudice framework. It goes like this... "people who are eutopian (I'm junking the old word for Jacques Barzun's BETTER neologism) are naive sentimentalists who are not grounded in the REAL WORLD."
I may have told you a ways back that people who accuse others of naiveté are simply... ignorant of where their own naiveté kicks in.
The biggest illusion is... NOT having any illusions, or worse still, not even WANTING to have any illusions. Fiction is a form of illusion. Living without illusion would be... hell on earth.
This little prejudice is an ideal modus operandi for... keeping the status quo in place for whatever reason, the most current one being... a simple lack of imagination as to how to put something else to work.
To me, permagrowth and capitalism are not synonyms.
I am not sure that capitalism inevitably leads to permagrowth, nor am I sure to what extent capitalism leads inevitably to industrialisation.
IN OUR CIVILIZATION this has come about, but I am hard pressed to identify any definitive, single cause of our current ills.
For me, scientific materialism is a big, big factor in all of this, to be considered right alongside of capitalism.
Tonight I was at a salon, with friends, and in reflexive mode.
Permagrowth and progress go together in my mind, Toby.
And... progress as an ideal is an idea.
It is based on... the negation of OUR INDIVIDUAL TIME. As individuals... we do not really continue to progress through our lives. There comes a time when deterioration sets in. When we... decline, as individuals.
The progress ideal is perhaps designed to... NEGATE what we KNOW about the human condition.
What we know over our... dead bodies...

Toby said...

Living without illusion is a simple impossibility; not only can no one process all the information that would have to be processed and understood, understanding itself requires interpretation. Then we have the problem of perspective. By my lights there is only illusion.

If we, between us, can't define capitalism there is little point in attempting to connect it to any outcome, or anything at all for that matter. My take is based on a variety of sources, including crude knowledge of Minski, but also on the fact of repeating financial crises. As for progress, I'm not sure what you mean by it. You seem to dislike it, but I don't know why. So some questions:

How is progress connected with permagrowth?
How is it not progress to develop music, art, literature etc.?
How is it not progress to grow up from an infant to a mature and healthy grown-up, or to change from being over-dependent on others to 'self-sufficient?'
How is it not progress to increase people's lifespans and the health they enjoy over the course of their lives?

I believe technology and progress and closely related, where technological developments can be both 'good' and 'bad' but progress should only be 'good.' This judgement part brings us back to illusions of course. However, in terms of defining some sort of ground to stand on so that we have a chance of separating out 'good' from 'bad' to some degree, I personally like John McMurtry's zeroing in on health. When a system is healthy it operates (close to) optimally, when it is sick it does not. For humans this comes down to things like enjoyment of life and the ability to do the full range of things a body allows us to do when healthy. So if technological development improves or ensures health it is good. I guess we could say if supposed advances do the opposite then that is not progress.

Capitalism is actually not concerned with progress and health per se, it is a socioeconomic model for the distribution and management of resources, and the organization of society generally. Is assumes permanent scarcity, lauds private ownership, necessarily equates success with ownership of lots of scarce stuff, and is also therefore only capable of permagrowth as a 'healthy' direction for society. These are logical connections and progressions. To my mind then capitalism and progress only sometimes happen simultaneously, and the correlation is probably always accidental. You need only look at the notion of the Invisible Hand to see this. Essentially we leave the market to take care of 'progress' because it knows best. But because there can be no perfect market the market cannot ensure progress, but does ensure ever deepening rich and poor divides, which are bad for health. See The Spirit Level for huge amounts of data on this. See also Debunking Economics and Econned for how the Invisible Hand does not work, and how markets cannot be perfect.

Capitalism is nothing to get emotional or romantic about in and of itself, it's just a mode for governing society. It only matters when its consequences are generally detrimental, as they are now, including a very poor record with the environment. But because we are culturally enmeshed in the myths that justify this system, drunk/insane on its propaganda, blinded to alternatives by its pervasive presence, I believe only collapse will wake us.

Debra said...

There's matter for a lot of posts in what you just wrote, Toby...
I work with several thought systems, simultaneously.
I work with... what Freud and my psychoanalytic experience have taught me about the human animal, both generally, and individually. About myself, too.
I also work with the two religious traditions that I have studied for a long time : Judaism, and Christianity.
And with what William Shakespeare fleshes out for me in dramatic form in his plays, where the old, medieval cosmogony is STILL present, and where I can see it at work. Shakespeare as a laboratory, at a certain level.
My linguistics readings, and study.
And occasional readings that I tie in to all that.
Scanty recollections of economic theory, but not too much, because economics as a compartimentalized SPECIALTY does NOT interest me so much.
For me, progress is essentially a belief "system". It is linked to scientific materialism. It is the belief that things will get better and better in our collective/individual lives, and that ultimately, we will defeat death, sickness, disease. Progress is a form of religious belief.
Please don't make the curious mistake that many people make here, Toby.
Almost all of the people I am reading on the blogs content themselves with saying that current "economics" is a belief system, and that the bankers, Fed, whatever, are its high priests.
That is a very convenient... BELIEF, Toby.
Because it allows people to maintain intact their belief in "scientific" materialism (progress, we are going to control nature, to defeat death) while disqualifying "economics" as RELIGION.
I think that without doubt WE have been idolizing progress for some time, and that permagrowth is the result ? the cause ? for this idolatry.
For the... is it good ? Bad ?
As Thai would say.. it has its advantages and its disadvantages. It has certainly stimulated scientific research and technological invention.
Are those.... GOOD things ?
I would say... within certain limits, perhaps.
And the human animal doesn't respect limits very well. Like... that badger somehow wasn't respecting a limit. Like... the traders and the bankers are not respecting limits.
To me...society always works better when the limits are imposed by self, in such a way as the INDIVIDUAL can perceive WHY the limits are there, and how they structure him to ALLOW him to live more fully. (Cf Rousseau, Emile)
On the question of health (part of the scientific materialism creed)..
Health as the ultimate social and individual good has been around for a long time. I don't know for how long, really. Being healthy is great, don't get me wrong. (Although we might take a look at what it means for different people to be healthy. Big differences, there...) But... being healthy and setting health up as the ultimate social value is NOT the same thing at all.

Debra said...

Why not get emotional, or romantic about life, Toby ?
What's wrong with that ?
Why are we so afraid of our emotions ?
Are you aware of the fact that... the Shoah was undertaken in any extremely... rational, methodical manner ? An industrial line mechanism of putting PEOPLE to death... a macabre... slaughter house.
That one of the goals of the Nazi's was to destroy ALL emotion (including sadism...) in the people working away at the Shoah ?
If REASON, to a certain extent can take us to... the Shoah, WHAT do we have to fear from emotion, Toby ?
We're NOT going to get rid of it.
God help us if we did.
I wouldn't want to live in THAT world.
Even if "some people" told me it was... healthy, moreover...

Toby said...

I also have no problem with emotions. I merely meant my 'attacks' on capitalism are as logical as I can make them. I don't have an emotional issue with the system, I just think it's a bad system, and believe I have a good case in claiming that. As for romance, just read some of my poetry and you'll get a very different feel about me, or even read one of my novels ;-). The me you're getting to know here is a tiny fraction of what I am. I'm having a hard time imagining how I must come across, though from your admonitions I'm making a bad job of representing my position. I know me pretty well, so often fail to notice which bits are not being communicated.

As for belief; if everything is illusion, then everything is belief too. And that is most deeply present in my thinking. Remember, as far as I'm concerned, consciousness is the ground of all being, which is (kind of) another way of phrasing the 'belief is everything' meme. Though there is reality, we can't see it.

Progress need not be about controlling nature, and besides, what is 'control' and what is 'nature?' We've been down this road to some degree, and we know where we stand on the nature part of that. Control is an illusion as much as anything else, and yet control does happen. We learn to roll over, crawl, walk, talk, play musical instruments, have discussions, fit in by 'controlling' our emotions and so on. How is this not progress on the individual level and how is it not natural? It is not difficult to map this from the personal to the social level.

Nature is technology in constant action. There are 'problems' and 'opportunities,' wo which processes within nature must adapt and 'progress' or die out. Death is failure to progress to that new behaviour-set which means survival. In the human sphere technology is that which we do to adapt to changing circumstances, or to create new circumstances to adapt to. Some of our adaptive efforts will be bad, some good. Let's call the good ones progress. It doesn't have to mean we are conquering nature, only learning to live within nature in as self-sustaining and health-promoting a way as possible.

If you say 'progress' is the belief that science can cheat death and suffering I would disagree with that usage. There is indeed a tendency among some to see the pinnacle of progress as those things, but that would be a fantastical 'end-result' of a particular strand of progress. To my mind there are no end goals. And isn't a belief in heaven and eternal life similar? For example, if we adapt our behaviours and control ourselves such that we are always 'good,' then we cheat suffering by dying to live forever in heaven, in permanent bliss. The scientific materialism you castigate believes something like 'heaven' is creatable by man on earth via the scientific method. Same story, different methodology and domain.

I don't hold to that 'end-goal' way of thinking. I'm a 'the means are the ends' and 'the journey is the destination' kind of a guy.

But I still don't know what you are actually for.

Debra said...

Looks like we are enigmas for each other. That's... good, in my book. That means that we can't be whittled down to stereotypes, right ?
I don't think that the problem of scientific materialism resides so much with science as it does with... the vulgarization of science, and prejudices/beliefs surrounding it.
I realized a few years ago that logically, it is the ideas with the most capacity to make us live fully that also contain the most capacity to... make us die and suffer terribly.
To me paradox is everywhere. Man is an oxymoronic animal (not intended as an insult) that has his head in the clouds, and his feet on the earth.
It takes... a LOT to hold all that together, and it certainly isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination.
I think it was (the omnipresent) Rabbi Akiba who said that the difference between night and day appears when you can distinguish the features in your neighbor (le prochain)'s face, to know who he is.
I am profoundly FOR the individual, Toby.
The.. unique.
The individual who appears in the formulation... "I am who I am". The individual who is subject, and NOT object.
This vision is a vision of the monotheistic God at the same time as it is a vision of... man, as his partner, counterpart, ALLIANCE.
That is what I believe in.
Where is your poetry ? I write poetry too, you know.
In German ? English ? Both ?
Through our discussions, I am elaborating my theories about how language shapes our thinking, in the absolute necessity for us to create DIFFERENCES in perception, and define social roles, based on the opposition of differences.
Something else...
I am NOT criticizing YOU.
I am being... more "rational" than that...
I am criticizing your ideas.
To what extent are you... your ideas ?
Please don't get angry with this question.
I think that... one is one's ideas if one can't change them without feeling destroyed.
I honestly don't know to what extent I am my ideas.
I have a tendency to believe that I am more...
the PROCESS involved in looking for ideas, and not any particular idea CONTENT.
The search for process, for understanding the WAY things work interests me more, and keeps me going than any particular, individual idea content. (Re structural linguistics) But I may be wrong. I can certainly defend certain things passionately. But I told somebody in another blog universe (somebody who didn't understand...) that if our ideas got in the way of our... faces, as Rabbi Akiba says, then I would prefer to throw my ideas out. I would like to believe that I believe this, but... it's hard to tell.
The older I get, the more I know how little I know about myself... That's... Socrates, right ?

Debra said...

Something else I believe firmly in.
Diversity.
I think that it takes all kinds to make a world.
I believe that nature works towards diversity in the world.
We seem to believe that in the best of all possible worlds EVERYBODY will be such and such.
EVERYBODY will be healthy...
And we are currently promoting a statistical norm for EVERY INDIVIDUAL, instead of promoting DIVERSITY in the WHOLE SOCIETY
But inequality is present from conception. It is a fact of life. It is a fact of nature.
Why seek to eliminate inequality, for example, rather than... valuing the difference ?
And I definitely feel that society helps, or hinders man in his capacity to make do with difference.
OUR society seems to be hell bent on telling man that..difference, (inequality...) is an evil thing.
This I find... totally CRAZY.
It is part of what is taking us down, in my book.

Toby said...

Don't worry, I don't feel criticized, just misunderstood. I often wish these blog conversations could be held face to face, but even then you need huge amounts of time to feel your way to a deep understanding of another person's position and beliefs. These things take time. At least on a blog we have a record of what's been said. If only we had the time to really listen and learn! The anger/touchiness you may be detecting is a general mood I've had since yesterday. I'm kind of fed up. Everything seems so silly, and there's so much at stake, so much to be done.

I am for diversity too, by the way. A film that had great influence on me on this point (though I have always been for diversity) was Kinsey with Liam Neeson in the title role. However, the individual is not to be confused for uniqueness, not in the sense of defending diversity anyway. There is a world of difference between unique snowflakes and unique humans, for example. Humans exhibit a vast array of behaviours in reaction to and interaction with their environment, and, as social animals, fall in line with their social group, learn by mimicry etc., whether we have anarchy in the sense of hunter-gatherers, or a regimented society like fascism. Our ability to be 'unique' is hampered by our make-up, our nature, even though each of us is unique by nature. Then again, we will each be unique no matter what the system we grow in, because there will always be more to each of us than clothes and jobs and what we spend our money on. The tiny details of our reactions, our thoughts and dreams, moods and dispositions, are beyond the reach of total control, by the self or by society generally. Diversity is ensured ;-)

However, I just read that 99% of all things that ever lived are now extinct. Humans are therefore highly likely to go the way of the dodo, at least statistically. Being a human, I don't want that to happen, and know very clearly that political ideologies are absolutely irrelevant in figuring out how best to keep on 'progressing' in some a manner that gives this fascinating animal a chance of making through the oncoming ecological and societal disasters. It is only our inability to think outside our conditioning, our tendency to have an ongoing emotional relationship with ideas like capitalism and socialism, that are preventing us from seeing the wood for the trees. Like I say over and over again, the 'solutions' are there; renewable energies, resource-based economics (aka Nature's Way, or a kind of technological anarchy), and all sorts of wisdoms from peoples like the Iroquois. It's all there, we just can't see it in sufficient numbers. We've been blinded by our own 'magnificence,' even our attachments to our learned ideas blind us. Hence from me this rationality as Blogger Toby; how else can I point out the bleedin' obvious?

My poetry is at my website: www.thdrussell.com. German has influenced it, and appears in it, and I have even translated a couple into German, but the overwhelmingly vast majority of my writing is in English.

Debra said...

I'll check out your poetry, Toby.
By the way.. I like you a lot.
I think we have a lot in common.
You are one of the only people in the blog universe these days to tolerate my sometimes outlandish language and ideas.
There IS method in my madness though...
I feel at least as though I belong to a long line of humanist thinkers. Montaigne. Rabelais. Rousseau. Pascal, to name just a few.
Sometimes I say to my friends on my loony forum that I am a saint...
Don't laugh.
I don't think that this is really hubris.
Hubris is wanting to play God. Taking God's place. Pretending that you're not going to die.
Hubris is NOT thinking that you're a saint, for example.
As far as I know, nobody has yet come up with the definitive definition of "saint".
And look at Saint Paul. How many people did HE axe before he was converted ??
In olden times, maybe "we" were a little more... TOLERANT than we think we are now ??
We sure believed in forgiveness..

Toby said...

Saint Debra has certain ring ;-) What will you become the Saint of?

I enjoy our conflict, because I recognise the need for it. Unless you test out your ideas and philosophies via discussion and explanation they go weird and fetid. You challenge me well and offer perspectives I am highly unlikely to come across on my own.

Debra said...

Thinking about capitalism...
WHAT IF... the problem right now is not capitalism in and of itself, BUT.. the ABSENCE of any ideological alternative TO capitalism, to present the possibility of an OUTSIDE, or ALTERNATIVE to capitalism ? Something that is opposed to capitalism. Different from it.
This may surprise you, Toby, but almost everything that you are promoting in the comments in this section are ideas that exist, in one form or another in the Christian Gospel.
Did you know that ?
And what if... one of the major challenges that is going to come to capitalism ONCE AGAIN lies from within the treasure chest of our much maligned, much berated, and especially IGNORED, religious tradition ?
I don't go to church, and I certainly am not religious in any traditional sense of the word.
But... I have no prejudices against religion either, and I am capable of recognizing the interest and the validity of an idea... WHEREVER it comes from.
I hope...
I have a hard time... IGNORING so many beautiful, uplifting, enriching ideas that we could be looking towards, because the last two generations all across the political spectrum are still waiting for Santa Claus (not Jesus, Santa Claus...) to show up and wipe their bums for them. While constantly whining, of course...
It is too bad that many people who SAY they believe in Jesus Christ are NOT looking carefully at the Gospel, and at the ideas/ideals it actively promotes. Hypocrisy is a big problem here. But... it is not because a religion's disciples are hypocrites themselves that it is acceptable to disqualify the teachings of the religion itself.
That is... childish behavior.

Toby said...

Yes, I am well aware the change of direction I seek is in part a return to a more Christian (and other religions by the way) style of doing things. Christianity is not unique and shares plenty with religions that preceded it. And like you I am not prejudiced against the wisdom contained in religious thought, I am only against dogma. It may surprise you hear I am too something of an anarchist, but realise full well that 'rules and regulations' will always be part of the lives of intelligent social animals like us.

However, I strongly believe capitalism -- private property, elitism and scarcity -- is directly opposed to a natural-law, non-dogmatic, anti-hierarchical, open-source future. The problem is indeed capitalism, or monetaryism, or elitism, in that it seeks an absence of alternatives to itself. There can be no God other than it. Top-down control models do not share power with other models. And in terms of sharing and cooperation (and here I'm thinking of Thai) I read this yesterday:

"The recognition of symbiosis as a major evolutionary force has profound philosophical implications. All larger organisms, including ourselves, are living testimonies to the fact that destructive practices do not work in the long run. In the end the aggressors always destroy themselves, making way for others who know how to cooperate and get along. Life is much less a competitive struggle for survival than a triumph of cooperation and creativity. Indeed, since the creation of the first nucleated cells, evolution has proceeded through ever more intricate arrangements of cooperation and coevolution."

As I've always said, cooperation is a tactic for survival, and looking at the history of life on earth, it is a more sustainable and, at the human level, fulfilling tactic than isolated competitiveness. We are tasked with learning that now at the global cultural level. We need urgently to transcend the nation state and see ourselves as one species among many on a fragile planet, and declare all the planets resources as the common heritage of us all. Seriously, what other way is there?

Capitalism is squarely in the way. It has to go.

Debra said...

Your answer here is one of the reasons why I'm going into structural linguistics, and their implications for human psychology and social order.
It is in the nature of every idea... EVEN the best ones... to become dogmatic.
Because man is an absolute animal who wants certitude in belief. It is his... paradoxical form of madness, which every civilization must contain, while giving expression to it in a way, hopefully, which will not destroy the social body, or the civilization itself.
Men want to give themselves over TOTALLY to something.
That induces me to a certain... pragmatism.
Given that... man ardently desires to give himself over totally to... an idea ? a person ? whatever... WHAT is our society going to consider socially acceptable, and beneficial for him to give himself over to ? To be.. passionate about ?
Personally, I have a great fondness for 15-16th century Italy when the guys were channeling their testosterone into the courtly love "business"...
I'm sure it must have had some disadvantages, but... channeling that testosterone into predatory capitalism, well... that is just MINDLESS, and ideal for bringing your civilization down.
When my son was 15, I sat him down, and we read through together a book by Michel Piquemal relating Sitting Bull's story in the first person.
My son grated at the bit (??), and did it grudgingly, but I have no regrets.
This book shows that the society that channels its males' testosterone into.. protecting the vulnerable, the weak, the pregnant, nursing women, and the children, well, that society is going to be HEALTHIER (to use a word you like...) than the society that encourages raping and pillaging OF ITS OWN. (Yeah, well, I don't like raping and pillaging at all, but, raping and pillaging of one's own, that is totally suicidal.)
This may sound a little... Machiavellian, the way I'm coming across here, but I set higher standards for myself than I do for others. Try to, at any rate...
It is a beautiful book, that Piquemal one. At the end, when Sitting Bull consents with his eyes open to his own death, well, it's poignant. Unbelievable.
A great man. One of the greatest...

Debra said...

I just checked out a few of your poems on your site.
I like you even better...
You write well. In my opinion.
I think we have found many of the same things... with different words.
I am going to say something outrageous... in my experience, FEW men are capable of tapping into their femininity the way you can (my husband, too, by the way). Most are too frightened of not being virile to do it. You are richer for it, you know...
What you said above, I think I understand where you are coming from, and that we basically agree on lots of stuff. It may not seem like it to you, but it does to me.
And after all... our exchange is not designed to make us carbon copies of each other, is it ?
Sometimes I have a hard time with that, because of my drive to evangelize... an inescapable one, for me.
You see what I mean ? We are very totalitarian animals.. even at best. LOL
I get a laugh out of my shrink friends who seem to like to pretend to themselves that... THEY have been saved already, whereas their patients, well, they are to be saved... BY THEM, of course.
I think that... we have ALL been saved (or all damned, difficult to tell, sometimes...) but that there are those who are capable of accepting this GRATEFULLY, and those who are not.
Those who can accept being in the position of ASKING, and those who can't.
I am slowly awakening to what the Christian faith, in the past, allowed us to keep at bay, that it no longer protects us against.

Toby said...

I think there's a stylistic and semantic conflict, rather than some profound philosophical disagreement between us, and I've felt that pretty much from the start.

As to tapping my femininity, that's not something I ever tried to do, or tried to avoid. I just naturally enjoy/prefer the company of women. To me they are far more fascinating than men (and prettier!), though strangely men's creative output tends to be richer, though I am hardly an expert here. It has been a man's world for many centuries (whatever that really means) so that at least should not be a surprise, I suppose (if it's true).

As to giving one's self over utterly to one belief system, I try to avoid that at all costs. I told you I was a lone wolf. This has benefits and costs of course; I am something of an outsider wherever I work or play or pontificate, but it does give one a different perspective. Personally, I hope we are on the sort of path Jung (another outsider) felt humanity to be on, namely towards greater and greater acceptance and understanding of what we are. History only rhymes, it doesn't repeat, so predicting the future as more of the past is unfair and very limiting. We can indeed learn more about the animal we are (we most definitely are doing this), learn more about the ecological processes that spawned us, and figure out better and better ways of channeling or harnessing our urges and powers for the benefit of as many as possible. I see nothing romantic or idealistic with this picture, but do not rule out self-destruction at all. Like I said earlier, 99% of all things that ever lived are now extinct. Not only that, but if life on Earth were mapped to a week, language and recorded history would cover the last 3rd of a second! Early days yet.

Debra said...

LOL. I prefer the company of men, these days...
I think that human beings have masculine and feminine traits and that they need to integrate these traits as best as they can, in order to be as rich (lol...) and as fully alive as possible.
But I still believe that man is a.. fanatic animal, though. Like that badger. Just heard about Jerôme Kerviel, the Société Générale trader who lost all that loot gambling for the bank (yeah, you heard me, gambling for the bank... that's what they're doing anyway these days, the traders... gambling for the banks. The system is rigged that way. I don't know if I've done any pieces on "Macbeth" here yet, my little Shakespearean fetish, but it is pretty clear from reading the play that, well, sometimes we get STUCK in inextricable situations that are not necessarily of our own making. Our individual responsibility is rather limited in them. Look at... the Milgram experiments, and think that the human guinea pigs were not even under any duress in the Milgram protocol...)
The best defense against that, Toby, is to become as much SUBJECT, as conscious as possible of WHO WE ARE, where we come from, for example, like I've said in my posts.
But... even that is NO GUARANTEE. None at all.
There's a lottery in life..
Right alongside the incredible determinism that constitutes our language and society.
Vertiginous.