Reply to Jason 2

Bust of Socrates. 2nd century Roman copy from a 4th century BCE Greek original. Museo archeologico regionale di Palermo, Italy

Bust of Socrates. 2nd century Roman copy from a 4th century BCE Greek original. Museo archeologico regionale di Palermo, Italy

Hi Jason,

You have set yourself a difficult and most important challenge.

I watched your video a few more times.

The daimonion tells Socrates that his role is to help others (those you place in Tartarus) understand that they are dead and that they are chained to the world through ignorance.

Socrates then asks how he can wake them up.

His daimonion replies that he cannot, they must wake themselves up on their own and Socrates can only help them in the right direction.

The daimonion, after being questioned by Socrates, then asks him if he is not tired yet of having others tell him what he is.

It seems to me that the daimonion is pointing out that Socrates too does not know who he is, yet his purpose is to help others understand themselves.

I think you have to be clear on your perception of who (your) Socrates is, because that will be essential to the structure and direction of your play.

Do you think Socrates was motivated by the wish to help others/to teach others/to question and to share his love for questioning (the examined life)/to seek the truth and to share his love for it (again, the examined life)?

You have a most excellent motive in this – that others need to philosophise about their lives and their place in the world.

I share that belief.

When I was at college I did a performance piece in which I handed out sheets of A4 paper with a question mark in the middle with arrows either side of it pointing left and right, then sat on a chair in front of the ‘audience,’ and said nothing.

People waited for me to do or say something, neither of which I did.

I simply looked back at them.

Total silence…

Your challenge is to make your point(s) as strongly as possible to your audience.

To begin by having your Socrates and his daimonion walk conversing from the back to the stage is one way.

To begin by having them walk from the stage into the audience and perhaps among them might be another.

To have actors or not even actors but, even better, willing audience members positioned throughout the audience and call out questions to Socrates and have him respond, perhaps spot-lighting the questioners as they speak might be another.

Then turn the spot off, leaving the audience ‘in the dark’ again.

After a few times, no-one knows whether the person next to them might be the next to speak up…

I think every means to indicate to your audience their centrality to your play and to involve them in it should be explored.

It’s an excellent challenge you have set yourself.

All the best,

Phil

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Models of heroism: the beachgoer and the Pioneer

Charles Meere, ‘Australian beach pattern’, oil on canvas, 1940, Art Gallery of NSW; ‘a tableau of beach goers whose athletic perfection takes on monumental, heroic proportions…the myth of the healthy young nation symbolised by the tanned, god-like bodies of the sunbathers.’

Charles Meere, ‘Australian beach pattern’, oil on canvas, 1940, Art Gallery of NSW; ‘a tableau of beach goers whose athletic perfection takes on monumental, heroic proportions…the myth of the healthy young nation symbolised by the tanned, god-like bodies of the sunbathers.’

Nikolai Yakovlevich Belyaev, ‘They are Happy’, oil on canvas, 1949. ‘A scene of joyous, patriotic children, the work is full of life and colour.’

Nikolai Yakovlevich Belyaev, ‘They are Happy’, oil on canvas, 1949. ‘A scene of joyous, patriotic children, the work is full of life and colour.’

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Images: top/bottom

On reason 1

Jane Goodall with chimpanzee Jou Jou, Brazzaville Zoo, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, 1990

Jane Goodall with chimpanzee Jou Jou, Brazzaville Zoo, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, 1990

The very focus in Western culture not on a reason that is wholistic but on one that is only linguistic and conceptual, on ‘elegance’ and wit in language, the scholastic licking and sucking of every ‘ism’ (yet one more shade of philosophical idealism) or piece of jargon, a current which has sought to block out the spiritual, the emotional, the passionate, above all, the animal and material, has presented in its analysis only a twisted half of who we are.

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Tim Wise on “Nice”

An excellent article. And I am glad to have read it on the same day the Australian media is choked with hypocrisy and ‘niceness’ after the Lindt cafe hostage-taking in central Sydney.

‘Niceness’ and the narrowest understanding of ‘decency’ are basic ideological tools.

This hostage-taking has lifted the lid on an immensely powerful lie of the dominant class in Australia – that ‘we’ in Australia are one nice, decent, happy, inclusive community (the Melbourne Cup, ‘the race that stops a nationTM’, proves this!) with the great good fortune of being distinct, because of Australia’s geography, and, dare I say it – affluence for the great majority, from a deeply troubled world.

The ideologues of capital have gone into overdrive with voices at times soothing, at others emotional or resonant and knowing, to silence comments such as I heard on the radio this morning from a ‘decent’ Aussie gentleman – ‘I thought Australia was far away from all this. It’s a wake-up call.’

No, No, No – back to sleep all you nice and decent people. Who could forget The Chaser skit (which they repeated) in which nice and decent Australians descend on an escalator and are directed by a person in the modicum of a uniform at the bottom to go back on the ‘up’ escalator. Each time I saw that skit the people all behaved the same, nicely and decently, without question, doing as they were told.

The ideologues of capital are using the hostage-taking, initiated by one who was ‘mad’ and ‘bad’ (so often the ‘analysis’), from a nation and region exploited, brutalised, betrayed and ripped apart, particularly over the last century, by activity engaged in, supported and condoned by Australia, to reinforce the self-centredness of ‘niceness’ (the capitalist ideology of ‘nice’ consumerism) and the most myopic, nationalist ‘decency’.

Dorothy, over the rainbow, would be pleased with the purity and simplicity of the message.

Not only the complicit and servile Australian media, but the world’s media will be all over this. I look forward to what will inevitably come out.

*   *   *

From the Twittersphere

Murderous, uncivilised Islamic State terrorist:

* ‘The world must stand for the news of 13 Australian hostages but it would sleep for the news of over 130000 Muslims killed in Syria’

* ‘Gaza is under siege, Homs and Damascus are under siege the café in Sydney is Not.’

Tender-hearted, civilised Rupert Murdoch:

* ‘AUST gets wake-call with Sydney terror. Only Daily Telegraph caught the bloody outcome at 2.00 am. Congrats’

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Voices from Russia

01 Hypocrisy Meter

_____________________________

Nice people change nothing. They never have and they never will. Those who are nice are so invested in their niceness, in their sense of propriety and civility, that they rarely raise their voices above a whisper, even in the face of sweltering oppression. Nice white people were the ones who didn’t own black folks during the period of enslavement, but also didn’t raise their voices against the ones who did. Nice white people are the ones who didn’t spit on sit-in demonstrators, but also had no problem spending money with businesses that had remained segregated all those years.

To be nice is to have an emotional stake in the prevention of one’s own pain. Nice people don’t like to look at the ugly. It’s upsetting, most of all because it puts us on the hook and calls forth our humanity to actually put an end to that pain…

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Will Capitalist Nations go to War with China?

SHANE MCLEOD: China’s role in Australia’s economy continues to grow – it’s now our biggest trading partner and vies with Japan as our biggest export destination.

But there are some who believe that China’s growing economic power will bring with it rising military power and conflict with the West.

That’s the theory of Professor John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago.



He says China will want to become the region’s dominant power and it won’t want to have the United States continuing to play a role in military defence in the region in countries like Japan and South Korea.

Professor Mearsheimer is in Australia this week as a guest of the University of Sydney, and in coming days he’ll be giving a lecture about China’s rise.

I caught up with him earlier today and asked him why he thinks that rise won’t be peaceful.



JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I think that as China gets economically more powerful than it is today, it will translate that economic might into military might and it will try to dominate the Asia Pacific region just the way the United States dominates the western hemisphere.



Great powers like to be all powerful in their own neighbourhood. They don’t like neighbours that can threaten them and they don’t like distant great powers coming into their backyard just the way the United States has this Monroe-doctrine which effectively tells the European and Asian great powers to stay out of the western hemisphere.



I believe that as China gets more powerful it will do everything it can to push the United States away from its borders and ultimately out of the Asia Pacific region.

SHANE MCLEOD: Is there not a benefit for China though in the status quo as it currently stands? That the US is a major balancing power, it is a defence ally of countries like Japan, South Korea that could be potential threats to Chinese power in the region. Isn’t there a benefit for China in keeping the US involved?



JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I don’t think that the Chinese is to get more powerful and even now view the United States as quite the benevolent force that you describe them to be. (sic) We have just had a controversy where the United States and the South Koreans decided that they were going to run naval exercises in the Yellow Sea to protest North Korean sinking of a South Korean ship.



This made the Chinese very upset because they view the American navy as threatening just as the United States would view a Chinese navy or a German navy or a Soviet navy on its doorstep as threatening.

So from a Chinese point of view, the best of all possible worlds would to have the Americans far away and for China, not the United States to provide the stabilising factor in the region.

SHANE MCLEOD: But if you take say the United States out of Japan then you have a country that has a constitution imposed by the US after World War II limiting its defence build up, its defence capability. Wouldn’t a country like Japan for example, in a region without the United States there ramp up its own capabilities?

It wouldn’t take much for Japan to become a nuclear power for example.

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: I think that is true but if you look at the balance of power over time between China and Japan, the gap which is now quite large is going to increase significantly, in large part for demographic reasons.



Japan has the most rapidly aging population in the world. It is going to get smaller and weaker over time.



China is going to get more powerful over time. In an ideal situation from China’s point of view is one where the power gap between it and Japan is large and China has the ability to dominate Japan because that is the best way to ensure your security in a dangerous world.

SHANE MCLEOD: Does this happen by force or could China become the regional power through soft power, through coercion by showing itself to be the leader in the region? Would it be such a problem for countries like Japan, Korea, Vietnam, to look to China as the natural power in the region?



JOHN MEARSHEIMER: I think one can make an argument that China, if it continues to grow at the spectacular pace that it has been growing at over the past 30 years for the next 30 years then it will become so big and so powerful that it won’t have to even countenance using force to dominate the region.

It will just be so powerful that countries like South Korea and Japan will have no choice but to in effect dance to China’s tune. But there is a serious possibility along the way of conflict.



If you read the Australian White Paper from last year, it is quite clear from that White Paper that the Australian Government is nervous about the possibility and I want to underline the word possibility of conflict between China and other powers in the region as China continues to rise.

SHANE MCLEOD: How do you see Australia’s role evolving in the region alongside a powerful China and what about the relationship with Australia’s traditional allies, the United States?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, I think that as China continues to rise that a balancing coalition will form in this region. It will be aimed at containing China much the way we had balancing coalitions in Europe and Asia during the Cold War.

SHANE MCLEOD: They could never say that though could they?

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: No, no it is very hard to say that but I think behind closed doors that is how people are talking and I think that you see all sorts of evidence that the balancing coalition is beginning to form.



If you look at the close relations that now exist between India and the United States, if you look at relations between Vietnam and the United States, Singapore’s approach to dealing with the United States these days.



It is just all sorts of evidence that countries in the region are worried about China as is the United States and this will cause them to eventually come together and form a balancing coalition and I would be shocked if Australia is not part of that balancing coalition as it was part of the balancing coalition against Japan in the 1940s.

SHANE MCLEOD: You made reference to it but the economic ties, will they have a calming effect do you think? If countries in this region like Australia are so strongly tied to China economically, will that offset the potential tensions in the strategic relationship?



JOHN MEARSHEIMER: Well, first of all it is possible that those economic ties could cause trouble. If you had a serious recession or a depression, it could be the case that those ties didn’t work to cause peace – they in fact work to cause conflict between the relevant powers. So economic ties don’t always produce peaceful outcomes.

But let’s assume that they do. The historical record shows very clearly that before World War I, you had economic ties in Europe that should have produced peace yet you had World War I so I don’t think it is impossible that in a world where you have a great deal of economic interdependence and where all the players are doing quite well economically, to still have a conflict between the opposing powers and that is a large part because when push comes to shove, politics dominates economics.



SHANE MCLEOD: That is Professor John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago and there will be a longer version of that interview available on our website later today.

ABC Radio National/The World Today/02.08.10

http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2010/s2970768.htm

À la recherche du temps perdu

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,

‘To talk of many things:

Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —

Of cabbages — and kings —

And why the sea is boiling hot —

And whether pigs have wings.’

From Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1871

Are We In a New Cold War? Interview with Stephen Cohen

Engels on Ideology

Ideology is a process which is indeed accomplished consciously by the so-called thinker, but it is the wrong kind of consciousness. The real motive forces impelling him remain unknown to the thinker; otherwise it simply would not be an ideological process. Hence he imagines false or illusory motive forces. Because it is a rational process he derives its form as well as its content from pure reasoning, either his own or that of his predecessors. He works exclusively with thought material, which he accepts without examination as something produced by reasoning, and does not investigate further for a more remote source independent of reason; indeed this is a matter of course to him, because, as all action is mediated by thought, it appears to him to be ultimately based upon thought.

The historical ideologist (historical is here simply a comprehensive term comprising political, juridical, philosophical, theological – in short, all the spheres belonging to society and not only to nature) thus possesses in every sphere of science material which has arisen independently out of the thought of previous generations and has gone through its own independent course of development in the brains of these successive generations. True, external facts belonging to one or another sphere may have exercised a co-determining influence on this development, but the tacit presupposition is that these facts themselves are also only the fruits of a process of thought, and so we still remain within that realm of mere thought, which apparently has successfully digested even the hardest facts.

It is above all this semblance of an independent history of state constitutions, of systems of law, of ideological conceptions in every separate domain that dazzles most people. If Luther and Calvin “overcome” the official Catholic religion, or Hegel “overcomes” Fichte and Kant, or Rousseau with his republican Contrat social indirectly “overcomes’ the constitutional Montesquieu, this is a process which remains within theology, philosophy or political science, represents a stage in the history of these particular spheres of thought and never passes beyond the sphere of thought. And since the bourgeois illusion of the eternity and finality of capitalist production has been added to this, even the overcoming of the mercantilists by the physiocrats and Adam Smith is regarded as a sheer victory of thought; not as the reflection in thought of changed economic facts but as the finally achieved correct understanding of actual conditions subsisting always and everywhere – in fact, if Richard Coeur-de-Lion and Philip Augustus had introduced free trade instead of getting mixed up in the crusades we should have been spared five hundred years of misery and stupidity.

Engels to Franz Mehring in Berlin; London, July 14, 1893, Marx Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982, 434-435

Dialectics at work

From Tony Stephens ‘Conquerors today, vanquished tomorrow’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 05-06.01.02

The American empire of today may be, at least in part, an empire of the mind. It is also an empire of corporate, Coca-Cola hegemony, of CNN, Sex and the City TV culture. It may be a virtual empire, but it’s nonetheless an empire. And many argue that Australia is part of it.

It is hard to imagine the American empire falling but fall it will, unless it defies all of history’s precedents. Morris Berman says in a new book, The Twilight of American Culture: “There is simply no exception to the rule that all civilisations eventually fall apart, and we are not going to beat the odds, or outflank the historical record.”

Berman, an American cultural historian and social critic, says his country’s “comparisons with Rome are quite startling: the late empire saw extremes of rich and poor, and the disappearance of the middle class, the costs of bureaucracy and defence pushed it towards bankruptcy; literacy and Greek learning melted away into a kind of New Age thinking…”.

Berman’s book, published in the United States before September 11, has not been released in Australia. The book argues that factors within American society will bring about its disintegration. Berman has returned recently to the subject, writing in The Guardian that the events of September 11 provided another parallel with the Roman Empire – the factor of external barbarism.

The Goths began pressing against the border of the Roman Empire from the late third century and scored a decisive victory at Adrianople in AD 378. Siege and potential invasion became facts of Roman life after 378. Alaric, the Visigoth leader, invaded Italy in 401 and captured Rome in 410. The Vandals sacked the city in 455 and barbarian mercenaries made the Germanic chieftain Odoacer king of the western empire in 476.

“America, too, now has barbarians at the gates,” Berman says. He sees other similarities – even in one photograph of the shell of the World Trade Centre resembling pictures of the Roman Colosseum. He says the Romans had no understanding of their attackers or their values.

“Similarly, America views Islamic terrorism as completely irrational; there is no understanding of the political context of this activity, a context of American military attack on, or crippling economic sanctions against, a host of Arab nations – with unilateral support for Israel constituting the central, running sore.”

Instead, the enemy is characterised as ‘jealous of our way of life’, ‘hateful of freedom’ and so on. Hence President Bush, no less than the Islamic terrorists, uses the language of religious war: we are on a ‘crusade’; the military operation was initially called ‘Infinite Justice’; and the enemy is ‘evil itself’.

“Along with this is the belief that the Pax Romana/Americana is the only ‘reasonable’ way to live. In the American case, we have a military and economic empire that views the world as one big happy market, and believes that everybody needs to come on board. We – global corporate consumerism – are the future, ‘progress’. If the ‘barbarians’ fail to share this vision, they are ‘medieval’; if they resist, ‘evil’.”

Berman says his book is “for oddballs, for men and women who experience themselves as expatriates within their own country. It is a guidebook of sorts, to the 21st century and beyond”.

Guide Berman seems to rely to some extent on Oswald Spengler, a gloomy prophet who wrote The Decline of the West after World War I. He develops Spengler’s view that every civilisation has its twilight period.

Berman lists four factors present when a civilisation collapses: accelerating social and economic inequality; declining returns on investments in organisational solutions to socio-economic problems; rapidly falling levels of literacy and critical understanding; the emptying out of culture, a kind of spiritual death.

On the dumbing down of America, he quotes a Time magazine poll showing that nearly 70 per cent believed in the existence of angels, another poll revealing that 50 per cent believed in the presence of UFOs and space aliens on Earth, and a US Department of Education survey in 1995 saying that 60 per cent of students had no idea how the US came into existence. Berman says that the US ranks 49th out of 158 United Nations countries on a literacy table. About 60 per cent of adults have never read a book of any kind.

Berman can be glib, with a broad-brush approach leading to sweeping statements based on limited evidence. He also heavily qualifies his theory, sometimes tortuously, regarding a descent into barbarism as “certainly possible, and may even occur to some degree toward the end of the 21st century, perhaps for a short period of time; but the general outlook, it seems to me, is one of slow, rather than sudden, disintegration, for this country seems to be very good at crisis management”.

He says that the dissolution of corporate hegemony is at least 40 years away. What’s more, it might not be a collapse but more of a transformation, even if the United States is a cultural shambles,” an empire wilderness”. If the 20th century was the American century, the 21st would still be the Americanised century.

Then there might be the dawn of a new American culture. This could happen provided the good bits are saved, like the good bits of the Roman Empire were saved during the Dark Ages to re-emerge in the Renaissance.

Berman goes on: “The phrase ‘twilight of American culture’ implies an eventual dawn, and at some point we are going to emerge from our contemporary twilight and future darkness, if only because no historical configuration is the end of history.”

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The Man of Reason: Part Three

In the eighteenth century there took place a revaluation of the emotions which, in the previous century, as ‘the passions’, had been considered a disturbance to reason, because of the ‘mind’s’ union with the body. The emotions then were regarded as threats to the purity of reason, and they were to be transcended or ‘transformed by reason into higher modes of thought.’17 In the eighteenth century there was a defence of ‘the passions’ ‘as the well springs of action’.18 By the nineteenth century, in Romanticism, ‘passion’, ‘a motivating force in its own right’,19 represented a challenge to the domination of reason. This Romantic ‘exaltation’ of imagination and feeling resulted in the ‘pedestalising’ of women through Romantic love as the desired – again, leaving the Man of Reason intact. The dichotomy between reason and feeling was strengthened.

Although ‘the Man of Reason was created in, and largely in response to, savage times’, there is now a ‘decline in optimism about the eventual victory of reason…the eventual triumph of reason.’20 Lloyd notes that  the Man of Reason ‘himself’ poses a threat to humanity and that the reaction against reason in the nineteenth century has made it difficult to critically address current notions of rationality – for example, the value of intuition. Regarding this, she wrote favourably on the philosophy of Bergson and on Pirsig’s attempt in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance ‘to get at the unity underlying “Classical” and “Romantic” thought styles’, which attempt ‘points to the possibility of an expansion of reason, rather than an abandoning of it.’21

Lloyd argues that a critique of the Man of Reason from a specifically feminist standpoint runs the risk of becoming ‘a catalogue of the atrocities he has perpetrated on women.’22 He is an ideal for both genders and has been maintained by both. The impoverishment of women with this sexual stereotype is accompanied by a less obvious impoverishment of men. Thus the critique of him as an ideal should be done with this in ‘mind’. ‘What is needed for the Man of Reason is realisation of his limitations as a human ideal, in the hope that men and women alike might come to enjoy a more human life, free of the sexual stereotypes that have evolved in his shadow.’23

Yet a spectre is haunting Lloyd’s essay…not the harbinger of a new understanding of reason and of a new ethics but the representative of stasis, of patriarchal control, of anti-life – what Plumwood considers the philosophy of death. Plato’s presence is everywhere in Lloyd’s essay – in the concepts she deals with and through the influence he and those who developed on his philosophy had on the work of those she analyses.

It is astonishing that she made no mention of him let alone include him in her analysis. Lloyd corrects this crucial omission in her book of the same title as her essay, published in 1984 (the essay was first published in 1979). The Man of Reason cannot be understood without reference to Platonism and Neoplatonism and this ‘male character ideal’ did not arise from the soil of seventeenth century philosophy – particularly (as Lloyd claimed) that of Descartes – but was a construct of Plato’s. Lloyd points to this in her book – ‘The maleness of the Man of Reason, I will try to show, is no superficial linguistic bias. It lies deep in our philosophical tradition’.24

Part three of nine/to be continued…

Notes

17. G. Lloyd, ‘The Man of Reason’, in Women, Knowledge, and Reality: Explorations in Feminist Philosophy. Eds., A. Garry and M. Pearsall. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989, 125

18.  Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid. 126

21. Ibid. 127

22. Ibid. 127

23. Ibid. 127

24. G. Lloyd, The Man of Reason, ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ in Western Philosophy. London: Methuen, 1984, ix. The form and content of Plumwood’s analysis, though broader than Lloyd’s (in that she treats the mind/body dualism as one of a web of dualisms maintaining oppression, focusing on that of culture/nature), is very similar. On Plato she wrote: ‘It is difficult to overestimate the enduring influence of Plato’s thought…Elaborations of Platonic thought in the work of Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas and others formed the intellectual foundations of Christian doctrine, and of the dominant western intellectual and philosophical traditions of rationalism until the Enlightenment…(his philosophy) reaches its fullest development and distinctively modern form in the thought of Descartes and his successors…Plato thus foreshadows Descartes’ later denial of dependency on the senses and his treatment of the senses as sources of error’. V. Plumwood. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. op. cit. 88-91