Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Small Communities As Combining Ecological, Political, Economic, And Cultural Solutions, Or, Gandhi On Basket Weaving

So a number of years ago I thought about capitalism as a way to occupy people's time. People need something to do. If you let them just sit around and do drugs and hang out they will go nuts and start doing bad things. Right now I have all kinds of half baked ideas going around in my head. But they are all revolving around this central fact that people need to have their time occupied, they need to have a pastime that occupies their days.

These reflections have been spawned by my reading of Chris Hedges's Empire Of Illusion. In that book Hedges talks about how American's have lost faith in their means to subsistence, how we have turned from genuine social interactions to a culture of illusion that helps us feel better about ourselves. I am too tired to write coherently right now. But the problems that Hedge's addresses are simultaneously cultural and political. With the cultural often informing or creating the political.

But it reminds me of a few things. It makes me think about how there must be some sort of solution to all these different problems. How the healing of the cultural and the political needs to go hand in hand. I'm so frustrated at how hard it is for me to think of this stuff clearly. So let me just bring Gandhi right into the mix.

Gandhi said that basket weaving would be a good occupation for people. Mainly because it would give people something useful to do, and because it would keep people grounded in small communities. He thought that villages were the best way to organize people and their relationships. Small communities. He thought that these small communities were valuable both because of their political and cultural tendencies. Politically, they lend themselves well to a small and non-interventionist government. Culturally, they lead to small and close knit communities.

It reminds me of how these cultural and political problems are present in America: we have a huge nation that is so diverse that we don't really relate to one another very easily, and we are so culturally disengaged that we don't feel politics to be a very useful approach to things. We don't engage in the cultural or political world because they seem so fucked up.

Another issue I think about, ever so vaguely, is ecological issues. The problem of the planet falling apart because of over consumption and the intense emission of greenhouse gasses. I wonder if global warming is real, or what the deal is with all these ecological issues.

One thing I heard friends talk about is the idea of walkable communities. How what we need is social organization that doesn't require cars and oil and stuff.

So wouldn't Gandhi's ideas on village communities based on basket weaving be a similar thing? We could somehow ground ourselves in local communities that would subsist with other villages. This would solve the cultural problems that come along with belonging to huge imagined nations like America. It would solve those political problems that come along with huge nations. It would solve those ecological problems.

These are half baked ideas. That should be obvious.

But when Benedict Anderson talks about the nation as an imagined community, and Hedges expresses frustration with the American culture of illusion we need to see some relationship. We need to see that the country has become too large for individuals to accurately imagine one another. We are so large that we can only stay connected by engaging in a shallow collective culture. This is so reminiscent of Collingwood's concerns about amusement in culture.

I'm trying so hard to bring things together. Hedges' work is going to have huge implications for the things that I am thinking about. In this brief post I am only touching on these things that I will hopefully be able to address in AZI.

But the core issue is this: America has a huge tension between politics, culture, and ecology. And I wonder if the solution to all three of these problems could be found in smaller, walkable communities. It would shrink the world of our imagination to let us experience social relationships in a realer way. It would alleviate our tension about these huge political processes. And it would free us from this huge world of cars and boats that is ecologically unsustainable.

These are the most half baked ideas. But when people like Gandhi and Hedges talk about fundamentally restructuring our political, economic, and cultural institutions, I need to push myself. So this is what I'm trying to do. I'm wondering what type of social organization would solve our political, cultural, economic and ecological problems all at once.

And gosh, I didn't even mention economies this entire time. Chris Hedges is so focused on the impact of economies. Since I read David Harvey's The Condition Of Postmodernity I have been so swayed by economic analyses. But I didn't mention them. But let me just say this: Hedges is fully convinced that the American culture of illusion has been brought about by our economic system, and that Gandhi endorsed basket weaving as a source of livelihood because of its function as an economic system.

The solution to these problems needs to be seen as a whole. We need to grasp social organization in all of its complexity. And clearly it involves politics, culture, economics, and ecology. All of those things need to be factored.

Oh! The half baked thoughts! Oh the time for sorting!

I feel like these are serious thoughts. I want so badly to be on to important things. And oh it is so hard. But I am so pleased with what Chris Hedges has been able to tell me.

Oh I vow to work so hard.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just Sharing, Just For Fun.

I haven't been working on AZI for a while. Well, I haven't been writing it. I've been reading for it. Lots of reading. Lots of preparing.

So, I just want to drop a little something to remind my loyal followers (lol) that I'm still working on it.

This is the working outline for Part IV of AZI. I suspect It will change by the time I finish the project. But here is what I'm looking at these days:

PART IV: Art, Culture, And Politics

IV.1. Politics And War

1. What is Politics?

2. What is Power?

3. What is Violence?

4.What is War?

5. What is Civil Disobedience?

6. What is Satyagraha?

7. Can There Be War Without Violence?

8. Zizek on The Violence Of Language and the Nature of Habit: Foucault, Ideology, and The Struggle of Life and Minds

IV.2. Politics And Culture

-introducing the key analytical terms

9. John Gray On Culture as The Foundation Of Politics

10. Amusement, The Corruption of Consciousness, and the Dulling of Empathy: Collingwood, Carr, And Claxton on Distraction In Western Culture And Politics

- Trying to talk about real examples of it

11. Language, The Fragility of Simulation Theory, And The Dangers of Theory-Theory

12. The Limitations of Vocal and Written Expression: The Cultural And Political Consequences Of D-Mode

13. Language and the Rutting of Thought: Impediments to Creativity

14. Language and the Rutting of Neural Paths: Art and Creative Brains

IV.3. Art And Individual Politics

15. The Problem of Foucault: The Individualization of Politics

16. Foucault as Artist: His Autobiographical Monographs as Imaginative Expressions of Emotion

17. Gandhi And The Role Of The Individual

18. Personal Issues As Political Issues

19. Personal Actions As Political And Apolitical

20. Art And The Struggle Against Individual Corruption Of Consciousness

21. Against The Use Of Militaristic Metaphors

IV.4. Art And Politics

22. Art As A Source Common Culture and Politics

23. Fighting The Collapse of Magic: Reinvigorating Ritual and Small Talk

24. Gandhi As An Existential Aesthetician

25. Zen, Simulation Theory, The ‘Corruption of Consciousness’

26. Synthetic Experience and Creativity

27. Revolution And Synthetic Experience: Collingwood On Progress In History

28. Art As A Source Of New Status Function Declarations

29. Collingwood, Philosophy as Art, and the Reinvigoration of Moral Politics Through Moral Philosophy

30. Art As A Source Of Mindfulness

31. The Artist As Modifying The Capital Of The Economy of the Imagination

32. Copyright Law and Creativity: David Shields and Economic Analysis of Art

Conclusion: Am I An Artist?

So that is the current working outline for the remainder of AZI. Parts IV.1, 2, and 3 look pretty solid to me. They make sense. Part IV.4, however, feel scattered and undirected. Which makes sense, because that is the part of the project that is focused on the reality of political change and art. The concluding section 'Am I An Artist?' will simply be a reflection the the entire project.

I feel so funny about the whole project. It has been such a long term thing. It has been a very valuable way of structuring my reading and my thinking. But I'm ready to be done with it, I think. To be working on a project for 6 months is a long time. But dissertations take years. I need to get accustomed to long term projects.

Oh well. I hope to start actually writing Part IV soon. But just to keep ya'll informed, that is what the outline looks like.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Abstraction And Historical Reality: Reflecting on Philosophy And History

We won trivia at The Lookout tonight. What fun!

We were all very excited.

When I was walking home I was thinking about all different kinds of things. It is so interesting the way my thoughts flow from the personal to the abstract and back. I don't understand how my mind works.

I was thinking about my interest in philosophy over the last year. How much my reading and writing has been dominated by the philosophical and the abstract. I think my mind is adept at abstraction. I think I can speak and think clearly so long as I am comfortable with certain words and analytical distinctions. I think that I'm good at using language and I work well within its world.

I do wonder, however, how good I am at judgement: How good I am at apprehending reality in all of its nuance and ineffability. I wonder if I'm good at grappling with the emotional quality of situations; at perceiving situations beyond their articulable criteria. I want to have a penchant for apprehending nuance, the subtle, the ineffable. I want to have a strong capacity for judgment.

Lately I have been thinking of all this stuff because of Hannah Arendt's writing on Vietnam. She talks about how government officials were blinded to reality because they were so wrapped up in abstraction, in concepts.
The think it reminds me of the most is my personal divide between history and philosophy. Philosophy is so loaded with abstraction and argument. And history is so imbued with the desire for reality, for what was really going on. I have this attraction to both of them. I fear that philosophy (or abstraction) has the tendency to dull our sense of things. And I admire history for its study of nuance.

I need to become a historian. Only history can offer me the type of study I need to become the type of philosopher I want. I can't become the philosopher I want to be unless I become a historian.

These aren't things I necessarily believe. More so, they are things I suspect and fear. I fear the lengths that my learning will have to go to.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hannah Arendt and The Economy Of The Imagination In Politcs

A number of months ago I was pondering the issue of privacy and bathrooms. I was curious about privacy, why we felt like we needed it, and what exactly it meant to ensure privacy. I concluded that what we were doing with bathroom stalls (and with privacy in general) was regulating the information that people had available to imagine us with. All social relations, I think, are about imagining people, imagining their thoughts and their emotions, imagining their mental world. The implication of this is that the quality of social interactions comes down to the flow of evidence about people's minds. At the time I dubbed this 'the economy of the imagination'. I put it this way: "The economy of the imagination is therefore the way that information circulates that allows individuals to imagine others, imagine themselves, and imagine others imagining themselves.... What I'm suggesting is that what holds me back from writing weird things is my knowledge that this writing will give other people certain ways of imagining my mind. But because other people exist only in my mind (at least right now, obviously, since I write this alone in my room, so no one could be here to judge me), it follows that my writing is being restricted not by people actually imagining me, but by me imagining how other people will imagine me. The economy of the imagination functions of the availability of information. Evidence of thought is the capital that allows the economy of the imagination to function."

It felt like a very interesting and fun thing to think about. How is it that social interactions work? What is this privacy business all about? What is this issue of reputation all about? How much do I care about how people me? About how I imagine them? And about how I imagine them to be imagining me?

As a personal and philosophical question I find it important and fascinating. But apart from being a fun bit of abstraction and a neat phrase, what practical or important implications does this notion of the economy of the imagination have?

Well I can say that personally it has a big effect on the way I interact with people. Because I deal with people primarily in terms of how I imagine them, and I imagine them imagining me, I am able to exert a little creativity into how I think about people. It frees me from irrational thoughts about people making fun of me, when clearly people often don't care enough to make fun of me. But apart from these personal implications, these effects on my relationships, what does the economy of the imagination mean in the larger world?

Well, I was wondering these things the other night when I was telling someone about this idea, and they remarked that it seemed pretty straight forward. I suppose it does. It should seem obvious that the social world functions because we are capable of imagining other people, and imagining other people imagining us. The imagination is everything for us. Or so much for us. We concluded that the idea is straight forward but perhaps I've been able to articulate it more clearly than most people.

The question still needs to be asked, though: how is this a useful analytical idea? What useful implications does it have? Sure, something like the economy of the imagination may exist, but so what?

Then I was reading Hannah Arendt and I had some ideas. Booya. Reading always takes me to new places and gives me new ideas. It is amazing. Sometimes I think to myself, 'gosh I don't know what to think about or what to write about'. And then I read a book and I'm like oh jesus look at all these new things to think. I should never underestimate the power of reading to prompt new thoughts.

But anyways, Hannah Arendt suddenly made me think about how the notion of the economy of the imagination may have larger political implications. I was reading her essay "Lying In Politics: Reflections on the Pentagon Papers" and I started to think all about the economy of the imagination. The essay talks about the Pentagon papers are a top secret document that was officially titled United States–Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense. Arendt says that "the basic issue raised by the papers is deception." It revealed that the government had systematically lied to congress and the American population about their involvement in the Vietnam war. Arendt says that the government was concerned primarily with maintaining their image as the most powerful nation in the world. She argues that since the Pentagon papers were "destined chiefly, if not exclusively, for domestic consumption, for propaganda at home, and especially for the purpose of deceiving Congress", it shows that "Image-making as global political–not world conquest, but victory in the battle 'to win the people's minds'-is indeed something new in the huge arsenal of human follies recored in history." That is the basic issue of the Pentagon papers and the topic of her essay. I haven't finished the essay yet, unfortunately. But Arendt is dealing with the way that the U.S. government lied in Vietnam primarily with the purpose of creating an image for their citizens and the international community.

So this has me thinking: What is it that the government is doing lying in this way? What does it mean to win the people's minds? How would one do that?

It occurred to me that this notion of the economy of the imagination might be a useful way to think of this stuff. What is the government doing if not carefully regulating the information that enters the economy of the imagination? They are trying to control the ways that people, both domestically and internationally, are capable of imagining their actions and intentions. It reminds me of Foucault in Discipline & Punish where I thought of layers of imagination and simulation: the government has to imagine the people imagining them, and the people imagine the government. But do the people imagine the government imagining them? In any case, it seems obvious that propaganda and lying by governments can totally be analyzed with this notion of the economy of the imagination. It is all about controlling the information that people have to imagine things.

It then made me think of Benedict Anderson's landmark book Imagined Communities. Anderson argues that the nation-state is essentially an imagined community in which people perceive themselves to be part of a larger group, of larger processes. Anderson believes that the nation-state became possible with the rise of print capitalism, and specifically, with the advent of newspapers. Newspapers allowed individuals to conceive of themselves as part of a larger process. The newspaper allowed them to imagine the larger processes going on in the world, and also allowed them to imagine other people reading and participating in the same global processes that they were reading about. People were finally able to imagine themselves as part of a larger community. The existence of the nation-state, according to Anderson, is fundamentally tied to the human capacity to imagine other people's minds. And before the advent of print-capitalism people never would have had the evidence required to imagine other people in such a complex and unified way.

This is one way in which I think I'm achieving an excellent synthesis between micro and macro. People like Anderson and Arendt are so very macro, so very abstract about large social processes. But my reading in theory of mind, and in the philosophy of the imagination has given me such a great perspective on their writing. I am able to take their very general writing, very macro writing about social processes, and ask myself if that makes sense based on what I know about individual minds. The level of individual minds cannot be neglected.

To wrap all of this up: I think that the idea of the economy of the imagination does indeed hold an analytical value that extends beyond the bathroom. Arendt makes it clear that what government's are doing is controlling the flow of information in the economy of the imagination. Furthermore, Anderson's analysis of the rise of nation-states can also be made intelligible in terms of the way that newspapers expanded the economy of the imagination to allow people to imagine themselves as a part of a larger community. I now have a renewed hope in this notion of the economy of the imagination as an analytical tool.

I also have a lot to say about the way that Arendt's work on lying in politics relates to Collingwood's work on the distinction between art and craft. I wonder how the economy of the imagination is effected by craft and by expression, respectively. I'll finish the essay and perhaps blog on these other issues. Arendt doesn't cite Benjamin. Most unfortunate.

This notion of the aestheticization of politics is proving elusive for me. I'll have to read more Benjamin.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gandhi, Satyagraha, And Ends/Means In Politics, Art, And Life

So I finished a book today. Joan Bondurant's Conquest Of Violence: The Gandhian Conquest Of Violence. Her main task is to explain how Gandhi's actions and thoughts constituted a novel approach to political conflict and social change. She claims that Gandhi's method, known as satyagraha, (which means 'truth force' or 'to hold onto the truth') is far more than passive non-violence. Rather, Gandhi's method was a technique of action that was very active, very aggressive, and ultimately a form of conquest and struggle. Moreover, she claims that Gandhi's thought challenges some of the fundamental assumptions and practices of Western political thinking. There is, therefore, two major arguments being made. The one about Gandhi's notion of satyagraha in its own right, and the larger argument about the shortcomings of Western political thought that satyagraha brings to light.

I'm still not entirely clear on all of the particulars of satyagraha as a technique. I know that it revolves around the importance of truth (as in social, relative truth), non-violence, and self-suffering as a means to socio-political change. I'll have to do some careful learning about satyagraha at some point.

I am much clearer, however, on the claims being made about western political thought and how Gandhi challenges it. The argument centers around the distinction between means and ends. Bondurant claims that western political philosophy can be characterized by its emphasis on ideal ends. We find ourselves talking about ideal theories of justice, of the state, of the social contract, of economic systems, of rights, and so on. Bondurant seems to think that western political thought is heavily focused on political ends and ideals to be obtained. Western thinkers, however, have very little to say when it comes to how these ideals are to be obtained, on the means to achieving those supposed ends.

Gandhi, on the other hand, had no interest in specifying the ideal form of political or social organization. On the contrary, Gandhi was concerned with developing a technique of action that could be used to address specific socio-political grievances. That technique is satyagraha. It doesn't matter if the ideal form of society is known ahead of time. The process of satyagraha will produce a better situation for all sides. This is why for Gandhi means were ends in the making. Furthermore, this is why satyagraha is a fundamentally creative process. Basically, the process of satyagraha will create a better and creative situation. That is what it was designed to do, and it means that we don't need to know what we are trying to create precisely. It means that we know something is wrong, and that we need to do something to change it. I'm struggling to talk about this clearly. But Bondurant puts it this way. For Gandhi " 'How can we transform the system?' superseded 'What is the form of an ideal organization?' " It is a creative process that is focused on means and not on ends

Bondurant says it works through a sort of dialectic. She refers to the Gandhian dialectic. What she means is that satyagraha is meant to find a synthesis between two opposing points of view. The point of satyagraha is not to defeat the enemy, but to defeat the problem at hand by persuading the enemy of the correctness of your position. It is not a simple compromise, but a complete synthesis of the opposing points of view that overcomes the initial confrontation.

Hmmmm. Clearly I have much reflecting to do on this stuff, it is difficult to think about or talk about clearly. I don't know how to parse it in an organized or coherent way. But I think the issue of ends and means should at least be clear. Gandhi came up with a powerful means for social change that did not need a specified end. Now this issue of ends and means seems to have larger implications for me. It reminds me of two things. It reminds of Collingwood's ideas on art, and it reminds me of my recent ideas about the aesthetics of existence.

So, as for art. Collingwood's philosophy of art seems to be characterized primarily by a discussion of the means of creating art, as opposed to the ends. Or, perhaps I should say that Collingwood's philosophy of art is focused on the process of creating art, as opposed to the analysis of the end product of art. It reminds me of his distinction between art and craft. Collingwood says that art is a process of expression in which we don't know precisely what we are going to create. Craft, on the other hand, is a process of turning a raw material into a finished product that has been fully planned out before hand.

Now, given what Collingwood says, I think it would be fair to say that most western philosophers approach politics from the point of view of craft: they try to name the end, the ideal model to be attained, and then they try to enact it. Gandhi, on the other hand, approached politics as a creative process that didn't have to be planned out, but rather had to be pursued as an open-ended and creative process of expressing truth. Bondurant claims that Gandhi's philosophy of conflict was fundamentally creative. It might be fair to classify Gandhi as a political artist, in the sense of being expressive and creative, and focused on the means rather than the ends.

It also reminds me of the thinking I have been doing on life as an art form. I guess with all of my writing and thinking and stuff there is this question of why I'm doing it, what end I'm striving for. I look at other writers and think, oh jesus, look at what these people did, how they inspired all these people, how they made those great works. How can I do that?

There is a desire to see great writers as something to emulate, to take their example as an end to strive for. I can think, oh god I need to become a great artist and writer that will influence people.

But I wonder if those artists really had those ideas as an end. I wonder if those artists were enacting a plan, focused on the end, or if they were just busy expressing themselves, focusing primarily on the means without a clear end in sight. I wonder if my life is going to be lived best by thinking of a goal, of a plan, of an end, and then pursuing that end. Or should I simply worry about the means, worry about expressing myself, and know that that will be enough, that my means will create ends.

I think that Gandhi's insight that what we need is a technique for action applies to art and to life. I don't need to create a plan for myself, I don't need to focus on my ideal end. I need to focus on techniques for action, on my means of living, on my capacity for expressing myself.

I'm struggling to articulate this stuff. But it is very fresh to me. But I think Gandhi's insights about the importance of elaborating means and not ends applies both to art and to life. I think I'll have to come to terms with this stuff in some way.

Also, I wonder about Foucault and Gandhi. I had some idea. About how Foucault and Gandhi both have the goal of political change that is a change in individual people. Something about how Foucault provides a means of specifying problems with history. He uses history to show that there are certain problems that we have been unaware of, and how they can change to find creative solutions to those problems. Similarly, Bondurant makes it sound like Gandhi was really about opening people up to creative solutions. He wanted to clarify problems for people and give them new possibilities. Or, as Bondurant says: "Gandhi's method provided the means through which an individual could come to know what he or she is and what it means to evolve.... The objective is not to assert propositions, but to create possibilities." I'm not sure what all these means.

For some reason earlier I had some idea about Gandhi and Foucault coming at the same issue from different angles. Foucault's work, ideally, should be about ideas that can incite people to action. The problem for Foucault was that ideas had become powerful that people don't always feel the need to act out against certain forms of injustice. Indeed, those injustices have become so naturalized that people don't even know how to regard them as problems. Gandhi, then, would provide the technique for physical action.

So, then, what I'm saying is this. Revolution and social change has to have both a mental and a physical component. Foucault's work would cover the mental component, revealing to people that there are certain problems that they were previously unaware of. Gandhi, then, would have the technique for the actual physical action that Foucault's work would inspire.

The marriage of Gandhi and Foucault could be an interesting path to social action.

I wonder if I'll ever be an activist.

More Books Required

I am working vaguely on Part IV of AZI and I'm feeling confused and interested. I feel that I need to be reading a lot more stuff.

I feel like I felt when I was working on 'Society's Implicit War'. I feel unprepared, undereducated to be doing what I'm doing, to be writing about what I'm trying to write about. It is so hard to think about politics and war and violence. I feel that I simply need to read so much more.

Today I finished reading Conquest Of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy Of Conflict. A book from 1958 that I found very exciting and compelling. I feel it made significant contributions to the terms I am thinking in, to the analytical tools that I am working with these days.

I feel that I need far more tools, need to widen my scope, need to increase the number of terms that I have to think about things with. I want to read Hannah Arendt's essay On Violence. I suspect that will be the next thing I will read.

I also feel compelled to begin reading other people. For some reason Alain Badiou grabbed my attention today. Mr. Badiou seems to be a big name. I learned about him from Zizek. I hope to get a hold of Being And Event or some other work of his. He just seems daunting. As do many philosophers.

So then, I have to ask myself, how did I finish Society's Implicit War? How is it that I was very uncomfortable and felt the limits of my learning, yet managed to produce so much writing anyways?

I was able to finish SIW because I accepted Foucault's terminology as a given, pulled out some of its implications, and wasn't afraid to let my abstraction go wild. It doesn't matter if what I wrote is wrong, or is too abstract, the exercise is to ground myself in certain terminology and feel it out. To genuinely learn what someone means and to try and think like them. In SIW I was trying to learn to think like Foucault thought in Discipline & Punish. But I was also trying to tie it to other things.

Basically, I'm saying 'Don't worry Riley, let you abstraction carry you away, ground yourself in some terminology and pull their implications'.

I will, of course, continue to expand my vocabulary, continue to expand my conceptual apparatus.

But the important thing I need to recognize right now is this: I shouldn't let my fears about the inadequacy of my conceptual apparatus prevent me from exploring ideas with the tools I currently have at hand. Don't stop learning.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On The Temporal Confinement Of Choice, Or, Why There Is No Need To Worry

My friend wonders if I worry sometimes. I don't know if I worry so much. I don't feel like I do. I think a lot about things. But do I worry? I'm not sure.

I was thinking about this as I was walking and I was reminded of two different things. One is a post I wrote about a year ago, last April, on choice, time, and worrying.

It also made me think about my recent writing on the purposeful creation of habits, and how the relationship between choice and time ties into that idea.

Last April I was trying to figure out the issue of worrying. What was it all about? Why did we do it? What is going on with this worrying business? I went through some discussion about the issue of choice, its relationship to time, in that you have to 'cross that bridge when you come to it', or, in other words, that you can't make a choice until you have reached the proper moment in time in which that choice can actually be translated into action. What is choice other than the doing of something. A very mundane and interesting example is the one of ordering food in restaurants. In theory we decide what we want before the server asks for our order. We choose this one thing in our minds. But then the server comes and we end up ordering something different, we go with our other option. The choice wasn't actually enacted until we told the server what we wanted. All of the other 'deciding' was just mental prep. This commonplace example should make it clear that choice is firmly confined by time.

So then, worrying, what is this? Well I guess worrying is typically anxiety about future action, it is anxiety about choices that we will have to make in the future, or about our uncertainty of what choices we are to make, or can make. Worrying.

I ended up concluding that waiting had to be a crucial thing. Is waiting the antithesis of worrying? Well, voluntary waiting, deliberate waiting, patient and comfortable waiting, is certainly contrary to worrying. Worrying is just nervous and anxious waiting. Waiting is something we do all the time, we can't stop. So I think that since choice is so temporally confined we really need to embrace waiting as a crucial step in the decision making process. Or, as I put it back in April 2010: "Essentially, action flows from non-action. We can only make choices when the moment to choose comes. And we can only get to that moment of choice by waiting for that moment to come. So when we are up late at night worrying about what job to apply to, or where to move to, or what to do next, it is probably better to go to sleep and wait for a moment in which you are capable of taking action. Sure, you could apply for a job at 3 AM. Or you could make the moment for choice come sooner. But I bet there are many situations in which worrying is nothing but trying to force a choice that hasn't reached its proper moment in time."

I wonder how true this stuff is, or how much it makes sense. But to me it makes sense a bit. Choice and time and waiting. If we grapple with those things then worrying should appear silly and out of touch with the nature of choice and action.

So how does this relate to the deliberate creation of habits and inclinations? Well, what I was thinking has to do with the intuitive nature of choice and social action. Back to the example of ordering food in a restaurant. We do that sort of stuff intuitively. We just say things when the time comes. When we reach that moment in time to make a choice we have to rely on our intuitive behavior, we have to rely on our inclinations to actually enact the choice that we have rationally decided upon.

This is why it would be important to purposefully create habits and inclinations for ourselves. Because if we are taking charge of ourselves in that way, if we are taking charge of our habits and inclinations, then we are most likely to actually follow through on the choices we hope to make.

I'm not saying this very clearly or very elaborately right now. Mainly because I made this connection a few minutes ago as I was walking home. But I am pleased to have resurrected this idea of mine about the relationship between time and choice. And I am pleased to have roughly connected it to my much newer ideas about the purposeful creation of habits. I find this stuff to be really fascinating. This issue of choice and time, this issue of habit and inclination.

I look forward to doing a lot of thinking about the issue of habit. Zizek and Benjamin both thought of habit as a serious issue. I wonder. It is starting to feel more and more important to me, both personally and intellectually.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Waiting For Life

Since March started I've been in the strangest slump. I just have no idea what is going on. I got sick recently. I finished Part III of AZI. Everything feels confusing. I look at my outline for Part IV and I don't feel compelled to write it. I am reading a book now, but I wasn't reading anything except short pieces for a few weeks. I've just been so scattered for this month.

It's chill, I guess.

I suppose I'm waiting. I forget sometimes that life will keep happening and that change is probably on the horizon. Sometimes you make it over a hill and you don't know what the next hill is going to be. Sometimes things become settled and I forget that they will change again.

I just don't know what is going to happen to me. But waiting sure is a crucial thing. What a concept, waiting. So dynamic and interesting. So many different things come from waiting.

Military history was the place I first was pushed to think about waiting. Creativity and waiting was also brought up at the time. But waiting, what a thing. What a thing.

This life, what a thing to wait for.

Also a thing to make. But sometimes I don't know what to make it into.

I guess I'll have to wait until I know what to make it into. I'm certainly trying. It will come to another point in which I have things to say and do.

Right now I just need to get healthy.

Curse this soar throat!

Speaking Authoritatively

I wonder about speaking with authority. Both with myself and with other people.

I guess part of me misses the day of being a student and of speaking authoritatively in presentations, papers, and class discussions. It is fun to feel like you have studied something and can speak about it confidently.

But in the social world I'm not so into it. I wonder if I speak authoritatively. I admit that I live most of my life unconsciously, just doing things intuitively. So maybe I lapse into arrogant authoritative talking sometimes. But for the most part I try to avoid it.

I try to avoid it especially when it comes to social issues. When it comes to giving advice about hair cuts, or relationships, or anything really. When it comes to other people's personal matters I typically take a deferential and inquisitive stance. I ask people questions, I let them talk, I don't prescribe. At least I hope I don't. Or I try not to.

I forget exactly what I was thinking about when I had the idea to write about this.

I don't think I sit down and reflect on random things much these days. It is nice to just let myself think about something.

I think I was thinking about Alvin Goldman's book Social Epistemology. He writes on experts, and how we know who to trust or who to believe.

I find myself put off when people speak authoritatively about social situations. It is an interesting question how we know what people mean, how we know who to believe, how we know when advice is good or not.

I typically don't trust people when they seem confident that they have the answers to my problems. Maybe they do know what they are talking about. But for some reason I'm put off by people who are willing to prescribe action. My situation might be different than theirs, or they might not be accounting for everything. It is just strange.

Authoritative speaking. Whatevs. I'll try not to do it too much.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Yeah Being Sick Really Sucks

Yeah I didn't go to work for both Monday and Tuesday. What weak sauce! Losing money, making people work harder because I can't be there, lying around all day doing nothing! Super lame!

I think I'm getting better though. My throat hurts a lot less tonight than this morning. That is good. I hope it doesn't get worse. I plan on trying to go to work tomorrow.

I don't think anything really happened today. I glanced at my outline but didn't do anything. I finished reading Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzuan. Interesting to read a play. Interesting to wonder about the underlying themes. The obvious ones are 1. the difficulties of being good in an economic system that encourages exploitation for all angels, 2. issues of gender in the economic system, 3. something else. I'm not really sure. Brecht was a Marxist, so the economic themes are pretty clear. I wonder what Brecht scholars have to say about it.

I'm happy I've read it. I've been reading some of Brecht's theoretical writing, particularly his responses to Georg Lukacs, so its good to see some actual literary writing. Ummm. Yeah.

Not sure if I'm actually reading anything right now. No book is in circulation. Was looking looking at Benjamin essays, looking at Aesthetics And Politics essays. Not sure if I'll pick up a book or if I'll stick with essays. Taking a walk the other day I was convinced I needed to read a book called Conquest Of Violence, which is about Gandhi's non-violent method. That might be a good read. It would certainly push me beyond my normal reading by making me think about Gandhi, but it would also tie in to a lot of my other interests about violence, politics, political change, so on.

One thing I find interesting is a quotation at the beginning of the book where someone claims that what Gandhi did forced people to change as individuals. Political change has to be about changing the way that individual people's minds and bodies work. Interesting that she opens the book with a quotation about the transformation of individuals. Reminds me of Zizek and talking about individuals transforming themselves, or having an aversion to change. Yeah I guess I'll look at that book.

Who knows what's up with anything.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Sobering Up Part IV

I'm working on the outline for Part IV. This whole time it has been sitting at the bottom of the page, looking all hyperbolic and silly, looking like it needs serious revising. But I didn't know what to do with it. It was full of silly militaristic metaphors that I had grown tired of.

I was tossing around terms like insurrection and battle like they really meant something. But the truth is they didn't mean a whole lot. They wanted to mean something, they wanted to signify struggle, but they just fall flat.

I don't know if you have ever taken a look at my Society's Implicit War essays (produced between July and August 2010), but I went off hard with militaristic metaphors. I was using those words left and right, analyzing this, analyzing that, going off. But that is no longer satisfying me. It is frustrating me. The SIW essays were based on Foucault's Discipline & Punish. I took his key terms as a given and decided to draw out their implications. Foucault endorses a very broad definition of power and politics, to the point that society itself becomes a war of sorts, and that our minds themselves become a battleground. This is what I was exploring in those essays. Where does peace end and war begin? What constitutes a political action? What would it mean to wage an insurrection of knowledge against the institutions? These are Foucault's ideas, his language.

But I've grown tired of it. I don't think it adequately captures the reality of what politics is, of what war and insurrection is.

So what I'm trying to do with Part IV is to avoid the use of militaristic metaphors that I had initially planned. Instead, I'm trying to turn it into a more sober inquiry into the relationship between politics, violence, war, culture, and art. I think there are serious questions to be asked about all of those things.

But the analysis cannot hinge on the notion of cultural or intellectual 'insurrection'. The idea is now falling flat in my mind, not making the cut.

So that is where I'm at in the project right now. It has been a while since I've written any of it, mainly because I've just been staring at the outline wondering what to do with it. It is coming together slowly.

I also know that I haven't been blogging much in general. But thats okay. Finishing Part III was a big deal that shook up my understanding of where I was at in my reading and writing. So I'm not committed to any large piece of reading right now, and I'm waiting on writing. Waiting is a fine thing to do. Over and out.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Being Sick Sux

Gosh I got sick this weekend.

It sucks!

I've been sleeping all weekend long and nothing about it feels good. BOO!

In other news, I need to regain direction with my reading and writing or something.

Part IV is still a confused mess and I don't know what I think.

I haven't been blogging much these days so I wanted to put one out there to check in.

I'm spending time with people more than books and words, and I'm sick.

Who knows.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I wonder sometimes about distinctions. Quantitative and qualitative. Micro and macro. Objective and subjective. Those are the big ones that come to mind. There are others, sure.

But in the shower I was thinking about the issue of micro and macro. I feel like I have a desire to incorporate them, which is obvious, I guess. The social micro and macro, is what I wonder about. The individual and the system.

I feel like I think about Clausewitz when I think about this issue. Clausewitz was talking intensely about both the macro and the micro. He was talking about how individuals make tough decisions in war, and also what war is in a bigger picture. He kept the individual and the whole in mind at the same time.

But sometimes I read things that are intensely one way or the other. Goldman, for example, takes a micro approach in that he looks at the question of individual minds, and not the question of social structures or processes.

Foucault, on the other hand, takes a macro approach that is supposed to illuminate micro issues. So when I read Discipline & Punish I had this desire to illuminate has macro analysis with references to Goldman's micro work.

I've become more interested in macro analysis. In Marx, in Harvey, in Zizek, in thinkers who are painting in broad strokes, theorizing on that level of meta-narrative. I wonder about all that.

I found a book today that I'm worried about. It was called The Empathic Civilization. Huge book, all about the relationship between historical development and the role of empathy. I am skeptical of its broad strokes, and I'm skeptical of claims about empathy. I love empathy, as a thing, as an idea. But I'm skeptical as to why the role of empathy isn't more self evident.

I told a co-worker about my curiosity about the relationship between empathy and language. Because to me it seems like Searle's analysis in Making The Social World says that language is a more important factor in the development of society and history. Empathy is there, sure, but language, too, is an innate capability of humans. And it seems more powerful to me.

The tug of war between language and empathy.

The macro of language, the micro of empathy.

I wrote an essay about language and empathy a few months ago. But their relationship clearly deserves much closer inspection.

How exciting.