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zhao
17-09-2007, 09:51 AM
just saw the Simpsons movie and was thinking this --

humour can be liberating, defiant, or even insurrectionary, when you laugh in the face of authority.

but in American media humour becomes a very efficient tool used by authority to pacify- a way to shrug off and ignore things we need to change and deal with -- often the very thing we are laughing about - this shrugging-off and ignorance.

we are in a dire situation, yes, but let's have a good laugh about it and not take any of the (pseudo) messages seriously. it's all just entertainment isn't it, and a good laugh will make the viewer sleep well and wake up in the morning to do exactly like Homer.

the priviledged and smug self-entitled (ironic how rarely people deserve their riches, and how all of them feel that it's their god given right) take nothing seriously, and a smirk (often ironic. how is that for meta-irony?)always hangs about their faces -- life is a party/commercial and they are always pleasant and in good cheer.

in fact, there is an inability to be serious. not even for a moment. the world would come crumbling down if one becomes serious -- fear of appearing to not be a good sport or even (GASP!) unhappy. as if all the things swept under the Happy Rug™ will come crawling out and take over if in (manufactured) "leisure" time we do anything other than go-with-the-flow, and project anything other than good humour.

EDIT: i suppose like Zizek says, the official position is irony, sarcasm, and poking fun. so i guess the only thing left to do is to over-identify and become a super swanky cheese-ball / party animal who actually makes others slightly uncomfortable because of how much one is (perversely) enjoying EVERYTHING and finding everything absolutely hilarious ALL THE TIME.

baboon2004
17-09-2007, 10:16 AM
but in American media humour becomes a very efficient tool used by authority to pacify- a way to shrug off and ignore things we need to change and deal with -- often the very thing we are laughing about - this shrugging-off and ignorance.

we are in a dire situation, yes, but let's have a good laugh about it and not take any of the (pseudo) messages seriously. it's all just entertainment isn't it, and a good laugh will make the viewer sleep well and wake up in the morning to do exactly like Homer.

This is all true, but it depends what things you're talking about really, the things that need to be changed and dealt with. Often calls to insurrection and change lose power by their non-specificity.

zhao
17-09-2007, 11:09 AM
the things that need to be changed and dealt with

but that's evident in the Simpsons Movie isn't it? a lot of things all falling under the umbrella of: Our Pattern of Mindless Consumption.

swears
17-09-2007, 12:41 PM
EDIT: i suppose like Zizek says, the official position is irony, sarcasm, and poking fun. so


I haven't read any Zizek, but I would say the "official" position of UK and US culture seems to be a sort of sanctimonious forced seriousness and phoney caring.

zhao
17-09-2007, 12:56 PM
I haven't read any Zizek, but I would say the "official" position of UK and US culture seems to be a sort of sanctimonious forced seriousness and phoney caring.

politicians do this of course. but the proscribed, encouraged, to the point of being mandatory, behavior for the citizentry in everyday life is ironic distance, and this "shrugging-off" with a laugh. in the office, in a bar, in almost EVERY social situation. save, perhaps, funerals.

swears
17-09-2007, 01:04 PM
politicians do this of course. but the proscribed, encouraged, to the point of being mandatory, behavior for the citizentry in everyday life is ironic distance, and this "shrugging-off" with a laugh. in the office, in a bar, in almost EVERY social situation. save, perhaps, funerals.

Really? I've always thought this was a bit of a modern myth, I wouldn't describe the majority of people I interact with one way or another as behaving like that at all. Maybe some of my 20 something peers constantly joke around, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they couldn't give a shit about current events, it's possible to have a sense of humour and a sense of outrage, they're not mutually exclusive.

baboon2004
17-09-2007, 01:26 PM
politicians do this of course. but the proscribed, encouraged, to the point of being mandatory, behavior for the citizentry in everyday life is ironic distance, and this "shrugging-off" with a laugh. in the office, in a bar, in almost EVERY social situation. save, perhaps, funerals.

(NB Haven't seen the Simpsons movie yet I'm afraid, hence my initial comment.)

I think irony is certainly over-used, but I think that a person's use of irony can certainly co-exist with that person strongly caring about things. Perhaps the level of ridiculousness in most media discourse has driven some people to irony out of despair, as the views of the world expressed in the media often seem so ludicrous.

OTOH, UI know and have known lots of people who have a 'shell' of irony out of which only an issue such as serious illness or death will make them emerge. Some of these people are well worth keeping; others, of course, live in Hoxton :rolleyes:

baboon2004
17-09-2007, 01:27 PM
Sorry, Swears already said a lot of this...

zhao
17-09-2007, 01:37 PM
god damn it swears, why can't you just fit into my generalised sociological molds just once?! i swear... :mad: ;) :D

no really, i don't think "caring" or being serious is encouraged at all in society. I've "ruined" enough dinner parties to know. :eek: but this is very likely more true of the United States and perhaps of LA in particular than other parts of the world -- where the overwhelming feeling is one of "everything is and will always be just fine". no reason to let epidemics in Africa or Ozone depletion ruin perfectly sunny moods. and the creepy feeling that there is something wrong with you "if you are not as happy as people in commercials appear to be".


it's possible to have a sense of humour and a sense of outrage, they're not mutually exclusive.

this is certainly true.

Mr. Tea
17-09-2007, 02:19 PM
I haven't read any Zizek, but I would say the "official" position of UK and US culture seems to be a sort of sanctimonious forced seriousness and phoney caring.

Something that pisses me off in music at the moment is this uber-earnest, 'artfully artless', look-at-me-bear-my-innermost-soul neo-folk stuff like Joanna Newsom, and the twee hippy bollocks they always have on adverts for cars and banks and mobile phones these days. I think when you go that far out of your way to appear earnest you just end up sounding horrifcally cynical instead. Give me 'honestly cynical' (rather than cynically honest) music any day. :)

swears
17-09-2007, 02:31 PM
...look-at-me-bear-my-innermost-soul neo-folk stuff like Joanna Newsom, and the twee hippy bollocks they always have on adverts for cars and banks and mobile phones these days...

Yeah, this is particularly sickening, isn't it?

zhao
17-09-2007, 02:35 PM
Give me 'honestly cynical' (rather than cynically honest) music any day.

sure, i would agree on the bullshit earnest emo and indie-rock wank. and the kids that totally feel that shit...

but that doesn't mean real, emotional, and honest music doesn't exist or should be avoided. i personally believe that earnesty and sincerity is ultimately more powerful than any ironic cynical stance can ever be.

listen to the album Fahey made before he died - the one with the red cross. that to me is an example of absolutely shattering emotional honesty. or Scot Walker. or Latin music or African music... and just for balance i think the first NIN album is incredibly earnest. and powerful. i remember reading a piece in Art Forum about earnesty and authenticity in the wake of Cobain's death - i believe something about "the latest martyr crucified under the false temple of earnesty" or some such...

but i didn't really mean to talk about music...

Mr. Tea
17-09-2007, 02:36 PM
Charlie Brooker had a good rant a few weeks ago about adverts that are 'tweetronising', i.e. both twee and patronising; "in fact the word 'tweetronising' is itself a good example of this"

Mr. Tea
17-09-2007, 02:37 PM
but that doesn't mean real, emotional, and honest music doesn't exist or should be avoided. i personally believe that earnesty and sincerity is ultimately more powerful than any ironic cynical stance can ever be.

Tschuh, yeah, right...

zhao
17-09-2007, 02:47 PM
ok I'm getting sucked into the sidetrack...

what totally insincere and ironic, sarcastic, cynical musik have you loved for years? Weird Al Yankovic?

Mr. Tea
17-09-2007, 02:52 PM
Heh, I was only joking. OH, THE IRONY!

Frank Zappa can be pretty sarcastic. And Ministry and Tool take a lot of beating on the 'cynicism' front.

(Edit: I actually agree with your main point, zhao; people who can never take anything at all seriously are pretty annoying, and even ultimately depressing, to be around. As swears says, giving a shit about things is not incompatible with having a sense of humour - Bill Hicks, anyone?)

zhao
17-09-2007, 03:14 PM
bill was great

mixed_biscuits
17-09-2007, 03:21 PM
Something that pisses me off in music at the moment is this uber-earnest, 'artfully artless', look-at-me-bear-my-innermost-soul neo-folk stuff like Joanna Newsom, and the twee hippy bollocks they always have on adverts for cars and banks and mobile phones these days.

I blame the twatspirational Sunday supplement-fuelled middle-classes for this trend.

bassnation
17-09-2007, 03:23 PM
Heh, I was only joking. OH, THE IRONY!

Frank Zappa can be pretty sarcastic. And Ministry and Tool take a lot of beating on the 'cynicism' front.

(Edit: I actually agree with your main point, zhao; people who can never take anything at all seriously are pretty annoying, and even ultimately depressing, to be around. As swears says, giving a shit about things is not incompatible with having a sense of humour - Bill Hicks, anyone?)

but by the same token, lugrubious people walking round being serious about *everything*, carying the entire world on their shoulders (like they can make a difference) are incredibly tedious. personally given the choice i'd prefer people who can laugh in the face of adversity and take the piss out of themselves occasionally. theres a balance to be found.

mixed_biscuits
17-09-2007, 03:26 PM
theres a balance to be found.

And I've found it.

http://serc.carleton.edu/images/NAGTWorkshops/earlycareer/balance_300.jpg

gek-opel
17-09-2007, 06:33 PM
I haven't read any Zizek, but I would say the "official" position of UK and US culture seems to be a sort of sanctimonious forced seriousness and phoney caring.

The two (official sanctimony and mediatized irony) act in a symbiotic relationship to create a sort of vortex of apathy and ultimate despair, its a feedbacking loop system isn't it...? Creating on the one hand an official account of unbelievable po-facedness and spincerity, on the other a "zing" based culture of pisstaking which amounts to nihilism, or at least black humour of the darkest stripe.

And phony caring- yes yes yes. A need for public displays of sentimental aggressive empathy- it was seen initially in the McCann case, but there are plenty of other examples, people feel the need to indulge themselves in emotional pornography ("oh- the humanity!") and this almost competitive desire to out emote their friends/colleagues in terms of public piety and pity... The whole thing being whipped up by a media only to happy to run very simplistic stories which basically write themselves. This can also be used to explain the repulsive rash of rape/incest etc etc auto-biogs clearly aimed at the "woman's interest" end of the market.

Gavin
17-09-2007, 06:45 PM
This kind of stuff makes me think of the old Adorno quotation: "To be pleased means to say yes"

I think that the excessive irony and detachment in art & culture is a product of the lack of any political sway the citizenry has in the west. There's no sense of meaningful attachment to any large political project, no investment in any kind of vision of the future, so why should art reflect/portray it? And this is probably why a lot of self-consciously "political" art seems so silly, because it really IS pointless: the cynical naysayers are usually RIGHT in this case. The American ruling class does not give a shit about die-ins, protests, letters to Congressmen, performance art, conceptual installations, any of it. Even antiwar art I like (who did those grotesque bulging Abu Ghraib comic-style pieces?) reaches few people and essentially changes nothing, and no one even pretends it will. And how could it? There's nothing at stake with most art, no one's going to get in real trouble, no one's going to prison over a painting, so say/draw/create whatever you like, and maybe you'll cause a stir to a portion of NYT readers, but that's about it. Everyone's over dada, we get it on Adult Swim now. Rappers are still considered more dangerous than most artists, and still face police harassment for songs that do nothing more than get white teenagers to dance provocatively.

So in this sense irony is like a defense mechanism, a stilted laugh to expel the pain and ennui of life as a cog in a pointless consumerist machine. It's also a wonderful way for the capitalist avant-garde to expand into new terrains of obscenity. "Wetback" jokes might have been off-limits during the "PC" '90s, but when delivered by a "Hispanic" comic with an "ironic" tone, everyone can laugh -- Carlos Mencia, whose real name is Ned Holness, and is of German-Honduran descent.

I have noticed a lot of politically involved art in my neighborhood that seems to resist the easy cynical laugh... There are dozens of murals done by Mexican/Mexican-American artists all over walls, alleys, buildings... Lots of surrealism, use of Aztec imagery, corn, portraits of revolutionary Mexicans (from Hidalgo to Subcomandante Marcos)... It just resonates more for me, seems more relevant to everyone. I think part of it is that it's real community art, in plain view for thousands of people who pass it every day, and it's done by people who aren't necessarily professional artists. It calls up a long historical memory that many people here share (everyone knows who Ignacio Allende is), complete with a recognition of bloody sacrifice that plays such a huge role in Mexican history -- you know, coming up with their own martyrs and all.

Gavin
17-09-2007, 06:49 PM
I think art needs to get over offending "bourgeois sensibilities"... that horse was beaten to death long ago and doesn't pull any revolutionary weight (if it ever did). Now it's the chief mode of mediated capitalist "humor."

Mr. Tea
17-09-2007, 07:00 PM
And phony caring- yes yes yes. A need for public displays of sentimental aggressive empathy- it was seen initially in the McCann case, but there are plenty of other examples, people feel the need to indulge themselves in emotional pornography ("oh- the humanity!") and this almost competitive desire to out emote their friends/colleagues in terms of public piety and pity... The whole thing being whipped up by a media only to happy to run very simplistic stories which basically write themselves. This can also be used to explain the repulsive rash of rape/incest etc etc auto-biogs clearly aimed at the "woman's interest" end of the market.

It goes back further than Maddie - can I draw your attention to the recent 10th anniversary of the death of a certain ex-member of a little-known European royal family that hardly anyone ever heard of...?

Actually, I've been heartened by the amount of writing just recently about the phoniness and media-led nature of the public outpourings of grief that followed the whole Diana business. Sure, she's still helping the Express shift millions of copies a week (suplimented now by Daina Jr., of course) but it's good to see that not everyone has been taken in by it.

And I totally agree about the "I was abused as a child, read all about it in lurid detail" auto-biogs - who the hell would want to read all about that? Apart from maybe someone who'd been a victim themselves and thought it might help them - but then if I were in that position, I'd probably be trying as hard as possible to forget all about it...

Mr. Tea
17-09-2007, 07:01 PM
I think that the excessive irony and detachment in art & culture is a product of the lack of any political sway the citizenry has in the west.

Hahaha, yeah, unlike the rest of the world, where everyone has so much democracy they don't know what do with it... :D

gek-opel
17-09-2007, 07:02 PM
Abolutely Gavin.

We might refer here to Badiou's fifteen these on contemporary art:



1. Art is not the sublime descent of the infinite into the finite abjection of the body and sexuality. On the contrary, it is the production of an infinite subjective series, through the finite means of a material subtraction.

2. Art cannot merely be the expression of a particularity (be it ethnic or personal). Art is the impersonal production of a truth that is addressed to everyone.

3. Art is the process of a truth, and this truth is always the truth of the sensible or sensual, the sensible qua sensible. This means†: the transformation of the sensible into an happening of the Idea.

4. There is necessarily a plurality of arts, and however we may imagine the ways in which the arts might intersect there is no imaginable way of totalising this plurality.

5. Every art develops from an impure form, and the progressive purification of this impurity shapes the history both of a particular artistic truth and of its exhaustion.

6. The subjects of an artistic truth are the works which compose it.

7. This composition is an infinite configuration, which in our own contemporary artistic context is a generic totality.

8. The real of art is ideal [Èelle] impurity conceived through the immanent process of its purification. In other words, the raw material of art is determined by the contingent inception of a form. Art is the secondary formalisation of the advent of a hitherto formless form.

9. The only maxim of contemporary art is: do not be imperial. This also means: do not be democratic, if democracy implies conformity with the imperial idea of political liberty.
10. Non-imperial art is necessarily abstract art, in this sense: it abstracts itself from all particularity, and formalises this gesture of abstraction.

11. The abstraction of non-imperial art is not concerned with any particular public or audience. Non-imperial art is related to a kind of aristocratic-proletarian ethic: it does what it says, without distinguishing between kinds of people.

12. Non-imperial art must be as rigorous as a mathematical demonstration, as surprising as an ambush in the night, and as elevated as a star.

13. Today art can only be made from the starting point of that which, as far as Empire is concerned, doesn't exist. Through its abstraction, art renders this in-existence visible. This is what governs the formal principle of every art: the effort to render visible to everyone that which, for Empire (and so by extension for everyone, though from a different point of view), doesn't exist.

14. Since it is sure of its ability to control the entire domain of the visible and the audible via the laws governing commercial circulation and democratic communication, Empire no longer censures anything. All art, and all thought, is ruined when we accept this permission to consume, to communicate and to enjoy. We should become the pitiless censors of ourselves.

15. It is better to do nothing than to contribute to the invention of formal ways of rendering visible that which Empire already recognises as existent

How subversive is contemporary Art if it is inside the pernicious hyper-capitalist system of the modern commercial art market? Not at all is the simple and obvious answer.

gek-opel
17-09-2007, 07:07 PM
And I totally agree about the "I was abused as a child, read all about it in lurid detail" auto-biogs - who the hell would want to read all about that? Apart from maybe someone who'd been a victim themselves and thought it might help them - but then if I were in that position, I'd probably be trying as hard as possible to forget all about it...

No-one I've known who has been abused goes near these things. I cannot understand the mechanism which would lead someone to read these kind of accounts asides from a lust for pornographic sadism... (which I have to some degree). However, it is the way this desire to consume lustily the suffering of others is disavowed, converted and sublimated into a moral fig leaf which is the most perverted thing of all. To say: I enjoy the suffering of others, when I read about it, I get a kick is fair enough, but to read it for this reason, then to cover over this immoral/amoral position with the additional position of aggressively competitive piety is just repugnant.

Mr. Tea
17-09-2007, 07:13 PM
Yeah, it's the pious, holier-than-thou aspect that's particularly sickening.

People reading these books strike me as probably the same people who go on tours of Nazi death camps and the like in the belief that it is somehow spiritually 'good for them', as if their own worthy grief is of any use to the people killed there 60-odd years ago - which I guess brings us back to Diana, although that was very much about being seen to grieve.

Gavin
17-09-2007, 07:14 PM
Hahaha, yeah, unlike the rest of the world, where everyone has so much democracy they don't know what do with it... :D

In places without democracy, you still have the possibility for an outside challenge -- the sense that things can change, this dictator will fall eventually, we can work for it. Our art is dangerous, we can go to prison for it, be beaten for it, die for it. Unlike in "democracies" where, election to election, nothing changes except the faces of the people in power.

No one really believes the U.S. will get out of Iraq after the next election, and the Democrats aren't even pretending any more, even though most of the citizenry, the PEOPLE WHO VOTE, want out. It simply doesn't matter, and those people will just vote for Hillary when the time comes because that's what you're SUPPOSED to do. Your country INVADED when most of the citizenry was against it, and that party continued to win elections -- does this sound like "democracy" in any meaningful sense?

I think by and large we get the culture we deserve.

Gavin
17-09-2007, 07:18 PM
Rape/incest/kidfucking has proven to be one taboo difficult for corporate media to render into tasty transgressive entertainment... I fully expect a boom in pedophile humor very soon though... Nathan Barley practically predicts it, that episode that flirts with pedophilia in a very uncomfortable way, practically not funny at all, certainly not ironic.

gek-opel
17-09-2007, 07:18 PM
Yes precisely. So there are 2 things here, the real desire for sick thrills, which is extremely common (everyone is a little bit sadistic). But the second part about publicly displaying that you are an emotionally sensitive, appropriately compassionate person... to be seen to grieve.

In reference to the grieving at death camps thing, it links in somehow to a mediatized position of artificially created situations and the inadequacy of feeble empathy to meet the almost sublime horror of certain inhumanly scaled situations of suffering. The media not only create the imagery, the transmission system by which such inhuman horrors can be perceived, but also appear to define the range of appropriate emotional affects which are to be expected of the individual. In reality these affects are useless, inappropriate, offensive, self-indulgent, and given to creating counter-intuitively bad outcomes.

Mr. Tea
17-09-2007, 07:21 PM
Fair point, it was just the bit about the "lack of political sway the citizenry has in the west" that got me, as if the people of (for example) Saudi Arabia say "Actually, could you just implement such-and-such a policy?" and the king says "Okely dokely!" and hops to it.

Mr. Tea
17-09-2007, 07:23 PM
Rape/incest/kidfucking has proven to be one taboo difficult for corporate media to render into tasty transgressive entertainment... I fully expect a boom in pedophile humor very soon though... Nathan Barley practically predicts it, that episode that flirts with pedophilia in a very uncomfortable way, practically not funny at all, certainly not ironic.

You've not seen the Brass Eye special on PAEDOGEDDON (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brass_Eye#Brass_Eye_special_.28.22Paedogeddon.22.2 9), then?

gek-opel
17-09-2007, 07:25 PM
Rape/incest/kidfucking has proven to be one taboo difficult for corporate media to render into tasty transgressive entertainment... I fully expect a boom in pedophile humor very soon though... Nathan Barley practically predicts it, that episode that flirts with pedophilia in a very uncomfortable way, practically not funny at all, certainly not ironic.

So it doesn't make it transgressive- it presents it in this pity-porno way, a wholesome and moral from of educative entertainment (but entertainment- and fucking lucrative entertainment- nonetheless).

Paedo jokes are already a mainstay of humour, perhaps not on television yet, but still.

Gavin
17-09-2007, 07:26 PM
Fair point, it was just the bit about the "lack of political sway the citizenry has in the west" that got me, as if the people of (for example) Saudi Arabia say "Actually, could you just implement such-and-such a policy?" and the king says "Okely dokely!" and hops to it.

I'm actually very interested in the photoshopped revolutionary art coming from the Middle East, stuff like this:

http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/palestiniankidmartyrposter.jpg

zhao
17-09-2007, 08:32 PM
In places without democracy, you still have the possibility for an outside challenge -- the sense that things can change, this dictator will fall eventually, we can work for it. Our art is dangerous, we can go to prison for it, be beaten for it, die for it. Unlike in "democracies" where, election to election, nothing changes except the faces of the people in power.

i think any use of the word "democracy" when applied to today's world should be in quotation marks...

but the art being dangerous thing is important.

tate
17-09-2007, 08:38 PM
We might refer here to Badiou's fifteen these on contemporary art:
Off-topic, but someone needs to point out that Badiou's famous theses are riddled with cliches, as is his essay on the subject and contemporary music, which is even worse - it's like really bad journalism. You can dress up a philosophical system as much as you like, but it's still a system, and we've had enough of that. Badiou is ultimately a very conservative thinker, which is why a lot of folks have been looking at his thought for the last fifteen years and concluding, 'no thanks.' The suggestion that he is some sort of vanguard thinker is naive.

gek-opel
17-09-2007, 09:12 PM
@ Tate: Yeah, it is obviously readily apparent that Badiou's overarching systemic construct and thematics (truth etc) are in some senses conservative (I guess in comparison to so-called post-modernist thought, tho classicist or Platonic might be better terms than conservative, providing you don't view them as necessarily synonymous). I have found his writing on Art (along with love, tho that for different reasons) to be a bit disappointing in comparison to his overarching truth-process concept, his importation of his own sometimes dubious personal prejudices resulting in (if not cliched writing) then an overly myopic view at times (and his politics has its own flaws). However his neoclassicism does have advantages in terms of re-orienting the debate perhaps. Also surely every philosopher creates some kind of system however they might choose to, as you say, "dress it up"...

Is his article on contemporary music available online, however cringe-worthy it may be I'd like to read it...?

redcrescent
17-09-2007, 10:34 PM
Even antiwar art I like (who did those grotesque bulging Abu Ghraib comic-style pieces?)
Fernando Botero? (http://www.spiegel.de/img/0,1020,462348,00.jpg)

I'm sure you know Diego Rivera too, he's got some awesome (political) murals. I love this one (http://www.dgcs.unam.mx/boletin/bdboletin/multimedia/WAV070628/397_4.jpg) (from the UNAM campus in Mexico City).


I have noticed a lot of politically involved art in my neighborhood that seems to resist the easy cynical laugh... There are dozens of murals done by Mexican/Mexican-American artists all over walls, alleys, buildings... Lots of surrealism, use of Aztec imagery, corn, portraits of revolutionary Mexicans (from Hidalgo to Subcomandante Marcos)... It just resonates more for me, seems more relevant to everyone. I think part of it is that it's real community art, in plain view for thousands of people who pass it every day, and it's done by people who aren't necessarily professional artists. It calls up a long historical memory that many people here share (everyone knows who Ignacio Allende is), complete with a recognition of bloody sacrifice that plays such a huge role in Mexican history -- you know, coming up with their own martyrs and all. Wonderful stuff. Mexico has some really great mythological/political murals, the most impressive I have seen so far was in Tehuacan (Puebla), said to be the first place from which the indigenous people crossbred teosintle to get maize. The city hall has a mural of the figure of a man morphing from an ear of corn (reprising a legend from the Popol Vuh that states that "maize made man", literally), quite crudely done but put together in an amazing way.

Here's another nice one, a Zapata mural on a school building in Chiapas: http://www.escuelasparachiapas.org/assets/galleries/92/ecard085.jpg

Gavin
17-09-2007, 10:46 PM
Fernando Botero? (http://www.spiegel.de/img/0,1020,462348,00.jpg)

Yes! Thank you.

http://www.modspil.dk/images/botero-4-new.jpg

It's like Goya refracted through pre-Columbian art...

http://www.goyatobeijing.org/gallery/images/goya.jpg

http://www.rainbowcrystal.com/altar/P-13olmec.jpg

I'm a fan of Rivera too. The focus on Latin American art isn't an accident; it's the location of the most effective resistance to global neoliberalism.

Slothrop
18-09-2007, 12:10 AM
I blame the twatspirational Sunday supplement-fuelled middle-classes for this trend.
You can't blame them, they're just victims of what a consumer-capitalist media culture has turned them into.

redcrescent
18-09-2007, 01:32 AM
Disclaimer: sorry, major derailment up ahead.

The Goya reference made me think of this picture http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/free/mexico/2006/0104san_cristobal04.jpeg.

Resistance is obviously very strong in Mexico (for a start, it's the only developing country that shares a border with the US!) especially in areas where there is still a sizeable indigenous population and the ancient knowledge is still part of everyday culture. I've been thinking a bit about corn as a symbol of resistance today, thanks to your mention of it, Gavin, and I've noticed how things like the GMO corn issue strike a much deeper chord here than elsewhere, possibly because it's seen as the ultimate destruction of Mexico's indigenous heritage, which goes way beyond the anti-corporate, environmental or human health angle you get elsewhere (this is a topic in the Future of Food documentary, too, which I really recommend if you haven't already seen it).

http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/image_full/international/photosvideos/photos/cropcirclemexico.jpg
Crop circle in a field of GMO corn. This is in the state of Mexico in the central part of the country.

Millions of Mexicans are dependent on rain-fed corn grown as a subsistence crop, in southern Mexico alone over 200 types of corn are grown and there is a huge stock of knowledge about traditional agriculture. This wealth is in serious danger of disappearing with the continued influx of GMO crops and the extension of industrial plantations. People on the land are very aware of this and try to resist it at every level - it is no coincidence Oaxaca and Chiapas are hotbeds for civil unrest and are under de facto military occupation. For example, there was an enormous uproar in Oaxaca (led in part by artist/activist Francisco Toledo) when it was announced a McDonald's* was going to open on the zócalo (main square) of Oaxaca city - fast food triumphing in the heartland of Mexican food culture - the symbolism of this struggle is staggering because you are not only protesting against the animal rights, worker issues, health effects and environmental damage, but the undermining of people's identity and their creation myth. Thus the ears of corn on the murals are not only a reference to the artist's homeland but a shorthand form of expressing a long and complex relationship about identity (you will often hear people in Mexico emphatically stating they are "men [made] of maize", which I think is a nice contrast to the traditional "dust").

(* McD's finally did open a very low-key franchise near the university. Last I heard, it was firebombed by protesters last December)

zhao
18-09-2007, 06:23 AM
interesting. god DAMN i miss good Mexican food! :mad:

mixed_biscuits
18-09-2007, 08:13 AM
Actually, I've been heartened by the amount of writing just recently about the phoniness and media-led nature of the public outpourings of grief that followed the whole Diana business.

Who are you to say whether these outpourings were phony or not? Isn't this extremely condescending (and goes counter to your belief that we are not all the media's puppets)? I dare say that many of the people showing public grief were tagging along for various reasons, but to tar all with the same brush is downright wrong. Also, bear in mind that people are naturally gregarious and truly live through interaction through with each other, so this 'being seen to do something' should not be considered particularly baffling.

Mediatized real-life tragedies are the equivalents of the fictional tragedies that fulfilled a similarly cathartic function (for admirable and not-so-admirable reasons both) in days gone by. That's why the public passes from tragedy to tragedy on a whim - it is the generality, not the specificity of each case that attracts people.

I don't know why everyone's tying themselves up in knots over this phenomenon.

zhao
18-09-2007, 08:28 AM
very good points biscuits. was reading a text the other day about today's tabloids having the same social function as the greek tragedies -- albeit fragmented and served in bite-sized portions.

IdleRich
18-09-2007, 11:17 AM
"How subversive is contemporary Art if it is inside the pernicious hyper-capitalist system of the modern commercial art market? Not at all is the simple and obvious answer."
If only there was some kind of alternative system...

vimothy
18-09-2007, 11:48 AM
ok I'm getting sucked into the sidetrack...

what totally insincere and ironic, sarcastic, cynical musik have you loved for years? Weird Al Yankovic?

Aphex!

vimothy
18-09-2007, 11:55 AM
This kind of stuff makes me think of the old Adorno quotation: "To be pleased means to say yes"

I think that the excessive irony and detachment in art & culture is a product of the lack of any political sway the citizenry has in the west....

In the West! The %&"$**n West!!!

God, I wish I wasn't white and that I lived in a underdeveloped dictatorship - I'd have much more "political sway", and I wouldn't have to feel so guilty about all the classic addidas trainers I keep buying...

Mr. Tea
18-09-2007, 01:06 PM
Who are you to say whether these outpourings were phony or not? Isn't this extremely condescending (and goes counter to your belief that we are not all the media's puppets)?

Well of course I'm not the media's puppet - I was thinking more of tabloid readers... ;)

Mr. Tea
18-09-2007, 01:07 PM
In the West! The %&"$**n West!!!

God, I wish I wasn't white and that I lived in a underdeveloped dictatorship - I'd have much more "political sway", and I wouldn't have to feel so guilty about all the classic addidas trainers I keep buying...


Great minds, etc.:


Hahaha, yeah, unlike the rest of the world, where everyone has so much democracy they don't know what do with it... :D

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 04:15 PM
Off-topic, but someone needs to point out that Badiou's famous theses are riddled with cliches, as is his essay on the subject and contemporary music, which is even worse - it's like really bad journalism. You can dress up a philosophical system as much as you like, but it's still a system, and we've had enough of that. Badiou is ultimately a very conservative thinker, which is why a lot of folks have been looking at his thought for the last fifteen years and concluding, 'no thanks.' The suggestion that he is some sort of vanguard thinker is naive.

Tate, we actually agree on something :O !

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 04:17 PM
I don't know why everyone's tying themselves up in knots over this phenomenon.

Maybe for the same reason some people tie themselves up in knots over frozen cell clusters getting tossed in the trash can at fertility clinics? i.e. because it affects the social/cultural realm

mixed_biscuits
18-09-2007, 04:51 PM
Maybe for the same reason some people tie themselves up in knots over frozen cell clusters getting tossed in the trash can at fertility clinics? i.e. because it affects the social/cultural realm

I find it annoying when ppl stretch for huge generalisations and the knotty tangle of high-falutin' analyses before exploring the more mundane options.

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 05:08 PM
I find it annoying when people assume that "common sense" or the "mundane approach" are somehow epistemically privileged forms of experience/debate.

vimothy
18-09-2007, 05:34 PM
In places without democracy, you still have the possibility for an outside challenge -- the sense that things can change, this dictator will fall eventually, we can work for it. Our art is dangerous, we can go to prison for it, be beaten for it, die for it. Unlike in "democracies" where, election to election, nothing changes except the faces of the people in power.

*Chokes on biscuit*

Fucking hell! Maybe it's good to live under tyrants then, yes? At least our "art" means something...

What a load of facile sub-TAZ nonsense.

mixed_biscuits
18-09-2007, 05:52 PM
I find it annoying when people assume that "common sense" or the "mundane approach" are somehow epistemically privileged forms of experience/debate.

You're just spoiling for a fight, aren't you. :p

Saying that people can bear an aversion to the mundane, humdrum and commonplace isn't exactly controversial.

If you had read my post carefully, you would have noticed that I do not privilege one kind of explanation over the other. All that I want is to get to the truth. It's just that my truth-finding algorithm is this:

CONFUSION -> CHECK ALL AVAILABLE MUNDANE (ie probable) EXPLANATIONS -> CHECK LESS MUNDANE (less probable) EXPLANATIONS -> END

whereas others' can be this:

CONFUSION -> ATTEMPT TO APPLY OUTLANDISH EXPLANATION WOT I HAVE READ ABOUT IN CRITICAL THEORY -> END

Mr. Tea
18-09-2007, 06:15 PM
CONFUSION -> ATTEMPT TO APPLY OUTLANDISH EXPLANATION WOT I HAVE READ ABOUT IN CRITICAL THEORY -> END

Have to pick you up there, _biscuits: the second algorithm doesn't usually END at all, it just loops back round to the beginning... ;)

mixed_biscuits
18-09-2007, 06:17 PM
Have to pick you up there, _biscuits: the second algorithm doesn't usually END at all, it just loops back round to the beginning... ;)

heh heh :)

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 06:27 PM
Yes, "mundane" explanations are always more "probable" explanations for things, right Mr. Tea? Isn't that what they taught you in particle physics? That things work exactly the way they appear to work. That's why the earth is at the center of the universe. And all of that.

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 06:28 PM
And who's "confused" here? I'm not.

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 06:30 PM
*Chokes on biscuit*

Fucking hell! Maybe it's good to live under tyrants then, yes? At least our "art" means something...

What a load of facile sub-TAZ nonsense.

Did anyone say that it was "good" to live under tyrants? Gavin was talking about the much more vital and "revolutionary" potential art has under political tyranny. What's the big deal about that?

Jesus, some people act like these Sociology and Philosophy 101 level conversations elude the fuck out of them, don't they?

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 06:31 PM
You're just spoiling for a fight, aren't you. :p

Saying that people can bear an aversion to the mundane, humdrum and commonplace isn't exactly controversial.

If you had read my post carefully, you would have noticed that I do not privilege one kind of explanation over the other. All that I want is to get to the truth. It's just that my truth-finding algorithm is this:

CONFUSION -> CHECK ALL AVAILABLE MUNDANE (ie probable) EXPLANATIONS -> CHECK LESS MUNDANE (less probable) EXPLANATIONS -> END

whereas others' can be this:

CONFUSION -> ATTEMPT TO APPLY OUTLANDISH EXPLANATION WOT I HAVE READ ABOUT IN CRITICAL THEORY -> END

You really do have the IQ of a gnat. It's official.

mixed_biscuits
18-09-2007, 07:02 PM
Yes, "mundane" explanations are always more "probable" explanations for things, right Mr. Tea? Isn't that what they taught you in particle physics? That things work exactly the way they appear to work. That's why the earth is at the center of the universe. And all of that.

That's a fair point, but probable and true explanations can still be more mundane and dull by virtue of their familiarity than more exotic explanations.

And in any case, you haven't explained how my mundane 'tabloid story = Greek tragedy' angle is wrong.

mixed_biscuits
18-09-2007, 07:03 PM
And who's "confused" here? I'm not.

No, you're just angry. :D

mixed_biscuits
18-09-2007, 07:05 PM
Did anyone say that it was "good" to live under tyrants? Gavin was talking about the much more vital and "revolutionary" potential art has under political tyranny. What's the big deal about that?

Jesus, some people act like these Sociology and Philosophy 101 level conversations elude the fuck out of them, don't they?

I think it's more that the banality of the points (by virtue of their being 101 level) annoys the fuck out of them. ;)

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 07:08 PM
Angry about what? I'm not angry, I just think you're dumb.

mixed_biscuits
18-09-2007, 07:09 PM
You really do have the IQ of a gnat. It's official.

I wield a terrifying logic, have a wit that can turn on a die and carry the equivalent of the Bodleian library in my head. That's somewhat closer to the truth.

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 07:09 PM
I think it's more that the banality of the points (by virtue of their being 101 level) annoys the fuck out of them. ;)

Then why don't you regale us with your obviously superior points? I've never seen you come up with a more well-read and informed post than, say, one of Gavin's. If you ever do, then I will take your "criticism" of a perfectly reasonable discussion seriously.

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 07:11 PM
That's a fair point, but probable and true explanations can still be more mundane and dull by virtue of their familiarity than more exotic explanations.

And in any case, you haven't explained how my mundane 'tabloid story = Greek tragedy' angle is wrong.

Exotic? What's "exotic" about obvious points about the political history of the West?

Everyone knows that in Course Work 101, tabloids are "inverted archetypes", DUH.


tabloid story=Greek tragedy THIS is your brilliant explanation that is somehow not as facile and sophomoric as the rest of the discussion here?

mixed_biscuits
18-09-2007, 07:12 PM
Then why don't you regale us with your obviously superior points? I've never seen you come up with a more well-read and informed post than, say, one of Gavin's. If you ever do, then I will take your "criticism" of a perfectly reasonable discussion seriously.

Don't hold your breath! :p

mixed_biscuits
18-09-2007, 07:14 PM
Exotic? What's "exotic" about obvious points about the political history of the West?

Everyone knows that in Course Work 101, tabloids are "inverted archetypes", DUH.

THIS is your brilliant explanation that is somehow not as facile and sophomoric as the rest of the discussion here?

It's not a brilliant explanation - it's just an obvious, boring one that is far more likely than the others. That has been my whole point.

Keeping to a boring explanation for reasons of its being more likely than a more interesting one is not even itself brilliant - it's just sensible. Don't expect any fireworks. ;-)

Anyway, what's your angle?

Slothrop
18-09-2007, 07:21 PM
Did anyone say that it was "good" to live under tyrants? Gavin was talking about the much more vital and "revolutionary" potential art has under political tyranny.
He was talking about "the lack of any political sway the citizenry has in the west". Which presumably means that citizenry in non western-capitalist-democratic[1] countries have more political sway, otherwise what's the point in the comparison?


[1] I'm assuming "in the west" means "under capitalist democracy." Random aside - isn't it time someone came up with a better word than 'western' - I mean, since it presumably includes Japan and Russia, Australia and quite a bit of SE asia these days and is therefore completely innacurate in a geographical sense, couldn't people use something that smacks a bit less of sixties "of course they're so much more spiritual in the east maaaaan" orientalism?

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 07:26 PM
It's not a brilliant explanation - it's just an obvious, boring one that is far more likely than the others. That has been my whole point.

Keeping to a boring explanation for reasons of its being more likely than a more interesting one is not even itself brilliant - it's just sensible. Don't expect any fireworks. ;-)

Anyway, what's your angle?

Trust me, I don't expect any fireworks from your posts.

Why is your explanation "far more likely" than any others here?

It would take me hours that I don't have to explain what I think about why in general people look at tabloids, and my explanation would refer to all kinds of theorists you haven't read and don't want to.

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 07:29 PM
He was talking about how little political sway people have under western[1] capitalist democracy. Which presumably means that people in non western-capitalist-democratic countries have more political sway, otherwise what's the point in the comparison?


[1] random aside - isn't it time someone came up with a better word than 'western' - I mean, since it presumably includes Japan and Russia, Australia and quite a bit of SE asia these days and is therefore completely innacurate in a geographical sense, couldn't people use something that smacks a bit less of sixties "of course they're so much more spiritual in the east maaaaan" orientalism?

"Western" doesn't include Japan these days, and even if you do include Russia and Australia, the "Western" or occidental has never really been a properly geographical notion. If you're reading 60s ideas about spirituality in the east to the use of "Western", it's because you haven't read much that was written about it since the 60s (or maybe you know too many people who think like that)

Of course, the "Western" has continued to become the dominant global values/economic/every other kind of system as we've continued to globalize in the past couple of hundred years.

EDIT: "Western" of course doesn't simply mean "under capitalist democracy" at all, it's a much more specific set of shared social and cultural values .

Guybrush
18-09-2007, 07:36 PM
Vimothy and Mr. Tea: the ‘if you prefer dictatorship to democracy why don’t you pack your things and move?’ shtick (and its variations) is starting to get really tiresome. It’s like trying to have a constructive argument over the merits of the 1950s and having some feminist go ‘but what about how they treated women, and blacks, and ...’ every 5 minutes. Valid point, sure, but pretty damn grating after a while. Especially when made as a lame one-liner instead of being woven into a coherent argument.


In places without democracy, you still have the possibility for an outside challenge -- the sense that things can change, this dictator will fall eventually, we can work for it. Our art is dangerous, we can go to prison for it, be beaten for it, die for it. Unlike in "democracies" where, election to election, nothing changes except the faces of the people in power.

Yes, this is pretty much on the mark.

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 07:51 PM
Like I said before, the nature of celebrity "worship" today is such that it's much more in line with an inversion of Greek mythology (Greek tragedy and Greek myth are not the exact same thing, and the differences are important in this discussion) than it is a substitute for Greek tragedy.

In Greek myth, gods and goddesses were held up and esteemed for their traits--the Pantheon is where the stage was set, and very important social values played themselves out there. Athena was worshiped for her wisdom, Ares for his warlike traits, etc. The interactions of the gods and goddesses made up an entire oral tradition of stories that held valuable lessons and were considered wise parables that should be applied to everyday life.

In contemporary Hollywood, celebrities (analogous to Greek gods and goddesses) are no longer held up and worshiped for their glamorous screen personae, but instead, people are fascinated with the everyday, unglamorous, all too flawed and ugly traits of celebrities. Instead of looking to them for wisdom and inspiration, we look to them as cautionary tales. What we look to in our pantheon is an INVERSION of what the Greeks did theirs.

Greek tragedy is another story.

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 07:52 PM
It’s like trying to have a constructive argument over the merits of the 1950s and having some feminist go ‘but what about how they treated women, and blacks, and ...’ every 5 minutes.

People think there were merits to the 50s? haha

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 07:58 PM
some Jungian stuff i found on a website about inversion and myth


It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those other constant human fantasies that tend to tie it back. In fact, it may well be that the very high incidence of neuroticism among ourselves follows from the decline among us of such effective spiritual aid. We remain fixated to the unexorcised images of our infancy, and hence disinclined to the necessary passages of our adulthood. In the United States there is even a pathos of inverted emphasis: the goal is not to grow old, but to remain young; not to mature away from Mother, but to cleave to her. And so, while husbands are worshiping at their boyhood shrines, being the lawyers, merchants, or masterminds their parents wanted them to be, their wives, even after fourteen years of marriage and two fine children produced and raised, are still on the search for love—which can come to them only from the centaurs, sileni, satyrs, and other concupiscent incubi of the rout of Pan, either as in the second of the above-recited dreams, or as in our popular, vanilla-frosted temples of the venereal goddess, under the make-up of the latest heroes of the screen. The psychoanalyst has to come along, at last, to assert again the tried wisdom of the older, forward-looking teachings of the masked medicine dancers and the witch-doctor-circumcisers; whereupon we find, as in the dream of the serpent bite, that the ageless initiation symbolism is produced spontaneously by the patient himself at the moment of the release. Apparently, there is something in these initiatory images so necessary to the psyche that if they are not supplied from without, through myth and ritual, they will have to be announced again, through dream, from within—lest our energies should remain locked in a banal, long-outmoded toy-room, at the bottom of the sea.

Slothrop
18-09-2007, 08:05 PM
"Western" doesn't include Japan these days,
Oh right, I'd assumed it was just used as a shorthand for comparatively rich capitalist-democratic countries.

and even if you do include Russia and Australia, the "Western" or occidental has never really been a properly geographical notion.
That was what I was getting at, though.

If you're reading 60s ideas about spirituality in the east to the use of "Western", it's because you haven't read much that was written about it since the 60s (or maybe you know too many people who think like that)
I'm reading those ideas into the choice of term rather than the way people use the concept in reputable writing. The word does have those overtones, so using it even though it has no geographical significance is liable to put people on the wrong track. Anyway, this was an irrelevant aside - I'm not really suggesting that everyone suddenly start using some other word.


EDIT: "Western" of course doesn't simply mean "under capitalist democracy" at all, it's a much more specific set of shared social and cultural values .
The point still stands though - it's pretty hard to point out many places where normal people have more political sway than western europe and the US, even if the amount that most people have here is pretty pathetic.

Guybrush
18-09-2007, 08:06 PM
People think there were merits to the 50s? haha

In architecture/literature/whatever — loads of things. My point is that such should be able to be discussed without someone constantly interupting the discussion with facts that are a matter of course.

Guybrush
18-09-2007, 08:10 PM
some Jungian stuff i found on a website about inversion and myth

Interesting stuff. Would you mind posting the link? :)

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 08:11 PM
It's true, Slothrop, I think you're right on that.

I know what you meant, Guybrush, I was just being obnoxious for effect

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 08:18 PM
http://www.mythsdreamssymbols.com/hero.html

Slothrop
18-09-2007, 08:34 PM
In architecture/literature/whatever — loads of things. My point is that such should be able to be discussed without someone constantly interupting the discussion with facts that are a matter of course.
But in this case it actually was relevant (if not particularly polite): Gavin gave the explanation "I think that the excessive irony and detachment in art & culture is a product of the lack of any political sway the citizenry has in the west...."

So if the citizenry actually have more political sway in west than they do in (say) China or Zimbabwe or Somalia (to pick some rather cheesy examples) then you'd expect a culture of excessive irony or detachment in those countries as well. Otherwise you're saying that people have less political sway in the west than anywhere else in the world, which Tea and Vimothy weren't convinced by. Or the point needs to be modified and qualified.

I'd agree with the point that disengagement from the political process is a factor but it's not just the basic lack of political influence than the original statement made it sound like. It's maybe more that people have the luxury of disengagement from politics and if politics isn't likely to come knocking on our door in the middle of the night or make it impossible to feed their family. I don't know - does this hold out across other places with a history of reasonably high standards of living and moderate politics?

zhao
18-09-2007, 08:58 PM
*Chokes on biscuit*

Fucking hell! Maybe it's good to live under tyrants then, yes? At least our "art" means something...

What a load of facile sub-TAZ nonsense.

of course there is something to be said about art produced under oppressive regimes. it is sometimes much more profound and powerful than in a fake democracy where people think they are "free" and "can do what ever they want". look at the conditions under which Tarkovsky made his movies in the former USSR. and the amazing films Abbas Kiarostami made in Iran. arguably these are works of a much higher order than anything produced in the west in past few decades.

no i am not romanticizing 3rd world dictatorships. shit i come from one so i know how stifling life can be under those conditions. but it is true that nothing means shit in the west, while in some places art is still important, something to fight for, a matter of life and death. and when there is that much conviction, the results are often just unbelievable.

turtles
18-09-2007, 08:58 PM
But in this case it actually was relevant (if not particularly polite): Gavin gave the explanation "I think that the excessive irony and detachment in art & culture is a product of the lack of any political sway the citizenry has in the west...."

So if the citizenry actually have more political sway in west than they do in (say) China or Zimbabwe or Somalia (to pick some rather cheesy examples) then you'd expect a culture of excessive irony or detachment in those countries as well. Otherwise you're saying that people have less political sway in the west than anywhere else in the world, which Tea and Vimothy weren't convinced by. Or the point needs to be modified and qualified.

I'd agree with the point that disengagement from the political process is a factor but it's not just the basic lack of political influence than the original statement made it sound like. It's maybe more that people have the luxury of disengagement from politics and if politics isn't likely to come knocking on our door in the middle of the night or make it impossible to feed their family. I don't know - does this hold out across other places with a history of reasonably high standards of living and moderate politics?

I think maybe it's more like people come up against a hard wall much faster in more oppressive societies, so that they feel like their art/protests/whatever are really doing something, because they hit resistance so quickly. Whereas in more liberal democracies, you can push and push and push and never really come up against much resistance. Even if you do produce some change, it's an allowed change (like electing a new government) and everyone kinda goes "oh that was an alright idea" and carries on. It's TOO easy, there's TOO little resistance, which sucks the life out of the art/whatever, because it feels like there's no force to resist against, while simultaneously the thing that you really want to resist against always seems to be one step removed from the thing you actually can get to. Cf. Kafka's The Castle

(dude! ctrl+i automatically adds italic tags to your text. cool!)

gek-opel
18-09-2007, 09:15 PM
Who are you to say whether these outpourings were phony or not? Isn't this extremely condescending (and goes counter to your belief that we are not all the media's puppets)? I dare say that many of the people showing public grief were tagging along for various reasons, but to tar all with the same brush is downright wrong. Also, bear in mind that people are naturally gregarious and truly live through interaction through with each other, so this 'being seen to do something' should not be considered particularly baffling.

Mediatized real-life tragedies are the equivalents of the fictional tragedies that fulfilled a similarly cathartic function (for admirable and not-so-admirable reasons both) in days gone by. That's why the public passes from tragedy to tragedy on a whim - it is the generality, not the specificity of each case that attracts people.

I don't know why everyone's tying themselves up in knots over this phenomenon.

Firstly "tragedy"- what an over used word! Nowadays t seems merely to refer to something dramatic and unfortunate...

Such "tragedies" squat on the news schedule and obscure actually important events, geopolitics, economics etc.

I for one have no understanding of "catharsis" I know what the word means, but I have never understood its function, or how it feels. I think people enjoy going down dark sadistic tunnels of experience. A mediatized event does serve a communal purpose, but is often malign as it serves to cover over other more important long terms goings-on, and also to perversely over-emotionalise events which morally need another sort of affect-- the media has the ability to present situations where empathy and pity are completely useless, almost offensive and self-indulgent emotions. They often have the strange effect of preventing a proper engagement with the causes of such situations, creating a knee jerk desire that "something must be done", hence mass-mediatized charity spectacle et al...

Also the phenomenon of the child abuse bestseller is pretty disturbing, especially when people don't come out and admit they get a salacious thrill out of reading about the misfortunes of others, rather that it is somehow a morally improving experience...

nomadologist
18-09-2007, 09:15 PM
just guess what ctrl + b does to your text, turtles! or ctrl + u!

gek-opel
18-09-2007, 09:18 PM
In contemporary Hollywood, celebrities (analogous to Greek gods and goddesses) are no longer held up and worshiped for their glamorous screen personae, but instead, people are fascinated with the everyday, unglamorous, all too flawed and ugly traits of celebrities. Instead of looking to them for wisdom and inspiration, we look to them as cautionary tales. What we look to in our pantheon is an INVERSION of what the Greeks did theirs.

The interesting bit is the sick jouissance we gain by watching celebrities suffer, an inhuman lust for blood and death, and decline and fall. There is a truly sadistic relationship at the heart of celebrity/women's mag culture, which goes beyond merely schadenfreude or ressentiment, into an almost bread-and-circuses hard-on for corruption and ruin.

turtles
18-09-2007, 09:24 PM
just guess what ctrl + b does to your text, turtles! or ctrl + u!
yeah I know but I didn't realize it would also work and put in the right tags in this crappy little web-form! i'm excited!

gek-opel
18-09-2007, 09:30 PM
I think maybe it's more like people come up against a hard wall much faster in more oppressive societies, so that they feel like their art/protests/whatever are really doing something, because they hit resistance so quickly. Whereas in more liberal democracies, you can push and push and push and never really come up against much resistance. Even if you do produce some change, it's an allowed change (like electing a new government) and everyone kinda goes "oh that was an alright idea" and carries on. It's TOO easy, there's TOO little resistance, which sucks the life out of the art/whatever, because it feels like there's no force to resist against, while simultaneously the thing that you really want to resist against always seems to be one step removed from the thing you actually can get to. Cf. Kafka's The Castle

Its also because once society is more democratic and capitalistic Art can function as an effective control system for energetic and rebellious youth enabling them to engage in a pseudo-struggle against a foe who doesn't care and in fact is only to happy to utilise the products of their labours.

Mr. Tea
18-09-2007, 09:32 PM
Yes, "mundane" explanations are always more "probable" explanations for things, right Mr. Tea? Isn't that what they taught you in particle physics? That things work exactly the way they appear to work. That's why the earth is at the center of the universe. And all of that.

Don't ask me, this is your and Bicky's argument - I just stuck my oar in for the sake of a cheap gag.

Edit: although while we're on the subject of particle physics, I will say that Occam's Razor, or some equivalent of it, still operates at the sub-atomic scale...physicists may come up with theories that appear outlandish to the layman, but they are usually still the simplest, most down-to-earth theories that will describe the known data. No-one has yet received a Nobel prize for coming up with most head-bustingly whacked-out theory that will explain a particular phenomenon: the theories that stand the test of time are almost invariably the most elegant, economical ones. If they contravene 'common sense', then so be it.

turtles
18-09-2007, 09:40 PM
Its also because once society is more democratic and capitalistic Art can function as an effective control system for energetic and rebellious youth enabling them to engage in a pseudo-struggle against a foe who doesn't care and in fact is only to happy to utilise the products of their labours.
Yes, definitely. Was reading this excerpt (http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/klein.htm) from NO LOGO the other day which talks about pretty much the same thing. Capitalism gladly absorbing all criticism and then selling them back to you in a handy niche-marketed bundle. Which basically leads us back the question that started off this whole thread...

Mr. Tea
18-09-2007, 09:46 PM
Vimothy and Mr. Tea: the ‘if you prefer dictatorship to democracy why don’t you pack your things and move?’ shtick (and its variations) is starting to get really tiresome. It’s like trying to have a constructive argument over the merits of the 1950s and having some feminist go ‘but what about how they treated women, and blacks, and ...’ every 5 minutes. Valid point, sure, but pretty damn grating after a while. Especially when made as a lame one-liner instead of being woven into a coherent argument.

OK, I accept that as a valid criticism, but Gavin's original remark about how "we in the West have so little say over what goes on" (or whatever it was, that was the gist of it) carries with it such an obvious implicit corollary, to the point that it's almost explicit, that there exists a much better and fairer system somewhere else. And I fail to see much evidence of this, to be honest. I mean, if people in the US/UK are making "ironic" art because they feel so powerless in the face of the ruling system in power in those countries, it follows that art from countries like Iran or Burma or wherever must be orders of magnitude more ironic, does it not? Whereas having seen some of the stuff Gavin's been posting in this thread, it seems as if the sort of revolutionary art being created in dictatorships or violently corrupt pseudo-democracies around the world draws its power precisely from its honesty and authenticity as a means of expression.

gek-opel
18-09-2007, 09:56 PM
I get Gavin's point, but perhaps it is better to look at the argument the other way around: that an ironic detachment created by late capital/post-modernity vitiates the ability to make anything "authentic" or "honest" (scare quotes intentional, natch).

zhao
18-09-2007, 10:36 PM
The interesting bit is the sick jouissance we gain by watching celebrities suffer, an inhuman lust for blood and death, and decline and fall. There is a truly sadistic relationship at the heart of celebrity/women's mag culture, which goes beyond merely schadenfreude or ressentiment, into an almost bread-and-circuses hard-on for corruption and ruin.

wish i had it with me but the paper i was reading was talking about exactly this: the fascination with the fall of celebrities is exactly like the fascination with the fall of heroes in classic tragedy.

Re: catharsis: haven't you ever cranked death-metal or dark-step and just rocked out for 30 minutes and feel lighter and better afterwards? or see a sad movie and afterwards feel a bit cleansed?

swears
18-09-2007, 10:42 PM
So why should such an established artist inspire fantasies about lacking a sense of humor? Well, in the most respectful way, Koons can seem like a joke - one either gets Koons or one doesn't... (http://www.california-pawnshop.com/overture/koonsjeff.htm)

gek-opel
18-09-2007, 11:05 PM
wish i had it with me but the paper i was reading was talking about exactly this: the fascination with the fall of celebrities is exactly like the fascination with the fall of heroes in classic tragedy.

Re: catharsis: haven't you ever cranked death-metal or dark-step and just rocked out for 30 minutes and feel lighter and better afterwards? or see a sad movie and afterwards feel a bit cleansed?

I can see the argument vis-a-vis celebrities/Greek heroes and tragedy, but I think its a little too cute... it fails to take account of the fact that firstly these people aren't actually held up as "heroes" or even their analogue in the first place. Most of the time celebrities (not "stars" or "artists" but plain bog-standard celebrities) do not pass the "appreciate them for a skill or attribute" phase, they move immediately or with an alarming rapidity into the torture chamber of endless creepy analysis of their every move and childish (in the sense of children at their most cruel) delight at their suffering. For example: what exactly is my interest in Pete Doherty based on- in no sense is he a hero for me, I think his talents are exceptionally slight and his output cliche-riddled in the extreme. I enjoy his exploits only because of an inherent sadism... so in a sense there is no fall... they don't even need to be celebrities per se (see the rape-fiction stuff- although I acknowledge that what is going on there is slightly different, probably even more creepy). Unless of course the Greek tragedy stuff is based more in sadism, which a lot of it appears to be...

Re: Catharsis-- I enjoy those things certainly, but I don't feel lighter afterwards, there is no sense of purification. They don't make me more angry or sad or anything either tho!

Guybrush
18-09-2007, 11:07 PM
OK, I accept that as a valid criticism, but Gavin's original remark about how "we in the West have so little say over what goes on" (or whatever it was, that was the gist of it) carries with it such an obvious implicit corollary, to the point that it's almost explicit, that there exists a much better and fairer system somewhere else. And I fail to see much evidence of this, to be honest. I mean, if people in the US/UK are making "ironic" art because they feel so powerless in the face of the ruling system in power in those countries, it follows that art from countries like Iran or Burma or wherever must be orders of magnitude more ironic, does it not? Whereas having seen some of the stuff Gavin's been posting in this thread, it seems as if the sort of revolutionary art being created in dictatorships or violently corrupt pseudo-democracies around the world draws its power precisely from its honesty and authenticity as a means of expression.

I mostly agree with your critique of Gavin’s point — I would side with Turtles in that it’s not necessarily a democracy vs dictatorship issue. (I think that was his idea, anyway.) One thing to remember with regards to your argument above, however, is that even if people in developing countries live under dictatorial regimes pretty much all the time, the regimes themselves change now and then, sometimes quite frequently (a coup followed by another coup, and so on and on), so there is at least the possibility of dramatic social upheaval (for good and for bad). I imagine that the citizens of Mogadishu experienced that the Sharia laws that the Islamistic Junta imposed upon seizing power had quite an effect on their everyday life, etc. Examples abound, really.

zhao
18-09-2007, 11:21 PM
a friend pointed out guys like John Stewart are probably more a part of the problem than anything aproaching any kind of attempt at solutions -- the effect they have is more pro-status-quo than pro any kind of change.

in fact, fake democracy loves guys like Stewart, because they (and 4 millions retards) can dish out the endlessly annoying party-line: "well at least we are allowed to criticize blah blah blah". which reinforces the illusory freedom. while in reality the Daily Show just makes people laugh about things they should be angry about and gives them a free pass to go on with biz as usual.

anyone read this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amusing_Ourselves_to_Death)?

gek-opel
18-09-2007, 11:35 PM
Its the un-ending problem with satire- it reinforces the status quo.

Even worse when the savagery is tamed into a kind of American "Zing"-culture of smugly self-satisfied superiority.

Slothrop
18-09-2007, 11:36 PM
a friend pointed out guys like John Stewart are probably more a part of the problem than anything aproaching any kind of attempt at solutions -- the effect they have is more pro-status-quo than pro any kind of change.

in fact, fake democracy loves guys like Stewart, because they (and 4 millions retards) can dish out the endlessly annoying party-line: "well at least we are allowed to criticize blah blah blah". which reinforces the illusory freedom. while in reality the Daily Show just makes people laugh about things they should be angry about and gives them a free pass to go on with biz as usual.

I'm not sure about that. Watching the Daily Show might not in itself inspire you to go and storm the White House, but I'd guess that it encourages a lot people to think of politics as something they're interested in and to be familiar with roughly what's out there, so they're more likely to read and appreciate (say) a Chomsky article or something genuinely radical.

Kind of like the way politico-punk bands are partly a harmless way for teenagers to let off steam and pretend they're part of a revolution, but they're also a first point of contact, responsible for bringing politics into a lot of teenagers awareness at all...

It's kind of tough to call where the balance lies in both cases.

turtles
18-09-2007, 11:40 PM
I mostly agree with Zhao/Gek, but I'll stick up for the Daily Show for the one thing it does really well which isn't done much elsewhere is being heavily critical and incredulous towards to news media. Not just fox news, but cnn and the big three news networks get worked over pretty hard a lot of the time for their terrible, trivializing news coverage. So while in once sense Jon Stewart and co. are part of the problem, they are also one of the few popular media outlets that regularly points out how just generally moronic and misleading almost ALL news coverage is.

edit: I guess my point is I've actually heard many of the types of arguments put forward here on the Daily Show itself...

Gavin
18-09-2007, 11:42 PM
OK, I accept that as a valid criticism, but Gavin's original remark about how "we in the West have so little say over what goes on" (or whatever it was, that was the gist of it) carries with it such an obvious implicit corollary, to the point that it's almost explicit, that there exists a much better and fairer system somewhere else. And I fail to see much evidence of this, to be honest. I mean, if people in the US/UK are making "ironic" art because they feel so powerless in the face of the ruling system in power in those countries, it follows that art from countries like Iran or Burma or wherever must be orders of magnitude more ironic, does it not? Whereas having seen some of the stuff Gavin's been posting in this thread, it seems as if the sort of revolutionary art being created in dictatorships or violently corrupt pseudo-democracies around the world draws its power precisely from its honesty and authenticity as a means of expression.

Come now, this is willfully obtuse. Your "Iran-Burma" corollary (if I may call it that) only works if we assume repressive power works the same way in democracies and dictatorships. They don't, which isn't a point I should have to make among such enlightened company. Because a dictatorship MUST use coercive force to instill rule, it builds its own overt resistance, of which truly radical art is one form -- as Foucault remarks, resistance is CREATED BY power -- power precedes resistance. In the case of democracies, because overt force is rarely necessary (although it underpins all functionings of power in the last instance) because we are so free to choose what TV show to watch or what sweetened cereal to eat for breakfast, it never occurs to the vast majority of people (including, according to arguments made in this thread, a sizable number of people who post here) that they actually have no control over anything important -- for instance, whether the government that "represents" them decides to unleash unprecedented carnage on the poorer, browner races and lie through its teeth about it. Even war protests feel like empty gestures because the government DOES NOT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT WHAT THE PEOPLE DO because THEY CAN'T THREATEN THE WAY IT IS, and most don't really want to anyway (seriously, I took an overnight bus to Washington to protest the war and afterwards it just felt like how I felt when I jacked off when I was 13 -- that weird mixture of transgression, shame, but ultimately futility because Big Other actually isn't watching and neither is anyone else). Of course the baby boomers in charge of things decided long ago that masturbation is the highest calling in life (they call it "fulfillment" or any number of new-age-jargon terms). It's so drastically different a situation than in a dictatorship, and OF COURSE I don't advocate dictatorships (so mean and smelly!), nor do I feel like championing the wonderful democracies we live in that allow us to get so fat and stupid while our governments gleefully massacre thousands with our money while bestowing social death upon thousands more within our own borders.

As much as I disagree with Vimothy and Mr. Tea etc., I really doubt they are so stupid as to seriously misread what I wrote to the degree that I have to type out the preceding diatribe. I mean, you made me bring up jacking off in middle school -- no one wants to see that. I would much prefer a response to the actual content of my posts and not waste my time trolling through arguments attributed to me that I never made.

P.S. I just saw the Jeff Koons Pink Panther last week... it had the best spot in the museum and it's absolutely atrocious. It's not even well done for sculpture, and the joke wasn't even very funny or relevant back in 1988 or whatever. Though I do like some of the fake metal balloon stuff on a formal level. This picture doesn't really do justice to how crappy the sculpture is:

http://www.california-pawnshop.com/overture/koonsjeff_files/image003.jpg

I mean isn't this all a lot of urinal-in-the-museum hubbub all over again?

Guybrush
18-09-2007, 11:43 PM
I'm not sure about that. Watching the Daily Show might not in itself inspire you to go and storm the White House, but I'd guess that it encourages a lot people to think of politics as something they're interested in and to be familiar with roughly what's out there, so they're more likely to read and appreciate (say) a Chomsky article or something genuinely radical.

Kind of like the way politico-punk bands are partly a harmless way for teenagers to let off steam and pretend they're part of a revolution, but they're also a first point of contact, responsible for bringing politics into a lot of teenagers awareness at all...

It's kind of tough to call where the balance lies in both cases.

Yeah, that’s an excellent point. However, I think Bill Maher mentioned that about a third of his viewers got all of their news from watching his show, a fact he was quite disappointed with. Still, I think you are right.

Gavin
18-09-2007, 11:49 PM
I mostly agree with Zhao/Gek, but I'll stick up for the Daily Show for the one thing it does really well which isn't done much elsewhere is being heavily critical and incredulous towards to news media. Not just fox news, but cnn and the big three news networks get worked over pretty hard a lot of the time for their terrible, trivializing news coverage. So while in once sense Jon Stewart and co. are part of the problem, they are also one of the few popular media outlets that regularly points out how just generally moronic and misleading almost ALL news coverage is.

edit: I guess my point is I've actually heard many of the types of arguments put forward here on the Daily Show itself...

But everyone knows the media is full of crap, and no one trusts it (and they refer to it as "the media" as if it's some separate entity with its own momentum, not merely one more arm of the General Electric nuclear garrison, more mystification). Nixon knew this 50 years ago. All the politicians complain about the media. And guess what? The news only gets shittier. Critique in this case seems worthless. Indeed, the Daily Show's most potent jokes are usually just displaying news footage as is -- it needs no commentary, just a slight change of context, and a little push from the studio audience to become satirical hilarity.

The news media is so worthless (at least televised news media) that it's not worthy of critique. It's like satirizing a clogged toilet when you should be plunging the fucker.

gek-opel
18-09-2007, 11:49 PM
I'd slot both of them into the pseudo-rebellion category. I actually don't mind the Jon Stewart bits of The Daily Show, for exactly the reasons Turtle describes. It doesn't seem to have effected the output of the "real" news stations though does it? It kind of adds up to a culture of despair, where many know how rotten (in this case TV news journalism) is, but beyond taking the piss there seems no ability to actually change it.

gek-opel
18-09-2007, 11:51 PM
Critique in this case seems worthless...

Critique is all too readily absorbed!

Gavin
18-09-2007, 11:57 PM
I think Lumet's Network should be taught in schools...

zhao
19-09-2007, 12:02 AM
like satirizing a clogged toilet when you should be plunging the fucker.

nice

turtles
19-09-2007, 12:07 AM
It's like satirizing a clogged toilet when you should be plunging the fucker.
Pshaw! That toilet is so full of shit...

Guybrush
19-09-2007, 12:08 AM
I’m trying hard here not coming across as politically naïve, but I do think that your living in the U.S., Gavin, makes you slightly blind to the extent that the current White House’s decisions have handicapped the U.S.’s ability to impose its ideas on the world. For one thing, the U.S. military is already so severely over-stretched it is all but impossible for it to engage in further major operations. You can go down the list: the fragile economy, the loss of the so-called ‘moral highground’ (i.e. its cultural leverage), the U.S.’s decreased relative wealth relative other countries (China, Russia, India, etc.) ... What I’m getting at is that while things may be harsh enough for the poor citizens of the U.S., its capacity to commit ill abroad has been acutely circumscribed.

Gavin
19-09-2007, 12:09 AM
Critique is all too readily absorbed!

http://pics.drugstore.com/prodimg/141850/300.jpg

Gavin
19-09-2007, 12:17 AM
I’m trying hard here not coming across as politically naïve, but I do think that your living in the U.S., Gavin, makes you slightly blind to the extent that the current White House’s decisions have handicapped the U.S.’s ability to impose its ideas on the world. For one thing, the U.S. military is already so severely over-stretched it is all but impossible for it to engage in further major operations. You can go down the list: the fragile economy, the loss of the so-called ‘moral highground’ (i.e. its cultural leverage), the U.S.’s decreased relative wealth relative other countries (China, Russia, India, etc.) ... What I’m getting at is that while things may be harsh enough for the poor citizens of the U.S., its capacity to commit ill abroad has been acutely circumscribed.

So you don't think Iran is getting bombed in the next year?

Also I'm not sure what part of what I said this is in response to... I'm certainly not letting Britain or anyone else in the coalition of the willing off the hook for just doing what the U.S. says.

Guybrush
19-09-2007, 12:22 AM
I have heard rumours of a limited — which is to say air force and rockets — attack supposedly being planned as soon as this autumn, but I doubt it. One can never be sure, of course. But I think you would agree that the risk of that happening would have been infinitely greater had not the Iraq endeavour been so thoroughly botched.

Guybrush
19-09-2007, 12:28 AM
I’m not letting anyone off the hook. I’m just saying that one of the few good things to come out of this awful mess is that the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ has few options left but to listen to the saner voices of the world (to which I count Putin and *googles* Hu Jintao, ironically.)

Gavin
19-09-2007, 12:30 AM
I have heard rumours of a limited — which is to say air force and rockets — attack supposedly being planned as soon as this autumn, but I doubt it. One can never be sure, of course. But I think you would agree that the risk of that happening would have been infinitely greater had not the Iraq endeavour been so thoroughly botched.

Maybe, but you can't expect a desperate empire with tons of clusterbombs to behave rationally in these situations. I still am not sure if you are addressing something I said upthread...?

Anyway, if what you say is true, that the U.S. failure in Iraq (are we sure it's a failure? that would mean we believe the objectives that we were told) is putting a hold on further invasions, then if anything this is an endorsement of sustained armed insurrection as the only effective "critique" of American power. I'm pretty sure the satire content in those IEDs is pretty low.

Gavin
19-09-2007, 12:32 AM
I’m not letting anyone off the hook. I’m just saying that one of the few good things to come out of this awful mess is that the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ has few options left but to listen to the saner voices of the world (to which I count Putin and *googles* Hu Jintao, ironically.)

I trust the Russian and Chinese governments less than the U.S. one (and neither are democracies), but I was born during the Reagan era so I can't be held responsible for these prejudices.

Guybrush
19-09-2007, 12:49 AM
The Russians I trust in behaving imperialistic but rational; the Chinese I don’t know enough about, but from what I can gather, they appear intent on not jeopardising the world peace at the moment. Which is nice. I should add that Russia and Scandinavia/East-Europe has quite a history, so it’s not like we would give them the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t know if you read the Economist article on Putin and his henchmen a couple of weeks ago, but either way you should check out Mark Ames’ dissection of it:

The Economist: The World’s Sleaziest Magazine (http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=10127&IBLOCK_ID=35)


Anyway, if what you say is true, that the U.S. failure in Iraq (are we sure it's a failure? that would mean we believe the objectives that we were told) is putting a hold on further invasions, then if anything this is an endorsement of sustained armed insurrection as the only effective "critique" of American power.

Yeah, absolutely. It works a treat, doesn’t it?

Gavin
19-09-2007, 01:11 AM
The Economist: The World’s Sleaziest Magazine (http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=10127&IBLOCK_ID=35)


Hah, every time I read The Exile I always think I should read it more often. Maybe I actually will now.

Mr. Tea
19-09-2007, 01:35 AM
Gavin, this is ridiculous - you're right, I don't want to hear about your wanking habits and thank you, by the way, for crediting me with not being retarded - but can't you see that a claim that we're all so powerless specifically in the West is going to make you look like you think people have it better somewhere else? And if you actually meant "well, there's irony and satire in Western art because people here have no control over what their governments really do, whereas in other parts of the world the ruling elite uses more direct methods of oppression, so people have a different artistic protest tradition", then why didn't you SAY THAT in the first place? Or are you, as I suspect, just backtracking to try and cover what is starting to look like a rash and immature statement?

And for what it's worth, if the majority of people in Britain thought the Iraq venture was the most important thing on the political agenda they'd have voted the Lib Dems in at the last election and there wouldn't be any British troops in Iraq today. But they didn't, so there are.
And don't talk to me about the government manipulating the media because in the UK at least it's almost exactly the other way around (and to be honest, I'm not sure which is worse).

Mr. Tea
19-09-2007, 01:58 AM
I mostly agree with your critique of Gavin’s point — I would side with Turtles in that it’s not necessarily a democracy vs dictatorship issue. (I think that was his idea, anyway.) One thing to remember with regards to your argument above, however, is that even if people in developing countries live under dictatorial regimes pretty much all the time, the regimes themselves change now and then, sometimes quite frequently (a coup followed by another coup, and so on and on), so there is at least the possibility of dramatic social upheaval (for good and for bad). I imagine that the citizens of Mogadishu experienced that the Sharia laws that the Islamistic Junta imposed upon seizing power had quite an effect on their everyday life, etc. Examples abound, really.

That's fair enough, but I can't think of anywhere on Earth that is neither a democracy nor a dictatorship, apart from totally lawless areas where something approaching anarchy reigns (which in practice, warlord-ism being what it is, often amounts to dictatorship-in-miniature) or perhaps those few remaining areas where tribal societies still exist and politics itself is meaningless. So if you're going to make a judgement on one sort of system it only really makes sense to compare it to the other. Yes, ten years of New Labour is a lot different from ten years of intermittent civil war, coups, juntas, and ongoing violent revolution - I don't really see there's much point in having a discussion as to which is the preferable political situation to live under. And before you have a go at me again for bringing up a facile comparison, remeber it was Gavin who (whether he intended to or not) brought up the comparison in the first place.

Gavin
19-09-2007, 02:29 AM
Well, I probably shouldn't indulge you in this weird masochistic game, but, perhaps pathetically, I have nothing better to do.


Gavin, this is ridiculous - you're right, I don't want to hear about your wanking habits and thank you, by the way, for crediting me with not being retarded - but can't you see that a claim that we're all so powerless specifically in the West is going to make you look like you think people have it better somewhere else?

Why don't you read WHAT I WROTE. I said that people (maybe I should have said SOME PEOPLE so you don't DRASTICALLY MISUNDERSTAND me again -- you should be a failed lawyer, not a failed scientist) under dictatorships have BETTER, MORE RELEVANT ART than we do in the West. I said nothing about comparative indoor plumbing, porn, foodstuffs, per capita income, or anything else. You read that into it because you have this giant imagined anarcho-leftist-boogeyman-caricature hanging in your closet that you feel the need to endlessly snipe at (with barbs even duller since your week-long ban) whenever there's anything approaching a "radical" post. Who is that guy in there? It's not me; maybe it's your creeping liberal guilt. You have a really passionate attachment to the status-quo, though when pushed you always have the perfectly correct liberal response... quite an enigma, you, although not exactly an interesting one. I advise a sustained rigorous drug regimen to keep Mr. Guilt at bay, at least until you don't have the free time to endlessly indulge your neuroses on this board. When the lefties try to steal your enjoyment away from you, leave the computer behind, maybe pop some pills, read a book, make love to your significant other, anything but make more shitty posts on this rare oasis of a message board.



And if you actually meant "well, there's irony and satire in Western art because people here have no control over what their governments really do, whereas in other parts of the world the ruling elite uses more direct methods of oppression, so people have a different artistic protest tradition", then why didn't you SAY THAT in the first place? Or are you, as I suspect, just backtracking to try and cover what is starting to look like a rash and immature statement?

Plenty of people understood what I wrote, and clarifying it for those who didn't isn't backtracking whatsoever. You have yet to show me something I wrote that I don't believe or am ashamed by. I made a good faith effort to explain my position to you, even stroked your fragile ego, and you get even more hysterical.



And for what it's worth, if the majority of people in Britain thought the Iraq venture was the most important thing on the political agenda they'd have voted the Lib Dems in at the last election and there wouldn't be any British troops in Iraq today. But they didn't, so there are. And don't talk to me about the government manipulating the media because in the UK at least it's almost exactly the other way around (and to be honest, I'm not sure which is worse).

This is so cute. You always got what you wanted at Christmas, didn't you?

I'll leave it for someone else to dig up opinion polls, but HERE in the grand sucking center of Neoliberal Imperialism, the majority of Americans want the war to end. In fact, Americans voted in the opposition party (we only have one, you guys seem to do better at convincing people of a quasi-relevant third choice in ruling class musical chairs -- I wonder if the UK has more bisexuals than the US?) specifically to end the war. Even the corporate media said so, even if they only did it because reruns of Operation Enduring Atrocities get fewer and fewer viewers each time. BUT GUESS WHAT, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IS BEING DONE TO END THE WAR. It makes me almost want to write "my" senator and ask him if Santa really exists!

Are we fucking done yet?

Slothrop
19-09-2007, 02:42 AM
Why don't you read WHAT I WROTE. I said that people (maybe I should have said SOME PEOPLE so you don't DRASTICALLY MISUNDERSTAND me again -- you should be a failed lawyer, not a failed scientist) under dictatorships have BETTER, MORE RELEVANT ART than we do in the West.
To be accurate you said (or at least, implied) that they have more 'political sway'.

mixed_biscuits
19-09-2007, 07:26 AM
It would take me hours that I don't have to explain what I think about why in general people look at tabloids, and my explanation would refer to all kinds of theorists you haven't read and don't want to.

I probably would have come across them - I studied Continental Philosophy at grad school (leftie powerhouse Essex), English/French at undergrad (at teh top school Oxford Uni), (cultural) Geography (doctoral), Education (ultra-left Homerton at Cambridge for the double whammy innit) at post-grad, so have enjoyed/suffered/read a fair amount of that kind of thing. I also is speaking the five languages so I might even have read the originals on rare occasions!

mixed_biscuits
19-09-2007, 07:43 AM
Such "tragedies" squat on the news schedule and obscure actually important events, geopolitics, economics etc. ...

Aye, agreed, but bear in mind that important events on a macro scale are only important by virtue of their potentially or actually affecting people at the level of the individual, so there is a resemblance.

And a lot of the human stories are tragic and make even Biscuits feel sad. Although some are happy, like Jane Tomlinson and her long runs. But then she died and it was sad again.

One could make a rough sort of news items into: a) things that affect you directly (so you feel sorry for yourself) b) things that affect others (you feel sorry for other people (and then perhaps a little better about your own situation)) c) things that are there to cheer you up. I'm guessing that b) and c) must roughly balance a). (b) normally begins the news to soften you up, then a), then a bit of c)). Mixing it up like Shakespeare innit.

What an outstanding post I have just writ - I am really living up to my Master of Philosophy billing. :D

PS - There was a woman down the pub last night who said that she went into 3 days of depression after Michael Hutchence died.

zhao
19-09-2007, 09:07 AM
if you're going to make a judgement on one sort of system it only really makes sense to compare it to the other.


To be accurate you said (or at least, implied) that they have more 'political sway'.

can you two be a little more tedius in hammering home this lame ass point please?

and do read what Gavin originally wrote. it has nothing to do with your "yeah but the west is still the best" simpleton bullshit.

noel emits
19-09-2007, 09:58 AM
The difference between a group that knows exactly how it's been screwed and one that experiences a generalised sense of disquiet.

vimothy
19-09-2007, 12:13 PM
Hey - if your computer crashes half way through a post, is there a way to get it back?

mixed_biscuits
19-09-2007, 12:24 PM
Hey - if your computer crashes half way through a post, is there a way to get it back?

If I'm cobbling together a particularly long-winded and tedious screed, I write it in notepad and save it intermittently.

I'm guessing that isn't of much help in your present fix, however.

IdleRich
19-09-2007, 12:44 PM
"can you two be a little more tedius in hammering home this lame ass point please?"
Yes, can't we just put that behind us and move on?

Slothrop
19-09-2007, 12:56 PM
can you two be a little more tedius in hammering home this lame ass point please?
Yes - we could start discussing our wanking habits at great length to avoid conceding that we were indulging in a bit of kneejerk better-stick-something-in-about-how-bad-the-west-is that the point would have made more sense without.

edit: and I'm all in favour of talking about how bad the west is, I'd just rather see it done in a thought out and consistent manner rather than by blaming it every time I stub my toe...

vimothy
19-09-2007, 01:03 PM
I'm going try to respond to this again, after my computer killed my first effort.


Vimothy and Mr. Tea: the ‘if you prefer dictatorship to democracy why don’t you pack your things and move?’ shtick (and its variations) is starting to get really tiresome. It’s like trying to have a constructive argument over the merits of the 1950s and having some feminist go ‘but what about how they treated women, and blacks, and ...’ every 5 minutes. Valid point, sure, but pretty damn grating after a while. Especially when made as a lame one-liner instead of being woven into a coherent argument.


In places without democracy, you still have the possibility for an outside challenge -- the sense that things can change, this dictator will fall eventually, we can work for it. Our art is dangerous, we can go to prison for it, be beaten for it, die for it. Unlike in "democracies" where, election to election, nothing changes except the faces of the people in power.

Yes, this is pretty much on the mark.

Pretty much on the mark in that, yes, under a tyrant there is the possibility of revolution and:

1. The installation of a new tyrant. (Most revolutions fall under this pattern. In fact, I don't think it would be unreasonable to say that most revolutions have installed worse dictators than the regimes they overthrew. For instance, the Russian revolution was a step back in that Stalin, although equipped with a shiny communist ideology, was actually much worse than the Tzar. I can think of plenty of other examples).

2. The installation of some sort of representative democracy. (These are the kind of revolutions that work, historically. For example: the American Revolution, the 1989 Revolutions, etc).

In the west, as we already have democractic governments, there is little chance of wholesale revolutionary change, which is the sense (pretty much the only sense, AFAIK) in which we have no, or hardly any, "political sway". This has caused people to retreat into irony, disengagement and an annoying lack of seriousness. In the undemocratic third world, where they have unrepresentative tyrannical rulers, the potential exists for radical change, hence people struggling under these governments have more "sway". (It should be noted, however, that this is strictly potential sway, not actual. In all these countries there is a deficit of commonly held political power by definition. There might be a revolution, but there is no guarantee that there will be, or that it will be yours if it happens. In fact, and I think someone pointed this out upthread, third world dictatorships have periodic revolutions that don't change anything at all, except the names of the men or party stealing your money and hiding it in off-shore banks).

However, as democracy is part of the problem, the radical change we are talking about could only be a new dictatorship, because those are our only (at present evolutionary levels, at least) choices: democracy or tyranny. We also know from past experience which one is more likely.

So, art in a tyranny potentially has more power, could be more contagious than it ever could in a democracy, in terms of causing regime change and systemic collapse. Probably it will never be seen widely amongst ordinary society; certainly a regime that desires a long rule will want to suppress subversive art and imprison its creators. But at least, says Bey, they are listening. And I agree with that, to an extent, but the qualifier is very important: it's only noble to risk your life making subversive art if you are doing it with the goal of making your society better, not worse, than it is at the moment. And as we know (following Gavin's logic) that democracy is undesirable, partly because it ends this pattern of governmental instability, we can see that what we are discussing is art in the service of tyranny: art in the service of the heroic and the glorious, not involved in the tedious trap of compromises, aggregates and lowest common denominator politics that western society lays for us all.

I think that's bollocks anyway.

bassnation
19-09-2007, 01:10 PM
I don't know why everyone's tying themselves up in knots over this phenomenon.

this has always been the case in human society since the dawn of civilisation.

“A mob is the scum that rises utmost when the nation boils”
john dryden.

swears
19-09-2007, 01:35 PM
Peter Halley on Ortega, irony, postmodern art and post-punk.

1) dehumanize art
2) avoid living forms
3) see the work of art as nothing but a work of art
4) consider art as play and nothing else
5) be essentially ironic
6) beware of sham and hence to aspire to scrupulous realization
7) regard art as a thing of no transcending consequence (http://www.peterhalley.com/ARTISTS/PETER.HALLEY/ORTEGA.FR2.htm)

"Today, modernism has largely moved to a different arena, where it is supported by a different class. Modernism is as alive in music as it is under attack in the visual arts. Groups with such names as the talking heads, the Clash, the gang of four, and Public Image Limited, have all moved to an essentially modernist position."

There's even a John Lydon quote in there: “I’m tired of the past and even the future’s beginning to seem repetitive. I don’t really know what to say. I talk crap all the time. I’m a liar, a hypocrite, and a bastard. I shouldn’t be tolerated….”

Written in 1981, btw.

Mr. Tea
19-09-2007, 02:47 PM
(maybe I should have said SOME PEOPLE so you don't DRASTICALLY MISUNDERSTAND me again -- you should be a failed lawyer, not a failed scientist)
Ahh, out come the ad hominems - perhaps you'd like to imagine I'll go and have a little cry now, would that help make you feel like you've won the argument, hmm?


.. quite an enigma, you, although not exactly an interesting one.

You mean, I don't fit your conservative-bogeyman-charicature? Oh dear, someone with some thoughts of their own, better sound the alarm bells...


In fact, Americans voted in the opposition party
Yeah, but you still have the same president, don't you? Who won the last general election by a pretty comfortable margin, as far as I recall (in contrast to the hanging-chad debacle in 2001).


Are we fucking done yet?
Sure, I'm done. You may proceed.

Slothrop
19-09-2007, 03:05 PM
Peter Halley on Ortega, irony, postmodern art and post-punk.

1) dehumanize art
2) avoid living forms
3) see the work of art as nothing but a work of art
4) consider art as play and nothing else
5) be essentially ironic
6) beware of sham and hence to aspire to scrupulous realization
7) regard art as a thing of no transcending consequence (http://www.peterhalley.com/ARTISTS/PETER.HALLEY/ORTEGA.FR2.htm)

"Today, modernism has largely moved to a different arena, where it is supported by a different class. Modernism is as alive in music as it is under attack in the visual arts. Groups with such names as the talking heads, the Clash, the gang of four, and Public Image Limited, have all moved to an essentially modernist position."

There's even a John Lydon quote in there: “I’m tired of the past and even the future’s beginning to seem repetitive. I don’t really know what to say. I talk crap all the time. I’m a liar, a hypocrite, and a bastard. I shouldn’t be tolerated….”

Written in 1981, btw.
Interesting.

I don't really see how he manages to fit in Gang of Four or the Dead Kennedys under
3) see the work of art as nothing but a work of art
4) consider art as play and nothing else
though.

I'm also slightly confused because I would have shifted all the definitions one jump back - for instance he seems to regard the likes of Webern and Boulez as a continuation of romanticism and Cage as modernism whereas I'd have thought of the former as modernism and the latter as postmodernism.

It also makes for an interesting comparison with the ideas of poptimism / pop modernism.

swears
19-09-2007, 03:14 PM
Interesting.

I don't really see how he manages to fit in Gang of Four or the Dead Kennedys under
3) see the work of art as nothing but a work of art
4) consider art as play and nothing else
though.

I'm also slightly confused because I would have shifted all the definitions one jump back - for instance he seems to regard the likes of Webern and Boulez as a continuation of romanticism and Cage as modernism whereas I'd have thought of the former as modernism and the latter as postmodernism.

It also makes for an interesting comparison with the ideas of poptimism / pop modernism.

I think his point is that pinning down a modernist era is tricky, he's questioning the standard Clement Greenberg version of it.

I just posted this for a bit of contrast really.

zhao
19-09-2007, 03:34 PM
have always kind of hated peter halley... his work if not his theories. but this essay looks maybe worth reading...

Mr. Tea
19-09-2007, 03:34 PM
This is interesting:


On the other hand, a variety of art being produced today truly is something other than modernist. However, to call this art post-modernist is probably a mistake, since it exhibits all the signs of being, in fact, pre-modernist. The return to perspective techniques, the unique art object, human expression, “sensibility” – these are simply a retreat into nineteenth-century strategies by retrograde artists, as Benjamin H.D. Buchloh has pointed out in his recent essay on “new image” painting.


There has always been retrogressive art in our culture, but the unusual phenomenon today is that such work has gained the status of major art. This is the result of the changes in our society that have occurred with the last decade.

Post-modern art as pre-modern art, as a retrograde step - is this the case? What about in music? (Assuming he means 'art' in the visual sense.)

Slothrop
19-09-2007, 03:40 PM
I think his point is that pinning down a modernist era is tricky, he's questioning the standard Clement Greenberg version of it.
Should I feel stupid for not knowing that there was a standard Clement Greenberg version of modernism? *goes and looks it up*

It's interesting in the context of this discussion that he views 'essentially ironic' modernist art as being in support of liberal democracy and sees this as a good thing. Contrast Greenberg (thanks, wikipedia) viewing it as being essentially not ironic and directed towards the revolutionary rejection of capitalism but still a minority anit-popular thing (this is similar to what Adorno says, isn't it?) But I guess the products of either sort of modernism are still essentially experienced in a consumerist manner.

Still not sure how Gang of Four fit in, though.

Sorry that was some random first thoughts, probably mostly bollocks, but I'd be interested to know what some of the people with more knowledge think about the article.

IdleRich
19-09-2007, 03:43 PM
"I think his point is that pinning down a modernist era is tricky, he's questioning the standard Clement Greenberg version of it."
So.... if you redefine modernism to include what is commonly known as post-modernism then you don't have any post-modernism? Seems to me a bit like when the government change what is called a crime and then report that crime has fallen.
The underlying problems (if there are any) haven't been addressed just magicked away.

Mr. Tea
19-09-2007, 03:50 PM
From my mostly Wikipedia-level knowledge of how postmodernism is defined, it seems a lot of writers don't even really consider it a cultural phase in its own right, but class it as 'late modernism'.

swears
19-09-2007, 03:53 PM
Should I feel stupid for not knowing that there was a standard Clement Greenberg version of modernism? *goes and looks it up*

In terms of the art criticism of the early 80s, perhaps.



Sorry that was some random first thoughts, probably mostly bollocks, but I'd be interested to know what some of the people with more knowledge think about the article.

Me too, lol.


So.... if you redefine modernism to include what is commonly known as post-modernism then you don't have any post-modernism? Seems to me a bit like when the government change what is called a crime and then report that crime has fallen.
The underlying problems (if there are any) haven't been addressed just magicked away


It seems more like saying that maybe there never was a golden age of modernism and writers like Greenberg were trying to shape history to their own ends. The underlying problems were there in the first place.

IdleRich
19-09-2007, 04:06 PM
"It seems more like saying that maybe there never was a golden age of modernism and writers like Greenberg were trying to shape history to their own ends. The underlying problems were there in the first place."
OK, I don't read him as actually saying that (when does he identify irony as a problem?) but maybe it's a more interesting corollary.

swears
19-09-2007, 04:08 PM
It's interesting in the context of this discussion that he views 'essentially ironic' modernist art as being in support of liberal democracy and sees this as a good thing.

I'm not sure what his definition of a "liberal democracy" was then, probably not the same as the current Republican administration's.

gek-opel
19-09-2007, 06:57 PM
I talk crap all the time. I’m a liar, a hypocrite, and a bastard. I shouldn’t be tolerated….

LOVE IT.

@Vimothy: Your simplistic binary world of democracy or tyranny is very cute, but pretty inaccurate. Neither is an absolute, and neither does one necessarily exclude elements of the other. There are degrees of democracy, shades, tones... the mere presence of the ritual of voting means little...

Gavin
19-09-2007, 07:56 PM
Right after I wrote that rant at Mr. Tea (which I did feel a little bad about afterwards, in spite of myself), I read this story by Stanislaw Lem, "Pericalypse," which references some things said in this thread. The book itself is structured as reviews of imaginary books. There's an excerpt at google books:


Creative work of value is possible when there is resistance, either of the medium or of the people at whom the work is aimed; but since, after the collapse of the prohibitions of religion and the censor, one can say everything, or anything whatever, and since, with the disappearance of those attentive listeners who hung on every word, one can howl anything at anyone, literature and all its humanistic affinity is a corpse whose advancing decay is stubbornly concealed by the next of kin (http://books.google.com/books?id=jMvpf5K1qD0C&pg=PA80&lpg=PA80&dq=lem+pericalypsis&source=web&ots=CoIoCe3dQZ&sig=Ogfg2KmCu6gDyJ5VaxjfycSQvZA#PPA80,M1).

Gavin
19-09-2007, 08:23 PM
From the Halley:


In time of economic adversity and uncertainty, like the present, it is characteristic of the wealthy to retreat into a position of fear and reaction. On the other hand, during these adverse periods, there are also likely to be small groups among those without a large investment in the status quo who will be moved by adversity to a position of intense thought and doubt.

*Almost* sounds like academia ("without large investment in the status quo" arguable at the least). I know that Eagleton at least defines a lot of jargony theory as an attempt at avant-garde art. Though in this case intense thought and doubt haven't produced very much that is actually interesting...

nomadologist
19-09-2007, 09:48 PM
I probably would have come across them - I studied Continental Philosophy at grad school (leftie powerhouse Essex), English/French at undergrad (at teh top school Oxford Uni), (cultural) Geography (doctoral), Education (ultra-left Homerton at Cambridge for the double whammy innit) at post-grad, so have enjoyed/suffered/read a fair amount of that kind of thing. I also is speaking the five languages so I might even have read the originals on rare occasions!

If this is even remotely true, then why the constant SHOCK and AWE at the fact that some people like to talk about things that they read?

Hasn't k-punk written like a trillion blog posts on this? ...the Oxbridge educated anti-intellectual status-quo warrior gym class hero?

mixed_biscuits
20-09-2007, 07:52 AM
If this is even remotely true, then why the constant SHOCK and AWE at the fact that some people like to talk about things that they read?

Hasn't k-punk written like a trillion blog posts on this? ...the Oxbridge educated anti-intellectual status-quo warrior gym class hero?


If this is even remotely true, then why the constant SHOCK and AWE at the fact that some people like to talk about things that they read?

Hasn't k-punk written like a trillion blog posts on this? ...the Oxbridge educated anti-intellectual status-quo warrior gym class hero?

Aye, it's all true.

Who is 'k-punk' and what would k-punk know? Even if s/he did have some experience of either university, how can s/he generalise about the tens of thousands of people who pass through them? Has s/he not heard about colleges like Wadham (Oxford) or King's (Cambridge)? They're absolutely packed with name-dropping, left-leaning wannabe intellos (one of my friends is at King's).

Even if your thesis were true (that ppl at Oxbridge pretend to be anti-intellectual), it is still the case that most students there actually are more intellectual than at any of the other universities in the UK, in that they have read more (see performances on University Challenge), are generally more intelligent (some greatly so), are competitive and goal-centred and are given more work to do than anywhere else (Oxf: 12 essays in 8 weeks to defend 1-1 or 2-1 vs world-leading experts).

Re debating styles, what might be believed by many Oxbridge students is that less intelligent people name-drop more in debate than the more intelligent as doing so gives their arguments a ready-made structure and weight - which is easier than fashioning persuasive points on the fly (which skills the Oxbridge tutorial system attempts to develop). I don't remember Union debates involving much name-dropping either.

Many Oxbridge students might well be averse to heavy name-dropping (as I obv am) as it betrays preparation and admits an intellectual debt to others, preferring the implied self-sufficiency of improvised argument (the narcissism of 'effortless superiority'). On a more prosaic note, name-dropping and other excesses of referencing disrupt the flow of an argument, as your interlocutor wastes time vainly trying to retrieve information about GodknowswhatobscureFrenchthinker from memory rather than following your logic.

So, to some extent, I agree with k-punk, but with important reservations: some Oxbridge students are closetly intellectual anti-'intello's (which stance is itself an attentuation of the wider British mistrust of 'intellectuals') while others would fit right in with the handful of Essex students who were set on assuming an 'intellectual' persona.

PS 'Gym class hero'? Is s/he thinking of the right side of the Atlantic?

IdleRich
20-09-2007, 09:42 AM
"Creative work of value is possible when there is resistance, either of the medium or of the people at whom the work is aimed; but since, after the collapse of the prohibitions of religion and the censor, one can say everything, or anything whatever, and since, with the disappearance of those attentive listeners who hung on every word, one can howl anything at anyone, literature and all its humanistic affinity is a corpse whose advancing decay is stubbornly concealed by the next of kin."
I do think that there is a lot of truth in this ("nothing is true and everything is permitted") but I also think that Vimothy has correctly identified a paradox in that art in a dictatorship is art against that dictatorship and towards a society in which when achieved art will ultimately have less power.
I guess what you (Gavin) are saying is that the west is a society with the worst of both worlds, lack of restrictions on art robbing it of its power and a kind of low-key lack of say in politics that gives the illusion of freedom or justice.


"Hasn't k-punk written like a trillion blog posts on this? ...the Oxbridge educated anti-intellectual status-quo warrior gym class hero?!"
Well if K-Punk wrote about it it must be true (see also a million other sources of name-dropped obedient Big Other pseudo-philosophy).

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 10:24 AM
Well if K-Punk wrote about it it must be true (see also a million other sources of name-dropped obedient Big Other pseudo-philosophy).

Oops, that's torn it! *ducks for cover*

I think you're dead right, Rich, about Vimothy's take on revolutionary struggle: the point of it should surely be that you struggle in order to one day achieve a state where struggle is no longer necessary, not in order to still be struggling in a year's or five years' or twenty years' time. And the state people are usually struggling towards, providing they're not simply trying to set up a new dictatorship of their own, is democracy. The fact that many democracies today obviously have a lot wrong with them - for the record, I do not deny and never have denied this - is not a reason to say anything as facile as "democracy is actually just as bad as tyranny".

vimothy
20-09-2007, 01:24 PM
@Vimothy: Your simplistic binary world of democracy or tyranny is very cute, but pretty inaccurate. Neither is an absolute, and neither does one necessarily exclude elements of the other. There are degrees of democracy, shades, tones... the mere presence of the ritual of voting means little...

Actually, I think it is fairly simple. In a democracy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy) you can vote your current ruler out in a fair election - in a dictatorship (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictatorship) you can't.

Of course, simply having elections is not enough (Iran, Palestine), nor is simply stating that you are a democracy (er, North Korea). What we are really talking about is liberal democracy, where representatives are subject to the rule of law, moderated by a constitution and protective the rights of its citizens, where there is a free press and an independent judiciary.

Otherwise, one could simply vote in a tyrant or megalomaniac who might do something like, I don't know, murder lots of people...

That also strikes me as one of the possible outcomes of your desire for a more radical, immediate form of government. A government where the people can affect any kind of change they want, no matter how ridiculous or unrealistic, is one in which all kinds of evil are possible. "Nothing changes, we want more power!" Mob rule, by any other name - there has to be limits to prevent the (ruling) majority acting at the expense of the minority. (Also, it often strikes me how much people complain about demoracy when they disagree with the (aggregate) decisions made - the election of Bush, the occupation of Iraq, etc - as these are not demoractic simply because they are not one's own decisions. And of course, there is always someone who knows best...).

vimothy
20-09-2007, 01:38 PM
There are also some very important correlations between non-democracy and democide (i.e. the state murdering the people), famine and war.

Rudolph J Rummel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._J._Rummel) makes some good points:

Democracies don't go to war with one another (http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/MIRACLE.HTM).
Tyrannies don't stand together; democracies do.
Democracies don't wage war on their own citizens.
Democracies don't have famines (http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/WF.TAB.8.1.GIF) - famines are political failures (http://www.amazon.com/Development-as-Freedom-Amartya-Sen/dp/0385720270).

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 02:00 PM
Gek does have a point though, Vimothy. Democracy is surely not doing what it says on the tin (i.e. as far as is fair and possible, enacting the will of the people) if, on some important major issue, all (or, in the US, both) major parties have essentially the same policy, with perhaps at best a few cosmetic differences for the sake of 'opposition'. Especially if this policy is at odds with what most people want, of course. Plus there's the fact that a huge proportion of the population simply import their opinions wholesale from newspapers, although this is a problem that doesn't have any clear solution that's not massively illiberal and totalitarian...

vimothy
20-09-2007, 02:13 PM
Gek does have a point though, Vimothy. Democracy is surely not doing what it says on the tin (i.e. as far as is fair and possible, enacting the will of the people) if, on some important major issue, all (or, in the US, both) major parties have essentially the same policy, with perhaps at best a few cosmetic differences for the sake of 'opposition'. Especially if this policy is at odds with what most people want, of course. Plus there's the fact that a huge proportion of the population simply import their opinions wholesale from newspapers, although this is a problem that doesn't have any clear solution that's not massively illiberal and totalitarian...

That's why I'm saying that liberal democracy is the important system. Gek wants democracy in the style of ancient Greece (or so it seems to me): majority rule. Certainly we don't need every other fucker with an opinion jumping in every time they feel that their veiws are not being heard. So what if one million out of work hippies wander the streets of London getting stoned and listening to really, really shit samba (I was there, so I know it happened)? That isn't how decisioins get made. It's also not the case that you personally should be allowed to make decisions that effect everyone generally. And it's also not the case that everyone should get a say on everything that happens in a democracy, because there are plenty of things that are way outside your own remit (which is why we have professionals and experts who (we hope) know better).

Besically, we don't need any of the radical change that gek wants - it would be bad for everyone (inc. Gek), despite it possibly making a percentage of the population feel more "represented" or empowered.

vimothy
20-09-2007, 02:17 PM
What about Rummel's points? How do people feel about them?

I remember one pundit somewhere (can't remember who) saying that the most important political task in the world at present is to stop mass murder/democide/genocide. It looks to me like (real) democracy is the answer. Isn't that more important than being able to wreck the system just because you think that you should be able to?

vimothy
20-09-2007, 02:19 PM
Gek does have a point though, Vimothy. Democracy is surely not doing what it says on the tin (i.e. as far as is fair and possible, enacting the will of the people) if, on some important major issue, all (or, in the US, both) major parties have essentially the same policy, with perhaps at best a few cosmetic differences for the sake of 'opposition'.

What about mob rule, how do you read that in relation to simply enacting the will of the majority? For instance, what if the majority of the people wanted to round up Muslims and put them in concentration camps?

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 02:29 PM
Well hang on, I'm certainly not advocating mob rule. As you point out, a decision that happens to reflect the will of the majority, although democratic, may severely infringe the rights of a minority in a very illiberal way. Switzerland is arguably the most democratic country in the world - not that they necessarily have the most efficient or fair form of democracy, but they almost certainly have the greatest amount of it - and the party currently enjoying the most votes is trying to introduce some appallingly xenophobic anti-immigration legislation...
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/60/Spp-poster.jpg
What I will say, however, is that my intuition is that a country with a large-ish number of major-ish parties (more than two, anyway!), with a wide range of ideologies and policies, perhaps ruling by some sort of PR system, is probably a better kind of democracy than one in which power is invariably held by one party or the other, whose differences in policy are increasingly becoming invisible to the naked eye.

Hell, at least if we had a Le Pen in the UK we'd all have a clear idea of who not to vote for...

vimothy
20-09-2007, 02:40 PM
Well, I personally think that in America the particular worry is that both parties are trying to pander to the (real or imagined) fears and prejudices of their constituents - see for instance the rising tide of economic populism and anti-China sentiment - not that they are ignoring them. So i can agree with you on that, I guess. And of course, in the UK there are simply no political parties who represent my politics (free trade, minimal government, pro-rule of law, pro-intervention, etc). But these are cosmetic worries: how best can we enable democracy, not whether or not it's better than a dictatorship, or whether or not it's all a big con to fool us into thinking it's not a dictatorship.

vimothy
20-09-2007, 02:41 PM
What I will say, however, is that my intuition is that a country with a large-ish number of major-ish parties (more than two, anyway!), with a wide range of ideologies and policies, perhaps ruling by some sort of PR system, is probably a better kind of democracy than one in which power is invariably held by one party or the other, whose differences in policy are increasingly becoming invisible to the naked eye.

Minimal government

EDIT: To limit the power of the state. Limits on the power of the state are very important, because the state has been the biggest killer, atl least over the last hundred years.

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 02:52 PM
I can think of some lemmas and exceptions to these points, certainly:



* Democracies don't go to war with one another.
They quite often go to war against non-democracies for decidedly ulterior motives, though, don't they? Or support one non-democratic country/army/paramilitary force/bunch of thugs against another. Or impose sanctions against a would-be democracy because the people there want the wrong sort of democracy...


* Tyrannies don't stand together; democracies do.
Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy stood together, the Nazis and the Japanese stood together, the Nazis and the Soviets stood together until Hitler thought he'd have a go, China and North Korea stood together...


* Democracies don't wage war on their own citizens.
They treat them pretty fucking badly sometimes. How many Americans are in jail for relatively minor drug offences? How many people in this country are in jail that ought to be receiving psychiatric treatment?
And in any case, implicit in the statement is the sentiment that it's perfectly OK to wage war on people, as long as you don't classify them as citizens, or re-define war as 'security operations', c.f. rocketing houses full of kids and old women in the Left Bank, etc....not to mention support from democracies for countries that most definitely do wage war on their own citizens.


* Democracies don't have famines - famines are political failures.
This is generally true, but it takes a lot more than adequate bread/rice supplies to make a functional country. Cuba has free universal health care, while millions in America can't afford even basic health insurance, for example.

vimothy
20-09-2007, 03:29 PM
They quite often go to war against non-democracies for decidedly ulterior motives, though, don't they? Or support one non-democratic country/army/paramilitary force/bunch of thugs against another. Or impose sanctions against a would-be democracy because the people there want the wrong sort of democracy...

Ulterior motives - that's a matter of opinion
Support of "our tyrants" is a shame, but hey, when push came to shove, that's what people decided they prefer...
Imposing sanctions on the "wrong sort of democracy" is obviously a euphemism for something else (Palestine?) - you'll have to be a bit clearer. How can you have the "wrong sort of democracy"?

EDIT: Forgot to say that these don't disprove what I'm saying.


Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy stood together, the Nazis and the Japanese stood together, the Nazis and the Soviets stood together until Hitler thought he'd have a go, China and North Korea stood together...

Yeah - exactly, what brilliantly thought out schemes (http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/000120.html)those were:


Likening their war instincts to those of "a very advanced clan of yellow apes," German Chancellor Adolf Hitler praised the government and military of Japan.

"I salute you, chinky-dinky rat men, who have been given life by the confused hand of some long-dead pagan deity," he said. "When Germany stands victorious on a conquered Earth, and Aryan supermen wipe out the undesirable mud races one by one, your like will surely survive to be among the last to be exterminated."

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/9e/Davidlowrendezvous.png

Then Germany invaded the USSR and killed millions! What an alliance!

And Fascist Italy lent whatever way they thought was best - towards Germandy when they looked like winning, and towards the Allies when they looked like winning.

Basically all of these alliances were simply marriages of convenience. Tyrannies will never truly stand together (Iraq, anyone?), because they cannot trust one another (as your examples clearly show). They are (as Humphrys has noted) like thugs doing deals with one another, only to turn and put the knife in as soon as it becomes advantageous.


They treat them pretty fucking badly sometimes. How many Americans are in jail for relatively minor drug offences? How many people in this country are in jail that ought to be receiving psychiatric treatment?

Ok, so the "war on drugs" (Bill: "it's not a war on drugs, it's a war on personal freedom") is pretty much the last example of the state acting against the people. I don't like it, but there it is.


And in any case, implicit in the statement is the sentiment that it's perfectly OK to wage war on people, as long as you don't classify them as citizens, or re-define war as 'security operations', c.f. rocketing houses full of kids and old women in the Left Bank, etc....

Er, no - no it fucking isn't, and thanks for crediting me with attempting to use semantics to justify murder.

After all of the arguments we've had about Palestine, I expect you know exactly what I'm going to say in response to this, so I'll just ask you one related question (it's open to anyone, actually, and it's very important):

What would a non-democracy do?

(Answers here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hama_Massacre), here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Return_of_the_Pharaoh) and here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_transfer_in_the_Soviet_Union), as well as numerous other places...)


This is generally true, but it takes a lot more than adequate bread/rice supplies to make a functional country. Cuba has free universal health care, while millions in America can't afford even basic health insurance, for example.


You're just dodging the real issue. It's not "generally true" it's absolutely fucking true. It's so true Sen recieved the Nobel Peace Prize just for pointing it out. There's no comparison to be made between different types of health care and a political system that allows (and even encourages) the starvation of millions to take place.

vimothy
20-09-2007, 03:40 PM
So basically, no, it isn't perfect, but...

It stops democracies going to war with each other, and promotes international cooperation between democracies,
It stops democracies going to war with their citizens (with one limited exception),
And it stops millions dying in preventable famines.

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 03:51 PM
Hey, come on now, you know I'm the last person on here to defend totalitarianism: I'm just pointing out that it is not the case that every single thing done by a democracy is Good and every single thing done by a totalitarian regime is Bad, by definition. Cuba is undoubtedly a repressive country but it has a good welfare state considering how poor it is (although we all know what you think about those... ;)) and putting it in the same moral bracket as Nazi Germany and the USSR simply because it's "not a democracy" is idiotic.

Re. waging war on other countries/your own citizens: fair enough, "perfectly OK" was an overstatement, but "less bad" is surely a reasonable interpretation. Otherwise, why mention it? And in answer to your question: a non-democracy would probably do something even worse, naturally. I am not arguing against democracy in general - this much ought to be eye-bleedingly obvious - I am saying that some particular democracies do pretty unpleasant things, both to their own citizens and those of other countries (sometimes directly, sometimes by proxy) and that if better democracy were at work in these countries, they'd treat people better and we'd all be able to go and sit happily in the park and eat ice-cream. Or something.

Gavin
20-09-2007, 03:52 PM
I think you're dead right, Rich, about Vimothy's take on revolutionary struggle: the point of it should surely be that you struggle in order to one day achieve a state where struggle is no longer necessary, not in order to still be struggling in a year's or five years' or twenty years' time. And the state people are usually struggling towards, providing they're not simply trying to set up a new dictatorship of their own, is democracy.

This would ignore the continual revolutions of the modes of production in capitalist democracies as well as the corresponding changes in the ruling class formations that facilitate it (and accompanying violence). The American Civil War; the "Reagan Revolution" as a way to increase domestic repression and peel back social programs to accompany neoliberal capitalism that didn't recognize nations or national programs; the Bush coup in 2000 (when vocal portions of the citizenry, accompanied by the media, called for Gore to give up his feeble legal fight so they could just get on with it, which he did -- democracy at work there) to facilitate militaristic imperialism in the Middle East, while his administration disavows portions of the Constitution...

Plenty of people have suggested or posited permanent or continual revolution: Engles and Jefferson come readily to mind, but I don't think the above was what they envisioned.


pretty much the last example of the state acting against the people

You missed the tasering at the Kerry speech across the pond, eh?

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 03:59 PM
Plenty of people have suggested or posited permanent or continual revolution: Engles and Jefferson come readily to mind, but I don't think the above was what they envisioned.


I can't see that being much fun, to be honest, unless you enjoy fighting for the sake of fighting. Revolutions tend to be rather messy, violent affairs, after all. I'm all for ice-cream in the park, me.

vimothy
20-09-2007, 04:08 PM
Hey, come on now, you know I'm the last person on here to defend totalitarianism: I'm just pointing out that it is not the case that every single thing done by a democracy is Good and every single thing done by a totalitarian regime is Bad, by definition. Cuba is undoubtedly a repressive country but it has a good welfare state considering how poor it is (although we all know what you think about those... ;)) and putting it in the same moral bracket as Nazi Germany and the USSR simply because it's "not a democracy" is idiotic.

I am all for nuances, and if you're saying that a democracy is better than a dictatorship by an order of magnitude (due, after all, to the correlations we have been talking about, not simply because I am a rightist ideologue and I'm bound to say that as an excuse for wanting to kill brown people) - acknowledgeing that democracy is not perfect, but also being honest about the fact that it is humanities best hope (at present) for world peace and an end, not tro every little shitty thing that effects us personally, but to the really big, hugely shitty things that effect people periodically in non-democracies, things like democide and famine, where millions die - we're total agreement.


Re. waging war on other countries/your own citizens: fair enough, "perfectly OK" was an overstatement, but "less bad" is surely a reasonable interpretation. Otherwise, why mention it? And in answer to your question: a non-democracy would probably do something even worse, naturally. I am not arguing against democracy in general - this much ought to be eye-bleedingly obvious - I am saying that some particular democracies do pretty unpleasant things, both to their own citizens and those of other countries (sometimes directly, sometimes by proxy) and that if better democracy were at work in these countries, they'd treat people better and we'd all be able to go and sit happily in the park and eat ice-cream. Or something.

But you have to understand why democracies are "less bad", which is why I am in favour of them - otherwise there's no point in even considering these things.

But anyway (un-well written sentence alert), what countries are you thinking of where if they had "better democracy" less bad things would happen? Or something...

vimothy
20-09-2007, 04:10 PM
This would ignore the continual revolutions of the modes of production in capitalist democracies as well as the corresponding changes in the ruling class formations that facilitate it (and accompanying violence). The American Civil War; the "Reagan Revolution" as a way to increase domestic repression and peel back social programs to accompany neoliberal capitalism that didn't recognize nations or national programs...

Funny how you left out the other-side of the "neo-liberal" revolution, i.e. the ealy 20th C. growth of the welfare state and statist, Keynesian economic policies.

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 04:18 PM
But anyway (un-well written sentence alert), what countries are you thinking of where if they had "better democracy" less bad things would happen? Or something...

Well let's suppose you're a voter in America (or, come to that, Britain) and you want to vote for a party (that has a fighting chance of winning an election) that's pledged to legalise euthanasia, provide drugs for registered addicts who are seeking treatment and avoid getting involved in ill-advised and illegal foreign military ventures, you can't. So much for democracy, eh? Of course, if you oppose all of those things, you're spoilt for choice.

Edit: I'm not sure I know enough about international politics to name specific countries here - maybe I'm just talking about a hypothetical democracy that doesn't even really exist (yet), I don't know. You'll probably accuse me of dangerous utopian thinking at this point, but bear in mind I'm not talking about tearing everything down and starting again; just enacting democracy in a sense that's a bit closer to its Platonic ideal, if you will.

Gavin
20-09-2007, 04:26 PM
Funny how you left out the other-side of the "neo-liberal" revolution, i.e. the ealy 20th C. growth of the welfare state and statist, Keynesian economic policies.

Yes, necessary to pacify the militant working class after capital had conquered to the coast (you can't promise workers that they can escape the cities and be adventuring pioneers once you've sold all the land), and to lay the ground for the statist capitalism of mid century (easier to make wars this way). The necessary soft touch to go along with the state violence against the working class.

Anyway, such measures are unnecessary now, as long as you have television shows talk about how great everything is (except for those nagging doubts, which are ALL YOUR FAULT, but can be cured with the help of our psychologist/guru/religious leader).

vimothy
20-09-2007, 04:30 PM
Well let's suppose you're a voter in America (or, come to that, Britain) and you want to vote for a party (that has a fighting chance of winning an election) that's pledged to legalise euthanasia, provide drugs for registered addicts who are seeking treatment and avoid getting involved in ill-advised and illegal foreign military ventures, you can't. So much for democracy, eh? Of course, if you oppose all of those things, you're spoilt for choice.

Good point, Mr Tea. Here's how it works, IMHO:

As you are one single person among millions, your views will never be the ruling ones, unless you are in agreement with the majority of people in your democracy.

Let's imagine a party in Ameropia running for election with those policies - it might be a libertarian party based on what you've outlined there, but it doesn't matter. Said party will almost certainly have very little sway because it represents a very small percentage of the population. For e.g. the libertarian vote in the US is reckoned to be at 15%, and what this means is that in any case to influence government you will need to cut deals, triangulate and compromise heavily - just like everyone else, including the ruling majority. This would be true even if there was a Mr Tea Party just for you.

It doesn't matter: as long as the parties have to look to the voters for re-election, they will have to try to appeal to them with policies and politics that they like. When enough people are pro-Mr Tea (or pro-Vimothy or whoever), policies that represent your faction will be passed in order to keep you happy and stop you from "triangulating" and forming strategic alliances with the Lib Dems / Dems / whoever.

Gavin
20-09-2007, 04:32 PM
Anyway, before this tired dictatorship/democracy false dichotomy sputters on in spite of noble attempts to stop it, may I inquire to your thoughts on the original question, Vimothy? A political scientist you can cite perhaps?

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 04:48 PM
Fair enough, Vim, but consider the following:

- if 90% of the newspapers sold in Ameropia every day, and the majority of TV news networks, supported the Mr. Tea Party, or at least supported the party's general ideological stance, it'd probably poll a bit more than 15% of the vote, right? It's almost impossible to overestimate the influence of media in moulding people's political opinions, perhaps even moreso in iberal or liberal-ish democracies since "we've got to have freedom of speech, right?"* and since papers there (here) generally exert influence by criticizing the government, rather than dumbly singing its praises as in a classic totalitarian state, where by now everyone with two brain cells to rub together realises it's a load of horseshit but keeps quiet about it for the sake of self-preservation.

- secondly, if the party controlled 15% of the votes in whatever kind of House of Parliament our country has - or formed 15% of the government - or 15% of the cabinet - it'd wield a not-inconsiderable amount of power, regardless of 'triangulation' or shady deals made with other, bigger parties.



*a statement I absolutely agree with as far as it goes, btw.

Gavin
20-09-2007, 05:00 PM
since papers there (here) generally exert influence by criticizing the government, rather than dumbly singing its praises as in a classic totalitarian state, where by now everyone with two brain cells to rub together realises it's a load of horseshit but keeps quiet about it for the sake of self-preservation.

Consent is created not by simple criticism, but by the manufacture of entire debates based on false or unimportant dichotomies, so that real concerns can be ignored. A fresh example is how the American media barely touched on the "invade Iraq or not" instead focusing on these minor side issues -- "where should we station our bombers?" "should we get UN approval?" "aren't our tanks fucking sweet?"

These debates become internalized as "the way it is" and then people argue them and think they are actually discussing politics instead of reading a script handed to them from above.

This kind of thing got played endlessly here in debates over "strategy" and "mismanagement," instead of people pointing out that a) occupations always involve violence, death, and atrocities which those crowing for invasion should have accounted for if they are the least bit responsible for their views; and b) the war was immoral and illegal in the first place. Now you get shouted down for pointing it out, like you're some starry-eyed idealist, by the very people who espoused such a ludicrously sanitized view of imperial occupation.

vimothy
20-09-2007, 05:02 PM
Yes, necessary to pacify the militant working class after capital had conquered to the coast (you can't promise workers that they can escape the cities and be adventuring pioneers once you've sold all the land), and to lay the ground for the statist capitalism of mid century (easier to make wars this way). The necessary soft touch to go along with the state violence against the working class.

Actually, I thought you were the statist and I was in favour of minimal government and private property. Maybe I was wrong.

(And the "enclosure" of land in America was a pivotal turning point, but even without the benefits of hindsight, can't you accept in principle that a worker who has built his home on the land, and worked it and made it pritable, deserves to be recognised, by law, for this).

vimothy
20-09-2007, 05:03 PM
Anyway, before this tired dictatorship/democracy false dichotomy sputters on in spite of noble attempts to stop it, may I inquire to your thoughts on the original question, Vimothy? A political scientist you can cite perhaps?

Sorry, what was the original question again?

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 05:11 PM
(And the "enclosure" of land in America was a pivotal turning point, but even without the benefits of hindsight, can't you accept in principle that a worker who has built his home on the land, and worked it and made it pritable, deserves to be recognised, by law, for this).

Too bad about them Injuns, eh?

vimothy
20-09-2007, 05:21 PM
I'm sure the last time I looked at this thread your reponse was "something about Banksy, AFAIR". What's happened there?

vimothy
20-09-2007, 05:21 PM
Too bad about them Injuns, eh?

It's not the same issue, mate.

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 05:25 PM
Sorry, what was the original question again?

Something like "Banksy: what's the point?", AFAIR.

vimothy
20-09-2007, 05:26 PM
WTF - Am I on drugs? Have we just segued into an episode of the Invisibles here?

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 05:26 PM
I'm sure the last time I looked at this thread your reponse was "something about Banksy, AFAIR". What's happened there?

Ahaha, I wanted to end on the Banksy note, so I deleted it and reposted, although it's all gone tits to buggery now. :)

Yes, them Injuns is a different issue, but it's a bit of a big one to gloss over.

vimothy
20-09-2007, 05:27 PM
Yes, them Injuns is a different issue, but it's a bit of a big one to gloss over.

I wasn't glossing over it - I wasn't mentioning it at all because it's not relevant to what I was saying.

Gavin
20-09-2007, 05:28 PM
Actually, I thought you were the statist and I was in favour of minimal government and private property. Maybe I was wrong.


I'm sorry if I gave you the impression I was a statist. And I wasn't criticizing homeownership, just pointing out that ruling class methods of pacification adjusted to new situations, the welfare state being among them. Obviously the ruling class sees little need for it any more, although some token rhetoric about universal health care coverage will apparently loom large in the 2008 election.

The original question had to do with the function of humor, especially in the media: whether it serves as an effective critique of power or whether it simply serves the status quo. It's located where these things usually are, in the first post of the thread.

vimothy
20-09-2007, 05:30 PM
The original question had to do with the function of humor, especially in the media: whether it serves as an effective critique of power or whether it simply serves the status quo. It's located where these things usually are, in the first post of the thread.

Ah, humour - and here we see an alledged example of the same...

vimothy
20-09-2007, 05:35 PM
I'm sorry if I gave you the impression I was a statist. And I wasn't criticizing homeownership, just pointing out that ruling class methods of pacification adjusted to new situations, the welfare state being among them. Obviously the ruling class sees little need for it any more, although some token rhetoric about universal health care coverage will apparently loom large in the 2008 election.

It's hardly a question of "need", is it? Because if the state could exert more control, it would. The real problem with the welfare state is not that the masonic powers that be see no further need for it relative to their programme of neo-liberal imperialist expansion, but that it is not affordable or economically sensible, in its present form (although, there is a caveat to that, which is that plenty of the members of the ruling class disagree with me).


The original question had to do with the function of humor, especially in the media: whether it serves as an effective critique of power or whether it simply serves the status quo.

Obviously, it depends.

What was the poli sci thing all about?

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 05:37 PM
I wasn't glossing over it - I wasn't mentioning it at all because it's not relevant to what I was saying.

Yeah, fair enough, I was just being a bit arsey.

vimothy
20-09-2007, 05:42 PM
Yeah, fair enough, I was just being a bit arsey.

Scafe

Mr. Tea
20-09-2007, 05:48 PM
Scafe

WTF? Am I on drugs? etc. etc. :)

Slothrop
20-09-2007, 08:31 PM
This kind of thing got played endlessly here in debates over "strategy" and "mismanagement," instead of people pointing out that a) occupations always involve violence, death, and atrocities which those crowing for invasion should have accounted for if they are the least bit responsible for their views;
This really comes out when you get a 'scandal' like Abu Ghraib and pretty much everyone (not just the hawks) runs around wringing their hands and saying of course we've got to root out these bad apples so that the next time we send a bunch of underprepared squaddies to try to control a hostile country in the face of sustained and ruthlessly violent resistance everything will be absolutely peachy.

Guybrush
20-09-2007, 09:03 PM
I do think that there is a lot of truth in this ("nothing is true and everything is permitted") but I also think that Vimothy has correctly identified a paradox in that art in a dictatorship is art against that dictatorship and towards a society in which when achieved art will ultimately have less power.

I think Vimothy’s argument is tenuous, though. First of all, often what a revolutionary group is fighting for is not democracy but power (think of the Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq). Moreover, art need not be less powerful because it’s sanctioned, as it were, by the state. The works of Bach, Giotto, and thousands of others are a testimony to this.

If there is a lowest common denominator linking most great artists it seems to be some kind of zeal: spiritual zeal, political zeal (which could be said to be the same thing), madness (also kind of zeal inducing, arguably), or zeal for something else (money/fame/glamour/whathaveyou). Tentatively, one could presuppose that different kinds of zeal create different kinds of art, and that what some people in the West are bemoaning is actually the loss of a specific kind of art (and thus the zeal that engenders it). What I’m getting at, once again, is that I think the argument over democracy vs [other political system] is slightly off target. More important is to look at which societal conditions/attitudes/currents create ‘fine art’. I actually happen to think that all-out permissiveness (I was close to writing excessive) is detrimental to the creation of ‘fine art’, but then again, its a salubrious principle in pretty much all other spheres of society, so I’m hardly against it on a fundemantal level. Still, it has its downsides.

Gavin
20-09-2007, 09:32 PM
I think Vimothy’s argument is tenuous, though. First of all, often what a revolutionary group is fighting for is not democracy but power (think of the Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq). Moreover, art need not be less powerful because it’s sanctioned, as it were, by the state. The works of Bach, Giotto, and thousands of others are a testimony to this.

If there is a lowest common denominator linking most great artists it seems to be some kind of zeal: spiritual zeal, political zeal (which could be said to be the same thing), madness (also kind of zeal inducing, arguably), or zeal for something else (money/fame/glamour/whathaveyou). Tentatively, one could presuppose that different kinds of zeal create different kinds of art, and that what some people in the West are bemoaning is actually the loss of a specific kind of art (and thus the zeal that engenders it). What I’m getting at, once again, is that I think the argument over democracy vs [other political system] is slightly off target. More important is to look at which societal conditions/attitudes/currents create ‘fine art’. I actually happen to think that all-out permissiveness (I was close to writing excessive) is detrimental to the creation of ‘fine art’, but then again, its a salubrious principle in pretty much all other spheres of society, so I’m hardly against it on a fundemantal level. Still, it has its downsides.

Yeah, I think with the state-sanctioned art you talk about, there's still the spiritual zeal (I'm not sure if I'm ok with zeal, but we can run with it). Maybe even a historical zeal? The idea that, like a hereditary monarchy, this art will last in the annals of history? Might be rambling at this point... Anyway the Lem excerpt references the decline of spiritual zeal -- once God was gone, it made a lot of art seem beside the point.

Re: permissiveness, I agree it's detrimental to "fine" art (maybe no great loss), but also to political expression, and another "source of zeal" perhaps. And I think the permissiveness is oversold -- we can have whatever color iPod we want, we can have premarital sex, but there's ever greater regulation of public, and even private conduct (John Kerry event tasering again, increased surveillance esp. of minority populations and youth).

There's something soul-sapping about a high-turnover ahistorical culture as well (your important work will be forgotten when the next product cycle comes around next week), but I don't have the time to flesh it out right now... "All that is solid melts into air"...

Guybrush
20-09-2007, 10:39 PM
Yes, you are right, the supposed permissiveness is pretty curtailed in practise. Excuse me for posting this (http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/259919.html) quotation again, but it’s right on the money:


Bohemia could not survive the passing of its polar opposite and precondition, middle-class morality. Free love and all-night drinking and art for art's sake were consequences of a single stern imperative: thou shalt not be bourgeois. But once the bourgeoisie itself became decadent—once businessmen started hanging nonobjective art in the boardroom—Bohemia was deprived of the stifling atmosphere without which it could not breathe.

This nicely explains why the egghead straw man is still so common even though he is all but extinct in reality.

IdleRich
21-09-2007, 09:43 AM
"I think Vimothy’s argument is tenuous, though. First of all, often what a revolutionary group is fighting for is not democracy but power (think of the Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq). Moreover, art need not be less powerful because it’s sanctioned, as it were, by the state. The works of Bach, Giotto, and thousands of others are a testimony to this."
Well, in fairness Vimothy said that it was a struggle towards either a different dictatorship or a democracy. The problem is that a different dictatorship is not normally any better than the previous one and a democracy (going by what Gavin said) reduces the power of art. You still have the paradox of art that is in favour of an improvement (whatever that means) working towards its own powerlessness.


"If there is a lowest common denominator linking most great artists it seems to be some kind of zeal: spiritual zeal, political zeal (which could be said to be the same thing), madness (also kind of zeal inducing, arguably), or zeal for something else (money/fame/glamour/whathaveyou)."
I broadly agree with that (with a number of caveats of course as usual), in fact I started writing something similar earlier but it got deleted and I never re-typed it because it was a bit confused or lacking in focus or maybe I just wasn't sure it was right.
Basically, what I said was the general idea of the power that art has when struggling against a dictatorship might be a kind of a macro version of the idea of the artist (or band or author or whatever) doing their best work when they are struggling in their garret rather than when old and bloated by success and cocaine. You might argue that the poor artist on the dole is having an artificial resistance manufactured for them (not necessarily explicitly like in the film Happiness where the struggling writer says something like "It's not fair, why wasn't I raped as a child") and that this resistance allows them the seriousness which Zhao spoke of in his first post.
Obviously there are lots of counter-examples to this and I don't think it tells anything like the whole story but it may be part of it. Like I said though, it's a bit confused.

nomadologist
21-09-2007, 09:20 PM
Well if K-Punk wrote about it it must be true (see also a million other sources of name-dropped obedient Big Other pseudo-philosophy).

Obviously, that's not what I meant--I was simply posing the question, since I've read K-punks blog posts about this alleged anti-intellectual pose amongst some of the most highly educated people in the world, and I wondered if other British people could confirm or deny this claim.

As for what Mixed Biscuits claims in his reply--in my opinion, it's intellectually dishonest to refuse to give credit to thinkers who have already written VOLUMES on the topics you're debating, while citing their self-same arguments or classic opposition to their arguments as part of your debate strategy or personal opinion. Especially if you've read their work extensively.

Simply bringing up a pertinent issue raised by someone else in a book is not "name-dropping." Name-dropping is bringing up a name without referring to the significance of that person to the topic at hand, and only as a reference point that is meant to stand in for an argument.

As far as I can see, no one here has done that in this thread.

gek-opel
23-09-2007, 08:07 PM
Aye, it's all true.

Who is 'k-punk' and what would k-punk know? Even if s/he did have some experience of either university, how can s/he generalise about the tens of thousands of people who pass through them? Has s/he not heard about colleges like Wadham (Oxford) or King's (Cambridge)? They're absolutely packed with name-dropping, left-leaning wannabe intellos (one of my friends is at King's).

Even if your thesis were true (that ppl at Oxbridge pretend to be anti-intellectual), it is still the case that most students there actually are more intellectual than at any of the other universities in the UK, in that they have read more (see performances on University Challenge), are generally more intelligent (some greatly so), are competitive and goal-centred and are given more work to do than anywhere else (Oxf: 12 essays in 8 weeks to defend 1-1 or 2-1 vs world-leading experts).

Re debating styles, what might be believed by many Oxbridge students is that less intelligent people name-drop more in debate than the more intelligent as doing so gives their arguments a ready-made structure and weight - which is easier than fashioning persuasive points on the fly (which skills the Oxbridge tutorial system attempts to develop). I don't remember Union debates involving much name-dropping either.

Many Oxbridge students might well be averse to heavy name-dropping (as I obv am) as it betrays preparation and admits an intellectual debt to others, preferring the implied self-sufficiency of improvised argument (the narcissism of 'effortless superiority'). On a more prosaic note, name-dropping and other excesses of referencing disrupt the flow of an argument, as your interlocutor wastes time vainly trying to retrieve information about GodknowswhatobscureFrenchthinker from memory rather than following your logic.

So, to some extent, I agree with k-punk, but with important reservations: some Oxbridge students are closetly intellectual anti-'intello's (which stance is itself an attentuation of the wider British mistrust of 'intellectuals') while others would fit right in with the handful of Essex students who were set on assuming an 'intellectual' persona.

PS 'Gym class hero'? Is s/he thinking of the right side of the Atlantic?

My personal recollection of Oxford (Christ Church college, if we want to be specific, but I knew plenty of people attending the other colleges) was that most of the people there are perfectly intelligent, few of them are intellectual. Most are as you say competitive and goal-centred, but these are not to my mind necessary components of an intellectual mindset (rather the perfect conditions for a hyper-productive capitalist work force). Above all else there was a terror of applying anything that might be learnt in the class room (or God forbid- outside of it) to your own life, to allow it to interrupt the calm flow from school to university, from university to city job.

mistersloane
24-09-2007, 12:08 AM
Obviously, that's not what I meant--I was simply posing the question, since I've read K-punks blog posts about this alleged anti-intellectual pose amongst some of the most highly educated people in the world, and I wondered if other British people could confirm or deny this claim.

Could you point to the posts in particular nomad? I'll be able to give a more reasoned response if I know what they've written, I've skirted through the blog, erm, y'know.

IdleRich
24-09-2007, 09:40 AM
"Obviously, that's not what I meant--I was simply posing the question, since I've read K-punks blog posts about this alleged anti-intellectual pose amongst some of the most highly educated people in the world, and I wondered if other British people could confirm or deny this claim."
OK, fair enough, it was the mention of the article to dismiss what Mixed_Biscuits said that I objected to, not the article itself.
As to the value of the K-Punk piece, I read it before (can't seem to find it now though I'm afraid Mr Sloane) and I found that parts of it at least (ignoring the wilder, more speculative claims) seemed to accurately reflect my girlfriend's experience (she is doing a phd at Oxford at the moment although she's not much of a gym hero), so much so in fact that I sent her the piece. Maybe that's not quite the full story though, the people from her course (philosophy) that I've met I would describe as, in the main, very interested in their subject for its own sake (whether that makes them an intellectual to satisfy Gek I don't know). That's certainly all they talk about if you go to the pub with them. On the other hand, there is another Oxford type, that really is, despite Oxford's attempts to change it, overwhelmingly from public school and happily on that trajectory that Gek identified from Eton/Milfield to Oxford/Cambridge to City/Civil Service, pausing to get drunk and show their arses every now and again on the way.
What subject did you study Gek? I wonder if that may influence your experience. It may also be different at graduate/post-graduate level.

baboon2004
24-09-2007, 12:17 PM
"Who is 'k-punk' and what would k-punk know? Even if s/he did have some experience of either university, how can s/he generalise about the tens of thousands of people who pass through them? Has s/he not heard about colleges like Wadham (Oxford) or King's (Cambridge)? They're absolutely packed with name-dropping, left-leaning wannabe intellos (one of my friends is at King's). "



Replying to mixedbiscuits' post (haven't read the entire debate, but have personal experience of this as went to Wadham in Oxford):

I think that the main thing these places teach you is to separate intellect and intelligence. I thought a lot of the teaching methods at Oxford, but I met many people who I thought had aptitude for their subject but very little emotional intelligence.

Wadham is full of people who pretend to be radical and then go to work in banks.

Having said that, at least people at Oxford seemed interested in their subjects. My and others' experience of several 'redbrick' universities suggests an intellectual hardcore (who probably would have benefitted hugely from the 1-1 support that few universities outside Oxbridge can afford) surrounded by swarms of middle-class people who think they're entitled to a university life despite being, to all intents and purposes, vacant.

Open up universities to all classes and get rid of these over-privileged zombies.

Am definitely not defending Oxbridge, but compared to many other UK undergrad universities, it has its plus points.

gek-opel
24-09-2007, 04:52 PM
Oh for sure, but not necessarily in the student base.

I seem to recall roughly the same level of intelligent conversation at

(a) my working class primary school
(b) my middle class grammar school
(c) my toff-laden Oxford College...

I actually think there is room to be radical AND work for a bank (indeed the genuinely retro-grade step would be to do something as utterly corrupt as work for a charity of course). I suspect tho this is my own sidewards take on the thing (ie- how else to gain the necessary knowledge of the hard edge of capitalism- not in books alone surely... and if the total value of virtual capital / derivatives etc is 40 times the value of the entire real output of the world economy then this seems like an area which too few radical-leaners investigate-- rather than approaching it as something to either give in utterly to ("Selling out") or attempt to "fix" into some kind of benevolent capitalism (ie- "subversion"), to rather understand the nightmarish new landscape and utilise the knowledge to later engage in a far more perverse project).

gek-opel
24-09-2007, 04:59 PM
OK, fair enough, it was the mention of the article to dismiss what Mixed_Biscuits said that I objected to, not the article itself.
As to the value of the K-Punk piece, I read it before (can't seem to find it now though I'm afraid Mr Sloane) and I found that parts of it at least (ignoring the wilder, more speculative claims) seemed to accurately reflect my girlfriend's experience (she is doing a phd at Oxford at the moment although she's not much of a gym hero), so much so in fact that I sent her the piece. Maybe that's not quite the full story though, the people from her course (philosophy) that I've met I would describe as, in the main, very interested in their subject for its own sake (whether that makes them an intellectual to satisfy Gek I don't know). That's certainly all they talk about if you go to the pub with them. On the other hand, there is another Oxford type, that really is, despite Oxford's attempts to change it, overwhelmingly from public school and happily on that trajectory that Gek identified from Eton/Milfield to Oxford/Cambridge to City/Civil Service, pausing to get drunk and show their arses every now and again on the way.
What subject did you study Gek? I wonder if that may influence your experience. It may also be different at graduate/post-graduate level.

Yeah I mean I knew people who finished top in their subject for the whole university ("by a long way" if I recall correctly)... and a lot of the really high achievers were pretty hedonistic too... but to return to one of Mixed Biscuits' points upthread- (on name dropping etc)... the kind of crazy interdisciplinary creativity and innovative thought that I anticipated was a bit absent really... it was either pleasant upper middle class twaddle or detailed stuff from their courses, ultimately fine, but I was disappointed. Maybe I should've been talking to the maths people (I had very little respect for maths then, err shit-loads more now esp the number theory stuff).

I studied Law which was quite amazingly low on mind-blowing moments. Bad choice eh?

borderpolice
24-09-2007, 05:14 PM
and if the total value of virtual capital / derivatives etc is 40 times the value of the entire real output of the world economy then [...]

Why? There are different notions of values at work, leading to much confusion. The values of derivatives represent something like an average of the expectation about the future, e.g. future dividends of shares. Given that these future predictions are usually about the next 20 years, and given development, technical progress + world population increase, the 40 times surplus is hardly unexpected -- in fact it seems low.

IdleRich
24-09-2007, 05:18 PM
"... the kind of crazy interdisciplinary creativity and innovative thought that I anticipated was a bit absent really... it was either pleasant upper middle class twaddle or detailed stuff from their courses, ultimately fine, but I was disappointed."
That is certainly what has disappointed my girlfriend, in most people she has met she has found an amazing lack of interest in anything beyond his or her course and the most mainstream culture (it's a major surprise to them if somebody is not a fan of X-Factor, Britney Spears, Queen etc and is interested in something else). Maybe she's not met the right people, I can't believe that that is all there is.


"Maybe I should've been talking to the maths people (I had very little respect for maths then, err shit-loads more now esp the number theory stuff)."
Why is that? I mean why little respect then and why more now?

gek-opel
24-09-2007, 05:30 PM
Reading Badiou (not namedropping haha) and his use of transfinite number theory (mindbogglingly brilliant)... also chats with my maths mate who has convinced me that maths is basically the most abstract kind of philosophical engagement possible.

Whoever does the publicity for maths does a BAD job!

gek-opel
24-09-2007, 05:33 PM
Why? There are different notions of values at work, leading to much confusion. The values of derivatives represent something like an average of the expectation about the future, e.g. future dividends of shares. Given that these future predictions are usually about the next 20 years, and given development, technical progress + world population increase, the 40 times surplus is hardly unexpected -- in fact it seems low.

In some senses I guess you are correct, but surely their value rests not just on what they stand for (predictions of various outcomes) but their ability to be traded, quantified, gambled with etc... Literally speaking of course they are strictly virtual, and if they sold them all back to whoever issued them this value would disappear... it still strikes me as an area of interest though, weird-capital.

borderpolice
24-09-2007, 05:39 PM
In some senses I guess you are correct, but surely their value rests not just on what they stand for (predictions of various outcomes) but their ability to be traded, quantified, gambled with etc...

Of course, so what? In what sense is buying corn futures that mature in 3 years from the point of purchase a more irrational form of "gambling" than going to oxford studying law? Both rely on expectations about future benefits of the respective course of actions, i.e. on expectations about the future that may fail to materialise.

gek-opel
24-09-2007, 06:03 PM
I didn't say it was necessarily "irrational", such instruments plainly have massive advantages (specifically in terms of manipulating risk). Also gambling isn't a pejorative (or not necessarily)-- depends how risky/rewarding the gambling involved is. Its not so much futures themselves as the complexity they create which is interesting (not necessarily "irrational" again).

borderpolice
24-09-2007, 06:43 PM
Its not so much futures themselves as the complexity they create which is interesting (not necessarily "irrational" again).

I would not say they create complexity. They transform it.

gek-opel
24-09-2007, 06:48 PM
Yes its an interesting view that they take complexity which is already there in the financial situation and quantify it and enable it to be traded as a resource itself.

nomadologist
24-09-2007, 07:23 PM
here's a link to k-punk's blog where I just searched "class" and the results are listed:

http://www.abe1x.org/movetype/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=7&search=class

I can tell there are quite a few of the posts I was talking about listed in there...shouldn't be too hard to find them...

mistersloane
25-09-2007, 02:44 AM
here's a link to k-punk's blog where I just searched "class" and the results are listed:

http://www.abe1x.org/movetype/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=7&search=class

I can tell there are quite a few of the posts I was talking about listed in there...shouldn't be too hard to find them...

wicked, give me a day

vimothy
25-09-2007, 09:42 AM
Reading Badiou (not namedropping haha) and his use of transfinite number theory (mindbogglingly brilliant)... also chats with my maths mate who has convinced me that maths is basically the most abstract kind of philosophical engagement possible.

I have a good friend who is a mathematician and he says Badiou's maths is pretty bad.


Whoever does the publicity for maths does a BAD job!

It's also taught really badly, at least in this country. For e.g., my Dad is a mathematician and used to be head of pyhysics at UMIST. He said that the level of maths of undergraduates was so terrible that they usually spent the first year of the physics course just teaching them that.

IdleRich
25-09-2007, 09:51 AM
"Reading Badiou (not namedropping haha) and his use of transfinite number theory (mindbogglingly brilliant)..."


"I have a good friend who is a mathematician and he says Badiou's maths is pretty bad."
This is something I often wonder about, has there ever been a proper rigorous study of Badiou's maths by a mathematician? If so what did they say and if not why not?
There is a definite attempt to blind with science that I notice in a lot of theorists but you couldn't really get away with that in the same way in maths. If he could "pass" that maths test that would surely give the unbelievers some pause for thought although if he failed it would be vindication of a sort for Dawkins et al no?

baboon2004
25-09-2007, 11:08 AM
That is certainly what has disappointed my girlfriend, in most people she has met she has found an amazing lack of interest in anything beyond his or her course and the most mainstream culture (it's a major surprise to them if somebody is not a fan of X-Factor, Britney Spears, Queen etc and is interested in something else). Maybe she's not met the right people, I can't believe that that is all there is.


IIRC from the thread, your g/f is at Oxford? There definitely are the people she's searching for (finding those kind of people is not so much the problem), so maybe she's jsut been v unlucky so far.

I like the idea of a single person being "Publicist for Maths".

gek-opel
25-09-2007, 11:19 AM
I'm trying to remember if there is...

The actual maths he uses I would imagine is pretty watertight (ie the theories he plugs into his philosophy). Whether his implications once they are into all kinds of other realms is accurate is up for debate I suspect. There are some interesting questions around how his new book logiques de mondes updates the mathematical aspects (roughly previously that essentially maths=ontology at the purest level of each concept, utilising post-Cantorian set theory) He is now moving towards topos theory.

I don't think it is necessarily a question of pass or fail, Badiou himself would probably argue that a lot of his argument proceeds as the result of a decision.

IdleRich
25-09-2007, 11:37 AM
"The actual maths he uses I would imagine is pretty watertight (ie the theories he plugs into his philosophy)."
OK, so he is just using accepted ideas* and the debate is not about the maths itself? So Vimothy, why does your friend say this?


"I have a good friend who is a mathematician and he says Badiou's maths is pretty bad."
Does he contend that it is not just a question of "plugging in"?


I don't think it is necessarily a question of pass or fail, Badiou himself would probably argue that a lot of his argument proceeds as the result of a decision.
Well obviously, that's why I put it in scare quotes (I hope I did at least). On the other hand if the maths was just nonsense that would undermine the rest of it right?

*I guess you mean theorems rather than theories as a theory is unproven and is thus by definition far from watertight.

vimothy
25-09-2007, 12:26 PM
OK, so he is just using accepted ideas* and the debate is not about the maths itself? So Vimothy, why does your friend say this?

Don't recall, sorry. Could be bad understanding or bad application, I suppose. I have zero interest in, and little knowledge of, Badiou, but I'll try to remember to ask Dave about it the next time we speak.

vimothy
25-09-2007, 12:31 PM
I would not say they create complexity. They transform it.

Shockingly sensible posts on this thread, Borderpolice.

borderpolice
25-09-2007, 12:43 PM
This is something I often wonder about, has there ever been a proper rigorous study of Badiou's maths by a mathematician? If so what did they say and if not why not?
There is a definite attempt to blind with science that I notice in a lot of theorists but you couldn't really get away with that in the same way in maths. If he could "pass" that maths test that would surely give the unbelievers some pause for thought although if he failed it would be vindication of a sort for Dawkins et al no?

The maths he refers to is right. That is quite rare for a philosopher, and the reason I read him. His uses of mathematics are not mathematical but philosphical, hence it is not really appropriate to ask for his work to be checked by mathematicians. In some sense he uses a mathmatical language to speak about things like names, state, democracy and so on, but this mathematical language is in effect only metaphorical. he never succeeds in pinning down social concepts in the language of ZFC, which is what he seem to want to do. His books about ethics and universalism are very very disappointing because i think one can successfully rewrite conventional ethics (like the categorical imperative) in a fairly mathematical language, and that would lead to interesting mathematical, logical and ethical work. But he never does this. He also never solves the foundational problems that the he hope the axiomatic approach can circumvent.

Gavin
25-09-2007, 06:14 PM
Cable news (probably taking a cue from talk radio as usual) was in overdrive this weekend turning unjustified and excessive police force into a cause for snickering -- "Don't tase me bro" the just comeuppance of snotty college liberal/attention whore/impolite young man/whatever brand of character assassination appeals to your own biases and insecurities. I felt sick to my stomach watching people sit patiently while they electrocuted this guy, and never had I felt worse about voting for Kerry in 2004 (and I felt HORRIBLE about that). And then I see it replayed endlessly as an easy joke for the smarmy never-will-be's of weekend cable news, running the video repeatedly from different camera angles like someone with OCD washing their hands of the dirt that will never come off.

hundredmillionlifetimes
26-09-2007, 03:11 AM
I actually think there is room to be radical AND work for a bank (indeed the genuinely retro-grade step would be to do something as utterly corrupt as work for a charity of course).

[evil grin] Like God working for the Devil?

All universities are charities ... :cool:

[when I meet a banker that matches your specification, you'll be the first to hear the good news, gek; countless former 'radicals' who entered financial services to revolutionize the world are now - predictably - ego-maniacal, cynical and reactionary neo-libs. Moles always succumb to the virus, if they ever really were moles to begin with]



I suspect tho this is my own sidewards take on the thing (ie- how else to gain the necessary knowledge of the hard edge of capitalism- not in books alone surely... and if the total value of virtual capital / derivatives etc is 40 times the value of the entire real output of the world economy then this seems like an area which too few radical-leaners investigate-- rather than approaching it as something to either give in utterly to ("Selling out") or attempt to "fix" into some kind of benevolent capitalism (ie- "subversion"), to rather understand the nightmarish new landscape and utilise the knowledge to later engage in a far more perverse project).

But is there really any secretive, all-knowing Inner Sanctum of finance capitalism accessible only to a select elite (an Other of the Big Other)? Nothing happens within this imagined sanctum; though you're absolutely right about the Left's general ignorance about the intricacies of high finance (unlike Marx, who practically invented such macro-empirical critical analyses).

Check this:


According to Satyajit Das, a respected authority on derivatives trading, “A single dollar of "real" capital supports $20 to $30 of loans. This spiral of borrowing on an increasingly thin base of real assets, writ large and in nearly infinite variety, ultimately created a world in which derivatives outstanding earlier this year stood at $485 trillion -- or eight times total global gross domestic product of $60 trillion.” (Are We Headed for an Epic Bear Market” Jon Markman)

From The Era of Global Financial Instability (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article18431.htm), By Mike Whitney, 09/20/07 "ICH" -- -- Wall Street loves cheap money. That’s why traders were celebrating on Tuesday when Fed chief Ben Bernanke announced that he’d drop interest rates from 5.25% to 4.75% ...

And now even economist Klugman, five years late, 'predicts' a dollar crash (http://www.economic-policy.org/videos/ECOP_PaulKrugman.html).

hundredmillionlifetimes
26-09-2007, 03:54 AM
since I've read K-punks blog posts about this alleged anti-intellectual pose amongst some of the most highly educated people in the world

Do you mean those who fancifully imagine themselves "the most highly educated people in the world"? And their actual existential anti-intellectual pose (http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/009633.html):


All of UK culture tends to the condition of the clip show, in which talking heads – including, of course, Morley - are paid to say what dimwit posh producers have decided that the audience already thinks over footage of what everyone has already seen. I recently had dealings with an apparatchik of Very Old Media. What you get from representatives of VOM is always the same litany of requirements: writing must be ‘light’, ‘upbeat’ and ‘irreverent’. This last word is perhaps the key one, since it indicates that the sustaining fantasy to which the young agents of Very Old Media are subject is exactly the same as the one in which popists indulge: that they are refusing to show ‘reverence’ to some stuffy censorious big Other. But where, in the dreary-bright, dressed-down sarky snarky arcades of postmodern culture, is this ‘reverence’? What is the postmodern big Other if it is not this ‘irreverence’ itself? (Only people who have not been in a university humanities dept for a quarter-of-century – i.e. not at all your bogstandard Oxbridge grad Meeja employee/ leisure-time popist – could really believe that there is some ruthlessly-policed high culture canon. When Harold Bloom wrote The Western Canon it was as a challenge to the relativism that is hegemonically dominant in English Studies.) I’ve quickly learned that ‘light’, ‘upbeat’ and ‘irreverent’ are all codes for ‘thoughtless’ and ‘mundanist’. Confronted with these values and their representatives – who, as you would expect, are much posher than me - I often encounter a cognitive dissonance, or rather a dissonance between affect and cognition. Faced with the Thick Posh People who staff so much of the media, I feel inferiority – their accents and even their names are enough to induce such feelings – but think that they must be wrong. It is this kind of dissonance that can produce serious mental illness; or – if the conditions are right – rage.

Anti-intellectualism is a ruling class reflex, whereby ruling class stupidity is attributed to the masses (I think we’ve discussed here before the ruse of the Thick Posh Person whereby make a show of pretending to be thick in order to conceal that they are, in fact, thick.) It’s scarcely surprising that inherited privilege tends to produce stupidity, since, if you do not need intelligence, why would you take the trouble to acquire it? Media dumbing down is the most banal kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

As Simon Frith and Jon Savage long ago noted in their NLR essay, ‘The Intellectuals and the Mass Media’, which Owen recently brought to my attention again, the plain common-man pose of the typical public school and Oxbridge-educated media commentator) trades on the assumption that these commentators are far more in touch with ‘reality’ than anyone involved in Theory. The implicit opposition is between Media (as transparent window-on-the-world transmitter of good, solid commonsense) and Education (as out-of-touch disseminator of useless, elitist arcanery). Once, Media was a contested ground, in which the impulse to educate was in tension with the injunction to entertain. Now – and the indispensable Lawrence Miles is incisive on this, as on so many other things, in his latest compendium of insights – Old Media is almost totally given over to a vapid notion of Entertainment – and so, increasingly, is education.

In my teenage years, I certainly benefited far more from reading Morley and Penman and their progeny than from the middlebrow dreariness of much of my formal education. It’s because of them, and later Simon and Kodwo et al, that I became interested in Theory and bothered to pursue it in postgraduate study. It is essential to note that Morley and Penman were not just an ‘application’ of High Theory to Low Culture; the hierarchical structure was scrambled, not just inverted, and the use of Theory in this context was as much a challenge to the middle class assumptions of Continental Philosophy as it was to the anti-theoretical empiricism of mainstream British popular culture. But now that teaching is itself being pressed into becoming a service industry (delivering measurable outputs in the form of exam results) and teachers are required to be both child minders and entertainers, those working in the education system who still want to induce students into the complicated enjoyments that can be derived from going beyond the pleasure principle, from encountering something difficult, something that runs counter to one’s received assumptions, find themselves in an embattled minority. Here we are now entertain us.

The credos of ruling class anti-intellectualism that most Old Media professionals are forced to internalise are fare more effective than the Stasi ever was in generating a popular culture that is unprecedently monotonous . Put it this way: a situation in which Lawrence Miles languishes, at the limits of mental health, barely able to leave his house, while the likes of Rod Liddle swagger around the mediascape is not only aesthetically abhorrent, it is fundamentally unjust. Contrary to the ‘it’s only hedonic stim’ deflationary move that both Stekelmanites and Popists share, popular culture remains immensely important, even if it only serves an essential ideological function as the background noise of a capitalist realism which naturalises environmental depredation, mental health plague and sclerotic social conditions in which mobility between classes is lessening towards zero.

A class war is being waged, but only one side is fighting.

Choose your side. Choose your weapons.

And


The once-challenging claim that for certain listeners, the (likes of) Backstreet Boys could have been as potent as (the likes of) Nirvana has been passive-nihilistically reversed – now, the message disseminated by the wider culture - if not necessarily by the popists themselves - is that nothing was ever better than the Backstreet Boys. The old high culture disdain for pop cultural objects is retained; what is destroyed is the notion that there is anything more valuable than those objects. If pop is no more than a question of hedonic stim, then so are Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky. Reading Milton, or listening to Joy Division, have been re-branded as just another consumer choice, of no more significance than which brand of sweets you happen to like. Part of the reason that I find the term ‘Popism’ unhelpful now is that implies some connection between what I would prefer to call Deflationary Hedonic Relativism and what Morley and Penman were doing in the early 80s. But their project was the exact inverse of this: their claim was that, as much sophistication, intelligence and affect could be found in the Pop song as anywhere else. Importantly, the music, and the popular culture of the time, made the argument for them. The evaluation was not some fits-all-eras a priori position, but an intervention at a particular time designed to have certain effects. Morley and Penman were still critics, who expected to influence production, not consumer guides marking commodities out of five stars, or executives spending their spare time ranking every song with the word ‘sugar’ in it on live journal communities that are the cyberspace equivalent of public school dorms.

And now we return you to some Humour. (http://www.fredvanlente.com/cthulhutract/pages/index.html)

gek-opel
26-09-2007, 12:41 PM
[QUOTE=hundredmillionlifetimes;106053][evil grin] Like God working for the Devil?

All universities are charities ... :cool:

[when I meet a banker that matches your specification, you'll be the first to hear the good news, gek; countless former 'radicals' who entered financial services to revolutionize the world are now - predictably - ego-maniacal, cynical and reactionary neo-libs. Moles always succumb to the virus, if they ever really were moles to begin with]

That's why a different position is necessary- one that doesn't seek to make good capitalism, to use the profits of hedge funds and such-like to set up charitable foundations, or to make only ethical investments, but to accelerate the very worst aspects of high finance itself... the perfect banker would be precisely an utterly heartless cynical beyond belief (beyond cynicism itself in fact) ego maniac, not necessarily a reactionary but definitely more neo-con than neo-con: rather than merely turning a blind eye to negative externalities, or seeing them in a profit-justifies-the-means sense, these would be the entire purpose of the operation. No virus to succumb to, they themselves would be the corrupting influence...

Mr. Tea
26-09-2007, 12:59 PM
*I guess you mean theorems rather than theories as a theory is unproven and is thus by definition far from watertight.

As a scientist I ought to slap you for that, Rich. "Evolution is, after all, only a theory..." - any and every God-bothering hick. ;)

hundredmillionlifetimes
26-09-2007, 01:35 PM
Cable news (probably taking a cue from talk radio as usual) was in overdrive this weekend turning unjustified and excessive police force into a cause for snickering -- "Don't tase me bro" the just comeuppance of snotty college liberal/attention whore/impolite young man/whatever brand of character assassination appeals to your own biases and insecurities. I felt sick to my stomach watching people sit patiently while they electrocuted this guy, and never had I felt worse about voting for Kerry in 2004 (and I felt HORRIBLE about that). And then I see it replayed endlessly as an easy joke for the smarmy never-will-be's of weekend cable news, running the video repeatedly from different camera angles like someone with OCD washing their hands of the dirt that will never come off.

The police reports (http://www.nbc6.net/news/14148108/detail.html)make for wonderful works of extravagent fiction too. Never trust a pig, etc.

hundredmillionlifetimes
26-09-2007, 07:38 PM
That's why a different position is necessary- one that doesn't seek to make good capitalism, to use the profits of hedge funds and such-like to set up charitable foundations, or to make only ethical investments, but to accelerate the very worst aspects of high finance itself... the perfect banker would be precisely an utterly heartless cynical beyond belief (beyond cynicism itself in fact) ego maniac, not necessarily a reactionary but definitely more neo-con than neo-con: rather than merely turning a blind eye to negative externalities, or seeing them in a profit-justifies-the-means sense, these would be the entire purpose of the operation. No virus to succumb to, they themselves would be the corrupting influence...

Firstly, there's no shortage of such seemingly psychotic capitalists modelling themselves after the archytypal hyper-cynical Gordon Gekko, and any so-called 'charitable' contributions they make are also purely for profit: not simply made for tax breaks, but for expanding their market power through branding etc (like endowing MBA programs for purposes of expanding the network by churning out yet more Gekko's). It's just that even they have some underlying fetish (like new-ageism) that saves them from both full immersion in such madness and from full-blown psychosis (wasn't Gekko's saviour his pet dog, or some such? Or was that Donald Trump? No matter: there're all exchangeable clones anyway).

Secondly, when you say that "they themselves would be the corrupting influence", surely you mean that they have already been absolutely infected by viral capitalism and are now its cheer-leading Agents? Capitalism, as an abstract structure, is always corrupting; nobody living under it, surviving under it, ever escapes this entirely.

Thirdly, what is the expected outcome of this?

So I'm actually wondering if such a 'pure' obsessive capitalist (with a total super-egoic injunction to Enjoy, and Only Enjoy, the form of capitalism you outline) actually exists or could ever exist - without eventually either regressing into full-blown psychosis or retreating from the world (as commonly happens such obsessives - computer hackers, for instance)?

Gavin
26-09-2007, 07:48 PM
I still like the idea of schizo Chinese kamikaze i-banker gambling addicts unleashed on world markets... Not in a workable sense, but more as a kind of sci-fi scenario.

gek-opel
26-09-2007, 08:18 PM
That actually is happening, kind of.

Gavin
26-09-2007, 08:34 PM
That actually is happening, kind of.

Just as good sci-fi should. Links?

noel emits
26-09-2007, 08:35 PM
If you would all like to entrust me with your money I will undertake to invest it as recklessly as I can manage.

Join my doomsday cult, let's end this thing!

Gavin
26-09-2007, 08:41 PM
There should be some sort of Dissensus Financial Planning... only for the destruction of capitalism of course -- our (hopefully) enormous profits will just be a side-effect of our revolutionary strategy, one that will incorporate my move to a lush condo filled with rare books and records... and pay Woebot's bandwidth bills indefinitely of course.

hundredmillionlifetimes
27-09-2007, 12:10 AM
There should be some sort of Dissensus Financial Planning... only for the destruction of capitalism of course -- our (hopefully) enormous profits will just be a side-effect of our revolutionary strategy, one that will incorporate my move to a lush condo filled with rare books and records... and pay Woebot's bandwidth bills indefinitely of course.

Alas, that's not permitted in ever-expanding capitalist utopia, where maximization of risk is mandatory without conveniently accidental pockets of nostalgic safety or guaranteed annuities (what, you some kind of statist commie?) being allowed to undermine your endless enjoyment, all such incomes and pensions and antiquarian treats now being wholly 'contribution-defined' rather than welfare-parasite 'benefit-defined.' It is your Duty to Enjoy risking everything All The Time, and to All The Time Enjoy your Duty.

By coincidence, I caught this snippit of a Zizek interview on the related subject of the fate of the obsessive-neurotic computer hacker: "In Zizek's view we short-circuit the emotional at our peril. Problems arise not only when desires are denied expression, but, above all, when they are too easily attained. Most of us fantasise about doing a job we enjoy for a living instead of the daily drudge. But Zizek reminds us to be careful what we wish for, because it just might come true: "If anyone embodies the potential catch-22 in the future of work, it is the young hackers employed by companies like Microsoft. It's like a distorted realisation of Marx's dream of disalienation. Here one no longer faces the split between one's job and one's own private pleasures. The hired hacker is paid to indulge
his 'individuality'. The employer's demand is no longer 'Behave properly, wear grey suits' etc - it's 'Be as idiosyncratic as you can, indulge in our crazy ideas - you will lose your job if you don't.' You are paid not to slave away at a job you hate but, on the contrary, to enjoy yourself. Yet the pressure is much worse."

"I spoke with a psychiatrist whose main customers are Microsoft people and she told me that they can take it for a couple of years then the job gets so suffocating they disappear. They move a little bit East, you know, towards those horrible states like Montana and Idaho and then become - how do you call them? - survivalists, extreme right-wing gangsters. They simply want to escape! They cannot stand it!"

Whatever becomes of the SF "schizo Chinese kamikaze i-banker gambling addicts" following their passage across the Suffocation Threshold? They join Tony Montana in Chinatown, Idaho?

Mr. Tea
27-09-2007, 12:50 AM
... the perfect banker would be precisely an utterly heartless cynical beyond belief (beyond cynicism itself in fact) ego maniac, not necessarily a reactionary but definitely more neo-con than neo-con: rather than merely turning a blind eye to negative externalities, or seeing them in a profit-justifies-the-means sense, these would be the entire purpose of the operation.

You seem to be describing someone a bit like a cross between Mr. Burns and the dark lord Sauron: someone who would go out of his way to pollute a river or enslave crippled children merely for its own sake, even if it were actually cheaper not to. But why would anyone do such a thing, other than for the reason of simply being Evil in the sense of a fairy-story villain who hates everyone and everything?

IdleRich
27-09-2007, 11:09 AM
"As a scientist I ought to slap you for that, Rich. "Evolution is, after all, only a theory..." - any and every God-bothering hick."
In maths a theorem is derived from generally agreed axioms and if you accept those axioms you have to accept the result. A theory is a conjecture for which a counter-example has not been found, even if it is something something like (the confusingly named due to his contention that he had a proof) "Fermat's last theorem" which had never been contradicted and was generally believed to be true, it could never be described as watertight in the sense that Gek-Opel was saying until that proof was found.
In science you don't have the same sort of proof, as you yourself have said, each theory is simply a way of describing the universe until a better one comes along. Some theories have more evidence for them than others and they exist towards the watertight end of a continuum that runs from disproved to watertight. The dishonesty in the "it's only a theory" position comes from suggesting that anything anywhere on that continuum has equal value when that is clearly not the case. I don't think anyone would say that it is a cast-iron copper-bottomed certainty that the theory of evolution is correct, just that it is by far the most likely explantion to such an extent that it is almost impossible to conceive that a better one could come along.


"Firstly, there's no shortage of such seemingly psychotic capitalists modelling themselves after the archytypal hyper-cynical Gordon Gekko"
Gordon Gek-Opel?

gek-opel
27-09-2007, 11:51 AM
In maths a theorem is derived from generally agreed axioms and if you accept those axioms you have to accept the result. A theory is a conjecture for which a counter-example has not been found, even if it is something something like (the confusingly named due to his contention that he had a proof) "Fermat's last theorem" which had never been contradicted and was generally believed to be true, it could never be described as watertight in the sense that Gek-Opel was saying until that proof was found.
In science you don't have the same sort of proof, as you yourself have said, each theory is simply a way of describing the universe until a better one comes along. Some theories have more evidence for them than others and they exist towards the watertight end of a continuum that runs from disproved to watertight. The dishonesty in the "it's only a theory" position comes from suggesting that anything anywhere on that continuum has equal value when that is clearly not the case. I don't think anyone would say that it is a cast-iron copper-bottomed certainty that the theory of evolution is correct, just that it is by far the most likely explantion to such an extent that it is almost impossible to conceive that a better one could come along.


Gordon Gek-Opel?

Yeah I definitely meant theorem- (ie: in this case axiomatic set theory). Although old Georg Cantor's Continuum Hypothesis would be a theory only amiright?

IdleRich
27-09-2007, 12:01 PM
"Yeah I definitely meant theorem- (ie: in this case axiomatic set theory). Although old Georg Cantor's Continuum Hypothesis would be a theory only amiright?"
I was just rather touchily defending what I said from associations with unintelligent designers.
If I remember rightly (annoyingly I did very little set-theory in my degree) the continuum hypothesis is that the set of real numbers is (or is equivalent to) the smallest "uncountably" infinite set and as far as I know it's not been proved so I would say, yes it's a theory.
As you can tell, I'm not as sure as I should be.

borderpolice
27-09-2007, 12:34 PM
If I remember rightly (annoyingly I did very little set-theory in my degree) the continuum hypothesis [... has] not been proved so I would say, yes it's a theory.
As you can tell, I'm not as sure as I should be.

Wrong. The CH is provably undecidable in ZFC. In other words, if ZFC is consistent at all (i.e. does not prove falsity), then both, ZFC + CH and ZFC + negation of CH are consistent. So you can take the CH or its negation as an additional axiom for set theory (or add an axiom that implies CH (like V=L) or its negation).

vimothy
27-09-2007, 12:38 PM
I think that there is too much emphasis being placed on motivation here.

& @gek - one can't be a "reactionary neo-lib", it's a contradiction in terms.

IdleRich
27-09-2007, 12:49 PM
"Wrong"
Whoops! That seems to ring a dim and distant bell now you say it.

borderpolice
27-09-2007, 12:52 PM
Whoops! That seems to ring a dim and distant bell now you say it.

Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuum_hypothesis)

Mr. Tea
27-09-2007, 02:05 PM
In maths a theorem is derived from generally agreed axioms and if you accept those axioms you have to accept the result. A theory is a conjecture for which a counter-example has not been found

Ahh, OK - I guess a theorem is a conceptual entity that exists in maths whereas a theory is a scientific concept. When you talk about Fermat's last theorem (prior to its being proven) as a 'theory' I would call that a hypothesis or a conjecture.

gek-opel
28-09-2007, 12:08 PM
I think that there is too much emphasis being placed on motivation here.

& @gek - one can't be a "reactionary neo-lib", it's a contradiction in terms.

I think that's up for debate (tho in some literal political not cultural sense you are kind of correct)-- however those weren't my words!


not necessarily a reactionary but definitely more neo-con than neo-con

vimothy
28-09-2007, 12:34 PM
Ah, you were quoting HMLT. I didn't notice that. Saying that, however...

tho in some literal political not cultural sense you are kind of correct

You're deliberately fudging the meaning of "liberal" and even "neo-liberal" (if we are to understand neo-liberal as meaning classical liberal and not just a handy catch-all insult, once relevant and appropriate but now devoid of content, not unlike "neo-con" or "bolshie" or even possibly "fascist" or "zionist"). But then, I don't suppose I should expect anything less.

Mr. Tea
28-09-2007, 12:42 PM
not unlike "neo-con" or "bolshie" or even possibly "fascist" or "zionist"

The one that always cracks me up is 'bourgeois' - someone used it in a Literature thread on here recently, without a trace of irony, like he was writing a pamphlet for the British Communist Party in 1925 or something. ;)

hundredmillionlifetimes
28-09-2007, 01:14 PM
Gordon Gek-Opel?

Gek hasn't revealed if he plans to become one himself. Though if this were the case, the underlying ideology would be no different to that of someone like Bono: becoming a hard capitalist in the cause of communism (Gek) versus becoming a hard capitalist in the cause of eliminating disease, poverty, debt (Bono via Product Red, DATA, etc). 'Communism' here becomes the fetish, the extra-ideological dimension that justifies its anti-thesis, morally legitimizing becoming a psychotic capitalist.

hundredmillionlifetimes
28-09-2007, 04:08 PM
You're deliberately fudging the meaning of "liberal" and even "neo-liberal" (if we are to understand neo-liberal as meaning classical liberal ...

Which is why 'reactionary neo-liberal' is not a contradiction. (complete with nostalgic idealisations of a mythological past full of dancing-invisible Adam Smiths).

IdleRich
28-09-2007, 11:09 PM
"Gek hasn't revealed if he plans to become one himself."
Not explicitly but if he really believes that human-kind must escape the dead-ends he has identified and the only way that it can do so is by defeating capitalism and the only way to defeat capitalism is by becoming super-trader then I think there is a moral imperative for him to do it. For obvious reasons he can't talk about it too much but I have faith in Gekkopel to mean what he says.

vimothy
02-10-2007, 02:03 PM
Which is why 'reactionary neo-liberal' is not a contradiction. (complete with nostalgic idealisations of a mythological past full of dancing-invisible Adam Smiths).

Of course - and by the same logic liberals are not really "liberal", progressives are not really "progressive", you're not a neo-freudian statist obscurantist and Gek-opel's not a would be revolutionary mass-murderer.