Sunday, October 19, 2014

When We Love


- But why do you warn me against reading Plato's 'Republic'? Isn't it good? Why do people talk so much about it?
- It's more than good. It's a masterpiece. That's the problem.
- How can a masterpiece be a problem?
- It says more than people are ready to understand.
- What stops them?
- Propaganda, indoctrination, conformity.
- Brain washing.
- Propaganda works by assimilating the moral to the political. As in advertising a product comes pre-sold with a way of life*, like a word fixed in a sentence, in propaganda the moral word comes complete with the political sentence.
- Is that what happens in Plato's 'Republic'?
- Yes. It pretends to be an attempt to understand the moral from the study of the political.
- Should we try to understand the political from the moral?
- That's just as big a mistake.
- What's left?
- Understand how they work together.
- Don't we need to understand what they are individually before we understand how they work together?
- No. We can't determine our political life on the basis of knowing how we should live morally. We can't determine our moral life by knowing how we should live politically. Our moral and political experiences can't be used to explain each other.
- Why not?
- Because our moral life is without content, and our political life is experimental, improvised, instrumental. We can't construct a political life on the basis of "love" because love does not have any of the components political life is put together with. We can't construct our moral life out of politics, for the reason that love has no parts at all. It is an experience of wholeness.
- Then?
- Plato's 'Republic' is politics that is supposed to explain morality, and it does, but it is a really terrible morality. Remember what we said about why nations fail?**
- Remind me.
- An individual, in his own life, has a goal: love and sympathy. To reach that goal he experiments on various public practices until he can stop acting, relax in peace and feeling at home.
- An individual has a personal politics?
- Yes.
- And the individual uses a personal politics to reach a personal morality?
- A personally experienced morality, which is, in fact, the same kind of experience for everyone.
- And morality doesn't teach us our politics, we experiment, and our politics doesn't teach us our morality, that is indoctrination, destroys our creativity, instead we seek out morality and know it when we find it and anyway it is the same for everyone.
- Yes.
- Go on.
- So we saw that political cycles of increasing and decreasing freedom share an element in common with economic cycles of increasing or decreasing concentration of wealth.
- You said the violence inherent in trade for profit leads into the violence of the political attempt of the few to despoil the many, a violence against human nature to sympathize.
- The word "economy" has its origin in the Greek for home. Our moral relation to people which should be of love and understanding is instead trade for profit, and that mistaken morality infects our politics, leading to injustice and rule by the rich.
- Morality influences politics, and politics influence morality.
- Exactly like it does in an individual's life.
- So the state that Plato describes does not illustrate our moral life, but is an extreme form of politics that corrupts our moral life.
- Right.
- And Plato in writing 'The Republic' is showing how our political life can be corrupted by our morality? But because we're brainwashed we don't understand we are not meant to follow in his ironically pursued path?
- Right.
- But what morality is politics corrupted by? Can you tell me?
- The most general, and the most alien to Plato's view of the world: looking for good or bad fixed in our action, either in our lives as individuals or as a group.
- Where should we look for morality?
- When we stop acting.
- When we love.


- Say you wanted to do more than read a book of philosophy, you wanted to go and start a revolution. How would you apply this discussion?
- Great, let's have some reality here. We poor indoctrinated souls, in the Middle East, in the Ukraine, stand up to authority, fight the government and win our revolution. And then nothing really changes. One undesirable form of politics replaces another. That's because, according to our discussion, we've assumed that our politics includes morality, that all we have to do is change politics and the good of life will take care of itself. Or we think that like in the 60s if we make a moral revolution, political problems will go away, that a political solution is implied in our morality. But instead we get the reaction of the 70s, the "me generation", greed, speculation, hyper-monopoly, empire, government surveillance...
- And propaganda.
- To make our revolution we keep in mind that our politics is not in our morality. and our morality is not in our politics. We can't rely on either morality or politics alone. To make our revolution we'll use our politics to create conditions conducive to morality, keep our eyes open to whether our politics make it easier or harder to be good.
- And how are you going to get the millions of indoctrinated to join you in your revolution?
- I'm going to defy you for one, your ban on Plato, and remind people of the beauty in life by encouraging them to talk things through and read good books!

Further Reading:
Street Politics
How Do You Make A Computer Not Want To Be A Computer?
Noam Chomsky & Mental Things
The Tools To Remake Our Lives
You Crazy, Man!
** Why Nations Fail

Friday, October 17, 2014

You Crazy, Man!

- You finished your book? Started another one?
- What book?
- I saw you on TV, man. You're that writer guy.
- No I'm not.
- Whatever you say, man.
- You're surprisingly not crazy.
- Hey, you call me crazy. That's not cool.
- You sit all day outside Starbucks talking to yourself.
- I'm like you, man. I'm an artist.
- What art do you practice?
- I panhandle. Some sing, I talk. In Beverly Hills they like politics. I talk politics.
- You don't think people will wonder why a stranger has started a conversation and isn't expecting a response? If you're an orator where's your soapbox?
- I don't have nuthin', man.
- Do you know who you remind me of?
- Who?
- Talyor Swift.
- She a white girl, man. She a singer.
- She does a video ad for Coke with the slogan, "What if life tasted as good as Coke?" She takes a sip of Coke and a kitten appears in her room, she takes another sip, more kittens appear. Coke is making a statement, as ads like to say.
- What's the statement, man?
- "Buy Coke and life will be good". A product that makes a statement comes complete with the kind of life it is to be consumed in. Orwell called this kind of statement making "newspeak".
- Who's Orwell?
- Another writer guy. Newspeak remakes language so as to make thought difficult or impossible. This is accomplished, like in the Coke ad, by determining in advance for each idea named by a word the sentence describing the world it becomes part of, and restricting the use of that word to that sentence: "Drink coke and you'll have a sweet life filled with kittens". Call a law removing political freedom "The Patriot Act", and citizens imagine themselves patriots in their uncritical acceptance of it.
- That's some cool @h!#, man.
- Coke, making a statement, speaks for consumers, leaving the consumers themselves dumb, literally speechless. Choosing which statement to acquire with their consumables appears like freedom, a weird kind of freedom of speech. It is like a game: in chess you can play the role of rook, which has its particular moves, but along with role we take on come the rules of the game we have to follow: for example, one move for each player at each turn.
- Life is a game.
- Absolutely not! That's the problem. We use language to discover, to learn, to create. When we begin a sentence we don't know how we're going to finish it. We make it up as we go along. When we get our statements pre-made from advertisements or from a totalitarian government we're confined to our role and the game's rules. We can change games, we can buy a new product, we can make an infinite number of statements but none of them will ever be creative. We won't create art, we'll live out the possibilities of pre-created art.  Do you know now how you are like the white girl singer?
- No, man. You call me crazy, I call you crazy.
- Your speech making out here is like the Coke sips that create a community of kittens. Your speeches are like the Patriot act that makes us all patriots. They give you a place in life, a fixed place, an artist receiving pay for panhandling, but never does any of your words lead to a new statement, never does your speech open up into a conversation.
- You crazy, man, I talking to you. I gonna go now, make some money. Have a nice day.

Further Reading:
Killer Metaphysics
You Have To Have A Story

Thursday, October 16, 2014


American Embassy, Budapest

- Do you need help filling out the papers?
- Sure, it couldn't hurt. What kind of papers?
- Visa application. Are you here to get a visa?
- They are going to take away my passport, so I may need a visa.
- Why are they taking your passport? Are you an American Citizen?
- Yes. When you apply for an emergency loan they confiscate your passport.
- Anyway you don't need a visa to your own country.

- What can I do for you?
- I saw on the Embassy's site that you provide emergency repatriation loans. I would like to apply.
- Are you destitute?
- Probably. What's the definition?
- No money to buy a ticket home and no way to get the money.
- OK.
- What?
- I fulfill the requirements. What next?
- You have to prove that you've made an attempt to get the money.
- How?
- You have to provide the names of 3 people you have asked and who have refused. Can you do that?
- Sure. There are billions of people I can ask and be refused.
- You have to put it in writing.
- I can do it.
- Give me your passport. We'll do a background check. Take a seat.

- My colleague explained something of your situation. I'd like to ask you for more information.
- You're the Vice Consul?
- Yes. You said you have no money. Can you tell me how this situation arose?
- Whole life story or shorter?
- Start with the most recent events. When did you arrive in this country?
- About 4 months ago.
- What have you been doing?
- Reading and writing. Not employed.
- Were you employed in the United States before you came here?
- No. Doing the same. Reading and writing.
- Do you normally live in Europe or the United States?
- For the past about 20 years, mostly Europe.
- With trips back to the United States.
- Yes.
- How long were you in the United States last time?
- About 9 months.
- Where did you live?
- With friends.
- And before that?
- Here. I was tutoring business executives in English.
- For how long?
- 4 months. And then United States again.
- Are you married?
- Yes. Possibly.
- Possibly?
- My wife disappeared, then wrote me that she'd obtained a divorce.
- Do you know you wife's name?
- What if I answer No?
- You don't know your wife's name?
- I'll spell it for you. Do you want to find her for me?
- We're the government but we can't do everything.
- You know, forget about the repatriation loan, just find my wife.
- When was the last time you saw her?
- A year, maybe year and a half ago. Look, is it true you're going to take away my passport if you decide to give me a repatriation loan?
- Yes, it is.
- Couldn't I use, just temporarily, the passport of one of the directors of Goldman Sachs, or General Electric, or Bank Of America? The government took away their passports when they loaned them $900 Billion after they lost all their money in bad investments. They took away their passports, right? They didn't?
- We're not open tomorrow, and over the weekend, and on Monday, an American holiday. Are you going to be alright?
- Probably.
- Where will you be going when you arrive in Los Angeles?
- I don't know.
- You have to provide an address. We can't arrange your travel without knowing you have a place to go.
- Why not?
- We are here to help.
- Are you concerned about my address here if I don't leave?
- We'll try to help.

- Before we can issue a repatriation loan and buy your ticket you have to provide an arrival address.
- I did.
- It can't be a hotel.
- Why not?
- It has to be your residence.
- It will be my residence.
- It has to be your own, or belonging to someone we can contact.
- It's a residential hotel. The address is on my driver's licence. They know me there.
- Show me your driver's licence. What is the manager's name?
- Betty.
- No. We need to be able to talk with someone who will be responsible for you.
- Why?
- We need to know you will be safe.
- Why? I'm not safe if I stay in Europe.
- As I said, you need to provide us the name of someone who will take care of you when you return to the U.S.
- If I knew someone like that would I now be applying for an emergency loan?
- Then we can't help you.
- How long would this person have to be responsible for me? My whole life? One year? One month? A week?
- Several weeks.
- And there is no explanation for this demand?
- I don't have to explain.
- Why not?
- It's the rules.
- It can't be. What rule?
- This conversation is over.


A reader of spy stories never thinks life will become one. Of course not. That would take all the fun out of it. You'll understand then that this was not fun:

The appointment was for one pm. I waited outside the steel perimeter fence. Usual crowd of security, plus two additional city police standing immobile just within the fence looking out at me. Only at me. You have to wait, said the Embassy employed local security. After about twenty minutes the Vice Consul arrived from the embassy building, ordered the gate opened, and I was allowed to enter between the two steel fences. There, with the security forces and police and Vice Consul looking on, or staring to be precise, a crowd of about 8 or 10, all within a couple yards of me, I was handed a mobile phone to talk with my brother.

To make it all more incomprehensible my brother was apparently talking from his car using a hands-free system and I couldn't understand more than one word in ten he spoke. After about five minutes of me saying, "I can't hear you, it's all garbled, can you hear me?" my brother said he would put on a headset. He did and I could hear him. He proceeded to ask me questions he already knew the answer to from talking to the Vice-Consul about me: why did I want to go to the U.S.? (I'm American), What I am going to do there? (Don't know), Why I don't stay in Hungary, it's cheaper there? (I'm not Hungarian). He had nothing to respond to my answers. Like filling out a form. Finally I said, Anything else? He asked me what the purpose of the call was. I said I didn't know, he'd have to ask the Vice Consul. He arranged it.

My brother asked me to put the Vice Consul back on the phone. I handed the phone to him and l left the Embassy inter-fence territory. I hadn't spoken a work to the Vice Consul other than, "Here's your phone". I did say to the security forces, "let me out of here!"


According to Wikipedia the political title Consul is used for the official representatives of the government of one state in the territory of another, normally acting to assist and protect the citizens of the consul's own country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the two countries.

Their web site warns Americans that the Consulate does not involve itself with the personal, business, or legal affairs of citizens abroad.

If you would like to talk to the Embassy, not the Consulate, and ask if anyone there knows the Consulate says it actually doesn't do anything other than disperse social security and issue foreigners visas, you will be told you can't talk to the Embassy. Can't talk to the Embassy? / No, you can't.

And when the Consulate forbid me to enter the building - I'd committed the crime of saying they weren't right - they instructed the guards also to forbid me entrance to the Embassy, located on the same building. That can't be legal I complained to the guards outside. / That's our orders. / Who are they? Not even Americans. Let me talk to an American. / You can't. / I can't talk to an American at the American Embassy and I can't enter the American Embassy? / No, you can't.

Next I visit the office of a former American Ambassador.

Next day the application for a repatriation loan is approved. Meanwhile a month has passed and the "arrival address" I had to provide the Consulate, complete with the legally documented occupant of that address (confirmed by consular interrogation) taking financial responsibility for my immediate future, has fallen through.

Next a European native talks on the phone for me with my so-called wife's mother. My mother in law (maybe) tells him I'd been declared missing and a divorce had been issued. I then let the Embassy know this in case they want to find my (impossibly) European-divorced wife and ask her why she left me in troubles they, the government, apparently will spend any amount of time getting out of having to deal with.

Next is Spy vs. spy. The U.S. Government, presently one of my most dedicated readers, site stats. say has just been here where you are now. I see too Israel has had the same idea, reading a post about my attempt to get a visa from them the year before.

Israel also wanted also to know all about my marriage. A Facebook message from the so-called wife had told me our marriage had been annulled, so I told the Israelis that. They said they wanted the papers. I said I had no way of getting them from my disappeared wife, and in any case annulment meant no legal standing thus the marriage should not be their concern.

I explained I didn't know whether there'd really been an annulment or if the original marriage was legitimate. But, I told the Israelis, since all you know about the marriage comes from me I say here and now that all I know about the marriage is that it has no legal standing. Believe it or not I won the battle and the visa was issued, though I never went.

Next imagine the great big U.S. Government reading about this so-called possibly annulled marriage, about my so-called wife, who according to a family friend had newly married in the U.S. "some old man" on the basis of this so-called annulment. Imagine the great big U.S. government throwing up their collective hands in frustration and amazement.

Next the Embassy reverses itself and denies the repatriation loan. Upon reconsideration I do not meet the qualifications.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How To Read Plato's Republic

The School of Athens (Detail) by Rafael [Public Domain Image]

I am again with the Professor at the Odeon Cafe in Budapest. We both had become involved with women who were shockingly and unpredictably violent in response to imagined slights. He is hiding out here from his now former lover, who like my wife was recently gloating over a website detailing the purported existence of a group of Jewish bankers involved in the slave trade. I am also hiding out at the Odeon more or less all day, avoiding going home to my wife. After we have spoken of our troublesome women, we get on to the subject of writing. This, I tell the professor, is what I had been writing when he came in:

There is a group of people who live in the midst of another group from whom their arcane and exclusive community life is kept distant. They assume themselves to be superior to the others, and though they try to live as unobtrusively as possible, they are known to be in charge. By submitting themselves to the necessity of lying they keep things running smoothly, but their behind the scenes control of money making activities and their management of popular enthusiasms sometimes gets them more notice than they would like....

My wife would say this could only be about Jews in Hungary and the world, but I was thinking of the philosopher rulers in Plato's Republic.

The professor observes reasonably enough that Plato could not have been writing about anti-Semitism. And that to his mind this sort of philosophical explanation is unnecessarily complex. Anti-Semitism, he says, has been sufficiently shown to have had clear economic causes, social causes that generally fall into the category of fear of the other. But it seems to me that tourism is the most popular recreation of our time, and isn't it the love of living around people who are living in ways other than our own? So what makes others hated and feared has to be something other than their merely being different. Otherness is an example of the kind of explanation that Plato in the Republic calls geometric. It builds a chain of argument and reaches a conclusion based upon an assumption, as distinguished from dialectical reasoning, which submits an assumption to questioning, tests it, reaching from idea to idea towards a principle, a beginning point that can safely be rested on.

The Republic contains a geometric proof, the painting a picture in words of a city in which justice can be seen enlarged, but before during and after the picture making there are interspersed numerous dialectical arguments.

Many of the dialectic passages argue that art harms its audience: that art intoxicates us, releases our lower desires normally kept within limits, that art is distant from reality, mere imitation. Submitting ourselves to art we accustom ourselves to unreality.

Dialectic reasoning, because it tests assumptions, is not an art that will confuse imitation with reality. But Socrates avails himself of the other tool of reasoning as well: geometric argument still can intoxicate us, and the one in The Republic goes on for 100s of pages.

These last few days, between fights with my wife, I have been trying to discover whether Socrates deliberately intended to intoxicate with his geometric art. Was it too perverse or far fetched to think that he was performing a ritual, getting us intoxicated for the sake of later awakening us by means of the dialectic arguments the geometric proof had been immersed within? Thus giving us a chance to study our own intoxicated reactions to art, as arguments on the dangers of art, and the distinction between geometric and dialectic argument, progress together.

Let's start with one of Socrates' cautioning speeches. He says:

If I knew that my story was true, if I believed it myself, encouragement would help: to speak before thoughtful hearers and dear friends on supreme matters dear to them, knowing what you say to be true, is a steady and confident march. But being incredulous yourself, to inquire along with them in a discussion is fearful and slippery. This is what I am doing. I do not fear being laughed at, which would be childish, I fear I may slip from the truth, and drag my friends over me in a heap, and lie flat, in matters where a slip is most dangerous. I prostrate myself before Adrasteia, I pray grace of Nemesis for what I am about to say, for I take it indeed that to kill a man unwittingly is a smaller offense than to deceive him about what is beautiful and good and just in laws and customs. That is a risk to run with enemies about you rather than friends, so your encouragement is a grand one, is not it? BOOK V (450)

The Geometric proof:

1. In a city of the simplest form, there are a few basic jobs: shoemaker, farmer, clothes maker, builder, merchant, market trader, which are organized by a division of labor: each kind of work is done exclusively by those who can do it best. This city is rejected as not supplying what is expected from life in a city. People want to live in cities to have their unnecessary desires satisfied. Unnecessary desires are those we can both live without and are also not good for us. Because they are without limit we become sick, suffer from fever.

Socrates says:

Oh, I understand. The question before us is not simply how a city comes into being, but a luxurious city. That is not a bad notion, perhaps. A city of that sort might show us possibly how justice and injustice grow up in states. However the real city seems to me what we have described, a healthy sort. But if you wish us to examine one in a high fever, there is nothing to hinder. Some people will not be satisfied with a life like this, as it seems. They will have their couches and tables and other furniture, they will have fine food, too, and ointments and incense and pretty girls and cakes, all sorts of each. Then, what said at first will no longer be the bare necessaries, I mean houses and clothes and boots. No, we must get painting on the go, and embroidery, we must provide gold and ivory and everything of that sort. Is that so? BOOK II (371)

The geometric argument continues:

2. The second, luxurious city, suffers from unlimited desires, supplying which leads to war, which is to say, to faction. Each in a faction shares a single quality with the others, and executes a policy of helping those qualified as friend and harming enemies, those others not qualified. Stealing from the enemy is necessary to provide the luxuries desired. And professional soldiers, a separate division of labor, are required to accomplish stealing most efficiently.
3. The feverish have disordered perception. They cannot test the competence of the professionals they need to hire: they cannot fit a shoe to a swollen foot; the most restorative foods taste bad to a feverish appetite.
4. Professionals are hired then based on social relations based traits. Every man can recognize these traits to some extent in himself. The sign of courage is emulation, the desire to be first in honor or victory. The sign of loving truth is love of reasoning, persuasion in argument. The sign of desires, wanting to gain, is money making. In the story Socrates tells of crew members seeking hire as ship pilot, those who flatter the captain best, offer easiest conditions, win the job, not the one who knows how to do the job best.
5. The reasoners are hired to control the war making and robbing soldiers, and also control the remainder of the citizens, formerly characterized by the work for gain they did, now hired as money makers.

I. The three classes were, before their entrance into the luxurious city: 1. lovers of gain, desiring 2. lovers of courage, 3. lovers of learning.

II. The three classes, as they enter the luxurious city, are newly defined by practices dedicated to social relations, which practices are representations or imitations of their original characters: 1. money makers 2. honor, being first, victorious 3. reason dedicated to persuasion.

III. But before we get to how the three classes are transformed when justice has been added to the luxurious city, here again is Socrates speaking:

Often the rulers will have really to use falsehood and deceit for the benefit of the ruled, and we said all such things were useful as drugs. BOOK V (458)

Drugging of the lower classes by lies is to be a permanent feature of the just city. And:

One thing in the nature of the philosophers let us take as agreed, that they always are in love with learning, that is, whatever makes clear to them anything of that being which is eternal, and does not merely wander about between the limits of birth and death. / Let that be taken as agreed... / Further, they never leave hold of this being, if they can help it, the whole or a part, neither a greater part nor smaller, neither a more honorable part nor less honorable. We have shown that already in discussing lovers of honor and the amorous./ You are right. / Next, consider if there be necessity to have something else, in the nature of those who are to be such as we described. / What? / Truthfulness. Never to admit willingly a falsehood, to hate it and to love the truth. / That is likely. / Not only likely, my friend, it is absolute necessity that one who is in love with anything by his nature should be fond of all that is akin to his beloved and at home in his beloved. / Quite right ./ But could you find anything more at home in wisdom than truth? / By no means. / So the real lover of learning must reach after all truth with all his might from youth upwards. / By all means. BOOK VI (484)

About drugging, Socrates says:

So he, Asclepios, provided for men, healthy in body by nature and habits, who had some local disease inside themselves. For these and for this condition he revealed the art of healing, thus expelling the disease from them by drugs or cuttings, and told them to go on living as usual that he might not hinder their duties in the city. But bodies that were diseased inwardly all through he did not try to cure by diet and by draining out and pouring in gradually. That only implants other diseases which naturally come from this treatment, so as to make life long and miserable for a man... One who could not live in the established round he thought it not his duty to treat, because he was of no use to himself or the city. BOOK III (407)

About wealth, Socrates says:

Then we have found other things which the guardians must guard against, and must prevent by all means from creeping unnoticed into the city. / What are these? / Wealth, and poverty too, because wealth creates luxury and idleness and faction, and poverty adds meanness and bad work to the faction. BOOK IV (422)

In sum, in the completed, luxurious city:

I. The Philosophers lie, the very same people who love truth above all. They persuade and compel, though they find this low, and unpleasant.
II. The Guardians (soldiers) are in permanent ill health, permanent convalescence, because of being administered the drugs of lies by the philosopher rulers. This a life said to be not worth living.
III. The lovers of gain are not allowed to get wealthy or get poor. Poverty which would at least have given them again the desire for gain is forbidden, as well as wealth which might allow rising out of their class.


The Ruler philosophers are said to win the greatest gain, the best possible life: long periods of philosophical, holiday-like resort as training and reward for the unpleasant job of managing the luxurious city. However, this gain is paid for by loss of their honesty. According to the Republic's concluding myth about the afterlife, there is a special destiny for those who have lived good lives merely by habit, that is, by true belief without knowledge, and the lower classes in the luxurious city would be among them. When they die they go to heaven, but then time comes to return to our world and choose a new life for themselves. In their ignorance of the consequences they choose to become tyrants, and after a lifetime of practicing injustice, they go to hell. The philosopher rulers are responsible for persuading or compelling them to practices that lead ultimately to their becoming unjust and suffering punishment in their afterlives.

The soldiers, lovers of being first in honor, are subjected to complete equality of material life, and are indistinguishable from each other in having the same, strictly controlled desires and objects of their desires. They are continually subjected to dishonoring lies.

The desiring class are reduced to being slaves to their work, without hope ever to escape it, restricted to doing a single job, never gaining either more or less reward from it.

Each of the three classes has lost its original character, and has in fact lost all natural human character.

To repeat: the geometric proof ends with a picture of an artificial city far removed from human nature. The city painted in words is a representation, a work of art. It is a picture painted within a work of art, which is the dialog The Republic itself. The work of art contains a geometric proof. But before, after, and within that construction in words of a luxurious city are many other works of art, arguments in the form of dialectic reasoning.

But more: The Republic is a work of art which also contains a sustained argument against art. Once again: art is said to be dangerous because, 1. being imitation, it is distant from reality, and 2. it intoxicates, seduces its audience into releasing its lower desires which otherwise it would have controlled.

What then is intoxication, letting escape of lower desire? It is to feel strange to oneself while immersed in a represented character, this happening within ritual.

Participating in ritual is to be regularly in the audience to the same theatrical art, to look forward to its next performances, and back to its last. In ritual there is:

1. Weakness at beginning:
Reading the Republic, we are forced to see that we do not know what is justice is.

2. Intoxicated action:
Reading the Republic, we get drowsy looking at relations between symbol representing classes, a strangely familiar artificiality in which we nevertheless cannot see ourselves anywhere.

3. Roles played:
Reading the Republic, we watch as the roles are defined and limited in relation to each other, persuade and are persuaded by each other.

4. Sense of being all together:
Reading the Republic, we are audience to the assembled roles and their interaction, feel the temperance that is the cooperation for mutual advantage between them, feel the security of their being held tightly together by the rule of reason.

5. Strength renewed at the end:
Reading the Republic, we imagine the security to be found in the controlled relations between classes and the city's great effectiveness in waging war.

Those to be initiated by ritual are described, using several analogies, variously as monsters; a crowd hooting, shouting, clapping; a drowsy well bred horse (The Apology); a half blind, deaf, drugged ship's captain; cave dwellers watching shadows of puppets. Those to be intoxicated are persuaded by a ritual of representations (art) made by sophists; by accusers; by a ship's crew; by theatrical producers; by chained cave dwellers offering prizes for correct predictions of the movements of puppet shadows cast on the wall.

Reading the geometric proof in The Republic is participating in ritual, a ritual of persuasion, similar to theatrical performance, to tamers soothing the wild beast, the ship's crew persuading and drugging the captain, to the accused flattering the drowsy well bred horse that the jurors at trial of Socrates are compared to. Socrates misleads, and uses the techniques of ritual to make the reader drowsy, though he is careful to provide warning qualifications, and arrange disqualifying dialectical passages before, during, and after the performance of the ritual (for example about the permanently convalescent life which is not worth living, philosophers who lie and do not love truth.)

We have two major shows being performed: a demonstration of different kinds of reasoning art, and also of how reasoning can be used for ritual purposes. The Republic produces a theatrical act of persuasion, and then uses that persuasion as part of a demonstration of how luxurious city life leads to loss of self. That loss of self is ascribed to self parts acting on each other, limiting each other. The path taken in the forming of the luxurious city, beginning from released unlimited desire, subsequent limitation of that desire, and then protection of ability to do that, is exactly the path that leads to loss of self, loss of individual justice.

Socrates indulges in flights of numerology when he wants to mock rituals of persuasion, his own and others'.

In calculating the difference in amount of pleasure to be found in the different constitutions of the city, Socrates says:

I suppose the tyrant comes third from the oligarch, for the democratic man was between them./ Yes./ Then the phantom (imitation) of pleasure he lives with would be, as regards truth, the third from that man, if what we said is true./ That is so./ But the oligarchic man is again third from the kingly man, if we put aristocratic and kingly into the same series../ Yes, third. / Three times three, then, is the arithmetical distance between the tyrant and true pleasure. / So it seems ./ Now then, the phantom (image) of tyrannical pleasure, it seems, according to the number of its magnitude, would be a plane figure. / Exactly. / So square this and bring it to a cube, and you will see what the distance becomes. BOOK IX (587)

3 times 3 equals 9
9 times 9 equals 81
81 times 9 equals 729,
=days plus nights in one year

...the king lives 729 times more happily than the tyrant.

The squaring and bringing to a cube refer to two steps of increasing unreality. The squaring refers to the set of 3 classes as they enter together the luxurious city. The cubing refers to the set of classes when justice has been added to the city. It is Socrates saying that the if you think the pleasures of the body are low compared to the pleasures of the mind, try looking at the pleasures of the body when they have been limited to pleasures of money making and then further limited to pleasures of keeping the same job for the same gain all life long.

Another numerological mockery is Socrates' calculation of exact mating times in breeding the soldiers, failure to respect which leads to the entrance of faction in the aristocratic luxurious city.

And from the Apology there is the mocking numerology at Socrates trial. The sum total votes for conviction, apportioned equally to each one of three accusers, would amount to a figure that would fail to meet the statutory minimum one fifth, so the primary accuser would have been liable to pay a fine if he had acted alone, as if such a calculation was reasonable and this distribution of votes a serious assumption.

Other philosophers have tried to play the same trick, the ritual use of philosophic argument.

Take the case of the modern French Philosopher whose name is something like Badjew. He begins his line of persuasion with Plato's idea of the one. Our sense of being at one is continually being lost, but we can begin to look for a protocol, a new way of working all together with others in action which passes through a chaotic state and which when successful will result in a return to sense of one in a new knowledge. Badjew believes the sense of one is produced by action in a group, a Dionysian loss of self in group mystery rather than an Orphic view of life in which bodies live among bodies in a kind of prison that an individual must escape. Jews are disruptive because they refuse to accept the universality of togetherness of the group. The Jews express a preference of seeking a return to the one as a private achievement. And Jews stubbornly see experiencing the one not as an all together, universal condition, but only as occurring within their own group, which group is constantly in jeopardy from the other groups in which it lives. Jews are apart from each other in action, and they rest at one as a group apart from other groups. Badjew argues that in reality we are at one with each other, and when the sense of reality is lost, we pass through chaos in which no parts are real, and in which in any case we are working all together with each other to be on our way back to the reality of being all one.

Bad-Jew wants to get rid of parts, parts of self, parts in the social group. Jews are individual parts when they attempt to return to love of their god, and they remain part of an individual, exclusive group when they succeed.

Socrates says:

Just as the city has been divided into three classes, thus also the soul of each person is divided in three parts. BOOK IX (580)

A relation of part of our self to part of our self is created by letting ourselves be an audience to theatrical representation. We are audience to our own separated actions, our desiring, our spirit, our reasoning. We are intoxicated by that representation of parts in our self, and then act with one single part on another single part of our self.

We read in the Republic how we tend to indulge in our own lives in the kind of grief we watch being staged... This leads us to grieving over ourselves - self pity - and having love for ourselves - vanity.

But expressing doubt about the reality of the three part soul represented in the dialog, Socrates says:

Nor again must we believe that in its true and real nature a soul is such as to be full of ever changing diversity and difference in itself. / What do you mean? / It is not easy for anything to be everlasting, as the soul has now been shown to us to be, which is composite of many things, unless it possesses the most beautiful composition. / Not easy or likely. / So then, that the soul is a thing immortal we should be compelled to believe both by the argument just concluded and by the others. But as to what its nature really and truly is, we ought not to examine when it is contaminated by union with the body and other evils, as we are doing now. No, what it is in its pure state, such is what must be thoroughly and completely examined by reasoning, and then it will be found much more beautiful, and we shall distinguish much more clearly the opinions about justice and injustice and all the other matters we have discussed. But now we have told the
truth about it as far as appears at this present. Only we have contemplated it in a state like the sea god Glaucos, his original nature would no longer be easily discerned by those who catch glimpses of him, because some of the old parts of his body have been broken off, and some worn and crushed and altogether marred by the waves, and others have mollusks grown on and seaweeds and stones, so that he looks like any monster rather than what he naturally was. That is just what the soul looks like as we examine it, marred by a thousand evils. But we must look elsewhere ./ Where? / To its love of wisdom. We must notice what it clings to and what company it seeks. How it is akin to the divine and immortal and that which always exists, and what it would become if it followed the divine wholly, if it could be carried by this impulse out of the deep where it is now, the stones and mollusks all beaten off, all the many wild, stony, earthy things, since
earth is the food. Then we could see its true nature, is it multiple or simple, how it is and what it is. But now I believe we have described pretty well what happens to it in human life and what shapes it takes. BOOK X (612)

Socrates says:

Then the meddling and interchange between the three classes would be the greatest damage to the city, and would rightly be entitled evildoing in chief. / Exactly so./ But will you not say that the greatest evildoing towards ones own city is injustice?/ Of course./ So this is injustice. On the other hand, let us put it in this way. The opposite of this own dealing of each class, moneymakers, assistants and guardians (philosopher rulers), each one of these doing it own business in the city, would be justice and would make the city just./ That seems to me exactly the way it is./ Let us not yet say so quite firmly, but only if this pattern enters into each single one of our people and is there accepted as justice. Then we will grant it at once, for what else shall we say? if not, there will be another inquiry for us.

But at present, let us finish the examination we made in which we believed it would be easier to see what sort of thing justice is in one man, if we were to try to inspect it in some larger thing, one of those which contain justice, viewing it there first. We have agreed already that this larger thing is the city, and we founded our city so as to be at its very best, as well as we could, since we knew well that in the good city surely justice would be. What we found there, then, let us apply to the single man. And if it be found to agree, well and good. But if something else becomes manifest in the one man, we will come back to the city and test it. So by examining them side by side and rubbing them together like fire sticks, we may very likely make justice flash out, and when it shows itself we may confirm it for ourselves. BOOK IV (434)

Rubbing together the city and individual, we need to ask ourselves why Socrates describes the decline of city constitutions in two sets of three cities, each constitution in the set clearly in charge of one of the three parts of soul.

Aristocracy......................................reason.............exercise of reason
Timocracy.....................................spirit................honor of being thought right
Oligarchy......................................desire............... love of money

Oligarchy.........................................reason.............reasoning control of desire
Democracy......................................spirit................expel and accept all desires in turn
Tyranny.........................................desire................slavery to desires

First, we see that in each constitution, though one part is in charge, all three parts are present. So in our rubbing together of individual and city, we take the individual back to the city and ask whether can we see in each part of the individual soul a complete constitution of 3 parts as we see in the city? Is it being suggested that each part of the soul is a limitation, a piecing out of the same essential action, described by Diotima in The Symposium, as love turned with spirit towards the most reasonably chosen object?

Diotima says:

It is necessary that one who approaches in the right way should begin this business young, and approach beautiful bodies. First, if his leader leads aright, he should love one body and there begets beautiful speech. Then he should take notice that the beauty in one body is akin to the beauty in another body, and if we must pursue beauty in essence it is great folly not to believe that the beauty in all such bodies is one and the same. When he has learned this, he must become the lover of all beautiful bodies, and relax the intense passion for one, thinking lightly of it and believing it to be a small thing. Next he must believe beauty in souls to be more precious than beauty in the body, so that if anyone is decent in soul, even if it has little bloom, it should be enough for him to love and care for, and to beget and seek such talks as will make young people better, that he may moreover be compelled to contemplate the beauty in our pursuits and customs, and to see that all beauty is of one and the same kin, and that so he may believe that bodily beauty is a small thing. Next, he must be led from practice to knowledge, that he may see again the beauty in different kinds of knowledge, and, directing his gaze from now on towards beauty as a whole, he my no longer dwell upon one, like a servant, content with the beauty of one boy or one human being or one pursuit, and so be slavish and petty, but he should turn to the great ocean of beauty, and in contemplation of it give birth to many beautiful and magnificent speeches and thoughts in the abundance of philosophy, until being strengthened and grown therein he may catch sight of some one knowledge, the one science of this beauty now to be described. SYMPOSIUM (209)

A member of a theater audience, sympathizing with the hero's grief, has his desire separated from reason's chosen most beautiful object, taken out of the essential complex act of Diotima's love. That desire, released while intoxicated by representation, then calls upon reason to limit it. Reason, performed outside of individual life, is applied now to control, by lies and compulsion, desires that are found common to the whole audience group, is no longer applied to the choice of what is best to be desired. And then spirit is brought in to seek reward and avoid punishment, effecting the cave dwellers' murderous intentions towards anyone who would turn them to face the light, and making sure that they all hold to the worst, not to the best, direction as before. The entire self is now a product of art.

And as the self is a product of art, it is vulnerable to suggestions made by art. We identify with a character represented because the reasoning part we see in ourselves operates like a show, by means of a calculation of probabilities. The staged show we see represented easily links up with our own private show, and assembles with our own spirit and desire. This is why we are angry at mere words spoken by a stranger, a suggestion that shames us: we reconstruct a complete, 3 part identity listening to those words: reasoned identification with the character represented, a spirited rejection of it, complaint about it, and a desire to eradicate it. The three -part, artificial self is composed of three separate ways, directions of action: 1. reason used to get jobs, 2. desires denied or released by reason, and 3. feelings of being subject to suggestion, from others outside or from within ourselves, an angry or frightened awareness of lost job getting ability, and urge to recover by resorting to a intoxicated, violent response.

When the feverish individual has entered the feverish city, has joined in the audience to a show the people as a whole make, his unlimited gain loving desires are purged in sympathy with the staged characters, his soldier courage is expressed in a willingness to murder anyone who would awaken him from his state of intoxicated audience to the show, his reason that controls his expression of desire and spirit is turned to the goal of persuasion to be hired in the best role he sees represented in the show.

The Republic describes the feverish city as a place of permanent ritual and intoxication, permanent art performance. It is a description then of how we lose ourselves, and we can say that making that description was Plato's intention in writing the dialog.


The Couple: Private Life in the First City

Each of you desires the other whose predicament, and management of it, is admired. The predicament is like a staged situation: it has no necessary connection with your own life. You feel drawn toward this man or woman, you give him or her the job as lover. Your desire is released, under the threat of being jobless, and you feel drawn by rewards offered for taking on one role or another, persuaded by others that the offered role is good for you and persuading others to accept you in that role. Then:

You have immersed yourself in love, but now you are betrayed and feel alone. You look at a woman, and feel that she might be the way to your recovery. You talk to yourself about new ways of thinking, going from being an individual to being a couple. You spend time with her, feeling strangely together, but not as you were together before with your former lover: this experience is chaotic, you do not know exactly how this togetherness fits in with the rest of your life. You look for new ways, new rules of life that will resolve the confusion you feel. Suddenly you have found it, new habits have arrived, you and her are a couple, the chaos has gone.

These scenes are from the sayings and writings of Badjew the French philosopher. He applies them to the student revolution he took part in when he was young. For him politics, and art too, should pass from one stage of love all-togetherness, through chaotic searching for a way to fall back into oneness, to love all together again organized and named somewhat differently.

In his view you go from being one of a set, pass through chaos, and return to being in the set of one. History has put on a show. You feel all together with those in the audience, you feel the implied threat of being thrown out of that audience, and rewards for remaining in. You adapt your own performances to the requirement of staying in this all together audience. Adaptation is learning by knack, habit: beliefs in better or worse conduct are acquired from the people around you, without your being able to say how, where, and from whom you learned. The people as a whole teach, and also express their disapproval of those who would break the intoxicating effect of being an audience to their theater.

Socrates says:

When they take their seats in large numbers together in parliament, or in the law court, in theater or in camp, or any other public assembly of a crowd, when they hoot what is said or done with loud roars, or cheer in turn, each extravagantly; they shout and they clap, and besides their own noise the place of meeting and the rocks around re echo and re double the din of applause and denunciation. What is the state of the young man's heart, as the saying goes, when that kind of thing happens? What private education will hold out in him? Won't he say 'yes' to their notions of beautiful and ugly, and follow their practices, and be like them? / He can't help it, Socrates./ Ah, but we have not yet mentioned the strongest compulsion./ What is that? / The one these 'Educators' and 'Sophists' impose by deed, when they can't convince by word. Don't you know that they chastise the disobedient with disgrace and fines and death? BOOK VI (492)

The story of an individual's love does not go like that. A man loves a woman who it seems will help him live best. The selection is personal, based on conclusions about ways better and worse to live, not based on sympathy with desires expressed in particular group-rewarded circumstances. When his past love is betrayed, he looks back on a love that he fell into as landing upon an island among the sea of other people's lives. He did not love those other people. In fact, he was aware that those people were for the most part living in Plato's feverish city, making shows, being audience to shows, threatening and being threatened with "what everyone knows should be done". His love was outside this artificial creation other people are all building together.

When that love falls apart, he takes his knowledge of the world's art-making with him out into the new world he faces. It is not a chaos, as he knows or can learn how he lost his love. He will perhaps put on shows himself, in an attempt to win back his lost love. Sometimes it can be as simple as getting back one's lost political position, sometimes it can involve putting on a show that will bring our betraying lover to her senses and return to us or allow our return. For him, everything done, in falling in love or returning to love, involves personal knowledge of life, put to practical use in the choice of roles we will play to recover love.

When an individual reflects back on his life, he sees that there never was one world of love betrayed, and that the world of making a return never was chaotic. The feeling of making a return did not involve unlimited desire, nor feeling threatened or tempted by rewards, nor looking for new strict rules that set the requirements for giving and getting jobs. Making a return to love brought an altogether different feeling of independence and reality. Love remained personal, private, outside the arrangements of the city.

Here is a symposium in the first, healthy city, as described by Socrates:

To feed themselves they will make meal from barley and flour from wheat. Some they will cook, some they will knead into fine flat cakes and loaves which they lay on reeds or clean leaves. They will lie on pallets strewn with yew and myrtle, enjoying good cheer with their children, and drinking it down with wine, garlanded and singing hymns to the gods, pleased with each other's company, having no more children than they can afford in their care against poverty or war. BOOK II (372)

If you look for Diotima's sort of love here you will not find it. You find desire, spirit, and reason all involved together but no part requiring the repressive attention of any other part. You find only the conditions under which, in private life, love with the aid of philosophic discourse can flourish.

Love is not put on display, because in this city parts of self are not displayed. Each individual is distinguished from the others only by occupation. With parts of self not distinguished in the city's constitution, there can be no question of a just relations between them.

Love is displayed in the luxurious, feverish city: it takes on the form of unlimited desire released in fellowship with others in the audience releasing their own unlimited desires. These others threaten us with death and reward us with not being ejected from the intoxication of being in the audience, while we learn from the show being staged new ways of persuading to get and give jobs.

The act of going to a theater, of going into the public which is nearly always performing for itself, creates the conditions that the geometric proof begins with. It does not have to create the city, that follows of itself according to the logic of the situation. You might say that the audience sets to work on that after leaving the theater.

Every time you go to the theater, go into the public, you are reminding yourself how Plato's city was founded, and making yourself a more perfect participant in it.



Shakespeare's Troilus And Cressida

In the first few pages of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida faction is mentioned 5 times,
fever 3 times, sick 3 times. Socrates' Daemon is mentioned, and it is said that moral philosophy best suits the old. Faction, fever, sickness, Socrates' Daemon BOOK VI (495), and philosophy for the old BOOK VI (497), BOOK VIII (539) are all to be found in Plato's Republic. Shakespeare draws a picture of the luxurious, aristocratic city in decline towards democracy. His character Ajax, like Plato's democratic man, is an incongruous mixture of the characteristics of all 3 classes.

Socrates' democratic man:

And so he spends his life, every day indulging the desire that comes along. Now he drinks deep and tootles on the pipes, then again he drinks water and goes in for slimming. At times it is bodily exercise, at times idleness and complete carelessness, sometimes he makes a show of studying philosophy. Often he appears in politics, and jumps up to say and do whatever comes into his head. Perhaps the fame of a military man makes him envious, and he tries that. Or a lord of finance, there he is again. There is no discipline or necessity in his life, but he calls it delightful and free and full of blessings, and follows it all his days. BOOK VIII (561)

Shakespeare's Ajax:

This man, lady, hath robbed many beasts of their particular additions: he is as valiant as the lion, churlish as the bear, slow as the elephant: a man into whom nature hath so crowded humors that his valor is crushed into folly, his folly sauced with discretion: there is no man hath a virtue that he hath not a glimpse of, nor any man an attaint, but he carries some stain of it: he is melancholy without cause, and merry against the hair: he hath the joints of everything; but everything so out of joint that he is a gouty Briareus, many hands and no use: or purblind Argus, all eyes and no sight. TROILUS AND CRESSIDA (Act I, scene 2)

The Trojans and the Greeks are luxurious cities at war with each other, and after 7 inconclusive years justice is dissolving from both camps, faction has arisen: each class of citizen is either insubordinate to or wishes to merge with the other classes.

Show making, lies, compulsion, persuasion, all that holds together the three classes in the luxurious city, and that ordinarily is hidden within the intoxication of repeated ritual, is exhibited and mocked. The artificial nature of the classes is apparent. Desire, courage, and learning are irregularly, impotently practiced, or absent.

The three classes find their representatives in both the Greek and Trojan camps.

Reasoning and persuasion, instead of love of learning:

The ruler Odysseus lies, puts on false shows, rigs a lottery and make a woman's love ridiculous by initiating a welcome ceremony of serial kissing.

The leader Hector speaks to the Trojans as if he is taking a holiday in reasoning, for he immediately disregards everything he has said and councils honor over reason. He disregards equally the lower class of desire, among which is prophecy, for when he is warned against going into fight he does not listen.

Love of being first, instead of courage:

The soldiers Achilles and briefly Troilus refuse to fight, and both make arrangements to visit lovers in the camp of their enemy. Achilles with Patroclus mocks the Greek commanders, and acts dishonorably in battle to win for himself an undeserved reputation of honor.

Slavery to money, fear of loss, instead of desire for beauty:

The lovers Troilus and Cressida are uncertain, suspicious and jealous, unrealistic: Troilus employs the pimp Pandarus to sell a representation of himself to Cressida who already loves him: love for what is merely an imitation can be replaced by another imitation, another copy of the same representation.

The workers Pandarus and Thersites complain they are treated no better than slaves and accuse their leaders of being lecherous and false.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Zombies, Vampires, Sleepwalkers, Psychopaths, Monopolists

- Do you know why modern life is so dull?
- Do you think it is dull?
- I take a somewhat lively interest in trying to understand. Otherwise, yes. Deadly dull. The modern human being has the choice between only two characters, sleepwalker or psychopath, zombie or vampire being the dead versions of the same lack of sympathy in their passive or aggressive variants. What passes for sympathy among the living is actually attachment to property, fear of its loss or relief at holding on. Zombies and Vampires, being dead, don't want to build up acquisition of property in things or power over people, only want to perpetuate their hold on the precarious property of their dead self by acquiring possession over living bodies. The sleepwalkers and psychopaths, being technically speaking living, do actually create lasting arrangements of lack of sympathy and attachment to property.
- Which are?
- Monopolies, if you are going to believe the billionaire creator of an email based money transfer company and early investor in social media*. Free markets create competition, competition reduces profits. Only monopolies are really profitable. Monopolies are profitable because they invent something new, or because they destroy competition through buying up competitors or bribing the government to grant subsides or protection. The companies that don't do something unique or don't have the power to stop other companies from doing the same are zombies and vampires. They are dead, preyed on or preying on each other. The living, the sleepwalkers and psychopaths, are those companies that have successfully established monopolies, in their active or passive phases: sleepwalking monopolies complacent about their hold on market position, or vampire monopolies going full speed ahead buying up competition and bribing the government.
- Not very sympathetic behavior, but I wouldn't call it psychopathic.
- Psychopaths establish a kind of monopoly in their lives, in both aspects of monopoly: belief in the uniqueness of their "product", that is, themselves, and an active attempt to control the marketplace of human character so that it continues to reflect their own little world of perception, the idea of their own uniqueness.

Continued at Guru & God

Further Reading:
The Care And Feeding Of Vampires And Zombies
* Peter Thiel: Competition Is For Losers

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Guru & God

From Zombies, Vampires, Sleepwalkers, Psychopaths, Monopolists

- See you later. You didn't forget your phone in the cafe? Leave it charging again?
- No, I only charge it once a week, hardly use it. It's only to warn the people I live with I'm coming home.
- You don't want anyone to call you?
- No one calls me.
- Why? You don't give out your number?
- No one is interested. They don't like hearing about the world I live in.
- What world?
- The world of the bible where the first thing that happens when we start thinking about life is one brother kills another for the sake of an idea. I live with people who act like they'd just been ejected from the Garden of Eden.
- You live with the Guru. You told me. The messiah who spends his days praying and giving away a few dollars to people on the street and nights going to strip clubs buying prostitutes.
- That's him. Last night he was on the phone for two hours trying to get this crazy old prostitute over to his house.
- To sleep with her?
- Yes. The problem is last time she was over she, as they they put it in legal parlance, sexually assaulted the Guru's eighty year old demented mother. The Guru's sister found out, called the police, now the crazy prostitute is afraid to come over. The Guru laughed hysterically when the prostitute recounted for him the reasons she couldn't come over, clearly proud of his achievement: a mother without a mind sexually attacked in his home by an elderly schizophrenic prostitute leading up to having sex with her.
- With his mother?
- Maybe in a future episode. Unlike me, the Guru's telephone never stops ringing. He's very popular.
- He gives away money. No one calls you because you are from the times of the bible and don't give away money. You're the unlucky guy born on the wrong side of the garden fence about to be murdered.
- I'm the guy about to be murdered trying to understand what the hell is happening. In the bible story as soon as you start thinking you establish a role for yourself and you put others into roles, then you try to monopolize power.* You establish an idea of who you are and force everyone to pay tribute to it. The Guru is the Messiah of Beverly Hills, He demonstrates his power by desecrating all other roles in life: mother, brother, husband.
- He's married?
- Separated. When we start to think we lose the ability to sympathize and think really badly. We think really badly because we've lost the ability to sympathize. The first thing that happens in history we become murderers. We become murderers because we think without sympathy. Our way back to the garden is to understand we've lost the ability to sympathize and to think our way to regaining the ability.
- Which is what the bible stories are about.
- Meanwhile...
- Psychopaths, zombies, sleepwalkers, vampires, monopolists...

Further Reading:
Totalitarianism, Public & Private
At The Spiritual Film Festival
* Eve In The Garden Of Eden

Monday, October 6, 2014

Yes & No

No, Good and Bad are not relative. They are defined absolutely in deciding the presence or absence of integrity in an individual's life. Every individual has access to experience which can decide the matter. What makes a person whole and what makes a person divided feels entirely different.

But Yes, Good and Bad are not to be found in unvarying rules of conduct.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


(From Beverly Hills Stories)

"Pride more compassionate than the lost generosities."*

- Any adventures today? What do you do all day anyway?
- Make the rounds between market, library, school. Walk, read, think about things. Write stories. Today I sold my bike.
- How much?
- 50 dollars, to a guy at Whole Foods Market. With the cash handed over at the bank and settled in my debit card account I went on Ebay, found and bought the cheapest computer, 55 dollars including 2 day shipping.
- A new computer?
- That'd be nice. A seven year old IBM, Lenovo, that is.The name changed when IBM sold off their personal computer business.
- If corporations can't monopolize a market they aren't interested. What's happening with that woman from Sweden, the one who emailed you after 25 years, the one you were in love with?
- She thought she might share a place with me somewhere in the South of France, or Santa Cruz, she'd heard good things about Santa Cruz, but I have no money so that's out. Could be that's the extent of the overture, of the re-acquaintance.
- No surprise, right?
- Right. I bought the same computer, not coincidentally, my wife had.    
- You still miss her.
- I do. I don't miss living with her, I miss her.**
- What's the difference?
-  First I want to answer your other question.
- Which guy at Whole Foods bought your bike? The guy with the yellow beard who rides around with a pyramid on his bike clearing the air of cosmic rays?
- No.
- The little lawyer couple of cheapskates who clip coupons and debate the best prices in town for soap and stuff?
- Not them.
- The man who wears a new suit and shoes everyday and sits in the corner greeting everyone with "It's All Good"?
- No. I'm not going to tell you.
- That market cafe has to be the weirdest place in Beverly Hills.
- They've a lot of competition. So, what I did today. Today many of the characters at the market and a few others I've also told you about made a reappearance. I met the guy who asks for money outside Rite-Aid Drug Store, claims he takes in 2 dollars an hour which he then spends on a big can of beer. An eight hour day nets him 4 beers. He was sitting on the newspaper vending machine outside Whole Foods, his feet bare, kicking his heels against the vending box window. He said the boots I was wearing didn't look comfortable. I assured him they were. Today he said he was asking for money to buy shoes.
- For the cost of three beers you could buy shoes.
- No! Where?
- At the second hand shop on Robertson.
- I don't believe it.
- The boots I'm wearing cost 6 dollars.
- I don't buy second hand shoes. I have standards!
Right before the beer drinker with standards I met the Starbucks guy, the one with the new Mercedes Benz who takes the same plastic cup around to different Starbucks and asks for free refills. Hasn't paid for coffee in months. I asked him, didn't he mind they thought he was crazy?
- What did he say?
- He asked me why I thought he seemed crazy.
- You won't pay for coffee.
- I'm on a tight budget. Have million dollar deals in the works but no ready cash.
- And you're wearing a 1 dollar watch.
- How do you know? Oh yeah, you used to deal in watches. I actually called the company in China that makes it to see if I could import it. Do you think it would be a good business?
- Forget it. The retail trade is monopolized. No one will buy from you other than one or two family businesses which will pay 10 dollars for ten watches.
- They cost more than a dollar. Not much more, I admit.
- Monopoly again.
- It's everywhere. In the afternoon I met the watchmaker who'd just arrived from Switzerland. After 2 years of watchmaking school in Zurich he had the urge to travel, fulfill his dream of coming to the U.S. Before watchmaking school he was a kitchen worker in 5 star hotels, spending his evenings at other 5 stars hotel bars and waiting for wealthy women among the clientele to fall in love with him.
- Did they really fall in love with him?
- I guess. The job he was promised by a Beverly Hills watch boutique was no longer available and he was hanging out at the Beverly Canon Gardens. He cried when I gave him the book I was reading, "The Gift".
- What's the book about?
- In a way it is about monopoly too. Giving and receiving, in its customary form creates a group. A group is enclosed, access to the group is limited to its members. Those outside the group do not benefit from the stability of gift making and receiving. They are under the constant threat of violence. This book the watchmaker cried over receiving from me compares the gift economy to the market economy. Gifts create community, ties of gratitude and obligation, because giving is done without expectation of direct return. Return comes sooner or later because the community is closed and if you stay in, and everyone gives gifts, you'll come in for your share of receiving. In the market economy individuals are isolated from each other both before and after the transaction, and in the transaction itself their interests in the transaction are opposed. The buyer wants to pay the lowest price and get the most, the seller wants to receive the highest price and give the least. The book is a good summary of this argument, first made by anthropologists a century ago, otherwise it's not very good.
- Why not?
- The aforementioned gratitude and obligation. When gifts create community by such mysterious emotions individuals are, in actual fact, tied to the easily visible manners and habits of the community. The mystery comes in because people forget themselves when they make a gift, when they "sacrifice" themselves. The community that results from gift giving is ritualistic. And because it is ritualistic, it is closed.
- Aren't all communities closed?
- No. Remember I told you about William Godwin? The founder of the philosophy of anarchism?*** He said that people should give away everything they couldn't use, but nobody could demand a gift from you. They had to convince you with arguments. Unlike communities of gift giving where people are tied to each other by the mysteries of gratitude and obligation, and while they sacrifice, the real reasons they make gifts, the taboos and mores of their society - go unobserved, gifts ought to be made for a reason,
- What reason?
- For love.
- Which is a mystery.
- Only when it is not really love. Love is based on knowledge. It is the opposite of enclosure. It is an opening up out of the world into all, out towards everything all together. This is not the time to go into this. The idea is that as we don't want to hold onto things for no purpose, giving is no sacrifice. We want to love. To love, we have to know what is good to love.
- How do we know what is good to love?
- Natural predisposition adapted by experience. We learn. We can tell a story of what we did with our gifts. We lose ourselves in love, not in the gift giving. Ok?
- Ok.
- We can love everyone we find some good in, who reveals to us their good. Community is open.  Not so, as I said, community based on gifts of mysterious gratitude and obligation. The habits of the group limit who can give and receive. Such a group is a monopoly.
- That's what you meant about your wife, not missing being with her, but missing her company. You didn't miss being in her group.
- Yes. At the campus yesterday there was a conference on Digital Cash. I'm wearing their T-shirt under my shirt.
- You bought it?
- No. A gift. The two day conference was one short lecture after another, each a summary account of research into the modern business of digital money. What many of the stories had in common was monopoly. For example, the credit card companies Visa and MasterCard had invited one of the speakers to an expert workshop to solve an obvious and ominous security threat..His small company, with a staff of three, was paid millions. A dozen other, much larger companies worked on the problem with him. They came up with several viable solutions.
- To what problem?
- Stores were holding the credit card numbers of each of their customers. Break into an individual's email and you can steal one account number. Break into a large retailer and you can steal millions.
- Like the 70 million cards numbers stolen from Target a few months ago.
- Ways were worked out by the lecturer and his colleagues so stores could process transactions without retaining the card numbers. They all got paid. Yet.the credit card companies decided to take no action. Why? The security expert said he hadn't the slightest idea. At lunch I pressed him. He must know why they decided to do nothing. Off the record now, tell me. Was it because they were a monopoly, and any major change they made meant risk of losing profit, and doing nothing they could safely pass the costs of fraud on to their customers who couldn't take their business elsewhere?
- What did he say?
- He said yes, that was why. Early on he and many others worked on micro-payment technology so individual authors could get paid every time someone on the internet clicked on their texts. No one was interested. The micro-payment technology however soon appeared in a different form: advertisers pay for every single click on their ads and all the profit goes to Google. Another speaker had researched the history of money transfer services. The first, American Express, was started by the former director of Western Union telegraph service. American Express had to send their new travelers checks through the postal service, which took days or weeks, because the monopoly telegraph service was much too expensive even for American Express's wealthy travelers. Then followed a lecture on Pay Pal, the first successful internet money transfer service. They were blocked from the market by the banks that for decades had researched telephone based electronic money transfer. Paypal's only immediate market access was Ebay, a peer to peer auction selling service the credit card companies for a while had declined giving permission to accept their cards.
- I didn't know any of this.
- Monopoly is everywhere, and not only in business. Let's go over it again. Monopolies appear in relations between people in the form of class. A group of people with their particular rituals, habits and taboos call forth in each other feelings of gratitude and obligation. A sort of "honor among thieves" creates a gift economy among class members, while a market economy, clash of interests, operates between classes. Within a class there is a gift economy. Between classes is a sort of war, or as it is called, market economy, war expressed in the exchange of possessions. Everyone within a class is, to some extent at least, a beneficiary of gift economy. A member of a rich family very seldom ends up like the tens of thousands in L.A. sleeping on the street.**** The Starbucks guy making himself a gift of Starbucks coffee is seen by Starbucks employees as rich, which he is. He is silently tolerated by the Starbucks employees who represent the interests and intentions of the wealthy management class, and they don't have to worry the exception will encourage poor people, who know very well how classes are treated differently, to play the same trick. The most interesting lecture at Digital Cash was on the food stamps program, now digitalized. Working with special debit cards (EBT, Electronic Benefit Transfer) the digitalized program allows complete supervision of its recipients and control over what could be bought and where it could be bought, compared to unemployment benefits, also digitalized, that in California is given as an unhindered direct deposit to private bank account. Unemployment benefits are often ten times as much as a typical monthly food stamps benefit, as the boyfriend of the conference organizer told me who received this electronic benefit transfer himself, being an often unemployed artist in the film industry. Gifts, gratitude and obligation account for the attraction of the idea of the market state, the continuous mystical flow of money. Within the group, a individual with the right background can temporarily be a cul de sac for money, but a gift will take care of the problem. Someone however from outside the group, a welfare or food stamp recipient, is thought to be permanently out of the loop, Gifts to that kind of person are money thrown out the window. Thus the supervision, suspicion, and contempt inherent in the food stamps program but absent from unemployment benefits. I was telling the newly graduated watchmaker these stories of the UCLA conference at the Luvalle commons cafe, not far from where the lectures had be held. He'd asked if he could come along with me to my usual places. In the square down from the cafe, in front of the Law School, a party was going on. Alumni get together for the School Of Public Affairs, a couple of students told us. We went along by, and within seconds a security guard ran across the grass to position himself before us on the walkway:
- You can't pass here.
- This is a public square in a public university.
- You must have a wristband. Private party.
- In a public square in a public university. Move aside.
- No. Go back.
- What authority do you have for giving that order?
- Not your business. I'm telling you: go back.
- I won't. Now what? Are you going to push me back? I'll defend myself against your push.
- Then I will fall to the ground, say you assaulted me.
- Fine. Let's skip preliminaries, just lay yourself down and we'll get on with it. Call your boss.
- No.
- Your boss's coming.
- What's the problem here?
- This rented symbol of violence is blocking our passage. Tell him to move aside.
- Step aside.
"I'm shocked," the watchmaker said to me. "I thought things like that happened only in movies. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. I thought it was comedy, exaggeration of American life." All too real, I answered. And the outcome was fortunate, not to be relied on. Confrontations with power don't usually end well.
- No excuse to be afraid.
- I'm with you there. Last week they blocked off this square to hold a wedding party, complete with jazz band and private security on every corner. The privatization of public places in public universities is a modern version of the enclosure movement in England that peaked from 1760 to 1832 and completely the destroyed the medieval peasant community. Traditional rights to mow or graze on "open fields" were revoked. Once enclosed, the use of land was restricted to the owner, and it ceased to be land for commons. Enclosure was accomplished by buying the ground rights and all common rights to accomplish exclusive rights of use, or by passing laws forcing enclosure.
- History repeating itself.
- You know Robin Hood? Sure, you couldn't help knowing. The legend can be seen as a response to the English enclosure movement. When I was leaving that UCLA Conference on Digital Cash I stopped to talk to a man waiting outside who seemed out of place. Turns out he was from Finland and the CEO of The Robin Hood Asset Management Fund.***** Considering speculative investment a form of robbery, he and his partners, professors of art, philosophy and economy, allow the poor access to the rich man's game of financial speculation. The poor can share in the spoils with a mere 50 dollar minimum investment, payment by internet, of course. Robin Hood Asset Management has opened an office in Santa Cruz and are readying an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in a bid to raise funds for rapid expansion. I left the CEO with my site address and email. Pleased by my stories he wrote right back, passed me on to the director of Robin Hood's American Office, who also expressed liking for my stories. I'm pretty sure nothing will come of the connection..
- Be optimistic.
- Yes, like with the reappeared Swedish old love. Santa Cruz! Did I tell you I wrote two novels about her? Every time I meet someone in real life communication is transferred to the internet where it stays never to reemerge in real life. Everyone disappears in the bottomless pit of the internet, is enclosed within that gift community of infinite flow. Real life is learning how to escape from enclosure and not remain trapped within the group that gift giving creates. Real life. How hard it is to make a start.
- As they say, get out of the box.
- One of the last speakers at the conference studied communities of oppressed minorities in their relation to the internet. He said he hated when internet communities were called "virtual", as in "unreal". They were real, he insisted. For example, a woman with an incapacitating disease confining her to her home was able to practice her former profession of clothing designer in the internet world of Second Life. People called Second Life a game, but how was what this woman did, her creative activity of making clothing, adapted to the constraint of a programmed character, "avatar" animation, how was this "unreal"? Do you know what I answered?
- What?
- She was making art like any other artist. But art, any art, is not real. Good art, the best art, is a tool for reminding us how to get out of the world of things and back into the world of love. It reminds us to love. If this woman's art did that, if it got other players of the game out of the game, didn't keep them enclosed in the virtual world, then I have no problem with saying it is real. Every art, every profession, comes up against the same problem. The digital world is not unique. I was going to tell the obstructive security guard if he needed someone to represent him in his lawsuit against the university and me I had the phone number of a law professor at the law school on the other side of the square. I'd recently had a long conversation with her. I like talking to lawyers. Only yesterday I was at the law conference on Critical Theory And Race, something like that. Being white, according to the explanation a law professor (not the same one) there gave me, was a form of property, like a house or car. I asked the professor, who claimed also to be a philosopher:
- If you don't define property what good is saying race is property too? One confused thing is compared to another.
- By the comparison with material inequality that many actually experience, the mental reality of racial inequality can more easily be imagined.
- Yes, and you lawyers help the poor people, manipulate a wrongheaded at best if not actually insane legal system based on property to their advantage, this one time. Why not actually figure out what property is and figure out what to do about it? What about being real philosophers and revolutionaries?
- Who does that? Do you know?
- Robin Hood.
- Of course.
- A revolutionary if there ever was one.
- And where will I find the real philosopher? The real philosophy?
- Look on the internet, everything ends up there. Good luck getting something back out.

Further Reading:
The Technology Of Good
The Crowd Of Monopolists
The Search For Evil
How The Internet Can Change The Way The World Does Business
* Rimbaud, "Genie"
** Married To The Business Of Buying
*** Enquiry Concerning Political Justice And Its Influence On Morals And Happiness
**** 'Once you’re in the club, you’ve got a God-given right to stay in the club.' See The Disadvantages Of An Elite Education. (The author of "The Gift" taught writing at Harvard.)
***** The Robin Hood Fund (RHF)