Friday, June 14, 2013

Ritual, Money Making, Revolution



1.

- Most people in the country still believe the government has their best interests at heart. What can we do?
- We can try to discredit the particular actions of the government, or we can try to discredit the government officials.
- Discrediting the government seems to be doing something. There are more and more people who understand the truth.
- What do they understand?
- The government is working for the sake of the rich.
- Do they understand why the government is doing this?
- No, I don't think they do.
- Do you?
- Money making is their game, they like playing it, and they are winning.
- Why do people want to play a game?
- We are a country of game players.
- Why do our leaders want to play a game for its own sake? Play at the cost of other parts of life?
- I don't know.
- Our government says they are acting on moral, religious principles. That they are themselves moral and religious people.
- That's their game. Playing with words. Saying anything that works. Propaganda.
- The words work, but consider whether also our leaders really are what they say they are.
- They are hypocrites. Their rules apply to other people's conduct, not their own.
- There is a fundamental religious practice just like that.
- Doing the opposite to what we say?
- Doing which is in opposition to saying, yes. A ritual begins out of fear. Repeated practice of the same actions produces reassurance through the calm gained in the repetition itself. The state of the world which provided the fear at the beginning the ritual is disregarded, any future disconcerting state of the world can be disregarded by return to ritual practice.
- Then the people who most insist on the practice of rules are the people most likely to disobey them.
- When the rules are the product of ritual.
- So you want people to understand that government officials are not merely hypocrites. But in fact they believe in their rules, their lies.
- Believe in the sense they know personally, in their own lives, that doing these things calms their fears and reassures them.
- But they don't believe their lies?
- They believe it is true that lying, in the practice of ritual, is positively good. That what they say is good they know through their own personal experience.
- We call our leaders ritualists. Where does that get us?
- Their ritual is making money. Would you agree?
- Yes.
- Would most people in the country agree?
- More and more.
- If our leaders are practicing the ritual of making money, and it makes them happy, we can't reasonably expect them to care about those who don't practice the same rituals?
- No.
- We can't reasonably expect them to tell the truth?
- Not unless they make a ritual out of telling the truth.
- Do they?
- Of course not.
- Have we gotten anywhere then?
- People think the government really is on their side. They buy into what the government is saying, they are persuaded, they are the victims of propaganda. Propaganda works with crowd behavior. Crowd behavior is set in motion by leaders, who use the focus of attention on them by large numbers to set the crowd in motion. The problem is, it is difficult to convince people their leaders are hypocrites. They don't appear to be.
- Yes.
- You would like to shift attention of the people away from particular words which express how the leaders relate to them, and towards what the leaders are doing among themselves: practicing the ritual of money making. The leaders aren't monsters betraying the people who have put their trust in them.
- No.
- And then what? Would people understand that their leaders' ritual of money making was hurting them now and would hurt them even more in the future?


2.

- Let's say most people know the government is not on their side. But they are game players too. Why shouldn't the government play for its own side, use what advantage it has to win?
- It's not fair.
- Does a stronger team weaken itself before the game to make it fair?
- No. But it obeys the rules.
- What rules are those, if you play the game for its own sake, make money for the sake of making more money? Do you mean love, sympathy, friendship, kindness?
- So if we want the government to stop playing a game against us, we ourselves will have to stop playing the game for itself. 
- That won't stop the government from doing anything. But when we do our jobs, ply our trades, not for their own sake, but for the sake of for love, sympathy, friendship, kindness, we'll know that what the government's doing is bad.
- And knowing, we'll be able to do something about it.


3.

- The President went on TV yesterday to complain that the time had come when something should be done about the institution of presidents personally ordering killings. He didn't seem to notice that he was the president who was personally ordering the killings. Apparently no one watching noticed either.
- There are more than a billion members of the Catholic Church.
- Yes. The President is a ritualist like a billion and more others in the world. The President, a former professor of constitutional law forgets there are supposed to be judges and juries that decide who gets killed.
- The President and the billion and more don't know what they are doing is wrong and can't understand why we believe they are wrong. We think they are wrong because they play the game for the sake of playing the game. But, correct me if I am wrong, when we play with them, play the game of "us against them", can we expect them ever to act in a way we can love, like, or sympathize with? And if we can't, our relation to them is like their relation to us? Only a game?
- It's not as bad as that. People we can only play games with are strangers. We each have one body and occupy one bit of space and have one mind to think about what's going on around that body and place. Some people and places are known, some aren't. We need only keep in mind that we don't want to give strangers the job of organizing our lives for us.


4.

- The first appearance of the golden rule in relation to democracy is in Thucydides, Pericles' Funeral Oration. Athenians love to be generous without expectation of return, because the idea of being in debt offends them. In The Melian Dialog the golden rule is argued to apply only between equals in power. Those without power must submit to inequality.
- What's your conclusion?
- Athenians, according to the funeral oration, thought of themselves like this:
 Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance; our love of the things of the mind does not make us soft. We regard wealth as something to be properly used, rather than as something to boast about."  "Here each individual is interested not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of the state as well: even those who are mostly occupied with their own business are extremely well-informed on general politics—this is a peculiarity of ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all.
- They are generous, but don't feel obligated to be fair.
- They are not hypocrites with each other. They tolerate each other with neither false acceptance nor with resentment. Their love of beautiful things and the things of the mind does not make them soft or extravagant with each other.
- So in some ways they are equals in power with each other? They are generous with each other only when they are equals in power? What is their power?
- Love of beauty, love of thought, attention to public life.
- That's strange.
- Why?
- Thinking, making something beautiful, paying attention to what our neighbors say all are examples of generosity without expectation of return, and the result is supposed to be the golden rule, that you return the good conduct you demand of others.
- That's right.
- And?
- It means that people are fair without hypocrisy when they are of the character the Athenians claimed for themselves. Athenians follow rules because that works. They tolerate each other out of an act of generosity, as a self conscious respect for the power each has over the other in a shared public life. Equal power comes from a rough equality of political knowledge and willingness to act on it. From that comes generosity without expectation of return, because you don't make deals with equals in power. And out of that generosity comes the fact that we treat each other as we like to be treated. That we want to obey the golden rule. Obedience actually is not to a rule but to our own conclusions.
-  Then the hypocrisy of our politicians and of the people who know they are being lied to and don't seem to care results from our not wanting to obey, for our own reasons, the golden rule. We're the wrong kind of people.
- Look at the Israelis Chomsky is so much against. Like us, they are persuaded and not persuaded, are subject to the same governmental-industrial-financial complex. But for various reasons, they are further along than us in development.
- What kind of development?
- Call it anti-Athenian character. Not respecting others in public, without a controlled love of beauty, without thought of a kind that can be brought into public life.
- How are controlled love of beauty and thought brought into public life?
- The best way is what you and me are doing now. Conversation that we enjoy for its own sake as something beautiful, as one of the best things we can do in life, giving each other our thoughts without expectation of agreement, hardening ourselves to the idea our thoughts might well be disregarded.
- Israelis are famous for being disputatious.
- Yes. And for their rudeness, which is to say, public ugliness.
- So they don't respect each others power as members of the public, are not generous with each other in conversation or manners. They don't get along with each other then?
- They don't obey the golden rule, are hypocrites like us but more so. Last year, when I first arrived in Tel Aviv I stayed with a young Israeli, a self described radical protester, in his inherited million dollar (according to him) apartment. His father was in the business in exporting high technology security fences to places like Mexico, which wanted the technology to use against their people who had managed successfully to reestablish good conditions for public life.
- Did he know he was a hypocrite?
- Sure. He talked about leaving Israel.
- Talked.
- Yes. Typical Israeli. Ugly in manners. Disputatious. He took his handmade, deliberately ugly signs to protests, to the famous million person protests of a couple years ago.
- If million person protests don't work for the Israelis, why should we expect them to work for us? Don't answer. We have to bring "controlled love of beauty and thought into public life".
- Before making demands on the government we have to make demands on ourselves.

more at: Noam Chomsky & Mental Things