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Say No 2 War (from the Iraq era, but it’s good now and always)

30 Aug

NO2WAR

ANALYSIS: Can ‘obscure cleric’ save Iraq from brutal terrorism of ISIS? | Lapido Media – Centre for Religious Literacy in World Affairs

23 Jun

In some ways, though, the second reason that Sistani and his leanings should be of great interest to the non-Islamic world is even more significant: he is a force for moderation within Iraq, consistently appealing to the entire population of Iraq rather than to the Shias only, both during the periods of sectarian ‘cleansing’ during the recent war in Iraq, and at present, when sectarian feelings are running high across the Middle East, and Iraq itself is beset by a Sunni resurgence, going under the name of ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

via ANALYSIS: Can ‘obscure cleric’ save Iraq from brutal terrorism of ISIS? | Lapido Media – Centre for Religious Literacy in World Affairs.

The Absolute Dog

28 May

by Charlie Keil

Review of Antisthenes of Athens: Setting the World Aright by Luis E. Navia. Greenwood Press. 2001

“I share Bertrand Russell’s conviction that modern cynicism constitutes the very antithesis of classical Cynicism.”
– Luis Navia

A little poem to make the main point: 
		after the socratic crack
		the dogs continued to roam free
		plato the first fire hydrant 
		aristotle the nearest tree

We have been following the wrong ancient Greek philosophers for almost 2500 years because we have let words on the page speak louder than actions in the street.

Antisthenes, some say the most dedicated student of Socrates, became known as “the Dog” or “the Absolute Dog” because of his “absolute commitment to reason infused by a creative energy” (E. Bignone cited in Navia) for setting the world aright. Similarly, Diogenes became known as “the Dog” or “the Dog of Sinope,” and it was as “dogs” that a variety of popular or “street” philosophers found “a will to resist and to set the world aright by means of the application of rational principles to human conduct” (Navia, pg. 96) over an 8 century period from 5th century BC to 3rd century AD. Remember dogs were not the overbred poojies of bourgeois pet fetishism that we know today, but they did stand guard, sorted out friends from foes, lived lives without shame, indifferent to ettiquette and rules. The Dogs

“became, with pride and self-assurance, self-chosen dogs because that name reflected in some measure the way in which they presented themselves. In appearing in the garb of dogs or doggish people, however, their intention was not to abandon human nature and replace it with canine nature or to advocate the transformation of people into animals. In them, as can be gathered from statements attributed to Antisthenes, the point was to distinguish between nature (‘fesis’ in Greek) and convention (‘nomos’ or “law” in Greek), and to remain attached to the former, while setting aside the later. If a happy and virtuous life is to be attained, we must divest ourselves of the artificiality under which we have become buried through the influence of irrational conventions and atavistic modes of being. We must deface the currency that has made us what we were not meant to be. The flight from what is natural that characterizes the human condition is what needs to be corrected, and if the world is to be set aright, it is to nature that we must return.” (Navia, pg 100)

I really like just about everything I can find to read about the Dogs (see Bibliography below). Navia’s book about Antisthenes makes me understand how and why the Dogs were hidden from me during the 60 of my 65 years that I spent being taught and then teaching in schools. I could have been learning about why Diogenes chose to live in a tub when I was in Kindergarten; all the stories about Diogenes confronting the big men of his time convey simple lessons that a child in Kindergarten or first grade could learn: Alexander the Great to Diogenes, “Let me grant your greatest wish o wise man!” Diogenes to Alexander the Great, “Dude, could you move just a little to one side or the other? You’re blocking my sunshine.” Yet I didn’t figure out that the Dogs of antiquity were probably the first western anarchists and resisters, the prime or prototype opponents of civilization and class society, perhaps early western Buddhists and certainly the first beatniks, until after I had retired from academia. I took four consecutive semesters of philosophy courses at Yale in the late 1950s and never got to word one about the Dogs; none of my profs took their “black humor, paradox and surprise, ethical seriousness” (A.A. Long 1996:33) seriously. Graduate school in 1960s Anthropology did not steer me toward the Dogs as the first fieldworkers and participant-observer-critics in social and cultural anthropology, the first westerners to advocate for slaves, women and “barbarians” and against racism, sexism, and imperialism. Somehow, thirty years of research, writing and teaching at a university while working with left and anarchist colleagues didn’t encourage me to sniff out my ancestral Doggie ancestors. Continue reading

Have the Oligarchs and Plutocrats Won?

4 Apr

Just watched Alex Gibney’s powerful documentary Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream (you can stream it on Netflix). Here’s the trailer:

 

It uses the conceit of two Park Avenues to tell the story of the 1%, living on the Park Ave of Manhattan’s upper East Side, and the (bottom quartile of) the 99%, living on the portion of Park Ave that extends into the South Bronx. It’s one thing to know the story in numbers and graphs, which Gibney presents, but it’s another thing entirely to see the story in actions through moving images and spoken words. The combination of the two is potent, and, alas, depressing.

As I think over the film the sections that keep coming back, however, are those featuring a social psychologist at U Cal. Berkeley, Paul Piff, and some students. Piff had pairs of students play Monopoly, the board game born during the Depression. But, they played the game with a crucial difference. One player started with twice the amount of money as the other player and was allowed to roll both dice; the other player could roll only one die. The student players were assigned to these roles randomly.

The privileged players, of course, walked all over the others, whose disadvantage was too much to surmount. No surprise there. What was interesting, and chilling, is that over the course of a game, the privileged players assumed at attitude of entitlement – you could see it in their posture and hear it in their comments. It was their RIGHT to win. But they did nothing to earn that right; it was simply given to them at the beginning of the game. The oligarchs Gibney showed us displayed that same entitlement even as they lobbied to cut their taxes and blathered on about creating opportunity for all. Continue reading

Advice for the MacArthur Genius Grants

23 Mar

Originally posted on Ideas, Predictions & Advice:

I had heard of the MacArthur Foundation and its Fellows Program, where they give grants of $500,000 (turns out it has gone up to $625,000) to people who are doing work that they want to encourage.  A bit of reading on the matter yielded the dismaying impression that, to a considerable extent, the Program functions as just another liberal self-congratulatory scheme, awarded disproportionately to professors at places like Harvard and Berkeley.

In other words, I grew concerned at the prospect that many of these awards might be serving merely to burnish the résumés and supplement the wealth of elite northerners who were already pretty well-positioned to pursue their talents and their visions.  Maybe I had been overly idealistic about the MacArthur Foundation  in general, and about this program in particular.  But it seemed appropriate to offer a suggestion that might eventually facilitate some improvement; hence this email on…

View original 290 more words

This Is Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality…: Tomas Piketty: Capital in the Twenty-First Century/Inequality and Capitalism in the Long Run: The Honest Broker

19 Dec

Piketty says: sociologically, America today may be the worst of all worlds for those who are neither top income earners nor top wealth successors: you are poor, and depicted as dumb & undeserving:  “nobody was trying to depict Ancien Régime inequality as fair”.

via This Is Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality…: Tomas Piketty: Capital in the Twenty-First Century/Inequality and Capitalism in the Long Run: The Honest Broker.

3quarksdaily: Is it Time for a Libertarian-Green Alliance?

19 Nov

3quarksdaily: Is it Time for a Libertarian-Green Alliance?.

Since the establishment of the modern American political duopoly during the 1830s, there have been several attempts at creating a viable third party. The most successful effort came in the 1890s with the People’s Party, better known as the Populist Party. Formed around farmers in the South and Midwest who, in a variety of ways, were deeply troubled by the rise of capitalism, Populists focused on issues of debt, currency reform, and the strict regulation of big business, up to and including the proposed government seizure of corporate land for redistribution to the public, government-owned alternatives to private banking, and even government-run monopolies on vital industries such as communications.

That’s right. Several generations ago, many of the people in what are today the reddest, most Republican, free-market, Tea Partying parts of the United States, actually advocated socialistic reforms to combat the consolidating effects, crushing debt, and boom-bust cycle of capitalism. They even advocated the introduction of a national income tax despite the U.S. Constitution then banning one.

Why this (improbable) alliance? Continue reading

Walt Disney, Stephen Miller and the Future of Jersey City

2 Nov

Buildings … are not discrete objects. They are building blocks of a democratic society. W. H. Auden once proposed that a civilization could be judged by “the degree of diversity attained and the degree of unity attained.” In the spirit of service, architecture can contribute to both. Without the spirit of service, architecture can be a highly destructive force.

– Herbert Muschamp, Visions of Utopia

No doubt you are familiar with Walt Disney, the guy who made cartoons and nature documentaries, created the world’s first theme park, and gave his name to what is now the world’s largest entertainment company. But it’s been years since Disney himself appeared in the media – he died in 1966 – and his life story isn’t well-known, though there must be at least a dozen biographies of him (I’ve read four of them).

But what does Uncle Walt have to do with Stephen Miller and what do either of them have to do with the future of Jersey City?

And, by the way, WHO is Stephen Miller?

I don’t know how many laser cutters there are in Jersey City – 10, 20, 100, 763? I have no idea – but one of them is in his atelier off Harrison Street between Monticello and Bergen.

What’s a laser cutter?

It’s a high tech device used for cutting materials such as wood, plastic, leather, metal perhaps.

And what the h___ is an atelier?

It’s a workshop and design studio.

OK, gotcha, but what does that have to do with Walt Disney and what do they have to do with the future of Jersey City?

Let’s start with Walt Disney. Disney was an entertainer; he made movies and went on to build a theme park. Miller is an entertainer too, though of a different kind. He’s musician and a very good MC – he tells me he used to front a band. And he’s a slammin’ djembe player.

And I know a little about djembe players. When I lived in upstate New York I performed with Eddie “Ade” Knowles, a percussionist who toured as a percussionist with Gil Scott-Heron early in his career. I hear and feel the same power and nuance in Miller’s djembe playing that Ade has in his.

OK, so he’s an entertainer, there are lots of entertainers in the world…

Just cool your jets. Don’t go getting testy on me. I’m gettin’ there.

Take a look at this video (embedded below). It’s a promotional video that Disney prepared for Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) and it shows a small city that’s very different from and far more interesting than what the Disney Company eventually built in central Florida.

Continue reading

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