Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘impasses’

I found the third essay in IMPASSES to be a ramble of mashed up of cited works that largely relies on hyperbolic semantics to make a point.  What the point really is I’m unable to decipher other than some vague notion of not being controlled by “society.”   Some passages that illustrate what I’m referring to above:

“One of the unifying factors between us all is that we have been socialized into capitalism, by capital. Our minds have been colonized in a way where all all of our social relations are imbued with the nature of capital.” page 51

“The world we inhabit prizes the future in such a way that one’s present self is always going to be subjected to its ability to create the future-child and the future-capital.” page 52

“The Shoah was only able to occur because people were classed as Jewish. We must reject these identities if we are to make the leap towards now-time, the revolutionary process of transformation.” page 64

Some of the more basic problems I’m having with this essay is that it fails to lay out operating definitions of the considerable amount of terminology is uses.   And from there the essay goes on to make grandiose claims like the first statement above.   There’s no falsifiable evidence offer that all of us have been “socialized” into capitalism.   I don’t know what it means to have my mind colonized or what “the nature of capital” actually is.

One central idea of the essay is that of “identity” and that often the “identities” labeled on any of us can be restrictive or oppressive.  While this point certainly can be said much more directly than the essay puts it I can agree with the basic premise.  We, on the whole, do categorize and label the world to create efficient ways to communicate.  We group people by their ethnicity or group like objects into a category so we can reference them without having to spell out in gross detail all that we might reference.   This likely springs from the very way in which our nervous system pattern recognizes.   It can be very efficient for managing our experience of the world i.e. makes it faster to decide what’s a threat and what isn’t.   In it’s efficiency it can also be fatally wrong i.e. all red berries are yummy! can often lead to eating a poisoned berry.

The violence referenced isn’t that of military resistance or physical force.  The violence discussed I would more simply just call awareness and learning.   I agree that the best sort of resistance against inaccurate and potentially threatening “identities” (aka labels) is through helping people be more aware of the considerable nuance to life, starting with oneself.   I completely disagree with one strategy cited in the essay that one way to deal with not wanting to be labeled is simply refusing to have a future (don’t have kids, etc).   No, I’m not making a case to have kids, what I’m saying is that there’s no need to resort to a fatalistic solution to eliminate labels and have a more nuanced identity.   Reading, paying attention, engaging others generally gets the job done.

By the end of the essay we get to a sentence of the concluding paragraph:

“But anarchist violence renders theory, navel-gazing and reasoned conversation obsolete.”

WAT?!   what does this even mean?   and no where is actually given any evidence of truth.  In the preceding paragraphs of that statement there’s discussion of “a transformative force of experience through action”  and all “that remains is the experience of resisting.”  To which I guess simply the act of resisting anything is the point?  the way towards not having an identity forced upon oneself?

Beyond the nonsense, literally nonsensical, statements one will never escape some amount of label making.  The author of the essay starts by labeling the world as Us and Capitalist, etc.   I cannot take the point of eliminating labels too seriously by an author that uses too many “ism” words.

Like previous essays there are questions presented at the end of which i can only respond to the question I understand, that is question 2:

One critique of the language you, like Camatte, use, is that it tends to substantialize capital.  Marx worked hard to define capital as a social relation, but we end up talking about it as though it were a thing, or some kind of subject.  Do you agree that some of your language substantializes capital? Do you think this might be a component of the absoluteness with which you describe it, and thus of the extremity of your response to a world so described?

I think the question asker is correct in that the author of the essay treats capitalism as a thing unto itself.  My point above is basically that! for an author that’s trying hard to reject inaccurate labels the use of “capital” conceptually the way the author does violates that idea.  We all know the word “capital” has strong connotations.  So it would be much preferred for clarity for the author to spell out exactly what behaviors we’re attempting to change instead of simply rejecting “capitalism.”

I myself do not think it’s a sound strategy for a society that wishes to sustain itself to deplete important resources simply in pursuit of financial gain.  Sustainable living is a very nuanced activity that indeed does require much deeper awareness and exploratory strategies than I think our society at large is engaged in.   We are far too focused on amassing money – the hoarding of future potential –  instead of not destroying natural resources, providing each other essential health care, participating in education and so on.   That is, we amass money at the expense of doing life giving things that do not require it!

I would LOVE for the author to get into the discussion of actual strategies instead of ranting with extreme language against vague notions of oppression.

Read Full Post »

In “Tent City, Tent Tent City” we learn of the movement in Austin to create a roaming Tent City to inspire awareness and legislative change around ideas of homelessness.  The tent city uprising piggy backed a little on the occupy Austin movement due to the fact that the laws used to restrict occupy Austin activities were the same laws preventing homeless people from squatting in public places.

I wasn’t fully aware of this reality because I was so caught up in the basic ideas being reported about occupy.  I was more focused on the 1% vs. 99% message.  Which in reflection isn’t even close to the more fundamental problem of property ownership.

What is property?  What in the world are these empty parks and buildings and old alleys?  All these public spaces and abandoned privately owned spaces?  These are opportunities for the “owners” of these spaces to extract revenue.  And the essay makes a powerful point in that the revenue increases the more people are kept on the move.  The key to property value isn’t in having people inhabit it!  It’s actually about the potential to inhabit!  Creating desire to inhabit is what we call development!  As long as people inhabit a space one can’t be improving it and selling it to others.

Ultimately the tent city movement fizzled for a variety of reasons. The participants made, in my opinion, a wise choice in disbanding the movement once a point a been made and the media started to get weird.

This issue of laws against homelessness – you can’t occupy public spaces in some cities (see this great report for overviews) – and that of property as something are far too big to be tackled in one movement.  Property ownership is the basis of civilization.  Our entire world is drawn into nations, states, cities, zones, personal real estate.  Ours is a history of conquest over those who occupy property we want to claim as our own.  This history will not be easily overthrown.

Though I do believe as we move into a more predominantly digital existence the idea of property ownership will erode.  I don’t see a short term end to property ownership because even the digital requires physical resources.  The difference though between the past and the digital future is that it is much more difficult to lay claim to digital property because it is so easily reproduced and modified and shared and expanded.  The idea of protecting intellectual property is already cracking for mostly practical reasons – it’s not physically possible to do so, even my offensive measures.   Beyond the digital I wonder how comfortable younger generations are getting with “renting” or “sharing” property.   (stats on rent/own in housing and some rent/own survey here)

The essay closes with a thought that perhaps it’s best to “keep on the move” as a means of experimentation towards a better world order.   It’s hard to argue with the idea of experimenting with ways of living that don’t include property ownership is probably a worthwhile exercise.   The way we do things currently – increasing income gaps, more punitive laws against homelessness, climate change – seems hardly sustainable for ANY way of living for lots of people.

Impasses Questions at the end of the essay responses follow.

Question 1: “How does the noting of profit involving bodies being set in motion intertwine with the idea that camps in order to survive, must be on the move?  Is this tactic playing into the profit-based motion or is it a form of subversion, a way out? Would standing ground and defending a camp be a resistant tactic, and in what capacity, to what degree?”

It’s all about the type of motion that’s inspired.  The intent to own a home or own a different home is what drives property valuation.   Simply being on the move from camp to camp doesn’t necessarily do that.  Though if we were in a fight for camps in more opportune places for survival the camps would be competing for space and thus there would be an opportunity to profit off of offering campers better places to camp.   The fact is this isn’t a new problem in the world.  It’s always been a competition for resources.  What’s changed is that people abide by various laws and/or give into various trade offs for survival.  One of those trade offs is going with the flow in society vs. subverting it.   Camping in places where it’s legally not ok to camp is subversive.  It is resistant and could be useful.  I believe the Occupy movement made a good case for taking over spaces that people in power frequent can stir a discussion that might just lead to change.

Question 2: “How do we move from homeless camps being a method of survival to a method of offensive resistance? Are the participants looking to just find a more comfortable way to live or a new way of living?”

I don’t know if there’s any relevant response to this.   The later part strikes me as nonsensical.   In either  case it’s a new way of living.   And in the former, EVERYTHING WE DO IS A METHOD OF SURVIVAL.  all of it, even resistance to existing power structures.

Read Full Post »

The first essay presented in IMPASSES “On Questions and Answers: Some Notes on How To Do Ideas” offers a compelling call to reject all ideologies and to engage in “continued experiments in ways-of-life.” (page 23).

“Ideology is theory that has escaped study” (page 18) is an excellent working definition of ideology.   It specifically captures the main issue with any and all ideologies – a truth reduction.   Ideologies are not representative of how anything completely works except in only the most trivial of cases.   Figuring out what is a trivial case is much harder than one might think.  Take an example from mathematics – is arithmetic consistent?  Meaning is the whole of arithmetic free of any internal contradictions.   It’s still unresolved.   Yes, there are a couple of proofs of the consistency of arithmetic but they are complicated and not 100% accepted as final proof.  If we can’t be 100% sure of something as “simple” as arithmetic what hope is there of assurance of truth about concepts as vague as God, country, knowledge, etc.

As beings with finite resources (lives and means) we must take shortcuts aka make assumptions and have representations.   We wouldn’t get through a day in our life if we tried to work out the complete truth of everything around us.   Truth reductions are useful to survival in that we have to behave with imperfect information.   But truth reductions can also be extremely dangerous, particularly around complicated issues involving how we relate to the planet and each other.   We must always question and re-question what we’ve decided advertently or inadvertently as an acceptable truth reduction.  Not doing so may make it such that we miss key information about the world around us and do things that increase suffering and/or reduce the possibility of survival.   Consider that for thousands of years slavery was mostly unquestioned and that it took a massive effort in 20th century to educate the population that inhaling tobacco was generally bad for your health.

Our methods of questioning must also be critically analyzed.  For a stale approach to questioning may be as misleading as truth reductions.  A biased approach to asking questions, such as at a biased university, whose primary objective is to keep operating as a university and needs to “[produce] results that maintain the university.” (page 19)   Confirmation biases seep into a huge chunk of scientific research and policy creation (great paper here.).   Even when our research is relatively free of flaws we certainly are all guilty of not knowing what we don’t know and are likely not even asking the best questions in which to go research.   It seems like a worthwhile approach to “increase our capacity for experimentation.” (page 24).

The essay itself poses a great critical question about methods of study but also confuses the matter with a muddled discussion about Politics and dualism.  While certainly useful topics to question and discuss the details covered add little to the main point of the essay other than to be examples of reductionist thinking in a pool of infinite examples.   It actually does something I believe the author specifically would like not to do – it politicized the essay a little into a bit of anti-government reduction.   There’s simply no need to single out politics as any more reductive and misleading than religion or a billion other ideology laced approaches to going through life.

Math and science as tools comes up a couple of times in the essay and with the questions at the end of the essays.  Math and science are also under constant review for their usefulness in not reducing truth.  There certainly have been many periods in history where math and science have gone through shocks calling into question their validity as truth seeking approaches.  Mathematics, in particular, was shaken very much when Godel unveiled his incompleteness theorems.   Far from destroying mathematics as a useful paradigm to form worthwhile questions and work towards useful and true solutions “incompleteness” actually enriched mathematical thinking’s capacity to ask important questions.

The questions at the end of the essay are worth a response. and offer an opportunity to “test out” the ideas of the essay and my own ideations.

1) If theory is merely a tool, how do we prevent it from becoming an apparatus (of control, of power, of ideology) like math and science?

This question seems to misunderstand the main points of the article.   The question is reducing the concept of theory established in the essay.  Labeling theory with a word phrase like “merely a tool” suggests that there’s something more useful than a tool or that a tool is mere.   Theories help us establish models and experiments in which we can go falsify or confirm and refine.   The prevention the question asker seems to seek is some prescription for not letting theories turn into ideologies (truth reductions).  And it seems the essays answers that quite clearly – always study, always question.  In other words there isn’t a single prescription.   The prevention of reduction is about re-questioning in every changing ways.

Secondly math and science CAN be apparatuses of control but that doesn’t mean they are a priori.   Math and science are various questioning and experimentation approaches also subject to refinement.

2) Academic study (and perhaps this could be said of study more generally) is oftentimes just a regurgitation of previously thought-up ideals.  Is novelty as a result of study necessary or is fluctuating between already-done ideas enough?

Again here the questioner assumes too much.   Where is the source of this novelty?   All thoughts and knowledge are the evolution of previous thoughts and/or responses to the environment.   The novelty suggested is emergent over time through the transmission and mutation of information.   It’s a non question when thought/ideas are viewed that way and it’s a confusing question period without a definition of thought and ideas.

3) Is study solitary or communal? What is the relation between “spreading anarchy” and others participating in critical studying?  Is there a set of values being set up around study whereby those who don’t participate in it (or participate in the “proper” ways) are seen as less credible, or is the questioning of this itself falling into the trap of movement-building?

This is a juicy set of questions.  Study is both a solitary and communal (and environmental activity).   We are all people within a world of other people.  I think it would be useless contradiction to define proper way of studying.   There are an infinite number of ways to explore this world.   The end goal being finding ever changing experiments on ways-to-live.   Particular methods of study might be viewed as inconsistent or improper within their method but it doesn’t invalidate them in the general idea of “studying”.   Fiction is a useful critical synthesis of the world.  So is non fiction and a painting or a music piece or a poem or science experiment.   The keys seem to be participation and being ever critical.  The more variation the more possible a real exploration of possibilities.

Read Full Post »