Thursday, April 12, 2007
Poison Ivy says that the world was once a peaceful and nurturing place before Man arrived to plunder her. I find that some of Ishmael's arguments are as thin. Sure, I thought his prison analogy was brilliant (does it remind anyone else of a certain shadowy cave?), and what he's saying makes crystal clear biological sense: for life in general to continue, certain weaker individuals must lose their lives before they can procreate. When human beings stepped outside of the "rules", they stopped biological progress (ignoring, of course, the various parasites and bacteria which are thriving and evolving faster than scientists can create new antibiotics) for the world.
With the knowledge of the gods, they halted creation.
But, somehow, when I look at the world this continued creation would have made, it makes me wonder a little. It's not a world of plants, like Poison Ivy would have envisioned, but a world where all animals are in constant competition, living unknowingly to a more complex and self-aware end. But a perfect utopia where Man and animals starve, die of preventable diseases, and Man lives in small tribes which would kill one another on sight (as Ishmael says the Native Americans did, thus ensuring Man lived within his bounds) seems like a contradiction of terms.
In principle, I'm all for the Tree of Life. In practice, I feel like Batman facing down Poison Ivy.
The end message of the book? Change your way of thinking about your relationship with the Earth. I suppose to some extent the book was effective, but it's really leaving it up to the reader what a real image of unity between Mankind and Earth looks like. Oh well, It was a swell effort. I enjoyed reading something that wasn't ultra-academic for a change anyway. Great book study Scott! Thanks a bunch!
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
The reason that I believe this to be so, is because of the way he has framed the Taker and Leaver culture. He has made participation in Taker or Leaver culture a choice, and therefore, the essence of humanity now is based upon a taker culture that has centered the materials of the world around the preservation of its being.
What interests me is that I think Quinn is saying is that the Leavers are not afraid to not exist, they simply co-exist with the iminent non-being that all beings eventually become. The Takers on the other hand, are perhaps filled with an anxiety because despite having controlled some elements of existence, takers are not yet able to control the end result of their existence, which is non-being.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Friday, March 9, 2007
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
I think that Heather did it best when describing her frustration with Ishamel's teaching. She began questioning Ishmael's connection of Earth to the human spirit, and by spirit I think Ishmael means condition.
The only Mother culture, insofar as humanity is concerned, is in relationship to how we get by, live, and exist; the bottom line is that we have to meet the needs of our basic condition and once those are met, the ability to design necessities beyond are trivial in relation to that first priority. Whether it is taker or leaver, our primary goal is the same and all subsequent goals dependent on the first alone.
I was with Ishmael when he said that we are enacting a story that puts us at war with the world through our use of agriculture. I could even understand how he said that increased food production always leads to an increased population. But when he said that the answer was to let people starve (and, yes, I admit that I'm probably coming from Mother Culture's perspective here), there he lost me. How can we be concerned with maintaining the diversity of the planet and not be concerned with people who are dying for lack of food?
And I do take issue with the fact that Ishmael said we always hear about sending food to impoverished countries, but not contraceptives. I, at least, have heard about sending contraceptives to impoverished countries, although it was in the context of slowing AIDS and giving women control over their bodies.
I also take issue, much like the narrator, with the fact that Ishmael calls our culture "Mother Culture". The fact that Ishmael explains this away by saying that culture is nurturing only offends me more. Who says that men can't be nurturing? And why is it still expected that women need to fill that nurturuing role? There are plenty of women who don't appreciate being boxed into that personality archetype.
Also, I disagreed with Ishmael's notion that the Leaver culture is somehow more conducive to the human spirit. On page 148 he says, "They're not seething with discontent and rebellion, not incessantly wrangling over what should be allowed and what forbidden, not forever accusing each other of not living the right way, not living in terror of each other, not going crazy because their lives seem empty and pointless, not having to stupefy themselves with drugs to get through the days, not inventing a new religion every week to give them something to hold on to, not forever searching for something to do or something to believe in that will make their lives worth living."
Well, of course not. They're busy surviving. That doesn't mean the Leavers feel more nurtured... it means they're tired. And that doesn't strike me as an automatically more healthy way to live.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Some of us (I'm talking about myself here) who stay up late studying technocriticism for fun occasionally need to be reminded about the priority of political, economic, and social concerns over those of technoscience. Technocritical writers like Carrico, however, understand the sociopolitics and the technoscience to be tightly interwoven. Our energy crisis and its associated climate effects, for instance, are not apolitical problems of technology. This perspective is well-explained in his 2006 essay, "Transformation, Not Transcendence". I especially like this quote (which itself contains a quote).
“The future,” writes science fiction author Bruce Sterling, “isn’t an alien world, it is this very world.” It’s the kind of insight that you never knew you needed to hear, until you actually hear it said. The future will be here, not elsewhere. And it will be shared. “The future is a process,” Sterling goes on to say. That process, whatever our wishes in the matter, will never amount simply to a process of scientific discovery or of engineers solving problems. Progress is not a wave for you to ride on or a Truth for you to die for, but a project that needs many collaborators to succeed.
I want to change the world, not to leave it. I want transformation, not transcendence.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I love how ironic Ishmael can be, and I love these statements. If there is one thing that has keep the human species from learning and discovering the truth is ego and pride. So sad that something so intangible is the hardest thing to swallow.
I also loved the beauty presented from the idea of the lion and the gazelle. It's so true that only to us are they mortal enemies, to them it's natural and the way of life, and its beautiful. There are so many things in life that are given taboos that are perfectly natural and beautiful, and they are shoved under the rug for one reason or another. Open your minds!
Friday, February 23, 2007
Thursday, February 22, 2007
1. We can master the environment. Ruler of the terrestrial biomes and the oceans, the mountains and thier valleys, the forests and the plains. We have discovered how to master the environment, but it doesn't belong to us. We are a mere constituent of it.
2. We're just a visitor. Humans have lived on the earth for an eye-blink of the earth's existance, yet the history of the earth often begins with our creaion and for the longest time was though to only have existed for 6000 years. A part of Christian theology that may tie in is the idea that we are not of this world but only passing through, that in our essence we are part of God's world. I don't know how well I even understand this idea but I thought it fitting.
3. Pg. 89 - "The world was given to man to turn into paradise." WTF?!?!? We really have taken over this world, built up resorts and luxury and highways and homes, and this is our attempt at turning the world into a paradise? Personally, I find Paradise when all I have is enough food for the weekend and a pack on my back, and I am in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps surrounded by the Rockies in all their splendor, smelling the pine and listening to the river. Or in the deserty Chaparral dominant in the areas around CLU, and walking across campus in the rain admist complaints when it's a blessing; the rain gives life. Water. Life. If there is anything fundamentally wrong with humans it the attempt to change the world, because it's already a paradise.
According to Ishmael, our culture's story is telling us that:
1) the world is for us, but needs changing,
2) this change is impossible for us to achieve, because humans are fundamentally flawed,
3) and even if this change were possible, we wouldn't know how to effect it because the right way to live is unknowable,
4) but we should try anyway.
The depressing part of this - to me - was how built into religions this is. We're constantly told that we would be sinful even if we always knew what good is (which we don't), but we should try for perfection anyway. As a result, we all spend our lives trying not to look where we're going, only to sigh to ourselves and say we're not surprised when we don't get there.
Unfortunately, I don't have any solutions to offer. I know too many people who have so much compassion that they champion every cause, shelter every stray, and spend their entire lives staring all the hurt and cruelty in the world right in the face just so they don't have to realize their own heart is bleeding.
There has to be a happy medium somewhere. I'm tempted to say more realistic expectations might help, but that's part of the problem, isn't it? The bar is already set so low that people don't feel moved to act. I guess my main question is: Is there a way to raise the bar without slapping people in the face?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
When Leopold, his various disciples, and others who shy away from taking responsibility for the adventure that is human artifice endorse their particular vision of a "natural" order of human communities (which, as Carrico has observed, often includes an appeal to nature as a moral category), they are still exercising their distinctive emotional and cognitive muscles with which only we, as political animals, have yet been endowed. No act of powerful human volition--not even the act of dreaming of a "state of nature" where humans try awkwardly to disrobe themselves of their artificial clothes (by "clothes" I mean everything we build atop the edifice of nature, including our political institutions, symphonies and financial markets)--can expunge that volition. There aren't very many kinds of animals (or cyborgs or other agents, if any) who could do what Leopold did, or who could do what Leopold wanted us to do with our politics (assuming the particular desires Leopold happened to proclaim are even possible to achieve in practice). And so far as I can tell, all of those exceptionally-endowed agents fit reasonably well in the category of the "human". Not even Leopold could escape from embodying human exceptionalism! (Nonetheless, one wonders whether he actually thought he had plucked his vision from an ethereal Tree of Truth rather than simply used his imagination--like all political animals--to invent his vision.)
Whether we like it or not, we are increasingly responsible for life on this planet. Rather than deny our special role, why shouldn't we embrace it?
(I'm trying not to sound human-racist, but as usual, it's difficult.)
(Acknowledgment: Thanks to Walter Truett Anderson for inspiration.)
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Monday, February 12, 2007
According to Ishmael, the human myth sees creation and the birth of the universe as a means to an End, that End being Mankind. Mankind is viewed by man as the end all be all of life-the most highly evolved of all creatures. The world, according to man, was made for Mankind, not necessarily by God, but by fate and destiny. This anthropocentric (Thank you David for the vocab.) view is both natural and cultural. Just as the invertebrate jelly on the edge of the primordial bowl viewed itself as the center of its universe, man sees himself as ultimately significant.
This is something we all recognize. Who is the proudest of these species?
This chapter describes quite a revelation for Ishmael's student, who denies the existence of the myth entirely. Later he accepts his ignorance as a result of his apparent acculturation. Much the same way Americans view liberal democracy as the greatest of all political systems, man as a whole is obsessed with his own dominance and way of life. I feel man may be as foolish today as he was during the dark ages. In many ways the world is still very flat. In so many words, creation was a means to an end-the end of the world, just as birth is a means to die.
If I get back from the city by the bay in time, I'll see you all Friday. If not, cheers until next time.
Friday, February 9, 2007
I am still absolutely baffled by the existence of a creation myth for our society, becuase though we have them derived from our religious traditions, religion is not a universal entity, and often times religious people are the source of conflict. Unless, perhaps as someone hinted, the creation of this 2nd chapter of the story of humanity lies in the creation of the Takers and agriculture. I am really excited to keep reading this book, I love how it pushes you.
I believe that humans are starting to understand that our myth may be well intentioned, but is purely romantic. We all would love to see a more advanced humanity, but we should not lock ourselves in a box of anthropocentric design.
Why must we have a myth or story which seeks to focus human potential back onto itself? Why can't our vision of humanity being the 'final aim of the universe' simply be a vision of beings with a great amount of potential?
Sunday, February 4, 2007
I will add, as an aside, however, that I am not too keen on the rhetoric of a humanity that needs saving when all is said and done, since what I think humanity needs most of all is to be free. I do not mean to belittle in the least the discourse of existential risk (and I am an advocate, for example, of a proportionate version of the precautionary principle as a democratizing peer-to-peer deliberative framework for technodevelopment, one that is more likely to encourage public works and r & d than to discourage them) and so on. But I do worry that the commonplace move of thinking about "the" future through repeated recourse to survival over self-creation, security over democracy, threats over promises, and more particularly elite knowledge of threats over rash and biased popular ignorance about these threats skews too much "futurist" discourse into profoundly (bio)conservative forms, usually forms that drift all-too-comfortably into ready-made neoliberal economic terms and forms of security-speak that rationalize endless military spending (that is to say, in affirmative action for elites). Again, I don't deny the dangers, but I insist that democratization yields more a robust, flexible, reliable, responsive knowledge base with which to deal with danger, and hence democracy is a priority even if one worries about danger. Again, I don't deny the instrumental force of concrete technodevelopmental outcomes, but I insist that it is not this force but the fairer distribution of the costs, risks, and benefits of concrete technodevelopmental outcomes that renders them emancipatory or not.
Worldchanging is a movement that aims, step by step, to actualize the fair, robust, and sustainable human civilization that now exists only in potential. And when they say "potential", they mean it. In fact, they don't even say "potential"; they say "it's here" already, and that we need only "to put the pieces together".
Worldchangers see the present political, economic, and social moment as a battleground on which a high-stakes, "all-or-nothing" (to use Steffen's words) battle is transpiring for the continuation of human life as we probably want to live it (unless we have a deranged idea of "the good life"). We either fail to put those pieces together (in which case the world falls into deeper and deeper turmoil), or we actually succeed. The prize for success could be about as close to utopia as we can get. The struggle for sustainable polyculture and more efficient industry is merely one facet of what Steffen (who I also had the pleasure of meeting recently), in the same piece referenced above, labels as the larger "fabric" of plights that challenge us now: climate, biodiversity, population, poverty, conflict, public health, toxics, terrorism.
In the face of this great struggle, it's all too easy to fall into the trap of nostalgia. "Technology is ripping the world apart! Let's reject all technology and restore our civilization to 'the natural order'!" This kind of bleak, depressing reminiscence of the past is known (to some of us) as "dark green environmentalism". The color of Worldchanging is--you guessed it--bright green! Worldchangers don't conflate (as many environmentalists make the mistake of doing) the insensitive, exploitative technodevelopment of the past with the potentially globe-renewing technoscience of the present and future. For me, that's a great reason to embrace Worldchanging.
Friday, February 2, 2007
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
I'd like to say how much of a pleasure it is to work with and read with all y'all. I speak for myself when I say that some of the greatest minds at CLU will be meeting in Humanities on Fridays this semester to talk about some really important stuff. I'm not too optimistic about the world as we know it. Rest assured none of you are my reason for skepticism, but still I'm sure you'll understand my rationale by the end of the semester.
These are some reasons (or a rant) for why I feel the world cannot be saved.
2. People will not give up what they already have. It is damn near impossible to convince someone to voluntarily give up some energy or resource hogging device that makes their life, what they consider to be, easier or more convenient. It would be even more unlikely to get a politician who benefits from sale or application of that device to restrict or prohibit its use.
3. Most of the organic food eaten in
4. Most people, including myself, are in denial. It can really be as bad as Al Gore says it is, can it?
5. People drink bottled water, religiously.
6. Most will not give up what they already have. It is damn near impossible to convince someone to voluntarily give up some energy or resource hogging device that makes their life, what they consider to be, easier or more convenient. It would be even more unlikely to get a politician who benefits from sale or application of that device to restrict or prohibit its use.
Like I said, a rant.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Jenkins' take on technologic "progress" (or its lacking) is clear. But what about social progress? "We watch the future", he writes, "and have stopped watching the present." Insofar as I accept his claim that "we" (whoever "we" are) are making a mistake, I offer another opinion: We watch the technical, and fail to watch the social, the political, and the civil. We watch the technology of the elite, and have ignored that of the marginalized, the impoverished, and the victimized. Jenkins rejects neophilia, but does he also reject the rampant injustice of the "old" and especially of the present? His rhetoric inches treacherously close to reverence for our present material conditions. Yet the material basis of our present civilization is on the brink of failure! Jenkins is welcome to wallow in the nostalgia of primitive, dirty twentieth century technology. But if that sort of discourse gets in the way of demanding a brighter, greener world--one in which renewable energy can power the prosperity of billions, one where digital networks can transform our cultures and economies, and where democracy and human rights can flourish with the help of collaborative communication and institutions--then critical neophilia (or, better yet, a simply progressive attitude) is a sorely needed riposte.
Jenkins grabs our artifacts, holds them before us, and tries (with debatable success) to tell us they haven't changed much and they haven't changed us much. My point is that they obviously haven't changed enough; the moral crisis in which we find ourselves should, indeed, compel us to make cleaner, more humane artifacts. (Of course, as I imagine Jenkins would agree, we should also use the ones we now have more wisely.) My hope is that improving our things--our machines, gizmos, products--will position us to more easily improve our selves and our social lives.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I can’t quite put all of my impressions into a coherent thought right now (and I’m fairly certain that was some of the point), but I’m intrigued by the use of labels.
The part that was the most interesting to me was that Ishmael thought he didn’t exist anymore when his label of “Goliath” was pronounced false. Unaware what the name “Goliath” even entailed, he still managed to put his entire identity into it.
The story the narrator told about his philosophy paper where the Nazis have taken over the world ended on the note that humanity had managed to craft a label so pervasive that anything it didn’t encompass ceased to exist. There were no words for how Kurt had been lied to. That was the point.
Even the way Ishmael first learned language at the circus, through parents who were teaching children the words for things before the child knew the thing itself, fit into that theme.
I don’t know what any of that means, or if it even has a meaning, but I’m excited to find out. Thanks again for making this study, Scott!
Sunday, January 21, 2007
It happened once that a certain Thomas Abbens, or Abbena, reputed to be the wisest man in Europe at that time, was summoned to the court of a young Walachian prince. "I'm in need of a shrewd advisor," the prince informed him. "My subjects are unruly, my enemies ambitious, my sons disobedient, and my wife deceitful. Yet it may be that I will master them all, with your help."
"I'll gladly help you," Abbens replied, "but as a teacher, not as an advisor. We must review your education and remedy its manifest deficiencies."
But the prince sent the wise man away, saying, "It's not my education that troubles me but rather my subjects, my enemies, my sons, and my wife."
A score of years passed before the prince once again summoned Abbens to his side. "I bitterly regret," he said, "that I declined the proposal you made to me, but there's no time to accept it now, for the situation is desperate. My subjects plot against me, my enemies encroach at will upon our lands, my sons defy me before their friends, and my wife contrives to alienate what few allies I have left. Guide me through this crisis with your wisdom, then there'll be time to remedy the deficiencies you perceive in my education."
The wise man shook his head and replied, "What you're asking is that I become prince to your subjects, warrior to your enemies, father to your sons, and husband to your wife. How can this possibly save you? You must learn to become these things yourself, and even a feeble beginning is better than none at all."
But the prince sent Abbens away a second time, saying, "If you won't help me in this hour of crisis, then I must seek one who will."
When Abbens next met the prince, a decade later, he was a prince no longer but only a beggar in the streets of Budapest.
"It happened a year ago," the former prince explained. "Because my subjects were in open rebellion, my sons conspired to seize the throne. And my enemies, informed of the conspiracy by my treacherous wife, chose this opportunity to fall upon us. But perhaps some good may yet come of these calamities, for, if you will share it with me, I am at least now free to avail myself of the wisdom I formerly rejected."
But Abbens replied: "The catastrophe that wisdom might have averted has already befallen you. Of what use is wisdom to you now?"
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Come to the meetings. That simple. If you miss it, YOU suffer...that's all.
I would like to see each member post an entry at least once a week. Length does NOT matter, simply I need to know where everyone is at. This will help me with the discussions.
At the end of this book study all members will write a summery of their reactions and critiques on this blog.