Here is a lecture from Binghamton University on April 2, 2008.
Category Archives: Philosophy
Consider these quotes:
“The great and chief end…of men’s uniting into commonwealths and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.”~ John Locke, 1689
“But as the necessity of civil government gradually grows up with the acquisition of valuable property, so the principal causes which naturally introduce subordination gradually grow up with the growth of that valuable property.”~ Adam Smith, 1776
“Till there be property there can be no government, the very end of which is to secure wealth, and to defend the rich from the poor.”~ Adam Smith, 1776
If you didn’t know who wrote these words you might think they were from the pen of Karl Marx. Interesting. More substantive than economic systems and their ideologies (and their debates) is the concentration of power and its supporting hegemonies. In other words its all about who inherits the earth and how they keep it. Little do they know…
“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. ”~ Jesus, c. 30
The gentle, or meek, have a different relationship to property and wealth than those who climb over others to make the world their own. It is not that they do not want the world, it is that they recognize having the world for their own is not worth being the kind of person who has no interest in loving others as their primary motivation. To love the world is to give up loving people. It is not a good trade – no matter how free the market. Gaining the world is not worth a lousy character, and no amount of economic ideology can convince otherwise.
Questions of character are always personal, but what about our institutions of power? We live in a world that places a kind of sacred halo around the idea of private property. We know that the Declaration of Independence almost contained the phrase “life, liberty and the protection of property.” I don’t want anyone to take my home away from me, but I have to think that the ownership of property and all its attendant rights (real or perceived) only gets understood as sacred in a world that has turned its back on truth. The irony is not merely that to gain the whole world is to lose one’s soul, but also to gain one’s soul is to gain the world.
There is that old adage that all governments lie. It is just as true that governments, first and foremost, exist to protect the haves and the things they own. Only secondarily, and usually through great struggle, are benefits secured for the have-nots.
I stand, in spirit, with the protesters who call for change and accountability from our governments and the captains of industry. I stand against the obvious seeking of power and influence for selfish ends. I stand against clearcutting forests and mountain top removal mining, and against the pollution of our air and water, and against insurance companies managing our healthcare, and subsidies to weapons manufacturers and to farmers of vast genetically modified monocultures. And I stand against the use of violence to solve problems, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The list can go on and on.) On the other hand, I cannot demand that those in power give up the world, as it were, so that I might have it instead. Though my power and influence is small, I am not morally superior than they. Rather, they must give up the world because it does not belong to them.
I wrote a Personal Response to Children of Men, which has received quite a few hits since its posting. I recently came across Slavoj Žižek’s brief commentary on the film here. I think you will find it interesting at least. Žižek is a fascinating cat and one of the more entertaining philosophers.
One of the most common statements made about healthcare in the U.S. is it is the best in the world. Yet both anecdotal evidence and the hard facts say otherwise. It is excellent in many ways but also deeply flawed, often to the points of lunacy and tragedy, in others. Many perspectives (of which there really are just a few recycled over and over) on healthcare, like politics, may be more a reflection of certain external perspectives with questionable provenance expressed as deeply held beliefs, than carefully examined arguments. In other words, for many their personal convictions may, in fact, be merely the unquestioned ideologies absorbed from their culture believed as fact. This is a fault of all of us at some level. The reality that many still cling to their belief that healthcare in the U.S. is the best in the world reminds me of this great and prescient quote:
Conventional opinions fit so comfortably into the dominant paradigm as to be seen not as opinions but as statements of fact, as ‘the nature of things.’ The very efficacy of opinion manipulation rests on the fact that we do not know we are being manipulated. The most insidious forms of oppression are those that so insinuate themselves into our communication universe and the recesses of our minds that we do not even realize they are acting upon us. The most powerful ideologies are not those that prevail against all challengers but those that are never challenged because in their ubiquity they appear as nothing more than the unadorned truth.~ Michael Parenti
We are living at a time when some unchallenged ideologies on healthcare are finally getting a chance to be challenged. Whether they will be challenged properly and fully will depend a lot of how people, especially politicians, are willing and able to break free from the dominant paradigm. But, then, that is always the issue, isn’t it?
>Why do I love this video below? I love how it is so odd (from an American perspective): A famous French philosopher gives a lecture into which a young “revolutionary” storms, creates a scene (and a mess), makes some kind of protest statement, and then the philosopher responds. All along the audience watches and occasionally applauds. It’s like a piece of performance art staged for the chic intellectual cohort.
The philosopher is Jacques Lacan. The year is 1972 (not really surprising).
Only in France is all I have to say. And yet, sometimes I wish I lived in a country that would take philosophy, and its philosophers, as seriously. On the other hand, for all his unintended humor, the young radical in this clip may be the more honest of the two.
>If there is a rock star in the world of contemporary philosophy it might be Slavoj Žižek. But I don’t even know what that means, except that, unlike most philosophers, he seems to engender a kind of rapture amongst his followers. Reviews of his books on Amazon are rarely uniform. They always included raves and pans. There is little neutrality. I think this should be the case with every philosopher.
Here is the documentary Žižek! (2005). Watch it an you will agree with me, there is no one like Žižek.
Okay, I am new to Žižek. I’ve seen his name for a while, but I don’t know his work as much as would like. From what little I do know about him I think he and I are in very different camps ideologically. The video above, though, is one of the more fascinating things I’ve seen lately. What a fascinating character he is.
I have no interest in addressing anything within the video per se, but I am fascinated that a philosopher shows up at a speaking engagement and even the standing room is overflowing. This is an extremely rare kind of happening in the U.S. – maybe with someone like Noam Chomsky, but even then not for his talks on linguistics as much as those on U.S. foreign policy. I also love that he has a sense of humor and love movies.