Hakim Bey
August 1, 2004 5:37 PM   Subscribe

An Anarchist in the Hudson Valley. A conversation with Peter Lamborn Wilson, better known as Hakim Bey (mentioned previously here,) the author of TAZ. [Via Cyborg Democracy.]
posted by homunculus (27 comments total)

 
Here is a recording of an excellent talk Wilson gave on Spiritual Anarchism.
posted by thedailygrowl at 6:50 PM on August 1, 2004


wild, homunculus- i spent the better part of the day reading up on ol' hakim. nice coincidence.
posted by moonbird at 7:26 PM on August 1, 2004


Some people will never understand. I prefer to let them sleep, these days.

I don't think a lot of earlier cognition researchers understood that a large majority of the population don't wish to be confronted with the immediacy of the identity choice that is required of them if they are to distinguish various neurochemical reactions from some other 'self'.

Observe how little constructive worth most people get out of dissociatives.

So: under the radar. Silent subculture.
posted by snarfodox at 9:11 PM on August 1, 2004


I would agree with this quote - "This is a class war situation, and the artists are unfortunately not on the right side of the battle. If we would just honestly look at what function we’re serving in this economy, I’m afraid we would see that we’re basically shills for real estate developers."

But about this - "You’re slumped in front of a screen, in the same physical situation as a TV watcher, you’ve just added a typewriter. And you’re "interactive." What does that mean? It does not mean community. It’s catatonic schizophrenia. So blah blah blah, communicate communicate, data data data. It doesn’t mean anything more than catatonics babbling and drooling in a mental institution. Why can’t we stop? How is it that five years ago there were no cell phones, and now everyone needs a cell phone? You can pick up any book by any half-brained post-Marxist jerkoff and read about how capitalism creates false needs. Yet we allow it to go on."

INITIAL IMPRESSION - anger, bile

- I have reservations. This depiction seems so reactionary, and such a charicature. Do thse emotions ever improve things ? I doubt it, but they may too have their place. I do want this to picque my interest, but there seems here, to me, to be too much anger and too little of deeper thought. Bey may very well be capable of that , but I would need more convincing.

A 5 MINUTE LATER CONSIDERATION - hmmm

"It doesn’t mean anything more than catatonics babbling and drooling in a mental institution. Why can’t we stop?"

I do agree with aspects of this point, and the comment makes more sense, in way, as perhaps part of the Sufi tradition.

Those words will change no minds. Anger seldom does. Still, I agree : we must stop. Our bodies and beings evolved in a very different context than that in which most of us now live in - this causes confusion and imbalance.
posted by troutfishing at 10:05 PM on August 1, 2004


(Wouldn't any of those arguments apply equally well to books, newspapers, the telephone, and --- except for the false-needs argument --- actual face-to-face conversation?)
posted by hattifattener at 10:18 PM on August 1, 2004


More about Hakim Bey here in Joel Biroco's journal. He also has more Hakim Bey links which may be worth a look.
posted by StOne at 10:59 PM on August 1, 2004


troutfishing: Still, I agree : we must stop.

We don't have to stop. That's just plain wrong. We don't just inhabit an environment, we collectively generate it as well. Individuals then adapt into that environment. Recycle, repeat, rinse if you want. We're all feeding the collective and there is profit to be made, so those who feed it best will prosper.

>You can pick up any book by any half-brained post-Marxist jerkoff and read about how capitalism creates false needs. Yet we allow it to go on.

Actively try to stop that process and you're most likely going to be crushed by the juggernaut. The fact is that the impact of marketing justifies the enormous investment of time and energy that is invested into it. Many people may hate it, but there it is. It isn't about the individual really, it's about the collective. We're inhabitants of a phase space; generally an estimate, filled with erroneous, interpreted and imagined data rather than a mechanical set of definite interactions. Fertile ground for the psychologists, sociologists, economists, ecologists, cognitive scientists, gamblers and marketers among us.

Yes, for some people there is a feeling of identity disconnect. The neurochemical resources that nature equipped them with to aid in their survival; pacifying, encouraging, generating antipathy, whatever; these push the emergent phenomenon of consciousness into flux. Identity for these folks isn't really a philosophical question anymore, its an immediate concern, and some are not in a position where they're aware of all of their identity choices. Even if people do select an identity that relegates a dopamine rush to a place that prevents it from dictating their reponses what we're describing is an organism that may still choose to accomodate that rush for other purposes. We're not simple creatures, and we're prebuilt for diminishing pleasure or pain returns which complicates matters further.

In any case who said that "balance" is a superior state? Some of the great wonders of this world exist on the ragged edge, gorgeous asynchronies that tell us amazing things about the shape and breadth of reality, created by minds that are anything but 'in balance'. 'Out of balance' minds can still farm broccoli, mine gold and build rockets, and that makes for things that the collective seems to think have value. Recycle, repeat, rinse if you want.
posted by snarfodox at 11:22 PM on August 1, 2004


Google Hakim NAMBLA
posted by Grand Wahzoo at 5:23 AM on August 2, 2004


Bey also exists in a strange subculture [other than the nambla one] because he doesn't have a job, or didn't when I saw him speak. Someone asked him "Well your philosophy is compelling and all, but I need to have a day job. How do you make that work?" and, the roundabout answer was basically "I don't" He had some sort of independent cash flow that didn't require working. Not that he's some sort of trust-fund kid and we shouldn't listen to him, just that it's easier to maintain a critique of capitalism when you're not bound to it by the necessity of eating. Though I suppose the eventual argument is that none of us truly are.

I think TAZ was a really crucial work in terms of viewing rebellion/revolution as some sort of celebration and not just a negative act, but he's a strange egg and tough to get a real grip on. I have no doubt that he walks the talk in many ways, and yet he just seems to have some little crabby parts to the interview [everyone needs to have a cell phone? not out here they don't. spent too much time in the Village?] that make me think of some questions I'd like to ask him. A lot of interviews with him are sort of a series of easy-lob questions by fans in a "how can I make my life more like your life?" vein and a lot of the answer to the question is "Get someone to fund you."
posted by jessamyn at 5:38 AM on August 2, 2004


It occurred to me - as I was revisiting this thread - that I could probably describe my life as being very similar to the one Hakim Bey is leading, but I wouldn't choose to call it (overtly anyway) "mystical" - partly for the sense I have that the very notion of the "mystical" or "spiritual" can relegate everything else not so defined to a different, lesser place....and this is, I'd say, part of the cultural drift which led to the evolutions of religions which deny that animals possess souls. In animistic traditions, all is sacred - there are no ghettoes of the profane.

"We don't have to stop. That's just plain wrong. We don't just inhabit an environment, we collectively generate it as well." - Snarfodox, we don't have to stop - yes, that's true - but if we do not rapidly amend our ways, the consequences will be far greater even than the ones now barreling down at us (like diminishing ocean circulation, for example).

Humans once might have been accurately described as not so much "generating" an environment or the overall environment - something no single species on the planet does, really : it's done collaboratively between many species, the more the better (the more, the more robust the overall system) - but rather, I'd say, mostly generating synthetic constructs such as cities which are technically "environments", I suppose, but which are not the sort of "environments" ecologists tend to study. Anything can be construed as an "environment", really, but to think of it in that fashion is to lose perspective on the fact that life on Earth - in a complex, co-evolved, collaborative fashion - generates the overall planetary "environment" and helps to maintain the pleasant parameters of temperature, atmospheric composition, and so on that humans feel to be "natural". Those parameters are not, strictly speaking, "natural" except in the sense of being "of nature".

Yes, humans do make "environments", but the sort of coevolution that occurs as humans and local species adapt together in a combined system - think of hunting and gathering cultures, or the terraced farming of Bali - in which the humans come to play an essential role that actually can enhance richness of biological diversity are growing fewer and fewer as industrial civilization spreads to all corners of the globe and the older cultural ways are forgotten......the human traditions which were part of patterns of beneficial co-evolution are quickly vanishing, and the newer, emerging norm could more accurately be compared to the spread of an algal bloom that consumes all available local oxygen and so chokes off a vast swath of sea life : except that the human algal bloom is occurring on a global scale. We are - in biological terms at present - a type of overgrowth or a kind of parasitism. But, to say this is not to engage in a type of vengeful hatred of modernity, Western Civilization, or industrial culture - the human cultural repertoire was once adapted to the biological world in ways far more beneficial. We can re-learn such old ways and reinvent new ones now - we have the required deep ecological knowledge. But, first, we must acknowledge the scope of the developing crisis.
posted by troutfishing at 7:18 AM on August 2, 2004


"Certain technologies hurt the commonality, as they used to say in the early 19th century. Any machinery that was hurtful to the commonality, they took their sledgehammers out and tried to smash. Direct action."

I think he's nuts. TAZ seemed interesting when I first encountered it, but I'm ready to say that 1) Destruction that reduces order instead of builds it is inherently insane; and 2) If someone uses drugs recreationally, they are inherently dishonest.

Sorry. The "commonality" is useful only in that it reduces violence against the individual. Otherwise, you get the megapowerful commonalities that have produced genocide around the globe. No thanks. I've never respected Luddites. They've seemed lacking in some kind of essential humanness to me.

Looking backward at the march of progress, it is obviously a predominantly good thing. Violence and Repression are still part of the modern world, no doubt about it, but the frickin' Pope is on the defensive about the role of women and the Taliban are shooting them in Afghanistan to keep them from voting. These are the desperate measures of a losing side. Equality is increasing, in can't be stopped, and part of that comes from the elimination of the power of the state.

Why doesn't he acknowledge that tied to the State's inability (actually, unwillingness) to regulate multinational corporations is the State's inability (actually, internal prohibition) to regulate the individual?
posted by ewkpates at 11:01 AM on August 2, 2004


And another thing- animals destroy their environments. Only humans have ever attempted to alter that course of events. Are we good at it? Not very. Are we improving? Sure. Give us a break. We've only had the internet for like ten seconds.
posted by ewkpates at 11:03 AM on August 2, 2004


ewkpates - very few species in the history of life on Earth have become so Globally ubiquitious and exerted such a powerful pressure on all other life and species than humans now do.

By some estimates, humans directly control 40% of the earth's biomass - as cities, farms, managed forests, range-land, suburbia, and so on. In the next few decades, this proportion is expected to increase to 80%. Of course, humans exert indirect but very significant pressure on nearly all of life on Earth.

The last such biological "revolution" that comes to mind as extreme as the current human overgrowth (amplified greatly, of course, through technology) would be the emergence of photosynthetic algae and plants, in the "Oxygen Holocaust" (my term) that drove all anaerobic life to seek shelter wherever it could from the poisonous oxygen which the photosynthesizers spewed out.

It's difficult for humans - with our oxygen driven metabolisms - to think of the gas as a toxic menace, but it surely was to a great proportion of species which had evolved, before Oxygen saturated the atmosphere, in the age predating photosynthesis.

I have the sense that TAZ is, well...less than profound or wise. My opinion. It seems reactive to me, and I wonder about the assumed surrounding garb of Sufism - a cultural and mystical tradition, yes, of great internal fluidity but which still retains, externally at least, an orthodox garb that includes, as well, conventional standards of respect.

I have a number of reservations about your "March of Progress" - not the least of which is the body count left in it's wake, human and non-human, as well as the destruction of a large part of the fabric of the biosphere and also the human ethnosphere : "We too are ethnocentric and we often forget that we represent not the absolute wave of history but merely a worldview, and that modernity -- whether you identify it by the monikers Westernization, globalization, or free trade -- is but an expression of our cultural values. It is not some objective force removed from the constraints of culture. And it is certainly not the true and only wave of history. It is merely a constellation of beliefs, convictions, economic paradigms that represent one way of doing things, of going about the complex process of organizing human activities.
When we project modernity as the inevitable destiny of all human societies I think we are being disingenuous in the extreme."

posted by troutfishing at 10:06 PM on August 2, 2004


troutfishing: I guess my perspective is slanted from the typical in that I don't regard humanity as being particularly responsible for the maintenance of biological diversity. Very large rock impacts, volcanic eruptions and human waste products may have a nasty influence (for certain species) in the short term, but so what? Why the obsession with maintaining the status quo? I'm simply not concerned about sea-life choking on plastic bags or island-bound flightless birds being eaten by feral cats because in the long run it simply doesn't matter. Their strategy didn't work. Don't chew on the plastic bag. Learn how to fly.

In the end it comes down to this: adapt or die. I guess that choice sucks at the time, but life as a whole is still ticking. Life is very, very tenacious, even if chains of species are not. We're all the end product of an enormous collection of survivors, and I'm not particularly uncomfortable with the idea that my ancestors survived by slaughtering anything that got in their way. Genetic algorithms don't tend to do things by half measures.

If humans mess with the environment to the point that it can't support large groups of humans then the species will experience die-back. I'm banking on the smart, wealthy, vicious ones to make it through those problems, even if something not-quite-human comes through in the end. I'm also guessing that 'the meek' of this world are going to be turned into soylent green. I happen to be smart, wealthy and vicious in comparison to most other humans on the planet and I intend to maintain that state of affairs.

The honest truth is that I'm happy with my 'predator' label. For the most part I choose to pretend that I'm a pleasant, passive and agreeable organism because the consequences of acting otherwise are not optimal for my purposes. I, however, have no misgivings about stomping on several billion skulls (human or otherwise) if that’s what it takes to power my lights. In essence I’m very much aware of the fact that this is exactly what I’m doing right now.

Yes, what I'm describing is a form of moral nihilism. Feel free to assume that I'm exaggerating if it makes you more comfortable.
posted by snarfodox at 11:21 PM on August 2, 2004


We are at the very cusp of a huge human species die-back, and quite possibly extinction. We're no longer experiencing the loss of a few random and far-fetched species, but rather the loss of entire ecosystems. The loss of these ecosystems is having disasterous effect on organisms within our own phylum: which is to say that relatively near relatives to the human species are dropping like flies.

I, however, have no misgivings about stomping on several billion skulls (human or otherwise) if that’s what it takes to power my lights.

Sociopathic, much?
posted by five fresh fish at 1:02 AM on August 3, 2004


five fresh fish> Sociopathic, much?

Perhaps. However, please note that you're paying for an account with an ISP while enables you to make that comment while someone, somewhere is starving to death for want of a dollar or two. Is it sociopathic that you don't cancel your account, subsist as cheaply as you possibly can, and give the excess cash to an aid agency that might be able to save someone's life? Don't you care about those poor people?

Can you really claim that you're not aware of what it means to be a citizen in a country that maintains a controlling interest in the vast majority of the world's wealth? The tiny percentage of that wealth that flows back to less fortunate humans as 'aid' might be just barely enough to make you feel like you're sharing the love, I suppose.

What I'm saying is, essentially: it sucks to be poor and it sucks to be prey. You very likely have never been either of those things, which is a luxury that something, somewhere is paying for. I'm not going to apologise for the fact that I don't feel sorry for cattle on the slaughterhouse conveyer belt. One of their ancestors made a bet that didn't pay off and they're not doing much to change that state of affairs.
posted by snarfodox at 1:58 AM on August 3, 2004


When the freakin' Tundra comes for you all, you'll be kicking yourselves for not pumping as much petro energy as you could to fund economies that could produce science that would have kept your sorry ass, and the sorry ass of your favorite species/ecosystem/family next door from freezing over.

And, hey, snarfodox, I hope the next time you are prey (to muggers or multinationals) you'll remember to smile and tell yourself that you hope your spawn will learn an evolutionary lesson from all of it. Or not.
posted by ewkpates at 8:31 AM on August 3, 2004


"I guess my perspective is slanted from the typical in that I don't regard humanity as being particularly responsible for the maintenance of biological diversity......I, however, have no misgivings about stomping on several billion skulls (human or otherwise) if that’s what it takes to power my lights. In essence I’m very much aware of the fact that this is exactly what I’m doing right now......Yes, what I'm describing is a form of moral nihilism." - Well, I'm glad you're at least honest about it.

A few things to consider though :

1) life will persist until it doesn't. It has so far, but the assumption of continuity is one of the logical/philosophical fallacies, or pitfalls, that has come to be know as the "Und So Weiter" fallacy (literally, "And so on"). If we push things far enough, there's always a small chance of runaway scenarios, towards a much hotter or much colder climate, that could, at the least, challenge the tenure of most life. Life on Earth had a start, and it will have an end.

2) You actually do have a purely personal stake in slowing the ongoing reduction of Earth's biological diversity : the more diverse and ecological system is, it has been shown, the more robust it is, both at maintaining it's own equilibrium and local climatic homeostasis, and also at adaptation to larger, regional or planetary changes.

3) The overall logic - or direction - to your type moral and ethical approach (or lack of one) that has been propelling human civilization along throughout all recorded history - and probably for the history of the species - towards the sort of singularity (I'm not specifically referring to "The Singularity" here) we are now approaching (some call it "The Funnel") in which a combination of a number of trends converge, including a) ecological and climatic destabilization, in both local and Global systems, that may take on non-linear dynamics (if this is not underway already) - and lurch suddenly into chaotic behavior and then into new, different steady states, and b) The development and worldwide spread of technological civilization and also hyper-destructive military technologies.

This overall dynamic and motion towards the "funnel" or "singularity" has been all but inevitable since the current chapter in the history of the human species which we call called "civilization", that began with the start of the Holocene at the end of the last Ice-Age, came to be dominated by a slowly building but relentless process of accrual of technological knowledge which was driven by wars and arms races that were, in turn, initiated as bands of humans first began to conceive of a way of life based on warfare - on raiding and pillaging - that was itself made possible with the birth of the notion of bending human creative talent towards a singular goal : the development of military technology.

It started with the eruption, from the steppes of Asia, of bands of warriors who had combined two key inventions - of horse-riding, and Bronze-Age weapons made possible with the new art of metallurgy they had borrowed from their more peaceable neighbors to the West - to deadly effect. Then came stronger, tougher iron weapons, and then horse drawn wheeled vehicles - chariots : with each new improvement in martial technology, a new wave of conquest swept across the plains and the once mostly peaceful agrarian civilizations of Old Europe were forced to learn incorporate the art of war.....or perish. Soon, Minoan culture was the only remaining bastion of a once widespread culture throughout Old Europe which has been more egalitarian than the warrior cultures which supplanted it, and which worshipped both male and prominent female deities and deities which celebrated life itself and which were held to be connected to earthly life. This is the broad historic sweep by which - by the time of the writing of the Old Testament, most women had been reduced from their former far more prominent status to mere chattel.

_____________________________

So what?, you ask. Well, I'd answer with this - humans have both competitive, violent instincts in their genetic repertoire, and also cooperative, social instincts. Now, the rough balance between the two is driven, of course, by the imperatives of the "Selfish Gene", yes.

But there are also other tales to be told of our bodies and of our deep biological pasts - and the largest of these, mostly unknown and untold until very recently - concerns the fact that the view of "Nature red in tooth and claw" is at a best a half truth. Sometimes, oddly enough, predation is unsuccessful not for "jaws" to small to engulf the prey, but for resistance of the prey, have been eaten, to being digested and assimilated. Lynn Margulis is the brilliant biologist who has nearly singlehandedly launched Endosymbiotic Theory and posits it another powerful force, in at least the early development and articulation of life on Earth, to the process of evolution that Darwin and Wallace described. GAIA Theory would be, of course, a type of co-evolved symbiosis at the planetary level.

The problem with the "predator's way" you describe (though humans are at the species level a most anomalous predator) lies in the fact that the human instincts you champion - to the exclusive of corresponding cooperative tendencies - both propel the arms-race development of the new class hyper-destructive military technologies now on the close horizon and also incline the best armed nations of the World to use them.

This is no small problem. Cooperation - sometimes the best adaptive strategy - is the only remedy.

"Here Comes The Flood" (lyrics to the song by Peter Gabriel)

"When the night shows
the signals grow on radios
All the strange things
they come and go, as early warnings
Stranded starfish have no place to hide
still waiting for the swollen Easter tide
There's no point in direction we cannot
even choose a side.

I took the old track
the hollow shoulder, across the waters
On the tall cliffs
they were getting older, sons and daughters
The jaded underworld was riding high
Waves of steel hurled metal at the sky
and as the nail sunk in the cloud, the rain
was warm and soaked the crowd.

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

When the flood calls
You have no home, you have no walls
In the thunder crash
You're a thousand minds, within a flash
Don't be afraid to cry at what you see
The actors gone, there's only you and me
And if we break before the dawn, they'll
use up what we used to be.

Lord, here comes the flood
We'll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It'll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you're running dry.

[Repeat chorus once]"

posted by troutfishing at 10:19 AM on August 3, 2004


Is it sociopathic that you don't cancel your account, subsist as cheaply as you possibly can, and give the excess cash to an aid agency that might be able to save someone's life?

Ah, the old "X did something bad, so I can do something worse and it's okay!" argument. Truly a refuge for the selfish.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:06 AM on August 3, 2004


troutfishing> Life on Earth had a start, and it will have an end.

I agree.

troutfishing> the more diverse a [system] ... the more robust it is

This statement is well supported by the current state of the art in complex systems theory. That said, complex networks tend to damage gracefully. Immediate breakdown into a crystal or chaos state is a symptom you don't really see in real-world systems. Generally that kind of behaviour is confined to very simple system simulations (like cellular automata). In any case if there is a very serious breakdown in the viability of the global ecosystem it is extremely unlikely that all human life (let alone all life) will perish. In the event of severe die-back, as I previously mentioned the smart, wealthy and vicious members of the species are the most likely candidates for survival.

Nothing about the way I view the world implies ignoring the potential benefits of cooperation. Without cooperation it would not be possible to obtain the collective resources that are required to produce those extremely useful hyper-destructive military technologies you mention. Those can then be put to use securing and maintaining control over limited resources.

fff> Ah, the old "X did something bad, so I can do something worse and it's okay!" argument. Truly a refuge for the selfish.

I can acknowledge the accuracy of that charge. I am a selfish creature. On the other hand I'm being completely honest about what I see being done in my name by the society of which I am a part. I don't feel guilty about it because I actually don't care about (for example) the people of Sudan. If the approximately forty million Sudanese people were all murdered over the course of the next few years it would have a very tiny impact on my world.

In terms of social psychology it could be said that I 'care' more about, say, an American life, because Americans are a lot more like me and I have a vested interest in making sure that that particular group of people is considered inherently more valuable by the world's most dominant powers.
posted by snarfodox at 5:05 PM on August 3, 2004


I rather suspect, then, that the following is more for shock value than a statement of personal demand for full-time 100W light:

I, however, have no misgivings about stomping on several billion skulls (human or otherwise) if that’s what it takes to power my lights.

Would you vapourise the people of Sudan to leave your lights on all year, or would you seek an option that allows them to live, perhaps by turning your lights off at night?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:15 PM on August 3, 2004


fff> Would you vapourise the people of Sudan to leave your lights on all year, or would you seek an option that allows them to live, perhaps by turning your lights off at night?

If your question is literally: if you don't wipe out the people of Sudan then you get no electricity then I'd have to say I'd wipe them out. Electricity represents wealth and security and I consider those things worth killing for.

If you're saying I could preserve or condemn forty million people by choosing what I would do with my light switch at night I'd probably very quickly be on the telephone to the government of Sudan asking for a material tribute that was an appropriate fit for my new, godlike power.

The thing is, the decision is never that direct. I pay for that extra electricity if and when I want it. Millions of people just like me do exactly the same thing, and as a collective the society of which I am a part uses a comparatively vast amount of energy. If the demand is too high the price will go up and fewer people will be able to maintain the luxury of having lights on at night. If the resulting pollution kills off a large portion of the food supply then fewer people will be able to eat.

To return to Hakim Bey's example, if I buy a mobile phone or use a laptop computer it has components that are made out of tantalum, which means that someone has had to mine columbite-tantalite ore (coltan). Most of that (about seventy percent) will come from Australia. Approximately ten to fifteen percent of the global supply of coltan comes from the Congo. Currently the Congolese coltan trade is financing a fairly substantial civil war.

I suppose you could say that anyone who is using a laptop or a mobile phone is ten to fifteen percent responsible for an extremely large number of rapes and murders. Or perhaps the ore passes through enough hands so that they're only responsible for a fraction of a percent of those killings. Or maybe they're responsible for one murder out of every ten thousand.

That, obviously, is not my opinion.

I don't know how many living things have been killed to keep me alive to this point, but I have no problem increasing that number to continue the process.
posted by snarfodox at 8:03 PM on August 3, 2004


snarfodox - what's curious, to me, is the one way flow of the power relation you describe - your (and our) actions exert a disproportionate influence on humans in less affluent cultures - yes, I'd agree....

But, your argument seems to imply that the chain of casuality runs in one direction only.

"If the approximately forty million Sudanese people were all murdered over the course of the next few years it would have a very tiny impact on my world." - I believe that statements denies much physics from the last 100 years at least. I could sketch out the rather stark reasons why, but I've got to get to bed.

Thanks, anyway, for your honesty.


"Electricity represents wealth and security and I consider those things worth killing for." - My notion of wealth is rather different from yours, and I'm still more like you than not, a fellow westerner. But - throughout much of the history of humanity - wealth has been defined in other, often non-material ways.

You'd kill for wealth - as you define wealth. But In my view, if I were to do the same as most of the non-metrik argument sugests

"I don't know how many living things have been killed to keep me alive to this point, but I have no problem increasing that number to continue the process." - All life implies killing, and death. That's a given that should not serve, in my opinion, as a blanket excuse.

I don't feel guilty about it because I actually don't care about (for example) the people of Sudan. If the approximately forty million Sudanese people were all murdered over the course of the next few years it would have a very tiny impact on my world.
posted by troutfishing at 10:14 PM on August 3, 2004


troutfishing> throughout much of the history of humanity - wealth has been defined in other, often non-material ways.

My notion of wealth is fluidly defined by a collective desire or need and belief. Note that I'm not saying that love isn't worth killing for, or many other, often non-material things.

troutfishing> I believe that statement denies much physics from the last 100 years at least. I could sketch out the rather stark reasons why, but I've got to get to bed.

When confronted with those choices I'm being quite honest about the decisions that I would make. If you have other thoughts that I have not considered I would be very interested to hear them.

I can see in my choices a large dose of what Hannah Arendt described as ‘the banality of evil’. These are decisions that very likely could have ‘monstrous’ outcomes, and I can see that such choices lead to things like the Holocaust, but I disagree with Arendt that my choices (and I can only speak for myself) have been made thoughtlessly.

Violence can be costly, and it is not without risks. I tend to weigh those risks on a case by case basis. Killing forty million people is a very serious act that would need a strong motivation. It is very easy to lose perspective when the questions that are being asked are absolutes. Yesterday I asked a mother how many people she would kill to protect her child and she replied that she would kill anybody and everybody that she had to: commit genocide if necessary. I believe her.

Take electricity from me and a lot of the infrastructure that supports my world falls apart. A lot of killing happens in my name to support that infrastructure, and I have very little problem with that. Violence can be an extremely effective tool. Violence can make controlling a resource cheaper, or it can make maintaining that control prohibitively expensive.
posted by snarfodox at 7:18 AM on August 4, 2004


Part of what's at stake here is tied to the phrase "little impact on my world."

1. How do you define impact? Did it matter to you when Douglas Adams died of a heart attack at an early age? Would you characterize his death as "low impact"?

2. Fundamentally, you appear to consider the social contract as limited to those in your immediate vicinity. Whereas this might work in the short term, I discourage you from making any geographical change.

3. Perhaps (but maybe not) you will reconsider your arguments should you develop an attachment to another person strong enough to upset you egocentric view of the universe. I'm not saying egocentrism is bad, it's a survival tool. Although scavenging dumpsters for consumable garbage is a survival tool, hopefully we move past that, and as a result, enjoy life at a level of sophistication beyond that. Say, Buger King.
posted by ewkpates at 8:27 AM on August 4, 2004


ewkpates: I define impact in terms of energy consequences and I don’t posit a ‘social contract’ at all. That kind of thinking in political philosophy was the state of the art in 1651, but it certainly isn’t anymore. Elaborating further is probably not going to help this conversation and may even be taken as a swipe, but it should be pointed out that there have been other opinions since Leviathan was published. I could go on for days about how chaos theory made a mess of pure reductionism and how that in turn makes a very serious mess of Hobbes’ Psychological Egoism as well, so I won't.

Back on topic: the participants in a TAZ, by virtue of the ‘T’ part of the acronym, acknowledge that it is a fragile thing that will not last forever. This is one of the reasons why it works, because everyone approaches it on their own terms and everyone involved tends to be aware of that fact and tries to respect everyone else’s experience. That process burns energy, and people get tired. The TAZ breaks down and everyone goes home to a place where they can be lazy and assume what they like about the world for a while rather than investing themselves intensely in every single moment.

If that home happens to be where you assume a social contract what you’re really saying is that you’re relying on controls behind the scenes to make sure that people approach you in a limited number of ways. Those controls are fine until your control mechanism demands more energy than is contained in the system, and, sadly for that strategy, period three implies chaos: you’re going to lose fine control at a certain level and that imprecision will begin to emerge at a higher level. We're not getting weather control satellites any time soon. You can’t get away from that fact unless you draw upon a much larger source of energy to control a smaller space, and even then you’re still limited in your degree of control because while the size of earth's biosphere is limited; through the beauty of fractional dimensionality, it is complexity unbounded.

Life clings where it can until its bloodied fingers slip or other life disembowels it and uses the carcass for food. Lionesses have also been known to foster orphaned impalas as well, so your mileage may vary.
posted by snarfodox at 11:57 PM on August 6, 2004


Those founding fathers, they certainly weren't interested in the social contract so probably there is no indication whatsoever that the declaration and the constitution invoke a social contract scenario.

Although I am more interested in investing the difference between what people say they believe, and what they deep down actually believe.

Someone can say that they believe that they "do whatever the hell they like" but political philosophers, even old dead ones, and experimental social psychologists, disagree.

And like 30 Bettys.
posted by ewkpates at 2:01 PM on August 11, 2004


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