Talking … – but about what?

It is apparently not just a phenomenon of our present time … – pretending to know, acting accordingly – and not acknowledging the need to know [about] the fundamental rules

Spencer’s own books were widely read, or at least widely discussed, in the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the present one.

(John Kenneth Galbraith, 1958: The Affluent Society; London, Hamish Hamilton: 45)

– the difference between reading and discussing, similar to the often provided answers, before the question is really formulated and understood. Doesn’t it remind of the tennis-matches Herreweghe mentioned?

Annunci

problems of language

It happened frequently, and when using different languages, I got confused, when listening to a sentence or a word: I understood the words, but not the meaning. An exciting challenge at times, actually making it possible to develop a deeper understanding than we have when we simply refer to our knowledge without reflecting on what we really know – and mean.

Sometimes …

One of the early days in January we went shopping, some stuff for a nice meal. My friend picked up a package, not being from Europe she wanted to know what this is:

 

I looked at the label, and said:

This vegetable is called Oxymoron, a subspecies of asparagus. It comes from Peru to Bavaria and is supposedly fresh.

I guess, more in general, that little story is one about the small print of language and one dimension of the difficulties of people understanding each other. And one wonders if it tells us to take things from experience, talking to people and trust or if one should run around with all the relevant textbooks and reference manuals – here a beginners guide for EU-Fruit and vegetables: Marketing standards. Many seem to be far fetched, but it actually reminds me of universities. boxing students and not allowing to open them. Sure. all as well a matter of skills and knowledge.

 

I admit …

Yes, I admit that I do not know about the technical issue behind this new

I dare to wonder more philosophically, however [admittedly possibly because of this lacking knowledge]
Does this mean we duplicate reality? Or are we now going to hide real reality  behind faked reality?
Ops ….
the evening before the day I came across this sentence I went to a presentation that was part of the Ringvorlesung at the LMU, dealing with
Opportunities and Dangers [Möglichkeiten and Gefahren]
Topic that evening:
[here for the audio]
I can’t claim not being guilty myself, following this secular trend towards the homo qui faciunt multa simul, man as multitasking being – in short we may also say homo digitalis. Still, I m not sure if I really want to all with the lemmings, being perhaps at times the avant-garde of this crowed, loosing consciousness by too many consciously fed news and requirements and opportunities and connections ….
It is not the good old days, but it is about questioning, as I did in a short contribution to the debate that evening, the need to have TV news, with a ‘central news block’ – spoken words and film and photo, a ’ticker’ at the bottom, informing about an entirely different topic, a separated block on the one side with different news again and a ‘banner’ informing about the broadcast station, the time …. Do we need newspapers that spread little clippings on various topics, telling us at the beginning how long it takes to read the article …
Don’t we need more slow reading, beginning to read a text, putting the book or paper down to reflect? Don’t we need more talks after class with 仪, 考, 卫 and 予 delving into topics, teachers and students being partners? Don’t we need more time on the veranda, sitting after las reuniones en el edificio del gobierno, with very frank discussions, in the rocking chair in La Habana, near to Paseo e Linea y, chatting with Teresita, el doctor, Orietta or Geober about Che, Fidel and the book fair? …
Around that time when I read the article about augmented reality, after going to to presentation on faked news, I was also listening to some lectures by Hans-Georg Gadamer [yes, all downloadble from that augmented reality]. In one of them he mentions a remarkable development in philosophy: the dialogues in ancient Greece, later the Kantian and Hegelian monologues …. – and today …?
No, I do not suggest to turn the clocks back, but still I dare to confess: whenever I travelled, and some people say I did a lot, it was about teaching and leaning – and the most important learning took place in those disputes and dialogues …
Gadamer, in one of the lectures, makes other interesting point, talking about academic tests. He sys the really interesting question we can ask students – interesting in terms of ‘testing’ a student – is about something we do not know ourself …
 … homo qui faciunt multa simul, the homo digitalis – man as multitasking being …
Is there any reason for being surprised that there is no Latin term for multitasking?
Well, that is one of the points that we will have socialism before AI-ism: we still can ask questions, which computers only know answers, even if the answer is always 42.
As further reading the following two are recommended:
Aristotle ON LONGEVITY AND SHORTNESS OF LIFE
and
Seneca ON THE SHORTNESS OF LIFE
But don’t rush through it …

skills and – or versus – knowledge?

A short passage from Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition, right at the beginning, shows the Poodel’s core …

If it should turn out to be true that knowledge (in the modern sense of know-how) and thought have parted company for good, then we would indeed become the helpless slaves, not so much of our machines but of our know-how, thoughtless creatures at the mercy of every gadget which is technically possible, no matter how murderous it is.

Well,

This was the poodle’s real core

Usually we read about the gadgets, being easily ready to blame them for everything but in actual fact it is not about machines, algorithm’s and the mathematisation of science as such. Indeed we are dealing with the alteration of substance by subordinating matters under alien standards, those of technology or of administrations

The death of the theorist and the emergence of data and algorithms in digital social research

What Hannah Arendt presents as us having

been forced to adopt a “language” of mathematical symbols which, though it was originally meant only as an abbreviation for spoken statements, now contains statements that in no way can be translated back into speech.

is exactly the inability to express ourselves, even more: the inability to be selves.

Indeed, there is no reason for Luddism. It is not about blaming instruments for what they are instrumentalised.

All this has a bit of the body snatchers – if you did not watch the film yet, try to get hold of it and watch it in the presented perspective.

The poodle’s real core – the translation of the phrase in different languages is exciting, allowing to play a bit:

the crux of the matter – fin mot de l’histoire – nocciolo della questione – madre del cordero

The cross we are bearing after committing the sin, confronting us with the end of everything, just reducing things on a nucleus that barely has space for much, and still, brought to explosion it reduces even this little, showing itself as mother of the lamb – and we know too well that the lamb had to be sacrificed.

Though we should not feel tempted to sacrifice the gadgets, we surely should get the brush ready to sweep away the ‘new thinkers’: those new priests that torture us by putting people into boxes and those new priests that ruin institutions by reducing them on administrative machines. It is one of the challenges to see that machines – be it in forms of boxes or administrators desks, are simply not able to engage in what would be needed: intellectual confrontation.

We may move from Arendt to Goethe’s Faust:

‘Tis written: “In the Beginning was the Word.”
Here am I balked: who, now can help afford?
The Word?—impossible so high to rate it;
And otherwise must I translate it.
If by the Spirit I am truly taught.
Then thus: “In the Beginning was the Thought
This first line let me weigh completely,
Lest my impatient pen proceed too fleetly.
Is it the Thought which works, creates, indeed?
“In the Beginning was the Power,” I read.
Yet, as I write, a warning is suggested,
That I the sense may not have fairly tested.
The Spirit aids me: now I see the light!
“In the Beginning was the Act,” I write.

If I must share my chamber with thee,
Poodle, stop that howling, prithee!
Cease to bark and bellow!
Such a noisy, disturbing fellow
I’ll no longer suffer near me.
One of us, dost hear me!
Must leave, I fear me.
No longer guest-right I bestow;
The door is open, art free to go.
But what do I see in the creature?
Is that in the course of nature?
Is’t actual fact? or Fancy’s shows?
How long and broad my poodle grows!
He rises mightily:
A canine form that cannot be!
What a spectre I’ve harbored thus!

 

Reading history – slowly and in large steps

beMemorials are important as we are only by remembering, i.e.

consciously re-(-sur-)-facing

enables us visioning the future, needed to act today. All this is much more demanding than behaving.

Memorials are important, and perhaps even more so if they remind us and allow us questioning – as it happened recently, the second day, coming after a long time to Munich again. The first day I actually met a friend – a nice surprise call:

Time for a coffee?

I was sitting in the coffee shop at the Amalienstrasse anyway, so not much could have been nicer. We had been chatting – amongst others about the fame of places, and for Munich it unfortunately means not least that it is famous for the beer festival and the German dark ages of the last century …

The next day I strolled a bit around. Though I thought I would know those places, actually visited some with a group of students from Ireland, several years ago, I saw one that I passed as frequent as it remained unrecognised by me, all the times ignored. Was it because moving along Briennerstrasse/Maximilian Strasse did not make me expect much, just outrageous wealth?

“Im gedenken an die opfer der nationalsozialistischen gewaltherrschaft   –   verfolgt aus politischen gründen   verfolgt aus rassistischen gründen   verfolgt aus religiösen gründen   verfolgt wegen ihrer sexuellen identität   verfolgt wegen ihrer behinderung”

In my own translation

“In memory of the victims of the national-socialist tyranny persecuted for political reasons, persecuted for racist reasons, persecutedr for religious reasons, persecuted because of their sexual identity, because of their disability[1]

 

Written in the wall behind the pillar, accommodating the eternal fire

– all part of the monument which has been launched on November 8th, 1985 by the then Lord Major, Georg Kronawitter.

I was alerted by the words

BECAUSE …

Then I looked again, reading the entire text.

FOR political, racist, religious REASONS….

Indeed, for the German fascists it had been “sufficient”: being gay, being Jew …, all this has been a sufficient ‘reason’ to terminate the life of people, ‘arguments’ in a state which seemingly did not need arguments. A state that used its power arbitrarily – Max Weber comes to mind, speaking of the

“state” insofar as its administrative staff successfully upholds the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order.[2]

Memorial – in German language the term carries some ambiguity with it. It simply means memorial, but can also be read as: “hang on, think!”

Had people really been killed because they were Jews, disabled ….?

Were they killed for political and the other names reasons?

Doesn’t this easily make us overlook the real reasons? What seemed to be arbitrary violence, was in fact a sophisticated system of an authoritarian state which was needed as backing of an economic system that was fatally wounded: a capitalism that was not really capitalism anymore but a system in which profit-making was not linked to profitable accumulation (which is a bad enough system anyway) but on the violent securitisation of profits made in a system in which finance is not about money but about the permanent reaffirmation of power.

******

This reminds us of what the quarterly view said, quoted in volume one of Marx’ The Capital; and it reminds us of what Saskia Sassen presented:

So I sort of want to throw out the notion that finance is a capability. And so when you look at some of the measures of its value today, for instance outstanding derivatives, a basic measure—a quadrillion…that money doesn’t exist, you know. Global GDP is something like sixty trillion. There is no— Quadrillion is many many zeros. I know that in Europe you have different designations. It’s more zeros than you’re used to in your average figures that you see with lots of zeros—it’s more than a trillion, let’s put it that way.

So I think one first step is to distinguish between traditional banking, which sells money it has (or it can borrow very quickly, whatever) and finance, which sells something it does not have. And in that selling what it does not have lies its creativity. It has to invent instruments. And secondly—and they go together—it has to invade other sectors. Because it itself does not have what it needs to produce.

******

And we may feel reminded when reading the manager magazine, as I did that day – in some way one may call it the gossip-journal of parts of the upper classes.

Finance not being equal to money, as much as life does not equal living. It is frequently suggested that there are two options, the one being about working to live, the other living to work. In this case there may be a third way, saying that life is work and work is living. Sure, this opens to a broad discussion. One point that can be made is that put forward by the old idealist, bit of a dream-dancer, Schiller, demanding

Reason also utters the decision that man shall only play with beauty, and he shall only play with beauty.

For, to speak out once for all, man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays.

While this comes along as a nice suggestion, it urgently needs a material foundation that allows play of that kind. It requires a material situation that is marked not by resources that are merely enough to survive but is in need of amounts that are surely enough to live from.

The material side of ‘playing’ is surely not a problem for perverted highflyers, but they have problems, mental problem of lost grounding. So to the gossip-journal then, and really going into its going to the gossip section means to dive into the article on Ibiza,

as life-style island an international brand[3]

We see them removed from living not because of the need to merely secure life, but because their life needs to be stylised and branded – I am not really into any of it, I supposed it is like people who lost their hair, replacing it by a wig: artificial and more beautiful than reality is. And of course, it has to be a wig with brand-name – interesting by the way: assuming something, I checked Leo’s dictionaries. I see the following

 

 

Yes, brand – the trademark – is the also the term of the mark by which horses had been classified and ‘proprietised’ …: Oh glory, may be we should not think only of refeudalisation – see also here – but also about animalisation: the return to instincts as foundation and guideline. What makes it worse, more weird than it is anyway: we press the burning iron against our own skin and instead of feeling the pain we turn it into pleasure …

Oh,

Fuck me, I’m famous[4]

This is the new stoned of leisure society, as Tired Is The New Stoned of the postmodern work society, tired suggesting that one is extremely busy, even too busy to be really busy when it comes to working life – presence everywhere and anytime. It is like being too tired to actually sleep. And all this is also the illusion of singularity: be it singularity in the understanding of the Big Bang, or as claimed hyper-individuality.

Sure,

[t]he spreading luxury begins to be a problem for accommodation – for those who lack privileges. Because the personnel cannot commute between mainland and island and the rents are exorbitant, many spend the nights in the cars or on the balconies, let by enterprising Ibizians. For having a shower a membership In one of the gyms s recommended.[5]

And paradoxes, as usual, are included as the highflyers search for seclusion …, and of course it is not a problem as a

concierge service … offering any service to his moneyed customers, around the clock. The most have only one: anonymity.[6]

Also no problem as

It is easy on Ibiza to dive away, …, [in both ways:] hiding from the media and escaping from reality.[7]

Not being famous, not being rich and powerful? The solution may be found in another world

Yaşamak bir ağaç gibi

tek ve hür ve bir orman gibi

kardeşçesine,

bu hasret bizim.

Nâzım Hikmet

Translated into English

To live in solitude and free

like a tree but on the same time

like a forest in solidarity

this yearning is ours.

Nâzım Hikmet

******

But that solution is somewhat a paradox in its own terms – the going together with others and the withdrawal. The danger of escapism – actionism, saving life, searching tranquility of living, and in both respects depending eon others and the own personality.

As I wrote later those days to a friend back in China

I was reading the ‘manager magazine’ yesterday – only reading such stuff when I get it for free. Amazing to read about fascinating careers and enterprises … – most successful … and when I allowed myself a closer look I was thinking about ‘for what’? People doing things, making a huge fortune and that was it: no purpose, just following some ‘instinct’, struggling without knowing for what … – not sure if I can explain it well. But I thought: well, may be not so bad lacking that kind of wealth but being ‘content’ in some ways.

Again and again I feel obliged – in different contexts and different times, addressing different people – to mark the difference between living, life and now in addition the life style as stylised life – products changing their character, being commodities; it translates into the human being commodities: in the one case the human labour power, in the other case the stylisation of life – two ways of terminating living.

And as I wrote – as PS – to the colleagues with whom I share the responsibility in the Joerg-Huffschmid-Award.[8]

PS: Being now in the ‘rich city of Munich’ I cannot refrain from writing the following yesterday: Yesterday I arrived here I Munich, and with this, after living more than two years in China, in Germany. Piece, and especially joyfulness: In all the shops the window displays for the Oktoberfest, Munich’s beer festival, because ‘casual wear’ as dress code means in this case it should be authentic-colourful costume-like garb. There is bit of a problem with the pancake [well, ‘those years’ it was a kind of teasing trinity: piece, joyfulness, pancakes]: I will not mention the rent I have to pay for my tiny flat. One impression from today, early in the morning I want to mention: an elderly lady moved with her bike from waste bin to waste bin [well even at this stage not everything is completely privatised] … – it is probably her proactive approach to life, avoiding ending up as beggar – that is part of the first impressions, arriving in the rich city of Munich, the impression after teaching two years in China, where – under the leadership of a university with a supposedly high ranking – young, curious personalities are encouraged to ‘seize the world’ … , and seizing it according to which rules? Here you may get an impression.

And I remembered the headlines I red some time ago – also impressions, anecdotal ….

Die besten jobs für Renter – the best jobs for retirees

the other

Wiesn – die bittere Wahrheit – Munich Beerfestival, the bitter truth

Yes, once upon a time, in 1986, the Christian Democrats promised:

„Denn eins ist sicher: Die Rente“ – But there is one thing you can rely on: the pension.

You can rely on, you hardly make a living, you may just stay alive, and even for that you may need a job, and even then ‘living’, by way of going out for a pint,  having fun is limited – well, sure, there are surely also other ways of having fun, most likely equally liked; and it does not play a role that of indigenous Bavarians it is not about a pint but a Mass, but they also say:

“Ah geh weida, dees is doo mia wurschd, wia ma dees iatz auf Houchdeidsch schreibd, Haubdsach, schmegga duads ma, mei Mass Bier”

And I remembered a paragraph, taken from Freeland’s book on The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else:[9]

If you traveled to Mountain View to visit Eric Schmidt when he was CEO of Google, you would have found him in a narrow office barely big enough to hold three people. The equations on the whiteboard may well have been scribbled by one of the engineers who works next door and is welcome to use the chief’s office whenever he’s not in. And while it is okay to have a private jet in the Valley, employing a chauffeur is frowned upon. “Whereas in other cultures, you can drive your Rolls-Royce around and just sort of look rich and have a really good time, in technology it’s not socially okay to have a driver who drives you to work every day,” Schmidt told me. “I don’t know why, but you’ll notice nobody does it.”

This egalitarian style can clash with the Valley’s reality of extreme income polarization. “Many tech companies solved this problem by having the lowest-paid workers not actually be employees. They’re contracted out,” Schmidt explained. “We can treat them differently, because we don’t really hire them. The person who’s cleaning the bathroom is not exactly the same sort of person. Which I find sort of offensive, but it is the way it’s done.”

******

Back to square one of these reflections on antifascist memorials, reasons and the reasoning about life, living and branding lifestyles and the implied animalisation. Doesn’t all this show n an excellent way the real because and rationales: What happened:

  • the holocaust which was also a system of exploiting humans down to the bones
  • in a nutshell: the war of one country against the rest of the world, a slightly extended interpretation: the new division of the world amongst different political and economic powers
  • the establishment of a ‘culture of animalisation’, artificially breeding destructive and even self-destructive instincts
  • the breeding of culture of fear, emerging from the fear of complete disempowerment

are surely a frightening development – and the need of remembering, i.e.

consciously re-(-sur-)-facing

enabling us to vision the future, being needed to act today surely should also look at capitalism today. The meaning of the words of Brecht’s Epilogue from the parable play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui [written in 1941) have to be taken very seriously, even and because of Arturo Ui today changed names, wears different clothes and my be found on Ibiza, stylizing animalistic non-sense, i.e. dangerously breeding senseless instincts against human kind

Therefore learn how to see and not to gape.

To act instead of talking all day long.

The womb he crawled from still is going strong.

******

[1] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denkmal_für_die_Opfer_der_NS-Gewaltherrschaft_(München)

[2] Weber, Economy and Society; page 54

[3] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[4] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[5] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[6] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[7] Ifrom the manager magazin; August 2017 – print edition; https://heft.manager-magazin.de/MM/2017/8/152235337/; 05/09/17

[8] On the 6th of December there will be a public event, taking place in Berlin, handing over the two awards

[9] Freeland, Chrystia, 2012: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else; New York: The Penguin Press: 123

 

 

 

 

 

small print

Sure,elections – and results matter. Still, one may dare to ask how much. Merkel in a speech, opening the recent G20-meeting came back to my mind – you can watch it here. The really interesting part can be found at the and of the video:

I ask the members of the press to leave so that we can start to do our serious work.

Well, that is transparency -masterpiece behind the closed rhombus.

Simplifications

Keynes himself suggests in his supposed main work

The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money

that

the essence of the General Theory of Employment

can actually be reduced on three points

Hence the volume of employment in equilibrium depends on (i) the aggregate supply function, (ii) the propensity to consume, and (iii) the volume of investment, D2.

And the entire theory can be reduced in other ways as the following quotes from the same work show:

Consumption—to repeat the obvious—is the sole end and object of all economic activity. Opportunities for employment are necessarily limited by the extent of aggregate demand. Aggregate demand can be derived only from present consumption or from present provision for future consumption. The consumption for which we can profitably provide in advance cannot be pushed indefinitely into the future.

And another contention:

When involuntary unemployment exists, the marginal disutility of labour is necessarily less than the utility of the marginal product. Indeed it may be much less. For a man who has been long unemployed some measure of labour, instead of involving disutility, may have a positive utility. If this is accepted, the above reasoning shows how ‘wasteful’ loan expenditure may nevertheless enrich the community on balance. Pyramid-building, earthquakes, even wars may serve to increase wealth, if the education of our statesmen on the principles of the classical economics stands in the way of anything better.

 

If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is.

If we reflect a little bit further on these few passages, and not withstanding the fact that Keynes is surely a great economist, at least in the sense of circumspection there remains a main obstacle that may suggest that there is not only a problem with

the education of our statesmen on the principles of the classical economics

but obviously also the assumption that the bottles, suggested to be filled with banknotes and hidden in disused coalmines had been full of high-percentage alcoholic drinks, consumed before suggesting such as mentioned above – in fact Keynes, in this ‘General Theory’ and especially, of course, in his outline of the

Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren

seems to be aware of this. The reader of the quoted lines – and of the entire ‘General Theory’ – may take a few minutes and concentrate on the quoted passages, asking:

What society is suggested here and what role has economic activity in it?

It is a society that is distant from any meaningful social existence, founded in a circular understanding of consumption. Although production is not abandoned as relevant point of reference, in other words: although such economics does not necessarily reduce the process of generating value entirely in the sphere of consumption, it still does refer to the principle of marginality as ultimate motif de décision if not raison d’être.

In consequence it is a society and economy that is established by an inherent supposition that growth is the ultimate mechanism of reproduction, disjoined from any needs that are based in use value.

This also means that such economics fails to recognise that one cannot stop anybody striving to be a bubble in an economy that is conceptualised as bathtub. This refers to Keynes, stating

Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. The measure of success attained by Wall Street, regarded as an institution of which the proper social purpose is to direct new investment into the most profitable channels in terms of future yield, cannot be claimed as one of the outstanding triumphs of laissez- faire capitalism—which is not surprising, if I am right in thinking that the best brains of Wall Street have been in fact directed towards a different object.

As briefly said, Keynes himself was to some extent critical about this, stating in his work on the

Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren

For many ages to come the old Adam will be so strong in us that everybody will need to do some work if he is to be contented. We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day, only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines. But beyond this, we shall endeavour to spread the bread thin on the butter – to make what work there is still to be done to be as widely shared as possible. Three-hour shifts or a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while. For three hours a day is quite enough to satisfy the old Adam in most of us!

Even long time before him, the surely conservative economist John Stuart Mill was pursuing in his

Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy

the idea of stationary state.

Leaving aside that nothing of this is reality, we should not forget to ask for the real reasons standing behind such unfulfilled unmatched state, not least

  • the permanent furthering of breeding ‘the old Adam’
  • and …, well, the unquestioned power of those who drowned the bit of education in the distilled and fermented content of the bottles that Keynes suggest to hide in the coalmines.

Indeed, as we know from Schumpeter

The conquest of the air may well be more important than the conquest of India was—we must not confuse geographical frontiers with economic ones.

And this conquest is going on: the conquest of air and everything, going hand in hand with the “re-conquest” of Venezuela etc, and the new conquest, now directed towards the outer space.