(“君子”)

Philosopher King or Junzi (“君子”):

Platonic or Confucian; who’s leader leads?   

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Abstract:

The following Article represents a prolonged reading and re-thinking of the merits of the political leaders of antiquity. Asking the question: whose leader leads? I am comparing the Confucian concept of leader the Junzi translated into English as ‘exemplary individual’ who following Confucius has a reverence for tradition and who will be shown to have an important origin; being compared with Plato’s leader of the ideal city the Philosopher King in its Republic. The comparison I make centres around these two figures and whether or not they possess the necessary qualities for ruling. I will argue that there is a quality that makes the Confucian leader the Junzi superior to the Philosopher King. I will show and explain how the Chinese concept of familial piety (xiào孝) is a more important and realistic ideal that provides a good grounding in actual leadership. Rather than the emphasis placed on the development of one’s individual rational mind found in the training of the Philosopher King.

 

Key words: Leadership, Politics, Confucianism, Platonism, Junzi, Philosopher King.


I wish to ask a political question: if humanity had a choice between a traditionally eastern or western idea of a ruler which one should they choose? This question is not intended to be antagonistic but rather serves as the basis for my argument; that the Chinese philosopher Confucius’s “Junzi” would make a much better leader than Plato’s “Philosopher King”. I will endeavour to show that through reading Plato and Confucius’s texts and the accounts of the two leaders and then comparing them through the contemporary literature on this subject will show the superiority of the Asian leader over the Western counterpart. It is also important that this writing engages with a dilemma of comparative philosophy, that when arguing in favour of an idea or culture that is not your own how do you ensure that your perspective is accurate? Do you approach a comparison and maintain an obvious distinction between the thinking of Confucius and Plato or do the differences between them add greater quality to this analysis? A question that poses a methodological demand on existing research on this topic within the global academia.

Acknowledging this leads me to adopt the following method to show the premises that lead to the ancient Asian concept of a leader being superior and at the same time showing how comparative philosophy needs to maintain a self-critical stance. Starting with a detailed description of the two leaders will provide the reader access to the subject under discussion. Then after providing an accurate account of these ancient governors their beliefs and values will be assessed because this will make the reasoning explicitly clear as to why the Junzi should be seen in a more positive light. A conclusion that I believe will come to be more and more important as China exerts a greater amount of influence on our contemporary world. So, let us begin with this paper’s formal argument and then the portrayal of these ancient leaders by those philosophers who both recorded and created them. The argument against Plato’s philosopher King is as follows.

  1. Confucius has Familial piety and Plato does not have Familial piety.
  2. To lead a country one needs the capacity to see one’s family among other families.
  3. The concept of familial piety expands a person’s capacity to expand the family with inclusivity.

  1. Therefore, Confucius’s emphasis on Familial piety gives the necessary capacity one needs to lead a country.

 

 

  1. Who where this King and the Exemplary Individual?  

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In Plato’s Republic, a complex discussion on how a state should be organised inevitably leads to a dialogue on how it should be governed and by who. Socrates is the voice whose ancient statement describes the philosopher king, “philosophers [must] become kings…or those now called kings [must]…genuinely and adequately philosophize”(Plato, The Republic, Book IX,5.473d). The argument against Plato’s leader begins with Socrates’s proclamation and how it immediately tasks philosophy itself with a kind of royalty and this is misleading. Socrates’s full speech tells us that the ideal state is unattainable unless it is categorically dominated by a philosopher; this ought mixes and confuses the genuine love of wisdom with an ideal amount and a definite standard. One initial objection to the accusation that Plato’s powerful dialogue imbues philosophy with a false sense of authority and a self confident rationality would be to defend philosophy as being unalterably political. Philosophy’s pursuit of truth is also a political act.

The defenders of Plato could well say that Socrates’s initial statement enacts this by way of the political conflict that is at at the heart and is the essence of leadership. Yet, this categorical “must” remains contradictory because of its multiple directions; either the philosopher becomes a king or the king transforms into a philosopher? Ambiguities are numinous, how are we to derive confidence that the philosopher king’s training in dialectics make him fit to rule? Is it not truer to suggest that all philosophers are kingly, or king like, but not kings? This then results in the dilemma of not being able to distinguish what exactly Socrates was envisioning when he uses descriptive language such as “genuine” and the “adequacy” of a philosophical process of thinking to mark and determine the ruler of the ideal city. This really only paints this Greek ruler with an overly illusory sense of governing; resulting in a criteria and standard driven governor: the philosopher king. Now, let us analyse how the Greek and Chinese leaders differ in how they are described and what beliefs drive them.

 

  • Confucius’s Junzi

In modern scholarship Roger Ames’s has successfully re-defined the Junzi as an  ‘exemplary individual’ rather than the older and common translation of ‘gentleman’. Ames’s achievement in re-translation is a good starting point from which to show the qualities the Junzi represents. Discussing very early Chinese ethics Ame’s directs us towards yet more evidence that being Confucian entails a set of beliefs that are unique. A good example is a specifically Chinese notion of themselves the daotong (道统) . We learn from Ame’s study that Confucius was more forthcoming in his debts to earlier ancient dynasties and does so in a spirit of transmission; we also discover the main quality that underlies the Junzi and indeed the Confucianism that nurtures this exemplary individual. In Chinese this is called Xiao (family feeling).

Next to the Importance of this feeling this argument builds upon what Ames also cited; writer David Keightley has usefully simplified, “contrasts a Chinese cosmology of ceaseless process with a classical Greek worldview in which a metaphysical transcendentalism guarantees an idealized reality”(Ames, 2011). Criticisms of Plato will always centre around this notion that our existence is anchored and determined by the existence of and our subsequent participation and engagement with the non-physical realm of the forms. Keightley’s description of a Chinese cosmology enhances the contrast between the beliefs Plato and Confucius would have had in a useful way. Looking at the cosmology of ancient China and Plato’s account the important difference becomes self evident. In Plato’s creationist dialogue Timaeus of Locri splits reality in two. Discussing the causal origins as a craftsman god: the demiurge and its relation to beauty as a kind of perfection.

“what is it that always is, but never comes to be, and what is it that comes to be but never is? The former, since it is always consistent, can be grasped by the intellect with the support of a reasoned account, while the latter is the object of belief, supported by unreasoning sensation, since it is generated and passes away, but never really is. Now, anything created is necessarily created by some cause, because nothing can possibly come to be without there being something that is responsible for its coming to be. Also, whenever a craftsman takes something consistent as his model, and reproduces its forms and properties, the result is bound in every case to be a thing of beauty, but if he takes as his model something that has been created, the product has bound to be imperfect.”(Plato, Timeaus, 28a) 

Here we can draw an important distinction a demarcation between Confucianism and Platonism. The latter of them is based upon a split that gives privilege to certain processes over others and the former observes a continuous process of processes; a flux the Chinese called qi or “Chi” an energy universally omnipresent, but shares a symmetry with the necessary causality of Timeaus. Yet, here the powerful connection Confucius drew to the family as a basis for a balanced state surfaces and makes the idea of perfection over imperfection less attainable. One appreciates the sentiment that Plato’s god (the demiurge) desired a cosmos to be as good as possible and so exists as a craftsman creating in a skillful way. But for an individual who has to rule a country and a given populace he is forced to work with and produce from something that has already been created.

The last part of the Timeaus quotation is in favour of the Junzi being prone to imperfection because this exemplary individual can not choose to craft perfection with geometric and mathematical certainty when faced with the earthly demands of changing social phenomena. Instead Confucius and the Junzi were in their own time forced to deal with imperfection, a period of Chinese history called The Warring States (戰國時代, Zhànguó Shídài). This is not to say that Plato and Socrates did not face conflict and imperfection but I believe that the reverence Confucius had for the rituals and traditions of an early peaceful period governed by men such as the Duke of Zhou who acted as a regent imbued his thinking with a practicality. A practice that would better enforce the possibility of attaining a balanced state within a chaotic reality rather than dismissing this chaos as irrational and being in favour of a belief perpetually in need of remeasuring?

This question begins to clarify how Plato’s idealism in his dialogues suffers from its own grandiosity and how Confucius’s idealization of the Zhou dynasty and its rulers is less destructive and distorting; a quality that has better chance of being preserved in a Junzi. An initial description of the Junzi is at the beginning of the Analects; in the words of Master You we begin to see how realism occupies a greater percentage of importance for the Junzi. Here we can start to develop an appreciation for this Asian realism and how it’s concepts are better suited for ruling. How the family acts as a natural regulator for the selfish nature of human intelligence and the larger governing structures that exist to facilitate peace and an abidance to the common laws of both the ancient and contemporary worlds.

“Master You said: “It is a rare thing for someone who has a sense of filial and fraternal responsibility (xiao 孝) to have a taste for defying authority. And it is unheard of for those who have no taste for defying authority. And it is unheard of for those who have no taste for defying authority to be keen on initiating rebellion. Exemplary persons (Junzi 君子) concentrate their efforts on the root, for the root having taken hold, the way (dao道) will grow therefrom. As for filial and fraternal responsibility, it is, I suspect, the root of authoritative conduct (Ren仁).”(Confucius, The Analects, Book I)

  • Plato’s Philosopher King

Socrates’s most detailed description of this lover of wisdom who would be king is found in book IV of the Republic. Plato begins by putting a trinity in place by insisting that even in an ideal state this city will also suffer from the very beginning with its citizenry being filtered into classes. The class with the philosopher king is also subdivided into subcategories: beneath the king is a general ruler and then the auxiliaries. Next to this split Plato has no qualms about the movement of children between classes and here myth is unfortunately used to support this selectivity. This is found in the language of book IV where the opening dialogue is littered with superlative descriptive language “the best”; the guardian (the philosopher king) has to be the best.

This then leads straight to the important Platonic concept of the Good and the belief that these guardians will unconditionally follow and enact the “best” and the Good as an omnipotent principle because they would only love the city and therefore care the most. All this is supposed to be a solution to other forms of collective government that Plato deems deficient; such as democracy as a system is too prone to corruption and therefore in need of one ruler. This solution has since its inception unintentionally invited criticism that is fixed around authoritarianism and a state of control. Reading how the Good is inherent to the Philosopher King I find it difficult to not be skeptical; especially when the dialogue mentions the voluntary and involuntary loss of belief. If beliefs are both voluntary and involuntary then this king guardian that is a philosopher is in danger of becoming a truth fanatic.

“But why? Surely you agree that men are always unwilling to loose a good, but willing enough to be rid of a bad one. And isn’t a bad thing to be deceived by the truth, and a good thing to possess the truth? For I assume that by possessing the truth you mean believing that things as they really are.”(Plato, The Republic, Book III, 413 a)

Although fanatic is too strong a word to use for the enthusiasm Plato has for placing authority and access to the truth in the hands of the one over the many. Our philosopher king does suffer from this Platonic schemata. Contemporary thinker Kenneth Dorter’s book The Transformation of Plato’s Republic (2006) features an important commentary on these dilemmas; the authoritarian control Plato exerts is translated into a compulsion to rule. Interestingly this is seen as originating in a fear of being ruled by inferiors. Even though Adeimantus and Glaucon object to this however Socrates insists that, “But once it is pointed out to them they will not refuse because ‘we shall be imposing just behavior onto just people”(Dorter, 2006). Here then is a barrier that other sections of The Republic fail to resolve and only furthers this leader’s problematic character.

It should not be a surprise that the Philosopher king suffers from within its own identity constantly striving in one direction only; to that which is the best. Having the natural qualities to rule in line with the Good. Reading about the philosopher as it has been described in Plato’s simile of the cave it could well read as an apology made on behalf of the human condition. Broken by our access and insight into truth that we are compelled to rule and this is firmly positioned in the domain of philosophy, “And we say that the particulars are objects of sight but not of intelligence, while the forms are the objects of intelligence but not of sight”, and “The sun is not identical with sight, nor with what we call the eye in which sight resides”(Plato, The Republic, Book VII, 514a-521a). The use of the sun to enforce the blinding potentiality of sensory perception may still underline the struggle we all face. But, if truth is indeed so blinding then why gaze at it in the first place? When applied to a ruler it is hard to fathom how many would rise to the challenge of returning to the site of imprisonment in Plato’s cave to free our fellows from illusion?

In the Analects there is not a direct discussion of imprisonment just discourse and it makes it difficult to not accept Dorter’s earlier criticism of fear as an equally strong motivator for human behaviour. Moreover is there anything that suggests that the philosopher would not be prone to irrational fear? Would not be susceptible to evil; and rather than free and aid his citizens not decide to keep them chained and imprisoned for their own good? These questions are the less common aporias Plato’s texts cultivate.

  1. What values do these two leaders govern by?

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  • Li, Filial piety, and Ren

There are many Confucian values that the Junzi would possess but there are three that are particularly important. Beginning with Li (禮) meaning ‘rite’ or ‘ritual propriety’ with this respect for one’s family and especially elders and ancestors xiào (孝) . Then from these qualities a Confucian is also equipped with Ren (仁) an essence of being human. We can marginally suggest that Ren differs from the Western notion of essence by remembering the Chinese notion of Chi (universal energy) that is omnipresent in all things and is constantly energizing, moving, and never stationary. The Western essence differs in the work’s of Plato and his student Aristotle because Plato sees the essence as the form of a thing his student puts the form in the essence as a unified substance. One believes that the Junzi would if approached to define Ren choose to locate essence between this world and another.

When compared to Plato’s and Socrates’s good which I will soon show is conditionally defined by a dependency on dialectical thinking wedded to a higher  rationality; Confucius’s Ren is more fluid only dependent on the context of the agent and their capacity to intuitively behave in line with what is “a” good and not “the” good; and so being an exemplary individual a Junzi. This is made obvious if we read the collection of this Chinese philosopher’s words, “A person of Ren, wishing to establish his own character, also establishes the character of others, and wishing to be prominent himself, also helps others to be prominent. To be able to judge others by what is near to ourselves may be called the method of realizing ren.”(Confucius, The Analects, Book VI) This demonstrates directly the social implications of this Chinese essence that it is social and therefore both subjected and objected to change. This is why it is an accurate comparison of Ren to essence as being more plural rather than singular.

 This comment is divisive and the Junzi differs from the philosopher king in other ways. Confucius himself was not as Aristocratic as Plato and throughout his life did experience some setbacks in his attempts to bring about social change, yet remained positive towards the capacity of a ruler coming from any background; Plato was not so forgiving after his failures in implementing his political ideas and so as I will soon explain was forcefully against democracy; but, what about an ideology like capitalism? Referencing the well known study by German Max Weber, Thomas T. Lennerfors’s paper references Weber’s opinion that Confucianism can not be seen as an origin for Capitalism in the same way that Protestantism and Calvanism could be because the former lacks the transcendental and religious qualities of the later. The reason Lennerfors makes reference to Weber is because he wants to show how Western criticisms of Asian belief as uniformly supportive of capitalism are prematurely made. Take this quote, it shows that Plato is under equal scrutiny in current Asian discussions.

“Constant references were made to Plato’s warning that a democracy can indeed be a path to societal corruption. In opposition to liberal democratic values of alleged rugged individualism and one person-one-vote, the speakers …were inspired by Confucian ideas of harmony and meritocracy to promote the creation of an alternative society.”(Lennerfors, 2015)

Although a brilliant defense of Asian belief’s transformation under contemporary capitalism; overall this study moves the king and the gentleman closer together, and this is problematic for the argument of this paper. So, let us turn to the importance of ritual for Confucians. Specifically, Confucius would maintain and defend the notion that the people already have the ability to self-govern. In the Confucian literature it is ritual li that is the principle that organizes or orders; and how does it do this? It does so by enforcing rite behaviour through every member of a communities capacity to understand and to have already learned the inherited and well versed ways of behaving. Ritual Piety can be seen even in the process of naming when Confucius suggests, “when the name is not correct, then the words are not smooth; if the words are not smooth, then things will not be done”(Confucius, Legge, 1971). Far more than just a correct formal way of speaking li is directly connected to Ren, a uniquely pragmatic ethical structure that has this authentic and realistic character that comes into view in one answer Confucius gives to Lin Fang.

‘The master replied: “what an important question! In observing ritual propriety, it is better to be modest than extravagant; in mourning, it is better to express real grief than to worry over formal details.”(Confucius, The Analects, Book III) This reply brings us to ‘filial piety’ xiao (孝) a reverence and respect for the family. The idea that the Junzi is more realistic due to a more liberal appreciation of form is the distinguishing factor in the exemplary person and nowhere is this more evident and prominent than in filial piety. The family then is the one constant, humans even if they are orphaned or become hermit like never fully leave a family, and it is remarkable that rather than a religious reverence for Confucianism the Chinese venerate this way of thinking because of its longevity, and because of its aesthetic qualities. Confucianism was adopted because its a tradition of teaching and learning that is present in the family. Where every single human being takes its first steps, listens to sounds, sings songs, crys, laughs, dances, and encounters Ren.

This aesthetic quality of Confucianism does not negate the idea that individual expression is not important both the Greek and the Chinese adored music and in many ways the Junzi would have also had its own freedom toward idealization. Supporting  individuals being able to express themselves is found when Confucius invites his students to share their dreams. Dian or Ceng Xi literally dreams of happiness in returning home singing. Here music and an appreciation of string and air instruments unite the ancient world and the rulers that found themselves in power. But the power of the organic family supports a belief in a plurality of human relations that extends from within the very first and most simple of social structures: in the words of the Confucian scholar Ames we see the power of filial piety (孝), xiào.

“We might say that Confucianism is nothing more than a sustained attempt to ‘to family’ the lived human experience. For Confucianism, it is through discursive living in a communicating family and community that we are able to enchant the ordinary, to ritualize the routine, to invigorate the familiar, to inspire the customary habits of life, and ultimately, to commune spiritually, in the common and the everyday.”(Ames, 2011)

2.2 Justice, the Good, and Dialectic  

‘Justice’ (δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosúnē) is Plato’s concept of human mind and it is to do with the idea of the sovereignty of reason; that the soul is affected by bodily appetites. For Plato the number three is important he splits our individual and collective being into three parts: appetite, spirit, and reason. In the Republic these correspond to the class system of this city those with appetite are the workers artisans and craftspeople, spirited individuals have the courage to serve in the military, and those under the influence of reason are to be governors, gaurdians, and philosopher kings. According to Plato when the human soul is able to act with reason it attains a greater level of virtue. Thus presenting Justice dikaiosúnē as the human mind and the process it goes through towards that which is good. The capacity to be self determining under the power of rationality and its access to the goodness of truth.  

Leading to the ‘the idea of the good’ (ἡ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ἰδέα, i toú agathoú idéa) comes before Justice in the possible schematics of Plato’s thought. It is the most important because it gives rise to the contemporary use of the adjective Platonic. That is also called Plato’s ‘theory of forms’ the belief that things exist because behind the appearance or representation of them resides a truer mathematically precise formal basis for reality. Things as they appear to exist only exist in the extent that they participate in the formal version of themselves. Something can be said to be beautiful because it participates in beauty itself. We see Socrates discussing the Good in the Symposium describing its affinity and connection to love and eternity.

If one analyses the language of the quotations below this paper’s criticism of Plato should be becoming clearer. Although the idea of the Good is a powerful driving force throughout Western culture it suffers from a singular belief in truth being one. The Good being representative of this monolithic element of Platonism can not escape its placement and association with one’s own ownership and this is what stands in contrast to the Junzi who would not see truth so formally. In defence of Plato and his theory of the forms and the Good being the best of these forms; it should be noted that for Plato his theory works only to the extent that individuals and thinkers are able to participate in such forms. The Junzi, in my interpretation is closer to Pythagoras in that mathematical entities are identical to the objects they represent.

The philosopher king is different in being preconditioned to appreciate the truth of something in an unchanging structure related to thought and thought alone . Unfortunately, this is potentially corrupt-able, and dailectic fails rather than resolving opposing views through rational debate. If the king focused too much on what is Good how does the Philosopher King safeguard against such a negative possibility as his own thinking becoming overtly possessive and thus distorting his reasoning? Can we really fully trust that people do not fall in love with that which is bad as it is strongly argued in the Symposium below?         

‘ “But suppose”, she said, “someone changed the question, using the word

‘good’ instead of ‘beautiful’, and asked: ‘Now then, Socrates, the lover of good things has a desire – what is it that he desires?’

“That they become his own,” I said.

“I don’t think that each of us is attached to his own characteristics, unless you’re

Going to describe the good as ‘his own’ and as ‘what belongs to him’ and the bad as ‘what does not belong to him’. The point is that the only object of people’s

Love is the good – don’t you agree?”(Plato, The Symposium, 1999)

Discussing the ‘Dialectic’ (διαλεκτική, dialektikḗ) we can start by detailing how this is also split into three: geometrical, the mythical, and the pedagogical. The first is found in the form of a divided line, the mythical is expressed in the famous form of a similie of a cave, and the pedagogical being the time based plan for a potential philosopher to follow; this progresses from the necessity of military service and through dialectical training the philosopher is then ready to be of use to her or his state. Remember this is represented by a line from opinion to knowledge.

  1. Conclusion

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  • The forfeit of the Platonic leader?

Unlike the Confucian exemplary individual a philosopher king has no such evidence to refute the claims that have been made against it and so is not a leader that carries a strong legitimacy. Instead, looking back into ancient history it remains a vague and lofty character both removed from its citizens and also if Plato’s texts are to be believed: this philosopher leader can be trusted to assess and hold such authority that they have the capacity to accurately determine what function a citizen may be best suited for. Thus removing citizens from their capacity to grow and choose for themselves? Supporters of this king might cite the vast experience this breed of philosopher may have already acquired that is before they completed twenty years of training in dialectics (rational and virtuous thought), but this just plays into a selectivity that is not organic but possessive and aggressive.

The Philosopher King and the Junzi have many similarities yet the differences are hard to ignore. Even though they both share an appreciation of the harmony that music represents the Greek leader is more war like and this is understandable if we look at the historical context of this King’s ancient time. Socrates and Plato lived in the heyday of Athens led by the general Pericles; and it is certain that Socrates and Plato would have gone through military service. This selectivity is precisely why the Philosopher King can not be trusted to be a just and balanced leader. I have shown how this is deeply rooted in ancient Greek Idealism found in the Republic where at childhood the “philosopher king” starts to be selected by some divisive criteria and the separated from their families; a structure that remains an abstract necessity. One that is far less supportive and indeed is not a cause of responsible leadership based upon an immediate and relative discussions found within those closest to us.

  • The Junzi a more real and relative leader?

One of the main arguments against the Junzi that is left to put to the reader is that this ‘familial piety’ that stands in favour of the Confucian leader is also shared with the philosopher king; because we understand that res Republica has supposedly more than one philosopher king then one can say that they would also possess this piety. This quality of being a member of a family however where is the evidence? If this were true then Plato’s great discourse would feature more than just a description of what qualifies a person to be a Platonic leader and the manner in which they govern. If this king of thought has a family Platonist’s will argue that this lack of family in the ideal republic is down to two things: 1) The philosopher king seeks the truth of the family; the form of the family that would be called humanity.

In this case and at this time I do not see how one can take this as sufficient enough reason to make the claim that the platonic king possesses ‘familial piety’. 2) Secondly, returning to the beliefs of these beings their similarities are not so similar. Both believe in a transcendental power bestowed on the ruler. But, the difference is found if you look at Plato’s theology he believes in a creator god. Confucius portrays his leader as developing an awareness of both the bad and the good including how easy it is to fall into corruption. The Junzi exemplifies this because it is not just a leader. In the Chinese state of Confucius’s time the Junzi attained its position in society due to the leader’s capacity to achieve not only harmony but to deal with a chaotic and corrupt boss. Confucius urged his people towards an awareness of their own behaviour and in what way the state is existing. If the leader is not leading the population to a greater state of well-being then the Confucian would encourage his countryman to actively revolt through civil disobedience instead of violent outbursts.

Such a capacity to naturally deal with oscillations between the positive and the negative, and the one constant (change) is honed and harnessed in the organic social forces of the family. A form that is diverse as the many possible ways of living humans enact. Throughout the Analects we have seen many examples of Confucian ideals merge together as they emerged from the hardships these political thinkers experienced in a violent period of the country’s history. Current Confucianism suffers when viewed from the Western perspective of being nationalistic, but the opposite is closer to the truth. The Confusian Junzi is a better ruler because its version of dialectic is more familiar to resolving conflict between people. I hope this paper makes this clearer to the reader for implicit within my conclusion is a challenge to Plato’s beautiful legacy: is it possible that Confucius’s Junzi be better equipped to govern because it was born and remained in that imperfect earthly form of the family?

‘when he is accompanied by other persons, somebody is certainly able to be his teacher.

(San ren xing, bi you wo shi yan 三人行,必有我師焉。).’

 

Angle C. Stephen, and Tiwald, Justin, (2017). Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction, (Polity Press, Cambridge, UK).
Confucius. Ames T, Roger. Rosemont JR, Henry. (1998), The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Ballantine Books, New York.
Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary, The Chinese University Press, Hong Kong, University of Hawaii Press, Honolul.Hawaii.
ChinaKnowledge, An Encylopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art.    http://www.chinaknowledge.de/Literature/Classics/confucius.html [03/02/2019]
Dorter, Kenneth. (2006) ‘Philosopher Rulers’, in The Transformation of Plato’s Republic, Lexington Books, Oxford.
Hall, L David. Ames, T Roger. (1987), Thinking Through Confucius, State University of New York, Albany, New York.
Ha Poong Kim. (2006) Confucius’s Aesthetic Concept of Noble Man: Beyond Moralism, Asian Philosophy, 16:2
Hird, Derek.(2017), In League With Gentlemen: Junzi Masculinity and the Chinese Nation in Cultural Nationalist Discourses, Asia Pacific Perspectives, Volume 15, no. 1.
Legge, James. (1971), Confucian analects: The great learning, and The doctrine of the mean. Dover Publications. 263–264.
Lennerfors, Taro Thomas. (2015), The Confucian Ethics of the Junzi in Contemporary Light Capitalism, Taiwan Journal of East Asian Studies, December.
Plato (2007), ‘Part IV: Guardians & Auxiliaries’ in The Republic, Penguin books, London. 
(360.bc) Symposium, translated by Benjamin Jowett, online. http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/symposium.html
(1999). The Symposium, Penguin Books, Great Ideas, London.
(2008), Timaeus and Critias, translated by Robin Waterfield, Oxford University Press.

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                                             Crappy Coinage . My penny’s worth.

But a week or so ago a group of inspirational citizens of the Steel City in the UK came together to discuss (UBI) Universal Basic Income. I was not present at these meetings and therefore can only imagine their discussion covered almost all of what I am going to write about here. Yet, this discussion, one of many happening simultaneously around the world I find inspirational and so perhaps this writing will only review what has already been mentioned but I hope there will be something added to the existing discourse on money, finance, and what to do with the capitalist order that seeks to apologise on behalf of inequality. I have been thinking through my own relation to the global economy and the ideology seen as dominantly hegemonic.

UBI should have been a reality a very long time ago; who is responsible for it not being implementable is difficult to say but I suspect it is not a person or a particular people: it is rather a period in the species history that started a process of material devaluation and therein value itself became own-able. This period in our history ranges across a large amount of time.[1] Yet, there are some dates that stand out as being a good starting point for thinking through the potential and I would say necessity for a new truly global alteration to the Capitalist system; that is if it is to continue or to be chosen by future cosmopolitans. The first dates are 1764 with the invention of the ‘Spinning Jenny’ the first industrial textile mill came into being in England. If you think about it this machine and that of its ilk the printing press became automated within the industrial revolution and one sees a correlation between the ease for printing paper and the unsociable and often unfathomable inequality that comes with it. Inherited wealth and business dynasties have cut this world up into ownership; there would be nothing wrong with profit if it could be distributed equally and evenly?

Other dates that are symptomatic of the current urgency of this ongoing discussion include: One of the fathers of the idea of ‘Political Economy’ William Petty was concerned that money be equal to itself which sits well with Karl Marx’s articulation that Gold and Silver where natural choices for currency because of this quality of appearing equal to what it is and this is seemingly embodied in these metals as they resist decay by oxidation. In 1964 the Bank of England was founded and four years later half of the United Kingdoms’s capital was paper. A Scottish financier John Law created a note issuing bank in 1716 to help in financing the then bankrupt French state. [2] A constant throughout these examples is the presence of war and its need for funding. It appears that although the change from metal to paper allowed a greater distribution of value but fails to secure equality; it is unclear if this change was ever made in the right spirit?

‘‘True’ and ‘false’ belong among those determinate notions which are held to be inert and wholly separate essences, one here and one there, each standing fixed and isolated from the other, with which it has nothing in common. Against this view it must be maintained that truth is not a minted coin that can be given and pocketed ready-made.”[3]

Professor Esther Leslie reminds us that this movement towards illusion has a direct connection to banknotes in the German language’s word Schein. The quote from Hegel gives us hope, if only a small hope, that truth is separate from Capital and so is a good point from which to invite more contemporary thoughts on money and income. The most important being a paper titled Bitcoin authored by a fictitious person whose nom de plume is Satoshi Nakamoto.[4] This paper is influential because it is considered to be the first attempt at providing a systematic proof that digital currency could make the economy more equal and such a change is more than possible and we are more than capable of implementing.

There have been many respondents to Nakamto-san but I came across his name in a recent article about LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) by a Liam Kelly. [5] One of the participants a character called Quinn does not like Hegel; referring to him as a Brain cancer. What is interesting about this recollection is that it is an example of a social phenomena increasingly set to increase: individuals wishing to take a break from the phantasmagoria and into the realms of fantasy.[6] This LARPing rave contains something interesting regarding the notion of cryptocurrency which is used here as a buy in and the currency that enables access to the rave. However the initial positivity surrounding Bitcoin has started to be met with negative press and on the same website of Breakermag we can read, ‘In the short term, though, that’s not what most big players care about—and the major social change blockchain has brought about so far is that a small number of people have become very rich indeed’.[7] Laurie Penny’s article is a sobering read indeed for those that have never been to such events or invested capital in capital. The criticism continues in an article on MIT’s Technological Review shared by Ami Clarke a lecturer at Central Saint Martins in London and director of arts space Banner Repeater.

‘In total, hackers have stolen nearly $2 billion worth of cryptocurrency since the beginning of 2017, mostly from exchanges, and that’s just what has been revealed publicly. These are not just opportunistic lone attackers, either. Sophisticated cybercrime organisations are now doing it too: analytics firm Chainalysis recently said that just two groups, both of which apparently still active, may have stolen a combined $1 billion from exchanges.’[8]

Such a lack of security runs against the claims of the Bitcoin Paper in which the fictitious Nakamoto lays out the issues of founding a peer-to-peer blockchain in which an equilibrium is created by the equality of users. Yet, in the Bitcoin paper Nakamoto struggles with a forecast problem: the dilemma of how to ensure ‘double-spending’ does not happen. The solution that was put forth is the use of a time stamp that anchors the data to a point then affixed to this is a proof of work using a required number of zero bits that show each node the truth of that data. The author, Nakamoto, goes on to show mathematically how via way of a calculation in probability he/they have successfully created the first economic exchange not based upon trust. Yet, as we have discussed there is more than enough evidence to contradict this infamous paper and a lot of them centre around the the inability of mathematics to nullify human greed and inequality. Furthermore, Orcutt’s paper delivers important details regarding cryptocurrency: it’s vulnerability arises from the same source of the human using the currency and although there are ground breaking attempts to use A.I and newer more and more complex math so as to secure the blockchain from corruption; it remains prone to hacking.

Does this not lead us back to Marx and his initial attack on financial ideology. Marx’s ideas regarding the universality of money and the general formula for Kapital continuously contribute to this discussion; as they have since the moment Marx wrote them. Marx uses a symbol symbolism to discuss the dynamic and the circuit capital produced at the onset of modernism. C for Commodity and M for Market are used to show certain relations between the two.[9] But we might appropriate them to clarify the need for universal basic income. Marx describes two forms of relations. ‘C-M-C starts with one commodity and ends with another… Consumption, the satisfaction of wants, in one word, use-value, is its end and aim. The circuit M-C-M, on the contrary, commences with money and ends with money’ presenting us with use value and exchange value. What is Bitcoin’s true aim to bring them together? Or to neutralise the commodity leaving just the market M-M-M?

It would certainly seem like the trouble maker is the commodity with its anthropomorphism, its capacity to draw from human’s an un-weilding power to influence and captivate. But is this commencing with money and ending with money even possible? The basic answer and argument is a yes because it follows from a simple logic that money is a human construct and so therefore under our power? Yet, this is a hasty simplification of a giant contemporary problem. From my perspective it is more than feasible but it requires the ability for all of us and by all I mean every single living being to agree to giving over power to a new Leviathan; a global government that rules over earth’s inhabitants. Such a proposal is hard and nigh impossible to believe but belief and security in the tried and tested are being put under pressure. There are major hurdles to this but we must consider a few possibilities or things that also contribute to our discussion and it is our discussion as it was in the United Kingdom that cash machines and ATMS first came into usage. It was a Barclays machine at the Enfield branch opened on June 27th 1967.

Such a fact gives us impetus to continue our thinking about how to resolve global inequality. For there is an urgency, year and year the human population grows and year by year unjust differences increase. I see no reason why we cant implement a system whereby everyone has welfare because they do not live in poverty as living citizens they are guaranteed a living wage regardless of job and position. Such a thought is not idealism it is a necessary part of a future human reality and it encompasses some very difficult hurdles. To bring about an equality that Block-chain technology promises (remembering that this technology is still in its youth) society’s work patterns and cultures will have to also change. A major barrier is the notion of ownership: how to retain the positive feeling this brings but without the propensity for greed? In the future work the notion of career should be cycle based and so a person rotates different jobs every year. Basically ensuring that a meritocracy and democracy is maintained. Next to this, work becomes optional, you can work for more money but this has a maximum capacity; the ability to horde wealth is stopped.

One major argument against this is that it is in our nature to be selfish and there is some evidence to suggest that altruism arises from selfishness (see George Price equation), yet this ignores other facts that seem to support radical change. For example, mathematical equations provide a truth in relation to nature but this thing we call nature is constantly also subject to revision and so thinking through ideas and forms that have an impact upon the economy is what we need to be doing. I have been fascinated by a simple perspective: if we observe the Price equation, an equation that tracks the growth and retention of a given quality in a population, then we can take the information (selfishness > altruism) and develop methodologies that lead to a greater understanding of this. Perhaps this suggests that over-consumption will lead to more friendly behaviour; the idea being that if my needs are met then the needs of others become more relevant. This is wishful thinking indeed but perhaps could be possible iff technology enables the production and recycling of commodities so they become more public and less private. This does not mean free but it implies that the exchange and use of a given thing are drawn closer together and so mirror wider social change. This is of course also dependent on a democratic use of technology like 3d-printing and intelligent design.

The contrasting idea is one of a luxury increase accessing Markets and un-regulate capitalism so that everyone lives in abundance. This idea does not provide a future as secure and as attainable as it might appear and instead unbridled capitalism makes an abuse of human desire, and our ability to use this force in a healthy way. Some thinkers, such as Frenchmen Gilles Deleuze and Georges Battaile have theorised that this be so and production is explosively unavoidable. In a book by English philosopher Nick Land one has confronted the idea that the storing of information is necessarily one of isolation and explosive. The formula of Bataille’s economy that Land uses describes how expenditure always exceeds acquisition and how this is indifferent and leads to isolation. But, I choose to read this continuously different communication as arising from the isolation and as the only immediate way we can overcome such unhelpful notions. This also includes a highly relevant discussion on the nature of information and whether or not it is entropic or negentropic; whether or not it privileges chaos or order? Physically we have understood that the past appears as ordered and in the future it is opposite but this is perhaps too reductive a perspective on information and indeed moves us towards pushing for a reversal of this polarity; so that information in the future can be re-ordered and resist decay and corruption?

formula

Here we return to Hegel who rightly stated that truth is not minted and does not reside or has never resided in a bank. Instead the development of rationality in our own time leads us naturally to desire a new state. Hegel, though does not contain answers, like every philosopher he generates more problems. Frankly his thoughts on Asia are outdated but his master slave dialectic and infamous ‘work of the negative’ may indeed have more work to do. Taking all this into account then surely we can conclude that when it comes to money and the economy we need to generate an ideology and ethos that sets our global communities and cultures of exchange not continuing on the narrative of mass production/consumption but rather a system by which the total number of living beings are not subjected to brutal losses by the greed of others. In other words if only it was possible to play a non zero sum game? Is there really such thing as perfect information? I sincerely hope so, as I am not proud of my country of birth as a recent report on poverty by the United Nations discovered one of the most historically influential of nations has left a large swathe of its residents in unforgivable material situations. If all else fails we can always resort to being Saboteurs in the original dutch meaning of throwing wooden shoes sabots into the machinery?


[1] I am not going to mention China’s usage of paper money in the 7th century A.D here because I do not have access to the relevant information and therefore can not offer a commentary on the success or failures of this change of currency. Although, it happened so long ago only adding more time to this problematic time.

[2] Esther Leslie. (2005),Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry, Reaktion Books, London. 89-92

[3] Ibid. Hegel, Preface for The Phenomenology of Spirit.

[4] Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin: A Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System,

[5] Liam Kelly. (03.06.2019), I Larped as a Monero Developer and It Ended in Tears, [www.Breakermag.com] 

[6] The difference being one is innate and subconscious (kleinian) and the other a conscious choice (fantasy).

[7] https://breakermag.com/trapped-at-sea-with-cryptos-nouveau-riche/

[8] Mike Orcutt. (2019), Once hailed as unhackable blockchains are now getting hacked, MIT Technological Review.

[9] Karl Marx. (2008), Capital, Oxford World Classics, OUP.94-95  

 

 

Site/Auto Italia South East

 

Auto Italia South East: A recent trip to London.

The last time I was in London it was a fleeting experience. I was on the way to Belgium to collect some of my possessions; the remainder of my belongings (especially some books, and an artwork). I was invited to go to Auto Italia for an event, a live reading. Featuring the voices of Marta Barina, Moza Almatrooshi, Imani Robinson, Rhona Eve Clews, Gonçalo Lamas, and Ebun Sodipo. All were fabulous … and I shamefully can not remember the name of the head curator, but the whole event was local and very very, vocal; it was a very warm and inviting experience. I enjoyed the invitation for all attendees to move their chair and adopt the use of eye masks so as to envelop and shroud the room in a deep state of listening.

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  • Auto Italia South East ‘Read my lips’, London, 2018

I have two personal highlights from the experience. They are Moza Al Matrooshi’s bilingual reading; in Arabic a language that I admire visually because of its naturally cursive and calligraphic form of writing. Yet, it was lovely to hear her address cultural assimilation and migration in a graceful way. Next to Al Matrooshi’s voice I and many others were moved (in an aggressive way) by Imani Robinson. Going last, the speakers voice gave voice to the structural racism that physically and psychologically affects so many Black people throughout the world. As soon as this reading began you could feel the collective attention and mode of sensory consumption of the audience alter. The words that were spoken confronted our ears were not for entertainment. Rather, a masterclass in how to use rhythm, time, and tone to deliver an intervention; not just a reminder of the stark inequalities that remain ever nefarious but a performance that informed everyone present.

I have researched a little further into these creators and artists; below are a few points of interest, and links to some sources.

  1. Moza Al Matrooshi

#The Boundaries of Storytelling / #Tashkeel /

Moza-Al-Matrooshi-IMG_4171-1024x683

  1. Ebun Sodipo

#http://ebunasodipo.tumblr.com/ / #Shades of Noir / @toblacken

maxresdefault

#https://www.martabarina.com / #atpdiary_sp3Treviso

martin Barina

  1. Imani Robinson

#https://imanirobinson.co.uk / #https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/from-ferguson-to-the-uk/

Imani Robinson

  1. Rhona Eve Clews

#http://rhonaeveclews.com/ / #http://www.audiofoundation.org.nz/programmes/exhibitions/rhona-eve-clews-mathew-cowan

Rhona Eve Clews

  1. Gonçalo Lamas

#http://goncalolamas.com/

Gonçalo Lamas

 

All Crystals are Displayed at Site:

Sheffield’s Long Standing Contemporary Art Gallery re-opens. 

Liquid Crystals School of Engineering.

Crystals are essential to Lasers, image take from Edinburgh University Engineering

‘Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)’ is an exhibition about the expansion of our crystal culture. Our ever increasing complexity of the usage of crystals as surfaces for images. From André Breton’s metaphor for the Surrealist and Freudian realisation that dreams offer insight into the workings of the unconscious. The metaphor Breton used to describe intense processes of creation; he chose the object of the crystal because it carried both a movement of extreme pressure and also a connection to the earth all but one that remains invisible. On a discourse on how that which is inorganic is animated, the author makes many a reference to art historians of yesteryear. One of them, a man called Haeckel mentored and tutored a crystallographer Otto Lehmann made some experiments that would be the first in which the term liquid was affixed to the crystal. The German term flüssige or fliessende Kristalle (liquid or flowing crystals) contained an addition to a discourse that has remained relevant since antiquity; a discussion on the relevancy of that which is stationary or that which is in motion. Lehman published his visual evidence, his microphotographs of the internal workings of crystals in a book Die neue Welt der flüssigen Kristalle und deren Bedeutung für Physik, Chemie, Technik und Biologie, Liepzig, Akad. Verlagsgesell-schaft. m. b. H, (1911). (1) Such a small historical comment, is an insightful initial source but to deepen the contemporary roots and background for this exhibition the interview between Jeanine Griffin and Jussi Parikka on medium is well worth your time.

Coinciding with this exhibition a new book by Esther Leslie was published but it is an earlier study of her’s Synthetic Worlds, Leslie references chemical mastery and new industries emerging from within this mastery. Specifically an American company is shown to have been one of the first to transform the ashes and remains of a loved one into a crystal stone; connecting directly to Otto Lehmann’s European discoveries and the material exploration of being; the discussion of the shared space the animate and its dual share. The exhibition is centred around a special structure that enables the rich plurality of creation exhibited. I only looked through once but I enjoyed Jennifer West’s ‘Spiral of Time’ a 15mm exploration of film’s continued space for rumination, the pairings of tools by Shimabuku, and the Otolith Group’s ‘Anathema’ reminds me of a dear friend of mine’s degree show work in which the computer chip’s circuitry was used to show it’s urban aesthetic and the city as a site of utopian fantasy. Finally, the animation made by Norwegian artist Ann Lislegaard ‘Crystal World (After J.G. Ballard)’ is a very pleasant linear and tonal use of animation. The shifting shapes located within its digital structures reminded me of some of the beautiful architectural achievements humans have invented.

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Ann Lislegaard ‘Crystal World (After J.G. Ballard)’

The exhibition’s richness does indeed make everything different the day you ponder its contents and in many ways the collection of images and creativity on display displays the increasingly creative environment that art and science need not compete for. Recently, physicists discovered the existence of time crystals; ‘a bizarre state of matter with an atomic structure that repeats not just in space, but in time, allowing them to maintain constant oscillation without energy.’ (2) To summarize why these are so special and why there validation is important this article puts forward the idea that they show how the well established notion that matter if malleable exists in a balanced state (equilibrium), but with the existence of time crystals this allows for matter to exist in an unbalanced state (dis-equilibrium). The scientists who made the discovery used crystals to generate these mysterious objects. They used two lasers to keep the ions (atoms with missing or extra electrons) in an unbalanced state; creating a magnetic field, and then to manipulate the atom’s spin.


 

  1.  Spyros Papapetros. (2012) ‘On the Animation of the Inorganic, University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London. 122-123
  2.  BEC CREW, ‘It’s Official: Time Crystals Are a New State of Matter, And Now We Can Create Them’ Science Alert, 9 MAR 2017

Revolution From the khōra: Power From the Outside

Khora
_

(Paul Harrison)

Throughout history there is a reoccurring pattern when it comes to revolution. If you observe the specific contexts of the revolutions that have taken place in many countries: Britain, France, Haiti, Russia, and China. Did they all happen because of an external influence? And, to what extent is this a component part of the revolution? Of the very idea of revolution? This is the line of questioning this essay will explore. Discussing the idea that successful revolution is dependent on a power that comes from outside the location of its eventual happening. This idea will be shown to be present or situated in these exemplary instances of undeniable revolutions: 1) The French revolution, 2) the Russian revolution, 3) The Chinese cultural revolution.

Next to these historical examples one is aware of one’s reasons behind writing with this perspective or with this postulation on the causal movements of revolution. The main reason for adopting such a stance is the importance of a famous fact in what many people believe to be the first work of political philosophy. Although there are other contenders for the title of first political treatise Plato’s Republic is often cited as the first. It consists of a conversation that encompasses what the ideal state might look like and the importance of justice to such an ideal, yet the fact that is more important for this discussion is the location, the specific place that this dialogue conspired. It happened outside of the city a place called the χώρα [Khōra] a notion that was important to Plato because he considered it to be a location where the forms used to reside.[ Plato. Timaeus (48e4)] Jacques Derrida helps us remember it in more recent thought of its importance. It certainly is political but what does it explicitly have to do with revolution?

In Derrida’s short essay named after this Greek location he starts by describing the myth which emanates from Plato’s orientation; Derrida describes the Khōra, ‘it oscillates between the two types of oscillation: the double exclusive (neither/nor) and the participation (both this and that).’[ Jacques Derrida, ‘Khōra’ in On the Name, Edited by Dutoit, T. Stanford University Press, Stanford California. 91 ] Such an oscillation or frequency fits the force one observes as the causal logic of revolution. The force transforms into a common noun “revolution” which is the culmination of a fluctuation in a form of logic.

The change found between exclusivity and participation is why one interprets the Khōra as a causal force because it implies a feeling of uncertain action like that of invasion, or an influx in immigration, and a conflict. This uncertainty is present in the ambiguity of the noun ‘revolution’ and what exactly it means. Furthermore, this doubt as to what is done in the name of revolution is resolved or completed in its success. An alternative to this expression is that within the site of potential revolution there is then a need of a referent but such a thing Derrida helps show is deeply abstract and one argues that this particular abstraction is a necessity.

‘Deprived of a real referent, that which in fact resembles a proper name finds itself also called an X which has as its property (as its physis and as its dynamis, Plato’s text will say) that it has nothing as its own and that it remains unformed, formless(amorphon). This very singular impropriety, which precisely is nothing, is just what Khōra must, if you like, keep; it is just what must be kept for it, what we must keep
for it.’[ Ibid. 97]

Yet, reading Derrida could suggest an opposite direction that we have to maintain the outside as formless and this would contradict my argument. This quote could be read from the perspective of a citizenry seen as keeping revolution indeterminate and external, but one would maintain that if this lack remains it is suggestive of an alternative cause: that the lack was not transformed into a name, an event (revolution).
So, let us test this idea and look to history beginning in France and some sources that hint at this movement away from the resemblance of a name, an X, to an actual name and suggest an accurate interpretation of this process named revolution. Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville discussed the 1789 revolution that changed the entire reality of Europe.[ Alexis De Tocqueville. The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution, edited by Jon Elster, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. ] Tocqueville’s discussions of the changes that transformed the ancien regime (the old order) including: how the French revolution was a political revolution but with the distinctly religious character, territorial disputes giving way to principles, and the destruction of feudal and aristocratic institutions.

Again, the way Tocqueville writes supports the opposite notion of revolution the one that says it was a unique phenomena that originated in one country and then spread elsewhere. However, one does not agree with this because it does not reflect deeply enough on the religious aspect of this revolution. Religion for the French revolution was the Khōra; a power that was on the outside, in what sense can one claim this? The evidence for this perspective is that the then king Louis XIV who under the influence of Cardinal Mazarin embodied absolute rule. This means that kings where to believed to have a devine right implying that they were backed by the authority of God a power that was to also be responsible for the revolutionary thoughts of Karl Marx.[ Karl Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ [1845] in: Early Writings, London: Penguin 1975. ] Yet, the royalty of France of this time also contributes even more to our discussion. The way king Louis XIV exercised his absolutism demonstrates power’s necessary movement from the outside to the inside. This is explicitly made obvious by the fact that this king prioritised military expansion at the expense of higher taxes on citizens – unanimously cited as the cause of the revolution.

Reading this we see power exercised expansively into space outside the country in military acts and expansion. This inevitably results in the country’s citizens adopting a line of thinking an equation that Sieyes articulated, ‘subtract the privileged order and the nation would not be something less, but something more.’[ Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, ‘Qu’est-ce que le tiers-état? / What is the Third Estate?’ in Essay on Privileges, (January 1789). 96] Of course this power often manifests in incredibly violent ways and the French revolution is infamous for the ‘reign of terror’ and the mass executions by guillotine. Here we should take a moment to consider the difficulties we face when viewing the power that fuels revolutions because it seems to contain key signs or symptoms: abuse of military might and paranoia towards the outside coupled with the ambiguity of deciphering the difference between criminals and those who place faith in laws. Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobin’s behaved in such a way that enacted both symptoms but although their revolution was a success this did not save them from their fate. They fell victim to the very violence they wielded against their enemies; perceived both internally and externally power resulted in a short lived governance.

‘Wisdom, as much as power, presided over the creation of the universe…
If the revolutionary government is not seconded by the energy, enlightenment,
patriotism, and benevolence of all the people’s representatives, how can it have
the strength to respond proportionately to the efforts of Europe who are
attacking it, and to all the enemies of liberty pressing in on it from all sides?’[ Maximilien Robespierre. “On the Principles of Revolutionary Government.” In Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, edited and by Jean Ducange, translated by John Howe, introduction by Slavoj Zizek. London: Verso, 2007.]

In the case of Russia Vladimir Lenin offers more evidence for one’s scepticism toward the idea that the power bringing about radical change is generated internally by alluding to sham socialists and their petit-bourgeois utopia.[ Vladimir Lenin. State and Revolution, introduction by Todd Chretien. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014. 61.] How the ideology of the state being above classes betrays the working class. So, in Lenin’s discussion of the Russian revolution we can observe that he deemed the French revolutions of 1848 and 1871 to be a betrayal, the proletariat sell their birthright for a mess of porridge, and how the destruction of the state is a prerequisite for the formation of Marx’s the ‘workers dictatorship’ a main step towards human emancipation.[ Ibid, 63. ] We also learn of the struggles of the two quintessential rebel rouser’s so influential for Lenin and the Russian revolution; Marx and Engels came out and back into hiding, adding their firebrand journalism to revolutions in Germany and Europe (1848), yet these revolutions all failed because the fight for power came from within the same country and were all easily defeated. Lenin’s thoughts on Marx clarify the Khōra.

Marx never expected the communist revolution to take place in Russia. The manifesto he wrote with Friedrich Engels foresaw revolution taking place in more economically developed countries. The noun ‘Communist’ was the abstract necessity that Derrida described as a name and simultaneously an X because to be a communist one has to desire communities sharing the commons (both this and that, and neither nor. Remembering Derrida’s distinction). In the Russian revolution Lenin attempted to use Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat in other words ‘a vanguard party’ to do away with the rule of the Tsar and bring about socialism.[ Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” In The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 469-500. London: Norton & Company, 1978. 479-500.] The 1917 October Revolution in Saint Petersburg was led by Lenin and the Bolsheviks and here we have movements associated with conflict (WW1, and exile in Lenin’s case) a desire for change that when forced to travel via way of exclusion seeks an inclusive tradition.

Mao Tse-Tsung wrote extensively about how he perceived a revolutionary tradition dating back to the people of the han dynasty. Mao claims, ‘the Chinese never submit to tyrannical rule but invariably use revolutionary means to overthrow or change it.’[ Mao Tse-Tsung, ‘The Chinese Revolution and The Chinese Communist Party’ in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tsung, Volume I,[https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_23.html] ] Whilst writing about his nation Mao is rightly brimming with pride and the sentences carry this feeling unabashedly and this may hide the simultaneous exaggeration that also resides within any writing of a political leader. In this case the aim of Mao was to clearly describe how it was the Chinese people’s great struggle that was the sole creator of what was to become the Peoples Republic of China and of course this is true to some extent but there is more than a little evidence that Mao and his revolutionaries had help from a power outside China.

Japan and its invading armies constitute this external force. The second ‘Sino-Japanese war’ (1937-1945) resulted in Japan committing some of the worst war crimes on record – an estimated two to three hundred thousand people where massacred and raped as Japanese forces captured the then Chinese capital of Nanjing. Here we have a dark example of this external power influencing a revolution because there is evidence that strongly suggests chairman Mao the leader of the Communist party of China saw this event as the reason for his successful revolution. Journalist Richard McGregor cites this confession. This quote demonstrates that Mao the instigator and figurehead of the cultural revolution consciously referenced the force that allowed him and his comrades to move from guerilla warfare and toward defeating the nationalists and to attain control over the country.

‘[A] meeting with a Japanese Socialist party leader, Mao perversely thanked Japan for invading China, because the turmoil created by the Imperial Army had enabled the CCP to come to power. “We would still be in the mountains and not be able to watch Peking Opera in Beijing,” he said. “It was exactly because the Imperial Japanese Army took up more than half of China that there was no way out for the Chinese people. So we woke up and started armed struggle, established many anti-Japanese bases, and created conditions for the War of Liberation. The Japanese monopolistic capitalists and warlords did a ‘good thing’ to us. If a ‘thank you’ is needed, I would actually like to thank the Japanese warlords.”[ Richard McGregor, The Long Read: Could Trump’s Blundering Lead to War Between China and Japan? The Guardian Online, Thu 17 Aug 2017 06.00 BST, [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/17/could-trumps-blundering-lead-to-war-between-china-and-japan] ]

Adding to this example we can acknowledge that the use of ‘comfort women’ by the Japanese highlights the importance of feminist narratives in the future of revolution. The oppression of women and the fight for gender equality is one of the more important revolutionary battles happening today; perhaps the power that will make this gender revolution a success is a change in the role of the female as a mother, giving birth may change due to external influence of technology.[ Shulamith Firestone. The Dialectic of Sex: The case for feminist revolution, Bantam Books, USA, 1970] Such changes will first manifest in the societal and cultural entities of the biggest countries.

China is currently the worlds biggest economy and global power this is because like America it is expanding its military but after its revolution the state that emerged became more self aware of its own character and culture.[ China is well known for the control of its population and its inward looking nature but also due to its philosophy Confucianism it places a much greater emphasis on the importance of the family as a structure. ] So, rather than expanding imperially via military strength China exercised control over its population building control within its own lands. This is why McGregor uses the metaphor of Thucydides Trap because he sees that the rising power of China as too much of a threat to America for there not to be war between these two great nations.[ Ibid, McGregor. ] However, the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war when Sparta attacked Athens is another example because this metaphor is politically applicable to many instances of conflict throughout history and its symptom is an arms/weapons race. Such a race, does it not demonstrate power coming from the outside? Yes, it is one example but staying with China the country offers more evidence it has in the last decade hosted some of the biggest workers unions in the world (unsurprising because one fifth of humanity is Chinese). Comprising of millions of members and are often farmers or rural workers – they are so big and well organised that the government is forced to communicate.

This takes us back to that truly revolutionary conversation that took place outside the city. A site to situate the power from the outside that generates the impetus for a change that even an ancient aristocrat like Plato saw as necessarily tied to the use of justice. But, in terms of revolution the use of justice is a power that first manifests in a place between legality and criminality, a place, a topos that we understand as the χώρα [Khōra]?

‘When you want a deposit to be kept safely.
You mean when money is not wanted, but allowed to lie?
Precisely. That is to say, justice is useful when money is useless?
That is the inference. And when you want to keep a pruning-hook safe, then justice is useful to the individual and to the state; but when you want to use it, then the art of the vine-dresser?’[ Plato, The Republic, Book II. ]

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Bibliography

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De Tocqueville, Alexis. (2011), The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution, edited by Jon Elster, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Derrida, J. (1993), ‘Khōra’ in ‘On the Name, Edited by Dutoit, T. Stanford University Press, Stanford California.
Shulamith Firestone. (1970), The Dialectic of Sex: The case for feminist revolution, Bantam Books, USA.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. (1978), “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” In: The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 469-500. London: Norton & Company.
McGregor, R. The Long Read: Could Trump’s Blundering Lead to War Between China and Japan? The Guardian Online, Thu 17 Aug 2017 06.00 BST, [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/17/could-trumps-blundering-lead-to-war-between-china-and-japan]
Plato. The Republic
_____ Timaeus,
Robespierre, Maximilien. (2007), “On the Principles of Revolutionary Government.” In Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, edited and by Jean Ducange, translated by John Howe, introduction by Slavoj Zizek. London: Verso.
Sieyès, Emmanuel Joseph. (2003), “What is the Third Estate?” In: Political Writings, edited and translated by Michael Sonenscher, 92-162. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Make Light Work

 

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The proverb, ‘Many hands make light work’ happens to also be a truism. Work, laborious, tedious, unrewarding work can be made lighter if shared by more people. Today, the ticking of a technological Einsteinian clock made entirely from photonic components is forming a new dawn. Rising from the automated robotic horizon which seeks to revolutionise our working environments. Pushing so many of us into initially uncertain futures – can we retrain, regain new employment? What exactly am I going to do when the school, supermarket, and factory no longer needs me? Einstein himself needed unrewarding monotonous work. Working in a patent office enabled this scientist to unlock light’s materiality. The discovery of relativity is a good example of how the human always assumes their work to be theirs and theirs only. Which is greedy, selfish, and depressively untrue. This darkness, the darkness that extinguishes the flame of that which should be familiar. Einstein is a good example of the need to make light work. Remember, that the word genius which Albert symbolises; does not always have to be so individualistic, it can refer to a spirit or character. So, when we look at Einstein’s story, of course his own abilities shine bright, yet there was another spectrum of light at work in this physicist’s successful voyage into understanding.

He worked in a patent office dealing with many technical problems related to electrical-mechanical synchronisation. These requests for intellectual property, that were submitted by other people helped Einstein. The stream of documents fed into his thought experiments. Yes, he was the one that wrote the papers, that created the equations, but in tandem to this one should acknowledge the effect of the behaviour of others on the usually solitary system of work.  Therefore, the discovery of the physicality of light led to the harnessing of the secrets of energy. The aim of this writing is then to see the aforementioned discovery as being a metaphor. Thus transforming and transferring the common alienation one experiences at work into a deeply embedded potential for work to radiate with a  light of social solidarity. How is it even possible, that their exist people that steadfastly refuse to see work in this light? Why should an individual’s struggles: the struggles to pay rent, feed your children, garner recognition, and achieve happiness not be viewed as belonging to you, me, and Einstein? Let us then see this social sun’s rays burning brightly in some examples. Both, in real life circumstances and fictional formulations one will describe how work can always be  brighter. Let us return to Einstein’s achievements.

One of the facts about him that is hardly touched on is his socialism, his is one of the most eloquent ways of asking why socialism? Explaining the process of capital domination as a predatory phrase in human development, science’s inability to produce ends only the means, and the prolonged existential crisis humanity has been facing. (1) This is somewhat of a repentance for Einstein because he was one of the signatory of a letter to President Roosevelt persuading him of the dangers of allowing the Germans to accumulate an atomic bomb. Resulting in the creation of the Manhattan Project in the 1940’s, and the subsequent crippling of WW2 Japan. Einstein’s support of Socialism is not just a personal confession of his own part in capital reality, but it reminds everyone today how little we have progressed from Thorstein Veblen’s ‘predatory phase’ of human development. Therefore, against the huge contemporary tsunami of monetary evils one sides with Einstein’s optimism, ‘human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.’(2) Einstein’s socialism would then be one with a deep understanding that humanity constitutes a society at once produced and consumed by the individual. Yet, here resides what is at stake: in the right talons stands Capitalism with its constant internal abuse of workers with a dead weight of devalued labour, and on the left paw rests Socialism in which workers have rights to share, access, and distribute the value of work.

 

‘This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.’ (3)

 

This lightness of work is only possible if today the living population rejects the crude oily market education of Neo-Liberalism, favouring the Renaissance ideal of Umanitas, and finding it in the contemporary German notion of Menschenkenntnis. This intuitive grasp of humankind is not some make believe leftist fantasy. No! Socialism is simply the system which fully supports the fact that you and I are animals living with the name ‘human’, and that now is a period in time simultaneously translated and shared with many millions of others.

The time we call now is like no other time before it. Right now as you the reader read this our species consistent techno-scientific advancement is on the verge of a real paradigm shift. In 1962 when Thomas Samuel Kuhn was articulating just how revolutionary science is, it is likely that he would see today as the epitome of what a shift in the paradigm looks like. (4) The birth of advanced robotic and mechanics shows this to be true. But, as Einstein shows individual brilliance often comes from a brilliant individual, yet this brilliance of the individual is as Marx and Engels understood most clearly either common or social. Since science is social, the community finds itself always in new laboratories.  What remains is that these current scientists, mathematicians, and any worker for that matter makes improvements in human understanding through surpassing what came before. This is done by intuition, collaboration, and sharing what one has been lucky to experience or observe in the work of others. There exist many examples that support the sharing of work, and a subsequent liquidisation of labour value. Firstly, let us look at one which is connected to our initial subject of the science of physics, a source of marvel, and wonder.

Today, this year the international community of researchers are bringing the sun’s internal workings down to earth. They have succeeded in mastering Nuclear Fusion, and this promises clean energy. Fusing atoms together will light up our future cities with much less danger involved. However, in light of these achievements it’s very important to discuss the shadow in which this new technology has had to pass through. In 2011, Japan faced another nuclear disaster. The Fukishima Daiichi nuclear disaster showcased how nuclear decay and harnessing destruction as a form of energy production was never going to be a good idea. However, it should be said that it was a step away from the pollution of coal powered energy and a leap towards clean energy. Those that say human progress is not possible should focus deeply on this progression from skies so black the workers merely glimpsed a blue dimmed daylight to a radical potential to forever power our mass communicating societies. Nuclear history, Japan as an example of what self sacrifice means and the power of nature… society is the only thing that has allowed humans to continue growing when faced with the realities of  our darkest ideology, Capitalism – a system of inauthentic existence.

The pursuit of understanding in physics needs sharing within the wider community.  As we await the completion of the standard model of particle physics one demands that we take this time to dwell and ponder the uniqueness of the light we are about to generate. Some individuals lament the fact that the lights of the urban masses of humanity are polluting the natural beauty of the night sky. This is sadly true, but the engine which powers the fictional spaceship Voyager is one powered by fusion so within one hundred years humans will be star trekking, and the stars we used to see every night will be accessible once more. To reach this point and not have social coherency, not have togetherness, even after our greatest act of creation would be a travesty of such incomprehensibility it is hard to type. In the same way when one hears an esteemed scientist claim that Philosophy is dead and useless, it becomes necessary to stress that this is not helpful if ‘making light work’ is indeed our aim, our desire, our target. Philosophy in all its formulations and mutations has in its calling the subversive necessity to challenge jaded beliefs of its time, and there exists nothing more exhausted then the mantra that progress is only seen in science and technology.

Progression is not a prized possession of the latter it is instead inevitably social. Its this way this brief expression of light and labour can end by asserting, ‘though there is darkness it can not stop the rays of light emitted from the sum of social reality.’ Perfectly understood by the ancient Italian Parmenides.

 

‘Fr. 14 … Shining by night with alien borrowed light [darkly bright], wandering around the earth.’(5)            

 

 

(1) Albert Einstein, Why Socialism? Monthly Review, Volume 9 Issue 01 (May 2009).

(2) ibid.

(3) ibid.

(4) Thomas Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions, International Encyclopaedia of Unified  Science, University of  Chicago, (1962, 1970)     

(5) A.H. Coxon, The Fragments of Parmenides. A Critical Text with Introduction, Translation, the Ancient “Testimonia” and  a Commentary (Assen – Maastricht, Van Gorcum, 1986), pp. 44 – 92.

Enlightenment? (I. Immanuel Kant)

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This is the first of many posts I will write-up throughout this year as I study to achieve a BA degree in Philosophy at KU Leuven’s Institute, In Belgium… This course is taught by a gifted teacher Stephen Howard a member of the intellectual community at CREMP ( Centre for Research in Continental Philosophy) in the UK.

{Below are my answers to the reading questions from the first week… I will type them up as a way of reviewing, both the seminar and the lecture of this great course}

001/ Why is it easier for an entire public to enlighten itself than an individual to do so? By what process can a public enlighten itself?

Immanuel Kant starts this text by suggesting that a large portion of men are even after reaching maturity quick to succumb to bad habits (such as laziness and cowardice), and rather than using his own understanding seeks guidance, or dependence from others. In paragraph two Kant gives one of these men a voice which resonates today, “I need not think so as long as, I can pay?”This quote shows Kant portraying man as a “docile creature” […] which one observes as being a precursor to what Michel Foucault, 186 years later described as “docile bodies” in Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of The Prison (1975) this may be a departure from the question, yet because capital is both a kind of prison, and punishment it has an obvious relation to the concept of freedom, or lack of? Which is a question on Kant’s text, that allows me to answer the first question more directly: It is easier for an entire public to enlighten itself because as Kant saw clearly it is an inevitably if the public is left in Freedom. This is most strongly expressed in section 8 of the reader; after discussing the unarguable doctrines of religious guidance/ and rules. He clearly states his distaste for the latter, and “to test whether any particular measure can be agreed upon as a law for a people, we need only ask whether a people could well impose such a law upon itself”. To answer the last part of the question what process can be used for enlightening themselves? The answer is by exercising their public use of reason.
(Kant sees the process of Enlightenment being innately slow)

002/ What does Kant mean by the “Public” and “Private” use of reason?

Kant’s distinction resides in how reason can be used he describes two types: 1) the public use of reason, and 2) the public use of reason, and 2) the private use of reason. Looking at Kant’s language he says that the public use of reason can be understood as the potential or manner for addressing as a learned man: the entire reading public. On the other hand the private use of reason is that reason which a person may make of it in a civil post … Kant one of the most important thinkers of all time describes this difference by giving examples of civil posts. This demonstrates that the private use of reason is attached to the individual’s rights in his position. For example, Kant’s examples are an officer arguing over orders from one of his superiors, or a refusing to pay their taxes. The public use of reason therefore is that reason used by a public, in public, for a public. But, one has more questions did Kant associate public reason with democracy as being somehow actuated by the French Revolutionary thought? Also, my other question I want to ask is if there are these two types of reason. Considering the Latin etymology of reason “ratio” (to measure/measurement). Does this meaning not draw us into a further questioning of what Kant means by the freedom of public? If there are two reasons does that not suggest that there is a minimum of two interpretations of freedom in Kant’s thoughts on enlightenment?

003/ What is the difference between an Enlightened age and the age of the Enlightenment?

The difference would initially reside in if the ruling powers, a governing body or the monarch of the age: either limits or enables freedom of its public. Kant himself suggests that in the 17th century they were not living in the age of the Enlightenment, but changes are happening that suggest to him that it will come soon. To stress this I would draw attention to Kant’s focusing in on religious constitution as a direct challenge to the process of man’s enlightenment. Here one wants to add historical information to distinguish the difference between being in or out of the Enlightenment. The French revolution began in 1789 more or less at the same date of kant’s text. This suggests that Kant would have been more than aware of these cultural/social/political changes conspiring in the revolution.

004/ According to Kant, What constraints should an enlightened society impose on its citizens? Should these be temporary or not?

One sees this as the most difficult question to answer substantially. However if we reference the text again we may find ways to answer. Right at the end of the text Kant writes,

“Thus once the germ on which nature has lavished most care – man’s inclination
and vocation to think freely – has developed within this hard shell, it gradually reacts
upon the mentality of the people, who thus come gradually become increasingly to act
freely. Eventually it even influences the principles of governments, which find that they
can themselves profit by treating man, who is more than a machine, in a manner
appropriate to his dignity[ Immanuel Kant,trans. H.B Nisbet, Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? (1784), in History of Philosophy: Modern Philosophy II Primary Texts, Fall 2017, Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven, (2017). pp.4]”

In this quote one from Kant, one intuitively interprets the last line as persuading those who exercise power to consider the private use of reason of the citizen, “a manner appropriate to his dignity”. However this does stop short of fully explaining the constraints the enlightened society should place on itself? In a enlightened society civil freedom is agreed and guaranteed by the state. This is obviously paradoxical too much lenience gives intellectual freedom but may lead to obstacles for concepts such as liberty, freedom, and equality. Too little gives intellectual freedom enough room to expand to its fullest extent? Early in the text Kant shows favour toward the temporary testing of new rules and legislation.

005/ What is Kant’s view of Frederick the great? What message might the text be seeking to send to Frederick?

Again, the manner in which Kant writes about the king largely remains respectful, but at the same time you can see the philosopher make direct attempts at persuading Frederick to commit to the enlightenment as a superior ideology. On page three, in paragraph nine: Kant’s words read almost as a warning. Telling the king, not to interfere in his subject’s attempts to express religious ideas. If he does so, then he becomes no more than a despot. The Latin phrase kant uses is interesting it translates as follows, “Ceaser is not above the grammarians”. Therefore, I think kant was compelling or urging Frederick the Great to exercise his own private use of reason.

# Sarah “Smizz” Smith

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I first met Sarah Smizz almost a decade ago at Psalter lane campus. The building occupied by the Steel city’s art school, which now finds itself nestled in the centre of this city, the calm steady beating heart of England known as Sheffield. At that time, all those years ago, Smizz was one of the only individuals openly interested in Street art in the entire institute. Not only that! But her choice of clothing was and still is super dope, rocking skate shoes, and baggy attire. I immediately saw a kindred spirit and watching Sarah who was in the year above me do her thing in a social, informed, and truthful way. Really inspired me to work with people – her projects (both successes and failures) are too numerous to list here. Sarah and I are both from Yorkshire and those initial conversations and collaborative commissions we had together will remain some of the most enjoyable I’ll ever experience. Both, of us have a deep connection to two alien cities: New York and Tokyo. This second home like status of these two metropolises is another thing we both share. I like to imagine us as nomadic visitors travelling into the depths of the urban to increase a creative, healthy, and equal community in the necessary global cosmopolitas.

Since I left to experience Japan two years ago, my dear friend has grown and achieved so much. This post is to show my continuous gratitude and respect for this amazing person, apologise for being so uncommunicative, and of course to share her with those surfing the internet. Initially, at Sheffield’s art school Sarah and her peers created an independent art space deliciously named Cake. Over a couple of years the art space ran exhibitions, fund-raisers, and slam poetry. Throughout, these university years Sarah’s Marxist pride started to seep into her fearless socially mindful practices. Memorable examples include: Utopian Protagonists: A luxury Studio Flat (a project drawing attention to the everyday capitalist realities for many artists – through advertising only), Poverty Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving (A set of drawings showing Sarah to be a true flanuer; Benjamin would’ve been proud), C.A.a.D (Contemporary Art as Dialogue – Curatorial Group) and the project Platform Plateaus and Potential For Progress ( A city wide series of events designed to emphasis the affects of institutions on the group (2009)). These are all good examples of the work that constitutes Sarah’s deep grounding in resisting the less obvious evils of capitalism its brainwashing of individuals, and intentional dumbing down the population. Her work made me become critical of myself and others. Really, forcing me to engage with the desire to resist Capitalism’s deathly dark side.

Meeting Sarah you are guaranteed a conversation like no other – she is and will remain my go to person to discuss philosophy, quantum mechanics, technology, history, hip-hop, politics and culture drawn from anywhere. From here I want to discuss the two most impressive things I find about Sarah. First, is how she embodies and lives a very deep and personal connection between drawing and health. This may become self evident when she completes her Phd with Sheffield’s excellent Lab4Living. But, it is already obvious to those who consider her a friend and who are colleagues/collaborators. Take a look at her continued production of drawings of the city, of New York – for me these drawings demonstrate not just the physical use of lines by artists. Rather how it is innately human to want to be connected not just for the sake of communication, but for well being, and the cultivation of feelings and sensations that are beneficial to the human. Speaking of art, what Sarah brought into the imagination of those lucky people that glimpsed her expanded project Powernoid was an understanding and critic of the power structures of the art world. Inspired by her research for her Masters degree and the work of William Powhida, Deb Solkow, Charles Avery, and Olivia Plender. Sarah used her drawing skills to achieve what her own words best describe,

‘I re-distribute agency to the individual/collective and critique existing power structures, as such my work could be defined especially close to the idea of
institutional critique. I trace the roots of these interests to my working class
background, which gives me an affinity to society’s underdogs. With a suspicious
mind I have been concerned with the content of history and how it is circulated.
I do this by comparing elements such as folk myths and political campaigning to grass-roots activism with the cannon of art history.’

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As you can see this work is a culmination of many years of creativity, interest, and inquiry. This work is special for many reasons it potentially marks a turning point in her life: a deepening of her appreciation for NYC (Sarah took Powernoids into Winkleman Gallery in 2010), a maturing of her own identity in surely one of art’s finest tapestries or maps? And what I could suggest is her last art work in the sense of one body of visual work produced by one individual made before her interest in healthcare took more of a central focus in her life. Resulting in her second degree in radiotherapy, Sarah is fully qualified to offer such treatment in any such hospital department. This then leads to her Phd on how creative methodologies can be used in both the implementation, research, and understanding of healthcare.

The second thing that Sarah supports and stands for is the politics of the working class, which she and I were both born into. So, it is not uncommon to encounter her next to Ed Miliband drumming up support for the Labour party. Sarah’s connection to the red side of British politics has been naturally intensified in the face of the Conservative party’s austerity politics. The agenda of those in power hurt the poorest and support the wealthiest. Nowhere is this more evident than the constant attack on the NHS in favour of an American system of privatisation, open to the external interests of private business. Sarah has at times been one of the many that have depended on our countries health service, and so she feels this wretched attack on those with less money by those with enough capital to not even use our country’s public hospitals, more intensely then most. I hope that in the future I might have the chance to continue our collaborations, after Sarah has re-drawn the intellectual landscape of the UK, and its discourses on health and art. You can connect to Sarah Smizz’s work and projects following the links below. There is also a fantastic essay on MUTE’s website which Sarah shared with me – written by Benedict Seymour, it uses Lord Of The Rings to explain Capitalism.

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http://sarahsmizz.com
http://cargocollective.com/smizz
https://artdialogue.wordpress.com/
http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/fellowship-wrong

Political Factoids / Muriness

Factoids in the Political Realm

Factoid

Today, looking back at recent events in the west. My mind is filled with a deep hope that the Labour party lead by Jeremy Corbyn can usurp the evil leadership of the Conservative party. If they achieve this it could give millions of people in America some more inspiration to unify and collaborate to get rid of Trump from the helm of their government. What has struck me recently has been how those in power have distorted the truth to maintain and enhance their control. Recent nefarious practices, such as the abuse of data can be seen to have bought the British democracy. Undermining it by equipping the propaganda machines of the right with enough information about voters, so that they could feed the population facts that distort the truth. The noun for this type of information is a ‘factoid’ a piece of information repeated so many times that it starts to attain the appearance of the truth. This has already caused a catastrophe of epic proportions. Brexit is entirely a construct and conclusion of the power plays within the conservative government. The decision to leave the European Union was engineered in this space of greed, self-interest, and the cult of money. David Cameron, Boris Johnson, George Osborne, and the likes of Nigel Farage have all lived with such luxury and distributed such views. That, I hope eventually their unethical actions come back to haunt them through the rest of their existence – these people that made the UK poorer.

From oligopolies lobbying to Members of Parliament expense claiming. You might try and compassionately reason and suggest, ‘Perhaps, if I was in such a situation, if I was offered the chance to claim for money – by just showing ones receipts. Then maybe I would do the same.’ This hints at one of the biggest factoids the legitimisation of entitlement, of ownership. We are not supposed to inherit rights, rather we are meant to be born with them. But, under the Neo-liberalist project that gained steam since it was fuelled by the socially damaging governments of Thatcher and Reagan. Our rights have suddenly become surplus to requirements. Trump’s idiocy, ineptness, and overall hideousness shows clearly how those with vast wealth simply do not care about the majority. It does not matter if we destroy the planet… or, if you literally remove the rights of those with different appearance or belief. What matters to Trump is business and his ability to exercise control through profit. The inability of democracy to not completely safeguard itself from corruption does not have to be it’s downfall if we are more aware of it. Team Trump’s use of factoids to give the orange haired child in the room confidence in his own bloated existence and his repertoire of lies. The attack on decency and the visual explosion of hate from the masses towards the ‘other’ (itself a potential factoid?). The murderous Murdoch mafia’s desperate attempt to slur the honorable socialist Corbyn, and disrupt free speech with it’s rank drivel should also be snuffed out.  How do we stop people like Robert Mercer and his company of Cambridge Analytica?

Let’s hope Trump is impeached, and Corbyn’s Labour is elected. Then perhaps certain Factoids: climate change is a myth, profit is not a filthy world, market competition drives progress, and capitalism will last forever can be made to match the facts they are enhanced from? In the future how do we keep the two separate, a fact from it’s potential steroids?

Muriness: a Japanese word that I created!

muriness

Not completely unrelated to the above, yet certainly detached is an event that brought me great personal joy. Recently, my job in Tokyo has been rather debilitating. The reason for this is because I am an English teacher in a conversation school in Japan. So yes, of course, in my lessons I do not speak Japanese because I do desire the Asian people I see weekly to learn my language, and have been working hard to achieve this. Since I started two years ago my company has expected me to abide by certain rules – to a large extent I have out of respect for the opportunity to work and experience living in a different country. Yet, in the last couple of months I have come to realise just how unhealthy this strict regime I am forced to maintain is. This is okay, I only have two more months of work here, but one of the saddest, most negative things that will stay with me is my own inability to have adapted myself to the environment of Tokyo. This means that rather than fluency, I speak a broken Japanese that stays somewhat too simple.  This frustrates me because I am a social person, I do enjoy spending time with people, and up until very recently I deeply desired to speak a second language fluently. This is still too vague… let me describe in more detail how I have felt working full time in Tokyo. 3 days a week I finish work at about 10:00 pm, I leave the school at around this time. Adding this to the commute via train I arrive home towards 11 at night. This does not leave much time to relax and spend time with my housemates. Or, even prepare a wholesome meal.

Anyway, this post is not about ungratefully bitching on the company that gave me my first full time job. Although, I am frustrated and annoyed at how I have been treated – and the behaviours I have forced to perform. Notice how I am not naming the company this is out of respect for those I work with both fellow foreigners and local Japanese friends. Who have helped me enjoy my time here… What I want to share with you today is the Japanese word I created to describe this frustration and anger I suddenly felt toward the type of capitalism that exists here in the biggest city in the world. The word is Muriness, a hybrid between the Japanese Muri (impossible) and the English ‘ness’ (quality of) so you can use it to describe a feeling/sense/quality of impossibility. So, what in my experiences living in Japan could be seen to have Muriness? Let us go through some examples. The Japanese language itself is a huge language – if you are good at singing then you might find this language easier to speak. You pronounce absolutely everything there are no unvoiced syllables. It’s written form is slightly more challenging, but if you have time, desire, and commitment you can do it. For me the muriness of acquiring Japanese as a second language is it’s formal context specific qualities. These things stand in sharp contrast to my mother tongue. I find myself not being able to express myself both accurately and creatively enough when I try and communicate in Japanese.

The Japanese government is also in contention for being labelled as having muriness. This is due to prime minister Abe’s support of Trump and the administrations conservatism that is very much a perspective in favour of a nationalistic past. Contrasting with the image of modern Japan as a passive, peaceful, and welcoming country.  One normal encounter with Muriness, that every normal individual or salary-man/woman regularly encounters is the experience of rush hour traveling on the hundreds of trains. Sometimes the train is so full you literally have no space to move. Discovering, or contemplating the “meaning” of existence I would also say has a potential for Muriness because this assumes the importance of meaning. I would like to imagine that one day this bizzare little creation will enter the Japanese lexicon and be used by Japanese people in conversations in both Japanese and English. For now, I am content that I made something that allows me to describe how I feel having existed in a far eastern capital city. Please… Japanese readers please use this… when you feel like something is impossible, but do not know if it is actually impossible.

Occupy & Mutuality: Towards an understanding of Anarchy

In Tournament of Shadows episode six of the BBC drama Ripper Street (2012) you find a radical Jew who is blown up in his own house. Framed as a bomb maker the main protagonist of the series goes to visit the victims brother Isaac. Whom, informs the detective that his brother was an Anarchist in a most powerful manner. Isaac’s words describe what could be said to be the desire behind both the Occupy Movement and The 99%. The brother emotionally articulates that his brother believed in ‘Anarchism from the Greek Anarkhos (without rule), Joshua believed completely in altruism, mutuality, and an end to mans dominion over man’. It is a shame that we had to lose this fictional life to be presented with an alternative to the populist definition of an Anarchist. Implying a violent individual causing disorder, upheaval, and living without rules. Well, that may be quite an image that we could carry of the dreams of a contemporary young rebel. However, this text attempts to contemplate how anti-capitalist movements are being undermined through their focusing on existing institutions such as the state and banks.

The main issue that evolves around this particular conundrum is two way, on the one hand, you have the current separation of power and politics. A position described by the professor of philosophy Simon Critchley as ‘It is certainly not populist or people centred. Politics, does not have power, politics serves power. Whereas power is global or supranational, politics is still local and there is a gap between the two’ It is this break in phenomena that Critchley believes is the source of the sense of estrangement or loss we currently carry. Now, this thinker goes on to explain the classical goal of politics being one of Autonomy. This notion is a main goal of the Occupy Movement and subsequently leads us towards the opposing position. It is one’s opinion that for this collective ownership to happen our appreciation/consideration of human nature has to be honed. Currently thoughts such as greed as a form of survival, as part of nature, inherent within ownership and value. Stand, as instant opposition to a direct form of revolutionary emancipation and perhaps society should turn to another word beginning with the letter A.

Autotomy, referred to as a ‘casting off of a part of the body by an animal’ it is a way of surviving an attack. Now it is paramount that we understand why it is important that we cast off this part of our body? And what part of our bodies we need to disperse? To start to answer these two questions one should turn their attention to what happened during the recent riots throughout the United Kingdom. The traumatic experience of the Malaysian student Ashraf Hazig who was seriously hurt with a broken jaw. One individual seemed to comfort him whilst his accomplices raided his backpack clearly escaping with a Sony Psp games console. This horror operates on many levels as it highlights the dark side of our materialistic culture. What Sigmund Freud ordained in his writing ‘Das Unbehagen In Der Kulter’ literally the uneasiness in culture. In this text Freud describes civilisation and its discontent with the norms or rules that it creates for itself. Rules that in this case distorts and alters the distance between the image of our current condition and primordial man.

But this ancient human is still present deep within our psyche it lies patiently waiting to show itself. When it does as in the case of Mr. Hazig and his deceivers we are presented with an ‘Unbehagen’. This uneasiness is what one needs to throw away if we are to participate in peaceful change. Unless we continue to allow for an imbalance that could also be, in a way, be what; in Lacanian thought is known as the ‘return to the real’ or the ultimate trauma. Now, how to begin to think about whether or not it is possible to dissect something attached to culture which is constantly evolving and forever terrifying. Here is where we should think about Anarchism and especially the idea of Mutuality, described by the Frenchman Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. As a form of ‘spontaneous order without central authority, a “Positive Anarchy” where order arises when everybody does “what he wishes and only what he wishes” A nice idea, alas in reality this relies on reciprocal forms of communication. Which does not happen when you have been continuously fed commodities and been told that there allure or value is paramount.

But this is a rather objectified view of our over committed relationship to sell-able objects lets entertain a more subjective angle. In our Capitalist system you have this social hierarchy at the top the Bourgeoisie, at the bottom the Proletariat. Or Employer and Employee, or Master and Slave, as a reading of the prominent Hegel by Alexandre Kojève offers a key systematic component. Describing Desire ‘is the desire for recognition. In order to achieve recognition, the subject must impose the idea that he has of himself on an other’ Now I am not even entertaining or talking about the historic danger of abolishing a market then leading to a Totalitarian relationship. Lets be clear what I am actually proposing by using a visual metaphor, it is a belief that one can grasp easily, in that we need to alter the existing pyramid into a circle. Perhaps intuitively speaking if we are to redesign capitalism then our attention needs to rest on matching the repetitive wheel of growth and recession.

To that of the natural perennial cycle of life and death, order and chaos. Through a transmuted reflection on the Hermeneutic, Gestalt, Metaphysical, and Pataphysical formations. Or more generally the needs of a sentient being, our humanity residing in our consistent reach in time, thought, and action. Our ability for empathy should inspire us to cultivate bewilderment at the structures and sequences we have created. Transferring this energy or ‘Positive Anarchy’ to one another will not be easy to do, it will take a long deep look into the unknown recesses of the dark penumbra of ownership. In an effort to break into modes of thinking, new sequences of being.

  • Paul Harrison (the above writing is some old musings on Anarchy. Maybe, I will revisit them at a later date.)