Volatility

September 9, 2011

First Principles: Morality and Action

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We need to get back to first principles. We need to purge all aspects of the elites’ own framework from our thought and expression. Here’s the example (from Derrick Jensen*) which spurred this post, though any regular day in the blogosphere provides similar examples:
 

For years I have been asking whether abusers believe their lies, and I’m finally comfortable with an answer.

This understanding came in great measure because I finally stopped focusing on the lies and their purveyors and I began to focus on the abusers’ actions. I realized, following Lundy Bancroft, that to try to answer the question of whether the abusers believe their lies is to remain under the abusers’ spell, to “look off in the wrong direction”, to allow myself to be distracted so I “won’t notice where the real action is”. To remain focused on that question is exactly what abusers want.

Endgame Volume II, “Abusers”

 
There’s been some progress with this in the blogosphere. We don’t see as much solemn rumination on whether e.g. Tim Geithner is corrupt or merely “captured”, and the last I saw when someone like Simon Johnson would continue to write in these terms he was getting more blowback among commenters saying “Who cares?” (I haven’t followed Baseline Scenario in awhile, so if anyone is still doing so and can provide an update, by all means do.) There’s less of this at Naked Capitalism as well.
 
“Captured or corrupt” has been replaced in some venues with the question “Stupid or evil?” This is a substantive improvement (less euphemistic, more truthful), and the fact that the question is increasingly being asked (and that the answer is usually “evil”) is an advance.
 
Still, we need to get beyond asking this question at all, since it still frames things according to the elites’ own framework of morality, where (their proven) intention is the most important thing.
 
Let’s stress immediately that in the class war no one’s intention really means anything. The elites want to plunder and enslave, and they do plunder and enslave. The only thing they care about where it comes to the non-rich is our compliant action. The state of our minds and souls is irrelevant.
 
But it is useful to them for us to sit around doing differently toward them from what they do toward us. We waste time and energy parsing an alleged nexus of their actions and their intentions, allegedly trying to puzzle out the morality of things, but likely just engaging in Peter Principle-type procrastination.
 
When are we going to reject the entire question and simply judge according to actions and results? When are we going to judge capitalism purely by its results? When are we going to judge representative government purely by its results? (This purely empirical evaluation of representative government, BTW, is a core part of the American Revolutionary philosophy.)
 
Most of all, when are we going to judge elitism as such, and this kleptocracy, purely by its actions and results?
 
(I’ll add here that the stupid/evil question can have practical application. It can be of strategic and tactical value to understand to what extent your opponents are inertial idiots, as opposed to intentionally brutal thugs, as opposed to intelligently evil. But this is only a practical matter, not a moral one. Given the ubiquity of available knowledge, it’s not possible to be innocently ignorant of the truth. One can only be willfully ignorant, which is just as morally culpable as to be a calculating evildoer.
 
To what extent we publicly say this is, of course, another tactical question. But we must fully digest it as an element of our philosophy.)
 
Nietzsche (for whom analysis of morality was the number one priority of his thinking) differentiated between what he called the pre-moral and moral stages of humanity’s natural history:
 

Throughout the lengthiest period of human history—we call it the prehistoric age—the value or the lack of value in an action was derived from its consequences. The action in itself was thus considered just as insignificant as its origin, but, in somewhat the same way as even today in China an honour or disgrace reaches back from the child to the parents, so then it was the backward working power of success or lack of success which taught people to consider an action good or bad. Let’s call this period the pre-moralistic period of humanity: the imperative “Know thyself!” was then still unknown.

In the last ten millennia, by contrast, in a few large regions of the earth people have come, step by step, a great distance in allowing the value of an action to be determined, no longer by its consequences, but by its origin. As a whole, this was a great event, a considerable improvement in vision and standards, the unconscious influence of the ruling power of aristocratic values and of faith in “origins,” the sign of a period which one can designate moralistic in a narrower sense: with it the first attempt at self- knowledge was undertaken. Instead of the consequences, the origin: what a reversal of perspective! And this reversal was surely attained only after lengthy battles and variations! Of course, in the process a disastrous new superstition, a peculiar narrowing of interpretation, gained control. People interpreted the origin of an action in the most particular sense as an origin from an intention. People became unanimous in believing that the value of an action lay in the value of the intention behind it. The intention as the entire origin and prehistory of an action: in accordance with this bias people on earth have, almost right up to the most recent times, given moral approval, criticized, judged, and also practised philosophy.

But today shouldn’t we have reached the point where we must once again make up our minds about a reversal and fundamental shift in values, thanks to a further inward contemplation and profundity in human beings? Are we not standing on the threshold of a period which we might at first designate negatively as beyond morality, today, when, at least among us immoralists, the suspicion stirs that the decisive value of an action may lie precisely in what is unintentional in it and that all its intentionality, everything which we can see in it, know, “become conscious of,” still belongs to its surface layer and skin,—which, like every skin, indicates something but conceals even more? In short, we believe that the intention is only a sign and a symptom, something which still needs interpretation, and furthermore a sign which carries too many meanings and, thus, by itself alone means almost nothing. We think that morality, in the earlier sense, that is, a morality based on intentions, has been a prejudice, something rash and perhaps provisional, something along the lines of astrology and alchemy, but, in any case, something that must be overcome. The overpowering of morality, in a certain sense even the self-conquering of morality: let that be the name for that long secret work which remains reserved for the finest and most honest, and also the most malicious, consciences nowadays, as the living touchstones of the soul.

Beyond Good and Evil, section 32

 
Nietzsche called these stages false in differing ways. Today we can recognize the “moral” stage as having devolved into a scam. Meanwhile, if humanity is ever to reach that extra-moral stage, it will be doing so in a more tortuous way than he envisioned. We’re not evolving to what Nietzsche called extra-morality, we’re returning to the pre-moral. (Indeed, we’re reverting to the original pre-debtor position he describes in On the Genealogy of Morals. What we must do, and what the criminals must try to prevent, is our restoration of pre-formalized community relations in place of formalized debt.
 
Here as everywhere else there are two strange attractors – the reactionary path of restored (but far more vicious) feudalism, and the renewal and redemption path of true democracy. Either way, whether imposed by the alien criminals or sprouting from the soil of our souls, we shall traverse the mental and spiritual path where nothing but action matters. It’s our choice whether these are to be slave actions or cooperative democratic actions.
 
This is part of how in all things we need to get back to first principles. All existing words, philosophies, institutions are beholden to the structures of kleptocracy and feudal capitalism. We need to look anew at everything from a purely democratic perspective. This is part of how we shall be born anew as true human citizens.
 
I hope this isn’t too vague right now. I’ll be developing the idea further. For now the first practical lesson is, to repeat, the only thing that matters is how any action affects the class war. Alleged dissonances between intention and result, where it comes to those in power, are morally meaningless. Jensen said the criminals want us to fail to notice where the real action is. The real action is nothing but the action itself.
 
[*Please, no arguments about Jensen’s own philosophy. I accept and reject parts of it the same way I rejected parts of it at the LATOC forum. Nevertheless, parts of the book are excellent, and this passage makes my point very well.] 
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24 Comments

  1. Chris Floyd had a post on Empire Burlesque a while back that talked about the old systems-analysis acronym- POSIWID. “The purpose of the system is what it does”. I hadn’t previously applied that logic to political or social structures, but I found it useful.

    Comment by paper mac — September 9, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    • Where it comes to individuals, it’s highly likely that’s the case wherever it comes to someone who has the power to choose differently. There’s no doubt about it once it’s a pattern of action.

      And then there’s the system itself…

      I think I remember seeing that from Floyd. It seems like more commentators are coming around to this realization. Someone also had a good comment to that effect at NC today, I forget in which thread.

      Comment by Russ — September 9, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

      • Russ, we can see that television has the upper hand, first narrowing the window of shared observable experience to the noisiest in the 1960s, evolving into the most incendiary (peaking with 9/11 imagery) as propaganda machinery has mushroomed. Masquerading as reality, ‘real news’ and every word and image on network TV is manipulated for evil; its intention is to lobotomize the public. It aims straight for the brain in various ways to override its natural positive functioning. And, the propaganda is working.

        In New York City we have a mayor who shuns the law; his latest, unilaterally shutting down ALL public transportation while demanding that 300,000 people evacuate their own homes with the claim that to do otherwise than obey HIM is ‘against the law.’ Now, barely a week later, we’re told that Kelly has military equipment, military and police doubled up for stopping and searching people on the claim of a different variety of the same ‘terror’ threat.

        I watched only his 2 of Bloomberg’s TV emergency announcements on the Internets. But I did read about the wretched TV weather coverage and got a call from my sister who lives out west in Oregon, just as I did from both sisters living in Oregon when 9/11 occurred.

        Did my email in response to my sister with an article detailing the path of the storm veering East and downgraded to hurricane level as it approached have any effect on her thinking? Did my words about Mayor Bloomberg being more dangerous than any storm approaching have any effect on her thinking? I doubt it. Can I follow up on those ideas and feelings. Push them? Find out if she has changed her mind about where I believe the emphasis belongs? No. Its beyond the rules of acceptable discourse 🙂 to do so. I can only hope.

        Comment by LeeAnne — September 10, 2011 @ 11:40 am

      • in conclusion, it is the imagery that does the damage; words follow, and now that the troops are vulnerable, tell them what to do. Some have to be given orders, told what to do; while others are inspired to do the ‘right thing.’ Just follow our lead.

        Comment by LeeAnne — September 10, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

      • I suppose there’s the same level of comprehension in my family. (Or less.)

        We’ll need the right counter-imagery to counteract the toxic imagery of this culture. I wrote about something like that in this post, which can serve as a longer reply.

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/democracy-vs-consumerism-movement-vs-movement/

        Comment by Russ — September 10, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  2. Does someone’s ignorance make them immoral? I was talking with my brother about this question today.

    I answered in the affirmative, while he explained the banality of evil and that anything follows from a contradiction. I think we settled that they are not so much self made men, as merely defaulters who are an amalgamation of imitations, sort of ineffable, non-beings. The evilness is a consequence of their moral ignorance, but it does not necessarily follow. While I do not view everything through the metric of how effectively it wages class war (no I think that would be to put the cart before the horse), I understand and sympathize with your conclusions that what is important to pay attention to is the actions of powerful people, if they do not have integrity (as their words are hollow). I suspect you may be farther along in your philosophical integration and have a greater sense of urgency than I do because my understanding in this realm is inferior, but I have a few things I’d like to say that may cause you to think anew.

    While I definitely agree that re-examining first principles is of the utmost imperative, and I am writing about it myself in my first attempt at a comprehensive written discussion (taking place in the realm of what constitutes proper exchange between individuals). I suspect the crux of the problem lies with implicit values structures based on not so much amorality, but a morality of death with chooses to ignore that which is fundamental to life. Its all the rage nowadays (maybe just the people I know?) to have some sort of reverence for the beauty of death, as if people do not know the beauty that is possible within life. Further, this must be interrelated with the relativism and excessive tolerance of political correctness (non-speaking), where its not so much what you say or even what you mean, but how the other person feels about what you said. Is knowledge even possible? I get scoffed at and called an elitist when I explain to people I encounter that, yes it is, and it never has not been possible for us. Knowledge itself is a standard that is shyed away from… Its so much easier to pretend that what Victor Hugo said isn’t true: “Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters”. The culture is so steeped in this, that we can even mock thank artists like Kanye West for letting us groove to an anthem of self destruction.

    Naturally then, this is where I must differ with your analysis is that we need to return to pre-morality. No, I think that would be to degrade a concept that needs is in need of clarification more then ever (now that [perhaps always?] many religious people pay a ritualistic homage to love, truth, and morality without ever really looking deeply into the topic – how many Christians have I met that do not bother to read the bible on their own accord and ask critical questions of it? no no, they have a connection with -god- that enlightens them, far being to try to differentiate within that mess). Faith, has been misplaced in mysticism as the core of what modern contemporary morality (again I suggest this is a morality of death) as a saving grace (I’m a sinner///god will forgive me), when really it can only lead to the destruction appropriate to non-identification of what is good. I think Ayn Rand had it right when she said morality is not something that needs to be remembered by those who live as contradictions, but it is something that needs to be discovered.

    Candide discussions like the ones that you spark are invaluable for this, as is a fiery intensity appropriate to a man who has reached a state of complete mercilessness in his adherence to what he knows his just. This integrity that arises from a knowledge of what is just, that is so far removed from what is often attempted by our emasculated, and thus only potentially powerful men, is that state of pure being which I believe is the best communicator and indeed reinvigorate to people who have forgotten that they never lost the power to completely define themselves; in every moment, in every choice, there lies another chance at redemption.

    I’m still working through these ideas so it may not be completely sound yet, I will be presenting them in the near future! Thanks for the discussion.

    Comment by Strieb Roman — September 9, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

    • “Does someone’s ignorance make them immoral? “

      Ignorance, like wisdom, is state of being. No state of being is or can be “immoral.” It merely is.

      Only actions can be immoral, and to the extent we are inclined to judge a person, we should always do so by their actions, not by who or what they are.

      Good people do evil things all the time, but the fact that people are good does not and cannot forgive the evil they do. Whether they perpetuated that evil with full knowledge or ignorance of what would result is irrelevant. When good people consistently exercise their judgment in a manner that gives rise to evil actions, those people are evil and cannot be trusted to do the right, moral thing.

      That’s what elites like PeePee and Dat over at Yves’ place don’t get. They just can’t bring themselves to judge “good people” like themselves as evil because they empathize with those people. They look past the evil these people of done and see “good people” like themselves. And then they forgive them without a thought.

      Comment by Tao Jonesing — September 10, 2011 @ 12:21 am

      • When good people consistently exercise their judgment in a manner that gives rise to evil actions, those people are evil and cannot be trusted to do the right, moral thing.

        At that point “good” takes leave of itself. That’s why the saying “the only thing required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing” has always rubbed me the wrong way. The measure of being good is good action. Those who do nothing in the face of evil are not good, by definition. At best they’re sheep.

        The same goes for Yeats’ poem.

        In all this I’m talking about those who have options, who have the capacity to make at least some choices.

        Comment by Russ — September 10, 2011 @ 6:40 am

    • While I do not view everything through the metric of how effectively it wages class war (no I think that would be to put the cart before the horse), I understand and sympathize with your conclusions that what is important to pay attention to is the actions of powerful people, if they do not have integrity (as their words are hollow).

      The most important thing is to hold this perspective toward the power structure and all of its cadres. I think this is morally right, fully explanatory, and predictive.

      I suspect the crux of the problem lies with implicit values structures based on not so much amorality, but a morality of death with chooses to ignore that which is fundamental to life. Its all the rage nowadays (maybe just the people I know?) to have some sort of reverence for the beauty of death, as if people do not know the beauty that is possible within life.

      I haven’t heard of this new cult of death. But in these eschatological times, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a new Danse Macabre like that which followed the Black Death. (And it would obviously be in the interest of the kleptocracy to promote it, as long as they could control it.)

      Is knowledge even possible? I get scoffed at and called an elitist when I explain to people I encounter that, yes it is, and it never has
      not been possible for us.

      You get called an “elitist” for saying people in general and not just Randian Supermen are capable of knowledge? That argument I gotta see.

      It seems like you actually agree with me that the “moral” age hasn’t made us moral, but quite the opposite. People lived far more fair, just, decent lives prior to it, during the “pre-moral” period. (Recall, I’m just using Nietzsche’s terminology here, but I’m not saying this is the terminology I want to settle on. I’m only starting to work out my ideas here, and since N already wrote about some of this stuff, I’m also starting out using his terms, to help orient myself.)

      So I think we need to regrow those things from the soil up, and won’t be able to salvage much from what has become a universal bottleneck, including in the moral and spiritual realms. That’s why I refer to a new community basis for morality. This is also in line with the general relocalization imperative and desirability.

      The one thing I think we can and must salvage is the evolution of democracy. This is because if we learned anything from the Oil Age we should have learned once and for all that we the people don’t need “elites” to rule us and can do better without them. Look at how they squandered and destroyed and used in a malevolent way this heritage which could have guaranteed humanity’s basic material comfort for the rest of history. This is history’s worst crime, and should render self-evidently absurd all further elitism and elitist claims on power and resources.

      Your typo momentarily confused me. I was wondering what Voltaire had to do with this. But then, my argument here does run counter to some Enlightenment doctrines.

      Comment by Russ — September 10, 2011 @ 6:36 am

      • Haha sorry about the typos! I edited what I wrote but apparently not good enough. Yes yes I meant Candid 😛

        Candide discussions I suspect would be ones where idealists are constantly let down until they just want to do simple practical work. However I think we both agree that both ideals and practical work are necessary in the future.

        Comment by Strieb Roman — September 10, 2011 @ 11:21 am

      • Yes, we do. And smash the Panglossians!

        Comment by Russ — September 10, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

      • “If we learned anything from the Oil Age …”

        Russ, that’s one heck of a beautiful, concise expression of the truth of the matter. Brilliant.

        I express the realization this way: “We could have made a paradise.”

        Comment by pacmacsafe — September 11, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

      • Thanks. I think we can still have, not paradise, but a decent and prosperous enough world for all.

        Comment by Russ — September 11, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

  3. Good post Rus and an excellent example also. In a far simpler context many of us consider these questions every day. I’ve tried to post some at http://freecanada.wordpress.com/ but my blogging efforts are still feeble. lol

    Strieb: I long ago coined a phrase relevant to your point. “Ignorance is curable, stupidity isn’t.”

    Comment by repstock1 — September 9, 2011 @ 11:10 pm

    • Thanks, Paul. I agree that aggressive stupidity is incurable, although so can willful ignorance be where it arises from such stupidity or psychopathy.

      I’d say the ignorant are mostly inertial and will always support whatever’s the power trend of the time. They’re really cowardly bullies without inner substance. Strieb was right about that.

      Glad to see you have a blog.

      Comment by Russ — September 10, 2011 @ 6:41 am

  4. Ironic that Nietzsche can sound… SO FREUDIAN in your quotation.
    Enlightenment positivism has revealed itself to be a mirage.
    We are more complex than we thought we were, than we wanted to believe we are, and we are GOVERNED by principles, wants, desires of which we know nothing, and most of the time, we want to know nothing of them.
    I am rereading the book of Job. I reread it often.
    It is one of the oldest books of the Bible.
    Among other things that stick out in my reading, which gets more and more complex as I get older, are the words of God, speaking about Job “Have you seen my servant Job ; HE HAS NO EQUAL ON THIS EARTH.”
    In other words… Job was an elite. Lots of possessions according to the the criteria of the period. In a POSITION to excite considerable envy, on the part of his contemporaries, and… the FEAR OF LOSING ALL in his own mind. (There CAN be advantages to being poor. At least… you don’t need to be afraid of losing all you have.)
    What will happen to Job, according to the logic that I can see unfolding in the narrative is BECAUSE HE HAS NO EQUAL ON THIS EARTH.
    That is a very precarious position. A MARGINAL one which isolates him from the rest of humanity.
    The logic at work in the book of Job belongs to a very great extent, to the premoral logic Nietzsche evokes.
    I have noticed from the little Nietzsche that I have read that he has a tendancy to think in terms of “either/or”, leaving little or no room for “AND”.
    His thought seems to continually move from one extreme to the other, like… ALL or NOTHING.
    Like what happens in the book of Job, where Job moves from a position of ALL, to have, and be… NOTHING.
    Thinking in, and by, opposition, but binary opposition, not multiple, diversified oppositions.
    If you read the great Shakespeare tragedies, (particularly “Macbeth” and “Othello”) you will perceive the IMPLACABLE unfolding of the circumstances, over which the individual has little, or no voluntary control whatsoever.
    This reminds me of Adolf Hitler’s proclamation in “Mein Kampf” that he fought long and unsuccessfully against antisemitism before succumbing to it.
    Why wasn’t HIS REASON enough to protect him from that antisemitism ?
    We could, and should be very afraid of what “Mein Kampf” COULD teach us.
    Because all of us are very influenceable, and the tip of the iceberg that we SEE of ourselves is very very fragile indeed in the force of what threatens to sweep us away all the time, just as Hitler was swept away, just as Job was also swept away.
    The realization of our COMMON human frailty in the face of all we do not, and cannot, know of ourselves, could be the base of a COMMON humanity, and the foundation of EQUALITY.
    But this equality comes from a private, personal spiritual realization, and not a PUBLIC, political one.
    I believe.
    Why judge people ? Isn’t judging people the first act towards establishing.. AN INEQUALITY ? Setting oneself up as superior or inferior ? With the ensuing isolation that poisons the COMMON political body ?
    Is it necessary to judge ? Is it inevitable ? (I am speaking from an individual perspective, not from the perspective of the State.)
    And why insist that there be good people, and bad ones ?
    Why not insist that there be only good ACTIONS, or bad ones ?
    Perhaps the EVIL action perpetrated by a person at one time exists in balance with an action he will perform that is GOOD elsewhere ?
    (This reminds me of the incredulity of most Europeans when they hear that many Nazi superiors were nurturing, loving parents to their children.)
    …..
    I remember Isaiah, in which we read “ALL WE LIKE SHEEP have gone astray, we have TURNED EVERY ONE to HIS OWN WAY”.
    That appears to me an incredibly accurate diagnosis of where we are right now : turned every one to his own way. (I do not set myself apart on this count.)
    What is poisoning US the most right now is having turned every one to his own way, not the actions of a SELECT few who WE help create as elites by setting them apart.
    On the subject of reactionary attraction to restored feudalism…(I agree with your above aims, by the way.)
    This summer I went to Haddon Hall in Derbyshire.
    Haddon Hall has been around for a long time.
    It has a chapel in it.
    Way back when, in those EARLY feudal days, the chapel was a place of worship for the lord of the house, his family, AND HIS SERFS.
    They all worshipped TOGETHER in the chapel with no or few, visible distinctions of rank.
    And over the years, the lord of the house felt more and more of a need to separate himself from his serfs, so he built an enclosed section to the chapel to ISOLATE HIMSELF AND HIS FAMILY FROM HIS SERFS, who could no longer see him, nor worship WITH HIM.
    The downfall of a system, I say.
    Because IN THEORY, at least, there was equality between serfs and lords to the extent that each had a different purpose, function, and could not exist without the other. They were working towards a COMMON GOAL.
    Every political system becomes corrupt. Because nothing can remain intact and unchanging in this earthly world.
    Why believe that it is possible to create a system that will not be(come) corrupt when the way of the world is to decay IN ORDER TO GIVE WAY TO SOMETHING NEW which will also be, in some form, a repetition of what came before ?
    If we were more in touch with nature, we would realize this…

    Comment by Debra — September 10, 2011 @ 6:42 am

    • Ironic that Nietzsche can sound… SO FREUDIAN in your quotation.

      Not so ironic when you consider how heavily influenced Freud was by N (though, typical for him, he downplayed this influence in his published writings and copped to it only in private letters).

      I have noticed from the little Nietzsche that I have read that he has a tendancy to think in terms of “either/or”, leaving little or no room for “AND”.
      His thought seems to continually move from one extreme to the other, like… ALL or NOTHING.

      Evidently you’ve read little and failed to understand even that. Indeed, to cite a far more common misconception, a big part of the reason N is so often accused of frequently contradicting himself is precisely the Both-And (really Many-And) nature of his perspectivism.

      If you read the great Shakespeare tragedies, (particularly “Macbeth” and “Othello”) you will perceive the IMPLACABLE unfolding of the circumstances, over which the individual has little, or no voluntary control whatsoever.

      I perceive Shakespeare writing it that way. So what? Those are books.

      Anyway, your kind of fatalism is never anything but a Just So Story. If what we’re trying to do works, you’d call it fate, and if we fail, you’d call it fate.

      In the end, it’s the same submission to the power prerogatives of the moment.

      This reminds me of Adolf Hitler’s proclamation in “Mein Kampf” that he fought long and unsuccessfully against antisemitism before succumbing to it.
      Why wasn’t HIS REASON enough to protect him from that antisemitism ?

      1. Nobody believes Hitler’s account of having once been a liberal. There’s zero evidence for it from people who knew him as a young man. He made that up because it was part of his project to represent ideological antisemitism as a rigorously rational viewpoint. So he claimed that he himself was converted to it against his emotional inclinations, as the result of intensive study.

      2. I’ve never in my career here argued for unalloyed “reason” as the be-all-and-end-all. On the contrary, in this post and everywhere else my argument has been based on justice, on reason in the service of justice, and on empirical practicality. So you’re barking up the wrong tree in arguing that reason by itself is insufficient as if that’s contradicting me. That’s what I’ve always said.

      Comment by Russ — September 10, 2011 @ 7:20 am

      • How about we call a truce ??
        You obviously have as much time to reflect and think as I do.
        You are sincerely attempting to reflect upon your world, and I perceive that.
        I am in no place to ACCUSE Nietzsche of being contradictory ; we are all contradictory, even those of us who imagine that we are not.
        I am not denigrating Nietzsche’s thought in any way ; why do you perceive me as denigrating it ?
        What does “those are books” mean ? Isn’t “Beyond Good and Evil” a book ?
        Who said I was fatalist ? If I believe that we can attempt to change ourselves, and our attitudes to a certain extent, (but not PERMANENTLY) what is so fatalistic about that ? If I believe in private, individual change, how am I a fatalist ?
        I never said that Hitler was a liberal. But I see no reason to doubt what he says about trying to resist antisemitism. He came from a parvenu family where being antisemitic was frowned upon. His father was trying to climb up the social ladder. He was raised, within his family to NOT be antisemitic. That makes sense.
        Even when we make something up, it contains a kernel of truth in it that emanates from that place that we can not, and do not consciously or volontarily control.
        That is why it is said that fiction can be truer than “reality”. And why we always remain opaque to ourselves.
        I feel that our culture stubbornly insists on destroying our opacity (culture of transparency). And I am decidely against all attempts to destroy our opacity as reductionist, mecanicist, and positivist.
        Why do you seem to insist that I am attacking you all the time ?
        Is this what Internet does ?
        Can there be no discussion/critique without one or the other deciding that it is a form of attack ?
        What kind of “reason” is involved if this is what happens ?
        And aren’t we condemned to constantly talking past each other if this is what happens ?
        And not being able to attain any kind of common ground or project ? Turning every one to his own way ?
        On the either/or quandrary : I was not suggesting above that you had not read Shakespeare, nor that you had not read him well. “Read” is polysemic, as you know. It can be a hypothetical construction as subjunctive, but also, the present. “if you DO read, you will perceive”.
        Did you know that you come across as incredibly arrogant ? I, too, come across as incredibly arrogant to many people.
        WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS ??
        WHAT COULD IT MEAN ??
        I find it rather too bad that we can find NO COMMON GROUND here to discuss and BUILD upon TOGETHER.
        The either/or paradigm is the paradigm of EXCLUSION.
        I see it everywhere around me at this time.
        A crying shame.
        On the subject of frailty… In “Macbeth”, Act 1, Macbeth reasons against murdering Duncan with the image of “pity, like a naked newborn babe, striding the blast will blow the deed in every eye…”.
        That certainly is SOME FRAILTY.
        Great paradox, there. I like paradoxes better than contradictions…

        Comment by Debra — September 10, 2011 @ 8:12 am

      • All I said about Nietzsche was that you got him exactly wrong. He was the philosopher least likely to put things in terms of either/or. It was a key part of his project to deny “opposites”:


        “How could something arise out of its opposite? For example, truth out of error? Or the will to truth out of the will to deception? Or selfless action out of self-seeking? Or the pure sunny look of the wise man out of greed? Origins like these are impossible. Anyone who dreams about them is a fool, in fact, something worse. Things of the highest value must have another origin peculiar to them. They cannot be derived from this ephemeral, seductive, deceptive, trivial world, from this confusion of madness and desire! Their basis must lie, by contrast, in the womb of being, in the immortal, in hidden gods, in ‘the thing in itself’—their basis must lie there, and nowhere else!” This way of shaping an opinion creates the typical prejudice which enables us to recognize once more the metaphysicians of all ages. This way of establishing value stands behind all their logical procedures. From this “belief” of theirs they wrestle with their “knowledge,” with something which is finally, in all solemnity, christened “the truth.” The fundamental belief of the metaphysicians is the belief in the opposition of values. Even the most careful among them has never had the idea of raising doubts right here on the threshold, where such doubts are surely most essential, even when they promised themselves “de omnibus dubitandum” [one must doubt everything]. For we are entitled to doubt, first, whether such an opposition of values exists at all and, second, whether that popular way of estimating worth and that opposition of values, on which the metaphysicians have imprinted their seal, are perhaps only evaluations made in the foreground, only temporary perspectives, perhaps even a view from a corner, perhaps from underneath, a frog’s viewpoint, as it were, to borrow an expression familiar to painters. For all the value which the true, genuine, unselfish man may be entitled to, it might be possible that a higher and more fundamental value for everything in life must be ascribed to appearance, the will for deception, self-interest, and desire. It might even be possible that whatever creates the value of those fine and respected things exists in such a way that it is, in some duplicitous way, related to, tied to, intertwined with, perhaps even essentially the same as those undesirable, apparently contrasting things. Perhaps!—But who is willing to bother with such a dangerous Perhaps? For that we must really await the arrival of a new style of philosopher, the kind who has some different taste and inclination, the reverse of philosophers so far, in every sense, philosophers of the dangerous Perhaps. And speaking in all seriousness, I see such new philosophers arriving on the scene.

        Beyond Good and Evil section 2.

        I’m always happy to find common ground. But you’ve consistently rejected democracy, lauded “aristocracy” (at least you’re honest about it), and smeared democracy as tantamount to “fascism”.

        I think anyone can see how it’s hard to find common ground with anyone who insists on such proclamations.

        Comment by Russ — September 10, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

  5. Not sure what you mean by feudal capitalism. Traditionally feudalism is based upon concentrated ownership of land is it not? Whereas capitalism is based upon money and finance.

    Are you thinking that the financial elites may end up owning all of the land and its resources (or what are left of them) once they have foreclosed on the entire world? I can’t see how that would work for long. The mechanisms for enforcement from a distance will disappear once the current systems of management fail for lack of money. Frankly, the idea of having my local police department in charge of my town is very scary. Having local warlords – armed to the teeth by their former bosses – in charge of their own little regions is what I would consider a return to feudalism.

    I am not sure what a good revolutionary should be doing right now except for building local food systems and maybe working for the Green Party at the state level. And you know, that is really conservative in the best sense of the term!

    Comment by Ellen Anderson — September 10, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

    • 1. I and many others use feudalism to refer to an economic system based on monopoly rent extraction and unproductive wealth hoarding. By contrast, “capitalism” was the period of organizing the extraction of the fossil fuel principal and its conversion into stagnant wealth and power. Neoliberalism is now the period of rolling back all the tactical concessions of the oil/capitalist age and preparing the restoration of full feudalism (but in a far more vicious form). But the underlying urge to monopoly hoarding never changed. That’s why I say feudalism never really “went away”.

      The medieval land system was part of feudalism as it existed then, but as we’ve seen not a necessary part of it. (Although of course modern land hoarding has remained a pronounced phenomenon.)

      2. Post-oil, with the end of fossil-fueled agriculture, the plan is to restore the serf system, probably enforced by debt indenture rather than a de jure legal binding to the land, the way the old feudalism did it. So whichever kind of corporation or individual nominally owns the land, and whatever nominal size the ownership concentrations, the effect will be exactly the same.

      Here’s more on the subject:

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/capitalism-as-disguised-oil-drenched-feudalism/

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/peak-oil-and-kleptocracy-the-theory-of-kleptocracy/

      Are you thinking that the financial elites may end up owning all of the land and its resources (or what are left of them) once they have foreclosed on the entire world? I can’t see how that would work for long. The mechanisms for enforcement from a distance will disappear once the current systems of management fail for lack of money.

      I think that to whatever extent they don’t believe their own cornucopian lies, they plan to use renewable energy, biofuels, and whatever fossil energy can still be extracted to maintain a police state. They think they’ll be able to support their luxury and the police/paramilitary/surveillance system with this amount of energy.

      I am not sure what a good revolutionary should be doing right now except for building local food systems and maybe working for the Green Party at the state level. And you know, that is really conservative in the best sense of the term!

      Sounds like a plan. As far as working in an election, this should be toward the goal of eventually taking over local governments or at least neutralizing them (and perhaps state government, depending on the state). Or at least as practice and networking/proselytization toward it, as long as the work isn’t for those who have already become criminals.

      Comment by Russ — September 10, 2011 @ 3:36 pm

  6. Debra,

    My interpretation of your last comment: “Truce, asshole!”

    Good luck with the truce.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — September 11, 2011 @ 2:00 am

    • You will agree with EVERYTHING I saw.
      Or I will continue to write in jagged prose and illegible formatting.
      The BEST truces end with a knife in the back.

      LOL…

      Comment by Ross — September 12, 2011 @ 10:22 am

  7. A movement is growing based on the book, co-authored by Derrick Jensen, called Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet. Deep Green Resistance has a plan of action for anyone determined to fight for this planet-and win. If you’ve ever been inspired by Derrick’s work, then here’s where the solutions are. The time for action is now. Now this war has two sides…

    98% of the old growth forests are gone. 99% of of the prairies are gone. 80% of the rivers on this planet do not support life anymore. We are out of species, we are out soil, and we are out of time. And what we are being told by most of the environmental movement is that the way to stop all of this is through personal consumer choices. It’s time for a real strategy that truly addresses the scope of our predicament.

    Where is your threshold for resistance? To take only one variable out of hundreds: Ninety percent of the large fish in the oceans are already gone. Is it 91 percent? 92? 93? 94? Would you wait till they had killed off 95 percent? 96? 97? 98? 99? How about 100 percent? Would you fight back then?

    Good people have stayed silent for too long. We’re tired of ineffective, symbolic acts – piecemeal, reactive, and sad. Now our despair and anger can be matched by an even deeper joy, beyond compare, the joy of beginning to fight back, effectively. We are pleased to announce the formation of DGR Action Groups worldwide. Take the first step and join the resistance.

    Learn more about the strategy, find groups that have formed near you, or find out how to start your own group at:

    http://deepgreenresistance.org

    Comment by DeepGreenResistance (@deepgreenresist) — November 21, 2011 @ 1:49 am


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