Category Archives: Gesellschaft

Child’s play

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A boy drags an empty bag through the sand.

He tied it at the end of a rope.
The wind blows into it, swelling it, ruffling it,
making it float and then
nearly ripping it out of his hand.

The bag is as transparent and light as this boy’s soul.
Soul, boy, breath, wind blowing…

Later, when it’s full of sand
It won’t fly anymore.

Quote of the day

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“Education, in the sense in which I mean it, may be defined as the formation, by means of instruction, of certain mental habits and a certain outlook on life and the world. (…)

The search for an outside meaning that can compel an inner response must always be disappointed: all “meaning” must be at bottom related to our primary desires, and when they are extinct no miracle can restore to the world the value which they reflected upon it.

The purpose of education, therefore, cannot be to create any primary impulse which is lacking in the uneducated; the purpose can be only to enlarge the scope of those that human nature provides, by increasing the number and variety of attendant thoughts and showing where the most permanent satisfaction is to be found.”

Bertrand Russel – Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (1910)

Quote of the day

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“The effectiveness of this kind of propaganda demonstrates one of the chief characteristics of modern masses. They do not believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experience; they do not trust their eyes and ears but only their imaginations, which may be caught by anything that is at once universal an consistent in itself.

What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part. (…)

What the masses refuse to recognize is the fortuitousness that pervades reality. They are predisposed to all ideologies because they explain facts as mere examples of laws and eliminate coincidences by inventing an all-embracing omnipotence which is supposed to be at the root of every accident. Totalitarian propaganda thrives on this escape from reality into fiction, from coincidence into consistency.”

Hannah Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism, Penguin Random House, 2017, p.460

Epidemiology

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One epidemic calls forth another
and one infectious protein spawns
infectious thoughts.
Mental representations spreading like viruses.
Unchecked.


Alert! Long lines before inoculation centers.
Demand for fiction is high.
Trust has been thrown off-kilter.
Too little truth produced
to fight this lethal disease.


No medicine as yet against the fever of
conviction.


Maintain a safe distance
and epistemological hygiene.
Refrain from visiting the specters of panic.
To stop the proliferation,
avoid contact.


Stay home, in your consciousness,
and disinfect it.
Regularly.


Specious is bad
for the species.

Quote of the day

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“In itself, every idea is neutral, or should be; but man animates ideas, projects his flames and flaws into them; impure, transformed into beliefs, ideas take their place in time, take shape as events: the trajectory is complete, from logic to epilepsy . . . whence the birth of ideologies, doctrines, deadly games.

Idolaters by instinct, we convert the objects of our dreams and our interests into the Unconditional. History is nothing but a procession of false Absolutes, a series of temples raised to pretexts, a degradation of the mind before the Improbable.”

E.M. Cioran – “Genealogy of fanaticism” in A Short History of Decay (Paris, 1949).

Inarticulate

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So little left to express.

Spleen? Acedia?

The signifiers have lost their signifieds and are straying.

Ideas, heavy as rock, sink to the bottom of rivers

waiting to be swept away by a sudden flood of effervescence

or settle, with the mud, along the banks of dam lakes

and rot.

Occasionally, some debris resurfaces – a severed head still smiling,

an arm, the fuselage of last year’s vacation… (or was it the year before last?!)

only to be whirled away with the rest of the waste.

March. Sleet.

Pout. Plans.

Hope.

Nothing.

Emptied of meaning, the words denote nothing.

Imponderable, impalpable, floating.

The slightest gale will whisk them up to the barren sky

like balloons (escaped? released?) out of the hands of children.

Never to return.

I don’t really miss them.

There is so little left to express.

Torpor.

Quote of the day

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“Understanding a people’s culture exposes their normalness without reducing their particularity. (…) It renders them accessible: setting them in the frame of their own banalities, it dissolves their opacity.”

Clifford Geertz – The Interpretation of Cultures (Basic Books Classics)

Words of wisdom, cautionary words

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On creativity:

“If too few opportunities for curiosity are available, if too many obstacles are placed in the way of risk and exploration, the motivation to engage in creative behavior is easily extinguished. (…) So, if the next generation is to face the future with zest and self-confidence, we must educate them to be original as well as competent.”

M. Czikszentmihalyi – Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (Harper Collins e-books)

On vice and broadmindedness:

“Human wickedness, if accepted by society, is changed from an act of will into an inherent, psychological quality which man cannot choose or reject but which is imposed upon him from without, and which rules him as compulsively as the drug rules the addict. In assimilating crime and transforming it into vice, society denies all responsibility and establishes a world of fatalities in which men find themselves entangled. (…) If crime is understood to be a kind of fatality, natural or economic, everyone will finally be suspected of some special predestination to it. (…) The seeming broadmindedness that equates crime and vice, if allowed to establish its own code of law, will invariably prove more cruel and inhuman than laws, no matter how severe, which respect and recognize man’s independent responsibility for his behavior.”

H. Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism (Penguin Classics, 2017)

Any opinions?

Quote of the day

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“Plato (…) also discovered the very insecure position of truth in the world, for ‘from opinions comes persuasion, and not from truth’ (Phaedrus 260). The most striking difference between ancient and modern sophists is that the ancients were satisfied with a passing victory of the argument at the expense of truth, whereas the moderns want a more lasting victory at the expense of reality.”

Hannah Arendt – The Origins of Totalitarianism (Penguin Books, 2017)

On migration and diasporas

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“To live “in diaspora” is to reside in one place but to keep in motion an emotional, cultural, or political relationship with another, whether it is the site of one’s nativity that subsequently became a point of departure or an ancestral “homeland” virtually conjured but never visited. (…)

Diasporas (…) are platforms where received notions of cultural affiliation, religious inclination, and political persuasion can come undone or become entrenched and exaggerated. (…) They can be sites of recycling as much as of reinvention. (…)

But (…) all migrants, across a wide range of social positions, nonetheless share the experience that their movement results in a certain degree of expulsion from their territorial, political, juridical, or economic status. Even if the end result of migration is a relative increase in money, power, or enjoyment, the process of migration itself almost always involves an insecurity of some kind and duration. (…) The gains of migration are always a risk, while the process itself is always some kind of loss.”

S. Illot, A.C. Mendes, L. Newns (eds.) – New Directions in Diaspora Studies (Rowman & Littlefield, London, 2018)