“They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are awakening from a dream which is tuning into a nightmare. We are not destroying anything. We are only witnessing how the system is destroying itself. We all know the classic scenes from cartoons. The cart reaches a precipice. But it goes on walking. Ignoring the fact that there is nothing beneath. Only when it looks down and notices it, it falls down. This is what we are doing here. We are telling the guys there on Wall Street – Hey, look down! (cheering).
In April 2011, the Chinese government prohibited on TV and films and in novels all stories that contain alternate reality or time travel. This is a good sign for China. It means that people still dream about alternatives, so you have to prohibit this dream. Here we don’t think of prohibition. Because the ruling system has even suppressed our capacity to dream. Look at the movies that we see all the time. It’s easy to imagine the end of the world. An asteroid destroying all life and so on. But you cannot imagine the end of capitalism. So what are we doing here? Let me tell you a wonderful old joke from communist times.
A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia. He knew his mail would be read by censors. So he told his friends: Let’s establish a code. If the letter you get from me is written in blue ink ,it is true what I said. If it is written in red ink, it is false. After a month his friends get a first letter. Everything is in blue. It says, this letter: everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theaters show good films from the West. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink.
This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink. The language to articulate our non-freedom. The way we are taught to speak about freedom war and terrorism and so on falsifies freedom. And this is what you are doing here: You are giving all of us red ink.
There is a danger. Don’t fall in love with yourselves. We have a nice time here. But remember: carnivals come cheap. What matters is the day after. When we will have to return to normal life. Will there be any changes then. I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like – oh, we were young, it was beautiful…
…We don’t want higher standards of living. We want better standards of living. The only sense in which we are communists is that we care for the commons. The commons of nature. The commons of what is privatized by intellectual property. The commons of biogenetics. For this and only for this we should fight.
Communism failed absolutely. But the problems of the commons are here. They are telling you we are not Americans here. But the conservative fundamentalists who claim they are really American have to be reminded of something. What is Christianity? It’s the Holy Spirit. What’s the Holy Spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other. And who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense the Holy Spirit is here now. And down there on Wall Street there are pagans who are worshipping blasphemous idols. So all we need is patience.
The only thing I’m afraid of is that we will someday just go home and then we will meet once a year, drinking beer, and nostalgically remembering what a nice time we had here. Promise ourselves that this will not be the case.”
–Slavoj Žižek in Liberty Square, NYC 10/9/11
i haven’t written or shared a lot about #occupywallstreet because i don’t really truly understand what’s going on or where it’s going, but mostly because i don’t know what to say that isn’t already being said by people like Zizek. i am reposting this for prosperity, as even outside the current context i found this truly uplifting, and it neatly loops back and ties up my not-so-eloquent thoughts on intersecting politics and philosophical world views in my two recent posts re: “reality-based” quote and the Bullet with Butterfly Wings encore.
also, now that #occupyeverywhere has been going on a while, i’m tired of people like the “Americans for Prosperity” claiming that the “free market” capitalism is the way to go and that anyone against Wall Street is a dirty communist. i think we learned a long time ago that top-down Reaganomics DON’T WORK because the top are a bunch of greedy bastards who don’t share the money and none of it trickles down.
if you think that the protesters are a bunch of idealist hippies and the whole thing a waste of time, consider this is a quote from Congressman Peter King (Long Island, NY) last Friday:
“[W]e have to be careful not to allow this to get any legitimacy,” he warned. “I’m taking this seriously in that I’m old enough to remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy,” he said. “We can’t allow that to happen.”
so thank you, Zizek, for your continued contributions to philosophical freedom and making this rainy monday morning feel more optimistic in the face of people like King.
want to participate/do something? find a place this Saturday, October 15, and rise up.Filed in culture and random linkage, politics and news | Tagged with #occupywallstreet, #ows, capitalism, dreamers, zizek | Comment (1)
“In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
…that post, and Robin’s new book, is a quick reference study on the roots of conservatism, and what it means today vs. what it used to mean, which if you are inclined to debate or discuss politics seems fundamental.
“Reality-based community” soon became one of the most cited quotes of the Bush era — a Google search yields 456,000 results; it even has its own Wikipedia page. It is an affirmation of everything the left ever thought about the right: that it lives in a fact-free universe where ideological purity is more important than pragmatic solutions; that it’s revolutionary and radical rather than realistic and moderate; that it’s activist rather than accommodating; that it’s, well… not really conservative.”
it goes on but to be honest i basically stopped reading there because i was sort of reeling from the idea of the use of “reality-based” as a pejorative term by those running the Empire of America (forgive me that i missed this conversation when it happened in 2004).
on the one hand, i find it philosophically beautiful that those running the world believe that Reality Is What You Create, that nothing is static and everything can change on a dime, and basing long term decisions about humanity on anything seemingly factual is foolish, because what might happen tomorrow? Focus On The World You Want To Create. and who can define Reality anyway? what it means for one person or community can be radically different from another.
on the other hand, personal existential philosophies about what determines Reality aside, the use of this term as a flip side to “faith-based” creates a dichotomy in which i would have to side with “reality-based” as being the only way i can imagine organizing a global population. collect data, determine current realities, react, adjust, repeat. “consensus reality” is hard enough to swallow as a middle ground (and also entirely undependable, as it is subjective); “faith-based” seems a foolish path.
but wait – aren’t those the Dreamers? i thought i supported Dreamers. crap. so i guess it’s fair to say that my personal and political philosophies are divergent in numerous ways. but that is not to say that the personal is not political. oh no no.
anyway, i digress. i just hadn’t heard this discussion when it happened and my brain got a little blown for a second just now when i read that and started extrapolating into current life and Realities, which i’ll spare you further uneducated ramblings on. but i assure you the idea of “reality-based community” is permanently in my brain now.
(thx to Lukas for the link.)Filed in culture and random linkage, philosophical ramblings, politics and news | Tagged with dreamers | Comment (0)
last night jay and i watched this documentary about TED. the tech innovations are wonderful and probably world-saving, but i like that they also include non-tech brilliance as being incredibly and equally important to the survival of humanity.
not long ago i was having a discussion with a friend about how one of the things everyone i know who has had children has said has been the most eye opening is how much creativity children have, how intuitively the childlike mind operates, how children seem to be in a psychedelic state up until the age of 10 or so, and how as soon as we start school, we are trained out of it. we are trained to not stare, to not pull apart and investigate, to not move, to not speak, to not squeak with joy, to not point, to not wonder, not to laugh when moved, not to let our minds escape logic. this is also true for other areas of life: intimacy, touch, physical needs. we are trained to restrain and to ignore these signals.
one of the most moving parts of the TED film for me was the discussion by Sir Ken Robinson of the kinds of creativity seen in children (watch it here) and of how the public education system focuses only on those things that are “practical” for getting a job in the industrialized world: math, science, literacy. those are the things taught and tested to the point that there is little or no room to nurture creativity, and expressions of creativity in the classroom are often punished because they interfere with these other subjects. the arts are always on the bottom of the list, yet for some, that is the gift they were born with, and the current way of the world seems to care less and less that nature blesses humans with so many different, unique talents, and for good reasons that we seem to be forgetting. what would the world be without art? without dance? Robinson noted that in the Western World we are more and more just talking heads – we live in our heads, staring at computers, feeding our brains, and ignore our the rest of our bodies. our bodies are just transporters for our heads. the public education system is designed to suit the needs of the industrial world, not to nurture all the talents of humankind.
to illustrate he told the story of one particular girl in the 1930s who was having difficulty functioning in school, difficulty sitting still, difficulty paying attention. the girl’s parents were brought in to the school for consultation with a specialist. the mother gave a laundry list of all the problems the girl was having in school. the specialist listened to the mother while watching the girl, who was trying very hard to sit still in the corner of the office. the specialist then said that he and the parents should go into the hall and speak, out of range of the girl. he turned on the radio and ushered the parents out of the room and closed the door. after a minute the therapist said: look into the room, and they did, and the girl was dancing. “gillian isn’t sick, she’s a dancer,” he said. “take her to a dance school.” and they did, and she grew up to be one of the most famous choreographers of the modern age. “now, somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down,” he said.
there were a couple other talks in the TED film including Sir Robinson’s in which the idea that a new post-industrial awareness is growing stronger amongst the developers of the world – an awareness that even in a technological world diversity of talent is necessary in order for continued growth; that our education system’s heavy focus on “practical” learning is hurting humanity, not helping it; that moving back to our deeper roots of connection with our natural selves, instead of trying to put everyone into a mold, is imperative. this was incredibly inspiring to hear coming from those who have so much influence in the modern world.
so jay and i watched this movie last night, still recovering from a 76 hour weekend that involved 8 hours of driving, 14 hours of set up/tear down and volunteering, 12 hours of sleeping and about 42 hours of reckless dancing and wonderment: music and art and costumes and performance and sun and moon and stars and river and sky and dirt worshipping until we could stand no more (#priceless). is it a waste of time, energy and money to do such a thing? is it worth the investment? aren’t playfulness and creativity valuable to everyone, not just those in the art world? shouldn’t these be things in which the world is heavily invested? shouldn’t the childlike wonderment we are all born with be nourished, exercised, and encouraged instead of pushed under with medications and discouraged by pressure to conform to societal “norms”?
the participants in the TED community think so, and so do those who put on such events as we produced this weekend. as noted in my discussions of burning man, it gives me great comfort to know that there are other people in the world who value that which cannot be industrialized, mass produced, packaged and processed, because i just don’t find myself fitting into those little boxes. every now and then i get a little bit anxious about the idea that i’m “wasting my life” with all this tomfoolery and that i should try to find myself a career. i agree that i should find myself a career of some sort, because i would like to be more productive and give more of myself to the world, but weekends like this also remind me that life is for living, and as long as you are doing so to the fullest extent possible, it is never, ever a waste. a career is only one way to invest. the future depends on the present we create. do we want the future to be bland, conformed, and homogenized? or do we want it to be be diverse, bright, colorful, and full of wonder?
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
– Arthur O’ShaughnessyFiled in autobiographical, culture and random linkage, personal favorites | Tagged with dreamers, TED | Comment (1)