FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION!!!!

Posted by on May 8, 2009 in The Chicken Wire

if artists cannot be free to speak their mind, then we are in dire shape.

the academy was built as a safe haven for free-thinking, not as a factory, a machine demanding obedience and labor. but that is what it has become. we are all being absorbed by a machine consciousness. every time we are on the phone with a human being telling us ‘i know it’s not fair, but i cannot change the computer, we are submitting to a machine’s laws, the laws of increasing levels of labor and stress, with decreasing rewards.

perhaps it is regressive for artists to be interested in big questions, with the law, with truth, but then again at least they were free from concerns about career, they had BALLS!, even the girls, they had the guts to confront reality with their flawed theories. that is humanity at its best. we need that again, we need to resuscitate that spirit, before we surrender completely to the kind of relativism where even the individual does not exist, has no opinions even about his/her own rights. i think that has already happened.

did we fight for hundreds of years, as artists, for creative freedom, did we fight against conservative approaches to art, conservative approaches to life, did we fight against tradition and expectations for this? for a commodification of that very thing we love the most, art? right when we had absolute freedom to explore anything as artists, did we turn it into a machine to make slaves out of young peoples’ dreams? is that progress?

i don’t buy it.

via Akbar.

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18 Comments

  1. Dan Theman
    May 11, 2009

    “perhaps it is regressive for artists to be interested in big questions, with the law, with truth, but then again at least they were free from concerns about career, they had BALLS!, even the girls, they had the guts to confront reality with their flawed theories. that is humanity at its best. we need that again, we need to resuscitate that spirit, before we surrender completely to the kind of relativism where even the individual does not exist, has no opinions even about his/her own rights. i think that has already happened.

    What is this magical time you speak of when these geniuses with massive BALLS did not worry about either having a career or some other method of support? Do you mean when they were beholden to religious institutions, is that what you mean? Or maybe when they had benefactors to whom they were beholden. I don’t grok your statement about the commodification of art. Once “art” became separate from utilitarian craft and no longer an everyday part of the religious or ritual structure it became commodity. Please cite these artists with massive gonads because I am very confused by who exactly you are referring to. Then I can be properly ashamed that my testicles are not big enough. I mean, even the girls? Really, not as big as EVEN THE GIRLS! You have got me there. My manhood shrinks just thinking about that casually misogynistic statement.

    Reply
  2. Akbar Lightning
    May 11, 2009

    Dan Theman,

    Misogynism, come on. I mean if you want to be offended by overtly oppressive gender dynamics go to a contemporary art fair, like Basil or the Armory show in New York, there you will see a great number of works of art that use as their primary resource material pornography, and there is this strange politeness whereby we must acknowledge that there is this protective irony that disallows us from criticizing it based on this basis. by ‘balls’ i meant courage, and in this neo-feminist era we are living in i have seen many women use the term. i would gladly trade my use of that word for a re-evaluation of the use of pornography in contemporary art. it’s not so much a moral position i have, as much as it is that i find its use easy, trite and kind of uninteresting.

    and as far as history goes, it is equally fallacious to assume all those in the past were as frightened and career-minded as artists are today. i will agree with you that nostalgia is a dangerous thing, but a healthy criticism of the present demands the taking of certain positions about values, and I would guess that Michelangelo had a hell of lot more useful, sustainable, profound understandings than Damien Hirst, but that is an opinion. I am not a traditionalist, i merely think that post-modernism has run out of interest for me, i want to see a new revolution in our thinking about art, one that is not bound to financial concerns, one that utilizes the freedom artists have fought and won.

    the impressionists, the cubists, the Dadaists, they were all opposed to the Salon style art shows that commodified art, we owe the modern gallery to their small shows that existed in defiance of the salon. and now, if you go to a contemporary show, legitimized by power and glitz, it looks like a flea market, and to me it lacks a legitimate artistic impulse, it seems cheap and about money and power. and yes, i think, although there have always been financial concerns, that this flaw is acute right now.

    concerns about gender dynamics owe their place in our society to notions of equality and social justice, all of which derives from an ethical structure. that same ethical structure is as available to us, to deconstruct the financial ties the art world has with poverty and elitism, as it is for gender studies. i do believe that artists and poets in the past were more politically active and involved, more united and more progressive. i believe artists today have become boring with their career aspirations, their money concerns and the art that is born out of such bourgeois impulses.

    I am sorry that i triggered any insecurities you might have about the size of your testicles, but that seems a little contradictory to your stance about the importance of size, in how that relates to power. My testicles do happen to be rather large, not sure what that means, but the metaphor stands, he he. i’m just kidding around, let’s stay on the art, why don’t we.

    akbar

    Reply
  3. Globatron
    May 11, 2009

    How do you like them apples Dan the man. How come no one can use their real identities when commenting on this blog anymore? Has Globatron become so controversial that even one comment with one’s name attached to it could ruin one’s reputation, career? Are we not just speaking of art here?

    I mean if you’re going to use an alter-ego put some work into it and turn it into an art project.

    I don’t understand why folks are so scared to speak their minds and attach their names to their thoughts. Stand up for what you believe in Dan The Man. Talking about fearful. It’s like the Red Scare or something. To speak one’s mind about art and to really lay it on the line one has to come up with a fake identity. And if you are going to do that at least put some thought into it.

    Who is this Dan The Man? What does he do? What does he stand for? Does he where a mask too? Or is his name simply his mask? Especially when talking about courage.

    Reply
  4. Akbar Lightning
    May 11, 2009

    Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: “What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.”

    Reply
  5. Dan_Theman
    May 11, 2009

    I thought that the beauty of the internet was it allows for anonymity and more frank discussions than real life? I am worried about globatron hunting me down at my place of residence or work since there has been much precedence here. As much as the stalkery is flattering I must decline to use my real name. The fact that nobody is using their real name on here should clue you in to the fact that they do not trust this site to act in good faith, not that they are afraid of the “truth”.

    Dear Akbar, there’s much to be offended by, and I do so enjoy my outrage, but the “overtly oppressive gender dynamics” of pornographic depictions doesn’t mean the subversive dismissals of an entire gender in your offhand “even the girls” statement (another helpful hint: you might consider using the word women unless you are referring to someone under 18. And what is neo-feminism?) doesn’t count. Consider this, the naked and available female figure has long been a staple subject throughout almost every art movement (save those of minimalism and pure abstraction). Vulnerable, objectified, passive women. It’s so common and yet unquestioned. How is this any different than the pornographic images you are bringing up? At least a fair amount of this new imagery is being implemented as part of a larger visual critique about gender relations and depictions of gender and power. (not all, of course, we’ll always have our David Salles ).

    The Salon was not about the commodification of art, it was about presenting, from the academies that you hold so dear, the art that was proclaimed to be of the highest standards. This was not about commercial viability, but about upholding traditional standards of progress, mastery, and artistic achievement. The impressionists did not break from the Salon because they were retaliating against the Salon’s commercial mission or a salon mode of hanging work. In fact, many of these splinter shows also hung their work in the cluttered salon style that reminds you of flea markets now. They formed their own shows in retaliation against the restrictive formalism and academic styles that were barriers to having their work included in the canon. They put on their own showcase, but not because they felt that the Salon commodified art, just that it too exclusionary.

    You say that we owe the modern gallery to these smaller shows- nothing is more about commerce than a modern gallery. So, are you saying that we owe the commodification of art to the artists that broke away from the salon shows after all? This contradicts your assertion that the impressionists and cubists were against the commodification of art by the salons. Please clarify if you could.

    You believe all sorts of things as evidenced by your many “I believe” statements.
    I will go out on a limb. I will say that “I believe” you are wrong on many counts. I believe that a large percentage of artists today are very involved in politics and social justice. I also believe that they are progressive and united in their belief that there is no one great truth. This is not what you believe, so you are not willing to see it, and view these opposing beliefs as somehow less committed than your own.

    I also believe it’s important to have beliefs, but it’s even more important to question those beliefs, to research them thoroughly, and to see which of them are based in reality and which are not. For example, a 1998 study out of Columbia University found that “Artists have strong ties to their communities: more than 75 percent voted in federal and state elections (more than three-quarters are registered Democrats), and more than half volunteer or perform some community service” http://www.columbia.edu/cu/newrec/2403/tmpl/story.4.html

    The art world is not one huge united commercial front. The projects that artists today are working on are often boundary breaking and collaborative, and the most progressive and to my mind interesting work is taking place outside of the traditional gallery and museum spaces. This is art based on public interaction, dialogical works, site specific performances, political interventions, conversational works, etc. And yet there’s still room for these same artists to express themselves in paint, movement, clay, what-have-you. medium has become less important, styles increasingly so as well. Mastery is only important as it relates to the efficacy of the piece- if a lack of craftsmanship is distracting then craftsmanship for a given work is indeed important. If ham-fistedness is just as suitable for a given project, there’s no need for excellent technique, and so on.

    Reply
  6. globatron
    May 12, 2009

    Yes indeed I see it now. With statements like this:

    I thought that the beauty of the internet was it allows for anonymity and more frank discussions than real life? I am worried about globatron hunting me down at my place of residence or work since there has been much precedence here. As much as the stalkery is flattering I must decline to use my real name. The fact that nobody is using their real name on here should clue you in to the fact that they do not trust this site to act in good faith, not that they are afraid of the “truth”.

    Globatron is the bogeyman and yet you must comment. You can’t hold back. You must prove your point that we know nothing. That we are ignorant, yet we never have claimed we know anything and have only asked for other’s opinions. But in doing so we have spoken up for what we have believed in. Yes I see it. The evil doers abound. Smite them down. But you must comment to the bogeyman with your fake name being your defense behind standing up for what you believe in, instead of toeing the line and letting your identity be known.

    I must let you all know that it is actually decent blogging etiquette to use a real identity. Read up on it if this is your first blog to stalk, I’m sorry read. Being a web professional myself I’ve read many a blog on blogging etiquette. And it’s actually considered cowardly to use an anonymous name to comment in the blogosphere. Truly it is. Look it up Dan The Man. And your in depth knowledge of this site proves you have most likely flamed, stalked and threatened Akbar and myself before in the past. We have a book of awful insults and empty threats we could publish so don’t I don’t want to hear the stalking nonsense on here again.

    If you actually think writing emails to art departments asking them questions about art is stalking then you are definitely more sensitive than myself. Therefore your claims of Globatron being involved in stalking is just plain ignorant.

    I’m glad you commented though and I’m fine with your anonymity. Sorry it took you so long to comment since the first Welcome Mat project of which you are referring to. This site is a welcome mat to all but it would be refreshing for commentors to occasionally let it be known what they believe without hiding behind a fake name.

    Promise we aren’t out to hurt anyone here. Anyone who knows us knows that.

    Reply
  7. globatron
    May 12, 2009

    So with that said and to stay on topic.

    I think shock art in general is an easy out. Pornography as a subject matter is only one version of shock art.

    And to the reference of Mapplethorpe’s fisting photo above, I thought that was where shock art ended. It was so beautifully done the first time I saw it I didn’t know what it was. The photo’s textures to me made it look more like a tree or something natural other than the human form and to me that’s where the beauty in it lived. The subject matter was secondary to me than the lighting and printing of the photo. He was a superb photographer. I think that is not spoken of enough. The shock of the subject matter reflected negatively on a very thought provoking and passionate life and body of work. I find that sad how one image can immortalize an artist and at the same time rob them of their life’s work.

    I so think sometimes a project needs to be “in your face” to get the point across. It depends on the project though. I saw a great show a couple of years ago that was of veterans from Iraq. Here’s a link to that show. I was blown away.

    Reply
  8. Akbar Lightning
    May 12, 2009

    Dan The Man,

    you obviously feel that things are very good in the art world. i do not.

    i see far more flamboyant excesses and exhibitions about power and nihilism than I see serious and passionate artists who are trying to inspire the public. perhaps that is because I am very close to New York City, a place that is very much a ‘marketplace.’ perhaps academia is less guilty of this, but there i see a different polarity, a kind of disconnection from life, an institutionalized approach that i think is also problematic.

    that article you sent was hardly inspiring, it basically equated artist’s value to their earning power. that is exactly what i think this site, Globatron, is trying to say, that we need a few more starving artists, a few more creative people willing to stay out of the rat (same letters as art) race, and try to get down to the depths of the debate. too much time thinking about retirement might be counter to the creative life, since after all retirement is a theory, and, as your article clearly indicates, the chances for an artist retiring on their art is highly doubtful.

    your clarification concerning the modern movement toward small gallery shows is a good one. i will concede on the facts, but the idea remains, that power was being maintained through the Salon, and subversive forces sought new means to express new ideas about art. now, those ideas have become the power, and of course, are beginning to resemble the Salons, that’s my whole point, get it? each generation, artists are called to be rascals, to be difficult, social critics, not to become an industry of slave laborers for a machine that needs the appearance of art, for its own hunger for nostalgia. no, artists are not starving because they choose to, but because they cannot stand the compromises necessary to be involved in the celebrity lifestyle. Comedians of Comedy is a film i saw recently that is a perfect example of this, comedians looking to redefine their craft, rebelling against all that most of society calls comedy, in order to get deeper into what comedy truly is. it is a great parallel to what Globatron is trying, and will do.

    in your last paragraph, you submit mastery to the higher virtue of efficacy. well, efficacy is, of course, a word that is directly related to a goal, and that goal is whatever value the user holds as primary. reveal that value and then the transparent conversation begins. fail to reveal, and it remains an opinion without BALLS. i am happy for the weaker sex that they have you as their protector. there have always been diverse representations of female beauty, as well as male beauty. there have always been lude portrayals of humanity and divine ones. personally, i find the lude, appealing to the base human senses, uninteresting, not from a moral standpoint, from an intellectual one. however, i do believe the human form, in both its male and female versions is a wonderful object of contemplation, and this represents to me the ultimate art object, as it can be utilized as a mirror, a confession, a desire, a metaphor, etc. there is no shame in the human body, there is only shame in shame, and those pornographic images that litter the Salon style shows i am talking about feel shameful and ludicrous to me. girl please!!!

    and just to add, we invited an art professors fellow colleagues to comment on an ongoing art-related discussion. i still fail to see how that is a threat, but then again i don’t work in an institution like that. i thought they were some good questions too.

    akbar

    Reply
  9. T Logocentric C
    May 20, 2009

    “They put on their own showcase, but not because they felt that the Salon commodified art, just that it [was] too exclusionary.”

    Sorry to butt in here. I’m not an art historian or an art critic, but I do have a little experience and training in thinking about the past. I think we have to be careful when ascribing feelings and thoughts to people in the past. This isn’t a critique of any one’s phraseology or grammar, but the above-quoted statement demonstrates that we need to be more careful but also more explicit and direct when communicating about the objects of art and those of history. This isn’t an easy thing to accomplish, but it is, I really think–at least in the way I’ve read a number of entries to this site–a central motivation of the conversations here. Anonymity can be an important thing in such a setting. After all, the topic seems to be that which often defies description. It is something at the heart of the art and that is very individualized and personal. Perhaps the means of expressing this thing–i.e., the languages we are trained to use in various settings and institutions–are such that one feels constrained in what one can say. We risk offending others. But more than that, we risk the ultimate breakdown. There is a point at which one can no longer reason or justify the use of one’s way of communicating. At such a point, one has to turn his back on everything he thinks he knows and, in fact, stop pretending that he knows anything. At such a point, nothing has foundation. Hence, the point of nihilism. But at that point, one nonetheless clings. And here we are today. Why? That is the question I am driven to ask. Why, sensing that we are all consumed in nihilism, nothingness, illusions of individual freedom of expression, do we try and profess anything? I don’t know the answer to this, but I suspect it has to do with our addiction to a particular model–namely the model of the medieval university. There is far too much there for me to go on at length–not least because I am not an expert on the topic. But I will submit that there is something older and perhaps far more instructive than the middle ages. And perhaps there is a better topic than that which we may think dwells within the individual.

    what does anybody mean when they say ‘art?” and how sure are we that we know what people even a hundred years ago meant by the word? when i test myself on such things, as i regularly do, i find that i am chasing my tail, my tale, and often someone else’s as well. but this is how we operate today: from our own comforting premises. (why do they comfort us? maybe because we paid for them with student loans and countless hours in the library and studio? i don’t know; maybe this is for another conversation.) but here we are, thinking that we are the inheritors of something, the carriers of someone’s important stories. educated because we had educators.

    i’m not here to argue for nihilism. i’m here to argue for its antithesis, which, to my mind, rarely appears in “intelligent” conversation. given the quandary of relativism that we’re all pretty much immersed in, because of our cultural bearings in the West, intelligence too often means shooting down another’s argument or description. but i would remind our viewers that there is a difference between nuance and pedantry. to their credit, many of the academics i know are far more concerned with nuance than with pedantry. but it is their students–their offshoots and spin-offs–who too often go forth and brim with passion about their knowledge of a subject and thereby confirm the weak-minded and confuse the others with the horse manure they ascribe to their educations. this means territoriality. this means loyalties to people and perceptions of their teachings. this means putting chinks in what we see as the armor of those we see as adversaries. this is how we confirm our views. it’s the way we cling. and i’m here to say that it is a symptom not only of modern nihilism, not only of rampant relativism and the orthodoxy of historicism, but also a symptom of denial. we deny something old and fundamental when we attack and obfuscate.

    what if there is an original experience of art that we deny while we talk about “art”? and what if the experience is for us close at hand rather than far away and foreign? what if the human experience–or more accurately, our record of it, history–lacks a certain intuitive quality that can only be intuited by the artistic ethos? what would that ethos be? openness? honesty? transparency? maybe. who knows.

    we are a culture that depends on language. and we had better start using it responsibly.

    what is the central question of art or history, its ultimate object or idea? my sense is that there are plenty of people around us who yearn to talk about that kind of thing. but perhaps because they too live in a world of war and violence, of retribution and pedantry, of status and achievement, they are reluctant to share certain things, to depart very easily from their gifts and ideas.

    this is not a call to change the world right now, here and now. but it is an invitation to see that the ways in which we interact with it correspond to many of those ideas that even the educated among us detest.

    i’m sorry to sound so high-minded and like a wanna-be intellectual. in fact, i’m eager to tell you that i don’t know very much about anything. certainly, i can rattle off dates of important events (important to me, at least), and tell you what the famous historians have written about those events. but that’s about it. what i learn, to the extent that i learn anything important, is that i too am constrained by my culture and language; that i too hurt because i often have trouble saying what i would say in a just society.

    Reply
  10. globatron
    May 20, 2009

    Here! Here! T Logocentric C. Bravo. Well stated.

    I think people forget that it is believed when Nietzsche stated ‘God is Dead’ and confirmed our state of nihilism with that statement it was not to state that we must stay in a state of nihilism but to challenge that very state.

    “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

    Also from wikipedia:
    The ‘death of God’ is the motivation for Nietzsche’s last (uncompleted) philosophical project, the ‘revaluation of all values’.

    So as I see it he was stating that mankind is lost in the wilderness. God or spirituality is no longer the main controlling factor in our actions and judgments and that it will continue to be so more and more as we evolve. Also that this is not necessarily a bad thing but a liberating event. I think many have equated this nihilism with Truth is Dead and that there is no way of comprehending such vague ideals.

    The statement ‘God is Dead’ was to challenge mankind to reevaluate our values. Sorry to get off on Nietzsche but it seems many use his statements out of context and use him as a scapegoat from what he was really challenging us to do which was to think and reevaluate our belief systems.

    He was not defending nihilism. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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  11. Akbar Lightning
    May 20, 2009

    T Logocentric C, you put together a rather wonderful statement, and the community of Globatron honors such things. The admonition against ascribing motives to historical movements is a good one.

    i want to propose an answer to the questions you raised about that ‘thing’ that people cling to, and how that relates to the function of the university, which i think is even older than the middle ages, going back to plato, even the buddhists had what you might call schools.

    i think the answer is simple. People want to feel they have a stake in the future direction of mankind, and to do so they want organizations that are effective at steering us along a course that follows prudence and wisdom.

    When Martin Luther King Jr. was critical of America, it was not because he hated America, it was because he wanted it to live up to the ideals it advertised. Our criticism of the University System is an act of love, as all such challenges are. when a friend is brave enough to challenge a good friend, when he/she engages the trust of friendship to share concern and an encouragement toward higher ideals, to me, that is the highest act of friendship. so too, to return to the schools out of which we were given our ideals and to ask them to live up to their teaching is a high act of art/philosophy/social activism, and reflects an answer, a unification, a prophetic relationship with the universe rather than a nihilist one. just to be clear, the desire for anonymity is one of the most alarming symptoms of what has happened to the university system.

    only in nakedness, openness and vulnerable expression of our prophetic centers are we given the clarity that the universe/God/TheForce makes readily available to those who exercise intellectual courage, only then do we feel that there is a truth and that it is not some high and delicate and obscure thing, but the most glaring, obvious and ubiquitous fact of existence.

    And to Globatron, as a long time reader of Nietzsche’s work, your quote was revelatory. and the fact that his final work was a revaluation of values, what a wonderful thing. Great stuff, all around.

    Akbar

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  12. T Logocentric C
    May 21, 2009

    Globatron: In my opinion, the care you take in interpreting Nietzsche is exactly what the world needs more of. The idea of misinterpretation (sometimes deliberate) and appropriation of ideas is, I think, key–and perhaps not insoluble. It really depends on what we read and how we read it. That’s my opinion, of course.

    Akbar: What if, in the minds of the typical academic, the exercise of intellectual courage such as that you seem to encourage conflicts with the older and original notion of the academy, which I take to be the development of prudent and wise thinkers? Do we disagree, you and I, that there is a conflict between, on one hand, the notion of anonymity, reticence, and intellectual protectionism in the academy and on the other, the value of free thinking, sharing ideas, etc? Suddenly the image of Raphael’s School of Athens arrives, and I question the values of free inquiry that I ascribed to it when I first saw it as a teenager. Then, I saw the academy as a place of innovation, constant renewal of the mind, openness to new ideas and young, enthusiastic minds. And perhaps it was in Socrates’ day, perhaps even in Raphael’s, though I doubt it. Now I think, wasn’t there always a conflict between the academy and society, between what was good for philosophers and what was good for “the people”? What I’m saying is that, over all, perhaps the academy operates just as it should–i.e., just as it purports to operate. One of the first things a professor told me when I entered my doctoral program was that, contrary to what we may have believed, we were not entering a democratic culture. Far from it. And just about everything I have observed about the academy since then has confirmed that perspective.

    So my opinion does not rest on a perceived inconsistency between what the academy says and what it does. It rests, rather, in the notion that the idea–or, if you will, meme–of democracy has so inhabited the popular mind that we believe it and expect it. Some of us, the more sensitive and observant perhaps, can become unhinged when we view differences between the “is” and the “ought.”

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  13. Akbar Lightning
    May 21, 2009

    yo Logocentric,

    it seems to me the production of prudent and wise thinkers does have as its end, the introduction of that wise and prudent thinking into the culture that makes such production possible. Plato felt that philosophers, lovers of knowledge, ought to be the rulers of society, and I agree, although defining philosopher is becoming more and more difficult.

    I return to Plato to answer your question about what is ‘good’ for the academy and what is ‘good’ for the people. Socrates was quite clear in his dialogues that the good is the good is the good is the good. now i don’t really have a stand on whether or not the academy ought to be a more democratic agency, but i do believe very strongly that the free expression of ideas is a good thing in a democratic country, and the fear of open discussion is something we ought to treat as very troubling.

    I feel the same way about thought for the sake of thought as i do about art for the sake of art. I believe both human activities are subservient to higher human aims. i think there are many people who go to the academy to gain some insights on whatever projects they are working on in the world, and there is nothing wrong with that, what I am critiquing is the notion of the insular community, that does not, in effect, have a solid philosophical defense of its insularity.

    there has always been 2 different notions of ‘school’, the more animal one that arises out of a natural attraction to a thinker or set of thinkers, a community you might say, and the formalized institution that arises out of the necessity to turn new ideas into a form of government. one could argue about which one of these forms is more involved with the ought and the what is. personally, i have always felt that something rather important is always lost when the informal school becomes the formal one.

    akbar
    from the University of Globatron

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  14. Logocentric
    May 21, 2009

    Dear Akbar,

    Please forgive the literal enumeration of these points, but I want to give them each a distinct place for consideration. i’m sorry if i misunderstood your last statement, so i’ll do this as a way of seeking my own clarification.

    1. what if philosophers did rule society? rather, what if they do now rule society?

    2. socrates may have been clear on what the good is, although i’m not sure how clear, given the way his successors have managed to muddy the idea. yet we still have this idea about the division of the good. different goods for different folks, etc., that is the result of class and hierarchy. so, starting from where we are, and not where probably most of us would like to be, do you see a disconnect between the academy and society? i should qualify this by stating my opinion that the academy acts (probably as its primary function) along with government, as the principal mediator between ideas and society–i.e., the many.

    3. do you believe that we live in a “democratic country”? if in fact we did–but i don’t believe we do–i would certainly be very upset by the apparent contradiction between that notion and the constraints on free expression that you, globatron, i, and others all observe. but as i said, i find very little evidence in our national history that suggests anything more than that democracy is a myth, that even within the ideal that drives those who haven’t given up on it exists a mediating entity. in other words, what good is free expression for most of us when the options available to our language–indeed our consciousness–are limited by our level of education (meaning both something broader than the academy and something far narrower in topic)? or we could say, what good is free expression UNLESS there is the notion that those who are most constrained are also those with the most to tell, AND (perhaps) unless we sense that those people are on the verge of exercising free expression? free expression, it would then seem, is the prerogative not of the many–who are very easily led by the few and whose options for expression are thus ordered by a language that they can take pride in constructing but not designing–but by the few, who have the most to disclose in terms of unconventional knowledge and thus the highest stake in expressing themselves carefully. So to suggest that we live in a democracy or that even such a thing is desirable goes against the reality–although probably not the wishes–of those who appear to manage the show.

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  15. Leonard Nimoy LaRouche
    May 21, 2009

    OMG! Yeah, that is so true! Like I was watching C-Span yesterday, and the seven astronauts were sitting in front of a camera on the shuttle talking to reporters who were all around the country. And there was one veteran astronaut, the one who had some trouble, I think, while working on the Hubble, his name is (Dr.) Mike Massimino. Reporters loved asking him questions, and they asked a lot of questions about things that were surprising or unexpected or the most memorable part of being in space. Dr. Massimino often said something like, “Well, what are you really asking?” Then he’d laugh with the crew and throw in some filler and say, “I’ll tell you later, after we’ve landed. My commander gets jealous when I talk about that.” And they all snickered. But this happened more than once, and I thought, ‘What ARE they talking about?’ But yeah, I thought that had something to do with the most knowledgeable people having to be the most careful about what they say.

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  16. Akbar Lightning
    May 21, 2009

    Logocentricon,

    I am going to say a few things, that I believe address some of the ideas you are addressing, but i think you are expanding the conversation into larger and larger areas, which is good, so feel free to correct me if I am not in any way addressing what you have brought up.

    i want to point out a few mystical ideas that drive my thinking about such terms as ‘the good’ and ‘democracy’

    i think what is good for one man is good for all men. that is what i think is innate to Socrates thinking, that to divide the good is to do a disservice to our best device for dialogue which is language. if there are divisions within society, and they are justified by some hierarchical understanding of good, then i think the logical end of this way of thinking is some kind of dehumanization. what is good for one man cannot be bad for another, because that would not be good for the initial man. the good is a totality, that we cannot reach, but is there for us to measure ourselves against and reach for. it does not descend from the heavens and implant itself into an elite group of human beings.

    also, if there is a set of knowledge that is unknown to me because of my ‘place’ in society, it will remain unknown to me. know what i mean, anything i cannot know is therefore pointless to ponder. that is an aside.

    in a similarly universal way as I see ‘the good’, i see democracy as a perspective, more than a system. the world of human beings ‘is’ a democracy, oppression requires consent (this is a mystical statement, not a ‘blame the victim’ flip statement). the ‘freedom to speak’ is innate, however, the results, the sacrifices, these are not within our control. so, what i am saying is that if somebody believes that the freedom to speak openly to one’s society is an integral part of being a philosopher then a university that is explicitly structured against such speech would be an antithetical approach to a truthful approach to living. I am not saying it is not possible, i just think consciousness of these compromises is necessary, and that a person ought to have some kind of balance sheet whereby this is integrated.

    i think especially now, that we have so many means of social construction that are outside the control of human consciousness that the blind democratic forces are at work. i don’t think democracy is good or bad, i think it is the way human society works, we are all governed by forces of the masses.

    to state it another way, the idea of democracy it seems, is that the people govern themselves. well, self-governance requires an enormous amount of self-knowledge, self-discipline, not to mention a moderate level of security. i guess there are two forms of ideal democracy, unconscious democracy and conscious democracy, and i think we are living way more toward the unconscious part of the scale.

    for those of us who believe in the value of consciousness as that which grants us freedom, because of the illuminating nature of knowledge, then the liberty to speak out to one’s fellows is a primary value.

    i feel all over the place,
    akbar

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  17. Logocentric
    May 21, 2009

    I think I am beginning to see the challenge you pose. Sorry for being a bit dense on this. I will think about it and respond. Thank you for the stimulating exchange.

    Reply
  18. Akbar Lightning
    May 22, 2009

    thank you good sir, your engagement gave this post depth and meaning. i look forward to more…
    akbar

    Reply

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