Make philosophy relevant again

Misunderstanding: After studying “ethics” for many years in university, I don’t know more than the average person about how to behave. I know far less. In that sense, such endeavor is the epitome of uselessness.
On the other hand, not knowing seems to be better (and you rightly ask, where does this judgment come from?) than thinking you do know.

At any rate, I think that a student of philosophy should study real stuff. Philosophy should not, in my opinion, be limited to the study of texts that philosophers have produced. This is precisely how the subject earned its label “navel-gazing”.

Philosophers should wander, literally, on campus. Between a faculty of their choosing and the reinstated interfaculty of philosophy. They should be trained to become the people asking the annoying fundamental questions.
Down with the “courses on Derrida” and the “Habermas-studies”.
Philosophy is more relevant than ever. Philosophers should be trained to be sharper, grittier Yuval Noah Hararis.

“Years after I left the faculty of philosophy, where I had been trained to fence with dull texts, I began my philosophy education…

Make philosophy relevant again was originally published on Meandering home

Burning further apart

Eucalyptus trees depend on fire to release their seeds. Plants need CO2 for their survival. The ignorant, as well as the evil, can point at facts like these to undergird their complacency and inaction in the face of climate change. The ease with which they appear to convince themselves that any worldview matching their lifestyle and habits is the correct one, is chilling.

And if they, the ignorant and the evil, are confronted with scientific evidence, there is always the narrative of Fake News. They can always contrive a story that explains the facts and adheres to their own very low standards.

What happens if you push them further? Do they admit they were wrong? No. Sadly, only very few have that greatness of spirit.

As the fires rage in Australia, climate change deniers are seeking refuge in ever murkier conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. The stories that they are telling themselves, and are spreading on the Internet, become so complex and unverifiable that they will essentially become articles of faith. And we don’t have a cure for faith.

As the fires rage in Australia, climate change deniers are seeking refuge in ever murkier conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.

This is what worries me. To ‘save their face’, continuate their lifestyle, remain accepted by their peers, their minds are compelled to believe a concoction of ad hoc observations, fossil-fuel propaganda, and cherry-picked best seller authors that is very hard to disprove – because it is not a verifiable theory.

Climate change-related disasters pushes the ignorant and evil to the construction of a narrative that is intractible and immune to scientific evidence to the contrary. The best example we have of such idiocy is the Flat Earth Theory. I am afraid we will see theories of a similar level of narrative sophistication in the conversation on climate change. With the powerful vested interests and their ability to manipulate elections in mind, I am also afraid this will be the dominant narrative anywhere outside of disaster zones.

This new narrative could be religious (“God is testing us; this is the punishment for nonbelievers”) or conspiratory (“The elite wants us to pay more taxes”). It will be entirely delusional and proof of the absolute lack of greatness of the ignorant and evil.




Burning further apart was originally published on Meandering home

The your Work should be your Passion Trap

Almost every day, I read or listen to interviews with people who proudly proclaim that they have found the profitability in their passion. They no longer have to ‘work’ and have banned all tedium from their lives. Their message is, unequivocally, that we should aspire to do the same. If we just stick with our unfulfilling jobs, we are not living up to our full potential. In other words, we are failures.

It is a compelling argument, and from the vantage point of somebody who ‘made it’, there seems to be no alternative. If we don’t aspire to that ultimate goal, the merging of work and pleasure, sustenance and joy, there is something wrong with us. All of our life should be meaningful and worthwhile. But what if such extremely high standard is unattainable, wouldn’t it lead to low self-esteem – even more so than the capitalist rat race?

If we expect profitability of our passion, aspiring to emulate the success stories that abound on social media, we will subconsciously discredit those passions that fail to yield a profit. In other words: we remain strictly controlled by the invisible hand of the free market, the mechanism that can no longer be trusted in a time of negative externalities that promise future suffering, yet aren’t yet taxing our current sense of well-being.

Doing the right thing in a world that is focused on short-term pleasure or profit, is not a profitable proposition. Perhaps giving inspirational TED-talks is, or starting a ‘green’ company, but in the arena of competing ideas, you can’t compete with the advertisement budget of corporations. And because the kind of change we need goes against the bottom line of these corporations, it follows that cannot be profitable, at least not at a scale that threatens those corporations.

Yes, this apparently presupposes a bleak idea of ‘human nature’ (“can’t we just all understand the world is going to shit and get our act together?”, as if we don’t naturally strive for the good. We do, but our conception of the good is the target of relentless propaganda. Shoshana Zuboff’s surveillance capitalism (“the goal is to automate us”) is a real thing. All of the terms, such as sustainability, circular economy, ecosystem, social equality) used by such visionaries as Kate Raworth or George Monbiot are hijacked by profit-seeking corporations, adding to the confusion. We can be manipulated into believing almost anything.

Conflating a priori that which you want to do for the betterment of humanity, and that which earns you money, is not a good idea. Making sure you have some sort of ‘basic income’, whether that is coming from a capital investment like stocks or real estate, or a menial job that only takes a few hours, doesn’t matter. It gives you the full freedom to concentrate on the task you have identified, without having to reduce its merit to its marketability.

If you are a Wikipedia editor, stop dreaming about a paid position as an encyclopedia writer. If you volunteer in a permaculture garden, stop thinking about a lucrative job on a commercial ‘organic’ farm. If you are hosting people through Couchsurfing because you believe in hospitality exchange, stop playing with the idea of make a little money on the side using AirBnB. The revolution is not profitable.

We have to cover our bases alright. We should not abhor money or believe its use is the root of all evil. But we should be very careful with the idea of making a profit out of our passion. Once we are on the path of profit, we are in competition with the moloch we wish to slay (or don’t we?)

Instead, we should get together and help each other out. Build real trust networks rather than automate ‘trust’, share our food and shelter, create open source solutions for the management of the Commons and personal shareables. That way we keep our autonomy and control over what we create, which will be important once it begins to threaten the profits of corporations. If we don’t have to tone down for the sake of ‘surviving as a business’, our ideological voice is much more powerful – dare I say: pure – and compelling to those who we win over.

We might have to forsake, for a while, the wholeness we are craving for in our society of spiritual destitution, but it is our passion that guides us, and that passion refuses to flirt with profit if profit means compromise.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

The your Work should be your Passion Trap was originally published on Meandering home

Rage Against The Water Closet

I want to relate an experience I had today and that has exhausted my battery of expletives. It is as banal as it can be: The flushing mechanism of the toilet in my apartment broke. At first, I scoffed at it, remembering that a friend once told me, “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, well, one problem at the time.” But this type of problem doesn’t magically go away, nor does our digestive tract take into account the condition of our water closets. Soon enough I was flushing with buckets and the shower head tucked in the toilet bowl and my head clouded with self-pity.

So I headed to the store and explained the situation in my best Korean to a friendly lady, who eventually explained to me that they had replaced the old-fashioned floater with a new system. I gladly bought into that system and rushed home, borrowed a wrench and installed the system. The reservoir filled as I watched breathlessly. I had fixed it! But when the reservoir was full the device I had installed began to shake back and forth, continuously opening the water inlet so that the water kept flowing in short intervals, producing a maddening sound. I grabbed the new plastic with my hand, wiggled and turned it around hoping a little adjustment might solve the problem.

It didn’t, of course. I pulled back my hand, blue from the gooey stuff we put in the reservoir to prevent odor. Disgusted, but determined, I continued manipulating the flimsy device. How idiotic! Remember the movie Idiocracy? The reality is far worse! Here I was, sitting in my toilet, trying my best to fix a system that uses precious drinking water to flush down our excrements.

The idea that we have to “flush down” our excrements is the epitome of our refusal to understand nature. Treating our human waste in specialized faraway facilities has the advantages as it can be scaled up and properly managed, but detaching us from what comes out of our bodies reinforces a culture that reviles some vital parts of the human body – and I see a structural or Gestalt parallel between that attitude and the way we treat the body politic or the planet we inhabit.

I will keep raging against the water closet, perhaps smashing one to pieces like the German actor Klaus Kinski famously did.  I understand the dynamics of rage and how our inner fuse blows if circumstances force us to repair a system that we utterly and existentially disagree with, be it fascism or the water closet.

I appreciate the invention and register its contribution to the fight against diseases like cholera and typhoid. But our inability to move beyond a 19th-century Victorian technology in treating our bodily waste shows that we are far more stuck in old ideas than we realize. The old adage, that necessity is the mother of invention, holds true. We can only hope that this necessity will not come in the form of irreversible harm to our environment and the only physical body our culture inhabits.

A defining characteristic of any civilization is how it treats human waste, and I would like to see the day when we understand how full of shit we are.

Rage Against The Water Closet was originally published on Meandering home