The Next World War

This rant sprouts from the documentary film “Supermarket Secrets“, a strong piece of investigative journalism concerning the UK food retail industry that came out a few years ago. I watched it with disbelief and tears in my eyes, disgust, then anger. This poor little apple that is not perfectly symmetrical like the snobby faces of its sick consumers and the supermarketeers who rationalize their system by pointing at the “demand” of these consumers. This one misshapen apple, thrown to the pigs or left to rot while a billion people are starving, should enrage billions. And once they are enraged they might start to see that it is not only this apple. It’s everything. The entire food production and the entire non-food production. Wasteful, environmentally disastrous, unsustainable, disgustingly “efficient”. The whole system should be taken down. Not “dismantled” but blown up, carpet bombed, nuked into oblivion.

Two misshapen apples, courtesy of Africanseer.com
This is a somewhat emotional reaction.
What would that world war look like? Let’s try and imagine. One fine day one of us consumers is indeed so appalled by the sight of an apple like this that in his mind, a tipping-point is reached. He declares war (let’s assume it is a male consumer as they tend to be more easily enraged and have more aggression in their toolbox of conflict resolution). This apple, he feels, is reason enough for all-out war. No more questions, no more considerations. He reproduces the photograph of the little apple and distributes it to millions of people, who are all equally in dismay and desire to strike. The picture of the apple is forbidden by governments around the world but it’s too late. Wikileaks and similar public services step in and it spreads like a wildfire. Soon, a billion people are mobilized and awaiting the command of our initial outraged consumer. And the command comes. Supermarket windows are smashed. Massive strikes, complete disruption of air traffic, power plants, mines, factories, dams, roads, trains, stores, military bases quickly ensues. The world economy grinds to a complete halt. The apple people have won, the system is down.
The initial outraged consumer, let’s call him Adam, walks the scorched earth and sighs at the sight of the destruction. He doesn’t feel as certain about the apple war as before. Was it the right thing to do? He feels a little bit guilty. Or had he been seduced by some dark force that had used the apple to spark his rage? He is confused and goes to the site where the supermarket once stood, the place where he had seen the misshapen apple being thrown away. Ironically, the name sign was among the few items not devoured by the fire and the looting. “Paradise Whole Foods Ltd.” it read. Adam sits down next to it and…and…and…and let the poor feller just sit there dammit.
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Commercial Break

It’s time for a short commercial break. Get comfortable in your chair and watch the wonderful products. Don’t believe the communist propaganda that commercials are made to seduce people into buying stuff they don’t need. Commercials are essential to life and without them even the most basic human functioning would be unthinkable, we would all live and die in caves, deprived of our basic human needs and desire. Without television commercials we would no longer experience desire, and become apathetic, defenseless against the threat of communism. Without radio advertisements we would stop to recognize our ability to be political beings. And without billboards and print media ads we would lose our sense of self. We have made it a number one priority to defend the right to make this society more livable which as per the above findings means turn this entire country into a canvas for commercials.
Just Do It: Commercials
I are organizing a contest to create the most powerful commercial for commercials. Can you come up with a catchy slogan? Here are some suggestions to get you started: “Commercials – I’m Loving It.”; “Just Do It: Commercials.”; “Beyond Commerce: Commercials”.
Of course I hear you say “but if commercials are so essential then why do they need to be promoted?”
The fatal flaw of that question is that it assumes the basic sanity of present day human beings. Does the present day person have this sanity? Look around you. What do you see? People often blindly follow their biological urges, their unreflected appetite or unmediated sexual cravings. Some of them transport themselves in vehicles that are older than two years – or don’t even roar. What do you think that would do to their self-confidence? Other people, who were clearly inspired by the absence of commercials, have been seen switching off life-supporting devices like light bulbs, space heaters, yes even air-conditioners. Others even, as one of our shocked reporters observed, walk – which is essentially the way animals move. And they call it “healthy”. They’d walk straight into the abyss of communism and not even notice it. Still others drink water from the tap, maybe even slurping it like dogs do – do you think they would ever be able to build any sense of family values? Or did you know there are citizens who sleep without pills (the health risks of which have been clearly indicated in a wide range of different commercials and infotainment videos)? 
Worse still, and I’m not making this up: there are humans (genetically shown to be indeed identical with homo sapiens sapiens) who still breath without a mask. Their insanity is complete, they are apathetic sociopaths stumbling down the tedious slope of their senseless lives, void of desire and humaneness, and endangering our brave new world of capitalism.

Ducks on Dawkins

Our Reflection is sometimes quite astonishing.

I got carried away a bit by a series of “related videos” about Richard Dawkins and his quest to extirpate religion. His eloquence is mighty and delightful, and I do agree with most of his arguments. Of course science offers a far better explanation of natural phenomenons, and its supremacy in predicting the future is self-evident. With experiments that must be essentially replicable in the lab, and the continuous effort to identify and eradicate every bias, science is the best thing since sliced bread.

Religion, apart from standing in the way of the progress of science, has caused a lot of suffering by offering a rationale for righteousness, martyrdom, infanticide, genocide, and so on. Is all religion delusional?

I am a duck. I understand Dawkins and his crusade very well, and I feel for him. See, we have this quack in our mallard community that keeps preaching about our initial sin and how some broad-billed deity up there in the sky is controlling everything and that if only we believe in waddling Wotan everything is gonna be alright. That quack keeps talking about it so much that some of us have already migrated away. Anyway, if a duck dares to argue with him, that quack asks him if he knows what came first, the duck or the egg, and his critics normally are so abashed about the fact that they don’t know the answer that they back down.

I am a Bucephela clangula, a cool duck you know. I’m from the Arctic, mate. That quack is telling us the ice melt is God’s will and the punishment for our disbelief and unholy hollering. Rubbish. I’m a duck of science and I understand that much. Primitive humans are causing global warming. They have this tradition of feeling supreme, you know, so even mr. Dawkins thinks they can and should do away with religion fast, but that ain’t gonna work. They should kinda slowly phase it out, and after a few generations they’ll be just fine. Of course, there will always be some humans quacking about their discontent and projecting heavens and hells and purgatories. We have that here too. But you know, for some being delusional is better than facing the truth. The truth ain’t all too downy, if you know what I mean.

Ugliness

Is it ugly to snitch pictures from the web?

Beauty is not eternal, neither is it projected on a blank, neutral canvas by the mind of the visual, auditive or tactile beholder. It is an in-between: between the recognition of eternal abstract truths perfectly embodied in a work of art, and the unique creation of the one-time sublime by the conspiring individual minds of an artist and her admirer. Beauty is the entanglement of the spirit of abstract perfection and the spirit of the wondrous captivating singularity, one force in line with the universe, a total remembrance of the truth of being, the other force a violent forgetting and being overwhelmed by that which lays beyond our reach.

Pass on the salt, will you? We are painting here. Our topic is not an easy one, and many a philosopher has written large volumes on beauty, and greatly have they dissented. I trust a philosopher when I can agree with their aesthetic, and I think that is not unwise as our reflections on the beautiful are symptoms of the whole edifice of our thinking. But it is not beauty I am dealing with here. I felt the urge to write about ugliness, and more specifically about the ugly character.
What constitutes an ugly character? Let’s see if we can agree on this. An ugly character is arrogant, high-nosed, and doesn’t realize it. Ugly is egocentric, ignoring the needs of others that surround one. Ugly is greed and jealousy, lying and being short-tempered. The ugly character coincides partly with the traditional sinner, it is a bitter fatalist soul, possessed as it seems by some demon.
To learn about that demon, we can investigate how all the traits of ugliness are interrelated and form a cluster of ugliness that stains a mind.
I have a hypothesis that explains ugliness in terms that avoid cultural relativism. The premise is that every mind aspires to truth and beauty. What happens in the ugly character, according to this hypothesis, is that the in-between described above is distorted. The psychopathology of ugliness is what I call the sickness of wrong abstraction. The ugly abstracts and generalizes where a “normal” individual would be overwhelmed by singular beauty, and the ugly forgets everything in moments where that “normal” mind would gracefully generalize and be fulfilled with an enthralling sense of beauty. Thus, the ugly character is out of tune with the culture they live in because their existential quest has been annihilated by their society.
The ugly character’s quest for beauty is grossly distorted and that aberration results in a disconnection with the consensually beautiful. The faculties to perceive beauty the way “normals” do have vanished from the ugly mind. This aberration is the root of all the ugliness, the greed, the lying, the selfishness, the cynicism, the yelling, the betraying, the murdering. It is essentially abstraction gone wrong that can make people ugly.
A corollary is that in contemplating beauty – together – beautiful characters could thrive.

Ugliness

Is it ugly to snitch pictures from the web?

Beauty is not eternal, neither is it projected on a blank, neutral canvas by the mind of the visual, auditive or tactile beholder. It is an in-between: between the recognition of eternal abstract truths perfectly embodied in a work of art, and the unique creation of the one-time sublime by the conspiring individual minds of an artist and her admirer. Beauty is the entanglement of the spirit of abstract perfection and the spirit of the wondrous captivating singularity, one force in line with the universe, a total remembrance of the truth of being, the other force a violent forgetting and being overwhelmed by that which lays beyond our reach.

Pass on the salt, will you? We are painting here. Our topic is not an easy one, and many a philosopher has written large volumes on beauty, and greatly have they dissented. I trust a philosopher when I can agree with their aesthetic, and I think that is not unwise as our reflections on the beautiful are symptoms of the whole edifice of our thinking. But it is not beauty I am dealing with here. I felt the urge to write about ugliness, and more specifically about the ugly character.
What constitutes an ugly character? Let’s see if we can agree on this. An ugly character is arrogant, high-nosed, and doesn’t realize it. Ugly is egocentric, ignoring the needs of others that surround one. Ugly is greed and jealousy, lying and being short-tempered. The ugly character coincides partly with the traditional sinner, it is a bitter fatalist soul, possessed as it seems by some demon.
To learn about that demon, we can investigate how all the traits of ugliness are interrelated and form a cluster of ugliness that stains a mind.
I have a hypothesis that explains ugliness in terms that avoid cultural relativism. The premise is that every mind aspires to truth and beauty. What happens in the ugly character, according to this hypothesis, is that the in-between described above is distorted. The psychopathology of ugliness is what I call the sickness of wrong abstraction. The ugly abstracts and generalizes where a “normal” individual would be overwhelmed by singular beauty, and the ugly forgets everything in moments where that “normal” mind would gracefully generalize and be fulfilled with an enthralling sense of beauty. Thus, the ugly character is out of tune with the culture they live in because their existential quest has been annihilated by their society.
The ugly character’s quest for beauty is grossly distorted and that aberration results in a disconnection with the consensually beautiful. The faculties to perceive beauty the way “normals” do have vanished from the ugly mind. This aberration is the root of all the ugliness, the greed, the lying, the selfishness, the cynicism, the yelling, the betraying, the murdering. It is essentially abstraction gone wrong that can make people ugly.
A corollary is that in contemplating beauty – together – beautiful characters could thrive.

"OMG!" look at these ads on Huffpost.

Advertising on “Huffington Post”, December 6th, 2011

The 99% are 1%. The majority of the people is not on the streets, but sits at home watching sit-coms. And that is not just some politician’s quote.

What is the real sentiment of “the people”? To get a good indicator, we would have to assess their interests, their hopes, wishes, desires, fears, worries, their faith, habits, and hate. Where should we start?

The advertising industry itself ($400 billion USD as of 2011) has already done it better than we could. All we need to do is take a look at the sponsored links on websites (yes, those annoying messages we’ve trained ourselves to avoid looking at) because what the machines that put them there assume the average reader’s interest is, is probably pretty close to what it actually is.

Take the Huff- and Puffington Post on an article about a Labrador saving two kittens left inside a bag of cat food on the road to die. The article itself gives readers what they need: courage is something cute that occurs in wild animals, not something serious we need to bother about in civilized homo sapiens.

The three advertisements underneath (and alongside!) this article represent the trias of sentiments that keeps our culture going, and keeps the “99%” from becoming the 99%. The normal, nonprotesting, average, matter-of-fact 99% are suckling the teat of Consumerism as long as they are made to sense:

  • Item 1) Vanity + Sense of Accomplishment. They need to feel good about themselves. They need keep going through cycles of worry and reward: worry if they look better than their peers or if they are still attractive, and reward for compliments they receive for their appearance, which they can perceive as an accomplishment precisely because it has vexed them for so long;
  • Item 2) Security + Sense of Being. They need to feel that “nothing” can happen and if “something” happens, that they are ensured in the best possible ways, so that “nothing” could make them more secured against “something” to happen. Their existential Self receives the Ultimate Consolation in the acknowledgement that they are as secure as they can Be. Their sense of fear (of the inevitable, of disease, loss, death) is systematically numbed.
  • Item 3) Getting rich + Sense of Potential. They need the big Belief in easy ways to get rich; not necessarily to pursue them but to make them feel that they could do so any moment, just not now. This nurtures their sense of potential, the idea that they could be “all the can be” some day in the future.

Similar ads showed up (and will keep showing up) on an article called “10 Most Generous Moments Of The Decade” and a piece about the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl.

The Huffington Post, or rather its advertising-centered business model, makes me feel ashamed about this culture. These ads are nurturing what prevents the “99%” from becoming the 99% – these ads are evil.

The way this commercial enterprise has been hailed as independent journalism, the way serious independent journalists write articles for this publication and have their words flanked by perverse advertisements, is saddening.

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to look at Internet advertisements (and advertisements in general) with such eyes as they reveal more about the “spirit of the people” than any occupy spokesperson could.

Minor Inconveniences

Caravaggio – The Sacrifice of Isaac

Can we all contribute a little bit to make the world a better place? It sounds easy, and it feels good. There are thousands of web sites and campaigns clamoring people into donating a few percent of their wealth to the Good. There are even courageous politicians who dare to ask people to drive a little bit less in cars that are a little bit smaller. After reading these first three sentences, I am quite sure you felt these are the words of a cynic, am I right? You had this discomforting feeling that a disillusioned sore soul was sneering at you, someone who was once, in a former life, a hypermoralistic puritan. Am I right?


Have no fear. I’m not trying to “get to you” and make you feel guilty because you don’t comply with my pompous über-moral. I just want to write something about minor inconveniences. How could we define them? “Inconvenient” means “not suited to our comfort”, so how about “not completely suited to our comfort”? A fly that sits on your computer screen, not enough space in your refrigerator, a TV without a remote control, a room too cold to take off your sweater, a torch that has to be recharged, a shower that takes time to heat, sharing a room with someone else, sharing a car with someone else, or a less than perfect air conditioner. These might be examples of minor inconveniences, as opposed to major inconveniences like your car stolen, your house burned down or your loved ones lost. But it’s a slippery slope, isn’t it?

Do be afraid. With 7 billion people on the planet (and projected to grow to 9.2 billion by 2050, and 10 billion by the end of the century) all craving a convenient life with convenience products, all craving energy-guzzling plasma TVs, big cars, air conditioning, lots of meat and plastics, we are going to feel the consequences in our own generation, let alone the horror we bequeath to our grandchildren. Read the scientific reports, read the analysis of authors without vested corporate interests, and judge for yourself. The solution does not only consist of changing to renewable energy and phasing out the mining of new materials. Every expert will tell you that without some minor inconveniences on the consumer end, it can’ be done.

Should we willingly accept minor inconveniences? Every inch we drive less, every degree we turn the thermostat up or down, every penny we invest in “renewables” is an invasion into our privacy, a gross insult to our very being and our “Way of Life”.

Any intended inconvenience is, by definition, a self-sacrifice. It might sound impossible after the death of God in the 19th century and his burial in the bogs of last century’s cruelty, but when I look at the numbers it is exactly what we need.

S E L F – S A C R I F I C E

Enjoy!