Friday, December 25, 2009

Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything

thanks to Ugly Radio, we have a cure for holidays boredom. it's nothing too challenging or difficult, covers ground a lot of people probably are at least a little familiar with, but it's still good to go over it. the man has a nice voice (not at all annoying like William Burroughs) and an infectious chuckle, and it's nice to listen to him go on about General Semantics, Joyce, Peyote, and a thousand other topics. also works well if you can't sleep...

Tape 1: The Life and Times of Robert Anton Wilson
Traces Pope Bob's childhood, formative years, Catholic rearing (pun intended), his lifelong love of James Joyce via an interview.
Warning: Side B has a great example of twisted tape syndrome, wherein a small chunk of it plays backwards. Don't worry, it's in a very appropriate place, as you'll hear!
Download Tape 1 (tape warps at the end so you don't hear the Leary story punchline... sorry)

Tape 2: Language and Reality
Incorrigible optimist Bob explores how language shapes our perceptions of the world, or how our reality tunnels are formed. He discusses Korzybski and Neuro-Linguistic Programming and other modes of thought construct.
Download Tape 2

Tape 3: Techniques for Consciousness Change
Bob discusses various methods for obtaining various states of consciousness as well as LSD, Sensory Deprivation and Leary's Eight Circuit model of consciousness and how to reprogram them.
Download Tape 3

Tape 4: Politics and Conspiracy Theory
How trying to unravel the big control conspiracy can both drive you mad and how the more you learn about it, the less plausible, yet undeniably 'real' it all becomes. Also how dogmatic religions tend to have their own, unique conspiracy theories.
Download Tape 4

Tape 5: The Acceleration of Knowledge
Live lecture on the doubling of information and how it seems to be occurring at an increasing interval and where Bob thinks we're headed.
Download Tape 5

Tape 6:
Side A- Religion for the Hell of it
Side B- The New Inquisition
Hilarious and enlightening two-part lecture in Boulder Co., where Bob rails against all stripes of fundamentalism and the rigid, Aristotalian mind-set, as well as the hardcore skepticism of fundamental materialists (with their mantra of 'it's only a coincidence, it's only a coincidence!') . Also, the rabbit-UFO connection revealed at last.
Download Tape 6

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Against Developmentalism

quotes from a few scholars and economists which might serve to outline critique of current developmentalism:

"The question remains whether human beings can improve their lot or are they left to the mercies of ineluctable forces-such as the now fashionable "global market." In its non-answers to this question the World Bank (and others in the development establishment) is currently "ploughing ahead with an increasingly incoherent discourse of opposites: the state is needed, after all, but not too much, and only when the market doesn't work well; democracy is important but not if it leads to inappropriate demands for redistribution; and so on" (Leys)."

"Half a century after the first promise of 'modernization' was held out for the `third world,' it is obvious that very little of that ambition has been realized". The result is that "academics are mired in a neo-classical versus state interventionist stalemate . . . and workers in the agencies are trapped in the dead-ends of macro `structural adjustment' policy panegyrics or an endless array of directionless and context-devoid projects. Where the 'people' do have promising projects and meaningful aspirations, local states and global capitals-the roots of the real crisis-conspire against them"

Rather than squarely face these problems the development establishment has shifted its rhetoric and coopted such terms as democracy, equity, participation, and sustainability to use for their own nefarious purposes. Moore and Schmitz ask whether the concepts designated by these terms can have any real meaning if vested interests can make such easy use of them.

the current developmentalism is simply "an exercise of elite institutional selfpreservation responding to the threat posed by systemic breakdown" (Moore and Schmitz)

"Despite his Ph.D. in business and deep roots in the conservative establishment, Korten opens the book talking about his "gradual awakening to the conclusion that the conventional development practice espoused by most conservatives and even liberals is a leading cause of-not the solution to-a rapidly accelerating and potentially fatal human crisis of global proportions"

"We might say that GNP, technically a measure of the rate at which money is flowing through the economy, might also be described as a measure of the rate at which we are turning resources into garbage" (1995:38). Or in terms of an evolutionary perspective we could describe the GNP as a measure of how much we now pay for what was once free in our preagricultural era.(Korten)

"the World Bank and the IMF have worked in concert to deepen the dependence of low-income countries on the global system and then to open their economies to corporate colonization"(Korten)

The current trend toward economic globalization has resulted in a lessening of the power of governments responsible to the public and an augmentation of power of a few transnational corporations and financial institutions. Compelled only by the crusade for short-term profits, these institutions incessantly bombard us with the myths "that consumerism is the path to happiness, governmental restraint of market excess is the cause of [our] distress, and economic globalization is both a historical inevitability and a boon to the human species"(Korten)

"Our international political leaders are entrapped in these myths, and the sociopolitical rewards and punishments in societies are allocated by the institutions dedicated to upholding these myths."(Korten)

"the origins of Africa's tragedy clearly lie far back in the emergence and evolution of the world capitalist economy; and the seeming impossibility of surmounting it today is also bound up with the fact that the leading industrial states have recently chosen to abandon that system of regulation to which the global economy was subject at the time when Africa was launched into independence" (Edoho)

"The natural systems of many African countries are on the brink of collapse" (1996:63) resulting from a poverty caused by "debt burden, degraded land resources because of prolonged use, trade barriers imposed by wealthy nations, mismanaged and misdirected assistance from rich countries, and general lack of institutions to carry out sustainable development policies" (Edoho)

"Policy makers are disillusioned, the poor are dispirited, donor agencies are tired, and the international organizations all are weary of the herculean task of developing [sub-Saharan Africa]" (1996:154). "If the 1960s were characterized by optimism in sub-Saharan Africa, the 1970s by frustration, and the 1980s by widespread disillusionment and unrelieved pessimism, the 1990s are definitely characterized by outright despondency and cynicism" (Edoho)

"externally imposed 'development' was seriously disrupting human relationships and community life and causing significant hardship for the very people it claimed to benefit. By contrast, when people found the freedom and self-confidence to develop themselves, they demonstrated enormous potential to create a better world". The concept of development (must) be radically shifted from a money-centered economics to a people-centered ecology." (Korten)

"for all countries in the world, recapturing control over their own destinies requires the re-establishment of social control over capital and the resubordination of markets to social purposes" . Africa is only the first victim of a return to a market-driven world, though the weakest sections of the First World "are already bearing . . . the costs through unemployment, intermittent or part-time work, lower real wages and the contraction of social services and social security" (Leys).

"difficulties in development theory "are not due to the working out of an inexorable law of economics but, to a significant extent, to politically motivated policy decisions (setting capital free to pursue profit wherever it wishes and on whatever terms it can impose), rationalized by a particular brand of development theory (neo-liberalism) which assigns all initiative to `the market' (i.e. to capital)". In the short run the results of neo-liberal developmentalism could be a boon to a very small elite in the First and Third Worlds and a disaster for most of the people in the Third World (and some in the First World). In the long run the results will be a disaster for everyone.(Leys)

"The new global order ... will have to be more representative of, and accountable to, people (as opposed to wealth) than most global institutions are now". the new leadership must "come from within civil society", ... a citizens' agenda to enhance these efforts by getting corporations out of politics and creating localized economies that empower communities within a system of global cooperation" (Leys)

"These are not insurmountable problems" . He claims that they can be solved through the economic development of people, institutionalization of democratic processes, cultivation of visionary leaders, production of food crops rather than cash crops, and integration of technologies" (Edoho)

"We must give high priority to legislative and judicial action aimed at establishing the legal principle that corporations are public bodies created to serve public needs and have only those privileges specifically extended to them by their charters or in law" . We must to cut down on inequality through guaranteed incomes, progressive income and consumption taxes, and equitable allocation of paid employment. We must to localize the global system by international debt reduction for low-income countries, international financial transactions tax, regulation of transnational trade and investment, and, of course, close down the World Bank (Korten)

Leys, Colin. The Rise and Fall of Development Theory. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996. 205 pp.

Moore, David B., and Gerald J. Schmitz, (eds.). Debating Development Discourse: Institutional and Popular Perspectives. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995. 259 pp.

Korten, David C. When Corporations Rule the World. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 1995. 374 pp.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

attractiveness, media, and social control

not pretending that the following is anything new which have not been said before, just some thoughts in my head. and written very fast with hardly any editing, so please be kind and overlook the unprofessional use of language and just focus on the big picture...

the sharp distinctions between "beautiful" and "ugly", and the conformity to these standards in the globalized media saturated world, are not only largely arbitrary and manufactured, but actually designed to play a central role in what i have termed "the artificial rarity of sex as commodity".

to be sure, sex is a commodity in our culture. beyond prostitution, there are countless industries which manufacture countless lines of goods which act as substitutes, are marketed as attraction enhancement, or self esteem boosters -- in fact it is difficult or maybe entirely impossible to disentangle these from the whole of commodity culture itself. and the important required condition for it all to function, which is to say for global capitalism to function, is if the human need for companionship, affection, and sex was somehow made artificially rare.

lonely nights where you cruise around desperate for human contact, we all know what that's like. for dudes its difficult to get a piece of ass without status symbols, for girls, the looks -- it's an entire system constructed of arbitrary and artificial values which regulates social interaction, and isolates people from each other.

and all of this brought into sharp relief by the endless representation of sex everywhere you look, and the endless neurotic obsession with "relationships" in the media. the truth of the following equation i do not doubt: the more representation of sex exists in a culture, the more sexually repressed it is.

it is not difficult to imagine different social organizations where definitions of attractiveness take on much more diverse and individual form, not conforming to an imposed standard of beauty such as what we have. (not difficult to imagine because they exist)

bottom line is that everyone should be fucking. pretty or ugly, fat or thin. all the time. as much as they want. and no one should be made to feel unattractive (or at least to a much lesser extent). we are all people with the same needs, and the system we live in exploit these needs, by deprivation, and at the same time manufacturing artificial desire.

it is a simple dynamic, similar to the way cosmetics industry works: if people are made to feel ugly by comparing themselves to images of ideal beauty, which confront them everywhere and all the time, they will buy more make-up.

but what i have described is of course still a small part of the puzzle. the institution of the nuclear family, and monogamy, very recent forms in human history, of course plays a large, maybe more fundamental, part in this. don't want to ramble on more than i already have, but humans are pack animals, whose "natural" existence is amongst an extended family of 30-60 individuals. a child should be raised by and learn from not 2 adults, but many adults and many peers. and taken away from this way of life, we are already lost, and vulnerable.

someone said once that there are 2 things human beings need: community and autonomy. and in this modern world of ours we have true forms of neither.


a major difference between anglo saxons taking over the world in the last few hundred years and the empires which have come and gone before, is that technology for the first time in history allows the victors to saturate the world with images of themselves.

consider when the Moorish Islamic empire ruled Spain during the middle ages for more than 500 years. a time when Europe was hell on earth, a backward and ignorant world of torture and disease with no running water and no toilettes, a time when North African culture was at the height of civilization, with progressive social values and high standards of living, arts and sciences blooming, when the wealthy in Europe sent their kids to Spain to be educated -- i have not read anthropological studies but it only makes sense at that time North African features were considered beautiful, and Europeans imitated the latest fashion of the Moors.

it is these larger forces of history and the resulting social realities, the effects of which in our age exponentially exaggerated by the advent of global media saturation, largely make up what we think is beautiful. (there are of course other factors such as white being a symbol of purity in many traditional cultures... but i am against any kind of essentialist notions. does that make me a behaviorist?)

so today it is thin noses and pale skin, more or less waspy features being the most desireable, but this will surely change...