node created 2019/09/29
The received wisdom in advanced capitalist societies is that there still exists an organic “civil society sector” in which institutions form autonomously and come together to manifest the interests and will of citizens. The fable has it that the boundaries of this sector are respected by actors from government and the “private sector,” leaving a safe space for NGOs and nonprofits to advocate for things like human rights, free speech, and accountable government.

This sounds like a great idea. But if it was ever true, it has not been for decades. Since at least the 1970s, authentic actors like unions and churches have folded under a sustained assault by free-market statism, transforming “civil society” into a buyer’s market for political factions and corporate interests looking to exert influence at arm’s length. The last forty years has seen a huge proliferation of think tanks and political NGOs whose purpose, beneath all the verbiage, is to execute political agendas by proxy.
You cannot strengthen one by weakening another; and you cannot add to the stature of a dwarf by cutting off the leg of a giant.
Whenever people think of Orwell today they usually think also of security cameras and ‘Big Brother’. Orwell represents much more than that. He saw that language and writing can be perverted to deceive people rather than inform them. If we remember that single lesson then his legacy will remain secure.
No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that that knowledge will help set you free.
The net effect of this language system was not to keep these people ignorant of what they were doing, but to prevent them from equating it with their old, "normal" knowledge of murder and lies. Eichmann's great susceptibility to catch words and stock phrases, combined with his incapacity for ordinary speech, made him, of course, an ideal subject for "language rules."
"Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
I should like to preface my remarks on the New Objectivity with the proposition that to supply a production apparatus without trying, within the limits of the possible, to change it, is a highly disputable activity even when the material supplied appears to be of a revolutionary nature. For we are confronted with the fact - of which there has been no shortage of proof in Germany over the last decade - that the bourgeois apparatus of production and publication is capable of assimiliating, indeed of propagating, an astonishing amount of revolutionary themes without ever seriously putting into question its own continued existence or of that of the class which owns it. In any case this remains true so long as it is supplied by hacks, albeit revolutionary hacks. And I define a hack as a man who refuses as a matter of principle to improve the production apparatus and so prise it away from the ruling class for the benefit of Socialism. I further maintain that an appreciable part of so-called left-wing literature had no other social function than that of continually extracting new effects or sensations from this situation for the public's entertainment. Which brings me to the New Objectivity. It launched the fashion for reportage. Let us ask ourselves whose interests were advanced by this technique.

For greater clarity let me concentrate on photographic reportage. Whatever applies to it is transferable to the literary form. Both owe their extraordinary development to publication techniques - radio and the illustrated press. Let us think back to Dadaism. The revolutionary strength of Dadaism lay in testing art for its authenticity. You made still-lifes out of tickets, spools of cotton, cigarette stubs, and mixed them with pictorial elements. You put a frame around the whole thing. And in this way you said to the public: look, your picture frame destroys time; the smallest authentic fragment of everyday life says more than painting. Just as a murderer's bloody fingerprint on a page says more than the words printed on it. Much of this revolutionary attitude passed into photomontage. You need only think of the works of John Heartfield, whose technique made the book jacket into a political instrument. But now let us follow the subsequent development of photography. What do we see? It has become more and more subtle, more and more modern, and the result is that it is now incapable of photographing a tenement or a rubbish heap without transfiguring it. Not to mention a river dam or an electric cable factory: in front of these, photography can now only say, 'How beautiful.' The World is Beautiful - that is the title of the well-known picture book by Renger-Patzsch in which we see New Objectivity photography at its peak. It has succeeded in turning abject poverty itself, by handling it in a modish, technically perfect way, into an object of enjoyment. For it is an economic function of photography to supply the masses, by modish processing, with matter which previously eluded mass consumption.
lecture at the Institute for the Study of Fascism in Paris, 27th April 1934
Until now the totalitarian belief that everything is possible seems to have proved only that everything can be destroyed. Yet, in their effort to prove that everything is possible, totalitarian regimes have discovered without knowing it that there are crimes which men can neither punish nor forgive. When the impossible was made possible it became the unpunishable, unforgivable absolute evil which could no longer be understood by the evil motives of self-interest, greed, covetousness, resentment, lust for power, and cowardice; and which therefore anger could not revenge, love could not endure, friendship could not forgive. Just as the victims in the death factories or the holes of oblivion are no longer "human" in the eyes of their executioners, so this newest species of criminals is beyond the pale even of solidarity in human sinfulness.

It is inherent in our entire philosophical tradition that we cannot conceive of a "radical evil." And this is true both for Christian theology, which conceded even to the Devil himself a celestial origin, as well as for Kant, the only philosopher who, in the word he coined for it, at least must have suspected the existence of this evil even though he immediately rationalized it in the concept of a "perverted ill will" that could be explained by comprehensible motives. Therefore, we actually have nothing to fall back on in order to understand a phenomenon that nevertheless confronts us with its overpowering reality and breaks down all the standards we know. There is only one thing that seems to be discernible: we may say that radical evil has emerged in connection with a system in which all men have become equally superfluous.
"The Origins of Totalitarianism"
See, capitalism is not fundamentally racist -- it can exploit racism for its purposes, but racism isn't built into it. Capitalism basically wants people to be interchangeable cogs, and differences among them, such as on the basis of race, usually are not functional. I mean, they may be functional for a period, like if you want a super exploited workforce or something, but those situations are kind of anomalous. Over the long term, you can expect capitalism to be anti-racist -- just because its anti-human. And race is in fact a human characteristic -- there's no reason why it should be a negative characteristic, but it is a human characteristic. So therefore identifications based on race interfere with the basic ideal that people should be available just as consumers and producers, interchangeable cogs who will purchase all the junk that's produced -- that's their ultimate function, and any other properties they might have are kind of irrelevant, and usually a nuisance.
Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.
How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.
As long as we continue to have children, or accept people having children, we have chosen - as a species - to not give up on them, and their descendants.

Preserving a livable environment, and preferably much more than livable, is simply a duty springing from that fact.

There is no need for any deep philosophy, to care for the environment is - essentially - a consequence of choices already made.
From a philosophical viewpoint, the danger inherent in the new reality of mankind seems to be that this unity, based on the technical means of communication and violence, destroys all national traditions and buries the authentic origins of all human existence. This destructive process can even be considered a necessary prerequisite for ultimate understanding between men of all cultures, civilizations, races, and nations. Its result would be a shallowness that would transform man, as we have known him in five thousand years of recorded history, beyond recognition. It would be more than mere superficiality; it would be as though the whole dimension of depth, without which human thought, even on the mere level of technical invention, could not exist, would simply disappear. This leveling down would be much more radical than the leveling to the lowest common denominator; it would ultimately arrive at a denominator of which we have hardly any notion today.

As long as one conceives of truth as separate and distinct from its expression, as something which by itself is uncommunicative and neither communicates itself to reason nor appeals to "existential" experience, it is almost impossible not to believe that this destructive process will inevitably be triggered off by the sheer automatism of technology which made the world one and, in a sense, united mankind. It looks as though the historical pasts of the-nations, in their utter diversity and disparity, in their confusing variety and bewildering strangeness for each other, are nothing but obstacles on the road to a horridly shallow unity. This, of course, is a delusion; if the dimension of depth out of which modern science and technology have developed ever were destroyed, the probability is that the new unity of mankind could not even technically survive. Everything then seems to depend upon the possibility of bringing the national pasts, in their original disparateness, into communication with each other as the only way to catch up with the global system of communication which covers the surface of the earth.
"Men in Dark Times"
So what I’m proposing is that finance, and indeed consumer Internet companies and all kinds of other people using giant computers, are trying to become Maxwell’s demons in an information network. The easiest way to understand it is to think about an insurance company. So an American health insurance company, before big computing came along, would hire actuaries to set rates. But the idea of, on a person-by-person basis, attempting to decide who should be in the plan so that you could only insure the people who need it the least on an individual basis, that wasn’t really viable. But with big computing and the ability to compute huge correlations with big data, it becomes irresistible. And so what you do is you start to say, "I’m going to..." — you’re like Maxwell’s demon with the little door — "I’m going to let the people who are cheap to insure through the door, and the people who are expensive to insure have to go the other way until I’ve created this perfect system that’s statistically guaranteed to be highly profitable.”

And so what’s wrong with that is that you can’t ever really get ahead. What you’re really doing then is you’re radiating waste heat. I mean, for yourself you’ve created this perfect little business, but you’ve radiated all the risk, basically, to the society at large. And if the society was infinitely large and could absorb it, it would work. There’s nothing intrinsically faulty about your scheme except for the assumption that the society can absorb the risk. And so what we’ve seen with big computing in finance is a repeated occurrence of people using a big computer to radiate risk away from themselves until the society can’t absorb it. And then there’s some giant bailout and some huge breakage. And so it happened with Long-Term Capital [Management] in the ’90s. It happened with Enron, and we saw a repeat of it in the events leading to the Great Recession in the late aughts. And we’ll just see it happening again and again until it’s recognized that this pattern is just not sustainable.
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.
[The U.S. still names] military helicopter gunships after victims of genocide. Nobody bats an eyelash about that: Blackhawk. Apache. And Comanche. If the Luftwaffe named its military helicopters Jew and Gypsy, I suppose people would notice.
"Propaganda and the Public Mind: Conversations With Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian" (2001)
I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don't want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.
Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos - the trees, the clouds, everything.
Pride ruined the angels,
Their shame them restores;
Lurks the joy that is sweetest
In stings of remorse.