node created 2012/06/17
last changed 2013/02/04
Help unite mankind, or we're wandering clowns!
The whole concept of alienation found its first expression in Western thought in the Old Testament concept of idolatry. The essence of what the prophets call "idolatry" is not that man worships many gods instead of only one. It is that the idols are the work of man's own hands -- they are things, and man bows down and worships things; worships that which he has created himself. In doing so he transforms himself into a thing. He transfers to the things of his creation the attributes of his own life, and instead of experiencing himself as the creating person, he is in touch with himself only by the worship of the idol. He has become estranged from his own life forces, from the wealth of his own potentialities, and is in touch with himself only in the indirect way of submission to life frozen in the idols. The deadness and emptiness of the idol is expressed in the Old Testament: "Eyes they have and they do not see, ears they have and they do not hear," etc. The more man transfers his own powers to the idols, the poorer he himself becomes, and the more dependent on the idols, so that they permit him to redeem a small part of what was originally his. The idols can be a godlike figure, the state, the church, a person, possessions. Idolatry changes its objects; it is by no means to be found only in those forms in which the idol has a so-called religious meaning. Idolatry is always the worship of something into which man has put his own creative powers, and to which he now submits, instead of experiencing himself in his creative act.

Among the many forms of alienation, the most frequent one is alienation in language. If I express a feeling with a word, let us say, if I say "I love you," the word is meant to be an indication of the reality which exists within myself, the power of my loving. The word "love" is meant to be a symbol of the fact love, but as soon as it is spoken it tends to assume a life of its own, it becomes a reality. I am under the illusion that the saying of the word is the equivalent of the experience, and soon I say the word and feel nothing, except the thought of love which the word expresses. The alienation of language shows the whole complexity of alienation. Language is one of the most precious human achievements; to avoid alienation by not speaking would be foolish -- yet one must be always aware of the danger of the spoken word, that it threatens to substitute itself for the living experience. The same holds true for all other achievements of man; ideas, art, any kind of man-made objects. They are man's creations; they are valuable aids for life, yet each one of them is also a trap, a temptation to confuse life with things, experience with artifacts, feeling with surrender and submission.
The way to overcome this situation is to create real political parties. To have real political parties, the people must participate and make decisions, not just come together every four years to pull a lever. That is not politics. It is the opposite of politics. If you have mass popular organizations that are functioning all the time - at local, regional, and international levels - then you have at least the basis for democracy. Such organizations existed here in the past.
When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.
It wasn't the "European banks" that got hurt from the mortgage-backed bunkum. They were made whole to the tune of 100 cents on the dollar. The people who are paying for it are the same ones that are paying for it over here. You and me. Our parents. Our kids.

They are creating a "breakaway" culture, who within decades will be the only ones with access to capital, to new technologies, to advanced health care. That's the ultimate effect of the dramatic increase in wealth disparity. Fifty years of this and they'll be as far ahead of the rest of us as the American settlers were of the Native Americans. When two cultures exist side-by-side and one is so far in advance of the other, it doesn't work out well for the ones on the bottom. We are seeing evolutionary branching based on wealth alone.
Harrington has Shewn that Power always follows Property. This I believe to be as infallible a Maxim, in Politicks, as, that Action and Re-action are equal, is in Mechanicks. Nay I believe We may advance one Step farther and affirm that the Ballance of Power in a Society, accompanies the Ballance of Property in Land. The only possible Way then of preserving the Ballance of Power on the side of equal Liberty and public Virtue, is to make the Acquisition of Land easy to every Member of Society: to make a Division of the Land into Small Quantities, So that the Multitude may be possessed of landed Estates. If the Multitude is possessed of the Ballance of real Estate, the Multitude will have the Ballance of Power, and in that Case the Multitude will take Care of the Liberty, Virtue, and Interest of the Multitude in all Acts of Government.
Man wants to achieve greatness overnight, and he wants to sleep well that night too.
To build a bridge, you don’t need millions of people. You need enough people to build a bridge so that a million others can cross over it.
Then McNamara has a footnote in his book. He says, two years later, Fall had changed his mind about the efficacy of American actions and took a more pessimistic view about the prospects for an American victory. That was 1967. Look at what [Fall] wrote in 1967. He said this just before he died. He said Vietnam is literally dying under the worst attack that any country has ever suffered and it was very likely that Vietnam as a cultural and historical entity was going to become extinct under the American attack. And McNamara reads this and says [Fall] changed his mind about the efficacy of what we were doing. Not only did he write that, but every reviewer read it. Nobody comments on it. Nobody sees anything funny about it. Because if we want to destroy a country and extinguish it as a cultural and historical entity, who could object? Fall was talking about South Vietnam, notice, not North Vietnam. The killing was mostly in South Vietnam. The attack was mostly against South Vietnam.

Not only is it interesting that this happened, but also interesting is the fact that no one noticed it. I wrote about it, but I have yet to find any commentator, scholar, or anyone else, who noticed this fact about the Pentagon Papers. And you see that in the contemporary discussion. We were "defending" South Vietnam, namely the country that we were destroying. The very fact that McNamara can say that and quote Bernard Fall, who was the most knowledgeable person, who was utterly infuriated and outraged over this assault against South Vietnam, even though he was a hawk, who thought Saigon ought to rule the whole country - you can quote him and not see that that's what he's saying - that reveals a degree of moral blindness, not just in McNamara, but in the whole culture, that surpasses comment.
[..] thoughtful lightness can make frivolity seem dull and heavy.
"Six Memos for the Next Millennium"
A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.
Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book does not shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, also write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe.
Letter to Oskar Pollak, January 27th 1904
Is it only when the flowers are in full bloom and when the moon is shining in spotless perfection that we ought to gaze at them?
The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
Just as love is an orientation which refers to all objects and is incompatible with the restriction to one object, so is reason a human faculty which must embrace the whole of the world with which man is confronted.
There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up:
They shook, they stared as white's their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
- I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.
People are going to shit all over your parade sometimes, and sometimes they’re going to be right. The solution is to not go planning parades through streets somebody else paved without asking them for directions.
All this death, you don't think it ripples out? You don't even know what the fuck I'm talking about. I was a few years ahead of you at Edmondson, but I know you remember the neighborhood, how it was. We had some bad boys, for real. Wasn't about guns so much as knowing what to do with your hands. Those boys could really rack. My father had me on the straight, but like any young man, I wanted to be hard too, so I'd turn up at all the house parties where the tough boys hung. Shit, they knew I wasn't one of them. Them hard cases would come up to me and say, "Go home, schoolboy, you don't belong here." Didn't realize at the time what they were doing for me. As rough as that neighborhood could be, we had us a community. Nobody, no victim, who didn't matter. And now all we got is bodies, and predatory motherfuckers like you.
"The Wire"
When it gets down to having to use violence, then you're playing the system's game. The establishment will irritate you - pull your beard, flick your face - to make you fight. Because once they've got you violent, then they know how to handle you.
I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.

I aim with my eye.

I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.

I shoot with my mind.

I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.

I kill with my heart.
"The Gunslinger"
Programming is one of the most exciting, flow-inducing, mentally stimulating, mathematically and logically enlightening, rewarding activities I do. Programming is one of the most mind-numbing, soul-sucking, procrastination-inducing, lonely, repetitive, mentally exhausting activities I do.
Strikingly, no concern was voiced over the glaringly obvious fact that no official reason was ever offered for going to war -- no reason, that is, that could not be instantly refuted by a literate teenager.
Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Wisdom is glorious, and never fadeth away: yea, she is easily seen of them that love her, and found of such as seek her.
Book of Wisdom, 6:12
The last few evenings I've coded a CMS so I can write some coding articles when the fancy strikes me.
Why can't we state what we mean, what we think, what we're uncertain about, what questions we'd like to discuss in order to foster discussion instead of provoking it. Playing devil's advocate is fine when it's understood what's going on and why you're playing devil's advocate, but when there's ambiguity you play this game of "yes I said that I didn't mean it though" which ends up sounding weak as it does in those case. Devil's advocate is a great cognitive strategy for exploring an issue together, but it's a very poor conversational strategy.
Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it's from Neptune.
Shitting on a canvas and calling it experimental so it will mean something gives us some nice information about people, but no useful information about art.
There are thousands upon thousands of students who have practiced meditation and obtained its fruits. Do not doubt its possibilities because of the simplicity of the method. If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?