28-01-08

Do good things

"Do good things and good things will happen to you."
My name is Earl, US comedy running on channels all over the world.


It should be as simple as that. Maybe it is - I doubt whether anyone has ever really tried. Nature is competition. One cannot argue with that. I certainly will not.
Does that mean we have to take our competition personally? Is there a thing that can be called 'our' competition? In a certain sense the answers are twice 'yes', undoubtedly. I feel the urge to achieve something, you feel it too. What we achieve we need to be able to ascertain as having been achieved or, at a very least, as being achieved. The yardstick, measure or the key performance indicator in my case necessarily involves you. In your case it involves me - you don't need to know me but to (think you) know me definitely helps.
So far so good: those having problems with any a competition have problems with themselves. Competition generally is good fun. It is the type of thing we like to entertain, it's a reality check & a little piece of harmony with nature - it is entertaining, and entertainment is a good thing. Doing good things at least includes competing. Good things happening to you at least includes you being competed against.
But the time has come to say 'but'. Taking something personally requires just one person, namely you (or I, if it is I who takes it personally). I needn't be in the business of ensuring your personal loss to ensure my personal gain or so I at least guess. One of the grand discoveries of neo-Darwinism is that there are many other games to be played than zero sum games. My competition is against my target & if there is to be our competition in any genuine sense of the word, then it is against our target not against you or me as a target (if I or you can avoid being tempted to annihilate each other or, in other words, if I and you refrain from posing an existential threat to each other).
Nature may be competition but nature allows for friendship. In the case of us humans friendship is - psychiatric cases left aside - essential. I could not take anything personal if others did not provide me with the environment in which to develop my personality. Friendship is not opposed to competition, it just is a specifically sublime environment for competition to drive the most wonderful evolution. In the end all of us compete to create a context in which creativity is virtually unrestricted (& entertainment virtually certain). A context in which people do good things knowing that good things wíll happen to them.

Whenever none would be accused of thusly naïvely oversimplifying our world, we will have reached the ultimate state of sweet decadence.


22:52 Gepost door Guido Nius in Algemeen | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: pop culture, friendship, competition |  Facebook |

16-01-08

Will-o'-the-Wisp

"Zo ben ik dan eindelijk de baan eens op met mensen die volkomen verschillen van de volksgenoten met wie ik gedoemd ben al mijn dagen te slijten, (..) die in ieder geval van onze beroemdste medeburgers nooit hebben gehoord en voor wie onze vorsten en heiligen absoluut niet in tel zijn, dus zeer waarschijnlijk mensen naar mijn hart."
Willem Elsschot, Verzameld Werk, Het Dwaallicht, p. 695, P.N. Van Kampen en Zoon N.V., Amsterdam, 1957.

Amateuristic English translation below.


Group identity is making a come-back that would make many retired athletes very jealous indeed. Undoubtedly, getting to a personal identity (an own self & an own personality) requires some substrate of group identity. It requires at least a sufficiently sophisticated language in use by a group of people and I doubt whether a common language suffices. Hence the claim towards all of the diversity & multiculturalism as somehow foundational to human society.

But does this mean that group identity deserves our absolute respect? Does it mean that we have to endorse ethnicities or religions as essentially good, or - at least - as unavoidable evils? I think not: in fact far from it, most group identities are not just superfluous, boring, besides the point or nauseating - most are downright poisonous, specifically those related to peoples, states & Gods. The easiest & most powerful identities that can be created are such as to exclude others & glorify the likeminded. It is not however so that because the exclusionary identities are most proliferated that all group identity needs to be exclusionary.

In an attempt to argue my assertions: first of all, it is not because I need the tool to make the car that the car needs the tool to continue to function &, on the second point above, it is not required to say what something is not to be clear on what that something is. Put more pragmatically, following Habermas, human beings have a positive common trait: the ability to communicate. This identity is enough to maintain a quite universal notion of self & personality - there is no need to call into play ethnocentric or other diversities. The fact, if fact it proves to be, that the actual creation of selves comes out of an actual range of idiosyncratic cultural diversity is not more foundational than the fact that a new generation comes out of idiosyncratic gene diversity. Maybe, this cultural diversity is aesthetically pleasing to some - as biodiversity is to some others - & this seems good enough a reason not to force it out of existence (although the real reason not to do this lies in the fact that we should never force such issues either way), but it is not good enough a reason to make it an essential thing to be protected. 

The sad fact is that group identities are now only being attacked in order to promote the hegemony of another - stronger, purer, more traditional, more authentic, ... -  obnoxious group identity. Believers in diversity and believers in supremacy of a specific group identity agee essentially agree that group identity is both unavoidable & important whereas it is merely coincidental & utterly trivial. This being said, if ever there is a choice on life or death to be made between diversity thinking & supremacy thinking, there should be no soubt whatsoever that it is the former that is to win if we do not want our own selves to perish under group pressure.

The most straightforward thing is not to chase the Will-o'-the-Wisp of group identity & do as Elsschot does (more succinctly as I ever could): find what is similar between what is seemingly unbridgeably diverse. Diversity, relativism & group identity finally will evaporate for the mere reason that it is true that what counts in humanity is universal.

Over time everybody will be able to make the leap of reason.


"So I find myself finally on the road with people that are entirely different from my people with which I'm doomed to spend the rest of my days, (..) people who in any case have never heard of our celebrities and for whom our kings and saints do not count at all, most probably then people to my liking."

22:21 Gepost door Guido Nius in Liefde | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: identity, self, elsschot |  Facebook |

03-01-08

Mort à crédit - désordre

" 'Courtial n'a commis qu'une erreur! Mais elle ètait fondamentale! Il avait pensé que le monde attendait l'esprit pour changer... Le monde a changé... C'est un fait! Mais l'esprit lui n'est pas venu!...' "
"(..) le désordre (..) c'est la belle essence de votre vie même!"
Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Mort à crédit, p. 389-390 & p. 358 resp., Gallimard, 1952.

Amateuristic English translation below.


In attempting a translation I realized I'm far from sure whether I get it. Still, it is a theme that - certainly after a long read of Bergson - is compelling.  Maybe an inclination to well ordered formulae combined with an allergy for the grand & magnificent lead to a fascination for indeterminate chaos, 'désordre'.

"Order!" is a French thing. It's the substrate for the spirit of 'esprit'. Decline in French thought over the past centuries is naught else than a hang-over, from imbibing too much Descartes. The remains from this great thought experiment are restricted to spirituality. The French language itself - & with it the Romanic lanaguages - is quickly becoming a study object, an antique. Evolutions are, & in many cases by explicit authorities, blocked from occurring and the language is increasingly sterile, essentially binary and dominantly dualistic.

Only great writers overcome this, Céline may be as 'wrong' as a writer can be but he succeeded in overcoming this. Surely, most of the Romanic writers rely on the fact that the world is waiting for 'l'esprit' of their language to convey in a clear way how things spiritual are to be ordered. Obviously, an increasingly Germanic - or, more approximately, Anglo-Saxon or, more to the point, English  - world is not waiting for that. Adam Smith, Charles Darwin wrote in English & the root of all living philosophical enquiry is mostly in German.

How did I get to a long - maybe even longwinded - & largely unsubstantiated rant on the character of languages? Partly because of my difficulty in the little translation attempt below but mainly, I guess, to convey as forcefully as I can - and therefore obliquely & indirectly - that, whilst the spirit-part of traditional dualisms is the more sterile, it is the well ordered body-part which is the root of the issue. One is restricted in attempts to directly convey this thought to a long sentence referring to both parts. Restricted because otherwise damned to be understood in line with popular wishy-washy New Age "analysis".

Ultimately what is at stake is scientific as well as technological optimism which is as scientifically ungrounded as the crudest animist religion. There's thought to be put in something more original, something bigger than the orders we've been creating so successfully. Hard mundane thought on body and mind - not grand sublime thought on destinies and deliverance. 'What we are' is in need of discovery still. I have no doubt that further discovery is possible, that it will be a 'good' thing if only because it will allow us to deal non-dogmatically, non- question-beggingly & non-mysteriously with 'good'. Dunno how though - that would somehow spoil the fun.

In closing, the quotes for me come from a tale of friendship. An egotistical but real friendship where something was created by stimulation of imagination. 


" 'Courtial has only made one error! But it was a fundamental one! He thought that the world waited for mind to change ... The world did change ... It's a fact! But mind did not come into it!...' " (note: 'esprit' is a tricky one)
" (..) chaos (..) is simply the essential feature of even your own life!" (note: 'désordre' is a tricky one)


For those interested, whilst writing this I was listening to "Messiah" of Georg Frideric Handel, by The English Concert & Choir, Archiv Produktion 1988.

13:50 Gepost door Guido Nius in Liefde | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: friendship, celine, decadence, scientism |  Facebook |