Harari’s recent Homo deus plays with predictions of the collapse of the barrier between animals and machines, What is one to think? Another form of cartesianism? Will biochemical processes take second seat to big data that have been submitted to new barrages of algorithms? Will liberal humanism and its granting of a special privilege to human capacities, desires, and needs, become parochial or even go extinct? It is easy to see the dark side of a three-century old enlightenment and show how its belief in the power of reason—a large river or rather eddies—may have excused if not helped bring about the rise of communism and marxism. Harari is not really making serious, weighted arguments. He is writing for a general reader who is wont to toss large ideas on complicated topics that are not amenable to univocal answers. The takes on parenthetical topics like obesity or sugar—a grave danger—mean that I can safely leave the book aside. And more important, the para-scientificity seems to be a simplistic cover for the acceptance of traditional social frameworks and the absence of real political thinking.
It was shocking to read the unambiguous quotations in today’s Charles Blow’s NYT article on the fundamental racism of the modern Republican party. Most striking to me was a quotation of John Ehrlichman’s 1994 interview with Dan Baum regarding the southern strategy in Nixon days and ever since:
The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
The drug “war” was waged for entirely politic reasons. It was meant to disenfranchise black people and by extension poor people, streamline and scare the middle class into stupefied silence, fear or concern, and ensure that the profitable, unjust and unwise decisions in favor of capital and manufacturing be made by the “right,” entrenched political party. The moral or even health concerns that were sometimes expressed were cover in effect for a much nastier goal of maintaining power and ensuring the continued, expansive, extraction of riches from labor and environment in all kinds of way, including health insurance schemes and continuous need for expensive, cruel, wrong-headed, and wasteful wars. Many in the democratic party participate(d). It continues today with Sessions’ and Pruit’s policies as well as the sophisticated redistricting and gerrymandering that “big data” now allows. The present quiet and speedy removal of southern confederacy monuments triggered by the scandals of alt-right demonstrations at Charlottesville and Trump’s bigoted comments is part of a much larger struggle to allow all to reclaim the right of disposal of labor and body in dignity and not have them stolen and vilified by capitalist institutions whose visage (or at least one of its faces) is Trump’s.
You can still call Paul Ryan’s office at 202-225-3500 and express your support for the Affordable Healthcare Act or even better a SINGLE PAYER system. The line works 24/7, including weekends.
There’s a menu of several choices, after a few seconds of silence.
Press 4 to weigh in on the ACA issue. You’ll hear a relatively short verbal blurb about repealing the bill. Leave your message after Ryan’s screed.
Are there limits to desire(s)? Many think it is boundless. By allowing and selling a 24/7 fantasm of presence, our transportation and imaging instrumentation keeps building and increasing our distance from others and ourselves, in a fuite en avant of constantly distantiated objects that makes more poignantly frantic the still-hoped-for possibility of presence. Present-day adults spend about one third of their waking time on digital “distance reducers/maximizers” (my name for all machinery that moves and mobilizes us). Desire then becomes regret and even regression. We are creating a greater distance from objects that we set as projections of selves and that we believe we control via our putative mastery of discourse, instrumentation, ethic norms, and social constructions. Transcendence is “ingraved”—I want to say “enshrined,” “hacked” even—into these projections, yet tends to escape and become something all its own, part of the construction of distance that no one is in charge of. So, our distance from the world increases. If desire has as its main function the union with, or proximity of, a present world—including present as in “giving presents”—, this absence keeps tripping and reshaping desires as unquenchable. Capitalist institutions rely upon this fleeing and deepening distance and absence, including that from oneself, to offer their paying (re)mediations. Kings of ancient times did something similar in increasing a divine distance and power that in turn they re-presented and mediated in temples and altars they kept under the watchful eyes of their palaces.
Paul Ryan’s office is conducting a phone poll about the ACA, apparently hoping to hear overwhelming opposition to it. Here’s how to participate (you don’t have to speak to anyone, it’s all automated):
Call 202-225-3500. The line works 24/7, including weekends.
There’s a menu of several choices, after a few seconds of silence.
Press 2 to weigh in on the ACA issue. You’ll hear a relatively short verbal blurb about repealing the bill.
Press 1 when prompted to SUPPORT continuing the Affordable Healthcare Act.
How are the foreigner and the poor to be treated, according to the Bible? Here are a few texts from the Hebrew Bible and the gospels:
You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself …
The scene of the last judgment in Matthew 25:31-40:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.[ ….] Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
The story of the chasm between Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19–31:
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried….
I end this partial list with the story of the Samaritan in Luke 10. It infinitely expands the command of love of neighbor in Leviticus 19:18 by binding it to the central command of love of the divinity in Deuteronomy 6:4–5. The Samaritan of the story is on Judaean territory. He himself belongs to a reviled group and is in potential danger. When he comes upon the victim on the side of the road, he is the one who comes to the help of that near-dead person. He does not put his own security above everything else as the priest or levite do. Luke 10:25–37:
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’
According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, 8,000 people participated in the walk and rally. I do not know how they came by their number. Police estimate? Here are a few photos from the march today in downtown Santa Cruz.
Today, I walked to the Town Clock, downtown Santa Cruz, to add a soul to those from UCSC and town who live in hope of a better, richer, shareable existence, not in fear of one’s neighbor as our governing kleptocracy would wish us to have it. When I got there a little past noon, there were two or three hundred people gathered around the clock. Some old friends, lots of young people. We were waiting for the UCSC students to join us. All looked full of joy and hope.
I was moved at times. The first was at the sight of the marching UCSC students coming down Water Street. There were many more of them than I anticipated, given the threatening weather and more importantly the insidious separation and individuation that capital, management, and education have long been encouraging.
A second moving moment was to see people sit or kneel on the pavement at the intersection of Front, Water, and Pacific, to listen to the first speaker.
While we were listening, voices of another march approaching from the other end of Water became stronger and stronger. Heads began to turn towards the noise. The whole sitting crowd surged in a large wave as they realized it was school children and their teachers come to join us, before sitting again to listen to the speaker.
After a second speaker spoke briefly, the march started down Pacific Avenue. I joined teacher friends behind their sign, “teachers for thought”. The crowd continued to Laurel and looped back to the Clock via Front. Many people at office windows and doors. Much patience or even expressions of support on the part of many drivers blocked for something like half an hour to an hour. Longish video of marching along Pacific.
Tomorrow, Saturday Jan 21, 2017, a women’s march open to everyone is planned in Santa Cruz to coincide with the Women’s March on Washington, DC. It starts at 1:30pm at Santa Cruz City Hall, continues with a march on Pacific Avenue, leading to the main event at Louden Nelson Center. See Indymedia.
Activities this Friday Jan 20, 2017—also called inauguration day— UC Santa Cruz Students will join students and workers around the country to walk out and take a stand — against Trump, against racism, against misogyny, against terror, against hate, against inequality and exploitation.
TENTATIVE SCHEDULE (from Indymedia Santa Cruz):
— 11:00: March from UCSC (and various schools) to downtown
— 12-1:30: Gather at Clock Tower
— 1:30-2:30: Workshops/teach-ins 1
— 2:30-3:30: Workshops/teach-ins 2
— 3:30-4:00: The Wall on Pacific is knocked down
— 4:00-5:00: Workshops/teach-ins 3
— 5:00: General Assembly to discuss future steps; mobile signups for future neighborhood organizing