robertogreco + counterculture   36

Cybergothic Acid Communism Now • Commune
"To the barricades, through the looking glass.

Once upon a time, way back in 2010, having just read his brilliant book Capitalist Realism, I went to see Mark Fisher speak. I walked in late and he was in the midst of denouncing the one-day strike as a pantomime, a meaningless echo of uprising. (He was right, as he was about so many things.) He moved through the financial crisis, to the soulless thing that neoliberalism had made of the university, to a demand to repoliticize mental health. I sat enthralled, too nervous to go say hello afterward. I wish I had.

Fisher died in 2017, leaving anyone who had read him bereft. I find myself, while reading and rereading, wondering what he would have thought of The Favourite or the new Robyn album; longing for his caustic words on the meltdown of the Theresa May government; wishing he had been here to tear “hopepunk” to shreds; wondering too what he would have made of AOC.

The new k-punk collection, all 824 pages of it, is out now from Repeater Books, gathering a decade and a half of Fisher’s writings on pop culture, politics, and theory. It contains everything from blog comment policies to the unfinished introduction to what would have been his next book. Even a quick skim will remind you that Fisher was a much more audacious, nuanced, and flat-out weird writer and thinker than almost anyone the left can claim these days.

Trying to do justice to a now-gone writer who regularly blew your mind is an impossible task, and yet someone who so regularly took aim at sacred cows — starting a piece with “Orwell is wrong about everything, but especially 1984” — should not become one himself. It’s hard to imagine him having any patience with such treatment, anyway. The combination of humility and raw confidence with which he wrote would prevent, I hope, any enjoyment of sainthood.

The only way to treat him right is to read him with the same eye for ruthless critique that he always brought. The same vitality that makes it impossible to imagine him gone courses through this book, whether he’s writing about the calcification of Glastonbury, the bloodless corpse of New Labour, or the privatization of stress. His long posts often come to abrupt ends; there is no wind-down, everything is full-tilt and then crashes to a halt, winded and satisfied with itself (but never smug, no, Fisher always had the bone-deep understanding that smugness is counterrevolutionary).

Fisher is closest in style to Ellen Willis. Like her, he is a brilliant pop-culture critic as well as political observer and actor whose politics were mostly knife-sharp, but capable like all of us of an odd conservative turn. His insistence on popular media as a terrain of struggle is too rare within a new left struggling for direction; Fisher more than anyone understood that the material conditions that drained the vitality from pop music and art and even TV were the same ones that had sucked the life out of the working class. Instead of the innovation that neoliberalism promised us, we’ve just gotten recycled versions of things we’ve seen a million times before, and all of it under the pretense of anti-elitism, of “giving the people what they want.”

Fisher had no patience for this kind of faux-populist tailing. He had a faith in the creativity of the working class that demanded better for and from it. Change — revolution — would not come from pandering but from the masses understanding their own power in all senses. “[T]here’s nothing ‘elitist’ about assuming intelligence on the part of an audience,” he insisted, returning over and over to a defense of a kind of leftist paternalism. (Paternalism, he knew, was the wrong word, but he didn’t quite land on a better one). “It is about having a wager that there is maybe a desire for the strange in people,” he wrote. “People don’t already know what they want and . . . the things which they really end up most valuing may be things which surprise them.”

Whatever we might call such a position, it’s one Fisher performed well. His love for a song or a film that sparks a feeling is contagious. Within a few pages of beginning the music section in the collection I was pulling up bands I’d forgotten or never known to soundtrack my reading. His hatreds — for Alan Moore, say — are not based in some High Culture snobbery but in a frustration with the mistaking of grimness, perhaps, or some other half-evoked emotion, for depth.

In goth, Fisher saw a subculture that could “teach us that egalitarianism is not hostile to, but relies upon, a will-to-greatness, an unconditional demand for the excellent.” The weirdness of Siouxsie Sioux and other such “painted birds” became, in Fisher’s hands, a feminist desire for bursting the confines of biological reproduction, to speed the destruction of a banal, boring world. It was no accident, he pointed out, that Marx himself was drawn to gothic metaphors for capital: “the living flesh it converts into dead labour is ours, and the zombies it makes are us.”

Derrida’s “hauntology” threads through his work, a curious recapturing of a concept developed as part of an extended critique of Marx. In Fisher’s hands it bears the idea of a lost future, of a mourning for a thing that could have been. It’s fitting in a way for his readers now to be haunted by the things he’ll never write. His blog posts still have an immediacy to them, a tang that we’ve largely lost with the rise of the clickbait-fueled “thinkpiece.” Far be it from me of all people to argue that unpaid blogging led to better writing — this is the opposite of what Fisher himself said, insisting that having some security would allow us to produce better — but the shittiness of most of the hot-take era’s writing feels stark when reading a k-punk post on the page. It makes me long for a world where writing could be a form of play. Instead, the lazy bourgeois art that Fisher so despised has only spread; it deserves the tactical nuke he wanted to send down on Glastonbury.

Capitalist Realism exists as a tight little bomb of a book that no one really has any excuse not to read. But in case anyone hasn’t, the concept threads through the k-punk collection; the idea that we live under the shadow of “there is no alternative,” unable to imagine a better way to organize society, let alone to struggle for one. Such “realism,” Fisher explained, was deeply unreal, particularly as we all live in the shadow of climate catastrophe; the tsk-tsking of the centrist ruling class is death drive posing as maturity, and the power of capitalist realism an expression of class decomposition, the fading of class consciousness. Peering through this gloom, Fisher nonetheless glimpsed some endings. After 2008, he wrote, “Neoliberalism is finished as a project, even if it lurches on, thrashing around like a decorticated terminator.”

We might now be able to imagine the death of capitalism, yet one problem of capitalist realism remains: our inability to imagine what comes next. Instead, the left too often gropes for the past, a trend Fisher despised. He insisted that “we must have the courage not to be nostalgic for this lost Fordist world of boring factory work and a labour movement dominated by male industrial workers.” Even communist nostalgia was impossible: “our desire is for the future.” Following Stuart Hall, he pointed out that the left and the labor movement had been too slow to grasp workers’ desire for something better than forty years of forty-hour weeks on the assembly line. The Thatcherites and their ilk had seized the moment to paint their reorganization of the economy as liberation while too many leftists sung (and still sing) paeans to the factory floor. The urgent need now is for a working-class politics that doesn’t love work.

This is where, I suppose, the Vampire’s Castle comes in. Like everything Fisher wrote, his oft-cited “Exiting the Vampire’s Castle” goes hard, but unlike most of what he wrote, the slippage it makes between the nastiness of Twitter pile-ons and the problems of liberal identity politics does his criticism of either issue no favors. Everyone, as Fisher himself pointed out, “has chauvinistic potentials of one kind or another,” yet in the Vampire’s Castle — his name for the social media war of position often conducted via hyperbolic outrage and exhausting, disingenuous engagement — he assumes that only “identitarians” turn social media into traps constructed from the mutual fear of attack, an assumption immediately disproved with a few clicks on rose-emoji Twitter these days. There is just as much of a hipster’s desire to be part of the in-crowd among today’s new socialists, even if they throw the word “class” around more often.

But even when Fisher is infuriating, he is never dull, which is what makes attempts to claim him for normie social democracy so utterly repellent — said reactionary turn in socialist “thought” these days is above all else boring. Though Fisher wrote of the “the luxury of feeling bored” and its potential for sparking new ideas, he insisted upon respect for the intellectual capacities of the working class, insisted that “anti-intellectualism is a ruling-class reflex.” Yet those who see in the Vampire’s Castle a club to whack so-called “identitarians,” or simply anyone to their left, often wind up claiming precisely the opposite: that working-class people are too stupid to be challenged or to challenge our ideas of race, gender, and the fundamental orderings of the world.

We can find a more generous solution for the slash-and-burn tendencies of the would-be left in Fisher’s writings on mental health — particularly on depression, his own and everyone else’s — and his insistence that the left make political demands around it. The “realism” of depression, which “presents itself as necessary and interminable,” with its “glacial surfaces [that] extend… [more]
markfisher  2019  sarahjaffe  communism  marxism  neoliberalism  counterculture  labor  work  organizing  unions  mentalhealth  socialism  socialdemocracy  democracy  identitarians  socialmedia  politics  policy  culture  society  k-punk  liberation  economics  uk  us  fordism  class  realism  future  imagination  glastonbury  writing  howwewrite  subculture  alanmoore  music  criticism 
july 2019 by robertogreco
San Francisco; or, How to Destroy a City | Public Books
"As New York City and Greater Washington, DC, prepared for the arrival of Amazon’s new secondary headquarters, Torontonians opened a section of their waterfront to Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, which plans to prototype a new neighborhood “from the internet up.” Fervent resistance arose in all three locations, particularly as citizens and even some elected officials discovered that many of the terms of these public-private partnerships were hashed out in closed-door deals, secreted by nondisclosure agreements. Critics raised questions about the generous tax incentives and other subsidies granted to these multibillion-dollar corporations, their plans for data privacy and digital governance, what kind of jobs they’d create and housing they’d provide, and how their arrival could impact local infrastructures, economies, and cultures. While such questioning led Amazon to cancel their plans for Long Island City in mid-February, other initiatives press forward. What does it mean when Silicon Valley—a geographic region that’s become shorthand for an integrated ideology and management style usually equated with libertarian techno-utopianism—serves as landlord, utility provider, urban developer, (unelected) city official, and employer, all rolled into one?1

We can look to Alphabet’s and Amazon’s home cities for clues. Both the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle have been dramatically remade by their local tech powerhouses: Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle; and Google, Facebook, and Apple (along with countless other firms) around the Bay. As Jennifer Light, Louise Mozingo, Margaret O’Mara, and Fred Turner have demonstrated, technology companies have been reprogramming urban and suburban landscapes for decades.2 And “company towns” have long sprung up around mills, mines, and factories.3 But over the past few years, as development has boomed and income inequality has dramatically increased in the Bay Area, we’ve witnessed the arrival of several new books reflecting on the region’s transformation.

These titles, while focusing on the Bay, offer lessons to New York, DC, Toronto, and the countless other cities around the globe hoping to spur growth and economic development by hosting and ingesting tech—by fostering the growth of technology companies, boosting STEM education, and integrating new sensors and screens into their streetscapes and city halls. For years, other municipalities, fashioning themselves as “the Silicon Valley of [elsewhere],” have sought to reverse-engineer the Bay’s blueprint for success. As we’ll see, that blueprint, drafted to optimize the habits and habitats of a privileged few, commonly elides the material needs of marginalized populations and fragile ecosystems. It prioritizes efficiency and growth over the maintenance of community and the messiness of public life. Yet perhaps we can still redraw those plans, modeling cities that aren’t only made by powerbrokers, and that thrive when they prioritize the stewardship of civic resources over the relentless pursuit of innovation and growth."



"We must also recognize the ferment and diversity inherent in Bay Area urban historiography, even in the chronicles of its large-scale development projects. Isenberg reminds us that even within the institutions and companies responsible for redevelopment, which are often vilified for exacerbating urban ills, we find pockets of heterogeneity and progressivism. Isenberg seeks to supplement the dominant East Coast narratives, which tend to frame urban renewal as a battle between development and preservation.

In surveying a variety of Bay Area projects, from Ghirardelli Square to The Sea Ranch to the Transamerica Pyramid, Isenberg shifts our attention from star architects and planners to less prominent, but no less important, contributors in allied design fields: architectural illustration, model-making, publicity, journalism, property management, retail planning, the arts, and activism. “People who are elsewhere peripheral and invisible in the history of urban design are,” in her book, “networked through the center”; they play critical roles in shaping not only the urban landscape, but also the discourses and processes through which that landscape takes shape.

For instance, debates over public art in Ghirardelli Square—particularly Ruth Asawa’s mermaid sculpture, which featured breastfeeding lesbian mermaids—“provoked debates about gender, sexuality, and the role of urban open space in San Francisco.” Property manager Caree Rose, who worked alongside her husband, Stuart, coordinated with designers to master-plan the Square, acknowledging that retail, restaurants, and parking are also vital ingredients of successful public space. Publicist Marion Conrad and graphic designer Bobbie Stauffacher were key members of many San Francisco design teams, including that for The Sea Ranch community, in Sonoma County. Illustrators and model-makers, many of them women, created objects that mediated design concepts for clients and typically sat at the center of public debates.

These creative collaborators “had the capacity to swing urban design decisions, structure competition for land, and generally set in motion the fate of neighborhoods.” We see the rhetorical power of diverse visualization strategies reflected across these four books, too: Solnit’s offers dozens of photographs, by Susan Schwartzenberg—of renovations, construction sites, protests, dot-com workplaces, SRO hotels, artists’ studios—while Walker’s dense text is supplemented with charts, graphs, and clinical maps. McClelland’s book, with its relatively large typeface and extra-wide leading, makes space for his interviewees’ words to resonate, while Isenberg generously illustrates her pages with archival photos, plans, and design renderings, many reproduced in evocative technicolor.

By decentering the star designer and master planner, Isenberg reframes urban (re)development as a collaborative enterprise involving participants with diverse identities, skills, and values. And in elevating the work of “allied” practitioners, Isenberg also aims to shift the focus from design to land: public awareness of land ownership and commitment to responsible public land stewardship. She introduces us to several mid-century alternative publications—weekly newspapers, Black periodicals, activists’ manuals, and books that never made it to the best-seller list … or never even made it to press—that advocated for a focus on land ownership and politics. Yet the discursive power of Jacobs and Caro, which framed the debate in terms of urban development vs. preservation, pushed these other texts off the shelf—and, along with them, the “moral questions of land stewardship” they highlighted.

These alternative tales and supporting casts serve as reminders that the modern city need not succumb to Haussmannization or Moses-ification or, now, Googlization. Mid-century urban development wasn’t necessarily the monolithic, patriarchal, hegemonic force we imagined it to be—a realization that should steel us to expect more and better of our contemporary city-building projects. Today, New York, Washington, DC, and Toronto—and other cities around the world—are being reshaped not only by architects, planners, and municipal administrators, but also by technologists, programmers, data scientists, “user experience” experts and logistics engineers. These are urbanism’s new “allied” professions, and their work deals not only with land and buildings, but also, increasingly, with data and algorithms.

Some critics have argued that the real reason behind Amazon’s nationwide HQ2 search was to gather data from hundreds of cities—both quantitative and qualitative data that “could guide it in its expansion of the physical footprint, in the kinds of services it rolls out next, and in future negotiations and lobbying with states and municipalities.”5 This “trove of information” could ultimately be much more valuable than all those tax incentives and grants. If this is the future of urban development, our city officials and citizens must attend to the ownership and stewardship not only of their public land, but also of their public data. The mismanagement of either could—to paraphrase our four books’ titles—elongate the dark shadows cast by growing inequality, abet the siege of exploitation and displacement, “hollow out” our already homogenizing neighborhoods, and expedite the departure of an already “gone” city.

As Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti muses in his “Pictures of the Gone World 11,” which inspired Walker’s title: “The world is a beautiful place / to be born into / if you don’t mind some people dying / all the time / or maybe only starving / some of the time / which isn’t half so bad / if it isn’t you.” This is precisely the sort of solipsism and stratification that tech-libertarianism and capitalist development promotes—and that responsible planning, design, and public stewardship must prevent."
cities  shannonmattern  2019  sanfrancisco  siliconvalley  nyc  washingtondc  seattle  amazon  google  apple  facebook  technology  inequality  governance  libertarianism  urban  urbanism  microsoft  jenniferlight  louisemozingo  margareto'mara  fredturner  efficiency  growth  marginalization  publicgood  civics  innovation  rebeccasolnit  gentrification  privatization  homogenization  susanschwartzenberg  carymcclelland  economics  policy  politics  richardwalker  bayarea  lisonisenberg  janejacobs  robertmoses  diversity  society  inclusivity  inclusion  exclusion  counterculture  cybercultue  culture  progressive  progressivism  wealth  corporatism  labor  alexkaufman  imperialism  colonization  californianideology  california  neoliberalism  privacy  technosolutionism  urbanization  socialjustice  environment  history  historiography  redevelopment  urbanplanning  design  activism  landscape  ruthasawa  gender  sexuality  openspace  publicspace  searanch  toronto  larenceferlinghetti  susanschartzenberg  bobbiestauffacher  careerose  stuartrose  ghirardellisqure  marionconrad  illustration  a 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Bay Area Disrupted: Fred Turner on Vimeo
"Interview with Fred Turner in his office at Stanford University.

http://bayareadisrupted.com/

https://fredturner.stanford.edu

Graphics: Magda Tu
Editing: Michael Krömer
Concept: Andreas Bick"
fredturner  counterculture  california  opensource  bayarea  google  softare  web  internet  history  sanfrancisco  anarchism  siliconvalley  creativity  freedom  individualism  libertarianism  2014  social  sociability  governance  myth  government  infrastructure  research  online  burningman  culture  style  ideology  philosophy  apolitical  individuality  apple  facebook  startups  precarity  informal  bureaucracy  prejudice  1960s  1970s  bias  racism  classism  exclusion  inclusivity  inclusion  communes  hippies  charism  cultofpersonality  whiteness  youth  ageism  inequality  poverty  technology  sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  capitalism  economics  neoliberalism  henryford  ford  empowerment  virtue  us  labor  ork  disruption  responsibility  citizenship  purpose  extraction  egalitarianism  society  edtech  military  1940s  1950s  collaboration  sharedconsciousness  lsd  music  computers  computing  utopia  tools  techculture  location  stanford  sociology  manufacturing  values  socialchange  communalism  technosolutionism  business  entrepreneurship  open  liberalism  commons  peerproduction  product 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Why Americans see Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion — Quartz
"But American secular Buddhism has also produced some unintended consequences. Suzuki’s writings greatly influenced Jack Kerouac, the popular Beat Generation author of On the Road and The Dharma Bums. But Suzuki regarded Kerouac as a “monstrous imposter” because he sought only the freedom of Buddhist awakening without the discipline of practice.

Other Beat poets, hippies and, later, New Age DIY self-helpers have also paradoxically mistaken Buddhism for a kind of self-indulgent narcissism, despite its teachings of selflessness and compassion. Still others have commercially exploited its exotic appeal to sell everything from “Zen tea” to “Lucky Buddha Beer,” which is particularly ironic given Buddhism’s traditional proscription against alcohol and other intoxicants.

As a result, the popular construction of nonreligious Buddhism has contributed much to the contemporary “spiritual but not religious” phenomenon, as well as to the secularized and commodified mindfulness movement in America.

We may have only transplanted a fraction of the larger bodhi tree of religious Buddhism in America, but our cutting has adapted and taken root in our secular, scientific, and highly commercialized age. For better and for worse, it’s Buddhism, American-style."
buddhism  us  counterculture  philosophy  doctrine  2018  sokauniversityofamerica  mindfulness  secularism  religion  beatgeneration  jackkerouac  zen  zenbuddhism  daisetsuteitarosuzuki  thichnhathanh  shakusōen  anagārikadharmapāla  paulvcarus  ernestfenellosa  williamsturgisbigelow  henrydavidthoreau  ralphwaldoemerson  soka  sua 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Take your time: the seven pillars of a Slow Thought manifesto | Aeon Essays
"In championing ‘slowness in human relations’, the Slow Movement appears conservative, while constructively calling for valuing local cultures, whether in food and agriculture, or in preserving slower, more biological rhythms against the ever-faster, digital and mechanically measured pace of the technocratic society that Neil Postman in 1992 called technopoly, where ‘the rate of change increases’ and technology reigns. Yet, it is preservative rather than conservative, acting as a foil against predatory multinationals in the food industry that undermine local artisans of culture, from agriculture to architecture. In its fidelity to our basic needs, above all ‘the need to belong’ locally, the Slow Movement founds a kind of contemporary commune in each locale – a convivium – responding to its time and place, while spreading organically as communities assert their particular needs for belonging and continuity against the onslaught of faceless government bureaucracy and multinational interests.

In the tradition of the Slow Movement, I hereby declare my manifesto for ‘Slow Thought’. This is the first step toward a psychiatry of the event, based on the French philosopher Alain Badiou’s central notion of the event, a new foundation for ontology – how we think of being or existence. An event is an unpredictable break in our everyday worlds that opens new possibilities. The three conditions for an event are: that something happens to us (by pure accident, no destiny, no determinism), that we name what happens, and that we remain faithful to it. In Badiou’s philosophy, we become subjects through the event. By naming it and maintaining fidelity to the event, the subject emerges as a subject to its truth. ‘Being there,’ as traditional phenomenology would have it, is not enough. My proposal for ‘evental psychiatry’ will describe both how we get stuck in our everyday worlds, and what makes change and new things possible for us."

"1. Slow Thought is marked by peripatetic Socratic walks, the face-to-face encounter of Levinas, and Bakhtin’s dialogic conversations"

"2. Slow Thought creates its own time and place"

"3. Slow Thought has no other object than itself"

"4. Slow Thought is porous"

"5. Slow Thought is playful"

"6. Slow Thought is a counter-method, rather than a method, for thinking as it relaxes, releases and liberates thought from its constraints and the trauma of tradition"

"7. Slow Thought is deliberate"
slow  slowthought  2018  life  philosophy  alainbadiou  neilpostman  time  place  conservation  preservation  guttormfløistad  cittaslow  carlopetrini  cities  food  history  urban  urbanism  mikhailbakhti  walking  emmanuellevinas  solviturambulando  walterbenjamin  play  playfulness  homoludens  johanhuizinga  milankundera  resistance  counterculture  culture  society  relaxation  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  psychology  eichardrorty  wittgenstein  socrates  nietzsche  jacquesderrida  vincenzodinicola  joelelkes  giorgioagamben  garcíamárquez  michelfoucault  foucault  asjalacis  porosity  reflection  conviction  laurencesterne  johnmilton  edmundhusserl  jacqueslacan  dispacement  deferral  delay  possibility  anti-philosophy 
march 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 52. John Michael Greer in “The Polymath” // Druidry, Storytelling & the History of the Occult
"The best beard in occultism, John Michael Greer, is in the house. We’re talking “The Occult Book”, a collection of 100 of the most important stories and anecdotes from the history of the occult in western society. We also touch on the subject of storytelling as well as some other recent material from John, including his book “The Coelbren Alphabet: The Forgotten Oracle of the Welsh Bards” and his translation of a neat little number called “Academy of the Sword”."



"What you contemplate [too much] you imitate." [Uses the example of atheists contemplating religious fundamentalists and how the atheists begin acting like them.] "People always become what they hate. That’s why it's not good idea to wallow in hate."
2017  johnmichaelgreer  druidry  craft  druids  polymaths  autodidacts  learning  occulture  occult  ryanpeverly  celts  druidrevival  history  spirituality  thedivine  nature  belief  dogma  animism  practice  life  living  myths  mythology  stories  storytelling  wisdom  writing  howwewrite  editing  writersblock  criticism  writer'sblock  self-criticism  creativity  schools  schooling  television  tv  coelbrenalphabet  1980s  ronaldreagan  sustainability  environment  us  politics  lies  margaretthatcher  oraltradition  books  reading  howweread  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  facetime  social  socializing  cardgames  humans  human  humanism  work  labor  boredom  economics  society  suffering  misery  trapped  progress  socialmedia  computing  smarthphones  bullshitjobs  shinto  talismans  amulets  sex  christianity  religion  atheism  scientism  mainstream  counterculture  magic  materialism  enlightenment  delusion  judgement  contemplation  imitation  fundamentalism  hate  knowledge 
february 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 67. Carl Abrahamsson & Mitch Horowitz in “Occulture (Meta)” // Anton LaVey, Real Magic & the Nature of the Mind
"Look, I’m not gonna lie to you - we have a pretty badass show this time around. Carl Abrahamsson and Mitch Horowitz are in the house.

Carl Abrahamsson is a Swedish freelance writer, lecturer, filmmaker and photographer specializing in material about the arts & entertainment, esoteric history and occulture. Carl is the author of several books, including a forthcoming title from Inner Traditions called Occulture: The Unseen Forces That Drive Culture Forward.

Mitch Horowitz is the author of One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life; Occult America, which received the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence; and Mind As Builder: The Positive-Mind Metaphysics of Edgar Cayce. Mitch has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Salon, Time.com, and Politico. Mitch is currently in the midst of publishing a series of articles on Medium called "Real Magic".

And it is that series paired with Carl’s book that lays the foundation for our conversation here."
carlabrahamsson  mitchhorowitz  occult  culture  occulture  magic  belief  mind  ouijaboard  astrology  mindfulness  buddhism  religion  academia  antonlavey  materialism  mainstream  intellectualism  elitism  mindbodyspirit  2018  esotericism  authority  norms  nuance  change  enlightenment  popculture  science  humanities  socialsciences  medicine  conservatism  churches  newage  cosmology  migration  california  hippies  meaning  psychology  siliconvalley  ingenuity  human  humans  humannature  spirituality  openmindedness  nature  urbanization  urban  nyc  us  society  santería  vodou  voodoo  voudoun  climate  light  davidlynch  innovation  population  environment  meaningmaking  mikenesmith  californianideology  thought  thinking  philosophy  hoodoo  blackmetal  norway  beauty  survival  wholeperson  churchofsatan  satanism  agency  ambition  mysticism  self  stories  storytelling  mythology  humanism  beinghuman  surrealism  cv  repetition  radicalism  myths  history  renaissance  fiction  fantasy  reenchantment  counterculture  consciousness  highered  highereducation  cynicism  inquiry  realitytele 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Phantom Public | Dissent Magazine
"Today you don’t have to be a card-carrying McLuhanite to believe that forms of media have their own inherent politics. Many academics and pundits have built their reputations arguing that the rise of the internet leads to the decentralization and democratization of communication, and of social life more broadly. While some contemporary critics have challenged this sort of “technological determinism,” the proposition that new media is irrelevant to understanding politics is equally problematic. We need more historically informed analyses of the way power operates in an era of digital networks and electronic media, and more pointed critiques of the ways the powerful purposefully obscure their influence over and through these channels.

The work of Stanford historian Fred Turner is a good place to start. As he explains in his fascinating and illuminating 2013 book The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic Sixties, McLuhan’s apparently pioneering thinking on media owes a large and largely forgotten debt to an earlier group of anti-fascist campaigners and well-meaning Cold Warriors. They were the first to articulate a vision of a media-driven democracy that, though never perfectly implemented, has suffused much of today’s popular thinking about the internet and social media."



"Was another world possible? It is clear that part of the reason that Turner wrote The Democratic Surround was to remind us of good ideas that have been abandoned and alternative paths not taken. As he writes in the book’s introduction, “What has disappeared is the deeply democratic vision that animated the turn toward mediated environments in the first place, and that sustained it across the 1950s and into the 1960s.” It is this “radically liberal, diverse, and egalitarian” vision that Turner wishes to recover through his research; he hopes that “with a new generation’s efforts, it might yet live there again.” It sounds desirable enough. Yet for such ideals to be revived we have to better understand the way their absence adversely affects us, and that’s something Turner never clearly articulates.

For Turner a pivotal rift occurred in the 1960s, when the politically oriented New Left and the free-spirited counterculture parted ways. In tracing the roots of the “Be-Ins” and “Happenings” to the democratic surrounds of preceding decades, Turner highlights the shortcomings of the former, making the case that some critical democratic potential got lost. The multimedia experimentation of the period—and the counterculture more broadly, in Turner’s view—promoted the personal psyche as the proper terrain of social change; collective responsibility, effective organization, and direct action got the shaft. No doubt Turner is right that our political ambitions have become contracted and privatized, but placing so much blame at the feet of the counterculture seems both overstated and oversimplified when you consider the larger economic and social forces involved. The countercultural mindset Turner laments was more a symptom of neoliberalism’s ascension than its cause.

Of course the counterculture is hardly the only realm of diminished utopian horizons. In 1946 and 1949 Norbert Wiener wrote two agonized letters on the politics of technology. The first, published in the Atlantic Monthly under the title “A Scientist Rebels,” was a response to an employee of the Boeing Aircraft Company who had requested a copy of an out-of-print article. Though he conducted military research during the Second World War, Wiener refused to share his paper, deploring the “tragic insolence of the military mind” and the “bombing or poisoning of defenseless peoples” to which his scientific ideas might contribute. The second was an unsolicited warning about advances in automation to Walter Reuther of the Union of Automobile Workers, declaring that he had “turned down unconditionally” invitations to consult for corporations. “I do not wish to contribute in any way to selling labor down the river,” he wrote.

Wiener agonized over the role of science in a world warped by power imbalances, particularly economic ones. And he chose sides. In our own age, it is imperative that more people take similar stands. Turner suggests that if enough people do—and if they come together and advocate for their beliefs by building associations and institutions—they may have more of an impact in the long term than they could ever imagine at the outset. But this comes with a warning: their efforts might lead us to a situation they could neither anticipate nor comprehend. “Were the world we dream of attained, members of that new world would be so different from ourselves that they would no longer value it in the same terms in which we now desire it,” Margaret Mead says in an epigraph that begins The Democratic Surround. “We would no longer be at home in such a world.” Those of us who live within the surround and under the managerial mode of control, and who hope to change it, can only welcome the possibility of one day finding ourselves discomfited and cast out from the world we call home."
2016  astrataylor  cybernetics  marshalmcluhan  history  internet  web  online  media  counterculture  norbertweiner  thesaltsummaries  stevenpinker  clayshirky  francisfukuyama  chrisanderson  nassimtaleb  niallferguson  fredturner  theodoradorno  stewartbrand  wholeearthcatalog  well  kenkesey 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Aesthetic Radicalism and the Counterculture — Magazine — Walker Art Center
"The counterculture was too preoccupied inventing a new world of cultural experiences and social rituals—acid rock music; guerrilla or street theater; anarchic literature; Eastern-infused spirituality; freestyle dancing, 'de-schooling' and the free university; androgynous fashion and hairstyles, including flying the long hair of one’s 'freak flag'; gatherings of campus protests, be-ins and sit-ins, and communal living, etc.—to be concerned about a separate category called art. To the hippie, life was art and art was life. At the time, it was referred to as 'life-style.' Long before the word lifestyle became synonymous with aspirational marketing and consumer hedonism, it was in fact used to describe what geographers and anthropologists might call a way of life (genre de vie). It is therefore surprising from today’s vantage point to see the word, then typically hyphenated, in contemporaneous accounts being used in a positive or at least neutral way to signify what were, indeed, new and even radical ways of living, thinking, and making."



"In their struggle to create a new social, cultural, political, and ecological utopia, the counterculture expressed its political activism and activated its cultural radicalism in new and imaginative ways. By doing so, it created a new sensibility or aesthetic in the broadest sense. It is this sensibility that I’ve defined as a hippie modernism—an aesthetics of refusal—one that rejects the given parameters of a practice, obviates the boundaries of a defined field, or alters the course of an instrumental technology."
aesthetics  radicalism  andrewblauvelt  counterculture  modernism  hippies  hjorvardurharvardarnason  hippiemodernism  california  history  design  1960s 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Why does Hollywood like dystopian LAs and utopian SFs? - Boing Boing
"Jon sez, "When conjuring up the future, why do writers and filmmakers so often imagine Northern California as an edenic utopia, while Southern California gets turned into a dystopian hellscape? While Hollywood, counterculture, and Mike Davis have each helped to shape and propagate this idea, Kristin Miller traces its roots back to the 1949 George R. Stewart novel Earth Abides. Her essay follows the north/south divide in science fiction films and literature through the decades, and explores how it's continued to evolve. In the accompanying slideshow, Miller photographs stills from sci fi movies filmed in California, held up against their filming locations, from 1970's Forbin Project to 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It shows not just the geographic divide in SF, but also how our futures have evolved, and how movies have the ability to change how we see our surroundings in the present."
Northern California-as-utopia, on the other hand, is strongly linked to the countercultural movement of the sixties, with its guides for technologically advanced back-to-the-land living. One can read Ernest Callenbach’s influential novel Ecotopia (1975) as the possible future seeded by Whole Earth Catalog. Ecotopia is a fictional “field study” of a future Pacific Northwest society that has split from an apocalyptic United States and is governed according to ecological principles. While much technology has been abandoned, the Ecotopians have selectively retained public transit, electric cars, networked computers, and improved recycling (Callenbach was a longtime resident of Berkeley). Ecotopia‘s themes were later picked up and elaborated in the eco-feminist tales of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home (1985), a cultural anthropology of latter-day Napa Valley-ites who have returned to indigenous ways; Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing (1993) about a pagan, nonviolent San Francisco threatened by southern biological warfare; and Octavia Butler’s Parable books (1993, 1998) where refugees from the LA wasteland grow a new eco-religion, Earthseed, in the forests of Mendocino.
"

[See also: http://www.boomcalifornia.com/2014/02/postcards-from-the-future/ ]
hollywood  mikedavis  california  dystopia  utopia  sciencefiction  scifi  sanfrancisco  losangeles  2015  kristinmiller  ecotopia  ursulaleguin  cascasia  pacificnorthwest  wholeearthcatalog  counterculture  erneestcallenbach  starhawk  octaviabutler  earthseed  georgerstewart 
march 2015 by robertogreco
we live in the dark - Meta: Snowpiercer
[See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm9qKj1Q_OU
and http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/a-snowpiercer-thinkpiece-not-to-be-taken-too-seriously-but-for-very-serious-reasons-or-the-worst-revenge-is-a-living-will/
and everything within.]

"It’s hard to know if Gilliam did conspire with Wilford to bring about Curtis’s revolution; if Gilliam intended the revolution to fail but changed his mind after the Water Section, if he always intended Curtis to take Wilford’s place; or if all that was Wilford’s lie—Gilliam warned Curtis, don’t let Wilford talk, cut out his tongue. Wilford’s knowledge of their conversation about having two arms strongly suggests that Gilliam conspired with Wilford.

But the ambiguity is the point: within capitalism you’re never certain that any “resistance” hasn’t already been co-opted and repurposed and undermined by the system you’re trying to escape.

When Curtis reaches the Front Section he falls to his knees before the Engine, overwhelmed and awed and horrified—the same quasi-religious fervour shown by Wilford and Mason. It’s reminiscent of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, when the journey up river culminates in a view of the unseen tyrannical figurehead, an awesome and shameful creature. Curtis is the train; is the system; is Wilford’s natural & inevitable successor, the white-man heir to his throne. The man who can ensure the system’s survival and oversee the next generation of subjugated souls. Edgar inadvertently predicts this at the very beginning:
"What I mean is he’s gonna die someday. And when that happens you’re gonna have to take over. You’re going to have to run the train […] I think you’d be pretty good, if you ask me."

Curtis’s revolution serves the system it threatens—helps to fulfil the killing quotas to keep the population down. Keeps the fishtank in equilibrium.

By sacrificing his arm to stop the train and free Timmy, Curtis begins to make amends for his crimes seventeen years ago. But he’s only ever half-redeemed. He can’t ever escape, and his violence will always be reabsorbed back into the social order, drained of all its subversive power.

Most crucially, Curtis doesn’t believe in life outside the train; that survival is possible, that the result would be anything but death and annihilation. He can only imagine the train. The irony of the word “revolution” is that it describes a circle, like the endless turning of the Sacred Engine—round and round and round, forever. That would be the legacy of Curtis’s revolution—if it weren’t for Nam.

CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION

"Fundamentally, Snowpiercer is a film about parents and children, the legacies of generations. Parents should strive to leave their children the best possible world; but today’s children inherit the ideologies and inequalities and injustices of morally bankrupt predecessors. They inherit a world threatened by global warming and environmental collapse, thanks to the rapacious plunderings of capitalism.

Worse, children are taught to adore that monstrous world. Perhaps the most disturbing sequence in Snowpiercer takes place in the school car, a grotesque hypersaturated parody of a classroom environment.

You see the next generation of Front Section children taught to worship the Engine and its messianic Conductor, immunised to the violence and horror that system wreaks [in the first shot of the classroom all the children are faceless; dehumanised, as though not real children at all].

And the hand gestures they make in reverence to the Engine are the same gestures made by Tail Section children who become dehumanised organic-mechanical parts of the Engine. This is how propaganda works: it condenses an entire ideology into a few visual or verbal signs that can be replicated ad infinitum. And these privileged children are unwittingly complicit in the subjugation of Tail Section children. The system dehumanises everyone, front to tail.

The teacher responsible for “breeding” this ideology is pregnant, a symbol of perverted maternalism—a next generation already corrupted. She parallels Wilford, who sought to make Curtis the son and heir to the corrupt system. Curtis, too, is a failed father: he sacrifices his symbolic “son” Edgar in order to capture Mason; and the “new world” he intends to create for the next generation will look identical to the last. [Had Curtis died at Yekaterina, it seems clear that Edgar would’ve been groomed by Gilliam to lead the next revolution.]

On the other hand, Tanya is a brave and brilliant mother who fights and dies for the cause.

But she’s never reduced to a maternal figure: she’s a fierce revolutionary who fights and survives the Battle of Yekaterina Bridge [where dozens die], and who drives Curtis onward. Her beating by the soldiers is meant to invoke the beating by police of Rodney King which sparked the LA riots of 1992, another citizen uprising against oppressive violence [x]. In Tanya the personal and political are wound together: in her mind, political resistance and freeing her son are one and the same goal—she wants his liberation, in every sense.

And Namgoong is the real father of the revolution, Snowpiercer’s radical imagination. Before Curtis finds them, he and his daughter Yona exist in a liminal countercultural space within the train, taking hallucinogenic drugs rather than experience its horrific reality.

Namgoong is not interested in the Sacred Engine—his ideas are “above Curtis’s” [x]. Nam cares to see the world beyond the train; he knows that the conditions which “required” the train’s creation have begun to recede. Nam protects Yona at all costs; and once they pass the Water Section he begins to plan their escape. He demands more for his daughter than the same system in new [white] hands."

[More Snowpiercer:
http://www.vulture.com/2014/06/director-bong-joon-ho-talks-snowpiercers-ending.html
http://io9.com/how-bong-joon-ho-turned-snowpiercer-into-your-worst-dys-1596079364
http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/bong-joon-ho-snowpiercer-interview
https://vimeo.com/110329961

http://www.thestate.ae/ghosts-on-a-train/
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/07/smash-the-engine/
http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/the-snowpiercaround-snowpiercer-chris-evans-bong-joon-ho/
http://www.unemployednegativity.com/2014/07/hijacking-train-revolution-and-its.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_oh4zGtRsc ]
snowpiercer  capitalism  revolution  reform  2014  bongjoon-ho  anarchism  education  indoctrination  marxism  capital  counterculture  via:sophia 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Transcendent dandyism – The art of dolce far niente – Albert Cossery and escape artistry | Lebenskünstler
"Extreme Indolence: On the Fiction of Albert Cossery [http://www.thenation.com/article/168020/extreme-indolence-fiction-albert-cossery ]

"…A novelist who made a cult of laziness, he had no qualms about taking it easy when it came to literary invention—“The same idea is in all my books; I shape it differently,” he once said…



Cossery’s heroes are usually dandies and thieves, unfettered by possessions or obligations; impoverished but aristocratic idlers who can suck the marrow of joy from the meager bones life tosses their way. They are the descendants of Baudelaire’s flâneur, of the Surrealists with their rejection of the sacrosanct work ethic, of the Situationists and their street-theater shenanigans, not to mention the peripatetic Beats or the countercultural “dropouts” of the 1960s. Henry Miller, who raised dolce far niente to an art form, praised Cossery’s writing as “rare, exotic, haunting, unique.” Whether Cossery’s merry pranksters wish merely to have a good time or, as in The Jokers, to wage an all-out campaign of raillery against the powers that be, there is one belief they all share: the only true recourse against a world governed by “scoundrels” is an utter disregard for convention, including the convention of taking anything seriously.



…The proud beggars in this story are Gohar, who has abandoned a professorship to live on the fringe as a street philosopher and bookkeeper in a brothel; Gohar’s protégé, the poet and drug dealer Yeghen, who tries to live his life as if it were itself a poem; and El Kordi, a revolutionary sympathizer chafing against his dead-end job as a government clerk.

…"

Albert Cossery and the Political Subversion of the Transcendent Dandy [http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/114238/albert-cossery-and-the-political-subversion-of-the-transcendent-dandy/ ]

"The Egyptian-French novelist Albert Cossery was a philosophical and aesthetic dandy who loathed the idea of work, celebrated underground movements and ideas, and absolutely detested power. He was the dandy as a political subversive—an idea that must be resurrected.



Cossery, in a sense, is something of the offspring of the Surrealist Jacques Vache, a self-described “umourist” who revelled in doing nothing at all. An artist who decided not to create art, a poet who decided not to write poetry, all in an effort to prove that creation of works is counter-intuitive to the true artist, who must live the art and not leave evidence or relics as proof of genius.



Governments are, in fact, quite terrified of this sort of philosophical dandyism—of the aggregate of individuals who subvert by gleefully doing nothing.



And so it is the politically subversive dandy—the transcendent dandy—who is best-equipped to lead a new politically-subversive movement, where a panoply of ideas merge like a kaleidoscope. The dandy understands the absurdity of power and the various ways to subvert, ignore and transcend it, without resorting to violent means.

Dandyism, at its core, is political subversion, and Albert Cossery was nothing if not a dandy. And it was the dandies, the forgotten and ignored whom Cossery celebrated in his novels.



…Characters opt to withdraw from any idea of a career. To recognize the absurdity of joining power in its game (government) and staying as far away from it as possible. To know that love—for friends, fuck buddies, boyfriends, girlfriends—was all and that it was untouchable, transcendent.

We need a new era of dandyism, of subversives. We need a new counter-culture.

The dandy as imagined by Cossery has time to think and enjoy life. Idleness is not only a virtue for Cossery and his characters, it is elevated to the natural state of being—a rejection of the unnatural tethers which are fixed to our bodies as soon as we escape the womb: the classroom, the cubicle, the wage, the dollar, rent, and so forth."

[See also: http://randallszott.org/2014/09/29/loving-those-that-god-forgets-albert-cossery-idleness-is-more-than-a-way-of-life/
http://randallszott.org/2014/09/29/how-to-stop-time-toward-a-politics-of-the-unprolific-eternal-life-for-the-lazy/ ]
albertcossery  randallszott  2014  dandies  dandyism  idleness  counterculture  subversion  subversives  power  art  poetry  writing  wageslaevery  wages  oppression  classrooms  education  schools  unschooling  deschooling  cv  rent  careers  governement  love  friendship  transcendence  politics  nonviolence  philosophy  nothing  trickster  laziness  classroom 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Schooling: The Hidden Agenda
"I first began to focus my attention on the peculiarities of our own culture in the early 1960s, when I went to work for what was then a cutting-edge publisher of educational materials, Science Research Associates. I was in my mid-twenties and as thoroughly acculturated as any senator, bus-driver, movie star, or medical doctor. My fundamental acceptances about the universe and humanity's place in it were rock-solid and thoroughly conventional.

But it was a stressful time to be alive, in some ways even more stressful than the present. Many people nowadays realize that human life may well be in jeopardy, but this jeopardy exists in some vaguely defined future, twenty or fifty or a hundred years hence. But in those coldest days of the Cold War everyone lived with the realization that a nuclear holocaust could occur literally at any second, without warning. It was very realistically the touch of a button away.

Human life would not be entirely snuffed out in a holocaust of this kind. In a way, it would be even worse than that. In a matter of hours, we would be thrown back not just to the Stone Age but to a level of almost total helplessness. In the Stone Age, after all, people lived perfectly well without supermarkets, shopping malls, hardware stores, and all the elaborate systems that keep these places stocked with the things we need. Within hours our cities would disintegrate into chaos and anarchy, and the necessities of life would vanish from store shelves, never to be replaced. Within days famine would be widespread.

Skills that are taken for granted among Stone Age peoples would be unknown to the survivors--the ability to differentiate between edible and inedible foods growing in their own environment, the ability to stalk, kill, dress, and preserve game animals, and most important the ability to make tools from available materials. How many of you know how to cure a hide? How to make a rope from scratch? How to flake a stone tool? Much less how to smelt metal from raw ore. Commonplace skills of the paleolithic, developed over thousands of years, would be lost arts.

All this was freely acknowledged by people who didn't doubt for a moment that we were living the way humans were meant to live from the beginning of time, who didn't doubt for a moment that the things our children were learning in school were exactly the things they should be learning.

I'd been hired at SRA to work on a major new mathematics program that had been under development for several years in Cleveland. In my first year, we were going to publish the kindergarten and first-grade programs. In the second year, we'd publish the second-grade program, in the third year, the third-grade program, and so on. Working on the kindergarten and first-grade programs, I observed something that I thought was truly remarkable. In these grades, children spend most of their time learning things that no one growing up in our culture could possibly avoid learning. For example, they learn the names of the primary colors. Wow, just imagine missing school on the day when they were learning blue. You'd spend the rest of your life wondering what color the sky is. They learn to tell time, to count, and to add and subtract, as if anyone could possibly fail to learn these things in this culture. And of course they make the beginnings of learning how to read. I'll go out on a limb here and suggest an experiment. Two classes of 30 kids, taught identically and given the identical text materials throughout their school experience, but one class is given no instruction in reading at all and the other is given the usual instruction. Call it the Quinn Conjecture: both classes will test the same on reading skills at the end of twelve years. I feel safe in making this conjecture because ultimately kids learn to read the same way they learn to speak, by hanging around people who read and by wanting to be able to do what these people do.

It occurred to me at this time to ask this question: Instead of spending two or three years teaching children things they will inevitably learn anyway, why not teach them some things they will not inevitably learn and that they would actually enjoy learning at this age? How to navigate by the stars, for example. How to tan a hide. How to distinguish edible foods from inedible foods. How to build a shelter from scratch. How to make tools from scratch. How to make a canoe. How to track animals--all the forgotten but still valuable skills that our civilization is actually built on.

Of course I didn't have to vocalize this idea to anyone to know how it would be received. Being thoroughly acculturated, I could myself explain why it was totally inane. The way we live is the way humans were meant to live from the beginning of time, and our children were being prepared to enter that life. Those who came before us were savages, little more than brutes. Those who continue to live the way our ancestors lived are savages, little more than brutes. The world is well rid of them, and we're well rid of every vestige of them, including their ludicrously primitive skills."



"Within our cultural matrix, every medium tells us that the schools exist to prepare children for a successful and fulfilling life in our civilization (and are therefore failing). This is beyond argument, beyond doubt, beyond question. In Ishmael I said that the voice of Mother Culture speaks to us from every newspaper and magazine article, every movie, every sermon, every book, every parent, every teacher, every school administrator, and what she has to say about the schools is that they exist to prepare children for a successful and fulfilling life in our civilization (and are therefore failing). Once we step outside our cultural matrix, this voice no longer fills our ears and we're free to ask some new questions. Suppose the schools aren't failing? Suppose they're doing exactly what we really want them to do--but don't wish to examine and acknowledge?"



"What sells most people on the idea of school is the fact that the unschooled child learns what it wants to learn when it wants to learn it. This is intolerable to them, because they're convinced that children don't want to learn anything at all--and they point to school children to prove it. What they fail to recognize is that the learning curve of preschool children swoops upward like a mountain--but quickly levels off when they enter school. By the third or fourth grade it's completely flat for most kids. Learning, such as it is, has become a boring, painful experience they'd love to be able to avoid if they could. But there's another reason why people abhor the idea of children learning what they want to learn when they want to learn it. They won't all learn the same things! Some of them will never learn to analyze a poem! Some of them will never learn to parse a sentence or write a theme! Some of them will never read Julius Caesar! Some will never learn geometry! Some will never dissect a frog! Some will never learn how a bill passes Congress! Well, of course, this is too horrible to imagine. It doesn't matter that 90% of these students will never read another poem or another play by Shakespeare in their lives. It doesn't matter that 90% of them will never have occasion to parse another sentence or write another theme in their lives. It doesn't matter that 90% retain no functional knowledge of the geometry or algebra they studied. It doesn't matter that 90% never have any use for whatever knowledge they were supposed to gain from dissecting a frog. It doesn't matter that 90% graduate without having the vaguest idea how a bill passes Congress. All that matters is that they've gone through it!

The people who are horrified by the idea of children learning what they want to learn when they want to learn it have not accepted the very elementary psychological fact that people (all people, of every age) remember the things that are important to them--the things they need to know--and forget the rest. I am a living witness to this fact. I went to one of the best prep schools in the country and graduated fourth in my class, and I doubt very much if I could now get a passing grade in more than two or three of the dozens of courses I took. I studied classical Greek for two solid years, and now would be unable to read aloud a single sentence."
danielquinn  education  unschooling  deschooling  learning  schooling  culture  ishmael  powerofculture  counterculture  transcontextualism  transcontextualization 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Maciej Ceglowski - Barely succeed! It's easier! - YouTube
"We live in a remarkable time when small teams (or even lone programmers) can successfully compete against internet giants. But while the last few years have seen an explosion of product ideas, there has been far less innovation in how to actually build a business. Silicon Valley is stuck in an outdated 'grow or die' mentality that overvalues risk, while investors dismiss sustainable, interesting projects for being too practical. So who needs investors anyway?

I'll talk about some alternative definitions of success that are more achievable (and more fun!) than the Silicon Valley casino. It turns out that staying small offers some surprising advantages, not just in the day-to-day experience of work, but in marketing and getting customers to love your project. Best of all, there's plenty more room at the bottom.

If your goal is to do meaningful work you love, you may be much closer to realizing your dreams than you think."
via:lukeneff  maciejceglowski  2013  startups  pinboard  culture  atalhualpa  larrywall  perl  coding  slow  small  success  community  communities  diversity  growth  sustainability  venturecapital  technology  tonyrobbins  timferris  raykurzweil  singularity  humanism  laziness  idleness  wealth  motivation  siliconvalley  money  imperialism  corneliusvanderbilt  meaning  incubators  stevejobs  stevewozniak  empirebuilders  makers  fundraising  closedloops  viscouscircles  labor  paulgraham  ycombinator  gender  publishing  hits  recordingindustry  business  lavabit  mistakes  duckduckgo  zootool  instapaper  newsblur  metafilter  minecraft  ravelry  4chan  backblaze  prgmr.com  conscience  growstuff  parentmeetings  lifestylebusinesses  authenticity  googlereader  yahoopipes  voice  longtail  fanfiction  internet  web  online  powerofculture  counterculture  transcontextualism  maciejcegłowski  transcontextualization 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Cybernetics on the Prairie | Complex Fields
"The core of this project takes the form of BCL/IGB, a commissioned public artwork in three parts: a printed mural, a reprinted collection of historic texts, and a recreated historical computer. I intended the work as a monument to an under-recognized episode in my home institution’s history, constructed in a form appropriate to the content.

More ambitiously, this work is an attempt to deal with the nature of institutional memory, especially in the context of scientific research. More personally, I entered the project as a way to learn how one might successfully navigate the complex moral and philosophical challenges of teaching, research and administration in a modern American University."

[Related: http://bcl.ece.illinois.edu/
http://bcl.ece.illinois.edu/hutchinson/
http://complexfields.org/here/158
http://diabeticfootonline.blogspot.com/2013/07/of-phantom-limbs-and-foreign-bodies.html

[The Whole University Catalog http://spinelessbooks.com/wholeuniversity/ and in .pdf: http://spinelessbooks.com/wholeuniversity/catalog.pdf ]
biologicalcomputerlab  instituteforgenomicbiology  kevinhamilton  sybernetics  complexfields  ncmideas  projectideas  zines  education  history  teaching  biology  research  wholeuniversitycatalog  humbertomaturana  herbertbrün  counterculture  1960s  1969  univeristyofillinois  deschooling  unschooling  pedagogy  radicalpedagogy 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Leon Wieseltier Commencement Speech at Brandeis University 2013 | New Republic
"Our glittering age of technologism is also a glittering age of scientism. Scientism is not the same thing as science. Science is a blessing, but scientism is a curse. Science, I mean what practicing scientists actually do, is acutely and admirably aware of its limits, and humbly admits to the provisional character of its conclusions; but scientism is dogmatic, and peddles certainties. It is always at the ready with the solution to every problem, because it believes that the solution to every problem is a scientific one, and so it gives scientific answers to non-scientific questions. But even the question of the place of science in human existence is not a scientific question. It is a philosophical, which is to say, a humanistic"



"So there is no task more urgent in American intellectual life at this hour than to offer some resistance to the twin imperialisms of science and technology, and to recover the old distinction — once bitterly contested, then generally accepted, now almost completely forgotten – between the study of nature and the study of man. As Bernard Williams once remarked, “’humanity’ is a name not merely for a species but also for a quality." You who have elected to devote yourselves to the study of literature and languages and art and music and philosophy and religion and history — you are the stewards of that quality. You are the resistance. You have had the effrontery to choose interpretation over calculation, and to recognize that calculation cannot provide an accurate picture, or a profound picture, or a whole picture, of self-interpreting beings such as ourselves; and I commend you for it.

There is no greater bulwark against the twittering acceleration of American consciousness than the encounter with a work of art, and the experience of a text or an image. You are the representatives, the saving remnants, of that encounter and that experience, and of the serious study of that encounter and that experience – which is to say, you are the counterculture. Perhaps culture is now the counterculture."



"In upholding the humanities, you uphold the honor of a civilization that was founded upon the quest for the true and the good and the beautiful. For as long as we are thinking and feeling creatures, creatures who love and imagine and suffer and die, the humanities will never be dispensable."
humanities  leonwieseltier  commencementspeeches  scientism  science  technology  humanism  knowledge  information  humans  art  thinking  philosophy  experience  resistance  counterculture  commencementaddresses 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Podcast « You Are Not So Smart
"Episode Five | Selling Out | Andrew Potter
Episode Four | The Self | Bruce Hood
Episode Three | Confabulation | V.S. Ramachandran
Episode Two | Illusion of Knowledge | Christopher Chabris
Episode One | Attention | Daniel Simons"
keepingupwiththejoneses  freerange  local  natural  organic  andrewpotter  poiticsofcool  oneupmanship  statusseeking  nonconformism  hipsters  hipsterism  conspicuousconsumption  status  kurtcobain  art  advertising  consumption  christopherchabris  guiltypleasures  danielsimons  vsramachandran  society  modernity  brucehood  confabulation  knowledge  attention  authenticity  authentic  culture  counterculture  2012  via:zakgreene  sellingout  psychology  from delicious
january 2013 by robertogreco
Steven Shapin reviews ‘The Pseudoscience Wars’ by Michael Gordin · LRB 8 November 2012
"If pseudosciences are not scientific, neither are they anti-scientific. They flatter science by elaborate rituals of imitation, rejecting many of the facts, theories and presumptions of orthodoxy while embracing what are celebrated as the essential characteristics of science. That is at once a basis for the wide cultural appeal of pseudoscience and an extreme difficulty for those wanting to show what’s wrong with it. Velikovsky advertised his work as, so to speak, more royalist than the king. Did authentic science have masses of references and citations? There they were in Worlds in Collision. Was science meant to aim at the greatest possible explanatory scope, trawling as many disciplines as necessary in search of unified understanding? What in orthodoxy could rival Velikovsky’s integrative vision? Authentic science made specific predictions of what further observation and experiment would show. Velikovsky did too. Was science ideally open to all claimants, subjecting itself to…"
hyperscience  parapsychology  unorthodox  orthodoxy  predictions  logic  reasoning  haroldurey  hermankahn  stanleykubrick  counterculture  hope  fear  alfredkazin  psychoanalytictheory  darwin  uniformitarianism  massivechange  change  catastrophism  worldsincollision  mythology  astronomy  coldwar  1950  fringe  immanuelvalikovsky  books  2012  pseudoscience  science  michaelgordin  stevenshapin  charlesdarwin  from delicious
october 2012 by robertogreco
Futurist Stewart Brand Wants to Revive Extinct Species | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com
"Most of the stuff that my fellow hippies tried turned out not to have legs. Communes didn’t. Dope didn’t!"

"Brand: I take my cue from technology historian George Dyson, who argues that, from the perspective of the real world, the digital universe is accelerating rapidly but, from the view of the digital universe, the biological world is slllllooooowwwwwiiing doooowwwwn. Since we humans are amphibians and live in both universes, we are being torn by acceleration on one side and deceleration on the other. That sounds rough, but it’s actually pretty exciting."

"Brand: I want them to know that de-extinction is coming. And I also want the eventual semi-amateur de-extinctors, as they start doing this out in the barn, to understand that there’s a framework of norms about ethics and transparency.

Kelly: What we all need is a manual on how to worry intelligently."
amateurresearch  acceleratingchange  psychadelics  drugs  communes  communitymanagement  trolls  netiquette  identity  pseudonyms  anonymity  stupidityofmobs  wisdomofcrowds  mooreslaw  well  digitalera  usergenerated  user-generated  biohacking  counterculture  geneticengineering  biotechnology  biotech  evolution  change  technology  transparency  ethics  science  georgedyson  2012  interviews  de-extinction  extinction  kevinkelly  stewartbrand  from delicious
october 2012 by robertogreco
AA SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE - Lectures Online [Counterculture?]
"This afternoon event includes a roundtable discussion led by Jeffrey Inaba, Features Editor of VOLUME, an independent quarterly for architecture. Issue 24 of the journal, published in autumnn 2010, examines current interests and recent histories of counterculture: in architecture, the environment, politics, art and culture. The 1960s countercultural roots of the hippie generation are now mainstream, and alternative values of 40 years ago can now be seen to guide the world of technology. At first glance, what appears prescient about the 1960s when looking at current US culture is the preoccupation with computer technology, the natural environment and alternative forms of community; but today each is disconnected from the radical political action and oppositional ideologies of the earlier era. Discuss.

This afternoon's roundtable conversation will include Jeffrey Inaba, Mark Wigley and others, and will be moderated by Brett Steele."
oppositionalideologies  radicalpolitics  radical  activism  politicalaction  technology  mainstream  art  culture  politics  design  environment  2011  ineswizman  petercrump  grahamcaine  markwigley  brettsteele  chalresholland  davidgreene  counterculture  1960s  architecture  jeffreyinaba  from delicious
june 2012 by robertogreco
When Meals Played the Muse - New York Times
"From the beginning, the idea was to establish not only a kind of perpetual dinner party but also a food-based philanthropy that would employ and support struggling artists, the whole endeavor conceived by Matta-Clark as a living, breathing, steaming, pot-clanging artwork.

“To Gordon, I think everything in life was an art event,” said Ms. Goodden, who now lives in a small town in New Mexico. “He had cooking all through his mind as a way of assembling people, like choreography. And that, in a way, is what Food became.”

In a catalog to accompany his retrospective, Elisabeth Sussman, the curator of the Whitney show, describes it as providing “the best picture of an artists’ utopia, in all its extraordinary ordinariness, that Matta-Clark imagined.”"
tinagirouard  robertfrank  rirkrittiravanija  filippomarinetti  thefuturistcookbook  philipglass  counterculture  alicewaters  robertkushner  trishabrown  1974  1971  janecrawford  hisachikatakahashi  robertrauschenberg  lcproject  openstudioproject  srg  cooking  donaldjudd  carolinegoodden  artists  allankaprow  supperclubs  dinnerparties  happenings  127prince  2007  nyc  restaurants  glvo  art  matta-clark  gordonmatta-clark  from delicious
april 2012 by robertogreco
My Parents Were Home Schooling Anarchists - NYTimes.com
"What my parents did embrace were countercultural values. Or, as my father likes to say, quoting Gerard Manley Hopkins, “all things counter, original, spare, strange.” (My dad’s father once grew corn in his backyard for the sole purpose of taking weekend naps among the stalks.) My mom maintains that she didn’t consider herself “an activist or anything like that. I was just part of a current that was happening, fertile ground for all the new ways of thinking.”

At the time, home schooling was almost virgin territory. My dad was attracted to home schooling because he felt “stifled” during his 16 years of formal education. “I was a poor student,” he says. “School was something I endured because I had no choice.” Not wanting his offspring to suffer the same fate, he informed my mom soon after she became pregnant with Mary that none of his children were ever going to school. “We were educational anarchists,” he says."

[via: http://hourschool.tumblr.com/post/12568871390/its-not-the-method ]
unschooling  deschooling  education  learning  travel  yearoff  glvo  cv  parenting  anarchism  radicals  1970s  children  sumerhill  ivanillich  johnholt  lcproject  counterculture  frugality  growingwithoutschooling  freedom  laissezfaire  homeschool  history  makedo  loneliness  displacement  progressive  margaretheidenry  from delicious
november 2011 by robertogreco
Program or be Programmed: The GeekDad Interview With Douglas Rushkoff | GeekDad | Wired.com [Embedded video is worth watching too]
"first step toward maintaining autonomy in any programmed environment is to be aware that there’s programming going on…

We returned to status quo mainstream broadcast culture, where “participation” had more to do w/ achieving spectacle-approved celebrity than changing the world around us.

…overculture will always try to devalue anything truly threatening. If you gain access to dashboard of civilization…you will be called a geek…have to keep us away from anything truly empowering. So they make cool stuff seem uncool, & the stupid stuff seem cool…

I would prepare my kids for life, not some fictional computer event…reading & writing…still great things for kids to learn…basic math…a bit of…programming…it’s not too late for us to educate ourselves to the point where understanding technology, & even participating in democracy, are still possible…

our technologies become more complex while we become more simple. They learn about us while we come to know less & less about them…"
douglasrushkoff  education  learning  hacking  democracy  unschooling  deschooling  media  participation  participatory  broadcastculture  empowerment  literacy  tcsnmy  programming  coding  books  2011  trends  interviews  counterculture  understanding  alternativeeducation  civilization  gamechanging  change  purpose  meaning  meaningmaking  from delicious
july 2011 by robertogreco
“There are some people who don’t wait.” Robert Krulwich on the future of journalism | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine
"So for this age, for your time, I want you to just think about this: Think about NOT waiting your turn.

Instead, think about getting together with friends that you admire, or envy. Think about entrepeneuring. Think about NOT waiting for a company to call you up. Think about not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know. Think about horizontal loyalty. Think about turning to people you already know, who are your friends, or friends of their friends and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it.

And when it comes to security, to protection, your friends may take better care of you than CBS took care of Charles Kuralt in the end. In every career, your job is to make and tell stories, of course. You will build a body of work, but you will also build a body of affection, with the people you’ve helped who’ve helped you back.

And maybe that’s your way into Troy."

[See also: http://snarkmarket.com/2011/6850 ]
education  technology  teaching  future  journalism  science  passion  doing  waiting  fear  risk  risktaking  entrepreneurship  robertkrulwich  making  notwaiting  unschooling  change  gamechanging  friendship  community  support  horizontal  horizontalloyalty  counterculture  hierarchy  2011  from delicious
may 2011 by robertogreco
“There are some people who don’t wait.” Robert Krulwich on the future of journalism | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine
"So for this age, for your time, I want you to just think about this: Think about NOT waiting your turn.

Instead, think about getting together with friends that you admire, or envy. Think about entrepeneuring. Think about NOT waiting for a company to call you up. Think about not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know. Think about horizontal loyalty. Think about turning to people you already know, who are your friends, or friends of their friends and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it.

And when it comes to security, to protection, your friends may take better care of you than CBS took care of Charles Kuralt in the end. In every career, your job is to make and tell stories, of course. You will build a body of work, but you will also build a body of affection, with the people you’ve helped who’ve helped you back.

And maybe that’s your way into Troy."

[See also: http://snarkmarket.com/2011/6850 ]
education  technology  teaching  future  journalism  science  passion  doing  waiting  fear  risk  risktaking  entrepreneurship  robertkrulwich  making  notwaiting  unschooling  change  gamechanging  friendship  community  support  horizontal  horizontalloyalty  counterculture  hierarchy  2011 
may 2011 by robertogreco
The Space Hackers are coming! - Dougald's posterous
"a new kind of spatial agent is emerging: improvisational, bottom-up, working w/ materials to hand; perhaps unqualified, or using training in unexpected ways; responding pragmatically to constrictions & precarities of post-crisis living. Btwn jugaad culture of Indian village, temporary structures built by jobless architects, pop-up shops, infrastructure-savvy squatters & open source shelter-makers, Treehouse Galleries & urban barns & Temporary Schools of Thought, just maybe something new is being born.

…the culture of the Space Hacker…new players have more in common w/ geeks, hippies & drop-out-preneurs who gave us open source & internet revolution, than w/ architects, developers or property industries…

Unlike Silicon Valley, though, these hackers have given up on goal of getting rich.…driven instead by desire to make spaces in which they want to spend time—sociable spaces of living, working & playing - as they, & the rest of us, adjust to the likelihood of getting poorer."
dougaldhine  postmaterialism  postconsumerism  spatial  spacehackers  hackers  diy  make  making  favelachic  post-crisisliving  cv  opensource  architecture  squatters  dropouts  counterculture  spacemaking  unschooling  deschooling  alternative  vinaygupta  rayoldenburg  ivanillich  schools  learning  future  sociability  thirdplaces  postindustrialism  postindustrial  capitalism  marxism  hospitals  healthcare  health  society  improvisation  popup  pop-ups  from delicious
february 2011 by robertogreco
SHELTER on Vimeo
"Lloyd Kahn claims that shelter is more than a roof over your head. As the author and publisher of over a dozen books on home construction, Lloyd has been grappling with the concept of home, physically and psychically, for over five decades. Situated in the financial and housing crisis, this film profiles Lloyd's ideas on do-it-yourself construction and sustainability."
architecture  diy  houses  happiness  handmade  construction  design  documentary  building  community  craft  housing  glvo  lloydkahn  geodesicdomes  counterculture  shelter  sustainability  reuse  jasonsussberg  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco
Julian Assange: Life is Hard in a World Without Hippies | Death and Taxes
"Ellsberg lived in generation of hippies—[one] that valued integrity & principle of truth—& Ellsberg’s revelation caught like wildfire. 40 years later, Assange steps onto world stage w/ WikiLeaks as 21st century Ellsberg. He’s nationless, garnering info from porous openings in WWW—apt commentary on modern world. & his operation leaks docs on a much larger scale than 1,000 page Pentagon Papers. His revelations, including new info about killings & torture in Iraq after Abu Ghraib, including 66,081 Iraqi civilian deaths, may be more shocking than those exposed by PP. & yet all anyone seems to talk about is what a jerk the guy is…Assange may have been born at wrong time. It’s as if he’s force-feeding truth to world that has no stomach for it. An ally of no one, an ideological nomad, it’ll be interesting to see how long his voice keeps leaking truth. Historically, leading voices of opposition—from MLK to Malcolm X to Lennon—seem to have a way of getting silenced sooner or later. "
journalism  wikileaks  counterculture  politics  activism  2010  media  information  internet  julainassange  via:preoccupations  davidellsberg  julianassange  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco
correct me if i’m wrong: » The Paradox of Self-Education
"The paradox of self-education is that there are intellectually stimulating endeavors which don’t have a direct impact in the job market or in school. While learning is generally a valued skill, and the knowledge attained by it sought after, there is a limitation of the desire to learn (and by extension, produce) due to these systematic social constructs...

It seems that perhaps the only way to fulfill the quest of self-education is to have a flexible job that teaches you one specific area, and thus allows you to utilize your free time for the remaining ones. I believe that’s how Da Vinci did it as a painter. Did other polymaths do the same? What happened to the Renaissance Man? As the human race advances, will it become more difficult to become a generalist?"

[Continues and a great comments thread follows, including this: http://raamdev.com/the-pursuit-of-knowledge ]
education  self-education  society  learning  paradox  genius  renaissancemen  generalists  unschooling  deschooling  life  work  livetowork  worktolive  cv  knowledge  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  capitalism  infooverload  storyofmylife  retirement  sabbaticals  yearoff  via:cervus  frugality  simplicity  culture  peace  mindset  counterculture  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  autodidacts  autodidactism  autonomy  autodidacticism 
june 2010 by robertogreco
The Pursuit of Knowledge
[Response to: http://www.adambossy.com/blog/2009/02/19/the-paradox-of-self-education/ ] [Very close to my concept of taking retirement every few years as creative sabbaticals rather than in a lump sum at the end of my career.]

"My goal now is to live frugally so I can set aside big enough bucket of money to get me through year w/out work. Then...I’ll spend a year learning something of interest, possibly making small amounts of money on side. When needed, I’ll start working & hopefully keep repeating this process. If something I do makes me tons of money, great. If not…well it’s not about money.

pursuit of knowledge is more important than money...Sure, money would make that pursuit easier, but life isn’t easy. This is where society gets it wrong. We put money & status 1st & education & knowledge 2nd, using latter to obtain former. Imagine a society where pursuit of knowledge defined our standards of living...

If we’re willing to sacrifice high-strung lifestyle for ability to spend time learning & increasing knowledge...can accomplish amazing things, both individually & as society. A world pursuing money & status has reason to fight & start wars, but world pursuing knowledge & advancement...peace."
education  self-education  society  learning  paradox  genius  renaissancemen  generalists  unschooling  deschooling  work  livetowork  worktolive  cv  life  knowledge  crossdisciplinary  crosspollination  capitalism  infooverload  storyofmylife  retirement  sabbaticals  yearoff  via:cervus  frugality  simplicity  culture  peace  mindset  counterculture  interdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  autodidacts  autodidactism  autonomy  autodidacticism 
june 2010 by robertogreco
Borderland » Blog Archive » Carry it on [Abbie Hoffman describes “cultural revolutionary" as]...
"person who tries to shape and participate in the values, and the mores, the customs and the style of living of new people who eventually become inhabitants of a new nation and a new society through art and poetry, theater, and music"

[Waybacked: http://web.archive.org/web/20091014033959/http://borderland.northernattitude.org/2008/05/29/none-of-the-above/ ]
activism  culture  revolution  change  reform  utahphillips  history  folk  music  abbiehoffman  edupunk  60s  70s  chicagoconspiracytrial  us  counterculture  power  politics 
may 2008 by robertogreco
Howard Rheingold's Vlog - Counterculture origins of cyberculture, Part 1: John Coate and The Farm
"John Coate, who was instrumental in the early success of the “Whole Earth Lectronic Link,” talks to Howard Rheingold’s class about The Farm—a 1960s commune that influenced the development of the WELL’s virtual community. The first of several pa
internet  history  web  counterculture  thefarm  johncoate  howardrheingold  wholeearthcatalog  thewell  art  via:preoccupations 
march 2008 by robertogreco
Essay: On the Uses of a Liberal Education (As Lite Entertainment For Bored College Students)
by Mark Edmundson at the University of Virginia (Harper's September 1997)

"For someone growing up in America now, there are few available alternatives to the cool consumer worldview. My students didn't ask for that view, much less create it, but they bring a consumer weltanschauung to school, where it exerts a powerful, and largely unacknowledged, influence."

[…]

"It's not that some aren't nearly as bright -- in terms of intellectual ability, my students are all that I could ask for. Instead, it's that Joon Lee has decided to follow his interests and let them make him into a singular and rather eccentric man; in his charming way, he doesn't mind being at odds with most anyone.

It's his capacity for enthusiasm that sets Joon apart from what I've come to think of as the reigning generational style. Whether the students are sorority/fraternity types, grunge aficionados, piercer/tattooers, black or white, rich or middle class (alas, I teach almost no students from truly poor backgrounds), they are, nearly across the board, very, very self-contained. On good days they display a light, appealing glow; on bad days, shuffling disgruntlement. But there's little fire, little passion to be found.

[…]

"Most of my students seem desperate to blend in, to look right, not to make a spectacle of themselves. (Do I have to tell you that those two students having the argument under the portico turned out to be acting in a role-playing game?) The specter of the uncool creates a subtle tyranny. It's apparently an easy standard to subscribe to, this Letterman-like, Tarantinolike cool, but once committed to it, you discover that matters are rather different. You're inhibited, except on ordained occasions, from showing emotion, stifled from trying to achieve anything original. You're made to feel that even the slightest departure from the reigning code will get you genially ostracized. This is a culture tensely committed to a laid-back norm."

[…]

"What they will not generally do, though, is indict the current system. They won't talk about how the exigencies of capitalism lead to a reserve army of the unemployed and nearly inevitable misery. That would be getting too loud, too brash. For the pervading view is the cool consumer perspective, where passion and strong admiration are forbidden. "To stand in awe of nothing, Numicus, is perhaps the one and only thing that can make a man happy and keep him so," says Horace in the Epistles, and I fear that his lines ought to hang as a motto over the university in this era of high consumer capitalism.

It's easy to mount one's high horse and blame the students for this state of affairs. But they didn't create the present culture of consumption. (It was largely my own generation, that of the Sixties, that let the counterculture search for pleasure devolve into a quest for commodities.) And they weren't the ones responsible, when they were six and seven and eight years old, for unplugging the TV set from time to time or for hauling off and kicking a hole through it. It's my generation of parents who sheltered these students, kept them away from the hard knocks of everyday life, making them cautious and overfragile, who demanded that their teachers, from grade school on, flatter them endlessly so that the kids are shocked if their college profs don't reflexively suck up to them.

Of course, the current generational style isn't simply derived from culture and environment. It's also about dollars. Students worry that taking too many chances with their educations will sabotage their future prospects. They're aware of the fact that a drop that looks more and more like one wall of the Grand Canyon separates the top economic tenth from the rest of the population. There's a sentiment currently abroad that if you step aside for a moment, to write, to travel, to fall too hard in love, you might lose position permanently. We may be on a conveyor belt, but it's worse down there on the filth-strewn floor. So don't sound off, don't blow your chance."

[…]

"Teachers who really do confront students, who provide significant challenges to what they believe, can be very successful, granted. But sometimes such professors generate more than a little trouble for themselves. A controversial teacher can send students hurrying to the deans and the counselors, claiming to have been offended. ("Offensive" is the preferred term of repugnance today, just as "enjoyable" is the summit of praise.) Colleges have brought in hordes of counselors and deans to make sure that everything is smooth, serene, unflustered, that everyone has a good time. To the counselor, to the dean, and to the university legal squad, that which is normal, healthy, and prudent is best.

An air of caution and deference is everywhere. When my students come to talk with me in my office, they often exhibit a Franciscan humility. "Do you have a moment?" "I know you're busy. I won't take up much of your time." Their presences tend to be very light; they almost never change the temperature of the room. The dress is nondescript: clothes are in earth tones; shoes are practical -- cross-trainers, hiking boots, work shoes, Dr. Martens, with now and then a stylish pair of raised-sole boots on one of the young women. Many, male and female both, peep from beneath the bills of monogrammed baseball caps. Quite a few wear sports, or even corporate, logos, sometimes on one piece of clothing but occasionally (and disconcertingly) on more. The walk is slow; speech is careful, sweet, a bit weary, and without strong inflection. (After the first lively week of the term, most seem far in debt to sleep.) They are almost unfailingly polite. They don't want to offend me; I could hurt them, savage their grades.

Naturally, there are exceptions, kids I chat animatedly with, who offer a joke, or go on about this or that new CD (almost never a book, no). But most of the traffic is genially sleepwalking. I have to admit that I'm a touch wary, too. I tend to hold back. An unguarded remark, a joke that's taken to be off-color, or simply an uncomprehended comment can lead to difficulties. I keep it literal. They scare me a little, these kind and melancholy students, who themselves seem rather frightened of their own lives.

Before they arrive, we ply the students with luscious ads, guaranteeing them a cross between summer camp and lotusland. When they get here, flattery and nonstop entertainment are available, if that's what they want. And when they leave? How do we send our students out into the world? More and more, our administrators call the booking agents and line up one or another celebrity to usher the graduates into the millennium. This past spring, Kermit the Frog won himself an honorary degree at Southampton College on Long Island; Bruce Willis and Yogi Berra took credentials away at Montclair State; Arnold Schwarzenegger scored at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. At Wellesley, Oprah Winfrey gave the commencement address. (Wellesley -- one of the most rigorous academic colleges in the nation.) At the University of Vermont, Whoopi Goldberg laid down the word. But why should a worthy administrator contract the likes of Susan Sontag, Christopher Hitchens, or Robert Hughes -- someone who might actually say something, something disturbing, something offensive" -- when he can get what the parents and kids apparently want and what the newspapers will softly commend -- more lire entertainment, more TV?"

[…]

"My students' answers didn't exhibit any philosophical resistance to the idea of greatness. It's not that they had been primed by their professors with complex arguments to combat genius. For the truth is that these students don't need debunking theories. Long before college, skepticism became their habitual mode. They are the progeny of Bart Simpson and David Letterman, and the hyper-cool ethos of the box. It's inane to say that theorizing professors have created them, as many conservative critics like to do. Rather, they have substantially created a university environment in which facile skepticism can thrive without being substantially contested."

[…]

"Perhaps it would be a good idea to try firing the counselors and sending half the deans back into their classrooms, dismantling the football team and making the stadium into a playground for local kids, emptying the fraternities, and boarding up the student-activities office. Such measures would convey the message that American colleges are not northern outposts of Club Med. A willingness on the part of the faculty to defy student conviction and affront them occasionally -- to be usefully offensive -- also might not be a bad thing. We professors talk a lot about subversion, which generally means subverting the views of people who never hear us talk or read our work. But to subvert the views of our students, our customers, that would be something else again.

Ultimately, though, it is up to individuals -- and individual students in particular -- to make their own way against the current sludgy tide. There's still the library, still the museum, there's still the occasional teacher who lives to find things greater than herself to admire. There are still fellow students who have not been cowed. Universities are inefficient, cluttered, archaic places, with many unguarded comers where one can open a book or gaze out onto the larger world and construe it freely. Those who do as much, trusting themselves against the weight of current opinion, will have contributed something to bringing this sad dispensation to an end. As for myself, I'm canning my low-key one-liners; when the kids' TV-based tastes come to the fore, I'll aim and shoot. And when it's time to praise genius, I'll try to do it in the right style, full-out, with faith that finer artistic spirits (maybe not Homer and Isaiah quite, but close, close), still alive somewhere in the ether, will help me out when my invention flags, the students doze, or the dean mutters into the phone. I'm getting back to a more exuberant style; I'll be expostulating and … [more]
learning  education  society  subversion  teaching  liberaleducation  unschooling  deschooling  highereducation  highered  colleges  universities  markedmundson  alternative  cv  counterculture  capitalism  apathy  passion  challenge  grades  grading  gradeinflation  consumption  consumerism  conformity  culture  marketing  admissions  cynicism  offensive  enjoyable  clubmed  davidletterman  bartsimpson  middlemanagement  thesimpsons  1997  libraries 
january 2005 by robertogreco

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