Eagle and serpent

explorations and philosophy: in the world, of the world

Tag: institutions

Sweet, toxic

Not trying to address it now myself, just take a look at the interview!

This opens up a variety of threads of thought; food safety and regulation of substances only among them.

Advertisements

Alternative necessity

Volcanic ash teaches us a lesson. It’s baffling to see how people can find alternatives, and even completely change plans, when they are faced by a force majeure–and all this rather effortlessly, with no serious emotional exhaustion. It’s easy to take a relaxed view on things that cannot be acted upon.

I cannot help but think what would happen if we had an ‘Icelandic volcano’ in other matters as well. For instance, should the oil wells dry up for good, what would our energy politics (and our lifestyle with it) look like? Would there be alternatives? Of course there would. It may be that cheap flights everywhere and -when are something that we are used to, but it’s hardly necessary in the strong sense.

Another matter is the emerging demands to lift the flight restrictions. Who’s taking the risk here, actually?

The innocence of organised professionals

The newly-leaked video showing the unprovoked killing of twelve people in Baghdad reminded me of an old theme. Namely, that of individuals, organisations and the responsibility of action.

I remember Henry Rollins (in one of his spoken word shows) justifying his visits to the ‘boys overseas’ with something like: “…there’s nothing wrong with the military itself–they’re just doing what they’re told…the leaders are the real criminals…”

Now, as this seems to be very easy to agree with, initially, I happened to travel to Viet Nam only few months later.

And lo! A photograph of grinning marines holding the heads of decapitated Vietnamese villagers reminded me of Henry’s words, “nothing wrong with the military…” Sure. I couln’t help but think of the role of the organisation and its culture while they were ‘helping’ the Vietnamese. This was especially evident after seeing the text behind the photo, scribbled by a soldier having witnessed the atrocity, lamenting “what this f*@#ing army does to the minds of normal boys”.

Similarly, in the recent video provided by Wikileaks, the soldiers comment their work with a charming phrase, only to chuckle about running over a body with a tank just a while later:

“Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards.”…”Nice.”

A similar argument to Henry’s is heard quite often, only the context changes: concentration camp guards (they were following orders), informers (they were worried about the nation’s survival during the cold war), Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo torture cases perhaps serving as the relevant recent examples. Although my personal experience of military is very limited (I have not participated in any of the ‘humanitarian military interventions’), I still think I have some insight of the functioning of such ‘firms’. During my year in the compulsory national service, I most probably experienced the most sexist, racist, nationalistic and (surprise, surprise) militaristic organisation in this country. What else should one expect from an institution run by half-wits and built on the foundation of mythico-eternal enmity?

Now, as the so-called Western democracies take great pains in demonising the Taleban and whichever movement comes between them and their strategic interests, isn’t it interesting that sexist slavery still exist in our very own societies? And, as a corollary, is it a surprise that organisations like these, having gone ‘abroad’ on pretexts lingering criminal insanity, also carry on the gravest injustices, defined by their very own propaganda?

This post neither solves the problem of agency and structure in social theory (and I’m not even sure if it is the right question), nor the role of culture and individual will in organisational behaviour. What it hopefully does, is it shows that what we do we end up doing. In other words, killers look for something to kill. Their best intentions and articulated mission statements only serve as rationalisations for the atrocities that have to be retrospectively justified.

Jesters allowed

A rather disturbing remark closed a fine Žižek documentary. Reacting to someone’s question about the ‘funniness’ side of his popularity, he raised his concern of that in many places he is only published/read/heard when he tells jokes when confronting serious social and political issues. In other words–being funny is the prerequisite of having voice!

The importance lies in that elite-disturbing talk is not welcome at all, with the natural exception of ‘eccentric professors’, ‘artists’ and other marginal groups whose very existence legitimates the canon of ‘liberal democracy’. And when they do raise their voice, they are only allowed to do it when they take the time not to confront the status quo directly.

Hence, every time one feels the urge to voice criticism, one should adopt the helpful attitude of actively planting ‘comediality’ to one’s talk; thus avoiding the direct confrontation of the established language-game!

A thought that also rang my Rorty-bell immediately (Contingency, irony, and solidarity: pp. 48)!

Those who speak the old language and have no wish to change, those who regard it as a hallmark of rationality or morality to speak just that language, will regard as altogether irrational the appeal of the new metaphors – the new language game which the radicals, the youth, or the avant-garde are playing. The popularity of the new ways of speaking will be viewed as a matter of “fashion” or “the need to rebel” or “decadence.” The question of why people speak this way will be treated as beneath the level of conversation – a matter to be turned over to psychologists or, if necessary, the police.

This is not…

One of the most often heard outcries in art galleries, universities, and conferences starts: “This is not…”

Be it ‘art’, ‘philosophy’ or ‘science’, each has their very own guardians devoting time and effort on the assessment, fulfillment and reproduction of the criteria of their precious doctrine. As if the ‘art’ would disappear if the linguistic conventions surrounding it would (and they inevitably are) be structured and re-structured.

And I’m not talking about the underlying theory of truth shaping the world-view of the guardian, but rather the need for ontological security through departmentalist smothering.

Acclaimed French sociologist/anthropologist/philosopher Pierre Bourdieu noted (in his famous Distinction) that different tastes emerge from fundamentally negative positioning. Someone is not to be associated with something–the definition being absence rather than presence.

This puts the current departmentalisation of knowledge and even scholarship into a questionable light, in the very ‘scientific’ terms that it outspokenly embraces. How is it possible that (at least in my mind) most fundamentally new insights emerge from the ranks of talented generalists refusing to take a tag of one camp or another?

Violent, us?

Once someone criticises this place, the righteous appear to come up with all kinds of explanations and feeble defenses. Quite recently, an Estonia-born author noted Ultima Thule to have a culture that embraces violence at all its levels. With the obvious reactions.

One doesn’t have to refer to the national statistics to note that here people are unfriendly, untactful and unappealing. Added to the visions of war and mythical relationship to the existence of the nation make the obvious contribution. Everything here seems to be just one more instance of the ‘miracle of the winter war’.

Luckily, we’ll once again see how the nation lies (as independence day looms just one away). It’s interesting to see in practice and festive speeches how ‘our’ security is nowadays extended to participate in the coalition of the willing, defending what the Americans call ‘human rights’.

It might also be intriguing to psycho-analyse our militaristic right, as it seems to be suffering of the fact that they cannot openly and with the fullest of their ability participate in the so-called ‘peacekeeping’ operations.

UPDATE: Breaking news–the defense minister visiting Afghanistan over i-day! How metaphorical!

Tortured gods, institutions

Noticing the amusing outrage about the status of crucifixes in Italian schools, one’s tempted to have a multitude of reactions. On one hand, keeping these kind of religious symbols in classrooms in these times of (at least outspoken) secularism, is rather weird. On the other, is it a surprise that the populace is outraged? Third, what’s the point of court orders which no-one can (or is willing to) enforce?

Culturally, the whole issue triggers an interesting set of questions. Moving beyond the obvious “this-is-our-culture” identity-fortifying outcry, what is the source of this reaction? Could it be that somehow unconsciously, Italians are proud of the cross and their god being tortured to death on it? Thus, Italians (in the loving memory of the Roman empire) want to embrace the heritage of introducing that particular torturing/execution method. Sweet.

Nah, I don’t think so…

When the old regime handed the power over to the new one (in America), some analysts anticipated European countries losing the ‘W-argument’ of shirking away from the unified Western coalition. That is, the old, trans-Atlantic way of doing things would re-appear and flourish.

Now that the Norwegian groupies have awarded a peace prize for intensifying violence in a futile attempt to influence future foreign (military, of course) policy, some effects can already be identified. Verily, Europe is following the lead, namely the spotless reputation of Mr. Obama. His presence and hype serve as a perfect pretext for avoiding uncomfortable agreements!

More from Klein here.

When the ice cubes melt

Been gathering some steam for a while now… I think now it’s time to vent some of it!

It hardly comes as a surprise that Ultima Thule is perhaps not the most inspiring place to live. An interesting re-phrasing caught my eye this week, however. A British anthropologist (living in Oulu, uuh) depicted Finland being “a diluted Greenland”. What a neat, condensed way of putting it!

This is exactly how it is. Religiousness, alcoholism, traditional values, lack of critical thinking… Let’s just not start, the list is far too long and f*ed up to be completed here. I’d like to focus my attention to something else, namely the mass media.

I might be exaggerating, but I think it’s extremely hard to find information of the world in this place, in the local language. If I didn’t have UK and Middle East sources in my feeds, I would almost completely be at the mercy of mainstream media. And this is full of ‘news’ that are either foolish, irrelevant, or local to ridiculousness. Maybe we should start talking about ‘newslets’?

Then again, whose relevance? It may well be the case that laypeople just.don’t.care about South Waziristan military offensive, but when the extent reaches ignoring militaristic apartheid regimes defying UN reports, I think things are going a bit too far. To prove my point, I went to the 1st source of unbiased and objective journalism. As I’m writing this, the paper has the following topics under ‘news’ -> ‘foreign’ (not always the exact wording):

  1. Additional Finnish occupiers’ return from Afghanistan likely to be delayed
  2. Farmers burned tires in Paris
  3. French bees are distressed by the countryside

What? Is there really nothing more interesting happening in the world than bees and their ‘psychological’ symptoms?

I’m not a fan of imagined conspiracies, so it might just be due to ignorance, anti-intellectualism and lack of market. Which is, kind of, soothing, right?

War is peace

…for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples…

What the f*@#?!

Not that I ever had any belief in these committees steering public opinion. But admittedly, this was a surprise! It’s not even necessary to talk about deepening the conflict in Afghanistan, recent whining about the ‘tight schedule’ of closing Guantánamo, or the deadlock in Iraq. Nowadays even warmongers are crowned with ‘peace’ prizes!

Guess the old Norwegian owls had to give their share to the hype. From now on, their credibility is zero!