Protesting close to parliament

As you’re probably aware, to protest near parliament these days you have to ask for permission. Mark Thomas recently played around with this, seeing how the system worked…

Officer: Let’s have a look. What have you got here? You want a demonstration to defend Surrealism.

Mark Thomas: Yeah, I do. I can have a demonstration about anything I like.

O: Indeed you can. I just didnae know surrealism was under threat!

MT: It is.

O: How so?

MT: Because we have a government of paradox. We have a government that seeks peace through war and protects civil liberties by eroding them. This is a paradox. This is absurdism. Absurdism is the enemy of Surrealism. Ergo it is under attack.

O: I wish I’d never asked.

[Thanks James—and this gentleman for saving me typing]

The world is like a ride…

“The world is like a ride at an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: Is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, ‘Hey—don’t worry, don’t be afraid ever, because this is just a ride…’ And we … kill those people. Ha ha, ‘Shut him up. We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real.’ It’s just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter, because—it’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”—Bill Hicks (You Tube here)

Here, have a spot of Brecht

From In the Jungle of Cities:

Love, the warmth of bodies in contact, is the only mercy shown to us in the darkness. But the only union is that of the organs, and it can’t bridge over the cleavage made by speech. Yet they unite in order to produce beings to stand by them in their hopeless isolation. And the generations look coldly into each other’s eyes. If you cram a ship full to bursting with human bodies, they all freeze with loneliness.

From Baal:

EKART: There’s a kind of sky in my head, very green and vast, where my thoughts drift like featherweight clouds in the wind. They’re completely undecided in their course. All that’s inside me.

BAAL: It’s delirium. You’re an alcoholic. You see, it gets you in the end.

EKART: When I’m delirious I can feel it by my face.

BAAL: Your face has room for the four winds. Concave! [He looks at him.] You haven’t a face. You’re nothing. You’re transparent.

EKART: I’m growing more and more mathematical.

BAAL: Nobody knows your history. Why don’t you ever talk about yourself?

EKART: I shan’t ever have one. Who’s that outside?

BAAL: You’ve got a good ear! There’s something in you that you hide. You’re a bad man, like me, a devil. But one day you’ll see rats. Then you’ll be a good man again.

Words

More and more I found myself at a loss for words and didn’t want to hear other people talking either. Their conversations seemed false and empty. I preferred to look at the sea, which said nothing and never made you feel alone.

– Paula McLain, The Paris Wife

 

Love, the warmth of bodies in contact, is the only mercy shown to us in the darkness. But the only union is that of the organs, and it can’t bridge over the cleavage made by speech. Yet they unite in order to produce beings to stand by them in their hopeless isolation. And the generations look coldly into each other’s eyes. If you cram a ship full to bursting with human bodies, they all freeze with loneliness.

– Bertold Brecht, In the Jungle of Cities

 

… of course natural language is meaningless. Even in my most optimistic moments I can only conclude that conversation merely exists to disguise the fact that we are all going to die… No doubt following this lecture you will all exist mostly in silence.

– Maurice Clint, 2001 or so, Belfast, in a maths lecture

 

Language only lives in and through human culture, which on the one hand needs mutual understanding but on the other hand makes direct communication impossible. […] People who use language lose their primitive desires which, however sinful, remain close to the self. Frightened by solitude, their only home, they become automata, slaves of the monster-machine of public relations.

– Brouwer, Life, Art, and Mysticism

 

The more the words,
the less the meaning,
and how does that profit anyone?

– Ecclesiastes 6:11

 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
Doesn’t make any sense.

– Rumi

 

Vows are spoken
To be broken
Feelings are intense
Words are trivial
Pleasures remain
So does the pain
Words are meaningless
And forgettable

– Depeche Mode, Enjoy the Silence

 

What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.

– Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

 

Silence is sexy
Silence is sexy
So sexy
So silence
Silence is sexy
Silence is sexy
So sexy
So sexy

-From Silence is Sexy by Blixa Bargeld of Einstürzende Neubauten

 

Woke up this morning and my head was in a daze,
Brave new world had dawned upon the human race,
Words are meaningless and everything’s surreal,
Gonna have to reach my friends to find out how I feel,
And if I taste the honey, is it really sweet?
And do I eat it with my hands or with my feet?
Does anybody really listen when I speak or will I have to say it all again next week?

– Shakespears Sister, Hello (Turn Your Radio On)

 

And it’s not enough
To tell me that you care,
When we both know the words are empty air.

– Calvin Harris, Sweet Nothing

 

We are spendthrifts with words,
We squander them,
Toss them like pennies in the air—
Arrogant words,
Angry words,
Cruel words,
Comradely words,
Shy words tiptoeing from mouth to ear.

But the slowly wrought words of love
And the thunderous words of heartbreak—
These we hoard.

– Words, by Pauli Murray

Plato’s The Apology of Socrates

On Saturday I saw Yannis Simonides’s moving performance of Plato’s The Apology of Socrates. Here’s a translation (not the one by Yannis). And an excerpt:

“Friends, who would have acquitted me, I would like also to talk with you about this thing which has happened, while the magistrates are busy, and before I go to the place at which I must die. Stay then awhile, for we may as well talk with one another while there is time. You are my friends, and I should like to show you the meaning of this event which has happened to me. […]

… we shall see that there is great reason to hope that death is a good, for one of two things: – either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by the sight of dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain. For if a person were to select the night in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams, and were to compare with this the other days and nights of his life, and then were to tell us how many days and nights he had passed in the course of his life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think that any man, I will not say a private man, but even the great king, will not find many such days or nights, when compared with the others. Now if death is like this, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead are, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this? […] What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer? Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again. I, too, shall have a wonderful interest in a place where I can converse with Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and other heroes of old, who have suffered death through an unjust judgment; and there will be no small pleasure, as I think, in comparing my own sufferings with theirs. Above all, I shall be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in that; I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not. […]”

Need motivation to vote?

This video of Koichi Toyama, part of a 2007 election campaign for the position of Tokyo governor, may help get you down to the polling station.

Choice quotes:

“To all the voters. This nation is horrible.”

“I have no interest whatsoever in political reform or any kind of reform.”

“This nation must be destroyed.”

“I do not have a single constructive proposal!”

“Annihilate everything that exists.”

“I despise each and every one of you.”

“If you think you can change something by voting, you are COMPLETELY wrong.”

“NO MATTER HOW MUCH REFORM IS DONE THERE IS NO HOPE!”

“Please give me a phone call.”

(He wasn’t elected.)

Logic

Dov Gabbay, logician, fan of psychologism:

‘I got married in 1970. My wife is an artist, and I learned a lot from her; the fact that I can talk about things, for instance. I remember I was going out with her, before we were married, and we were walking from one part of the university to another part. My objective was to get from A to B, she wanted to stop and look at the moon, because it looked very nice. And I thought: “What the hell would I want to look at the moon for, when I want to go to B?” Now, of course, I will look at the moon at all times with her.’

(From an interview with “Ta!”) My reluctance to look at the lunar eclipse suggests I need to meet an artist—pronto 🙂

Autistic superiority

A blog post by Michelle Dawson, in which she lists researchers who publish data on people with autism who are superior to neurotypicals on some task, reminded me of a quote I’d saved from a BBS commentary paper by Gernsbacker, Dawson, and Mottron (2006):

“Quite compellingly, each of these statistically significant demonstrations of autistic superiority is labeled by its authors as a harmful dysfunction. Autistics’ superior block-design performance is labeled “weak central coherence,” symptomatic of dysfunctional “information processing in autism” (Shah & Frith 1993, p. 1351). Autistics’ superior performance on embedded figures tests is considered “consistent with the cognitive-deficit theory proposed by Hermelin and O’Connor (1970) … due to a central deficiency in information processing” (Shah & Frith 1983, p. 618). Autistics’ superior recognition memory performance is attributed to deleteriously “enhanced attention to shallow aspects of perceived materials” (Toichi et al. 2002, p. 1424); their superior sentence comprehension is described as being “less proficient at semantically and syntactically integrating the words of a sentence” (Just et al. 2004, p. 1816); their superior imperviousness to memory distortions is explained by “representations in the semantic network [that] may be associated in an aberrant manner” (Beversdorf et al. 2000, p. 8736); and their superior resistance to misleading prior context is attributed to their perception being “less conceptual” (Ropar & Mitchell 2002, p. 652).”

Gernsbacker, M.A., Dawson, M., and Mottron. L. (2006). Autism: Common, heritable, but not harmful. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 29, 413-414.

Edited to add: hadn’t clicked that the Dawson in the author list is the blog’s author! (She is.)

Nice interview with Michel Foucault

(Over here.)  Extracts:

“I am not a writer, a philosopher, a great figure of intellectual life: I am a teacher. There is a social phenomenon that troubles me a great deal: Since the 1960s, some teachers are becoming public men with the same obligations. I don’t want to become a prophet and say, ‘Please sit down, what I have to say is very important.’ I have come to discuss our common work.”

“I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. If you knew when you began a book what you would say at the end, do you think that you would have the courage to write it? What is true for writing and for a love relationship is true also for life. The game is worthwhile insofar as we don’t know what will be the end.”

“Each of my works is a part of my own biography. For one or another reason I had the occasion to feel and live those things. To take a simple example, I used to work in a psychiatric hospital in the 1950s. After having studied philosophy, I wanted to see what madness was: I had been mad enough to study reason; I was reasonable enough to study madness. I was free to move from the patients to the attendants, for I had no precise role. It was the time of the blooming of neurosurgery, the beginning of psychopharmology, the reign of the traditional institution. At first I accepted things as necessary, but then after three months (I am slow-minded!), I asked, ‘What is the necessity of these things?’ After three years I left the job and went to Sweden in great personal discomfort and started to write a history of these practices [Madness and Civilization] … It was perceived as a psychiatricide, but it was a description from history. You know the difference between a real science and a pseudoscience? A real science recognizes and accepts its own history without feeling attacked. When you tell a psychiatrist his mental institution came from the lazar house, he becomes infuriated.”