Posts Tagged With: Commodification of life

Dis-Imagination and De-Schooling Zones

“Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question. ”

Ivan Illich in “De-schooling Society”

I’ve always been a bit of an eclectic.
I think it might have started in high-school. I was somehow “saved’ by my older cousins who were about 7-8 years older than me and thanks to them, when I was 7, I was listening to David Bowie, T-Rex, Roxy Music, ELO and AC/DC. By the time I was 11, I was listening to U2 (long before the “Joshua Tree” and before Bono became a pompous ass) and by the time I entered my teen years and the hellish suburban kids I had to go to high school with who were busy listening to Madonna and New Kids on the Block, I was already knee-deep into what was then considered, “underground and alternative” musical acts like The Smiths, Bauhaus, New Order and of course Depeche Mode.

New Kids on the Block (please kill me now)

1980s Boy Band, New Kids on the Block (please kill me now)

This spilled over into everything else. In my 15-year-old mind, I figured if what was considered “popular” in music was such crap, and alternative music was so much better, then this principle had to hold in other spheres of human creativity and endeavor like film, literature, news outlets, books, writers, politics, fashion, design, art etc. In hindsight, I was right. So whenever I hear someone contemporary cite an intellectual, or a book or an idea which is either forgotten about, retired, out of fashion, out of print, hard-to-find or long-dead, I’m suddenly fascinated and want to know more.

Hermes silk scarves START at $500 each. Each season they make a limited number of each design which are usually pretty cool. This one commemorating Quebec is now a collector's item. Good luck ever finding one on the cheap.

Hermes silk scarves START at $500 each. Each season they make a limited number of each design which are usually pretty cool plus they literally never go out of style. This one commemorating Quebec is now a collector’s item. Good luck ever finding one on the cheap.

Maybe it’s because they aren’t as accessible or as ubiquitous as Kim Kardashian’s ass, but growing up the geek that I was (and am) I always found that thinkers of yore sometimes said the best truths simply and didn’t need every social media site and gizmo under the sun to say it. Quite often they also had great ideas and solutions to problems which no one knew about nor heard about but for whatever reason, everyone these days, particularly young people feel the need to re-invent the wheel when there are hundreds of ideas around which with a little research, reading, understanding, maybe some tweaking and implementation would be just enough to get us to the next stepping stone. (Wouldn’t it be great if someone somewhere created a bank of ideas so that people know where to look for this stuff the world over?).

I also do think there is something sinister at work. When a public intellectual is *too* good, if their ideas are *too* amazing and more importantly may actually work in real life, they are quite often deemed as “dangerous”. I do think The Powers That Be are very good at marginalizing them, demonizing them, silencing them and making their work hard to find and forgotten so that the public remain in ignorance. The thought police didn’t end with George Orwell folks. Look at the treatment of original, intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein and you’ll see what I mean.

The term “inverted totalitarianism”  is used to describe what the government of the US (and its allies I would also add) is on its way to becoming if they haven’t already. The gist of it is this: inverted totalitarianism is described as a system where corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy and where economics trumps politics. In inverted totalitarianism, every natural resource and every living being is commodified and exploited to collapse as the citizenry are lulled and manipulated into surrendering their liberties and their participation in government through excess consumerism and sensationalism.

Chris Hedges recently sat down with retired professor Sheldon Wolin . It’s an 8 part interview and clocks in at 3 hours. Still, it’s probably one of the most illuminating and important discussions of modern Western political history about WHY everything is wrong nowadays I’ve seen in a long, long time. If you want to add some new brain cells, it is well worth a watch.

In the past 2 decades, particularly in North America, more funding has shifted towards faculties of Management, Business, Law, Dentistry and Medicine and why universities left and right are downsizing or outright getting rid of things like Arts (history, anthropology, philosophy, classics), Social Sciences, Liberal Arts and Religious Studies, Cultural Studies, etc. The academy was once a place where you went to get an education and broaden your horizons. Now, it’s a place where you go to get a skill-set. Simplistically, an education meant gaining knowledge (and maybe if you’re lucky, some wisdom) for the sake of gaining knowledge and building up on that so that our knowledge base would expand and grow. A skill-set is something which is usually marketable and used to serve the market economy, like data. It has become corporatized. 

Cultural Studies professor Henry Giroux explains it beautifully above. He finally had enough of it in the States and left Penn State and made the move up to Canada. If you want to learn something new or read groovy books your professor never mentioned, you basically have no choice these days except to go out there and read them on your own. To paraphrase Giroux, schools (and all formal institutions I’d add) have now become “dis-imagination zones”.
Quick example: How many of you ever heard of Ivan Illich or Jacques Ellul? Have you ever read them? Did any of your teachers or profs ever mention them? Do you know anything about them?
Don’t feel bad because I didn’t either.

Jacques Ellul - Technology Critic. Historian. Sociologist Theologian of Hope. Ethicist. Activist

Jacques Ellul – Technology Critic. Historian. Sociologist
Theologian of Hope. Ethicist. Activist

I recently came across those names thanks to some interviews I watched of film maker and former monk Godfrey Reggio, who did the Qatsi film trilogy (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqoyqatsi ). Upon further investigation and reading, I was gobsmacked. Both Ivan Illich and Jacques Ellul were deeply influenced by Christian theology and spirituality but eventually left them behind to become social thinkers and theorists. Jacques Ellul became a big-time Christian anarchist thinker while Illich became a very influential social thinker in leftist circles, particularly in Latin America.

Ivan Illich

Ivan Illich

Ivan Illich in particular fascinates me. A full-on polymath and polyglot who lived the life of a wandering ascetic monk, fluent in 10 languages (including Ancient Greek and Latin) and wrote in 4 of them, Illich wrote on topics as varied as education to medicine to law and was described by some as “an archaeologist of ideas”. The central theme in all his writings was basically “How do we make things better and how do we make them work, keeping in mind the human element here?” As a former priest, he never lost sight of the spiritual element to these questions. His obituary in The Guardian sums it up including the fact that, like Noam Chomsky these days, he was a bit of a “problematic” public intellectual in his day to the establishment especially to his higher-ups at the Vatican.

Illich at CIDOC

Illich at CIDOC

He’s mostly remembered for his books, ” Deschooling Society“, “Tools for Conviviality“, “Medical Nemesis“, “The Right to Useful Unemployment and its Professional Enemies“, “Celebration of Awareness” as well as establishing the Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC) in Mexico. From 1961 – 1976, CIDOC attracted quite a number of intellectuals from all over the world particularly those who were leftist or anarchist in leaning a sort of anti-university. It became a good place to exchange ideas. Too good in fact. With CIA input and the Vatican, it was eventually shut down (of course). The gist of all of Illich’s work was that by dissecting institutions and analyzing how they have been corrupted, we can come to understand why institutions like medicine and education have a tendency to operate and work in ways which are opposite to their original purpose and therefore become counter-productive. Once you understand why something doesn’t work, you then know what NOT TO DO.

For those of you who like to read, are in activist circles or just simply like to think about how to build a better mouse-trap, the likes of Illich, Ellul, Giroux and Wolin are a godsend.
In some ways I’m glad I DIDN’T read them in school. To have done so probably would have defeated the purpose of their writings anyway.

Categories: Ch-ch-ch-changes, Politico, Pop culture, Raise your EQ, Think like the Illuminati, This is why the planet is screwed up | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

When Life is Up For Sale

ATTENTION: NSFW and some disturbing content below and links. For mature readers only.

As I wrote earlier, I’ve been on a film kick lately. I’m usually attracted to stuff which explores metaphysical themes anyway so I struggled with writing this blog post and whether to publish it or not. I then decided, that as disturbing, ugly and painful as some aspects may be, in the end, the message is too important to pass up.

Pier Paolo Pasolini was a bit of a genius polymath. A writer, journalist, art critic, poet, painter, actor, novelist, philosopher, intellectual, political commentator, and finally, film maker and director, there was not much on the creative side of culture he did not study or work in. More than a little ahead of his time, Pasolini often stumped or enraged the critics of his day and nearly 40 years after his death, people are just starting to understand him and his work with a deeper appreciation, mostly because for his uncanny foresight and prescience of the world to come.

Film poster of  "The Canterbury Tales"

Film poster of “The Canterbury Tales”

 

Pasolini had made a trio of films called the Trilogy of Life, which included “Decameron”(1971), “The Canterbury Tales”(1972) and “The Flower of the 1001 Nights”(1974) which in themselves were bawdy, lusty but joyful depictions of human sexuality. There is a joy and playfulness in the Trilogy which is pretty obvious to anyone who takes the time to watch them. Pasolini was no prude. He was openly gay in a time and culture when that was socially unacceptable and no doubt that bled into his work.

Criterion Collections DVD jacket cover for "Salo"

Criterion Collections DVD jacket cover for “Salo”

His next and final film was the mother lode.
In 1975, Pasolini did Salò, (or The 120 Days of Sodom), based of course, on the notorious book by the Marquis de Sade. Only Pasolini changed the setting completely and placed it in the final days of Fascist Italy in the 1940s. (Before I go any further, I should warn anyone who wants to watch this film or take it lightly that this is a VERY disturbing film, and not in a slasher-horror film kind of way. Even if  nothing is real in the film and props and fakes were used, the content is very troubling. You have to be very, very , very strong to watch it and should weaker, more delicate souls watch this, it will affect you on a subconscious level so you’ve been warned and need to take personal responsibility if you decide to watch it.)

The 4  aristocrats, representing Royalty, Clergy, Law, and Political Leadership

The 4 aristocrats, representing Royalty, Clergy, Law, and Political Leadership

The film instantly was banned in practically every country in the world because of its graphic depictions of sexual mutilation, sadism, mental and physical torture and coprophagia. It remains banned in Malaysia and Singapore even now. There’s not much to the plot, only in Republic of Salò, the Fascist-occupied part of Italy, in 1944, four wealthy men of power, the Duke (Royalty), the Bishop (Religion/Clergy), the Magistrate (the Law), and the President (the Leader/Executive), agree to marry each other’s daughters as the first step in a debauched ritual. They recruit four teenage boys to act as guards and four young soldiers (called “studs), who are chosen because of their large physical genital endowments. They then kidnap nine young men and nine young women and take them to a palace near Salò. Accompanying them are four middle-aged prostitutes, also collaborators, who recount arousing stories for the men of power, who, in turn, sadistically exploit their victims.

The four older prostitutes.

The four older prostitutes.

The story depicts some of the 120 days at the palace, during which the four men come up with even more abhorrent tortures and humiliations for their own pleasure. The film follows four different segments inspired by Dante’s Inferno, the Anti-Inferno, the Circle of Manias, the Circle of Shit and the Circle of Blood. I am not going to recount what happens in the film, you can read that elsewhere, but rather focus on what the film and it’s aftermath really shows up.

The kidnapped.

The kidnapped, at right.

Reader, this film will break your heart and your shake your will to live.
I had to force myself to watch it through and had a good cry afterwards but as horrific as the scenes and actions are, there is a method to the madness here and I understand what Pasolini was trying to warn us of. Pasolini understood what market forces ultimately do to human beings, human souls and human bodies. When life becomes commoditized to market forces, that’s when the real torture begins. When you lose respect for life and look at it as a commodity, you lose your ability to feel any empathy and start treating others as objects to your own whims and inclinations – and the results often do end up becoming horrific.

Various contestants from the reality TV show, "The Swan" where candidates show up for extreme plastic surgery and surgical makeovers.

Various contestants from the reality TV show, “The Swan” where candidates showed up for extreme plastic surgery and surgical makeovers.

Pasolini saw the writing on the wall back in 1975, before globalization really took hold of the world, before drug cartels controlled economies and before Banksters, Royalty, Religion, Law and Political Leaders hoodwinked the public to pay for their gross ineptitude and greedy appetites. He understood and saw all too clearly what the final outcome was going to be and started to ring the warning bell in the most brutal, urgent way possible. Unfortunately, he paid the price for it with his life. Shortly after production wrapped, Pasolini was brutally murdered in what many suspect was a Mafia hit. He was run over by a car, several times in a row, and pictures of his mangled, crushed body were published in the newspapers, shocking the Italian public even more. Somehow man and myth became one.

Matching gold toilet and bidet, from the Dubai Boat Show.

Matching gold toilet and bidet, from the Dubai Boat Show. Does anyone really need this?

 

The antithesis of “Salo”, a film which argues very well against this materialism, I think is “A Canterbury Tale” (1944) by the dynamic duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Set in wartime England, and like Geoffrey Chaucer’s original story of a group of eccentric pilgrims on their way to Canterbury Cathedral, it follows three young people: British Army Sergeant Peter Gibbs, US Army Sergeant Bob Johnson (played by real-life Sergeant John Sweet), and a land girl, Miss Alison Smith.

(L toR) Sargeant Bob, Alison and Sargent John

(L toR) Sergeant Bob Johnson, Alison Smith and Sargent Peter Gibbs

The group arrive at the railway station in a small Kent town of Chillingbourne, near Canterbury, late on night. Peter has been stationed at a nearby Army camp, Alison is due to start working on a farm in the area, and Bob left the train by mistake, hearing the announcement “next stop Canterbury” and thinking he was in Canterbury. As they leave the station together, Alison is attacked by a mysterious assailant in uniform who pours glue on her hair, before escaping. The remainder of the film is about the three of them sleuthing to find out who is”The Glue Man”.

That’s just the plot. It’s also a meditation on why nature has to be protected at all costs, the true cost of war and technology in human terms, the joy of childhood innocence and that miracles do happen. Chaucer’s pilgrims travelled to Canterbury to “receive a blessing, or to do penance”.  It’s really at the end which brings the film to a glorious, spiritual conclusion where each of them receives a blessing. (If you’re feeling lost or adrift, watch “A Canterbury Tale”.  It will help you find your bearings. )

The film also highlights The Pilgrims Way, an often-forgotten walking pilgrimage route which still runs through the English countryside ending at Canterbury Cathedral, and not unlike Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. The route is actually far older than the medieval pilgrimage route we know it as today and dates back to the Iron Age. (Quite often people doing the Pilgrim’s Way looking for blessings, end up doing penance and those looking to do penance end up with blessings. In other words, the route is some sort of karmic balancer and that is why I strongly suspect there’s a very powerful and still-pure ley line along that route.)

Map of The Pilgrim's Way.

Map of The Pilgrim’s Way.

Powell and Pressburger may have made the film in 1944, far earlier than Pasolini’s film, but I’ll leave you with the words of Sergeant John Sweet who played Sergeant Bob Johnson in the film. Sweet died in 2011 but he gave an interview in 2001 which is on the Criterion DVD of the film, when he returned to Canterbury for the first time after 57 odd years.

“When I say heads raised in the film, I do mean the spiritual, I mean that very much. This is about the human spirit. Indeed. I realized it yesterday. I saw it …clearly on the film, but I’m a little older and I know a little more than I did when I was 27… And today we’re hungry for this, without knowing how to move on it. …We’re hungry for something… For meaning. We’re talking about meaning… And we’re all short of it. We’re all trying to get it from science or from technology or…or mobile phones. And that’s… that’s silliness. There’s no spirituality in it or in the internet or facts or mobile phones…. It’s a poor, poor substitute for the spirit.”

Categories: Ascension, Conspirio, False prophits, Politico, Pop culture, Prophecy, Raise your EQ, Think like the Illuminati, This is why the planet is screwed up | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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