Posts Tagged With: Jacques Ellul

The Non-Negotiables

Watch this video, pay particular attention to the QUALITY of the souls here, not the dogma and theology involved:

Honestly, people like the anchorites described here freak me out (in a good way).  India has a long, long tradition of wandering fakirs, hermits and sadhus which I’m sure many of you have heard of or seen if you’ve ever visited India.

Sadhus in Nepal

Sadhus in Nepal

Likewise Tibet also has a long tradition of yogis, monks or nuns going into seclusion for long-term meditation. Fewer and fewer of them exist with each passing year and the sad part is as they go, so do the teachings as well, since much of their insight is not based on dogma and jargon but rather direct experience.

However, I had no idea that anchorite monks and nuns still existed in the Orthodox world. Whenever I hear about such pure souls like these, it makes me wonder how they can still exist in this age of globalization, instant gratification, nuclear bombs and digital communication. How they can literally devote their entire life to contemplate and attempt to understand the Infinite in solitude and in remoteness.

Modern-day hermit, The man Who Quit Money, Daniel Suelo, living in the wilds of the Utah canyons around Moab.

Modern-day hermit, The Man Who Quit Money, Daniel Suelo, living in the wilds of the Utah canyons around Moab.

It got me wondering about the nature of genuine spiritual seeking and I’m pretty sure there are different levels of it. In my opinion, the demarcation line is, without question,  the market economy. I know I’ve gotten flack for this in past blog posts but you simply cannot mix spirit with money. I firmly believe that. It was what was taught to me by my first teacher back in Cappadocia as well as the Native Elders I spent time with in Canada and the US. If you do, it won’t last for very long and there’s always inevitably some blow-back. But the very fact that it doesn’t last long should also signal right away the level of authenticity and genuineness involved. It’s like fast-food for the soul. It satiates the hunger for like a minute but the hunger comes back even stronger than ever after a while.

Sure, you can sell your abilities, do tarot readings, astrology readings, psychic channelings, yoga classes which emphasize stretching instead of hard-core Vedanta, books based on your insights if you’ve got an aptitude and talent for it or suggest donations for services rendered, but I don’t think you can sell genuine and authentic teachings which usually come from very deep, painful and hard-won experiences and you certainly can’t sell such intensely personal experiences. They either happen to you or they don’t. You either get it or you don’t. When I watch the people who yell the loudest, “Why not?”, I can almost guarantee you’re probably dealing with someone who can’t even imagine a life which exists outside of the capitalist market economy. Yes, I get it, we have to eat, but we’re not just animals trying to eke out a life. I think we’re more than that.

Anarchist thinker and writer Jacques Ellul, elucidated perfectly in his many books why anarchism is the only political and economic model which allows man to become truly human.

Anarchist thinker and writer Jacques Ellul, elucidated perfectly in his many books why anarchism is the only political and economic model which allows man to become truly human. If you don’t have  time to read his books, there’s a lot of videos worth checking out on Youtube.

This isn’t going to be an anti-capitalist rant. My own anarchist inclinations and sympathies are pretty evident to those of you who have been reading this blog for a while now. Maybe I’ll write in another blog post why I’m an anarchist, but I really do think anarchy is the only system we’ve got which acknowledges human beings as creatures with spiritual and social potentials to be fulfilled, not just economic ones. Minds far greater than mine have already written about how radical a philosophy capitalism is and how in its extreme forms eats up everything in sight, all resources, water, land, air, human beings, bodies, life, love, sex, food, shelter, everything and the obsession of infinite growth, infinite productivity and infinite profits eventually starts cannibalizing on itself. We’re already seeing it happen. When a society enters that stage, life and society becomes unbelievably coarse and human life isn’t worth a hill of beans.

The thing with authentic spirituality is that it leads you away from this world, from an existence which is based on a material, mathematically deterministic Cartesian model towards something which very often cannot be quantified and pinned down. Capitalism is its purest form, engulfs you even deeper into the material and physical. There’s literally no room for the soul there. Therein lies the conflict.

Sure, there are many things which money can’t buy, but have you ever noticed they’re usually the first qualities to be missing in a person who is so utterly engulfed in the material, they don’t even “see” what they’re lacking? The lack of manners, character, decency, class, integrity and moral fortitude? Unfortunately, these types are everywhere.

Ultimately, it is about what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable in your own life and your own spiritual journey. The only thing I can add is that when it comes to matters of the spirit, there are some things which are non-negotiable, no matter how you cut it.

Categories: Ascension, Ch-ch-ch-changes, Conspirio, Politico, Raise your EQ, This is why the planet is screwed up | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

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