TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label Aristotle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aristotle. Show all posts

Friday, September 22, 2017

If Sin was Visible: An Interview with Dan Vyleta



Today, I am very pleased to interview novelist Dan Vyleta about his 2016 novel, Smoke; the Canadian paperback edition was released in July 2017.

Dan grew up in Germany after his family left Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s. He holds a doctorate in history from King’s College, Cambridge and has written three previous novels, Pavel & I (2008), The Quiet Twin (2011), and The Crooked Maid (2013). The Quiet Twin was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. The Crooked Maid was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the 2014 J. I. Segal Award. Dan currently teaches creative writing at the University of Birmingham.



Dan’s novel Smoke is a magical historical story of Victorian England. The novel will remind readers of Charles Dickens, especially Oliver Twist, Hard Times, and Dombey and Son. As with Dickens’s novels, Smoke is a social novel which reaches a conclusion about what is wrong in society and what is right.

There is a contrast between the country and the city during the Industrial Revolution, reminiscent of Blake’s “dark Satanic mills,” except in this novel, the Victorian smoke in question comes not from factories but from people! Smoke begins at an élite school, with nods to later works: The Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, and The Secret History.

There, the similarities with other authors end. Smoke begins with a quote from Dombey and Son (1848) – what if sin was visible?
“Those who study the physical sciences, and bring them to bear upon the health of Man, tell us that if the noxious particles that rise from the vitiated air were palpable to the sight, we should see them lowering in a dense black cloud above such haunts, and rolling slowly on to corrupt the better portion of a town. But if the moral pestilence that rises with them … could be made discernible too, how terrible the revelation!”
In Smoke, a fictionalized Victorian concern for morality conceals today’s obsession with transparency, truth, and corruption. As with other 21st century works, the historical setting really addresses Millennial problems. And the way Vyleta does this defies all expectations.

Note: All page references below are from the UK 2016 hardcover edition, published by Doubleday.

Monday, August 29, 2016

NASA Reaches Jupiter


"Jupiter's north polar region is coming into view as NASA's Juno spacecraft approaches the giant planet. This view of Jupiter was taken on August 27, when Juno was 437,000 miles (703,000 kilometers) away." Image Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS.

NASA's Juno probe, launched from Florida on 5 August 2011, entered Jupiter's orbit on 4 July 2016; it will remain in orbit for 20 months, testing Jupiter's atmosphere and magnetosphere until February 2018. The American space agency continues the Decadal Solar System Exploration Survey; Jupiter has previously been visited by Pioneer 10 (1973) and Pioneer 11 (1974); Voyager 1 (1979) and Voyager 2 (1979); the Galileo spacecraft (1995-2003); Ulysses (1992 and 2004); the Cassini-Huygens mission (2000); and the New Horizons probe (2007). This Juno mission brings full circle four centuries of research on the great planet, which has three outer Gossamer rings and 67 moons. There are two Jovian lunar exploration missions proposed by the Europeans and Russians and NASA for the 2020s. More photos will follow from the Juno mission:
"NASA's Juno mission successfully executed its first of 36 orbital flybys of Jupiter today [27 August 2016]. The time of closest approach with the gas-giant world was 6:44 a.m. PDT (9:44 a.m. EDT, 13:44 UTC) when Juno passed about 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter's swirling clouds. At the time, Juno was traveling at 130,000 mph (208,000 kilometers per hour) with respect to the planet. This flyby was the closest Juno will get to Jupiter during its prime mission. 'Early post-flyby telemetry indicates that everything worked as planned and Juno is firing on all cylinders,' said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

There are 35 more close flybys of Jupiter planned during Juno's mission (scheduled to end in February 2018). The August 27 flyby was the first time Juno had its entire suite of science instruments activated and looking at the giant planet as the spacecraft zoomed past.

'We are getting some intriguing early data returns as we speak,' said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. 'It will take days for all the science data collected during the flyby to be downlinked and even more to begin to comprehend what Juno and Jupiter are trying to tell us.'"

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Time and Politics 18: Quid Pro Quo


Follow Your Dreams/Cancelled by Banksy (2010) on a wall in Boston's Chinatown. Image Source: Lifehack.

Do not ask if the middle class is dead and where the political blame lies. Ask how much time you have, now that they are dying or already dead. Ask what has happened in the past in other societies after a middle class has died. Most people in the middle classes are waiting for things to improve. If that does not happen, there are two modern roads out of extreme social inequality and economic disparity: revolution or a police state. This was the message, on 20 March 2016, when BBC World News broadcast a programme on the post-recession destruction of the middle classes, entitled The Super Rich and Us, hosted by Jacques Peretti.

For a time after the Second World War, the social contract became quid pro quo - meaning, 'this for that' or 'something for something.' In English-speaking countries, it is a contractual concept under the Common Law, "an item or service traded in return for something of value." The Latin expression is the source for the British slang 'quid' for the pound sterling. One would work for a certain amount of time and gain money and a livelihood in return. Now however, the social contract is increasingly just - quo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Look Skyward: Total Solar Eclipse


The 2012 total solar eclipse as seen from Queensland, Australia. Image Source: EPA via Daily Mail.

On March 8 and 9 there is a total solar eclipse. It begins on 8 March 2016 at 11:19 p.m. UTC. It reaches its maximum point on 9 March at 1:59 a.m. UTC. The full eclipse will end in its range of visibility on 9 March at 3:38 a.m. UTC. The totality will be visible in Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and the partiality in locations across the Pacific.

Visible area of solar eclipse, 8-9 March 2016. Image Source: Time and Date.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Orthodox Christmas: Life in the Adjacent Possible


Image Source: The Culture Concept.

Any apiarist, keeping watch over a hive of bees sleeping through the winter, would tell you that civilization can only function under certain circumstances. Apiculture is one of the world's oldest professions. It is a founding pillar of agriculture. In colony collapse disorder - now threatening beehives across Europe and North America - workers stock up a hive but then abandon their helpless queen. The plague is blamed on pesticides, pathogens, and mobile phone towers, with bee-keepers reporting that roughly one third to one half of their hives have been dying over winters every year for the past decade, despite various high tech solutions. It is hard to say how new this disaster is. There were reports of 'mystery diseases' and 'disappearing diseases' in hives in 1918-1919 and in the mid 1960s. Whatever the causes, the insects' tiny world of flowers and pollination remain critical to human survival. In 2010, the United Nations estimated that the worth of global crops pollinated by bees was 153 billion euros, or "9.5 per cent of the total value of human food production worldwide."

Image Source: My Greek Spirit.

The remarkable way bees organize themselves remains symbolically powerful. Their honey production makes their system seem much friendlier than the terrifying laws that govern your average ant hill. Any agricultural society would see bees as the civilized agents of the natural world, a properly arranged mini-society with a sweet output.

Today, 7 January 2015, is Eastern Orthodox Christmas. Due to the traditional symbolism of the apiary, beeswax candles are held in special esteem in Orthodox rituals. At Mystagogy, John Sanidopoulos explains that for Orthodox Christians, beeswax candles symbolize purity, adaptability of the heart, forgiveness of sins, and divine grace garnered from the wax's floral sources. Candlelight and the sweet smell of burning beeswax recall summer days to illuminate and banish darkness caused by fear, corruption and misery.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: Post-it Note Enantiodromia


Images Source: tickld and John Kenn.

Danish children's television producer John Kenn Mortensen draws monsters on Post-it notes in his spare time under the alias Don Kenn. Obviously influenced by Edward Gorey, Mortensen's monsters are not Victorian or Edwardian, rather they are situated in the unconscious of the Millennial world, around suicide, child abuse, bullies, nightmares, a vengeful natural environment, ghosts of the past, and dreamlike beasts. Mortensen has a talent for capturing moments of extreme vulnerability and isolation in mundane circumstances, whether that involves nosy neighbours or a hike up a mountain. He also depicts situations in the everyday world where dangerous energy has accumulated. Some of Mortensen's Post-its remind me of Final Destination films, in which scares depend on hair-trigger coincidences, a vase left by a windowsill, a kettle boiling over near a sparking plug, the conversion of potential energy into kinetic energy.


To shed light on the messages behind Mortensen's doodles, consider the great Viennese psychoanalysts from the turn of the last century. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) argued that most horrors stemmed from repressed sexuality. Alfred Adler (1870-1937) claimed they came from the will to power as an individual violently molded his or her personality. Adler's ideas inspired a typology to classify personalities as 'getters and learners'; 'avoiders' who are overtly successful but never take risks; 'leaders or dominants'; and the 'socially useful.'

Finally, Carl Jung (1875-1961), founder of the school of analytical psychology, believed that monsters emerged from conflicting opposites in our natures, some of which were confined to individual perception, some of which were universally shared. Jung defined these opposites as the conscious and unconscious, and hypothesized that in western culture, consciousness (associated with Freud's Ego) was dominated by thinking and sensory sensation. The remaining two impulses - emotional feelings and intuition - were repressed and driven underground into the western unconscious. In this way, a stark line was drawn in the west between body and heart. Even now, decades after Jung's death, those who bring elements of the psyche into the material world are deemed in the west to be artistic (at best) or insane (at worst). This was not the case, according to Jung, in eastern cultures. He ignored the "modernized east," but his work on traditional eastern religions and texts led him to conclude that the eastern cultures widely accept "psychic reality."

The unconscious - a pool of symbols shared by all cultures - became a paradox in the west. It could be harnessed and applied to creative endeavours and innovation. Or it could be repressed and unleashed to deal with threats. The Jungian western unconscious turned upon itself during the two World Wars; aimed outward, it could prove a hidden reserve of violent ruthlessness to ensure the survival of western societies. Either way, Jungian theory indicated that westerners remain obsessed with exploiting the constructive and destructive power of polarities. They define themselves in terms of inclusion and exclusion, in terms of an inner world and an outer world, ever mindful of the walls between.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer's Nameless Emotions


Picture of man at night on Wall Street at night time. Photograph by Ashley Gilbertson. Image Source: National Geographic.

A heat wave here inspired today's collection of my best previous summer posts, along with Ashley Gilbertson's photo of Wall Street, above. All of these earlier posts explored summer's sultry, nostalgic or noir atmosphere and together illustrate one of the relationships between the environment and brain function, a cornerstone of cognitive science.
Psychoanalysts have particularly focused on nameless emotions as points at which experience moves past the capacity of language to describe it. See popsci's 2013 list by Pei-Ying Lin of twenty-one emotions for which there are no English words; and below, twenty-three emotions people feel, but cannot explain.

Image Source: Art of Manliness.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Forty Days and Forty Nights: The Rule of Three


Christ in the Wilderness (1872) by Ivan Kramskoy (1837-1887). Image Source: Wiki.

For Christians, this is the season of Lent, a period of contemplation on sin, repentance and atonement, which lasts for 40 days. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the number 40 appears repeatedly, often as a measurement of time. How and why do forty days and forty nights unite these three faiths? Wiki also records the number's occult astrological dimension:
The planet Venus forms a pentagram in the night sky every eight years with it returning to its original point every 40 years with a 40 day regression (some scholars believe that this ancient information was the basis for the number 40 becoming sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims).
Many occult websites claim that Venus traces a pentagram path through the heavens as viewed from Earth.
Scientific astronomical sites do not appear to discuss this phenomenon. Video Source: Youtube.

In religious texts, the number 40 simply came to mean 'a lot.' But the number is a third multiple of the 'Rule of Three,' which makes it fundamental to the structure of creative expression, philosophystatisticscomputing, investing, diving, military strategy, and aeronautics. When you see any number repeated in many sacred texts across thousands of years, it is worth asking if some innate knowledge is passed on in the mythological cryptics. Even a secular outlook can decode the idea of religious fasting periods. The basic notion is that sensory deprivation quiets clamour and distractions. Hunger makes you think about the eternal! Stop feeding the senses, and let them redirect toward the big picture. Finally, one focuses to hear and see the truth in things. And there sits the number 40, in plain sight, at the end of Lent. What does it mean?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Colour of the Year: Marsala


Images Source: Pantone.

Global cultural uniformity derives from marketing decisions which dictate the aesthetics of our lives. One such decision is the colour of the year, determined by New Jersey corporation Pantone, which tells all interior, events, makeup and clothing designers what palettes to use in the coming months. 2015's hue sits somewhere between cacao nibs and oxblood and is called 'Marsala.' Pantone has been choosing the colour of the year since 2000. You can see a video (here) of Pantone executive director Leatrice Eiseman describing why Marsala was chosen, mainly to answer a 'public need for nurturing and earthy rootedness.'

2014's colour: Radiant Orchid. Image Source: Pantone.

2014's Radiant Orchid palette supposedly drew from Indian influences. In fact, this purple palette is not typical of many Indian regional traditional palettes: see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Image Source: Indian Wedding Site.

Image Source: Lamps Plus.

Last year's colour was 'Radiant Orchid.' In December 2013, polls greeted Radiant Orchid with mixed results. One poll respondent commented: "Let's just say subtlety is not Pantone's strong suit. No interest in using either of [Radiant Orchid or the 2013 colour of the year, Emerald Green]." And another: "How do they determine the color of the year? It never seems to be that popular in the Midwest. I remember a few years ago honeysuckle was the color of the year. So I stocked my store with honey colored accessories. Had to clearance them out. :)" Yet another: "Not a nice color. Can't imagine where I would use it." Another: "I'd like to be part of the panel that picks these 'color(s) of the year'. It appears the criteria include ... 'what is the craziest thing we can come up to see how many sheep follow us over the cliff.' In my mind, the color of the year should be one that is either (1) a color most used in the paint industry or (2) an innovative but usable combination for the majority of the populace. I realize that home décor colors typically follow fashion trends but I'm not quite ready to 'wear' my clothes on my walls."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

World War III of Material Consciousness


Image Source: Astroquest Astrology.

Some think history repeats itself; some think that it is a progress. Sometimes it involves transformation. Astrologers believe that we are undergoing the second last of seven fateful revolutionary celestial events, which have been jarring the world's destiny from 2012 to 2015. Specialists in this esoteric field refer to a so-called 'square' between mighty planets Pluto (underworld, reforged power, control, epiphanies and metamorphoses) and Uranus (invention, innovation, sudden change, surprises), which occurred on 15 December 2014.

Skyscript describes Pluto's symbolic energy as follows:
Sometimes considered a 'higher octave' of Mars, Pluto is similarly powerful and penetrating, but on an unconscious and psychological level. It gradually permeates the subconscious with its drives, leaving the conscious unaware until suddenly and explosively it emerges in an instinctive response that brings sweeping and often devastating change in the psyche and way of living. It can thus be a force for great personal good or ill. It evokes the principles of resurrection and determination, which when positively expressed bring resolution; when negatively expressed, coercion.

Pluto governs the conversion of apparent lost causes into successful projects, but at times the receding of objectives when their point of realisation seems imminent; cycles of death and rebirth; disregard for vested interests; extremes of good and bad (including luck); the frustration and annihilation of plans; idealistic socially motivated organisations; ideas ahead of their time; the inspiration to put an end to failing conditions; involvement in organised groups and movements desirous of social reconstruction, which may include altruistic interest groups, political parties and think tanks, professional associations and trade unions, and also gangs and underground organisations; the negation and transformation of conditions; non-recognition of the legitimacy or impositions of officially established authorities; righteous indignation on behalf of social causes; and the voluntary relinquishment of worldly interests in order to advance spiritual development, or of home, country or fortune for marriage. It manifests in writers and dramatists who seek to inculcate reformist doctrines into their literary works. It is compulsive, intense, and sometimes manipulative.
Click to enlarge. Image Source: Tarot.com.

Skyscript describes the significations of Uranus as follows:
Seen sometimes as a 'higher octave' of Mercury, Uranus enables communication without the conventional mechanism of speech and physical conduction methods. It is therefore associated with radio waves, electromagnetic radiation and electricity, and nuclear radiation. It evokes originality, which when positively expressed manifests as inventiveness; when negatively expressed, as deviance.

Uranus confers contempt for conventional conceptions of morality; distaste at being controlled and at arbitrary forms of outside authority; executive ability; flashes of intuition; perspicacious and reliable insight into others' personal motivations; interest in the principles of religion and science, and in scientific investigation of material phenomena; an inclination to part with customs; and mechanical ability that favours engineering. It is aloof; altruistic; cool; critical; crushingly assertive; conscious of personal authority and power; directed by inner impulses; eccentric; erratic; firm-opinioned; frequently fatalistic regarding personal destiny; heroic; iconoclastic; illuminating; imaginative; impersonal; impulsive; ingenious; insistent upon independence; innovative; inventive of new ideas, methods, moral codes and occupations; liberating; moved by new circumstances; off-hand; organising; peculiar; positive; persevering when faced with obstacles to surmount; power-conscious; promoting; prone to sudden changes of mind and view; prophetic; revolutionary; romantic; self-centred; self-reliant; spasmodic; spontaneous; unbendingly willful; unsentimental; variable; and violently reactive against potential privations of freedom of thought and action; but when restricted, potentially anarchistic; bohemian; eccentric; fanatical; and invective and sarcastic without provocation.

Uranus signifies everything anomalous or unconventional; and the sudden smashing and transformation of outdated established Saturnian structures and restrictions. It also signifies bereavements, blind impulses, catastrophes, changes (especially sudden changes), constructive and mechanical ability, enemies, estrangements, exiles, people in power or authority, public affairs, romances, sudden events, sorrows, suicides, tragedies, and uncertain fortunes.

The glyphs for Pluto and Uranus are noted at 90 degrees to one another in this depiction of the planetary square. Image Source: Lunar Planner.

Astrologers believe that the same aspect - a conflict between power and innovation - affected other revolutions in history: Latin American independence in the 1820s; the 1848 revolutions; the Boxer Rebellion in China at the turn of the 19th-to-20th centuries; the first airplane flight of 1903; the founding of the Bolshevik Party, 1903; the Theory of Relativity of 1905; the first IBM computers of 1965; the social revolutions of the 1960s. It also appeared during the 1929 financial crash.

Image Source: Astroquest Astrology.

The astrological aspects are the same today as they were during the onset of World War II. However, the conflict now takes place in the realm of money and material consciousness, and governments are related insofar as their power hierarchies and economic systems are concerned. FemCentral considers the 2012-2015 Pluto-Uranus squares to be a World War III of finances, economic systems, our whole way of understanding money, materialism, and from that - our encrypted consciousness of the dividing line between the material and immaterial, which can involve religion:
Uranus was last in Aries from 1928-1935. This was the time of the Great Depression. Hitler. Rumblings of World War. During that period, Pluto was also square Uranus, as it is now. However, at that time, Pluto was in the sign of Cancer. It is currently in the sign opposite Cancer, which is Capricorn. ... I’m not predicting World War III. Yes, Uranus is in the same place it was in World War II, and it’s square Pluto, as it was then. But, Pluto was in emotional Cancer at that time. Now, it’s in the sign of tradition. Establishment. Money. This is what people are rebelling against. This is what will change.
From Astroquest Astrology:
I would suggest that by the time Pluto leaves Capricorn in 2022 we will have witnessed an entire change in our understanding of what it is that defines us and what it is that we hold dear and give 'value' to in life. This is the time when decadent regimes collapse and new ruthless regimes rise from the ashes. In the business world, many upheavals take place, as new business strategies replace the old economic models and business practices.

Uranus another outer planet, impersonal and inevitable in Aries will in 2012 be moving in and out of a square with Pluto, triggering many changes on a global level. ... Uranus and Pluto last squared each other in 1929 and we all know what happened in Wall St. then. Interestingly Uranus was also in Aries while Pluto was in Cancer, the sign opposite Capricorn where it is now. The Great Depression of the 30's had its biggest impact on families (Cancer) the concerns this time round are about governments defaulting and perhaps more banks collapsing (Capricorn). Interesting times!
There is a 2012 book on how the square pertains to the early teens of the 21st century: Uranus Square Pluto by Wendy Stacey. You can see the financial crash of 2008 further related to the square at Astroquest Astrology, here. Tarot.com comments on the 2012-2015 series of squares:
Some large institutions may fail, while other big corporate interests may consolidate and increase their power. We may witness political uprisings and social and religious revolutions. It could, in fact, mark an evolutionary leap for our entire species in terms of social and technological advancements.
Image Source: Universal Life Tools.

Universal Life Tools speaks similarly of this revolutionary aspect:
PLUTO in CAPRICORN is about inspiring major transformations in the hierarchical structures of governments, corporations & all those in places of power. ... ‘Pluto holds the vibration of transformation and evolution and Capricorn is about rolling your sleeves up and getting down to work… and together they influence the very foundations of governments, financial institutions, medicine, education… structures are/will break down in order to be rebuilt through evolutionary change’.

URANUS in ARIES is about rebellion against old paradigms and revolutionary change. ... ‘Uranus is the shake up planet governing revolution and evolutionary change…. exhilarating people to rebel against old fear based paradigms’.

When both PLUTO in Capricorn and URANUS in Aries square each other (sit at 90 degrees of each other on a 360 degrees astrological wheel ...) we are feeling an intense desire to rebel, revolt and not sit back and take it anymore.  We are so dissatisfied with the lies, deceit and propaganda, we just want to jump ship and start a new.   Yet at the same time, we know from a higher consciousness that running away is futile, as we need to work pro-actively to dismantle & tear-down and then rebuild, restructure and transform from the ground up.

In Addition to the Pluto/Uranus Square, on the 15/16 December 2014 Uranus is in opposition (180 degrees) to the MOON in LIBRA, and hence Pluto in Capricorn is SQUARING the MOON in LIBRA which together creates a Cardinal T Square. ... [T]he 15/16 December 2014 Cardinal T-Square will potentially create much emotional volatility and a strong impetus to break free from the perceive limiting restrictions of our social, political, hierarchical structures.  It may feel like a volcano is building inside of your as the intensity of the T-Square peaks on the 15/16 Dec. If you can hang in there and focus/build this intensity within, as we then come into the Summer/Winter Solstice on 21/22 December as the Sun moves into Capricorn,  combined with Uranus moving direct in our celestial skies, this will be the most effective time to channel these newfound inspirations from the T-Square and implement authentic steps in your life for personal and evolutionary change.
Wisdom of Astrology comments on the personal impact on individuals here, claiming that this 6th square and the December solstice will call on people to find balance in this conflict. We have to change, but what does that mean, exactly? The astrological predictions are fanciful and symbolic ways of describing the social, political and economic processes of change as well as individual experiences of those processes. We are confronted with the question: are we puppets fated by the universe, or agents of our destinies? How we transform ourselves will begin with a challenge to the financial system, and end with a personal exploration of the transition from the material and immaterial. This marks a realignment of priorities and approaches to material problems. Wisdom of Astrology argues that the end outcome of these speculations must involve an individual adoption of responsibility, a broad atomization of leadership:
This is the challenge of our times—to open to our own brilliance and re-create the world.  We have to become conscious co-creators of life—we have to consciously evolve ourselves and our society to the next stage of human awareness.  Facing what’s going on can’t make us so depressed that we give up and opt out.  That’s what patriarchy hopes we’ll do.  That’s a failure to evolve, because the next step for humanity is conscious community in the Age of Aquarius. We have to be living examples of those principles for the future good of our world.

... We have to face what’s happening in our world—face our collective choices of war and fear and of giving over power to our ‘new kings’—the corporations and banks.  If we withdraw our support from those corporate entities as much as possible, they will die out from lack of life.
To live our spiritual values means that we have to become social activists and live out our beliefs.  And so we become leaders in our own small way.  That is the Aquarian ideal, you know—everyone at the Round Table is equal, free and responsible for the collective welfare.
Image Source: FemCentral.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Time and Politics 10: Police State Futures


"Monuments to Kiev's founders burn as anti-government protesters clash with riot police in Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest in Kiev, Ukraine" on 18 February 2014. Image Source: PzFeed.

According to Plato, the régime that inevitably follows democracy is tyranny (the cycle is: Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny.). Wiki:
The Kyklos (Ancient Greek: κύκλος, IPA: [kýklos], "cycle") is a term used by some classical Greek authors to describe what they saw as the political cycle of governments in a society. It was roughly based on the history of Greek city-states in the same period. The concept of "The Kyklos" is first elaborated in Plato's Republic, chapters VIII and IX. Polybius calls it the anakyklosis or "anacyclosis". According to Polybius, who has the most fully developed version of the cycle, it rotates through the three basic forms of government, democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy and the three degenerate forms of each of these governments ochlocracy, oligarchy, and tyranny.
Aristotle defined the cycle as: "the rule of One, the second as rule of the Few, the third as the rule of the Many. It keeps repeating."

Tyranny. It would be so nice if we could just skip that stage. I don't relish the notion of some future Gen Z technocrat perusing this post in 2033, deciding that it violates the latest advisories, and concluding that something needs to be done about future me at three in the morning because of my early 2010s' blog. And so, in light of a day I hope never arrives, today's post concerns how to avoid the establishment of 21st century police states.

Kiev on 18 February 2014. Image Source: PzFeed.

A father and son confront a police officer. Kiev on 18 February 2014. Image Source: Anonymous.

The explosion of the Internet in 2000s gave birth to two great, competing behemoths: statism and anti-statism. On the one hand, there is the potential rise of totalitarian super-states, which will mobilize data-gathering to control their citizens. This is the subject of today's post. On the other, the Internet has fueled a fascination with anarchy and giddy infatuation with libertarianism. Many users on the Web are mesmerized by the lure of stateless chaos and total, Net-driven freedoms; they rejoice in a complete sweeping away of the moribund establishment and the creation of unregulated interactions, whether in communications or trade. That will be the subject of an upcoming post.

You don't need to visit an oracle to understand that everything is in flux, and in this period speeding toward the 2020s, "it's all up for grabs, it really is."

Everything is up for grabs. It's like watching an animated chess board; all the pieces are moving and we don't know where they will land. Reactionary attempts to control, regulate, monitor, misinform, obfuscate around emerging trends are well under way. So are radical counter-efforts. It is impossible to gauge how things will appear when the movement stops. Borders will shift. Struggles erupt between those in power and those seeking power. Everywhere, there are protests and crackdowns. Expect resurgences of radical nationalism, irredentism in places like Crimea, Taiwan, bits of the Middle East  and Africa - and separatism in previously placid places, like Scotland and Quebec. Far-sighted agents rush to anticipate and seize the position of final control after this period of upheaval.

Kiev on 18 February 2014. Image Source: HuffPo.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reason, Judgement and the Age of Information


Madonna dressed as the Whore of Babylon and/or Baphomet at the Superbowl half time performance (2012); first depicted on this blog here. Image Source: Reuters via Stuart Wilde.

In the mid-16th century, Martin Luther attacked the use of reason in the absence of faith. He also abhored the idea that reason and faith were at odds. He felt that when reason was used in opposition to faith, reason became the 'Devil's harlot.' When reason was divorced from faith, she could deceive men into believing anything - any terrible idea - while thinking that they were acting with good sense. The famous remark is widely quoted on the Web; from Whole Reason:
Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism …. [Martin Luther, Works, Erlangen Edition, vol. 16, pp. 142-148. (I haven't confirmed the footnote; see a comment about the Erlangen Edition here.)]
A now-common misunderstanding of Luther's argument. Image Source: Ideation.

These comments were part of Luther's attack on what he saw as a resurgence of pagan Aristotelianism in the Catholic Church and the early universities. Today, Luther's attack on faithless reason is often misquoted as an attack on all reason. This misreading supports a contemporary rift between atheism and religion.

The point to this post is not to get into that Millennial feud. Rather, it is to seize on the larger value of Luther's allegory. This larger meaning also appears in the metaphor of the Whore of Babylon. She is described in the Bible as πόρνη (pronounced porna),  which can be translated as 'Idolatress.' Moral failure as it descends into pure evil - symbolized in this misogynistic narrative by a fallen woman - simultaneously equates with bad judgement, intellectual arrogance, and the worshiping of false idols.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Violence, Heartbreak, Change


Jyoti Singh Pandey, the girl who died after New Delhi's vicious gang rape on 16 December 2012. Image Source: The Poor Mouth.

2012 ended with savage violence: an Oregon shopping mall shooting on 12 December; the unspeakable 14 December Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut; also on 14 December, 22 children were slashed by a knife-wielding attacker in an elementary school in Chenpeng village, Henan province, China; and on 24 December, New York firefighters were shot by a suicidal arsonist.

The details of the Indian gang rape of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey continue to unfold day by day. The female victim's name was released on 5 January by her father, Badri Singh (Hat tip: The Poor Mouth). She was disembowelled during the rape on a bus. After the girl and her male friend were thrown into the street without their clothes and begged for help, passersby looked at them but did not help them (see my earlier posts on the bystander effecthere and my very first post on this blog, here). The police finally appeared and spent half an hour arguing over the correct hospital jurisdiction.

As Aristotle said, only beasts and gods live beyond the city walls. To cross the boundaries of what once defined civilization is to face an unthinkable choice between the two. The alternative is to step back and remember what makes us human beings.

Image Source: Mirror.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nuclear Culture 14: Crossroads between the Virtual and Real in the Nuclear Quiet

Turning points: in the radioactive evacuation zone near Fukushima, a weed called Common Mullein reclaims Japanese highways. Image Source: Kotaku via ENE News.

The Classical Greeks had two concepts of time, one quantitative, one qualitative. The latter was something they called kairos:
Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens. What the special something is depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative nature. Kairos (καιρός) also means weather in both ancient and modern Greek. The plural, καιροι (kairoi or keri) means the times.
Kairos was, for Aristotle, the contextual meaning of a time; in the New Testament, it is "the appointed time in the purpose of God," the turning point when the divine apparently intersects with human affairs. That is likely a concept with long, pre-Christian roots. Paul Tillich interpreted Kairoi as moments of crisis when the word of god becomes literal reality. For the non-religious, this is merely a metaphor, but the idea - of the fictional, the fanciful, the imaginative themes of private emotional worlds of faith and introspection suddenly becoming reality - remains sadly familiar. The terrible and shocking transition when the virtual becomes real is a Millennial concern, and applies even more in non-religious terms.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nuclear Culture 4: Worlds within Worlds

Plutonium Abraxsis by Judson Huss. Image Source: Snippits and Snappits.

Middle Eastern and Japanese news stories are offshoots of the same problem. The past 230 years of modernization, running hand-in-hand with liberal democratization, meant that the great mass of people in developed societies gained standards of living way beyond a level they ever had. At the core of this nexus between industrial, technological and scientific advances, the rise in quality of life, and competing left and right wing political ideologies is one problem: energy.

Raising the bulk of the human population to this extent requires vast amounts of energy. Yet the sources we use bring many problems - ozone layers; global warming; strategic conflicts over oil; controversy over natural gas drilling; pollution; terrorism; despots and popular revolutions in the Middle East; and fears about nuclear safety and the weaponization of civilian nuclear materials - are we there yet? One of the most prescient science fiction novels of the 1960s was Frank Herbert's Dune. In a way, it's even more accurate than Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, because it moved beyond the political world to the deeper problems of technological determinism. Herbert saw that we would biologically and genetically contort ourselves to match our primary energy source. He made it clear: we will do anything for energy. That is because with energy, we have the raw force to accomplish whatever we can imagine.


Yet we face a deeper quandary.  It comes from precisely that - from 'whatever we can imagine.' Critics dismiss the Atomic Age with three words.  Hiroshima. Nagasaki. Chernobyl. But as terrible as nuclear weapons and accidents are, they are inseparably part of the wellspring of Millennial creativity.  The discovery of radioactive elements in the 19th and 20th centuries opened the door to atomic theory and quantum physics; these doctrines fundamentally altered our vision of reality, which had previously remained essentially unchanged since the Ancient Greeks. It's a sea change in perspective that no one can escape.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Only Beasts and Gods


The martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch on orders of Emperor Trajan.  Image Source: Mystagogy.

A recent letter (here) on the editorial page of Canada's National Post newspaper in favour of waterboarding was pretty medieval.  But the writer's reference to Aristotle caught my eye: "only beasts and gods live beyond a city’s walls." There is a discussion on that reference here:
"For Aristotle's zoon politikon there are no persons beyond the walls of the city; outside the city there exist only beasts or gods. To be a person means to be part of the corporate whole of the polis. The essence/end of the person does not inhere in the individual; it does not emerge in the development of the solitary self nor in the development of the self in family as child, brother or father. Neither, for Aristotle, does the person emerge in village, imperial or cosmopolitan life. Only in the polis can there be persons, for the nature of the person is political."
Going beyond the pale, moving beyond the bounds of what previously defined civilization, is now common.  It started with the Battle of the Somme, then the Holocaust. The technological and information revolutions have accelerated a process already taking place.  In the new Millennium, we are all beasts and gods.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Time and the Philosophers 2: From Arthur Prior to Blade Runner

Sean Young playing Rachael in Blade Runner, a wistful android thrown in with teeming humanity (1982).  Image © Warner Bros.

Postmodernists claim that all of our knowledge, and our entire mindset, ensues from language.  Trapped inside the language game, we cannot think without linguistic structures.  This philosophical theory condemns us to moral relativism and deprives us of agency outside of the systems that Postmodernists identify.  Is this so?  Or does language, with its foundations buried in our understanding of time, provide us with a secret trap door?  Does time allow us to think outside of language?