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 Leo Tolstoy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leo Tolstoy. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Crowdfund the Creative Life

Image Source: The Oatmeal (29 October 2015).

In 2014, Pierre-Michel Menger published a fantastic book, The Economics of Creativity: Art and Achievement under Uncertainty, which describes the strange social psychology that governs how we assign value to creative products. Artists and other creative thinkers have never been more desperately needed to understand the changes of the new Millennium; but they face industrialized work conditions, corporate business models, and commercialized distribution systems. Over-competition and over-supply create professional hierarchies in which obedience trumps innovation. Worst of all, creative disciplines - from the amateur arts to academia - depend on an idealized belief in genius achievement, which is supposed to ignore money to maintain purity of intention.

Menger argued that the problem of evaluating and supporting creativity should not be framed in terms of employment and work conditions. Rather, the focus should shift to understanding the nature of human invention and how to sustain it. We must rethink how creative people live and work and how they are compensated, because true creativity already depends on what Menger called "self-realization," a non-chaotic engagement with uncertainty. Move to the edges of any society, and you will find people analyzing and radically rethinking how our world works, and how we fit in the world. Thus, imaginative work is, by definition, not a fully programmable activity. It is unpredictable, both in terms of how long it takes and in terms of results. Yet that uncertainty must be managed, or creative people cannot survive, and their cutting-edge visions will be lost.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Magic, Numerology and the IMF

Planning/Knowledge mural at Bank of America Corporate Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Painting by Ben Long. Image Source: Vigilant Citizen.

What does the year 2000 mean? What did it mean? Nothing. There is no innate significance about it, other than the cultural weight associated with the calendar and religious history. In reality, the passing from one year (1999) to another (2000) meant nothing. However, symbolically speaking, the arrival of the year 2000 was imagined as a huge moment of change.

The mass media, on the Internet, in news, politics, entertainment, and tech circles, convey fake symbolic assessments about the momentous shift to a new age. Moreover, entertainment figures and historic actors blur the line between fiction and fact around this mantra all the time. Other people do it too. Just as the years 1984 and 2012 and the day 9/11 became cultural artifacts, false significance is imposed upon the year 2000. What people do in real life, how and what they create, what they perceive and express, all become narratives constructed around the new Millennium. Thus, although the year 2000 was no more a turning point than the year 1996 or the year 2004, the stubbornly-held conviction that 2000 had to be an enormous moment of change is increasingly mischievous and pernicious.

The trend is evident all over popular politics and culture. The insistence that 2000 must have 'changed everything' means that people are now doing things in large and small ways to 'change everything.' In the artificial quest to change everything, an old visual and numerological lexicon has given the quest false meanings. Throughout the mass media, above all in the entertainment industry, marketers are borrowing symbols from an occult cultural heritage. They are using these symbols like loaded guns, pointing them at the year 2000, forcing that year and subsequent decades to become what they think this time period must become.

Monday, November 11, 2013

War and Living Memory

"Remembrance Day at the John McCrae House (birthplace, museum, & memorial) in Guelph, Ontario Canada. A detail shot of the 'altar' of the memorial, with the complete poem 'In Flander's Fields' and the line 'LEST WE FORGET' inscribed on it. 2 Canadian remembrance day poppy pins and part of a wreath are visible." (11 November 2009). Image Source: Wiki.

Today is Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day, which observes the end of hostilities of World War I. It also commemorates the end of World War II and the fallen in other wars such as Korea and Vietnam and post-Cold War conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The two world wars are passing from living memory. Wiki has a list of the last surviving World War I veterans in the world. Almost all of them have died since 2000, save for three remaining veterans in Bulgaria, China and Greece. They include: Bright Williams of New Zealand, died 2003, aged 105 years; August Bischof of the former Austrian Empire, 2006, aged 105 years; Erich Kästner of the former German Empire, 2008, aged 107 years; Pierre Picault of France, 2008, aged 109 years; Delfino Borroni of Italy, 2008, aged 110; Yakup Satar of the former Ottoman Empire, 2008, aged 110 years; Mikhail Krichevsky of the former Russian Empire, 2008, aged 111 years; John Campbell Ross of Australia, 2009, aged 109 years; John Babcock in Canada, 2010, aged 109 years; Frank Buckles in the United States, 2011, aged 110 years; Florence Green in the UK, 2012, aged 110 years.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Generation X Goes Back to the Future 9: War, Memory and Happy Pills

West Point class, 1882. Image Source: Washington Monthly.

In 2008, James Sheehan, an eminent American professor of history known for his work on Germany, wrote a book entitled, Where Have All the Soldiers Gone? It explains how America and Europe began to follow separate paths, based on divergent foreign and domestic policies in the late 20th century. The New York Times reviewed the book, noting that the two World Wars convinced Europeans once and for all of the perils of militarism:
as the cold war ran down the clock, it became gradually clearer that liberal democracy and a market economy mitigated by welfare had won a complete political victory over “actually existing socialism.” At the same time Europe was fully “civilianized”: conscription was abandoned, armies themselves assimilated the values of civilian society and, as the great English military historian Michael Howard has put it, “death was no longer seen as being part of the social contract.”
Continental Cold War European politics and problems in the Balkans were in fact highly militarized. But since 1989-1991, hazy politicized stereotypes have obscured that history to produce a post-WWII story about peaceable Europe and warlike America.

In fact, one main after effect of the World Wars was the splitting of military and civilian realities, between and within countries. This was an enormous historical shift. In Old Europe, the military class was fully integrated into the middling and highest social classes and recognized as such. Europe's earliest dramas revolved around war. They culminated in 19th century European society, with young ladies fainting after military cadets in the background of masterworks such as War and Peace or Eugene Onegin. There were plenty of contemporary novels describing the malaise that afflicted soldiers as they drank, philandered and gambled away the century in their barracks or in unsettled imperial border regions, for example, A Hero of Our Time, or The Radetzky March. But for all the hell they raised, there was no hint here that soldiers were not a fully integrated part of society. The rift with civilian life came only in the period after the Second World War, which saw the entire European military tradition marginalized.

And while America has been painted by her uneasy allies as a warlike nation marching out of step to the drums of European social welfare, internally in the United States, there is a rift between civilian and military worlds too. The 1960s' and early 1970s' Flower Power summed up how things had changed: society's eager young woman and the soldier were now on opposite sides of an unbridgeable divide, especially after 1970's Kent State shootings.

Vietnam War protests at the Pentagon, 1967. Image Source: Weider History Group.

Again, that split between things military and things civilian has been politicized. My point here is not to get into the politics, nor to debate terrorism and counter-aggressions of the past 20 years, nor to discuss the wrongness and - as the Old Prince in War and Peace would say - the inevitability of war.

Rather, I want to recognize that political arguments about war, war-making and militarism cloak complex attitudes about many things that are no longer accepted in globalized society. There is a strange unwillingness in global culture - driven by mass media and worldwide marketing - to face grim aspects of reality.  Popular culture is filled with violence. But it is a plastic violence where no one ever really gets hurt. As the NYT reviewer rightly cited, death is no longer seen as being part of the social contract. For that matter, neither is ugliness, nor ageing, nor unhappiness. Also, it seems nuclear war is not really someone talks about in polite company anymore.  Anyone who deals seriously with any of these things isn't part of polite company. That's the tone. That's the consensus.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Anniversaries: Lest We Forget Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in the UK, the Commonwealth, parts of Europe and America.  Today's post features things I've found that immediately evoke the First and Second World Wars, whether in historical terms - or through memory and commemoration.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fountain of Youth 2: Neil Gaiman at the Museums of Curiosity

Neil Gaiman's Sandman.

Yesterday, BBC Four interviewed Neil Gaiman, David Eagleman and Sarah Millican on the last episode of its current series for the radio show Museums of Curiosity.  You can listen to the show between June 14 and June 20 here.  After that, it goes offline.  Neil Gaiman is the award-winning British writer whose work on DC's Vertigo comic The Sandman ran from 1989 to 1996, in which he portrayed the Sandman, the master of the realm of human dreams, as a postmodern epic hero. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Answers in the Chaos

Fox Mulder's office poster.

The exponential momentum of the technological revolution is radically transforming social values and behaviour in ways we can’t understand. An avalanche of data is now generating chaos through its speed, sheer quantity and wild variations of quality. So much for the idealistic Web anarchists who hoped that natural order would emerge on the Net spontaneously. This was the sort of breathless prediction made by Wired in the early 1990s! The darkest corners of the internet are now as barbaric as anything on a clichéed medieval battlefield. But what’s even more scary are the sites that propose to offer ‘answers’ in the chaos.