Ideologías y violencia

Our blindness to the results of systematic violence is perhaps most clearly perceptible in debates about communist crimes. Responsibility for communist crimes is easy to allocate: we are dealing with subjective evil, with agents who did wrong. We can ever identify the ideological sources of the crimes-totalitarian ideology, The communist Manifesto, Rousseau, even Plato. But when one draws attention to the millions who died as the result of capitalist globalisation, from the tragedy of Mexico in the sixteenth century through to the Belgian Congo holocaust a century ago, responsibility is largely denied. All this seems just to have happened as the result of an ‘objective’ process, which nobody planned and executed and for which there was no ‘Capitalist Manifesto’. (The one who came closest to writing it was Ayn Rand.) The fact that the Belgian king Leopold II who presided over the Congo holocaust was a great humanitarian and proclaimed a saint by the Pope cannot be dismissed as a mere case of ideological hypocrisy and cynicism. Subjectively, he may well have been a sincere humanitarian, even modestly counteracting the catastrophic consequences of the vast economic project which was the ruthless exploitation of the natural resources of the Congo over which he presided. The country was his personal fiefdom! The ultimate irony is that even most of the profit from this endeavour were the benefit of the Belgian people, for public works, museums and so son. King Leopold was surely the precursor of today’s ‘liberal communists’.

Slavoj Žižek, “Violence.”

Creencias

There is a small minority, for example, that believes that bad weather comes from bad thoughts. This is a rather mystical approach to the question, for it implies that thoughts can be translated directly into events in the physical world. According to them, when you think a dark or pessimistic thought, it produces a cloud in the sky. If enough people are thinking gloomy thoughts at once, then rain will begin to fall. That is the reason for all the startling shifts in the weather, they claim, and the reason why no one has been able to give a scientific explanation of our bizarre climate. Their solution is to maintain a steadfast cheerfulness, no matter how dismal the conditions around them. No frowns, no deep sighs, no tears. These people are known as the Smilers, and no sect in the city is more innocent or childlike. If a majority of the population could be converted to their beliefs, they are convinced the weather would at last begin to stabilize and that life would then improve. They are therefore always proselytizing, continually looking for new adherents, but the mildness of the manner they have imposed on themselves makes them feeble persuaders. They rarely succeed in winning anyone over, and consequently their ideas have never been put to the test-for without a great number of believers, there will not be enough good thoughts to make a difference. But this lack of proof only makes them more stubborn in their faith. (…)

By contrast, there is another group called the Crawlers. These people believe that conditions will go on worsening until we demonstrate-in a utterly persuasive manner-how ashamed we are of how we lived in the past. their solution is to prostrate themselves on the ground and refuse to stand up until some sign is given to them that their penance has been deemed sufficient. what this sign is supposed to be is the subject of long theoretical debates. Some say a month of rain, others say a month of fair weather, and still others say they will not know until it is revealed to them in their hearts. There are two principal factions in this sect-the Dogs and the Snakes. The first contend that crawling on hands and knees shows adequate contrition, whereas the second hold that nothing short of moving on one’s belly is good enough. Bloody fights often break out between the two groups-each vying for control of the other-but neither faction has gained much of a following, and by now I believe the sect is on the verge of dying out. (…)

If you happen to get wet in the rain, you’re unlucky, and that’s all there is to it. If you happen to stay dry, then so much the better. But it has nothing to do with your attitudes or your beliefs. The rain make no distinctions. At one time or another, it falls on everyone, and when it falls, everyone is equal to everyone else- no one better, no one worse, everyone equal and the same.

Paul Auster, “In the Country of Last Things.”

No meio do caminho

No meio do caminho tinha uma pedra
tinha uma pedra no meio do caminho
tinha uma pedra
no meio do caminho tinha uma pedra.

Nunca me esquecerei desse acontecimento
na vida de minhas retinas tão fatigadas.
Nunca me esquecerei que no meio do caminho
tinha uma pedra
tinha uma pedra no meio do caminho
no meio do caminho tinha uma pedra.

Lecturas peligrosas

This is why we are consciously relieved when we turn to reading after being occupied with our own thoughts. But, in reading, our head is, however, really only the arena of some one else’s thoughts. And so it happens that the person who reads a great deal—that is to say, almost the whole day, and recreates himself by spending the intervals in thoughtless diversion, gradually loses the ability to think for himself; just as a man who is always riding at last forgets how to walk. Such, however, is the case with many men of learning: they have read themselves stupid. For to read in every spare moment, and to read constantly, is more paralysing to the mind than constant manual work, which, at any rate, allows one to follow one’s own thoughts. Just as a spring, through the continual pressure of a foreign body, at last loses its elasticity, so does the mind if it has another person’s thoughts continually forced upon it. And just as one spoils the stomach by overfeeding and thereby impairs the whole body, so can one overload and choke the mind by giving it too much nourishment. For the more one reads the fewer are the traces left of what one has read; the mind is like a tablet that has been written over and over. Hence it is impossible to reflect; and it is only by reflection that one can assimilate what one has read if one reads straight ahead without pondering over it later, what has been read does not take root, but is for the most part lost.

Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Reading and Books.”

German Phenomenology Makes Me Want to Strip and Run through North London

Page seven – I’ve had enough of Being and Time
and of clothing. Many streakers seek quieter locations
and Marlborough Road’s unreasonably quiet tonight.
If it were winter I’d be intellectual, but it’s Tuesday
and I’d rather be outside, naked, than learned –
rather lap the tarmac escarpment of Archway Roundabout
wearing only a rucksack. It might come in useful.
I can’t take any more of Heidegger’s dasein-diction,
I say as I jettison my slippers.

When I speak of my ambition
it is not to be a Doctor of Letters
or to marry Friedrich Nietzsche, it turns out,
or to think better.
It is to give up this fashion for dressing.
It is to drop my robe on the communal stairs
and open the front door onto the commuter hour,
my neighbour, his Labrador, and say nothing of what I know or do not know, except what my body announces.