Quotable (#131)

A Christmas message from Jacobin magazine:

The Marxist claim is that the social relations within a system of production identify real mechanisms that shape the lives of people and define a terrain of conflict, and that the heart of those mechanisms is a combination of exploitation and domination. These are the two words that are used to characterize the specific mechanisms that Marxian classes identify as causally relevant.

Comparable Yuletide greetings to the readers here.

Quotable (#130)

Badiou on the recent unpleasantness in Paris:

This idea, whose generic name, since the nineteenth century, has been ‘communism’, is today so sickly that we are ashamed to even name it. Well, I’m not. But on the whole, it is criminalised. This criminalisation may have its reasons: Stalin, etc. But the aim pursued by the advocates of capitalist globalisation is not at all an ethical aim, as their media hacks would have us believe. Their aim is the eradication, definitive if possible, of the very idea of a global, systemic alternative to capitalism. We have moved from two to one. This is fundamental. It is not the same thing when, on the same question, there are two ideas in conflict, as when there is only one. And this unicity is the key point in regard to the subjective triumph of capitalism.

(Under solemn obligation to respond to this, within the next two weeks. So far, it isn’t looking like a difficult essay to get into a scrap with.)

Quotable (#129)

Watts:

… imagine [an] app that manifests a dark, threatening figure at your shoulder every time twitter plants a tracking cookie on your laptop, or whenever Google mines your email for lucrative keywords. Imagine some raincoat-wearing perv with binoculars, popping onto your screen whenever the TV relays your living-room conversation upstream to parties unknown. Or a monstrous leech affixing itself to the glass, pulsing and sucking and grotesquely swollen with data, every time you fill out one of those facebook surveys to discover which Disney Princess you are. […] Nothing that actually blocks the stream, mind you. Nothing that might disrupt functionality or fuck with any of those peeks and scrapes nobody seems to care about. Just something to show your online environment as it really is, in a way your Pleistocene brain can grasp. Write it first for cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Move on to the Oculus Rift and the HoloLens; have it ready for that imminent point, just a few years down the road, when our realities are all augmented. That’s when it will really hit its stride, gut-reaction wise. […] Call it “Realview”. Better yet, call it Real Life. I’ve even got a tag line for you: […] Real Life. When facts aren’t enough.

(There’s a visual aid at the source that makes the idea even more vivid.)

Quotable (#128)

‘The Fatal Conceit’ escalated to a whole new level:

Nowadays many of us have little contact with the wilderness, making it easy to view nature with rose-tinted glasses. The images we see of nature feature mostly pristine landscapes or healthy, photogenic wild animals. But this incredible beauty masks huge suffering. Many wild animals endure illness, injury, and starvation without relief. For example, the pain of animals that fall prey to predators like Cecil is especially horrific. Gulls peck out and eat the eyes of baby seals, leaving the blinded pups to die so they can feast on their remains. A shrew will paralyze his prey with venom so he can eat the helpless animal alive, bit by bit, for days.

The natural suffering of wild animals is real and breathtaking in its enormity, but incredibly little is being done to reduce it. Although many organizations work to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity, few focus on the well-being of individual animals. And despite more people taking notice of the torment wild animals endure at the hands of humans who hunt and poach them, little thought has gone into the question of how to help wild animals avoid natural agonies.

Despite the exotic nature of this example, it is still illustrative. There’s probably no ideological polarity of greater ultimate significance than that dividing those who want to shrink spheres of moral concern / interference, and those who want to — perhaps very drastically — expand them.

Twitter cuts (#85)


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