Rahil Patel

| (• ◡•)|/ \(❍ᴥ❍ʋ).

賈樟柯’s (Jia Zhangke) Trilogy

21 December 2014 by Rahil

I recently watched Jia Zhangke’s trilogy on and off over the past few days. This includes 小武 (Pickpocketer), 站台 (Platform), and 任逍遙 (Unknown Pleasures). I couldn’t stop myself.

I don’t know of many films that explore the transformation from traditional to modernity as these do. As a person who’s travelled to a few places where modernity shows it’s face in products, notably, northern Laos, I felt thankful for them helping me make sense of it.

I didn’t watch the films continuously. I’d watch half, stop, watch another half of anther film another day. It’s all a mix in my mind.

I currently am at an all-time low, so my philosophical inquiry is equally so.

Table of contents:
小武 (Pickpocketer)
站台 (Platform)
任逍遙 (Unknown Pleasures))

小武 (Xiao Wu)

已經,只有一個片刻的看別的社會,我的頭腦開始做事。我得直看別的人。
As I said, I’ve been brain dead lately. Watching what other people do, how their minds work, is infinitely interesting.

他們等著公車。哇,已經感覺別的世界。
At the initial bus stop scene I already feel I’m taken to another world. A world during my travels, away from the sedentary life of a knowledge society influenced by written and video-related media.

那個公車提醒我印度,老撾,尼泊爾。
The bus reminds me of India, Laos, and Nepal. A little dirty, poor, and the people inside aren’t so intelligent.

哇,這電影非常好,腳踏車的場面,扒手,不聰明人看你。
At this point I already felt the film was amazing. Perhaps it’s because there are so few narrative films that take place in this setting. I was also quite glad to see a film to make sense of undeveloped societies, such as those I saw in Laos.

The people stare. It’s true. It’s quite uncomfortable in reality, but it’s quite normal. It’s similar to the way I may stare at films.

聰明的人不知道什麼做。
Smart people don’t know what to do in this kind of society. There’s no science, art, or technology. No hope. They either must create their own organization (grassroots) or leave.

再,法事,結婚對人做瘋狂的事。
Again, rituals such as marriages make people do irrational things.

哇,真的鄉村。跟印度的鄉村一樣。
It really felt like a rural, undeveloped society, similar to those farms I’ve seen in India. It’s so rare to see a film take place in such a place, and furthermore, have characters that are from that place. Perhaps it’s because it’s difficult to have those people to act, or, it’s difficult to have actors act such parts.

他真的不知道什麼做。有空,沒有創造力。
The main character really doesn’t know what to do. He has free time, but just has no direction, motivation, creativity.

他沒有老師。他不知道女人怎麼做。沒有生活。
He doesn’t have a teacher. He also doesn’t know how to talk to girls. Too smart to communicate to normal people? He has no life, but do others?

我琢磨主任跟這個演員一樣。
The protagonist must be the director’s image. Also, the town must be where the director grew up.

稱讚結婚真奇怪。
Praising the marriage of a rich person is really strange. Loyalty for a rich businessman? Why?


後半我沒寫。
I watched the second half at another time and I didn’t write much. It was late, and I just soaked it all in.

只看,非常好的藝術。鄉下人的生活。

最後的場面真可怕的。真的可以羞恥之心。
Again, when less intelligent people stare at you, it can be quite frightening. In the last scene, shame is added. It’s a strange phenomenon. If one acts in a way different from what a society expects, people are bewildered by the action. Save, perhaps, in cities, where people have gotten used to differences, and generally don’t have time or care to stare.


站台 (Platform)

導演是主角。
The protagonist is definitely the director.

他小時候看電影。給他生命,知識。
When the director was young, he watched films. It inspired him, gave him knowledge.

現代主義。人學藝術,看電影,穿時新的衣服,抽煙。消費者。也一個孩子。
The effects of modernity and consumerism are apparent here: people study art, watch films, buy new fashionable clothing, smoke (well, people did that anyway out of addiction). There’s also the one-child policy. All of this is introduced to a rather undeveloped society. It’s a step toward modernity from the last film, in which these influences did not exist, or, at least, it was not a focus of the film.

With modernity comes aesthetic; The desire for aesthetic leads to consumerism? — fashion, films, smoking. Knowledge and hedonism seem associated.

It is so rare to have a film that explores the first effects of modernity. With modernity comes knowledge and consumerism. It’s quite difficult to separate them.

如果有東西,當然要。
If something exists, of course people will want it. The existence of new objects gives knowledge of their existence, and with knowledge of it, people will desire. If in the Western world, or somewhere in the world, fashionable people, smart people, people with technology exist, and one learns that those things they exist, it seems natural to desire those things.

Without the knowledge of them, one lives unknowingly. Avoiding them is asceticism.

音樂機對主角真有意思。
The boom-box really interests the protagonist. He’s never experienced it before. It’s portable; It plays music; It’s an amazing invention. Shortly after, a dance party becomes possible because of it’s existence.

哈哈,看主演好玩。真聰明。住在不太聰明的地方。
Watching the protagonist act within a society of which he is much smarter is really interesting. He only reacts to new things, consuming them quickly. He does the least amount of work to survive. In one scene, he casually grabs hold of a truck for free transportation. He’s in control of everything.

Only new things, knowledge is his interest. Otherwise, a simple life is enough. There isn’t much consumerism in him. Just a pair of bellbottoms, and perhaps in the next film, eating at a restaurant, of which it is his mother’s first time.

哇,表現了最低的階級。
It’s just amazing to see a film taking place in the lowest class of society. For me, there is quite a large difference between blue collar workers in America and those people in northern Laos. The people in Laos just have a lot less things. Their house would maybe have a less than 50 items in total. There’s far less stuff, and in my mind, it makes a large difference in society, no matter the social class.

除了學校就是煤礦。
The only options in the people’s minds are going to school or going to the coal mine. Nothing else to life. No other way to learn. No other way to live. Society has narrowed life down to two choices.

In the first film, society urged the protagonist toward business. In the third film, the mother urged a character to join the army; That character felt he had no other choice, and just felt hopeless after he found out he was unable to join.

第二半:
真好提醒我遼國。
It really reminds me of Laos. I guess I haven’t seen a film with this kind of society after going to Laos. It’s all I could really compare it to.

沒有前人也知道學校比煤礦比較好。他的工作非常不好。怎麼可能聰明人許工作這麼不安全?
At least people without money (at such a low level of society) value school over the coal mine. It’s always astonishing people know dangerous coal mines exist, yet are unable to do much about it, except, make art about it. How can people continue living in wealth without at least giving coal miners helmets?

嗎,爸爸不知道他的女孩子去哪裡。不可能停她。
The father doesn’t know where his daughter is. An effect of modernity? Kids go about doing what they want, a generation different, unable to understand, manage, or stop them. The next generation is smarter. What can they do? The whole Tokyo Story conundrum again.

藝術家自己發現他們做什麼。在鄉下真漂亮。
Artists discover themselves. It’s quite beautiful to see this in such a rural society. That even artists exist there. Their aesthetics are ancient as the the media that reached them, yet they are the most intelligent people in their society. It gives some direction. It leads to traveling to consume more art. In turn it leads to more performances, incorporating the things they learned.

哈哈,好酷,藝術人有藝術時間。他們得旅行。
Haha, there’s a scene where the artists go to a shady place to experience art. It reminds me of shady art venues in American cities. It’s more lovely here because of the contrasting setting. The artists depicted in this film feel no different than the most creative artists in Brooklyn. It’s quite unbelievable to see it.

哇,女人跳舞對人應該看得奇怪。
The modern dances must look strange to the audience. Showing any kind of art to the general public must be similar to showing fine art to the general public of America: people don’t understand nor know how to react.

This dance reminds of quite a few times during my travels when I didn’t quite understand art in less developed societies. In Penang, Malaysia, I went to a restaurant, and there was a performance of a transsexual singing old pop songs. In Baroda, India, there’s a school that runs old plays. All over Taiwan, there are plays, Chinese classical music, and even puppeteering, The aesthetics are ancient, non-progressive. Art departments still teach them. It was always quite an oddity to me, as a person who lived in New York and experienced current art. It’s understandable for old societies, but for any society that has an internet connection, it’s very a very strange experience.

他的爸爸也去城市。
His father works opened a business on the highway. He feels like an intermediary step of modernity between the protagonist and the mother. The father doesn’t come home often, a characteristic of modernity. Three generations in one family.

TODO: STOPPING HERE, quite tired

todo:
哈哈,真花哨的表現。

哇,真好。他知道怎麼現代影響人。

本人不打定主意。

按摩,歌劇。

哇。他打媽媽說參軍。

他住在安居工程。

哇,真的奇怪。看電視的房間,差不多karaoke

第二半:
現代主義:理智人只有看傳統人做什麼。不需要參加傳統的東西。

人真的笨,他們反應好慢。

在傳統的地方可以活只有短的時間。因為沒有理智人。可是如果你是聰明你得會作理智的事。

在社會外面主角看社會。只有可以看創痛的東西。

現代人為貴。

二十年的錢她要用了修復房子。

高速公路開了門,意思是,可以互通情報。

Looking at synopsis on Wikipedia, it becomes much easier to see actions:
Aimless people, because there is no hope in the society. No empowerment, art, or science.

One event sets the characters into action: the explosion of a textile mill.

Gift-giving and largest use of money, even going into debt and taking a loan for.

Zhangzhi – philosophized that we should do what feels good.

Feeling of not future after getting denied by Army. The Army was the only action to make his mother happy?

Learned to rob a bank from American films? Quentin Tarrentino? hah.

“At first it was the bleak and lonely buildings that attracted me. When I saw the streets filled with lonely, directionless people, I became interested in them.”

Unknown Pleasures was filmed using digital video in only nineteen days, as a result of time and budgetary constraints.

Jia was able to begin shooting a mere three weeks after developing the idea for the film.

this generation is often detached from reality, filtering their experiences through the internet, television, and other media.

“the attitudes of these kids are almost completely derived by the electronic mass media that they consume and that consumes them.”

In Unknown Pleasures, young people lack discipline. They don’t have any goals for the future. They refuse all constraints. They run their own lives and act independently. But their spirit is not as free.

For Jia, the story of the Monkey King “reflects the fatalism of [Unknown Pleasures]” in that unlike the Monkey King, these characters “struggle desperately. They pull themselves out of difficult situations, but they always fall back into new problems because no one can escape the rules of the game. True freedom doesn’t exist in this world.”

That year, reality was more theatrical than anything we could see at the movies. It even leaned toward surrealism. The entire population got worked up. This strange excitement gave me a worrisome feeling. The anger of society’s inner layers was beginning to come out and show itself.

Leave a comment | Categories: Film Reviews

The Limits of Digital Work

15 December 2014 by Rahil

Digital work has its limits, even the highest form of today’s robots do. They can’t emulate a teacher, a doctor, or a three-year old. For the most part, it only provides knowledge in the form of data.

It seems to me that there is a cognitive bias in developed societies whereby doing some digital work for good is significant in value, whether it’s donating to a high level organization, funding a kickstarter campaign, giving data for earthquakes, or offering their own computer for protein synthesis. All of these forms of charity are very low in value.

I don’t know how the capital from high level organizations reach low level ones, but it’s probably through a lot of wasted effort.

I can only think at a community-level, and I don’t quite understand why others don’t. I believe, this is perhaps linked to the home fallacy.

Perhaps another reason to throw everyone who lives in the suburbs of a developed country to a nearby homeless shelter, empowerment organization, or professional aid facility, or, to a developing country, and do some actual work.

The limits of Digital work also may lead to the discontent of people in the knowledge society. [needs more thought]

Leave a comment | Categories: Ethics, Sociology

Babel

15 December 2014 by Rahil

The film was great, but the winter blues got me down, so my brain isn’t firing nearly as much.

Morocco

This country is near the top of my list to go to because it retains such a strong street culture, and therefore high happiness index.

Farm-life

Agricultural society?

Innaritu understands multiple cultures and lifestyles, the similarities and differences in ethics. He probably traveled much in his life.

Why not celebrate together? A problem with houses.

Never-mind, the maid actually took the kids to Mexico. Nice!

Kid’s don’t learn from television.

Tourist shot. It’s plausible. More likely to get in a car crash though, but that wouldn’t have blown up in American media.

Framing.

Japanese deaf volleyball player.

So much to be learned from deaf people.

This film is fucking amazing because of the constant switching between societies.

Hah, chicken leg broken.

Reminds me of the time I created the belief that one must be able to kill what they eat.

They had fun catching chickens though.

There’s a nice sensual pleasure in Mexico, one they were probably deprived of.

Oof, such ethical conundrum. The older female indegenous-appearing person stopped pressuring the wound.

Or maybe it was done?

The deaf is shunned from society. Yet wants to be a part of it; Societal norms disregards them.

It’s so rare that I encounter deaf people. Perhaps they are less willing to come out to the public, and stick to institutions and home.

Societies are too distant to face emotions for(?), only real experience can give to feelings.

Perhaps this thought came when a television showing media appeared. Media just can’t compare to reality in inciting action.

An aside: The director travelled at ages 17 and 19 via a cargo ship to work across Europe and Asia.

Only because an American died such value is given.

They even sent a helicopter!

All to go for a marriage.

Traditional values make people do crazy things. Even now, I have a cousin who’s wedding is in India. The cost is at least the cost of displacing 20+ Indian-Americans via a round-trip flight across the world.

Hah, the marriage in Mexico reminds of those in Southeast Asia and India.

They just seem odd.

The scenes of the Mexican marriage and park in Japan are beautiful.

Cops shoot without care for the villagers.

I didn’t quite understand why the cops were so angry. Do they care for Americans that much? Weren’t they Moroccan?

The edge of civilization is near, especially as the world becomes more connected with transportation. The effects of societies clashing is inevitable.

It’s surprising how close (in proximity) these events are. The Mexican border is perhaps 12 hours away by car, or an hour flight. One could experience a completely different society in a matter of hours. As budget airlines increase, people do. The effects of this, I am unsure.

Leave a comment | Categories: Film Reviews, Films

Chaos and Organization

13 December 2014 by Rahil

Open spaces provide chaos.

Closed spaces provide organization.

The mind is an organizing machine.

Change between open and closed spaces balance chaos and organization.

Travel provides chaos.

Houses provide organization.

Cities provide flux.

Leave a comment | Categories: Ethics

Valuable Things I’ve Written

06 December 2014 by Rahil

These are posts I felt either are aiming at ideals, are ongoing, or are worth thinking about some more.

No more writing
Information Organization, Mediums, Creativity, and Experience
Information, Media, and Education
Public Places
A Design Strategy for Data
A Liberal Arts Self Study Curriculum
What makes a classic, classic?
Hippie Ethics
The Ideal Public Space
Happiness and Public Spaces
My Education
Teaching in Poor Places
Start from Nothing
The Ideal Neighborhood
Social Life in Proximity
The Most Powerful Forms of Art
Searching for the Greatest Environment Ethics
New York and Taiwan
Solitude and Depression

Leave a comment | Categories: Literature

Solitude and Depression

06 December 2014 by Rahil

I’ve written a bit about this in the past when I observed the affects of solitary work, my history of sleeping patterns, life as a wave of highs and lows, a specific moment in my own history going from high to low.

Causes:
My personal depressions usually involve a combination of these characteristics of the material world, which affect the mind and body:

Mind:
lack of social relationships
lack of sensory input (sensory deprivation)

Body:
lack of heat
lack of sunlight

Effects:
The immediate effects are:
anxiety (usually results in finding replacements for the lack of the effects [this can be very strong during more manic times])
lucid daydreaming (sensory illusion)

The later effects are:
depression
loss of time and perception
oversleeping

Actions:
I want to elaborate on the anxiety part by describing some of my past actions. It feels so basic that the desire to bring those things lost back to equilibrium seems of animalistic instinct. I’ve previously taken actions to relieve all of the negative effects. The actions can be separated to two kinds: immediate and long-term. Here I will discuss the immediate kinds. The long-term actions are listed under my solutions which come later.

The cause of sensory deprivation is usually an environment that isolates sensory input: a dwelling. I usually resolve this by either finding sensory input inside the house i.e. consuming media. This seems unnatural.

I usually resolve the social time simply by talking to someone nearby, or by attending a social event. If there is no one to talk to nearby, technology can be used to communicate, but I am reluctant to use technology to communicate to people outside of the isolated environment. I’m more likely to rely on the communication of artists through art objects. Though this approach too seems unnatural

The cause of cold weather is a matter of the climate of where I live. I usually resolve this with exercise, warm clothing, warm showers, and natural electric lighting. Though this approach too seems unnatural.

[todo: long term, where to put?: One time when I was in Taipei, I took the radical action of deciding to go to India, perhaps strongly influenced by this need; It was winter, though not too cold, I did not feel great. It has also affected my choice in San Francisco above New York, and Asia above America and Europe. Temperature is such a simple bodily effect that the response is a part of homeostasis, yet the the desire is factored in such large decision-making.]

[todo: move paragraph?] Houses seem to have paradoxical social and heat influences: the house has a heater, attracting people to isolation, as opposed to pushing people outside of houses, to gather in public spaces.

[todo: move paragraph?] The fact I’ve written so much about depression and not everything else in life is because solitude causes me to talk in the form of writing, likely while experiencing depression.

It is unnatural to build an artificial environment when the ability to move to an environment that offers natural solutions is possible. We don’t live in a time where travel is impossible or too expensive. I feel there is a very simple, yet strong cognitive bias here, to the point that the decision to live in the place one currently resides is now unthought of. Individuals, families, entire communities alike could move, and often do when a stimulus arises (natural disaster, no money).

Personal psychology and sociology:
from Wikipedia:

…some psychological conditions (such as schizophrenia and schizoid personality disorder) are strongly linked to a tendency to seek solitude. In animal experiments, solitude has been shown to cause psychosis.

The desire for solitude for a short period doesn’t fit modern society very well. I’ve got a long history of sleeping in class and working mindlessly during these times. It’s the direct cause of a lot of wasted time of my own past.

To seek solitude, yet not stay in it for too long is a common struggle anyone (especially artists that want to get personal work done). I’ve argued that it is best to live in a community of a developing country and even better to live on edge of that community for higher creative needs.

In addition, nearly every winter I face this problem solely due to the causation of negative effects on the body.

Solution:
To avoid solitude, I need to simply remember to avoid these places:
cold and non-sunny climate
dwellings isolated from large communities

The warm climate deters cold and lack of sunlight.
A dwelling near a large community (small towns, cities, institutions) deters isolation.

Conclusion:
Perhaps these are the reasons I have a tendency to prefer large communities to small ones. To the dismay of those individuals I’ve met in small communities and for the self-interest of my own health, it seems my ideal lifestyle is to live within a larger community, which allows me to go into phases of soft solitude.

This ideal lifestyle constricts my ideal habitat to a large community. Thus, the environment I live in isn’t just for the sake of increasing creativity, having proximity of the intelligent and their communities, or other high-culture needs, but also for the basic needs of health, determined by very simple sensory and social factors.

Leave a comment | Categories: Psychology, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Sociology, Urban Planning

Nuclear Families and Communities

05 December 2014 by Rahil

In a past post I described Taiwan as active and Japan as inactive:

An active life, that is, one is constantly making decisions before taking action. One thinks to call a friend, cook something, go to a park, embark an adventure, not because they were told to, but because one decided themselves to do so.

The narrow passive consumption of Japan is more akin to the suburbs. One consumes the media around them or computer (although the computer is a more interactive form of consumption). The only new stimuli is media (if they chose a new one) and the social experience with people of whom they already have a relationship with (if they even created new relationships outside the ones they were born into i.e. their family).

I would stereotype the two countries’ societies as so: Taiwan is the social island nation where the people are always friendly and happy; Japan is the dsytopian future where media and machines replaced human interaction.

In another view, I feel that they have opposite social conceptions of community. I feel that Taiwan is a community and that Japan is a bunch of nuclear families (or, in the case of cities, single households).

In Taiwan, there are a few kinds of housing options: single without bathroom, single inclusive (suite), shared apartment, and entire apartment. The single rooms are often connected, and sometimes the people know each other, especially if it’s near a school.

I imagine it’s similar for Japan.

In American cities, people tend to live together in two to four bedroom apartments, or even a house.

Though Taiwan and Japan have similar housing, it feels as if there’s less time spent in a Taiwanese household. The people are out, day and night. Perhaps thanks to the street culture.

In Japan, it feels more common to go home. There’s even formalities of entering and exiting a home. A home feels like a really important part of their culture. They buy groceries (which are almost as expensive as a meal outside) and cook food for themselves or their household, which may contain a nuclear family (or mate). They eat at home. They have a library of media at home — bookcases full of manga, DVDs, and games.

Because more time is spent in the household, experience becomes limited to it. Experience is constricted to the social relationships in the home, media, and now, the internet.

I’ve personally always been a kind of street kid. It seems that Japanese culture doesn’t work for street kids. People go to a library (or cafe) to take a book home, not to read at the library. There’s less communal areas, less public spaces, because there’s a less need of them.

In a country of nuclear families, media increases in power as a means of communication. Contrarily, public communication, solidarity required to take mass action, decreases in chance. It’s the suburbs effect. Except in the case of Japan, it includes the cities.

This thought was raised after spending a day with a nuclear family. The people only talked of food. The leisure time to think and talk about it is a privilege that no one can see. The time one could spend thinking of others (outside of the nuclear family) was thought about a few times, but never lead to action.

I always face a tension when coming into relationship: how much time should be spent on relationships, and how much should be spent on others.

I feel Japanese people spend more time on relationships, and emphasize the importance of them greatly through parenting, culture (especially rituals), and it permeates to work relationships. Being a part of society means having relationships. Being outside of society is viewed as extremely bad. In this view, bums should not be cared or helped for, because they chose to be outside of society.

Though Taiwanese people spend a lot of time on relationships, it seems there’s less emphasis. One could be a part of the society without many. Outsiders are welcome. All people are cared and helped for. One could be invited to eat a meal with another social group, even a nuclear family. The outsider isn’t seen as such, it’s another person, another part of the community.

In this post I use Taiwan and Japan. In another view, Taiwan could represent a city and Japan the suburbs. In another, Taiwan represents traditional societies (Nepal, small towns) and Japan modern (most developed countries). I feel the vital, simple difference in society this: one is aggregate of communities, the other is a community of communities.

[todo: can extend with thoughts about living in a nuclear household compared to a larger household, care for elderly, care youth, etc.]

Leave a comment | Categories: Japan, Sociology, Taiwan, Thoughts, Urban Planning

Create for Survival

04 December 2014 by Rahil

The nature of an animal is to survive.

To survive, animals take actions to increase survival.

Act for survival.

After one is able to survive, discontentment arises.

To cure the discontent, humans create (or sometimes consumption, heavily exercises, or a negative passion — war).

The nature of a human in the developed world is to create.

Create for survival of a complex mind.

[todo: needs more thought]

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Ethics, Philosophy

New York and Taiwan

04 December 2014 by Rahil

aka In Praise of Taiwan

[todo: way too long, need to clean up.]

When one is away from their home, forced to be in a place they don’t want be in, one becomes homesick.

An artist’s home often isn’t just a dwelling. It’s a community, which could be in the form of a group of people, a city, a country, or even the world. It’s a place where one feels the urge to take action. The artist belongs in an active place, and desires it, though breaks may be needed (or breakdowns if one fails to take a break).

Now, away from a home and in isolation for nearly half a year, I can hear two: New York and Taiwan.

Since my stays in both of them, they’ve been on my mind, as a place I tell myself that I’m going to come back to.

From personal experience, I know the environment affects me greatly. Whether that’s a lack of willpower or responsibilities doesn’t matter. It affects my social construction of the world and what I do — for work and art. Therefore, the choice in environment is the greatest.

In Searching for the Greatest Environment Ethics, I came to the conclusion that:

A single small community is exclusive (the reason for my apathy of college towns). The community must be inclusive. A community of communities, including public interaction — a city, or even a country.

An inclusive city or country is better than an exclusive institution.

In Philosophy from Media versus Life; New York versus the World I questioned:

Does America consume more media than the rest of the world? Especially compared to social nations such as those in South East Asia and Taiwan?

I don’t think so. Taiwanese people consume a lot of media too. But the way they consume it is different. They do it while living a very lively life, and use their phones to watch television or movies. I’ve only seen old people sit at home and watch television. This contrasts greatly with the suburbs, where media is consumed solely.

All one needs is a few good relationships, creative ones, and both would work.

Now I begin to question this, is a few good relationships really enough to make up for the deficit of good characteristics of the environment?

From Public Places:

In East Asia, it didn’t matter where I slept; There’s no crime there. I’d sleep when I was tired, or at a friend’s house, or at a park. It cut commute time.

In Taiwan, it didn’t matter where I ate. The food was cheap enough to eat anywhere. There was no reason to go home. I could eat, sleep, work, anywhere. Absolute freedom.

Though I feel quite confident in nearly every part of the world, there is a bit more freedom felt when crime does not exist. As a night person who enjoys the company of people awake at night, or just strolling around at night, this is much appreciated. It enables me to stay active day and night, regardless of when I am awake.

Though I could live with a box of cereal and some fresh fruit in my backpack, the prevalence of cheap food allows me to worry about one less thing. And this thing is important as it’s required for survival. It being delicious and healthy are extra.

Public Places as a Savior from Commoditization:
Public places in cities I think are closely associated to freedom. The sense of freedom gets lost in social norms of the artificial. People are conditioned to sleep at home, cook and eat at home, work in offices, and work more at home or at a cafe, leaving bars as the only place to socialize. This is the result of commoditization, people feel (and often do) that they have to pay to use a computer, pay to rent a book or dvd, pay to sleep, pay a cafe to use the internet, pay to park, pay to sleep, pay to travel, pay to pitch a tent, pay to drink water, pay to wash clothes. Without a healthy street life, worse, in the suburbs, it’s possible that people live without knowing they could actually meet friends at a park, have a barbecue, and enjoy.

Though I’ve become quite resistant toward commodities and an adherant of minimalism ethics, I fear that over time that it may be possible to recondition my mind toward more capitalistic behavior.

During my short time in New York, just by following the belief of not eating out alienated me of several chances of social interaction.

I neither wanted to be inside of a building in front of a screen or inside another building paying for something to do something. I just spent the time in the public, talking, thinking of ideas based on time in the public. And they were some of my best ideas, I felt. It was just a simple matter of thinking of design philosophy and walking around.

The law of America felt restraining too. I watched bums gets kicked out of parks. And it showed too, in the ways people acted in society. Not just refraining from doing unlawful things, but in taking several extra unnecessary actions in daily life (todo: see if i can find examples in thoughts).

I usually feel the freedom of New York only half of the time. Sometimes I feel I could takeover any abandoned building in New York and run an event there. Other times I feel pushed constrained by society to into a tiny space to make something on a computer, which leads to a huge problem.

There is no free wifi in New York. Its age is showing. I don’t think modern architecture can be blamed there. Also, there aren’t any outlets. One has to rely on commodity.*

A lot of my negative thoughts of New York are based on my visit after traveling, which is kind of unfair. Even worse, I spent quite a bit of time on Manhattan because the school is there. It was quite a suffocating experience. When I used to live in Brooklyn, things seemed much peachier.

From I Still Don’t Understand:

To live in a society where one has to constantly, consciously and unconsciously, make decisions to avoid doing wrong, especially in simple daily actions such as buying food and discarding trash, to ignore indoctrination and propaganda, obvious or not, is the result of a failed society.

All nations suffer from these things. No nation is pristine; Shit is prevalent.

I feel there’s far less of this kind of decision-making taking place in Taiwan. Less research, more doing. I find a local service person to do whatever I need to do, and it just works. My money goes to the street vendor, the healthcare shop, bike shop, or whatever. Convenient stores may be the only decision-making I remember (suck it 7-11!). There was no research of ratings or quality assurance of the places I went to. I just have faith in the people. I’m not sure if I’ve quite quite built that much faith in New York, especially for professional services. I only feel good in a good neighborhood, which is usually an ethnic enclave.

I felt quite good in San Francisco too. Though, I lived in a Chinatown there. Perhaps it’s just the friendly nature of the people there, of which a great amount are Asian.

Yet, because less developed societies are just that, the problems are less developed too. Government may be corrupted, but people at least know what they’re eating, drinking, where their trash is going, how their dwelling was made, who their children’s teachers are, have less equality problems, and can afford and/or have free emergency healthcare. Also, with less money, there’s less chance of government committing large-scale wrongdoing such as imperialistic wars.

Taiwan throws out the trash themselves, know what they’re eating and drinking (kind of, hah), take care of educators, have affordable healthcare.

New York suffers greatly from this. It is an entirely artificial world. People throw trash anywhere, nothing is recycled (though it’s negligible compared to larger matters), there’s over-consumption and over-production, teachers are underpaid and under-appreciated, and the food comes from the top food manufacturers which themselves have awful ethics. Poor ethics exist from the top to bottom.

From Creativity as Organization from Chaos:

If this is the case, then it is best to live on the edge of society. Cities are the most potent area of human organization. One needs distance, surround oneself with less common materials, then create. It will also lead to a more creatively efficient lifestyle, as the mind struggle to piece together the world into new designs and idea

During the two times I spent in New York, I never left it. I didn’t go into any kind of nature, save public parks, and that’s frightening. I didn’t see any farms, beaches, hills, mountains, forests, anything. A friend said he was able to camp just an hour away. So it was possible, but I didn’t think of it. I was so far into nature, I just didn’t think about exploring out of it on any weekend. Everything I experienced was artificial.

Taiwan has nature, bounds of it, and I actually feel it, and can quickly hike a nearby hill, or even bike to the beach.

In San Francisco, I also spent quite a bit of time biking around Golden Gate park, to the beach, and up and around some other places. Nature naturally attracts me, and if it’s accessible, I spend time with it.

Taiwan feels it goes further though. I can go to other cities, towns, or farms, beautiful natural places. This is because Taiwan has a fantastic train system that goes around the country at every hour, whereas the public transportation of America is limited to the metro system and infrequent buses with no stops on the coasts.The train has a huge enabling effect. I have a friend who works on in one city and commutes to another one-quarter across the island. It was very easy for me to move to another city and work. There’s a feeling that one could work anywhere on the island, save the mountains in the middle, because of it, and people do. Many people in Taipei school or work for a short period, or even commute from other cities everyday. Low-cost trains have such a strong effect that I bet if America was linked by trains, the suburbs would have died much quicker, having people move into cities.*

From The Ideal Neighborhood:

Developing countries with problems may sway one toward human rights and politics. Living in two contrasting societies can make one feel that the other is absurd.

Though not developing, Taiwan sometimes feels so. I don’t feel much difference from Taiwan and Thailand. And I do feel much closer to people, as opposed to materials.

Creativity in cities can lead to furthering of aesthetics. My history clearly shows that I think of aesthetic ideas while living in a city where I consume contemporary art. Though, that may be from reacting to it. I do often think about high art in less developed places too, but it’s greatly affected by the locality, perhaps using less technology and more local materials: local craftsmen, bamboo, food carts, natural landscapes.

As a foreigner in Taiwan, even after living there for quite some time, I still haven’t quite adapted to everything to the point I’ve forgotten the artificial. Also, going to the arts shop on Canal St. isn’t quite the same as going to a random shop in Taipei to buy junk. I feel quite alright to cut a tree for wood, go to a mine for minerals, find metal at a scrapyard. I feel this is incredibly important for any creative profession. Materials is precisely what I feel lacks in the developed world, full of digital data. Though I’m sure people feel comfy in a workshop in Dumbo, I wasn’t able to achieve such heights.

And again, this closeness to nature may have been gained because of the simple access of trains.

Creativity in developing countries, or any society other than one’s own, also provides another perspective, which will shape what one creates. It forces the creator to be more mindful of the audience, resulting in a more universally appreciated art, one that works in their past society and current society, fitting for structuralism. It could have elements of traditional cultures, different political systems, different amounts of wealth. I feel Ai Wei Wei exceeds because of this. He can use craftsmen in China to create a massive piece, understanding their place on a human and political scale.

I think just living in two kinds of societies is enough: developed and developing. Africa might just be too mind-bending for me. Learn the aesthetics before going to the developing country.

Creativity in developing countries can also lead to practical applications, useful technology. In a developed country, technology seems to have passed the needs of humans. Each individual could live with 50 things or less. Living with less would increase the chance of creating something useful. If it is useful to someone with less, it is likely be useful to the rest.

Therefore, I believe creating in a developing country may be better for artists, humanists, innovators, hippies, and, perhaps, anyone of age. With the internet, it is easy to catch up current sciences and aesthetics. Being a part of a human rights community would surely lead to more practical technology. If one has time, one can continue creating high aesthetic art with a unique perspective, likely more political. Though, it may be difficult without a community, such as those that exist in cities.

I don’t think Taiwan suffers from much human rights problems to the level of developing countries. It seems they’re gotten rid of most of the bad things. But it’s quite possible for me to take a very cheap flight to Indonesia for empowerment, which could be conducive to practical innovation. Though, perhaps the same could be said for Central America.

New York has great communities; Taiwan is a community. The recent bailout in America and protests and elections results of Taiwan proved that.

It’s possible to live in a community and ignore anything higher in structure, but I think, especially of people who have the knowledge and time to worry about things on grand scale — international affairs, politics, imperialism, etc., it’s human to care for it.

If a failed government doesn’t have the solidarity for successful activism, not just Ferguson, then the I think that the people of the country don’t care much for their own country or of others.

To even have morals (and not confused with patriotism and “defense”) is new to me. Though I attended John Stewart’s march and Occupy Wall St. I didn’t have much hope in it. Contrarily, The Sunflower Movement was a profound experience.

There’s no better way of understanding a country than traveling around it, and any traveller will tell you that like Southeast Asia, Taiwanese people are polite, courteous, and extremely helpful.

The effects of the ethics show in the way modern society was shaped: it’s clean, convenient, people are not wasteful, people are willing to spend time to talk.

Stay in a country with those ethics, and one starts to build a deep appreciation and affection for the people.

Ethics override financial factors. Besides, it’s the Information Age, professional work is now location-independent.

When a country has ethics you appreciate, working, even the lowest service job, doesn’t feel so bad. As a person who’s had a decent salary before, I don’t mind working as a street vendor, or even in a popular tea shop in Taiwan. The customers are nice. The shops are outdoors, so there’s good public interaction and vision. It feels good. I don’t think I would feel the same if I were to work at McDonalds.*

Perhaps the main question is, are the ethics of a country more important than a select few amazing people?

Yes. Yes it is.

And with that, I now know, Taiwan will always be my destination.

Leave a comment | Categories: Ethics, Social Science, Sociology, Taiwan, Urban Planning

Searching for the Greatest Environment Ethics

04 December 2014 by Rahil

Nomadic lifestyle brings the thought of non-directional, endless possibly circular, flow. Of my personal experience, this is not true. It’s more of a search for the greatest environment. I tried San Francisco, New York, India, countries in Southeast Asia, and cities in East Asia. The process of searching is nomadic, but that process has an end. The nomad finds a community and becomes a settler. Of my search, I found three ideal communities: New York, Taiwan, and, paradoxically, the world.

The greatest environment is an ideal. Isn’t that why people migrate? For a better life? For the materialist, the greatest environment provides the greatest life.

Though there are many ways to live a good life, I’m quite certain it’s a life that constantly evokes creativity; Any other life seems brain-dead.

What evokes creativity? External stimuli. That includes people.

Does artificial stimuli have more merit than natural stimuli? Dewey says yes, an aesthetic experience “ultimate judgment upon the quality of a civilization”.

Does the ability to experience fine art through the internet remove the factor of location? No, because what one experiences through a screen is not the same as a physical experience, and one would be unable to experience it the same, less likely leading to reaction.

Is creativity just a reaction? Even when one uses a methodology, the mind combines past information to create new ideas.

Does the quality of fine art that one is often exposed to make one’s creations better?

Does the lack of exposure to fine art make one more likely to create more divergent ideas?

Is MIT the best environment? It’s probably the single community that caused the greatest positive changes in the world.

Should MIT be emulated? MIT is just a physical space with a bunch of smart people, which means only the people matter, not the space. It’s not even in a real city (okay, maybe I haven’t been to Boston, but come on!).

Does that mean space is not a factor? I can’t believe that.

Personally, I know no better way of understanding the world than walking on this earth. No media or settled lifestyle could have evoked the thoughts I had while traveling.

Additionally, I know no better way of sparking creativity than walking on this earth. As one sits for a moment, the mind will put together the things in wonderful ways.

Perhaps this is limited to artist personalities.

There are two ways to explore, through the external world and through the minds of people.

MIT offers people. The world (including cities) offer both.

A single small community is exclusive (the reason for my apathy of college towns). The community must be inclusive. A community of communities, including public interaction — a city, or even a country.

Though an inclusive best single environment, constant movement should also considered an option.

Artists move from residency to residency, gaining a better understanding of the world each move.

Are art objects enough to gain a better understanding outside one’s own society? I don’t think so. Even with the abundance of information and cameras, I still feel experience cannot be replace.

Are art objects enough to evoke deep thoughts from the mind? Perhaps that takes some methodology, practice, and the right social environment.

Can an institution, even of the greatest minds, replace the world? Again, no.

The greatest environment [for an adult] is in flux.

Leave a comment | Categories: Ethics, Thoughts

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