Category Archives for: Rationality


30 November 2016

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Fuck Japan

Fuck Japan.

That’s all I got.

Fuck Japan.

Perhaps the reason I never thought to talk to others when I lived in suburban America, anyone nearby, as I did during much of my 20s [and perhaps childhood], is because I simply wasn’t interested in the others. Japan [Japanese culture] has altered my behavior to not be interested in other people. As I [just earlier] peered through the express train’s window as it was rushing me toward the airport, perhaps the first time I’ve taken an express transport whilst having time, I didn’t care what is inside those buildings, those giant apartment complexes, the curtained shops, or traditionally-achitected homes.

Fuck ’em.

And here’s why

And here’s why:

Japanese culture has these characteristics: exclusive, unwelcoming, stingy (mentality, monetarily, and urban design), unhospitable (no hospitality), extremely organized (/obessissively), cold (temperature and feeling), robotic (rule-based automoton behavior), unwilling and no desire to learn (beyond what was learned to survive in an individuals tiny social unit), ie (家, socially seperated into tiny social units, nepotism), instrumentally reasoned toward survival and comfort, and overall, inhospitable (uninhabitable)… [todo: add more charactersitics]

Much of it overlaps with (rich?) suburbia. The simple, I’m surviving (living), why do / learn anything else? Why care about what other people / cultures / minds think? It’s a classic social problem: closing of the mind, habituation.

[todo: give examples to all characteristics?]

more thoughts from right now (maybe overlaps with notes)

When a society develops, it develops materially too. It industrializes, organizes, constricting creativity and freedom. It organizes what you eat (taste), see, feel, and do. Japan has narrow taste in all aspects: food, design, fashion, textures, images, and so on. When one doesn’t fit what the local culture has organized the material to, then one has to go back, to raw materials, and create it, from scratch. Cook, design anew, make. I almosted needed to, to survive it. Perhaps that’s how cultural neighborhoods form in cities: a desire to make the material world according to one’s own taste shaped by past cultures.


One may wander, how such a narrow-minded society became rich? Robots are good at making (barely creative) products, and that’s a much wanted commidity for most of the world. Well-made cars, house appliances, farming equipment. Automate work needed for survival, automate the process to make the machines, then sell it. That’s the limit of Japan’s intelligence. It never quite gets to actually creating information, ideas, new ways to live, new ways to help others. The ultimate Japanese society is the present one: it already reached it’s end.

The small social unit idea works (is successful) for the same reason a specialized machine works: it is a machine, it was made to work.


A thought from earlier today:
Japanese people are not good at playing games; Games play them. They are good at abiding rules (being obedient), but not playing (in any sort of creative sense). They work within rulesets, similar to their small social units / knowledge / life. They can “play” a calculative arcade music rhythym or card or fighting “game”, but they will fail in any one that rewards creativity.

An older recurring thought:
Japanese society is exactly the one depicted in Wall-E. It really is that dystopian. People aren’t fat, but people do go from one place to another while watching a screen in their box cars, eat CalorieMate (a “nutritious” block of food), and consume addictive substances without the bad stuff (Coke zero, Strong zero, cigarettes with devices that remove the smell?, etc.).

notes from papers and text files written during the trip

ordered from past to present:


the Fablab charter is similar to my own: of allowing the public access to tools to enable people to make [almost] anything,– but making is such a small part [subset] of doing (performing, teaching, work, etc.).
at the lab I realize the reasons I made or did anything [in the past] was for poltiical [/personal] reasons: I wanted to alter the behavior of people {not true, there were many motives: bring awareness to society, or simply just to spend time with people whilst being productive – whatever productive may be in my mind during a time and place} . Making a sign {for the no vehicles in market areas idea} was just a small part of a solution to do so. That’s all it ever is {That’s all fablabs are able to do}. It’s not an end. It’s just an enabler for making stuff {, materially}.
Outside the lab {Fablab Dazaifu}, there is one large panchinko parlor and duplicate apartment complexes. Such a boring place! Only the lab is homey. Perhaps all indoor spaces are homey. But the problem is that most are exclusive.
I should try to make something at each space, but, as I said, I need a political / personal motivation.
– {I felt that being at a space would be no use without a reason / motive. A desire to do something for society is needed, then one goes to a space to work something out, but I had zero care for Japan’s society.}
[todo: to blog]
$Fab labs, like hotels contain great people, like [censored name]. People at service for others, for the community.
But the problem of fab labs, or most spaces, like departments at a school, is that they are narrow
– {mmm, thus, every space is too narrow, not enough diversity (of minds). That seems to be a recurring problem of mine. Whatever space I go to, it is a gathering of similar interests, as opposed to a set of random people. What kind of space has that?: A household? Shared living? Co-living spaces.
in ideology / culture / mind – they tend to make the same things (was thinking of things same things all fab labs make). The goal is to invite others to participate. It’s a good start. It’s still an open, public space, like a public garage.
– {hmm, that really is all it is. Make a garage public. Host events at home. Isn’t that how the internet was created?}
Still, I can’t live here – I am not motivated / living in Japan’s society.** I need a society that I love in order to make stuff for it** (Jiufen’s Spirited Away idea, urban interventions, etc.).
– {love reciprocation idea [todo: etch this out later]}
[todo: to blog]
In Japan, people do the work, they do what’s needed to survive the longest [and to maximize comfort]; In Taiwan, people care for the ideas, talk about it, but not worry much about the age they will die {, or doing things – implementing ideas.}
[todo: to blog]
$In Japan, people [only] care for their culture, only focus on their own narrow culture’s desires; In Taiwan, they’re open to other cultures and ideas – for aboriginals and foreign cultures – , thus they develop more unevenly, but accordingly for / to each culture – thus it is free, open.

Japan is singular. There is only Japanese culture; Everything else is “other”, rejected.

Laws exist. Social pressures are strong. It is difficult, unlawful, unfaithful, un-family-like to go against the grain.

Taiwan doesn’t care much for culture, other than langauge and ideas (including knowing their own social history). Thus, Taiwan is more ideal, but in reality may not seem so; Japan seems ideal, especially statistically, but in reality is dystopian.
– {It’s as if Japan designed their society and actually abide the design. There is no human element, no natural feelings to disrupt it.}
but comfort and long survival come at a cost of material commodities. Japan accumulates capital to build the most comfortable, convenient place. Taiwan does not care much for comfort – they care for just living on by doing whatever they’ve become habituated to do – craft, cook, all is okay to live such a lifestyle, even if it does not improve survival or comfort.
– {The cost of material commodities being human labor and the destruction of nature; It’s the difference between living in a shed in Taiwan and a fully-equiped apartment in a high rise in Japan.}
– {Though Taiwan doesn’t care much for comfort of the body, they’ve somehow created the most comforting, hospitable culture.}

2, 11/3/16

Japan is super-developed. Almost no nature {to be found}. Farms, well-planned, land intensely used. The world has been dominated. They win. Really get that Takahata theme felt. It seems (appears) that the mountains may sitill have natural areas {Maybe. Or maybe those trees were planted too.}. The farming villages next to mountains are beautiful {in a rustic aesthetic sense}, but completely planned out like Sim City. Capital is planned for. Efficient capital and work. No life. No experience.

Japan, well, Kyushu’s largest festival (Karatse Kunchi [Nagasaki Kunchi too?]) provides the only lively feeling in Japan. Steets closed, kids wander large areas and play. A ton of vendors sell food at stalls. Expensive now, but a glimpse of the past, less developed times – a diferent lifestyle, similar to present Taiwan, or other Southeast Asian markets. {Teenagers and men alike get drunk, equally unable to hold their liquor; A glimpse of the repressed hedonism.}

[todo: worded / recalled differently – X]
Japan’s society is ordered like ants; Taiwan’s allows freedom? Taiwanese people appear to be hippies compared to Japanese people!

Japan planned their economy and followed it obediently. | It worked for commodities (products) for the moment (period of time) in the past, but now, they lack the creativity to excel, which only exists with good, diverse, dense places and a culture that interacts and plays.

Japanese peoples’ bodies move robotically, following straight-forward structure and routine, but what about their minds? They act according to material – capital-rational, but their minds escape through childish images of characters, manga, anime, and digital worlds. It’s a utopia for the body – isn’t that the ideal? Keep the bodies comfortable, through convenience!; But minds keep working, don’t they? They act culturally-economically {group consensus or for capital), not making decisions creatively, or finding different ways to live, rather, following old ideas, and making them a concrete reality.

Taiwan communicates well, but Japan works well – obediently, robotically.

Japan’s work ethic is that of a lone tinkerer, working on ever smaller parts. Their society full of cogs / boxes, a larger one working on smaller ones.

split with Atsushi at Kagoshima harbor

Sleep / nap. feels for [censored name] still linger. Human contact? Atsushi [todo: check name] split, allows me to think beyond destined-travel. This country is too cold to do anything, or feel like doing it. Long daydream of being president, conversation with Jon Stewart, life as president, morals, social development, etc., stars freely go in and out, as do friends.

I need her [ambiguous her]… I just want to live.

Ideas over the past few days:

Sensory deprivation caused by cold and loss of sight via sleeping bag over head inside a tent beneath dreary weather.
– Also leads to depression, oversleep, etc. Just to maintain homeostasis.
– Less sun power to enhance sight.

$ Daydreams as conversation imagined – example: president / Jon Stewart day dream, wedding speeches, etc…. media-oriented, written-oriented can be generalized to sign-oriented – using signs as basis of rational decision-making. Look at nutrition facts, not the food (CaloriMate, coffee, cola zero, cigarettes, alcohol zero, etc.). Look at hitchhiker’s sign, not (not understanding) the thumb. Look at maps, not reality. Look at the phone, not reality. Design on canvases, not {on} reality.
Japan designed an efficient society devoid of life.
$ – The material of Japan is designed / developed. So it feels ideal / others ways of life are impossible; though it is just of the mind.
[next idea / argument]
Japanese culture is rational through signs, therefore:
$ * It rationalizes toward capitalism, survival, and comfort (when under capitalism).
$ * Money-actions are not creative: it is not creative to buy something, there is an infinite amount of things to do {/ one can do}, and it all starts with communication ({ideas, talking, }games, play too!).

Japan makes me feel capitalistic-rational, ad opposed to communicative-creative, free-rational (of Taiwan).
Creativity (communication, education, ideas, information, etc.) pays. Commodities (form, manufacture) really is old money.

Japan is stuck in the 80s / 90s in development, material, social, fashion, ethic, culture, politics, etc.
– They wear business suits without reason, uniforms, work without reason, all old ideas, no thought, only manufacture.

Japan is completely developed. Farms mechanized. People fit to property.

$ Property fixed, deemed (/ pedestaled) by culture [cool argument]; Leads to a fixed society in time and space.
– {Because the culture is so private and exclusive, those with property seem keep and / or gain wealth even more easily: coin laundries, restaurants, hotels, etc. There are probably too many laws and policies for people to start their own businesses to compete, and, furthermore, is probably not even thought of due to cultural reasoning. Since all material on the property is designed by some collective consensus, there is little change to the material world. No gentrification, but no creativity for capitalism either. Just creating capital for survival, not experiences.}

$ Although Taiwan is less developed materially, social organizations [maybe not needed?], healthcare, etc., it is more developed in the mind. It skipped commodity-capital-rational that post-war Japan and Korea had, instead, it relies on service (time spent together: tourism), information, education – because social development is more important than material organization.

Japan’s (culture) repression crosses to sex (porn), drugs (cigarettes and coffee), and probably hard drugs and prostitution. These are used out of addiction / need, not fun / social as in America. They are used to replace social activity – to ease the mind, perhaps to artificially move some brain cells (inhibitors, etc.).

Fukuokan women spent time and money on beauty. Beautiful {in appearance} through daily work. {Ugly in ethical make-up.}

Only [censored name], [censored name], and maybe [censored name] seem normal {to me}.

Mostly mothers with children hitched? me a ride. They care. Have time. Not super work-oriented. Move at the speed of life. In time with life. They care for those that feel cold as they do their children. They are human [something here?], unlike their cold male counter-parts. The male drivers know nothing apart from their specific jobs, barely able to drive, and completely unaware of their surroundings, no care for proximal society {, or even other people}.

Perhaps all of socio-cultural Japan occurs though the internet via written language – jobs, sex, talk, etc. Nothing is physical-oral. And I am only looking at and listening to the physical-oral reality, not caring for written language, therefore it may be impossible for me to understand their mind, decision-making, thought, ideology, education, etc.
– {I was unwilling to read. That’s too boring. Too unsocial.}

Manga / drawing as a way of communicating, because they live so much less, that they must use {simplified} images to convey {a} reality instead of words. They are out of tune with reality [reverses an old thought].

[$ todo: give up rural?]
Creativity / Osaka maybe the way out of this decades old society [/ culture].

Japan is only good as industrial machines – to manufacture / design a working product for comfort, longevity – traits [end goals] of Japanese society.

[The end for now. Look for farms. Then go to Osaka.]

at gas station waiting for hitch to Kumamoto

People who have time, and/or are more human pick me up: elderly (retired?), women (old and young. I feel the young ones often appear to look at my face to see if I am a female), young people (though maybe less have cars, using public transport instead). People who have cars are the suburban capitalists.
$ Suburban capitalists destroy the world without awareness (knowing). They were born into via place, time (, nearby culture), in capitalistic country, accumulate capital, waste the world in the process. The countries with wealth organized themselves to be better at gaining capital, but missed on human values (including value for nature).

To wait is to waste life. Suburban capitalists wait, city-goers create {keep creating}.

Japanese cars are shaped like Japanese houses, and the Japanese social structure: boxes, of various sizes, compounded together.

\[$\] Tools for anti-alienation (/ altering human-values / altering human behavior)
$$$ – tool / app for mothers to list / sell cooked food (servings left, cost, ingredients cost, etc.), unused ingredients, minimize food waste, increase human interaction, remove organized food (chain restaurants, {industrialized food products at super markets}, etc.).

By developing, Japan has organized their country to a few food items: ramen, sushi, fried food, etc. It over-uses those ingredients, because capitalism and property has created chain restaurants, super-market industrialized products, vending machines. Developing countries have a better food industry because the ingredients (raw food) has not been industrialized / organized. That explains my love for vegetable markets in Chinatowns {in American cities, Southeast Asia}, and Taiwan: you eat the raw food – no work in-between necessary. Food should not be organized. Eat what your country you live in grows.

another session, perhaps at the coin laundry store near the park

Sleepy, after afternoon nap, woke up at 5pm, feeling it a waste to hitchhike at night, missing the scenic beauty of Japan, but, perhaps worth it for the random experience. Cities and highways are boring anyway: repetitive suburbs, yet, I must see for myself – never know. Perhaps need to travel via Google Maps more. Maybe needed a day’s rest after that long bike ride. Fuck it. Let’s go. Nothing to do here, or at least it feels… Hmmm… can at least hitch out of Kyushu, perhaps Yamaguchi.

travel tips:
Kid’s playgrounds are attached to neighborhood parks and usually have bathrooms. 24-hour coin laundry shops can be found nearby, providing warmth, and maybe even an electrical socket or television.

Only with a bicycle (that I stole for a day) was I able to reach farms, land, non-concrete, with shrines and traditional, old houses that emanated an Yilan feel, cheap / fresh vegetables and ingredients too! {Finally a livable place.}

Hitching local roads at night (11pm–3am, until 8am) was near impossible, {perhaps especially} as a male, dark, non-Japanese. SAs / PAs vary from large sleepy truck stops to a tiny strip mall where few vehicles stop at, trapping hitchhikers on a highway island.

There is no interaction that occurs outside, aside form parks / playgrounds – that is all the “nature” people get in this super-developed world.

The mountains of Japan seem untouched, beautiful nature. Perhaps it is the best place to live?

The rural areas too are developed, unlike Taiwan’s tiny farms, there are large apartment complexes nearby, large greenhouses and farmland bunched together so that people cannot walk through, blocking human interaction / access to nature [for efficiency,] via urban planning. Farms need walkways (dirt!) through them.

Japan is the death of society / Societal death. Society has lots it’s life and exchanging it for longevity, comfort, convenience, health, safety.

It requires non-decision-making {non-thinking} robots to live in Japan (and the suburbs).

All real Japanese films take place at the house because nothing occurs outside of it. Miyazaki and Takohata are the saviors of this drab society, mindlessly destroying itself {yet, their own lives contradict the ones they depict in their films – they are not living on farms, they are sitting in studios in Tokyo etching out more animated films. At least, Miyazaki is.} Keichi shows the drab suburban reality best, with actual modernity as its setting – pachinko parlors, supermarkets, road, and only media {ex. history of trams} as a savior [escape] from it.

[probably written after glancing at a few manga books:]
Manga is still terrible. Narrow. More narrow than Hollywood films… I decided that in 6th grade {thinking of anime on Toonami on Cartoon Network}.

[todo: perhaps written twice]
A nurse said there is no need to learn English. It shows how insular Japanese culture is, and how uncaring for other societies and minds they are. | They are the American suburbs. | They were born into it, organized their lives {and their surroundings} according to it, and know nothing outside of it. A nurse! Does the nurse not care for how nurses act in other societies? Read their biographies?

80s / 90’s fashion in Japan in 2016 is funny. Levis jeans. High heels. Striped shirts. lol. Back to school sale?

– [break]

Maybe Japanese culture is OCD (about organization, cleanliness, health, etc.); It can’t handle disorder, nature, it must conquer it. Taiwan can handle messiness, more broader information via reality – they process information in the present; Japan relies on past, planned information – schedules, {designs}, etc.

Many lonely pangs. Dreams of any girl I’ve met recently – gold digging, gigalo, lots of sex. Japan is socially repressed, so I feel (socially and sexually) repressed too. Manga are probably the daydream and wet dreams of the society.

Lots of thoughts on food industry – and how it affects everything – farms, distribution, transport to supermarket, $ limited organization of food to fit culture, etc. It is vastly better to not organize food into meals – that’s a cultural problem.

I mentioned concrete. “Concrete jungle” should be applied to Japan and South Korea, perhaps moreso than tiny Hong Kong, because these jungles are much larger…

… the ’burbs have taken over all land. Earthquakes and vlocanic eruptions fight through concrete, but the car and road system is constantly repaired ot maintain order {human order, homeostasis of human order}. Here, it is easy to see the nature vs artificial themes of Miyazaki and Takahata films.

Perhaps the society communicated digitally, a digital social world. Nothing much occurs in reality; – How boring! Perhaps they create JRPGs to escape the boring reality of suburbia. They generate in-game capital as opposed to real capital. They don’t understand that they could live in a different way, as they live it through JRPGs / MMORPGs.


I want to fuck and get money, like an animal, several times. Gold-dig. Just be a house-husband. That’s all. Take care of her, {her} body and mind, to allow her to efficiently do her work. Surely I can just use some kind of dating site for this? Or try living in a city. Osaka? Taipei? New York?

– [mini-break]
Japan’s social structure (ie) creates a very voyeuristic culture. They peer from within their cars, houses, {to the outside}, and into other’s cars, houses. | They don’t interact verbally, instead, they just look, judge, from appearance, and continue their programmed routine; making them shallow, as they don’t judge by mind.

– [mini-break]
I thought by coming to Japan, I would get to experience a culture that acts more upon reality, physicality. I got it. I just didn’t know that that kind of non-verbal-language-orientation would be so cold. I thought that much could be communicated through reality, actions. But they don’t {even} act! Perhaps, it is because I am not acitng. I need to be aggressive, or at least, just less passive then them. I need to {my normal} outgoing talkative {self}. But I don’t speak their language, nor care much for it. Hmm… I just have to be with them, next to them. No need for intense philosophical conversation, or travel questions. But they’re so {fucking} boring! At least, outside they are. Maybe inside, they are like [censored name] {act differently with people outside and within social relations}…Yeah, I just need to get active again, somehow, despite how being broke excludes me from most places. I need active people. I haven’t met a person similar to an active Taiwanese, or foreign traveler yet. Japan is so dead.

– [TV break]

Japanese people spend their life indoors, and by habit, have made the world feeel merely concrete to indoor places

internet readings

some random reading via Google, all read after the trip. Nothing deep or lengthy.

highlights from internet readings

some thing by Columbia


The fact that Japanese fathers in contemporary urban households spend so much time at work, and the company demands on them are so great, means that they often really have very little time or energy to spend with their children, and so not only does the responsibility for raising children, overseeing the education, fall onto the mothers, but fathers themselves are absent, removed, from the children’s lives.
– true. Only the mothers seemed human, and therefore picked me up as I hitchhiked.

One of the really interesting paradoxes about Japanese education is that you have a very rigorous, very intense educational system up to getting into college, and these very difficult entrance exams. And once students get into college, oftentimes people joke that college is the four-year vacation in a long and hard educational life. Once you’ve made it into college, you’ve made it to wherever you’re going to get educationally.
– true for Taiwan too, and probably much of Asia. It seems to be the problem of entering an exclusive social group. It’s ugly; They’re ugly.

Another important aspect of the way in which social relationships are structured in sort of the day-to-day interactions of people in Japan, is a strong consciousness of in-group versus outside-the-group boundaries. And this gets expressed in all kinds of settings.

Students are very conscious of the school they go to and the class within the school that they’re part of, and that forms sort of a shell, a social shell, that people who are within the shell are expected to interact with one another rather informally and rather intensely, and interact with people outside that shell, or outside that boundary, in a more formal, more distant, perhaps more hierarchical way.

So at schools, in families, there’s a clear distinction between who’s a member of a family and who’s not; in communities, there are clear distinctions between people who belong to the community and people who are outsiders; in companies, a very clear sense of division; in political parties; even in ethnic relations, relationships for example between Japanese and Koreans who live in Japan, the sense of insider versus outsider status.

It’s very difficult to say exactly why Japanese social relations take the form they do. Why are social relations hierarchical, or why is there a strong emphasis on in-group versus outside-the-group interactions? You couldn’t necessarily come up with an historical reason for this, but certainly there are parallels to other sets of social institutions. If you look at the traditional family structure, for example, the so-called ie, as it’s known in Japanese, it is a kind of a family, a kind of a kinship organization which puts a great premium on understanding hierarchy and rank, that every member of a traditional family stands in a very complicated set of relationships with every other member, but they can all be ranked in some kind of a hierarchical form.

So, for example, the eldest son occupies a social role that is quite distinct from a second or a third or a fourth son. The eldest daughter occupies a rank and position that is quite distinct from younger daughters. Certainly fathers and mothers occupy different ranks from their children and so forth. So, it’s a very hierarchically structured social unit, and some people would argue that that’s sort of a template for understanding why hierarchy is such an important part of Japanese social relationships.

In another sense, the fact that the traditional Japanese family system puts this great emphasis on defining sharply the boundaries between people who are members of the extended family and people who are going to have to leave — that is to say people who are going to become non-members in the future — is a social template for this emphasis on in-group, inside-the-boundary membership versus relationships outside or across a boundary to people who are not part of that social group.

Consensus is a well known part of Japanese social relationships. It seems, to an outsider at least, as if everything in Japan is decided by this sense of harmony and this sense that everybody has to agree. And there are all kinds of trivial examples that you can come up with, like if you watch a group of Japanese businessmen sitting down for lunch, it’s likely that everybody around the table will order more or less the same dish, and people point to that and say: “A-ha! this is a harmonious society; everything has to be equal.”

And indeed, Japanese talk a lot about how to preserve this sense of equality. One of the ways in which they do this is by making sure that any decision that affects a group as a whole is at least going to be circulated around and discussed amongst all its members. So indeed, Japanese organizations do often appear to have a much higher degree of consensus about policies, about aims, about aspirations, than would be true in an equivalent American group.

On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that Japanese inherently agree with one another, or that there isn’t conflict in society, but rather that conflict is managed within the group, and conflict is negotiated against other demands of personal interaction, personal social relationships. And eventually the goal is to, through conflict and through very carefully managed conflict, to come up with some kind of unified position that everybody can agree with.

from Wikipedia article for Nihonjinron:

Japanese social structures consistently remould human associations in terms of an archaic family or household model (家 ie?) characterized by vertical relations (縦社会 tate-shakai?), clan (氏 uji?), and (foster-)parent-child patterns (親分・子分 oyabun, kobun?). As a result, the individual (個人 kojin?) cannot properly exist, since groupism (集団主義 shūdan-shugi?) will always prevail.

further reading:

Social Concepts in Japan powerpoint by Keio, maybe for new foriegn students

book review of Japanese Society by Chie Nakane

It is advantageous for a man to remain in the group in which he starts his career and move up step by step in the course of time. It is very difficult for him to move from one group to another, because he can rarely succeed in breaking any of the vertical links already established between individuals in the other group.

Japanese organizations regularly suffer from what they call “sectionalism”

There are no successful functional groups built on a coalition or federation of subgroups.

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Anthropology, Area, Art, Determinism and Free Will, Epistemology, Ethics, Experience, Experience, Humanities, Japan, Metaphysics, Personal, Philosophy, Political Economy, Political Philosophy, Rationalism, Rationality, Social Philosophy, Thoughts, Travel

On Humanism

17 December 2015

This began as a digression from The Categorization of Knowledge. It’s also relevant to recent posts about rationality, especially the anti-humanism Wikipedia article, which includes content from past philosophical movements related to humanism.

Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over unthinking acceptance of dogma or superstition. The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress.
Wikipedia, Humanism

It seems difficult to define humanism. From my skimming of the Wikipedia article, humanism seems to be optimistic of human progress, of the ability to gain knowledge about humans, and, notoriously, of the ability to “collectively” guide humans toward progress.

From the belief in a universal moral core of humanity it followed that all persons are inherently free and equal. For liberal humanists such as Kant, the universal law of reason was a guide towards total emancipation from any kind of tyranny.

Nietzsche argues in Genealogy of Morals that human rights exist as a means for the weak to constrain the strong; as such, they do not facilitate the emancipation of life, but instead deny it.

Marx believed human rights were a product of the very dehumanization they were intended to oppose.

Foucault challenged the foundational aspects of Enlightenment humanism, as well as their strategic implications, arguing that they either produced counter-emancipatory results directly, or matched increased “freedom” with increased and disciplinary normalization.

His anti-humanist skepticism extended to attempts to ground theory in human feeling, as much as in human reason, maintaining that both were historically contingent constructs, rather than the universals humanism maintained.
Wikipedia, Anti-humanism

Postmodern critics who are self-described anti-humanists…have asserted that humanism posits an overarching and excessively abstract notion of humanity or universal human nature, which can then be used as a pretext for imperialism and domination of those deemed somehow less than human.
Wikipedia, Humanism, polemics section

The main problem of humanism seems to be that in order to achieve “human freedom and progress”, it motivates people to ascribe the method of creating “universal laws”, the basis of politics, which impede freedom, and therefore, impedes progress for those who’s freedom is impeded.

It seems that anti-humanists are anarchists. Is there another method to achieve freedom and progress without creating rules (laws, policies, etc.)? An ideology. There is no need for laws or policies; An ideology is enough. It is society’s norms. Individuals are free, just pressured by the majority of society. Anarchic individuals and the majority can live their own ways. The problem is when anarchists are unable to live within the ideology.

That’s the problem (!!!). How can an anarchist live, for example, in any capitalistic country, where one must obtain currency in order to exchange for basic goods (rent, food, health)? Well, I think one almost always has the option to go into the wild and live off of nature, but that’s an extreme degree; Not all anarchists self-sufficient farmers or hunter-gatherers. Instead of thinking about an individual, the question should be reframed from the point of an anarchic community. How can an anarchist community live within the ideology?

Again, using capitalism as an example of ideology, they can probably horde together some food and housing, but health is still part of the public sector, and rent still exists. These can be somewhat relieved by living further from a city, or in a cheap district of a city (likely a slum), but that brings another problem: cities offer more human development potential, but anarchists are unable to live there because the cost of rent is high.

Well, that’s a problem of capitalism. And I’ve digressed into anti-capitalism again. I should continue this thought within non-capitalism ideologies [todo]. Ah well. That’s that.

Leave a comment | Categories: Community, Empericism, Epistemology, Ethics, Humanities, Philosophical Movements, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Rationalism, Rationality, Social Anarchism, Social Philosophy

Why I Did What I Did

10 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

This was taken from a thought from The Distance between Communication and Reality, and is a direct of continuation of Why Did I read?

I may have began reading because I wanted to talk, but in the act of talking, it seems much of the content has digressed. Instead of talking about my experiences of the difference of how people act within a capitalistic city and outside of it, the ideologies of countries, property, the effects that the distance between humans have, communities, ideal neighborhoods, and so on, the one-way communication of books, and even the seemingly interactive communication of Wikipedia, has led me astray. Perhaps philosophy was not the way to go. Philosophy is just one set of possible classifications. Thinking back upon my time of reading, I feel only essayists were able to grasp experience, simply by talking about it, in the similar way that documentarians grasp experiences, simply by documenting it. Everyone else was attempting the impossible: to organize reality.

It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil. They achieve what they want laboriously; they possess what they have achieved anxiously; and meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return. New preoccupations take the place of the old, hope excites more hope and ambition more ambition. They do not look for an end to their misery, but simply change the reason for it.
– Seneca, On The Shortness Of Life

Instead of simply documenting my travels, I attempted to understand my experiences with the world through philosophical theories. What was I supposed to do? Write a holistic travel-science tome like Humboldt? Perhaps that would have been faster. But even my huge repository of thoughts were about communication, culture, experience, decision-making, politics, all of which still are still categorized under philosophy, not science. Perhaps because I focused on those things even during more active times, it was okay to attempt to organize them later during low times. A note to my future: I must live more.

Whether I live romantically, traveling the world with my legs, creating tools to live more romantically, or instrumentally, creating tools to increase self-education, self-organization, and self-maintenance, there must be more life in it. I am not sure how such disparate lifestyles can be balanced. Perhaps it is because one lifestyle tends to go in one direction, romanticism toward experience, instrumental toward organization, that it is so difficult to balance. If I were able to choose based on happiness, or which results in a consistent social life, it would be instrumental, but the urge for romantic exploration will inevitably come, and making those explorations social becomes the key.

During some of my most active times, I lived romantically and tried to record communication using the quickest means possible; It was through the lifestyles of Vincent Moon, Brandon Stanton, Chris Marker, and local artists in New York that I could foresee a possible combination of romanticism and communication, and a possible way to live: They were the keys. They discovered methods to communicate while experiencing. They found a way to talk about what they wanted, not what philosophers or society wanted. They are contemporary essayists. The kind of people that talk about everything through almost anything, and in doing so, have fulfilling lives.

But it’s not every time that I feel like talking about anything. During most of my time philosophizing, I had desired social changes. This brings up another lifestyle: critically, to maximize social impact in the time and space I live in. The reason I read wasn’t just about talking, it was about learning the problems of society and figuring out methods to make society better: finding directions, finding ideas, finding examples in other societies. There were practical ends. Creating socially realistic essays through mass communication was just one method to that practical end; They subverted mass media and offered something closer to contemporary reality that one could learn from. And in doing so, it made me happy, for the moment.

It was a good method until I became disillusioned by the effects media have in contemporary society and therefore became dissatisfied with those projects. I thought it could change people’s perception, and then their behavior. Maybe it could if I had continued as Brandon did, but I desired more direct methods to change people’s behavior. My mind went to more Bansky style art in a public places, directly experienced and directly affecting people. Then my mind went toward creating community hall-like social centers using technology as an aid. I still desire to do both, perhaps all three methods, but I’m out of money, and I’ve been out of reality for too long, so I must experience life all over again, to recreate those political desires, and continue this endless cycle that is my life.

Leave a comment | Categories: Art, Communication, Critical Theory, Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy, Rationality

The Distance between Communication and Reality

10 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

Some thoughts from this morning, which seem to be a continuation of Why did I read?, probably because I’m physically leaving this abode I’ve been dwelling in far too long.

The thoughts:
1. The amount of sense data gathered from real experiences is infinitely larger than those gathered from communication.
2. Therefore, it is impossible to communicate at the level that reality communicates.
3. I may have began reading because I wanted to talk, but in the act of talking, it seems much of the content was lost.
[todo: maybe missing some thoughts]

Thought 1:
1. The amount of sense data gathered from real experiences is infinitely larger than those gathered from communication.
2. Because of that I have always prioritized experience above communication.
[todo: could continue this thought]

Thought 2:
1. It is impossible to communicate at the level that reality communicates.
2. Because of that, it is not a good idea to communicate isolated from reality, especially for a long period of time, in which memory can fade and awareness may likely focus on communication (often distorted) in the form of media as opposed to reality (direct cinema, observational cinema, and cinema verite may be exceptions).
2.1. The distance between communication and reality is a reoccurring problem in decision-making: academia vs city, quantitative vs qualitative, instrumental rationality vs substantial rationality.
3. Because of that (2), one must learn to balance real experiences (reality) and communication, though submitting to the fact that their communication will always be distorted.
3.1 But is communication (perhaps an emphasis on media rather than everyday conversation) even needed (this was perhaps what I going to argue against in Communication and Rationality)? Beyond hard sciences, should one believe anything that is communicated (may have some post about skepticism)?
4. As the distance between communication and reality increases, the amount of distortion in communication increases.
5. In order to maintain a less distorted reality, one must maximize the amount of social time of having an experience.
5.1. In order to achieve a clearer communication, one must limit the communication to recent experiences.
5.2 These also work in the other direction. In order to picture reality while receiving communication, one must have more experience with reality.
[todo: could continue this thought]

Thought 3:
This thought has been moved to Why I Did What I Did.

Leave a comment | Categories: Communication, Critical Theory, Epistemology, Human Geography, Humanities, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Social Science, Rationality, Self-assessment, Thoughts

Rick Roderick’s lecture on Habermas

08 December 2015

[todo: just posting the full notes, asterisks are worth thinking about

Habermas – The Fragile Dignity of Humanity
defends rationality at a time where humans did and thought of irrational things
instrumental, productive, labor, monological vs communication, dialogic
science, technology vs humanities, ethics
form ourselves in both dimensions, but cannot be subjective selves without communication
– this idea rejects empiricism such as Hume and Skinner
– correlates with Mead
– to Roderick this is obvious, and comments that “you’d be surprised that it isn’t obvious in philosophy”.
– [this I agree with, and why much of philosophy is indeed useless]
third interest – critical interest, human emancipation, human liberation from unnecessary constraints from freedom and full development
– free ourselves from productive and communicative reason [?]
the way philosophers in the humanities is free themselves is through hermeneutics — the interpretation of text, or simply, read books
systematically distorted communication [a term within lifeworld concept] or in Marxism, ideology [more specifically, cultural hegemony] — in every age the ruling ideas are of the ruling classes, and furthermore, spread by controlling the means of communication [manufacturing consent]
should always suspect beliefs because of cultural hegemony
interpretation for Habermas is not practical, it’s interpretive*
Habermas feels we have an interest in removing the distortions in communication***
in the negation: what would undistorted communication look like? Roderick answers with what I thought when asked the question: things other than just labor, but race, sex, class, colonialism, and so on*
communicative rationality
wants to disentangle enlightened action and barbaric actions including capitalism*
– he mentions of a thought of a previous class, where the enlightenment thinking of science did not lead to enlightened actions, it lead to fascism. He says Adorno said that there’s no history where slavery lead to freedom, but there is history where the slingshot lead to the megaton bomb.
– The sentences we utter, even at an early age, have in them the desire for consensus, mutual understanding**
– it has already has an critical impulse in it, the desire to have undistorted clear communication
quality provision**
undistorted communication would have a symmetry condition like this: everyone would have an equal opportunity to talk and listen*
– it has a political part to it: everyone has an equal right to command or obey, answer or question. It’s egalitarian; or, it’s distorted by the distribution of unequal power. He mentions teacher-student, parent-children, male-female
– based on the Socrates ideal, interlocuting, and which is why Socrates is charming — he has no power
– Habermas says the only force is only that everyone recognizes, which is a peculiar, strange, unforced force***
– Habermas believes that much in rationality. That we can change our minds if we hear a better argument. And a free person can do that without feeling ashamed. So, at the end of the argument one could change their beliefs, not through distortion, but that strange force when one person becomes convinced.
– conditions: try to be truthful, try to be relevant, try to be sincere, try to advance the cause of right — a moral condition, try to communicate ideally thought knowing it is impossible
– for Habermas, these represent different practical areas, spheres — science, morality, art, religion. In different spheres, each condition will have more importance. In science, truth. In morality, rightness and good behavior. In art, sincerity? Rick isn’t sure about the art part. Rick says reminds us that this is a German theory and everything needs to fit.
So by removing Marx, we remove economy. Which is difficult to tell coal miners in Virginia. Removing it kind of removes ourselves.*** And traded class struggle for Frued’s talking cure. Rick refutes this because worker’s bosses are different from analysts, they’re likely to use distorted communication. Even psychoanalysts may say, “if you don’t get paid, you won’t get better”.
The problems with Habermas’s theory, which critics mention, is that it is elitist. That it replaces the factory with the seminar. All of the conditions in which undistorted communication takes place is in a seminar, a university, which is where Habermas spent his entire life.****
– Habermas responds movingly, because communicative rationality applies to everyone, including workers, so the critics missed it’s universality. He says that in a process of enlightenment, there can only be participants. No analyst-patient model. It’s participatory.*** In this way, Rick comments happily, that it now looks like a linguistic theory of anarchism, and he likes it.**
– Hermeneutic people also critiqued Habermas because it limits it to a single interest [didn’t quite understand]; They argue anything can be interpreted, including science.
Interpretation is perhaps the way to achieve selfhood. Everyone is an interpreter. For example a red stop sign. Red is communist for Rick, but also stop. It goes on all around us all of the time, in all conversations and in our experience with the world.*** Especially in human relations. It just shows the ubiquity of interpretation in human life. We’re interpretive beings. It’s a part of being a self [the title of the lecture series]. And now, in the late 20th century, we are now in a situation where interpretation has never been more difficult,**** he references his Human Values lecture.

One artifact that is completely closed to interpretation is television [one-way communication]. Rick says Orwell’s 1984 is optimist, which is an image of a boot on a human face. It’s optimist because he assumes there will be resistance and humans faces, both of which may turn out to be false.

The tribute Rick wanted to pay to Habermas, and what interested him, was to try to defend reason, against cynical reason. It says to us, we can have reason, enlightenment, learn to say what is true. Although in his early work he doesn’t mention that this is endangered[,being wholly optimistic], he does mention it in his later work. In Theory of Communicative Reason, he comes back to defend it, adding more problems to it. Habermas addresses problems, some of what Rick mentioned already, but Habermas, in typical German fashion, waits to write a 4000 page book, lolol. In Rick’s book he does it in 31 pages. Habermas realizes that money and power as abstract systems distorts communication, and everyday talk. And those systems have to be harmonized to be within a system in which it will really be possible to speak to one another face-to-face. And hating to be quasi-theological: perhaps if we can do that, then we wouldn’t see through a glass darkly, and maybe have a way to find our way out of this dilemma, of the terrible entwinement of enlightenment and barbarism. Habermas is one voice that tells us that such a possibility exists, and for that Rick feels he deserves a lot of credit. That’s Habermas in a nutshell.

Leave a comment | Categories: Civics, Communication, Critical Theory, Humanities, Media, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Rationality, Social Philosophy

Communication and Rationality

06 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

[todo: THIS IS A DRAFT…What was initially a small post against communicative action or rationality turned into something too large: It seems to turn into the rationalization of a lot of my older ideas of how people act in reality without human language, prioritization of nonverbal communication over spoken and written language, why one should prioritize reality, academia’s priority of language as a means of communication, why I didn’t read a book until age 27, my education via films, why academia is irrational because of this (not including irks of capitalism, paradigms, and other problems), etc. I should remove the larger epistemology part and simply argue using tacit knowledge vs language as a source of knowledge, and enough reason to act. Though I’m trying to avoid the old critique of instrumental rationality, it may inevitably come up.

an extremely relevant original post from me long ago may be my initial writing of this idea.

can check my notes on Rick Roderick’s lecture on Habermas.

Alan Watts: The Discipline of Zen is also a good to mix in because he also opposes language, and even mentions Mead symbolic interactionism.

also process philosophy

Bergson might be good for prioritizing audio-visual over human language.

Polanyi for tacit knowledge

From Wikipedia:

Communicative action is cooperative action undertaken by individuals based upon mutual deliberation and argumentation.

Communicative action for Habermas is possible given human capacity for rationality.

…or was is communicative rationality that I was thinking of?

Communicative rationality, or communicative reason, is a theory or set of theories which describes human rationality as a necessary outcome of successful communication.

According to the theory of communicative rationality, the potential for certain kinds of reason is inherent in communication itself. Building from this, Habermas has tried to formalize that potential in explicit terms. According to Habermas, the phenomena that need to be accounted for by the theory are the “intuitively mastered rules for reaching an understanding and conducting argumentation”, possessed by subjects who are capable of speech and action. The goal is to transform this implicit “know-how” into explicit “know-that”, i.e. knowledge, about how we conduct ourselves in the realm of “moral-practical” reasoning.

[I wanted to argue against the requirement of argumentation to take a rational action, but I just noticed communicative action is cooperative, not of an individual…Anyway, I was going to say that people base their actions on tacit knowledge, not explicit knowledge, which is what language is made of. One could hypothetically learn and rationally act without ever using a written or spoken language (Is language required in order to have a longer thought in order to learn?). An example of rational action without language: the way that kids know something is wrong in a social situation and respond rationally. Then I was gong to tie that into how people naturally self-organize without much mutual deliberation (maybe I was getting at nonverbal language here?). This post is kind of a continuation of an older post: no more writing. Posting this for now, as it follows the last post, which mentioned instrumental action.]

from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Herbert_Mead#Social_philosophy_.28behaviorism.29

Human activity is, in a pragmatic sense, the criterion of truth, and through human activity meaning is made. Joint activity, including communicative activity, is the means through which our sense of self is constituted. The essence of Mead’s social behaviorism is that mind is not a substance located in some transcendent realm, nor is it merely a series of events that takes place within the human physiological structure. This approach opposed the traditional view of the mind as separate from the body. The emergence of mind is contingent upon interaction between the human organism and its social environment; it is through participation in the social act of communication that individuals realize their potential for significantly symbolic behavior, that is, thought. Mind, in Mead’s terms, is the individualized focus of the communication process. It is linguistic behavior on the part of the individual. There is, then, no “mind or thought without language;” and language (the content of mind) “is only a development and product of social interaction” (Mind, Self and Society 191-192). Thus, mind is not reducible to the neurophysiology of the organic individual, but is emergent in “the dynamic, ongoing social process” that constitutes human experience (Mind, Self and Society 7).

Leave a comment | Categories: Communication, Critical Theory, Humanities, Philosophy of Social Science, Rationality, Social Philosophy

Criticism of Innovative Urban Areas

05 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

[todo: almost complete?]

In the last post, I was trying to figure out “why consensual social action is more frequent in cities than outside of them”. Keeping that in mind, this third thought has a more skeptical view of cities. These two thoughts together hark much of yesterday’s thought, Free from Capitalism.

Let’s start with the project summary for Measuring Urban Innovation by MIT Media Lab’s Changing Places research group:

Cities are hubs for innovation, characterized by densely populated areas where people and firms cluster together, share resources, and collaborate. In turn, dense cities show higher rates of economic growth and viability. Yet, the specific places innovation occurs in urban areas, and what the socioeconomic conditions are that encourage it, are still elusive for both researches and policymakers. Understanding the social and spatial settings that enable innovation to accrue will equip policymakers and developers with the metrics to promote and sustain innovation in cities. This research will measure the attributes of innovation districts across the US in terms of their land-use configurations and population characteristics and behaviors. These measurements will be used to identify the factors that enable innovation, with the goal of developing a methodological approach for producing quantitative planning guidelines to support decision-making processes.
MIT Media Lab’s Changing Places research group, project summary for Measuring Urban Innovation

Could there be a better definition for instrumental rationality than this?

Instrumental rationality is a mode of thought and action that identifies problems and works directly towards their solution.

Instrumental rationality is often seen as a specific form of rationality focusing on the most efficient or cost-effective means to achieve a specific end, but not in itself reflecting on the value of that end.
Wikipedia, Instrumental Rationality

There is within me a desire to live in a vibrant neighborhood community, but is the “hub for innovation” utopia or is it the hub for rational instrumentality?

What is the value of that end? Something merely based on “rates of economic growth and viability”? Some quantitative fiction that overlooks the human condition?

It seems their utopia is Silicon Valley, as opposed to a country with a good culture.

Although in a “hub for innovation” there are more successful validations of a person’s rationality or social consensuses, and subsequently actions, there is a problem in the validation process: rationality is validated because the economic and social systems said it was okay. The validation didn’t involve an active argumentation.

This actually almost answers the question of the last post — “why consensual social action is more frequent in cities than outside of them”. Cities have a higher frequency of validated or consensual social actions because the economic system is more concentrated there. The drive of capitalism is stronger: competition creates a viscous work cycle, the privatization of basic human necessities forces one to at least work enough to pay for them, and, most notably, property rent is or will become the highest in the ‘innovation hub’. The property rent is so high that one almost must, as opposed to decide to, innovate in order to maintain basic human needs. All of these factors limit the social time required to make a social consensus through argumentation, instead, forced to make decisions based on the rational of the economic system: capitalism.

Which leads to another question. What is considered innovative?

[todo: to be continued? I was thinking how innovative is often limited to scientific application / instrumental rationality, as opposed to the infinitude of creative acts conducted by all societies.

Also, this entire post excludes problems of exclusion.]

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Communication, Critical Theory, Ethics, Humanities, Philosophy, Philosophy of Social Science, Rationality, Urban Philosophy

Communication, Social Action, and Cities

05 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

When one infuses messages into a medium, it does count as communication until someone else extracts the messages.

The time between the extraction of messages and responding to them is response time.

The faster the extraction of messages, the faster one gains information.

If the person does not understand the message, then the person must use other sources (people or mediums) to communicate to in order to understand the message.

The person’s understanding is the completion of the one-way communication.

In the case of a social situation:
The faster the two can respond, the faster the person will understand the meaning of the message.

Once the meaning is understood, the person can create a new message for further communication (an action itself).

Once the communication ends, there are three possibilities:… [todo: stopped here]

social action:
Often, the reason one creates messages is to have one’s rationality validated or, in the case of more than one person, come to a consensus. Once validated, one is able to proceed with a social action.

cities [urban areas] and social action:
Because cities have such high density (people / social and material / urban), communication often takes place in the same space, allow communication through body language, oral language, urban art, in addition to non-space-based mediums (e.g. listening to radio, talking through instant messaging), often simultaneously.

Because people are able to respond faster, understand meaning, continue communication, get validation of rational or come to a consensus, people are able to act faster.

[Hmm, I was trying to extract some tacit knowledge of why consensual social action is more frequent in cities than outside of them. I wasn’t able quite to do it. I often use the internet to communicate, not to another person in the same social time, reading several sources, to validate my actions. Actually, I often privilege the internet over many people as a source of validation.]

Leave a comment | Categories: Action, Aesthetics, Communication, Critical Theory, Ethics, Humanities, Philosophy, Rationality, Urban Philosophy

Free from Capitalism

05 December 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

[todo: incomplete and very important to complete]

Yesterday’s post, Why did I Read?, was a good question.

Yesterday night, I read about half of Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology by David Graeber. It was reinvigorating. Why? Because it discarded much of modern reality, global capitalism. It talks of a society that exists outside of that infinitely complex system. And just outside of it, lies fresh air.

I’ve lived in cities for quite some time. When one lives in a city, capitalism pervades, even if one ignores money. It exists in the behavior of people and in the material of the urban environment.

If one is somewhat creative, then one likely has the a criticism of capitalism in one’s mind.

The desire for socio-political change may take creative forms, which simply depends on the past and current things in the mind. In the case of design, city experience — visual, traveling, talking, living — is far more useful than books.

When I live in a city, I tend go in directions all which are opposite of capitalism. The desired end of my creation is the to alter the behavior of people to act more natural. Examples of past means are: creating critical media — fine art, game, film, etc. –, creating a public space [place-based community] with DIY or anarchistic values, creating tools to aid the generation of healthy communities and neighborhoods, creating tools to limit conspicuous urbanization, and creating tools to direct people toward making positive and urban impacts.

When I live outside of a city, I try to philosophize it — understand it all. This lead to the reason I read:

The reason I began reading is because I wanted to talk about things that I experience in the world, from epistemology to the culture I’ve lived in and back.

I wanted to understand the city, and how social and political changes occur in it, so that I help could make those changes. But to understand it, one must understand human minds, politics, and, of course, capital.

This lead to my interest in critical theory, which covers everything, though in a very messy and outdated way, urban planning, urbanization, decision-making, action, and much continental philosophy.

Trying to philosophizing the entire thing is useless, but the random readings helped elaborate possible directions [, much like Graeber does in Fragments]. It was the organization of 27 years of life experience. The directions that came out, were quite good, they were similar to MIT Center of Civic Media, and many went beyond it.

But as I didn’t have the wealth to do these things, I had to write for grants or and apply for graduate school. I also had to plan how to get some money. And in the process, I had more house time, and kept reading.

Somewhere during my reading of David Harvey’s “Right to the City” I realized that much of capitalism’s problems don’t apply to me.

The problems mentioned in Harvey’s essay are the privatization of food, housing, healthcare, neoliberalism, and in the case of the US, nearly everything. Harvey’s solution is to socialize, or better, uncommodify it all. It’s a kind of communization.

But I live like a bum, keep my belongings in a backpack, sleep at friends’ places, use Taiwan’s excellent and low-cost healthcare, and work part-time jobs for capital. The jobs are my only hard connections to capitalism, as I sometimes need the capital to sustain, especially when the gift economy fails or when I just want to take a lone path in exploring (meaning not many social contacts for gift exchanges) away from institutions and society.

So why bother with the capitalistic city?
Why not just live on my own, or within a public space community in a city or a smaller community outside of it? Why not proceed in the direction that I desire, which is near parallel to the anarchistic directions sketched out by Graeber?

Because I lived in the city. I deeply care(d?) about the people in it. My friends, the people on my street, the people in my neighborhood, in my city, in my country. The point of all my work in the city and out of it is to help those people live better lives.

It just happens that they live under a capitalistic society.

So, what now? It is my responsibility to reverse capitalism? Should I remove them from the place they love too? Or is it okay to ignore those people and live in a separate society (the physical space may not matter that much, though rent is a difficult obstacle) like so many indigenous societies do?

These past few weeks I’ve also been reminded of the film Omoide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday, おもひでぽろぽろ), where the main character, after living in the city for her entire life decides to move to a rural area, to live.

[todo: stopped writing that night, publishing now, though incomplete, it’s a very important self-assessment. The thought started because Fragments reminded me that I didn’t need to live (and worry) under capitalism. I could live in a more anarchic way.]

Leave a comment | Categories: Community, Critical Theory, Ethics, Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Rationality, Self-assessment, Thoughts

Silicon Valley and Capitalism

18 November 2015

This is part of a series of thoughts that are thematically bounded by a criticism of capitalism, communication, and rationality.

An old thought that’s come up several times invoked by Taiwan’s quick adaptation and prevalent use of AirBnB and Uber, then to an old thought about Yelp, then to eBay.

Let’s start with Uber. Uber I’m told is a peer-to-peer car sharing service. The first problem is that few people should have a car. If one lives in an area that has sufficient public transportation, or a bike-able area, a car has little use. If not, one should move closer, or talk about updating the urban plan. It’s good to make use of old technology [cars], but one should be aware of the work that goes into creating a car and getting oil.

The next problem, perhaps the greatest, seems to occur in several things that come out of Silicon Valley. Uber and AirBnB are for-profit. Sharing in my mind is not for-profit, and the word sharing economy is an oxymoron. This changes the behavior of people as capitalism does, often into something quite disgusting. There is a difference between the person who uses Uber and the person who picks up hitchhikers; The same difference exists between AirBnB and CouchSurfing. The main reason someone is using these services as a provider or host is because they want the money, and it doesn’t require much work for it.

In order for a transaction to occur one person must have an asset or property to rent out. One person accumulated enough capital to own a superfluous asset and is now using it to rent it out for short periods of time. Without a convenient service, it is likely seen as waste of time for the owner, but enabled by convenience and motivated by money, it’s easier to be nudged to make this the decision of using these kinds of services.

[The services enable people to make a decision they aware of themselves: to hitch or to exchange hospitality. If people though of these ideas before they wouldn’t have used taxis or motels in the past.]

A lot of these criticisms started with my experience with Yelp when I lived in San Francisco. I used it for anything: food, grocery stores, laundry, doctors, real futons, supply stores, etc, but mostly, food by searching nearby, or planning trips while exploring neighborhoods to live in. It was good to leave honest reviews, never really giving anything a two or below knowing that people care, or that it can ruin a business. But it was apparent that the Yelp caused people to focus their awareness to the places listed on the website, and further narrowed to those with good reviews, increasing the business of already popular places. Instead of doing everything within one’s locale, physically exploring nearby locations, meeting and talking to neighbors, one uses information then makes the decision. The area I chose to live was so convenient that I’d end up doing any kind of business on within a few blocks radius. I’d often just write reviews for them, which often had no reviews or were not eve listed. Other times, I’d go exploring the city, have an experience with a place, maybe a homely Filipino restaurant or the neighborhood it was in, and write about that. My hope was to bring awareness of these other places, usually local or in working class ethnic enclaves. It probably didn’t work.

The effects of eBay is wild, and this thought predates Yelp. Nearly everything I’ve ordered came from China or Taiwan. eBay facilitates global capitalism. People in less developed countries are producing higher quantity and quality and more customized things, somehow at a cheaper price, although it is coming from the other side of the world. Competition is okay, but for people to shift their actions toward producing items for the conspicuous consumption of people from more developed countries is not. There’s a lot of work to be done in China in regards to basic development needs, yet it must sell useless commodities to get the money in order to develop itself? Capitalism makes my mother fuckin’ mind melt.

The pro of all of these is that it provides a service of getting something (hospitality, car ride, products, information) desired conveniently, at one’s personal computer. The con, usually limited to those who have enough money to use these services, is that people are dulled into buying things instead of interacting with the people around, using other forms of transportation, creatively using the material around them, and living in reality.

It seems the only place that has even checked what comes in the country, careful of it’s effects, is Berlin, Germany, whom banned Uber and is cracking down on house rentals, which is fitting as I read this short introduction to the very careful Habermas.

I often think of Silicon Valley (and unfortunately now, San Francisco) as a kind of social zero entropy. There are some somewhat good intentions in there, but it’s only valuable to the class that created it: themselves. [It’s like the failure of the bourgeois public sphere trying to govern all people.] The people lack experience outside of the area, and even much of the area they live in (Oakland, ethnic enclaves), to make any decisions toward anything other than making the machine that is the Valley more efficient. Silicon Valley is in a cycle that creates things to make itself more efficient — materially through industry and socially through industrious work.

Therefore, the products created by this machine are meant for the culture of the machine. Unfortunately, the industry has physically manufactured devices for a global scale, and then created software for those devices, without thought or care of the effects to other cultures. Now, the software affects the behaviors of people around the world. [Hmm, maybe not much argument here, just normal global capitalism effects]

In Taipei alone, non-Taiwanese people use Tinder to get a quick fuck, Taiwanese people use a local Tinder clone to actually meet people, AirBnB (and other hostel websites) to convert apartments into dormitory hostels for tourists, Uber to also rakes profit from tourists, and Taobao (China’s eBay) to obtain items at an even lower price.

Instead of healthy neighborhoods and communities in which resources and services are shared through local relationships, the community is online with people willing to sell or rent resources and services. Instead of genuine experiences such ask asking people for a night, a ride, walking around the streets, or even just talking and meeting people nearby, the Valley’s culture first looks at information to make decisions, then acts upon it in reality. As a result, such decisions are always exclusive. There is no interaction with reality which provides a random set information [, which is then filtered by the mind’s awareness] to inform the decision.

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