Rahil

Category Archives for: Area

Japan

30 November 2016

[exported from a markdown text file]
[todo: still copying from notebook]
[todo: need to fix #content blockquote p {
/* padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px; */
}
]

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:

1

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.

[idea:]
\[$\] 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.

Drab.

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

ROLES IN THE FAMILY

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.

COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY EDUCATION
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.

GROUPS: INSIDE/OUTSIDE
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.

THE IE AND GROUPS
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
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

A Japanese Ideal

09 September 2016

Perhaps thought of after watching Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light.

There is an ideal of an idyllic, rustic lifestyle shared in many of my favorite animated films from Japan (Wolf Children Ame and Yuki, Memories Drip-drop, and My Neighbor Totoro [todo: want to re-watch and review]. Perhaps resembling an actual arable area in Japan.

[todo: haven’t even started to write about this!]

from thoughts

9/9/2016
To todo: pay bills!

Continued thought for blog posts about the ideal lifestyle:

Into the Forest of Firefly Lights harks memories, of childhood and the ideal of romance. It’s simple, short, and sweet, much like the experience of watching many great short films (La Maison un Petites), but at 45 minutes, a bit more impact than those instant Pixar character development sequences through memory (Up).

One thought provoked was whether this is based on an actual relationship. Of having problems in relationships due to time, loss, or even age difference. It seems in Japan (and much of Asia), there isn’t much free-time, except during those childhood summers, when there’s no school and the family takes a trip into the countryside. It’s here freedom, love, imagination, sparks. And perhaps, there was a relationship during those summers. People do tend to work and forget about those important things: love and family. It’s only when we have a break that we focus on it. All of my relationships have been during the summer too, because I focus on work (personal or wage labour) during the other seasons. I am normally focused on work. So, for me, it brings about some good romantic memories, time spent after summer school, time spent in the park. Innocent, romance.

The second thought it provoked is of the ideal Japanese lifestyle as glorified by many of my favorite animated films.

Though the film didn’t depict it as the other films have (moving to the countryside [from an urban area], building a home, farming), somewhere in that childhood freedom in nature, there it still exists.

During my time in Lanyu (蘭嶼), I wanted to experience and live in that culture: free-diving, fishing, spear-gun fishing, cooking, farming, vending, making things (commodities) from materials. It’s primitive, especially when compared to my philosophic or new-media making past. It’s natural science, as opposed to the infinitely more complex social philosophy. It’s a material-oriented life, as opposed to an idea, information-oriented one (link to material vs information).

It’s what we experience as children: learning what materials do, making things out of them. Less care for social development. **Just taking everything in and acting upon it.

Isn’t that culture? To simply act within a time and space?**

There, whilst experiencing 蘭嶼, memories of JRPGs such as Harvest Moon, MMORPGs such as Ragnarok Online, one mysterious one I can’t remember the name of (link to forums of most recent RO game), World of Warcraft, and the infinite other RPGs I played when I was young came. I acted the same way as I did in those games: I went out alone, learned the environment, researched the best methods, and did things: practice swimming by snorkeling, catch crabs and cook and eat them (a rather haunting experience as they are so cute), catch fish via fishing and cook and eat them, research local flora and animals and make commodities out of them, sell things through vending on the street market.

It’s all quite the dream. It’s all a game. **Each culture can be seen as a game.** People act according to their institutionalized cultured and habits: capitalism, passed-down behaviors, love, desire for social development, desire for wisdom. In the game of Lanyu, during the summer people capitalize through tourism (tour guides, snorkel and diving guides, accommodation, food vending), stocking money for the winter, or continue working by finding a job on Formosa (the main island of Taiwan). Catching and eating sea creatures is in their culture, from their past. The knowledge of the environment only known to those living there, and slowly disappearing due to social development of the children, and the lack of passing down of traditional ways of living from the elderly.

It’s all seemingly primitive compared to the Information Age, which involves tech-related occupations, computer programming; even the Industrial Age is very modern compared Lanyu. Sure there’s manufactured rice now that is imported, and some tools from supermarkets from the town closest to the port, but not much is to be seen from the developed world.

[continue later, getting off track]

Quote from post-film thoughts of Into the Firefly Forest:
> The film is slow, dreamy, like Totoro. It has its magic. It’s predictable, yet I was happy to watch it, and it made me happy, optimistic.

> For the simple things. Memories. Good times. Summers. Natural joy. Picnics. Talking. Sharing. Time.

> I think of all those memories I created in Taiwan, and elsewhere. A happier place. Instead of my cultural theory, I take in the youthful joy. Of the Chinese class, of her, of my trip in Asia, of New York, of the fatkids, of College Park, of my youth. So many memories. It’s beautiful to think about.

> I’ve been so focused lately that I’ve recently stopped thinking. This free-thinking is what makes me happy. Ignore reality, and be happy.

The literal name of the film of Only Yesterday is Omiede Poro Poro, (todo: check name) roughly memories trickling down, with poro poro being a sound-action of something dripping. Poro Poro! With the cute partially rolled r phonetic. And that’s a core argument for living in Taiwan as opposed to New York (todo: link to post): that living in Taiwan creates more experiences, more memories. I’ve only lived in Taiwan for a small fraction of my life, yet as I think of my life, much of the memories were formed there. So many adventures, friendly people, thoughts. When I watch the memories of these films, my own memories of Taiwan, an island not dissimilar to Japan, are invoked. All those people, places, things I’ve done. When I stop, perhaps on a transportation, just as in the film (and many other films from Ghibli), the those memories rush back, or rather, they kind of trickle down, and I desire them.

I want to go back, live them again. I contact the people. I tell them I am really cherished those times. It’s s childish thing to do, yet, so human. During my recent heartbreak I took a ride a scooter from 宜蘭 through 台東 to 台南 and back toward 蘭嶼. Those memories came. I wrote to everyone I thought I may have loved during past time. I wrote it during the phase of break-up whee one seeks comfort. It was pathetic, yet affirming.

I love Taiwan. I love the experiences I’ve had here. I love the people here.

And so I desire to be here. I desire to join another hostel, be a part of the experiences that go in to living in one. I desire to live in Lanyu, farm and fish and vend. I desire to move to a farming area and build a home as was done in Wolf Children. But none can be done alone.

And all of this contradicts my Western mind. My Western part desires to organize people on Lanyu to increase safety, health, and engineering. It desires a better education. Yet, it desires freedom, and enjoys the freedom the kids on Lanyu have. One feels a connection there. Those children are free, unlike Taiwan. They run around town, swim, hang out with strangers.

Can both be had? Can one be rational and free? West and East?

This contradiction is an everlasting conflict.

Why catch a single fish with rudimentary methods when there are huge high-tech boats with nets that catch hundreds? Why farm when there are huge farm fields looked over with industrial tractors and large machines? Why not just eat cheap cereals and skip to the information and ideas? One doesn’t have to fight for survival in the Information Age. Cereals are cheap, air conditioning or even simple fans exist. Why go backward in social development? We should be designing and philosophizing.

Why? Experience and memories. Nothing more.

The West focuses on the material reality. Design. The East focuses on experiences. In the West, the portfolio matters most. In the East, you must provide a biography. It’s not about what you make, it’s what you have experienced. The experience of making is just a small part.

So what stops me from experiencing? My Western past. I often think in terms of social development. Increases the development of wisdom. Figuring out cities. Figuring out cultures. Social philosophy, urban planning, all of it.

What’s the point of creating yet another hostel? I should be pushing art with games for education, films with documentary and philosophical content, putting new knowledge into ever more accessible mediums. I should be in India de-slumming. I should be in an emergency care platoon. I should be doing a lot.

Yet, I feel so stable, so normal, when I am on my own, doing my own things: fishing, making games, making things on my own. Not caring for the world’s problems. It’s taken me many years to get this feeling again. To forget about [ignore] politics is so difficult, when it affects everything.

Leave a comment | Categories: Anthropology, Area, Art, Essays, Film Reviews, Films, Humanities, Literature, Philosophy, Social Philosophy

On Stoicism

06 May 2016

On Stoicism

After what felt like several years of cold, summer finally arrived in Taiwan, with its beautiful shifts of before the storm weather, bursts of typhoons, and sweltering zero entropy humidity. With it, I began to wake up late, lulling to “Summertime” by Girls, and the rest of that half of the album. With the summer laze, I feel I can relax, be apolitical, do some useless professional work for a high rate of capital. So, I thought, it would be an excellent time to read some Stoicism, especially Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

Here, it seems, I found my childhood’s ethics (Moderate Ethics, Early Ethics, I’m Fortunate). Be responsible, diligent, do your work, focus on work. But I was a child, Marcus was a Roman Emperor. It seems he never grew up out of these childish ethics. He did his work diligently until death. He lived a rather normal life.

Not to be sidetracked by my interest in rhetoric.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Book one’s ethics merely sketches the model of a socially normal, straightforward father: the model of the role he played. To play that role was his goal, the plan, for him, and then by him.

That I wasn’t more talented in rhetoric or poetry, or other areas. If I’d felt that I was making better progress I might never have given them up.

He avoided the difficulties of academic philosophy, granted he was reared to become an Emperor. He avoided thinking deeply. He didn’t think of the problems of philosophy, mind (psychology), humans (anthropology), society (social philosophy, political philosophy). By avoiding it all, he lacked critical thinking in these areas.

He also avoided art, in the education from it, and the process of creating it. His communication was restricted to human languages: rhetoric.

That whenever I felt like helping someone who was short of money, or otherwise in need, I never had to be told that I had no resources to do it with. And that I was never put in that position myself—of having to take something from someone else.

He never experienced what it is to be someone else, poor, a slave, in a different place, excluded, etc. He probably didn’t think deeply of these problems either; It’s against his principles. Therefore, his view of societies and individuals was very limited.

If my childhood ethics match his, then perhaps he too didn’t experience or concieve what it would be like to be raised and live in other societies and their cultures. He kept the same role, job, class, but physically moved for work purposes. It almost sounds like the ethics of a good suburban child, which makes it seem as if he derived much of his philosophy within the walls of his isolated cozy dwelling, which contradicts the reality of an Emporer’s life.

His ethics are shallow. His cherished traits avoid the discovery of knowledge (of humans and natural science), art, design, and technology. Therefore, he is merely reduced to an interlocutor with good rhetoric and socially normal ethics. This may have worked for the role of an Emporer, but it doesn’t work for a society (easily apparent for Ancient Greece, with its many philosophers, artists, and formal and natural scientists).

Stoicism in Taiwan

It seems the culture of Taiwan have many characteristics of Stoicism embedded [into it]. Perhaps there is some overlap between Confucius ethics and Stoicism. The culture still reads Ancient Greek philosophy as part of their early and late education. The country lacks contemporary forms of art (entirely: in education, museums, and the hippest art districts); their medium is mostly the Chinese language and physical crafts (which is basically the only forms in the history of Chinese art). The culture restricts people from expressing themselves, prioritizing responsibility (or benevolence?). The culture doesn’t understand the process of creativity, throwing diverse people and ideas together in the same space, thinking, expressing, out of passion, out of intrinsic desire, altering society. There have never been any great artists (three exceptional filmmakers, also art here being a very limited definition), philosophers (according to the West), designers, or inventors from the country.

The same contradictions of Stoicism exist in Taiwan’s culture: they work diligently without questioning why. There isn’t deep thought into social philosophical problems. This allows capitalism to nearly freely determine the lives of the people. They work diligently for capital without questioning why. Work is work, and life is so. Perhaps it’s hard, but what can be done? That is the ideology. An ideology which contains stoicism.

There are no passions to do more, to create, to consume crazily for gestalts, to think independently, to go out and dance all night, to make games all day, to analyze deeply of social or cultural problems, to desire social or cultural change, to innovate to solve social or urban or environmental problems, to engage in dialectic with institutions internationally to cooperate academically, to obstruct society or individuals in any way, to engage in any kind of serious conversation with other individuals.

Thus, all there is to do in the culture is to live a Stoic’s life: to live “responsibly”, work, consume (increased by capitalism), have shallow experiences (because aesthetics have not developed), shallowly understand others (and make huge generalizations of entire races and countries), yet be kind toward all, living unexamined lives.

It [stoicism] creates a society that is unartful, dispassionate, uncritical, apolitical, uniform.

A Note

Though I am critical of Book 1 of Meditations and of Marcus, these are only a few selected highlights which I wanted to focus on and argue against. I actually think there are a ton of good or interesting things said in the book. I just had to get this bit out of my mind before I continued.

It seems, thus far, though Marcus wrote well of Stoic ethics, Epictetus (and probably Seneca too) reaches much deeper in philosophy.

This website provides good info for translations, and a good introduction book.

Selected Highlights and Notes on Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Book 1:

To do my own work, mind my own business, and have no time for slanderers.

To practice philosophy, and to study with Baccheius, and then with Tandasis and Marcianus. To write dialogues as a student. To choose the Greek lifestyle—the camp-bed and the cloak.

– No sports, focus on philosophy! Also, writing dialogues seems like a good method of learning. And, having a camp bed, to allow the body to live simply, is great. The cloak, I’m guessing refers to war, which in the context of time, is also a great decision, and really must have shaped their body, attunning them to reality. Of this last bit, I feel related to my desire for nomadism, to avoid sedentarism.

Not to be sidetracked by my interest in rhetoric.

– *** Avoid abstract philosophy, stick to reality, action, practical philosophy. Practice, not academic philosophy

Independence and unvarying reliability

– ***

pay attention to nothing, no matter how fleetingly, except the logos

– *****

And for introducing me to Epictetus’s lectures—and loaning me his own copy.

– Mmm, Epictetus book of lectures, maybe includes the enchiridion!

What it means to live as nature requires

– and later again, That I was shown clearly and often what it would be like to live as nature requires
– Second time mentioned this. I guess it’s just stoicism from earlier stoics.

…the principles we ought to live by.

– Should humans have principles?***** It seems to me Marcus took a set of principles, ethics, to live by, but is it possible that such a set could be successful? Doesn’t life require different sets for different goals? To experience different states of minds. I don’t think any stoic would make a good artist, or many other personalities. They are a narrow set of personalities made for the Senate.

His ability to get along with everyone.

– *** Reminds me of Ivar. Getting along with everyone is different from being everyone, or another. There is still a class difference. One can get along with a slave, but to do nothing about the fact slavery exists is wrong.

To recognize the malice, cunning, and hypocrisy that power produces…

– Sneaky power tricks of upper classes

…the peculiar ruthlessness often shown by people from “good families.”

– Mmm, corrupted upper class

Not to be constantly telling people (or writing them) that I’m too busy, unless I really am.

– ***** very important. I think Taiwan’s culture is good with it. But with such small deeds, could one ever specialize knowledge? And change society through discovery or technology?

Similarly, not to be always ducking my responsibilities to the people around me because of “pressing business.”

– ***** Responsibilities to the people around. Sounds like a spatial thing there. But yes, perhaps being responsible is another stoic standard. But, did he ever think of why he was responsible for them? Does he not think of what other groups of people or societies are responsible of? Is he simply a completely digiligeny socially normal person?

…conceived of a society of equal laws, governed by equality of status and of speech, and of rulers who respect the liberty of their subjects above all else.

– ***** this is beautifully simple

Doing your job without whining.

– Slave-like thought, if the job I’d actually harmful to society, or useless

…his advance planning (well in advance)

– ***** as opposed to desiring socio-political change now, slow change for the slaves

That I wasn’t more talented in rhetoric or poetry, or other areas. If I’d felt that I was making better progress I might never have given them up.

– *****Neither a politician or an artist

That whenever I felt like helping someone who was short of money, or otherwise in need, I never had to be told that I had no resources to do it with. And that I was never put in that position myself—of having to take something from someone else.

– Fortunate in capital too, no experience of being excluded or poor

That when I became interested in philosophy I didn’t fall into the hands of charlatans, and didn’t get bogged down in writing treatises, or become absorbed by logic-chopping, or preoccupied with physics.

– Not science, not philosophy treatise, not minute logic. Just the practical bits that can be applied to life: notably, ethics.
— (end of Book 1 selected notes and their highlights)

[todo: possible quotes:

The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and the active relationship between cosmic determinism and human freedom, and the belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is in accord with nature.
– Wikipedia, Stoicism

According to Stoic ethical theory, the stage in which a human being merely keeps himself alive leads to the stage in which he chooses the good and rejects the bad; this leads to the exercise of choice out of a sense of duty of which he is not fully conscious. The fourth stage is the state of continuously making the correct choice. The final stage of ethical development sees the individual abstracting from experience and forming general ideas about good and evil. This results in an understanding of the natural order of the cosmos to which choices are to be made to conform. In other words, he sees the harmony of the Whole, which is the good, because the harmony is nature. He then chooses to conform to the harmonious Whole, being fully conscious of its nature through abstraction.

]

Leave a comment | Categories: Area, Art, Essays, Ethics, Experience, Humanities, Literature, Personal, Philosophy, Social Philosophy, Taiwan, Travel

Railroad Space and Railroad Time

15 March 2016

Hmm, perhaps similar to my film reviews, in which I transcribe the thoughts I wrote on my phone to here, then reflect on those thoughts, I could do the same for literature, in which I transcribe the thoughts I wrote in the notes of highlights of readings on Voice Dream, and again, reflect on those thoughts.

Update:
After writing this, maybe not. It seems to cost too much time. It feels like a chore. It’s better to just keep on consuming an doing. Perhaps if I were able to automatically get my highlights and notes from the phone application into this blog post, I could continue to think [todo: ask Voice Dream app maker to do this]. Otherwise, the chore of transcribing exists, which is effing boring. I mean, reading is already boring enough! Besides, it’s far closer to consumption than creativity. I’m in a really bad downer now, that’s got the be the only reason I’ve transcribed all of this crap!

Related posts:
The Ideal Neighborhood

Notes and longer thoughts from Chapter 3 from The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the Nineteenth Century by Wolfgang Schivelbusch:

First some longer thoughts:
1.
Railroad diminishes space at the speed of affordable transport.

Therefore, any person with a connection to affordable transport cannot complain of development of life, can they? If people are able to move to a place with a better quality of life, they can simply just move.

But what then about the social (and urban?) ties with the places they call home is strong? Then social progress will be difficult for them. They must rely on media as their primary source of education, as opposed to what exists in the society they live in.

2.

The spaces in between are also not thought of.

In Banqiao, I met a family with three kids. One kid travels 50 minutes to get to his workplace by bus, one kid travels 40 minutes by subway to get to college, and one kid travels perhaps more than an hour to get home for the weekend from college.

In the suburbs this is more obvious, as everyone drives cars on highways, during which nothing can be seen or experienced.

3.

The spaces in between are also not thought of.

Now people explore things that are available by affordable transportation. What is publicly accessible becomes public knowledge. Outside of the affordable transportation system — isolated prisons, aboriginals, ancient culturess, swaths of rural, suburban, and natural areas, and other isolated places where old cultural problems exist– slavery, gangsters, prostitution, etc. — but the media will never get to simply because it is inconvenient, and therefore ignored. So, in order to experience the spaces between, one needs personal transportation to travel outside the affordable transportation system, or else what is experienced is what is designed to be experienced by the transportation designers.

What is publicly accessible becomes public knowledge.

What can be accessed or experienced publicly, or at least affordably, also becomes the tools or space with and in which people create. “I recently visited an arts university, after being disappointed by their new media department’s graduate student and public rooms, which were simply bland offices and computer labs. I then strolled over to the building next door: the crafts and design department. On the first floor they had a two wood workshops, on the second, a metal workshop, a jewelry workshop, and some other little workshops. My mind blazed with ideas which involved using them, and bringing friends and hanging out within the spaces.” (to thoughts.txt)

So then, to make tools and spaces public, inclusive, results in more uses of those tools and spaces, and therefore more diversity in the people who use them, and therefore more creativity.

4.
from thoughts.txt:
“I had an important thought: bad weather annihilates space in one’s perception. When it is raining, only what within line of sight is experienced. Indoor areas become highlighted. Also, if one feels cold, then one feels the air less. When it is clear and sunny, everything has an equal opportunity of being experienced. Combined with view of a long distance, then the everything within that view becomes a playground for one’s mind. The perception of space is altered greatly by weather.”

Now some highlights and all of the notes:

(The scene behind the carriage window-panes
Goes flitting past in furious flight; whole plains
With streams and harvest-fields and trees and blue
Are swalled by the whirlpool, whereinto
The telegraph’s slim pillars topple o’er.
Whose wires look strangely like a music-score.)

Probably where Michel Gondry got that idea for one of his music videos.

“Economically, the railways’ operation…causes distances to diminish…Lille suddenly finds itself transported to Louvres.”…

“‘Annihilation of space and time.’ was the early-nineteenth century characterization of the effect of railroad travel.

“every man’s field would be found not only where it always was, but as large as ever it was.”

The mind thinks in possible, accessible space. Inaccessible, exclusive spaces are not thought of.

“Louvres, or Pontiose, Chartres, Arpajon, etc., it is obvious that they will just get lost in some street of Paris or its suburbs.”

The spaces in between are also not thought of.
– [triggered larger thoughts written above.]

“on the map of the imagination”

“Transport technology is the material base of potentiality, and equally the material base of the traveler’s space-time perception.”

potential is limited by transport.

“If an essential elemenet of a given sociocultural space-time continuum undergoes change, this will affect the entire structure; our perception of space-time will also lose its accustomed orientaiton”.

orientation is shifted by change in socio-cultural perception of space-time

“Space is killed by railways, and we are left with time alone…”

time is measured, not space (distance)

“I feel as if the mountains and forests of all countries were advancing on Paris.”

Mmmm.

“We have clearly stated two contradictory sides of the same process: on tone hand, the railroad opened up new spaces that were not easily accessible before; on the other, it did so by destroying space between points.”

Summary thus far.

“The railroad knows only points of departure and destination”…”They are of no use whatsoever for intervening spaces, which they traverse with disdain and provide only with a useless spectacle.”

Limit of railway transport compared with scooter. Scooter is also limited compared to walking.

“They lost their old sense of local identity, formerly determined by the spaces between them.”

Mmmmm.
– This is indeed how towns develop into clones, as opposed to unique societies. The more isolated a society is, the more unique it becomes.

“…This was a common enough notion in the nineteenth century: it is to be found in every one of Baedeker’s travel guides that recommends a certain railroad station as the point of departure for each excursion.

The identification of the railroad station with the traveler’s destination, and the relative insignificance of the journey itself were expressed by Mallarme…”

– the problem of travel

“the bringing of the product to the market…could more precisely be regarded as the transformation of the product into a commodity” – Marx, Grundisse

Whether or not it’s in a shop or digitally.

“With the spatial distance that the product covered on its way from its place of production to the market, it also lost its local identity, its spatial presence. Its concretely sensual properties, which were experienced at the place of production as a result of the labor process (…), appeared quite different in the distance market-place.”

– fits better with upcoming Benjamin reference

“Cherries offered for sale in the Paris market were seen as products of that market, just as Normandy seemed to be a product of the railroad that takes you there.”

Mmmm, great analogy.

“…Benjamin’s concept of the aura. He defined ‘aura of natural objects’ as ‘the unique phenomenon of distance, however close it may be’.”

Whoa, beautiful. Place matters because that is where it was produced, by local material forces.

“The aura of a work of art is ‘its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”

“It is tempting to apply this statement to the outlying regions that were made accessible by the railroad: while being opened up to tourism, they remained, initially at least, untouched by their physical actuality, but their easy, comfortable, and inexpensive accessibility robbed them of their previous value as remote and out-of-the-way places.

The devaluation of outlying regions by their exploitation for mass tourism.”

[highlighted an example of England opening railways to seaside towns in which middle class took over, and the richer, airline travelers went to even further remote regions]

“‘The desire of contemporary masses to bring things closer spatially and humanly…is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction.'”

*****
– 5 stars for Benjamin, holy shit

“When spatial distance is no longer experienced, the differences between original and reproduction diminish.”

– ooooh shit. Hello repeating development.

“When, after the establishment of the Railway Clearing House, the companies decided to cooperate and form a national railroad network, Greenwich Time was introduced as the standard time, valid on all lines…In 1880, it became the standard time for England…In 1884 an international conference on time standards divided the world into time zones.”

whoa

Leave a comment | Categories: Area, Environmental Psychology, Humanities, Literature Reviews, Philosophy, Social Philosophy, Time Perception, Urban Philosophy

I Can Almost See the Sun

11 December 2015

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

This post contains three parts:

The Sun

Recommended listenings: “Sun in Your Eyes” and “Sun it Rises”.

I thought of the the sun, dreamed of hopping farms in New Zealand and Australia, checked the weather in southwest Taiwan. It is considerably warmer. Then I realized it.

All of this time I’ve been communicating through written language because the weather in Yilan, Taiwan is rainy, and recently, cold. Over time, reading and writing in an isolated dwelling, I lost weight, became habituated to communicating through this medium, prioritizing it over finding and talking to people with similar values. I was unable to fight it, media was easier, my physical condition made it a grudge to commute to the city. It’s the same experience I had at home. It stops me from acting, instead writing it down through ideals and directions.

At first, in addition to my physical condition and habituation, I thought it was the lack of money and a lack of desire to follow what capitalism wants. Perhaps they may be factors too, but recently it dawned that an alternate reason, a simple anti-cure exists: a lack of sun. The sun is what powers me to wake up, go out, and socialize.

The experience is very close now. I can almost see the sun. And the city.

The Experience

Excerpts from John Dewey, Art as Experience, end of chapter 1:

For only when an organism shares in the ordered relations of its environment does it secure the stability essential to living

The artist has his problems and thinks as he works. But his thought is more immediately embodied in the object. Because of the comparative remoteness of his end, the scientific worker operates with symbols, words and mathematical signs.

The artist does his thinking in the very qualitative media he works in, and the terms lie so close to the object that he is producing that they merge directly into it

This sounds like the distance between communication and rationality. Here it’s not just spatial distance, it’s temporal. The artist “thinks as he works“.

Dewey separates the two, artist and scientist. I feel the separation now too, I am definitely not a scientist.

Direct experience comes from nature and man interacting with each other. In this interaction, human energy gathers, is released, dammed up, frustrated and victorious. There are rhythmic beats of want and fulfillment, pulses of doing and being withheld from doing.

To overpass the limits that are set is destruction and death, out of which, however, new rhythms are built up.

The proportionate interception of changes establishes an order that is spatially, not merely temporally patterned.

Inner harmony is attained only when, by some means, terms are made with the environment.

The time of consummation is also one of beginning anew. Any attempt to perpetuate beyond its term the enjoyment attending the time of fulfillment and harmony constitutes withdrawal from the world.

Instead of trying to live upon whatever may have been achieved in the past, it uses past successes to inform the present.

Only when the past ceases to trouble and anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive.

Sounds like Seneca here, with regard to past, present and future.

The live animal is fully present, all there, in all of its actions: in its wary glances, its sharp sniffings, its abrupt cocking of ears. All senses are equally on the qui vive. As you watch, you see motion merging into sense and sense into motion — constituting that animal grace so hard for man to rival.

His senses are sentinels of immediate thought and outposts of action, and not, as they so often are with us, mere pathways along which material is gathered to be stored away for a delayed and remote possibility.

Experience in the degree in which it is experience is heightened vitality. Instead of signifying being shut up within one’s own private feelings and sensations, it signifies active and alert commerce with the world; at its height it signifies complete interpenetration of self and the world of objects and events

Yes! The feeling of acting upon sense, the savage instincts, it is quite the experience. Does that make it irrational? It depends. Isn’t all one can do is to do one’s best within social time and space? Why is goal-oriented behavior better [beyond economic productivity]?

Because experience is the fulfillment of an organism in its struggles and achievements in a world of things, it is art in germ. Even in its rudimentary forms, it contains the promise of that delightful perception which is esthetic experience.

Boom.

Well, it’s worth including in the series of posts. There’s surely things about communication I’ve missed here; Furthermore, it seems Dewey understands the way “artists”, or the artistic side of humans, communicate with the world. It’s something I feel Habermas glances over. What that something is I haven’t been able to explicate.

The City

Excerpts by Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, last chapter:

City processes in real life are too complex to be routine, too particularized for application as abstractions. They are always made up of interactions among unique combinations of particulars, and there is no substitute for knowing the particulars.

At first reading it sounded like hopelessness here, but upon rereading it seems to emphasize bottom-up thinking and relationships.

In the life sciences, organized complexity is handled by identifying a specific factor or quantity—say an enzyme—and then painstakingly learning its intricate relationships and interconnections with other factors or quantities. All this is observed in terms of the behavior (not mere presence) of other specific (not generalized) factors or quantities. To be sure, the techniques of two-variable and disorganized-complexity analysis are used too, but only as subsidiary tactics.

In principle, these are much the same tactics as those that have
to be used to understand and to help cities. In the case of under-
standing cities, I think the most important habits of thought are
these:
1. To think about processes;
2. To work inductively, reasoning from particulars to the gen-
eral, rather than the reverse;
3. To seek for “unaverage” clues involving very small quan-
tities? which reveal the way larger and more “average” quantities are operating.

This sums up Jane’s method of inquiry: process otology, inductive reasoning, and street knowledge (gladly, no word for this). The process ontology is the method of observing behaviors (processes) and its relations to specific factors.

I’ve always been skeptical of anything beyond the third habit: street knowledge. Its not that I’m just skeptical of Jane’s method of inquiry, rather, in my mind, it all fell under street knowledge; I didn’t distinguish it.

Of districts, main streets, individual shops, public placss, public spaces, neighborhoods, people, gentrification, de-gentrification, ethnic enclaves — all of which have their own unique culture, the people individually, public transport, pedestrian and biking accessibility, and so on, is all magically inputed in the mind, and decisions come out. I don’t think of the method of inquiry. I only think of the particulars and creating a particular application. Never further.

Jane might be on to something, beyond spending half a book attacking quantitative thinkers, she’s able to talk to those thinkers, “scientists” in Dewey’s terms, she’s able to communicate. Every city dweller has the intuition of her book, but she seems to be the first to explicate it, and in doing so, she created an important urban planning book.

Instead of trying to create social movements, create technology to to enable people to make more political decisions, create anarchist spaces, create art which could convey the same messages in a much higher speed, she decided to talk to the scientists.

It’s strange that scientists can even talk. Perhaps the pertinent question is: why scientists are unable to learn from experience as opposed to the symbols of communication from others? Why did they fail to see this when they live in New York? Why did they fail to see it communicated through art? Does a strong artist-scientist dichotomy really exist?

I think the problem, perhaps missing from the book, is of culture and economy, in this case, American culture and American capitalism. Why the developers (private and public) have surplus wealth in the first place, spend it hastily on urbanization — likely pressured by capitalism, and the greater the city the greater the pressure, and what do they hope people will act like?; Why their culture brought them up to think scientifically, even on non-science topics. [todo: could continue this thought]

The surplus wealth, the productivity, the close-grained juxtaposition of talents that permit society to support advances such as these [the example was disease control] are themselves products of our organization into cities, and especially into big and dense cities.

I agree with the close position of talents communicating and acting, and the density factor of cites, though less so in a an exclusive capitalistic culture. I disagree on the fact they have to be big, and I don’t think it’s ideal either.

It may be romantic to search for the salves of society’s ills in slow-moving rustic surroundings, or among innocent, unspoiled provincials, if such exist, but it is a waste of time. Does anyone suppose that, in real life, answers to any of the great questions that worry us today are going to come out of homogeneous settlements?

Hah, this is quite persuasive. I agree that nothing comes out of homogenous settlements, but I disagree that things cannot be learned from other kinds of human settlements and societies. Human settlements and societies are the real experiments, and what works in one place could work in another. I disagree again: All cities depend on it’s rustic surroundings, and caring for them is a responsibility of the city, simply because they provide the sustenance. These areas do require more thinking, and one must be there to think about it. I disagree yet again: One can escape society’s ill’s by getting out of the society. When a city culture is so dominating and progress is too slow, outside of the city becomes a place with alternate possibilities (though, it’s sometimes possible to create alternative space within the city or make social progress for the entire city): where artists go to create villages, anarchists go to create their own districts, and generally where people go to form new communities, which themselves are vital, just on a smaller scale.

That leads to another point against big cities that Jacobs is missing: things don’t come out of big cities, they come out of particular people in it, as mentioned before, “the close-grained juxtaposition of talents”. A big city is just has more groups of organized talents, a university is supposed to have a higher ratio of these, a small town could have just as many equal to a vibrant neighborhood, down to a single group, which is probably around 2-15 people. It’s not the size, or even density in the case of China, it’s about throwing diverse people together and giving them space to allow them to self-organize.

Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else. But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.

New York is constantly devouring capital by constantly gentrifying itself. It regenerates at the cost of the world’s labor. In the act of caring for her city, a city I love too, Jane ensues blind optimism for it.

Leave a comment | Categories: Aesthetics, Area, Art, Communication, Community, Critical Theory, Experience, Experience, Humanities, Personal, Philosophy, Philosophy of Social Science, Social Philosophy, Urban Philosophy