Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In closing, listen to Czeslaw Milosz (not silly social scientists)

I argued throughout this class - and couldn't feel stronger - that, at a certain, "real" level, the social sciences are infected by a fundamental arrogance of reason. This prevents people, but esp. academics and intellectuals, from viewing experiences and thinking about social justice, civil society and ecological progress in a convincing, "real" way. (we'll see if the corrective - humility - and the corresponding re-orientation of the social sciences with that spirit ever happens.)

Since the struggle for freedom and resistance to oppressive forms of technology ultimately will take place on the level of ideas and spirit, I'm closing this semester with my favorite writer, someone who lived through the absolute collapse of 20th Century, Western civilization. Czeslaw Milosz wrote, battled and resisted the Nazis in Warsaw throughout WWII, witnessed the Germans, the Westerns Powers and his society's moral bankruptcy and somehow made the most beautiful poetry out of these experiences:


Again I was flying in my dream. As if my old body contained, prior to live beings, the possibility of all movements, flying, swimming, crawling, running.


Little animals from cartoons, talking rabbits, doggies, squirrels, as well as ladybugs, bees, grasshoppers. They have as much in common with real animals as our notions of the world have with the real world. Think of this, and tremble.

(I would end end with the above for the obvious reason, but couldn't resist.)


Let us imagine a poet gets in his hands the Hollywood crowd, those financiers, directors, actors and actresses. And that he is fully aware of the crime perpetrated every day on millions of human beings by money, which acts not in the name of any ideology but exclusively for the purpose of multiplying itself. What penalty would be adequate? He hesitates between slitting their bellies and disemboweling them; locking them together behind barbed wire in the hope that they would start to eat each other, beginning with the fattest potentates; grilling them on a small fire; throwing them, bound, onto an anthill. However, as he interrogates them and sees them humble, trembling, obsequious, fawning, not at all remembering their own arrogance, he is discouraged. Their guilt is as elusive as that of the party bureaucrats in an authoritarian state. The closest thing to justice might be to kill the whole lot. He shrugs, and sets them free.