The Convivial Society: Vol. 3, No. 14
As usual, I am reading the newsletter while standing at my computer in my very public office, so while I would like to write for several hours, all I can do is offer some very quick and scattered replies of my own. "I have been in despair," may be too strong of a beginning, but the state of the world and our apparent inability to deal with it has been gnawing away at me more than usual lately. On the one hand, I am happy the "inflation reduction act" passed. On the other hand, I am certain all the readers here also realize that it amounts to replacing everything with the same old shit, only powered differently, with the continued environmental problems of resource extraction and some extra ones thrown in to boot - the greater demand for the rarer components of batteries. Ivan Illich would point out that Biden is simply continue to foster reliance on more and different energy slaves. The question always arises - why isn't the government focusing on walking, bicycling, and greater reliance on alternative transportation? Why aren't we moving toward more local agriculture, etc. The "hopeful" future that I see, seems more and more like a Quixotic delusion by the day. (I wrote my senior essay here at St. John's College on Don Quixote, looking at the interplay between idealism - Quixote - and practicality mixed with compassion - Sancho.) The answer, of course, is embedded in the way our economy works, and in the sphere of jobs. We desperately need to move globally, into a more place-based, low energy economy, as envisioned, more or less, in Illich's "Energy and Equity." But is the genie really out of the bottle? In some ways, as a bicycle commuter, I have to accept that pursuing a low-energy lifestyle to the extent I do is a result of the privileged position in which I find myself. At any rate, there are now people in my office that I need to attend to - but I would say I'm re-reading Mark Boyle's "The Moneyless Man" and thinking about the economy. And I'm puzzled and delighted, as always, by Rob Greenfield's enormously positive activism. (I think he has a web page on robgreenfield.org, but I can't verify that now.) Can we all live, culturally, more positive, larger lives with radically fewer energy slaves?
A gift upon waking! What a joy to read your thoughts with morning coffee. And thank you for the link to Clare Coffey: that was an aggressively wise essay, one that helps me understand my discomfort with a lot of “cultural criticism” -- and how to make better sense of our agency and lot. 🙏🏼
It's always a nice feeling, getting ready for bed and seeing an email from you come through. Which means I get to throw it onto my Remarkable tablet and read it before passing out. Nice to have a screen that doesn't make me feel guilty after using it, haha!
The hardest things to wrap our minds around are the ones that we can easily overlook. It is so easy to be distracted from what matters. And yet distracted though we may be , we still shine a light every now and then. And that might be what it takes.
Thanks for another thoughtful edition. This question should never be too far from our minds, I think, not necessarily because of any bias for "action" over "theory" but, as I think you're suggesting, because we should recognize that we are always involved, attending, participating, etc. Our distance or neutrality is often an illusion, or a defense mechanism, or just ignorance.
I also feel ambivalent toward the increasingly pressurized political construals of the situation, because they tend to obscure epistemic questions that would otherwise complicate immediate action, so I'm glad you attended to that a bit at the end. I worry about it even with Murdoch's passages; that is, if we're to understand attention itself as not being full of mirrors (harkening back to Elkins's "The Object Stares Back"), but I'm not well-versed in Weil's concept, so maybe she handles this.
On the other hand, and this is something else you've discussed before, there are people who favor ameliorative approaches and others who favor more radical ones. I'm not thinking here of the individual/collective dichotomy you mentioned so much as divides about approach (which I think implicate the epistemic issues). For example, consider the camp who want to proceed via "humane" standards/designs and the camp who feel the former are insufficiently critical, and accept too many flawed presuppositions for that to be viable.
I'm curious whether, at this point in time, you feel a big tent does more harm than good, and that we should be more streamlined in our "doing," or if you think there is a place for the still-bad, less-bad (assuming, of course, it is such). Please forgive my bringing up old stuff : )
"; if we do not even consider the possibility of making a stand against these determinants,"
Even if such a thing is no longer possible, it remains all we have. Lets do it with good cheer and in the spirit of friendship and renunciation.