Curiosity Over Pride (FYI: To comment, send an e-mail to scifidink@gmail.com)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

WAITING FOR GODOT

Waiting is a large part of life in modern society where we are taught to defer pleasure and "save" for the future. Retirement 401 K's, stocks, college education, all incapsule our hopes for deferred pleasure. We no longer live for the day or in the moment. Waiting for the economic collapse to change our lives hopefully for the better but in many ways for the worse is an entirely new type of waiting. We have already discussed one way we can shape perhaps what will be a more egalitarian society through education. The relentless changes continue, as I was reminded of this by a letter to Mike Shedlock on his blog.

I have felt for some time since the economic crisis first showed its depth that we're in for massive social changes probably leading to a full scale socialized economy or alternatively crisis and social chaos. I felt also that we had little choice - - the present social and economic relationships are deconstructing themselves apace - - but that there is a lot to like in the potential for new social relationships and that it was not too late to shape our future in a positive way. One of the reasons I see massive change as inevitable is that a crisis this deep was and can not be simply economic, a question of manipulating savings or changing some other economic behavior, but has deep cultural and moral roots. Obviously our thinking will only slowly catch up to this reality with time but for those visitors here who still have doubts and think we can return to the old ways of doing business I'd like them to read this letter taken from Mike Shedlock's site
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/

- Though Mike is a conservative/libertarian he too will per force catch up to the social implications in terms of the more cooperative relations that society will need to get through the crisis, though it may take a little longer for someone so committed to the individualist creed as Mish:

Dear Mish,

I’m a longtime reader and always enjoy your take on things. Your article on the failed auction of the mansion in Florida points out a change I think we are facing: huge, overly ostentatious homes are dinosaurs. I am a builder, not working for the past two years because I don’t like to work and lose money, but I was recently tempted by a “bargain” property here in the Portland area.

The bargain property is a ten thousand square feet home on 1.4 acre lot in the most prestigious gated community around. It is appraised at $3.5 million, has a $2.7 million mortgage, is bank owned by a mortgage company in bankruptcy, and the price has kept dropping until it is now at $900,000.

The home has been empty for two years with no heat or water, the beautiful yard is now out of control, the wood windows are all dry rotted from neglect, and as much as I would love to take on a project like that (I truly do love the challenges of building) I can’t see ending up with a 10,000 square foot home with a tax bill of $41,000 and huge utility bills. Who will ever want to live in a home like this again? I considered offering $600,000, but decided to walk away, not wanting to own it at any price.

The times they are a changing.

"MB"

As always

SS

60 comments:

Thai said...

My only issue is there seems to be social blinder re: consumption. Somehow "one form of consumption is worse than another" when sadly at some level, consumption is really just consumption, at least when it comes to an economy.

A $900,000 home annualized over a replacement time frame of (say) 25 years, is really $36,000/year.

And if 4 people lived in this home for 25 years (just to make the math easy), this is really $9,000/person-year in consumption.

Add utilities/wear & tear of 33%= $12,000/person-year.


The additional $41,000/year in costs the owner of this property had was TAXES, which are really NOT gluttony at all- they are in fact money transfers to the collective (e.g. you and me) that actually pay for the other forms of consumption you and I also desire (e.g. schools, roads, water, fire, health, public pensions, etc...)

If people live in smaller homes and don't pay the $41,000/taxes (which I am completely in favor of as I think living in such homes a total waste), then the money needed for these other things (roads, health, fire, etc...) either has to come from somewhere else OR we need to spend less on them.

The issues around other types of consumption are not changed one bit by this.

And while I don't know all the details of all the other forms of consumption we have in our society, I know quite a bit about the details of them in health care as it happens to be the industry I work in AND is a topic of considerable personal interest since I am an emergency physician and I do see all the problems with our system, I do treat mostly the uninsured and I was once of the opinion that there was a "right" solution when I was both older and wiser.

I have lost a few years of wisdom as I have gotten younger on this issue.


So if you do not mind, I will use health care as an analogy for other types of consumption- as I think it has lessons for other parts of our economy.



IF one looks at health care spending, there are many many people who $36,000/person-year on personal health care consumption and we do not consider them as gluttonous (where we did when they had $12,000/person-year in housing).

Further, some people who are already spending more than $36,000/person-year in health care will further have children (sometimes many), each of whom will often each consume far more than $36,000/year in either their own health care expenses or their educational expenses OR BOTH.

Some people simply consume heavily in different ways, yet we attack one as "gluttonous" while the other is "OK" or compassionate- yet to a society "consumption is consumption".

And in an economic collapse, cutting back on our housing consumption may still not achieve enough savings to jump start our economy for housing is simply too small a % of the economy to achieve all our hoped gains.

Remember, some of us see absolutely no difference between socialism nor capitalism, nor do we see any difference between cooperation or competition, they are simply different perspectives on the same thing (like looking at sphere from the left or the right or the top or the bottom).

For when the socialism organism start cutting back on the others forms of consumption, things can also get very ugly very fast.

Cooperation does not save us from ugly choices, it simply allows us to make them.

For remember, in our non-linear world, the logic of socialized medicine is irrefutably cold and brutal in its efficiency: since 1% spend 25%, 5% spend 50% and 20% spend almost everything (more than even that old 80-20 rule), cutting the consumption of the 20% who consume most of the resources means the other 80% will be better off.

But the 20% will experience pain.

So yes, the times are changing, and yes, I do think we will see more cooperation, and for 80%, things will be much better. But for 20% things will be much much worse and the pain they feel will be "asymmetrical".

Each 20% must have 4 times the individual pain for the individual gains of the 80%.

SS said...

@ Thai,

There's a good article on the health care system and its costs in this week's New Yorker. It may be available on-line.

I think more like 80-90% of people will be worse to much worse off materially in this crisis. It will take some time for a socialized society to compensate.

As for socialism and capitalism being different facets or ways of seeing the same phenomenon, I can't really see it. I can understand that people's self interpretation of their motives for very different actions may be the same but after all isn't the collectivity paying for everyone's education very different than not paying if you don't have kids or paying "only" for your own kids private education.

- think about doing a blog -

As always

SS

Thai said...

Good idea!

I think I will do a blog on this issue to help others see it as I do.

As the points you make are correct and yet they do not change this fundamental truth one bit.

You do at least see Hell's point re: all life on earth is based on energy? ALL LIFE is constrained within these boundaries and once this boundary condition exists, capitalism and socialism are the same-period. Figure a way out of this boundary condition and they might not be (I would have to think on it).

And by the way, I thought I would leave the following NYT link on American consumption (when all kinds are added up) to show how we do consume as Americans and that it is unequal but not nearly as unequal as people often think.

SS said...

Thai,

I really don't see the point about energy boundaries, it makes no sense to me. It would be like saying since all colors fall within the boundaries of the light spectrum than all are the same. Life is about distinctions.

SS

Dink said...

SS
"being different facets or ways of seeing the same phenomenon, I can't really see it"

I completely feel your pain. I have been chasing the fractal dragon for some time now, never quite catching the damn thing;)

But I think I may be grasping it a little (Thai, please correct me if I'm misinterpreting you).

Analogy to start with: there are many ways to find your way around a foreign city. Perhaps you start at the hotel and memorize street names (Pike then right on 2nd then left to Pine), perhaps geographically (keep going downhill until you reach the waterfront and then go to the ferris wheel), perhaps you notice trends (numbered streets increasing north to south, lettered avenues increasing west to east), etc. But the big kahuna perspective is going to be the map of the city as viewed from overhead. I think perhaps you (SS) and I have been talking about the city from maybe the pattern perspective while Thai has been watching the city from orbit. Hence some miscommunication. Note, none of these perspective are inaccurate; its the same city however viewed and perceived.

Different analogy, but advancing the concept. So a person has one body made up of different tissues(collectives of cells). Do the various tissues get to stake a claim on a percentage of calories consumed? Under stress, blood flow is decreased from the digestive tract to the skeletal muscles to improve running. The digestive tract doesn't have lobbyists to appeal to Congress. But you may argue the GI tract also benefits from escaping from the tiger. So I guess we could argue that frostbitten toes don't get to argue about being amputated.

So trying to bring the body analogy back, Thai is looking from orbit at the whole human race as one entity and commenting. You and I are on the streets looking at various tissues (cultures/politcal systems/economies) and commenting. You and I might say "lets spend some calories on education because this tissue will be more efficient", but Thai is noticing is the calories go there then the organism's height will be affected, etc.

(BTW, I'm really not a raving maniac in person. Using the intertubes is just so unique; communication without many of the usual contextual boundaries (i.e. people with nervous facial expressions slowing backing away from you which lets you know its time to behave a little more normally))

SS said...

Macro vs. Micro?

I understand this but still think the differences are meaningful for human life. For example, if cells could choose and over the evolutionary long term they might, they could choose between organizing as an insect or mammal. Very different outcomes for both the cells and the eco- systems but within the total boundaries of energy, entropy and the chemical constraints of our environment. Is this predetermined or some evolutionary act of free will by the cells? I don't think that it matters to see the outcomes as meaningfully different.

SS

Thai said...

"I think perhaps you (SS) and I have been talking about the city from maybe the pattern perspective while Thai has been watching the city from orbit... Note, none of these perspective are inaccurate; its the same city however viewed and perceived... Thai is noticing (IF) the calories go there then the organism's height will be affected, etc."

BINGO!!!!! Dink gets an A

From orbit all colors are simply bands within the spectrum of light and at some level are the same SS, as you correctly point out.

But do not make the mistake people always do when they first hear about the theory of relativity. Because relativity is always about perspective and the boundary is the speed of light itself which they have a hard time recognizing as it is counter intuitive to some.


But when you are talking about everyone's perspective, when you are talking about ALL OF US cooperating, you are talking about a perspective "from orbit".

You will never get everyone to see the world from just your perspective and agree with your perspective as the very idea is against everything we know about the laws of physics.

SS said...

No,

I disagree, I believe that you are correct only on the level of individual perception. Different things are going on even though individuals perceive them differently as well. So for example within the light spectrum our eyes perceive some colors, not all, while color blind people do not perceive them. Dogs, something else. At some level who's to say what the actual colors are but because we are humans first, e.g. alive and hopefully well, and scientists and philosophers second, red is still red and it would be silly to argue otherwise the argument of the color blind among us notwithstanding.

Another way of putting this is that for some purposes red is red, for others not at all.

SS

Cottonbloggin said...

Ooh--YES!

What you guys are discussing and calling "macro vs. micro" is what I've been referring to as MANIFOLDS. And when it comes to discussions like these I think it's an incredibly helpful term.

The example which locked the concept in my head is this: Euclidean geometry says that all triangles have three sides as well as three interior angles all of which add up to 180degrees. right? Ever see a triangle which has more-- or less-- than three sides, or who's interior angles equal more-- or less-- than 180degrees?

Well, there's at least one example that I know of.

imagine going out in your driveway and painting a truck sized triangle there. All the rules of a triangle are still true. There's gonna be three sides and interior angles will equal exactly 180degrees BUT. imagine painting a really REALLY large triangle covering all of north america! Lets say there's a point somewhere in Southern Mexico, another in Alaska and a third point in NewFoundland. Connect the dots, measure the interior angles and... something strange happens.

The interior angles of this triangle, if added, will equal a number LESS THAN 180degrees. The rules governing triangles are void in this instance. It's kinda like dorky mathematical majik.

The reason for this has nothing to do with scale. It happens because of the curvature of the earth. It messes up the angles, because the triangle is SUPPOSED to be a 2dimensional object, and yet (in this case) it would have been painted as a THREE dimensional object (since there is a vertical dimension separating the vertices and the field).

So... the second dimension and the third dimension require different mathematical solutions for the same problem... they then exist on different manifolds.

Same can be said of Neutonian and Relativistic Physics. One does not negate the other. It is not an "either or" solution, it is a "both, and" solution, due to their helpfulness in different manifolds (which is technically defined as the differences between topographical geometries).

Personally, I'm quite liberal in my use of the word. I see individuals existing on a manifold very separate from the communal manifolds of family, neighborhood, city, state, region, globe-- what's interesting about using the word in a social context is that it demonstrates that the solutions an individual would prefer are most likely different than the solutions the collective would prefer.

The two are not in harmony.

**i hope this makes a little teeny tiny bit of sense, and if not-- well feel free to enjoy the practical outcome of all my blathering:

Conversatzion Serpentinata

Cottonbloggin said...

that's shameless self promotion at its best =)

SS said...

@ Debra

Deb, Here's a link to an article on Incarceration and Unemployment on a site I find interesting. Note particularly Anne's comments, she's often a real firebrand - very intelligent one at that. Best. Looking forward to your post, I didn't mean to pre-empt you.

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2009/05/incarceration-as-a-labor-market-outcome.html#comments

yoyomo said...

By the beginning of the last century science was sufficiently advanced to plot the outlines of a sustainable society but that would have meant slower growth and more investment in resource-preserving infrastructure (i.e. better sewer systems for capturing and returning nutrients to the soil) and policies (taxes on virgin materials to promote reuse).

Each generation made the decisions that provided it with the highest/easiest lifestyle w/o regard to what would be faced by succeeding generations; what evidence is there that the majority (the party-people) of society has made the transition to self-sacrifice? The Native American adage that "we don't leave the land to our children; we borrow it from them" is nothing but a fantasy in today's world.

This confrontation with North Korea shows that the top dogs are more than willing to burn up what remains of the Earth's resources to maintain their domination than live and LET live. Same logic applies to the myriad other conflicts instigated/insisted upon by Numero Uno. How do you (SS) see the country (govt & voters) ever voluntarily agreeing to military spending cuts?

SS said...

@ Cotton

Understood, and interesting. I was taught mathematics as a projection from the reals to the reals in Belgium (French) a better way of looking at it.

Still the most intellectual blog on the web! Where's the advertising? If there's ever a sifi vs. socialism multi-player game I'm sure we'll get a big advet contract.

SS

SS said...

@ yoyomo

Agreed!!

As to the cuts unlikely but once (if) we are truly bankrupt they will have to sing another tune. Thanks.

SS

Thai said...

Thanks Cotton. Amazing how much we agree at times.

Fwiw, I have always understood your use of the term MANIFOLDS to mean just this.

@SS, re: "Another way of putting this is that for some purposes red is red, for others not at all."

Yes, I misspoke and should have been more precise.

But the general point I am making which you reject, e.g. that there is no difference between any of the systems when viewed from a macro viewpoint I still cling firm to- they are absolutely one and the same.

It is only from the individual viewpoint that they look quite different- which is why individuals get so upset about the issue.

Thai said...

SS said "I see individuals existing on a manifold very separate from the communal manifolds of family, neighborhood, city, state, region, globe-- what's interesting about using the word in a social context is that it demonstrates that the solutions an individual would prefer are most likely different than the solutions the collective would prefer.

The two are not in harmony."



YES!!!!!!!

And what I have not figured out from SS yet is how he defines the solution the collective will chose.
People criticize capitalism for being cruel. I think some of them seem socialism as a kinder side of the same organism. Of course not seeing any difference, I would argue it is the collective that is our cruel mistress whether she calls herself a rose or any other name. Only to some the different name smells sweeter.



Oh, and Cotton, your link shows a photo of your art work. Is this your intention or did you mean to link to your blog? It is lovely art work by the way and I do hope you will post a blog here explaining it the rest of us who are not so art inclined one day as I would love to understand it more (other than I just like it).

Thai said...

Sorry, I meant to say "Cotton said" (not SS)

Dink said...

Wow, an hour at the gym and now I'm way behind.

@ CB
I'd like the term "manifold" except years ago I knew this guy who would always say "Our enemies are ubiquitous and manifold". It probably wasn't his own quote, but still I associate it with him and he was obnoxious. I'll try to reassociate the term with you instead, but it will take work. Use it frequently to help me out;)

@Yoyomo
I guess the previous generations just couldn't conceive of what the population would grow to and how much we'd consume. That Slumdog link you had about the shanty being torn down to build a better sewer was confusing; am I happy or sad? Sad for a few hundred individuals and happy for a few million individuals? There's just no winning along all the manifolds.

@ Thai,
Those were some interesting facts you had on the history of the US drug situation in the last post's comment section. And man, the stuff you must have seen in the LA ED during the gang wars...did the hospital have a metal detector?

I don't really know any drug addicts, but what I've read about meth addicts scares the hell out of me. So my worries about legalizing meth sort get swirled up into zombie movies and books I've come across.

yoyomo said...

"How do you get people to vote for radioactive waste to be dumped in Texas in close proximity to the Ogallala and Dockum aquifers? And how do you also get the same community to agree to bankroll the project's $75 million buildout costs? You sell it as a prosperity issue."So much for thinking about future generations.

yoyomo said...

Happy that a sewer system is being built (even happier if it is designed to produce safe sludge uncontaminated by industrial toxins for use on farm fields) but livid that no advance notice was given to allow residents to save their precious (as in "only") belongings and no compensation or alternate accomodations were given to them.

SS said...

@ Cotton

"the solutions an individual would prefer are most likely different than the solutions the collective would prefer. "

It seems that it would depend on the training and background of the individual. I was looking at your excellent iroquois post today. An individual trained in that society would prefer an outcome that benefitted society as opposed to one that put himself first, or so it seems.

SS

yoyomo said...

"...previous generations just couldn't conceive of what the population would grow to..."


Oh, and Malthus did conceive of just that 200+ years ago.

Cottonbloggin said...

Thai,

Yes, I meant to link to that foto, and yes I would love to eventually describe the WHY behind what I do.

As for your question, "how he defines the solution the collective will chose", well I think we've already chosen. And for brevity's sake on my part I'll let someone else to the talking for me. I read this yesterday, and while i don't think his scope is as large as mine, I think it reflects what I'm talking about in a general sort of way. Here goes:

the new socialism

Cottonbloggin said...

@yoyomo

"By the beginning of the last century..."

spot on! Have you read "Small is Beautiful"? Cause none of this is new really. It's all in an effort to swap the permagrowth mentality (which is very much IN harmony with our reptilian brain) for a sustainable one (which requires---eeek! ... effort.)

yoyomo said...

Cotton,
No, I'm not familiar with "Small is Beautiful" but my reptilian brain must have atrophied at an early age because even as a kid of 9-10 I always had an uneasy feeling that all this STUFF would run out one day. It just never made sense to me that stuff could just keep arriving in stores and end up in the trash without a problem arising some day. As for effort (double-eeek), all around me I see people buying small bottles of water because they're too lazy to use a refillable one; the planet is truly doomed as their will always be lazy, selfish, inconsiderate people and they will always out-number the responsible members of society especially when you have advertisers (and some cooking shows) telling people to cook their dinner in aluminum foil so there are no pans to clean afterwards.

SS said...

@yoyomo

You should visit the small town areas in Austria and Switzerland and to a lesser extent Germany. Nothing is thrown away; everything neat, clean and orderly. Probably a question of very old cultural practices. Germany also has a very important "Green" party and other appealing aspects of this culture, although I must say that for an Italian/American it has its limits.

SS

SS

yoyomo said...

I spent a week and a half in Kiel, Germany in 1984 visiting a niece and her husband (a medical intern) and it was lovely (July in the far North near the Baltic Sea). German regimentation appeals to my boarding school upbringing, very strict and structured around school bells day and night.

Now for an example of outdated ideology that no one believes in any more:

(Christian Zionists) "...believe the Second Coming will take place after the ingathering of Jews and the Battle of Armageddon. CUFI lobbied hard to delay a ceasefire during Israel's attack on Lebanon in June 2006 in case that was it."

And one more just to round out the picture:

"The UN’s representative was a fine person (like almost all UN envoys) who wanted to do his best for all mankind. So the Zionists killed him.

Zettler was a fanatic, a base murderer, an unrepentant assassin, who after his disgusting crime lived peacefully and prosperously in Israel, respected and admired by Israelis and his many supporters in America."

Surely I now understand how harmless these superstitious beliefs are in the modern rational world.

Thai said...

@CB- you definitely get the award for best contributor of the day. GREAT link!

Thanks



@SS, re: "an outcome that benefited society as opposed to one that put himself first".

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?????

Thai said...

Yo- which boarding school?

Thai said...

And Dink re: methamphetamine.

It's use is pretty common AND the media makes way more if it that it should.

If you want to spot a meth addict, loot at their teeth and gums.

Methamphetamine causes a condition we call "meth mouth" due to an effect methamphetamine has on an enzyme in our mouth.

Meth addicts have the worst periodontal disease you will ever seen and it is somewhat recognizable when they smile. And while disgusting smiles are not "pathogneumonic" for a meth addict, they are a strong risk factor at a young age for its presence.

yoyomo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yoyomo said...

Dink,
Instruct your relatives to behave themselves.

SS said...

@ Thai

"an outcome that benefited society as opposed to one that put himself first"

The inverse would be taking huge bonuses for sales that put the bank at risk! What's not to like?

SS

Thai said...

How could anyone disagree with a statement like this?

But it is not a useful statement either.

For the reality is almost everyone does this kind of stuff in one form or another, they just don't recognize their own personal culpability as they do it themselves even as they see the guilt in others.

And remember, where you are talking about the many vs. the few, their combined influence has far more effect than the actions of individuals, even individual wealthy bankers.

AND, I do think some of these bankers need to go to jail, especially some of the insurance executives.

Dink said...

@ Rabbi Yoyomo,
1) Malthus- DAMN IT! Even as I was typing that comment I was thinking "man, someone's going to bring up Malthus". But still, how much of the world's population at that time was even literate.
2) Squirrels- I like the clever little twerps; very resourceful ;)

@ CB,
1) I took a brief glance at the New Socialism link which looks intriguing, but I'll have to go deeper later on today. It is a tidal wave, for sure.
2) That was YOUR creation? Its so cool! Get set up as an author and then make a post showing us more!

@ Thai,
"are not "pathogneumonic"

You green-blooded Vulcan bastard! Well, I suppose you can guess what I saw this weekend. Is there any iteration of Star Trek were Kirk isn't a complete $^&hole?

Thai said...

By the way, just a thought on waiting (since that was the original post).

If someone is waiting for a long time as they scrimp and save to gather enough money to purchase (say) a home (e.g. a form of slavery to savings), is that really any different than the same person working for a long period of the rest of their life to pay a home off that they purchased when they could not afford it (e.g. a form of slavery to debt).

In which circumstance is the person "worse" or "better" off?

Just a thought, that's all.

yoyomo said...

"...how much of the world's population at that time was even literate."

The segment of the population that had the power to steer society in the right direction instead of trying to maximize their short-term profit at the expense of despoiling the planet. For example, the inventor of soda pop bottle caps (back when the bottles were reused) deliberately designed them to be disposable so that he could sell lots of them but didn't have to pay for the external costs of all the additional litter and resource depletion.

WRT to rabbinical authority, I get all my cues from the likes of Rabbi Elmer Berger and Naturi Karta.

yoyomo said...

Savings vs Debt

Incurring debt makes sense if the purchase will either (A)produce/enable a stream of income sufficient to retire the debt or (B)avoid an expense greater than the debt payments. Otherwise all expenditures should be from earnings or savings; any other arrangement is not sustainable in the long run from either the individual's or the economy's perspective.

Funding consumption with debt will force the individual to curtail future consumption by an amount greater than if he had saved (and earned interest on savings) to make purchases or the debt will grow so large that it forces default. An economy with non-productive debt (A&B above) will experience a collapse in demand once debt growth stalls.

Debra said...

Jesus, all I have to do is to take off for ONE WEEKEND and you guys are up up and away into ORBIT. (That one for my psychoanalyst prof who used to regularly warn us against letting our mental/intellectual processes take control of our minds and send us spinning...)
Going into orbit is fun, I suppose (seems to be particularly "jouissif" for men, I must say, but in the face of the pressing issues facing us in today's world, I really think that we must be more DISCIPLINED in our thinking.
"Thinking" or what passes for thinking can actually, as the shrinks figured out a while ago, have surprising similarities to...
MASTURBATION. GETTING YOUR ROCKS OFF.
As a woman reaching a certain age, I am not particularly interested in masturbation any more, whether it be "abuse" of the body, or of the mind...
Waiting :
I should pull out Rousseau to show you some of his extremely pertinent observations in Emile about the incredible PERVERSION that waiting introduces. Like... not being able to enjoy the precious present moment BECAUSE YOU ARE SO WORRIED ABOUT WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN FIVE MINUTES, OR FIVE HOURS, OR FIVE YEARS...
I think that much of our current suffering has been produced by what Freud calls "secondary thinking processes". Because when you start privileging the "goal" or the "project" or the "end", then all too often the process itself gets neglected. (This joins up with the discussion about HOW/WHAT we see : the global picture, or the details. That to see both at the same time MAY BE (I'm not sure yet...) impossible. Then again, maybe not, because what you see when you see something in terms of Gestalt may be a form of compromise on this issue. See Daniel Arasse, art historian, who wrote two books about the subject vs detail in Renaissance Italian painting.
As for the old, old debate, collectivity/individual, you guys sure are looking pretty naive about this one.
The needs of both are pretty incompatible. Check out Rousseau again on this one. His thinking is fine-tuned, and very "realist" for the people on this blog who like to see themselves as realist. (Not me...)
The "collectivity" takes great pains to crush the individual. The collectivity behaves at all times in a way which encourages the individual to turn his frustration and agression against himself, rather than venting it on the collectivity.
For effort :
It is a characteristic of ALL LIFE to seek to minimize effort, and it is a sign of intelligence that life forms seek to minimize effort. That probably brings us back to Hell's energy statements, that I don't understand.
Let's ease up on the 1) numbers 2) percentages 3) statistics.
I feel that they are now preventing us from thinking, and not helping us...

Thai said...

Deb, we are scifi buffs, hence we like being in orbit... And masturbation isn't that bad either though I think many of us might prefer more cooperative acts if you get my drift. Indeed, I am sorry to hear you have lost your enjoyment in such activities.

re: "The needs of both are pretty incompatible."

Though I might take a more nuanced view, since I think we are always some mixture of the individual and the collective- as they say "no (wo)man is an Island".

I think you would be really bummed to wake up one day and discover that all your money in all your bank accouts is suddently gone and there is no one to help you recover them. Or similarly, if the world's food chain suddenly vanished and there was no more food to be had at the store at any price.

Still, I thought I have always made it clear that the collective is working against all of us and that is just the way it will be and that we have no real say in stopping "Imperial" power from doing what it wants IF it is going to do it. A collective cooperating is perhaps the most deadly force on earth. Just as Jews, Tutsi or Cambodians.


This is what I have been teasing SS about.

Everyone loves the collective, but the reality is they truly only love THEIR PARTICULAR VIEW of the collective. Other views scare the shit out of them.

Why do you think war is fractal?

SS said...

@ Thai,

Souns miserable. I hope you get a chance to visit an African village one day or are welcomed by a Muslim family you will know the huge bonds of solidarity that can animate the human sphere. I don't want to argue with you really, if I had only been in the U.S. I probably would agree. Except, well,I had read Rousseau and than experienced the social contract in action. Hey if I run into you I'll buy a drink to get over it!

SS l

yoyomo said...

Or you could just as easily ask the more numerous victims of the Jews (I'm including Iraq & maybe Iran soon) and Tutsis (Congo). But, in the end, empires fade and their local lackeys reap what they have stored up for themselves.

The larger local collectives have the advantage over remotely installed agents.

Thai said...

SS "I hope you get a chance to visit an African village one day or are welcomed by a Muslim family you will know the huge bonds of solidarity that can animate the human sphere."

This does sound wonderful, it really does. Sadly my one experience in the Muslim world was rather negative (I was backpacking with my then future wife to Marakesh during Ramadan and the whole time people kept coming up to us and yelling "jew" and calling my then girlfriend a slut... I must say the food was amazing).

It as over 20 years ago however and I have had many friends come back from Morocco with the most wonderful stories so I think there may have just been something in the air during our visit (I don't think there was any BIG US/Israeli issues going on at the time but I don't follow the middle east all that closely so I may have been simply unaware).

Re: arguing.

???

I hope you don't think I am arguing with you. I honestly do agree with the views of socialists (really). I just don't think they are really any different than the views of capitalists.

I do like to tease you AND I really do love your comments. Indeed, every time I see them in my inbox, they bring a smile. I see why Deb loves them.

re: drink

If you are ever 30 miles north in Bethesda, please look me up, there is a great Lebanese restaurant 4 blocks from my house with a great bar and I will buy you one. ;-)

yoyomo said...

"...but I don't follow the middle east all that closely so I may have been simply unaware)."

Maybe that is why you don't understand the level of hostility towards Israel/zionism in most the world outside Anglophone countries but the late 1980's was the first intifada when Yitzahk Rabin ordered occupation troops to break the arms and legs of anyone caught resisting the occupation and even Dan Rather on the evening news was showing footage of soldiers using large rocks to crush the bones of arrested Palestinians pinned to the ground and beating children as young as five (the top of the child's head was no higher than the soldier's belt) with their rifle butts.

The Reagan administration vetoed all UNSC resolutions to deploy observer teams from the UN to act as a deterrant to such war crimes. That would explain the hostility toward an American but why would they assume you were Jewish? Was anyone wearing star of David jewelry?

yoyomo said...

Bush Sr became president a few months after the start of the unrest and continued shielding Isreal with the UNSC veto. I don't know exactly when you went but both administrations persisted in the same see-no-evil policy that is so reminicient of certain people I have come to know and would respect so much more if they (plural) would be less evasive.

Thai said...

Yo, the middle east is the textbook definition of basket case. While I am quite sure there are a great many lovely people in that part of the world, we all know that were it not for oil money job, there would not be all that many people choosing to immigrate to that part of the world the way things currently stand.

They own what % of the world's oil?
What % of the world's money has gone through the middle east and yet they have very little to show for it, Israel or no Israel as an excuse.

I remember my dad (who was English- past tense only as he is now dead) telling me about the day he first drove in to Baghdad in 1960. He was in an old Citroen camper and they had to stop for a large parade blocking all the roads in the center of the city. When they got out of their camper, there where men were carrying pikes with the heads of other dead men attached to their tops.

Of course he promptly drove out of town and ended up in Tehran (which he loved) and worked as a journalist (I think for the Tehran Star though I may have this wrong) for about a year.

re: "why would they assume you were Jewish?"

I have no idea, although the manager of our hotel told us it was a generic insult people just shout at foreigners- I have had friends tell me they experienced the same thing in Egypt visiting the pyramids.

Apparently in that part of the world, being a Jew is about as bad an insult as one can throw.

But this was just what I was told by the hotel manager so who really knows.

Dink said...

Is there any way possible that I can convince all of you to watch The Big Lebowski? It is a Coen Brothers film from 1998. If you see it advertised as a comedy about bowling, please do not turn away in digust. The characters and quotes are worth the time.

Why? Somehow we're falling into those characters. Perhaps its because they're universal archetypes. Either way, its amusing.

Example: Bunny Lebowski and The Dude are standing on a balcony overlooking a pool. A man (Ulli) is passed out on a floatation device with empty beer bottles floating around him Bunny: Ulli is a nihilist. He doesn't believe in anything.
The Dude: Ah. Must be exhausting.

Really, its hysterical.

Dink said...

"we have no real say in stopping "Imperial" power from doing what it wants IF it is going to do it. A collective cooperating is perhaps the most deadly force on earth"

Which fits in with CB's link about the internet heralding in a new socialism. A technology that can link the minds of a majority of the literate minds on the planet at the same time......freakin' amazing potential.

When there is doomsday talk I often wish there were a back up government/system waiting in the wings so stability can quickly be restored. One can be created and implemented very quickly I should think.

Thai said...

The Big Lebowski. Now THAT is one of the great films of all time!

Debra said...

The film sounds good. I shall check it out, as the comment about nihilism being exhausting is one that I would like to be able to throw into the face of some of the French intelligentsia at this time...
Thai, I don't mean to sound... insensitive or anything, but, why was your girlfriend/future wife hiking around in SHORTS in the Middle East ?
Personally, I think that modern day tourism sucks. And I think that when we go to other people's countries we SHOULD be documented on their local customs in order to TRY, at least to avoid doing things that will offend them.
Sounds like the script for the ugly American was in place.
"We" have, over the course of time, acquired an extremely unsavory reputation in the outside world. Justified in some cases, unjustified in others.
As for the comment on my sex drive, the person who suffers from it the most is not ME, it is my husband... I totally discount all the medical/social propaganda spewed forth on the wonders of sexuality past 50,60,70 etc. That way I can concentrate on what I want, not on what the tabloids tell me I SHOULD want...

Thai said...

She may have been wearing shorts, I really don't remember (but she may not have either as she usually is pretty attuned to stuff like that and when I just asked her, she says she doesn't think she was). I will need to think on it as it was a long time ago.

re: society and sex drive. Now that is a fractal issue if ever there was one!

For while I would be amongst the very first to say people's love lives should be (mostly) whatever they want them to be, I too have to admit this is one of those glass half empty/half full issues all over again.

For it is again one of those classic examples of how we love the cooperative when we share its views yet hate it when we do not (which I you don't disagree with per your prior comment).

For as you just reminded us, the issue is always about AT LEAST TWO people (and often more) and as a result, issues of cooperation and social cohesiveness are ever implicit in its very nature (indeed, as per crack cocaine, little someones may also have an interest in the issue and this is where the collective tends to take a very complex look at issues).

And when these issues break down, the cooperative will often be faced with the consequences. So discount what they say- "yes"- but understand there is a reason they have an interest in "everyone getting along."

Why do you think it was always the church that involved itself in these roles traditionally?

Call a spade a spade on this one, EVEN IF nihilism is tiring.

I also might remind you that educated wealthy women (e.g. upper classes), are the least tolerant of divorce and that this "marriage gap" is still increasing.

Thai said...

It was a good theory but I just pulled the photos and skimmed through them- no shorts, only long dresses.

America was not poorly represented abroad, unless couple a kids with backpacks, 24 and 27 years old, is a poor representation.

You will have to make more excuses for their behavior to fit whatever view of reality you have that differs with mine.

Debra said...

Thai, don't get huffy on me.
I wrongly deduced that your wife was wearing shorts.
YOU and SHE don't do things like that.
Other people do.
For every sensitive American tourist I come upon in France, there is at least probably one insenstive, Hawaiian shirt wearing, gum chewing, loud voiced, American speaking... AMERICAN who manages to shoot our collective, symbolic, image to hell among the indigenous populations.
I'm not excusing anybody. I have never understood why the effort to understand WHY people behave they do is considered an attempt to excuse them. Why must this be so ? I like trying to understand why people behave the way they do. Period. Call it a relic from a long gone past when such interpretation was really vital for me.
It is really sadly unavoidable to realize that when you are abroad, you are invariably a SYMBOL of your culture to other people. You are not an individual, you are a type.
But then again, that's pretty inevitable don't you think ?
That's what SYMBOLS are all about, right ?
There is no reason for us to whine about it, is there ?
And as long as we stay in our own country, then we can just pretend that our (often, not always) evil reputation just doesn't exist.

Thai said...

Deb, that is VERY well said.

Sorry to get huffy, I do worship my wife.

Debra said...

Good for you Thai.
And good for HER too, I think. ;-)

yoyomo said...

Thai,
As so often in the past you have deftly and subtly shifted away from the major focus of my statement to you by bringing up Baghdad(1960) and deigning to answer the minor point that you felt would help advance the heads-of-Jews-on-pikes imagery you wanted to embellish.

Let me address your basket-case point; OK, so what. If that is the case, then why not just get the hell out instead of increasing the US involvment from decade to decade? Eisenhower sent a few hundred marines to Lebanon for a few weeks to help avert unrest (and prevent even more extensive French intervention) but that was about it publicly. Clandestinely, Kermit Roosevelt and the CIA helped the Shah get back in but I don't know how much the prez was behind that. JFK, to my knowledge, didn't interfere in the region but since Johnson then Nixon and going forward the US has steadly increased its meddling and just by coincidence the region has gotten increasingly unstable but I guess it would be silly of me to draw any inferenses.

It is an amazingly expensive basket that the US now has to pour billions of dollars per WEEK in to (destablizing/dominating) it. For such a God-forsaken waste land, it's amazing its inhabitants can survive so much (unwanted) generosity. You constantly kvetch about keeping Granny alive too long but pissing away more than $100B/yr just on making 'friends' in the ME can't even get a piss chubb out of you. And let's not forget that everytime the voters of one of those basket cases vote for the wrong candidate, it is not long that the blood starts flowing courtesy of Uncle Sam (and sometimes France), even if care is taken to work through proxies. You may remember the Algerian (as well as the Nicaraguan) elections of the early 90's when the announcements were flying that victory for the wrong candidate could 'regretably' result in violence (by whom never specified). Hillery and Holebrook have been camped out of late in Lebanon offering friendly advice on who best to vote for.

Try telling me with a straight face that if there were safe havens (that the US couldn't hit) on America's borders from which saboteurs
could launch regular raids that it wouldn't have a destabilizing effect on the country. Because countries in the 3W can't retaliate against their western tormentors the US can get away with exactly the same situation described in the previous sentence.

Finally, a quick retort to your heads-on-pikes; as the son of an Englishman, do you need to be reminded that in colonial America those accused
of being sympathetic to the crown often were dragged to the town square where they were doused with molten tar and covered with feathers while the good townfolks gathered to watch in amusement as the 'traitor' flapped his limbs in agony? You're the doctor; tell me, what is the effect on human flesh of molten tar (~200C)?

Now let's turn the mirror toward those evermore so civilized Ashkenazi role models of yours:

Said Filmmaker Woody Allen in a mocking article published on the New York Times' op-ed page: "I mean, fellas, are you kidding? Beatings of people by soldiers to make examples of them? Breaking the hands of men and women so they can't throw stones?""We read with shame," wrote four Jewish intellectuals in a letter to the New York Times, "reports of HOUSE TO HOUSE beatings of hundreds of people, leading to broken bones and hospitalization of the AGED AND CHILDREN." (emphasis mine)

I have no problem acknowledging and addressing the points you bring up; why is it that you seem to get a case of the watery-runs whenever I present you with some delectable tidbit to nibble on?

Debra said...

Yoyo, I am mystified in the face of your impatience with Thai.
Is Thai DELIBERATELY sidestepping your points ?
I am not sure at all that this is the case.
I can see that my constant reminders of what exactly makes the middle east, and our Jewish heritage (the first people of the book, remember) explosive factors in our modern world seem to have NO EFFECT whatsoever on our behavior on this blog.
Yeah, well it's true that I have 20 years of psychoanalysis behind me.
Maybe that's why I can look at this from a MORE DISPASSIONATE (not totally dispassionate... ) viewpoint than others here.
I see this going on in France and in the U.S.
When you get blinded to content, i.e. WHAT people are saying, and only hear that, then you can NOT pay the necessary attention to the way people are saying things, and why they are saying them.
And the world becomes as two dimensional as one of those small geometric triangles Cotton was telling us about, or...
A COMPUTER/TELEVISION screen while we're at it, right ?

I am becoming vaguely paranoid...
Have I unwittingly stumbled upon some secret "semitic" society on this blog ?
Why are we spending SO MUCH TIME AND ENERGY on this question, which, although it is an essential one, could be mitigated by other concerns, no ?
And unfortunately, these concerns are almost ALWAYS in my book accompanied by an aura that weighs ten million tons.
Like, we are no longer bandying ideas about, and having fun.
We are slogging it out. (Maybe this is just an acceptable way of canalizing agression, who knows ?)
In the course of my last brief stint with a psychoanalyst ( a disaster because I was a "better" analyst than he...) I brought up my long-standing goal in existence, lifted straight out of the Hoffmenstahl libretto for "Der Rosenkavalier" :
Leicht will ich's machen
Leicht fur mich und dich...
Which translates along the lines of : "I want to make it light, for me and for you." Take things, and let them slip through my fingers, because the people who try to hang on to them, God does not love them, and they will suffer for it...
Letting things go, that means, lightening up.
Not driving our points into the ground, or trying to rabidly convert the person facing us to OUR point of view.
(And, of course, I am not always very good at practicing what I preach, I wish I were better..)
Always working to ensure that OUR NEIGHBOR saves face, rather than insisting on being right.
Now, that's better than all those silly rules that pass for blog etiquette, isn't it ?
Cheers.

Debra said...

Thai, re educated, wealthy women, marriage, and childrearing.
I really think that we should have a no holds barred discussion about just exactly HOW WE, as parents, see the purpose of education at this time.
I did not raise my children to duplicate my lifestyle. Thank God. I don't think that OUR lifestyle will be duplicable, Thai. The same way that in 1973 or so, I realized that Mommy and Daddy's lifestyle was ALREADY no longer duplicable.
That means, that the most important goal of education is to raise our children to be able to THINK. And I think that the mass education systems, while busily churning out diplomas that have lots of folks fooled, are failing at this.
Some things to keep in mind about marriage : on a symbolic level it is, and always has been, designed to transmit property. With no property to redistribute, just exactly what is it then ?
On an "imaginary" (Lacan) level, it carries with it lots of fantasies, lots of unspoken desires, lots of images both individual and social. And the article does not address what explains that my 19 year old, "black" Malgache probably future daughter in law who is in her second year of med school definitely wants to MARRY my 20 year old son. The same way that I, at 20, had already figured out that when a man proposed marriage, that meant that he was SERIOUS about me, and that I could TRUST him (more than one who didn't propose marriage...)
As for the nuclear family, it was a step further on the long line of atomisation of our culture that the "liberal" mindset promoted. Not very viable. And it is only logical that we should now live in a world where people have such a hard time COOPERATING that they can't even live in couples any more...
We will see how things change now that the baby boomers have really AGING parents. This will be interesting. Because the "family" is not only about raising children, it is also about caring for elders...

Thai said...

Deb, thanks. I too am mystified by the Israel discussion. I have not figured out a "blog appropriate" way of letting it go.

I respect that Yo and others like him see patterns in the randomness of the middle east that I simply don't see-share, AND I also respect there are those with every bit as much integrity as him who have the opposite view and are just as correct. In the end it is still about whose side do you want to go to bat for and I really don't have a dog in that fight so to speak.

As I hope you would have noticed by now, I tend to have an "anthropologists" view of humanity. And while I certainly admit a certain cognitive dissonance here, as I am very proud of my American heritage and to call myself American, still I certainly see all the complaints we see in others in ourselves.

If your time on the couch of psychology has stripped you of most of your illusions, Emergency Medicine has done the same thing for me.



As for "no holds barred discussion"...

Have we ever had one that was "holds barred?" ;-)


re: education, which is really different (but related) than marriage, which is again different (related) to child rearing, I do find these topics VERY interesting (I really recommend Sarah Hrdy's Mother Nature. In my opinion, it is one of a few books that all people on this planet should be required to read)

Deb, as you correctly state "I think that the mass education systems, while busily churning out diplomas that have lots of folks fooled, are failing at this."

I completely agree. Have you understood what I mean when I say there is an education bubble?

We are basically saying the same thing.

re: all your other points.

"Yes" AND there is never ONE answer.

This is the point I keep making.

Most people think there is one answer (really the one they see that works for themselves) and when they see the collective doing it differently than they way they would like, they think society "screwed up" and needs changing (I used to be one of these people).

But what I have come to believe is SOCIETY IS NOT SCREWED UP because it cannot be changed EVER.

The structure of society is determined by the laws of physics and is as immutable as gravity. It is only our brains, which are actually designed to fool us re: this fact as the implications are too difficult to deal with.

AND, fwiw, I am positive Hell sees things this way as well. Only he lets his readers come to the conclusion themselves as he does not want to get into the obviously character attacks that come with such statements (I have born many, from the likes of Yo, etc... over this simple observation).

Once society is confined within certain boundaries, its structure is locked and all actions from there on within this boundary condition are "zero sum".


So I see why society is trying mass education AND I also see who the winners and losers will likely be, but the outcomes, e.g. the structure of society, will ALWAYS be the same.

So I see why we would want to a highly diverse approach to education (this is really the conservative view), AND I see who the winners and losers would likely be uner this approach, but again, the outcomes, e.g. the structure of society, will still ALWAYS be the same.

In some ways it always gets back to the same issue Yo is having trouble with me re: the middle east:

"In the end it is still about whose side do you want to go to bat for?"

Debra said...

Well, we disagree on this one TOTALLY, Thai.
Although I will be nuanced on this one.
For me at this point, "society" (and that is us, basically, because we are constantly relying on OTHERS to think for us, because we're lazy, because we're tired, because we're afraid, lots of reasons...) is pretty fucked up, to the extent that it/we are engaged in some pretty self-destructive behavior. All those junk bonds are pretty self-destructive behavior. When you start looking, you can find lots of repetitive, self-destructive behavior, in individuals, and in the collectivity.
So, I find it EXTREMELY important for MY self-esteem, my sanity, my well-being to perhaps self-indulgently decree that since our society basically DENIES even unto the existence of all "values" that can not be assigned those cute little plus and minus signs, and can not be translated into number systems, I, as an individual, decree "screw this", and since OUR society, in this respect, totally shits upon MY capacities, my talents, etc. I say "fuck this society".
I do NOT sit around on my hands saying to myself and others ONLY "fuck this society". But I refuse to allow any form of voluntary servitude, and socially convenient "guilt" dampen my spirits, and turn my rage and aggression against myself, as "society" would much prefer that I do...
And we can perhaps compromise on this issue, as I see in our society, an enormous surge to heal ourselves of the spiritually sterilizing effects of scientific materialism. They are everywhere around us. And here, too, you HAVE to take the BAD WITH the good.
That means that there is an explosion of the number of Maghr├ębin women in France, of all ages, now wearing the veil.
The bad : there is a sincere risk that these women will be confined to the physical and spiritual ghetto which sometimes pops up whenever MEN get their masculine identities solely out of protecting women (like protecting them right into the harem...).
The good : the veil is an attempt by these women to assert that the Western woman model (you know that cute 18 year old draped over the BIG POWERFUL SUV) is just not attractive for them. Nor is the woman executive competing for top dog spot. These women are looking for something else. Another way to be a woman. And a RELIGIOUS woman to boot.
We'll see, won't we ?

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits

Followers