1. Whoever does not want to die of thirst among humans must learn to drink out of all glasses; and whoever wants to stay clean among humans must know how to wash even with dirty water.
    Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
  2. Excellent advice.

    Excellent advice.

  3. Seems likely.

    Seems likely.

  4. Mental health: why we're all sick under neoliberalism

    "The silence and social stigma around mental health is deliberate, the product of an institutional refusal to talk about the affective impact of socio-political conditions. Some people get depressed, or psychotic, we think, because of chemical imbalances or individual traumatic experiences. They’re just lazy or making it up. We don’t talk about austerity, poverty, demonisation of the unemployed – the politically-driven stigmatising of the least privileged groups of people – but is it any wonder we’re unhappy?"
  5. The price of academic texts, am I right?

    The price of academic texts, am I right?

  6. Best ever.

    Best ever.

  7. Meeting in the margins

    Sometimes a used book tells two stories. In this particular one that is resting on my lap, James Lovelock makes the case for Gaia - for understanding life on earth as the parts of a large organism. At the same time, the work is annotated by the extensive underlinings, scribbles, and artifacts of its previous owner, Norm Mallory. From three stickers inside the front cover, I surmise that Norm was a veteran of the Vietnam war who cared deeply for the earth and that this book was very important to him. He is there on the personalized address tag, standing in front of a scuttled US Navy bomber, grinning under a grey moustache, pulling a grandchild (I think) to his side. Underneath is a sticker with a smiling tree and the caption, ‘Hug Me Please’, and, on the opposite page, under the author’s blurb rests a laser-printed picture of a small hut in the woods with the title, 'The Cabin', scrawled underneath it. I imagine the book was kept there, placed in a shelf with well-worn genre paperbacks and boardgames by Norm after his extensive underlining. It wasn’t his first visit to this text. Under the publishing information, Norm has circled the reissue date of this edition and written 'new preface and corrections, 2000'. A cutout blurb about Lovelock from Time magazine’s “list of the world’s 100 most influential people” is glued behind the back cover, bearing a note in a different handwriting: 'Thought you'd find this interesting after all the Gaia books!'

    Interspersed in the text I find little notes of personal identification with the author, check marks next to important points, and also the occasional frowny or smily face scribbled in the margins, where I picture Norm either sighing or grinning, hoping visitors to the cabin might pick up the book and imagine him doing these things, too. When Lovelock discusses certain technologies, Norm notes his experience with them in the military (‘Radar —> we had black box usage in the Ez Hawkeye’). Next to the autobiographical introduction to the epilogue, Norm has written 'me too' in the margin where Lovelock comments on his father’s moral beliefs having arisen “from that unstructured mixture of Christianity and magic which is common enough among country people, and in which May Day as well as Easter Day is an occasion for ritual and rejoicing.” Two musical notes hover above the chapter heading in Norm’s hand, crowning a tribute to a 'Gladys Keller Mallory (1900-1960)' - 'It's the 23rd of May and the Queen's Birthday / If you don't give me a Holiday / we'll all run away.' A frowny face hugs the margins of a discussion on the politicization of science. A section on the microbiology of rice paddies is apportioned a smily face.

    (With each of these, I imagine Norm warming one hand on a mug of coffee while holding the book in the other, legs crossed at the ankles in front of him, sitting in a folding chair outside that little wooden hut in the morning sun. When he takes his pen from his mouth and puts it to the page, Norm chuckles or exhales or snorts, or he makes a sarcastic jibe to no one in particular. Like me, I think.)

    Adjacent to a place where Norm has scribbled 'Cabin', Lovelock writes, “It may be that we are also programmed to recognize instinctively our optimal role in relation to other forms of life around us. When we act according to this instinct… we are rewarded by finding that what seems right also looks good and arouses those pleasurable feelings which comprise our sense of beauty.” He goes on: “When this relationship with our environment is spoilt or mishandled, we suffer from a sense of emptiness and deprivation.” Here, a line connects the last word, ‘deprivation’, to the margin, where Norm has written, '2008'. And in the empty space at the bottom of a page, I come across his own epilogue: 'I have an increased sense of Beauty in my old age'.

    With that, I close the book and get myself a glass of water.

    Why do I have this book? How did it get from that shelf in Norm’s cabin to a distributor’s warehouse in the midwest, then, through the impersonal exchange of cents-plus-S&H for an article of ‘acceptable’ quality, into a complete stranger’s hands? … I put my empty glass down gingerly, and all of a sudden I feel my mortality in my fingertips. I feel the horizon of that delicate connection between bodies and their trajectories, that purposive friction, accumulating under my nails like dead skin cells. I want to hug life and let it grow around me, feeling grateful to have met Norm in the margins of a book we share.


    Note: I gave Norm a fake surname in this writing in response to an indelible inclination to do so.

  8. The shortening of the working day, therefore, is by no means what is aimed at in capitalist production, when labour is economized by increasing its productivity. It is only the shortening of the labour-time [i.e. value] necessary for the production of a definite quantity of commodities [deemed requisite for subsistence] that is aimed at…. The objective of the development of the productivity of labour within the context of capitalist production is the shortening of that part of the working day in which the worker must work for himself [to enjoy the historical-material level of subsistence], and the lengthening, thereby, of the other part of the day, in which he is free to work for nothing for the capitalist.

    Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1 (bracketed words mine)

    One root of our current ecological predicament.

  9. The system of free writing has created a caste system, with those who can afford to work for free doing so while those who can’t struggling to pay the bills and often giving up. As with unpaid interns, those who can afford to write for nothing inevitably make it into networks of influence which allow them to continue on to actual paying gigs. This crucial element, of the link between economic privilege and access (and I don’t just mean rich people), is frequently erased by those who insist that it’s their free writing that eventually landed them well-paying assignments. But it’s not their free writing and “exposure” that got them their jobs; it’s their ability to survive without having to depend on writing for a livelihood that guaranteed they could continue to write for nothing.
  10. piginpoop:

    citizenalien:

    “Economists have a singular method of procedure…. they resemble the theologians, who likewise establish two kinds of religion. Every religion which is not theirs is an invention of men, while their own is an emanation from God. When the economists say that present-day relations - the relations of bourgeois production - are natural, they imply that these are the relations in which wealth is created and productive forces developed in conformity with the laws of nature. These relations therefore are themselves natural laws independent of the influence of time. They are eternal laws which must always govern society. Thus, there has been history, but there is no longer any.”

    — Karl Marx (Poverty of Philosophy)

    Pathetic. The bastard completely skips over analysing the predisposition that caused the formation of these natural laws.

    Then goes onto the argument that there will be no history henceforth because of the capitalist system. If history here means progress then he has already been proved wrong. Else if it meant war or disturbance, which history mostly is, then isn’t that good?

    Only idiots will be impressed by this crap.

    How much Marx have you read? He explicitly analyses the formation of classical political economic theory, including in Poverty of Philosophy, where he engages directly with work by Ricardo. His argument in this section includes the contention that economists treat the relations in their models of economic phenomena as if they are timeless, like laws of nature, whereas Marx argues that these conceptualisations of economic relations are, in fact, models that are inflected by a particular, historical set of relations - namely, capitalist relations.

    And I think you missed the point about history. He is not saying that capitalism is the end of history; he is saying that treating the presuppositions and relations of economic theory (such as the division of labour) as “natural” is a way of (falsely) removing them from history and elevating them to a kind of God-like transcendence. He is identifying a tendency in “bourgeois” political economy to look back at the economic dynamics in pre-capitalist societies as particular to their time (“inventions”), while treating the economic dynamics in capitalism as ahistorical, as if they have a law-like nature apart from a particular social formation.

    (via cfcndhcjfnbfgskcfioscvxsdsa-dea)

  11. Economists have a singular method of procedure…. they resemble the theologians, who likewise establish two kinds of religion. Every religion which is not theirs is an invention of men, while their own is an emanation from God. When the economists say that present-day relations - the relations of bourgeois production - are natural, they imply that these are the relations in which wealth is created and productive forces developed in conformity with the laws of nature. These relations therefore are themselves natural laws independent of the influence of time. They are eternal laws which must always govern society. Thus, there has been history, but there is no longer any.
    Karl Marx (Poverty of Philosophy)
  12. [T]he very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause as the effect of the division of labour. The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature as from habit, custom, and education.
    Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations)
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