Keeping it Small and Simple

2008.04.06

A storm is coming my way

Dear reader:

I have a strange feeling that tragedy is once again headed my way. This time I’m not sure whether or not I’ll make it. If in a few days this blog goes quiet, then you can safely assume I’m yet another unimportant part of history.

I have let down a lot of people. I have let my anger damage my own and other peoples lives. I have stubbornly refused to change, even when change was necessary. I have hurt and been hurt. I have always been vindictive.

I have tried my best to share as much as possible of the little that I know. I have done so because I believe that knowledge should be shared. It must be shared. This world really could be a better place. But it will require a lot. There are forces that are trying to destroy it all, because of greed. Don’t believe the bullshit. Capitalism is not natural.

My advice to anybody who would bother to read is this: learn as much as you can. Make the most of the life you have. Be prepared to fight for freedom and justice. And love. Fight for those things, because they are the only values that actually mean something. All the other things don’t really mean anything. Borders are man-made, you don’t want to die defending those things. Religion can be a good thing, but only if you tolerate another person’s right to also practice their own religion, or to not practice any religion at all. You surely wouldn’t want to go to war over religion.

Most of you are little more than slaves. And you will always remain slaves, until you learn to unite with each other. If you can see beyond differences in color, religion, language, favorite food, etc., then you can unite and overthrow your masters. Otherwise you are all doomed.

Why do you think your jobs are going? Immigrants? It’s not immigrants. It’s the nature of global capitalism. Read and learn. The very people who you think are your enemies would be your greatest allies, because they are stuck in the same hell as you are. If you really want to get rid of immigration, get rid of borders. Without borders there can be no immigration. And then people would be as free to move as capital is.

Go and read the statistics. Look at the wealth of any of the richest 100 or so people in the United States. Then look at the combined wealth of the poorest 40% of the people. Dig further. Look at how income distribution has changed over time in the world. Do you think that is right? Is that the kind of world you want to live in? Capitalism works. Sure it does, but for whom?

Most of the developing world is stuck in misery. Developing countries cannot progress, because they are forced to open up the markets for cheap imports. These are measures enforced by bodies like the IMF and the World Bank. Local industries cannot survive against this competition and have to close down. Unemployment follows. So the countries need more help and have to open up even more. It’s happening everywhere.

If you have a textbook understanding of what this means, I suggest you come to a developing country and see what the consequences actually are. When you come, come and really live in the society. Interact with people. Find out what is happening. Don’t just come and work with a foreign company or an NGO. They won’t show you anything. They will keep you caged up in “safety”. Come here, and find out how people’s lives are changing for the worse.

In the news, you hear much about “river pirates” in the Delta region in Nigeria. That is a lot of bullshit. The people in that region happen to live on some of the richest soil in Africa, maybe the richest. Yet, they are treated like dirt, so that Shell can make there profits. These people just want justice. They want to be able to live decent lives. Since the profits of big corporations matter more, these people will continue to live in misery and continue to do the only thing they can to highlight their situation and to try to get something out of it all. They are no more criminal then the people who destroying their land in search of riches.

So much research and development goes into the production of machines of destruction. We as humans seem to delight in finding new ways of killing each other. Did you every hear of research and development going into love? No. Only time you heard of a love machine was when W.A.S.P. sang about it. Devastation. That is what we are good at. Love? It doesn’t stand a chance. But you can change that, if you learn to love those who you have been brought up to hate.

War. We have this idea in our heads about brave warriors that will fight with honor to defend a bunch of values that are nonsense if you think about it. But how honorable is war in this day and age. With the industrialization of warfare, you can’t say that warriors look each other in the eye anymore. That was gone a long time ago. We read about and admire the Spartans for how we think they were. But we don’t conduct warfare that way. Long range missiles, fighter jets, mines, etc. keep warriors away from each other. And they can cause massive devastation. Not to mention the nukes.

Water. Future wars will be fought over water. Drink it while you can, because soon it will all be privatized, and most of you won’t be able to afford it. How in the fuck can they privatize something that is a basic necessity to sustain life itself? Because we let it happen. We obediently nodded our heads when they told us that privatization is good, the it leads to more welfare. Welfare for whom? Clean, drinkable water is becoming scarce.

A few authors that I recommend as a starting point are Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Michael Parenti. (There are many more good authors, don’t limit yourself.) If you don’t like reading you can always search for them on YouTube. By all means, also read their critics. Read both, but when you do, look at your own situation and ask yourself which side best represents the life you are living. Also look around you. Where are we all headed?

I have two children (although for a while I thought I had three), Enrique and Vanessa. I love both dearly, and would have wanted to be there to see them grow up. My only remaining dream now is that they will be able to live in a world that is more tolerant, peaceful and loving than this current one.

Enough of my sentimental bullshit now. Make the future.

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2008.03.16

Noam Chomsky on human language learning

Filed under: Anarchism, Linguistics — Tags: , , , — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 00:23

I think most people have heard or read something that has a profound effect on them. The funny thing is that it may not even have been intended to be ground-breaking by the speaker or author. They may, in fact, just have made the statement “in passing”.

Professor Noam Chomsky was once asked in an interview how he, a famous scholar, could hold such a positive view of “the common man”. (I guess the underlying assumption is that as a person from the academic community, one is expected to look with contempt at the large majority of the people that make up society.)

Professor Chomsky replied that his research in linguistics shows that being able to acquire language skills is something that is common to all people, regardless of their social position. (It was a long time ago that I heard this so I don’t remember the actual words. Anybody has a reference to the actual quote, feel free to comment.) He also mentions the large amount of imagination that is required to actively use language.

If you listen to people communicating, you can hear that imagination in practice: the can joke, mock, support, etc. by stringing together sequences of words. People are able to “play” with words. It doesn’t matter what social class they belong to or the amount or quality of education they have. Common to all people is also the ability to communicate about abstract things, to talk about the future and other things that are not immediately available.

While I was a student of Japanese at the University of Stockholm we once had a visit by Kenzaburo Oe, who had won the Nobel Literature prize that year (sometime in the early 1990s). He talked to us about his son who is autistic and not able to talk and shows little or no sign of being able to understand when talked to. But, Hikari Oe, who is a famous composer, is able to communicate through music. Father and son Oe were able to “talk” to each other through music.

I wonder how much the realization that all people share a common ability to learn something as complex as human language has affected Noam Chomsky’s political views. I know that what he said in that interview had a profound affect on me. Modern societies try to legitimize the oppression of the many by reference to “the educated elite” as contrasted to “the bewildered herd” (although, of course, those are not necessarily the terms used). I know that there was I time when I would be be dismissive of people who I did not deem “worthy of attention” (yes, the liberal propaganda system worked very well on a young, ambitious man who wanted to have an academic career).

If the ability to acquire language is a complex process and common to all people, then perhaps the differences between the classes with power and influence and “the rest”, the ones who do not count, is much smaller than what we think. That would of course mean that the legitimacy of societies built on the premise that a small group of responsible men must control the confused beasts begins to erode. Or at least we are able to put a tiny dent into that legitimacy.

Of course, it would take a lot more to dismantle the current power structures. Elites dominate, not only by claiming to in some way being intellectually superior (in itself a false claim), but also through ownership and the ability to use force, as well as other things. Ownership is codified in laws that have been decided by the elites for their own benefit and should be discarded. The ability to use force ultimately depends on individuals who, for most part, have much in common with the very people they are to use force against: the domestic enemy (to use Professor Chomsky’s term).

It is my hope that as the evolving capitalist system becomes more and more cruel and inhumane, when the widening gaps drags us into open, large-scale conflict yet again, that these “enforcers of the law” begin to realize which side of the divide they have more in common with. They exist to brutalize us, but they are not part of the elite. They don’t have wealth. They don’t own. They are not bosses. They are, when stripped of the ability to force, as powerless and unimportant as the very people they are paid to oppress.

One of the effects Professor Chomsky’s words has had on me is to be far less dismissive of things that are said by people that traditionally are ignored in public discourse. And yes, I admit, I do occasionally talk to people who are normally declared to be “mad” or for one reason or another not deemed to have anything useful to say. They do. After all, an anarchist society (however it will look) must be one in which everybody is encouraged to participate, even when they hold ideas that we deem to be “wrong” or even “outrageous”.

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