Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Phaedrus II: The Last Judgement of Thamus

Phaedrus II: The Last Judgement of Thamus

by Azly Rahman

__________________________________________


Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

-- Denis Diderot, French Enlightenment thinker

There was non among the myriads of men that existed who would pity or assist me; and should I feel kindness towards my enemies? No: from that moment I declared everlasting war against the species, and, more than all, against him who had formed me and sent me forth to this insupportable misery.

-- 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley-Wollstonecraft


Sometime ago, after reading Plato's narration of a conversation between King Thamus and the inventor Theuth concerning the impact of new technologies on society, after reading media guru Neil Postman's work Technopoly, and after deep reflection on the idea of the Luddites (a movement that "raged against the machine" during the Industrial Revolution), I penned verses which I find suitable to honour Malaysian bloggers in their onward march towards creating a spectre that will haunt the state-owned print media.

Here it goes:

P H A E D R U S II
The Last Judgement of Thamus
Circa A.D. 2020
Lines composed near the banks of Hudson River, New York city
by Azly Rahman


Background notes: They say that there dwelt at Naucratis in Egypt one of the old gods of that country, to whom the bird they call Ibis was sacred, and the name of the god himself was Theuth. Among his inventions were number and calculation . . . and, above all, writing. . . . To [the king, Thamus] came Theuth and exhibited his inventions . . . when it came to writing, Theuth declared: "There is an accomplishment, my lord the kind, which will improve both the wisdom and the mentory of the Egyptians. I have discovered a sure receipt for memory and wisdom." "Theuth, my paragon of inventors," replied the king, "the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practise it. . . . Those who acquire [writing] will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful. . . . What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory . . . ( Phaedrus, 95-96)


And it was in the year 2020
In a not-too-distant cybercity
As Socrates' narratives on cybertechnology
Laments King Thamus's concern for the fate of academies

And Theuth my inventor par excellence
What say you concerning educational excellence?
Of the methods and principles of teaching
Brought about by new technologies of communicating?

O' Thamus, Wise King of Cyberjaya
Indeed our children will undergo Karma
Of one imbued with Dharma
Which will bring us all to Moksha
Karma is Rebirth
Dharma is Devotion and Duty
And Moksha is art of being one with Creation
Of which educational practice will assume a new reality

This invention called blogging
Of which for many ages we have waited so patiently
Will transform the meaning of Reality
                                            and Democracy
as it marries Virtuality
More than what print media has guaranteed

O' wise King Thamus
We are witnessing the death of Papyrus
the demise of Gutenberg legacy
As we witness the birth of PERSONACRACY
deeply personalized form of postmodern democracy
In the brilliance of anarchy
To be cultivated with the media of blogging
By way of this ideology called PERSONACRACY,

O' King
Our children, the true song of democracy they will sing
Of which the teacher will die a slow death
Like the first teacher Socrates
whose fate was a choice he once had
Our children will be Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu
The Creator, Destroyer, and the One who Renews
Our children will make history and create Knowledge
Destroy paradigms
and like Vishnu, preserve what is old and what is new

They will be Renaissance men and women
In their mind neural connections will be made,
synapses will be woven
And the boundaries of the Real and the Imagined we can no longer ascertain
In this onward march towards Virtuality
Classrooms will cease to exist nor too the concept of teaching
The sage of Russia Illich
will be singing
In honor of this day when education means deschooling

O' Thamus wise ruler of Cyberjaya
The days wherein authorities rule capital cities
Will be gone with the advent of my invention called blogging
Pedagogy will be replaced with METAPHYSICAL TRANSITION THEORIES

And Plato's academy will be history
Buried underneath the magnificence of blogging
Gone will be the idea of faculties
In their place will emerge knowledge patterned like fractal geometries
And Chaos will be the order of the day
And Complexity will be king of pedagogies

For the sage Mandelbrott did once spoke
Of the patterns inherent in knowledge and wisdom
O' Theuth my kingdom's most honored inventor,
What say you of the blogger's impact on the teacher?
One who holds the key to any civilization's treasure
And who guards the principles of a moral character?

Wise King Thamus,
this is my conjecture:
My invention is Frankensteinish in nature
Aren't we already at the end of history?
Wherein the Knower and the Known has no longer a boundary?
This technology will destroy authorities
Including values we guard with jealousy
Slain like the dragon in Beowulf's story
Buried with Socrates and Dante Alighieri

A further elaboration concerning the death of authority:
O' King, I call this an Age of Subalternity
In which we will witness the dawn of PERSONACRACY
Of which with the help of blogging,
               the child constructs his customized version of democracy

O' Theuth Master Inventor
Yours is a song of conjectures
For, can you as a creator
Be the judge of what good and bad
               blogging will bring into our future?

My greatest apologies
Wisest of all Kings
Do you not remember that we are in the year 2020?
In which kingdoms have been crushed
                     under the weight of technologies of virtual realities?

And you dear king - are you not already ancient history?

You and your kingdom destroyed by technologies of Virtuality?

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