I had wanted Maxine to write a foreword to my next book on Educational Philosophy ... she left us at age 96, yesterday ... REST IN ETERNAL BLISS, TEACHER .. - ar
Here is an essay I wrote for you ..
ON THE AMBIGUITY OF FREEDOM AND THE FREEDOM
TO BE AMBIGUOUS: THOUGHTS IN HONOR OF MAXINE GREENE, Mentor and Philosopher of
By Azly Rahman
Maxine: I'd like to explore this question as part of the requirement of the
conference. free from, free to, free of ... and to be free from, to, of what? My
writing will be a potpourri of thoughts I have gathered related to the question
of freedom, personal history, and the fate of the self in an increasingly
cybernated (technologized) society. And I begin with the quote from Benjamin
Barber you provided us with: There is endless talk about education; but between
the hysteria and the cynicism there seems to be little room for civic learning,
hardly any for democracy. Yet the fundamental task of education in a democracy
is the apprenticeship of liberty --- learning to be free"
And in your own words,
Maxine, you provide us with these:
We might add how tied up we are in a
society now marked up by some of the flaws, the deficiencies, the inequalities
... We might take into account as well as the impacts of the media, good and
bad, the possible openings supplied by the arts, the relations between new
technologies and our freedom, between all of these and the making of community.
Can we for example, be free from the so-called prisonhouse of language,
particularly from the English language of this Age of Virtual Capitalism which
feeds our consciousness to consume and consume and consume. and to compete and
to bring us further away from the existential questions which ought not to be
left unexamined... so that life is then worth living? So that life is not a
postmodern novel but an epic of heroic proportion with postmodern subplots in
This question on the relationship between historical knowledge,
language, and freedom takes us to the center of concern of people like
(Frederic) Jameson (see for example his excellent essay "Postmodernism: The
Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism") who will argue that part of the new
depthlessness means people giving up a sense of individual history related to
the notion of an individual with a certain spiritual and cognitive integrity
moving through time towards some goal premised on some conception of
self-realization, from the Pythagorean transmigration of souls to Robert Kegan's
(in The Evolving Self )model based in a developmental schema that builds on
prior developmental work.
At the level of inter-individual of one's pegging of
his/her evolving state of beingness to a particular person/historical
figure/events/moments of historical significance and grow with this notion of
history as therapy-- at this level, history is needed. As in the notion of
learning from the life and times of this or that figure of history as such
paradigmed by the Annales School, history is useful as one's weltanschauung
(worldview) of "official, State-produced" knowledge as in the case of how
history is taught in public schools-- that there are these founding fathers and
these events which progress linearly.
What might be problematic in essence is
the idea of "official knowledge" crafted and massaged by those who owns the
means of social reproduction who would choose to allow certain kinds of
interpretation and not others to be released into public space. In this case, in
the era of modernity, official knowledge is controlled by a clear and
institutionalized framework of knowledge and dissemination of information
packaged into quantas of information and benchmarked into state standards of
skills and content.
There are interpretations of history which cannot account
for such "official knowledge" as for example one documented by Howard Zinn in
People's History of The United States, Michael Harrington's Socialism, George
Counts' Dare The Schools Create a New Social Order?, or any others from the
social and educational revisionist schools of thought.Perhaps historical
writings which sanction and patron "official knowledge" cannot present too
diverse and pluralistic and multicultural (in the Critical Theoretical sense of
the word) because of the question of human agency and ideology. By this I mean
the ideology of controlling interests which embed publishing houses controlled
by lobby and interest groups which and in turn control the process and outcome
of schooling at any point in time.
Jameson in his essay on postmodernism, I think
would argue that history is not only therapy but ought to highlight the triumph
of individuals and institutions and progressive ideologies which subvert and
overthrow forces anathema to the full realization of humanism. I would add that
the social-cartographic nature of Jamesonian promotion of a particular
historicity would be one which exalt heroes and heroic moments who and which not
only chain and shackle multinational corporations but also highlight agendas for
social change which begins with the dismantling of the military-industrial
complex and the war system and allow for creative anarchism to reign for some
time and engineer an internationalist movement social and culturalist in
character---ones which perhaps set an agenda for an international barter system
and the reconceptualization of the meaning of wants versus needs!
that neither Republicans nor Democrats or Tony Blair or any government, which
lives and breathes in their "national security straightjackets" can be allowed
to prop their version of Truman-Show inspired philosopher-kings. I am beginning
to feel that there is a danger to what history and memory can do.The case of
Bosnia-Herzegovina is a case in point wherein there is first a deconstructing of
the entire Communist state via the injecting of democratic principles and then
there is the opening up of a can of worms/ a Pandora box of crimes against
humanity when multiple versions of history gets disseminated into public sphere.
(The movie American History X addressed this phenomenon.)
Whose history is more
valid then?Then there is the case of Indonesia after Soeharto. There was law and
order for thirty years at the price of authoritarianism and a clear and definite
Javanese-dominant ruling class and a great deal of crypto-crony-corporate
capitalism characterized by an even clearer and charismatic form of conspicuous
consumption and then--- lo and behold when Soeharto gets deposed through a good
dose of lethal injection of democracy, the nation now is torn into pieces with
Christians and Moslems slaughtering each other, each hanging on to their
versions of history.
Do we need history? Do we have an effective and ongoing
relationship with our past? It is almost like asking what is important to us
really? As it relates to the ambiguity of freedom, the above are indeed profound
questions to me. If history and the oxymoronic notion of "historical facts" are
meant to give us a sense of identity and community so that we may become freer
in the post-colonial context of the word, then these too have their ambiguity.
recall several years ago the Kampuchea Government announcing "Year Zero" after
its successful revolution which ceremoniously invite the colonials out of the
nation's doors. And also the Cultural Revolution in China which attempt, though
unsuccessfully, to rewrite history and administer national amnesia. And nations
I think wanting to heal themselves from the wounds of colonialism engineer one
way or another, versions of how to reincarnate.At the individual level the
question if one needs history is even more fascinating.
Many would say that yes
indeed, if we are blessed with a past life worth cherishing. (And many also
would pride themselves in having gone through a terrible childhood). But an
individual with a Kampuchean syndrome or one undergoing a personal-cultural
revolution would find it progressively evolutionary to eliminate the past and
enjoy a life of an ever-changing present. And thus, for this type of Kampuchean
individual, eliminating the past and starting life at year zero might be
As the essential question remains: What kind of history can
we craft for our own personal consumption? What version ought we to compose? How
do we become selective in our own personal historicizing? Will some memories be
more liberating than other? I am now confused, Maxine: Henry Ford once said that
history is bunk...A new age guru once told me that "there is no past, there is
no future, all that exists is an ever-changing present"
...A philosopher once
said that Memory (hence history, and like statistics) is the greatest liar...The
feminists insisted on "herstory" instead...And a friend of mine believes that
the term "historical facts" is an oxymoron And E.L. Doctorow in Ragtime tampers
with history and render it depthless? It'll be a great idea then to follow
Doctorow's style in the way we teach history?(Or for that matter the
personalization and restylization of religious texts?)Have students rewrite
their favorite chapters of American history by deterresterializing the
historical figures and bring them closer to their (the Middle School kids,
especially) jugular veins.
A good friend of mine once wrote to me in defense of
history as memory so necessary:
Memory leaves traces, perhaps like marbles that,
according to the shifting incidence of light, shine an occasional pattern we can
crave to see. History is the history we can tell ourselves and look at our child in
But I replied to him with my understanding of history:
But if history is
one we can tell ourselves
And look at the child in the eye
By whose narrative are
we possess'd by?
----Of the Emperor's without clothes?
Who called upon his
And tell them: Ah... write me this story
So that generations aplenty can
be reminded of this glory
----Or is this, history of those cast off from this
bountiful and plenty
Those whose blood sweat and tears buried--
eternally be one with the Pyramids of Power
of Your Majesty
Ah .. what is
But a syntactic phlegmatic and ironic linguistic trajectory
into the noetics of this child we look in the eye.
This child--- dazed and
confused of what it means
to be historied by the collection of memories
truth and falsehood are perhaps in disarray.
Like the history told by Dante,
Marat, and Robespierre.
Or one told in whispers by the once exiled Khomeini,
narrated in splendor pomp and pageantry
and archived in Mein Kampf and sung
to Wagnerian symphony.
What historied us thus?
And whence do we point to the
Emperor without clothes.
And burn his garment and him and all ceremoniously
the child we look in the eyes
Will cast of his garment and write his own
***And in relation to the idea of freeing oneself, I can't help
thinking of the question"Who am I" And the lack of neither folly nor wisdom our
existence must find a cause to be and become.
"WHO AM I?"
Where did I come
What brought me here?
What is this physical space I am occupying?
Where am I
What is the end to all these?
How might the end of this journey feel?
"WHAT IS WORTH LIVING AND DYING FOR IN ORDER FOR US TO BE FREE
*** And in our quest for the idea of being free, I see the essential
link between being free and being at PEACE too.
We are and continue to see the
symptoms of social decay in the form of violence in many forms-- structural and
physical. At the structural level, there is the continued advancement of
alienation. When society becomes advanced and its people are sped up and fed
with false consciousness of wants more than needs, and the media continue to
profitably play the tunes from the Horatio Alger myth, and the ethos of business
and corporate thinking play the harmonious symphony of competition, cut-throat
competition, schools as agents of social reproduction dance to the music of new
standards so that our nations will not be at risk, so that we launch many more
Sputniks, we set Goals 2000, and we impose higher and higher exclusionary
standards, so that we can compete with other nations, etc.... when all these are
happening, we become cogs in the wheel of Capital; our lives become sped up at
the level of individuals and family and community... we go to work and from nine
to five or ten to then become cubicled and sit in from of the computer all that
time and our consciousness gets structured by the Panoptical nature of the
Control mechanisms we create in the name of progress... we get hierarchied in
our day to day experience of work and cannot find alternative meaning of the
term "work".... we come home and switch on the television and watch some guys
winning a million in a game show and our heart jump in joy to celebrate the
"aliveness" of democracy.
We stand at the check-out counter and glance at
headlines of celebrities making it big by his/her good looks--- image dictated
by the media on what constitute beauty and what the ingredient of success is
invented to mean,we read of the man/woman on the street winning the State
lottery and think that democracy is still alive and that if we continue to work
hard and serve the interest of the less than 2% of those who owns the nation's
wealth, we will be fine and can be proud of telling others internationally what
a great place this nation is --- you are free to choose, and decide, and to walk
away from the homeless.
The story of those who murdered their classmates at
Columbine is a poignant and horrifying one--- a manifestation of the latent
effect of mass alienation as documented perhaps in Edvund Munch's painting "The
Scream". There is the scream of wanting more and going beyond the threshold of
needs and wants, beyond conspicuous consumption, beyond the thresholds of
allowable display of Desire, to a point of vulgarity in the meaning of existence
There is the competition in the society of who has more and the
manufacturing-industrial complex and the media industry which supports it craft
ways to massage the Desire within so that people can continue to consume more by
speeding up their lives, drugging/opiating the post-industrial tribal masses
with false consciousness with what they don't need.
And when, from at an early
age the mind is structured to consume and to conjure the image of success and
happiness by the pursuit of material and everything digital, and the school
system as a mandatory state system of mass-babysitting becomes an arena of
contestation and conflict of these images (of Columbine--the jock and the nerd
clashing, the beauty and the beast parading, the corporations and the non-profit
lobbying)-- there is then disjuncture manifested in the form of at times,
From structural to physical violence then the manifest and
the latent illustrate themselves.These---rooted in the realities have been
invented, in the way our language is spoken, in the way we attempt to
continuously fine-tune the system.These---manifested in the growing number of
Americans behind bars (2 million, a high percentage of these African-American,
from plantations to the prison-industrial complexes) and the ratio of 1.5 guns
to every American. Manifested in the continued proliferation of legal and
psychiatric institutions to protect individual rights and to pacify the soul
There are no answers, I think. Only more questions. For the answer
lies within the self; in what we mean by peace within which will emanate into
the family, community, and nation. How do we re-structure our perception and
language (if indeed these might be an avenue)and gather our bruised intuitive
powers to harness what might be called a peaceable self, whilst at the same time
cubicled? How does the individual become free in a society like this?
*** To the
question of the impact of new technologies on society, I compose these lines,
inspired by Neil Postman's (in Technopoly) quote of Plato's story of the ancient
King Tamus's conversation with the inventor Theuth.
P H A E D R U S II
The Last Judgement of Thamus
Circa A.D. 2020
composed pass'd midnight in a cave by Hudson River
And it was
in the year 2020
In a not-too-distant cybercity
As Socrates' narratives on
Laments King Thamus's concern for the fate of academies
Theuth my inventor par excellence
What say you concerning educational
Of the methods and principles of teaching
Brought about by new
technologies of communicating?
O' Thamus, Wise King of Cyberjaya
children will undergo Karma
Of one imbued with Dharma
Which will bring us all to
Karma is Rebirth
Dharma is Devotion and Duty
And Moksha is art of being
one with Earth
Of which educational practice will assume a new reality
invention called CMC Of which for many ages we have waited so patiently
transform the meaning of Reality
More than what print media has guaranteed
wise King Thamus
We are witnessing the death of Papyrus
And the birth of
In the brilliance of anarchy
To be cultivated with the media called
Our children, the true song of democracy they will
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
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 Virtual
Classrooms will cease to exist nor will also the concept of teaching
The sage Illich will be singing
In honor of this day when education means
O' Thamus wise ruler of Cyberjaya
The days wherein authorities rule
Will be gone with the advent of my invention CMC
Pedagogy will be
replaced with METAPHYSICAL TRANSITION THEORIES
And Plato's academy will be
Buried underneath the magnificence of CMC
Gone will be the idea of
In their place will emerge knowledge patterned by 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
O' Theuth my kingdom's most honored inventor,
What say you of CMC's
impact on the teacher?
One who holds the key to any civilization's treasure
who guards the principles of a moral character?
Wise King Thamus, this is my
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?
technology will destroy authorities Including values we guard with jealousy
Slayed like the dragon in Beowulf's story
Buried with Socrates and Dante
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
Of which with the help of CMC,
the child constructs its 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 CMC will bring into
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 CMC?
And you my dear king
---- are you not already ancient
The idea of freedom is also linked to the idea of the prisonhouse of language;
between the ambiguity of communicating and reflecting, between being free
without language and being shackled by it. My thoughts on this are as follow:
Language, when used in the public sphere becomes a game and a problematic one...
the only true communication resides in "private language" where thoughts reign
more supreme than utterances. Precise communication is impossible as thoughts
themselves are ephemeral, transient, and consists of data whose fate is
The creation of the alphabet was a historical mistake, just like the
emergence of the modern state and the emergence of the first hamburger stand
(McDonalds) in Ohio.Miscommunication throughout the history of human existence
has brought about endless conflicts, wars, competition, etc. The advent and
primacy and then supremacy of computer language are the capstone to these forms
of miscommunications.Human beings were meant to be beings communicating via
telephatic means in a languageless environment.
The idea than language makes us
more intelligent than other species could have been the most misguided
philosophy of being and becomingness. There could be other forms of beings more
intelligent than us we are attempting to communicate with throughout the
centuries but we fail to make such a connection because our communication system
(i.e. alphabet, speech) is still too primitive to be understood by these more
What do you think, Maxine?
And the Messiah's Second Coming
is not on a white horse wielding sword to establish this Kingdom of God but more
sophisticated than this... on a spacecraft more advanced than Spaceship
Enterprise establishing a World Government by disciplining NATO and scolding
NAFTA, and chairing WTO (World Trade Organization).
Can we be free if we
conceive living as merely about building consensus alone? In the process of
communicating as human beings and arriving at consensus-building, who gets
dispossessed and who gets to win in this game of power using language and speech
as means to gatekeep?Language and speech is infiltrated with discourse of power
to the extent that this process has matured to such a stage of sophistication
that it is no longer easy to discern truth and propaganda.
Noam Chomsky in works
such as The Real Terror Network, Manufacturing Consent, and
dozens others, tried to address this sophistication in the latter part of his
struggle to help identify the gatekeeping aspects of language and the
propagandizing nature of communication. Edward Said in Orientalism
helped define what perception means and how, in the case of the Western mind's
(the colonial's essentially) conception of the Orient, much of what is involved
is the idea of power and powerlessness.
The Orient is conceived, analyzed, and
the knowledge of it propagated from a Eurocentric point of view and hence, the
production of knowledge and understanding of it as well as the construction of
the sociology of knowledge out of this enterprise --all these are essentially
rooted in the retrogressive dimensions of language and communication.
process of "Othering" is skillfully crafted over the centuries of
knowledge-building.Essentially then, language and speech is the dualism of
oppression though the common belief is that it is liberating. How can one deny
that it is liberating when we use language to release
constructs/people/institutions from the shackles of domination. But think again:
the release is from the frying pan into the fire---from one conception of
freedom to another. And this conception of freedom means the freedom to be
released into this "Material world"--a world of things and a world in which one
is "to be a to become in a being-in-this-world (Sartre) context.
So how can
language and speech not be shackling---whatever language and speech system one
is in? The word system itself, employed to describe this strange transformation
of the sound and the alphabet--- is shackling. Imagine this: We are
systematically systemized into this systems of systemic change in such as
systematic way that we become systemized into this whole construct called
systems!And this is the language system--the prisonhouse. Imagine a world
without language and the meaning of redemption which may arise out of it.
do we go from here if we are to make sense of what a first step is in
understanding our role as makers of history? In brief this means to be and
become a member of society whom possesses the sense of critical sensibility to
analyze society both through the inner dialogue and outer speech, so that
society becomes text to be textually analyzed. This is an early stage of become
a postmodern flaneur.This stage involves one's critical evaluation and judgement
of the forces which are dehumanizing; the structural violence which are
operating at the various levels of consciousness.
By this we mean the signs and
symbols around us, the sight, the sound the taste, the smell, the individuals,
the community, the institution, the ideology, the myth and ritual, the opiate of
the masses, the prosaic of the post-industrial tribes, etc. etc. By postmodern I
mean the condition of unresolved modernity as what Frederic Jameson might urge
us to create a social cartography out of it, sort of. By postmodern I mean the
condition of reflexivity, the waning of affect, the loss of critical
sensibility, the withering of creative faculties within us, the death of the
inner subjectivity within us, the relativizing of the absolute, the
rationalizing of structural and physical violence, and the Pokemani-zation of
this land of the free.
By flaneur I mean the sense of being an "outsider" a
"tourist" an "ugly-American-of-the-60s-Peace Corps-type-in-Thailand" attitude
(an honorable term here..) who are in the society yet outside, who are part of
it but is a point of departure in him/her/it/self, who is part of the cognitive
and physical aspect of the institution he/she/it is in but emotionally detached
and observant, who is not easily sucked into the metaphysics of materialism and
masochism of ideologies, and who essentially looks at society like a crystal
The postmodern flaneur is like Franz Kafka's hunger artist; those who are
happily consuming and being consumed by the consumerist society will see
him/her/it suffering, yet his logic is devastatingly profound. The posmo-flan
(the postmodern flaneur) is a creature who cannot enjoy television shows,
commercial movies like Mulan and Fantasia, cannot be at fashion shows, gets
dizzy when watching Wheel of Fortune or The 64,000-Dollar-Question, hates
Republicans and Democrats, counsels the Arawak Indians, laments the loss of
Vietnam Era and is still angry at Senator McCarthy, believed that Elvis Presley
should have joined the Black Panthers (like Younger Brother in Ragtime who
joined Coleman Walkers) so that he can help gyrate us through the much needed
revolution, and the posmo-flana writes to his/her/its local phone company
telling then that a percentage of this month's payment is withheld because
he/she/it is doesn't want the pennies to go into financing the war in some
Banana Republic the U.S. Army is currently helping to install democracy.
this creature call posmo-flan is an outcast who will be found in academia
essentially and even if it is found in the corporate sector, will eventually
will be the one who will start a new Internet start-up company and retire after
five years to devote his/her/its time in some ashram in California.But on a more
serious note, the posmo-flan creature is one who is never in conflict with
himself/herself/itself because the critical sensibility within has provided the
means to happiness. Then comes the next stage in the life of the postmodern
flaneur... the beauty of praxis.
As a child, the postmodern flaneur has already
exhibited some characteristics which are both constructive and
destructive...somewhere in-between the continuum of an idiot savant and a rocket
scientist. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of three root causes of violence:
racism, materialism, and militarism. They are all in our consciousness in one
form or another at different levels of consciousness. They are now present in
the most subtle forms rendering the oppressor and the oppressed shackled and
objectified as well as making us, as John pointed out, as "puppets" rather than
"actors" as the makers of our own history.
But what are our agenda and the
nature of social cartography we are to manifest in our consciousness first and
foremost. To be a human person is to be able to name things; to name the forms
of oppression we are blessed with as inroad to creativity. We have been all
along historied and socialized into forms of institutional racism, militarism,
and materialism we couch and cloak with language of objectivism and through the
institutions we believe "value free"---schooling, education, official knowledge,
citizenship, nationhood (We must investigate what Robin Hood was struggling
against)Is race and ethnicity and one's clinging on to these relevant any longer
or is it still an explosive issue which is in fact a NON-ISSUE?
communitarianism or cosmopolitanism? Is it fatherland or third and fourth
internationalism?And that illegitimate child called nationalism and patriotism!
So, is it education or liberation as agenda? And to be educated to do what and
to be liberated from what? ***
I wrote these verses in memory of Amadou Diallo
and in my anger upon the meaning of justice and freedom we have created as a
The trial is concluded.
The cops acquitted.
It was a mistake
Their lives were at stake
Diallo should not have scared the cops off.
wallet he tried to blow their brains off
It was a mistake
Any cop like you and I
Don't you understand the justice system?
Without it there won't be
To protect you and I
Against immigrants and the poor or anyone
So that you and I can sleep peacefully
And feel this thing call
Some say... a wallet in the hands of a white man looks like a wallet
the hands of the black man it must look something which'll spit out bullets.
Nonsensical racists who don't understand this system call justice.
There are two systems of justice, one to protect the poor one to
protect the rich
Damn these people
Reds and pinkos and socialist pigs
tell what's emotion and what's logic.
Justice must lie in the hands of the State
In the lawmakers and in the protection of estates
It must lie in the courts
in the facts and evidence brought
Must there be another system of justice?
that for the rich has its peculiar practices
Must there one for the poor?
that for the poor must have its brand of justice?
An eye for an eye, so to
In the streets so loud it will speak...
To scream at the system of
justice for the rich
And to howl for the next wave of teeming masses at times so
Could thou and I with Fate conspire
To change the scheme of things entire
So that we can mould It To our heart's desire?
Or ignite this fire
And let it
spread like wildfire
Into our consciousness entire
That there is a system of
Beyond the courts and deliberations asunder
This justice--knows no rich
Plain in character Deus ex machina inspired
This system of justice
Knows no bounds
Nor can it tell if you are hungry
And I have a gun
Or I am
hungry because you have a gun
Or I have a gun because you are hungry
ended the Diallo story
With teary eyes cops
With mistakes made
And all's well
that ends well
Measure for measure
So that justice will not be at stake
draw up plans
to contain the parade of the masses
and arrest even the bystanders
So that there will be two systems of justice
To each its own logic
and I are hungry
And I have a gun
And because you have a gun,
I am hungry
you rest in peace, Amadou ***
A quote from E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime:
"President! President! Her arm was extended and her black hand reached
toward him. He shrank from the contact. Perhaps in the dark windy evening of
impending storm it seemed to Sherman's guards that Sarah's black hand was a
weapon" (p. 159). ***
My thoughts on freedom and the culture industry as it
relates for example to the way we honor heroes in society:I'd like to relate the
notion of depthfulness of the issue with the industry of fashion and image
making particularly as we illustrate it with the night at the Oscars or the
Grammys or any night honoring the like of nostalgia-movies such as Titanic or
the remake of this or that. Many will, I believe find the meaningfulness of
these events.Indeed the Oscars and Hollywood in general are meaningful and
contain in them horizons of significance and languages of personal resonance.
And so do the shoes people wear on Oscar or Grammy night. And what is even more
meaningful is that whatever these people wear becomes fashion and become the
trend and are in vogue.
And they become another phase of the industry-- culture
industry that is. The "in thing" to oust others who do not belong in the fashion
rate which has been fashionable all along. Or, to speak musically of it: rhythm
of the moment. Anything else becomes out-of-fashion.And in a world where we want
to be one with the trends of the day, we consume these connotations which are
packaged in the products of this industry; we want to look like Madonna, like
Michael Jackson, like Naomi Campbell, like Donald Trump, like The Backstreet
Boys, (or The Backside Kids), like The Spice Girls--- we want to look like them
and not like us and our own self! (What an iron cage this might be---the
consciousness first mesmerized and then caged to the brink of mania).
Madonna wears that night will be in the fashion boutiques the next day. Whatever
Tupac Shakur (the late rap star) wears became fashion on the streets in
Harlem.Whatever Michael Jordan endorses, will be worn by kids aspiring to be
like that hero who endorses child labor in this global theatre of production.
Little human cogs in the wheel of Capital. The depthfulness of these commodities
lie in the extent they will bring meaning to the progressive development of the
culture industry. Gucci, Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, Bill Blass, Giorgio
Armani, and any French or Italian sounding names of fashion designers become the
standard bearer of the depthfulness of this domain of the culture industry. [And
if and if ever his Reform Party wins, Donald Trump will also set another trend
for the ethics and morality of the Presidency, with Howard Stern setting the
trend for Presidential broadcasting!]And the products get assembled in
sweatshops of Third World countries so that the meaningfulness of this whole
enterprise of cultural meaning making takes on aninternational dimension.
depthfulness of the industry gets extended to the realm of global collaboration
in the conveyor belt of culture industry. Is this the meaning of meaningfulness,
as for example the postmodern artist Andy Warhol would also invite us to think
about?Perhaps?---as Warhol is a product he turned himself into through doing art
which has become enshrined in the idea of art for art's sake---to uphold the
ethics of the Age of Mechanical Production.
The more innovative, the crazier
they are, the more barriers these artworks break, the more it becomes like
Houdini who finds satisfaction in feats which border between religiosity and
madness and becomes enshrined in the ideas of individualism and commitment
(though not sure what it is committed to yet). So where should art reside and
for who/whom should it serve? Or, should visual artists the like of Warhol--
like the poets in the republic of Aristotle-- be "banished"?And what about the
realism of Van Gogh or the religious sculptures (the reliefs) at the ancient
Valley of Ajanta in Ancient India? Are we free to choose the kind of image we
would live by in this age of Free Markets? ***
And there is a great novel on the
condition of the self as it is being hegemonized by the base and superstructure
of things and its attendant ideology of false consciousness. DeLillo's White
Noise is a great novel. I think Gramsci wrote about organic versus inorganic
intellectual in the struggle of the middle class to expose the contradictions
within the society.
The growth and expansion of the middle class sector has its
dangers of co-optation and the hijacking of the progressive/socialistic forces
able to restructure society and to have others "dare to create a new social
order" (as educator George Counts wrote). Delillo made Jack Gladney in White
Noise a college professor and head of the department of Hitler Studies. Gladney
doesn't even know German. I think this is a wonderful parody of the
pretentiousness and superficiality of academia.
In White Noise, Jack is
an embodiment of everything about the middle class that has gone haywire,
hijacked, and molested by the forces of transnational capital and the culture
industry. It is ironic that Hitler Studies is chosen as a parody of the excesses
of movements which has no social and moral basis of struggle. Herbert Marcuse in
The One-dimensional Man wrote about the middle class being the vanguard of
one-dimensionality and being Warhol-ed by the ideology of the ruling
cultural-political-economic-(digital too) elite.
The whiteness of the noise is a
metaphor, I believe, of drowning--- drowning in data and smogged in information
haze.However satirical and ridiculous the novel is, it is indeed powerful--
extremely potent a ginseng-- which extracted the excesses of hegemony. ***
conclude these fragmented thoughts on my search for the meaning of freedom, by
this personal reflection on the meaning of the self I consider "free":
AND BECOMING A PERSONACRAT
How limiting can the term “individualist” mean if it
hovers merely within the realm of one’s beingness in relation to this world
wherein information is mistaken for knowledge and propaganda for truth within
the assumption that what we know can merely be grasped by the senses five? If
one’s entire beingness and becomingness is shackled by it being shaped by the
apparatuses of the modern state, as Gramsci once said, and if one’s
understanding of the world is merely a mimic of what politics, culture and
scientism has dictated, then the world “individualism” is but a term coined so
that the personhood in each and every one of us becomes an object to be studied
through the process of Othering.
Within this delimiting and shackling context
then, I must name myself less as an individual and more as a “personacrat.” My
personacratic self primarily aims at understanding first and foremost my Inner
World with its attendant beauty and self-government, evolving personhood,
destroying of paradigms and perpetual awareness of the supraconsciousness of
what lies within.
I am a personacrat derived from a conceptual meadow I coin as
“personacracy”; a government (kratos) of the self, by the self, for the self. I
reject all forms of democracy; the illusionary system of government which has
lost its meaning since it was first conceptualized. Personacracy allows me to be
in this world of illusion, of MAYA, but not be and become part of it.
I am thus
in this world but not of this world. The government I have created in my
wakefulness entails me to mediate between the I and the Thou-ness of the scheme
of things. I conjure Existence as the highest ideal, going beyond merely
thinking therefore I exist, rather believing that I exist within a universe of
Existence. I persist to exist within this encapsulated notion called mind and
body and persist to believe that when this body rots, Death becomes the
beginning of perpetual existence.
I am eternal within this form and shape of
beingness, until Eternity calls upon me to be me with Nature and to be a witness
to the Truth I have longed to meet. I am truth within a Truth of greater
I am one and indivisible within a greater design of Oneness and
Indivisibility. I utilize my senses five with guidance from my Inner Self in
turn guided by a counter-balancing self within. And within these faculties and
the political organs within, my entire personhood is a government in itself to
be ethnically mastered and maneuvered through the Oceans of Mercy I call the
I am thus as such, closer to my Self that my jugular vein! In
what ways then, am I not individualistic? Here are a few: I once wept when I had
no shoes, until I saw a man with no feet;
I once believed that man can rise to
become Superman, until I sank deeper within myself to become a vicegerent of the
Supreme Spirit; I once believed that life is to be lived until I heard one said
the life unexamined is not worth living;
I once believed that we live once and
then die, until I discovered that Death to me comes by every nightfall and I
live a new life by every break of day; I once heard of a distant heaven and
hell, until I name them so as I can be in them;
I once let time pass, until I
became it and gave what it asked for; I once thought loneliness is bliss until I
began to desire of its unspeakable beauty; I once asked who should govern and
why must I be governed until I found the ways to govern those within me who
longed to be governed;
I once marveled at creation, destruction and sustenance
until I found that I am all in one Creator, Destroyer and Sustainer. I am thus a
world within and the world without but not with it. Because if I am part of it,
I will be apart from the Thou I longed to be part of!
I am a traveler passing
through Time. In my journey I have met mice and men, savages and savants,
politicians and philosophers, economists and ecofeminists. In my journey I have
met Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre, Foucoult and philosophers beyond the individualism
I have been told to mimic.
I am taking to the road not taken, for it should make
a difference and as I pass through, I kept looking at open windows lest I be
oblivious of what this world may teach. And as I pass through I become more
subdued in my anger of what has wrought this world and made men wretched of the
earth as I know that this journey is an arduous one; one which begins with a web
of guess but will end at a point of certainty.
And at the moment of Death, the
end of the road, I am meeting a self of whom I am familiar with, who I once met
before this journey begins. I create the rock I choose to roll so that one
should imagine me happy.
I can soar among eagles and dwell among sparrows. Life,
to me is not an end game but a journey towards Light, which has neither a
beginning nor an end. And hence, why am I not an individual? Because the world
is too much for me. If all the world’s a stage, I insist not being a mere player
but to create one for myself so that I can, in the end hold it like a crystal
ball – the world and the stage and its players in all.
Is there not beauty in
personacracy, than in democracy? I believe, therefore I am a personacrat!
be upon you, Maxine!