Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Behold, the Idol

I'm told that I need to pay attention to the American election campaign because the actions of the president have a profound impact on Australian activity and foreign policy. To that end I have two things to say.

The first is to do with media coverage. Here in Australia it seems that Obama is getting a lot more press coverage than Clinton. Obama comes across as young and intelligent, whereas Clinton is portrayed as older, and part of an attempt for another Democrat dynasty. I've no idea what stage the Australian press has in the election outcome, except for Mr Murdoch, but that only affects his American readers and viewers. The bias is disappointing, but not really surprising.

The second is that this view (that the American election result affects Australia so very much) indicates that America is so powerful that we need to kowtow to it, thereby making America more powerful. The circularity of this is madness. An idol is something that is ascribed a property that it does not have (e.g., a lump of wood becomes an idol when a person says that it is a god). Behold, America the idol.

I wish that even in this globalised world, non-American countries could maintain cultural identity, but it feels that this is becoming an antiquated ambition.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Eat Less Meat?

Let me point you to an interesting article by George Monbiot on the sustainability of eating meat. Take the time to read it and consider how well we share our food with the world.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

2020 Summit

Kevin Rudd's 2020 Summit is a clever idea for a new Prime Minister. He has put forward the image of himself as someone who promotes discussion, understanding and ideas. Not only that, but he has managed to do so in a way that will always allow him to refer back to the summit as the place where various ideas were generated. Even if he had these ideas beforehand, as long as someone raised them at the summit, he will always be able to say that "These ideas came from the summit."


Now that the cynic has said his bit, I honestly think it's a good idea to have this kind of thing. It's expensive, sure, but it's important to take the time away from the firefighting of daily governance and management in order to examine the situation from a larger perspective. I hope that we Australian people get more than a little back from it. We will need to get some coherent answers and policies communicated to us quick smart if we are to keep faith with the exercise.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Biblical Wisdom or Greek Common Sense

I was listening to a reading of Plato's symposium and heard two interesting passages that precede similar Biblical passages. Here, first, is a quote from the Symposium (in the dialogue between Socrates and Diotima).
...but I say that they are seeking neither for the half of themselves, nor for the whole, unless the half or the whole be also a good. And they will cut off their own hands and feet and cast them away, if they are evil; for they love not what is their own, unless perchance there be some one who calls what belongs to him the good, and what belongs to another the evil. For there is nothing which men love but the good.
And the Biblical passage that creates an echo of it.
"If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire." - Matthew 18:8

Again from the Symposium.
Diotima answered me as follows: "There is poetry, which, as you know, is complex; and manifold. All creation or passage of non-being into being is poetry or making, and the processes of all art are creative; and the masters of arts are all poets or makers." "Very true." "Still," she said, "you know that they are not called poets, but have other names; only that portion of the art which is separated off from the rest, and is concerned with music and metre, is termed poetry, and they who possess poetry in this sense of the word are called poets." "Very true," I said.

With the following from the letter to the Ephesians (noting that the word for workmanship is derived from the same root as for poem).
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:8-10

Now, what can we conclude? I think there is a lot that can be speculated, but the key conclusion is that the Bible certainly isn't unique in the wisdom sayings and proverbs it communicates. In fact, some of these sayings are better thought of as plain old common sense. Although there is wisdom in the Bible, these sayings do not make it unique, or the source of all wisdom. I find myself agreeing with Paul (through Badiou) that what is central to the Christian message is not a collection of proverbs or aphorisms, but Resurrection.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The Human Animal

In reading through Badiou's two small works Ethics (halfway through) and St Paul (finished) it is possible that he has little regard for the human animal; the mundane entity that is caught up in the situation, immersed deep in the flow of capital with only self-interest and fulfilment of desire for activity. This human animal is no different to any other mammal and is driven only by evolutionary urges to eat and procreate. Such a beast does not have any principles by which to live, only urges and low level desires.

To become something other than this, the human animal must be exposed to a truth process – a state of living that changes the animal into something greater that is faithful to the truth itself. The animal becomes an “Immortal” or a master of time. This Immortal is what each human animal should become. It is the highest state of life because it is unnatural and goes against the default existence of humanity. Badiou writes, “To belong to the situation is everyone's natural destiny.” The “situation” is nothing more than the world into which we were born, or the society into which we have moved. Belonging to the situation is merely following the trend, the style, the fashion, the mob. Little wonder that it is only natural to belong there.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, and it seems that Badiou agrees (though he put it into words long before I ever did), to live a natural life is one of selfishness and narcissism, and is the original condition of humanity. Consequently, it is apparent that there was no Fall of Man and that I cannot agree with Augustine on the matter. Rather, the natural condition of Man (the human animal) is mortality, to die in the situation to which the human belongs. However, the unnatural life is the one that has been caught up in an impossible truth and is given a new identity because of that truth. What I would call the unnatural life, Badiou would call the Immortal life. There is nothing natural about taking laying down one's life for the sake of a friend or stranger.

My primary criticism of Badiou here is his apparent relegation of the Mortal Human Animal to a classification of sub-human (though this is not a term that he uses). With such a tag applied, there is an opportunity for abuse, or the demand that the welfare of animals be considered more highly than it is. It is acceptable to kill a cow to eat it. Is it now also acceptable to kill a Mortal Human Animal to eat it? Alternatively, it is unacceptable to force a Mortal Human Animal to become a slave (an owned biological machine to be used for labour). Is it now also unacceptable to own a horse as an animal of labour? Perhaps I have read him wrong, but until such time as I read otherwise, this appears to be a hole that needs to be filled or exposed.