Hopeless Helpless II: To Mystify, Composing, 22/04/2016

Continued from last post . . . Here’s what my next big book of philosophy, Utopias, will be: a multidimensional exploration of the power of people to revolutionize our societies, developing whole new ways to be human. 

Here’s what it will also be: a refutation of some of the most remarkable arguments that such revolutionary change is impossible, that humanity has no power to change its nature. 

A message in popular culture that resonates with my
political thinking in Utopias: "Never give up; Never
give in."
Utopia is, in simple terms, an embrace of action – no matter whether it’s physical and social or purely imaginary and communicative – to drive and encourage social transformation. So the enemy of utopia – humanity’s idealistic striving – is not any other contrary vision of progress, but passivity. Will you continue to strive? Or will you give up?

One of the biggest challenges of political activity is actually getting people to wake up and care about the crises happening all around them. Getting people excited about the correct stuff is hard enough – there are plenty of times in history when people have mistaken their enslavement for freedom. And it’s a tough time convincing them otherwise.

And there are so many ways to keep someone from acting in their best interests. Hell, so many ways to keep a person from wanting to do anything to rock their own boats. 

One way to do that is to confuse people with profound language and ideas – meditations that end up breaking down all your own powers. All your abilities to act. Martin Heidegger and his philosophy is one of these vortexes of action.

I’ve always seen this weird tendency in a lot of Heidegger scholars I met back in my academy days. The ideas of Heidegger consumed them, and they related every philosophical discussion they could back to Heidegger. If they couldn’t find an angle to relate a conversation to Heidegger’s work, they walked away. It was a peculiarly awful self-absorption. 

The academic culture surrounding him had a similar gravity. I comment, during one of my brief discussions of his work in Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity that you can’t refer to Heidegger without the entire discussion starting to revolve around Heidegger. 

Expertise is a stern taskmaster.
It goes beyond the usual command of the commentary that academic culture demands you have before you’re allowed to say anything legitimately like a critique. It’s the ability to ward off any counter-argument that begins anything like, “Ah, but have you read Russon’s article on the concept of verfallenheit?”

So what’s going on when Negri brings up Heidegger? Negri’s critique is that Heidegger offers a moment of mystifying the real power of the poor to make real change in the world. As Vienna falls to Allied troops and the Soviets are about to march on Berlin, the enthusiastic Nazi Martin Heidegger delivers a lecture on poverty.

His goal is to deliver, in the face of his movement’s inevitable defeat, a lecture on poverty. Its outcome – the poor are powerless, and their apparent power in such political movements as communist states and political parties is a self-delusion. 

The poor, says Heidegger, already possess a wealth greater than the superficial riches that communist ideology promises them. In their poverty, they’re closer to the spiritual truth of being, less distracted by the stresses and worries of wealth. The suffering of poverty and destitution is not something to be cured. It’s a path to spiritual fulfillment. 

His conclusion comes from analyzing a line from Friedrich Hölderlin, the German poet at the centre of Heidegger’s own philosophical vision. 
“With us, everything is concentrated on the spiritual; we have become poor to become rich.”
Unpacking this single line for a whole lecture, he concludes that being poor means you have spiritual richness – you live in the proper essence of being itself. You don’t have anything but absolute necessities, and any of those non-necessary things would only distract you from what make you truly rich.

The roots that Hölderlin experiences today are mostly
plants. Ba-tum-tish!
And that is knowing your proper place in the world and living it. 

Heidegger’s analysis itself is composed of long, profound meditations on a few specifically selected words of classic poetry, and includes a discourse on the ancient meanings being his (dodgy) etymology of old German words – in this case, the roots of frei, freedom, in an idea of preservation, guarding its essence. 

Heidegger confuses you by leading you to believe that a stern piece of dogma – “Don’t you get any ideas above your station, young lady!” – has a profound philosophical essence. That it’s rooted in the fundamental essence of human thought when it’s closest to being, and in the ancient roots of the most philosophical languages. 

Don't let your desire for the profound and deeply meaningful deny you your natural power. 

No comments:

Post a Comment