If all of our greatest achievements of art, science, and philosophy happened to take their best expression possible at the exact same time as we broke the Earth.
The idea of ‘Value’ as coming from social assessments vs. a mix of pre-social/natural increases in activity, life-survival, growth, etc.
Perhaps values are not mere social conventions coming from this or that particular culture due to its… what? historical circumstance, geographical location, internal structure… but of a vital surge of affirmation in activity. Increasing the capacities of the body (for we cannot know the potential of the body until we try, that is, we actualize those latent potentials) is a very simplistic notion that does not sweep away the mind but sets both mind and body in tandem via the flux of potential (more or less power). Nor does the status of such an embodied proposition as one that resides in the mind-place of linguistic land of signifiers – just as it is not removed from the social-cultural situatedness – prevent it from relating better or worse to other propositions.
“It’s a theory in the mind, just handsome words” or “value goes beyond bodies and flesh you reductionist” – a mis-problematization? Rather, we can do something or not, but this capacity only comes in actualization, in action. Both symbolic expression and the empowered body are implicated in this kind of Value: the power to alter and affect.
Who needs such social constructivist reminders besides those who have conquered other cultures and drawn them into its own, so that one’s own is dead or dying; fed totally on the influx of alterity? That a culture must repeatedly affirm its own situatedness is telling that there is nothing left to it to affirm except its own arrogance – which is either zealously shouted or disdainfully remarked in passing. Does this not display the social in it’s most bare desperation? Its powerlessness?
Yes, we are privileged by centuries of victorious, brutal conquest and awful atrocities. Events that would make the body cringe at the loss of life if it witnessed in the present, with one’s own body exposed and an immediate decision forced upon it. Mutilated bodies, back-breaking work, malnutrition and starvation; these images conjure intense anger, sadness, and genuine sympathy.
The main point here is far different than an invoked passion – a repitition of feeling on/in a body (impression) – it is of activity. The affection that constant assertion of privilege produces – is this a generator of activity or not? Does this not stall one, tie one up with a lineage that one might reject? Squashing potential allies for the sake of a faithful commitment to the affections of history told in its hidden, ugly side. It is easy and reactive to take this combative stance against another of a different race/class/gender to maintain allegiance and bear the memory of past wrongs, (but at very least that allegiance increases its ability to act in its better moments). To harp on and assert the negativity of the piled up dead and enslaved bodies that came before another, contained in their lineage, in a relentless manner will usually elicit a defensive stance though. It is only self-imposing unnecessary impediments to strengthening its body for emancipation with more and ecstatic bodies.
Can a theory of Value withstand embodiment? Could we even measure it at this point?
When individuals come together and circle up, or even just two individuals encounter each other, there is a subtle art that can be used to detect the general direction in which a conversation will go. It mostly hinges on a question that can be posed in two different ways: “do you speak to control the conversation and raise your voice above the others?”. Or, “do you speak to draw out the brightest flashes of others and raise all voices present along with you?”. When someone enters a conversation with a confrontational attitude, the shockwave resounds throughout the group-become-audience. One might “call out” the individual whose intent has been made apparent to the rest if they get the opportunity, but this will now require a strategic maneuver by someone who may not feel comfortable in this posture. “Can I effectively challenge this loud voice who clearly is willing to defend and attack – who has demonstrated this much already?” – this imposition becomes a required step to get anything countervailing into the conversation as a whole.
The smooth functioning of a conversation and so the maximization of the absorption of each participant is difficult to maintain. It means checking the power of one or a few while simultaneously drawing the best out of them. Quickly putting down an overbearing voice as a counter-balancing force can too lead to an oppressive atmosphere: now the one checking power imbalances has (wittingly or unwittingly) usurped a position of power.
The most crucial point I can make here, which is also an argument to persuade a bully, is that each individual’s power for acting is further increased by listening and learning to all parties considered. The ability to handle and understand differing perspectives and expressions only will increase the familiarity and fluency one has with the perspectives and expressions of one’s own. When every person’s ideas are pushed to their limits, so will yours; as each other is forced into a more rigorous and exacting expression, one us pulled up along with them. The challenging of one’s ideas is only an enhancement until they fall apart – this is how to make them stronger.
Some will simply express themselves as if they were the original source of those ideas and lose the prospect of improvement. Resolve is a fine quality that can easily become oppressive. The question to ask another when power levels rise in immediate social interactions is not just “will you step back?” but “What are you getting out of this?”
“In a few short centuries, industrial civilization had spread from the western fringes of Eurasia to sprawl across the face of the planet. Plundering the soil of its riches, fouling the air, and remolding life-forms at will, this gargantuan industrial society had already peaked a thousand years after its foundation: Ahead lay abrupt and violent decline.
The cities burned, welling up as clouds of poison in the war remembered as the seven days of fire. The complex and sophisticated technological superstructure was lost; almost all the surface of the earth was transformed into a sterile wasteland.
Industrial civilization was never rebuilt as mankind lived on through the long twilight years…”
– Introduction, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
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