We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books…. in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like a night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.C.S. Lewis (1961) An Experiment in Criticism
The Church attitude is that civilization, or ‘the system’ or ‘society’ or whatever you want to call it, is best served not by mules but by free men. The purpose of abolishing grades and degrees is not punish mules or get rid of them but to provide an environment in which that mule can turn into a free man.
The hypothetical student, still a mule, would drift around for a while. He would get another kind of education quite as valuable as the one he’d abandoned, in what used to be called the ‘school of hard knocks.’ Instead of wasting money and time as a high-status mule, he would now have to get a job as a low-status mule, maybe a mechanic. Actually his real status would go up. He would be making a contribution for a change. Maybe that’s what he would do for the rest of his life. Maybe he’d found his level. But don’t count on it.
In time – six months; five years, perhaps – a change could easily begin to take place. He would become less and less satisfied with a kind of dumb, day-to-day shop work. His creative intelligence, stifled by too much theory and too many grades in college, would now be reawakened by the boredom of the shop. Thousands of hours of frustrating mechanical problems would have made him more interested in machine design. He would like to design machinery himself. He’d think he could do a better job. He would try modifying a few engines, meet with success, look for more success, but feel blocked because he didn’t have the theoretical information. He would discover that when before he felt stupid because of his lack of interest in theoretical information, he’d now find a brand of theoretical information he’d have a lot of respect for, namely mechanical engineering.
So he would come back to our degreeless and gradeless school, but with a difference. He’d no longer be a grade-motivated person. He’d be a knowledge-motivated person. He would need no eternal pushing to learn. His push would come from inside. He’d be a free man. […]
Motivation of this sort, once it catches hold, is a ferocious force, and in the gradeless, degreeless institution where our student would find himself, he wouldn’t stop with rote engineering information. Physics and mathematics were going to come within his sphere of interest because he’d see he needed them.
Pirsig, Robert (1974) Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The scale at which we are able to operate today is sometimes too big for us to wrap our heads around. By its very nature, scale creates distance, and at distance human concepts start losing their meaning. A consumer is just that: an abstraction of a person who we hope will consume whatever we have to offer. We try to guess what this ‘consumer’ wants so that they will consume more of what we have. And if they do, we will keep track of lots of metrics so that we may better manage the process. And as our processes, metrics and scale continue to grow, we employ technology to help us operate at greater speed and scale. In other words, human beings, the end users of all this, become so far removed from the people who mean to serve them that they simply become just another metric to be managed. The more distance there is between or the more things we do that amplify the abstraction, the harder it becomes to see each other as human. It is not the abundance we need to manage or restrict, it is the abstraction.
We no longer see each other as people; we are now customers, shareholders, employees, avatars, online profiles, screen names, e-mail addresses and expenses to be tracked. Now more than ever, we are trying to work and live, be productive and happy, in a world in which we are strangers to those around us.Sinek, Simon (2014) Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
The argument for and against marriage equality is constantly heated, emotional and at times, misguided and bigoted. The main themes argued against equality either have religious foundations in the definition of ‘Marriage’, or claim that same-sex couples are insufficient as parents. Regardless of the arguments basis, they are all filled with varying degrees of prejudice. It’s not unexpected given that acceptance of homosexuality has only really started within the last 20 years.
Meanwhile in Australia, funds are being cut from social services, education, and environmental protection due to a perceived lack of funding. So what if we could solve both of these problems? What if we take the emotion, religion, value and prejudice out of the equation and focus only on the economics?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the census in 2011 registered 33714 same-sex couples living together, with no information available on the number of same-sex couples that don’t live together. This is a 32% increase in comparison to the 2006 data1. I think it is safe to assume that in any five year period this rate of change will hold steady as a conservative value.
So how much money can be made from these statistical values? According to Australian Securities and Investments Commission the average wedding in Australia costs $362002. So by enabling marriage equality an additional $1.22 billion can be pushed into the Australian economy by existing couples alone3, and a further $78 million every year for new couples. So what does the Government get out of this? A GST revenue of $122 million for existing couples, and an additional $7.8 million every year.
So if money is so short we need to cease University fee assistance (HECS-HELP) to save $87.1 million over three years4, along with taking $2.8 million away from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority5 (just to name a few of the cuts), why are we not looking at simple ways to generate that revenue?
Given the current political climate in Australia where cuts are being made across the board, why isn’t this financial opportunity being pounced on?
What is more important? The oppression of a slice of society and the denial of equality, or generating much needed government revenue?
It is a farce that the support our societies have for marriage equality isn’t shared by the Governments they are represented by. It’s also a shame that the simple argument for equality, inclusion and love are not enough. So when the value of equality falls on deaf ears, the only remaining value understood by a Government is funding.
Morality is not properly the doctrine how we should make ourselves happy, but how we should become worthy of happiness. A man is worthy to possess a thing or state when his possession of it is in harmony with the summum bonum [the highest good].Kant, Immanuel (1909) Critique of Pure Practical Reason
What a strange idea, inspired by the wash-pot, that a jug of water washes away all crimes! Now that all children are baptized because a no less absurd idea assumes them all to be criminals, they are all saved until they reach the age of reason and can become guilty. So butcher them as quickly as possible to assure them paradise. This conclusion is so logical that there existed a devout sect who went about poisoning or killing all newly baptized infants.These devotees reasoned perfectly. They said: ‘We are doing these little innocents the greatest possible kindness; we are preventing them from being wicked and unhappy in this life, and we are giving them eternal life.’Voltaire (1778) Baptism
If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non-combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.
Bradbury, Ray (1953) Fahrenheit 451
Opposing all forms of violence, from direct, physical violence (mass murder, terror) to ideological violence (racism, incitement, sexual discrimination), seems to be the main pre-occupation of the tolerant liberal attitude that predominates today. An SOS call sustains such talk, drowning out all other approaches: everything else can and has to wait … Is there not something suspicious, indeed symptomatic, about this focus on subjective violence – that violence which is enacted by social agents, evil individuals, disciplined repressive apparatuses, fanatical crowds? Doesn’t it desperately try to distract our attention from the true focus of trouble, by obliterating from view other forms of violence and thus actively participating in them? According to a well-known anecdote, a German officer visited Picasso in his Paris studio during the Second World War. There he saw Guernica and, shocked at the modernist ‘chaos’ of the painting, asked Picasso: ‘Did you do this?’ Picasso calmly replied: ‘No, you did this!’ Today, many a liberal when faced with violent outbursts such as the recent looting in the suburbs of Paris , asks the few remaining leftists who still count on a radical social transformation: ‘Isn’t it you who did this? Is this what you want?’ And we should reply, like Picasso: ‘No, you did this! This is a true result of your politics!’
There is an old joke about a husband who returns home earlier than usual from work and finds his wife in bed with another man. The surprised wife exclaims: ‘Why have you come back early?’ The husband furiously snaps back: ‘What are you doing in bed with another man?’ The wife calmly replies: ‘I asked you first – don’t try to squeeze out of it by changing the topic!’ The same goes for violence: the task is precisely to change the topic, to move from the desperate humanitarian SOS call to stop violence to the analysis of that other SOS, the complex interaction of the three modes of violence: subjective, objective and symbolic. The lesson is thus that one should resist the fascination of subjective violence, of violence enacted by social agents, evil individuals, disciplined repressive apparatuses, fanatical crowds: subjective violence is just the most visible of the three.Zizek, Slavoj (2008) Violence, pg 9-10.
Knowing that there exists in the minds of men a tone of feeling towards women as towards slaves, such as is expressed in the common phrase, “Tell that to women and children,” that the infinite soul can only work through them in already ascertained limits; that the gift of reason, man’s highest prerogative, is allotted to them in much lower degree; that they must be kept form mischief and melancholy by being constantly engaged in labor, which is to be furnished and directed by those better able to thinkFuller, Margaret (1845) Woman in the Nineteenth Century
‘I am certainly tough and I am ready to help solve the Jewish question,’ (Wilhelm) Kube wrote to his superior in December, 1941, ‘but people who come from our own cultural milieu are certainly something else than the native animalized hordes.’ This sort of conscience, which, if rebelled at all, rebelled the murder of people ‘from our own milieu’ has survived the Hitler regime; among Germans today, there exists a stubborn ‘misinformation’ to the effect that ‘only’ Ostjuden, Eastern European Jews, were massacred.
Nor is this way of thinking that distinguishes between the murder of ‘primitive’ and of ‘cultural’ people a monopoly of German people. Harry Mulisch relates how, in connection with the testimony given by Professor Salo Baron about the cultural and spiritual achievements of the Jewish people, the following question suddenly occurred to him: ‘Would the death of the Jews have been less of an evil if they were a people without culture, such as the Gypsies who were also exterminated? is Eichmann on trial as a destroyer of human beings or as an annihilator of culture? Is a murderer of human beings more guilty when a culture is also destroyed in the process?’ And when he put these questions to the Attorney General, it turned out – ‘He [Gideon Hausner] thinks yes, I think no.,’Arendt, Johanna (1963) Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil