Friday, 27 March 2015

Thought 46: Electioneering

It is now general election year in the United Kingdom where I am based. As ever, there is a choice between two main candidates and a few side candidates. These candidates are trying to canvass the population to vote for them. They wish each to be elected, that is to say, chosen, over and above the other available candidates. 

As sociologists claim, political leaders are not even elected as such, that is chosen from the general population, but make themselves be elected by a long, strenuous and tiresome process of appealing to popular prejudice and preference on issues deliberately determined in advance by the mass media and other sources of information, which is the reality intended by the expression 'political campaign'. Political campaigning or electioneering epitomises the three step strategy of power:
You covertly create the problem. You cause a reaction. You then offer yourself as the solution to the problem you've created. 
Even though I will vote I deplore the voting process in many respects as giving legitimacy to what is really a paper democracy with vested interests long determining in advance all discourse and political avenues. Freedom of statement and due process - to a degree and always under threat of extinction - make the UK have some claim to be a 'democracy', a country ruled by the people, only 'the people' is usually a rather limited section of the population at large who constitute the power elite.

In fact the main political parties - the Conservatives and Labour - agree on the main points and it is only in their disagreements that an election is needed to decide which side of the political elite will be in power, with the business elite constantly pressuring for more right-wing, 'might-makes-right' policies and civil liberties groups, who are much less listened to and given much less media attention, trying to safeguard civil liberties and basic requirements of social justice. 

Thus the general population has a voice of sorts in deciding - in the most rudimentary and rigged fashion possible given the first-past-the-post voting system - between the disagreements of the elite but this supposes that there are genuine disagreements among the elite, as there are between members of the public. This tends to be self-fulfilling however as each political party will seek to differentiate itself on purpose to appeal to certain sections of the electorate and will fine tune its 'offer', i.e. its image, to win the votes of specific geographical areas known as constituencies. 

Anarchists, among which I include myself, consider voting as giving legitimacy to unfounded and unjustified power structures already in place and hence are against voting as such. Electing a leader is really choosing between various self-selected hopefuls, themselves selected in advance by their own party members, so that they can have some claim to 'representing the people' with all the power that gives even though in practice they don't, or at least not the vast majority of the people as opposed to minorities close to the corridors of power. 

So voting in effect perpetuates a false system of representation - the pernicious idea that a group of people can stand for the interests of another - which enables the representing group to do as it likes since it can claim to act on behalf of the 'people' at large although this is never true - the truth is, the elite looks after the elite, the powerful after the powerful, the rich after the rich. 

Even then no party in power necessarily has an overall majority among the voting population and in fact might even have less votes than another party but managed to gain more parliamentary seats - in the UK that is - than the opposition. As such, the Tory party - which is well known to give priority to the top end of society - has long thrived on the reality of 'minority rule', i.e. a minority of the population voted them in yet they hold all the power due to the way votes are counted ('first past the post'). This has also been true of the Labour party in the past, for instance Tony Blair's third election victory.  

[And now, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States despite losing the popular vote.] 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Thought 45: Nature's Circle: Being in Heidegger

Being or, in the German, Sein, in Heidegger's rhetoric, is in most cases best understood as intending "nature". Dasein, there-being, the human being, highlights the fact that being human is embodied nature, embodied Being, embodied Time. 

Heidegger preferred Sein , Being, over the German die Natur, Nature, because, as is Martin's wont, he found that Sein was closer in spirit to the Greek concept of nature: φύσίς, what grows and returns into itself in a perpetual circle. Source: Introduction to Metaphysics.

It could be argued that while φύσίς  moves in a circle, anything that moves in a straight line is anti-nature, violent, in Greek: βία. In his now out-of-print lecture course, What is a Thing?, Heidegger made note of this example whereby a stone lying on the ground is harmonious with nature but someone picking the stone up and throwing it in the air runs counter nature's circular harmony and is therefore anti-nature and disharmonious which is to say: violent. 

He goes on to argue that in the science of the Modern Age, i.e. in the post Aristotelian conception of nature that started with Galileo, everything, every force was conceived as moving in a straight line unless stopped by another force of equal strength (Newton's laws of motion). As with Batman and the Joker who are condemned to ever continuing altercation, 

"An unstoppable force meets an immovable object" 
the Modern Age's conception of motion as a straight line runs counter the harmonious circularity of the Greeks' conception of nature. Instead, the modern conception translates well into motor cars and other contraptions of modern technology which move in a straight line, from point A to point B. 

For the Greeks, the moving in a straight line from point A to point B, such as one might do today in a plane (although planes make many mini zig-zags to reach their final destination) or indeed by throwing a stone in the air, runs counter nature's circle and was typically man-made violence. The word they used to signify this anti-natural movement, βία, also meant strength, might, power. 

As such the power of Modern Technology is pure βία in the twofold sense of powerful and violent.