Fiction attempts to establish a connection between a story and some facet of reality. Any type of fiction, even fantasy, can only be gripping and compelling if it connects plot or characters in some way to actual life or reality. Otherwise, the audience doesn't have anything to connect with. Realism is a type of fiction that intentionally mimics ordinary vernacular, portrays events that would actually happen within a certain time frame (also known as milieu), and describes physical surroundings in a similar way to how they actually manifest in real life.
Stories and books about rape and incest no doubt sell less than those about love and success, because most people are more willing to think about those things. However, in reality, rape and incest happen. Thus, the popularity of literary realism isn't based solely on the merit of the story, but on how many uncomfortable facets of reality the audience is willing to hear. Mind you, no matter how many of these uncomfortable facets are ignored, they still happen in real life, so turning away from them doesn't make them any less real.
I here think of Andrew Vachss. He's an author who portrays dark, grim, nasty reality, and as such will most likely never sell as many copies as Stephen King or Dean Koontz. But Vachss' work is chillingly real because it's based on true events which he doesn't weigh down with distracting metaphors that pull you out of the scene. A murder is often just a murder, because sometimes, murders just happen. Motives vary, but what's even more important is that gritty realism like Vachss' demonstrates that there's no guarantee of life. Reality is rough; it smells, it hurts, it's often meaningless, and Vachss' stark, grim and tight prose calibrates the audience toward this understanding. Sometimes people just have heart-attacks and die before their projected life expectancy, and it doesn't mean anything profound or unique. He's non-human-centric in his own way. His type of realism looks toward the uncomfortable facets of reality that occur whether or not we want them to.
The short story Cain by Vachss involves a hit-man hired to wage vigilante justice on the two men who tortured and brutalized an old man's dog. The old man isn't sadistic, he just wants retribution. Vachss doesn't create unique villains; the ones he features are actually caricatures of villains. One is musclebound and the other is skinny, both with shaved heads. One carries a baseball bat over his shoulder and the other smacks a lead pipe in his palm. The characters are real not because they're archetypes, but due to their brooding and sadistic mentalities which are so often exhibited in modern culture. They literally torture chained up guard dogs, beat them until bones break, blind them, and leave them alive to suffer. The old man's dog, the happy and strong Buster, "was cowering in a corner of the kitchen of the railroad flat--his fine head was lopsided, a piece of his skull missing under the ragged fur. A deep pocket of scar tissue glowed white where one eye had been, the other was cataract-milky, fire-dotted with fear. The dog's tail hung behind him at a demented angle, one front paw hung useless in a plaster cast." Some audiences will turn away from such animal cruelty, but sadly, this type of shit actually happens to this day.
The beauty of the revenge scene is that it takes place in the alley directly below the old man and Buster's apartment, with both of them watching. This was the first time since Buster's beating that the dog had enough courage to even look out the window. When Cain--the attack dog the hit-man purchased--finally got the attack-command when the sadists approached, "The pit bull launched off my chest without a sound, his alligator teeth locking on the big guy's face. A scream bubbled out. The big man fell to the ground, clawing at Cain's back. Pieces of his face flew off, red and white. He spasmed like he was in the electric chair, but the dog held on, wouldn't drop the bite. The smaller guy stood there, rooted, mouth open, no sound coming out, his pants turning dark at the crotch." The mixture of actual things in the event--pieces of face, teeth, urine-soaked pants--are interspersed with metaphors of electric-chair, fire-dotting, and alligator, to demonstrate the severity of the attack. The chosen metaphors were used to exentuate the extremity of the event, and weren't "higher significance" metaphors, which helped the reader stay in the story. Vachss uses metaphors sparingly and avoids author-based moral judgments which allows the reader to see, hear and feel the event without adopting the author's moral or emotional stance. Sure, the audience will make conclusions, but Vachss' stark realism packs a lot of unforgiving reality into such a limited space. There's no feel-good fluff. Just the dry realism that people can suck, but that people can also be good, and that the law doesn't have to be involved for justice to occur. Nor does it mean that reconciliation always brings a happy ending.
Realism doesn't argue with itself--it's simply a literary representation--however the authors and the audience are who those argue with it. Realism was created to portray reality sans human sensitivities, but if often becomes affected and and influenced by such. It's still an art form so it's going to be channeled through people, however making reality more comfortable actually extracts a lot of the reality.
In 1944 Orwell enlisted a taxi in Paris to take him to an unfamiliar address. To his surprise, the taxi driver was unfamiliar with the address as well, and the two lost their tempers arguing over fare. Granted, the driver sounded like he had a chip on his shoulder, however Orwell exacerbated the situation through physically threatening him. They parted ways after Orwell paid full fare, but Orwell couldn't understand why the taxi driver was so temperamental. He then recounted a story of riding in a train--once again through France, though this time through southern, rural France--and noticed that each time it passed a working field, the peasants working it stood up and displayed the anti-Fascist hand symbol. It was then that Orwell put the pieces together; the taxi driver saw him as "a symbol of the idle, patronising foreign tourists who had done their best to turn France into something midway between a museum and a brothel. In his eyes an English tourist meant a bourgeois." (750)
Neither Orwell or the taxi driver had perspective of the others' point of view, because if they did, they'd each have had more patience. Orwell hadn't perspective because he hadn't all the pieces to understanding the puzzle--not yet of course--though adding a physical threat certainly didn't help the two get on the same page. The taxi driver didn't have perspective because the "touring Englishman" cued a certain set of emotional responses within him, which were difficult to curb. Hard to blame him. Each of these lack of perspectives had a certain validity, however since they each focused on their own validity, neither attained perspective of the other's. The discomfort and frustration experienced when another doesn't agree with your perception of validity or reasonability doesn't just have to be a road block, though. If we change how we view and treat that discomfort through embracing it and seeing it as a cue to pulling ourselves into perspective, our behaviors will follow. Then we can build more sturdy points of view, those which lack claims of validity and have reality-based evidence.
I've been in situations like this before, as I'm sure we all have, and understand the difficulty of pulling oneself into perspective. In the moment, it can be extremely frustrating having someone misinterpret what you're saying, or even worse, poorly communicating what's in your own mind, which someone interprets correctly according to the words you used. This is when Kristhoffer's "Say what you mean, mean what you say" axiom comes to light. If we embrace the power of language and sharpen our tools so what comes out of our mouths represents what's in our minds, then we increase the probability of having a clear communication with our audience. Perspective of others isn't about certainty (that's bullying), but about increasing the probability of co-understanding by doing the difficult mind work on our own time, so that we bring the fewest possible limitations and the most possible assets to our engagements. Clear, precise language is the template for these things because without it, meaning is dulled, or worse, lost. Meaning and understanding cannot take shape without a clear language ordering them in our minds.
If Orwell had cleared his aggression, he may have picked up on the cues the driver was demonstrating, and he may have put together how a Frenchman taxiing an Englishman through France right after WWII may rub him the wrong way. Sure, neither the driver or the passenger knew the destination was actually in walking distance, but when Orwell asked for the ride to be free he not only didn't have perspective of a French sensitivity, but he had no perspective of the taxi rules of engagement. He could've negotiated the fare, but asking for it for free during the end of the war would no doubt send a Frenchman (or anyone in their own home country) off the deep end.
Pulling ourselves into perspective is, as I said, challenging, but good news for us; perspective isn't exclusively an event-based skill. Sure, there are many events we can't plan for because life is accidental and random due to the fact that reality is so much bigger than we are. Isn't that the point, though? Since reality is bigger, the practice of out-of-event perspective is that much more necessary because hardly any events in our lives are all about us. Sure, one can learn a lot about how to come into perspective in an event, but it's just as much a practiced skill. (Orwell actually had a lot of perspective due to his inquisitive, open point of view, and his consistent intellectual practices, it's just that this event puzzled him and he lost his temper because he felt robbed. He later pulled himself into perspective by transferring the understanding of the field workers onto the taxi driver, which unfortunately only did credit to his own understanding--and now our understanding--but did nothing for the taxi driver.)
Perspective itself, since it's about understanding clearly our own point of view, others' point of view, and also the terms of engagement, guides and facilitates interactions through non-exploitative or self-absorbed points of view. Oftentimes perspective is lost or unattained because the terms of engagement aren't agreed upon or even understood. Perspective thus doesn't mean one has all the answers, it means that we're open to the answers, and how other people may have the answers. And that tool is one that can be practiced outside of the frustration-testing events, so long as we ask non-exploitative or self-absorbed questions.
How else? Well, just as Orwell did through the train window, we can practice it through Looking (Kristhoffer), not just watching. Watching is passive. Looking is an environmental awareness which proactively searches for how other things/people/nature operate on their own terms and through what effects/affects them. These terms are various and include relationships with things in a close environment, relationships with things they interact with rarely, what fulfills their values, what feeds or poisons them organically (because perspective isn't just human-centric), the nuances within the language they use, the cues they respond to, and the habits they practice, just to list some. There's a myriad of tools to practice out-of-event perspective, but as the modern philosopher Kristhoffer says, "You don't practice to think, you just think." Therefore, building up perspective- powers entails this "Looking" practice, this search for the hows and whys, devoid of imposing our own mental filters, subjectivities (validity), and ideals that we'll be perfect at it on the first try. Errors will happen, miscommunications will happen, but they're just opportunities for developing event-based perspective. However, if we rely solely on event-based perspective, we may not have the tools to respond effectively or responsibly.
I've never read Arthur Koestler, so I can't bring my own interpretations to the works that Orwell reviews in this section, however within one of Orwell's reviews is an exchange that represents a larger issue than the specific plot of the novels at hand.
Three questions come to mind: Can life improve? What's the basis of that improvement? What causes bad things to happen? Religion answers these from an "ultimate" perspective, looking not just into the future but upward toward the heavens for answers, and secularity answers this in a more present time frame, ranging in perspective from pessimism all the way to optimism.
Since western religion bestows an entitlement and special purpose upon the human species, the general delineators between the secular approach and the religious approach to understanding the three questions above are as follows: 1) In western religion, this life is payment for the next, which is a utopia, unlike a secular approach, 2) In western religion, man's means of happiness and morality are religious maxims, also unlike the secular approach, and 3) In western religion, man's mistakes are due to his inherent fallibility, unlike the secular approach, which chalks mistakes up to a myriad of reasons, but not because he's naturally "damaged goods." These are not the answers to the questions, yet simply the orientation which provides a framework to how people answer these questions. In other words, it's what colors the meaning of the questions.
Who cares? What difference does it make if western religion bestows special status upon humans and secularity doesn't? Well, the issue is this: Reconciliation with reality. Religion and secularism are vastly different when it comes their responses to the vastness and meaninglessness of reality. Reality is risk, reality is pain, reality is unpredictable (so far western religion is in agreeance), but reality--most importantly--doesn't care about humans specifically because we're just a small part of something that can and will march on after we're all dead. Yes, I'm talking about nature. This is something western religions cannot reconcile so they remain in denial about, despite all the evidence. At the root of any "ultimate" religion is a promise that the afterlife will provide something even better than the world that was already made for them to experience. To learn on. To convert. The world becomes consumable and disposable, therefore religion is a natural un-balancer.
Secularity, which spans many different approaches, does not rely upon "ultimate" maxims, yet upon premises humans derive from within. This sounds ridiculously idealistic. Well, it kind of is ridiculous; just look throughout history at how often we've went to war with one another and destroyed the planet underneath our feet, in search of more land claims, more money, and more power. Secularity does not mean sanity, it just means our thoughts and actions are our own responsibility. We still have to do the work. Humans have clearly not reconciled our own ability to answer the questions above, which gives religion undeserving legitimacy. Yet, the key difference is that the secular approaches chalk up these destructive misalignments to human issues, and the religious approach chalks up misalignments to nasty non-believers, dissidents, and infidels. Since secularity doesn't presuppose entitlement or purpose, reality is allowed to be dark and grim at times, but also equally as bright and happy at times. And unlike religion, it doesn't prescribe that the overarching object of life is to find happiness and affirmation in the coerced conversion to its beliefs.
Artists throughout civilization's history have experienced the unique stressors entailed by individual crafting, and social crafting. Individual crafting allows full immersion into their medium, capable of producing the greatest, most innovative returns, however, at the cost of social reward due to their social--and productive--dissociation and general aloofness. Social crafting sacrifices the time and energy they can spend in their inner artistic universe, though allows them to participate in society and not starve. There have been, and always will be, exceptions to the rule in the form of those artists whose work accidentally aligns with what society is ready to see or actively looking for, but that production is truly an afterthought for the artistically immersed artist. Have individual crafters and social crafters always been at odds, this way?
Only when civilization was arose, because it created the dilemma.
Artistry spanned back all the way to our cave-dwelling ancestors in Lascaux and Altamira, with the drawings of animals, humans, and even symbols, on cave walls. At this time, the art was expression of their stark priorities, considering their lives weren't built around the comforts of civilization. These were prehistoric humans creating art, which, to many historians, redefined human intellectual capacity. The prehistoric humans either killed or were killed, died of exposure, and if were lucky had enough sex to have some enjoyment and raise offspring. Painting on the walls expressed this lifestyle and was most likely done in balance with this lifestyle, since an imbalance at that time was deadly.
It goes without saying, but in prehistoric times there was no civilization, therefore there was no production. But the seeds to the latter were planted when the Fertile Crescent was populated in ~10,000 BCE, when many of the hunter-gatherer tribes settled in the lush area now known as Iraq. There, they created agriculture, domesticated animals, developed science, trade, and all sorts of things that were and are beneficial, however as I said previously, it planted the seeds for the narcotic known as production. (More on this narcotic shortly). Our cave-dwelling ancestors thus had no deviation between producers and non-producers; they each had tasks to fulfill to increase the probability of survival.
Civilization was chosen because it allowed more possible leisure time. And leisure time is required for artistry, right? Is this a chicken-and-egg argument? The tribes that migrated into the Fertile Crescent were no doubt exhausted and weary, and seeing how the environment allowed them to grow, hunt and harvest without moving around so much, it held a certain allure. So they could set up larger, stronger shelters, hoard and preserve food, and create and maintain a larger array of tools, which inevitably allowed them to endeavor further into the bounds of their imaginations and activities, which included art.
With civilization came a boost in power because man for the first time felt he conquered his environment. Before that, man lived in balance with his environment, responding to natural cues which told him when to migrate, and how much to hunt and gather based on weather, environment, even the health of the tribe. It was a very fluid lifestyle that allowed leisure in down time, though no-nonsense in up-time. I should point out that many tribes chose not to civilize, just to keep migrating outward beyond the Fertile Crescent to maintain their nomadic ways.
The sedentary lifestyle promised more leisure because "we won't have to roam around and search for food and set up poor shelter all the time." The problem with an agricultural lifestyle is that it's inherently unsustainable. The environment becomes "biotically cleansed," according to environmental activist and writer Lierre Keith, in that humans remove everything natural from a piece of land and cultivate it for their own purpose. This is unsustainable because humans upset the natural biotic cycle--down to the bacteria--for their own finite gain. In order to continue this, they need to constantly artificially feed the system, which is part of the reason why the production machine was created in the first place. Civilization created agriculture, which created the need for people to produce because nature's cycle was disrupted. From there, creating a culture addicted to producing was not only necessary, but easy, because sedentary people didn't have the same survival instincts and tools as nomadic hunter gatherers. Production is thus a process without an end, it imbues social status, it encourages a dependance of limited concrete resources (instilling inner and outer competition), and it prioritizes human-centric products over non-human-centric organisms and things.
This whole process insulates humans from artistry because socially productive activities--due to that intrinsic unsustainability--deprioritizes art. Art still exists, however, the more civilized man gets the more difficult it is to be fully invested in art and survive, unless one finds themselves in alignment with productive values, as mentioned earlier. Art existed in prehistoric times in a basic form, but it still existed. Civilization allows more complex art to exist due to technological advances and intellectual developments, however those things have come with a price; they are highly entailed. While prehistoric art wasn't very entailed, civilization's art is highly entailed because the non-productive weight placed upon individual crafters shoulders affects their ability to be artistic.
During the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, the Soviet Red Army was supposed to come to Poland's aid against the invading Germans. But the Soviets didn't follow through; Stalin called off the aid. Warsaw as a result burned but the British press weren't too sympathetic toward the Polish. We're talking about word having spread throughout Europe about the mass extermination of Jews, and how the Polish Jews in the Warsaw ghetto rose up to resist the Germans with homemade and smuggled weapons, until the Soviets got there as agreed upon. But they didn't. What makes it worse for the English was the general lack of shock and awe by the British press against Stalin.
The British press generally held onto the ideal that it was the Poles' fault: First, that the uprising was not spontaneous, but planned by a sort of Polish government in London; second, that the Uprising wasn't coordinated with the Soviet Army or the Allies so they were rightfully on their own; third, the Poles weren't in support of the British gov't anyway (an Allied force); and fourth, that the British allowed Warsaw to fall to improve post-war bargaining with the Soviets. These are quite the conspiracy theories, and although some may contain fragments of the truth, it's hard to get around how Churchill and Roosevelt called Stalin and pleaded for help, but were openly denied. I don't know what kind of cheap rhetoric and propaganda can dull that sharp reality.
Although Stalin's behavior may have been predictable and repulsive, the British press' response was repulsive and reprehensible. The Warsaw Uprising is also known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, because that's who stood up to the Nazis. A minority had firepower or warfare skills, and the Nazis had tank units and a penchant for domination. But the Poles knew this. They were simply buying time for the bulk of the Red Army to arrive. When they didn't, not only did the Warsaw rebels fall, but also did the Jews in hiding. The numbers are sickening: nearly two-hundred thousand Poles--resistors and civilians--died from mass executions.
There are two main branches to this madness. Stalin, and the British media. Stalin had his own agenda which has not been proven, though is suspected to involve having power over a puppet government in Poland, which, if the Red Army aided and succeeded in protecting Warsaw, would never happen. He apparently wanted the capitol for himself, and used the red herring that he wasn't consulted about the uprising like Churchill and Roosevelt were, as a peer. Orwell recounts how the British media wasn't sympathetic, and had a tone that the Poles almost deserved to have Warsaw taken. That the Poles "prematurely ordered its followers to rise when the Red Army was at the gates." (731) Right; poor, militarily untrained people living in ghettos jumped the gun in military defense of their own city. Even if the metaphor is accurate and they mistimed (the imaginary) partnership with the Red Army, it's their city to defend because it's their lives, families, and traditions that are at risk. The metaphor that the Red Army "dragged its feet" was never used, which points to an anti-Pole prejudice.
The longest day of many English's lives in WWII was when the Nazis tried--but failed--to cross the English channel and conquer their homeland. Very scary, no doubt, for those people in London to hear that their trained military fought on the banks of their own shores for their survival. Yet the English had an Army, a Navy, and a solid battle plan to protect their homeland. In Warsaw, there was no professional Army or Navy or strategic battle plan left to defend their their capitol. The Poles were in the streets fighting the Nazis with dirty weapons that many of them had never before used. Yet the British press--according to Orwell, who was alive at the time--were generally unsympathetic to the severity of the Poles situation.
Let me be clear: The Warsaw Uprising was intended to buy time until the well-armed and trained Red Army arrived. This is common knowledge regarding this matter. Granted, the Red Army may have been exhausted and low on supplies and worn down from fighting pockets of Germans, however, they were moving toward Warsaw until Stalin called it off. The time the Poles bought actually became their own valiant, though futile, resistance of an international evil. But the British media couldn't bother to have the empathy to appreciate the Poles' courage in fighting for their own city, people, and natural rights.
In fiction, power is examined through exhibition; exerting it onto others, having it exerted onto ourselves, account of past exertions, even sexual games. Many of the novels and short stories we read revolve around some type of power discrepancy. It was surely Dickens' theme. This isn't really a mystery because the characters' social surroundings very rarely involve no government, no class, or non-structured ruling body of some type. Even informal groups have pecking orders which power flows through. Since power is current in real life, it can make for a strong bond between reader and writer through fanciful tales and accounts.
Nonfiction has the luxury of speaking directly about power, which can actually be to its detriment, as well. This medium tells truths ranging from comfortable all the way to uncomfortable, as well as tells lies ranging from comfortable to uncomfortable. Just because something is intended toward nonfiction doesn't mean it's real, despite being defined as not-not-real. Nonfiction writers of power can be even more fanciful than fiction writers about power because the fiction world already knows it's not real, and operates on the basis of trying to be as close to real as possible. Nonfiction, however, often believes that since it's not fiction, it's real. That it's truth. That is the final answer. Thus, the nonfiction ego can develop differently than the fiction ego with the writers believing themselves into their own nonfiction and developing an elevated--though falsely based--sense of knowledge and power. When this happens, it insulates the readers from a better understanding of the power of the real account that they're reading.
In the fiction world, characters and events are often embellished to highlight the meaning the writer wants to highlight. How many of the most influential, meaningful, and intimate events of your life would seem unimpressive if you simply wrote them down exactly how they happened? Just as nuance in literature is a powerful tool, nuance in life is a powerful thing, however translating nuances from real life to literature under-appraises them because the experience of those nuances in real life are what makes them so powerful. This is a different type of power than the traditional power-over-another type, however it's still power. Power isn't human-centric, as nature has attested many times. Humans have claimed a monopoly on power. For writers, translating this real-life power onto the page and making it seem as real, gritty, and important as it was in real life is a key element toward gripping writing--both fiction and nonfiction--and can be very challenging.
Since fiction represents real life, it changes with culture. Orwell pointed out that many crime stories a few hundred years ago didn't even involve a crime, let alone a murder. They involved a mystery of some type, a stolen object which really turned out to be misplaced, or an ancestral mystery of some type. Often, the protagonist would be feverishly investigative, and it's here we're probably all thinking Sherlock Holmes. As culture has become more aware of atrocity, literature has changed to reflect it. (Thus, fundaments of culture aren't the only things that need to change for literature to change; general awareness of things that determine the culture can change, thus changing the literature, both fiction and nonfiction).
In more stories we're finding sexual deviancy, death-worship, and tragedy. These are all elements of power, just highlighted in different ways; sexual deviancy involves breaking taboos, coercing another into servicing our primal needs, or exploring taboos in private, sans the consequences we're told are inevitable. Death-worship involves some kind of obsession with finality and mortality, often rooted in fear of either living, fear of death, or both. Tragedy involves the conflict of two rights, where the audience knows one of them has to fall. I don't see Shakespeare's plays as overly tragic, just simply comical and mildly reflective. He just wrote with authority and sensitivity. Tragedy in real life is the car accident where the driver strikes a deer that jumped out, sending the car astray and wounding the people and the deer. Or Alzheimer's; the individual's body struggles to survive while their consciousness is slowly sapped. They're warm, they're present, but they're not there. Their personal power was infiltrated by nature. The deer was just looking to forage, and the driver was just looking to head home. Coercion of power can indeed be malicious and evil, however power transfers happen all the time and go unnoticed. Fiction and nonfiction writers always--on some level--portray this stream of power. Power doesn't always entail a moral judgment due to coercion or scandal; power is just power, and literature can convey that.
Orwell makes the suggestion that if a book is not perceived as salable--marketable, in our terms--than it should be submitted to a committee set up by the British Museum. I like this idea because it would allow intellectual material to exist independently of economic conditions. However, that presents it's own problem; who's on the committee?
Would this committee evaluate the books solely on unpopularity? Orwell points out how utility for future historians might be the criteria, but what they will find useful is a mystery because we don't know if they'll be intellectually curious and objective or simply affected by economic and social conditions. The line between these two can easily be blurred if one chooses to live within an economics-based society, should they not be vigilant to make money a reward or goal of intellectual endeavors. I like the idea of a neutral committee designed not specifically to account our history, but to preserve intellectual material and ideas that the current milieu deems as uninteresting and useless.
American national museums are run differently than those found around the world. "Broadly defined, the four main categories of museum funding are government grants, private donations, earned revenue and investment income." (Embassy of the United States) As of 2009, 24.4% is funded by government support, 36.5% private donations, 27.6% earned incomes, and 11.5% investment income. That means 75.6% of the money that runs a museum in America is from charitable giving, door fees, gift shop fees, and renting the place out for public use. Worldwide, national museums are controlled by the government. Granted, smaller, more specific museums in America and around the world aren't run by the central government. So, if we're left with a committee charged with holding intellectual material for future historians, the two national alternatives to funding it are via the non-centralized nonprofit method, or the centralized nonprofit method. Neither of them take profits, in that any of the surplus revenue generated goes toward feeding the organization, not the individuals who work it or have ownership in any part of it. I tend to think intellectual material would be more protected by the former because one of the functions of centralized government is to hold and regulate power over its subjects, and intellectually unpopular works could potentially disrupt that centralized power. Centralized government likes normalcy and predictability, and if not, it's because it caused the lack thereof, not its subjects.
Who's to say this unpopular book committee can't be based in one of these smaller museums; not a national museum? What would the implications of that be? Smaller museums are essentially businesses that function more like the American national museums in that they have to drum up their own revenue from the marketplace, though aren't protect like American national museums. Thus, although American national museums are funded more privately, the government won't let them close down as easily as the small museums would be allowed to close around the world because national museums in America are valued due to circulating the economy and boosting education. Their independence from government centralization, despite being protected by it, is a win-win. Maybe that could be a starting point for creating Orwell's intellectually neutral committee for preserving "useless" literature.
A title deed to the land you "own" is not as absolute as the banks and our social perceptions make it out to be. Sure, within society, if you possess the title deed you have a monopoly to that land, so long as you pay your taxes. In the event you don't, the state can slap a lien on your property, jeopardizing your monopoly, but for all intents and purposes let's assume your taxes are up to date, and you have no mortgage. Hurrah! That little deed in your hand entitles you sole proprietorship of that property, and to do whatever you like with it so long as it doesn't encroach upon local ordinances, environmental regulations, etc. You own the land! It's yours!
Or is it?
Land deeds are illegitimate for two reasons: 1) The inherent fallacy of 'permanent land ownership,' spread by a social institution (government) which throughout history has never existed permanently, and 2) The fundamental truth that one cannot give or endow what is not theirs. This latter is the more significant argument because it involves nature, which I'll address after I debase the first point.
Land deeds are only valuable if the body granting them has power and remains in power. These two functions are necessary, because if the body granting the deed has no power, the deed entitles you to sole proprietorship of nothing; it's equivalent to little old me writing up a title-transfer document giving your house to that guy over there. If the body does not remain in power during the period which you have occupancy over that land, than the deed becomes a souvenir of an obsolete time in history, rather than an everlasting representation of power. And governments and regimes eventually will collapse, as they already have, because civilized man is constantly guarding against attack, or attacking. In this sense, time ultimately owns all property; not governments, despite what they think.
Since man didn't create the property he occupies, does it even qualify for ownership? The land was here long before man occupied it and will be here long after. How thus can man claim to own it? Plus, the land--even that covered by concrete--is a part of nature in that it's linked to our natural ecosystem. Underneath that concrete are lush soil and microbes which make this world habitable. Ever seen birds fly around the boundary of your property line? The land we're deeded upon purchase is thus simply a part of nature that we claim (read: stole) to stave off other humans from using it. But, as I said before, the deed is essentially plastic, because when governments fall--and they inevitably will--the deed entitling man to sole proprietorship of his 3.48 acres is meaningless.
It a known fact--though not readily spoken about--that the British settlers stole the land from the Native Americans. Do you think America is unique, though? Indigenous tribes all over the world have been slaughtered by civilization's imperialistic attitudes, from Aboriginal Australia to Mexico to Haiti to Argentina to Europe. Man's desire to occupy and claim land has proven to be the ether of murder and domination. Civilized man has shown that he simply cannot live alongside indigenous man without inciting some kind of conflict. Maybe it's because he sees that land as occupied, but not owned, therefore available for claim. He just has to do something about those indigenous savages...
Indigenous tribes surely create technology, though on a much simpler, less-entailed level because they don't have a penchant for large-scale production and consumption. Obviously each indigenous culture worldwide has a varying value set and traditions, but I'll use the Native Americans as an example, though there is even variation within them. According to an article written by Professor Charles Horejski from the University of Montana, and Joe Pable, Manager of the Tribal Social Services of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation: "Sharing and giving are valued more than getting and keeping. Materialism is viewed as selfishness. The individual who collects many material possessions is viewed with suspicion. Some tribes have celebrations during which an individual gives away his or her possessions. Prior to the creation of reservations, the ownership of land was a foreign concept because the Creator gave the earth to all people and therefore, individuals cannot "own" creation." Since one cannot bring objects into the next world, the value placed on those objects was represented proportionately. Dying with a lot of materials was seen as dishonorable and selfish, so giving stuff away when you were alive was honorable. Living in harmony with nature was intuitive to them because nature allowed them to live, it didn't entitle them to live. The behavioral consequences of an imperial perspective are drastic, not just to nature itself, but to these very people who live in harmony with nature; they get levied with genocide because they occupy land that could be used for economic development or selfish personal use.
So where do indigenous people get power from? Well, they're very spiritual, but not religious in the sense we think. They believe in spirits, natural processes, and acting as conduits for positive energy transmission. They adapt themselves to the natural order, rather than the other way around. Civilization adapts nature and others to what it deems appropriate, useful, or status-building, which is why worldwide indigenous tribes have been infiltrated and obliterated by people actualizing a perceived entitlement for exploitation. The ideal "exploitation" was something heavily discouraged and shamed in the Native American culture, because self-driven concepts dissociated you from your family and damaged your ability to develop close relationships. Modern civilization is focused on capturing energy for individual use--whether it be through social echelons, status, deeds, accumulation of sexual partners, toys, properties, etc.--which is antithetical to (general) indigenous cultures where harmonizing one's self and tribe or clan is the paradigm. In our vernacular we call that adaptability, but they don't even have a label for it because it's simply the standard, honorable lifestyle. Thus, conversations of power don't really seem right when talking about indigenous tribes, due to this harmony. Empowerment seems more the correct term, because they're focused on directing positive energy outward, toward others, to help serve, support, and improve their way of life. To modern man this sounds imprudent, idealistic and pacifistic, but modern man's scorecard is tallied in blood from all the battles over land, materials, and monotheistic religious ideals that in some way or another support human entitlement and domination.
Arguments of what makes a "good" person have spun back and forth for quite a long time, and date back to Socrates' famous discourse on the steps of the Agora. It's a simple concept but has complex implications in reality due in part to its abstract nature. There is no "good" I can hold in my hand. I find myself asking whether--since we're still doggedly debating its definition in modern day--if we're applying it in the appropriate milieus. In other words, are we asking the right questions?
The endless human accounts, pictures of medical experiments, personal diaries, and scarred landscapes all give evidence of the existence of the Holocaust. Believe it or not, there are still Holocaust deniers like English historian David Irving who use rhetorical arguments to either reduce the death count and produce arguments that Hitler wasn't the initiator or figurehead, yet was ignorant to the killings because "nameless criminals" performed them, not members of his regime. Irving even claims that the Allies precipitated WWII and are thus responsible for the subsequent brutalities. (Other historians have checked his journalistic work and found rampant omissions and embellishments, so it's not like he's an insightful individual working against the masses.)
The Nazi apologists thus imply that the Nazis were or could have been "good people." Before I delve into this matter, I'd like to change the language. The term "good" is a moral descriptor, however it's limited in its ability to describe. This word on its own tells us nothing due to its subjective simplicity, a simplicity which thus welcomes relativism and more of these dogged debates. It's nebulous, vague and ambiguous. The term "good" (or its opposite, "bad") must thus be bolstered by other clauses to explain what the hell is actually meant by the person using the term. However, since it entails subjectivity, that explanation rarely happens, and we're left with a partial meaning because it's a rarity for anyone nowadays to define the term they use in the middle of a conversation. I'm left with involving the word "ethical," rather than the word "good," because ethical has a much more precise meaning and thus, more acutely identifiable implications.
Were Hitler and company ethical people? I think this question would buck David Irving, because ethics involves the evaluation and alignment of terms and standards which you interact with others. So a strong ethical paradigm is one that holds oneself to the same standards as they hold others to, and weak ethics are those which entitle the self to different standards than others, or choose select others to be granted special standards to increase personal gain. Objectivity is key in a strong ethical paradigm because it welcomes evidence through a myriad of arguments, and allows the self to be proven wrong. (Proving the self wrong is a requirement for a balanced, informed ethical paradigm, according to Kristhoffer.) Since an objective point of view entails evaluating our standards of thought and behavior, it reveals what we value in the first place. Thus, it can work from the outside-in as much as the inside-out: From the outside-in approach, we observe our own thoughts and behaviors with others, which reveals what our values and motives are, no matter what we subjectively perceive them to be. In terms of the inside-out approach, we can actively change our thoughts and behaviors at any point in our lives through changing our internal values and priorities. It's a win-win scenario, however, only if ethics and morality are focused on instead of simple and subjective concepts like "good."
Hitler and company had positive elements in their personal lives. He had Ava Braun and a dog he loved dearly, and numerous accounts of Nazi soldiers having loving, nurturing family lives at home have been produced. It's chilling to hear the Nazis had birthday parties, etc.--just like the Jews before they were imprisoned--when they got "out of work" slaughtering the prisoners. However, these personal positives are simply self-absorbed affairs because the Nazis didn't grant the Jews, Gypsies, or intellectuals the same freedoms. Thus, their ethical structure was duplicitous. The Nazis claimed the Jews were inhuman, the Gypsies were exploitative (they'll "gyp" you!), and the intellectuals had loud, annoying mouths. Thus, arguing to reduce the number of Holocaust deaths, or attributing them to Himmler instead of Hitler, or saying Hitler was unaware of the deaths because he was too busy fighting the Allies, are invalid because they still advocate the same destructive, duplicitous ethical structure existent in the current recorded understanding of the motives of the Holocaust. The arguments made by the Nazi apologists legitimize the Nazis' ethical duplicity, and thus don't expose the inner workings of the massacre. Instead, why not ask, "How did ethics become so poisoned that not only were millions killed, but so many subsequent arguments and analyses become discrepant?" This will bring the darkness of the duplicitous ethical paradigm into the light.
In many countries, Holocaust denial is a crime punishable by imprisonment. Do you think that law was created from the start? No; Nazi apologists instigated waves of duress through death count reduction, responsibility transference, and even the lack of existence of death camps, making the law a necessity to allow the human race to regain some fucking dignity. So after our fellow man, woman and child were slaughtered for years, with all the evidence indicating such, the poison of duplicitous ethics allowed some people--albeit a small percentage--to avoid the evidence presented. We willingly lost the forest in the trees.
Strong ethics involve a search for what we could possibly be missing. Not why we're flawed; that's a human-centric religious argument. The existence of some positive aspects in Hitler and company's personal lives have no bearing on their chosen ethical madness. That's a large part of the Holocaust, isn't it? A system of ethics that granted some people rights and entitlements and others a lack thereof due to a speculative lower moral and specie quality. Once one accepts this basal premise, then killing, raping, torturing, and dehumanizing at any rate is made much easier. But since the Nazis weren't concerned with ethical symmetry, the reward of potentially regaining national identity lost in WWI was too seductive for many to pass up. This was a recipe for ethical madness. This madness was actually more insanity, because the stock response by the Nazis, when asked why they did it, was they "didn't physically kill anybody." Or that they "didn't know what what happening because they just did this one simple action." Or they "talked peacefully and calmly to the prisoners as they worked." Really? So it's just a coincidence that the same people who didn't subscribe to the Nazi premises of ethical insanity were the ones who could see them so clearly?
It serves to note that historian David Irving is indeed a proponent of Nazi ideology.
Hatred and ignorance are narcotics. Literally. Our amygdala is stimulated when we engage these concepts because they're general concepts, which inherently stimulates the instinctive, primitive brain. I've been told in war you need to be primitive. If you see your enemy as an individual with a family and life goals, it'll be much harder--if not impossible--to pull the trigger at the most effective time, or even at all. I've read that if you see your enemy as a nameless assailant, it'll be easier, and easier still if you deem them a different species. Thus, hatred and ignorance are excellent tools to make killing easier because they provide negative energy toward eliminating what your primitive amygdala has deemed a threat to your survival.
Back home in peace time, you'd think the primitive mind wouldn't be relied upon. Why would we need it anyway? Negative energy and emotions just fester a target-orientation, instead of an alternative (optimistic) orientation. To paraphrase Rush Dozier in Why We Hate, "Optimism entails specificity, and pessimism entails generality." To operate with generalities doesn't mean we utilize universal, abstract principles, yet lump categories together for blanket-treatment. These all look/smell/feel the same, so each is simply representative of the other. Generality connotes an interchangeability of things: White people have abused power in the past, so watch out for them in the future. This is general-thinking and primitive, and due to the fact that it's devoid of specific evidence, it takes the form of a conclusion. This is one of the biggest detriments to the primitive mind, because it prevents further investigation. Negative energy is solo-conductive, in that it festers the energy within itself without incorporating outside stimulate to judge, change, or clarify it.
Unfortunately negative, primitive concepts are still prevalent in this civilization's peace time. Things like child rape, spouse abuse, racism, sexism, gender-expression prejudice, bullying, religious prosyletism, and hatred/destruction of nature exist as a matter of course, and looking at them in relation to war--where the amygdala has a function--I see no use or relevance for them in peace time. The explanation I'm left with is that so many of us promote the false-power surge felt when engaging the amygdala that the phenomena works its way into our language and vernacular and becomes communicated to others. How else do you convert someone to such a self-enclosed network of primitivity? We communicate it via nuance, and our kids pick it up. Our friends learn it. The un-judged repetition reinforces our own negativity within us, fortifying the darkness.
We need to figure out how not to have the general fight-or-flight response of soldiers, in peace time. Where their response is valid because it preserves their psyche and allows them to complete their goals so they can get out of there, our incorporation of negative primitivity in "normal" society isn't even valid. If society is a collective of people with somewhat similar interests and conditions, then negative emotions like hatred and ignorance have no functional place. That is, unless we admit exerting power over others is a primary operative mechanism.
Then the conversation changes completely.
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