Walden and Tom Cruise

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Watching the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion it struck me how closely Tom’s utopian rural escape resembled Thoreau’s Walden cabin. The movie is an entertaining sci-fi involving aliens and human extinction, where Tom periodically leaves “real life” to spend time alone in an idyllic cabin in the woods by a pond. Living in a cabin in the woods was never really part of the American Dream. Surprising to see Hollywood promoting this ideal, it can be certain the motives are financial and historical. I have read Walden many times over the years it raises many interesting questions about how we live.

Here is a passage from the letter by Lon Snowden to President Obama concerning his son Edward Snowden (Whistleblower) July 26, 2013.

Civil disobedience is not the first, but the last option. Henry David Thoreau wrote with profound restraint in Civil Disobedience: “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”

Thoreau’s moral philosophy found expression during the Nuremberg trials in which “following orders” was rejected as a defence. Indeed, military law requires disobedience to clearly illegal orders.

A dark chapter in America’s World War II history would not have been written if the then United States Attorney General had resigned rather than participate in racist concentration camps imprisoning 120,000 Japanese American citizens and resident aliens.

Civil disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act and Jim Crow laws provoked the end of slavery and the modern civil rights revolution.

full letter

Here is a quote from Walden

“It is a surprising and memorable, as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods any time. Often in a snow storm, even by day, one will come out upon a well-known road and yet find it impossible to tell which way leads to the village. Though he knows that he has travelled it a thousand times, he cannot recognize a feature in it, but it is as strange to him as if it were a road in Siberia. By night, of course, the perplexity is infinitely greater. In our most trivial walks, we are constantly, though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain well-known beacons and head-lands, and if we go beyond our usual course we still carry in our minds the bearing of some neighboring cape; and not till we are completely lost, or turned round, – for a man lost, – do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of Nature. Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Simulacra

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“But what becomes of the divinity when it reveals itself in icons, when it is simply incarnated in images as a visible theology? Or does it volatilize itself in the simulacra that, alone, deploy their power and pomp of fascination – the visible machinery of icons substituted for the pure and intelligible Idea of God? This is precisely what was feared by Iconoclasts, whose millennial quarrel is still with us today. This is precisely because they predicted this omnipotence of simulacra, the faculty simulacra have of effacing God from the conscience of man, and the destructive, annihilating truth that they allow to appear – that deep down God never existed, even God himself was never anything but his own simulacra – from this came their urge to destroy the images. If they could have believed that these images only obfuscated or masked the Platonic Idea of God, there would have been no reason to destroy them. One can live with the idea of distorted truth. But their metaphysical despair came from the idea that the image didn’t conceal anything at all.”
― Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation

Cornel West from Examined Life

Cornel West excerpt from Examined Life, a 2008 documentary film directed by Astra Taylor. Some interesting comments on Romanticism. And clinging to false histories.

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Benazir Bhutto

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This quote is from the late Benazir Bhutto, who was a Pakistani politician, the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, twice elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan. A leader whose courage I admired. On 27 December 2007, Benazir Bhutto was killed while leaving a campaign rally for the PPP.

“To make peace, one must be an uncompromising leader. To make peace, one must also embody compromise.

Throughout the ages, leadership and courage have often been synonymous. Ultimately, leadership requires action: daring to take steps that are necessary but unpopular, challenging the status quo in order to reach a brighter future.
And to push for peace is ultimately personal sacrifice, for leadership is not easy. It is born of a passion, and it is a commitment. Leadership is a commitment to an idea, to a dream, and to a vision of what can be. And my dream is for my land and my people to cease fighting and allow our children to reach their full potential regardless of sex, status, or belief.”

“Reflections on Working Towards Peace” in Architects of Peace: Visions of Hope in Words and Images (2000) edited by Michael Collopy

Colony

This is a passage from ‘In The “Heart of Darkness” by Nigerian Olu Oguibe, it has significance here as Nigeria is a former British Colony and displays certain parallels with current colonisation of Scotland and the invented history and traditions.

“Prehistory. History. Post History. It is evidence of the arrogance of occidental culture and discourse that even the concept of history should be turned into a colony whose borders, validities, structures and configurations, even life tenure are solely and entirely decided by the West. This way history is constructed as a validating privilege which it is the West’s to grant, like United nations recognition, to sections, nations, moments, discourses, cultures, phenomena, realities, peoples. In the past fifty years, as occidental individualism grew with industrial hyperreality, it has indeed become more and more the privilege of individual discourse and schools of thought to grant, deny, concede, and retract the right to history. Time and history are no longer given. indeed history is to be distinguished from History, and the latter reserved for free market civilisation, which , depending on the school of thought, would either die or triumph with it. ”

excerpt from  The Culture Game By Olu Oguibe 1964

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=F2kh_cezizoC&pg=PA3&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

Scotland’s best galleries have become well decorated canteens for the wealthy.

The following passage is from a text by Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica (July 26, 1937 – March 22, 1980). I would hope any Scottish artists or observers may find this interesting. Scotland’s arts should be more accessible. Scotland’s best galleries have become well decorated canteens for the wealthy.

Art is no longer an instrument of intellectual domination, can no longer be used as something ‘supreme’ unattainable, as pleasure for the whisky drinking bourgeois or the speculative individual: the only art of the past which will remain is that which can be apprehended as direct emotion, what can release the individual from his oppressive conditioning, giving him a new dimension which responds to his behaviour. The rest will fall, since it was an instrument of domination. One thing is definite and certain: the search for the supra-sensorial, for man’s life experiences, is the ‘discovery of will’, through which the ‘experimental exercise of liberty’ (Pedrosa), by the individual to which it opens itself. Only truths matter here, in themselves, without metaphorical transposition

Hélio Oiticica 1937-1980 ‘Appearance of the Supra-Sensorial’ from English translation Hélio Oiticica, Rotterdam: Witte de With; Minneapolis: Walker Art Center 1992

Scottish Independence

The “5 Stars Movement” is not a political party nor does it have the goal of becoming one in the future. It seeks being an avenue for achieving an effective exchange of ideas and democratic debate using the Internet as the means of communications normally assigned to political representatives.

Independence for Scotland.

Free high speed internet access for all citizens.

End political and economic corruption.

E-Voting, whereby citizens may have more input to important collective decisions.

Decriminalisation of prohibited drugs and health care rather than criminal justice.

 

Lolcat doesn't want to be censored.

Lolcat doesn’t want to be censored. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Information is one of the foundations of democracy and citizen’s survival. If the control of
information is concentrated in a few hands, loss of democracy is unavoidable. If information is constrained by economic powers more than single citizens, corporate interests and economic
power groups prevail over the interests of the population. For these reasons, information is the background to any other area of social interaction. A citizen that is not informed or uninformed cannot take decisions, cannot choose, they are forced, then, into a passive consumer and voter role, prevented to have a say on the choices concerning it.”

Beppe Grillo
Comedian