An introduction to the Frankfurt School (Philosophize This!)

Don’t expect any mention of Erich Fromm in this podcast though, unfortunately. Fromm being the Frankfurt School author I’m most familiar with. But it’s still an interesting podcast to listen to, especially recommended for those who have a knee-jerk reaction against anything relating to the Frankfurt School.

Part 1, “Introduction”:

Part 2, “The Enlightenment”:

Part 3, “The Culture Industry”:

Part 4, “Eros”:

Part 5, “Civilization”:

Part 6, “Art As A Tool For Liberation”:

What is referred to therein as “monopoly capitalism” sounds to be the same as what I generally refer to as Corporatism and/or oligopolistic capitalism. The difference being that the market situation has grown and expanded through the domination of sectors by key major (and increasingly global/multinational) corporations that wind up working in tandem to shut out competition from smaller businesses and upstarts (whether via political lobbying efforts or through technological strangleholds, etc.). To me, calling it monopolistic at this point oversimplifies the reality we’re confronting, though I can understand why Marcuse would use that language in the 1970s.

Part 7, “The Great Refusal”:

Pausing at 4:55 in that last clip…yes, and it’s precisely that concern which drives my own interest in the arguments and ideas put forth by people like Dr. Jordan Peterson. Though Peterson is well-known for criticizing neo-Marxists and those he refers to as “postmodernists,” he’s still absolutely right about how one needs to “clean your own room” before attempting to engage too far in the process of attempting to overhaul society. Why? Because “cleaning one’s own room” is about more than just literally doing domestic chores — it’s about developing our own individual selves, grappling with our own limitations and shortcomings, and taking more time to study history broadly so that we can have a better handle on what all has come before and why we humans find ourselves where we’re collectively at now. These are complex matters, not simply bumbling errors brought about by idiot, racist/sexist/”traditionalist” predecessors who gave too little thought to life and living or who were all so blinded by their own destructive agendas that they gave no shits for the fate of future generations. That’s too close-minded and uncharitable of an interpretation of the unfolding of history and the motives of people in the past and the institutions they designed over time. We have to step back and really take time to think deeply about what we’re confronting here today and how it came into being incrementally over the course of the rise of civilizations. Not any easy task. Requires a great deal of personal reckoning as well, due to our own individual biases and wishful thinking and brainwashed programming delivered via mainstream sources, educators (even those who were well-intentioned in their own right), and the wider culture and the narratives it depends on in order to survive.

The further I’ve gone down this rabbit hole over the years, the deeper I recognize the rabbit hole to be. There are no simply answers here. Not even that many clear-cut enemies necessarily. Just a bunch of us humans trying to make sense of reality and to play the games according the rules we understand (or rebel against them if that’s our bag). Domination and power certainly do factor in to the lived human experience, but so does SO MUCH else. It’s not so simple of a matter as destroying hierarchies and we’ll all eventually be free to live in peaceful equality with one another. No, that’s just begging for the creation of a power vacuum which will be filled by the ambitions of other groups of people operating under their own ideologies that will very likely prove even less effective than what’s currently in place. It’s a precarious situation at present, compounded by so much idealism in the hearts of protesters who like to imagine themselves as having the magical, never-before-tried answers to what plagues humanity. And many of them are blind to the lessons of history as well, largely due to ideological obsessiveness and the narrowing of focus that commonly entails. They will not prove to be saviors either, I’m willing to bet.

That doesn’t mean we have to throw our hands in the air and accept the current status quo as the only game worth playing because all else (like communism) likely will prove even more fatal. But it does ask of us to be careful and cautious in moving forward, to pay closer attention and to not be so arrogant as to assume we ourselves and those we politically/socially identify with have discovered ultimate answers to these complex problems and issues. Humility is absolutely essential here, lest history just keep on repeating (or rhyming, rather) in a downward spiraling fashion (thanks, in part, to new and powerful technologies coupled with greater centralization than the world has ever known before). Power available today is like that of no other time in history — be heedful of that fact.

Many of us want to see change be brought about, for human societies to become healthier and less dominated by economic interests solely. Plenty of us grasp the alienating features of modern life and what that can and does do to us psychologically and socially, and how that then spills out to impact all other aspects of society. But the way to bringing about change indeed isn’t going to come through simply protesting in the streets or certain interest groups vying to dominate within academe and the corporate and political world. That’s just a recipe for more disaster, so far as I can tell. I lost all faith in that approach. It’s become more a question of individual development and social evolution, of working with what is within our direct control and making decisions that allow us as individuals (and the communities we choose to devise or partake in) to live more in alignment with the values we claim to hold dear. Not trying to force the hands of others, since that won’t work. Better to find ways around the perceived obstructions and to test our own mettle than to attempt to overthrow society as a whole, especially when no better game plan is yet afforded to all of us on a society-wide scale.

People don’t wish to hear this, because it sounds harder. Much easier to instead try to push for change in the streets or by screaming at people in lecture halls and pulling down audio equipment so as to disrupt speakers we dislike. Much easier to behave destructively, rebelliously, than to take the time to comprehend our own inner tyrants and the consequences that produces in a reverberating fashion across society and on up through history. Much easier to blame the “other,” somebody else, than to recognize our own part played in this due to the human nature we share. Doesn’t matter that we were just born into this and didn’t ask for this. Nobody originally ever asks for anything, and all were born into it. That’s no excuse for refusing to do the heavy lifting required in this life. Turns out that giving in to such destructive tendencies and acting like rebels without a clue winds up doing more harm than good oftentimes, especially to our own selves, though it’s usually years on down the road before we can recognize it for what it is.

There are no easy answers here, and there likely never will be. It’s just us and our strivings and our need to learn to communicate more effectively with one another about our conflicting points of view. And that’s okay. This is what we have to work with. There was never a rose garden back before, no ideal worth returning to necessarily. Just the movement and expansion of Life in all its complexity on up through time. Never perfect, at least not in the rational sense that we humans like to dream about, nor will it ever be. But we co-constructors of this reality, particularly in terms of our own actions and choices herein. So we start there, inside oneself, that being where we have the most control and are capable of reaping the greatest benefit in our lifetimes.

Simple, yet not easy. C’est la vie…

“Albert Camus on the Absurd (The Myth of Sisyphus) – Philosophy Core Concepts”

“The Master and His Emissary: Conversation with Dr. Iain McGilchrist”

“Russell Brand & Jordan Peterson – Kindness VS Power | Under The Skin #46”

Getting better acquainted with postmodernism

This morning I came across this article in Areo by Helen Pluckrose titled “No, Postmodernism is Not Dead (and Other Misconceptions)” (Feb. 7, 2018). I highly encourage others to read, including those of us who once identified as feminists and/or come from social science-related educational backgrounds.

In the article she states:

The emerging intersectional feminists were guided by Crenshaw and they adopted the postmodern ideas of cultural constructivism by discourse and drew further on the moral and epistemic relativism and notions of hierarchies of power and privilege via their incorporation of aspects of postcolonial and queer theory that the multi-faceted nature of intersectionality requires. They rejected the pure deconstructive approach because it was politically unproductive, and they sought to map social realities. They developed a strong focus on identity politics which the earlier postmodernists had not, following Crenshaw and those who expanded upon her work. This form of feminism dominates the academy and activism now.

Very interesting.

This piece helps me in further clarifying an ongoing irritation I’ve had with people blaming Karl Marx and “cultural marxism” for all that is occurring in identity politics these days. What is happening now has evolved out of and away from what philosophers of old had to say, so it’s become a new beast in its own right, effectively divorced from liberal constraints that were integral to those historical social theories and ideas.

Hence why some of us also say what we’re witnessing today isn’t a liberal movement — it’s illiberal to the core. That’s the truth. Because it has become unshackled from its liberal underpinnings despite originally arising within the Political Left. It’s evolved way beyond and is barely recognizable when compared against true liberalism.

“It is very common now to encounter feminist, anti-racist, LGBT activists who espouse postmodern ideas but seem to have no idea of their genesis.”

That’s also very true.

As I’ve mentioned before many times, Social Sciences was my major (along with a minor in Criminal Justice) in college and yet I’m wholly unfamiliar with postmodern thought (outside of a little exposure to postmodern art). Never did I ever study Foucault or Derrida, though there was much talk about Karl Marx (probably why he winds up blamed for so much of this). Nor do I recall learning about Kimberlé Crenshaw, though the name definitely sounds familiar. When I get in later I will check one of my old textbooks to find out what may have been said about these persons.

Furthermore, I spent my late teens to mid 20s referring to myself as a feminist and reading feminist blogs and articles, and yet I gained no grasp on postmodernism. Heard the term but never dug deeply into what it was about, not realizing its relevance. In fact, it was Dr. Jordan Peterson’s use of the term within the last several months that has stoked my curiosity to finally learn more about it.

To be continued…

“Identity Politics & The Marxist Lie of White Privilege | Dr. Jordan B. Peterson | SNC 2017”

Tonight I believe I found the best speech thus far from Dr. Jordan Peterson:

“Alain de Botton: Status Anxiety”

Food for thought for the evening:

“Joe Rogan Experience #1070 – Jordan Peterson”

What I’m listening to tonight:

The “black pill” of modern times

More and more I stumble across posts online referencing “the black pill,” which is to say acknowledging the futility of our modern crises when it comes to Leftist control over major institutions (academe, mainstream media, political duopoly party setup, etc.) and the average citizens’ seeming inability to effectively resist and fight back. And I understand the sentiments expressed and largely am of the same mind, though many tend to still cling to some idealized sense of hope that I personally have lost a grip on.

The dream being to “fight back,” to “overcome,” for “truth to win out in the end.” Sounds like something worth striving for, and indeed it probably is. BUT…with that said and accepted, I still get the strong feeling that this societal train (or global trend, to put it in greater perspective) is heading where it is whether a good many of us like it or not, regardless of how much we dig in our heels and attempt to resist and redirect its trajectory. Sound nihilistic? It does to me too, but I’m not seeing a way around this fate at present.

Of course stating that just winds up pissing everybody off, hence why I tend to keep such thoughts largely to myself or confined to this blog. My goal isn’t to come out telling people that their dreams will be dashed and that all hope is lost, because I’m not convinced that’s necessarily the case either. Instead my thinking leads me to the realization that the focus is better placed on the journey itself, the day-to-day living and unfolding, rather than the eventual outcome. Because the outcome itself needn’t negate the drive we possess within ourselves toward the formation of a more sane society (whatever that might turn out to be). The drive remains real and is rooted in our psychologies and is unable to be ignored and turned off without (further) dire consequences to us as individuals. We see evidence all around of the psychological harm being done to folks who willfully play ignorant, who allow their cognitive dissonance to go unexamined, to pursue power (via their special interest groups of choice) without concern about the likely fallout. In other words, we see the blackening of one another’s souls as we sell out and give up and try to escape into hedonistic distractions so as to avoid the reality we’re being presented with (and helping co-construct, actively or passively).

Makes it so easy to cast blame elsewhere, external to ourselves. Always this group or that groups fault, ultimately. If not for them we’d have peace on earth, right? But who grants them power? The rest of us. Even the powers-that-be on their own aren’t powerful enough to control us all without our cooperation, and we’ve given it to them. Why? Largely because we didn’t realize the game we were playing until it was too late. Misinformation is a bitch, no question about that. But we’ve opted to go along so as to get along. So as not to stand out and wind up hammered down. Forever afraid of losing what freedoms we still lay claim to…

Falsely believing that these “freedoms” can be protected at this stage in the game. Mere privileges are all they’ve become by now.

People tend to have to learn some things the hard way. The reality is that we don’t know what to do with the freedom we’ve got, so we squander it. But it seems to me that’s all this life is really about, figuring out about freedom and learning to live within it, to give it expression so as to grow and unfold and expand outward. Not necessarily to win some race in the end, to succeed (whatever “success” even means anymore). Sounds fatalistic? Well, it is, and so is life as a whole. Just the nature of the beast. Welcome to this tragic existence. Sorry you were misinformed about it and believed a rose garden lay in store someday. That’s just not the reality.

Living is suffering, and no matter how much we humans attempt to reduce suffering still it occurs. In fact, it seems we generate even more suffering in the First World despite all our fancy technologies and full bellies and warm homes. The suffering turns psychological when the physical needs are met. Such is the human condition.

People say we can’t carry on without a sense of hope. That’s probably true, but hope in what? Changing human nature? That won’t ever happen? Eradicating our species eventually? Seems that some are angling for that, probably out of loathing of what we are and how life is. Hoping to turn back the clock and return humanity to “traditional” ways of being? Good luck with that. Seems to me the genie is already out of the bottle in terms of Progress, and it won’t go back in. That’s the paradoxical nature of reality. And even if we bombed ourselves back into a stone age, I don’t doubt that humanity would work its way right back to the present conundrum in due time. Seems unavoidable, for whatever reasons.

Sometimes such thoughts do get me down. Certainly does appear to be a great time to not have children, at least from my view (the rest of you can do whatever you wish, and will obviously). But more and more it’s ceasing to depress me. Actually seems to open up possibilities and allows for the letting go of unrealistic expectations. Teaches me to stop taking life quite so seriously, despite the horror show that accompanies it.

I don’t have any answers. Just a whole lot of questions, few of which my fellow human beings are capable of answering satisfactorily.

The notion of Love appears to matter more now than ever. Agape, as well others forms. There’s a time to compete and a time to simply relate and experience.

People always talk about being afraid to speak up and out, to live authentically, worried that they’ll wind up stuck in a cage by the government or lose their jobs or wind up socially ostracized. All are understandable concerns that I too share to some extent. But the monotony of living pent-up within one’s own mind, of screaming inside while smiling on the outside to others, pretending…forever pretending and acting and putting on a show — all of that is quite alienating in its own right. What good is the job if it merely pays for a life that we’re profoundly troubled by? What’s the real difference between their cages and the one in our minds? What’s all this freedom really worth if we don’t know what to do with it and are so inclined to escape from it and the responsibility attached to it? Seems to me a lot of us are the walking dead already…

Fight, fight, fight. Resist, resist, resist. So as to do what? To keep those tyrants from tyrannizing us? Sure, okay, that’s understandable. The goal here isn’t to be so passive and tolerant that we wind up crushed by the agendas of others, since where’s the fun in that? But it seems, for all our talking…talk talk talk talk talk…that we’re too afraid or too unwilling to actually make great sacrifices for that which we claim to care about or are aiming to preserve and pass along. As if arguing alone ever resolved and defused a grab for power.

Is this really about power fundamentally? On some level, yes, it really is. Because some choose to make it that way, per their drives and aspirations and fantasies. Many of us take a self-defense position, just wishing to be left alone so as to live as we see fit so far as we’re not encroaching on others unlawfully. But then the laws change, the culture shifts, the goalposts forever move, and we lose ground to stand on. But arguing with willfully deaf people doesn’t alter anything. Some will hear and see only what they want to. Truly appears to be a form of hallucination, as Scott Adams remarked on recently. And what do you do with that? You think you can force people to see what you see? Force them to understand it as you do? Think you can reason with those whose life experiences differ so greatly and who adamantly refuse to seriously entertain anything you say or do or are?

But in fighting back, egos get wounded, which will then just fuel the resentment needed for the next generation to feel justified in striving for more power. Funny how that works…

I see no way out of that situation. So focusing on the eventual outcome seems like a moot point. Just a bunch of wishful thinking that humanity will dramatically change and come to its senses and cease these attempts at power grabs. Not going to happen. The technologies currently on the scene are indeed paving the way toward a totalitarian future, sad as that is to contemplate. Once again, I believe it’s a good time to not have children, because this is the world they will be forced to inherit, and how do you prepare them for that? I don’t know. Hard enough preparing oneself for handling this, even halfway through one’s lifespan.

So much can seem futile, but I believe that’s our egos and idealistic expectations fucking with us. Are there objective truths? There indeed seem to be, and figuring them out appears to be a better use of our time than trying to force a square peg into a round hole in perpetuity. Learning what our humans natures ARE and what they require so that psychologically we might remain sane and therefore construct and maintain sane societies seems like a worthwhile approach in this life. Because seem to grasp hardly a thing about that, important as it is. It points to the underlying reason why communism/”socialism” keeps failing and why capitalism can feel as though it’s stripping meaning from our lives. It’s the reason these power grabs go on and on, generation after generation, up through history and with no end in sight. And our ignorance in this arena is why ignorant, naive forms of idealism keep capturing the minds of so many and leading to ideological possession, especially now in the post-Religion era. Probably a good time to start exploring that realm instead of continuing bickering with one another over matters none of us individually has much direct control over. Even attacking the major institutions can’t alone resolve this matter, because others will surely fill any power vacuum created and then start paving their way to hell just as assuredly as those that came before did so, good intentions be damned.

It’s not what people want to hear probably, but it’s all I’ve got to offer at this moment. Right or wrong.