Posted in Equality

Sorry, Marx, religion is no longer the dope

“Forget that the rich are getting obscenely richer. Forget the troubles in Syria. Forget that infrastructure is crying out for investment. Forget that the arts are struggling. Forget that so many people are lonely. Forget that your community is being strangled by multinational economics. Forget that you work stupidly hard and will have to continue working for longer that people have ever had to do.

Forget all this. Just try to forget it. Just forget that capitalism owns you SO completely that it can suck you dry. Forget that, because you can ‘sext’ someone and the message will disappear after 10 seconds.

People, it’s time to get off the dope. It’s time for rehab. And that’s the distilled message of After Magic: religion, capitalism, techno-entertainmentism… they are all ways of drugging us up. As Marx continues, they are ‘imaginary flowers on our chains,’ put there so that we might think the chains pretty”.

(From “Religion: no longer the dope” by Kester Brewin)

As Kester Brewin said in his insightful post, capitalism owns us to the extent that we forget or neglect the sufferings of humanity in the world, having been drugged by today’s techno-entertainmentism. I think digital media itself works both ways – it can be used for social networking and spreading useful ideas and practices or it can be used for mindless entertainment and so on that distract people from the truly important things in life. One reason digital media is being capitalised by the modern economic world could be because many people who are stressed and busy from working for the capitalistic system to keep up with status quo might end up looking for digital entertainment to relieve stress and boredom, which may become a vicious cycle, unless they decide not to participate in the rat race.

This article kind of reminds me of some reflections I noted down yesterday about the world system, as follows:

Jesus came to bring a sword, not peace, to divide us from the system of the world.

It seems that much of the world system is staged or set up and marketed to produce mimetic desires of envy from the audience, to lure them to buy a particular product or service or lifestyle or image or status or privilege or prestige, whether it is religious or social, etc.

Any motivation to prioritise business transaction over people is ultimately shallow and selling one’s soul to the world system.

When we follow Jesus, we can’t help but come into conflict with the world system and mindset. Hence, Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword, not to exact violence but to separate us from the self-serving, degrading and enslaving monetary system and power structure that demean, degrade and devalue humanity.

Posted in Equality, Freedom

Mutiny! What our love for pirates tells us about renewing the commons: Kester Brewin at TEDxExeter

I have listened to Kester Brewin’s thought provoking TED talk in which he shared that wherever we see pirates, whether sea or software or music pirates, their presence shows there is something wrong with the system, whether it is economic or political or spiritual, and pirates send a signal that what belong to the common have been taken away. Since the golden age of pirates in the early 1700s, what we see are England, Spain, France and Holland trying to build empires by invading and colonising new worlds of America (and Asia and Africa, I would add), which marked the birth of an emerging world of global capitalism, and the engine of this movement was the ship.

Kester shared that in those days, sailors were brutally treated, whipped, beaten, poorly fed, rarely paid and often injured. To be a sailor is to be close to death, hence the symbol of the skull and crossbones on pirates’ ships. Sailors turn to piracy because they were fed up with the brutal treatments they experienced at the hands of these captains. When sailors turn to piracy, they have a different mode of life, such as sharing equally among themselves the profits of their labour. Hence, piracy is an act of emancipation, stepping out from repression, in order to experience freedom and equality for all. Similarly, we all can do our parts in our community to enlarge the space to turn the agenda from purely private gain back to public benefit so that all can learn and build on the commons we share, as Kester put it.

Posted in Philosophy, Psychology

Zizek – Lacan’s Fantasy Theory: Objects of Desire | “Life of David Gale”

“In order to continue to exist, desire must have its objects perpetually absent. It’s not the “it” that you want, it’s the fantasy of “it”. So, desire supports crazy fantasies.”

I have checked out the video in which Slavoj Zizek said we don’t really want what we think we want, and the lecture in the movie “The Life of David Gale” revealed that what we want is not so much the objects of our desire but the fantasy and the thrill of trying to get “it”, hence such fantasies continue to be unrealistic and the objects of desire to be perpetually absent.

I think many advertisers understand this psychology, and capitalise on this knowledge to try to get potential customers to buy their products and services by promoting and advertising such fantasies of a perfect house, a perfect holiday, a more fulfilled lifestyle, a prestigious job, and so on. Hence, Lacanian psychoanalysis helps people to be self-aware so that they can choose not to be enslaved by fantasies nor be fooled by the glitter of advertisements and even religious propaganda from some institutional churches.

It also helps people to reexamine whether their desires are based on needs or just fantasies. I myself sometimes would examine my own desires or fantasies, such as hoping to get an ideal music synthesiser which I can use to make the kind of music I want to make and yet is easy to use. Hence, from time to time, I find myself browsing musical instrument stores and the internet to look at new music synthesisers, even though I already have one at home which is good but has some limited functions in terms of song recording. I do find the Alchemy music synth app on my iPhone quite close to my ideal music-making tool though, which I am still exploring and learning how to play and record my own music.

Posted in Philosophy

Philosophy and “death of God” theology

Here is what I gather from my understanding of continental philosophy, Hegelian dialectics, political theory and the “death of God” theology so far.

According to Wikipedia, continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions from mainland Europe. It includes theories on existentialism, post-structuralism, phenomenology, deconstructionism and so on. Well-known philosophers in Europe during this period include Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida.

Dialectics is a method of argument or exposition that systematically weighs contradictory facts or ideas with a view to the resolution of their real or apparent contradictions.

In particular, Hegelian dialectics comprises three dialectical stages of development: thesis, antithesis and synthesis. First, the thesis gives rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis. The synthesis then becomes a new thesis which will in turn be negated by a new antithesis, leading to a new synthesis in future, as part of an ongoing progression towards an end goal, which is freedom.

Political theory or political philosophy refers to a general view, or specific ethic, political belief or attitude. Slavoj Zizek, a Sloven philosopher and cultural critic, writes widely on political theory, besides film theory, cultural studies, theology and psychoanalysis.

The “death of God” theology

According to Wikipedia, the death of God theology is a theological movement in which the belief in the traditional theistic God is either absent, or God is posited as having “died” in a historical or pre-historical event. One of the main proponents of such theology is John Caputo.

I think it has an important part in postmodern theology in critiquing and deconstructing religious concepts of god. It also liberates people from the kind of god that exists as a theological concept, ideological construct and/or psychological crutch, so that when freed from the idolisation and idealisation of god, people can discover their own truth and experience the presence in the absence that is beyond words.

It is interesting to see the significance of the cross in terms of the death of god, of which William Blake “celebrates a cosmic and historical movement of the Godhead that culminates in the death of God himself”. Similarly, the article noted that “The most (in-)famous proponent of the Death of God was the German philosopher and proto-existentialist Friedrich Nietzsche, who was largely responsible for bringing the phrase “God is Dead”. It reminds me of the zen koan “when you meet Buddha on the road, kill him.” Only by killing Buddha or killing God in terms of dropping all ideologies and theories of Buddha or god will we experience a transformation in our outlook, a paradigm shift, a reconstruction or a resurrection that brings forth new life that produces peace and freedom, so to speak.