Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.
Like Kipling's Elephant's Child I begin to take stock of new conditions and look for the up side. So ... the advantages of Alzheimer's then ... 'Vantage #1: if you delete the hard-copy you will soon forget that whatever it was ever happened and it will stop bothering you.
I wish Goodnight Irene were as richly told as Blue Tail Fly. The story is as good, and between them they cover death and sexuality - two out of two ain't bad - but Goodnight Irene just doesn't quite make it. It is too short with too much chorous. I merged the verses I could find (that's why it looks longer) and put them in some kind of an order.
The photographs of Amboise Fleristil, official representative of Camp Lilavois in Haiti, come from Sitwayen Media ki soti Ayiti / Citizen Media from Haiti.
Someone who takes the time to look and who follows this blog may wonder why I didn't use one of the striking women among the photographs at Sitwayen. Why not Jacqueline Jean Batiste f'rinstance; in pink yet, and with what might appear to be an inviting smile? One of the people over at Rabble called me a 'chauvinist' last week; because I had the temerity to say, 'lovely young ladies over at Climate Action Network'. Doh!? They are young, and they are lovely; I know - I've met some of them. But that's not it, none of that is why Amboise Fleristil caught my attention - he has a quality, his direct & focussed hardness, a certain stance (?) ... that makes me want to know him better. I bet he could tell me a thing or two. And sure, there is something about his being about the only man in the montage. I have included a letter he wrote, see below. I'm not really convinced by the translations but I can't make out the original creole.
I mentioned already that I started this discussion over at Rabble, and it was a great disappointment. I went to bed feeling low and mean and woke with a nightmare at 3 AM (or maybe it was just the snow plows beeping in reverse in the parking lot out back).
And there was what the maggot media called a 'blizzard' in Toronto on Wednesday morning, 'Snowmageddon' - what a bunch of wussy wimps & girly men we have become here in this seaport town of k-k-Canadee-i-o. I believed them at first and went out (for the first time in days) into the early dawn. I am always hopeful that a storm will come one day and permanently bury the whole shitteree-i-o. But it was nothing, hardly even any wind - the city had it all plowed & salted & turned to slush before I ever set foot outside the door.
But then, as I got around to joining up the dots on the Rabble thing ... this is what I came up with ...
If there were to be an effective counterforce (which there isn't as far as I can see) I think it would be in the kind of concrete physical network of compassion imagined by Ivan Illich. Even knuckleheads like Bill McKibben can see that but unfortunately none of us knows how to go about building one. This discussion is an object lesson about what happens in the absence of such a network.A-and I went out into the 'storm' again to buy smokes, humming Blue Tail Fly, and feeling pretty good. A-and that good feeling gave me the energy to do something I have wanted to do for a long time.
So ... here is the bit from Charles Taylor's description of what Ivan Illich was on about, excerpted from A Secular Age. I have to make a few 'editorial opinion' remarks:
1 that the story is nowhere available in Ivan Illich's own words, at least not that I can find;
2 that Taylor tells this story much better than David Cayley does in The Rivers North of the Future, which is where Taylor got it (the references in the text I have provided are to this book);
3 that David Cayley's The Rivers North of the Future seems to me a nonsense; makes me want to throw it at the wall;
4 that Taylor is not above putting his own spin on things, as you can see a hint of in the final three paragraphs below, and more clearly in other parts of A Secular Age. They are wily & clever & not to be trusted these purveyors of official transcendence and you have to watch out for them. Like Kipling's crocodile, they may stretch your mind (or nose as the case may be) but they have their own agendas; and,
5 that it is eminently possible to consider Ivan Illich to be a bona fide nutter; check out his biography before you take his network vision aboard wholesale (just in case you are prone to cults of personality).
I called the network 'concrete' & 'physical'. Taylor uses 'network of agape' and 'fidelity to the network of agape' 'enfleshment' 'skein of relations' 'mutual fittingness' 'conspiratio' 'idiosyncratically enfleshed' 'response in the bowels' and finally 'l'armée des étoiles jetées dans le ciel' ... but really, the piece I copied out is not so long, just go and read it (or not).
There, that feels pretty good too. You never know, do you eh?
Cause & Effect: The 2010 Amazon Drought, by Simon Lewis, Paulo Brando, Oliver Phillips, Geertje van der Heijden, and Daniel Nepstad.
Abstract: In 2010, dry-season rainfall was low across Amazonia, with apparent similarities to the major 2005 drought. We analyzed a decade of satellite-derived rainfall data to compare both events. Standardized anomalies of dry-season rainfall showed that 57% of Amazonia had low rainfall in 2010 as compared with 37% in 2005 (≤–1 standard deviation from long-term mean). By using relationships between drying and forest biomass responses measured for 2005, we predict the impact of the 2010 drought as 2.2 × 1015 grams of carbon [95% confidence intervals (CIs) are 1.2 and 3.4], largely longer-term committed emissions from drought-induced tree deaths, compared with 1.6 ×1015 grams of carbon (CIs 0.8 and 2.6) for the 2005 event.
Last Sentence: If drought events continue, the era of intact Amazon forests buffering the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide may have passed.
You hardly have to be a world renowned scientist to see the pattern. "You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows," said brother Bob way back when.
While the gobbledegook politicians and feckless UN bureaucrats fiddle around the edges, being oh so careful not to offend their rapacious constituency - the oil barons, and their bankers and lick-spittle toadies, the lungs of the planet are sick and dying.
"Matar a Amazônia é suicídío da humanidade," ran the headline in the Jornal do Brasil some time ago - To kill the Amazon is suicide for humanity.
Ai Ai Ai! I can't remember if anyone is watching when they castrate Pilgermann, anyway it's a fiction; but we are all witness to the non-fiction deaths by stoning of Siddiqa and then Khayyam in Afghanistan last August; the rapes in the Congo & Darfur. ... There is some symmetry operating here that favours female imagery; and because I am a man who loves women in that way with honest adoration, I too am suffering as if this were a woman's body, the body of a woman I love, being dismembered and dragged in the street. Still, I am suspicious of it - I can't remember an equivalent lamentation from a woman, I'm sure there are some. Wikipedia contributors are almost exclusively men they say. ... Ah, it's best to ignore me, this is nonsense, I am simply overcome with grief.
Maybe the little-boy idiom of 'lungs' and 'set of lungs' for women's breasts has more in it than I thought?
There are more photographs to be seen at Zoom Fotos Brasil, and Ricardo Hossoe's Picasa.
Posts from October/November 2005:
Amazonas - Poder de Deus,Sure, there have been other droughts in the Amazon: 1902 and 1926 were very bad they say, and 1997/98. And there are innings of flood inbetween too, sure, 2009 f'rinstance. But not twice in a decade! And with the aid of satellite observations a new player is seen to be in the game - along with El Niño we now have high Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) making their contribution.
Amazonas - Pogo,
Amazonas - Geography Lesson,
Amazonas - O Rumo Perdido,
Amazonas - O Rumo Mas Perdido, and,
Amazonas - voltando para normal.
While the politicians are all playing mumbley-peg, and the bureaucrats are all hoping their wives will bend over at the BBQ ...
Black Eyed Peas' Boom Boom Pow ...
... from their 2009 album The E.N.D. The list of credits for this otherwise quite forgettable dreck just goes on and on and on and on (see here and here); but the only bit worth remembering, the dancers in their zentai suits, remain anonymous as far as I can see.
Here's one from 1964 the YouTube censors forgot: The Kinks' Tired of Waiting; and the only human coin with any real currency:
I’m pledging my time, to you, hopin’ you’ll come through, too.
Things change so quickly on the Internet. The 2005 Amazon posts (above) were quite legible and complete when I made them. Standards have obviously changed since then. And YouTube has been taken to task by the copyright mavens. It is such a joke really; they force YouTube to take down copyright songs and whatnot, but surely the exposure generates more sales than it cancels? What kid of muggle is satisfied with the lo-fi shit on YouTube? As usual I have probably got it all wrong. Oh well; Ho hum ...
Ai ai, a minha anima, o que acha?
A short lesson on etiquette from the editorial committee at the Globe. And our Barack was very impressed with Life of Pi apparently. An 'elegant proof of God' he calls it. I was not so impressed with either Life of Pi nor the sequel ... (?) ... oh yeah, Beatrice and Virgil, nor with Yann Martel himself. Whatever 'elegant proof of God' is in there I must'a missed it. Too far gone I suppose (I would include Neil Young's tune of that name but YouTube has prevented it). The point is that these 'gift books' he sent to Harper were just an excuse for a book of his own. I don't call it rude, I call it self-serving and pretentious, oh well ...
We had a secretary in the 70's, Elaine, who would occasionally, in moments of exuberance (and sometimes alcohol) lift her blouse to show off her perfectly delightful tits. It was Wordperfect in those days, and she did then as I do now - manage control codes explicitly; hanging paragraphs, bold, italic, indents and the like. I heard she married a lawyer and is happy somewhere. I hope so.
Unfortunately the Alzheimer's hard-copy trick does not work with old memories.
And as off-line storage this blogging business leaves a lot to be desired. This oh-so-applauded Google search engine does not actually search very well so it becomes tedious & difficult to find things you know are in there somewhere.
I guess you just have to live with it all, or what's left of it. The megrims wake you in the night, old failures, lack of integrity, actions done in bad faith; and you just have to either get up or go back to sleep somehow. OED tells me 'megrim' is migraine, but for me it is not that - it is feeling sorry for yourself one way and another, with or without justification.
I find denial works pretty well on these bad memory dreams; not denying the memory itself nor the dream neither, but the effect of it, the megrim - so instead of being bummed I just lay back and enjoy it!
The dreams keep coming back, sure; and some of the people I need forgiveness from are dead now of course, nothing to be done about that. I used to imagine us all singing in the heavenly celestial choir - not any more; but some are not dead yet either so there's still time for us to sing together right here.
Look'a that damned yam go man! Sent out a string there, from the bottom right, that just managed (with a teensy bit of help) to grab onto the ginger stalk and zip-a-dee-i-o! up she went! Who'd a thunk it?!
And yams're not so different from ants & rubber trees eh? Here's Frank to sing us all on outa here (YouTube didn't scuttle this one yet).
Be well gentle reader, sweet dreams.
Oh, did I forget to wonder sufficiently about horse thighs? Aka 'rump', but rump doesn't rhyme with fly - is that it? Is that all of it?
Is the slave lamenting the death of the master? Is he lamenting estate sales?
The richness of stories is in their abiguities for me, their ambivalences. Consider: "I’m stubborn as those garbage bags that Time cannot decay. I'm junk but I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet," and "Mister Jinx and Miss Lucy, they jumped in the lake. I'm not that eager to make a mistake."
Which is richer? ... Silly question, nevermind ...
1. The Elephant's Child (excerpt), Rudyard Kipling, 1912.
2. A Secular Age Chapter 20 Conversions, Section 2, Charles Taylor, 2007.
3. Letter of Amboise Fleristil, September 22 2010.
4. The 2010 Amazon Drought, November 2010/February 2011.
5. A gift list for Yann Martel, Editorial, February 4 2011.
6. Martel gets letter of praise from Obama, CP, March 3 2010.
The Elephant's Child (excerpt), Rudyard Kipling, 1912.
At the end of the third day a fly came and stung him on the shoulder, and before he knew what he was doing he lifted up his trunk and hit that fly dead with the end of it.
''Vantage number one!' said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake. 'You couldn't have done that with a mere-smear nose. Try and eat a little now.'
Before he thought what he was doing the Elephant's Child put out his trunk and plucked a large bundle of grass, dusted it clean against his fore-legs, and stuffed it into his own mouth.
''Vantage number two!' said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake. 'You couldn't have done that with a mear-smear nose. Don't you think the sun is very hot here?'
'It is,' said the Elephant's Child, and before he thought what he was doing he schlooped up a schloop of mud from the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo, and slapped it on his head, where it made a cool schloopy-sloshy mud-cap all trickly behind his ears.
''Vantage number three!' said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake. 'You couldn't have done that with a mere-smear nose. Now how do you feel about being spanked again?'
''Scuse me,' said the Elephant's Child, 'but I should not like it at all.'
'How would you like to spank somebody?' said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake.
'I should like it very much indeed,' said the Elephant's Child.
'Well,' said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake, 'you will find that new nose of yours very useful to spank people with.'
'Thank you,' said the Elephant's Child, 'I'll remember that; and now I think I'll go home to all my dear families and try.'
So the Elephant's Child went home across Africa frisking and whisking his trunk. When he wanted fruit to eat he pulled fruit down from a tree, instead of waiting for it to fall as he used to do. When he wanted grass he plucked grass up from the ground, instead of going on his knees as he used to do. When the flies bit him he broke off the branch of a tree and used it as a fly-whisk; and he made himself a new, cool, slushy-squshy mud-cap whenever the sun was hot. When he felt lonely walking through Africa he sang to himself down his trunk, and the noise was louder than several brass bands. He went especially out of his way to find a broad Hippopotamus (she was no relation of his), and he spanked her very hard, to make sure that the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake had spoken the truth about his new trunk. The rest of the time he picked up the melon rinds that he had dropped on his way to the Limpopo — for he was a Tidy Pachyderm.
A Secular Age Chapter 20 Conversions, Section 2, Charles Taylor, 2007.
[pages 737 ff]
Is this a loss? One can argue that it is. First, in that in identifying the Christian life with a life lived in conformity with the norms of our civilization, we lose sight of the further, greater transformation which Christian faith holds out, the raising of human life to the divine (theiosis). Secondly, as Ivan Illich has so forcefully argued, something is lost when we take the way of living together that the Gospel points us to and make of it a code of rules enforced by organizations erected for this purpose. I want to follow Illich's argument a bit more fully, because as should become evident, his story is quite close to the one I have been trying to tell in these pages. Indeed, I have learned a lot from him.
This understanding is rooted in a Christian faith. Illich, who had earlier been a priest, remained a Catholic Christian, orthodox in his theology, but profoundly original and iconoclastic in his understanding of the Church in history. He saw the actual development of the Christian churches and of Christian civilization (what we used to call "Christendom") as a "corruption" of Christianity.
Scholars agree that the Christian church which arose in the ancient world was a new kind of religious association, that it created around itself new "service" institutions, like hospitals and hospices for the needy. It was heavily engaged in the practical works of charity. This kind of activity remained important throughout the long centuries of Christendom, until in the modern era, these institutions have been taken over by secular bodies, often by governments. Seen within the history of Western civilization, the present-day welfare state can be understood as the long-term heir to the early Christian church.
Now most people, whether Christian or not, would see this as a positive credit to Christianity, as a "progressive" move in history for which the Church is responsible. Without necessarily denying that good has come from this, Illich sees also its dark side. In particular, he sees in the way this has worked out a profound betrayal of the Christian message.
Illich starts right off in Chapter 1 to explain this, using what is perhaps the most famous story from the New Testament, the parable of the Good Samaritan. This arises out of a discussion of the meaning of the precept from the Ten Commandments: Love your neighbour as yourself. A scribe asks Jesus: "but who is my neighbour?", and Jesus' answer is the story. A traveler is robbed and beaten and left by the side of the road. A priest and a Levite — that is, important figures in the Jewish community — pass by "on the other side". Finally a Samaritan — that is, a despised outsider — comes, and he takes up the man, binds his wounds, and takes him to recuperate at a nearby inn.
So what kind of answer is this to the original question? We moderns tend to think that it's obvious. Our neighbours, the people we ought to help when they're in this kind of plight, are not just the fellow members of our group, tribe, nation; but any human being, regardless of the limits of tribal belonging. We can generalize this, and say that all human beings, without discrimination, are the proper beneficiaries of our help, which ought to be given generously, following the example of the Samaritan. This story can be seen as one of original building blocks out of which our modern universalist moral consciousness has been built.
So we take in the lesson, but we put it in a certain register, that of moral rules, how we ought to behave. The higher moral rules are the universal ones, those which apply across the whole human species. We concentrate on the move out of the parochial. But in Illich's view, in this we are missing what is essential here. What the story is opening for us is not a set of universal rules, applying anywhere and everywhere, but another way of being. This involves on one hand a new motivation, and on the other, a new kind of community.
Illich's take on the parable can be put in this way: there are earlier forms of religious and social life which (a) are based on a strong sense of "we", more fundamental than the "I", hence a notion of insider/outsider, and (b) have a sense of the demonic, both the powers of darkness which surround us, and the spirits which protect us against them.
These pre-modern ways of life also (c) have a strong sense of the fitting, of proportion. This means (i) that the things in the world have their appropriate form that they must live out, or live up to (one way of articulating this is the Plato-Aristotle notion of Forms), and (ii) they are set in a cosmos, where different parts correspond to other parts, and on different levels: heaven and earth, up and down, male and female, etc. (chapter 9).
The Gospel opens up a new way, which breaks open these limits. The parable of the Samaritan illustrates this. So far, Illich agrees with the standard view. The Samaritan is moved by the wounded man; he moves to act, and in doing so inaugurates (potentially) a new relation of friendship/love/charity with this person. But this cuts across the boundaries of the permitted "we's" in his world. It is a free act of his "I". Illich's talk of freedom here might mislead a modern. It is not something he generates just out of himself; it is that he responds to this person. He feels called to respond, however, not by some principle of "ought", but by this wounded person himself. And in so responding, he frees himself from the bounds of the "we". He also acts outside of the carefully constructed sense of the sacred, of the demons of darkness, and various modes of prophylaxis against them which have been erected in "our" culture, society, religion (often evident in views of the outsider as "unclean").
This shakes up the cosmos and the proportionalities which are established in it in "our" society, but it does not deny proportionality. It creates a new kind of fittingness, belonging together, between Samaritan and wounded Jew. They are fitted together in a disymmetric proportionality (chapter 17, p. 197) which comes from God, which is that of agape, and which became possible because God became flesh. The enfleshment of God extends outward, through such new links as the Samaritan makes with the Jew, into a network, which we call the Church. But this is a network, not a categorical grouping; that is, it is a skein of relations which link particular, unique, enfleshed people to each other, rather than a grouping of people together on the grounds of their sharing some important property (as in modern nations, we are all Canadians, Americans, French people; or universally, we are all rights-bearers, etc.). It resembles earlier kin networks in this regard. (In a tribe, the important thing is not the category we share in, but that I am related to this person as my father, that as my uncle, that other as my cousin, etc. Which is why anthropologists discover to their surprise that in "primitive" societies in the Amazon, say, people had words for the different roles, moieties, clans, etc., but no name for the whole group.) But it is unlike tribal kinship groups in that it is not confined to the established "we", that it creates links across boundaries, on the basis of a mutual fittingness which is not based on kinship but on the kind of love which God has for us, which we call agape.
The corruption of this new network comes when it falls back into something more "normal" in worldly terms. Sometimes a church community becomes a tribe (or takes over an existing tribal society), and treats outsiders as Jews treated Samaritans (Belfast). But the really terrible corruption is a kind of falling forward, in which the church develops into something unprecedented. The network of agape involves a kind of fidelity to the new relations; and because we can all too easily fall away from this (which falling away we call "sin"), we are led to shore up these relations; we institutionalize them, introduce rules, divide responsibilities. In this way, we keep the hungry fed, the homeless housed, the naked clothed; but we are now living caricatures of the network life. We have lost some of the communion, the "conspiratio", which is at the heart of the Eucharist (chapter 20). The spirit is strangled.
Something new emerges out of all this: modern bureaucracies, based on rationality, and rules. Rules prescribe treatments for categories of people, so a tremendously important feature of our lives is that we fit into categories; our rights, entitlements, burdens, etc., depend on these. These shape our lives, make us see ourselves in new ways, in which category-belonging bulks large, and the idiosyncratically-enfleshed individual becomes less relevant, not to speak of the ways in which this enfleshed person flourishes through his/her network of friendships. For Illich, there is something monstrous, alienating about this way of life. The monstrous comes from a corruption of the highest, the agape-network. Corrupted Christianity gives rise to the modern.
Illich's vision goes beyond this understanding of the bureaucratic hardening of the Church, which happened relatively early on, and affects most branches of the Church, even Oriental ones. He sees that the process was taken much farther in Latin Christendom. We see it in the criminalization or judicialization of sin and its remission (chapter 5). Rules, oughts, and punishments take over more and more. But he also sees it in a series of developments which everyone recognizes as central to Western modernity, but which are hard to conceptualize: things like the growth of an objectifying standpoint on everything, including human life, which steadily becomes more and more dominant.
We see this in what he calls the medicalization of the body. The medical knowledge of the body, which tracks the way our organs work, the various chemical processes which underlie these workings, and so on, involves our taking a standpoint outside ourselves. They devalue and set aside the lived body and its experience. This is not the source of real, scientific knowledge, and it must be set aside if we want really to understand what is going on within us. We get trained to see ourselves from the outside, as it were, as objects of science. But this doesn't just displace lived experience, it also alters it. The sense of imbalance, of not being "dans mon assiette", for instance, is no longer taken as a primary phenomenon, but just as a symptom of some underlying malfunction; and so is not attended to any more in the same way. Instead, I become more acutely aware of the things I am trained to see as important symptoms of life-threatening malfunction.
So medicalization alters our phenomenology of lived experience, suppressing certain facets of this experience, making other recessive, bringing out still others. But it also covers its tracks; we don't see that we're being led to see/feel ourselves in different ways, we just believe naively that this is experience itself; we imagine that people have always experienced themselves this way. And we are baffled by accounts of earlier ages.
Illich follows this development of the decentred, outside view through a series of often startling analyses: e.g., the development of the gaze, our eventual capture by a view of ourselves as we show up in media images, or in X-ray imaging, or in various ways of representing underlying processes visually, on graphs, etc. ("visiotypes"; pp. 158-160). We are in the process alienated from our anchoring in the world, in real fleshly reality; which we can only recover access to through the lived body, whose testimony is being distortively shaped or even denied by "virtual" reality.
Similarly in his tracing of our self-conception as users of tools, as separable instruments; and then into our sense of ourselves as parts of systems (chapter 13). We move ever farther away from the lived body. This is the process I spoke about earlier with the term "excarnation".
This takes us ever farther away from the network of agape. This can only be created in enfleshment. Agape moves outward from the guts; the New Testament word for "taking pity", splangnizesthai, places the response in the bowels. We cease being able to make sense of this the more we go along with these alienating self-images. Resurrection only makes sense when we take seriously enfleshment (p. 214), i.e., overcome excarnation.
But the alienating view is also partly a creation of Christianity. There is a desire for power here, of course, but also the aspiration to help, heal, make life better. (Bacon links the new science to "improving the condition of mankind".) It is another monstrous creation of (corrupted) Christianity. And the corruption of the best is the worst (Corruptio optimi pessima).
Illich's text here also offers a very deep insight, still in some ways inchoate, of our fears of darkness, and the powers of evil. In the earliest forms of religious life, we kept these at bay partly by propitiating them, and partly by turning for protection to benign spirits, eventually God. The new path of the Gospel invites us to step out of the old protections, erected by the old "we's", confident in our impunity before these forces. But this impunity is the obverse side of our fidelity to the network of agape; and as we turn our back on that, try to "organize", to regulate the network, we fall away, and the fears recur. But now in a new register; we face them more and more alone, without the "cover" of the old collective protections (chapter 6).
This drives us further in the direction of objectification/disenchantment. Science just negates, denies this whole dimension of dark forces. We are now reassured, our fears calmed. But our sense of them remains in two ways: first, the fascination with the idea of such forces, and benign counter-forces; so much of popular stories, films, art, recreates them (Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Pullman, Harry Potter). We give ourselves frissons, while still holding the reality at bay. Second, they re-emerge in modes of diabolical evil which we find ourselves involved in (Holocaust, genocides, Gulags, killing fields, etc.).
We can see that Illich's story is not just about Christianity, but also about modern civilization. The latter is in some way the historical creation of "corrupted" Christianity. This in many ways comes close to the story I have been trying to tell: how the modern secular world emerged out of the more and more rule-bound and norm-governed Reform of Latin Christendom.
This civilization has pushed to its farthest limits the move which Illich describes as the corrupting of Christianity: that is, in response to the failure and inadequacy of a motivation grounded in a sense of mutual belonging, it erects a system. This incorporates (a) a code or set of rules, (b) a set of disciplines which make us internalize these rules, and (c) a system of rationally constructed organizations (private and public bureaucracies, universities, schools) to make sure that we carry out what the rules demand. All these become second nature to us, including the decentring from our lived experience which we have to carry through in order to become disciplined, rational, disengaged subjects. From within this perspective, the standard account of the Good Samaritan story appears just obvious: it is a stage on the road to a universal morality of rules.
Modern ethics illustrates this fetishism of rules and norms. Not just law, but ethics is seen in terms of rules (Kant). The spirit of the law is important, where it is, because it too expresses some general principle. For Kant, the principle is that we should put regulation by reason, or humanity as rational agency, first. In contrast, as we have seen, the network of agape puts first the gut-driven response to this person. This can't be reduced to a general rule. Because we can't live up to this, we need rules. "Because of the hardness of your hearts". It's not that we could just abolish them. But modern liberal civilization fetishizes them. We think we have to find the RIGHT system of rules, norms, and then follow them through unfailingly. We can't see any more the way these rules fit badly our world of enfleshed human beings, we fail to notice the dilemmas they have to sweep under the carpet: for instance, justice versus mercy; or justice versus a renewed relation — the kind of dilemma which post-Apartheid South Africa faced, and which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was meant to meet, as an attempt to get beyond the existing codes of retribution. We connect up here with the discussion in Chapter 18, section 12.
In this perspective, something crucial in the Samaritan story gets lost. A world ordered by this system of rules, disciplines, organizations can only see contingency as an obstacle, even an enemy and a threat. The ideal is to master it, to extend the web of control so that contingency is reduced to a minimum. By contrast, contingency is an essential feature of the story as an answer to the question that prompted it. Who is my neighbour? The one you happen across, stumble across, who is wounded there in the road. Sheer accident also has a hand in shaping the proportionate, the appropriate response. It is telling us something, answering our deepest questions: this is your neighbour. But to hear this, we have to escape from the monomaniacal perspective in which contingency can only be an adversary requiring control. Illich develops this theme profoundly in chapters 3 and 4.
What is Illich telling us? That we should dismantle our code-driven, disciplined, objectified world? Illich was a thoroughgoing radical, and I don't want to blunt his message. I can't claim to speak for him, but this is what I draw from his work. We can't live without codes, legal ones which are essential to the rule of law, moral ones which we have to inculcate in each new generation. But even if we can't fully escape the nomocratic-judicialized-objectified world, it is terribly important to see that that is not all there is, that it is in many ways dehumanizing, alienating; that it often generates dilemmas that it cannot see, and in driving forward, acts with great ruthlessness and cruelty. The various modes of political correctness, from Left and Right, illustrate this every day.
As does also the continued pull to violence in our world. Codes, even the best codes, are not as innocent as they seem. They take root in us as an answer to some of our deepest metaphysical needs, that for meaning, for instance, or that for a sense of our own goodness. The code can rapidly become the crutch for our sense of moral superiority. This is, of course, another important theme of the New Testament, as we see with the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.
Worse, this moral superiority feeds on the proof offered by the contrast case, the evil, warped, inhuman ones. We even give our own goodness its crowning proof when we wage war on evil. We will do battle against axes of evil and networks of terror; and then we discover to our surprise and horror that we are reproducing the evil we defined ourselves against.
Codes, even the best codes, can become idolatrous traps, which tempt us to complicity in violence. Illich can remind us not to become totally invested in the code, even the best code of a peace-loving, egalitarian, liberalism. We should find the centre of our spiritual lives beyond the code, deeper than the code, in networks of living concern, which are not to be sacrificed to the code, which must even from time to time subvert it. This message comes out of a certain theology, but it could be heard with profit by everybody.
I have been arguing, in part following Illich, that there has been a long-standing tendency in the West to slide towards an identification of Christian faith and civilizational order. This not only makes us lose sight of the full transformation that Christians are called to, but it also makes us lose a crucial critical distance from the order which we identify as Christendom, whether it be the one at present established, or some earlier one which we are fighting to restore.
Illich thinks that this take-over of Christianity by an order which negates its spirit is the mystery of evil (mysterium inequitatis, pp. 169-170). Even if one doesn't go this far, one can see the dangers inherent in it. The belief that God is on our side, that He blesses our order, is one of the most powerful sources of chauvinism. It can be a fertile inspiration to violence. For our enemies must be His enemies, and these surely must be fought with every means at our disposal. That is the danger that the Catholic Church eventually perceived, which led to the Papal condemnation of Action Francaise in 1926. And this in spite of the fact that the particular civilizational order which this movement was struggling for, a restored Catholic monarchy, was highly attractive to many churchmen. Maurras tried to reassure his Catholic followers with his slogan "Politique, d'abord", implying that the political alliance was merely provisional, and didn't imply an identity of goal; but in fact what was going on was a kind of integral fusion of faith and political programme, which nourished a kind of conflict which hovered constantly on the edge of violence, with Maurras calling for the assassination of Republican politicians.
The Papal condemnation was the occasion of Maritain's break with Maurras, and his move towards a very different position, one in which he came to see the reconstruction of Christian civilization in novel terms; not as a return to Christendom, that is, to a single civilization homogeneously and integrally Christian, but limited to one area. Rather he sought a unity of Christian culture on a global scale, but in a dispersed network of Christian lay institutions and centres of intellectual and spiritual life. "Au lieu d'un chateau fort dressé au milieu des terres, il faudrait penser a l'armée des étoiles jetées dans le ciel." (Instead of a fortified castle erected in the middle of the land, we must think of an army of stars thrown into the sky.) The central feature of this new culture will be "l'avenèment spirituel, non pas de l'ego centré sur lui-même, mais de la subjectivité créatrice" (the spiritual advent, not of the self-centred ego, but of creative subjectivity). This new understanding of philosophy and the modern condition reached its fullest expression in Maritain's Humanisme Intégral.
Letter of Amboise Fleristil, September 22 2010.
Nous avons beaucoup de problèmes et la situation dans laquelle nous nous trouvons est vraiment difficile. Depuis ce 12 janvier, les choses deviennent de plus en plus compliquées pour nous. Nous n'avons pas de travail et pas d'argent. Nous ne sommes pas encadrés. On nous donne des espoirs mais rien ne parvient jusqu'à nous sauf la saison cyclonique qui approche. Va-t-on devoir attendre un autre 12 janvier une autre catastrophe, alors que tout est si difficile pour nous ? Que sera-t-il fait pour nous qui vivons sous les tentes? Nous mangeons la poussière. Nous voulons retourner chez nous. Comment pouvez-vous nous aider? On parle d'un processus de reconstruction depuis le recensement de l'OIM dans le camp, cependant toutes les démarches sont mortes et rien n'a encore commencé. Devrons nous attendre à jamais? Nous aimerions trouver du travail, car il est très pénible d'attendre ainsi et devoir compter sur l'aide des autres. Quand on travaille, on souffre moins. Si OIM pouvait nous donner du travail ce serait mieux pour nous et pour nos familles.
Merci pour votre compréhension, nous espérons que notre demande aboutira à quelque chose de positif.
We have many problems and the situation we find ourselves in is dreadful. Since January 12th, things have only gotten worse. We do not have work and we do not have money. There is no supervision. We are shown hope, but nothing has come to us except the hurricane season. Must we wait for another 12 of January, for another disaster, when things are so difficult for us? What will be done for those of us living in tents? We are eating dust. We want to go home. How can you help? There are talks of a rebuilding process since IOM carried out a registration in the camp but nothing has happened. Must we wait forever? We want to find work, because it is very painful to wait and be dependent on others for help. When we work, we suffer less. We believe that if IOM could give us work, things would be better for us and our families. Thank you for your understanding, we hope that our request will result
in something positive.
The 2010 Amazon Drought, November 2010/February 2011.
[The article is short and well summarized in the abstract and charts, but until you have seen it you cannot know this. 'Science Magazine' and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) want $15US for a look at it - which is outrageous, especially considering that none of this money flows back to the scientist authors. So I have copied it below as HTML (so some formatting may have been lost).]
Simon L. Lewis,1*† Paulo M. Brando,2,3* Oliver L. Phillips,1 Geertje M. F. van der Heijden,4 Daniel Nepstad2
Several global circulation models (GCMs) project an increase in the frequency and severity of drought events affecting the Amazon region as a consequence of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (1). The proximate cause is twofold, increasing Pacific sea surface temperatures (SSTs), which may intensify El Niño Southern Oscillation events and associated periodic Amazon droughts, and an increase in the frequency of historically rarer droughts associated with high Atlantic SSTs and northwest displacement of the intertropical convergence zone (1, 2). Such droughts may lead to a loss of some Amazon forests, which would accelerate climate change (3). In 2005, a major Atlantic SST–associated drought occurred, identified as a 1-in-100-year event (2). Here,we report on a second drought in 2010, when Atlantic SSTs were again high.
We calculated standardized anomalies from a decade of satellite-derived dry-season rainfall data (Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, 0.25° resolution) across 5.3 million km2 of Amazonia for 2010 and 2005 (4). We used identical reference periods to allow a strict comparison of both drought events (4). On the basis of this index, the 2010 drought wasmore spatially extensive than the 2005 drought (rainfall anomalies ≤ –1 SD over 3.0 million km2 and 1.9 million km2 in 2010 and 2005, respectively; Fig. 1 and fig. S1). Because dry-season anomalies do not necessarily correlate with water stress for forest trees, we also calculated the maximum climatological water deficit (MCWD) for each year as themost negative cumulative value of water input minus estimated forest evapotranspiration (5). This measure of drought intensity correlates with Amazon forest tree mortality (6). In 2010, the difference in MCWD from the decadal mean that significantly increases tree mortality (≤ –25 mm) spanned 3.2 million km2, compared with 2.5 million km2 in 2005. The 2010 drought had three identifiable epicenters in southwestern Amazonia, north-central Bolivia, and Brazil’sMato Grosso state. In 2005 only a single southwestern Amazonia epicenter was detectable (fig. S1).
The relationship between the change inMCWD and changes in aboveground carbon storage derived from forest inventory plots affected by the 2005 drought (6) provides a first approximation of the biomass carbon impact of the 2010 event. Summing the change in carbon storage predicted by the 2010 MCWD difference across Amazonia gives a total impact of 2.2 Pg C [95% confidence intervals (CI) 1.2 and 3.4], compared with 1.6 PgC for the 2005 event (CI 0.8, 2.6). These values are relative to the predrought carbon uptake and represent the sum of (1) the temporary cessation of biomass increases over the 2-year drought measurement interval (~0.8 Pg C) and (2) biomass lost via tree mortality, a committed carbon flux from decomposition over several years (~1.4 Pg C after the 2010 drought). In most years, these forests are a carbon sink; drought reverses this sink.
Considerable uncertainty remains, related to the soil characteristics within the epicenters of the 2010 drought, which could moderate or exacerbate climatic drying, whether a second drought will kill more trees (i.e., those damaged by the initial drought) or fewer (i.e., if most drought-susceptible trees are already dead), and whether drought slows soil respiration (temporarily offsetting the biomass carbon source). New field measurements will be required to refine our initial estimates.
The two recent Amazon droughts demonstrate a mechanism by which remaining intact tropical forests of South America can shift from buffering the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide to accelerating it. Indeed, two major droughts in a decade may largely offset the net gains of ~0.4 PgCyear−1 in intact Amazon forest aboveground biomass in nondrought years. Thus, repeated droughts may have important decadal-scale impacts on the global carbon cycle.
Droughts co-occur with peaks of fire activity (5). Such interactions among climatic changes, human actions, and forest responses represent potential positive feedbacks that could lead to widespread Amazon forest degradation or loss (7). The significance of these processes will depend on the growth response of tropical trees to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, fire management, and deforestation trends (3, 7). Nevertheless, any shift to drier conditions would favor drought-adapted species, and drier forests store less carbon (8). If drought events continue, the era of intact Amazon forests buffering the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide may have passed.
Fig. 1. (A and B) Satellite-derived standardized anomalies for dry-season rainfall for the two most extensive droughts of the 21st century in Amazonia. (C and D) The difference in the 12-month (October to September) MCWD from the decadal mean (excluding 2005 and 2010), a measure of drought intensity that correlates with tree mortality. (A) and (C) show the 2005 drought; (B) and (D) show the 2010 drought.
References and Notes:
1. Y. Malhi et al., Science 319, 169 (2008); 10.1126/science.1146961.
2. J. A. Marengo et al., J. Clim. 21, 495 (2008).
3. A. Rammig et al., New Phytol. 187, 694 (2010).
4. Material and methods are available as supporting material on Science Online.
5. L. E. O. C. Aragão et al., Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L07701 (2007).
6. O. L. Phillips et al., Science 323, 1344 (2009).
7. S. L. Lewis, Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London Ser. B 361, 195 (2006).
8. E. M. Nogueira, B. W. Nelson, P. M. Fearnside, M. B. França, Á. C. Alves de Oliveira, For. Ecol. Manage. 255, 2963 (2008).
9. We thank T. Baker and L. Aragão for assistance and the Royal Society, Moore Foundation, and NSF for funding.
1 School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.
2 Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia, Avenida Nazaré 669, 66035-170 Belém, Brazil.
3 Woods Hole Research Center,
Falmouth, MA 02450, USA.
4 Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.
* These authors contributed equally to this manuscript.
† To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: s.l.lewis[AT]leeds.ac.uk
Supporting Online Material:
Rainfall anomaly calculation used dry-season months (Jul-Sept) of each year and identical reference periods (i.e. 2000-2009, excluding 2005) following standard methods (S1,S2). Following S3, Amazonia is limited to that identified as forest from the vegetation map of South America by the Global Land Cover 2000 Project, updated for Brazil using the deforestation data up to 2006 obtained from Brazil’s national space institutes’ (INPE) Assessment of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazonia project, a total of 5.28 million km2. The low rainfall documented in the analyses led to low river levels, for example, the level of the Rio Negro (the largest tributary of the Amazon river) was 13.63 meters lower in October than the long-term average for that month, reaching its lowest levels since records began in 1902 (Brazilian Geology Service; http://www.cprm.gov.br/).
Maximum Climatalogical Water Deficit calculation used a 12-month ‘year’ running from October to September (i.e. ‘2010’ is October 2009 to September 2010) and identical reference periods (i.e. 2000-2009, excluding 2005) using a standard formula (S2). Evapotranspiration (ET) is estimated to be 100 mm per month, derived from in situ measurements (S2). Including more sophisticated ET data, soil information and alternative rainfall data inputs to calculate various water deficit metrics did not improve correlations between drought indices and biomass dynamics in previous analyses of the 2005 drought (S3). Note that TRMM data tends to underestimate MCWD by up to 40% for values more negative than -300 mm, hence our results may be conservative (S2).
The relationship between the change in MCWD and change in biomass from
Amazon plot inventory data measured across the RAINFOR network to estimate the impact of the 2005 drought event is:
Δ AGB=0.3778 - 0.052 * ΔMCWD (Eq. 1)
where AGB is the above-ground biomass (S3). The time interval of the reference period differs for each plot, determined by the pre-2005 census measurement period of the plot. The time period of the 2005 interval also differs between plots, determined by the measurement interval that incorporated the 2005 drought (mean 2005 drought interval is 1.97 yrs). The carbon impact estimates for each drought were derived from the medians, 2.5 and 97.5 percentiles from bootstrapped plot data of AGB differences for each MCWD 3 difference value for each 0.25° gridcell and summed over the Amazon. We extrapolate beyond the measured limits of Eq. 1 (ΔMCWD <-120 mm), as recent analyses suggest that this type of relationship holds for more intense droughts (S4). However, a conservative estimate with no extrapolation (i.e. where biomass change for ΔMCWD<-120 is equal to that from ΔMCWD=120), gives an impact of 1.4 Pg C (CI, 0.7, 2.4) and 1.9 Pg C (CI, 1.1, 3.1) for 2005 and 2010 respectively. The total carbon impact is calculated exactly as in (S3), and thus includes only the Amazon forest droughted area and includes proportionate changes in below-ground tree carbon (roots) and smaller stems than those monitored in the inventory plots. The 2005 values reported here are slightly lower than previously published (S3), because our reference period used to calculate ΔMCWD in 2005 differs.
Note that these values represent drought impacts. Because the baseline mean pre-drought state of Amazon forests is an increase in biomass carbon storage (~0.4 Pg yr-1), and the average drought measurement interval is ~2 yrs, while the total carbon impact is 2.2 Pg of carbon, the biomass carbon estimated to have been lost due to the 2010 drought is 2.2 – (2 × 0.4) = 1.4 Pg. Excluding extrapolation beyond ΔMCWD<-120 mm, the biomass carbon estimated to have been lost is 1.9 – (2 × 0.4) = 1.1 Pg.
Drought epicenters were identified based on the spatial aggregation of pixels with MCWD difference of <-100 mm, after the 3 nearest neighbors were averaged.
References for Supplementary Online Material
S1 S. R. Saleska, K. Didan, A. R. Huete, H. R. da Rocha, Science 318, 612 (2007).
S2 L. E. O. C. Aragão et al., Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L07701 (2007).
S3 O. L. Phillips et al. Science 323, 1344 (2009).
S4 O. L. Phillips et al. New Phytologist 187, 631 (2010).
Fig. S1. (A) Upper left panel shows the frequency distributions of satellite-derived rainfall standardized anomalies for the 2010 drought (red line) and 2005 drought (blue dashed line). (B) Upper right panel shows frequency distributions of the difference in Maximum Climatological Water Deficit (MCWD) from the decadal mean (a measure of drought intensity that correlates with tree mortality), for the 2010 drought (red line) and 2005 drought (blue dashed line). (C) Lower left, shows drought epicenter in 2005, based on ΔMCWD <-100 mm. (D) Lower right, shows drought epicenter in 2010, based on ΔMCWD <-100 mm.
A gift list for Yann Martel, Editorial, February 4 2011.
Art is a gift, and Canadian novelist Yann Martel is an artist of high achievement, yet it does not follow that he knows how to give a gift. So the first book we would give to Mr. Martel, were we inclined to send him one every second Monday, as he has done for (or to) Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette & Modern Manners. (“Everyone deserves kindness and respect.”)
There was something snarky and unkind, perhaps even verging on rudeness, in Mr. Martel’s gift of 100 books, and in the accompanying letters, well-written and insightful but too often containing a chest-poke of condescension, or irony. And not only in proffering a book by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror (“. . . a mind that is tough, sharp and brave. I’m glad to say that Mr. Ignatieff has such a mind”). There was always the implicit notion that because Mr. Harper is a Conservative he is therefore a barbarian who does not read good books, that he thinks in corporate and political terms, not human ones. Good books create lasting effects, said Mr. Martel (a nice thought, but dubious), while large corporations wither away and leave little behind (another dubious notion, as the nation-building histories of the Canadian Pacific Railway and Hudson’s Bay Company suggest). It is fine for a writer to give books to improve someone – a writer probably cannot help but give books in just such a way – but Mr. Martel made it a little too obvious that, in his view, Mr. Harper is desperately in need of intellectual and moral improvement. For instance, The Gift, by Lewis Hyde, tucked in at no. 55, is about art as a gift to the world. So we would give Mr. Martel The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce by Deirdre McCloskey, so he would know how it feels to be on the receiving end of didactic intent. We would also give him Books Do Furnish a Room, by Anthony Powell, because we like the title and because the hero is a hapless avant-garde writer who calls himself X. Trapnel, which is rather close to Y. Martel.
Having said all that, we would be remiss not to thank Mr. Martel, because the list (see http://www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca/) of 100 novels, novellas, poetry books, children’s books and miscellanea, with accompanying letters, is a wonderful gift to all Canadians, from a writer who genuinely loves books. We will have our correspondence secretary send off a thank-you note on our behalf.
Martel gets letter of praise from Obama, CP, March 3 2010.
Saskatoon author Yann Martel has received a handwritten letter of praise from U.S. President Barack Obama.
Martel has posted a picture of the note, received just over a week ago, on his website, www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca.
In it, Obama writes in black ink that he and his daughter just finished reading Martel's novel Life of Pi, which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2002.
The president calls it “a lovely book” and “an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.”
On Monday, Martel wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to let him know about Obama's note, and how elated it made him feel.
The letter to Harper is one of many Martel has written to the prime minister in some two years in an effort to inspire an “imaginative depth” within him.
Martel sends one letter to Harper every two weeks, along with a literary work.
Fifty-five of the letters are published in Martel's recently released book, What is Stephen Harper Reading?
Martel's highly anticipated follow-up to Life of Pi will be released on April 6. Titled Beatrice and Virgil, the novel is a Holocaust tale told through animals.