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Re: [xmca] Kaustuv Roy and the Social Mediation of Despair

You never fail to set a furnished table with a feast of thought in your
posts. Thanks for the richness for "thinking and speech!

I would much rather have even seeming contradictions, multiple meanings and
personal semantics  in freedom( i.e "freedom's just another word for nothing
left to do"  Kristofferson <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kris_Kristofferson>and
 Foster <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Foster>) than in the (not that
far fetched) Orwellian Newspeak  word for it where freedom can ONLY mean,
"the dog is free of lice".


On Sat, Jan 22, 2011 at 6:00 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com>wrote:

> Well, of course, there are big differences between Jewish humor and
> Chinese; we Jews don't usually have quite so many pigs running around in our
> jokes. Yet it seems to me that the reversible figures of hope and grounds of
> despair are quite similar.
> Spinoza says somewhere that the only way to overcome a negative emotion is
> through a stronger, positive one. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have
> defined very clearly how to tell a negative emotion from a positive one.
> Worse, he doesn't really bother to tell us how to tell a stronger emotion
> from a weaker one, except for the test of Buridan's ass: when you are stuck
> between two emotions which impell you in opposite directions, the one which
> makes you act is the stronger one.
> It seems to me that a lot of Vygotsky's writing on both ethics are
> esthetics have, at bottom, an interesting paradox: an emotion which is
> actually quite weak on an individual level (say, the desire to draw a
> picture, something quite easily forgotten in everyday activity, or the
> desire to quite smoking) becomes enormously powerful on a social level.
> But the opposite seems equally true; an emotion that is overwhelming on an
> individual level simply disappears when it is framed as a social one. It
> seems to me that it's for this reason that we no longer read the "novels of
> conscience" that were such a big deal in the mid nineteenth century.
> (A brilliant Oxford graduate begins to doubt the truth of the thirty nine
> articles of the Anglican church, he is forced to give up his living,
> he becomes a non-conformist minister to the poor, he falls in love with a
> working class girl, dies of consumption....see what I mean? It's hard to
> even think of ONE! But "Nemesis of Faith", and "Robert Elsmere" were as
> famous in their time as Antonio Salieri's music was in his....)
> Since the nineteenth century (at least), art has really been struggling
> with the terrible idea that so bothered Sartre: that we humans are not works
> of art, that we are ends and not means, that without God, man's existence
> precedes any functional purpose the non-existent God might have had in mind,
> and man is condemned ("dao mei") to be free, where "free" is one of those
> words that means both itself and its opposite, both randomness and
> pointlessness and deliberateness and pointed volition.
> (Chinese women have menstrual periods, they use "dao mei" as a euphemism;
> it means pre-damnation in the old Protestant sense of predestination, and
> therefore LACK of choice, LACK of free will, determinism in a very direct
> and non-Spinozan sense, irrational biological determinism.)
> For Jews, and for Chinese people, the metaphysical double meaning of the
> word "free" is hard to understand. There are too many other people around to
> worry about stuff like that, and anyway, everybody knows that what "free"
> really means: Lucky you, you don't pay this time.
> David Kill-hogg
> Seoul National University of Education
> --- On Sat, 1/22/11, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
> From: mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Kaustuv Roy and the Social Mediation of Despair
> To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
> Date: Saturday, January 22, 2011, 8:55 AM
> Thanks David & David-- For pointing out Roy's work and the additional
> comments. It would be great if some of our Russian colleagues could chip in
> with apposite examples of Russian "anekdoti" which provide interesting
> variations on the themes you illustrated DKe.
> mike
> On Fri, Jan 21, 2011 at 4:10 PM, David Kellogg <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com
> >wrote:
> > First of all, let me wholeheartedly endorse Kaustuv Roy's book, and also
> > his paintings, and also his new project for a community art centre. Roy
> is a
> > pluralist in the very best sense; not the common po-mod variety who
> builds
> > pluralism on a general lack of seriousness, or the practical sort who is
> a
> > jack of all trades, but rather a deeply critical pluralist who sees all
> > paradigms as partial and no paradigm as perfect, and derives from
> precisely
> > this source the need for social mediation with everything.
> >
> > Including emotion! If you look at his paintings you can see that almost
> all
> > of them have some kind of ideational foreground embedded in an affective
> > background. I was pleasantly surprised at the optimism of the paintings,
> > since as David Kirshner remarks his book is a deeply pessimistic one. I
> am
> > sure that Roy's new teaching assignment agrees with him, and as Jesus
> Christ
> > says somewhere, it is better to be loved than tenured.
> >
> > And, secondly, for something (not) completely different. I'm in China, in
> > my wife's hometown of Xi'an, and it's the dead of winter. The streets are
> > dusty, people are cold and hungry, it is almost time for Spring Festival,
> > and fabulous amounts of money are sloshing around, directly over our
> heads
> > and just out of reach.
> >
> > Just as there is a distinctively Jewish kind of humor, there is a
> > distinctively Chinese sort. In fact, I think the two are consanguinous,
> > although probably not on speaking terms. Here's an example, which my
> > sister-in-law told me the other day.
> >
> > "A farmer had two pigs. The little pig complained about the food and the
> > accomodation, but the big pig told him that he was being ungrateful. "We
> > have enough to eat and a warm place to sleep, we can shit anywhere we
> like.
> > All we have to do is to show our gratitude by eating and sleeping and
> > shitting as gratefully as we can." So the little pig and slept and shat
> as
> > much as a pig could, and when it came time to choose a pig for Spring
> > Festival slaughter, the little pig was not so little any more. As the
> farmer
> > took the pig for his table, the big pig told him that he was lucky; he,
> > the big pig, had lived there for many years and he never got invited to
> the
> > Spring Festival feast even once...."
> >
> > As you can see, there are some common elements with Jewish humor: the
> > expectation of disaster and the social mediation of despair. There are
> also
> > some different elements, though: the self-serving nature of gratitude
> > and also of injunctions to be grateful, and above all the rather
> un-Jewish
> > critique of a concept I can only call "dao mei".
> >
> > "Dao mei" means that you are damned. Your evil fate is preordained, and
> any
> > attempt to resist it will simply make your ignominious failure and
> immanent
> > collapse longer, more complicated, and still more undignified. It's a
> very
> > Chinese idea, as well as a Jewish one of course. But in some ways the
> > CRITIQUE of "dao mei" is even more Chinese.
> >
> > Here's another example:
> >
> > "A pig farmer tried to save money by raising his own corn. He bought some
> > fertilizer to help it grow, but it was fake, so the crop died. In
> despair,
> > he bought insecticide to poison himself and his whole family at a
> farewell
> > banquet, but it was fake so everybody survived. His son was so overjoyed
> at
> > the failure of the suicide attempt that he bought Chinese liquor to
> > celebrate. It was fake, so everybody died."
> >
> > On the face of it, this is a perfect example of "dao mei". But when you
> > really look at it, you will see that it is just like the first joke: the
> > choices you make do matter, but the problem is that you don't have quite
> > enough information by yourself to make them properly. The social
> mediation
> > of despair is your only hope, but it is also an endless mine of new
> despair.
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Seoul National University of Education
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
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*Robert Lake  Ed.D.
*Assistant Professor
Social Foundations of Education
Dept. of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading
Georgia Southern University
P. O. Box 8144
Phone: (912) 478-5125
Fax: (912) 478-5382
Statesboro, GA  30460

 *Democracy must be born anew in every generation, and education is its
*-*John Dewey.
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