Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vaclav Havel - The Power of the Powerless"

Here is a great piece, it is part of Vaclav Havel's famous essay, "The Power of the Powerless"
The post-totalitarian system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies: government by bureaucracy is called popular government; the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class; the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his ultimate liberation; depriving people of information is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.
Individuals need not believe all these mystifications, but they must behave as though they did, or they must at least tolerate them in silence, or get along well with those who work with them. For this reason, however, they must live within a lie. They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them to have accepted their life with it and in it. For by this very fact, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Barack Obama's speech in Cairo

Barack Obama's speech in Cairo:

I like these final paragraphs of his speech. I think it speaks at something deeper and, if there is one thing that Obama is good at that is oration. And, I fully believe that words are important, they can help build and sustain bonds and open up new ways of interacting.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort - a sustained effort - to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples - a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

von Hayek, Denationalising of Money

"Though the popular tendency in economics is to accept only statistically testable theories...they have acquired a quite undeserved reputation." (von Hayek, Denationalising of Money, p. 48)

I think that this is one of the biggest battles in the field of economics and more generally in the study, or need for a renewed emphasis, on Political-Economy in a qualitative rather then quantitative study. My feeling is much of the work that really relates to the Political-Economy in this way is happening in Anthropology and Sociology and Human Geography. However, there is a long history of solid Political-Economics or the Philosophy of both. I find myself in that space, and am often dissapointed by what I bump up against in most political and economics departments where the research has become so intensly mathematical and quantitative.

von Hayek was one of those very interesting and great Political-Economists. Not that I agree with many of his ideas, but I do agree with the above quote.