Saturday, July 11, 2009

Illich / Shaw

My domain had a section on philosophers who'd influenced my ideas of learning, education, school ... prior to 1970 and my discovery of Ivan Illich. George Bernard Shaw was among them: though I've not yet been satisfied with what I'd posted on this complex and important subject.

Only a small percentage of the materials at have yet been re-posted here at my InfoAll blog. None of my background philosopher writings have been. This post, newly penned this hour, will precede the re-posting. It's an email just sent to the social worker the fed assigned to me after releasing me from jail. More explanations of what follows will follow after:

Sandy, we talk and talk, and the more we talk about the more there is to talk about. The more said—the more understood, the more left out, the more not understood.

Coming into your office yesterday I commented on your cute Frog: No Perfumes sign, but repressed my urge to say anything further, my mind being already jumping balks about1) Waiting for Jean (While Meeting Linda), and
2) Ahn giving me authority over my idea for ballroom lessons, then taking it away from me in the middle of the Social chaos of Wed. July 8.
blog readers, note:
Sandy's "House of Wellness" ask visitors not to enter wearing any chemical scents.
I asked if she herself was allergic. She said she was.

At our next meeting there will again be too much to talk about pressing against me, so let me scratch this itch over a missing detail by sending your this (quick I hope) email:

You know I'm a disciple of Ivan Illich, you know Ivan Illich is a disciple of Christ, I think you already knew a little bit about Illich before I came in, but of course, due to my being a disciple of Illich and Illich and all his ideas being anathema to the kleptocracy, you, like everyone else, did NOT know a thing about me: except that I'm a convicted, confessed, "felon": more kleptocracy-imposed delusion, the confession having been tricked out of me by a combination of threats and mild but continuous tortures (refrigerating prisons, stripping us naked at 55 degrees — a friend joked, "I'll plead guilty if you'll just send me back to my cell, where it's 60 degrees, not 55.")

[The thieves band together, 90% unconsciously, to sift through facts, blocking, shading, blackening, those facts that contradict their illusion of legitimacy. The magicians' illusions will work (on a stupid-enough, conditioned-enough audience) IF the ushers have a free hand to silence the rational skeptics.

What there's never been time to add to my introduction of myself to you is that long before I was a disciple of Illich (and long after I was a (yet-minor) disciple of Christ), I was an enthusiastic disciple of George Bernard Shaw. Now: Illich is not normally associated with Shaw, Shaw is not normally seen as related to Illich: but the relationship is there: even if only through me (and I'll relate this where it belongs, next to the idea of No Perfume, in a moment).

I was the better ready to read and understand Illich thanks to my long-trained reading and interpreting Shaw (AKA: GBS).

It's seems odd, but it's not really. GBS was the famous atheist, the famous socialist.
Well I loved Shaw DESPITE that. Because he is the great humorist: who, Twain-like, looks at conventional compositions Up-Side-Down!
It's a good exercise, should Always be done. Take an argument, don't either believe it or disbelieve it until you're pondered it: right side up, as given, and ALSO upside down, as Not given.

That's essential for the reverse engineering behind Illich's deconstruction of contemporary society's institutions:
The school system is supposed to "educate"; look at it: the school system takes potential individuals, potentially fit for democracy, and machines them into robots for industry, with the occasional privileged-robot-executive for industry.
The schools fail to make us literate, numerate, rational ... but succeed in making us conventional, bland, easily foolable ...

Now: things upside down are not automatically true (though things not examined through every possible orientation are, almost automatically, probably false).
But look it over, check it out,
And enjoy laughing at us fools.

OK, now what about perfume?

I love Shaw, that doesn't mean I necessarily agree with him on much: I agree with his comic procedure: look at the idea dressed in a clown suit, as well as posed for the executive portrait.

Now, specifically:
Shaw, acknowledging that majorities rule, accepted society's right to disregard the discomforts of minorities. (I wish I could afford to find the specific literary reference among the plays and prefaces I have in mind — I haven't read any Shaw since 1965, but till then I'd read more than sixty of the plays, most of the prefaces, and lots of letter: meantime, just believe me.)

I disagree, I don't believe that, I don't think it's automatically OK for the majority to blink at booze production and distribution just because only a minority of people are noticed to become drunks. I don't think it's OK for the majority to profit from tobacco while only some start showing symptoms of emphysema, cancer, etc. I accept that the society does not care for the discomforts of minorities; I do not accept that the society has any right to not care about what's toxic. If the one canary dies in the coal mine, get everybody out of the coal mine, don't wait for a million canaries to die.

I also differ from Shaw's acceptance that "government" is a necessary evil. I don't want to accept any evil as necessary. (Unavoidable and necessary are not the same concept.)
(I did my Shaw reading before 1965. In 1965 I too accepted the right of society to make rules, believing that groups could behave rationally; now I don't accept that assumption, at all: I vehemently deny it. I'm an anarchist now because I'm a total atheist with regard to the possibility of any society larger than 200 individuals doing anything whatsoever that is not destructive. THAT may be why I was arrested!)

There are many more distinctions to draw, but this isn't bad for a first draft, written as fast as I can type. (There are also contradictions not yet addressed: I say "get everybody out of the coal mine"; but I do not mean by coercive authority!) (How? except by coercive authority? Simple: just wait for nature to kill us off so no society exceeds 200 members: if there are no such societies, we'll be extinct: and that might be the best thing in the end.) (I don't want it to be up to Stalin, Hitler, Nixon. I don't want it to be up to you. I don't want it to be up to me!) (I don't want it to be up to Jehovah, planning to give every privilege to the Jews, I don't want it to be up to Jehovah, planning to give every privilege to the Christians; I want it to "be up to" nature! Uncapitalized!)

OK OutSide World: the above is better than nothing. If I live long enough, once I've reposted everything of mine that the fed censored (and that the public accepted the censorship of), I'll come back to to recompose the above as a coherent relationing of GBS, Illich, and pk drawing.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Secular Protestantism

Lots of peoples have believed in lots of gods. The Jews' God acknowledged this bedlam of gods; he just insisted on being acknowledged as the best among them: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

The Christians adopted the Jews' God but additionally assigned him a triple nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three quarters of a millennium later the Muslims gave their Allah a more exclusive exclusive: There is no other God!

Watch out: Johnny admits that there might be some sort of "divine" "principle" in existence, then the Creationist claps his hand over Johnny's mouth and declares that Johnny has accepted some Byzantine creed hook-line-and-sinker.

But it's worse: the ambiguities between "religion" and "atheism," already making a near infinite number of fudges, comes in two radically different party systems: authoritarian and "protestant." That too is complicated: and I'm trying to make less fudge, not more. And I see other treacheries ready to sink any boat trying to navigate the shoals of fudge. Since 1970 pk drawing has hailed the great Roman Catholic priest, Monseigneur Ivan Illich, as the great "Protestant" among Christians, yet I have no awareness of having clarified anything (except once to a fellow Mutualist Anarchist, opening his eyes with an Illich metaphor) amid the seas of fudge. (My son instantly got my clarification as wrong as it's possible to get anything: but that was a predetermined snarl if ever there was one.)

My Magic section of's Society section argues that man's basic hope for his relationship with his environment is magical, not rational. We don't want to wait for spring; we want to make spring magically appear. Farmers don't want to wait for rain, they want ... etc. Religion is how we delude ourselves that we are magicians in command of magic. Thousands of years ago the average Joe realized that he, Joe, couldn't make it rain, but he hasn't yet learned that neither can the shaman, neither can the priest, neither can the minister, neither can the congressman, neither can the President: neither can God: and you don't need magic: just wait for the rain, and accept your death if it doesn't come (or have fewer children, need less water) ...

In the Jews' religion, a magical entity created a magical existence and that magical God loves the sad-sack Jews. Everything belongs to God, and God intends to give everything, in time, to the Jews, taking it from whichever Egyptians, Phoenicians ... Canaanites ... he has to.

In the Christians' religion a similar God hates the Jews but loves the Christians in their place: and once the Christians have stolen everything from the Indians, and the niggers, and the Mexicans ... well then ... But God has no need to give anything to the whites; they just take it themselves.

Still: there's a radically different attitude toward authority between the left wing and the right wing of authoritarian credulity. The Catholic Christian is taught, by a bunch of priests, by a bunch of nuns, that every sinning-little-boy-with-a-dirty-mind (and every sinning-little-girl-with-a-dirty-mind too) can only be saved by the direct intervention of the great magical Holy Catholic Church.

In other words: once upon a time, the magical human living in a magical universe in which he wanted spring, or rain, was magician adequate to get the spring, or the rain. But with the Fall, our magic is no good: we need the true professional magic of the true professional priest: and his priesthood: we need a true magical Church!

The Church kept no records (that we have access to) of how many priests came along between the First Century AD and the Fourteenth Century AD and said, You don't need us professionals, do your own magic. We know of none. That does not mean that there were none. We do know though that in the Fourteenth Century AD John Wicliff tried to translate the Church's Latin Bible into the common English of England. That was a stepped-on-hornets'-nest that we do have records of. The Church squashed Wicliff. But a bit latter the Church failed to squash Martin Luther. Luther got a few German princes on his side, the princes none too happy about how much power the sacred magicians had, and so Luther escaped the Pope's hit men, the Bible did get translated: into German, and into English: and "Christianity" divided: again.

First you had your Christian east and your Christian west: Byzantium and Rome. The east split between Greek and Cyrillic. The west split between Roman and non-Roman. And the non-Roman split between Anglican and Protestant.

Anyway, simplifying, unavoidably, "Protestant," for me, here in this writing, pk online, means "no-middle-man": or at least fewer middle men. With the Church, you had a middle man: you didn't pray to God (for spring, for rain ... for a pony), you prayed to Frere John, and Frere John prayed for you to the Divine Father: or, you prayed to Sister Berthe: and Sister Berthe prayed to the Holy Mother, and the Holy Mother prayed to the Divine Father.

Ivan Illich was a Roman Catholic priest, but he wanted politics to be secular. He wanted each of us to be able to find what we wanted without having to go through a priest: and that includes especially Not Having To Go Through a Secular Priest: no sacred middle men; no secular middle men either: no doctor, no lawyer, no teacher, no bureaucrat! (That does not mean that Illich would forbid you to go to a doctor or a lawyer: no, he's against coercion either way. But principally he's against the magicians creating artificial needs for magicians.)

I was "born" a Protestant, Illich became a Catholic priest. This Protestant is still not used to the idea that I became associated with a Catholic. (Illich may not have been at all comfortable with being associated with someone conspicuously non-Catholic.) I warn any newcomers against believing that I speak for Illich in all things. Don't confuse my history of religion with his. I don't doubt that he would agree with me on many a particular. Unfortunately he and I never got much of a chance to discuss anything.

My secular metaphors come basically from him, as does this particular metaphor of Protestantism.

I am in 100% agreement with Illich on "deschooling": in being against compulsory rituals whether the ritual is claimed to be sacred or secular. I have extended some of Illich's arguments in the thirty-nine years since 1970, and believe that he would in large agree with my expansions. I have no expectation that we would agree on God, or on Christianity. Don't blame him for my theology, or for my philosophy.

Of great importance though: I recognized him as "divinely" inspired. I feel sure that he recognized me as similarly inspired.

On meeting him at his CIDOC in Cuernavaca, I put my arms around him, but felt I wasn't lifting and whirling a human body but rather a bolt of pure almost-levitating energy. I don't know what he felt. We never really did get to talk. But I hope he too felt something not exactly average.