Sunday, January 27, 2008

Featured Philosopher: Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault, or as I prefer to call him (for unknown reasons), Jean-Michel Foucault, was a French political philosopher who lived from 1926 to 1984. His emphasis and interests were history and thought and how Power came to play,affect and be affected by them, which served as tools to elaborate his relativistic views. For example, by showing that the concept of "Madness" has changed through history and between societies, he has shown that that concept is historic and therefore, according to the Marxist way of thought, is artificial and can be changed. That also means that there are no mad men or women per se, but rather that each society determines the normality of its members in relative terms (and not absolute terms). Whilst his views can be shown to have several important contradictions, he did propose some interesting ideas that are still being used today (Post modernism).

"The History of Sexuality"
One of his most notable of works is "The History of Sexuality", published in three volumes during the 1980's. In the first volume, titled "The Will to Knowledge", he attacks what he perceives as a dominant Humanistic conception termed "The Repressive Hypothesis". According to this hypothesis, power (i.e. politics and much more) has repressed sex for the past three hundred years. Since the rise of the bourgeoisie, sex has been condemned as a waste of energy. As a result, it
has been repressed, silenced, and confined to reproductive purposes. According to this hypothesis, we can achieve political liberation and sexual liberation simultaneously if we free ourselves from this repression by talking openly about sex and enjoying it more frequently. Foucault finds this hypothesis to be deeply flawed for several reasons:

1. Not only is talking about sex not forbidden, it is in fact encouraged by the power and its supporters in society (those political institutions that preserve the existing order of society such as the psychologists and the education system).

2. The basis of the Repressive Hypothesis is the Humanistic preposition that man has an essence, a hidden truth that explains and is his meaning and being. In light of the psychoanalytical studies, this essence is man's sexuality. Foucault rejects this and claims that sexuality is in fact a historical-social construct and therefore artificial. Further more, there is no universal hidden to man, but each man (or woman, of course) is shaped by the context of society in which he lives.

3. The Humanistic notion of a hidden truth is also perceived as dangerous by Foucault because it allows society to judge which sexuality is true and natural and which is false and perverse. The sick can then be taken care of in a myriad of ways (so-called benevolent and somewhat less than benign).

There are several criticisms on Foucault work, but I will leave that for next time.

References: Sparknotes and Wikipedia (for the picture).

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Featured artist: Julian Velard

I don't go to nearly enough concerts as I should and want. I won't get into detail on the reasons, but it does have the advantage of making every (or at least most) event memorable and unique. One of these instances was on the Tel Aviv Jazz festival a while back. Though I do not recall the performer or what exactly the piece was, I do remember the atmosphere quite distinctly. Jazz is a form of life, especially in live performances, when the artists improvise and create on stage and the audience feels like they're part of an experience.

It's been a while since I've felt that particular way, though I've been moved by other kinds of music since. Jazz has its own distinct effect on me. Anyway, what brought this particular memory to me now was a young NYC (though currently in London) artist called Julian Velard. You can read about him here and just... feel for yourselves.

Julian Velard - Musta Been Somebody Else

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Sweep Stakes

Kinda on the macabre side but bear with me...

Early Anwar goes to sweep,
To sift along the urban jeeps;
Hurrying the curbs to their termini,
Tiny speckled sweat determining.

The MP3 player in his pocket,
The seven colors in his heart;
He will be bashed again someday
Or maybe just explode.

Moderate Nicolai tends so well,
The coffers on the side to swell;
He hides behind the bus station
And with yellow liquid greets the nation.

His wife will not be coming back,
His children he devoured;
He saves his cash for rainy days,
A streetcar should have him.

Old Moses jostles slowly,
His vivid eyes are but a memory;
The street is wide and so-so long,
Now he's here and then he's gone.

I, Ol' Jack, have a few new friends,
So be prepared to make amends!
Did I rip these famous three
Or am I just the guy on 13B?

He sits there still,
Watching the dawn that never comes,
A yellow river at his feet,
A multi-hued shirt in hand,
Or maybe just a used fuse.