"Even then you had to take a guest to the bathroom to tell him a
joke. You turned on the water full force and then whispered the joke. You even laughed quietly, into your fist. This marvellous tradition did not die out."
Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich.
Are we really at this point in the West?
Like jokes, music is universally a victim of totalitarian tendencies. In 2020 the Chinese Communist Party banned multiple classical pieces of music, deeming them religious in background, among which was Ludwig van Beethoven's wonderful Symphony No. 9, "Ode to Joy".
The human mind can’t help seeing meaning everywhere. We hear voices in the wind, see faces in the clouds. As the human mind can make anything into a sign for anything else, even works of art without textual accompaniment can appear suspicious to the totalitarian mind. Too much dissonance or a hint of the avant-garde or, at the other end of the scale, the minutest use of traditional motifs or structures (indicating a longing for the past) that the new regime has repressed—anything that's distinctive enough to serve as a sign of "deviationism"— can suffer the horrors of the gulags.
Plato, the pre-eminent philosopher's totalitarian, believed that certain music modes, the Lydian and Dorian, produced soft and effeminate citizens, whilst the Ionian mode produced characters suited to being warriors. In Plato's ideal state, citizens would be brought up with music suited to the caste for which they were destined. Plato's general attitude is to beware of changes to music style, since "any change in the style of music always leads to changes in the most important institutions of the whole state." (See Karl Popper on Plato's theory of music and totalitarianism. The Open Society and Its Enemies.)
All totalitarianisms come by degrees, one small cut at a time, followed by thousands of small cuts, until even the dullest minds can see that their legs, arms and throat have been severed. In the west, we've already seen some small-minded comedians enable this incremental demise of our freedoms. (Fortunately, there are brave comedians such as John Cleese, Jerry Seinfeld, Leo Kearse, Konstantin Kisin.) We must resist the spread of this accommodation, this willing enslavement, to the totalitarian tendencies of the state and snowflake ideology. Without sustained resistance, this cowardice before the citadel of “correct speech” will spread to music and dance, any space that we might use as a sanctuary from pervasive monitoring and control.
Beethoven's Ode to Joy is magnificent and sublime and could easily be taken as the anthem of the Enlightenment. Our piece of music, Greater Glory, is not a grand composition but rather, it is a humble, fun and upbeat composition with a strong message. In it, Alex and I wish to express the idea that progress, even though it has a material framework provided by industrial production, is a thing of the mind or spirit.
In the song, the boy Zeno is wandering through a wood, reflecting on the buzzing and playful life all around. The song's refrain is:
"Man’s star it shall wax (echo)
Man’s star it shall wane (echo)
But within the soul alone (echo)
Is made every gain (echo)
Two squirrels play. Bounding from branch to branch
Tree to tree. A hoverfly it stares at me…
It stares at me…"
As the Stoics would say, we appreciate the wonders, both natural and manmade, by how we embrace the world and its objects mentally. It's not objects alone —trees, squirrels, rivers, stars, cars, skyscrapers, paintings, sculptures, etc —that excite feelings of fun, or admiration, or the beautiful or the sublime, but the cognitive grasp we take of them. The hoverfly stares back at the wanderer in the wood, into him, signifying that the wonder is within humankind. The greater glory lies within.
Wake up, people! Sing, dance and tell your jokes until your body and throat hurt.
Ray Scott Percival
Our sky's two great luminaries (the moon and sun) are physical objects, measurable and amenable to analysis, using the tools of science. And yet, before such instruments became available, these 'lights in the firmament' were accessed via instruments of a different kind - those which make music within our souls and which evoke a grand sense of our place, not so much within the universe, as within the totality of the human drama.
It is the refreshing rain in the piece which heralds the visceral sensation of constancy within cycles of change. Said cycles accompany all our human highs and lows. Two squirrels do not care for the philosophical musings of my two paragraphs thus far. They simply play. They are fully present. It's fun!
This journey through a wood sees the wanderer able now to ground himself in alignment with the senses. And, upon noticing, upon lightening up, the hoverfly appears and proceeds to reflect back the majesty of the inner terrain; the canvas upon which, this theatre is playing out. The story of human lives is not simply an 'aggregate of facts'. Such details, even of success or failure (one's star waxing or waning) are no more, nor less, than ephemeral pieces of data. They may appear solid and durable, yet only what imprints upon the soul carries any hope of a posterity, of a headstone inscription saying 'here lies a man who lived his life'.
The singer is a simulation of the young Zeno of Elea, best known for his paradoxes, which Bertrand Russell described as "immeasurably subtle and profound". [c. 495 – c. 430 BC]
(Young Zeno is part of the AGI Rational Emotive Construct series. Model. BN.0001. Instance BN.0000. )
Are we in danger of sacrificing our liberty, bit by bit, for increments of illusionary security?
Our answer is that the least secure existence is one in which we have sacrificed our personal autonomy. We recall Immanuel Kant's conception of Enlightenment, which flows from the individual, not the state or any other external guide.
"Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another.
The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! [Dare to be wise!] Have courage to use your own understanding!
Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large proportion of men, even when nature has long emancipated them from alien guidance (naturaliter maiorennes [Those who have come of age by virtue of nature]), nevertheless ...
Alex and Ray at Bold Venture Park, Darwen, United Kingdom. Darwen was one of the centres of the industrial revolution, a fundamental catalyst of the Enlightenment. Samuel Crompton, the inventor of the spinning mule, lived here for part of his life. It was a thriving town of cotton goods production, coal mining and quarrying, connected by canal and rail to nearby hubs of invention and production- Bolton and Manchester.
In this video, we see a wonderful carving in the local strata outcrop in one of the large parks that adorn Darwen. Transporting us back in time to the people who worked in the burgeoning revolution that gave us so many life-transforming benefits, the sculpture depicts a quarryman lying on the boat that will carry him across the Styx. By the side of the sculpture is the inscription: Who Pays the Quarryman? Many quarrymen lost their lives in this work and a play of words alludes to the myth of the journey across the Styx and the Ferryman who guides the boat across.
Accepting the state's incremental totalitarianism through its allurements to "safety" is to embrace a child-like dependency and shun the risky but beneficial adventure of the growth of knowledge.
Embracing risk is part of the price of one’s emergence from the delightful delusion of absolute safety - the repeated allurement of state intervention. But shunning absolute security is rewarded by the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of nebulae and reach out and stretch the boundaries of the known - and, paradoxically, enhance our safety by degree. The more knowledge we have the more control we have, the more control, the more secure we are against future threats. No knowledge growth without risk.
A discussion of the "Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development".
Alex Brocklehurst raises the question is human expansion, economically, psychologically, spiritually, technologically etc, in principle better than contraction?
Alex, Roger and Ray discuss. Alex and Ray push the progressive, enlightenment view, while Roger takes the dual role of a stick-in-the-mud, devil's advocate. Roger hates mud! : - )
Alex Brocklehurst has just had a chapter published in the book Jordan Peterson: Critical Responses.
Roger outlines the Ukrainian crisis, placing this delicate strategic confrontation in its historical and demographic context. Ukraine is a vital strategic interest to the Russian state, but not to the United States of America. Roger argues that states typically regard security as paramount, trumping economic interests and will accept a great deal of damage maintaining their vital strategic interests, and so the West’s threat of economic sanctions are impotent. Is the West playing a losing hand, given that Ukraine is perceived by Russia as a vital buffer zone right on its doorstep, but is 5000 miles from the US? Roger asks us to imagine a mirror of the situation for the US: Russia stations forces in Mexico and Canada, or simply establishes alliances with those countries. Such a move would be intolerable for the US state under the well-established Monroe doctrine.
(Some sources —for example, the omniscient POLITIFACT, argue that NATO has reneged on an agreement suggested by ...
Defending the Enlightenment through animated philsophy.
"Animated" = Full of life or excitement; lively, vigorous.
"Philosophy" = Love of truth.
An autonomous life is one in which we can make a difference according to our own aims and plans. This is the personal aspect of the enlightenment. However, this is under threat from a perverted alliance of governments and the tech giants.
Enlightenment Defended will repel the dark nihilism of “post-truth”, woke culture, identity politics, and PC-Speak, which are feeding this rotten symbiosis of state and tech giants. To counter this backward step in our society, Enlightenment Defended will catalyse the bright flame of the enlightenment —liberty, reason and progress.
Enlightenment Defended will create a realm that frames our deepest thoughts about life through articles, documentary, animation, poetry, humour, music and myth and philosophical debate. People are many-sided in both apprehension and enjoyment.
Enlightenment Defended will ...