Inclusive Theory

White Male Human Privilege

I just want to say something brief in regards to the use of live animals in art exhibitions, because it has recently re-re-re-emerged as an annoying trend. Most recently I encountered the dog that is living in the gallery at LACMA as part of Pierre Huyge's retrospective. While I personally believe that living beings have no place as part of human economic transactions (which art exhibits usually are in one way or another), I wont try to convince anyone that it is morally wrong, because there is endless far worse exploitation of animals occurring every second of every day all around us. Instead, I'll just say that I find it artistically pathetic. There is almost always in these cases a white male "provocateur" behind it, who clearly believes that including a non-human living being in the art work is in some way novel or edgy - congratulating themselves for provoking an emotional response from a viewer based on concern and empathy which they mock or play with from their meta-human meta-animal perspective. What's pathetic is that they think they are breaking with a tradition when instead all they are doing is cynically exploiting a tradition by breaking only its most superficial of rules. It's still objectification and commodification based on white, male, human privilege. It isn't novel, and it could hardly be a stodgier, more classical idea. Pierre Huyge could simply have rescued the dog and provided a good home for it, but that would hardly provide him and others who think like him with the false sense of provocation they depend upon to escape real ideas. And the monkey used in a video piece shatters at every moment any concept or artistic intent in the piece by clearly being a bored and confused monkey in a room. The crabs, lobsters and fish are almost certainly bred by businesses that exploit animals or captured wild - both of which are in a real and concrete way environmentally destructive, undercutting Huyge's otherwise interesting ecological constructions. The only way to enter into the meaning of the piece is to ignore these facts, and thats the same way of thinking that exists everywhere. It'd be fucking boring if it wasn't vile. Maybe it's just another banality of evil. It's unfortunate because I admire much about Huyge's work - but empathy and real politics are not in vogue in the very elite and lucrative echelons of international conceptual art exhibitions, or for those who aspire to be included in it.

Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

In 2012, a group of neuroscientists attending a conference on "Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals" at Cambridge University in the UK, signed 

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness.  

(Download a copy of the Declaration).

Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

"The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates."

The embodied voice: Thea Musgrave and Kui Dong

Below are two very different yet fantastic examples of perfomative choral music, and each brings entirely different musical and cultural influences to their work.  Thea Musgrave and Kui Dong are two of my favorite coposers who work in the avant-garde and yet ancient tradition of giving their musical performers performative cues as part of their musical score.  In works such as those below, these composers treat the physical presentation of the music as inseperable from the score itself, yet they present their works in a composed music setting as opposed to a theatrical or otherwise traditionally performative setting — to great effect.

Kui Dong (董葵, born 1966, Beijing, China) is a Chinese-American composer, musician, and teacher. She is known for her music which has often incorporated traditional Chinese music into contemporary contexts, and is currently Professor of Music at Dartmouth College.

Thea Musgrave(b. 27 May 1928) is a Scottishcomposer of opera and classical music.  In 1970 she became Guest Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a position which confirmed her increasing involvement with the musical life of the United States, where she has lived since 1972. She has received the Koussevitsky Award (1974) as well as two Guggenheim Fellowships (1974/5 and 1982/3). From 1987 to 2002 she was Distinguished Professor at Queen’s College, City University of New York. She holds honorary degrees from Old Dominion University (Virginia), Glasgow University, Smith College and the New England Conservatoire in Boston. In 2002 she was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

Reassemblage: Trinh T. Minh-ha (1983)

"Trihn Mihn-ha's experimental documentary, Reassemblage, is for all intents and purposes a film about the people of Senegal. But Trihn has a higher purpose in mind. The film if self-reflexive in that as it is as much about documentaries themselves as it is about the people of Senegal. Trihn calls into question the conventions of the documentary and how such films have the power to manipulate the way in which the audience sees. She constantly reminds her audience that they are watching a movie through many filmic techniques. For example, at times she cuts sound completely to emphasize the fact that she has the ability to manipulate what we are feeling. By taking away the music (African drumming in this case), a tool filmmakers often rely on to tell us how we SHOULD be feeling, we are left to our own devices and must figure out on our own what we are seeing, what it means to us, and why. At times this makes viewing her film fairly difficult, but ultimately it's a rather interesting and thought-provoking experience." (Youtube)

Trinh T. Minh-ha's website

Tropic of Chaos

Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

By Christian Parenti 

Nation Books, 304 pages 

From Africa to Asia and Latin America, the era of climate wars has begun. Extreme weather is breeding banditry, humanitarian crisis, and state failure. In 

Tropic of Chaos

, investigative journalist Christian Parenti travels along the front lines of this gathering catastrophe--the belt of economically and politically battered postcolonial nations and war zones girding the planet's midlatitudes. Here he finds failed states amid climatic disasters. But he also reveals the unsettling presence of Western military forces and explains how they see an opportunity in the crisis to prepare for open-ended global counterinsurgency.  Parenti argues that this incipient "climate fascism"--a political hardening of wealthy states-- is bound to fail. The struggling states of the developing world cannot be allowed to collapse, as they will take other nations down as well. Instead, we must work to meet the challenge of climate-driven violence with a very different set of sustainable economic and development policies.

Noam Chomsky: The Unipolar Moment and the Culture of Imperialism

I'm a year late, but I've finally found this and watched it — a few times.  In this lecture — one of a series held annually in honor of Edward Said — Chomsky clearly contextualizes the Obama administration's foreign policy within the recorded and verified history of Imperialism.  He lucidly displays the direct historical relationships between the Berlin Wall and the Wall of Annexation in Palestine, the genocide of Native Americans and all other genocides that have resulted from Western expansionism.  This is not new ground for Chomsky, but it is as succinct and yet far reaching as any single talk of his I've heard, seen or read. 

I cannot say that I find Chomsky's analysis entirely satisfying, but his scholarship and rhetorical precision are as always unreproachable.  I have never found his theoretical assumptions or conclusions to be entirely coherent or providing an understanding of how Imperialist, racist and genocidal worldviews emerge or how they cohere with the philosophical, economic or wider cultural systems and situations in which they flourish and take root.  Where I find a failure of imagination (empathy) arising from an automatic, inhuman conspiracy of intentional, human forces, he seems to only find a failure of a type of human being.  Whether his ultimatum—to be either an Imperialist or a Libertarian—is a genuine existential condition he experiences or a rhetorical strategy aimed at instigating a crisis of the Imperialist imagination, I cannot say, but the scholarly and analytical tools he virtuostically demonstrates are of value to any emancipatory movement.  I do not — I cannot — stomach the dismissal of his work by the Maoist and Sparticist intellectual left as lacking or even contradictory to dialectical materialist critique and revolution.  His dedication to emancipatory theory, and his involvement in the real struggles of colonized, oppressed and dispossessed, in any honest estimation, puts the radical academic left to shame. 

The dismissal or simple ignoring of his work in mass culture is not worth explaining — he himself has done it better than I or any one else could via the Propaganda Model.  There is more to say there in terms of the human mind and imagination — as David Edwards and others have attempted to do — but I suspect that in careful analysis of this and other works of his, such levels of interpretation will be possible and fruitful for the indefinite period of struggle ahead.  The ongoing dialogue between the ideas of Chomsky and Said is certainly one such avenue. 

 

A Primer on Symbiogenesis

Lynn Margulis discusses her work as a synthetic thinker in the biological, chemical, physical and geological sciences, and describes some of the background of her work on the theory of symbiogenesis, as well as Gaia theory with James Lovelock and Carl Sagan.  I find her work to be underrecognized outside of the sciences, in particular in the discourse of human evolution and mimetics, which relies on the outdated and dubious philosophies of Richard Dawkins and other classical Darwinists.  Her work should be of the utmost interest to the philosophies of identity and information ecology (mimetics).

From the Institute for Science, Engineering and Public Policy

Lynn Margulis

Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Natural Science. She received a National Medal of Science from President Clinton in 2000.

Her books include What is Life?, What is Sex?, Slanted Truths (all co-authored with Dorian Sagan) and Symbiotic Planet.

THE ENDOSYMBIOTIC THEORY

Dr. Margulis has proposed that eukaryotic flagella and cilia may have arisen from endosymbiotic spirochetes, but these organelles do not contain DNA and do not show any ultrastructural similarities to any prokaryotes, and as a result this idea does not have wide support. Margulis claims that symbiotic relationships are a major driving force behind evolution. According to Margulis and Sagan (1996), "Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking" (i.e., by cooperation, interaction, and mutual dependence between living organisms). She considers Darwin's notion of evolution driven by competition to be incomplete.

SYMBIOGENESIS

Symbiogenesis is a theory of evolution. It argues that symbiosis is a primary force of evolution, because acquisition and accumulation of random mutations or genetic drift are not sufficient to explain how new inherited variations occur. According to this theory, new cell organelles, new bodies, new organs and new species arise from symbiosis, in which independent organisms merge to form composites. This challenges some standard textbook ideas of how evolutionary change occurs. To some degree, Darwin emphasized competition as the primary driving process of evolution, symbiogenesis emphasizes that co-operation can also be important to the process of evolution.  

Symbiogenesis was first formulated by K. S. Mereschkovsky (1855-1921) in his 1926 book "Symbiogenesis and the Origin of Species" and by Ivan Wallin, in "Symbionticism and the Origins of Species". Ivan Wallin proposed in 1927 that bacteria might represent the fundamental cause of the origin of species, and that the creation of a species may occur via endosymbiosis. 

In the late 20th century, Lynn Margulis claimed that microorganisms are one of the major evolutionary forces in the origin of species, endosymbiosis of bacteria being responsible for the creation of complex forms of life.

Margulis' theory of symbiogenesis

Margulis emphasizes that bacteria and other microorganisms actively participated in shaping the Earth, and helped create conditions suitable for life (e.g., almost all eukaryotes require oxygen, and only developed after cyanobacteria have produced enough atmospheric oxygen). She also argues that these microorganisms still maintain current conditions and that they constitute a major component in Earth biomass.

She showed that free-living bacteria and other microorganisms tend to merge with larger life forms, seasonally and occasionally, or permanently, perhaps under stress conditions. In the now generally accepted endosymbiotic theory, Margulis demonstrated that current plant cells resulted from the merging of separate ancestors, the chloroplast evolving from endosymbiotic cyanobacteria (autotrophic prokaryotes). A more recent additional hypothesis for the origin of some algal and plant cells is the fusion of Thermoplasma (sulfur reduction, fermentation), Spirochaeta (motility), alpha-proteobacteria (oxygen respiration) and Synechococcus cyanobacteria (photosynthesis).

Margulis claims that most of the DNA found in the cytoplasm of animal, plant, fungal and protist cells originated as genes of bacteria that became organelles, rather than from genetic drift or mutation.

Along these lines Margulis has argued that bacteria have the ability to exchange genes very easily and quickly, even between different species, by conjugation or through plasmids. For these reasons, the genetic material of bacteria is much more versatile than that of the eukaryote (see Primary nutritional groups for more on the extent of bacterial ability in terms of nutrition). Margulis claims that versatility is the process which enabled life to evolve so quickly, as bacteria were able to adapt to initial conditions of environment and to new changes by other bacteria.

Progress and Resistance in Central India

PLGA Militants (photo from dawn.com)

Having dispossessed them and pushed them into a downward spiral of indigence, in a cruel sleight of hand, the Government began to use their own penury against them. Each time it needed to displace a large population — for dams, irrigation projects, mines — it talked of "bringing tribals into the mainstream" or of giving them "the fruits of modern development". Of the tens of millions of internally displaced people (more than 30 million by big dams alone), refugees of India’s ‘progress’, the great majority are tribal people. When the Government begins to talk of tribal welfare, it’s time to worry. 

— Arundhati Roy, Walking with the Comrades. March 21, 2010.

Last month Arundhati Roy broke the taboo of reporting directly on the Naxalite (Maoist) rebels in Central India. In the resulting articles and media appearances she has made, she has been attenmpting to draw attention to this struggle which is largely invisible and unreported in mainstream Indian media, to expose the hypocrisy of the joint corporate/government "relief" and "development" projects in the tribal areas of India.  As the Isreali government announces that a re-occupation of Gaza is immanent, the  Israeli military is training Indian "counter-terrorism" forces and supplying them with hi-tech weopenry to hunt down and destroy anyone who resists the destruction of the tribal culture, livelihoods and environment of  central India.  Please read Arundhati Roy's extremely well-researched, beautifully written and deeply troubling article, Walking with the Comrades from earlier this month here.

 

A Primer on American Imperialism

"The fact is we are mixed in with each other in ways that most national systems of education have not dreamed of.  To match knowledge in the arts and sciences with these integrative realities is, I believe, the intellectual and cultural challenge of our time.  The steady critique of nationalism from the standpoint of real liberation should not be forgotten, for we must not condemn ourselves to repeat the imperial experience (although all around us it is being repeated).  How in the redefined and yet very close contemporary  relationship between culture and empire — a relationship that enables disquieting forms of domination — can we sustain the liberating energies released by the great decolonizing resistance movements and the mass uprisings of the 1980s?  Can these energizes elude the homogenizing processes of modern life? Can they hold in abeyance the interventions of the new imperial centrality?" 

Edward Said, 1993.