Noam Chomsky: Moral Depravity Defines US Politics

The US midterm elections of November 6, 2018, produced a divided Congress and essentially reaffirmed the existence of two nations in one country. But they also revealed, once again, the deep state of moral and political depravity that prevails in the country’s political culture — at least insofar as political campaigns go. In the exclusive interview below, world-renowned scholar and public intellectual Noam Chomsky discusses how the major issues confronting the United States and the world at large were barely addressed by the majority of candidates of both parties.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, with people still arguing about winners and losers from the 2018 midterm elections (and there is clearly a lot to say about what those elections mean), what do you consider to be the most striking features of the latest manifestation of American democracy in action?

Noam Chomsky: The most striking features are brutally clear.

Humanity faces two imminent existential threats: environmental catastrophe and nuclear war. These were virtually ignored in the campaign rhetoric and general coverage. There was plenty of criticism of the Trump administration, but scarcely a word about by far the most ominous positions the administration has taken: increasing the already dire threat of nuclear war, and racing to destroy the physical environment that organized human society needs in order to survive.

These are the most critical and urgent questions that have arisen in all of human history. The fact that they scarcely arose in the campaign is truly stunning — and carries some important, if unpleasant, lessons about our moral and intellectual culture.

To be sure, not everyone was ignoring these matters. They were front and center for those who are constantly vigilant in their bitter class war to preserve their immense power and privilege. Several states had important ballot initiatives addressing the impending environmental catastrophe. The fossil fuel industry spent huge, sometimes record-breaking, sums to defeat the initiatives — including a carbon tax in the mostly Democratic state of Washington — and mostly succeeded.

We should recognize that these are extraordinary crimes against humanity. They proceed with little notice. Read more

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Spinoza ~ Ethica, work without obstacle

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)

Ethica, work without obstacle, is funded by Conseil régional des Hauts de France, and FEDER, a thematic and structuring project 2015-2018 of the University of Picardy Jules Verne.

Go to: http://app.ethica-spinoza.net/fr/connections

Patrick Fontana received in 2013, the grant Brouillon d’un Rêve Pierre Schaeffer from Société Civile des Auteurs Multimédia (French multimedia publishing rights society) (SCAM), and the grant aide à l’écriture et au développement aux nouveaux médias from Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image animée, France, (CNC), with the unanimous decision of the jury.

Patrick Fontana and TYGRYZ Compagny, received in 2016, the grant aide à la production DICREAM from Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image animée, France, (CNC).

Ethica has been hosted and supported (2015-2016) by the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’homme, Paris, scientific director, Jean-Pierre Dozon.

The Social and Political Thought Research Group, Brunel University of London participated in the financing of Ethica’s teaser in 2015.

Production : Emmanuel Ryz, Patrick Fontana
Designers : Bachir Soussi Chiadmi, Kevin Tessier

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Library Of Congress ~ The National Screening Room

The National Screening Room showcases the riches of the Library’s vast moving image collection, designed to make otherwise unavailable movies, both copyrighted and in the public domain, freely accessible to the viewers worldwide.

The majority of movies in the National Screening Room are freely available as both 5 mb MP4 and ProRes 422 MOV downloads.

The National Screening Room is a project of the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. The goal of this digital collection is to present to the widest audience possible movies from the Library’s extensive holdings, offering a broad range of historical and cultural documents as a contribution to education and lifelong learning.

These selections are presented as part of the record of the past. They are historical documents which reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Library of Congress does not endorse the views expressed in these movies, which may contain content offensive to users.

Go to: https://www.loc.gov/national-screening-room/

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Climate Change Is The Product Of How Capitalism “Values” Nature

Professor John Bellamy Foster ~ Photo: University of Oregon

Climate change is the greatest existential crisis facing humanity today. Capitalist industrialization has led us to the edge of the precipice, and avoiding the end of civilization as we know it may require the development of a view in direct opposition to the way in which capitalism “values” nature, according to John Bellamy Foster, professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and editor of the socialist magazine Monthly Review.

C. J. Polychroniou: We live in a period of massive environmental disturbance, such that it has led to the claim that we are no longer in the Holocene epoch but instead in the midst of the Anthropocene era. Assuming that this claim, popularized in the West by the atmospheric chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen, is scientifically correct, to what extent can economic growth itself be blamed for the catastrophic effects of human activities on the environment, including influencing the climate by burning fossil fuels, cutting down rainforests and farming livestock?

John Bellamy Foster: It is worth noting that the Anthropocene concept originated in the early USSR. It first appeared in the English language in the translation of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia in the 1970s. This arose out of discussions of anthropogenic change and the biosphere pioneered in Soviet science, pointing to today’s Earth System perspective and to our current, more developed notion of the Anthropocene.

It now appears to be the consensus in natural science that the Anthropocene epoch in geological history commenced in the early 1950s, marked by a Great Acceleration of anthropogenic impacts on the Earth System. The 2018 special report of the IPCC released last month emphasizes the shift from the Holocene to the Anthropocene as signifying that anthropogenic factors are now the leading sources of change in the Earth System, most notably in the form of climate change. Economic activity at present, as you note, relies heavily on burning fossil fuels, cutting down rainforests, and livestock farming, all of which lead to the emission of greenhouse gases that are accelerating climate change.

Today’s planetary ecological crisis is due first and foremost to the increasing scale of the capitalist world economy. The greater the scale of the economy the more it rivals the fundamental biogeochemical cycles of the planet. All of this is connected to the nature and logic of capitalism, understood as a system directed at the accumulation of capital. Capitalism is a grow-or-die system. If accumulation declines, the result is economic crisis. The answer of the system is to boost accumulation. This, however, intensifies global environmental crises as the already visible impact of the economy on the Earth System increases.

To speak of economic growth as a principal problem, and of the need for a steady-state economy as a solution, immediately raises the specter in people’s minds of the end of human progress. However, we should be careful not to identify economic growth, as that term is used today, with human advancement as a whole. Economic growth was deified in the 1950s, following the introduction of national income accounting during the Second World War. The system of national or Gross Domestic Product (GDP) accounting is rooted in capitalist notions of value added, profit and accumulation. It accurately reflects the logic of capital accumulation but it is far removed from growth in the wider sense in which people usually think of it. Read more

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John Fante ~ A Sad Flower In The Sand

Fante was an American novelist, short story writer and screenwriter of Italian descent. He is perhaps best known for his work Ask the Dust, a semi-autobiograpical novel about life in and around Los Angeles, California, which was the third in a series of four novels, published between 1938 and 1985, that are now collectively called “The Bandini Quartet”.

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Islamic State & The Artaudian Theatre Of Cruelty

Antonin Artaud (1896-1948)

Abstract
Intrigued by the idea that the Islamic State’s media is performing Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, we questioned in this article whether Islamic State’s use of media does indeed compare to the hellish visions of the notorious French dramaturge, and consequently ask ourselves, if so, how we should interpret and give meaning to the eventual connection between two subjects that seem so far apart, and yet so close to each other: the Theatre of Cruelty and the gruesome religiously inspired videos of Islamic State.[i] The results of our analysis confirm significant parallels between the Theatre of Cruelty and the cruel videos of Islamic State. Considering the fact that the message of cruelty is central to many of their videos, we conclude that ‘Islamic State’s media productions indeed implement the characteristics underlying Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty.’ But what does all this mean? Cruelty and violence are indeed elements of human being’s nature. Humankind has to embody it in one way or the other, and from that perspective, it is much better to incorporate these darker sides of men in the metaphysical sphere. We are deliberately speaking here of humankind, irrespective of religious or ethnic background, because there are Westerners and Easterners that have learnt this dear lesson: acknowledging the dark side of men and expressing it in art.

Key words: # Islamic State # Artaud # Theatre # Propaganda # Cruelty # Hermeneutics # Interpretation

1 Introduction
‘Artaud, a sickly child twisted further by the shock of World War I, wanted his actors to “assault the senses” of the audience, shocking parts of the psyche that other theatrical methods had failed to reach.  Well, IS has read the book. It’s been obvious since September 11 that we’re living in an age of vicious political theatre. That’s what ‘terrorism’ is: the manipulation of large populations by shock and awe and ‘liberating unconscious emotions’’ (to quote Artaud).’[ii]

‘If the attacks on the Twin Towers used the iconography of the Hollywood action blockbuster, the beheadings in the desert evoke drama far more ancient – Old Testament strife, Hellenic legend. [..]It may sound unlikely, but ISIS is carrying out in extremis the program of the ‘Theatre of cruelty’ of the influential French dramaturge­demiurge Antonin Artaud.’[iii]

In the summer of 2014, the geopolitical stage was shaken by the Islamic State videos. Starting off a series of terrifying communiqués with a video of the beheading of journalist James Foley in A message to America, Islamic State quickly set a new standard for extremists’ use of media as a propaganda tool. Now that the extreme display of violence has become the hallmark of Islamic State terror, certain journalists have suggested a link between these brutal videos and dramatist Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) and his ‘Theatre of Cruelty’. We were intrigued by the idea that the correspondence between Islamic State’s media outlets and Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty might actually go beyond the shared predominance of cruelty and have taken the suggestion made by Sakurai as a cue to research whether Islamic State’s use of media does indeed compare to Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty on a more fundamental level. And consequently ask ourselves how, if so, we should interpret and give meaning to the eventual connection between two subjects that seem so far apart, and yet so close to each other: the Theatre of Cruelty and the gruesome religiously inspired videos of Islamic State.

The research done is comparative in nature. By comparing and contrasting the principal underlying ideas, the audience/performance relation, and the performance itself of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty and Islamic State’s video productions, we hope to arrive at a detailed and nuanced understanding if and if yes, how Islamic State and Artaudian theatre relate to each other. The possible connection between both being eventually confirmed, we will consequently dwell on the meaning of such connection. Read more

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