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The Art of Tetman Callis Posts

“The classics are full of moral atrocities—as they appear to us today, and sometimes as they appeared to the more enlightened members of the author’s own society—that the author apparently approved of. Rape, pillage, murder, human and animal sacrifice, concubinage, and slavery in the Iliad; misogyny in the Oresteia and countless other works; blood-curdling vengeance; anti-Semitism in more works of literature than one can count, including works by Shakespeare and Dickens; racism and sexism likewise; homophobia (think only of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and Mann’s ‘Death in Venice’); monarchism, aristocracy, caste systems and other illegitimate (as they seem to us) forms of hierarchy; colonialism, imperialism, religious obscurantism, militarism, gratuitous violence, torture (as of Iago in Othello), and criminality; alcoholism and drug addiction; relentless stereotyping; sadism; pornography; machismo; cruelty to animals (bullfighting, for example); snobbism; praise for fascism and communism, and for idleness; contempt for the poor, the frail, the elderly, the deformed, and the unsophisticated, for people who work for a living, for the law-abiding, and for democratic processes. The world of literature is a moral anarchy.” – Richard A. Posner, “Against Ethical Criticism”

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“In an overpopulated world being connected by global electronic communication and jet travel at a pace too rapid and violent for an organically sound person to assimilate without shock, people are also suffering from a revulsion at any further proliferation of speech and images. Such different factors as the unlimited ‘technological reproduction’ and near-universal diffusion of both printed language and speech as well as images (from ‘news’ to ‘art objects’), and the degenerations of public language within the realms of politics and advertising and entertainment, have produced, especially among the better educated inhabitants of what sociologists call ‘modern mass society,’ a devaluation of language. (I should argue, contrary to McLuhan, that a devaluation of the power and credibility of images has taken place that’s no less profound than, and essentially similar to, that afflicting language.) And, as the prestige of language falls, that of silence rises.” – Susan Sontag, “The Aesthetics of Silence”

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“Once the Author is gone, the claim to ‘decipher’ a text becomes quite useless. To give an Author to a text is to impose upon that text a stop clause, to furnish it with a final signification, to close the writing. This conception perfectly suits criticism, which can then take as its major task the discovery of the Author (or his hypostases: society, history, the psyche, freedom) beneath the work: once the Author is discovered, the text is ‘explained:’ the critic has conquered; hence it is scarcely surprising not only that, historically, the reign of the Author should also have been that of the Critic, but that criticism (even ‘new criticism’) should be overthrown along with the Author. In a multiple writing, indeed, everything is to be distinguished, but nothing deciphered; structure can be followed, ‘threaded’ (like a stocking that has run) in all its recurrences and all its stages, but there is no underlying ground; the space of the writing is to be traversed, not penetrated: writing ceaselessly posits meaning but always in order to evaporate it: it proceeds to a systematic exemption of meaning. Thus literature (it would be better, henceforth, to say writing), by refusing to assign to the text (and to the world as text) a ‘secret:’ that is, an ultimate meaning, liberates an activity which we might call counter-theological, properly revolutionary, for to refuse to arrest meaning is finally to refuse God and his hypostases, reason, science, the law.” – Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” (trans. Richard Howard)

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“Bureaucracy was not invented by anti-capitalists. It began with the ancient empires of Egypt, Persia, Rome and China, and it necessarily accompanies most large institutions, from churches to armies to corporations. ‘The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”,’ Ronald Reagan famously said. He must have led a sheltered existence, but in any case it is worth asking when this has ever happened to anyone. The closest most of us come to opaque, arbitrary and unwieldy bureaucracy is with insurance or telecommunications companies. The scariest nine words might actually be spoken by the faceless operatives of my far from local and earth-sprung health insurer: ‘I’m going to transfer you to the correct department.’ ” – Jonny Thakkar, “Why Conservatives Should Read Marx”

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“Only in a vague way can we conceive the character of ant-society, and the nature of ant-morality; and to do even this we must try to imagine some yet impossible state of human society and human morals. Let us, then, imagine a world full of people incessantly and furiously working,—all of whom seem to be women. No one of these women could be persuaded or deluded into taking a single atom of food more than is needful to maintain her strength; and no one of them ever sleeps a second longer than is necessary to keep her nervous system in good working-order. And all of them are so peculiarly constituted that the least unnecessary indulgence would result in some derangement of function. The work daily performed by these female laborers comprises road-making, bridge-building, timber-cutting, architectural construction of numberless kinds, horticulture and agriculture, the feeding and sheltering of a hundred varieties of domestic animals, the manufacture of sundry chemical products, the storage and conservation of countless foodstuffs, and the care of the children of the race. All this labor is done for the commonwealth—no citizen of which is capable even of thinking about ‘property,’ except as a res publica;—and the sole object of the commonwealth is the nurture and training of its young,—nearly all of whom are girls. The period of infancy is long: the children remain for a great while, not only helpless, but shapeless, and withal so delicate that they must be very carefully guarded against the least change of temperature. Fortunately their nurses understand the laws of health: each thoroughly knows all that she ought to know in regard to ventilation, disinfection, drainage, moisture, and the danger of germs,—germs being as visible, perhaps, to her myopic sight as they become to our own eyes under the microscope. Indeed, all matters of hygiene are so well comprehended that no nurse ever makes a mistake about the sanitary conditions of her neighborhood. In spite of this perpetual labor no worker remains unkempt: each is scrupulously neat, making her toilet many times a day. But as every worker is born with the most beautiful of combs and brushes attached to her wrists, no time is wasted in the toilet-room. Besides keeping themselves strictly clean, the workers must also keep their houses and gardens in faultless order, for the sake of the children. Nothing less than an earthquake, an eruption, an inundation, or a desperate war, is allowed to interrupt the daily routine of dusting, sweeping, scrubbing, and disinfecting.” – Lafcadio Hearn, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things

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“Did feudalism and chattel slavery reside within the nascent globalizing frame? Did Kant drink coffee? The second question answers the first. Yes, and there’s no reason why we have to choose between these modes of production when thinking macrohistorically, as long as we are specific about what makes both so different. In this effort, it’s especially important to understand that consumption as the auratic telos of ‘trade’—the sweets you eat, the tobacco you smoke—has a pesky habit of mystifying differences in modes of production and unevenness in history (and thus in human lives), with the result that the vast distances between regions are closed into one airtight global space. The movement of commodities like sugar, tobacco, coffee, and cotton from colonies to nation-states; the transformation of European aesthetics to suit the colonial imperial imagination in all its overreach; the emergence of entire legal systems to try to eradicate feudalism (unsuccessfully); the parliamentary decisions to withdraw from the slave trade (unsuccessfully)—these all will disclose the total frame of their own possibility as long as we adopt a version of difference that remains deeply critical and enables us to think the abstract identities through which globalization itself obliquely appears.” –Andrew Cole, “The Function of Theory at the Present Time”

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“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty, a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.” – Bertrand Russell, Study of Mathematics

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“If all gender is on some level a performance (and it is), then it can be co-opted and perverted by the state. But if it’s also innate on some level (and it is), then we are powerless against whatever it is that enough people decide gender performance should look like. We are constantly trapped by gender, even when we know we are trapped by it. You can’t truly escape something so all-pervasive.” – Emily VanDerWerff, “How Twitter Can Ruin a Life”

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“India was the most populous region of the world at the time of the Periplus, as it was the most cultivated, the most active industrially and commercially, the richest in natural resources and production, the most highly organized socially, the most wretched in the poverty of its teeming millions, and the least powerful politically. The great powers of India were the Kushan in the far northwest, the Saka in the Cambay country, the remains of the Maurya in the Ganges watershed, the Andhra in the Deccan, and the Chera, Pandya and Chola in the South. The economic status of the country made it impossible that any one of these should possess political force commensurate with its population, resources and industries. It was made up of village communities, which recognized the military power only so far as they were compelled to do so; and they were relatively unconcerned in dynastic changes, except to note the change in their oppressors.” – The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea (Wilfred H. Schoff, trans. & ann.)

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“Chinese annals mention that in the year 165 B. C, a nomadic Turki tribe in northwestern China and owing allegiance to the Chinese emperors, known as the Yueh-chi, were driven out of their territory by the Hiongnu or Tartars, and migrated westward. This displaced numerous savage tribes in central Asia, who in turn moved westward; and thus the great waves of migration were begun which inundated Europe for centuries, overwhelmed the Roman Empire, and long threatened to extinguish white civilization.” – The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea (Wilfred H. Schoff, trans. & ann.)

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“A tax is not an assessment of benefits. It is a means of distributing the burden of the cost of government. The only benefit to which the taxpayer is constitutionally entitled is that derived from his enjoyment of the privileges of living in an organized society, established and safeguarded by the devotion of taxes to public purposes. Any other view would preclude the levying of taxes except as they are used to compensate for the burden on those who pay them, and would involve the abandonment of the most fundamental principle of government—that it exists primarily to provide for the common good.” – Justice Garman, Arangold Corp. v. Zehnder, 204 Ill. 2d 142 (Ill. 2003) (internal cites and quotations omitted).

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“Though there is nothing I would not do to comfort an afflicted person, and I really believe that one should do all one can to show great sympathy to him for his misfortune, for miserable people are so foolish that this does them the greatest good in the world; yet I also hold that we should be content with expressing sympathy, and carefully avoid having any. It is a passion that is wholly worthless in a well-regulated mind, which only serves to weaken the heart, and which should be left to ordinary persons, who, as they never do anything from reason, have need of passions to stimulate their actions.” – Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld, Reflections; Or, Sentences and Moral Maxims (trans. J. W. Willis Bund and J. Hain Friswell)

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“Psychologists have attempted to understand how and why individuals and groups who
usually act humanely can sometimes act otherwise in certain circumstances. A number of
psychological concepts explain why abusive behavior occurs. These concepts include:

Deindividuation. Deindividuation is a process whereby the anonymity, suggestibility, and contagion provided in a crowd allows individuals to participate in behavior marked by the temporary suspension of customary rules and inhibitions. Individuals within a group may experience reduced self-awareness which can also result in disinhibited behavior.

Groupthink. Individuals often make very uncharacteristic decisions when part of a group. Symptoms of groupthink include: (1) Illusion of invulnerability-group members believe the group is special and morally superior; therefore its decisions are sound; (2) Illusion of unanimity in which members assume all are in concurrence, and (3) Pressure is brought to bear on those who might dissent.

Dehumanization. Dehumanization is the process whereby individuals or groups are viewed as somehow less than fully human. Existing cultural and moral standards are often not applied to those who have been dehumanized.

Enemy Image. Enemy image describes the phenomenon wherein both sides participating in a conflict tend to view themselves as good and peace-loving peoples, while the enemy is seen as evil and aggressive.

Moral Exclusion. Moral exclusion is a process whereby one group views another as fundamentally different, and therefore prevailing moral rules and practices apply to one group but not the other.”

– James R. Schlesinger, et al., Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations

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