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Anti-Anti-Individualism

There is a critique of individualism that goes something like this:

Before modernity, human beings had meaningful lives as parts of groups. Dance, ritual, myth, tribal laws and folkways, all served to unite us, giving our lives emotional richness and depth, and giving us a way to respond to the contingency and fragility of individual life. Modernity caused us to lose this existential and aesthetic depth, and this social cohesion, by promoting practices that divide and atomize, and philosophies that encourage us to view ourselves as separate.

The trouble with this critique is that if you are going to find it persuasive you must find it persuasive as an individual. IF you are sunk in a collective identity you are not in a position to choose whether or not to be an atomized, enlightenment individual. Who would do the choosing?

So the critique of enlightenment individualsm ends up assuming the truth of the position that it is attacking. You have to be a separate individual making choices in order to understand and respond to it.

There’s something appealing to it, no doubt — who wouldn’t want the emotional benefits of solidarity, a particular identity, and a rich web of relationships — but to listen to it requires splitting our minds. There must be the part of the mind that is individual enough to recognize the cogency of the anti-individualistic critique, and there must be the part of the mind that attempts to enjoy the psychic benefits of communalism, while at the same time forgetting that it is as an individual that I choose to enjoy those benefits. So, listening to the anti-individualistic critique entails splitting our psyches into two warring parts.

This is a switcheroo indeed for a position that promises integration!

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Post-Election Post: The Key to Understanding Netanyahu’s Ascent in the Last Few Days of the Campaign

Tomer Persico - English

The key to understanding what happened here in the last few days, mainly the last one, before the Israely elections last week, is identity. That’s the word, that’s what counts. In these elections, questions of identity took on additional meaning, and they are what in the end decided the matter, in a dramatic way. Personally, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t see it coming, and I was also wrong in thinking that the aversion and weariness of a major section of the public with Netanyahu (on the right as well as the left) offered a real chance of changing the government. I was wrong, because I didn’t understand the depth to which the politics of identity penetrates Israel today.

For a start, let’s take the obvious example: Mizrachi (Sephardic) thinkers, artists and political activists who voted for Shas did so only out of identity awareness. The slogan “Mizrachi…

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A Difficult-to-Know Woman Who Wore Around Her Neck a Whistle Made of Human Bone

She didn’t like to talk to me, or to talk to anybody else, although she worked in HR so she did talk to people although she didn’t like it. Her grandfather had been involved in the Nazi efforts to explore Tibet and had become acquainted with the Tantrik trumpet made of thigh bone. She didn’t go that far but instead she had a whistle.

Why do you have it I asked her.

Cause I believe in breaking my life into segments and when I blow it I’m going to be out of here.

You mean leave the job? Leave me?

Maybe maybe not. I mean it’ll all be different. It’ll be like my body will still be here but my soul will be gone.

Where will it go?

That’s for me to know and you not to find out.

And if you blow it again?

How can I even answer that question? The girl who blows the whistle a second time won’t be me.

Since our wedding she’s blown the whistle every day, and since this morning every hour.

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The Books of the Celicideans

The Celicideans, or Kaladi people as they are called in Herodotus, whom Ashstrom theorizes are also the Silidideans referred to in the Indonesian recension of the Mahabharata, preserved their religion in certain books that were not translated until Kaladistan fell under British colonial government in the mid 19 c. The most important book, Safir Ha Bana-Soth, the Book of the Generations of Soth, tells the story of a primordial monster El Karaq, his defeat by the Horse Twins Amator and Amatavo, the construction of the universe from his viscera, the murder of Amator by Amatavo, and the genealogy of the descendants of Amatavo by his five Dragon Wives. When Wodroffe-Jones, the philologist and colonial officer after translating the ShBS into English set to work writing a commentary he came across the puzzle that every one of his native interpreters gave him a different interpretation. For one El Karaq is the human mind, and the other characters in the book show the creation of thought from the unsullied state of thoughtlessness; for a second it is a manual of political statecraft, describing the eighteen forms of amity and nineteen forms of betrayal for the education of a perfect prince; for a third it is a cookbook; for the fourth, an erotic manual; for the fifth a cosmology; for the sixth a poem. Wodroffe-Jones eventually became initiated into a select order of dervishes and after he had undergone the prolonged sodomy at the hands of certain sacred dildoes carved of meteorites, handled by the mothers of the cave of night, he was vouchsafed a reading of the Safir Tanaka, or book of interpretations. This, the second book of Celicidean religion to be translated was a book of fortunetelling with the following unusual feature: the personality and future of a man or woman was read based upon their interpretation of the primary scripture of the Celicideans the Safir Ha Bana-Soth. So one who viewed Soth as the mind would be a leader, one who viewed Soth as a tasty stew would find misfortune, one who viewed Soth as a parable of the perfect state would be a slave.

The wizened crone asked the young Britisher “So, what is your interpretation of the Book of Soth?”

“My good woman.” replied Woodroffe-Jones. “In my view it is a marvelous method of ensuring the continued vitality of the poetic faculties of your people! Most extraordinary!”

“Such a man” — the old crone consulted the stained manuscripts “must die by my hand!” and she stabbed him in the back.

His life blood oozing from him, young Alex crept deeper into the cave. He came across a small talisman in the form of an eye on a hand. Etched on it in silver was a cryptic poem “The Book of Books” which was a prophesy that at such time as the translation of the Book of Interpretations led to a murder of a young foreign man by the high priestess a fourth book would be released into the world, and this book would not be written in words but in the bodies of the Celcidean people who would spread out amongst the world, the lowest of the low, despised more than any others are despised, until finally a fifth book would be written, and here the dying British man could scarcely understand the ancient poetry, but it would be written in machines that calculates zeroes and ones and send these zeroes and ones via electrical wires across the mountains and oceans, and this book would be read by all, and when the last man understood its mean Amator would gain his revenge, give birth to a reborn El Karaq from his heart,and it would tear up all books and all men and boil them in a mighty stew called Aman-Jal-Tariq.

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Irony, Double Irony, Super-Double Irony

Irony
A woman asks a man to elope with her that night, he says he’ll do it tomorrow after his affairs are in order, that night he steps on a tack, gets septicemia and dies.

Double Irony
A woman asks a man to elope with her that night. He does it immediately because he’s afraid he will die if he doesn’t. Racing from town he thinks he spots her husband in pursuit, turns the car into ongoing traffic, and dies.

Super-Double Irony
A woman asks a man to elope with her that night. He does so. Deep in the forest a lion that has achieved self-reflection from eating certain mutogenic herbs follows them thinking to eat them, but as he pursues them deeper into the forest he thinks better of it. The man and the woman split up a few days later — neither was quite what the other was hoping for it turns out — and man, woman, and lion go their separate ways, for good and ill.

***
Some of the best stories provide their pleasure by seeming to be one kind of irony and then turning out to be a different kind.

But not all!

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