bell hooks (1952 – 2021)

bell hooks, 2009-11-01 Photo: Cmongirl

bell hooks (no capitals, please) was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on 1952-09-25, or 70 years before the publication of this weblog post. Her pen name is taken from her maternal great-grandmother who, according to Heather Williams “was known for her snappy and bold tongue, which [bell hooks/ Gloria Jean Watkins] greatly admired”. Williams further informs us that the name was put in lowercase letters “to distinguish [herself from] her great-grandmother.” It also signified that it was more important to focus on her works, not her personality, expressed as the “substance of books, not who I am.”

Perhaps the most import insight bell hooks brings is that communication and literacy, defined as the ability to read, write and think critically, are necessary for the feminist movement because without them people may not recognize gender inequalities.

If there is a single work that would help people understand bell hooks, it is Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981). The title is not original. It was used by Sojouner Truth (1797 – 1883), as the publication title of an untitled speech given at a Woman’s convention in 1851 at Akron, Ohio. The fact that there is 130 years between these publications suggests that the status of Black women has not improved noticeably in that time.

Racism and sexism have doubly impacted the lives of Black women, so that they have the lowest status and worst conditions of any group in American society. Southern segregationists promoted a stereotype of Black female promiscuity and immorality. According to hooks, white female reformers were more concerned with white morality than the living conditions of Black Americans.

White society stereotyped white women as pure/ goddess/ virginal, in contrast to the stereotypical Black women depicted as seductive whores. This, in turn, justified the rape of Black women by white men. hooks views Black nationalism as patriarchal and misogynist.

The then-current feminist movement (from the 1970s), is seen as a (largely) white middle and upper class movement, unsympathetic to the needs of poor/ non-white women. This feminism actually reinforces existing patterns of sexism/ racism/ classism.

There are two other problematic starts, and legacies affecting Black women. The Nation of Islam dates from 1930. The Nation was started by Wallace Fard Muhammad (c. 1877 – c. 1934) in Detroit. After Muhammad’s disappearance, leadership was taken over by Elijah Muhammad (1897 – 1975), who expanded it to include schools/ banks/ restaurants/ stores/ truck and air based transportation systems/ publishing in 46 American cities. It also owned about 80 square kilometers of farmland in 1970. While all of these may be viewed positively, it was also a patriarchal organization that promoted gendered roles, and denied women leadership opportunities.

The Black Panther Party was started in the mid 1960s, by Huey P. Newton’s (1942 – 1989) and Bobby Seales (1936- ). They initially developed a 10-point manifesto. The Black Panther Party founded over 60 community support programs (renamed survival programs in 1971) including food banks, medical clinics, sickle cell anemia tests, prison busing for families of inmates, legal advice seminars, clothing banks, housing cooperatives, and their own ambulance service. The most famous of these programs was the Free Breakfast for Children program which fed thousands of impoverished children daily during the early 1970s. Newton also co-founded the Black Panther newspaper service, which became one of America’s most widely distributed African-American newspapers.

To begin with, not all was well with the Black Panther Party. It too advocated violence, black masculinity and traditional gender roles. Thus, it was not a vehicle for improving the status of Black women. It was patriarchal and misogynist. However, things started to improve, especially from 1968, when women constituted two-thirds of the party.

In Black Looks: Race and Representation (1992) hook takes an article by Audre Lorde’s (1934 – 1992) about black womanhood as a structure, then discusses how black women are imprisoned in a stereotype of violence, that continues on through the generations. She believes that the narrative can be changed, but that it is hard. Black women are encouraged to discuss Black literature. Yet, this does not come with any guarantees of self-actualization. In particular, she refers to Celie, a character in Alice Walker’s (1944 – ) The Color Purple (1982), where she escapes an abusive situation, only to return to a similar situation at the end of the novel. What these fiction writers are doing, is breaking “new ground in that it clearly names the ways structures of domination, racism, sexism, and class exploitation, oppress and make it practically impossible for black women to survive if they do not engage in meaningful resistance on some level.” (p. 50) Angela Davis (1944 – ) and Shirley Chisholm (1924 – 2005) are presented as examples of Black women breaking the trend and resisting the cycles. Women of color need to engage in feminism and in the “decolonizing of our minds” in order to center “social change that will address the diversity of our experiences and our needs.” (p. 60)

Not being Black, female or queer pas gay, it is not my place to pass judgement on the previous two works. At some level there is an intellectual understanding, but no lived experience. This is not the case with the third, and last, book that I would like to discuss: belonging: a culture of place (2009). hooks begins chapter 2, Kentucky is My Fate, with: “If one has chosen to live mindfully, then choosing a place to die is as vital as choosing where and how to live. Choosing to return to the land and landscape of my childhood, the world of my Kentucky upbringing, I am comforted by the knowledge that I could die here.” This was her fate, in 2021.

She regards her upbringing in rural Kentucky, as an exposure to anarchy, where people are enabled to live a relatively free life, despite racial separatism, white exploitation and black oppression. She contrasts this with more general urban experiences, where rules were made, imposed and enforced by unknown others, where “black folks were forced to live within boundaries in the city, ones that were not formally demarcated, but boundaries marked by white supremacist violence against black people if lines were crossed. Our segregated black neighborhoods were sectioned off, made separate. At times they abutted the homes of poor and destitute white folks. Neither of these groups lived near the real white power and privilege governing all our lives.”

In her last chapter, 10: Earthbound: On Solid Ground, hooks discusses the concept of interbeing, “That sense of interbeing was once intimately understood by black folks in the agrarian South. Nowadays it is only those who maintain our bonds to the land, to nature, who keep our vows of living in harmony with the environment, who draw spiritual strength from nature. Reveling in nature’s bounty and beauty has been one of the ways enlightened poor people in small towns all around our nations stay in touch with their essential goodness even as forces of evil, in the form of corrupt capitalism and hedonistic consumerism, work daily to strip them of their ties with nature…. To look upon a tree, or a hilly waterfall, that has stood the test of time can renew the spirit. To watch plants rise from the earth with no special tending reawakens our sense of awe and wonder.”

While I am happy that bell hooks was able to return to Kentucky, it is not always possible for people to return to their own place. For most of my adult life, my home town, New Westminster, on the banks of Sto:lo, the Fraser River, has been economically inaccessible. Thus, I have had to create my own substitute, Cliff Cottage, at Vangshylla, in rural Inderøy, Trøndelag, Norway. This has not happened without my own internal protests! Despite these, it is a place that is suitable for my anarchist self. Rural landscapes make better use of their internal resources, and are closer to sustainable. Prices for housing are lower, so people can work less. The benefits of an rural lifestyle are real.

Urban landscapes, unfortunately, have become dependent on the massive import of external resources, for their survival. They are no longer sustainable. People living there, feel a need to work excessively just to pay for the basics of housing. The benefits of an urban lifestyle are largely a mirage. At one point I read that in 2020 New Westminster experienced the worst air quality in the world due to the combined effects of the 2020 Western American wildfires and a fire at the old pier at the quay.

This week, I was sent two listings for houses for sale in Kerrisdale, a residential area in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Trish, my wife, grew up. The prices for these modest houses on smallish lots were between two and three million dollars, Canadian. I would discourage everyone, from supporting this form of übercapitalism. Buying such a house is not in the spirit of bell hooks. It is hard to be an anarchist, making monthly mortgage payments! It is hard to be an anarchist, wasting income on unnecessary expenditures.

4000 Weeks

It could have been named 75 years or 900 months or 30 000 days or an even larger number of hours, minutes or seconds. Instead, the unit used was weeks. All of these numbers indicate the approximate human life expectancy.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (2021) is Oliver Burkeman’s (1975 – , 2400 weeks) contribution to understanding the temporal limitations of human life. I have come across several reviews of this book, two of which I have read, including one by the author. The others I have either skimmed or ignored.

Burkeman’s own review of his book, At best, we’re on Earth for around 4,000 weeks – so why do we lose so much time to online distraction?, appears in the Guardian 2021-08-07. He begins with a description of 44 wasted minutes, when in 2016-04, two Buzz Feed reporters attach 686 elastic bands to a watermelon, that ultimately explodes. Why do people use their time in such ways? This question applies not only to participants determined to affix elastic bands, but also to the spectators watching the YouTube video, and the commentators reporting on it, including myself, who has not even bothered to watch any of the video. The Watermelon Problem, is also the title of chapter five in the book. The chapter asks, essentially, why do we waste our time on social media, when there is a beautiful real world to experience?

Much of Burkeman’s book consists of name dropping, and the paraphrasing of passages from self-help works. It is divided into two sections. The first, Choosing to Choose, is further divided into six chapters, and looks at how people can act to determine their future. The second, Beyond Control, has eight chapters, and has more about chance.

Burkeman begins his book, by looking at Lewis Mumford (1895 – 1990 = 4919 weeks), Technics and Civilization ( 1934) and a modern concept of time, defined as “an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.” The industrial revolution was more dependent on the clock, than the steam engine. Burkeman wonders if this attitude toward time sets up a rigged game. One cannot simply live a life unfolding in time. Instead, each moment is judged according to its usefulness in achieving future goals. This will ultimately backfire, because “[I]t wrenches us out of the present, … experiencing everything in terms of some later, hoped-for benefit…” Because of this, deep time, with its vividness of reality, becomes unachievable.

In the second chapter, the Busytown series by Richard Scarry (1919 – 1994 = 3908 weeks) is mentioned. This is because the residents of Busytown, while busy, are not overwhelmed, unlike almost everyone else in modern society. Contemporary life is an extreme version of a law expressed in Parkinson’s Law (1957), “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” developed by C. Northcote Parkinson (1909 – 1993 = 4362 weeks).

Thus, people are ever engaged in futile activities that reduce labour, and max out convenience. In the words of Burkeman, “Convenience culture seduces us into imagining that we might find room for everything important by eliminating only life’s tedious tasks. But it’s a lie. You have to choose a few things, sacrifice everything else, and deal with the inevitable sense of loss that results.”

Martin Hägglund (1976 – , 2334 weeks) and This Life (2019), his book on secular faith and spiritual freedom, presented in chapter three, Facing Finitude, resonated. Given infinite time, there is no need to prioritize.

Mortals constantly need to choose, or as stated in the fourth chapter, “The good procrastinator accepts the fact that she can’t get everything done, then decides as wisely as possible what tasks to focus on and what to neglect.” This chapter contains three principles. First, if an activity really matters, the only way to be sure it will happen is to do some of it today and no matter how many other activities may be demanding attention. Second,  limit the number of works in progress. The third principle is better described than named. Make a list of the top twenty-five things one wants out of life, then arrange them in order, from the most important to the least. Prioritize the top five. Actively avoid the others. They are insufficiently important to be part of a core, but seductive enough to be distracting.

This leads to Robert Goodin (1950 – , = 3690 weeks) and On Settling (2012) involves accepting something that is less than ideal. This can apply to a romantic partner as well as a job, and much more, including: numerous categories of physical objects. Personally and initially, I thought of houses, cars and computing devices. However, it can apply to almost anything, and in a second round, seconds after the first, I thought of sailboats, clothing and tools.

In the second section, life is described as an ever flowing river of time that is always flowing. It is expressed in the the title of chapter seven, We Never Really Have Time. Here, Douglas Hofstadter (1945 – , 3993 weeks) is famous for Hofstadter’s Law: every task will always take longer than you expect, even when Hofstadter’s Law is taken into account. David Cain (1941 – , 4164 weeks) notes that people never have time in the same sense that they have cash in their wallets or shoes on their feet. A claim to having time, is simply an expectation of it. 

Hofstadter is an important writer for computer scientists, and others, because of his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979). Wikipedia describes it, “By exploring common themes in the lives and works of logician Kurt Gödel [1906 – 1978, 3742 weeks], artist M. C. Escher [1898 – 1972, 3849 weeks] and composer Johann Sebastian Bach [1685 – 1750, 3407 weeks], the book expounds concepts fundamental to mathematics, symmetry, and intelligence. Through short stories, illustrations, and analysis, the book discusses how systems can acquire meaningful context despite being made of “meaningless” elements.”

In Chapter 8, You Are Here, people are told that much of life is preparation for something else. At one point he quotes Alan Watts (1915 – 1973, 3071 weeks) “Take education. What a hoax. As a child, you are sent to nursery school. In nursery school, they say you are getting ready to go on to kindergarten. And then first grade is coming up and second grade and third grade…In high school, they tell you you’re getting ready for college. And in college you’re getting ready to go out into the business world…[People are] like donkeys running after carrots that are hanging in front of their faces from sticks attached to their own collars. They are never here. They never get there. They are never alive.” Eastern Living, Modern Life (2006) p. 109-10.

In terms of a return on investment, there is little point in reading beyond this point. In fact, others may have given up much earlier. Rather than reading, it might be time for everyone to make a plan of what they want to prioritize in this life. This will most often be age dependent. As an older person, I see some neglected interests re-emerging from earlier parts of my life – working with electronics and with sound, for example. Other aspects of it do not hold the same appeal – with boating the best example. In terms of travel, I have an interest in connecting with family and friends, select places in North America and the Nordic countries.

I also see a need for five year plans, where a window of opportunity encourage a focus on a limited range of activities. My personality does not encourage pursuing the same activity throughout a lifetime. I prefer the short or medium-term to the long-term. Currently, I am nearing the end of a phase of concentration on building construction. Initially, it was more rewarding, and I intend to finish off certain aspects of it. However, I am now drawn to other activities. This contrasts with my significant other. Textiles and music were her interests when I first met her. Textiles are still important to her. If a hearing disability had not intervened, I imagine music would have been one of her life-long interests, as well. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

Note: In this weblog post only, the birth and death dates of deceased people are followed with their lifespan measured in weeks. For living persons, their life is given in weeks from their birth to the date of publication of this weblog post, 2021-08-28. Round numbers may indicate that the exact date of birth/ death is unknown. This very situation includes Oliver Burkeman.


The literal meaning of Shanzhai is mountain stronghold, referring to the bastion of a regional warlord/ bandit. Its remoteness protects it from centralized, official control. However, shanzhai also refers to an attitude, documented by Byung-Chul Han (1957 – ), a South Korean-born Swiss/ German metalurgist/ philosopher/ cultural theorist. He wrote Shanzhai: Dekonstruktion auf Chinesisch in German, published by Merve, Berlin in 2011. An English translation, Shanzhai: Deconstruction in Chinese appeared in 2017, published by MIT.

The chapters in the book refer to Chinese terms and their definitions. They are Quan: Law, Zhen ji: Original, Xian zhan: Seals of Leisure, Fuzhi: Copy, and Shanzhai: Fake.

As indicated by the name of the last chapter, shanzhai typically refers to something that is copycat/ fake. Another English word associated with it is tinkering. Before: A shanzhai factory has traditionally referred to a poorly equipped, low-quality, family-based production facility making inferior products. Now: Fewer of the facilities and products are of poor quality, despite no or fake brand labels.

Han realizes that it can be difficult for people of European ancestry to set themselves into a Taoistic mindset. “… transformation takes place not as a series of events or eruptions, but discreetly, imperceptibly, and continually. Any kind of creation that occurred at one absolute unique point would be inconceivable. Discontinuity is a characteristic of time based on events. (p. 8)

Han quotes Zhu Xi (1130 – 1200), who offers insight into shanzhai, and incidentally some pertinent advice for these COVID-19 times, “Under normal conditions we adhere to the rules of convention, but in times of change we use quan.” (p. 10) A quan is a movable weight on a balance scale. The implication is that there can be no absolute values, only relative values that have to be moved to find the point of balance.

There are some who equate Shanzhai with piracy, inside as well as outside China. At about the same time Byung-Chul Han was writing his book, Ni Ping (1959 – ), a Chinese actress and television hostess, proposed the elimination of shanzhai works, arguing that their copycat nature stifled genuine creativity and blurred property rights. During the ensuing debate, it was pointed out that shanzhai products are not pirated products. Genuine creativity is not so much originality, as it is government sanctioned creativity, which may be considerably less original than manifestations described as copycat. At one level, shanzhai is rebellion/ resistance to the mainstream.

Discussing Zhen ji, Han writes, “The Chinese idea of the original is determined not by a unique act of creation, but by unending process, not by definitive identity but by constant change.” (p. 13) This contrasts with Plato’s concepts of the beautiful or good, which are immutable. Being is replaced with a multiform, multilayered process. Masterpieces will be deconstructed/ viewed differently in different ages. He notes, “Copying is the same as praising.” (p. 16)

Han then examines Orson Welles’ (1915 – 1985) docudrama, F is for Fake (1973). “Elmyr [de Hory (1906 – 1976)] is deliberately painting badly so that his forgery looks more like an original. In this way he turns the conventional relationship between master and forger on its head: the forger paints better than the master.” (p. 17) Han then goes on to remind readers that Michelangelo was a forger of genius, substituting perfect copies for borrowed originals. (p. 19)

Han regards seal stamps (xian zhan) as part of a picture’s composition. Indeed, space is left on paintings for later inscriptions. These seals vary in size from 4mm to 200 mm in diameter, and may include poetic or moral content. They open up a communicative space, vastly different from the signature affixed European artworks. (p. 21 – 22)

In the chapter Fuzhi: Copy, Han reflects on terra-cotta warrior copies. While the Hamburg Museum für Völkerkunde regarded them as forgeries in 2007, the Chinese replica workshop regarded its efforts as an attempt to restart production. (p. 31) Han further notes that the Japanese Ise Shinto shrine temple complex is completely rebuilt from scratch every twenty years, despite being 1 300 years old.

Modular production from stock components is regarded as appropriate behaviour, for in Chinese society originality/ uniqueness is not as valued as reproducibility, allowing variations and modulations. (p. 35) Han then refers people to one of the most famous Chinese treatises on painting the Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden (1679).

In the last chapter, Shanzhai: Fake, Han writes, “There are now also expressions such as shanzhaism, shanzhai culture, and shanzhai spirit. Today shanzhai encompasses all areas of life in China. There are shanzhai books, a shanzhai Nobel Prize, shanzhai movies, shanzhai politicians, and shanzhai stars.” (p. 37)

He then goes on to discuss where the term was first applied, cell phones. “In terms of design and function they are hardly inferior to the original. Technological or aesthetic modifications give them their own identity. They are multifunctional and stylish. Shanzhai products are characterized in particular by a high degree of flexibility. For example, they can adapt very quickly to particular needs and situations, which is not possible for products made by large companies because of their long production cycles.” (p. 37)

Material titled, Shanzhai by Example, was removed from this post and added to a post titled The Naked Truth on 2021-12-30 at 17:00.

Weblog Ethics

Wrongful actions committed by criminal justice professionals, who are black or people of colour in crime drama series. Source:

Even weblogs must have ethical standards.

Jim Lehrer (1934 – 2020) constructed a list of 16 Rules of Journalism, printed in italics at the beginning of the paragraphs below. These were later reduced to nine rules, marked with an *. These rules were copied from Kottke, who comments on them in general, and points to their original sources. I am using them as a starting point for my own personal reflections on weblogging. It does not mean that I favour these rules over other rules, for many have infuriated me. Others, not so much. Some rules have not been commented upon. Others have. See, especially, rule #15.

  1. Do nothing I cannot defend.* Coming first and with an *, it could be an important rule, but it grates. It is defeatist, starting with the negative (do nothing) rather than the positive (so something). Even the term defend points in two directions. Is Lehrer concerned about protecting something? or is it about showing support? My replacement would be: Promote causes that you endorse. Cause could refer to a principle, ideal, goal or movement to which a person is dedicated, or the end/ purpose for which a thing is produced, or even something broader still, such as the general welfare of the planet/ humanity/ a more restricted group/ person. Endorse includes a range of support (middle ground), from approval (weaker), to sustain or defend (stronger).
  2. Do not distort, lie, slant, or hype. This is a difficult rule to follow, especially the slanting. A slant is a perspective on a problem. All events have to be viewed from some perspective, even if they aren’t acknowledged. Where does slanting stop, and hype and/or distortion begin? How much distortion, hype or slanting does it take, before the result is considered a lie? There are no easy answers. One reason for weblogging is to present alternative opinions, especially those that are not supportive of the mainstream, which for me consist of a libertarian perspective on the economy, and a conservative perspective on social life, that are found/ distorted/ lied about/ slanted/ hyped in commercial media.
  3. Do not falsify facts or make up quotes. Quotations and other attributions of thought are difficult. In part, it comes from the inability of some people to speak/ write succinctly enough. Often, there is a need to re-state the essence of a person’s opinion, without distortion. At another level it also reveals a major challenge with journalism and its focus on individuals, rather than systems. One criticism of journalists is that some seem more interested in a subject’s passion or conviction, rather than the truth of their statements.
  4. Cover, write, and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.* Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez (1983 – ) tweeted a link to an article about the 2003 rape accusation against Kobe Bryant (1978 – 2020), who died on 2020-01-26 in a helicopter accident. Sonmez was subsequently harangued and threatened, her address posted publicly, and her employer placed her on administrative leave. Bryant issued an apology where he made clear he believed the woman when she said she did not feel their encounter was consensual. The Median article describing the Sonmez situation, reasons that that public relations were more important to the Washington Post than Sonmez herself. It wonders why rape victims would trust the Washington Post with their stories if they think the paper is more concerned with appeasing an online mob than holding powerful men to account? It concludes that a powerful publication silenced its female reporter for tweeting about rape. Lehrer’s rule seems to suggest he would prefer people not to write about rape, or any other uncomfortable subject, at least when the alleged perpetrator is a celebrity.
  5. Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.* One of the reasons I have stopped reading a particular local newspaper, is that – from my perspective – it covers stories by focusing on one single person/ perspective, and allowing that one person to frame events. There seems to be no balance, until later – perhaps – when a second perspective is described, that is 180 degrees away from the first. Even then, it is difficult for the second party to address issues, because they have already been framed, possibly detrimentally.
  6. Assume the viewer is as smart and caring and good a person as I am.* Radio, television, newspapers (and more) are mass media, sending out their stories to thousands, if not millions of listeners, viewers and/ or readers. The audience of this weblog is entirely different. It currently consists of 32 other people. Each of these people I know personally, even if there are some that I have never met in person. Others, I may not have met for over fifty years. I have also stated that if this weblog has an audience of more than 100 people, I will have failed at my goal. I have no desire to be famous, or to be popular. Perhaps Bernie Sanders (1941 – ) has expressed it best. Responding to a comment by Hillary Rodham Clinton ( 1947 – ) that no one likes him, Sanders replied, “On a good day, my wife likes me.” This weblog is not trying to influence anyone, apart from a very select group who are (hopefully) equally smart, caring and as good as I am. It is encouraging people to forget mass-market social media, and to engage with a limited number of real friends on issues that are of importance to that small group of people.
  7. Assume the same about all people on whom I report.* I presume this rule is actually stating, that journalists must assume that the subject of a story is as smart and caring and good a person as the journalist reporting. This makes an assumption that stories are about people. Many of my stories are about technology, sometimes its failings, at other times it successes.
  8. Assume everyone is innocent until proven guilty. In its editorial on 2020-01-24, Logisk brist = Logical Deficiency, the Inderøyning newspaper takes up the legal situation of a Norwegian woman and her two children, who have been returned to Norway from Syria. The problem is that leading politicians have pronounced the woman guilty of terrorism, despite the lack of any legal judgement against her, in violation of the Norwegian constitution. Her return to Norway has even led to the Progressive Party, leaving the government. In social media, including weblogs, it is far too easy to defame people who must be presumed innocent. It is my understanding that no court of law has found this woman guilty of anything.
  9. Assume personal lives are a private matter until a legitimate turn in the story mandates otherwise.* When I initially read this statement, my mind turned to social media, and how it is encouraging precisely the opposite of this rule. For even the most intimate details of a person’s life are exposed and commented upon.
  10. Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and clearly label them as such.* This rule shows by example, the challenge of finding suitable rules. I think I understand all of the words in the rule until I get to the phrase straight news stories. It grates. Even if journalists use the term story, it is too close to the concept of fiction for my liking. I suspect a news story is a spicier version of a sequence of news facts. Since the adjective straight is being used to modify news story, I am left wondering what other varieties can be found. When I look up straight in a dictionary I find 19 different meanings, including not curved and heterosexual. Fortunately, it also provides me with a better understanding of its journalistic meaning: written or to be written in a direct and objective manner, with no attempt at individual styling, comment, etc. If I were to help Lehrer, by re-writing the rule for him, it would be: Separate and label facts, opinions and analyses.
  11. Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions. No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.* While sources are sometimes lacking in this weblog, when people are mentioned, I try to put in their name as well as their year of birth and death, to try to put that person’s experiences into context. The same is also true, with respect to the first publication date of a book or article. Unfortunately, not all C.V.s contain essential information, such as year of birth. There are times when I feel I should go further, and include country of birth, or at least residence. L. P. Hartley (1895 – 1972) wrote in The Go-Between (1953), “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” It is often difficult to understand what has motivated people. Even more difficult if the context of their life is missing. Personally, I am a pacifist, and refuse to use weapons. Yet, both of my parents, Edgar (1906 – 1991) and Jennie (1916 – ) served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the second World War. While I have been able to condemn almost all wars since then, I still have difficulties understanding WW II, and passing judgement on its participants.
  12. Do not broadcast profanity or the end result of violence unless it is an integral and necessary part of the story and/or crucial to understanding the story.
  13. Acknowledge that objectivity may be impossible but fairness never is.
  14. Journalists who are reckless with facts and reputations should be disciplined by their employers. This is a very naive statement, given that much of the media is owned by entrepreneurs wanting to promote a particular political perspective. The right-leaning (Kieth) Rupert Murdoch (1931 – ) through his News Corporation, owned over 800 companies in more than 50 countries, with a net worth of over $5 billion in 2 000. In other ages, there have been other media moguls with other priorities. William Randolph Hurst (1863 – 1951) favoured the working class, who bought his papers, and denouncing the rich and powerful. Today, Mark Elliott Zuckerberg (1984 – ) has become infamous for Facebook’s role in allowing Cambridge Analytica to harvest personal data from millions of Facebook profiles without their consent and using it for political advertising purposes.
  15. My viewers have a right to know what principles guide my work and the process I use in their practice. Change viewers to readers, and the statement should be true of every serious weblog. Thus, I am curious to know what readers believe should be the principles followed in this weblog. Readers with opinions are encouraged to comment. Those reluctant to do so publicly, are encouraged to send a confidential email. While I will read and evaluate all material sent, this does not mean that I will incorporate it in any final rules for Brock’s weblog.
  16. I am not in the entertainment business.* That is a debatable point. Everything related to the media can be considered entertainment, even if some regard themselves above it. Much of the harm initially done there, is subsequently amplified by webblog posts. Take television crime drama, as an example. In Change of Color’s report, Normalizing Injustice, a disproportionate number of wrongdoing criminal justice professionals are black or people of colour, as shown in the table at the beginning of this weblog post. This report reminds people that “the crime genre glorifies, justifies and normalizes the systematic violence and injustice meted out by police, making heroes out of police and prosecutors who engage in abuse, particularly against people of color.” Misconduct is often presented in a way that normalizes it, making problematic characters seem good and their wrongful actions justified. Fiction is not just fiction, and entertainment is not simply entertainment, both are tools that shape attitudes. Entertainment cannot be ignored, for it can be the face of oppression.

This marks the end of Lehrer’s rules. What do readers think should be in a set of rules that should apply to all weblogs? In addition to these, what other rules should apply specifically to Brock’s weblogs?

Ethics of Care

Carol Gilligan (1936 – ) is considered the founder of the Ethics of Care philosophical movement. Much of the foundations of this movement were published in her book, In a Different Voice (1982).

In the 1960s Gilligan realized that men (in contrast to people) were the measure of humanity, with autonomy and rationality as the markers of maturity. To explore this, and its implications, she undertook three empirical studies: college student study about moral development, the abortion decision study looking at conflict, and the rights and responsibilities study which examined concepts of self and morality in men and women of different ages.

Analysis and reflection on these studies resulted in Gilligan developing a framework for the Ethics of Care, where, “the different voice I describe is characterized not by gender but theme. Its association with women is an empirical observation, and is primarily through women’s voices that I trace its development.”

The Ethics of Care is proposed as an alternative to Lawrence Kohlberg’s (1927 – 1987) hierarchal and patriarchal approach to ethics, where he claims that girls (and thus women), did not in general develop their moral abilities to the highest levels. Gilligan explained gendered differences in moral reasoning as cultural constructions, and not in essentialist terms. Kohlberg provided detailed responses to Gilligan in Essays on Moral Development: Vol.II. The Psychology of Moral Development: The Nature and Validity of Moral Stages (1984). Kohlberg has been extremely influential, including some of the content in John Rawls’ (1921 – 2002) A Theory of Justice (1972).

Gilligan contended that women approach ethical problems differently, by focusing on responsibilities and relationships while men focus on rights and rules.

In 2011, Gilligan was able to appreciate that care is regarded as a feminine ethic within a patriarchal framework, but as a human ethic within a democratic framework. For her, reason can co-exist with emotion, mind with body, self with relationships and even men with women. This co-existence is not permitted in a patriarchal framework. Gilligan calls this less divisive and more human approach, the Ethics of Care.

Many other feminists, especially, have reflected on the Ethics of Care, and developed their own philosophies. One of the first was Nel Noddings (1929 – ) who wrote Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (1984). She makes a distinction between natural and ethical caring. Personally, Noddings is difficult to understand, except that she seems to be enforcing traditional views of nurturing.

Annette Baier (1929 – 2012) is more interesting because she states that women and men make their decisions about right and wrong based on different value systems: men take their moral decisions according to an idea of justice, while women are motivated by a sense of trust or caring. A major concern is that philosophy, and its history, have been dominated by men, resulting in the feminine perspective being ignored.

Joan Claire Tronto (1952 – ) attempted to operationalize the ethics of care, especially in Moral boundaries: a political argument for an ethic of care (1993). She defines care as “On the most general level we suggest caring be viewed as a species activity that includes everything we do to maintain, continue and repair our “world”so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.” (p. 103)

Tronto differentiates obligation-based ethics and responsibility-based ethics. Obligation-based ethics involve a decision maker determines what obligations s/he has and responding. This contrasts with responsibility-based ethics, where the relationship with others is the starting point. Thus, the Ethics of Care involves/ requires developing a habit of care. (p. 127)

There are four elements of caring, that are the fundamentals necessary to provide effective care. These require certain attitudes and skills. They are: 1. attentiveness; 2. responsibility; 3. competence; and, 4. responsiveness of the care receiver. (p. 127)

Tronto defines four phases of caring. These involves cognitive, emotional, and action strategies. However, they are not in sequential order, and can overlap. They are: 1. caring about; 2. taking care of; 3. care giving; and 4. care receiving. (p. 165)

The one Norwegian philosopher who deserves mention is Tove Pettersen (1962 – ), perhaps better known for her work on the existential ethics of Simone de Beauvoir. In addition to numerous articles, she has written one major book on the subject, Comprehending Care: Problems and Possibilities in The Ethics of Care (2008).

In an interview, later published, Pettersen states, “In our culture, the Good Samaritan ideal overlaps with the traditional understanding of what it means to be a good woman. Female care workers in particular—whether they are mothers or nurses—are commonly expected to be altruistic, to systematically put the interests of others first, while treating their own needs as secondary and unimportant. Consequently, they are expected to work beyond what is reasonable in order to fulfil this altruistic ideal. Using the Good Samaritan as an ideal for care workers in professions where the employer’s goal is to maximize profit and minimize costs paves the way for exploitation. Care workers are especially exposed to exploitation, because they have the responsibility for the well-being of vulnerable others. In many situations, care workers simply cannot reject this responsibility. It is therefore very important to be aware of how easy it is to be exploited when the traditional images of what it means to be a woman, and the traditional images of what good care is, are jointly applied. Unfortunately, the Good Samaritan cannot be an ideal for contemporary care work.

Virtue Ethics

Our hobby business, Fjellheim Institute ANS existed for many years mainly as the publisher of the Norwegian edition of The Virtues Guide (1996). Information about this enterprise is found in Keywords 023 Excellence.

Mary Rosalind Hursthouse (1943 – ) explains the concept of a virtue in her entry for Virtue Ethics in the 2013 edition of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “A virtue such as honesty or generosity is not just a tendency to do what is honest or generous, nor is it to be helpfully specified as a “desirable” or “morally valuable” character trait. It is, indeed a character trait—that is, a disposition which is well entrenched in its possessor, something that, as we say “goes all the way down”, unlike a habit such as being a tea-drinker—but the disposition in question, far from being a single track disposition to do honest actions, or even honest actions for certain reasons, is multi-track. It is concerned with many other actions as well, with emotions and emotional reactions, choices, values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests, expectations and sensibilities. To possess a virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a certain complex mindset. (Hence the extreme recklessness of attributing a virtue on the basis of a single action.)”

While Virtue Ethics can be said to begin with Socrates (ca. 470 – 399 BC), it is Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) who puts the field on the map, in Nicomachean Ethics, where he discusses about 11 moral virtues. Each virtue was suspended between two vices, one excessive, the other deficient. Thus, a person was to aim for moderation, a position somewhere between the two extremes.

At this point, we will ease our way into modern Virtue Ethics, by noting Alasdair Macintyre’s (1929 – ) demand in After Virtue (1981/ 1984/ 2007) that virtues have to be a community project. Ethics implies ethos, that each and every virtues has to be grounded in a particular time and place. If I look at my own upbringing, the society I grew up in was racist, discriminated against women, refused to tolerate either abortion or homosexuality, allowed parents to use physical punishment, encouraged smoking and drinking, and punished people who advocated socialist principles.

Each and every individual has to address emerging social issues, and to make a decision as to how to behave in the world. The list of moral virtues has to be applied to countless areas.

In addition to the 11 moral virtues, Aristotle also comments on seven other intellectual virtues. Of these it is especially Techne, translated as art or craftsmanship, that is of overwhelming interest for me, and many others in contemporary society. Here, I am particularly interested in miniaturization, manufacturing techniques – especially those that can be implemented locally, robotics and other forms of physical computing using sensors and activators. Naturally, I hope that there will be many others who are concerned about other challenging areas, such as health and nutrition/ agriculture.

One of the works that has impacted me the most is David Harvey’s (1935 – ) Social Justice and the City (1973), which I read almost as soon as it came out. The book is divided into three parts, of which the first two are most important. When I finished the first part, I felt I had understood the problem of urbanization. Then, as I read the second part I began to realize, that the proposed solutions simply created new problems. People fail to understand the consequences of their actions.

In my mind, I am often comparing Harvey’s work, with A Theory of Justice (1971) by John Rawls (1921 – 2002). The libertarian solutions proposed by Rawls, mirror those in the first part of Harvey’s book. I continually fear that Rawls does not appreciate how much needless damage libertarianism extracts from society. For MacIntyre, morals and virtues can only be understood in relation to the community in which they come from. Harvey expresses the same, but uses different words. Rawls wants people to consider justice as some sort of abstract ideal.

The Virtues Guide (1990/ 1993/ 1995), written by Linda Kavelin Popov and Dan Popov, and illustrated by John Kavelin, consisted of 52 different virtues, one for each week of the year. In our kitchen we also have 100 Virtues Cards. We choose one to focus on each week. Unfortunately, many of them do not feel like virtues.

I am contemplating a new approach, focusing on Aristotle’s original 11 moral virtues, one at a time. First, there has to be an understanding of the social context of each virtue. What does it mean, anno 2020? Second, there will have to be an understanding of how that virtue prepares a person for their ultimate destiny. Third, one must look at how a deficit of that virtue will affect a person. Fourth, a similar approach must be undertaken to understand what excess means, in terms of that virtue.

Carlos Ghosn vs Japan Inc.

Nissan Diesel Trucks (Photo: NZ Car Freak)

This weblog post is about Carlos Ghosn (1954 – ), the former CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and his cultural war with the Japanese business establishment. It might have had a different plot if I hadn’t read Exposure: Silenced. Threatened. Time to Fight Back. (2012) written by Michael Woodford (1960 – ).

The major reason for writing this post now, is Ghosn’s escape from Japan to Lebanon. He had been charged in Japan 2018-11-19 with under-reporting his earnings and misuse of Nissan assets, followed 2019-04-04 with charges of misappropriations of Nissan funds. He has spent considerable time in detention, as well as house arrest. However, many suspect that these charges were more about Japanese business interests (aided by the Japanese government) wanting to take back control of Nissan, than that anyone was actually worried about the relatively miniscule size of misappropriated funds. The fact that a major Japanese auto manufacturer had to use the services of a gaijin (foreigner) had been extremely embarrassing.


In 1996, Renault hired Ghosn to turn the company around from near bankruptcy. By 1999, the plan devised by Ghosn had worked. Much of it involved using Japanese management practices. In 1999 Nissan was facing a similar bankruptcy threat. In 1999-03, Renault and Nissan formed the Renault–Nissan Alliance, resulting in Renault purchased a 36.8% minority interest in Nissan. This allowed Ghosn the opportunity to develop the Nissan Revival Plan to turn around Nissan, using many of the same approaches as he used at Renault. By 2002-03-31 all of these goals had been accomplished. As of 2018-11, Renault owned 43.4% of Nissan, while Nissan owned non-voting shares equal to 15% of Renault’s equity, showing the unequal strength of the two companies in relation to each other.

This webpost does not proclaim Ghosn’s innocence. Only a court of law can do that, although there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. A legitimate question to ask is, what is the reason for the criminal charges against Ghosn? The problem with the Ghosn affair, is that Ghosn seems to be treated differently than equivalent Japanese business leaders caught up in similar situations. Here are some examples.


Perhaps the greatest Japanese crime of this century is related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster that began 2011-03-11. This disaster was the most severe nuclear accident since the 1986-04-26 Chernobyl disaster and the only other one to be given Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

The disaster caused meltdowns in three separate reactors. The lack of adequate preparations for a tsunami and related events resulted in the evacuation of more than 470 000 people. Nearly 18 500 people died in or were listed as missing from the disaster area. Despite the enormous ramifications of this disaster, Japanese society/ culture effectively blocked any one person or even group of people from being found responsible for it. Japanese prosecutors had twice declined to press criminal charges against former Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) executives, saying there was little chance of success. Then a judicial panel ruled that three men should be put on trial, despite the opposition of the prosecutors.

2019-09-19 a Japanese court found Tsunehisa Katsumata, Sakae Muto, and Ichiro Takekuro, the former most senior executives of Tepco, not guilty of professional negligence. No one else has been charged with anything related to this disaster.

The conviction rate in Japan is 99.4%. In other words, the prosecutors are acting, effectively, as judges. In this particular case, their reluctance to prosecute was interpreted as an indication of non-guilt.


Only a month after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Michael Woodford was appointed president and COO (2011-04) of Olympus Corporation, a Japanese manufacturer noted for its professional optical products. He was appointed CEO six months later, 2011-10. Woodford started working for Olympus in 1981 and subsequently rose in the company to manage its European operations. Woodford was the company’s first non-Japanese CEO. He was removed from his CEO position after two weeks, when he persisted in questioning fees in excess of US$1 billion that Olympus had paid to obscure companies, which appeared to have been used to hide old losses and appeared to have organised crime connections. By 2012 this scandal had developed into one of the biggest and longest-lived loss-concealing financial scandals in the history of corporate Japan.

Woodford’s life was threatened, because of the criminal organisation connections. Ultimately, Olympus had to agree to a settlement for defamation and wrongful dismissal.


Japan Forward was sceptical of Ghosn’s arrest: “A Western businessman with several decades in Japan noted: The “thin gruel of ‘misdeeds’ that they’ve put forward to date as justification is laughable. Reads like any day at the office for many [Japanese] CEOs. The Japanese business establishment crushes everything that threatens its worldview and privileges. … Another added: “During my time in Japan, I met the CEOs and managing directors of a variety of companies and a few were wonderful people, but a lot were not…. [They were] in cahoots with the yaks (Yakuza) — abused their expenses, went on company paid junkets, received kickbacks, got laid on the company tab…. I don’t know what Ghosn did, but I doubt it would have come close to what is normal behavior for many of his Japanese counterparts.”

Japan Forward may not have said it so explicitly, using a question mark rather than an exclamation mark, but many see systemic xenophobia in the Japanese business community.

Nikkei Asian Review was even more condemning: “There is no indication that other board members made actual moves in terms of governance processes or statements at the board level, [Nicholas Benes, head of the Board Director Training Institute of Japan and a former investment banker] noted. This makes him suspect that the board members were more concerned about protecting their jobs than confronting [Ghosn]…. If individual board members, including CEO Hiroto Saikawa, felt so strongly about the issue that they allowed a criminal investigation, they should have taken steps first. These could have included proposing to discuss the issue at the board level, trying to call an extraordinary board meeting, threatening to resign or getting advice externally. No such internal moves appear to have been taken before the prosecutors’ move to arrest Ghosn. Under Japanese company law, directors are expected to actively participate in discussions and oversee the chief executive.”

There are several recent Japanese business scandals:

In 2015 Toshiba revealed that it had overstated its operating profit by nearly $1.2 billion.

In 2017 Takada had become mired in a global scandal over faulty airbags. Ammonium nitrate was used to inflate airbags quickly, some with such force, they spewed shrapnel at drivers and passengers leading to injuries and in some cases, death. Takada was forced to recall millions of airbags which, along with facing a multi-million dollar wave of litigation.

In 2017 Kobe Steel admitted to changing or falsifying data about the quality of some of its goods before they were shipped to customers.

In 2018 Nissan admitted its emissions and fuel economy tests for its cars sold in Japan had “deviated from the prescribed testing environment”.

Japan’s Criminal Justice System

Counterpunch has detailed the inhumanity and authoritarian nature of the Japanese criminal justice system. The current laws are from 1947. Except for omitting offences relating to war, the imperial family and adultery, the 1947 Penal Code remained virtually identical to the 1907 version. This means that there has been no substantial revision for 113 years, as this post is written in 2020.

Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor, stated: “If you admit to the crime you’re arrested for, you’re released on bail relatively quickly. However, if you dispute the charges or claim innocence, you will be detained longer. You won’t be released on bail and your detainment will last weeks. You’re basically held hostage until you give the prosecutors what they want. This is not how a criminal justice system should work in a healthy society.” Cases detailed in the same article explain this further.

Beirut Press Conference

At the press conference held in Beirut 2020-01-08, Ghosn compared his arrest to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He said his prosecution on charges of financial misconduct was politically motivated, the result of an elaborate conspiracy involving malevolent Nissan executives and even the Japanese government, a systematic campaign to destroy his reputation and impugn his character. He further claimed that Japanese authorities were repaying him with evil, because he was an easy target as a foreigner. Further information about the press conference can be found in numerous online news sources, including this report in The Guardian.

Humanity Plus: A tidbit

An artists rendering of a Bernal Sphere, a hollow non-rotating spherical shell 16 km in diameter, with a target population of 20 000 to 30 000 people, and filled with air. The space habitat was intended as a long-term home for permanent residents. It was first proposed in 1929 by John Desmond Bernal. Artwork: Rick Guidice, 1976.

The definition of transhumanism used by the World Transhumanist Association is: an advocacy, for the ethical use of technology to extend human capabilities.

For religious transhumanists, the operative word is ethical.

Some early writers:

J. B. S. Haldane (1892-1964) Daedalus: Science and the Future, 1923

J. D. Bernal (1901-1971) The World, the Flesh and the Devil, 1929

W. D. Lighthall (1857-1954) The Law of Cosmic Evolutionary Adaptation: An Interpretation of Recent Thought, 1940, discussed in, Peter Harrison & Joseph Wolyniak, The History of ‘Transhumanism’. Notes and Queries 62, 2015, 465–7

Julian Huxley (1887-1975) Transhumanism, in, New Bottles for New Wine, London: Chatto & Windus, 1957, pp. 13-17  

Marvin Minsky (1927-2016) Steps Toward Artificial Intelligence, 1960.  

I. J. Good (1916-2009) Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine, Advances in Computers, vol. 6, 1965.  

Note: This post was intended to be a chronology of Transhumanism. It was originally written 2018-07-11 and saved at 20h13m36s. It is published in this inferior state to acknowledge that the topic is no longer being prioritized by this writer, and to encourage others, who may have an interest in the subject, to create related, but more interesting, in-depth weblog posts.

A tidbit is can be defined as: 1: a choice morsel of food. This usage dates from about 1640; 2: a choice or pleasing bit (as of information). In this weblog, tidbits will refer to shorter draft posts, that have been awaiting editing and expansion for at least six (6) months.

Industrial Arts, Craftsmanship & Values

The 1950s and the 1960s were a privileged time. Yet, there are only some aspects of it that I would want to return to. It was exceedingly sexist. Men worked outside the house, while women were confined inside suburban houses. At school, girls were required to study home economics which was in general divided into two sections, textiles (with an emphasis on sewing) and cooking (and nutrition). Boys were required to study industrial arts.

I am not going to mention more about home economics in this post, except to say that I probably would have benefited from learning more about cooking. Similarly, many girls would have benefited, if they had been allowed to study industrial arts.

Industrial arts was obligatory for four (later three) years. One period a week was devoted to draughting, and the construction of technical drawings. The other days were spent working in one of three subject areas, each for a third of the school year, in rotation.  The subject areas were woodworking, metalworking and electricity and electronics. For my last two years of secondary school, I took a two year specialization in electricity and electronics. Others were able to specialize in other areas, such as house construction or automotive mechanics. Some people didn’t take any practical subjects at all, after the obligatory years.

There is a Norwegian term, sløyd, that roughly translates as woodwork. Here children use obsolete hand tools to make objects that are either obsolete themselves, or are made in a fraction of the time by industrial machines. I am not sure why sløyd is taught. It shows a great deal of disrespect to children, and the value of their time.

In industrial arts, we learned how to use hand tools, but we also progressed rapidly to machine tools. One does not waste time using a hand saw if a compound mitre saw is more appropriate. This does not mean that the Canadian industrial arts program was perfect. In metalwork, I learned to work with sheet metal, blacksmithing and machining. However, I was never exposed to welding.

Fast forward fifty years …

I am tired of sitting around cafes, gossiping while consuming sugar rich drinks and cakes. Something similar can be said of gyms with their sweat enhanced fragrances. I want to invite people to use their time more constructively, by using the workshop at Unit One. Yes, there will be a “fredag fika” a Swedish term for a sociable coffee break often held on Fridays. It is designed to help bond and consolidate a group of workers. At Unit One it should allow people to discuss projects: present, future and (if necessary) past.

Before people will be allowed to use equipment on their own, they will have to be certified. The first will have to be for general health and safety. When a person enters Unit One, they have to know where their own personal protective equipment is located. Similarly, they will have to know what they are expected to do, during different types of emergencies, including fire and assorted forms of personal injury.

When it comes to certification to use the various tools, one approach is to test out a person using the specific machine. A better approach is to have the aspirant design and make a product that requires a number of different operations on a variety of machines.

Certification misses one vital element – the motivation to work.

Perhaps one should begin with the Arts and Crafts movement, and acknowledge the contributions of William Morris, and several others. That is not going to happen. The two contemporary (?) works that are most inspiring are both written by David William Pye (1914-1993): The Nature of Design (later The Nature & Aesthetics of Design), 1964 and The Nature and Art of Workmanship, 1968.

The workmanship of risk is one of Pye’s most important concepts. It is “workmanship using any kind of technique or apparatus, in which the quality of the result is not predetermined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care which the maker exercises as he works (The Nature and Art of Workmanship, p. 20).

He also wrote that people make things to effect change. However, most designed objects are palliative. They do not enable new behaviours. He uses a transport example to illustrate this. One can walk instead of using a car, but one cannot fly instead of using a plane. He also notes that design is limited by economy rather than technique. Since all design is an economic trade off, it is always a failure.

Pye also regards design as arbitrary. Products are developed under the assumption that tools can bring people happiness. His view is that tools can, at best, only help people avoid unhappiness.

David Pye 2
David Pye (1914-1993)

There are two other writers that one may also want to read on the philosophy of work, Richard Sennett and Matthew B. Crawford.

Richard Sennett has written extensively about work. The Hidden Injuries of Class (1972) written with Johnathan Cobb is a study of class consciousness among working-class families in Boston. The Corrosion of Character (1998) explores how new forms of work are changing our communal and personal experience. Respect in a world of inequality (2003) examines the relation of work and welfare system reforms. The Culture of the New Capitalism (2006), much like the earlier Authority (1980) address similar issues.

Richard Sennett (photo: Ars Electronica, 2010)

Yet, it is the newer Homo Faber project that examines work in a 21st century context, an exploration of material ways of making culture. The Craftsman (2008), Together: The Rituals, Pleasures, and Politics of Cooperation (2012) and Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City (to be published in 2018) on the making of the urban environment.

Lewis Hyde states that Richard Sennett’s “guiding intuition” in The Craftsman is that “making is thinking.”

What I found particularly interesting about The Craftsman, was Sennett’s use of computer programmers as an example.

I will now elegantly hop over Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) to focus on a 21st century replacement, Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (2009). In addition to obtaining a Ph. D. in political philosophy, Crawford has also worked as an electrician and mechanic, and owns and operates Shockoe Moto, an independent motorcycle repair shop.

matthew b. crawford
Matthew B. Crawford (photo: Adam Ewing)

Crawford writes about work that requires mastery of real things. This work can be more intellectually demanding that more abstract varieties. He feels that maintenance and repair work cultivate ethical virtues, and foster habits of individual responsibility. Crawford wants people to replace passivity and consumerism with self-reliance.

Tools are not the most important elements in a workshop. It is the values that are promoted therein.

“It is permissible to study sciences and arts, but such sciences as are useful and would redound to the progress and advancement of the people. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Ordainer, the All-Wise.”

Baha’u’llah – Bisharat

Ageing Gracefully

No, I’m not writing about that impossible art of accepting the loss of one’s powers of movement, hearing, seeing, sexing, remembering, calculating or reasoning. Rather, I am writing about how our perception of time changes. In childhood, a year feels like infinity while in later life it feels increasingly shorter.

To accept this fact of life, a new time unit is needed which I have termed the Grace. A grace is a measure of time reflecting the opportunity for (spiritual) development, which occurs simultaneously with the growth and decline of the biological organism. Originally, I just used values between 0 and 9 to reflect this development. However, because people are used to dealing with chronological years, many people will want to use decaGraces to measure their spiritual age. It requires a simple calculation: multiply the Grace number by 10. DecaGraces are used in the table below.

As in school, aging is not the equivalent of being more spiritual or smarter. People reach a plateau that limits their intellectual, physical and spiritual development. Just as there are absolute physical limits to how fast a person can run, how many kilos a person can lift, there are also limits to how much spirituality a person can acquire in a world dominated by physical needs.

decaGrace Age at Start (years) Duration (years) Age at End (years) Event
0 0 Conception
10 0 0.25 0.25
20 0.25 0.5 0.75 Birth
30 Birth 1 year 1 year old
40 1 year old 2 years 3 years old
50 3 years old 4 years 7 years old
60 7 years old 8 years 15 years old
70 15 years old 16 years 31 years old
80 31 years old 32 years 63 years old
90 63 years old 64 years 127 years old