Zizek and a German Joke

Oh, Žižek:

In an old joke from the defunct German Democratic Republic, a German worker gets a job in Siberia; aware of how all mail will be read by censors, he tells his friends: “Let’s establish a code: if a letter you will get from me is written in ordinary blue ink, it is true; if it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month, his friends get the first letter written in blue ink: “Everything is wonderful here: stores are full, food is abundant, apartments are large and properly heated, movie theatres show films from the West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair – the only thing unavailable is red ink.”

And is this not our situation till now? We have all the freedoms one wants – the only thing missing is the red ink: we feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom. What this lack of red ink means is that, today, all the main terms we use to designate the present conflict – ‘war on terror’, ‘democracy and freedom’, ‘human rights’, etc – are FALSE terms, mystifying our perception of the situation instead of allowing us to think it. You, here, you are giving to all of us red ink.


Rain Water Catchment – How The Cities Have it All Wrong

We in the city should be ashamed of some of our practices. On my lunch break the other day – rather than going to a nearby cafe for something to eat – I took a walk around the suburbs surrounding the industrial area I work in. The area is fairly dense with residential houses with the odd commercial premise dotted here and there. Most – around 90% – of these premises had something in common – water catchment was piped directly out onto the street.

How this is allowed I do not know. Considering Australia has faced water restrictions in the past due to drought and low

Here is an example of the sort of drains I saw on my wander the other day. Most houses had something like this, directly from their roof.

Here is an example of the sort of drains I saw on my wander the other day. Most houses had something like this, directly from their roof.

water storage levels, it seems utterly irresponsible that we are still allowed to continue to treat clean, safe rain water as waste; something to be disposed of down the drain. Only to have it piped back in from a different source so we can turn on our taps and be guaranteed something will come out.

Kirsten, over at Milkwood, wrote a blog this morning about rooftop farming, a phenomenon that seems to be gaining traction in cities across the world. The article was about chickens still being of importance in such a system. I agree. But my mind turned to the rooftops of buildings here in Australia. Consider your local Bunnings Warehouse (Australia’s answer to Home Depot, to my American readers). Look at the size of the place. I did some crude measurements of my local store, using Google Maps, and the catchment area is a massive 7000 square metres (almost 2 acres!). According to my water catchment calculations, that would see a yield of around 3,850,000 litres per year, based on local average rainfall. That’s enough water to satisfy the average needs of 35 people! I can only imagine how much water is wasted by residential and commercial premises that just pipe it down the drain. This is a large scale problem, one that councils and government encourage.
As I said in my comment to Kirsten, this must make rural folk like her, who prey for and respect every last drop they receive, cringe.

Personal Responsibility: Not Only For Libertarians

I am not a libertarian by any stretch. Well, not at least based on the standard definition of the term. However, I believe we need to take more personal responsibility. The nanny state is alive and well and I think that’s a bit rubbish. We should rely less on being handed things on a plate and do more for ourselves. I’m not necessarily referring to big things, like tilling the land to feed ourselves entirely, but smaller, sensible things like capturing water off our vast roofs to drink and do the washing up. Why must the state or some greedy corporation deliver these things on a premise akin to a right? In my previous life in the telecommunications industry I had people threaten to take my company to court because we couldn’t supply a satisfactory service to a place they chose to live. Ultimately, we have a lot more choices than we make out.

Nor do I mean that it should be every man for himself. Those with a need should have that need provided for. Some people can’t afford rainwater tanks – I forgive them for not capturing the liquid gold that falls from above. But most of us can make the effort to be more personally responsible but we choose not to. It’s a matter of convenience I think. We have become accustom to receiving certain things whenever we need / want them. These things are now considered rights or tenets of an expected standard of living. Great personal satisfaction can be fostered through taking on more personal responsibility, I think. We become more open to learning from our mistake and celebrating our efforts – we take less for granted. Studies have shown that growing your own fruit and vegetable, even some non-edible plants, is hugely benefit for mental health.

What got me thinking about this is a podcast I was listening to this morning – The Environment Show. The episode that got my mind-juices flowing featured James Woodford, author of Real Dirt. James made a “footprint change”, as he calls it, after becoming disillusioned with his fast-paced day job in the city and a desire to finally find home – a place he had been looking for all his life. James had a yearning too to become more personally responsible for his life. To produce for himself and his family rather than carry on supporting consumer culture. Life affirming it has turned out to be for James, his partner Prue, and their children. I really want to read his book. In fact, to iBooks I head right now…

On Responsibility

We don’t choose to be born. That choice is made by other people on their own whims and desires. I’m sure most of us are thankful for the foresight of our parents. However, there are certainly inevitabilities in life we wish we could change.

Our lives are preset. We need oxygen, water, food and shelter to survive. Those that cannot access these things will eventually perish. They haven’t played life by the rules. There are other things that make life tricky too – happiness, fulfilment, grief, death. These are all facts of life that we’ll spend a great deal of time grappling with.

Culture presets life even further. In the west, one must get an education, must wear certain kinds of clothes, must behave in society in a certain way, must get a job, must keep certain thoughts secret, must work hard, must pay taxes, must be moral, must, must, must… If oxygen and water are rules, these musts aren’t just mere kind suggestions. A lot depends on doing good by these must-dos. And, I don’t think it is too bold to say, that our survival – in the culture where they are relevant – is dependant on them.

We are born into an awful lot of responsibility. Most of us take the easy way out – we acknowledge the rules and adhere to them. Some of the rules aren’t bad. There is nothing wrong with getting an education. It’s a vital ingredient to functioning with the universe and pursuing one’s dreams. However, that isn’t the purpose of the education system as Seth Godin theorises. Really, our responsibilities are already worked out for us before we exit the womb. Our parents have already debated various things about us – what our first bedroom is going to look like, what our diet will be, which kindergarten and school we’re going to be sent to. And it is these early days that dictate our future. A middle class kid is likely to go to university and study a middle class degree to win a middle class job which will be their life until the perceived glories of retirement – all those decades away.

People think I am cynical. Actually, I am not that cynical at all. All the doom and gloom and hopelessness that I believe, I know that can be turned on its head. We can all quit our jobs tomorrow.

You partner is tragically killed. You’re at work when this happens. You get the call. Do you stay back at work, fearing that if you leave you might not get that promotion? Or are some things more important? 

Most of us won’t just up and quit our jobs when we make the discovery that they are not all they’re made out to be. I haven’t. I still work 70-odd hours a week. But this is for the greater good. Every day is a struggle, but every day the goal becomes clearer and clearer. If I could achieve the goal without having to enjoy the unpleasantness, I would absolutely do what it would take. However, this is the situation I have found myself in.

What makes me optimistic about responsibilities is the fact that we have such control of our destinies. Those that have talents, the ability to make money, good health – they’re lucky so and sos and ought to exercise their ability for good. Help yourself; help out somebody else too.

I am confused by patriot Americans

In America, why is one’s identify so dependant on the country in which they live? I notice this a lot, especially amongst the right-wingers, fundamental Christians and survivalists. What they do is attributed to some sort of higher calling. These same people tend to be for liberty and freedom. However, they seem to sell out on this by defending that which isn’t tangible, at all costs. Their self and the selves of those around them tends to come second to their country and their God.