Titus & Pete Spiliakos discuss Harold Ramis's attack on institutional authority in his 80s comedies: Caddyshack, Back To School, & Ghostbusters. Pete calls Ramis a prophet of Trump: A comic writer whose reprehensible protagonists nevertheless triumph over hypocritical & complacent elites.
"For Robinson, grace is free for all, found everywhere, and in everything. This grace sounds wonderful, but it ignores the problem of evil. I know that Robinson prefers to highlight the goodness in creation and is frustrated by dark writers who she considers misanthropic. However, writers who acknowledge darkness and evil represent reality as it is, not how we wish it to be. A world that glimmers and shines, as it does in Robinson’s novel, paints over the ugly, but by doing so, marginalizes injustice.
A counter to Robinson would be the Catholic writer, Flannery O’Connor. If there is any writer that Robinson abhors, it would be O’Connor. And, rightly so, given Robinson’s dissenting theology. In O’Connor’s fiction, evil is unavoidable and often stares back at you from the mirror. Grace costs, in an O’Connor story. As she writes in a letter, “It’s true that grace is the free gift of God but in order to put yourself in the way of being receptive to it, you have to practice self-denial.” To me, O’Connor aligns more with scriptural revelation."
"Changes in technology brought changes in our psycho-social environment that the imagineers did not see coming, precipitating today’s true crisis. The televisually expert class grandly imagined the Internet as the advance that, powered by the right dreams, would soon complete or perfect their global projects. At least at the beginning, they saw correctly that the difference between the old days of a handful of television stations and the dawning day of ubiquitous social media was one of degree, not of kind. Televisual broadcast media was at last truly democratized, not only reaching the masses as television did but giving each person a voice. Suddenly, anyone could be his or her own channel. In fact, anyone could be multiple channels, and audiences, all at once. Technology, democracy, liberalism, and globalism were all expected to converge.
That, of course, is not what happened. Modern technology has indeed consummated the televisual era, but with results quite opposite those the imagineers expected. Instead, a curious form of Hobbes’s war of all against all was unleashed. Online, each “netizen” produced more and more opinions, fantasies, dreams, interpretations, and criticism. Marshall McLuhan forecast the situation in his concept of the “global village” — not a boundaryless and harmonious Eden sought by the imaginative social engineers of the world elite, but rather a hot, crowded, fragmented, and fractious realm, one much like the “world” that social media, to the shock of the elite, became.
Pushing televisual life to its democratic extreme did not perfect the authority of the televisual elite — it shook it, like nothing before. The elite, unwilling to accept blame and responsibility for letting its imagination run away with it, has sought to wash its hands of the problem instead, blaming social media and its masters by portraying them as devils of the “digital” era using new technology to exploit us, not as the ultra-televisual phenomena they are. Roger McNamee, an early investor in Google and Facebook, now scorches the companies’ products as “a menace to public health and to democracy” that employ “aggressive brain hacking,” a term taken from repentant Google product designer Tristan Harris."
Osgerby said that the office of the future is more a space of collaboration, so its furniture needs to be more casual.
"The office now and in the future will only be a place where people come together, a meeting place," he said. "People now need to move around and sit down and come together, to have moments of intimacy and sociability."
Barber added: "This is why we say that the desk is dead, and not the office is dead."
“Today’s society is no longer Foucault’s disciplinary world of hospitals, madhouses, prisons, barracks, and factories. It has long been replaced by another regime, namely a society of fitness studios, office towers, banks, airports, shopping malls, and genetic laboratories. Twenty-first-century society is no longer a disciplinary society, but rather an achievement society [Leistungsgesellschaft]. Also, its inhabitants are no longer “obedience-subjects” but “achievement-subjects.” They are entrepreneurs of themselves.”
― Byung-Chul Han, The Burnout Society
In case anyone wonders if Vanier recognised the political implications of what he was learning, he tells us that through his contact with men and women with intellectual disabilities:
"I discovered then how divided and fragmented our societies are. On the one hand are those who are healthy and well-integrated into society; on the other are those who are excluded, on its margins. As in Aristotle's day, there are still masters and slaves. I realised that peace could not prevail while no attempt was made to span the gulf separating different cultures, different religions, and even different individuals."
Jean Vanier wrote his dissertation on Aristotle. He knows well that Aristotle thought the test of any good polity was revealed by its ability to sustain friendship between people of virtue. Aristotle, however, would not have thought it possible for a friendship to exist between those that are mentally handicapped and those that are not. Yet Vanier believes that friendship is what L'Arche is about. That he does so is not only a challenge to Aristotle's understanding of friendship, but to the presupposition of liberal political theory and practice which tries to envision a politics in which friendship is an afterthought.
“This hyper-tribalization of the internet creates a new category of cultural icon…They’re the ghostly fragments of minor figures, exalted out of proportion.”
In the beginning of the book, Mosebach writes an imagined conversation with a secular Egyptian about the nature of martyrdom. The Doubter, as Mosebach calls his interlocutor, finds the Twenty-One’s refusal to repudiate their religion in order to save their own lives “a bit creepy”. Shouldn’t they have done whatever it took to survive? Isn’t openly accepting death a bad business model for the continued existence of a religion? “It sounds like your peasants from those dumps in Upper Egypt might be the very last Christians,” The Doubter taunts. To which Mosebach responds: “At the moment it may seem so. But if the phrase from the early North African church still holds true—that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’—then perhaps the Twenty-One should not be counted among the very last Christians, but rather among the first.”
It’s a brilliant retort, even if it’s just against his own imagination, and it gives us some sense of what the attitude that Mosebach himself brings to the book. He isn’t a skeptic. He wants to understand. He longs for some firsthand knowledge of the spiritual strength of these people. Mosebach says that in everyone he spoke to, there was no hunger for violent retribution. Neither was there a dull fatalism, an acquiescence to the ‘senseless’ of the act. Of course the act made sense. Of course it had meaning. As Mosebach writes of the beheading video near the beginning of the book, “This video is two things at once: both the documentation of a very real massacre and an allegory of the never-ending struggle between good and evil.” It’s a credit to the Copts that they always maintain this double vision, seeing the the bare act itself as well as the rich spiritual context which gives it meaning. This sometimes manifests in small pronouncements of humility and gratefulness, as when a church leader says to Mosebach:
"We find ourselves in the odd position of being grateful to the Islamist killers for the film with which they documented their acts. Now, instead of relying on potentially contradictory testimonies, we can see it all with our own eyes. Had the killers had any idea of the significance this video would have for the Coptic Church, they probably would not have made it. Far from being intimidating, it gives us courage. It shows us the martyr’s heroic bravery, and the fact that they spent their last moments alive in prayer proves the strength of their fate."
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor