Dec 19, 2011
The grim reaper's gatherings (Kim, Hitchens, Havel)
Otherwise, I'm not so bad, again possibly because of having slept well for several days now, and I now consider three of the latest victims of the grim reaper, and namely because I saw a lot of them, the last days, and it relates in several ways to Marxism/Marx, on which I am somewhat of a specialist.
1. My Revolutionary Marxist background
This came about quite naturally: I am the oldest son of revolutionary Marxists, members of the Dutch Resistance in World War II and of the Dutch CP and, very untypically for my generation of babyboomers who eventually reached university, I gave it all up in 1970, when I was twenty, in the years that very many babyboomers turned marxist.
My reasons to give it all up are various, but I think the following three are the most important:
A. I had discovered when 15 that I was most interested in human reasoning in all varieties, and had since then read widely, first in philosophy, starting with Marx and marxists, that fairly soon branched out to mathematical logic and philosophy of science, because that really made sense to me, and to classical philosophers, like Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume and Russell, who struck me as a lot more intelligent and also as far better writers than Marx, Engels and Lenin. So by the time I was twenty it was easy for me to show all manner of holes in marxist reasonings, treatises, pamphlets and stances, of which there were a lot of the time, since these were still, also in 1970-71, the revolutionary Sixties, in which marxist ideas of many kinds were quite popular, especially in my generation.
B. I had gone to France in May and June of 1968, to observe what was happening there during the students' revolts - and I write "observe" on purpose because I did not participate actively nor did I intend to: I was curious and indeed it was interesting, and the same applies to the occupation of the University of Amsterdam in 1969, although that was far more operetta and acting-as-if than it had been in France the year before. In both cases, I had the opportunity to observe that the prominent student-leaders of the day, Cohn-Bendit in France, Dutschke in Germany, Regtien in Holland, struck me as lesser men - far more dishonest, far more interested in becoming media-celebs, not really informed about the marxist teachings they pretended to have read - than my own father, who has been arrested as member of the communist resistance in 1941, with his father, as co-organizers of the February Strike of 1941 against the razzias on the Jews, after which both my father and grandfather were sent to concentration camps as "political terrorists", where my grandfather was murdered. Compared to my parents and their communists friends, many "Jewish Bolshevists" as the Nazis had styled them, many of whom also survivors of the camps, often as communists who denied having a Jewish background, these student leaders of the Sixties, and indeed most would be revolutionary students they led, or at least pretended to lead, appeared as moral, intellectual and personal phonys to me. (As their subsequent careers also should make patently clear I diagnosed correctly, I should add.)
C. I don't like politics - that strikes me in all of its varieties as a strange kind of wishful thinking, self-deception, propaganda and kind of secular religion that thoroughly bores me it if it doesn't frighten me - and I don't like histrionics, which most political prominents excel in, and much love to practice, although I am a very good talker and debater: I like science and logical argumentation, not prejudgment, delusion or propaganda. The Anti-Authoritarian Left, as it was known in the late Sixties and Seventies, and as I had known them in the late Sixties, spent very much time drinking in cafes and discussing politics, which I did not like and thought pretty nonsensical, and seemed to consist mostly of what I ever since then call "political types": Intellectual n-th raters who loved endless discussion sauced by much alcohol; who made careers out of pretending to be Leftists Revolutionaries, but who for the most part had not even read their classics in the name of which they acted; and who seemed to be most interested in appearing on TV as Leaders or Thinkers, while to me they seemed to be vain, pretentious empty phonys bent on making careers in journalism or acquiring tenure in universities, in which many succeeded at the time. (*)
There are more reasons - when 14 I'd been thrown almost out of the German Democratic Republic for denouncing "socialism" there as "fascist bullshit", in public, in a Pioneer Holiday Camp my parents had sent me to, because of the idiotic propaganda and forced militarism practised there, and because I refused to apologize or to withdraw my opinions; I am a really theoretical contemplative type, and very few are; I despised much of the violence in the student demonstrations of the Sixties, since I found it immoral to throw stones at the police, which was a favourite pass-time of would-be leftist revolutionary students then; I thought Herbert Marcuse's books were pretentious foolishness; both the propaganda and the theories of the Communist Party and all other leftists groups that I read seemed uninformed, ill-written, very bad as analyses of ongoing events, and mostly moved by wishful thinking rather than rational understanding; and quite a lot more - but this should suffice.
I stopped being a communist/marxist when 20, and ever since then have thought that real science is a much better, more effective, more rational and more humane way of emancipating mankind than any kind of politics, for which indeed I have no taste at all, and for which I also am not the type of character.
2. The late Kim Jong-Il
The Dutch papers this morning - on the internet - were full of the death today of Kim Jong-Il, North-Korea's Marxist dictator, son of the previous Marxist dictator, to be followed up by his son Kim Jong-un.
The link is to Wikipedia, that already has his death, which shows "the power of the internet". Here is His Beloved Son The New Leader:
I have taken this inspiring image - "He is to be known as "the great successor" " - from
which I find personally pretty frightening, though it also strikes me that all hysterical weepers are very well dressed and quite good looking, and the weeping also seems to be mostly sorted by sex ("gender" is the PC term, quite possibly also in North-Korea).
I conclude it is probably put carefully in scene, which does not make it less frightening, at all.
3. The late Christopher Hitchens
I was totally unaware of the existence of Mr Hitchens until ca. 2004, I think, when Ms. Benson informed me that he is the modern William Hazlitt, after which I looked into his prose, and found he is not, not at all, and not by a very large measure.
Christopher Hitchens was a typical babyboomer of my generation: For decades a marxist (of some Trotskyist subspecies), whose thing as arrived Public Intellectual - the modern PC term for "prominent journalist" - was to insist in public, in a plummy voice, on things that made him more prominent or at least better known.
Some of them were nonsense ("Islamofascism"), some not (atheism), but undoubtedly he had a fine, well-paid career, and had an enjoyable life in the limelights. I doubt he ever had a really original idea in his life, but I admit that I have not read much of him, since what I read of him struck me as capable journalism but nothing more, and I have seen too many of his type of careerist to be either deeply positively impressed or indeed thoroughly shocked.
Then again, I might have liked him better if he had been less overrated, in my opinion: He made a career in a time when one can become (I quote the Wikipedia lemma on him)
when one has an education ("left Oxford with a third class degree") and a - quite possibly considerable - talent for being a journalist, with a liking for being a shockjock, but really no great intellect at all. (**)
4. The late Václav Havel
The Czech playwriter, dissident, philosopher and statesman died yesterday. He seems to me to be in a quite different class than either of the two foregoing men, and namely because he was a real and well-known dissident in communist Czechoslovakia.
That is something that takes real courage, and real courage is something - I also learned at university and seeing and hearing "Marxist" students of the Hitchens kind - very few people really have. (It's innate: You don't get it by wishing or pretending.)
Also he seems to have been a sensible and kind man, and not a careerist, who well may have saved many lives in helping his country recuperate from state socialism in a peaceful way. (See: Velvet Revolution.)
I have read some of his plays and philosophical books, that did not greatly impress me, but then Havel probably was a great man, in courage and in political sanity.
As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
Short descriptions of the above:
1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
7. A space-
and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.
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