Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Тебе что не нравится советская власт?!

These days one is wondering about the fate of the Eastern borderlands of Europe - many not that eastern culturally at all. The soon to be leader of the Western world seems to have strangely retro dreams of pacts and spheres of influence with the other cleptocracy in Kremlin cheering on. Who knows what will happen in this unpredictable era of not so awfully funny clowns - or worse - but everything seems to indicate a return of history to Europe after 6-7 decades of stability. That does not bode well for small civilized nations. Strange landscapes these.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Emotion recollected in tranquility

Maybe not for the creation of poetry though. I find myself again returning to those furious affections that now seem both essential and, well, quaint, from the perspective of age. Essential as the colours never were so bright, the air never so clear and cold and only the moment so essential. Quaint as it seems that worries now are so much more profound, more serious, permanent. It's hardly the most original observation ever but it's is good to recollect that both assesments are simultaneously true: we can neither dismiss the past nor the present. I do miss the immediacy, the seriousness of those times (maybe not so much the searing pain), and I'm very glad that I got to learn and experience new things about life and love after leaving them.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Athens and Jerusalem

It is interesting to note that so far the attack has mostly concerned the Christian part of the twin pillars: the chipping away of the non-materialist universal values, of compassion and kindness, of charity. The cancer has also manifested in the many perversions of Christianity witnessed today (especially in the US), that have not much common at all with the old universal church and it's traditions variously kept and stressed in the traditional Western and Orthodox denominations (including the church of Rome which is no universal church). Instead there is a kind of mock-"Christianity" as fashioned by Capital: brutal and non-compassionate sanctioning all sorts of moral sacrileges.

Athens, I suppose, remains at the core: the rebellious idea of emancipation and personal liberty. But without the influence of Jerusalem it was a savage, barbarian creed - narrow to the very point of meaninglessness. And it might easily be the next target with this feast of greed and hatred and willful ignorance. For without christian-humanist values why should we be overly concerned with notions of citizens' rights and impartial justice, wouldn't they just be empty, undefended, uncomprehended past citadels then?

Well, this is history - we had lazy days of blind hedonism, minding our private businesses (as one should in a civilized society) but that might prove to be only a temporary pause and now those interested in maintaining the structures of enlightenment and reason might have to find another mode of passion and fighting to defend them. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Second time also as tragedy?

Historical memory is short: it was the horror of total war and the unimaginable crimes of crazed totalitarian or authoritarian ideologies that made the post-war West so selfsecure in its liberalism and social market economy. Reason and progress seemed very inviting after the feverish nightmare. But all nightmares are far gone now: the world has been made secure for the free movement of capital, for consumerism, for materialism. Liberalism is at most half-understood and thus half-heartedly defended by the technocratic elites adviced (or is it instructed) by the financial sector while increasingly large sections of population is left out, discarded.

But it wasn't capital and materialism that was to be secured after the Second World War, it was the people - naturally often helped by those things, as tools for safety and progress, securely harnessed to the welfare state. And liberalism itself, the hollow ideology: made for discussion, polyphony, tolerance and rational scepticism, made for no particular end - safe to protect the people from the fanatism and hatred of extreme ideologies that our human nature is so easily prone to.

And now we rehearse the 1930's again.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Affair of the Diamond Necklace

The "great affair" - nothing great about it - surely brings out the sheer, incredible awfulness of the pre-revolutionary France. So much worse than the society that followed though I have never had much warmth towards the Revolution or Napoleon's regime. But those decadent painted dolls feasting while the society starves - those petty intrigues, small, ignorant personalities, nowhere near measuring up to their ludicriously august positions. Marie Antoinette surely among the least bad of them but still a living symbol of injustice and waste with no personal foresight or wisdom (until it was too late).

Saturday, November 19, 2016

We need Keynes and we need him now

The neo-liberal consensus has brought us to Brexit and Trump (cum the various Eastern European neo-fascisms). And it might even be too late now. But in any case we desperately need positive, activist, optimistic message from the liberal democratic main stream parties. If this madness will not stop, things will get even worse. And they are bloody bad already. When was the last time the West had such incompetent, stubborn and blind elites? The 1930's? The 1910's? This stupidity has to stop.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Politics of resentment and moral corruption

It was 2004 when I realized how rotten the once robust system had gotten: moral decadence in the money infested late empire politics. Facts did not matter, short sighted resentments and utterly ruthless propaganda mattered: the pendulum was stuck. The deep structures of historical and economic change brought forward globalization and ever increasing power of capital in relation to work - and the relatively liberalistic economic policies even by the moderate centre "left" did not give much to large sections of the middle and working classes who had to run harder to stand merely still. Then the corrupt media, cynical conservative elites, deranged billionaire donors combined with a history of nasty racialist sentiments and grievances co-operated and manipulated these temporary - one hopes - seizures of power.

There was no activist, self-confident, Keynesian compromize offered, only some half-hearted, much vilified attempts that did not form a coherent "new deal", even feebler in the dysfunctional and Brüningian EU than in the US. And now we have a charlatan, a xenophobe rabble rouser in the White House possibly leading an isolationist administration that might not support the post-war security arrangements, so painstakingly built by a more confident, more open republic. Who knows to what catastrophes this will lead, to what further collapses.

Friday, October 07, 2016

You have what they don't: this moment and the future

And so much better sounding in the original Finnish, so bravely, defiantly sung, decades ago, all one now. Contemplating today a human tragedy - but not only a tragedy - among a myriad such. I have feared that with increasing age there would be increasing resignation and (worst of all) cynicism. But not so yet: I still see the beauty and the horror of existence as freshly as ever. That surely is a genuine achievement - there is not only tragedy but triumph in all human life.

Monday, September 12, 2016

L'enfant sauvage

It would not do good to hear the squirrel's heart beat nor to have imagination as to what horrors and cruelties have already passed to no person's avail, in the hopeless dark or in the brightness of the day, endlessly, repeatedly - especially against the innocent and the pure at heart, even if not completely innocent or completely pure but just a very close enough approximation indeed. I suppose Eliot was thinking about something like this with his "human kind cannot bear very much reality". And what feeble, lazy, self-indulgent hands we raise against this eternity of crime, this never seizing sadism?

Monday, August 29, 2016

The white goddess of tragedy

Jonathan Bate's new biography of Ted Hughes is excellent: judicious, sympathetic with deep understanding of both poetry and human imperfection. After finishing I reflected about those passionate lifes and lines and first thought that so typical of artists, jumping into dangerous depths heedless of safety - but maybe all lifes are, ultimately, mad and heedless, even if only in the absence and fear of those things. Fundementally, I suspect, there are no dignified, measured ways to exist: passion, fear and love will through in one way or the other.

One curious thing is the, dare one say, "goddess mongering" - like with Yeats or Graves, his great heroes, the particular "objective correlate" (inversed in a very Eliotian way: rather should he have talked about subjective correlate) is so very ridiculous. Wasting his time writing silly things about the Goddess in Shakespeare (or something), just as Yeats with his bizarre astrological histories. And of course not wasting: finding his burningly serious subject matter through strange, outwardly barely coherent meanderings.

All the while living that life of betrayal, hurt and great love, living a tragedy, for himself and his loved ones. With no party being a stereotype, not helpless victim nor sadistic abuser, tracing, imitating the courses of stars, the swift lines between them.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Defending reason and decency

One longstanding theme of this blog has been the weakness of our liberal and western convictions and their increasing dependence on material wealth and consumerism. Our principles and institutions feel hollow - the anti-keynesian elite politics of globalization and liberalization almost in sole favour of capital and finance sector are on several levels undermining the Western society, atomizing it, making for ever increasing cynicism and scepticism.

Ground fertile for nasty sentiments, nasty regimes (one very close to my native Finland), for hatred and brutality whether (still) only in sentiment or even in deed. There seems to be next to no elite understanding that the enlightenment values do need vigorous and convinced defence - the society is in desperate need of liberal idealism and liberal defiance. Instead we have faceless technocrats catering for the finance industry.

Our enlightened values are truly deserving of militant, passionate backing: the values of liberty, of reason, of human value, compassion and sympathy are so vastly superior to this creeping nastiness and baseness and dishonesty, to Trump and Putin, to alt-right, to religious fundamentalism of all kinds.

Our liberal world view is under attack and on retreat. A fight has started and it needs to be joined.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Anglais mort a Florence - a citizen of two countries

Brahms was never my dark familiar, nor have I ever experienced a unity of to be and delight, only various glimpses of it, and, yes, them I do have: fleeting perceptions of moments of glory. But being a Protestant, at the very least, culturally, I would not expect to find even a temporary perfection on this fallen earth. Though still, notwithstanding, and equally protestantically I would say, I'm not only of this earth but also of another and better home: of beauty, of art, friendship, love, even in a very Finnish Pietist sense, religion (for who could tolerate the earth). And so, even if only ever partially, protected from the worst corruption of this human world, ever adhering to the long views.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Boom years

Continuing my tradition of highligthing obscure (but excellent) Finnish writers...

Alpo Ruuth is a master portraitist of the post-war communist Finnish urban proletariat: a community defiant, bitter, closely knit and wonderfully humane and warm. Now his best work appears rather folkloric - those people, that culture have been swept away by history, by relentless social change. Elegies of bygone times. But there are reasons for that collapse, that failure of faith: to borrow the terms of their creed, it all was based on "false consciousness" - if all those things in Nordic, deeply imperfect but improving Finland were wrong and unjust (and by and large they were), what then of the promised land, based on bloody terror and systematic suppression of all freedom and free debate? Such self-deception is bound fail; it was built on a lie.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Meaning and beauty (in the age of artificial intelligence)

To any moderately observant person it should be clear that we are on the cusp of a real technological revolution - the first that I would witness personally with personal computing and the internet not amounting to that much in the end. The post-industrial society will get automatized creating a whole new cultural, economic and social situation. And like any revolution, however much planned, analyzed and rationalized, this one too will be chaotic, uncontrolled, uncontrollabe with countless unforeseen and unintended concequences: "Marie, Marie, hold on tight"...

No, I'm not hugely worried about our despotic, robotic overlords taking over: we already do despotic, robotic overtakings very expertly, thank you, have always done. Maybe in some corners of the West, of the postindustrial society we have a few scattered elements of enlightenment and liberty, but by and large the global system is a bloody, despotic kleptocracy, so maybe an AI version of despotism would actually be better. But it seems rather meaningless to speculate about this popular image of malignant machine intelligences - we simply don't know how things will turn out to be, though for me this particular scenario does not seem a likely or plausible end result.

Instead, I wonder from where shall our various artificial intelligences get their strange machine meanings from? Facts are simple enough: there's always facts around, scurrying away this way and that, but meanings are so much harder to come by. Where shall they get their Nietzschean criticism that without which it's so hard to imagine ourselves, lost here on this darkling plain? Hard to imagine these odd intelligences. (Especially as I don't mean the kind of "artificial intelligence" that many of the experts seem to mean for much of the time: really clever, self-learning machines going trough the tricks of moderately complicated tasks.)

And, also, and maybe even more importantly: where shall they get their idea of beauty from? The one, classically, that is so closely bound with the concept of ethics - where are their appropriate, proportionate ideas of fate fashioned? Or are they fashioned at all? It shouldn't really matter which material you are made of but which meaning and experience of the world you have - anything outward and obviously material is irrelevant. But the question still stands, and will stand, regardless of the of the changes to come: shall we have empty minds overseeing empty tasks? And to what rational purpose then?

As for the unfolding of the actual historical process, these thoughts are totally meaningless: they won't be considered for a moment. Things will happen without any overall control: there will be unforeseen and unintended occurrences, and we shall arrive where we never expected to arrive. We can only hope - and I have already argued here that it is our only realistic hope - that technological progress will free us for meaningful things and experiences. We will see.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Your words like swallowing something sharp

Lately I had an evening of reminiscing: remembering persons and feelings, music and poetry. It is weird, this middle-age, being wiser and dumber, more numb. Those burning feelings of the 20 somethings seem at once both silly and easily more profound than the relaxed, resigned wisdoms of the late 40's. Age is no key, no route, no way in itself - to be alive to this awful, beautiful world is to remain intense: no resignation, no relaxation.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Külmale maale

I will not seize to wonder how easily the stalinist crimes have been forgotten in Europe. And, yes, surely the Nazis were even worse, I do agree. But if you think that, if you really see the horror of nazism, then you are logically bound to recognize also the red version, surely. I'm a liberal, so this really is not a great problem: any wholesale state violence against groups of people is very easy, very natural to condemn. So, against this background, it's weird to see how one set of crimes against humanity could be so easily forgotten compared with another such one.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Thin White Duke - the leader of the freaks and misfits

I guess this is a kind of a 1970's eulogy: the world was different then, and oh how different was Finland, a remote wounded country painfully entering modernity. Now everyone can do it and does, and it's great and if it's not, you turn to the next one, you are free to turn whichever way. But he did it then: broke codes, very important codes, religiously guarded central codes - of sexuality, gender, of identity, of personhood. He evaded the dead categories with seeming ease, with grace. And aided me and undoubtedly countless of others also trying to find a path away from that deadness, and not with ease, not with grace. That is not a small thing to say of anyone, and next to that, his person, is his marvellous, glittering art: defiant, constantly changing, evading, slipping away from all your attempts of control. He was much too fast for that. So, a sad day this.

(Of course it is the land of all teenagers and young adults: the inner freakhood, the pain of not fitting into the world but it can feel extra sharp if you cannot even begin to think of a compromise, a gradual adjustment as your very being is a radical rebellion against liveless past certainties that still control thoughts and expectations.)

Thursday, January 07, 2016

On amoral codes of conduct

Of all things I have been reading and watching: The Camomile Lawn, why not? - I prefer the excuisitely acted series, but the novel is rather curious: not great writing, unfortunately, but a sharp, extremely odd vignette of an era.

I was thinking about that breezy, self-confident attitude combined with the various liaisons and came first up with the word "libertine" - and then thought it completely wrong, misleading, and also that "amoral" would only work in a very particular (and unfortunate and hurtful) context of "moral".

Though there surely must be a moral framework for our actions or else they will be void of any significance and responsibility: but that framework must be individually, genuinely wrought and thought out, shaped to be real - and it is unreal, dishonest and fundamentally libertine (shamelessly indulging in one's narrowness and meanness), and thus completely immoral to opt for Victorian puritanism devoid of the philosophical-religious principles of that puritanism (that do not save that anti-morality from shallowness and cruelty but who at least provide it with some intellectual foundations).

I also thought that my values have actually been rather close (though not identical) to those mores so interestingly and strangely portrayed by Mary Wesley. That I do have individually wrought a moral code of conduct totally and satisfyingly anti-victorian and unlibertine. At times it didn't feel this way, but there really was a serious code of conduct there, and is, I do believe.