My European tour 2010 promises to be quite an adventure. A Castle of philosophy in Ireland, a friend in Belfast, and then some mountainous adventures in Switzerland, and hopefully a little hop in to France at the end!
But, my trip to the Castle in Ireland is a voyage in itself. Check here for photos so far. Yesterday I took the 7am train from Toronto to Montreal, to catch a 7pm flight out to Heathrow. The train was uneventful, and I did quite a bit of reading. I read the first hundred pages of “The Weathermakers” by Tim Flannery, a book I actually found on the street on my way to the subway station. The book is good, although a bit out of date (2005). It’s general message – the science is certain enough and we need to start acting to slow global warming – remains true today, with increasing urgency (although, from any reasoned perspective, the urgency was quite great back in 2005 as well). Urgency, however, is not rational – it’s an emotion. Hopefully the emotion or urgency with respect to action on climate change increases in the near future – otherwise, as I learned from Hansen’s book, the venus syndrome is a real possibility.
However, I hadn’t meant to read that book, and I have course reading to finish before the start of the philosophy program on Monday, so I abandoned the book in Montreal. I had quite a good time there, despite only having a half-day. Simon was just finishing packing, and like Totem park and Fairview residences, there was much free-stuff to be had. I took some tea, because I like the idea of having english breakfast tea in my residence room in a castle. We went to the “OP”, which is an outdoor beer garden on the last day of school. We hate charity samosas, and drank 4 beers for 10 dollars – and good beers from the McAusland brewery – Ambroise Blonde, and Griffin extra-blonde ales. The “moment” of the beer garden was standing in line, hearing someone behind the counter yell “We’re out of Moosehead!”. Simon and I laughed expansively – who drinks Moosehead?
Simon’s friends continue to impress me – I met a good number at the beer garden and they remind me highly of people I would have met in first year. Not to say I’m nostalgic – I like my friends now, and I like being friends with 25-35 year olds. But I love the creativity, open-ness of smart kids just getting started. It really makes me think about what kind of school I’d like to teach in – I’ve had fantastic experiences teaching philosophy in high school for short periods, and generally disappointing experiences teaching philosophy at York. My empirical conclusion was to perhaps not teach university philosophy – but perhaps its more a matter of which university one teaches at. The best would be to teach in an integrated first year program like Arts Legacy at McGill, or the defunct Foundations Program at UBC (which still has its website!)
My flight to the UK was delayed 3 hours on the tarmac due to a broken radio. “Everyone knows how the number 2 radio works until it stops working”, I said to the man sitting next to me, and then followed with Jordan Peterson‘s story of a crashed computer caused by instability in the sun. The man I sat next to was actually quite interesting – from Pakistan, moved to Canada in 1989 because he was not able to get a US passport. Upon arriving in Canada, immediately moved to the US, but moved back in 3 days due to hating it. He really noticed a difference between people in Canada and in the United States, and after experiencing it first hand, no longer had an interest in becoming a US citizen. He now works as a chef in Saint-Hyacinthe, near to Sainte Madelaine where I spent a week in grade 6 on an exchange trip. (I’ve been thinking about that trip a lot recently – mostly because I really could do the J’Explore program next year and justify it as a scholarly activity. Apparently doing J’Explore in a small town is like going back to elementary school, mom included (your home-stay parents are paid to cook for you and do your laundry!), except you are old enough to drink.) He still owns shops in Pakistan, and travels back yearly to pay taxes, etc… He agrees that flying is insane – it’s shooting through the sky in a thin tube full of too many people.
He asked me about 2012, what my perspective was on it as a philosopher. I told him about how eschatology is thought within the German Phenomenological tradition – how the idea that the overturning would occur at a single moment in time is (thought to be) due to a mistaken interpretation of time itself. However, I think within the right interpretation of temporality, there is something eschatological about time, and it has something to do with something like “gods”, the divinities, the non-human. I actually believe Global warming might be the “in the face of an absent god” which Heidegger foresaw as a manner of humans “going under” in the Der Spiegel interview. For effect, I might as well cite the relevant passage here:
Only a god can still save us. I think the only possibility of salvation left to us is to prepare readiness, through thinking and poetry, for the appearance of the god or for the absence of the god during the decline; so that we do not, simply put, die meaningless deaths, but that when we decline, we decline in the face of the absent god.
This translation is confusing – I’ve seen “meaningless deaths” translated as “go under” in other places. Another indication that Jim is right and I must learn German, at least Scholar’s German. Anyway, the point is, humanity will not go-under without facing its own inability to recognize that which is radically other to it, that which radically exceeds its power. Global warming is such a phenomena – because while we might know the technical solutions, we do not know how to deal with the socio-psychic blockades against action. Capitalism, insofar as it reproduces irrationality, can either be seen as a lack (humans failing to be perfectly rational), or, we might need to face that humanity has something barbarous about it, and therefore it is not due to something inhuman that we fail to act to save the planet – but rather due to something deeply human, or at least western-historical.
Anyway, the good news is I was booked executive class to Ireland. This is good not because of the flight itself, but because it means i have access to the executive lounge during the 4 hour delay. This lounge is amazing – free expensive beer, expensive wine, expensive food. Rich people sure know to live. What strikes me most about it, however, is the absence of advertising, the total absence of commercialization of the space. This isn’t to say the space is neutral – it privileges certain kinds of body movement, intellectual style (through which newspapers and magazines are available for free), and diet (not so many vegan options). But, there is nothing about the space encouraging me to buy things I don’t need, or to over-consume. The amazing thing about a fridge full of free beer in a place like this is that no one over-drinks. I’ve said before that I think we should get rid of most restaurants and replace them with free food supply for all (non-luxury). I think this would reduce over-eating radically, because of the diminishing marginal price of fast food (always a “better deal” if you supersize). The fact that it works here indicates that it could work in the rest of society – all that’s required is the destruction of the public relations industry.
I should get back to readings for the philosophy program.