Bulletin N° 783
Subject : OF HUMAN BONDAGE - A Pre-Marxist Approach to Liberation.
29 January 2018
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
In the Preface of Part III of his work, The Ethics, Spinoza explains his interest in “the origin and nature of the emotions.” His stated purpose in this work is to help free humanity from its millennial bondage. He writes :
Most of those who have written about the emotions . . . and human conduct seem to be dealing not with natural phenomena that follow the common laws of Nature but with phenomena outside Nature. They appear to go so far as to conceive man in Nature as a kingdom within a kingdom. They believe that he disturbs rather than follows Nature’s order, and has absolute power over his actions, and is determined by no other source than himself. Again, they assign the cause of human weakness and frailty not to the power of Nature in general, but to some defect in human nature, which they therefore bemoan, ridicule, despise, or, as is most frequently the case, abuse. He who can criticize the weakness of the human mind more eloquently or more shrilly is regarded as almost divinely inspired. Yet there have not been lacking outstanding figures who have written much that is excellent regarding the right conduct of life and have given to mankind very sage counsel; and we confess we owe much to their toil and industry. However, as far as I know, no one has defined the nature and strength of the emotions, and the power of the mind in controlling them. I know, indeed, that the renowned Descartes, though he too believed that the mind has absolute power over its actions, does explain human emotions through their first causes, and has also zealously striven to show how the mind can have absolute control over the emotions. But in my opinion he has shown nothing else but the brilliance of his own genius, as I shall demonstrate in due course; for I want now to return to those who prefer to abuse or deride the emotions and actions of men rather than to understand them. They will doubtless find it surprising that I should attempt to treat of the faults and follies of mankind in the geometric manner, and that I should propose to bring logical reasoning to bear on what they proclaim is opposed to reason, and is vain, absurd and horrifying. But my argument is this: in Nature nothing happens which can be attributed to its defectiveness, for Nature is always the same, and its force and power of acting according to which all things happen and change from one form to another are everywhere and always the same. So our approach to the understanding of the nature of things of every kind should likewise be one and the same; namely, through the universal laws and rules of Nature. Therefore the emotions of hatred, anger, envy, etc., considered in themselves, follow from the same necessity and force of Nature as all other particular things. So these emotions are assignable to definite causes through which they can be understood, and have definite properties, equally deserving of our investigation as the properties of any other thing, whose mere contemplation affords us pleasure. I shall, then, treat of the nature and strength of the emotions, and the mind’s power over them, by the same method as I have used in treating of God [/Nature] and the mind, and I shall consider human actions and appetites just as if it were an investigation into lines, planes or bodies.(Ethics and Selected Letters, trans. 1982, by Samuel Shirley, pp.103-104)
Spinoza thought that most people live in “servitude to passion”. Their bondage to emotions is not due to their not knowing what is right and wrong, but because they only partially understand themselves and the nature of which they are part. Through self-knowledge, people can weaken their subjugation to this emotional bondage, he believed, and not by repression - first, by recognizing the etiology of particular emotions and how their mind is dominated by them, and secondly by an intuitive grasp of Nature's system, of which they are a part, and how particular emotions (such as pain, pleasure, desire and combinations thereof) are related to the systemic forces around them. In this way, Spinoza anticipated the work of Sigmund Freud on obsession and sublimation. Both men understood that emotions had to be effectively controlled and channeled into beneficial activities; otherwise we suffer . . . .
In Proposition 11, Spinoza writes: “Whatsoever increases or diminishes, assists or checks, the power of activity of our body, the idea of the said thing increases or diminishes, assists or checks the power of thought of our mind.”
And in the Scholium attached to this proposition, he observes: “We see then that the mind can undergo considerable changes, and can pass now to a state of greater perfection, now to one of less perfection, and it is these passive transitions that explicate for us the emotions of Pleasure and Pain. So in what follows I shall understand by pleasure ‘the passive transition of the mind to a state of greater perfection,’ and by pain ‘the passive transition of the mind to a state of less perfection.’ The emotion of pleasure when it is simultaneously related to mind and body I call Titillation or Cheerfulness; the emotion of pain when it is similarly related I call Anguish or Melancholy. But be it noted that titillation and anguish are related to man when one part of him is affected more than others, cheerfulness and melancholy when all parts of equally affected.” (p.111)
Further on in Part III, in Proposition 58, Spinoza returns to the primary emotions of pleasure, pain, and desire: “Besides the pleasure and desire that are passive emotions, there are other emotions of pleasure and desire that related to us in so far as we are active.”
He submits as Proof of this proposition: “When the mind conceives itself and its power to act, it feels pleasure. Now the mind necessarily regards itself when it conceives a true, that is, adequate idea. But the mind does conceive adequate ideas. Therefore it feels pleasure, too, in so far as it conceives adequate ideas, that is, in so far as it is active. Again, it is both in so far as it has clear and distinct ideas and in so far as it has confused ideas that the mind endeavors to persist in its own being . . . .”
Then in Proposition 59, he postulates that: “Among all the emotions that are related to the mind in so far as it is active, there are none that are not related to pleasure and desire.”
And in his Proof, he gives special status to pain, one of the three primary emotions: “All emotions are related to desire, pleasure or pain, as is shown by the definitions we have given of them. Now by pain we understand that which diminishes and checks the mind’s power of thinking. So in so far as the mind feels pain, to that extent its power of understanding, that is, its power of activity, is diminished or checked. So no emotions of pain can be related to the mind in so far as it is active, but only emotions of pleasure and desire, which are to that extent also related to the mind.”(p.140-141)
The 15 items below reflect the massively self-destructive obsession of American state power as it continues its desperate attempt to regain some semblance of control over a changing world that increasingly challenges - both at home and abroad - enslavement to the escalating concentration of private profits, as well as to the private ownership of both production and state power.
Professor emeritus of American Studies
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
‘Make Trade, Not War’ is China’s daring plan in the Middle East
Under the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing
aims to connect western China to the eastern Mediterranean
by Pepe Escobars
China’s “Go West” strategy was brought into sharp focus at a forum in Shanghai last weekend. Billed as the Belt and Road Initiative: Towards Greater Cooperation between China and the Middle East, it highlighted key aspects of Beijing’s wider plan.The New Silk Roads, or the Belt and Road Initiative, involve six key economic corridors, connecting Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. One, in particular, extends through the Middle East to North Africa. This is where the Belt and Road meets MENA or the Middle East and North Africa.
Of course, Beijing’s massive economic project goes way beyond merely exporting China’s excess production capacity. That is part of the plan, along with building selected industrial bases in MENA countries by using technical and production expertise from the world’s second-largest economy.
The US Has Military Bases in 172 Countries.
All of Them Must Close.
by Alice Slater
US bases are wreaking havoc to the health and well-being of communities across the world.
Iran Just Proposed a Path to Peace in the Middle East
by Darius Shahtahmasebi
In an article published by the Financial Times on Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif laid out the country’s proposed framework for bringing stability to the Middle East region.
“Isis displayed the darkest depths of human evil,” Zarif wrote. “Yet it also provided an opportunity to come together
to battle an existential threat. The co-operative relationships forged in this fight can usher in a new era.
We need new approaches and new terminology to make sense of a world which is transitioning to a post-western global order.
Here are two concepts to shape the emerging paradigm in west Asia: the idea of a strong region,
and security networking, whereby small and large countries — even those with historical rivalries — contribute to stability.”
It appears that Iran’s significant contribution to ISIS’ defeat and demise — coupled with its new injection as a major player to be reckoned with in the Middle East — has given the country newfound confidence. Iran is using its battlefield success to propose a new vision for the Middle East — one that would allegedly include open dialogue and cooperation. Zarif continues:
“The objective of a strong region — as opposed to a quest for hegemony and the exclusion of other actors — is rooted
in recognising the need to respect the interest of all stakeholders. Any domineering effort by one country
is not only inappropriate but essentially impossible: those who insist on following that path create instability.
The arms race in our region is an instance of this kind of destructive rivalry: siphoning vital resources
into the coffers of arms manufacturers has contributed nothing to achieving peace and security.
Militarism has only served to fuel disastrous adventurism.” [emphasis added]
Whether or not Zarif is genuine, taking his words at face value suggests he is proposing that countries in the region come together to form common interests and fight common enemies rather than focusing squarely on their differences.
DuPont vs. the World:
Chemical Giant Covered Up Health Risks of Teflon Contamination Across Globe
Broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival, we are joined by three guests who personally battled with DuPont and are featured in the new documentary called “The Devil We Know,” that looks at how former DuPont employees, residents and lawyers took on the chemical giant to expose the danger of the chemical C8, found in Teflon and countless household products—from stain- and water-resistant apparel to microwave popcorn bags to dental floss. The chemical has now been linked to six diseases, including testicular and kidney cancers. We speak with Bucky Bailey, whose mother worked in the Teflon division of a DuPont plant in West Virginia while she was pregnant with him, and who was born with only one nostril and a deformed eye and has undergone more than 30 surgeries to fix the birth defects; Joe Kiger, lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against DuPont, and a school teacher in Parkersburg, West Virginia, who suffered from liver disease; and Rob Bilott, the attorney that brought DuPont to court.
Thought Police for the 21st Century
by Chris Hedges
The abolition of net neutrality and the use of algorithms by Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter to divert readers and viewers from progressive, left-wing and anti-war sites, along with demonizing as foreign agents the journalists who expose the crimes of corporate capitalism and imperialism, have given the corporate state the power to destroy freedom of speech. Any state that accrues this kind of power will use it. And for that reason I traveled last week to Detroit to join David North, the chairperson of the international editorial board of the World Socialist Web Site, in a live-stream event calling for the formation of a broad front to block an escalating censorship while we still have a voice.
“The future of humanity is the struggle between humans that control machines and machines that control humans,” Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said in a statement issued in support of the event. “Between the democratization of communication and usurpation of communication by artificial intelligence. While the Internet has brought about a revolution in people’s ability to educate themselves and others, the resulting democratic phenomena has shaken existing establishments to their core. Google, Facebook and their Chinese equivalents, who are socially, logistically and financially integrated with existing elites, have moved to re-establish discourse control. This is not simply a corrective action. Undetectable mass social influence powered by artificial intelligence is an existential threat to humanity. While still in its infancy, the trends are clear and of a geometric nature. The phenomena differs in traditional attempts to shape cultural and political phenomena by operating at scale, speed and increasingly at a subtlety that eclipses human capacities.”
Spy Court Finds Surveillance Operating Outside The Law
by Paul Craig Roberts
The NSA, CIA, and FBI are criminal organizations that should be abolished and their leaderships imprisoned. Here is proof from the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that security agencies have been operating outside the law:
On page 4 the federal court that oversees the spy program states that the US government has not been in compliance with procedures governing the acquisition of data from spying. Moreover, the full scope of noncompliance “had not been previously disclosed to the court.”
The document describes aspects of the government’s noncompliance with the law and steps the government assures the court that it has taken to bring surveillance into compliance with the law.
Laura Flanders Show: Star Power for People Power
2018 brought us #TimesUp, but the history of collaboration between grassroots activists and Hollywood celebrities was already very long. Laura talks to Eve Ensler, who will be returning to Broadway with a new play about why our bodies must be connected to our politics. Then, an interview with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, of the hit show 'Grace and Frankie,' alongside Saru Jarayaman, president of Restaurant Opportunities Center United
Russia is a Threat to Western Societies?
West’s Fatal Intellectual Poverty
by Finian Cunningham
The United States and its NATO allies are facing an existential threat. But the threat has nothing to do with Russia, China, or any other external “enemy” for that matter.
The West’s own worst enemy is itself. Or more precisely, the intellectual bankruptcy of its political and military leaders and their dominant public discourse.
This week Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa reportedly condemned the US for descending into "political and intellectual poverty." He said: "The consequences are predictable: China and Russia are taking the positions that the US is withdrawing from, gaining political and economic influence."
Perhaps the clearest expression of Western intellectual impoverishment and dishonesty is the relentless Russophobia touted by American and European politicians, military leaders, think-tanks and mainstream corporate news media.
2018 - War or No War?
VC Interrogation, 1967
If the first months of 2017 were a time of great hopes following the historical defeat of Hillary Clinton, the year is ending in a sombre, almost menacing manner. Not only has the swamp easily, quickly and totally drowned Trump, but the AngloZionist Empire is reeling from its humiliating defeat in Syria and the Neocons are now treating our entire planet to a never ending barrage of threats. Furthermore, the Trump Administration now has released a National Security Strategy which clearly show that the Empire is in “full paranoid” mode. It is plainly obvious that the Neocons are now back in total control of the White House, Congress and the US corporate media. Okay, maybe things are still not quite as bad as if Hillary had been elected, but they are bad enough to ask whether a major war is now inevitable next year.
"Who Lost Turkey?" - The U.S.-Kurdish Project In Syria
by Moon Of Alabama
Back in the 1950s the U.S. political sphere was poisoned by a groundless smear campaign against country-experts in the State Department who were identified as those who lost China. If the Trump administration proceeds on its current course we may soon see similar accusations. The accused, those "who lost Turkey", will again be the ones who warned of the possibility and not the real culprits. The Turkish attack on the Kurd held Syrian canton of Afrin (Efrin) is not progressing as fast the Turks had hoped. The infantry component of the operation are Turkish proxy forces in Syria. These Chechen, Uighur, Turkestanis and other Takfiris are cannon fodder in the operations, not a well integrated component of an army.
Fed Up With Democrats, Progressives
Forge Own Path
by Jim Hightower
Last June, after Democratic candidates had lost four straight special Congressional elections (Rob Quist in Montana, James Thompson in Kansas, Archie Parnell in South Carolina, and Jon Ossoff in Georgia), America’s purveyors of conventional political wisdom simultaneously jumped to the conclusion that the policies and message of Democrats were just too progressive for our nation of moderate-right voters. The Washington cognoscenti expressed dismay that, despite Trump’s dismal public approval ratings and the nationwide surge of “Resist!” campaigns, the hapless Democratic Party was still unable to score any electoral victories. “Why Do Democrats Keep Losing in 2017?” queried a June headline in The Atlantic. “Democrats just went 0-4. When will they win?” asked a cynical CNN reporter. “It is a bit surprising that Democrats haven’t managed a single victory yet,” declared a University of Wisconsin election expert. “Panic is setting in on the left,” exclaimed a Vox headline.
No, not really. The professional political observers are like cats watching the wrong mouse hole.
Trump’s Foreign Policy Is In Service To Israel
by Paul Craig Roberts
Peter Jenkins, a former British ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, expresses concerns about the decisions of France, Germany, and the UK to appease President Trump on fixing “flaws” in the Iranian nuclear agreement. It is worth a read to see that the European governments are still Washington’s toadies despite the “hate Trump” attitude that allegedly prevails among Washington’s European vassals.
Readers need to understand that there are no flaws in the agreement. The allegation of “flaws” is an israeli orchestration in order to resurrect the attacks on Iran that the nuclear agreement terminated. What Trump is doing is appeasing Israel. Israel doesn’t want Iran to have long range missiles, non-nuclear ones, that enhance Iran’s defensive posture. More importantly, Israel does not want to lose the nuclear weapons charge that Israel invented and hoped to use to have the US military destabilize Iran a la Iraq and Libya. Israel’s problem with Syria and Iran is that both countries support Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that has twice driven the vaunted Israeli army out of southern Lebanon, territory Israel wants to occupy for the water resources. If Israel, armed as it is with the American Zionist Neoconservatives who control US foreign policy, can resurrect the Western attack on Iran, Israel can perhaps pressure Iran to abandon Hezbollah and Lebanon to Israel.
The Opioid Epidemic in America - Killing One Million People
The Triumph of Capital (Creating a Domestic ‘Shithole’)
by James Petras and Robin Eastman-Abaya
The link between capitalism and drugs reaches back to the middle of the 19th century,
when the British Empire forced their surplus opium crop from their South Asian colonies
into the Chinese market creating massive demand from millions of addicts.
The Chinese government, which had banned the use and sale of opium, was alarmed at the growing social chaos created by mass addiction
and went to war with the Western powers to halt the flood of drugs. Their defeat at the hands of the British and their Chinese drug lord allies
opened China to massive exploitation and pillage for the next century. Chinese opium addicts were a tremendous obstacle to organizing national resistance.
In essence, the British East India Company and its imperial protectors transformed China into
the history’s largest ‘shithole’ – until an earth-shattering revolution broke the chains of addiction and degradation.
A Lifetime of Activism: Jane Fonda on Gender Violence, Indigenous Rights,
& Opposing War in Vietnam
From: Fred Lonidier
Sent: Sunday, January 28, 2018
Subject: Progressive Labor Summit
Why Is Putin "Allowing" Israel to Bomb Syria?