On the decay of US media

I remember when I watched the United States launched spacecraft to the Moon on television as a child. The process of preparation was shown for hours with occasional commentary by scientists and experts. There was no thrilling gossip by overpaid TV personalities or attempts to spice up the story with exclusive interviews “behind the scenes.” The entire point of the reporting was to present the facts in an accessible manner to the public. People had the patience to listen to the complex narrative because the systematic pursuit of facts, and science had value. Now all that tradition has been washed away by an obsession with the self, and by an appeal to immediate satisfaction.

“세상을 바꾸는 방법” 인디고서원 세미나

 인디고서원 세미나

이만열 과 같이

세상을 바꾸는 방법

 

2016년 10월에 시작한 촛불집회의 1주년이 되던 날, 이만열 선생님과 함께하는 제92회 주제와 변주가 열렸습니다. 국정농단 사태로 촉발된 촛불집회에서 시민들은 적폐세력에 대해 분노했습니다. 매주 토요일 밤마다 시민들은 전국 각지의 드넓은 광장에서 만났고, 결국 새로운 변화를 끌어냈습니다. 실제로 권력의 정점에 서 있던 이들이 수사를 받고 구속되는 등 잠시 동안 사건은 해결되는 듯 보였습니다. 대통령도 한 차례 바뀌면서 대한민국은 희망을 꿈꾸었습니다. 그러나 1년이 지난 지금, 아직도 세상의 부조리는 보란 듯이 일어나고 있습니다. 어느 한 편에서는 비리에 대한 처벌이 너무한 것 아니냐 하는 태도를 보이고 있습니다. 이런 상황에서 우리는 촛불집회의 목적에 대하여 의심하지 않을 수 없었고, 결국 그것은 우리가 지속하는 사회 전반적인 시스템에 대한 의심으로 이어집니다. 우리는 과연 새로운 세상을 만들어갈 수 있을까요? 일찍이 이 문제에 대해서 관심을 가져온 이만열 선생님을 모시고, 현실을 정확히 진단하고 우리 사회가 어떤 방향으로 나아가야 하는지에 대하여 이야기 나누는 시간을 마련하였습니다.

이만열 반갑습니다. 이만열입니다. 청소년 여러분과 만나게 되어 기쁩니다. 여러분 앞에 있는 저는 벌써 50대입니다. 60대, 70대 어른들이 여러분을 많이 실망하게 해서 미안합니다. 정말로 새로운 세상과 미래를 위해서는 여러분의 노력이 꼭 필요합니다. 다른 유명한 누군가를 기대하지 마시고 스스로 자기 손으로 새로운 한국을 만드시면 좋겠습니다.

저는 원래 예일대학에서 중국 문학을 전공하였습니다. 다가오는 시대에 세계 사회에서 중국이 중요하다고 생각했습니다. 언어를 배우는 방법으로 문학을 공부하는 게 가장 좋았기 때문입니다. 그렇게 중국과 중국어를 공부했습니다. 그리고 이어서 한동안 일본에서 공부했습니다. 실제로 한국어는 외국어 중에서 가장 못하는 언어였습니다. 하지만, 동아시아에서 한국이 차지하는 중요성을 깨달았고, 제가 한국에 정착하여 살았던 지난 10년 동안 한국에 살면서 어느 정도 한국어로도 대화를 나눌 수 있게 되었습니다.

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“Being asked for money on Christmas” Korea Times

Korea Times

“Being asked for money on Christmas”

Emanuel Pastreich

December 24, 2017

 

It is perhaps one of the most hackneyed sermons that is regularly delivered by ministers on Christmas and it starts out with the words “what would Jesus say?” The sermon typically enumerates the sins of materialism and superficiality and demonstrates how they have reduced Christmas to a celebration of the senses and an indulgence of the ego. Most church-goers are entirely capable of listening to the sermon, nodding in agreement and then going out into a world of the most radical materialistic ideology without batting an eyebrow.

I never wanted to be a preacher, and I approach this topic with trepidation. But this year I feel oddly compelled by the deeply unhealthy trends I see in Korea, and in the societies of many nations, to suggest that this time it is not enough to talk about these problems in the abstract. This time we must take the first step in the right direction by confronting the truth.

I am afraid these days to walk in Gwanghwamun because I will encounter numerous people ringing bells for Salvation Army and looking at me with imploring eyes that demand that I make a donation. Or there are young people asking me to sign up for some program to give a fixed amount of money every month for some worthy cause or another.

I have given money on several occasions to these groups, but I have reached the limit.

No, it is not the limit. Nor is it the many articles that touch on the serious question of how much of the money given to “save the polar bears” campaigns actually goes beyond the bureaucracy.

The problem is a profound one. It is not merely that I do not always have spare change, or that I regret having to disappoint the young people who are out trying to raise money for good causes. Rather I am bothered by this feeling that if I made more money, if I could make a large donation of cash, I could do more good.

Such an assumption that having more money means we can do more good, however, is completely out of line with the teachings of Jesus. Nowhere in his sayings does he ever suggest that having more money will make one a more virtuous being. If anything, Jesus is best known for his statement that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

There is so much that one can do to help other people, but the only option that is offered to us is the chance to give money to some organization with which we have no connection.

I have asked many of these groups about what I can do to contribute and invariably I am told that a monetary contribution is the only path. Like the indulgence in expensive presents and pricy Christmas vacations, such modern practices are distant from what we actually see in the teachings of Jesus which I naively associate with Christmas.

I was invited to give a talk for a Christian youth group recently at a fancy church in Seoul recently. The church, with its marble and soaring staircase reminded me of the Hyatt Hotel. The event was enjoyable and I was impressed by the ideas that some of the students expressed about how they would devote themselves to service. But at the same time, I heard a voice in my head demanding that I ask them why their church had to be so lavish, and why they had to attend such elite colleges.

Of course, to say something like that would be a condemnation of myself –which was no doubt the intention of that voice. I grew up in a family which had the financial means, and which provided me with the intellectual environment, necessary to attend excellent schools. Ultimately, the criticisms of what I saw all pointed back to me.

The next day, I stopped at Seoul Citizen’s Hall, the open space in the basement beneath the new Seoul City hall, for a few hours to finish my grading. I sat down on one of the padded benches towards the back that are open to the public. When the Citizen’s Hall opened five years ago, these innovative spaces were quite popular with young people who would hang out on the foam mattresses and converse.

I was startled to find this time that the space is now full of homeless people seeking shelter from the cold.

Let us be honest: the radical concentration of wealth is not just something happening far away in other countries, but is directly impacting Korean society as well — granted the media does not touch much on the plight of the poor. That gross inequity, which is only getting worse, should be the focus of our concerns for Christmas, and yet we spend our time pretending it does not exist.

I had a chance to speak with some of the homeless who gathered to keep warm in the Citizen’s Hall and I came away convinced that they were people who would not have been there a few years ago. You have to ask how long it will be before we will be joining them. I do not pose that question facetiously.

If Jesus were wandering around in Seoul, where do you think he would be?

Would he attending a  luxurious Gangnam Church, drinking a café latte in the lounge?

I doubt he would be allowed in.

Would he be buying perfume, or designer handbags, at a glimmering department store?

He would have neither the money nor the interest.

Jesus spent his time with beggars, outcasts and prostitutes, and he was shunned by the well-to-do in his time.

He would most likely have been on one of the back benches at the Citizen’s Hall, talking with the middle-aged woman with a sleeping bag and a bag full of assorted items who tried to sleep there, but was repeatedly asked to get up by a security guard.

It seems unlikely we can make any progress in addressing the increasing fragmentation of our society by giving bits of change to charity groups on the street.

Nor can we expect large grants from billionaires to solve our torments.

The world will start to change only when we are ready to engage and work with those who form the invisible classes around us, only when we say thank you to the people who make our food and clean our offices, and treat them as our equals; only when we show concern for the futures of the young people working in coffee shops. Only when we realize that the position in society that those others have has nothing to do with their merits or their qualities. Only when we think of them like family, like friends, only then will change come.

Might we be able to see people in a manner that is not monetary? Will we be willing to recognize that for all its convenience and thrills, the market economy has reduced people to things, products for consumption and disposal?

I would suggest that it will not be too many Christmases in the future that we will face an even bleaker reality if we do not face it now.

Ash or Steam?

Ash or Steam?

Emanuel Pastreich

 

Some say our world will end in war

Some say it has a steamy fate

From what glimpsed in man’s core

I go with those who fear for war

But indifference to our children’s’ fate

Is, in its own way, cruel as hate

So horrific what lies in store

The hour being late

That doom requires nothing more

 

FullHouse_Trump

다른 백년 “트럼프가 승리한 이유, 미국 정치 3국지에 있다”

다른 백년

“트럼프가 승리한 이유, 미국 정치 3국지에 있다”

2017년 12월 22일

임마누엘 페스트라이쉬

 

민주당 대 공화당. 한국이 생각하는 미국의 정치 구조다. 그러나 이렇게 미국을 보면 지금 워싱턴에서 벌어지는 일을 이해하기 어렵다. 미국이 한국의 정치 담론에서 워낙 중요한 역할을 담당했기 때문에 미국 문화와 제도는 무조건 ‘선진’이라는 믿음이 고착화되어 미국에 대한 객관적 평가를 내리기 어려운 이유도 있다. 미국 제도가 쇠락하고 있음을 인정하면 그 동안 한국이 쌓아온 가치와 우선순위의 모순점이 드러나기 때문이다.

그러나 보다 직접적인 원인은 다른 데 있다. 한국이 미국의 정치를 보수 대 진보의 대립 구조로 보고 ‘싶어 한다’는 것이다. 믿음과 맞지 않는 사실이 발견되어도 결국엔 보수-진보의 이분법에 어떻게든 끼워 넣는다.

사실 미국 정치는 3개 정치 세력이 합종연횡(合從連橫)을 반복하는 삼국지에 가깝다. 트럼프가 대통령으로 당선되고 아직 탄핵 당하지 않은 것도 바로 이 삼각구도 덕분이다. 그럼 우리의 상식과 전혀 맞지 않는 미국판 삼국지 양상을 살펴보자.

영어 표현 ‘삼각 투쟁(three-way fight)’은 2006년 8월 3일 매튜 라이언스 (Matthew Lyons)가 블로그에 올린 논평 <적의 적을 지킨다(Defending My Enemy’s Enemy)>에서 시작됐다. 좌편향적이긴 하지만, 미국의 정치 현실을 정확히 짚어낸 글이다. 좌파와 우파, 억압과 해방의 이분법적 구조가 아니다. 글로벌 자본주의를 신봉하는 지배층과 혁명 좌파, 혁명 우파 등의 3개 진영에서 벌어지는 ‘삼각 투쟁’이다. 혁명 우파라고 하면 글로벌 자본의 지배구조를 다른 억압적 사회 질서로 대체하려는 극우파와 파시스트 등이 모두 포함된다고 그는 적었다. Read more of this post

Facebook, W. B. Yates and Automatic Writing

It has been a mystery why I am so drawn to Facebook, a medium that I dislike and which I have called for a the complete reform of. I want to abolish Facebook, and yet I keep coming back for more.

The truth is that although Facebook may not be good for my concentration, it is quite helpful for my writing and I think it may be making me into a more creative and effective author. How could this be possible?

I think there is an affinity between the tradition of automatic writing and Facebook postings. Remember that  after Fernando Pessoa promoted automatic writing as a means of allowing spirits to enter the body and communicate with the other world, that this psychic technique was practiced by William Butler Yeats with Georgie Hyde-Lees. Yeats produced thousands of pages of automatic writing and in the process created an enormous number of unique, striking phrases.

Automatic writing did much for Yeats as a poet in that it inspired him to reach deep in his soul and put out odd, sublime and grotesque phrases that would otherwise never have seen the light of day. After many, many seances and sessions of automatic writing, Yeats built up a remarkable bank of haunting turns of phrase which he was then able to draw on when writing poetry.

In fact, one has to wonder whether many of his remarkable turns of phrase find their origins in an odd automatic writing session. The work from those sessions may have been less remarkable, but it gave Yeats invaluable material. I feel today that many passages I use in articles also have their origins in these late night on-line Facebook chatting sessions. I come up with concepts, and phrases I can then use in my writings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s National Security Strategy (December, 2017)

For those who would like to read the actual text, here is the recently released to National Security Strategy from the White House. Although some of the language is predictable, it reveals that bizarre mixture of isolationism and aggressive militarism which we have grown to know and love.

The focus is on the “homeland” and there is little, or nothing, to suggest that security requires international cooperation. In fact, most allies reading it might wonder what the purpose of an alliance might be. There is no sense that the United States is going to sacrifice itself for anyone else. Perhaps the assumption is that the United States is so powerful that the world will come to seek its help. Seems to be a poor bet.

The term “take direct actions” is used to signify entirely illegal and off-the-record actions against perceived enemies. It does not take much imagination to see where this might lead.

Much more to say, but as I have not finished reading it yet, I want to share it first.

Take a look.

 

 

trump national security strategy

The Scientific Method

“I have only one loyalty in policy and politics: loyalty to the scientific method.”

Emanuel Pastreich
December 15, 2017

 

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인디고서원 특강 관련 기사

인디고서원 2017년 10월 29일 부산에 있는 인디고서원에서 학생을 대상으로 특강을 했어요. 그특강을 소개 하는 기사는 인디고서원 잡지에서 게재 됐어요.

 

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「なぜ大学が経済学を教える事ができていないか」  ハフィントンポスト

 

 ハフィントンポスト

「なぜ大学が経済学を教える事ができていないか」

2017年12月11日

エマニュエル パストリッチ

私の授業を受講する学生のほとんどが経済学も受講しており、学生たちのことをいつも羨ましく思っていた。学生時代に経済学を学ぶ機会に恵まれなかった私には経済について発言する資格などはないと思っていたからだ。

ところが、ひょんなことから驚くべき事実を知ることになった。「東アジアの歴史」という講義の授業中に、学生たちに経済学が政治や社会に及ぼす影響等、いくつかの質問を投げかけてみたのだが、大学で何年も経済学を学んでいる学生の大半よりも、文学が専門の私の方が経済学関連の書籍の読書量が圧倒的に多かったのである。

また、経済理論の基礎についても尋ねてみたことがあるのだが、「経済学」を専攻する学生でさえも、トマス・ホッブズ、アダム・スミス、マックス・ヴェーバー等の一昔前の経済学者はもちろんのこと、トマ・ピケティ等の現代の経済評論家の主な著書さえも読んだことがないと言うのである。

とても驚くべきことである。文学部の教授にすぎない私でさえも、経済学者の有名な著書は一部分だけでも読んだことがあるからだ。経済学の教材には経済学の重要な理論が簡単ではあるが記述されていると説明する学生もいたが、大体の経済学の授業では経済学の本質については全く考察せず、高等数学を利用して与えられた問題を解くことだけを授業の目的にしているのである。

また、経済学の教材にも金利や赤字の問題からインフレや価値に至る経済学の問題を、あたかも熱力学第二法則や重力の法則等の自然法則のように論述しているのである。その上、経済学で定義されている人間活動に関しては、そういった過程の妥当性について科学的な調査はもちろんのこと、認識論や形而上学的な考察はされず、単純な計算をすることだけが経済学の真理を追求できる道だと勘違いをしているのが実状なのである。 Read more of this post