Thursday, 16 June 2011

Hackney – Where ideas are born and bicycles are (almost) stolen (by knife)

As our dear readers might know, some of us were privileged to meet up in London last weekend. When Anandita, and her (very sympathetic) boyfriend Zach were planning to go traveling in Wales with her parents, nothing felt more natural for me and my (very handsome) boyfriend than to catch a cheap flight to the UK, and for all of us to merge in the capital!

And what a weekend it has been. We of course did the good old traditional sightseeing: The British museum with all the stolen goods of the empire, Tate Modern with it’s progressive paintings and installations, Brick Lane with its lovely curry, shopping in Camden Town/Market and a stroll along the south bank of the Thames with all the sights that has to offer. Anandita, Zach and Juliane also went to a lecture with Arundhati Roy (!) and “some random Marxists”, where the latter apparently weren’t too impressive. The visiting boyfriends (Chris and Zach) are dedicated Clash fans and made sure we extended to some untraditional sightseeing as well. We went far down south to the (in)famous Brixton. We were disappointed to see such few guns but the number of squeaking ambulances were at least far above average.


The main excitement of the trip was of course to see each other’s long missed faces and to exchange recent experiences, old memories and eternal ideas. One of the social highlights was the day when Sofie had arranged the MUWCI (and friends) summer shindigs in London fields (a huge park close to Ant and Sofie’s flat). Here we met more MUWCI people than I had ever dreamed of.

Some of the old friends we met during the stay

Bezzerwizzer in the park. Anandita carry these photos in her wallet.

After enjoying countless beers and conversations in the sun we slowly returned to the flat where more beers were in order, not to mention a delicious meal served by Anthony. The board game Articulate! was also a big hit. As the hours were getting late, people came and went but the core remained.

Acticulate in Anthony and Sofie’s living room.

Eternal ideas. Around midnight the same night Anthony’s (very charming) architect friends came by, and somehow the whole atmosphere became very philosophical. Perhaps not so strange, since Anandita currently is doing her PhD in philosophy at Boston University. Also given our philosophical background from the IB, it was granted for it to become a subject of conversation eventually. At some point Sofie came back into the room, after being absent for a while, when she suddenly became very worried about her architect friends’ well being (read: them being bored). The reason was that Anandita and I were rambling about Hannah Arendt’s (or originally Aristotle’s) distinctions between labor, work and action and the Human condition in general. Though, as soon as Sofie expressed her apprehension one of the architects immediately dispelled it. He engaged in the conversation starting to throw out ethical dilemmas for every one of us to take a stand. In regard to this we ended up hypothetically killing a man on a railroad track to save ten (or two hundred) people, in addition to killing a man in a coma for some other alternative purpose.

The discussion about the common versus the elite was the most intriguing though. The starting point for this debate was a claim that

“the idea of people sitting in their offices doing philosophy is useless or irrelevant, unless their ideas are brought to the masses”.

The extreme example of this would be some French philosophers like the deconstructionist Jacques Derrida etc. Anandita presented a very nuanced and well-grounded argument against the above claim based mainly on Hegel and partly on Hannah Arendt (and her own viewpoint of course). The poor thing was constantly interrupted by Sofie and myself who had countless (ir)relevant insights and digressions. We/I must have been pretty annoying because, due to the large quantities of alcohol that had been consumed, I kept forgetting the main argument and demanded she’d explain the whole thing again and again. Luckily I finally decided to write down the The Main Ideal Argument which goes as follows:

“Forget about Hegel (though it’s all Hegelian)*. When intellectuals dump things down so that everyone can understand them, then all they do is to give the masses a glimpse of the truth, or a certain form of the truth that isn’t the ultimate truth.”

Be aware that this is the ideal argument. The practical application of this could be:

“Given that we need work and labor for the survival of society, it’s important that those who do work and labor are able to at least get a glimpse of the truth, or a certain form of the truth, since they don’t have the time to be philosophers”.

Examples of these glimpses of truth could be the concepts of freedom and democracy. The conclusion of the discourse was, that the path to reach the ultimate state of enlightenment must be the employment of Robots.

Some of the notes from the discussion. Notice the washing machine in the robot's stomach

At this point I stopped taking notes. The good news is that in the future we wont have to live in the shadow of the ultimate truth – because Anandita is now becoming an official contributor to the the world and other issues! So let me pose a question for a potential follow up post to this philosophical debate: Wouldn’t this lead to a complete Marxist alienation (all work and labor conducted by robots)? And if so, is that a problem?

And last: During our stay Anthony caught a rude thief at the outside entrance of their house. The thief was about to steal Ant’s bike, when Ant rhetorically asked the guy what he was doing? The thief replied that he had a knife. Being the man of steel that he is, Ant asked him to show his pockets and surely a knife was revealed. “Fuck off” was Ant’s reaction, and fuck off the thief did – with the parting promise: “I’ll be back!”

I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone when I say that I share the thief’s sentiments (about coming back to Hackney Baths). Hopefully Shane will be with us next time.

*Anandita had first spent a lot of time explaining Hegel – unfortunately casting pearls before swine.