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Thursday, December 22, 2005

truth, art and politics

I keep coming across references to Harold Pinter's Nobel acceptance speech...the latest at Cheezys blog (Christmas means porn? I never knew....).

I can never quite tell whether the people/blogs referring me to the speech agree with it or disagree with it. The way they refer to it it seems to me that it seems to be blindingly obvious to them and ought to be blindingly obvous to anyone reasonable and intelligent.

I have read the speech. I am unruffled. I don't really understand what the fuss is about.

My summary of Pinter's speech (complete with generalisations, misunderstandings and mistakes). Please fell free to correct:
  • Artists search for "the truth."
  • Truth is multilayered and elusive (referencing art)
  • Politicans lie because they want power and the poor little people are so helpless and sheeplike that they believe the politicans lies.
  • Bad politicians, bad.
  • There is only one truth, only one right answer (referencing politics ~ I *think* Pinter's "right" answer may the death minimisation one).
  • Blah blah blah ...war...United States...death...blah blah blah (I suppose it IS a peace prize. I suppose he HAD to talk about war.)
  • Bad United States.

  • Or something like that. I got a little bored so I skipped and skimmed parts.

    My interpretation of Pinter's point is that there are or ought to be different standards for truth depending on the context. In art truth is a grey area. There are multiple, elusive truths that the artists and observors are searching for and creating. That is good. That is art. In politics truth is or ought to be black and white. It determines right and wrong and behaviour. When it comes to war and people's lives, good citizens should demand the one true truth. (hahaha!!! it makes me laugh!)

    Of course, I disagree with the whole thing (ignoring the war parts which bore me).

    I thought Cheezy agreed with it; from his endorsement of the writing. However, I find myself nodding along to what you are writing. Especially the whole diatribe against the United States.

    But how can you have multiple versions of the truth? If one is true the other, contradictory statement cannot be.
    "The opposite of a true statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth."

    -- Niels Bohr
    tcm, how can you not have multiple versions of the truth? (with mulptiple perspectives, minds, backgrounds etc)

    david, nice quote :)
    Hmmm. But exactly what is it about Pinter's verdict on US foreign policy does anyone disagree with? I'm interested...
    What a pile of stupid inane stinking crap from Pinter, particularly his repeated reference to the United States as an 'it' when it has more long-lasting democratic institutions than any other nation on Earth. Says alot about his frame of mind though, when he describes the United States in the same way as most other people would describe a one-party total dictatorship such as North Korea, or Iraq under Saddam.
    No irony intended ;-)
    So that's the answer to my question, is it? That he calls the US "it"?

    That's the only precise 'charge' that I could locate in your post, Al...
    Suze, when you start throwing viewpoints at it - how can it be truth? Truth is not perceived, it's absolute.

    Water is wet.

    We might all have different interpretations of the truth but they are not all the truth. Only one of them can be. The rest are variations, opinions, etc.
    If you don't realise at this stage that Harold Pinter is a dissembling communist trying to re-write history (Marxist theory doesn't support non-ideological objective history), then I'm going to go out on a short limb and say you've been led down the political garden path for your entire life.

    Central America was the scene of a low-level proxy war between USSR-supported Cuba and the United States for over a decade. The long-term ambitions of the Cubans were to institute communist revolutions within Central and South America similar to what had occurred in Cuba, obviously requiring direct or indirect conflict with the democratic and capitalist United States. This period was just after Nixon withdrew US forces from south Viet Nam and around the time the USSR invaded Afghanistan, creating the impression Communism was on the march across the globe. The Sandinistas were an armed Nicaraguan Marxist revolutionary group, funded and supported by the KGB/USSR and the Cuban intelligence service (DGI), and indeed the KGB/DGI later fed thousands of Cubans and Europeans into the first Sandinista Government and its Sandinista Peoples Army, controlling many of its activities. The 1970's Somoza family dictatorship (with obligatory half-arsed elections) used its National Guard to target the Sandinistas (using censorship, torture, etc), effectively creating a civil war. At this time some more moderate Nicaraguan groups began actively opposing the Somozas and supporting the Sandinistas. US President Carter instituted a weapons embargo against the Somoza regime in 1978 while the Sandinistas received weapons from Cuba and other central/south American countries. The Sandinistas overthew the Somozas/National Guard in 1979, the remnants of which fled to neighbouring countries.

    In the meantime the Soviets and the DGI were building up the Sandinista military and Police, and the Sandinistas were becoming involved in an insurgency in neighbouring El Salvador.

    Reagan responded by suspending aid to Nicaragua and providing military training and funds to the Contras (mostly former National Guard personel).

    In the mid-80's, the US Congress (Democrat-controlled) suspended funding to the Contras. Reagan responded by placing a trade embargo, mining a key port, and a Reagan staff member (Oliver North) is discovered to be illegally channelling funds from weapons sales (to Iran) back to the Contras.

    Geez this is turning into a history exercise.

    To cut a long story short, the Sandinistas (actually a much-expanded grouping) were voted out of power in 1990.

    Flip forward to 2004 and Nicaraguan troops were deployed to Iraq.

    The point is - Pinters speech is a complete load of dissembling pro-communist twaddle.
    TCM: Anything that we know of the world, we know through perception. Perception is limited and faulty. Logic dealing in absolutes does not deal with things really "in the world". The statement "1=1" is a true statement, but it is about abstract things (numbers), not concrete things. Is one brick one brick? What if you break it in half? Is it still one brick or now two bricks?

    You assert that water is wet. Is it? Is it frozen water? If so, it can be very dry. When you deal with things in the actual world, you deal with shades of grey all the time. Which is why things that might seem "objectively" true about humans are actually full of subjectivity resulting from one's perception (and prejudices).

    Yup, when you start from premises and apply rules, you can reach valid (and true) conclusions. But very often premises are not absolutely true, and the rules in use are not necessarily unambiguously always valid.

    That's how you can have multiple versions of "The Truth".
    Oh look a thoughtful discussion!

    Unfortunately, I discovered I DO get hangovers from alcohol - vodka cocktails then absinthe and then sculling merlot is bad.

    Will return later.

    absinthe is wet.
    Al. Lotsa work there, cheers. But my question was enquiring about where Pinter went wrong. What you did was simply repeat the traditional US party-line on their involvement in Central American politics (which I was actually familiar with already, having studied the subject - sorry you wasted your time), and then you said that because Pinter's perspective was different from this one, it's a load of socialist, um, communist, bla bla, rhubarb or whatever... But you didn't rebut any of his actual points at all.

    The best I can get out of your 'analysis' is that Pinter's speech lacked 'balance', because it didn't include remarks like "mind you, I could be wrong, because other historians see these events very differently you know!".

    When SirHumphreys starts including clauses like this, then I'll start encouraging Harold to do likewise!
    Ah, at which point I might have to say: "Define a brick". I'd suggest that up until the point you broke it in two it was a brick. Then it became two half-bricks.

    Thought about the water argument as well when I wrote that, but figured people would understand the concept well enough. You could argue that once water has been frozen it's ice. It's fundamentally different from what it was before - just as water that has evaporated is steam. You can't really say that's water anymore - althought it could be again. (Maybe that's potential truth?)

    Take your actions? Is it true that you wrote that comment from David? There is no dissembling about it - no perceptions will alter the action that took place. Or maybe I'm just to used to living in a world with 10 kinds of people, but I do see where you're coming from.

    So effectively - some things can have multiple perceptions, but others can be absolute truths?
    Truth is just perception anyway. What absolute truths are there that aren't just a perception?

    All things can have multiple perceptions even if there is only one perceiver.

    And I know I am contradicting my
    truth and perception post, but I'm allowed.
    Cheezy, I don't know anything about the topic of Pinter's speech. I plan to re-read the actual content again when my head stops hurting, but given as it the holidays and New Year's Eve is approaching, I may have a headache for a few more days :)

    As such I can't exactly disagree with Pitner's verdict of US foreign policy. However, I can say I completely distrust it solely because of the language used in the speech.

    And yes, this may be a completely stupid method of judging the validity of the speech!
    So did you or did you not write that last comment?
    "As such I can't exactly disagree with Pitner's verdict of US foreign policy."

    No, and nor could anyone else I asked about it. But good on you for admitting it.

    "However, I can say I completely distrust it solely because of the language used in the speech."

    And that's totally fair enough - Pinter's style has always been an acquired taste. Ever tried 'The Birthday Party'?
    Except AL. He disagreed with it.

    There are many acquired tastes that are not worth cultivating. Pinter seems to be one of them, just another bit of anti-US rhetoric from the usual suspects.

    But good on you for swallowing it :)
    Except AL. He disagreed with it.

    He sure seemed to disagree with the perspective.

    But he couldn't identify any parts of it that were actually wrong. And nor could you :)
    "There are many acquired tastes that are not worth cultivating. Pinter seems to be one of them"

    Fair enough - I'll defer to your obviously comprehensive knowledge of his plays. Myself, I've only read about 7 or 8 of them.
    "Myself, I've only read about 7 or 8 of them."


    On another topic:

    I once had a teacher that loved to criticise his students in order to educate them. So when Mike, a slow learner, finally solved a quadratic equation by himself, and presented his completed work for marking, the big grin on his face was dashed instantly with "took you long enough. Not much use if the seasons change."

    Maybe my teacher was an acquired taste. No doubt his point about the timing of the solution was very accurate. Just wasn't the most useful bit of advice to offer at that point in time.

    BTW: Are you sure AL couldn't identify any parts of it that were actually wrong, or that he didn't want to [bother]?

    Cheezy, you said "When SirHumphreys starts including clauses like this, then I'll start encouraging Harold to do likewise!"

    That's easy enough for me to arrange, at least on my posts at Sir Humphs. What kind of encouragement were you planning on offering Harold?
    My readership :)
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    "BTW: Are you sure AL couldn't identify any parts of it that were actually wrong, or that he didn't want to [bother]?"

    No, I'm not sure that he couldn't. I'm just saying that he didn't. If he wants to extrapolate further on the traditional line that he slavishly repeated, and start to actually pick the bones out of what Pinter said, then I'm all ears. No one has a mortgage on 'the truth'.

    However, it might take more rigour than simply simply repeating Whitehouse press releases before 'concluding' that any dissent to this is "dissembling, shapeshifting, rhubarbing communist twaddle, etc."... And yes, you're right, he would have to 'bother'.

    Hey, anyway, I like the sound of your teacher, ZenTiger! Tough love, baby. It's the only way they'll learn!

    It reminds me of the time my neighbour's kid (a ghastly, obnoxious, loud little creature) bragged to me about getting second place in a big race his school organised...

    Cheezy: "Second? Second is just the first guy who didn't win!".

    I'm awful, I know... :)
    Cheezy, I'm sure your readership will be inspirational to a man of the calibre of Pinter. I'll be sure to do a post with the appropriate disclaimer. Maybe not immediately. I like the idea of you checking daily to see if the post is there...cosmically speaking, it may balance the extra readership Pinter picks up.

    I had some very tough teachers. I don't think it was anything to do with me, but maybe I just attract that kind of love?

    One teacher would walk around and bonk people on the head with a baton. I don't think it mattered if you got the question right or wrong.

    Another would reseat every student after a test, in order of marks. The back row he called "The Vege Row", and then proceded to ridicule the Veges.

    Very Tough Love.

    I would have thought it would have been more motivating just to simply shoot the students that failed. Motivating, that is, to the survivors. They may have had laws about that sort of thing. Probably explains why Benson-Pope left witnesses.
    "Cheezy, I'm sure your readership will be inspirational to a man of the calibre of Pinter."

    Or would be, given the requisite time. Sadly, I believe old Harold's on his last legs at the moment. The Big C takes another victim.

    My art teacher used to rip the hair out of the back of my legs while I hung pictures up. The kinky old sod.

    Jesus, where did we go to school?!?!

    Okay then, I'll keep on checking your output for that disclaimer! Remember, we need to see that lack of bias if we're to be fans of the true 'Department of Unspin'!
    Cheezy, "we" do see the lack of bias. Are you sure you haven't got your peril generating sunglasses on?

    BTW: Hi Suze. Nice blog. Don't mind us chatting in your living room....after midnight...we'll turn the lights out when we leave...
    Good point, ZT... I kinda feel like we're the last two guests at a party, continuing to raid Stellas from the fridge and mixing "just one more" 12 inch on the decks, long after everyone else has gone home... Story of my life! :-/

    I'll skin one up for the road and be on my way then...

    Erm... unless this sofa's free, Suze? :-p
    please make yourselves at home. I would probably have comments if I wasn't still on pause :)
    but just to pause the pause....

    1. I don't know anything about politics. Everyone else who has commented knows "something" about politics. Whether the something is true or not is debateable :)

    2. I actually like Pinter's writing style. I just distrust it.

    3. Perhaps AL didn't identify any wrong parts of Pinters speech because Pinter didn't say anything concrete that could be refuted?

    4. Yes, SH IS biased. Everyone is biased :)

    Anyone who claims not to be biased -- anyone who thinks their way is the only right way -- they are the dangerous ones.
    I'd just like to poiint out that I, like all other people, have bias.

    I'd also like to point out (in keeping with my promise to Cheezy) that I could be wrong.
    "I don't know anything about politics. Everyone else who has commented knows "something" about politics. Whether the something is true or not is debateable :)"

    I don't know if you need to know anything about politics. If you think of politics as the process of deciding who gets what of something, then you start assessing if the distribution of whatever is affecting you to the point you want input into changing the distribution.

    What your chances are of (a) correctly assessing actions that might have a significant impact on you, and (b) your ability to participate in the redistribution are another matter.
    "The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods."

    -- H. L. Mencken
    But doesn't "distribution" sound much nicer than "stolen goods".

    Actually, stolen goods is a bit harsh, becuase apparently, many of the Labour voters (at least on the blogs) were quite happy to see the tax rates go up.

    I'm presuming they actually pay taxes themselves, when they offered this. In fact, it is a mystery to me that they simply don't donate more of their income to the government. I don't see it a necessary precondition for doing what you suggest, only on the basis that other people first have to follow your suggestion.
    It's stolen if it's taken from anyone against their will. You can give as much as you want to anything you want, but as soon as you vote to take away any of my stuff and give it to someone else (or as soon as your elected representative decides to do so), then theft is taking place.
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