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Dissonance in Consonance: One year in Germany. Personal Reflections.


My tears are not my weakness; they are my pity for you.

I was born a dumb, stubborn child with zero social intelligence but strangely high self-esteem. As age grows, I gradually acquire a minimal social intelligence to counter-balance the impulsive expression of a moral consciousness (or rather, a soul that easily suffers the indignity of being excluded, rejected, and humiliated). Acquiring such social intelligence takes work. Intelligence for which society and what kind of society? What's the use of intelligence? And what intelligence? Artificial intelligence? Hypocritical intelligence? Acquiring intelligence with a moral consciousness burdens one's social life. It makes one's life harder and seems ridiculously unworthy.


Why does such a pursuit burdened with a moral consciousness seem ridiculous and unworthy? Morality is associated with hypocrisy in today's world, across the East and the West. "It's not going to change anything." So why bother? This cynical expression in a country like Germany seems contradictory to the general intellectual climate populated by advocators of social change and transformation. In the meantime, people know that change comes with risks, uncertainties, and even massive harmful disruptions that could be catastrophic. So it is understandable that the social acceptance of the change has a limit (it's a social variable depending on other social variables). In recent decades, the perceptive patterns of change have undergone 'changes.' Change can mean anything and nothing in effect: either change everything or change nothing.


There's no middle ground; the "mild" ground is to wait and see. Discretion is encouraged not only for political decision-makers but for ordinary citizens. Thinking of a boundary strikes back, sometimes as a means or an aim. "Germany is like an old machine that moves slowly... sometimes it breakdowns and seems to take forever to get restarted." Some remarks. At the conjuncture of restarting the engine, Germany seems to be caught up in foggy weather, and the problem concerns not only the mechanical operation but also steering of the direction. Towards where are we going? The answer is committed and confident: uncertainty. In this sense, the theme of this year's European Parliamentary Technology Assessment Conference held at the German Parliament showed timeliness and operational thinking that aimed at effectiveness by adopting the term social disruption other than social change or transformation.


Die beste aller möglichen Welten / the best of all possible worlds (Leibniz)

It has become ironic today when one refers to the Enlightenment thinker Gottfried Leibniz's argument of "the best of all possible worlds." Of course, it could have been better, but it is the best of all possible worlds.


It has been said that Leibniz was inspired in a way by Chinese philosophy, especially the kind of thinking related to numbers and change (the binary system consisting of ones and zeros). Here I'm not going to further confuse the case by bringing up the classic Chinese Book of Change. But my observation of today's Chinese society is that they are going through similar pains and struggles with or hesitating to change. People could do nothing but wait to be forced to change in many places. Such mentality comes to me as a cultural shock, not because it's so foreign and strange but the opposite. I should have been aware of it. Perhaps, like some contemporary authors, it is a general symptom of globalization, a temporary phenomenon. As long as we take care of ourselves for the time being, "something larger than us" (similar to God but not God because "there isn't one" [Russel]) will take care of the whole matter (life and world).

Leibniz could be a popular philosopher if he lived in our time, a globalized world. His great endeavor aimed at something we desperately need today: logic for sanity. If something can be logically proved, then it exists, and we accept it rationally. The hardcore is you have to prove it logically exists or is non-exist, and that makes you suffer. In a piece of clogged old machinery, one suffers passively and waits for restarting. Logically or technically, it should work. It simply takes time.


There was a time when matter stood outside of time. But in the intervening years between the two world wars, physicists broke with the more than 1000 years old tradition inherited from the Greeks and placed matter in the hands of time. Quantum filed theory, a mixture of quantum theory, relativity and field theory, was responsible for this radical change in the order of things. (Karen Barad)

There's no chance for my generation to be free from the shadows of the wars in the 20th century. Not that in my life span I could imagine. But to what extent should or could we be "attached" to these histories? Does our perception of time and change affect them (historical events), and how do they act upon us? Karen Barad accounts one way of being related to that 20th-century trauma acted upon materials, physical / mental well-being, and the environment through her theory of "agential realism." According to her theory, time is re-personified and has the power to subject matter to brutal forces. She observes in quantum / nuclear physics a kind of horror generated by particle behaviors that resemble Cronus swallowing his own children. I am struck by how much our contemporary society has inherited this irrationality of time (Cronus): an industrial time that looks perfectly arranged and optimally configured in design but produces its children to be absorbed to enhance its power of control. Where are contemporary Cronus' children? It's almost everything, every matter on earth. If the procreation of time is everywhere, the conventional conception of a continuity (consistency) of time is hardly "useful." There are only fragments, instantiations of impression, as Ezra Pound's poetry reads:


The apparition of these faces in the crowd: Petals on a wet, black bough.

It is being impressed without being precise. Machinic precision does not require human understanding but compliance. Scientific discoveries and technical inventions, when put into use in societies, very often end up encouraging laziness. It's a paradox in industrial times which expects a "lazy" society (automated by machines) to be more productive (economic optimization). A "lazy" society, of course, is a product of design in the industrial time. The quantum/nuclear era exploded its own being in time. Society is now "lazy" and disoriented. While industrial time instructs man to navigate space through time (with mechanical devices, the clock, for example), the nuclear era shredded space into pieces through the procreation of time. Our experience of contemporary life is formed by a successive movement of steps from this moment to the next; location does not matter much.


Space matters. In territorial conflicts, for instance. So time is a means, a critical tool in strategic thinking in the military. But the aim is to get land or sea.


...


Of course, it is beyond my intellectual endeavor here to confront and decode the modern political myth-making which develops the type of gentle cynicism (mixture of discontent and despair, pragmatism and realism that prioritizes efficiency and effectiveness in social and academic life as well as in varying work settings). Nevertheless, there are many aspects of this cynicism, and some tiny incidences may be helpful for future and further reflections.


There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in. (Leonard Cohen, Anthem)


23.11.22


Interrogated by the police 马路边被警察 "请喝茶"


It's not the first time my naive intellect has encountered humiliating interrogation by the police.


There were three perpetrators: me, being caught for riding a bike in the pedestrian zone and being interrogated for nearly half an hour; one white man speaking American English who was stopped but was excused for riding "less than 10 meters"; the third one being a young white man who entirely ignored the police and passed quickly.


There were too police officers.


One busily occupied with interrogating me accused me of lying to him about my living address - excuse me? I couldn't believe my ears for the first time in my life—a false legal statement against me. But the police refused to admit this falseness. So instead, they call it a misunderstanding.


The other policeman let go of the two white guys while his colleague interrogated me.