John Hopkins on Fri, 22 Feb 2008 14:20:29 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> On "Readiness"

Hallo nettimers, Jordan:

I wanted to extend a few thoughts about Jordan's provocative article on
"Readiness."  I wrote to him off-list and I will include those comments at
the end of this short note.

I think it can be very interesting to make a distinction between awareness
and readiness.  These being two fundamentally different states or
conditions of being with absolutely different outcomes.  These two terms
are also some how indicative of the deep cultural differences that exist
in how people deal with contingency, change, as well as difference.

Awareness (syn: consciousness, recognition, realization; understanding,
grasp, appreciation, knowledge, insight; familiarity; cognizance)

Awareness relates to what I would frame as an animal state, though it is
not mutually exclusive of intelligence.  It is a state where all the
body's sensory apparatus are open to the environmental flows.  It is the
state when there is a direct, active, and engaged connection between the
Self and all that is around.  Being in the moment.

The concept of oracle can be simply explained as a human who has opened
all sensory pathways and perceives the world AS IT IS in the moment.  With
a clear view of that, combined with an understanding of (natural or
social) change, ensuing conditions can be 'predicted' (or spoken of
before).  This is a fundamental premise behind the Chinese system of
oracle, the I Ching.  As it appears simplified in the West, it is
primarily a methodological reduction of the complex principle of natural
change to 64 characteristic (changing) conditions (i.e., emptiness to
fullness).  That system then interacts with the one 'seeking' oracle,
although seeking suggests an external source when the true 'source' of
oracle is the deep connection (through the sensory systems) of the
(changing)self with the (changing)world flowing around.  One should take
some time to compose a question to be 'answered' or 'revealed.'  It is in
this moment of consideration of the question where the awareness of the
present moment are brought up.  The auspicious question properly frames
the moment.  In previous times, this question-forming/awareness focusing
time was quite extended through a complex methodology for 'casting' the
oracle.  In the west this has been reduced to casting coins (!!) six times
to generate one of the 64 conditions.  One then meditates on the text
about that condition and considers how it might change...  (sorry, this is
a very compact description -- I would suggest the classic Wilhelm I Ching
translation "Book of Changes" with an intro by C.G. Jung if you are
interested in exploring the details).  Admittedly, I think the whole
system suffers when imported into the West, as it is predicated on a
radically different world view.  This is starkly illustrated in the
political stances of the current US regime, their approach to the world
and changing conditions.

Readiness (syn: at the ready, available, on hand, accessible, handy;
prepared, primed, on standby, standing by, on full alert)

Readiness suggest to me an entirely different way of going.  It seems to
be steeped in a deeply material state of being.  Consequently, in our
present situation, one that is at the direct affect of the larger social
system which one is embedded in, a state related to social norms.  Where
somehow one will meet the contingencies of the moment after they arise and
are rationally framed, considered, and subsequently dealt with.  This
through a process of strategic planning, statistical analysis, etc -- in
short, a rational, an engineering approach.  (The phrase "knee-jerk" comes
to mind).  This kind of approach somehow believes it can cope with change
when in reality it is about maintaining the status quo of a situation --
actually resisting change.  The statistical analysis is based on the
presumption that the system will maintain itself (albeit in some changed
state) -- it will continue its corporeal be-ing as close to its previous
state.  It says that the immediate input from direct sensory awareness
should be either rejected out of hand (we already calculated what would
likely happen), or it is analyzed and considered by a collective social
system, then finally acted upon.

Being in the past, but not the present -- how can one understand the
future when the present is being ignored and the future is modeled on a
narrow (culturally-specific) view of the past?

With a base built on a firm resistance to change, I believe the readiness
approach will ultimately fail (as all things human constructed and
otherwise ultimately fall to (or are transformed by) change).  This will
be illustrated when the system is blind-sided by its own belief that it
knows what is coming (based in that engineering approach).  One need look
no further that New Orleans to see how this works.  Or consider the
following off-list response (edited) that I sent to Jordan originally:

"My 'first response' (as a geophysicist) is that this scenario [that
Jordan described] will probably not be acted out when the real natural
disaster takes place in SoCal or NoCal -- a major earthquake.  Given the
appalling condition of the US infrastructure generally, after the
whole-sale draining of national coffers by war, the entropy of post-peak
Empire will dominate and order will be the least likely state of affairs. 
The first responders will be only defined as those lucky enough to be
armed, along with a chunk of the civilian population.  It will be the
theater of war -- where the masquerade of politics will be peeled away to
reveal the true identity of those involved -- those grasping for power. 
It will be about how 13 million people, one moment completely tied into a
fragile 500-km-wide system of pipes crossing major fracture zones, the
next moment cut off, how they will get water to drink."

There will be revolution, and it won't be televised!


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