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Radio Free Beszel

Philosophy Podcasts

The world is changing. What was stable has become unstuck: mass movements and class conflicts, elite hubris and institutional failure, authoritarianism and a collapse of authority: and everywhere a crisis of meaning. How should one live in this world? In this podcast, I take books I read and ideas I find and try to bring them down to earth, to understand what is happening here and now. I seek lasting principles, not hot takes. Topics include the professional class; critiques of social justice and identity politics; the information society; myth, narrative and meaning. I want to see clearly and speak freely. "Who knows, doesn't talk. Who talks, doesn't know." — Tao Te Ching

The world is changing. What was stable has become unstuck: mass movements and class conflicts, elite hubris and institutional failure, authoritarianism and a collapse of authority: and everywhere a crisis of meaning. How should one live in this world? In this podcast, I take books I read and ideas I find and try to bring them down to earth, to understand what is happening here and now. I seek lasting principles, not hot takes. Topics include the professional class; critiques of social justice and identity politics; the information society; myth, narrative and meaning. I want to see clearly and speak freely. "Who knows, doesn't talk. Who talks, doesn't know." — Tao Te Ching

Location:

Canada

Description:

The world is changing. What was stable has become unstuck: mass movements and class conflicts, elite hubris and institutional failure, authoritarianism and a collapse of authority: and everywhere a crisis of meaning. How should one live in this world? In this podcast, I take books I read and ideas I find and try to bring them down to earth, to understand what is happening here and now. I seek lasting principles, not hot takes. Topics include the professional class; critiques of social justice and identity politics; the information society; myth, narrative and meaning. I want to see clearly and speak freely. "Who knows, doesn't talk. Who talks, doesn't know." — Tao Te Ching

Language:

English


Episodes

Discourse, the Demon of Social Justice

12/24/2021
Discourse is at the heart of social justice: the idea human beings are not free actors in the world, but are instead constrained by language, in the form of discourses that have been established over time. And we do not create our identities freely: who we our is our experiences of different discourses - discourses like race, gender, nationality, and so forth. Discourses are power relations. They conflict with one another - feminism versus patriarchy, for instance. They, not we, are the...

Duration:00:08:45

Racecraft: Constructing Race

12/17/2021
"Racism always takes for granted the objective reality of race . . . [which] transforms racism, something an aggressor does, into race, something the target is, in a sleight of hand that is easy to miss." — Karen & Barbara Fields, Racecraft Race is invisible. Skin colour is merely in indication of something deeper, a hidden quality of the intellect or the personality. But that quality is not real. Like an unseen world of gods or spirits, we imagine it to give life meaning. We use this...

Duration:00:07:42

Witchcraft's Reason

12/10/2021
We need someone to blame. When something bad happens, we don't want to hear that it's because of chance or nature, because then it's meaningless. We want a social explanation. That's what witchcraft delivered for the Azande people, studied by Edward Evans-Pritchard, For the Azande, everyday misfortunes are caused by witchcraft. If you get sick, and the illness gets progressively worse, that's because of witchcraft. There are witches all around. Their envies and jealousies lead witches to...

Duration:00:10:03

What Are Social Constructions Made Of?

12/3/2021
"When a dancer stops dancing, the dance is finished." - Bruno Latour What Latour calls "critical sociology" (an intellectual foundation of social justice) does three things. 1) It replaces the activities of real people with abstract forces from a limited set of existing categories, like capitalism, society, racism, etc. 2) It ignores the protests of the actors when they say that's not what they're doing. 3) It takes those protests as proof that the sociologists are correct and that ordinary...

Duration:00:12:49

The Invention of White Privilege

11/26/2021
Plantation owners in 17th century Barbados had a problem. They purchased white indentured servants and black slaves. At that time, there was little difference: life expectancy was so short that most indentured servants never saw freedom. The decision to buy servants or slaves was often dictated by price. Black and white alike, the oppressed teamed up to rebel. Their oppressors concocted a strategy. Divide and rule: pit the two groups against each other by emphasizing race, and giving more...

Duration:00:07:12

The Matrix and the Heresy of Progress

11/19/2021
The Matrix echoes the Gnostic heresy: the world is a prison for our souls, the creator is evil, and knowledge brings freedom. In the film, what appears to be reality is in fact an illusion created to enslave humanity. The red pill reveals the true world and grants the power to control the illusion to war against the creator. For the ancient Gnostics, the material world was false. Our bodies and their pleasures, from food to sex, were oppressive deceptions. The truth, they believed, was...

Duration:00:13:42

Live Not for Others

11/12/2021
Affirmation is a trap. It makes us dependent, weak and unhappy. It starts in school. Some comply and are rewarded. They do well in school: but if they have come to expect praise, they may be lost or angry in lie. Others resist and are punished, and lose out as they enter the world of work. Often it is girls who comply, and boys who do not. Both are sabotaged in life. But instead of teaching independence, instead of making school more like life, we have chosen the opposite: we are making...

Duration:00:09:53

Joseph Tainter: Collapse and Complexity

11/5/2021
As society becomes complex, it reaches a point where the cost of coping with problems exceeds the benefits. Then, people may choose collapse as the lesser evil. But in a globalized world, no society can collapse in isolation. The alternative is the progressive immiseration of the population to preserve the rickety complexity of the system and the privileges of the few who benefit. This is the argument of Joseph Tainter in his classic book, The Collapse of Complex Societies. All societies...

Duration:00:13:09

Shawshank: The Prison of Professional Life

10/29/2021
The lesson of The Shawshank Redemption is compliance. The film is about life, and Shawshank prison stands for the institutions to which professionals devote their careers. It seems to be a story of freedom. It is not. The film affirms a myth that all professionals are taught: They are more intelligent and better educated. They are more sensitive. Unlike the faceless masses, they are unique individuals with freedom in their hearts. That freedom is a myth. It may exist in their hearts: but...

Duration:00:09:33

Like Bad Parents

10/22/2021
We punish adults as though they were children - in ways that don't even work on kids. We say that we are handing out "consequences" - as though we are parents and they are our children. Of course it doesn't work - no-one likes being treated that way. Not even children. The real keys to effective parenting are trust, love and respect. If your child knows you love him and respect him, and that he can trust you, then what you think carries a lot of weight. Children do crave boundaries, and...

Duration:00:08:54

Pandemic of Hate

10/15/2021
"Treat them like the plague-spreading lepers that they are. You want to be put in isolation camps? That's where this is headed, you will have deserved it, and I'm all for it." — highly up-voted comment on Reddit, September, 2021 There is an epidemic of hate against the unvaccinated. Our leaders call them dangers to society, encouraging widespread hate. They are being fired from their jobs and ostracized. People wish death on them. Gluboco Lietuva, for example, explains the impact of the...

Duration:00:28:14

Fanaticism Without Faith: The Internet and the French Revolution

10/8/2021
"Fanaticism without faith, discipline without loyalty, excommunication without communion." Augustin Cochin. Sound familiar? The Internet is not the first time a new forum for communication turned society upside down. The French Revolution did not come from nowhere in 1789, Cochin says: the ideas and the fanaticism had already been worked out in members-only philosophical societies, where men united around dreams of remaking society. These societies were supposed to be places of free...

Duration:00:22:53

Hierarchy vs Centralization: Equality Against Itself

10/1/2021
"Equality facilitates the exercise of power." - Mirabeau to Louis XVI, during the French Revolution There is no escape from organization and structure. We may try to create groups without structure, in which everyone is equal: but the result is the opposite. Structure arises spontaneously as a few within the group accumulate influence and power - only without formal organizational structures, their power can be hard to see and harder to challenge. The feminist Jo Freeman ("Joreen") explains...

Duration:00:13:46

Lest We Be Barbarians

9/24/2021
"You must pick up the gun to defend civilization against barbarism. Those who pick up the gun are barbarians." — Kenneth Hite Justice is not only about punishing the perpetrator: it's about ourselves, and who we become. We are what we do, and though what we do may be just, we may not like who we become. Spoilers for Seven Samurai, The Godfather, Dune, The Empire Strikes Back.

Duration:00:09:28

René Girard: Contagion and Scapegoat

9/17/2021
Humans respond to plagues and social disorder with collective murder. Since antiquity, communities have chosen victims who are marginal or different. The perpetrators truly believe that the victim is guilty - a belief confirmed when the murder restores order. René Girard argues that such murders are the foundation of social stability in cultures around the world, but that actual historical violence has been disguised as myth. He argues too that out of control mimetic contagion - rivalry...

Duration:00:16:29

René Girard: Identity and Desire

9/10/2021
Does desire come from within? René Girard argues no: we imitate the desires of others. We pursue the fantasy that if only we could uncover and achieve our own, authentic desires, we would be happy. In fact, our desires are copies; when we achieve them, we are left unsatisfied. Advertising, for example, shows us others to imitate in order to "be ourselves." The fruitless pursuit of authenticity leaves us feeling that there is something wrong with who we are. The result can be unstable...

Duration:00:15:20

Hitler's Students: Elite Overproduction Then and Now

9/3/2021
When there are too many elites, chaos follows. In essence, this is historian Peter Turchin's theory of elite overproduction. Tracing the history of civilizations around the world, he finds that an oversupply of elites is one of the strongest predictors of social unrest. As Götz Aly explains in his book, Why the Germans? Why the Jews?, this is a key part of the what happened in Germany between the wars. In the 1920s, the liberal Weimar government opened up access to universities. Many...

Duration:00:11:44

"A conscious decision": How Copyright Sold Out U.S. Industry

8/27/2021
"My job was to be in charge of the intellectual property policy of the United States . . . if you go to a shopping mall in this country you cannot buy anything made in the United States anymore. It all comes from China or some other place like that. Well, the reason for that is we've completely opened up our markets. It was a conscious decision to basically abandon low-wage manufacturing jobs, and the idea is that we would compensate for that with higher wage high tech information more...

Duration:00:18:01

Hannah Arendt: Totalitarian Dreams

8/20/2021
Totalitarianism begins as dream. It ends in nightmare, the destruction of the individual. Hannah Arendt, a Jew who fled Hitler, analyzed the commonalities of communism and Naziism in her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism. Life doesn't make a very good story. It's inconsistent, irrational, unfair. We can end up feeling alienated alone, as though we don't matter. The totalitarian Big Lie provides an explanation, naming villains and identifying a narrative for pursuing justice. It seems to...

Duration:00:18:26

The Case for Social Justice

8/13/2021
A concise argument for the contemporary social justice movement and why it considers language fundamental. I explain the faith, but I am not a believer.

Duration:00:14:12