Je Vous Dis, Merde! 32: On Existential Dangers

ere is a snippet from the first in a continuing series of articles run by the fairly-progressive UK newspaper, The Guardian, published this past Wednesday 19 July 2017 —

Bernie Sanders on how to avoid war with North Korea

In this excerpt of The Bernie Sanders Show, former secretary of defense William J Perry and Sanders have a conversation about North Korea and nuclear weapons

This article is part of a new series, A Chat with Bernie Sanders. The series will run abridged transcripts of episodes from The Bernie Sanders Show. The show seeks to be a place where people can learn about the progressive agenda.

In this first article in the series, Bernie Sanders talks to the former secretary of defense William J Perry, who served in the Clinton administration. The subject of their chat? North Korea.

Sanders: Welcome everyone. This show has a tendency to focus on domestic issues. On the economy, healthcare, education, the environment. We are delighted to be talking about a topic that deserves a lot more discussion: foreign policy. Former secretary Perry, thank you so much for joining us today.

Perry: Senator Sanders, the problems you have to face every day are healthcare, budget, education and so on. But there is a real existential danger we face with nuclear weapons.

Sanders: There are no ifs, buts or maybes. In a world where many countries have nuclear weapons, this is an issue that we have got to deal with.

Mr Secretary, you and a number of retired senior security officials released a letter recently urging President Trump to begin negotiations — without preconditions — with North Korea over its nuclear program.

In your judgment, why is that the best course of action? Haven’t we tried negotiation with North Korea in the past?

Perry: North Korea today has a real nuclear weapons arsenal. That’s very dangerous. But North Korea is not a crazy nation. They are reckless, ruthless, but they are not crazy. They are open to logic and reason.

Their main objective is to sustain their regime. If we can find a way of dealing with them that they can see gives them an opportunity to stay in the regime, we can get results.

Etc.

***

I’ve boldfaced the sentence in this exchange that most interests me, for the purposes of this little essay:

“But there is a real existential danger we face with nuclear weapons.”

Right: Perry means that even a fairly small nuclear war between, say, North Korea and the USA, could kill millions of people in the first round, and, with the knock-on environmental effects of fallout, eventually make the planet inhabitable and kill us all, not to mention killing almost all other animal and plant species.

And, to be sure, that’s a HUGE worry in the contemporary batshit-crazy, neoliberal, neo-fascist, nuke-waggling, Russophobic, Age-of-Trump political world.

But leaving aside, for one little moment, the obviously HUGE worry about the sheer survival of the human race and virtually all other animal and plant species, as opposed to their suddenly perishing in a nuclear apocalypse, I want to reflect here for a moment on the further significance and implications of the term “existential” in this context.

The term “existential” has a specifically philosophical sense that derives from the “existentialist” tradition that includes the philosophers Blaise Pascal, Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, the early Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Albert Camus, and the writers Fyodor Dostoevsky and Franz Kafka.

If you’re interested in further historical details, here’s an informative article on the existentialist tradition from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

But for my purposes here, in the philosophical sense, the term “existential” means basically this:

whatever concerns the meaning and purpose of the conscious, active, finite lives of human animals, who are capable of making autonomous, free choices and of creating ways of living in a physically unoppressed, unalienated, cognitively liberated, and above all, authentic human condition, in the face of (i) our radical ignorance as to the existence or non-existence of God and (ii) the constant threat of physical oppression, alienation, mental enslavement, and inauthenticity, due to, e.g., the intense, combined cultural, social, and political pressures of the mechanistic-scientistic world view, global corporate capitalism, and neoliberal coercive authoritarian states.

In that definition, in turn, the phrase “authentic human condition” means a conscious, active, finite human life that expresses an overall individual, personal coherence of desires, feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and autonomous, free choices and actions, and also a wider social solidarity with others.

Therefore, there is a HUGE existential-philosophical difference between —

(i) merely surviving, without autonomy or freedom, in a physically oppressed, alienated, mentally enslaved, inauthentic, way, like a zombie, and

(ii) living a meaningful, purposeful life, with autonomy and freedom, in a physically unoppressed, unalienated, mentally liberated, and above all, authentic way, like a real human person.

So although the HUGE worry about our sheer human and planetary survival in the face of the threat of nuclear war is profoundly important, it is no MORE profoundly important, at the end of the day, than the equally HUGE worry that we’ll indeed avoid a nuclear apocalypse, yet merely survive.

Then we’ll go on and and on and on and on and on and and on and on and on, merely surviving, in an endless existential-philosophical night of the living dead: what I’ll call The Scientism-Capitalism-Statism (aka SCS) Zombie Apocalypse.

Without any hope whatsoever of our effectively rebelling against and gradually overturning a world-system governed by the mechanistic-scientistic world view, global corporate capitalism, and neoliberal coercive authoritarian states, and ultimately replacing that world-system with a universally-protected natural world and a mutually-created social and political world designed for the authentic lives of real human persons.

If that were so, and if our future is in fact the avoidance of nuclear apocalypse together with mere survival in The SCS Zombie Apocalypse, then, frankly, I’d rather be dead.

So although the existential worry about the danger of nuclear war, e.g., between North Korea and the USA, is indeed HUGE, profoundly important, desperately urgent, and something we should be dealing with right now, along the lines proposed by Bernie Sanders in the interview I cited and snippitized above, what I’m saying is that the other existential-philosophical worry about the danger of The SCS Zombie Apocalypse is equally HUGE, equally desperately urgent, equally profoundly important, and equally something we should be dealing with right now — for example, along the lines proposed by The WTFU Party, described directly below.

And to anyone who prefers the mere survival of humanity in The SCS Zombie Apocalypse — which, tragically, is the normal, standard preference among contemporary politicians, perhaps not even excluding Bernie Sanders, although I do still have some hope there — to the authentic lives of real human persons,

Je vous dis, merde!

***

“Je vous dis, merde!” (literally, “I say to you: shit!” or more loosely, “You’re so full of shit!”) is a morally and politically defiant slogan invented and first published by an early 20th-century Catalan anarchist who used the nom de guerre “Miguel Almereyda.” Almereyda, who was murdered in a French prison in 1917, was also the father of the famous French film director Jean Vigo, who immortalized the same slogan in his breakthrough 1933 film, Zéro de conduite, aka Zero for Conduct.

Here is the seven-part platform of The Wake The Fuck Up! Party , aka The WTFU Party, aka Up Against the Wall, Philosophy-Fucker!, aka UAW/PF —

1. Universal Respect for Human Dignity (URHD):

· Human dignity is the absolute non-denumerable moral value of every member of humanity, and everyone ought to try wholeheartedly to treat everyone else in a way that is sufficient to meet the demands of respect for human dignity, especially including (i) alleviating or ending human oppression, and (ii) actively engaging in mutual aid and mutual kindness.

2. Universal Basic Income (UBI):

· Anyone 21 years of age or over and living permanently in the USA, who has a personal yearly income of $50,000.00 USD or less, and who is capable of requesting their UBI, would receive $25,000.00 USD per year, with no strings attached.

3. A 15-Hour Workweek for Understaffed Non-Bullshit Jobs (FHW-for-UNBJs):

· Anyone 18 years of age or older who is living permanently in the USA, who has completed a high school education, and is mentally and physically capable of doing a job, would be offered an eco-job, paying a yearly wage of $25,000.00 USD, for fifteen hours of work (three 5-hour days) per week.

Thus anyone 21 years of age or older with a high-school degree and who is also mentally and physically capable of working, would have a guaranteed yearly income of at least $50,000.00 USD if they chose to do an eco-job.

The rationale behind the three-year gap between (i) being offered an eco-job at 18 and (ii) beginning to receive their UBI at 21, is that every young adult who has finished high school will have the option of pursuing three years of part-time or full-time free higher education without credentialing, i.e., for its own sake, after high school, before making longer-term decisions about what I call job-work and life-work.

***

Here are a few more details about UBI and eco-jobs.

(i) The UBI is to be paid by a monthly stipend check.

(ii) Eco-job income is not taxed.

(iii) For all individual yearly incomes of $50,000.00 USD or under, no tax will be levied; hence for someone receiving their UBI and also doing an eco-job, no income tax will be levied.

(iv) For all individual non-eco-job incomes, for every $1.00 USD earned above the standard UBI of $25,000.00 USD, the monthly UBI stipend is reduced by 50 cents, until the recipient’s UBI is reduced to zero; hence for those individuals with yearly non-eco-job incomes equal to or under $50,000.00 USD, the maximum UBI + non-eco-job income sum is always $50,000.00 USD.

(v) For all individual yearly incomes over $50,000.00 USD, for every $10,000.00 USD earned, that surplus income is taxed at the rate of 1%, with the highest surplus income tax rate being 50%; hence the maximum surplus 50% tax rate starts at individual yearly incomes of $550,000.00 USD, and applies to all higher surplus incomes.

***

4. Universal Free Higher Education Without Credentialing (HEWC):

· Everyone would be offered, beyond their high-school education, a free, three-year minimum, optional (but also open-ended beyond those three years, as a further option), part-time or full-time universal public education program in the so-called “liberal arts,” and also in some of the so-called “STEM” fields, including the humanities, the fine arts, the social sciences, mathematics, and the natural sciences.

· For many or even most people, their HEWC would fall between (i) the end of their high school education at age 18 and the corresponding availability of eco-jobs, and (ii) the beginning of their UBI at age 21.

· But HEWC would be open to anyone with a high school degree, no matter how old they are, provided they are mentally and physically capable of doing the program.

5. Universal Free Healthcare (UFH):

· Every human person living permanently in the USA will receive free lifelong healthcare.

6. 2-Phase Universal Open Borders (2P-UOB):

· Phase 1: Starting in 2021, there will be universal open borders with Canada and Mexico, and everyone who moves across those borders and then claims residence in the USA, will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the USA, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents to depend on the current availability of (i) adequate funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the USA, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the USA and elsewhere in the world.

· Phase 2: Also starting in 2021, the USA, Canada, and Mexico will collectively form a Global Refugee Consortium (GRC), with three-way open borders to any political refugee, economic refugee, or asylum seeker from anywhere in the world (aka “global refugees”), who will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the three GRC countries, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents, and the precise distribution of new residents among the three members of the GRC, to depend on the current availability of (i) funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the three GRC countries, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the GRC and elsewhere in the world.

7. Universal No-Guns (UNG):

· No one in the USA, including police, internal security forces of all kinds, armies, and intelligence forces of all kinds, has the moral right to possess or use guns of any kind, for any purpose whatsoever, because the primary function of guns is coercion, and coercion is immoral.

· UNG would be implemented by repealing the Second Amendment to the US Constitution in 2021 and then universally banning the possession or use of guns thereafter.

I’m also assuming that Universal Public Education (UPE) — universal free access for all human persons of any age to good public education up to the end of high school — already exists in most countries, and needs no further justification.

Where UPE does not already exist, it would automatically become a necessary part of the seven-part WTFU Party package, thereby making it a eight-part package.

***

Mr Nemo, Nowhere, NA, 21 July 2017

The WTFU Party is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.

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