Americans that is … Just done a long round trip to Auckland NZ, via LA. I’d forgotten that there is no such thing as international “transit” in US airports, so had the edifying experience of going into and out of the US both in each direction, immigration, baggage, customs, check-in, gate security, the lot. Spitting feathers at the mind-numbingly bureaucratic “security” measures seemingly designed to use an excess of disinterested cheap labour, backed-up by beaming portrait photos of Bush, Cheney et al, not to mention cheesey welcome announcements, to piss off the travelling public and bore would-be terrorists to death – both by attrition alike. Oh look, another queue to join a queue.
Anyway, after having bought from a charity vendor a little stars and stripes button, in a cynical attempt at a smoother passage, I have to admit, I found in the bookshop, not just multiple copies of Pirsig’s ZMM, but also Ken Wilber and Joe Campbell, amongst a well stocked philosophy section (!) not to mention some great bar service whilst I waited three hours for my UK return flight. So having completed Barbara Tuchman’s “Bible and Sword” on the outward leg, I got through both “A Theory of Everything” and “The Power of Myth” on the return leg.
Tuchman’s story of the intertwined histories of Palestine and England is educational and a good amusing read, even for those who already recognise the British responsibilities for the state of the middle east. Can’t help thinking US President Wilson’s plea for “self-determination” was singularly unhelpful at a critical moment in a delicate political situation, but that’s history for you. “The March of Folly”, another of her titles I’ve previously read, says it all.
[Interestingly, after that comment about British responsibilities for Israel / Palestine, I noticed this report on the Iranian president’s recent anti-Zionist speech. Striking is that his war on Zionism concludes with “Once we have defeated the Anglo-Saxons, the rest will run for cover.” The explicit rhetoric is chilling, but I wish these guys would address what their real grievances and expectations are here and now, beyond warlike vengence for injustices of history. If he’s looking for the Anglo-Saxons to condemn a pre-emptive strike by Israel and a lack of public opinion to defend them against Arab retalliation, he may be proven right, but it’s one hell of a dangerous (not to say immoral) game of provocation to play with his own people, let alone the rest of the world. The particular web site is dedicated to encouraging moderate Iranian’s to be represented in government. Link via Sam at Elizaphanian.]
Wilber’s theory of everything, suffers from some inconsistency in his “evolutionary psychology” criticism of parts of western culture for believing it has personally invented the correct view of life the universe and everything – but on the whole I find his summaries mostly common sense with little to actually disagree with. The Graves, Beck, Cowan based spiral of evolution through levels (colours) of thinking looks just like Maslow / Pirsig to me. The spirals evoke both Pirsigian “dynamic quality” and Hofstadter’s “strange loopiness”. (His only mistake for me is in ridiculing both string theory and evolutionary psychology, without realising they are just different metaphors for the same whole.)
Campbell – need to read more of, but on the strength of this 1991 interview with Bill Moyers – I don’t find earth shattering, again mainly common sense – Myths exist for good human development (evolutionary psychology) reasons in the context of our place in the world, and the myths themselves mustn’t be confused with the metaphors, the various specific traditional symbolic representations of them frozen in “religions” in different cultures.