Podcast #11 – Ian Buchanan on Assemblage Theory (Deleuze), Control Society, and More

Prof. Ian Buchanan is, among other things, a leading Deleuze scholar, and he kindly joined me to discuss various aspects of assemblage theory. Our conversation branches off towards various other (sub-)topics such as: political action versus individual action, cycling, mountain climbing, a housing project in Australia a few years ago, and more. The public lecture that Ian delivered at Nelson Mandela University on 5 November 2019 follows after our discussion – the lecture begins at approx. 1 hour 25 minutes. 

Support the podcast by visiting www.perspectiveproject.co.za, having a click around, taking me up on one of my offerings there, or sending appropriate links to friends or colleagues. 

Quick request: I’m looking for short cell-phone audio recordings (1 minute to 1 min 30 seconds) where you speak about your perspective-broadening stories. What happened, and how did it broaden your perspective? Send these to [email protected] and they may be incorporated into the start of the podcasts.     

More about Ian from https://www.uow.edu.au/law-humanities-the-arts/schools-entities/hsi/our-people/Ian Buchanan joined the University of Wollongong in 2011. His previous position was Professor of Critical and Cultural Theory at the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University. Ian Buchanan has published on a wide variety of subjects across a range of disciplines, including literary studies, cultural studies, communications studies and philosophy. He has published on film, literature, music, space, the internet and war as well a number of other subjects. He is the author of the Oxford Dictionary of Critical Theory and the founding editor of the international journal Deleuze Studies. He is also the editor of four book series: Deleuze Connections (EUP), Critical ConnectionsPlateaus (EUP) and Deleuze Encounters (Continuum). 

Podcast: 005 Gary Koekemoer on WESSA, Nelson Mandela Bay, fish farms, bunkering, and more

“What we need to do more of is to look at your verge, your area of influence, and say how do I make that a pocket of excellence…”

“You have to find ways in the space that’s available to you to do the things that have meaning for you in such a way that sustains you.”

Gary K is an open-water long-distance swimmer, Chairperson of Algoa Bay’s WESSA branch, Herald newspaper column writer, patient activist, pragmatic idealist, PhD candidate studying questions about race, and more!

He was kind enough to have a recorded conversation with me in my studio on a day when the temps hit 37 degrees. We cover a wide range of topics, some of which are: how to work out the questions that will lead us to a better place, some of the opportunities that exist in the Nelson Mandela and Algoa Bay Port Elizabeth region, some historical background to the area, the proposed fish farm, bunkering, activism, pockets of excellence, and more.

See Gary’s column at the Port Elizabeth Herald: LINK

Gary on Twitter: LINK

Send your perspective broadening stories (under 1 minute 30 seconds) to [email protected]

Support the podcast through the affiliate links and through patreon.com. And please use the services listed in the main menu – if they are not for you, please send the links to people who may be interested.

Books mentioned in, and relevant to, this episode:

The Perspective Project Podcast – 001 Les Albrecht on Wine and Vaginas (and more)

Note: if you have followed along and listened to past episodes of the podcast, it may be confusing to see this episode branded as number 001. This is because, due to an increase in popularity of the podcast, I have had to change my podcast hosting platform, which has sparked a fresh to start to the podcast. Old episodes will be re-posted as time passes.

Perspectives on exercise from the guru of body movement

On this episode of The Perspective Project Podcast, Body Movement Guru Les Albrecht discusses her journey from professional dancer to full-time body-conditioning, Pilates, and yoga teacher. 

The primary focus is on the illusive pelvic floor muscle, its importance, and how to use it. We branch out from there and discuss a variety of exercise-related sub-topics. 

Les has worked with people from all walks of life dealing with all sorts of situations: professional athletes needing to up their physical performance, people who have had an operation and need to be rehabilitated, dancers who need to improve their form, to name but a few scenarios. 

She has taught body-conditioning classes, Pilates, and Yoga, for several decades, accruing the most excellent of reputations as a master of movement. 

More recently she has given presentations on the importance of the pelvic floor muscle, and on how to use it. 

She now works with people mainly online. 

Contact her on email: [email protected] and/or [email protected] and find her on facebook.

Podcast length:  2 hours 5 minutes.

File size: 60.5 mb.

Support the podcast: patreon.com

 
David Swenson Yoga @ Amazon.com

Stranger in a Strange Land @ Amazon

 
 

The Centre for the Transformation of Habitual Perception

What is habitual perception?

In his renowned work, Philosophy as a Way of Life, Pierre Hadot uses the following observations made by Henri Bergson to convey something of the character of habitual perception:

Life requires that we put on blinkers; we must not look to the right, to the left, or behind, but straight ahead, in the direction in which we are supposed to walk. In order to live, we must be selective in our knowledge and our memories, and retain only that which may contribute to our action upon things.

Habitual perception is a very useful type of perception – it allows us to do things in a world that requires action of human beings. In other words, in order to do things, we must act, and habitual perception can be a streamlined type of perception focusing on how to get things done quickly and efficiently.

Furthermore, for obvious reasons, we want drivers, pilots, surgeons, engineers, etc., to be masters of habitual perception. They need to get a job done, and not think too much about thinking while doing the job. Reflection on what they do should come after they have done it. They can then adjust what they will do next time around based on their reflections.

Why transform habitual perception?

Since the industrial revolution, human beings have found themselves in situations where there is less time for reflection. People work long hours to earn the money that is required for survival, sometimes having little or no down time. In other words, a person’s life is often directed by habitual perception entirely.

One can describe the plight of the human species as one driven by habitual perception. Human beings have focused so much on becoming experts on their “actions upon things” and, to speak generally, so little on their reflective capacities, that we have become a global civilisation of consumers. This has come at immense costs to human well-being and ecological sustainability.

Transforming habitual perception

Hadot quotes Bergson again, this time in an exploration of the idea of non-habitual perception. Hadot and Bergson are interested in non-habitual perception as compatible with the idea of philosophical perception, but soon I will branch out beyond the context of philosophical perception:

When [people who have undergone a transformation of habitual perception] look at a thing, they see it for itself, and no longer for them. They no longer perceive merely for the sake of action: they perceive for the sake of perceiving; that is, for no reason, for the pure pleasure of it … That which nature does once in a long while, out of distraction, for a few privileged people; might not philosophy … attempt the same thing, in another sense and in another way, for everybody? Might not the role of philosophy be to bring us to a more complete perception of reality, by means of a kind of displacement of our attention?

As a philosopher, I am interested in philosophical perception, and I have experimented with numerous ways of displacing my attention in a manner that is in tune with the song that Hadot and Bergson are singing. I can say with certainty that in transforming habitual perception, a person will find themselves perceiving the world, and their place in it, in ways that have remarkably therapeutic implications for the individual and for the broader social and ecological problems arising from the historical over-emphasis on ‘action upon things’.

A program for displacing attention, or transforming habitual perception

As a daily practitioner of methods that displace attention from ‘instrumental thinking’ to ‘inherent value thinking’, I know first-hand what Bergson and Hadot are on about. I practice philosophy as a way of life as far as it is possible for me to do so in my own life.

I have done the research that justifies why one should transform habitual perception – see my PhD (LINK).

Realising the importance for myself, as well as for rising to some of the challenges facing humanity, I have put theory into practice and I have constructed a menu of methods that can be employed to displace habitual attention and transform habitual perception.

I am pursuing further research into these methods, and I am working on emphasising the importance of implementing programs for the transformation of habitual perception in various contexts – academic and educational, corporate, political, and in more ‘down-to-earth’ settings where ordinary people come to ‘work on themselves’ for their own well-being and in turn for the improvement of some conditions that are less than ideal in the greater ecological, social, spiritual, and economic scheme of things.

Contact

Contact me if you would like to participate in my program, which can be tailored to suit different contexts, e.g. high schools or universities, businesses or corporates, political groups or environmental ones, etc.

 

(Small-scale Solar Energy) + (Positive Sacrifice) = Sustainability

Renewable energy will not save us!

Neither will more efficient energy production. See, for example, the Jevon’s Paradox, which I will mention again soon.

What we do with what we have, on the other hand, is worth talking about.

Thomas Princen, in his excellent book Treading Softly, describes what positive sacrifice is all about. I talk about this briefly in my podcast conversation with Anton Botha (LINK).

Let me be the asshole to state, for the record, that replacing your fossil-fuel powered energy source with a renewable energy supply of the same kilowattage is not going to help stop human-caused ecological decline. If you currently use, for example, above a kilowatt of energy at night, and wish to keep doing so with ‘renewables’, you will need a large array of batteries that take minerals and energy to produce, and the batteries will need to be replaced every 2 to 7 years, depending on how you use them.

Yes, batteries may become more efficient, and other technologies may become available to store energy more efficiently. But as the Jevon’s Paradox shows, the historical trend has been that when a technology becomes more efficient, as legislation supports the spread of the said tech, and as the tech becomes cheaper, the more quickly that tech spreads and production of goods and services accordingly increases as well because energy costs are lowered and funds are channeled into production. After all, the world is run by die-hard capitalists. Good for the economy, but not good for ecology. And what is not good for ecology, is not good for the economy in the long run. But we will have to learn that lesson the hard way.

My contention is that the only thing that human beings can do in order to proactively respond to the challenges posed by the ecological crisis, is to make positive sacrifices. Thomas Princen says the following about positive sacrifice:

Positive sacrifice is exemplified by the parent who sacrifices time and resources to raise a child. The typical parent will hardly express her efforts as sacrifice; it is just what parents do, part of having children. It is, in short, inherent in the role. To put it more caustically, if one does not want to sacrifice for children, one should not be a parent. Similarly, an artist sacrifices income and job security to do the art. It is not a negative sacrifice, because “doing the art” is what it means to assume the role of artist. It is sacrifice, though, because one is giving up economic and social benefit for the higher value of doing the art. One willingly “makes a sacrifice.”

Do I think that human beings will willingly make positive sacrifices of this kind in the context of the ecological problems we have created and that will increasingly effect us? No!

Do I think that we will, eventually, have to make these kinds of positive sacrifices because the current ‘order’ becomes unfit for purpose, and unable to continue due to the human-caused collapse of natural ecosystems? Yes!

I am not one to sit back and wait for the fan to hit the shit, so I took matters into my own hands – which is the only thing I believe we can do, rather than wait for some political party to fix things, or for some new technology to ‘save us’.

One of the things I have done is set an ‘energy goal’ that embraces the concept of positive sacrifice. I did my homework and saw that the large battery banks generally used in big solar energy systems are disastrous for the environment, which means disastrous for us, because human beings are part of the proverbial environment.

So, I decided to calculate the smallest size of battery storage that would get Emma and I through the night in relative comfort. We would use LED lights and our laptops at night, and be able to power a car stereo in our cabin. That’s it. We would positively sacrifice all the other devices and appliances that people tend to power at night, which requires either grid electricity or a big battery bank.

So the battery bank we use consists of only 2 deep cycle batteries, each of which has roughly 225 amp hours storage capacity. These are connected into a 24 volt battery arrangement – I will spare you the details of why a 24V arrangement has benefits over a 12V arrangement (mind you, there are also benefits to having a 12V arrangement…).

During the day, my 24V batteries are charged by the 650 watts of solar panels on my cabin’s roof. In full sun, it takes less than an hour and a half to fully charge the batteries after their usage from the night before; in cloudy weather, it can take up to 3 hours. When the charge controller moves from the ‘bulk’ setting to the ‘absorb’ setting, I switch on the 24V camping fridge. When the controller changes to ‘float’ mode, I can turn on the 300 watt inverter and charge our laptops and 2 cordless power tools, and a few other small devices like cell phone and torch.

In this manner, the batteries never discharge by more than 90%. They should last over 7 years. The more they are discharged (e.g. if they power the fridge at night), the shorter their lifespan. The power produced by the panels during the day after the batteries have been charged is excess power, and the issue of more efficient storage capacity is irrelevant. That said, when the batteries need to be replaced sometime after the 7 year mark, I will purchase the best replacement batteries available. But then, as now, the question of how to structure one’s energy usage is more important than the efficiency of the batteries, in my opinion.

During a cold front, it can take a little longer to charge the batteries. Sometimes I don’t switch on the camping fridge at all during stormy days, but then the temperature is cool enough during such weather conditions for the fridge to not warm up much anyway.

If everybody took a similar approach to their power usage, then the world would be a very different place. Of course I do not think that everybody is able to do this, for various reasons that I won’t mention here. But everybody is able to make some positive sacrifices in their own lives, in ways that are specific to their own contexts. And, may I add that a society in which people are willing to make positive sacrifices because they understand that everything is interconnected in a living system is a society that I think is worth sustaining.

This positive sacrifice of instant energy-usage gratification resonates with my commitment to a frugal lifestyle, a commitment that I made based on many years of thinking about what to do in response to the challenges posed by the human-caused ecological crisis. See, for example, my PhD and some of my academic articles (LINK). I have made other positive changes in my life, with the support of my partner, Emma. I am happy to come and talk at any event about any aspect(s) of our journey to a rustic off-grid lifestyle. Contact me if you are interested.

You can also contact me if you would like me to install a small-ish solar power system – of course, this would need to be in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa.

If you would like to consult with me on how to make positive sacrifices in your own life, or about how to approach the topic of renewable energy in a manner that is in tune with nature’s cycle, contact me and we can arrange an online meeting. Or we could meet in person if you reside near Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

 

 

The Perspective Project Podcast 002 – Anton Botha (former Mandela-Rhodes and Fullbright Scholar, and United Nations Employee)

Anton joined me on the podcast to chat about some ideas he has after his time working for the United Nations. We start with his thoughts in this regard, and branch quite far out from there. 

Follow Anton on Instagram: LINK

His less regular Tweets: LINK

A recent Thoughtleader.co.za article by Anton: A new world awaits: Who is brave enough to imagine it? 

Support the podcast – see my offerings at the perspectiveproject.co.za homepage. And support through patreon

Podcast length: 1 hr 31 minutes 

Podcast size: 72.1 mb

Download podcast here LINK

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Article: Know thy Systemic Enemies – Mechanisms that Prevent Transformation

Published in the journal Politikon in July 2019.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02589346.2019.1642030

Abstract:

Despite the hopes and political promises of the 1990s that socio-economic transformation would occur in South Africa, the country continues to be plagued by high levels of poverty and inequality. The question of why this transformation deficit exists arises, often with debate surrounding answers where forms of binary logic are foregrounded, for example, coloniality/decoloniality and Eurocentrism/Afrocentrism, among others. I depart from binaries-based approaches and instead focus on analyses revealing mechanisms that prevent transformation. These mechanisms are evident in Mill’s analysis of the development of democracy, Marcuse’s critique of advanced industrial society, Deleuze’s commentary on disciplinary and control societies, and Princen’s descriptions of traffic control measures. Outlines of these analyses are offered in the spirit of ‘knowing the enemy’ that is a mix of structural mechanisms, identifiable without over-reliance on binary relationships, oppositions and tensions. Oppositions and tensions of this binary nature have been prominent in transformation rhetoric in South Africa, but the country’s transformation deficit indicates that a new language (Wallerstein, Princen) might still be helpful in dealing with various conceptual and practical challenges. Adopting a manner of expression less inclined towards emphasis on binaries may be a step in the direction of the new language.

Contact me for a link to a page with a limited number of free copies.

Rocket stove sauna version 2.0

My first rocket stove sauna heater worked well for just over a dozen firings, and then crumbled. Too much water sprayed directly onto bricks. And the thing was badly designed, with an undersized chimney. In fact, I should never have called that unit a rocket stove. It was just a masonry stove, and an inept one at that!

After a few years of research and tinkering, and a few more builds of properly designed and built rocket thermal mass heaters, I arrived at version 2 of the sauna rocket engine. The stove could heat a warehouse. Instead it heats just less than 6 square meters!!!

System size is roughly a 20cm diameter, or an 8 incher. The sauna is up to temp in 25 minutes when the stove is run on full power. Thereafter I let it die down to about half power so that I don’t kill myself and whoever I have managed to lure into the oven with me.

New thermal mass rocket heater for tiny cabin

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