Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Call to Prayer

Argentina plays Germany on Friday (11am US east coast time) for the quarterfinals of the World Cup. To eliminate Germany from their own World Cup would be phe no me nal. (In the 1990 World Cup played in Italy, Argentina beat Italy in the semifinals).

So please, pray for Argentina to win. If enough of you do and they win, the whole LHG staff promises to break a twenty year absence from the confession booth.

Burning Questions Answered

As the staff continues to refuse to work during World Cup, LHG wants to thank its loyal readership for their patience and support. As a token of our appreciation, we will, for one time only, break our vows of secrecy and answer three questions posed by a curious reader:

Anonymous said...
Where is the left hand of god's office located? how much staff does it have? are any of the writers cute?

a. Our offices are both everywhere and nowhere. Since we need to stay one step ahead of God to do our job right, we're constantly on the move. We're like those nuts who drive around trying to anticipate a tornado, except we've got no sophisticated equipment and so go by smell, and God is the tornado (or whirlwind).

b. Honestly, it's impossible to know. We operate in fully independent sleeper cells of one. Perhaps 20, perhaps 200.

c. They're all really really good looking, until you actually meet them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Some things are just more important than God

and the World Cup is one of those things. Our staff demanded the right to watch the world's greatest sporting event in a country where people actually cared - so we moved the office to Buenos Aires. Now, however, we can't tear them away from the TV.

So LHG will be back, after World Cup.

PS. Comment of the day, from Oranguteena: "you sometimes remind me of Woody Allen." (Sad but true. Am just not aging well...)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thanks for commenting: On Zizek and Opus Dei #2

Hernanii responds: "I don't mind you used my comment as a post, but i'd say I was very sad to read your reply. To say that the current sexual environment is a "consumer good" is a very mean thing to say. I'm sure you don't tell gay people that their sexuality is a "consumer good". Another thing: the people championing the sexual revolution thought their approach to sex was "better" than the repressed and myth-prone approach their parents had, not just "different" or "countercultural". if tolerance and openness are dominant now, that is a GOOD thing. plus: the unbelievable smugness of this expression: "those who seek more radical social and cultural change".

LHG: Let us clarify the position taken in our offices. First, we purposefully didn't use gay rights and gay sexuality as an example because we believe that the movement toward full acceptance of gay rights - including those rights that are most controversial because of their sexuality (marriage, adoption, etc) - is perhaps the most progressive cultural/sexual movement available today, especially in the United States. Gay sex and gay sexuality, as far as we at the LHG can see, has not been turned into a consumer good.

Second, you're right, those involved in the sexual revolution thought their position was not just countercultural but better, the former word doesn't do justice to the position. But the sexual revolution wasn't just about the physical act of sex, it was, more importantly, about transforming the way people related to each other; it was about a transformation in human relationships (which is also how we understand the struggle for gay rights). Today, when heterosexual sex has seeped into every aspect of culture, from the mass media to advertising to illness to the pharmaceutical industry, abstaining from consuming heterosexual sex as a product could very well be the beginning of a change in human relationships.

Third, often "those who seek more radical social and cultural change" have fallen prey to an elitist snobbery. If so, however, the fault lies in the person and not the ambition. It seems to us that the call to consumption, made from the First world, begs the question of who's doing the consuming. The expansion of what could be called the right to consume in the Third world would be the product of "radical social and cultural change." Within the First, however, it seems if not reactionary at least irresponsible.

PS. Are we really far apart in our views?
PSii. A recent office poll revealed that those at the LHG who abstain from sex, sadly, don't do so of their own free will.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Thanks for Commenting: On Zizek and Opus Dei

In reference to the post connecting Zizek and Opus Dei, Hernanii comments:"Ivo, you see? This is what I mean when I say that the progressive approach to consumerism is just as puritan and repressed and conservative as the religious one: you shouldn't enjoy yourself. For LHG it's a funny coincidence, for me it's a signal that progressive philosophy, the one that championed the sex revolution, gay rights and the legalization of drugs, now wants us all to be monks."

"Wants us all to be monks." That's well put. But LHG isn't sure it should be seen as something negative. The sexual revolution rebelled against the hypocrisy and repression of a Victorian morality - it was clearly countercultural. Today, however, sex finds its way into practically every consumer good, and is perhaps even the primary consumer good. Sex, therefore, is an intrinsic part of dominant culture today. When every revolutionary ideal has been incorporated and turned into a consumer good, what path is left for those who seek more radical social and cultural change? The LHG is reminded of Marcuse, who once said that the beginning of revolutionary change will begin when one day people decide they're not going to work...

PS. Heranii, LHG apologizes for taking your comment and using it as a post, but it saves the staff from having to come up with a new idea.

Friday, June 02, 2006

On Zizek and Opus Dei

LHG was recently challenged to draw a link between rock star Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek and Opus Dei. Here it is: A central insight of pyschoanalysis is that all social orders are based on repression that block challenges to that order. Mental health, in turn, requires liberation from those repressions. According to Zizek (and LHG likes this argument) contemporary capitalism works a tad differently. Today capitalism works not by repressing but rather by presenting us with the possibility of satisfying an ever extending set of desires - social control comes not from repression, but from the satisfaction of those desires. Liberation, therefore, requires abandoning the pursuit of such satisfaction.

What does have to do with Opus Dei? Paul Fortunato - an Opus Dei member who openly admits to using the cilice (that spiky thing on the leg) and a professor at the University of Houston - gives us a clue in his Op Ed piece in today's New York Times. He writes: "One key element behind corporal mortification is to feel solidarity with the poor and the suffering, denying oneself some comfort, whether it be by fasting or wearing a cilice. I have explained what a relief it is to make my life uncomfortable, how liberating it is to unplug from the consumerist, instant-gratification culture that dominates us. Without the cilice, I find my life as an American consumer unbearably comfortable."

Here's the connection with Zizek: Corporal mortification runs against what are perhaps the strongest desires within our contemporary capitalist order - those of the flesh. Opus Dei's use of the cilice can be understood as a way to step aside from the pursuit of bodily satisfaction. It goes against the capitalist glorification of bodily pleasure. From this standpoint, the cilice is far from a medieval leftover - it's actually 21st century liberation.
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