Jan Švankmajer on Creativity, Childhood, and Art

Walt Disney je jedním z největších prznitelů dětských duší . . .

All questions refer to the interview with Jan Švankmajer that appeared in Nový Prostor 410 February 2013, pages 21-23. (A copy of the interview was passed out in class.)

Answers should be in your own words, but may include quotations –your translation into English of Švankmajer’s Czech.

Motivation: Criticism and/or analysis presupposes understanding. Intelligent criticism presupposes understanding. You cannot effectively or intelligently criticize a person‘s views or the views contained in a text (even an interview in a homeless magazine) unless you understand the text/the person’s arguments first. The purpose of this exercise is to develop understanding of Švankmajer’s ideas, including his critique of Walt Disney and večerníček.

1. According to Švankmajer, what is the connection between childhood and artistic creativity?

2. Can you think of an example where childhood memories could help artistic creation? Describe/Explain

3. Švankmajer talks about the “domestication” of childhood imagination by a Reality Principle in school and society. (The “Reality Principle” is part of Freud’s theory of development. The child is first a total egotist and only gradually recognizes and responds to the wishes of other people. See, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_principle)

He also complains about the way children are taught to respect “pragmatic” examples.

…společnost se svým vnucováním pragmatických vzorů…….

He says society  harms the imaginative dimension.  Society, he says, is trying to get rid of the imaginative dimension.  (My translation of his words:  snaží zbavit právě imaginativního rozmerů.)

The artist, according to Švankmajer should allow fantasy or imagination to develop and resist domestication and the glorification of what is pragmatic. What do you think he means? Try to think of an example. (Notice: we domesticate animals and plans. Undomesticated animals are wild.)

4. Why does Švankmajer think he had a better chance of preserving his child’s imagination than children do today? (a) What did his mother and other mothers do back then? (b) What do children experience today that is different?

Hint: Who had more individual imagination/stories?–Children today or Švankmajer’s generation?

Notice his phrase collective visual stimulation. Collective is roughly the opposite of individual.

5. YOUR TURN:  Now, if you have re-read the interview and have answered the above questions, you should add your own thoughts, comments or criticism of Švankmajer‘s views.  However, see the WARNING below.

Dneska se děti večer posadí před bednu, a tak všechny děti večer co večer koukají na stejný přiblbý večerníček.  Jak z nich za této situace můžou vyrůst výrazné individuality, když jsou všechny krmeny stejnou “imaginaci”

WARNING
It is not criticism—and not especially thoughtful to simply say: “But I like večerníček! That is not a response (answer) to or criticism of anything ¨Švankmajer said. You may very well like it and you may like Disney too, and it could still be true that Švankmajer is right to say that society as a whole is worse off on account of these forms of collective visualization. It could be that children who have never watched večerníček, but heard fairy tales from their mothers have a more powerful and more individual creative imagination than the rest of us.  Whether you or I like večerníček or Disney has nothing to do with Švankmajer’s analysis.

A further comment about Disney and večerníček: A student of economics might say that those tools for collective imagination involved an opportunity cost. The opportunity for fostering unique and individual imagination was lost. That is one way to think about what Švankmajer has said. 

But, let’s not pretend that Švankmejer’s vision of creativity, imagination, and what society might be has anything in common with the sort of creativity or “innovation” discussed in the world of business and economics.  Social criticism is fundamental to the Surrealist movement–and Švankmejer is the leading contemporary Czech representative.  (About contemporary Czech surrealism, see http://www.surrealismcentre.ac.uk/papersofsurrealism/journal3/acrobat_files/Solarik.pdf

To students in JC/EPAEF:  Your exam will be on 21 December in the usual place at the usual time.

WARNING:  This is a rough draft.  (As of Sunday, 18, December.) I shall be making changes.  But if you’ve been coming to class regularly, there should be no surprises.

EXAM QUESTIONS  (additions 19.12)

I. WORK

. There’s 4,000 store managers in McDonald’s. There are a million people working in McDonald’s restaurants.

–Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents over 2 million workers. 

EXAM QUESTIONS

I. WORK

There’s 4,000 store managers in McDonald’s. There are a million people working in McDonald’s restaurants.

–Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents over 2 million workers. https://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/9/fight_for_15_foe_and_fasthttps://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/9/fight_for_15_foe_and_fast

In Chapter Two, we were told that there s always a trade-off between work and family. In the story we read, Parvin Calder owned her own business and said she would never sacrifice her family for work:

… I would never sacrifice my marriage and my family

to my business.” (p. 107)

Ms. Crofts (p. 16) is currently sacrificing her personal life in the hope that someday it will pay off:

“You have to sacrifice your personal life if you want

career advancement.” (p. 16)

Is this a contradiction? Some people have to sacrifice, but others do not? Ms. Calder owns her own business. Ms. Crofts does not.

If the numbers above from McDonalds are realistic, is Ms. Crofts being realistic? (IE The numbers from McDonalds suggest that the possibilities for advancement are limited…)

What do you think about the work-family trade-off? Do you agree with the textbook? (Explain)

Recommended viewing (in Czech)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa5nQjgzMIk

II. GLOBALIZATION/DE-INDUSTRIALIZATION

In Chapter Three, we read a story about globalization or de-industrialization. The textbook described how jobs and factories moved to China.

1. In class, the Instructor pointed out several important facts which were omitted in the story. Please list three below.

 

With this new information supplied in class, has your view of globalization changed?  Should it change?  (The textbook alone says it is inevitable, but does not consider harmful side-effects.)

2.  In Chapter 3 (p. 24) we are told that

…for most of us today the idea of a job for life – or at least a safe job has    been untrue for years.

Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

III. Trade, trade wars and wars

What was the “Banana War” between the USA and Europe? What did the WTO say? Who won?

update; CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER….

Curiouser and Curiouser: the Wikipedia article “United States-European Relations” includes the following line:

The Clinton administration .. took the banana wars to

the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999, when

Chiquita made a $500,000 donation to the Democratic

Party.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States%E2%80%93European_Union

(recall:  Chiquita = United Fruit)

What happened in Guatemala on June 18 1954?

What significance does this have for trade with the USA?

Briefly, (BUT SEE LINK BELOW)

CIA pilots bombed the capital. Mercenaries supported by the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government to prevent labor reform, and murdered 8,000 peasants.

THIS WAS ALL DONE FOR THE SAKE OF THE PROFITS OF United Fruit Company, a USA company. (Chiquita Brands today is the descendant of United Fruit. Side note: Formerly Nazi companies such as Siemens exist today.  Does that tell us anything about a connection (disconnection) between business and democracy?)

Here see the first paragraph of the linked article:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/43648969

For further info. , see also:  https://hbr.org/2005/11/banana-war-maneuvers

Question Two:

Who is José Bové?   How is he connected to trade? What was the dispute between the USA and Europe that led him to his actions? (Hint: a trade war, but about what?)

Why did the US government declare him guilty of moral turpitude?

Wikipedia offers the following definition of moral turpitude:

“act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.

Do you agree with the US Government? Was Bove guilty of “moral turpitude”? Explain why or why not.

How does the use of this expression (moral turpitude) reflect the deep Puritan morality of the USA? (Hint: turpitude usually refers to sexual crimes. How can money/business get connected with sex crimes? Answer: via Puritanism.)

A WAR ABOUT BANANA PRICES/PROFITS

What happened in Guatemala on June 18 1954?

What significance does this have for trade with the USA?

Briefly, (BUT SEE LINK BELOW)

CIA pilots bombed the capital. Mercenaries supported by the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government to prevent labor reform.

THIS WAS ALL DONE FOR THE SAME OF THE PROFITS OF United Fruit Company. (Chiquita Brands today is the descendant of United Fruit. Side note: Formerly Nazi companies such as Siemens exist today.)

Here see the first paragraph of the linked article:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/43648969

Question Two:

Who was Jose Bove? What was the dispute between the USA and Europe that led him to his actions? (hint: a trade war, but about what?)

Why did the US government declare him guilty of moral turpitude?

Wikipedia offers the following definition:

“act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.

Do you agree wi

=

MARKETING

(1) A USP is a unique selling point; it should be something unique about the product something that gives you a reason to buy that brand and not another. Coke is supposed to be a brand with a USP.

However, just because Coke was the first syrupy carbonated beverate, that simply does not mean it is the best. So, that can’t be a good reason to buy it.

Secondly. more than 90 per cent of people cannot tell the difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Does Coke have anything unique about it? If there is nothing unique about Coke, and Coke is so successful, doesn’t that mean that we don’t need unique selling points?

(Explain your answer)

(2) Is it possible that the only unique selling point is the unique advertising campaign? (lifestyle advertising aimed at a specific group?) But, Is advertising really a good reason for a rational person to prefer one product rather than another? (I assume the advert. does not try to convince you that the pruduct is best by comparing it to the competitor.)

Lifestyle advertising tells you (.eg.) hippies like these jeans (and you want to be a hippy, so…) OR that successful bankers wear ties like this …etc.

THE BIG QUESTION:  Would our societies be better off if we spent less money on marketing and advertising, and more on schools, hospitals, and green energy?

 

In the Czech Republic, the PM Sobotka wants to have a progressive income tax.  That’s a good idea. his nemesis, the former member of the State Police and current Minister of the Economy, A. Babis says that poorer people just need higher wages.  I say they need higher wages AND lower taxes.  Let the wealthiest citizens pay more for the privileges they enjoy.   In principle the USA has a progressive tax, but there are too many loopholes for the rich.  And Trump wants to decrease taxes on the wealthiest (something like the .001 richest)…..

But the USA continues to decline, financially and (relatedly) in health

http://www.syracuse.com/us-news/index.ssf/2016/12/us_life_expectancy_falls_su_professor_sees_troubling_trends_for_poorer_people.html

http://news.stanford.edu/2016/12/08/todays-children-face-tough-prospects-better-off-parents/#

DONALD TRUMP AND THE DANGER OF FASCISM

By Robert Paul Wolff

Note:  Posted at Wolff’s Blog under a different title; I have cut and pasted from his blog, and added a title.  I hope Professor Wolff won’t mind.  The longer entry from which this was taken is also worth reading for anyone interested in understanding the situation today in the USA.

FROM HIS BLOG: The Philosopher’s Stone, robertpaulwolff.blogspot.com

.it is the third threat that frightens me the most, and that is the threat of incipient fascism in America.  I use the term “fascism” descriptively, not pejoratively.  Trump may be a narcissistic buffoon with attention deficit disorder, but he is also a man seized by a megalomaniac ambition and self-conception who seeks to circumvent all constitutional and conventional restraints on his power by whipping up irrational passions in his followers, focusing those passions on those stigmatized as outsiders, and using the instruments of the state to repress those he understands as his enemies.  That is fascism.

Am I saying this is Weimar Germany?  No, not at all.  Germany’s situation in the thirties was quite different from America’s situation today.  But am I saying that fascism can come to America as it same to Germany?  Yes, I am, and rather more easily than we might like to imagine.

Posted by Robert Paul Wolff at 12:11 PM

RPW is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at The University of Massachusetts Amherst.

CTV24 has got no guts.

Last night I was listening to the news, and they reported on Trump’s appointment to Secretary of Defense.

They said he had led the fierce fighting in Fallujah—or something similar.

What happened in Fallujah was not a battle.  It was a massacre of civilians a war crime.

And it happened twice.

Moreover, it is worth remembering that it started because Iraqis had killed several US mercenaries, and then dishonored the dead mens’ bodies.  (They were burned and dragged through the street.)

However uncivilized that may seem, it is nothing compared to unleashing modern weapons on a civilian population.

It is also worth noting that those mercenaries were employed by a company “Blackwater”,

whose name has now been changed, and the head of the company is the brother of Trumps choice to head the Department of Education.  (File this under “USA militarism”)

I understand that a small country does not like to be bullied by a large country, but there comes a point where silence is tantamount to participation in the bully’s crimes.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38607-trump-s-secretary-of-defense-presided-over-slaughter-of-civilians-in-fallujah

Brian Leiter had an interesting reaction to Trump’s appointment–more hopeful:  http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2016/12/trump-chooses-retired-marine-general-mattis-as-secretary-of-defense.html

Most of the exam will consist of grammar and vocabulary from the textbook,however there will also be questions from information presented in class…

But please note, you should also be able to say why this information is important…..

For example:

Where is maternal mortality higher—the USA or the Czech Republic?

Where is infant mortality higher–the USA or or the Czech Republic?

According to UNESCO, does a child have a better life in CR or in the USA?

About so-called globalization, especially as presented in the textbook:What are the disadvantages?–Do people who lose their jobs find an equally good one? Not usually.–What about environmental costs? How many people die every year due to pollution from the ships traveling to and from China?

Also, after twenty or so years of world trade, (according to research cited by Anwar Shaikh in lectures) there has been no decrease in poverty…..

Banana wars: You should read the article referenced elsewhere.

Also, there will be a question about the presence of the USA military in South/Central America, and especially Guatemala….

The United States also achieved its political pre-eminence in Central America through
direct military intervention. Whenever one of the American ally regimes or American
interests was in danger, the US did not hesitate to send its armed forces, without fearing serious confrontation. Before 1945, the US had already invaded Honduras (1903, 1907,1912, 1919, 1924), the Dominican Republic (1903, 1914, 1916), Haiti (1914, 1915),Nicaragua (1907, 1909, 1915), Cuba (1906, 1912, 1917), Panama (1912, 1918, 1925),
Guatemala (1920) and El Salvador (1932)
Multinational corporations, totalitarian regimes and economic nationalism:
United Fruit Company in Central America, 1899–1975
Marcelo Bucheli*Department of Business Administration and Department of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

…a study of the social effects of unemployment prepared for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress in 1976 – back when congress still cared about such things- estimated that a 1% increase in unemployment led to, on average  920 suicides, 648 homicides, 20,240 fatal heart attacks or strokes, 495 deaths from liver cirrhosis, 4227 admissions to mental hospitals, and 3340 admissions to state prisons- each tragedy impacting a network of connected lives.

p. 159 Robin Hahnel, The ABC’s of Political Economy

 

Last week, a student argued that unemployment is good as a motivator.

she suggested that the Socialist period showed this.  During Socialism, she said,

people were guaranteed a job. Therefore, there was no motivation to work hard.

That argument is logically flawed.  Unemployment is not the only source of motivation.

In fact, what I thought at the time is: unemployment is like the death penalty.

We do not need the threat of death  hanging over our heads to work or to work hard or be creative.  Work and creativity are natural.

People who work hard in their gardens  do not do so because otherwise they would die.  Moreover, they do not work hard because they are afraid the plants would die. Rather, they do it because they look forward to the good results–fresh, tasty, healthy fruits and vegetables.

The argument in favor of unemployment is bad for many reasons.  Above all, it gives an unfair and unjustifable degree of power to employers–not employees.

However, logically speaking, it is wrong because it does not look at other possible sources of motivation.  That is the point of my garden example.  As the Feminist Economist Nancy Folbre likes to point out, caring for children and families is not market behavior.  We do these things for other reasons than profit.  And we are rational when we care for our children and our parents.  If an economist says otherwise, that economist is simply wrong.  (He or she has got a bad theory of human rationality.)

Now, I know very well that Economists teach their students to think differently.  Many economists talk as though unemployment were natural. In the video link below, the economist Pavlina Tcherneva (starting about minute 24) presents a different view of unemployment.  She suggest we should regard it as a disease.

 

 

 

 

 

Warning:  This is a rough draft based on class notes;

I plan to return to it, revise it..

Leonard Cohen says democracy is coming to the USA.

ROUGH NOTES

Notes on Class, Tuesday, 15 November 2016

In two days, you will be celebrating democracy and the end of communism in your country. Therefore, I believe it is fitting for all of us to exercise our freedom with a discussion about democracy.

Along the way we noticed that the issues involving “free trade”  raised by Trump were precisely those in our textbook: factories moving to Mexico or China or Vietnam, and free trade.

The instructor warned the class that the Czech press and politicians are confused; he claimed that they do not understand the problem represented by Trump. (And that is, by the way, another reason for improving your English.)  Trump is not merely an American (USA)phenomenon.  Moreover, there is a tendency for Czech politicians to attempt to normalize Trump in a way that distorts reality.

The instructor began by quoting the title of Cohen’s song—Democracy is coming to the USA….

And Eva responded by saying   Trump??!!–He is not just.

He is just another politician.

Link to Leonard Cohen’s song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_P4IEr-yd8

Democracy

Leonard Cohen

It’s coming through a hole in the air
From those nights in Tiananmen Square
It’s coming from the feel
That this ain’t exactly real
Or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there
From the wars against disorder
From the sirens night and day
From the fires of the homeless
From the ashes of the gay
Democracy is coming to the USA
It’s coming through a crack in the wall
On a visionary flood of alcohol
From the staggering account
Of the Sermon on the Mount
Which I don’t pretend to understand at all
It’s coming from the silence
On the dock of the bay,
From the brave, the bold, the battered
Heart of Chevrolet
Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street
The holy places where the races meet
From the homicidal bitchin’
That goes down in every kitchen
To…

Thoughts from the class:

Nikola: hierarchy is not democracy

Jakub: we have freedom of movement

Adam: We have free elections, so we have democracy.

The instructor offers a skeptical thought: how much power does the Czech government really have? Brussels has final power about your budget. –Here Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece has a lot to say….. https://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2016/03/30/the-eurogroup-made-simple/

Helping the USA in Afghanistan may not be in your best interest… But, of course that is controversial.  (It is worth considering the suggestion that the geography of Europe means that a centrally-located country like the CR will always face the threat of two empires….)

A deeper question—Isn´t democracy something more than just elections? Isn´t it about every day? How we live and relate to one another?

Robin Hahnel:on  self-management==real democracy= The ability to influence a decision in proportion to its affect on me.

Richard D Wolff: democracy at work is found in worker-owned and worker managed co-ops. When everyone works together, they create something, and there is extra left over –hopefully—but, who decides what to do with it? In most workplaces, a minority, a small minority who is not elected.

An exception is the worker-owned and managed cooperative, Mondragon, in Spain.

Other points/vocabulary to consider:

Representative Democracy versus Direct Democracy

Winner Take All OR Proportional Representation

Footnote: The Electoral College in the USA is not Democratic

We also watched/listened to part of Noam Chomsky’s comments about Trump:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8OFhzSO4hg

TRUMP’S MISOGYNY AND LACK OF LOGIC

There was blood coming out of her whatever…..

The fallacy “ad hominem” occurs when a person attacks another person’s physical attributes instead of talking about their arguments (their reasons or evidence or logic).

Trump (and many politicians/public figures) often commit the fallacy ad hominem. (So much for the quality of our democracy!)

This is not –contrary to what Trump and Czech politician Mark Benda think—merely free speech. It is not a case of rebelling against an artificial censorship by leftists; it is debased discussion, the fallacy of ad hominem and resorting to insults and name-calling. (Trump: “She’s a lightweight”. Is nothing but an insult and name-calling.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M28z9y4yT6Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnibTaKx4P4

Loose paraphrases of Trump’s words:

She was bleeding, so she said something mean.

She said something negative about me.

Why? Women are in a bad mood once a month.

She was bleeding you know where.

¨Where?

Implications: a woman who criticizes Trump is crazy. She suffers from female insanity. Because all women do…. Once a month. Or most women.. Or many women.

Ad hominem==attacking a person, not their arguments

(Ad hominem argument is fallacious—mistaken….)

Other vocabulary useful in describing Trump:  MISOGYNY, NARCISSISM

You see, said the politician, the Chinese are sensitive to Western interference.  On account of their history….

The Czech Minister of Culture (and an Austro-Czech Prince) met with the Dalai Lama.  The government was outraged.  They’ve just made a big trade deal with the Chinese. (And, somehow, the propaganda line goes, everyone will benefit.  Only the details of the deal are secret……) So, the brave government men wrote a letter of apology to the Chinese.

And, you see, the Chinese are sensitive to Western Interference.

Right.  The enormous and powerful nation of the Czech Republic is a real threat to the Chinese.  China cannot tell the difference between the Czech Republic and England when it possessed an imperial navy.

Not likely.

Amazing what garbage people say.

Today there are several issues I want to get off my chest.

I am able to blog now only because my employer cancelled my evening lessons.

This morning I left my residence at 6:15am.  I take a bus, then a train, then another bus to arrive early to teach at 8:30.  I figure the time spent traveling is wasted.  I can read a short newspaper article, but any sort of lengthy reasoning process is impossible.

I realize that many people live their lives without being able ever to engage their mind in a process of reasoning longer than a transit ride.  They are miserable.

(Counter-thought:  If they’ve got a file of information about each loved one–friend or family member—don’t they think long-term about them?  Yes, but without the aid of creative thoughts from the outside.  Creative thoughts from the outside need to come from books and other people who are not part of one’s narrow work-family world.)

I travel more than I teach.  I take crowded buses and trains.  I spend about seven or eight hours traveling every Monday.

Tuesday I teach early in the morning, and since I arrive home at9pm on Monday evening, there’s not enough time to relax and think seriously about what I will teach the next day.

Why do I teach on Monday?  My Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday  job does not provide regular pay. The pay is not the same every month.  There are pay gaps.  So, I need to do extra work now to pay for the gap that’s coming in February.

It is all very unpredictable.

The irony is I’ve just spent a couple ofhours thinking about what I will teach tomorrow. And that was possible only because my Monday-employer cancelled my evening lessons.

So, I have been working (unpaid) for Employer Number Two.  (My Tu-Wed-Thursd Employer)

Recall:  Because Tu-Wed-Thursd Employer pays me erratically, I’ve got to get extra work……(It is most definitely not my choice.)  Someone like RD Wolff might say the my Tu–Wed/Thurs Employer is shooting themselves in  the foot since their payment schedule forces me to work elsewhere on Monday, instead of preparing for Tuesday’s lessons….

 

 

 

 

Yanis Varoufakis

thoughts for the post-2008 world

Real-World Economics Review Blog

Posts are by authors of papers published in the RWER. Anyone may comment.

occasional links & commentary

on economics, culture and society

Michael Roberts Blog

blogging from a marxist economist

naked capitalism

Fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics and power

NAKED KEYNESIANISM

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

RD Wolff Articles

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

Yanis Varoufakis

thoughts for the post-2008 world

Real-World Economics Review Blog

Posts are by authors of papers published in the RWER. Anyone may comment.

occasional links & commentary

on economics, culture and society

Michael Roberts Blog

blogging from a marxist economist

naked capitalism

Fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics and power

NAKED KEYNESIANISM

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

RD Wolff Articles

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site