Archive for September, 2013

After two days at my new job as a salesman, I looked up our competition and the data collected and published by a government organization about the market movements during the past years. All I wanted to do was becoming a better salesman. Yet, I was stunned to see how two of our three main arguments were total lies and the third was very deceiving. During the obliged one hour break the next day I came across two texts completely by accident. I’ll select two parts out these texts that seemed tremendously relevant to my situation.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling wordly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:10-11)

Even in small things you should do what is morally right. You can always rationalize away your mistakes by situating them in a global context full of wars and madness. Yet, their mistakes don’t make yours right. Especially in a situation like mine, when there is no risk of poverty or any real detriment, one should always take the small disadvantage of being unemployed for a while instead of staying at a job where lying and cheating is your main task.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13)

The question here is, what is your ultimate goal? Is it the Good or Money? Both are personalized in the Bible, respectively as God and Mammon. Once you chose the latter, there are no boundaries whatsoever. Choosing the Good on the other hand doesn’t force you into a claustrophobic space. There are plenty of jobs where  you don’t have to take immoral actions. You don’t have to relocate to a remote part of the world and sacrifice your life for others. All choosing the Good asks is, whenever you make a decision, is this decision going against my moral beliefs? If so, look for an alternative. The prospect of money shouldn’t play a role in this.

“I understand by ‘freedom of spirit’ something quite definite: being a hundred times superior to philosophers and other disciples of ‘truth’ in severity towards oneself, in cleanliness and courage, in the unconditional will to say No where it is dangerous to say No […].” (F. Nietzsche – The Will to Power, p. 256).

Knowing what is right and wrong based on a deep moral feeling doesn’t need years of studying in a little room. I know that robbery and deceiving is wrong, therefore, I don’t do these things. Anybody, even my boss, who asks immoral things of me will get a loud and clear “No!”.

I’ve never heard anybody making an authority argument based on the Constitution in Belgium. Laws in general only have value within the court of law. Once we leave the fancy buildings and black dresses behind, there is no argumentative power in the laws anymore. At best, they might be a vague guide or indicator. This seems very different from what I read and hear on American TV shows and blogs. Especially this one segment of law, the Constitution, can be an extremely powerful ally in any kind of discussion.

In a very long discussion on Political Pipeline there have been multiple topics in which I and another reader of the blog, Derek, had totally opposing views. The last one is on the function of the Constitution. I find his writing often a bit confusing and told him his views on the Constitution remain a mystery to me. His reply (and clarification?) seems so problematic that I want to take some time to show what is wrong with it. Here is his reply:

“I have explained the need for a constitution sufficiently. It is the blueprint for what a government can and cannot do. Its purpose is to protect minorities and the individual against the majority (or elites) who think they can manage everything better than the individual. Elites find no use for a constitution because it is an obstacle to prevent them from imposing their “superior” views and laws on others. Sharia law is a perfect example of an Islamic majority imposing their will and laws (despite the inequality of laws) on others with “no constitutional brakes” to prevent it.

The US constitution has changed, for the good, and it has an avenue for further modification: voting. The premise behind a constitution is again that mankind is flawed and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is always best when power is diffused and shared and although a constitution cannot guarantee that, it makes a genuine effort to have three separate and unique branches of government and that laws passed are subject to the scrutiny (and possibly rejection) by the constitution.

Raising the validity of a constitution is not a “destructive argument” but rather a liberating one. A constitution is not a “law of nature” although many argue that the constitution gives God-given rights that the government cannot take or vote away. A constitution is man-made, and therefore subject to error and some modifications are necessary over time.” (I added the bold)

This long quote shows nicely what I don’t like about his reasoning and is exemplary for the previous discussion we’ve had.

There are two opposing ideas in this text. At first, there is the idea of the Constitution as something set. It’s the blueprint that fixes the borders wherein politics have to operate. It are the God-given rights that the government cannot take or vote away. This is a very strong image of the Constitution. You really can’t get any more absolute than God! Maybe the Constituion isn’t the word straight from God. At this point it doesn’t even matter that much. According to these views, the Constitution is an autonomous being, ready to independently judge every human-made law that comes by. We can leave God aside and grant the text a mild interpretation. Even then, it’s still very clear that the Constitution is something fixed that creates from the outside the limits of the sphere in which politics can work.

Yet, there is another and totally different definition in here where the Constitution is something man-made, not a law of nature, nor the word of God. As a product of flawed beings, we can’t take the Constitution as a perfect guide. We need to constantly re-think and improve it. How can we make these necessary changes? That’s obvious for Derek, by voting, of course! We are still a democracy!  In this way, the Constitution is a product of politics.

I wouldn’t mind a daring position that tries to combine the construction by humans of the Constitution (relativism) with a more absolute status. Personally, I see great opportunities in Latour’s work in which he is a constructivist, realist, anti-idealist and always tries to stick as close as possible to empirical studies. A comparative study between Belgium and the USA of how the Constitution is supported by and connect to lots of organizations, buildings, people, … might shed some light on why we hardly use it as an authority argument and Americans do. We might quickly refer to some psychological stuff, but that’s just taking the easy and quick way out. A simple, almost naive, empirical study of the ordinary should be taken as a serious source of information that can help us in searching a better definition of what the Constitution is and does. Unfortunately, Derek is combining two opposing views and doesn’t manage to bring them in harmony. He manages to jump from something untouchable and unchangeable to something in need of modification in only two sentences. All I ask for now is: Let’s drop the divine aspects of the Constitution.

Open the gate, hoist the flags, our new job has arrived. Hooray! Hooray Hooray!

I’ve been unemployed for less than two weeks. Not bad, considering the economic times we’re in!

Why do I go to work instead of staying unemployed and look for a  better job? There are a bunch of obvious answers to this question, but they don’t apply to me.

Money! I don’t want to sound like a smug, but I don’t care about the money. I already have everything what I need in terms of commodities.

Self-respect! This might be true with some jobs, but not mine. I’m a salesman in a market segment without any difference in the product quality. Electricity is electricity.

 Don’t be a leach! I only just graduated and I moved back home. I wouldn’t get any government benefits for nine months. Even after these nine months, the amount I would get would hardly pay the food. So I wouldn’t feel like a leach on society.

The main reason to get job as fast as possible is simply because you’re supposed to have a job. Once you have a job, you can be as lazy as you like. The social pressure/expectations from the people around you disappear. It’s nice and quite…

“[…] we would have to posit a substance lying behind or beneath them [the existents] to explain their subsistence.” (Bruno Latour, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence. An antropology of the moderns, p. 102).

This book finally tries to solve a problem Latour has been struggling with for decades*. For now, I just want to show you a lovely switch in words. For many pages he talked about existents*  “maintaining” or “keeping themselves into existence.” But once he launches a quick attack upon substantialism, he switches to “subsistence.” Not only is the short argument in itself quite compelling, simply looking at the sentence makes you feel silly for ever considering the idea of an underlying substance. For, thinking to have solved the problem of existence through time and space by positing an underlying substance is one thing. Another is solving the problem of subsistence by pointing at a substance. Even a philosophically blind man sees that the problem has remained.

* To be fair, his previous books have plenty of attempts to solve the problem. An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence isn’t filled with completely new and revolutionary ideas. Although he does seem to shed some analytic light on the (from time to time) muddle in his previous works.
* what was wrong with “actants”? They served him well for so many years…

The past week I had two exams on different days for one job. Employers lovvvve exams! Spoiler: wast of time.

Just to be clear, I’m not planning to become president of France or CEO of Inbev. The job I applied for is simple. No degrees needed – so please don’t be creative at all! – and it’s paid a minimum wage.

In total, I spent 12 hours on these ridiculous exams. I told them I had a very similar job before. Nevertheless, I had to follow for half a day a future colleague. Watch and learn… Watch and learn a job that is as hard as “1 + 1 = ?” and one I’ve done before. *yaaaaa – waste of time – wwwnnnn*

The second exam was on the internet. I’m not sure whether they assumed I don’t have internet at home or if they feared cheating… If you would see the exam, you would understand that both are an equal mockery. Everybody got ca. 95% on the exams. “Hooray”? No no, I’ll stick to “a waste of time.”

I’ve paid 15 euro for transportation (no refund) and had to turn down other short-term jobs because of this. But then again, those other jobs aren’t any better….

Employers offering a crappy job still assume that they and their offer become number one on the priority list of job-seekers. Unfortunately, they are completely right.

Frustration.