Charles Taylor’s book entitled The Ethics of Authenticity was first published in Canada under the name “The Malaise of Modernity” which was broadcast in November 1991 on the CBC’s Ideas series. By 2003 it was in its 11th printing.

Three Malaises of Modernity.

1. The first malaise concerns the dangers of individualism and the loss of meaning.

“. [...] The worry has been repeatedly expressed that the individual lost something important along with the larger social and cosmic horizons of action. Some have written of this as the loss of a heroic dimension to life.  People no longer have a sense of a higher purpose, of something worth dying for.  Alex de Tocqueville [author of Democracy in America] sometimes talked like this in the last century, referring to the “petits et vulgaires plaisirs” [“petty and vulgar pleasures”] that people tend to seek in the democratic age.  In another articulation, we suffer from a lack of passion.  Kierkegaard saw “the present age” in these terms. And Nietzsche’s “last men” are at the final nadir of this decline; they have no aspiration left in life but to a “pitiable comfort.” This loss of purpose was linked to a narrowing. People lost the broader vision because they focused on their individual lives. Democratic equality, says Tocqueville, draws the individual towards himself, “et menace de le renfermer enfin tout entier dans la solitude de son propre coeur” [“and threatens finally to enclose him entirely within the solitude of his own heart”].  In other words, the dark side of individualism is a centring on the self, which both flattens and narrows our lives, makes  them poorer in meaning, and less concerned with  others or society (Taylor, Charles. 1991. “Taylor 1991:4 .”

2. The second malaise is the disenchantment of the world.

“Once society no longer has a sacred structure, once social arrangements and modes of action are no longer grounded in the order of things or the will of God, they are in a sense up for grabs. They can be redesigned with their consequences for the happiness and well-being of individuals as our goal. The yardstick that henceforth applies is that of instrumental reason Taylor 1991:5 .”

3. The third malaise concerns the atomism of the self-absorbed individual who is so “enclosed in their own hearts” and comfortable in their own homes that they no longer participate actively in self-government. This results in an “immense tutelary power” of a mild and paternalistic government, democratic in form with periodic elections but in reality a form of soft despotism as predicted by Tocqueville. (Tocqueville 1835) cited in Taylor 1991:9 .

“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd. I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people. Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain (de Tocqueville 1835.” Democracy in America).”

de Tocqueville, Alexis. 1835. “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear.” Democracy in America.

Taylor, Charles. 1991. “Three Malaises.” The Ethics of Authenticity. Harvard University Press. pp. 1-12.


The Romantics argued that at the core of being there is an authentic self that is pure in nature, although corruptible by society. What made the Romantic era unique within the context of the evolutionary history of empathic consciousness is the great stress placed on what Rousseau, and later Wordsworth and Whitman, called the “Sentiment of Being.”

1755 In “Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality among Men” Rousseau argued that the noble savage man, alienated from others was more authentic than the hypocritical, servile social man who tells people what they want to hear. Kant developed the concept of the “enlarged mentality” – the ability to exercise empathy, to “stand up in the mind of others”.

“the savage lives within himself; the social man lives always outside himself; he knows how to live only in the opinion of others, it is, so to speak from their judgment along that he derives the sense of his own existence.”

The social man is someone who cares only about appearances. Rousseau abandoned Paris (and the modern age) for rural isolation claiming that even the politeness of the city promoted corruption. He concluded that,

“We have only a deceptive and frivolous outward appearance, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness. It suffices for me to to have proved that this is not the original state of man, and that it is only the spirit of society and the inequality it engenders which thus transform and corrupt all our natural inclinations.”

Rousseau sees human history as beginning with the struggle for mutual recognition that Hegel analyzed as the master-slave dialectic. Rousseau’s Sentiment of Being.”

1762 Rousseau’s self-help book on proper parenting entitled Emile was published.

1790s Rousseau’s self-help book on proper parenting entitled Emile rose in popularity at the dawn of the Romantic period. Romantics were attracted to Rousseau’s emphasis on nurturing the child’s natural instincts in direct opposition to John Locke’s assertion that children are born a tabula rasa, a blank slate. Rousseau argued that children who are naturally inclined towards the good and that childhood is a time for parents to honour and nurture their children so their naturally good instincts will develop (See Rifkin EC:354).

1790s Jane Austin introduced the two sisters Elinor and Marianne in her satire of dominant currents of the later 18th century entitled Sense and Sensibility (published in 1811). The reliable, predictable Elinor, who is the voice of reason, has a deep sense of responsibility, keeps her emotions in check, fulfills her social responsibilities but ultimately finds happiness when she discovers her inner sensibility and finally marries her true love. The overly emotional, romantic, Marianne is spontaneous to the point of being irresponsible represents the bleeding heart liberal governed entirely by passions and desires. She finds happiness when she balances her exercises more sense and reason in her decision-making and actions. keywords: ideological thinking. See Rifkin (EC:320).

1805 In The Prelude begun in his twenties by Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850)’s semi-autobiographical poem of his lifelong spiritual journey. early years spiritual autobiography, he associated the experience of beauty as transcending rational thought: Wordsworth’s “Sentiment of Being.” See Trilling 1972 Sincerity and Authenticity.

The song would speak
          Of that interminable building reared
          By observation of affinities
          In objects where no brotherhood exists
          To passive minds. My seventeenth year was come
          And, whether from this habit rooted now
          So deeply in my mind, or from excess
          In the great social principle of life
          Coercing all things into sympathy,                         390
          To unorganic natures were transferred
          My own enjoyments; or the power of truth
          Coming in revelation, did converse
          With things that really are; I, at this time,
          Saw blessings spread around me like a sea.
          Thus while the days flew by, and years passed on,
          From Nature and her overflowing soul,
          I had received so much, that all my thoughts
          Were steeped in feeling; I was only then
          Contented, when with bliss ineffable                       400
          I felt the sentiment of Being spread
          O'er all that moves and all that seemeth still;
          O'er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought
          And human knowledge, to the human eye
          Invisible, yet liveth to the heart;
          O'er all that leaps and runs, and shouts and sings,
          Or beats the gladsome air; o'er all that glides
          Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself,
          And mighty depth of waters. Wonder not
          If high the transport, great the joy I felt,               410
          Communing in this sort through earth and heaven
          With every form of creature, as it looked
          Towards the Uncreated with a countenance
          Of adoration, with an eye of love.
          One song they sang, and it was audible,
          Most audible, then, when the fleshly ear,
          O'ercome by humblest prelude of that strain
          Forgot her functions, and slept undisturbed.

Whitman “Sentiment of Being.”

1807 G.W.F. Hegel major philosophical work entitled  Phänomenologie des Geistes [Phenomenology of Mind, Phenomenology of Spirit] was published. Hegel traced the evolution of consciousness distinguishing between lower and higher levels of consciousness. In the section entitled “Self Consciousness > A: Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness > Lordship and Bondage” Hegel developed the Master-slave dialectic.

1870 In “St. Paul and Protestantism” Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) wrote,

Below the surface stream, shallow and light,
Of what we say and feel — below the stream,
As light, of what we think we feel, there flows
With noiseless current, strong, obscure and deep,
The central stream of what we feel indeed.

Trilling cited this in Sincerity and Authenticity (1972).

1968 Student uprisings at Columbia University, Trilling’s academic intellectuals community. The adversary culture, the cruder form of liberalism, asserted itself. Complex arena of mental struggles were forced into the arena of simple political struggles. Moral, psychological, social selves that we imagined ourselves possessing were split and fragmented and a “dissociation of sensibility” took over. Wordsworth and Rousseau are crucial to Trlling in Sincerity and Authenticity.

1972 Trilling, Lionel. 1969-70. Sincerity and Authenticity. Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard published in 1972. “It comprises a history of the elaborate development of mind and self since Shakespeare, a brief consideration of certain literary texts he sees as central, a polemical refutation of some prophets of our time, and an authorial credo that conceals hope about literature while it counsels stoic resignation about life. And as his last argument with the forceful reality of death, it is also Trilling’s attempt to discover a means by which estrangement of self from self might at last be resolved. Trilling’s authentic authenticity is perhaps best embodied in Conrad of Heart of Darkness. Lesser authenticities Chace, William M. Lionel Trilling, criticism and politics. Lionel Trilling makes the point that authenticity is not to be confused with sincerity, which is being true to one’s social self. Authenticity runs deeper-it is, in the words of Trilling, a “primitive” strength that is continually compromised by society. Maintaining one’s core authenticity, for Rousseau and the Romantics, required a life of personal suffering and constant attention and sympathy to the plight of others. Only the alientated could enter into this world (Rifkin EC:350).

Sartre, the French existential philosopher of the mid-twentieth century, defined the sentiment of being as the place where

“each of us finds himself as well as the others. The common place belongs to me; in me, it

 

 

1990 Kenneth D. Bailey defined social entropy  as “a measure of social system structure, having both theoretical and statistical interpretations, i.e. society (macrosocietal variables) measured in terms of how the individual functions in society (microsocietal variables); also related to social equilibrium” in his publication entitled Social Entropy Theory. (State University of New York Press).

1999 In their publication entitled A Primer of Jungian Psychology  , (New York: Meridian), Calvin S. Hall and J. Vernon described “psychological entropy as the distribution of energy in the psyche, which tends to seek equilibrium or balance among all the structures of the psyche.”

Robinson, Jeffrey Cane. The current of romantic passion.


In the 199os an artist-musician and close friend originally from Haiti, Emmanuel Printemps, used to visit us regularly on Friday evenings and we would ask him to share his music with us and our other guests. We always requested one of his most moving, enchanting Creole songs, the powerful but sad story of the local butcher who lost his livelihood during the pig slaughter. As I follow the events in Haiti since the earthquake, I think of these precious friends from another time and place; they and their families are in our hearts and prayers.

Rural peasants in Haiti raised a very hardy breed of creole pigs which along with goats, chickens, and cattle served as a savings account. It was argued that from 1978 to 1982 about 1/3 of Haiti’s pigs became infected with the highly contagious African Swine Fever (ASF) in an epidemic that had spread along the Artibonite River shared with the Dominican Republic whose pigs had caught the virus from European sources. At first peasants were encouraged to slaughter their own pigs but then the Haitian government proceeded on a total eradication program that virtually wiped out what remained of the 1.2-million pig population by 1982. Farmers argued that they were not adequately compensated for their losses. The more robust creole pigs were replaced with a sentinel breed of U. S. pigs that were not adapted to Haiti’s ecosystem or market. For Haiti’s rural peasants the loss of income due to the virus and the government’s controversial eradication and repopulation programs led to further impoverishment and greater hardship, ultimately resulting in greater political instability.

View

In two webviral posts entitled “The Hate and the Quake: Rebuilding Haiti” by scholar, historian Sir Hilary Beckles of the University of the West Indies, (Beckles 2010-01-19) that are now circling the globe , we need to do some memory work before we conclude that Haitians are the architects of their own impoverishment.

In this seminal retelling of Haiti’s history,  (Beckles 2010-01-19) reminds us all that when Haiti provided freedom and the right of citizenship to any person of African descent who arrived on the shores of the newly formed Haitian republic (1805), the newly formed nation-state (1804) was strategically punished by Western countries, through economic isolation ( (Beckles 2010-01-19)).

From 1805 through 1825 Haiti was completely denied access to world trade, finance, and institutional development in “the most vicious example of national strangulation recorded in modern history ( (Beckles 2010-01-19)).”

In 1825 in an attempt to be a part of international markets, Haiti entered into negotiations with France which resulted in payment of a reparation fee of 150 million gold francs to be paid to France in return for national recognition. The installments were made from 1825 until 1922. From 1825-1900 alone this amounted to 70% of Haiti’s foreign exchange earnings. Beckles (2010-01-) argues that this merciless exploitation caused the Haitian economy to collapse  (Beckles 2010-01-19).

Furthermore, when Haiti’s coffee or sugar yields declined, the Haitian government had to borrow money from the United States at double the going interest rate in order to repay their punishing debt to the French government (Beckles 2010-01-19) .

From 1915-1934 the United States occupied Haiti under orders of President Woodrow Wilson in response to concerns that Haiti was unable to make its considerable loan payments to American banks to which Haiti was deeply in debt. The brutal U.S. occupation of Haiti caused problems that lasted long after 1934.

Webliography and Bibliography

Beckles, Hilary. 2010-01-19. “The Hate and the Quake: Rebuilding Haiti.” Posted by Sir Hilary Beckles on Jan 19th, 2010 and filed under Caribbean.

Beckles, Hilary. 2010-01-31. “The Hate and the Quake: Part 2” Sir Hilary Beckles, Contributor

In the southwest of the city, trees were covered in hoar frost, Christmas lights shone through halos of dense fog and there were patches of black ice on the bridge across the Bow. My mind was far away even as I listened. I had googled Cambodia before we went to the dinner invitation, but nothing could have prepared me to meet this survivor of the “killing fields.” This gifted scientist, with an unshakable belief in God, was the sole infant who somehow miraculously clung to life while hundreds of mother’s babies lay lifeless beside him, around him, under him. He rejects the label of miracle child, preferring to travel the globe to study, to learn and to share, to either help or do no harm . . . with an intensity that can be vertiginous.


A group of Vietnamese-American immigrants compiled the following list of cultural differences (1978) shortly after arriving in the United States when they were living between two worlds. Dr. Douglas K. Chung, Professor at Grand Valley State University School of Social Work, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1992) included this comparison to enhance understanding of cultural shock that Indochinese refugees experience in Western countries.

EAST WEST
We live in time. We live in space.
We are always at rest. We are always on the move.
We are passive. We are aggressive.
We accept the world as it is. We try to change it according to our blueprint.
We like to contemplate. We like to act.
We live in peace with nature. We try to impose our will on nature.
Religion is our first love. Technology is our passion.
We delight to think about the meaning of life. We delight in physics.
We believe in freedom of silence. We believe in freedom of speech.
We lapse in meditation We strive for articulation.
We marry first, then love. We love first, then marry.
Our marriage is the beginning of a love affair. Our marriage is a happy end of a romance.
Love is an indissoluble bond. Love is a contract.
Our love is mute. Our love is vocal.
We try to conceal it from the world. We delight in showing it to others.
Self-denial is a secret to our survival. Self-assertiveness is the key to our success.
We are taught from the cradle to want less and less. We are urged every day to want more and more.
We glorify austerity and renunciation. We emphasize gracious living and enjoyment.
Poverty is to us a badge of spiritual elevation. Poverty is to us a sign of degredation.
In the sunset years of life, we renounce the world and prepare for the hereafter. We retire to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Notes

Dr. Douglas K. Chung, Professor at Grand Valley State University School of Social Work, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1992) included the following comparison to enhance understanding of cultural shock that Indochinese refugees experience in Western countries. A group of Vietnamese-American immigrants compiled this list of cultural differences shortly after arriving in the United States when they were living between two worlds.

Webliography and Bibliography

Chung, Douglas K. Taoism: a Portrait. http://origin.org/UCS/sbcr/taoism.cfm

Chung, Douglas K. 1992.


Honoré Jaxon

Honouring Honoré Jaxon (1861-1952) ocean.flynn (2009-12-03) Layered Images: PhotoShop CC 3.5

The life story of Honoré Joseph Jaxon born William Henry Jackson (1861-1952) is inextricably linked to the history of Canada, to the story of missing archives, to the history of the early North American Baha’is, the history of early social justice movements. Fragments of the “missing” archives have been partially restored through the work of countless historians, artists, social scientists, cultural workers and journalists. Jaxon adopted the cause of the Métis and worked tirelessly to build an archives that literally weighed three tons when he was evicted from his New York apartment in 1951 at the age of 90. His archives were almost completely destroyed and he died with a broken spirit three weeks later.

A timeline of selected events in the contextualized life of Honoré Joseph Jaxon born William Henry Jackson (1861-1952)

10,000 years ago or more The hunter-gatherer ancestors of Manitoba’s First Nations were already in the area at least 10,000 years ago. Even then the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers (where Winnipeg now stands) provided a natural major gathering place of different First Nations. All of Manitoba’s rivers—the Nelson, Churchill and Hayes—flow directly into Hudson Bay. The Saskatchewan River flows into Lake Winnipeg from the west, the Winnipeg River from the east, and the Red River from the south. The Assiniboine, joins the Red River at the Forks in Winnipeg.

1612 The first European reached present-day Manitoba.

1690 Henry Kelsey, traveled the northern part of the Manitoba. He was the first non-aboriginal to do so.

In 1738, Fort Rouge was built at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. The Forks, as the junction was called, became the centre of a the fur trade.

In 1811, Lord Selkirk, from Scotland established the Red River Settlement with plans to increase agricultural production at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers.

1817 Quebec Catholic missionaries arrived on the east side of the Red River.

1837 The Upper Canada Rebellion was led by William Lyon Mackenzie against the ruling oligarchy in York (now Toronto), Upper Canada.

1844 Louis Riel was born near modern Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the Red River Settlement, a community in Rupert’s Land nominally administered by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), and largely inhabited by First Nations tribes and the Métis, an ethnic group of mixed Cree, Ojibwa, Saulteaux, French Canadian, Scottish, and English descent. Read the rest of this entry »

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