Monday, February 07, 2005

From Davos to Porto Alegre

Teke Ngomba in writing about the Old-&-New-Money annual confab at Davos, Switzerland in comparison to the hustlers from NGOs, Movements, and assorted enthusiasts of dispossession of the rich, bandies about the word "humanists." I choose to ignore his questionable usage and ascribe to that partiuclar word - not at all the same as "humane" or "hunanitarian" - its intrinsic philosophical meaning. But first I mention that "Humanist" is the word that the Communist countries in various countries have hastened to switch too in order to appellate their oroganizations and political parties in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the KGB files in each country.

This is the meaning around which Teke Ngomba seems to want to orient himself. But instead let's look closely at the philosophical meaning. First, "humanist" in philosophy is not meant to indicate anything nice, it is meant to mean rather at minimum, "without reference to God or Creation, or the status of humanity as created." Without such reference, "humanist" commits the self-described to atheism or agnosticism without bringing the matter it up; so, "humanist" is often a cover-up word. Too bad. More strictly, humanist indicates the tension-riven community that dominates Western philosohy since the Enlightenment, where all philosophies are driven by a motive in tension with itself around to mutually difficult ultimate values, Nature on the one hand, and Freedom on the other. These two values can be tracked as the ultimate commitments of so many diverse all-round philosophical concepts that fathoming a unity between them is difficult, and usually the work of specialists. But, in Darwin, we see the priority given Nature around the macro-theory of evolutionism; while in Freud we see the sediminent of Darwin, but superseded by the Nature-driven psychotic who has come to sit on the Couch and to come thru mentation to a liberation from Nature and an entry presumably into true Freedom, at least partly on the basis of realizing just how bound one is to ones unconscous drives (in comparison to what non-humanist school of psychotherapy might pose as the disciplined instincts).

Of course, there's yet another usage of the idea of humanism as it is found in the expression "Christian humanism" - but this usage while oldest is quite divorced from the philsophical one with which we contend these days. Christian humanism referred to the Christian movement in the Renaissance to attend to the humanities, those disciplines of philology, textual recovery of writings from the pre-Latin ancients, textual recovery of the original texts of the Bible, espcially from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac for the Jewish Bible and Christian Old Testament, while from the Koiné Greek of the New Testament. The three great Humanists in this sense were Erasmus, Luther, and Calvin.

Ngomba seems desperate in trying to slip the garland of "Humanism" around either the glamor-clan at Davos sipping their champagne, and the would-be folk heroes of Porto Alegre gulping their Kool-Aid (I presume). The idea that the Davos contingent and the Porto Alegre crowd should be gathered into one place from now on suggests to me that Ngomba has had something more in his Kool-Aid than he is letting on. I find the idea bizarre, but in this crazy world, why not? The Porto Alegrens certainly would have something to gain from it, but I doubt that the world economy or, in the long run, the poor wold get anything of much value.

The idea of declaring a general anmesty on debts sounds good, sounds Jubilee as the Ecumenical Christians drummed it up not so many years ago, but that just offers an invitation to all the graspoing administrators of the remaining funds to dump the accounts of the various poor countries into their own briefcases and scoot. Without an ironclad régime to precent a single dollar from disappearing into private hands and Swiss and Carribean hidden persobnal accounts, it's is simply pissing away money that the poor will never see or spend on their needs.

This is the massive problem of all Aid, as we learned in the terminal case of the UN's Oil-for-Food Scame, with its oil vouchers, with Nelson Mandela going to Hussein's Baghdad to kiss the oil barrels, and the distribution of vouchers. It would be interesting to see just how much Mandela received for his efforts, and how much Kofi Annan and his son actually pocketed. Is this what Ngomba means by "humanists?" His text looks like one big stroking operation for opening the pockets of Davos attendees like richard Gere, Sharon Stone, and Angelina Jolie whith whom Brad Pitt has of late been having phone sex to the consternation of his wife (at the time) Jennifer Anniston. Of course, here we're only talking of the New Money, not of the private philanthropic powerhouses, the megacorporations, or the governments represented.

Finally, we've heard nothing in the popular press of economists at either gathering who represent the Jeremiah Project (is it) anounced from South Africa, that is supposed to be raising a worldwide Christian voice and action strategy against poverty. I have my doubts about that too, because the whole launch contained no one note that would give hope of something really new, with key new economic elements, with key new strategies for mobilizing economic leadership out of the bossom of the Christian Church that would amount ot more than a merely good intention. A movement of distincltly Christian movitivation that might do something better than the state offerings of the two stale Humanisms at Davos and Porto Allegre. But, again, I don't seee it.

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