Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Ethics is the realm of the immaterial





So here is an article based on an interesting conversation with my bro-in-law, which turned into an attack from my sister to me. The theme of the conversation was the illegal download of music unto my computer, which I was calmly enjoying in my room. My bro-in-law being an intellectual property lawyer, he saw it as an infringement of the rule of law, which I am not denying, but that it was a behavior closer to Greek anarchism as imagined by the English than a behavior ought to be normal. As for my sister, as an economist, it was just another example of the fact that I am a bourgeois who has no respect for a hard-working class, which I am only partly denying.

Can I go anywhere with this? I think it is largely possible to show that though I am in the wrong, it is only relative to how we accept the world we live in today, and how we would like it to be. And again, if we can't dream of a better world, I still wonder if we can take any moral high-ground, as there is nothing morally constructive otherwise. I don't know now if I should start by taking a position of the particular to then go to the universal, or start with the universal and go unto the particular of the arguments.

To start on my position, I was stating that the music industry nowadays, does not represent any opportunity for music players, when it has all the potential to. Indeed, music players get only 3 cents per song on a CD or 6 cents per song on Iplayer, so they do make a lot of their living in concerts. Now production companies do make a lot of money, and the reason to make this money to hire lawyers and lobbyist so they can keep on there business. Or to spend money on videoclips and advertising to promote one or the other untalented crappy son-of-producer to teenagers. This is the industry we are financing when we buy a CD and all of it to satisfy a property fetishism ( which I suffer from sometimes myself, but I didn't dare to tell my opponents that, because it does ruin a little bit my argument against that industry).

Now, we have to understand that most music players until the rise of the reproduction industry, where rarely professional musicians, but where part-time musician. It is therefore a funny thing to think of an artist as something that has to be done full-time. A composer of classical music could pretend to that, but they are a dying breed, and it is still something that is enjoy almost only in big concert halls or operas ( I went to “Yvonne, la princesse de Bourgogne”, by Philippe Buysmans, among other operas and concert this year). And that's where it has to be understood that Walter Benjamin was right, reproduction does kill the art. Reproduction transforms a performance into an information. And information should be free, otherwise there won't be anything shared by humanity.

A small paragraph on information. Information is any stimuli that is shared, and therefore can be used as a sign – a shared tool of communication. Education for example is information – we teach each other signs, ways to interpret the world – so we can better understand how each other thinks. Now music reproduced is solely information, as it is the reproduction of information we can all understand and correlate to, but further more, it is the name of the artist and the song which are important. If we wouldn't share that, then only people with money could exchange these informations, therefore excluding people who have not access to it. Let's take another example, if Leonardo da Vinci was still alive, and did not want the Mona Lisa to be digitalized or even printed, only people who can afford holydays in Paris and time to go to the Louvre would know what it is. Is that fair? But now, is seeing a print of the painting the same as the real stuff? No, just like listening music from my computer not the same as going to a concert.

Now, back to the artist. Artist are people allowed to do what they like, because they have found owner of means of production ready to invest in them and what they produce to make a profit out of it. The investment is first cultural, in the sense that they manipulate information to make it somehow worthy, so there is an economical return afterward. Of course, the manipulation of the cultural is never too easy for there are people who have an education of the history of art, so can compare it with more data. Hence it is easy to create worth for teenagers as they do not have any standard to value cultural worthiness. So is it fair that some are lucky to find a patron when others are not recognized as doing anything worthy of recognition, as money generates worthiness and not personal appreciation. As a Houellebecq wrote in his latest book, we can see Damien Hirst and Jeff Koon discussing how they will share the art market ( well how russian oligopolist, arab princes and Saatchi brothers are getting along if we want a wider picture), create unequality. But hey, it is alright, it is the rule of law as it is and as it should be accepted.

So my point, that I didn't get to pass, was that as hours of work should be reduced as the amount of work to produce a sustainable market has diminished ( it has, that is why we have systemic unemployment), it leaves more time for everybody to be an artist. No, everybody should not be an artist, and yes artist are essential for the world to make it a beautiful place. But everybody should contribute also a little bit towards working ( in french, the word 'travailler (working)' comes from trepalium, meaning an instrument of torture) for the whole society. If you go to a pub in Ireland, chances are that you will hear a band there, who does that for there own pleasure, and not for money. Isn't how art should be provided? Otherwise, as my sister pointed out, artist have more chances to come from people like me, who have parents who can provide for them. And a lot of musicians comes from such backgrounds ( no generalization here though).

Now, I would like to downside my argument here a little bit. It is true that there is a lot of justification here for an illegal action. There is nothing wrong with justifying actions actually, it is part of a brain process for everything that we do. Even irrational arguments will be justified in our brain, and sometimes for the wrong reasons ( split brain research have proven that) and maybe I act that way because my environment pushed me to act that way, on the other hand, because I have always pushed my reasoning to the furthest I could, my justification have changed as it would fit a wider understanding of the world and the conception of an ideal world, instead of just justifying through social convention.
Justification through social convention, such as saying that the Greeks deserve where they are now because they didn't play by the rules of our game, is actually the way that a big part of humanity has been controlled for centuries. The example of the stupidity of social convention lies in a few philosophers, since antiquity, but is in our modern days best exemplified by Bourdieu when he says that the best jokes on christianity and beliefs do come from cardinals. Indeed, when you are up in the game, it is easier to cheat. It is actually worst than that, if you are higher up in any social game, it is actually good to show in private that you support the opposition and in public you still manipulate everybody, because you see the whole game and yet know that nothing can touch you.

Hence, for example, though greek cheats, it is at all level of society and easy to identify as it is a universal behavior, on the other hand, while Greece has a shadow economy estimated at 25%, Belgium shadow economy is estimated at 20%. Not that far behind, the difference is that Belgium shadow economy is also mostly done by rich people engaging “smart-accountant” who know how to dodge all taxes. The social convention pushes us to believe that the problem comes from the everyday greek who does not make you pay for the added value on the desert he just sold you. http://www.gregpalast.com/lazy-ouzo-swilling-olive-pit-spitting-greeksor-how-goldman-sacked-greece/
Of course, the explanation on this website is not the one we need to point out, because though we ( the youth and the educated-engaged academics) do repeat it all the time, conventions tell us to go through the political process, though it is accepted that it is lobbying works only if you have money, to get it to change. So what are we left with? Well not working constantly the game of social conventions, and knowing why intelligently, and informing oneself oneself on why and how, is actually a good way for emancipation and change within a system.

Now, back to our world, which is a horrible world where lazy-ass bourgeois like my-self can spare not to have a student job and instead roam the internet to accumulate information. What we have here is an unstable and unfair environment, but like any environment it can change, through feedbacks and pressure on parts of its components. The pressure will always result on some change, for example, representative democracy has lead the youth to be partly disillusioned by our capacity for our society to be better. The pressure for growth has created a vicious-circle based on debt, and debt is only the lending of future-time, therefore neither the baby-boomers are capable of considering a better future. To change the environment, we have to therefore pressure it to change, through actions which are disruptive to its systemic working, ergo I'm doing good downloading louis armstrong's CD's and strangely, I don't feel like I'm stealing him of anything.


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