Author: johnshlee

Anti-social Socialist

My biggest drive is to cultivate my spirit. I will to enrich my spirit.
The aesthetics. It demands desire that withstands time and scrutiny of honesty.
What I create should perfectly capture my spirit in all its imperfect richness.
World should overflow with this aesthetic.

That world is what I deeply desire. I want to be in that world and be that world.
And yet, time and time again, though with less frequency, it saddens me in moments of realization
that there is very little of aesthetics in this world, because there is little sensibility and appreciation for it.

There was a time when I romanticized over social bond to others.
That there is something beautiful in the relationship between people.
While that’s true, I realized it is so only partially.

Relations between people also require tension.
That’s what solidarity is. To share the time and space in keeping the tension and conflict.
And humor is a good lubricator.

I have rubbed my own skin on some of these relations.
And I regret none because I can say with little hesitation now.
I no longer romanticize over the others.

The others are the biggest unknown, the object of fear, the God.
But they are also always a reflection of me, hence my foremost enemy.
Disappointment quickly mutates to disgust when I sense a hint of poverty in the spirits of others.

Comrade has become a dull word which lost this sense of contradiction.
They lack the sensibility and appreciation for aesthetics.
A comrade is not a dialectician.

I’m a humanist because I wish the human species to thrive.
So I’m also a humanist because I have no empathy for any poverty in human spirits.

If philosophers have for long understood the world in contradictions,
I admit after all, I’m an anti-social socialist.

telos attested

To reform consciousness through the analysis of mystical consciousness unclear to itself in somatic movement and language attested by dialectical historical materialism to incorporate the particularity of the self as a subject in their time, the particularity of which is digital technology and flashing of collective consciousness, into the chain of totality.

Say something about the method of composition itself: how everything one is thinking at a specific moment in time must at all costs be incorporated into the project then at hand. Assume that the intensity of the project is thereby attested, or that one’s thoughts, from the very beginning, bear this project within them as their telos. So it is with the present portion of the work, which aims to characterize and to preserve the intervals of reflection, the distances lying between the most essential parts of this work, which are turned most intensively to the outside.

The Marxian theory of art: one moment swaggering, and the next scholastic.

Our election cry must be: Reform of consciousness not through dogmas, but through the analysis of mystical consciousness that is unclear to itself, whether it appears in a religious or a political form. Then people will see that the world has long possessed the dream of a thing – and that it only needs to possess the consciousness of this thing in order really to possess it.

Walter Benjamin, The Arcade Project [N1, 3], [N4a, 2]
Karl Marx, Der historische Materialismus: Die Frühschriften (letter from Marx to Ruge; Kreuzenach, Sep 1843)


Nietzsche was not as thoughtless as to enthrone ‘will’ absolute efficacy.
He expressed a hint of materialism in his thought.
He was also not as vulgar to think intellect meant purely positive consciousness.

Against him (Schopenhauer) I offer these propositions: first, in order for willing to come about, a representation of pleasure or displeasure is needed. Secondly, that a violent stimulus is experienced as pleasure or pain is a matter of the interpreting intellect, which, to be sure, generally works without our being conscious of it (uns unbewußt); and one and the same stimulus can be interpreted as pleasure or pain. Thirdly, only in intellectual beings do pleasure, pain, and will exist; the vast majority of organisms has nothing like it.

Nietzsche, The Gay Science, translated by Josefine Nauckhoff


People wish others health for its own sake, but development accompanies illness, pain and aches.
People ought to be aware of this insight, but why does it not appear in the general culture and daily language?
Amazing how easily our innate conservatism overrides this insight.

Thus there are innumerable healths of the body; and the more one allows the particular and incomparable to rear its head again, the more one unlearns the dogma of the ‘equality of men’, the more the concept of a normal health, along with those of a normal diet and normal course of an illness, must be abandoned by our medical men. Only then would it be timely to reflect on the health and illness of the soul and to locate the virtue peculiar to each man in its health – which of course could look in one person like the opposite of health in another. Finally, the great question would still remain whether we can do without illness, even for the development of our virtue; and whether especially our thirst for knowledge and self-knowledge do not need the sick soul as much as the healthy; in brief, whether the will to health alone is not a prejudice, a cowardice and a piece of most refined barbarism and backwardness.

Nietzsche, The Gay Science, translated by Josefine Nauckhoff


If the function of those who want to become a function for another is not desired, the relationship hollows for there remains nothing more than uselessness.

Joy and desire go together in the stronger, who wants to transform something into a function of himself; joy and the wish to be desired go together in the weaker, who wants to become a function. Compassion is essentially the former, a pleasant stirring of the drive to appropriate at the sight of the weaker; however, we must still keep in mind that ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ are relative concepts.

Nietzsche, The Gay Science, translated by Josefine Nauckhoff


rid 구하다 救 ledig befri

B: But why, then do you write? – A: Well, my friend, I say this in confidence: until now I have found no other means of getting rid of my thoughts. – B: And why do you want to get rid of them? – A: Why do I want to? Do I want to? I have to. – B: Enough! Enough!

Nietzsche, The Gay Science


vanity 허영 虛榮 Eitelkeit forfaengelighed

… some very small and microscopic features of the soul: yes, he is master at the very small. But he doesn’t want to be! His character like great walls and bold frescoes much better! It escapes him that his spirit has a different taste and disposition and likes best of all to sit quietly in the corners of collapsed houses – there, hidden, hidden from himself, he paints his real masterpieces, which are all very short, often only a bar long – only there does he become wholly good, great, and perfect; perhaps only there. But he doesn’t know it! He is too vain to know it.

Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Contextualizing Talk and Progress

Just to introduce a little bit about myself,
I grew up in South Korea, and studied and lived in the US since I was in high school.
In University, I studied Fine Arts.
And today I will present a group project I recently worked on, called Talk and Progress.
But before I talk about the project itself, I would like to share some of my latest thoughts to contextualize the project.

And I would like to begin by asking what art means.
And there are endless definitions, but for the sake of time, I narrowed it down to just 3,
but keeping in mind that these definitions are not always so strict.
Firstly it meant Handcrafted goods.
I would say this form of art is the most traditional, ancient, and primitive, often with functional and decorative values attached to them.
What we consider antique objects roughly fall under this definition.
And there are contemporary arts and crafts, but generally they don’t step too far out of the bound of the functional and decorative values.
Secondly, art is a unique object endowed with the individual artist’s ingenious visions.
And this definition is probably very familiar to many people today.
But the idea of art as self-expression hasn’t acutally been around for that long.
In the 15th Century Renaissance, the idea of the Individual was just starting to take place in people’s consciousness and became more pronounced during the 17th and 18th Century Enlightenment,
which then led to the French Revolution of Bourgeoisie and Liberalism.
And this era of Liberalism still extends to today,
which explain why many of us associate art with self-expression of an individual.
And thirdly, perhaps the most familiar and yet vague definition of art is Modern Art.
It both inherits and rejects many aspects of the previous definitions of art, which confuses a lot of the contemporary museum visitors if they’re not particularly familiar with histories and theories in art.
And I’m not going to give a lecture on the history of Modern Art,
but one thing that I do want to point out is the social dimension in the currents of Modern Art.
Often, this social dimension attached to Art today, which perhaps began in the late 19th C, arose out of a reaction to industrialism, mass production, and commodity forms of art.
Generally speaking, many artists at the time felt that art lost its role as a representation of and connection to the spirit of humanity.
To be clear though, this definition of art is not to be associated with naive claims to the “purity” in art, divorced entirely from “money”,
because we can see that since Renaissance, most great art works that we learn about from art history today had been commissioned by great patrons.
No institutions in our society is completely independent from the rest, and the same is true for the institution of art. But when Art concerns itself too much with profit, then obviously it becomes indistinguishable from many other mass-produced commodities we find in our every day.

Just as the meaning of art changed over time, any field of human activity and value is always subject to change according to the given conditions in the course of History.

Then we may ask ourselves, how do these social conditions change and set the course of History?
Is it by fate, or do people have any say in it?
It’s a very complicated question dealt by many big name philosophers.
One thing we can definitely observe from the past is that the development of material conditions plays a crucial role.
The power of commerce and the abundance of goods simply made the existing social order and values, namely Feudalism, obsolete.
But as we have seen in the French Revolution, commerce has only set the conditions for historical development.
And back then, though many people knew that the conditions were ripe, they still had to carry out a decisive action.
Some say it was heroes like Napoleon who pushed history forward. Maybe there is some truth in that. But without the consciousness of many others, who supported him, could he alone have achieved what he had done?
The very idea of human rights is man-made. No human rights were given by nature, but created by humans.
Voting rights for women and racial minorities in America gained their grounds because they fought for it.

So what am I getting at here? It may start to sound like I’m about to make a political propaganda.
But my motive is simple.
It’s to live life to the fullest. To fulfill oneself.
It’s to realize oneself and grasp a sense of meaning as to what it all means to be here and now.
To tell the youths with the least doubt that I live fully to take part in the world, in which they and I live.
And hopefully they will find their own sense of meaning in the world and be able to do the same,
because after my body turns into fragments, I will still live on in them.

And of course, we all have to work with the given conditions. We have to pay bills, raise children, take care of our parents.
To simply shrug off these conditions, in other word, responsibilities and say that the world isn’t a good and fair place, seems rather like a denial of the world,
in other words, denial of the history of all that has existed before to determine this very moment of here and now, which is me, which is the world, and which will be.
But at the same time, for the world to be and will, in other words, for “I” to be and will, it is up to me and the choices I make, which is precisely that same denial of the world as status quo.

This internal contradiction between the subject and object seems incomprehensible.
On the one hand, it appears that I was simply born into the already existing world,
in which there are roads and cars, and televisions that broadcast flying spacecrafts,
all of which seemingly has nothing to do with my will.
On the other hand, it appears that the world, from mountains and trees which traveled the world to become the very floor on which I lie and the walls on which hang the plants I brought there, to the electrons mimicking my own image and reflecting back at me, the world couldn’t have simply been left alone.
It must have been denied of its fixed state of existence in order to transform and shape the world around me.
And perhaps any effort spent in transforming the world, in other words, making materials around us more familiar to us, in other words, active imagining, imagining by doing, and doing by imagining, is what labour means, and that we find reflection and fulfillment of ourselves and the world, in the fruits of our own labour.

Obviously there is no one straightforward answer to all the complexities in our world.
But the least I can say at the moment is this:
history is a man-made idea, as it requires our imagination. Memory is also an act of imagination.
As we’ve seen from Kerem’s presentation, we can observe from the evolutionary process, there must have been a necessity and reason for humans to have given birth to history.
There is a sense in me growing stronger that the more I understand historical contexts to various parts of the world and imagine what drove those people in the past, what values they lived by, and what they feared and loved,
our strange world in its appearance still remains strange, but perhaps less foreign.
I become aware of both my own sense in the world, and the sense of the world in me.
And with this historical sense, I start asking critical questions to myself and imagine different possibilities invoked by those questions.

And under this broadest and the most profound context I would like to present this project, that my partner and I named Talk and Progress.
In 2019, we came across this article named “Fully Automated Postcapitalist Visions” published in a quarterly magazine, called “Arts of the Working Class.”
And we decided to make an event to discuss this article.
We were able to borrow a co-working space of a design collective, named The Boys Club, which is actually an all-female design collective contrary to its name.
And 8 people in total gathered in our first event.
After our first event, we had two more events with one-month-gap in between.
For each event, we recorded and transcribed the discussions so we could use what was discussed as the topic for the next discussion.

Many things were discussed, excited, jived and agitated.
Possibilities of open-source, data, social credit, possession, local governance, direct democracy, synthesis of work-play, dirty jobs, copyright, where does originality begin and end, DIY, micro-economy, gift-economy, image consumption, modern-day illusions and myths, role of abstract language such as metaphor and allegory, history vs facts, and dozens more.
After the third and last discussion we invited all the participants to work with us in making a group project, based on the topics that stood out the most from all the discussions.
And one consistent topic that everyone showed interest in was Universal Basic Income.

Even when it’s not Corona time, it’s difficult enough to get people to come to your event.
So when you ask them to volunteer to work on something,
out of bare minimum respect, many people would maybe get confused.
Despite the confusion, we pursued our social experiment.
Eventually, 5 people in total participated in this group project.
Through several meetings, we brainstormed ideas and divided tasks.
We thought to ourselves that what we make, should naturally relate to things we are already interested in.
Eventually, we came up with the idea to make this website, asking one question to the public, what they would do with absolute free time.

And as I wrap up this presentation, I would like to entertain some food for thought.
Exactly when does our given historical condition become ripe? Ripe for what?
We seem to have many global crisis, from the most immediate one like Corona,
which is in itself a complex one tied to the environmental crisis and the way we do factory farming,
and then there are countless other issues like housing, employment, distribution of resources, which is all very overwhelming.
However, in the midst of all these heavy questions, there are some hopeful thoughts like Universal Basic Income and Automation, perhaps to set the conditions for the next stage of history.
But then, it makes me question, what if Universal Basic Income becomes an excuse for politicians to demise existing social welfare systems?
Is a social welfare state our society of dream?
And just how much automation is exactly sufficient to bring change, when considering automation is simply accumulation of all previous technologies,
just as steam engine, rail road, and light bulb were all accumulation of their previous technologies, also with the potential to provide more available time for people.
But has that liberated people?
Do we develop new needs together with new technologies?
Doesn’t technology just as much have the potential to liberate, as it has the potential to oppress, depending on how it’s used?
Under these questions then, what does liberation really look like?
Well, on one seemingly optimistic note, what we can observe is that at least some parts of the world that we call modern today have won certain human rights that we cherish.
And since the crisis we have is a global one, does that mean we need to wait until the modernization takes place in the majority of the world for their material conditions to be met?
These are all open questions.
But one thing seems certain to me. No human rights were given by nature, but created and won by humans.
That tells me that active human agency is decisively what makes progress in history.

And for the remaining time, I would like to dance.

empty Couéism

Instead of criticising productively, he simply repudiates; he considers himself as a “materialist” when he throws out as “idealistic” such facts as “instinct,” “need” or “psychological process.” In doing so, he gets himself into the greatest difficulties and achieves only failure, for his political practice forces him constantly to use practical psychology; he cannot avoid talking about “human needs,” “revolutionary consciousness,” the “will to strike,” etc. The more he repudiates psychology, the more he himself practises metaphysical psychologism and worse, empty Coueism: he will explain a historical situation by a “Hitler psychosis” or will tell the masses they should trust in him, that things are going ahead in spite of everything, that the revolution cannot be beaten, etc. Finally he becomes a dispenser of illusory encouragement without even saying anything factual about existing conditions and without comprehending what has happened. He will never understand such facts as that political reaction does not know a hopeless situation or that an economic crisis may lead to barbarism as well as to social freedom. Instead of deriving theory and action from social reality, he changes reality, in his phantasy, to conform with his wishes.

Wilhelm Reich, Ideology as Material Power