Thursday, August 14, 2014

Usurpation of the Whole World

So last time we left off with Roxie and Pascal. And what the heck do they have to do with one another?

As Pascal states in his Pensees:

"Mine, thine. – 'This dog is mine,' said those poor children; 'that is my place in the sun.' Here is the beginning and the image of the usurpation of all the earth."

There are two ways that I think about this quotation, specifically where it refers to 'usurpation'. The first I'll call material. The second I'll call personal.

Material Usurpation

This is probably the more obvious of the two. It has to do with the usurpation of material and monetary wealth. In reference to the Chicago song, Roxie talks about how she'll be raking in the chips. She also talks about how she'll wear "a lavalier that goes all the way down to my waist" -- in reference to a particular style of necklace.

Yeah -- that's it!
Wherever I hear that particular line in the song, I always think about a diamond necklace. Don't know why -- have just always pictured it that way.

And whenever I think of diamonds, I inevitably think of how things particular items that I meant to think of as precious, shiny, covetable -- only ever conjure up images of the horrible ways they come to this particular continent. Conflict, exploitation. In a way, there is a certain amount of usurpation of human dignity, human health, human safety that occurs so that other humans, often halfway around the world, can adorn themselves.

And in terms of Pascal's quotation, material usurpation can also occur at a basic level. My place in the sun -- "This piece of earth is mine" implies a possession of land by one person so that someone else cannot possess it. So that no one else cannot possess it.

Two objections

Yes, there can be objections. First off, "Well everyone needs a place to have shelter, right?" No doubt. It's a basic requirements of human life. But that doesn't really negate the fact that it's the beginning of a slippery slope. How much is enough? It's a question that will require its own post to explore.

Second, "But I read the Secret and she said there's enough for everyone!" Ah, yes -- popularized quasi-theory predicted on the premise that human greed can get you anywhere. Or anything! Yeah, I think Roxie would be on board with that. Unfortunately, I want to talk about pretty much the complete opposite here.

Personal Usurpation

Anyways, plodding on. Personal Usurpation is more about the celebrity bit of the song, and it's more what I'm interested in -- since I think it leads to material usurpation. You that feeling you get when you're at some sort of big social gathering -- a cocktail party, a house party, a conference, a family reunion (hey I have a big family okay?) -- any situation where there is a bunch of people in a large room, all having conversations in groups or pairs, all adding up to a substantial amount of human hub bub?

And then all of a sudden there's one voice that carries above the crowd: a cackling laugh or someone just shouting -- but not angrily. And all of a sudden a hush falls and most people turn and look for/at the source of the sound, and you sort of realize that the owner of that voice wanted that to happen all along, so if only for a brief space of time they could be the center of attention?

Or have you ever been in a group of people having a conversation, and there's just one participant who just won't stopping talking about themselves long enough to let anyone else cut in?

Yeah. Me too. That's what I call "taking up too much room".

It's not that the person is necessarily a big person, actually taking up too much physical room. It's more than no one else around them are free to share of themselves -- everyone else's opinions and experiences and personalities are silenced in the onslaught of this person's trivial BS. It's a different kind of usurpation. Celebrities certainly take up too much room. Perhaps not of the share of the talk in a personal conversation, but too much of the room in our entertainment, on our radios and TVs and internets, and thus in our minds, so that other forms of entertainment are effectively minimized or eradicated.

So a desire to become a celebrity (or in my case, a misguided desire to become a celebrity author) is a desire to usurp the author space.

So what's the upshot of all this? The word usurpation has a negative connotation, so why is it bad to want things in life, even if they are things like unimaginable wealth and celebrity? Well, you know what comes next -- that is another chunk of theorizing for another blog post. See you next Philosophy Thursday! :P