Paul Ryan’s speech Wednesday night may have accomplished one good thing:
It finally may have dispelled the myth that he is a Serious, Honest
Conservative. Indeed, Mr. Ryan’s brazen dishonesty left even his critics
Some of his fibs were trivial but telling, like his suggestion that
President Obama is responsible for a closed auto plant in his hometown,
even though the plant closed before Mr. Obama took office. Others were
infuriating, like his sanctimonious declaration that “the truest measure
of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for
themselves.” This from a man proposing savage cuts in Medicaid, which
would cause tens of millions of vulnerable Americans to lose health
And Mr. Ryan — who has proposed $4.3 trillion in tax cuts over the
next decade, versus only about $1.7 trillion in specific spending cuts —
is still posing as a deficit hawk.
But Mr. Ryan’s big lie — and, yes, it deserves that designation — was
his claim that “a Romney-Ryan administration will protect and
strengthen Medicare.” Actually, it would kill the program.
Before I get there, let me just mention that Mr. Ryan has now gone
all-in on the party line that the president’s plan to trim Medicare
expenses by around $700 billion over the next decade — savings achieved
by paying less to insurance companies and hospitals, not by reducing
benefits — is a terrible, terrible thing. Yet, just a few days ago, Mr.
Ryan was still touting his own budget plan, which included those very
But back to the big lie. The Republican Party is now firmly committed
to replacing Medicare with what we might call Vouchercare. The
government would no longer pay your major medical bills; instead, it
would give you a voucher that could be applied to the purchase of
private insurance. And, if the voucher proved insufficient to buy decent
coverage, hey, that would be your problem.
Moreover, the vouchers almost certainly would be inadequate; their
value would be set by a formula taking no account of likely increases in
health care costs.
Why would anyone think that this was a good idea? The G.O.P. platform
says that it “will empower millions of seniors to control their
personal health care decisions.” Indeed. Because those of us too young
for Medicare just feel so personally empowered, you know, when dealing
with insurance companies.
“Thinking in pictures,” Sigmund Freud once wrote, “stands nearer to
unconscious processes than does thinking in words, and is unquestionably
older than the latter both ontogenetically and phylogenetically.” There
is, in other words, something primordial, something foundational, about
Such a view is anathema to many philoso- phers, a good many of whom
believe that all thought is propositional, that to think is to use
words. For some of the most distinguished philosophers in history,
thinking and verbalis- ing were practically the same thing. Bertrand
Russell sometimes to his great frustration, was hopeless at visualising
and was more or less indifferent to the visual arts. His mental life
seemed almost entirely made up of words rather than images. When his
friend Rupert Crawshay-Williams once gave him an intelligence test that
involved matching increasingly complicated geometrical shapes, Russell
did extremely well up to a certain point and then exceptionally badly
after that. “What happened?” Crawshay-Williams asked. “I hadn’t got any
names for the shapes,” Russell replied.
In this, as in many other respects, Ludwig Wittgenstein was Russell’s
opposite. For Wittgenstein, to think, to understand, was first and
foremost to picture. In conversation with his friends, he several times
referred to himself as a “disciple” or “follower” of Freud and many
people since have been extremely puzzled what he might have meant by
this. I think Freud’s remark quoted above might provide the key here,
that it might have something to do with the emphasis one finds in Freud
on the primordiality of “thinking in pictures”.
Like Freud, Wittgenstein took very seriously indeed the idea that our
dreams present us with a series of images, the interpretation of which
would reveal the thoughts we have relegated to the unconscious parts of
our minds. “If Freud’s theory on the interpretation of dreams has
anything in it,” Wittgenstein once wrote, “it shows how complicated is
the way the human mind represents the facts in pictures. So complicated,
so irregular is the way they are represented that we can barely call it
representation any longer.”
It was fundamental to Wittgenstein’s think- ing – both in his early work Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and in his later work Philosophical Investigations – that not everything we can see and therefore not everything we can mentally grasp can be put into words. In the Tractatus,
this appears as the distinction between what can be said and what has
to be shown. “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent,”
runs the famed last sentence of the book but, as Wittgenstein made clear
in private conversation and correspondence, he believed those things
about which we have to be silent to be the most important. (Compare this
with the logical positivist Otto Neurath, who, echoing Wittgenstein,
declared: “We must indeed be silent – but not about anything.”)
To grasp these important things, we need not to reason verbally, but
rather to look more attentively at what lies before us. “Don’t think,
look!” Wittgenstein urges in Philosophical Investigations.
Philosophical confusion, he maintained, had its roots not in the
relatively superficial thinking expressed by words but in that deeper
territory studied by Freud, the pictorial thinking that lies in our
unconscious and is expressed only involuntarily in, for example, our
dreams, our doodles and in our “Freudian slips”. “A picture held us
captive,” Wittgenstein says in the Investigations, and it is,
he thinks, his job as a philosopher not to argue for or against the
￼￼truth of this or that proposition but rather to delve deeper and
substitute one picture for another. In other words, he conceived it as
his task to make us, or at least to enable us, to see things
The importance Wittgenstein attached to seeing was vividly portrayed –
in an appropriately visual form – in the “Wittgenstein: Philosophy and
Photography” exhibition at the London School of Economics earlier this
summer and, before that, at the University of Cambridge. The exhibition
brought together a range of fascinating photographs that included studio
portraits of the Wittgenstein family (he had four brothers and three
sisters) in their palatial homes in Vienna; pictures of Wittgenstein
himself as, in turn, a baby, a navy-suited young boy, a student, a
soldier and finally a professor; photographs of the modernist house he
designed in Vienna for his sister Gretl; holiday snapshots that
Wittgenstein took on a cheap camera he had bought in Woolworths; pages
from his photo album containing tiny pictures of his friends and family
members; and a series of (frankly rather weird) photographs that
Wittgenstein took in a photo booth in which he changed his expression
and the direction of his eyes after each shot so that the series might
be put together in a flip-book that forms the nearest thing we have to
moving images of the great philosopher.
Frank Horvat : You ask if I have made
good use of my vision. I believe I have used it too little. Photographers
like Henri (Cartier-Bresson) always have a camera with them and are looking
all the time. I don't know how to do that. Right now, for example, I am
not looking, my mind is occupied by words.
Joseph Koudelka : What do you mean by
"I am not looking"?
Frank Horvat : I am not looking with the
idea to make a photograph.
Joseph Koudelka : How are you looking?
Frank Horvat : I am seeing only a few
of things around me. Only those that I want to see.
Joseph Koudelka : But to see what you
want to see, you have to look. And to choose..
Frank Horvat : It seems to me that, to
see "photographically", I have to prepare myself in advance.
Possibly for a long time. For instance it would be difficult for me, on
my way out from here, to make photos of Paris. To see, I would have to
go to another city, say to New York, live in a hotel room by myself and
start walking through the streets, at first without a camera. And little
by little I would begin to see. In the same way, I wouldn't know how to
make a portrait of a woman, just off the hip. I would have to think about
her, to imagine her. She would have to prepare herself or to be prepared
with someone's help. And even then, when I would eventually be facing
her, with my camera, I might not feel ready. It could take me two or three
hours to understand her, little by little, through the viewfinder.
Joseph Koudelka : Perhaps because you
want to understand. Me, I do not try to understand. For me, the
most beautiful thing is to wake up, to go out, and to look. At everything.
Without anyone telling me "You should look at this or that."
I look at everything and I try to find what interests me, because when
I set out, I don't yet know what will interest me. Sometimes I photograph
things that others would find stupid, but with which I can play around.
Henri as well says that before meeting a person, or seeing a country,
he has to prepare himself. Not me, I try to react to what comes up. Afterwards,
I may come back to it, perhaps every year, ten years in a row, and I will
end by understanding.
Frank Horvat : You prepare yourself in
your way. I imagine that when you find a subject that interests you, your
photo is, in a way, already prepared within you. As if you had set up
a place into which it fits.
Joseph Koudelka : What's "my photo"?
Frank Horvat : Your photos often
are recognizable, which is to say that they have something in common.
Maybe the space between the figures, and the tensions within that space.
Joseph Koudelka : That is the gist of
my question. Your time, not only your eyes.
Frank Horvat : Look, I met you in person
only about an hour ago, though I am familiar with your photos and I remember
a few things that I have been told about you. If I had to express the
idea that I have of you, in a single sentence, I would say "He lives
out of a sleeping bag." That would sum up your way of using your
time, which is different from mine, and probably more efficient. It's
not that I am dissatisfied with my own life. But I know that too often
I have done things that didn't really interest me, or that distracted
me from what I thought was my real purpose, because I forced myself to
respond to the ideas or the desires of others. I believe that if I was
allowed to move back and to relive some hours of my life, the moments
I would choose would be those when I was photographing for myself, in
the streets of New York or in India. Or even some moments in the studio,
when making portraits.
Joseph Koudelka : Personally, I have had
the good fortune of always being able to do what I wanted, never working
for others. Maybe it is a silly principle, but the idea that no one can
buy me is important for me. I refuse assignments, even for projects that
I have decided to do anyhow. It is somewhat the same with my books. When
my first book, the one on the gypsies, was published, it was hard for
me to accept the idea that I could no longer choose the people to whom
I would show my photos, that any one could buy them.
Frank Horvat : What are your points of
reference - I mean in literature, in painting, in music?
Joseph Koudelka : There are a few things
that I like very much, but that I do not practice. I have always played
music, and I would like to listen to it more than I do, but I don't have
the opportunity, due to the lack of time and place. When I was a kid,
I did a lot of reading, then a little less during my studies, and hardly
any since I left Czechoslovakia - always for the same reason, because
I do not have a place of my own. When I travel, I don't even know where
I am going to sleep, I don't think of the place where I will lie down
until the moment I roll out my sleeping bag. It's a rule that I've set
for myself. Because I told myself that I must be able to sleep anywhere,
since sleep is important. In the summer I often sleep outdoors. I stop
working when there is no more light, and I start again in the early morning.
I do not feel this to be a sacrifice, it would be a sacrifice to live
otherwise. As for my points of reference, I don't know what they would
“The killing of an American peace activist is unacceptable,” said
former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. “The court’s decision confirms a
climate of impunity, which facilitates Israeli human rights violations
against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territory.”
Approximately 94 percent of Israeli military investigations of
soldiers suspected of violent criminal activity against Palestinians and
their property end without indictments, according to the Israeli human
rights organization Yesh Din. 91 percent of investigations into crimes
committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the Occupied
Territory also end without indictment. In this case, the district court
judge ruled that the drivers of the bulldozer could not see her, despite
eyewitness testimony to the contrary.
In response to the verdict, Rachel Corrie’s parents Cindy and Craig
stated “We are deeply saddened and troubled by what we heard today in
the court of Judge Oded Gershon. This was a bad day, not only for us,
but for human rights, for humanity, the rule of law, and the country of
Israel…Rachel was a human being who deserved accountability, and we as
her family deserve that too.”
In contrast, the family of James Miller, an Emmy Award-winning
British filmmaker killed by Israeli forces in Rafah two months after
Corrie’s death, ultimately received over $2 million in damages from the
Israeli government. The government of the United Kingdom had threatened
to seek the extradition of the Israeli soldiers in question.
“I hope that the U.S. government will use all reasonable means to
ensure that the rights of American citizens are protected overseas and
that justice is done for the Corrie family,” said former President
The message from the Rachel Corrie verdict is clear: Israel doesn't
want people of conscience at a time when it is doing mischief. They are
risking their lives.
The spring of 2003 was an atrocious spring. An intifada was raging
in the streets of Israel; explosives were going off next to the
Gaza-Egyptian border, along the Philadelphi Route, and in Rafah,
bulldozers mowed down hundreds of Palestinian homes, many of them
belonging to innocent people. A few months earlier, a young American
woman had arrived in Rafah from Olympia, Washington.
Rachel Corrie had met a youth of Palestinian origin at her school and
through him was exposed to the suffering of his people. At the age of
23, she decided to take some action. She joined the International
Solidarity Movement and left for Gaza. During her first few weeks she
witnessed the acts of the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza, reported them
to her family and friends, and decided to act as a human shield.
At that same time, two British citizens also arrived in Gaza - Tom
Hurndall, another peace activist, and James Miller, an award-winning
documentary filmmaker who came to make a film about what was happening
in Gaza. He called it "Death in Gaza." Within a number of weeks, all
three of them had been killed by the IDF.
Corrie was run over trying to save a house, with her own body, while a
bulldozer tried to "expose" it. Miller was killed by a sniper when he
came out of a house holding a white flag. After the first shot hit him,
he still managed to shout out to the soldiers, "We are British
journalists" - as can clearly be heard in the video filmed there in the
dark; and then, in response, a second sniper shot was fired and killed
him. Hurndall was killed while trying to serve as a human shield for a
group of children that had entered an area where there was shoting. A
British jury established that Miller had been murdered intentionally,
but only the soldier who killed Hurndall was tried and sentenced to
eight years' imprisonment, then released after six years. No one was
tried for the killings of Corrie and Miller.
These three international activists were courageous people of
conscience which any moral society would be proud of - shining examples
of young people who are involved and care. While their friends spent
their time at parties and doing nothing especially important, they came
to the site of a humanitarian disaster. They did not endanger the
soldiers of the IDF in any way but the army didn't want them there. They
got in the way of the army, in their attempt to prevent war crimes with
their own bodies and to document them with their cameras. For those
very same reasons that the IDF did not want them there, they had to be
Two days ago, a Haifa court ruled that Corrie was responsible for her
own death. That was a sad day for justice and for international law, and
as her parents said; it should also be a sad day for Israel. It is the
IDF's duty, we must recall, among other things, to defend civilians in
an occupied area. Even if the driver of the bulldozer and the soldier
sitting next to him did not see Corrie, and did not deliberately run
over her, as the court found, the IDF did not do enough to prevent her
The spirit of the commander that could be sensed then (and now )
indicated that those volunteers must be chased away from the area. This
ill wind also blew this week during the court ruling; its chill made its
way to the solidarity movement and in this way indirectly sanctioned
Corrie has become an international icon. It's a shame there aren't more
Israeli youngsters like her. Her organization is not pro-Israel - far
from that - its members are often dogmatic but that is their
prerogative. The least that can be expected from Israel after she was
killed, intentionally or by accident, was to bring those involved to
trial, at least for negligence, to apologize and to pay compensation. In
the case of Miller, perhaps the most obvious case of intentional
killing, Israel paid a huge sum in compensation but, as was said, no one
was brought to trial.
This week, the judge in Haifa added his verdict to a long and
embarrassing list of court rulings aimed at sanctioning almost every
kind of improper act committed by the IDF. The message is clear: Israel
doesn't want people of conscience at a time when it is doing mischief.
They are risking their lives.
And the message to the soldiers is: It is permitted to kill them;
nothing bad will happen to you. When the IDF acts in this way, it is
perhaps possible to understand it, but when the judicial system
sanctions this, it is depravity. Behold, Rachel, behold - your death was
not in vain. It at least revealed , once again, that the Israeli
judicial system is a partner to the foul deeds.
What is the first photo you remember taking, or one that has left an everlasting impression from your childhood?
My Dad found what he thinks is the first photo I took (of my Mum and
Dad) but it’s definitely nothing special (very dark and blurry!). We
have really lovely family photographs so they’ve definitely left a
lasting impression on me. They’re my favourite photographs, some of them
are so beautiful.
What photograph or image is on your desktop background at the moment?
It’s a photograph taken by a stylist on a shoot I did for a designer called Kharise Francis.
Every time me and Kharise do a shoot together we like to take a
photograph of the team after we’ve finished. We joke about how when we
make it big we can do a book with all of them in it. (See below)
As an artist, why have you chosen photography as your primary
means of expression? What are the things you particularly like about
photography as a medium?
One thing I love about it is that there’s so many elements and
processes to taking a photograph and that the photographer has a choice
of which processes they include and which they don’t. It’s incredibly
versatile and I find other media limit me. As a person I find I can get
bored of things easily but I’ve still got so much I want to do with
photography that I can’t ever imagine getting bored of it.
Your works are visually abstract, multifaceted and layered with
other media. What inspired this style and what do you enjoy about it?
Layering images is something that became part of my style without me
even realising it. Abstracting images and merging them together is a way
of seeing how far I can push an image. Instead of taking a large amount
of photographs I prefer taking a smaller amount and trying to get as
much out of them as possible. I’ll crop them, abstract them, take
elements from a background and make that into an image or print the
photographs off and manipulate them by hand.
The solarisation and double exposure comes into effect across
your work, does your practice stem from traditional dark room
photography processes or is it digitally manipulated and produced?
I wish I could say it was from the traditional dark room techniques
as I think that’s a far better way to learn photography as a beginner,
but most of my work is digital. When I first began taking photographs
seriously I was so against using Photoshop but now it’s something I
really enjoy using. I’m hoping to start a photography degree in October
where working with film is something I really want to perfect.
What kind of camera(s) do you work with at present?
Shoji was born in 1913 in Tottori, Japan. In 1925 Shoji entered the Yonago prefectural junior high school, at the age of seventeen Ueda received a camera from his father and soon became very involved in photography. Two years later Shoji Ueda moved to Tokyo for studiing at the Oriental School of Photography. At the age of nineteen he moved back to Sakai/Tottori and opend his own photo studio. In the same year Ueda formed the photographic group “Chūgoku Shashinka Shūdan” with his friends Ryōsuke Ishizu,Kunio Masaoka and Akira Nomura.
In 1941 Shoji gave up photography for not becoming a military
photographer but returned after the end of WW2. Most of the work for
which the artist is known is a serial of photos Ueda mugged during his 350km trip from Igumi to Hagi. Shoji Ueda died of a heart attack on July 4th, 2000.
His way of taking photos is really fascinating for me. Although Ueda and René Magritte perhaps didn´t know each other, Ueda‘s photos remind me of some of Magritte‘s paintings. Additional to that, Shoji Ueda`s nude serials seems to be an add-on to Man Ray´s nude pictures. Shoji Ueda‘s
work seems to be the continuation of the european surrealism.
Interesting for me as a european is to have a look at and perhaps learn
something about the japanese culture at the same time while perceiving
Also when his work seems to be unspectacular and very easy to copy, I
think this easiness of capturing his view of life gives his work an