WTP – Ivan Illich Transcript van Illich with Jerry Browe We the People, KPFA – March 22, 1996
“Brown: This hour we have a very special privilege and opportunity. We have here in the studio in Los Angeles Ivan Illich and Carl Mitchum, two friends of mine who I hope you’ll enjoy our conversation. Listen in. You’ll find it instructive. Ivan Illich is the author of a book, very famous in the 1970s, called Deschooling Society, another book called Medical Nemesis. He’s also the author of Celebration of Awareness, Tools for Conviviality, Gender, and now his most recent book called In the Vineyard of the Text, a commentary on a 12th century scholar and saint, Hugh of St. Victor. Along with us here in the studio is Carl Mitchum, a professor of humanities, presently Visiting Scholar at the Colorado School of Mines and on a more permanent basis a professor at Penn State where Ivan Illich and his friends and fellow scholars meet every year for a few months to study these ideas that over the next hour we’re going to do our best to elucidate and share. Ivan, why don’t we just start with the book that I first encountered when I became aware of you, and that is the book Deschooling. Can you reflect on what you were thinking about when you wrote it and how you might see that reality today because we’re still struggling with schools in this society. There’s still a dependency on professionals that seems to have control of how we learn or don’t learn and I just have to wonder have we made any progress in creating the context where people get the sense that they are in charge of their own learning?”
Interesting discussion. Does the world a context sensitive help? Not in schools which subvert that. Xenos – Zeus and hospitality? Acedia the inactivity which results from seeing how enormously difficult it is to do the right thing – is it a sin?
There is also insight into the interface – the pupil of the eye which takes in with its psychopods the other person. But they do not really grasp the potential of the medium for – conviviality and friendship.
Later Saturday, 7 May, 2011
I don’t understand a word of my own comments either.
The link above does not work, but I’ve put the whole item below. Found here:
Ivan Illich with Jerry Brown
Brown: This hour we have a very special privilege and opportunity. We have here in the studio in Los Angeles Ivan Illich and Carl Mitchum, two friends of mine who I hope you’ll enjoy our conversation. Listen in. You’ll find it instructive. Ivan Illich is the author of a book, very famous in the 1970s, called Deschooling Society, another book called Medical Nemesis. He’s also the author of Celebration of Awareness, Tools for Conviviality, Gender, and now his most recent book called In the Vineyard of the Text, a commentary on a 12th century scholar and saint, Hugh of St. Victor. Along with us here in the studio is Carl Mitchum, a professor of humanities, presently Visiting Scholar at the Colorado School of Mines and on a more permanent basis a professor at Penn State where Ivan Illich and his friends and fellow scholars meet every year for a few months to study these ideas that over the next hour we’re going to do our best to elucidate and share. Ivan, why don’t we just start with the book that I first encountered when I became aware of you, and that is the book Deschooling. Can you reflect on what you were thinking about when you wrote it and how you might see that reality today because we’re still struggling with schools in this society. There’s still a dependency on professionals that seems to have control of how we learn or don’t learn and I just have to wonder have we made any progress in creating the context where people get the sense that they are in charge of their own learning?
Illich: During the later 60s I had a chance in a year and a half to give a dozen different addresses to people who were concerned with education and schooling at which I had looked as a historian. I asked myself, since when are people born needy? In need for instance of education. Since when do we have to learn the language we speak by being taught by somebody. I stood in front of a group and asked, who of you remembers from whom your child has learned walking? Among a hundred people certainly thirty would raise their hands and I would say, I guarantee you are all graduates of education schools. I wanted to find out where the idea came from that all over the world people have to be assembled in specific groups of not less than fifteen, otherwise it’s not a class, not more than forty, otherwise they are underprivileged, for yearly, not less than 800 hours, otherwise they don’t get enough, not more than a 1,100 hours, otherwise it’s considered a prison, for four year periods by somebody else who has undergone this for a longer time. How did it come about that such a crazy process like schooling would become necessary? Then I realized that it was something like engineering people, that our society doesn’t only produce artifact things but artifact people. And that it doesn’t do that by the content of the curriculum, by what we are taught, but by getting them through this ritual which makes them believe that learning happens as a result of being taught. That learning can be divided into separate tasks. That learning can be measured and pieces can be added one to the other. That learning provides value for the objects which then sell in the market. And it’s true. The more expensive the schooling of a person the more money he will make in the course of his life. This in spite of the certainty from a social science point of view that there’s absolutely no relationship between the curriculum content and what people actually do satisfactory for themselves or society in life. That we know since that beautiful book by Ivar Birg [?], The Great Training Robbery. In the meantime there are least thirty or forty other studies, all of which show the same thing. The curricular content has absolutely no effect on how people perform. The latent functions of schooling, that is the hidden curriculum, which forms individuals into needy people who know that they have now satisfied a little bit of their needs for education is much more important. So that was the reason why I went into it.
Brown: So Deschooling was based on the insight that the school industry teaches people, not teaches them but manipulates them, into thinking that they have certain needs that the school itself alone can satisfy?
Illich: That they have needs. Not all people whom I knew as a young man had needs. We were hungry but we couldn’t translate the hunger into a need for food stuff. They were hungry for a tortilla, for comida, not calories. The idea that people are born with needs, that needs can be translated into rights, that these rights can be translated into entitlements, is a development of the modern world and it’s reasonable, it’s acceptable, it’s obvious only for people who have had some of their educational needs awakened or created, then satisfied and then learned that we have less than others. Schooling, which we engage in and supposedly creates equal opportunities, has become the unique, never before attempted way of dividing the whole society into classes. Everybody knows in which level of his twelve or sixteen years of schooling he has dropped out, and in addition knows what price tag is attached to the higher schooling he has gotten.
Brown: So you get a precise definition of where you are in the social hierarchy by how much schooling your had or how much schooling you don’t have, so you didn’t know you needed fourteen years and a postgraduate degree or to get out of high school depending upon where you lived.
Illich: It’s a history of degrading the majority of people.
Brown: So you take somebody who’s poor and you modernize the poverty by not only having a person that doesn’t have a lot of material goods but now lacks the mental self-confidence that his father or grandfather had before that.
Illich: And I can create a world for him in which he needs constantly something which–at that time I searched for a word I didn’t findd, context sensitive help. You know, when you are in front of a computer and when you are in that program and put in Word Perfect it tells you what help you need at that point at which you are. This is instructions for use. This is incorporation of teaching into the object with which you encounter at its high point. We have created a world in which people constantly are grateful if they are taken by the hand to know how to use a knife or to use the coffee maker or how to go on from here in text composing.
Brown: So basically what you have is we’re getting a world that more and more makes people dependent and the dependency isn’t on nature or on their friends but on those who run the institution, whether it’s a school or a …
Illich: I don’t want to go that far in my paranoia. To say the ones who run the institution, that is exactly what Mitchum there intensely explored over the years. It is that increasingly people live in an artifact and become artifacts themselves, feel satisfied, feel fit for that artifact insofar as they themselves have been manipulated. That is the reason why the two of us in several dozen of our closer flings [?], our invisible table–I don’t like college–concern themselves with the things in the world as it is today as determinants of the possibility of friendship, of being really face to face to each other. Usually the people who do the philosophy of things, of artifacts, of technology, are concerned about what technology does to society for instance. Inevitably modern technology has polarized society. It has polluted the environment. It has disabled very simple native abilities and made them dependent on objects.
Brown: Like an automobile.
Illich: An automobile which cuts out the use value from your feet. Like an automobile which makes the world inaccessible when actually that means in Latin using your feet to get somewhere. The automobile makes it unthinkable. I recently had the question, “You’re a liar!” when I said to somebody I walked down the spine of the Andes. Every Spaniard in the 16th, 17th century did that. The idea that somebody could just walk! He can jog perhaps in the morning but he can’t walk anywhere! The world has become inaccessible because we drive there.
Brown: So the objects, like a car or even like a school, change who we are.
Illich: Who you are and even more deeply they change the way your senses work. Traditionally the gaze was conceived as a way of fingering, of touching. The old Greeks spoke about looking as a way of sending out my psychopodia [?], my soul’s limbs, to touch your face and establish a relationship between the two of us which is this relationship, and this relationship was called vision. Then, after Galileo at the time of Kepler, the idea developed that the eyes are receptors into which light brings something from the outside, keeping you separate from me even when I look at you. Even if I gaze at you. Even if I enjoy your face. People began to conceive of their eyes as some kind of camera obscura. In our age people conceive of their eyes and actually use them as if they were part of a machinery. They speak about interface. Anybody who says to me, I want to have an interface with you, I say please go somewhere else, to a toilet or wherever you want, to a mirror. Anybody who says, I want to communicate with you, I say can’t you talk? Can’t you speak? Can’t you recognize that there’s a deep otherness between me and you, so deep that it would be offensive for me to be programmed in the same way you are.
Brown: Carl, were you going to jump in here?
Mitchum: I think that when Ivan talks about the importance of artifacts, or objects, and how they influence the way we experience ourselves and relate to others that’s the thing in Ivan’s work that has been continually most challenging to me because as I’ve tried to reflect and think about the world in which I live, a world in which a hundred years ago, even fifty years ago, when I was growing up there was a predominance of natural objects around. Rocks, trees, animals, chickens. Even in the city there was a predominance of natural vegetation and that’s all changed. We live in a world in which the artifice of our environment overwhelms the natural foundation or context of the past. As Ivan has pointed out, that artifice is undergoing a fundamental transformation in what he referred to as context sensitive help screens. We spend more time now in front of a screen of one kind or another than we used to spend face to face with other humans beings–either the screen of the television set, the screen of the computer, the screen of my little digital clock right here in front of me.
Brown: And then even the city that we see is some kind of a screen with the billboards, the buildings. It’s a mirror of the technological change and manipulation of nature. We’re seeing this–what is this thing that we’re seeing?
Mitchum: And we begin to experience the world, like when we’re driving in a car the windshield becomes a kind of screen. The world becomes flattened to that screen. What was the term that Barbara used, Ivan?
Illich: The windshield gaze, but I found at the Penn State Library a report on the Texas meeting of windshield technicians. Last year we had three volumes with some 870 contributions about how to engineer the windshield view which always makes you be where you’re not yet.
Brown: So you’re looking ahead.
Illich: You’re looking at what lies ahead, where we are not yet, which of course makes us with terrible feeling like when you are with somebody and he always wants to know where we will be next week, where we will be the next hour, instead of being right here. It makes facing each other increasingly more difficult because people can’t detach themselves anymore from the idea that what we look at has been manipulated and programmed by somebody.
Brown: But people have always been subject to domination in one form or another in society. Now this is a different form of this kind of control.
Mitchum: It’s not domination. It’s transformation.
Illich: Let’s stop for a moment and take that seriously because you give me some idea of who’s listening to us. Definitely what I ought to do was until quite recently in all cultures which we know of determined by the idea of hierarchy being natural, being a given. The human condition, which can be that of the tropics or that of cold climate, which can be that of a very highly sophisticated Greek politea [?], with slavery or God know what horrors, or which can be that of a monastery in the 12th century. Being something given in which I live, which I have to learn to suffer. People didn’t speak of a culture. The word didn’t exist. But they spoke about the style of the art of suffering which we have here and not somewhere else. Somewhere else knows how to suffer his human condition. All this has been blown away, but what was common to all these forms of suffering the human condition was some kind of hierarchy which led them to the idea. The two of us, we haven’t seen each other for a year now, and when we saw each other we bowed in front of each other and I had this clear feeling just as I was deeply impressed by some of the things which recently I have read of you. You also had a similar bow. This very idea of bowing. Don’t bow in front of a screen. It’s made impossible for people, or very difficult, who constantly see non-persons on the screen. I remember the day when that kid told me, “Yes, but I did see this evening Kennedy and then President Bush and then also E.T.” For goodness sake, I am not something like them. I am somebody who wants to respect you, who wants to look up to you. This has been deeply undermined. That’s the reason why I am saying that thing with the domination is important. Abuse of this leads to domination.
Mitchum: The abuse of the screen leads to domination?
Illich: Domination ought to be distinguished.
Brown: That was really hierarchy. I was speaking of more hierarchy. You think of the medieval period, the kings and the clerics and the peasants, and then we have this world of democracy where supposedly we’re all equal and yet it turns out quite different from that.
Illich: But domination, let’s say superiority, manipulation. With equality, dealing with the other, from above becomes manipulation.
Brown: So you’re saying in a context of equality if you bow to someone that’s already wrong.
Illich: It is already wrong and probably he will manipulate you. He will use devices and tools. He will manage you. There’s a tremendous difference between managing somebody under the assumptions of equality and being able to exploit, to command, to deny another persons under conditions of hierarchy. The very idea of power is something literate, like money or watts [?] which can be loaded anywhere, is a very modern idea. It makes you believe that women and men can fight for power. In traditional society where human was Adam and Eve, where their relationship was a proportion like in music. A quint [?]. You hear a quint. You don’t hear two sounds which combine to a quint.
Brown: What’s a quint? A note?
Illich: A note, yes.
Mitchum: Two notes that harmonize.
Brown: A chord.
Illich: If you take a chord, divide it two to three and then listen to it you get that which people all through history have enjoyed as beauty, as music. Until Bach. That’s the only thing which we can enjoy is music. And then from 1730 to 1890 modern music reflects a completely new view which you can make something they called music out of tempet [?] tones, that is tones which are artificially, using logarithms, defined in such a way that they are all slightly off proportion but provide the possibility of symphonic arrangements of international usage. I’m really addicted to precisely this horrible, impure noise which is modern music but I know that it is nothing to do with traditional Gregorian, with traditional Greek, with any kind of past music where people didn’t hear individual tones which together give a proper arrangement. But they only could hear the relationship between the two sides of a chord. The loss of the sense of proportionality, the loss of the sense that our friendship is not Jerry plus Ivan and some interaction between them as if they were two screens, two programs, two machines, but an irreality [?] which is beautiful in itself. That sense seems to me that which I would like to save. I can’t do that in politics. I can’t do that in public life. I can do that only cultivating, we get together around spaghetti and a glass of wine.
Brown: So now in your earlier period you were more engaged in thinking about and writing about things like medicine or the medical world or the schools or tools or energy or transportation and now what you’re just saying that you really have to focus on friendship, on people, around a table. Is there something that changed in you or something that changed in the world that brought you to that perspective?
Illich: I guess both. I am surrounded for the first time in my life with people above 25 who were born in the year, or shortly after the year, during which I had one experience of what they call medically in America depression of two weeks. I called it melancholia. I called it acedia.
Brown: Acedia being one of the seven deadly sins.
Illich: Which is the inactivity which results from a man seeing how enormously difficult it is for a man to do the right thing.
Brown: Also called sloth in some translations.
Illich: In good English. Sloth. I had a period of very black sloth and didn’t want to continue writing on that book Tools for Conviviality. I said to myself, you don’t have kids yourself. If you had kids now probably you wouldn’t do it because you couldn’t imagine your own kids. But you’ll go on and finish this. I understood what ashes [?] were, what it meant to have to move into a world of the technological shell of which we spoke before. And now these people are born in that age. I can speak differently to these people than I could speak to people of the sixties. In ’68 when I made people aware of the horrors implicitly inevitably affected by sickening medicine because it creates more sick people than it can help, stupefying education of which we just spoke, time-consuming acceleration of traffic so that the majority of people have to spend many more hours in traffic jams in order to make a few people like you and me and perhaps even Mitchum omnipresent, that was our main concern. Today my main concern is in which way, and these people understand it, technology has devastated the road from one to the other, to friendship, and yet therefore it is not our task to run out into the world to help others who are less privileged than we are. Some people must do this and I must collaborate with it. The real task is to remove from my own mind that screen. You and Mitchum spoke just a few minutes ago which makes your face inaccessible to me, which removes the thou which you are and from whose gaze, whose pupilla in the eye, I receive myself inaccessible to me.
Brown: Ivan just mentioned you had a focus on these larger societal issues and now you’re coming to focus in recent years on the more immediate friendship. I’m very struck by the fact that you’ve always when I’ve used the word communication and then you say computers communicate but people talk, people have a conversation. I think the same thing is also true of the word relationship. You can have a relationship among instruments or between instruments, but you can only have a friendship between two people or among human beings. I guess one of the obvious points about the modern sophisticated world would be the technological terms that invade our own understanding of ourselves and our immediate life. In this book that Ivan has written called In the Vineyard of the Text he called my attention to footnote 53 which is from the Latin. Who is the author?
Illich: This is Hugh of St. Victor who writes to a friend of his.
Brown: OK, this is Hugh of St. Victor, a man who lived in the 12th century, and here is what he says. He says, “Charity.” Now when he says charity does he mean love?
Brown: OK, so I’m going to use that. When he says love never ends. “To my dear brother Ronolfe from Hugh, a sinner. Love never ends. When I first heard this I knew it was true. But now, dearest brother, I have the personal experience of fully knowing that love never ends. For I was a foreigner. I met you in a strange land. But that land was not really strange for I found friends there.” And it goes on. You want me to go on some more?
Illich: It’s so beautiful.
Brown: “But the land was not really strange for I found friends there. I don’t know whether I first made friends or was made one, but I found love there and I loved it and I could not tire of it for it was sweet to me and I filled my heart with it and was sad that my heart could hold so little. I could not take in all that there was but I took in as much as I could. I filled up all the space I had but I could not fit in all I found so I accepted what I could and weighed down with this precious gift I didn’t feel any burden because my full heart sustained me. And now having made a long journey I find my heart still warmed and none of the gift has been lost for love never ends.”
Illich: Isn’t that a marvelous little letter?
Brown: It’s wonderful.
Illich: Today we would immediately say if a man writes to a man like that he must be a gay. Why not? But anyway if he writes to a woman they would say what a marvelous sexual relationship. But do I need these alienating concepts? I want to just go back to a great rabbinical and also as you see, monastic, Christian development beyond what the Greeks like Plato or Cicero already knew about friendship. That it is from your eye that I find myself. There’s a little thing there. They called it pupilla, puppet, which I can see in your eye. The black thing in your eye.
Brown: That’s the pupil.
Illich: Pupil, puppet, person, eye. It is not my mirror. Libby [?] spoke that way about it. It is you making me the gift of that which Ivan is for you. That’s the one who says “I” here. I’m purposely not saying, this is my person, this is my individuality, this is my ego. No. I’m saying this is the one who answers you here, whom you have given to him. This is how Hugh explains it here. This is how the rabbinical traditional explains it. That I cannot come to be fully human unless I have received myself as a gift and accepted myself as a gift of somebody who has, well today we say distorted me the way you distorted me by loving me. Now, friendship in the Greek tradition, in the Roman tradition, in the old tradition, was always viewed as the highest point which virtue can reach. Virtue meaning here the habitual facility of doing the good thing which is fostered by what the Greeks called politaea, political life, community life. I know it was a political life in which I wouldn’t have liked to participate, with the slaves around and with the women excluded, but I still have to go to Plato or to Cicero. They conceived of friendship as a flowering, a supreme flowering of the interaction which happens in a good political society. This is what makes long experience so painful with you that every time we are together you make me feel most uncomfortable about my not being like you. I know it’s not my vocation. It’s your vocation. Structuring community and society in a political way. But I do not believe that friendship today can flower out, can come out, of political life. I do believe that if there is something like a political life to be, to remain for us, in this world of technology, then it begins with friendship. Therefore my task is to cultivate disciplined, self-denying, careful, tasteful friendships. Mutual friendships always. I and you and I hope a third one, out of which perhaps community can grow. Because perhaps here we can find what the good is. To make it short, while once friendship in our western tradition was the supreme flower of politics I do think that if community life if it exists at all today it is in some way the consequence of friendship cultivated by each one who initiates it. This is of course a challenge to the idea of democracy which goes beyond anything which people usually talk about, saying each one of you is responsible for the friendships he can develop because society will be as good as the political result of these friendships will be.
Brown: So we start with a world where the good society creates the virtue and the virtue is the basis of friendship. Now it’s reversed. Now it seems we have to create the friendship and in the context of the friendship virtue is practiced and that might lead to a community which might lead to a society which might be a whole other kind of politics.
Mitchum: Let me venture a commentary on that because it seems to me…
Brown: Would you say we understood each other?
Illich: We understood each other.
Mitchum: In some sense that’s what you’re trying to do, Jerry, with We the People. As I visited your place in Oakland you’ve created a context in which what comes first is your friendship with other people and the friendship, the relations, between the people at that community. And out of that may grow some politics but what I experienced when I visited We the People in Oakland is primarily your hospitality and the hospitality of others there with you.
Illich: Here is the right word. Hospitality was a condition consequent on a good society in politics, politaea, and by now might be the starting point of politaea, of politics. But this is difficult because hospitality requires a threshold over which I can lead you and TV, internet, newspaper, the idea of communication, abolished the walls and therefore also the friendship, the possibility of leading somebody over the door. Hospitality requires a table around which you can sit and if people get tired they can sleep. You have to belong to a subculture to say, we have a few mattresses here. It’s still considered highly improper to conceive of this as the ideal moments in a day or a year. Hospitality is deeply threatened by the idea of personality, of scholastic status. I do think that if I had to choose one word to which hope can be tied it is hospitality. A practice of hospitality recovering threshold, table, patience, listening, and from there generating seedbeds for virtue and friendship on the one hand. On the other hand radiating out for possible community, for rebirth of community.
Brown: Let me ask you about the institutionalization of hospitality. I remember a phrase once, “hospitalization has replaced hospitality” and this business of institutionalizing values. I know you’ve written about the story of the Good Samaritan who is my neighbor and now we come up to this world of the needs, the rights, and the institution to take care of all that. Based on what we were just saying can you say a little bit about what institutionalization does, and in my mind I identify this with the image of progress, and then this reality that we’re discussing of friendship, of love, of basing anything we might want to call community on that very immediate unconstrained, uninstitutionalized way of being together.
Illich: All right. I’ll come to progress before I come to the last point at which we are now where progress is smiled about a little bit.
Illich: Let me being somewhere else. Hospitality, that is the readiness to accept somebody who is not from our hut, this side our threshold, this bed in here, seems to be among the characteristics which anthropologists can identify, one of the most universal if the not the most universal. But hospitality, I’m going again to the Greeks I know, Xenia [?], Xenos, is the word for hospitality also.
Brown: Xenos, the word for stranger, hospitality.
Illich: Xenos was Zeus insofar as he is the god of hospitality.
Brown: And also the same root of xenophobia, fear of the stranger. So you can have love of the stranger or fear of the stranger.
Illich: Yes. Xenophobia means hospitality. But hospitality wherever it appeared distinguishes between those who are not necessarily yonons [?], or pamphilions [?], Greek areas, but Hellenes and those who are blabberous [?], barbarians. Hospitality primarily refers to Hellenes. It’s a behavior which knows there is an outside and an inside. It is not for humans in general. Then comes that most upsetting guy, Jesus of Nazareth, and by speaking about something extraordinarily great and showing it in example destroys something basic. When they ask him, who is my neighbor? He tells about a Jew beaten up in a holdup and a Palestinian being called a Samaritan, it came from Samaria [?], it’s a Palestinian. First two Jews walk by and don’t notice him. Then the Palestinian walks by, sees that Jew, takes him into his own arms, does therefore what hospitality does not obligate to, and treats him as a brother. This breaking of the limitation of hospitality to the ingroup, to the broadest possible ingroup, and saying, you determine who your guest is, might be taken as the key message of Christianity. Then, in 300 and something, finally the Church got recognition. The bishops were made into something like magistrates. The first things those guys do, these new bishops, is creating houses of hospitality, institutionalizing what can be only what was given to us as a vocation by Jesus, as a personal vocation, institutionalizing it, creating xenodocaea [?], roofs, refuges, for foreigners. Immediately, very interesting, quite a few of the great Christian thinkers of that time, the year 300, 1600 years ago, John Krezostamos [?] is one, shout, if you do that, if you institutionalize charity, if you make charity or hospitality into an act of a non person, a community, Christians will cease to remain famous for what we are now famous for, for having always an extra mattress, a crust of old bread and a candle, for him who might knock at their door. But, for political reasons, the Church became, from the year 400, 500 on, the main device for a thousand years roughly of proving that the State can be Christian by paying the Church to take care institutionally of small fractions of those who had needs, relieving the ordinary Christian household of the most uncomfortable duty of having a door, having a threshold, but being open for him who might knock and whom I might choose. This is what I speak about as institutionalization of charity. Historical root of the idea of services, of the service economy. Now, I cannot imagine such a system being reformable even though it might be your task and the task of courageous people whom I greatly admire for the impossible task they take on to work at its reform, at making the evils the service system carries with it as small as possible. What I would have chosen and as Mitchum and other friends have chosen together as our task is to awaken in us the sense of what this Palestinian, I say always instead of saying Samaritan, example meant. I can choose. I have to choose. I have to make my mind up whom I will take into my arms, to whom I will lose myself, whom I will treat as that vis-a-vis that face into which I look which I lovingly touch with my fingering gaze, from whom I accept being who I am as a gift.
Brown: It’s very hard to add to that. Let me just step back a bit and just put this question back. This whole world of services, the schools, the hospitals, the welfare, the servicing of needs. And service is not just that. There’s entertainment. There’s all sorts of things that define the modern economy and that’s what you’re saying is smothering the individual and only alive possibility of being a human being in response, in the I-thou, in the I am here now, loving, being with. That reality is destroyed by what proports to be the good of serving people through the institutions of modern society.
Illich: But there is this, for me, most uncomfortable, painful–at moments I feel this hateful obligation to be also in the midst of schools, hospitals, the transportation systems, radio!
Brown: This isn’t exactly a service.
Illich: I leave it up to you. I am not for one moment suggesting, none of us is suggesting, that you can… We formerly spoke about Manichaeans in a Puritan way, withdrawing to the comfort of friendship. But it is only there that you can become in the I-thou relationship, which has mutual respect and bowing, that person who knows, who has a sense for the good. Not for values. Values are totally different. For the good, what is proportionate. And therefore know where you stand when you move into criticism of service systems, of economy, of economic relations of class structure.
Brown: So friendship is the soil out of which one has to walk in the larger world.
Illich: I wish it were the soil. I wish there were still soil to it. And it is not friendship unless there is something a little bit dirty to it. Dirty you don’t say in English. You know, dirt in the good sense. Earthy.
Illich: Because the eyes are fleshy. That image in there, in your pupilla, of me is fleshy.
Brown: So when you said Manichaean, and maybe people listening won’t know what Manichaean is, but this idea that this idea that there’s an evil spirit and a good spirit and your looking at the world of services is certainly the product of some evil spirit. You’re rejecting that and saying, yes, friendship is the pure spring of creativity or being fully human and yet we’re in the world.
Illich: I use the word dirty because dirt is a good word.
Brown: It’s the source of what’s real and from that source we still have to be in the world and do something to the world..
Illich: It’s a reembodiment of our judgments and of our experience. By reembodiment I mean the country [?] of what, radio too, does. People had to listen to us without seeing our faces.
Brown: And while that’s limited it’s a wonderful thing that we’re able to do it. And Ivan thank you very much for doing it. Folks, now that you’ve heard us talk I hope you’ll be talking with your own friends.
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