Thursday, December 27, 2012

Aimless Reading: The W's, Part 30.2 (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

Philosophical Investigations
Wittgenstein, Ludwig
The Philosophical Investigations

Purchased at Talking Leaves Books.

Ok, back to Ecuador.

My thoughts begin at a particular little girl, Veronica Toroshina. She was seven or eight. She had six brothers and sisters. They had fairly recently started coming to the center. None of them could read or write. I tutored Veronica and her older brother and sister. We'd meet each day in the little classroom overlooking the courtyard. I can remember the faces of her brother and sister. I can't remember their names. Victor, maybe, was the boy's name. I can't remember the sister's name at all.

Each day I would try to teach Veronica the alphabet. It never seemed to stick. We'd do the vowel sounds, AH, AY, EE, O, OOH. She could remember those. We'd add consonants to them, PA, PAY, PEE, PO, POO. She could remember those, too. But when we tried to put them together into words, everything fell apart.

Veronica and I had a special bond. She had a kind of light about her. I always wanted to pick her up. Put her on my shoulders. Carry her around. Whenever I saw her, she'd leap into my arms. I taught her for the first couple of months I was at the center. But then her schedule got moved around and she was assigned another volunteer, J. J. was sweet and I liked her but I was always jealous that she got to teach Veronica everyday. I'd see her carrying my little friend around on her shoulders and would feel like I was being deprived of a love I'd come to depend on.

Then one day I found J. crying in the volunteer lounge. The Toroshina family had been tossed from the center. One of the requirements each family had to agree to in order to receive services was a daily shower. Off the courtyard were large bathrooms with multiple shower stalls and long, stone, trough-like communal sinks. Families had to enforce the rules among their members. Each person had to bathe each day and they had to sign in with the woman in charge of the showers.

Mrs. Toroshina had wanted to leave early one weekend for a visit to her family, so she had a friend write in that they had showered when they had not. Someone caught on and reported them to the Madre and the Padre, the nun and priest who ran the place. That was it. They violated the rules. They lied. The whole family was thrown out.

J. had been informed that morning. The family was already gone. They had no address, no phone, no way of being contacted. They were just gone. We were both devastated. The harsh justice of the place made a certain sense in the abstract. In order to prepare people to participate in the economy, you had to teach them to discipline themselves. But then how could you teach them once you'd tossed them back into the world without hope of return.

It was old school, hellfire Catholicism and it was brutal.

I had always been skeptical of the people who ran the place, but had a hard time arguing with the work they did. Thousands of people had been given educations, meals, dental work, healthcare, etc. They weren't even forced to go to church to receive these services. All they had to do was follow a schedule, save money, bathe everyday. It seemed like a fair trad.

The brutality came in the insistence on family cohesion. Individuals with families could not enter the center unless they brought every member in with them. All it took was a mistake by one member of the family and everyone got thrown out. In this case, all the kids suffered because of a mistake by the mother. The reverse was also often the case. It was a bitter pill to swallow, especially when the kid being punished was someone who you cared about.

Knowing you would never see that kid again made it doubly so.

I have a photo I took of Veronica. She's leaning against a whitewashed stucco wall in the courtyard. she has a faint smile on her face, but mostly she is serious. Her hair is puled back in a ponytail. Her eyes are jet black, reflective. On the surface of both you can see the image of the center itself, a grid of white lines with black squares between them.

from The Philosophical Investigations

629. When people talk about the possibility of foreknowledge of the future they always forget the fact of the prediction of one's own voluntary movements.

630. Examine these two language-games:

(a) Someone gives someone, else the order to make particular movements with his arm, or to assume particular bodily positions (gymnastics instructor and pupil). And here is a variation of this language-game: the pupil gives himself orders and then carries them out.

(b) Someone observes certain regular processes—for example, the reactions of different metals to acids—and thereupon makes predictions about the reactions that will occur in certain particular cases. There is an evident kinship between these two language-games, and also a fundamental difference. In both one might call the spoken words "predictions". But compare the training which leads to the first technique with the training for the second one.

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