When I was younger, I remember a time of tumult for my family, of distress and strife that built and built until something, everything changed. The strife didn’t leave our family (we have a bigger family now). It just…transformed.
We met, or tried to meet, the man from Nazareth on the banks of a lake not too far from the town where we lived. Only later did we discover he went there to be in solitude. By the time we got there, there were already thousands of people waiting. We all heard he was going to be there, so we tried to see this Son of God in man-form. Many, many were sick, in need of healing, and some people didn’t look very sick at that moment but I guess they needed healing anyways.
We made a place for us to sit on the green grass, trying to be patient but also very eager. I remember my parents, smiling a sad smile, even though my father’s patience was getting cut short. We were concerned my mother was going to get sick again, that this time it would stay and wouldn’t leave.
Suddenly, there were loaves of bread coming from every direction, fish being cooked on fires. We saw some of Jesus’ friends walking around giving away completely free bread and fish. However much we wanted we could take, and I got full off of all the food. I remember the same friends taking big baskets of bread and fish back towards the bank of the lake; I wondered if there were more people that needed feeding over there, or if they were done feeding and taking the leftover food to the people that supplied it all. Only later did I learn there were only few suppliers, that Jesus made all of appear out of nowhere.
All of Jesus’ friends were very nice to us, but I noticed that some of the other people that had come to see him were very different from us. Some of the other people I saw there were very territorial, acting with contempt against some that tried to use the same area of grass, getting too close. Looking back, I know that I was fairly protective of my mother, combative against trespassers that could have harmed her in her weak state. But after that day, my mother never got sick again.
When I was only a little bit older, I had learned that the person that had so much compassion for all of us, he that would have so many friends that would feed us, had died, at Golgotha, Calvary, on a Roman cross, and once more I felt like my entire family had changed again. I thought back to the time at the edge of the lake and wondered if Jesus had known then, whether he had known that so many people were already lying in wait for him, whether he knew they were going to take him and crucify him. Those sorts of concepts lead me to question how much he had known; what sort of thing was he specialized in?
I don’t even want to guess at how much that day on the side of the lake cost. But I do know of that man’s sacrifice. What if what the other people convey a sort of asymmetry, like confirmation bias or memory limitations? What if they just didn’t put down every single thing they knew, perhaps we gave them far more credit than they deserve? Maybe we’re glorifying the wrong things?
Now I’m an old man. I have seen the beginnings of the time after Jesus was killed. The response of the early “church”, a reactionary revolution. Only later did it take more daunting overtures, what with the genocidal antagonism, war, and the homogenizing of a monotheistic imperialism.
In this very moment, our true numbers are being reduced ever so dramatically, such that I reckon we shall no longer exist in our pure form ever again. For this, I have faith that one day, pacifism will truly have an impact on others, a day when our voices have been made different, until more people have heard the true message once and for all…
There is little original rhetoric for me to say about the importance of pedagogy, except for that it’s an opportunity to tell you my thoughts about teaching. The intrinsic value of teaching and learning cannot possibly go overstated (unless for purely poetic purposes). Pedagogy is important not just because of what “teaching” is, but for how teaching relates to what learning is, a far more important concept. But for all the talk about what to do about the social systems which have been laboriously constructed in order to acculturate and educate our children, we have to get the values of our bearings straight.
We need to be more critically aware of what we conceptualize as a “teacher”. If the first thing that we think about when we think of “teacher” is a person at the front of the classroom with thirty or so kids sitting at their desks, we d an injustice to ourselves by minimizing what learning is. Before we think about the systematic education of our students, we need to think about our own understanding of what knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom actually are. Before we try to understand how to rapidly and effectively educate the youth, we need to be aware of how knowledge is developed, as well as how far we have come in our own pursuit of wisdom.
We have had the social need of education our children far longer than the national public school systems were in existence. Therefore, we need to critically examine how a child is educated in contexts outside of the classroom. Even before kids are put in school, whether pre-school (in the technical, institutional term), kindergarten, or first grade, they have to learn about fundamental things like language acquisition and employment, the nature of human relationships, and the abstract metaphysical cause-and-effect relationships that can inform how the world works.
How well do schooling systems provide the student/family with resources to learn about those things? How well can they provide the student/family with such resources? So it seems that focusing on the pre-schooling period of life is important because it is a time in which children are naturally open and receptive to internalizing the fundamentals of cause-and-effect relationships. And it is this that is truly a large part of what makes early childhood development so crucial, we need to examine how well we promote those values in all facets of society. We need to examine how well we are open to adaption, learning, and changing, as necessary, with the times.
This was true a century ago but is even truer today. A century ago we did not have so many people on the planet, did not know about all of the diverse cultures and belief systems, and did not have so much digital technologies which can so empower us to learn about the big ol’ world easier. It is with this sort of mentality that we need to approach the “traditional” role of teacher, the adult in front of the classroom of students. This role is one of the most prestigious and important jobs that exists. We need to think critically about what to do that will empower the student to be more participatory and critical during the in-class discovery process.
Douglas Rushkoff knows what sort of overall changes need to take place, recognizing that teachers are no longer the monopoly over all of information. What the teacher needs to do is to synthesize different veins of thought and interrelated information with the child instead of for the child. Rather than spoon-fed, in-out factory style teaching, we need dynamism and self-involvement from all of the students and the teacher. We need rigorous curricula which will provide in-depth consistency to unify the learning mentality in the child’s mind, raising the platforms available for the child to reach on their own.
(As a result of the systemic complexity of our symbolic culture, the creative things that we need to do, to get the economy on super-sure footing again, create more wealth and prosperity, are exceedingly difficult. But only by focusing on and studying how complex things are can we create the pathway forward. For more posts that deal with this systemic complexity, please see “On the Conservatism of Precedent" and especially "Discourse on Determinism”.)
The Financial Collapse of 2008 has hit us all incredibly hard – whether you lost your job, or your house, got your hours slashed, or even know someone who has fallen on hard times. In any case, the mere fact that so many people are having difficulties making ends meet should testify to a more pertinent source of concern.
In my own way of trying to understand how the world works, I’ve become opinionated as to what is truly necessary for us to begin reversing the adverse effects that happen to a society when so much value evaporates over a period of time. The opinion of the policy-wonk in me thinks along Keynesian lines, but with all of the advancements made by modern philosophy. The economics student in me wonders about the independence of the Fed, as well as the conflicts of concerns of the members therein, but to do anything because of it would be some kind of socialism (given that the two main theories of economic organization have traditionally been “the Government” OR “the Market”). But the civil philosopher in me tries to understand how deep the crash took us, the extent to which so many people falling on hard times in this day and age impacts the future, and the extent to which human action can affect the situation as a whole.
One thing I’m keen to observing, aided by my relatively young age and healthy amount of skepticism, is the extent to which true advancement depends on so much social complexity. The Financial Collapse, which would have never happened if private flows of capital did not sends ripples of panic throughout the whole global financial system, has a long history of events, people, and legislation leading up to the trigger. Because of the inherent complexity of financial markets and financial instrumentation, any single attempt to understand the precise lessons to learn from the mishaps were struck by both technical complexity of new-fangled mathematics, its history and relationship to the underlying commercial commodity, as well as the moral/ethical status of how this could all happen within a system of rule-by-law.
I’m under the impression that no single person, or single company, or single piece of legislation (that’s actually being talked about) can pull us up by our bootstrap and tie our shoes again. It needs to be a mass, collective effort. If we want not just jobs, but careers and the possibility of distinguished achievement, we need to propagate it to everyone you know and everyone they know. More people should know, everyone ought to know: we have to create our way out of this mess.
We need people to stop seeking employment and create employment. We need wealth creation on an unprecedented scale. We have to create, innovate, and invent our way to prosperity again. In the light of the horror and tragedy of Financial Collapse, we have an opportunity to think about the fundamental values we have as a society. If anything at all is learned we need to stop treating symbols and tools as if they are even more important than the results of what they are used for. We need wealth creation not by treating our mortgaged house’s equity as an ATM and base value on something concrete and real.
Complexity isn’t ever going to leave us, it’s been a hallmark of our species, and it moreover shouldn’t be eliminated. Yes, things might be incredibly complex, but that is only another occasion to rise to. The systematic complexity which is found as our symbolic culture means we have to work to create for ourselves our own equally formidable sophistication. So let’s turn to what we need to turn the economy around for ourselves: the structure, complexity, and difficulty of invention.
First, we, especially in our economically (and spiritually) depressed/recessed state, need more people to be able to have the critical thinking skills that we needed to determine the actual state of things instead of just accepting the world around them for what it appears like. This sort of skepticism would not only be good (and is necessary) for our economy, by how it enhances the individual’s ability to perceive/create novelty, but also for the broader state of civil politics in the more general sense. By being more critically skeptical on the way things seem to be, we can create the space to be open-minded to learning more and more information as we continue to grow and mature. Not only are these fundamental skills that all kids need to learn from birth, in the family, and from school, but it is essential to having and informed citizenry and for creating/innovating our way out of this socioeconomic mess.
Second, we need people who are very attuned to the general and specific states of the human conditions. The oft-repeated phrase is that “necessity is the mother of invention”. And more specific than determining the difference between reality and appearance is knowing what sort of reality is of concern. For the inventor, the individual needs to figure some sort of human necessity that a new sort of gadget, or service, or business can fulfill. Not only does this require a deeply introspective awareness of the nature of reality, but also insists on idealist imagination – knowing where to look in society, or in the world around you, where the actual particulars of what you’re looking for can tell you even more, better information. It requires an intuition of fundamental economic structures, such as the logistics of supply chain management, the beginning-to-end process of production and manufacture, and/or the mechanisms in which humans exchange of specialty services to one other. This brings focus and clarity to the asking/framing of the problem, essential to any sort of responding to the issue at hand.
Thirdly, as soon as some sort of problem-issue is faced, and the search for the correct questions is underway, the individual inventor needs to understand some of the hardest and most complex stuff: the history of their craft. As soon as the individual has the necessary competence to engineer some sort of novel product or service, as well as the critical awareness of where to look and why something should be different than it is currently, the individual needs to rigorously study the precedents which have been established for his craft. I fear that this is the most complex aspect regarding the difficult of invention. Before the individual goes out and tries to create something from scratch, or innovate on something that may already exist, they need to learn what has come before them.
In summary, critical examination of appearance versus reality, an in-depth intuition of the many states of human condition, and the cumulative history of invention and innovation are three things that are needed in order to empower true sources of value creation in society. We need this sort of mass-scale value creation in order to truly come back from the Financial Collapse of 2008. Though complexity may be inherent to understanding different aspects of social theory, there are ways of creating our own understanding, even if it isn’t as sophisticated as possible. Even trying can yield marginally positive results. But going forward, we need more research, critical analysis, and creatively dynamic industries in order to ameliorate the adverse effects of severe economic downturn.
Enough of the description of what Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy is, let me try and demonstrate what the uses are in a more concrete fashion.
First, because of how it injects a notion of morality and virtue into the heart of sociological takes on philosophy, it can come a long way in informing us about the proper (and thus improper) role of power among people. And by power, I don’t just mean the “hard” power of military might and strength, but also the utter depths of “soft” and institutional power affecting our own ability to learn and interpret the world. And because knowledge is power, those who attempt to or succeed in manipulating systems of discovering, interpreting, or synthesizing information have an incredibly disproportionate affect on the ability of people to have freedom of mind. Any time politicians, legal experts, or financial gurus manipulate the situation and other people to do their needs with a proper consideration to the ultimate affect of their actions, justice and truth in the form of authentic honesty are forsaken.
Secondly, Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy doctrine has an incredible amount of nativist philological implications. Not only because it is based very strongly on classical Greek philosophy, but because of the direct implications it has in pedagogical theory. Because it attempts to construct a very holistic take on the relationship that metaphor has on our interpretation of abstract meaning, it can provide a way of challenging dominant paradigms of perception, examination, and instrumentation. Thus, by combining analysis and criticism of dominance and authority, we can provide ways of equipping the youth in being able to justly challenge the ethical merits and moral philosophy of the people around them. So not only does Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy have legitimate takes on pedagogical theory and practice, as in the teaching of children, but also can influence androgogy, as in the education of adults. This is achieved by setting and analyzing the rigid standards of understanding and levels of certainty within a near-infinite multitude of situations.
Thirdly, because of its holistic take on the community of all social theorists and scientists, not only can it readily call out sources of baseless authority, as well as have the capacity to educate a diverse number of people. But it can also point out how avenues of inquiry, research, and experimentation. As a practical, day-to-day measure, it can assess bias, misunderstanding, general ignorance, and a number of other types of asymmetrical information. In order to respond to the diverse complexity of all of history, there needs to be not only a rigorous and very critical take on the contemporary (and past) state of ethics, but also about how to take a purely creative stance in responding to that very state of ethics, as observed from the world around us. The purely unique creativity that it takes to generate new, inventive, and innovative hypothetical constructions of science are incredibly complex and take an incredible amount of sophistication. Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy can have an effect on construction of theoretical frameworks by assessing the capacities of our own psychological process in understanding physical phenomena.
The final observation to make is that, in the overall spirit of holism, there are even more examples of how to apply the notion of Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy. We need to weave the three broad examples of functional performance together. In most ways that the Ontological Sophisticated perspective can substantively enhance the understanding and behavior of institutions, all sorts of organizations, and the psychological composure of individuals, it requires even greater levels of specificity in order to determine the precise path forward. The specific form of action in any situation is dependent on that situation; it is determined more by the “local” conditions of which institution, organization, and individual psychology is focused on.
There are so many things that the concept of Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy can be applied to, precisely because it aims to be so holistic and interpret the awe-some extent of diversity and complexity that human experience rationally implies. A criticism of social theory can, and must, come from a focus on the rational certainty of how an individual relates to the world around them, especially considering the complexity of contextualizing the implications of an individual’s relationships with other people. As such, an anthropological examination of an individual’s pursuit of virtue and wisdom can and must inform a sociological take on the development of moral philosophy.
In contemplation of certain matters of social theory and philosophy, it becomes increasingly important that we focus on certain aspects of reality that have more relevance than other aspects. In talking about the role of abstract meaning in trying to come to a full understanding of the world, as well as the role of complex symbolism in communicating such meaning, there are many different ways to think about the issues. But in thinking about certain issues in one way versus another way, some issues are focused on instead of others. About meaning, we could discuss very “deep” and metaphoric aspects as to whether or not abstract concepts exist outside of the mind, or only inside, whether they exist despite the mind or because of it.
But focusing on such metaphoric aspects of philosophic meaning seems to be a long, complex, and arduous task. Instead, we can think of it in terms of present-day, 2012 society, not of the ~500 BCE time of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. We can think of certain constants of how humans relate to the world around themselves, such as the notion that children are (still) being born and have to be trained and educated as they grow up. Focusing on certain pragmatic realities, we can see how the reality of the deep metaphoric aspects of abstract meaning via symbolism reveals itself, or is revealed by us to us. The fact is that we presently exist in a world that has a very rich history of utilizing symbols to convey abstract meaning. Thus, it may be true that without the innate ability to understand and grasp abstract meaning and symbolism, we may not be able to have such rich sociocultural complexity, but it’s a very part of that cultural complexity of society that we don’t have to decide either/or in matters of social theory (re: Kierkegaard & Douglass Rushkoff).
In fact, it could be seen that it’s constantly choosing within the either/or mindset that obscures the underlying reality of matters. It’s not about being too-simplistic in such complicated social matters, but about the wrong sort of simplicity. Instead of thinking it has to be one or the other, such as either mind or behavior, or either rationalism or experience, we can get a better description and arrive at a better understanding by seeing how the distinct parts are all interrelated. Only in this way can we understand the impact that all of the systemic complexity and sophistication has on the nature of constant social evolution (such as new generations replacing old generations).
Returning to the pragmatic reality of children being born, we have to think of the political implications of the presence that systemic symbolic complexity has on the ability for us to pass on our wisdom to the future generations. It is a real concern for us to consider, as the extent to how complex we think things are has a direct implication on how well we are able to properly educate and prepare our youth so that they are able to contribute to productive society, respond to life in a creative way, or just find their own sense of happiness and contentment among the diversity of society (and the adversity of sociocultural complexity).
People aren’t mathematicians, professionals, or sophisticated from birth, we have to learn and practice these things in order to be good at then. Likewise for open-mindedness, being healthily skeptical, and critically-analytic thinking. Reflected in this constancy is the interconnectedness of all sorts of social theory. But far from this interconnectedness leading to or causing excess complexity and sophistication, we can train ourselves to come to some sort of in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the world around us.
The word “lexicon” means vocabulary, of a specific discipline, vein of knowledge, or just in general. It, thus, also means dictionary, the sum total of knowable words. In fact, another term for “words”, or just the singular “word”, is also “lexical item”. So a word could be called a lexical item and a lexicon can be considered an accumulation of lexical items. In effect, the lexicon and thus the words that make it up form the physical basis of what language is. Look at any book, article, or pamphlet and the linguistic basis on which it is predicated will be just a collection of words, much like “society” is just a collection of people, and a forest is just a collection of trees and other greenery (re: “On the Arbitrary Definition of Abstract Terms”).
But is that really all that language boils down to? Of course not. There are significant mental components, such as grammatical and transformational rules, which don’t fall under the physically-based lexicon. They could be physically represented, but most of it is implicit within the words themselves. Chomsky calls to the reality of this mental component numerous times, such as in his 1965 Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, when he distinguishes between use of the lexical items for communicative purposes, and the proper role of a disciplined linguistics. I agree that “linguistic theory is mentalistic, since it is concerned with discovering a mental reality underlying actual behavior”, but I disagree that “[o]bserved use of language or hypothesized dispositions to respond, habits, and so on, may provide evidence as to the nature of this mental reality, but surely it cannot constitute the actual subject matter of linguistics, if this is to be a serious discipline” (4). There seems to be a distinct, conflicting tension between the substance of language as it relates to the mind, and the specific function of language as it relates to other people.
Why does it have to be so? Why cannot the systematic study of language use in society be the proper domain of some sort of linguistics? I will very well agree that such perspective of social language use is not all that the study of linguistics boils down to, no one would argue that, but it surely must be within the domain of the study of language. It doesn’t have to be so contradictory to combine both the intrinsic, innate substance of what language is with the functionalist perspective of what language can do (as it relates to communication between people in society). A common reaction against sociolinguistics understood as the micro-basis of language use in society is that it is dependent on theories of symbolism and abstract meaning in a way that linguistics proper doesn’t. But even linguistics proper relies on some sort of external theory of meaning. Chomsky’s 1965 Aspects is about English grammar and syntax, and even his earlier work on Hebrew language, as well as the work done with other languages, all rely on the words and letters of the language itself as symbols.
So it can be seen that perhaps all of analysis of language is dependent on an external theory of meaning, not just that which is needed to successfully interpret pragmatics, or the value of information contained in conversational exchange. This notion of semiotics, or the study of symbols and their use or interpretation, seems to be central to every sort of linguistics, reflecting the importance of the “underlying mental reality”. In fact, semiotics, as a theory of symbolic meaning, could be thought of as “superior”, or a priori, to a specific type of symbolism, the symbols of language, or “linguistics” proper. The entire notion of written text as a secondary medium of linguistic expression implies a radically easier way of communicative transmission, either with other people, which is called synchronic, or through time, which is called diachronic (referring to the popular sociolinguist William Labov’s influential methodology).
So perhaps rigorous study of social language use can inform us about the “underlying mental reality” of syntactic, generative grammars, at least as much as introspective analysis can. Although it is not necessary for language to be intended for communication, that doesn’t change the pragmatic observation that the majority of the time that language exists it is in communication with others. Therefore, language use in society must be a fundamental and important aspect of examining linguistics systematically. And there doesn’t even need to be so sharp of a distinction between the mental reality that sociolinguistics examines and the mental reality that linguistics proper examines, either. Linguistics proper and sociolinguistics can possibly bring to light different, supporting, equally valid perspectives of the “underlying mental reality”. But it should be obvious that linguistics proper, focused as it is on such “underlying mental reality”, can come a long way in discovering the true state of the mind as it relates to symbolic manipulation. It is fundamental that sociolinguistics pays attention to such developments and critically understands the extent of implications from the study. Just as linguistics proper can discover the “underlying mental reality”. Similarly, perhaps a properly framed sociolinguistics can provide us with insights into the underlying social reality that forms the fabric of that ties people together in society, as examined by their language use.
Much like psychological insights can also inform our understanding of the “underling mental reality”, as is the study of linguistics proper, it takes anthropological insights in order to frame the objective of sociolinguistics. And in all philosophic theories, it isn’t necessarily a one-way street. Psychological theories can inform our understanding of the “underlying mental reality” just as linguistics proper can; anthropological insights can inform our conception of the “underlying social reality” much in the way that sociolinguistics can. Along with this, archaeology can inform us of the “underlying political past” much like history strives to. This is not only a necessity on the part of all social theories to borrow concepts and methodologies from other areas of study, but ultimately reflects the inherent interconnectedness of all social theory.
First, we have to recognize the diversity and complexity of the external repository of symbols. This isn’t just the length and breadth of the lexicon, as the total accumulation of lexical items, or words. But in reality, the extent diversity and complexity of an external symbolic repository is more of a mere reflection of the total amount of symbolic meaning that could exist. For example, for English speakers, a bit of German can demonstrate how many unique phenomena are out there, but for which we lack English words for. Schadenfreude roughly means joy derived from another’s pain or sorrow; gemütlichkeit is a word that means a cheerful and/or delightful mood brought on by the feelings of social acceptance. So not only is there a great myriad of complicated English words (such as “ontological”), but there is a great number of non-English words that are very observant of natural phenomena and can thus enhance our awareness (think of the South American word “mamihlapinatapai”, eh?).
Secondly, what happens when we are able to view and understand something better than what is commonly understood, or can describe/explain it better than the dictionary definition does? In such a case, it is true that a complex philosophic case should or must be put together to change how this word is used and interpreted. There are numerous examples, as when someone tries to understand art as not just paintings and poetry, but that everything can, in a sense, be artistic. Rather than changing the actual definition of art, or of the artistic, the ultimate effect is of changing how people understand what art is. Philosophy is not just pondering the nature of abstract meaning and the deepest questions of all that life is and/or can be, but is just “the love of wisdom” and is thus bound in everything as well. Thomas Kuhn’s popularization of the word “paradigm” was likewise a major revolution in people’s capacity to understand the world around them (as well as the world in a macroscopic, global sense).
Thirdly, related to the second, we have the opportunity to create a word from scratch, or from other predisposed symbols, like letters. This is like when Charles Pierce devised “pragmaticism” as distinct from “pragmatism” in order to focus on that which is practical and not artistic. In this way, Pierce was able to take an older word, add a few letters, and distinguish himself and his ideas. Pragmatism, which deals with the nature of action of behavior, is thus distinct from pragmaticism, which emphasizes practical, every day affairs. In this way, even artists can talk about the practicality of their day-to-day work without getting too deep into the origins of unique creativity in their work, or the art of their art. Both instances would be talking about action and behavior, but only in the pragmaticist sense is the practical reality emphasized.
All three methods of interpreting symbolic meaning involve some sort of creativity. Along with an internal source of creativity, all three involve and aspect of pre-disposed, external repository of symbols, like letters and lexical items which make up the present lexicon. This is how symbolic interaction must be understood – as some sort of neo-Platonism, the notion that abstract mental entities might not exist without the human mind, but that contemporary reality dictates that children being born at this and future moments have to come to grips with the diverse and complex extent of external symbolic meaning, as it exists right now. But it is the nature of such symbolic meaning that we can create our own symbols to bring harmony and rhythm to what can, at first, seem like a daunting, clunky nightmare. If no humans existed, there would perhaps be no abstract conceptualization in the way of philosophy or science, and therefore our actions and ideas have an extraordinary effect on the structure of abstract concepts going into the future, just as the present structure of abstract concepts has an extraordinary effect on the next generation growing up.
In summary, there doesn’t have to be tension between the introspective methods of linguistics proper and the externally-based theories of meaning that a sociolinguistics must rely on. They can and should mutually support and reinforce one another. In fact, the linguist proper should support the sociolinguist to the most and best s/he can (and vice versa). If it is what language that is being studied, then all sorts of linguists should find each other’s specialized disciplines highly interesting. We should thus drop the conflicts that may be found between us, for the sake of the young grade schooler who is just learning and becoming interested in language’s power of conveying meaning and reflecting the structure of mind. In some way, we are all linguists just by being interested in language and open-minded to learning about it, and unless we drop unnecessary conflicts, realize we have way more in common than that which separates us, and come together to celebrate what diversity there is, then we threaten turning off the young quasi-linguist to the profession.
On the Relation of the Mental to the Material: A Primer on the Fallacious Notion of Successive Dimensionality
(Here is another post on some personal philosophic works I’m working on, a post to follow “On the Arbitrary Definition of Abstract Terms”. It is my take on combating the systemic complexity and excess sophistication that seems to be oh-so-prevalent in so many aspects of philosophic social theory.)
In how much complexity and confusion there can be in considering the arbitrarily defined nature of abstract terminology, what is there to bring cohesion, uniformity, focus, certainty? Not only were the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, as well as the numerous Eastern philosophers, very numerous, diverse, and complex, but also the 2000-plus year history since then has made life even more complex. Even in the last 100, 30, or 5 years have there been an incredible amount of sociocultural and technological change. People are still confused about how it’s changing the individual’s relationship to the world around them.
But it’s not s daunting. The nature f human existence is that of constant change – this much is not new. Even on an individual level, every sort of skill, like language long-distance running, or weaving/knitting, are not ours from birth. Rather, we have to constantly practice and grow the sort of competence required to perform adequately. The same is with philosophy – open-mindedness, a healthy amount of skepticism, and critically-analytic thinking are all skills that we have to develop. We might have the innate mental capacity for this sort of symbolic knowledge, but we can and should constantly work to increase the extent to which we can have more contact with, to learn from, symbolism.
And so in trying to determine the complexity of all the abstract terms that are by-and-large arbitrarily defined, we can and must rely on ourselves, egoism. The mind is the mechanism of how we make sense of the world. But what is the mind, this tool-like thing that is so valuable that it cannot ever be overstated?
It boils down to the nature of what is abstract – everything that doesn’t exist in a “three-dimensional”, physical way. Let’s take a moment to think about what the notion of successive dimensionality is – the notion of there being one, two, three, or more “dimensions”. The third dimension is everything in front of us, but what is the first and second? These dimensions don’t and can’t exist in a physical capacity, even the text on the page of a book or pamphlet isn’t technically the second dimension because the miniscule depth of the ink brings it into the third dimension. The first dimension is even harder to conceptualize because any sort of depth or width makes it technically two dimensional. We can see now that both the first and second dimensions are purely theoretical, hypothetical mental constructs, not based in any sort of physical reality.
How do we make sense of any sort of “dimensions” higher than the third? I can see how it is really tempting to explain all of the theoretical complexity that the natural world presents by claiming that there are ten, eleven, or twelve dimensions. But perhaps this sort of sophistication is wholly unnecessary, making the presence of arbitrarily defined abstract terms even worse? It could and should be considered scandalous that a physicist can just say that another dimension must exist in order to justify the necessity of ever-higher levels of energy that it takes to determine the existence of ever-smaller subatomic particles. Talk about the complexity of being far-removed from reality, making it difficult to pass on wisdom to the next generation.
I choose to think of the order of this “successive dimensionality” in three phases: there are the “first” and “second” dimensions which stand for our own innate mentalism, the “third” which stands for the physical reality all around us, and anything beyond that stands for everything else that can exist in an abstract way – concepts, strange mysteriousness, and the underlying structure of symbolic meaning in society. Only by realizing that perhaps certain things are just too complex and too sophisticated can we put the abstract in perspective and in balance with the physical reality of our world.
(Here is the beginning of a conceptual take on philosophic theories of meaning, or semiotics, especially as it relates to an individualistic pursuit of knowledge (epistemology) and wisdom (philosophy)).
I hear a clink of metal-on-metal as I put the gas nozzle into the tank. A beep as I press unleaded. A loud voice over the PA system saying I’m authorized for inside payment. Glug-glug-glug of the multiple-gallon hose-transfer. You could say I’m “filling up,” I’m making this car revitalized, rejuvenated, getting it fed to make it go. The point is, no matter what it’s called, it doesn’t change the essence of what is going on.
I’m a fan of bananas. (A fan-ana?) The delicious yellow-white flesh, a rush of potassium. But what happens to the yellow peel? It’s garbage, refuse, trash, basura, compost. There are many names for it, so which one is it? Well, no choice about what to call it needs to be made – it’s every single one all the time. But as time goes on, as natural biological forces take hold, the substance itself changes, which changes the possibilities of how it could change. If I happen to be a composter, I might throw the banana peel into the compost and it would continue to turn brown. If not, I would throw it into a garbage where it would still turn brown, still leave those nutrients for potential compost, although they would not be utilized.
This isn’t all merely philosophic conjecture – think of the word “society”. What is “society”? You immediately must recognize that it is an illusion. Any “society” is just a group of individuals. What is it about them that makes them a society? How many people make up a society? It’s the classic “trees versus forest” example. How many trees does it take to make a forest versus just a woodland? How about a jungle? Obviously are certain physical, biological principles which can clearly delineate the difference between all of the diversity that groups of trees can come in. But what sort of principles are there to mark the difference between all of the diversity that groups of humans come in?
Just because this purely descriptive take on sociology might be step or two up in terms of complexity, that doesn’t mean there aren’t principles which can work to classify and order diversity and bring definite theoretical frameworks to examine and explain specific examples. How big of a collection of people can be examined sociologically? A better question involves how small of a collection of people counts? It could be seen that even two people can demonstrate what can be interesting about sociological examination – namely the development of symbolic manipulation through speech, relationships of influence and power, as well as ideological considerations of individual growth, maturation, and learning. You can see how the same exact psychosocial considerations are in use no matter the size of the group of people, though there is a lot more stuff to talk about and explain as the size of the group increases.
Think about art, as well. No matter what sort of art it is, be it poetry, a novel, music, or painting, each may illicit some sort of emotional-intellectual response, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is art. The central driving force behind this may go by many names, such as a poetic device, plot, or drama, or merely be referenced as a “piece” or “work”, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t very broad, descriptive commonalities on a purely theoretical basis. One commonality that bring all of what “art” is under the same umbrella is a notion of coming from a place of purely unique creativity (re: “A Science of Beauty”). The importance is recognizing the difference between trying to describe what art is versus trying to explain what art is or does. Technically, all art can be described similarly, but how each piece of art is explained is relative to what sort of art is being considered, differing from piece to piece, situation to situation.
A third example is of philosophy itself. Philosophy roughly translates as “love of wisdom”, and as such all of the pseudonyms of what counts as “wisdom” is included in that. This automatically counts as “virtue” as well, but can take on any sort of connotations of the words “smarts”, “intelligence”, as well as “information” and “intellect” generally. The point of philosophy is that it is all sorts of knowledge, especially that which pertains to the pragmatic, practical reality of living in the world. There needs to be a book-smart-like approach to how we become street-smart, and a rationalist, logical philosophy can come a long way in examining how that is possible from situation to situation. Philosophy is the holistic, concise way to determine how to look at the world. Philosophy is how we can understand how much of language is predicated on the arbitrary definitions of abstract terms, as well as how to see beyond what the world may seem like in order to come to a metaphysical understanding f how the world actually is.
As you can see, no matter what sort of situation we are faced with or put in, that doesn’t change the fundamentals of how respond to it. No matter what we are faced with, we can respond with open-mindedness, a healthy amount of skepticism, and critically-analytic thinking. Our actions and how we proceed might differ from situation to situation, such as how conservatively we use our gasoline, whether we trash or compost that banana peel, or what sort of aspect of society, art, or philosophy we focus on.
No matter what sort of situation we are faced with, there are always certain things that remain absolutely unchanged, such as ourselves. The most important “abstract” term that has been arbitrarily defined is that of consciousness, egoism, exigency, experience. These immutable qualities are completely mental, and they bring overarching commonalities once we bring in the consideration of behavioral responses. Both egoistic-consciousness and behavioral responses are both universal constants, something that all humans have in common, even though there are differences of what sort of mentalism and behavioral responses there are (even in a single person throughout time).
A Science of Beauty: A Purely Theoretical Aesthetics
(I thought of turning Chomsky’s notion of creativity into a purely artistic sort of creativity one day while driving home after class. I got home, went for my Moleskine, and eked this out shortly thereafter.)
One of the insights of the Chomskian paradigm of linguistics is recognizing how much creativity that language allows for every human being. But in the sense that he means “creativity”, he doesn’t necessarily mean the artistic, but in how language allows us to respond to an infinitely diverse set of situations given that we only have a select few number of “tools” to do it with. Even though we don’t know every single word out there, and might not have the perfect grasp of grammar, we can still respond to the world around us adequately (or at least semi-adequately).
But what about the other sense of “creativity”? The theoretical construction of Chomsky wasn’t specifically designed to handle artistic creativity but that doesn’t mean his formulations don’t bear heavily implications on theories of aesthetics. We can understand, describe, and explain artistic creativity by adopting the converse of Chomsky’s sense of “creativity”. Instead of something that everyone has as a matter-of-course, a purely artistic sense of creativity would rely on something that is purely unique in every instance – something that can only come from one individual.
I like this conception of artistry because it satisfies both necessary and sufficient conditions of the depths of human creativity. It recognizes that, to an extent, everything is artistic – down to the originality seen from any old chair in a coffee shop. Couches at IKEA are artistic, even though these things are mass-produced commodities, they still rely on some sort of entirely unique creativity. No matter how many copies of something that may exist, from books to sweaters or backpacks, the inherent design that each one is predicated on is entirely unique.
Yet this theoretical aesthetics can also touch on the more traditional sources of art – like music, visual arts, and the literary arts. The interesting part of aesthetic theories of beauty comes from trying to understand where the unique creativity comes from. Commodities may be artistic in some way, but it’s easily recognizable why such designs exist. When treating more “traditional” sources of art, the origins are incredibly more complex. Compared to commercial commodities, these sorts of arts are infinitely more interesting. In mass-produced “artistic” works, the source of reasons are by-and-large obvious – commercialism. But in more “traditional” forms of artistry, there are only a few copies of the works, and in many cases only one. The reasons for its existence are much more complex, and thus much more interesting.
Thus, this theory of aesthetics combines both absolutism and relativism – there is no way that people can say I’m too determinate. Bringing the examination of beauty more scientific certainty doesn’t make the beauty any less artistic. You need to think of how science itself needs a uniquely creative sense of artistry for its own sense of progress. Science needs expertly formulated questions in order to frame the issues correctly. There might be an industry of people trying to generate more and more brilliant questions, but those progressive questions must come from a completely unique source.
The claim that everything is artistic based on its inherent uniqueness doesn’t deprive us of searching for those reasons why and how something is unique and how unique something is. There can be some very broad categorizations of these reasons in order to distinguish between these different industries which rely on an inherent sense of unique creativity. This would separate commercial household items from poetry, as well as bringing standardized contexts for discovering the precise origins of purely unique creativity. It would be interesting to get at how one explains the depths of this uniqueness, but you can be sure that on a purely descriptive level, the purely unique sense of creativity can be a firm scientific basis to place aesthetic theory.
In summary, theoretical underpinnings of linguistics can come a long way in improving our understanding of what art is. Something that is unique can be very strange and mysterious, and this might be a requirement of great art, especially if you understand where David Lehman and Christian Wiman are coming from (re: “essential strangeness”). Just because something is strange and mysterious doesn’t mean we have to be confused about its artistic qualities. In fact, we can be fairly certain it’s art based on its strangeness, we can be scientifically certain. From this basis of description, we can start attempting an explanation of where the purely unique creativity comes from.
There are, unfortunately, some parts of reality out there that are terribly inconvenient to face. You get this sense if you’ve ever read Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, especially when he talks about Australia having very little forest coverage, exporting timber to Japan, which has a high percentage of forest coverage. This is, on the face of it, quasi-paradoxical. Yet it’s true, and reflects a large portion of reality.
And so perhaps after things which are counter-intuitive deserve extra attention based on the notion that we generally tend to discount such things as “nonsensical” or by-and-large irrelevant. As such, you should know I am a big fan of oxymora (singular oxymoron) as a prime example of how what seems like a contradiction can reflect a reality deeper than that of which we might be prepared to handle.
Yet the tension that exists in being aware of things that are uncertain or mysterious can actually be what is most interesting to us. Paying attention to what may seem as counter-intuitive can actually improve our sense of intuition. Such is why I like oxymora and redundancies so much, such is why I like skeptical open-mindedness combined with critical thinking, such is why I like the deep metaphoric, abstract aspects of philosophy.
Here’s what “Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy” boils down to: “Ontological” is actually the sophisticated part, “Sophisticated” is what’s philosophical, and “Philosophy” is what the entire thing actually is.
“Ontological” is the sophisticated part because the majority of people are probably confused about what that term actually means. To me, the word takes on mathematical meaning – it comes directly from W.V. Quine and his masterful “Ontological Relativity”. The word itself means how things are, referencing the nature of being. I tag it in front of “Sophisticated Philosophy” because the notion of sophisticated philosophy is more or less a contradiction of terms. Yet we can all appreciate just sophisticated philosophy has become – or has always been. The word ‘ontological’ stands for the Pythagorean insight that mathematics and other systems of complex symbolism can actually describe and explain the natural world – like the original Pythagorean formula describing “harmony” by relating the lengths of two similarly plucked strings.
“Sophisticated” is what is philosophic because it goes all the way back to “the father of philosophy”, Socrates. He could as well be considered the first scientist because after the Oracle at Delphi declared him the wisest dude in town, he set out to determine the validity of such a proposition. One group of people he interacted with was called the Sophists. He determined that these people only seem wise, though they have a large following and many people show up for their public lectures.
The thing he recognized of these people is that they would try to go over your head to confuse you so that they would end up seeming very smart by comparison. And indeed they might have been very smart, especially in terms of developing a system of passing on their smarts, making money by charging fees for their lectures, and knowing how to manipulate people. Socrates’ point, however, was that they aren’t very wise in the sense of how they apply their smarts to the world around them.
Socrates had a fairly decent way of passing on his sort of smarts, too, a way that didn’t manipulate people to gain social power and prestige. He utilized individual interaction, one-on-one question asking. By talking with people on an individual basis, you can also pass wisdom on, just like lecturing can. The Socratic Method is thus famous for this micro-cosmic approach. This is why “Philosophy” is all that “Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy” boils down to: philosophy is built into every single thing that we do. Even people that think philosophy is a waste of time miss the point of philosophy. They may think that he inherent complexity may impede the pursuit of virtue, but just look at how much a person must respect wisdom in order to think that something is a waste of time.
So where “Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy” is extremely effective is in questioning and challenging authority and power. How does it do this? It’s much more than just examining language use in society, it’s examining everything about society. It’s recognizing that the tactics used by the proto-Sophists of confusing whoever they were talking with are still alive and well in present day society.
But it’s also much more than just whole-heartedly rejecting any semblance of sophistication in philosophic matters, such would do injustice towards the “Ontological” aspect. We need a little bit of sophistication in certain matters, especially as it relates to the inherent complexity and interconnectedness of social theory. But we also need sophistication in physical science, especially as it relates to the depths of what matter, light, and motion are, and how these things interact. What we don’t need is when things get overly complicated, especially when it compromises the individual’s ability to learn what is actually going on.
In summation, some of the aspects of “Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy” can be fairly complex and counter-intuitive. But I hope it’s become apparent just how descriptive of reality it can be, how the tensions of contradiction can actually reflect deep realities about how the world is structured and functions. The only thing you can’t explain in terms of ontological sophisticated philosophy is limited only to your own imagination.
(Another post in what will evidently be a very long series in pointing out hypocrisy. The first was “On Hypocrisy”, which tried to lay out what it is in theoretical terms, and the second was “Three Examples of Hypocrisy" which was a more philosophico-ideological take on what it is. These three examples are more tangible and contemporary examples.)
Double standards are very concrete examples of hypocrisy. The willing treatment of one thing one way and then treating something similar a different way are by and large unjustified, especially given the typically baseless reasons for doing so. I’ve tried to demonstrate that saying one thing yet doing another is grossly hypocritical, yet also the logical inconsistency of believing one thing, like in “freedom” or “traditional values”, but doing or saying things that negate, contradict, or go against those values, like support an us-versus-them, winner-take-all sense of civic duty. Three things which concretely demonstrate this principle of moral corruption are reactions to the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack, the Republican post-election blame-game, and recent remarks of “conservative” politicians Obama and gays are going to Hell.
First, it’s obvious that there is a ton of political gerrymandering of issues with regards to the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Michelle Bachmann’s determination that the Obama administration willingly deployed a “false narrative” is the last straw for me. During the Bush administration, “liberals” who criticized the Iraq war, even on strategic grounds as opposed to moral grounds, were politically persecuted as anti-American. Bill O’Reilly repeatedly told critics of the Bush administration to “shut up”. Nowadays, now that a “liberal” is in office, it’s seemingly OK to play political games with nation security issues. When “conservatives” are in power, it’s OK to withhold information from the public on the basis of national security. When “liberals” are in power (talk about a contradiction), any attempt to withhold information n the basis of counter-insurgency efforts is apparently a downright lie. Why does this double standard exist, and why doesn’t the media exercise their right/obligation or know history and call them out?
Secondly, the issue of why the Republicans lost the 2012 election cycle has been illustrative of why “conservatives” are wholly ill-equipped to lead the country. It’s best put by an article from the Onion saying wealthy Republican backers have placed the blame solely on their money. The most popular example is of Mitt Romney saying Obama won because he promised big gifts to Latinos, women, and gays. His running partner Paul Ryan blames “the urban vote”. Seems like the traditional Republican tactics of giving big gifts to only the rich isn’t sufficient to win elections anymore.
The thing to take away is that a large portion of Republicans have been doing everything they can to not take responsibility for having a conservative ideology that is so outdated that the people who still adhere to such thinking are dying off in droves. If they want to be the party of personal responsibility, why don’t they actually demonstrate it by taking responsibility instead of placing the blame elsewhere, like “the liberal media” and the oft-demonized “Big Government giveaways” (don’t get me started on their plan for the tax code).
Another example of the hypocrisy of the seeming purveyors of personal responsibility is in calling Obama, Democrats, and liberals in general lazy when we rightly bring up Bush as an explanation of some of the fiscal and social problems we face. Republican conservatives claim that Obama isn’t taking responsibility. Funny how this allows Republicans to disavow responsibility for Bush, a supposedly fiscally conscious “small government” conservative, running up an incredible amount of debt by growing the size of the Federal government, running up an incredible amount of debt by cutting taxes when we didn’t need to, and steeping us in a culture of militarism.
It’s not that Obama isn’t taking responsibility when he brings up Bush – Obama thus demonstrates responsibility by paying attention to and learning history. Republicans also claim to be the party that emphasized personal freedom, yet such attitudes totally disrespect the all-too-important freedom of mind by trying to blame everything on Obama (as if it were that simple) and by trying to pull the metaphorical wool over the public’s eyes.
As a third concrete example of hypocrisy, I bring to light some remarks of conservative GOP congressman saying that Obama is going to Hell. To any of these supposed “Christians” I would bring up a slew of simple scripture. Among them is John 3:17 – “For God sent Jesus into the world not to condemn, but to save.” If we as Christians, trying to be like Christ, are to emulate Our Savior, it seems like we should be less judgmental and condemnatory and just let people be. I don’t know how the congressman believes or knows that Obama is going to hell, or on basis he says so, but he mere fact that he believes it and is willing to publicly announce it seems to contradict certain tenants of the religion. It’s one thing to believe it privately, even though the omnipotence of God is aware of such beliefs, but it is quite another for someone of prominent public position to announce such inflammatory remarks publicly.
Another substantive verse is Jesus’ formulation of the Golden Rule, that the commandment above all commandments is to love one another, just as you would have yourself loved (Matthew 7:12). And beyond the response that certain preachers claim that they do love “the queers” by not wanting them to go to hell, you have to take a step back and think about what grounds that these pronouncements take place. Jesus himself stood up to the Church as it was known in his time, and didn’t say a single word about the morality of homosexuality. The Bible itself was put together centuries after Jesus died, so the evidence is overwhelming that the biblical anthologizers picked and chose certain parts of ancient texts for their own political agendas. Perhaps the basis on which homosexuals are persecuted (re: Leviticus), written hundreds of years before Jesus, are invalidated on the basis of the New Testament’s description of Jesus’ life and actions as the Word of God made flesh. Underpinning this simple observation is the realization that so much more of Leviticus isn’t adhered anymore, like rules on what to eat or how to sacrifice animals„ yet the part condemning a man laying with a man somehow survives through our prejudice.
Yet another verse is Romans 5:8 – the realization that Jesus gave his life while we were still sinners. Combine this with Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – and it becomes clear: quite being prejudiced. If we all sin, which we do (as a youth pastor put it, why would we need Jesus if we were perfect?), what sort of basis do we judge others so harshly by? This makes the moral of John 3:17 explicit: quit your phobia-based, fascist judgmentalism. There is no basis for anyone to tell anyone else that they are going to hell, such attitudes fundamentally contradict formative Christian principles. In summation, we see that there is a wide diversity of hypocrisy, though each one has certain things in common. Each one has a behavioral and a mental component. There may be more than one of each component, but when any two components stand opposed to each other, the conditions are ripe for hypocrisy. Surely people can learn and change with times, demonstrating maturity and growth, and such things aren’t necessarily hypocritical. I would surely emphasize this option for anyone considering a more progressive change of moral standing. But there is a third component to any concrete behavioral analysis, a complex social component of behaviorism itself. These examples of hypocrisy are wholly legitimate and concrete because the perpetrators have demonstrated consistency throughout history. Our only hope is to make ourselves aware of the issues with critically analytic thinking, maintain an open-minded skepticism to tell the difference between thought, belief, word, and deed, and to do our civic duty to call the hypocritical what they are: morally corrupt.
(Actually it’s less than 700 words long. I embellished some of the time-scale aspects to obscure any attempts at figuring out who the specific people are. The people themselves can probably figure it out, though. Also, not every single person that I’ve been romantically involved with is included in this piece of prose.)
In grade school, my friend and I competed over the same girl. The contest was largely decided by who could run faster on the playground. But the prize decided for herself who she would present herself to. When the school-year ended, with no way to keep in contact, though I looked for her when we came back to class, I never saw her again.
I had my first kiss in a movie theater. I can’t remember what movie it was. I remember a rush of something-or-another, the flush of my face and like a great heat came all over my body. I couldn’t tell if it was anxiety at having had something done to me against my will, or pure elation at finding a new, terribly enjoyable hobby. I’m fairly positive she, to this day, still doesn’t know that she was my first.
I recently dated this one girl for a couple of days, and after our second date she looked me straight in the face and said that she couldn’t continue seeing me anymore because I had a better sense of fashion than she. If I were smarter, I would have told her that I could “ug it up” a bit for her. In any case, I’m way better off. I thought I had dated petty girls in the past, but whew!
I’ve tried long-distance relationships; the first one was purely over the phone. I met the girl at summer camp and spent two hours with her on the phone every single night for two months. It ended because one of my best friends at the time suddenly had her friend tell me she had suspicions that she liked me. Sound complicated? To us, it was, but that’s just because it was high-school.
Years later, I saw another one of my best friends in a romantic light, and fell head over heels for her. Turned out she had an on-again-off-again attraction to me, and I was happy to capitalize on it. The actual official relationship didn’t start until month later, however, because she was concerned her friend had romantic feelings for me at the same time.
But then something happened and she rekindled the spark between us. We quickly became that stupid-cute couple, PDA-ing at every possible moment, making a mess of our social selves. It was by far the best relationship I had ever been in – she was beautiful and gave me confidence I never felt before.
My “love life” has had many ups and plenty of downs – times where I have been heartbroken and other times where I did the hurting. The last real relationship by left me heartbroken in a real sense of the term, but I got into that relationship by hurting another girl I was with at the time. Shady is as shady does, and it’s probably the one thing in my life I’m least proud about. I had to do what I had to do and follow my heart. Regret, it seems, is not so transient as the next any old thought.
Another thing that’s not so transient are crushes. From the time you see someone who is exceptionally pretty, you can hardly get that person out of your head. Such was the case with the overly fashion-conscious girl. The situation is even more complicated when you see that person on a daily basis, if you have class with them or if you work with them. The only tactic that I have found that works is what my long-time best-friend Raoul Shah and I have termed “the Romeo tactic” on account of Benvolio’s advice to Romeo when he was brokenhearted over Rosaline: “examine other beauties”. Such is the only way to move on: open-mindedness and the willingness to keep moving on.
Arriving at Essential Essences: Toward a Focused Sense of Holism
(After realizing that my first nonfiction piece “On Voting" virtually stands alone in a line of inquiry directly relating to what voting is, I decided to conceive of this piece to make sure I didn’t over-simplify neither the issue of voting, nor the concept of justice.)
My first ever attempt at a piece of nonfiction that was supposed to be short was a piece entitled “On Voting”. It was basically a reaction to certain commercials that I was seeing on the TV about being “an energy voter”. Though fossil fuels and energy are perhaps the most important non-human element of any commercial economy, I thinking boiling the entire process of voting down to the issues of “energy” is a misguided notion.
My rebuttal was to say that I am not a “single-issue” voter, but rather I try to take a more comprehensive approach. In that piece I laid out the principles which by and large determine who I vote for. The first, recognizing that we in America have a Constitutionally defined “separation of powers”, is who the President would appoint to the Supreme Court if they got a chance to. The second principle is how the candidate would treat people less well-off than they are. The third is how they are going to educate the youth, and how they treat open-mindedness in general.
But I really hope that I don’t do the injustice of gravely over-simplifying the issue of what justice is. When it comes to what to vote for, I have three very broad and holistic principles of what makes for good leaders. But justice, due to its inherent all-encompassing complexity, is also built into the fabric of everything that has to do with how one votes. It’s not just deciding what to for, but also when to vote, how often, and includes the deepest levels of motivation which inform why we vote.
Of course, all of this is very nuanced; there is a ton of overlap between all of the when’s and how’s and what’s and why’s. The point in emphasizing a holistic outlook is to cover all of the bases, to avoid over-simplification. This is why the three principles of justice voting are so inclusive: to do justice to the importance of voting and of exercising the liberty of civil rights in general.
In fact, the issue of how we power our economy and reinvigorate the energy sector in order to see broader economic revitalization could definitely fall under the second criteria of justice voting – how we treat the marginalized and downtrodden. How we structure and/or support the energy sector indirectly relates to social inequality because the typical industrial policy in America is extremely biased towards fossil fuels, a technology that is already well established and lavishly funded. But if we could embrace a more balanced approach then we could possibly have more good-paying jobs, lower energy prices, and less anthropogenic climate change. Thus the “energy voter” commercials do the double injustice of over-simplifying the nature of voting and over-simplifying how important fossil fuels are.
It is Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialism which gets at the difference between mere facts and understanding what essences are. But I don’t think that it’s so easy to say that existence precedes essence or the other way around. In order to be sufficiently holistic, we need to understand how a long history of mind-made essences impacts what something’s existence is (re: a previous post “Discourse on Determinism”). To reduce it down to either one or the other over-simplifies the issue of essence’s interconnected nature with facts.
I maintain a very optimistic view of people’s ability to discern the difference between fact and essence, and to realize how they work together to make a holistic examination of reality. People, if they have been trained well enough, can develop the awareness of how facts can support essences, and how essences can “house” facts. It’s one thing to spout off a ton of statistics about habitat change and deforestation, and another thing to be aware of the anthropogenesis of global climate change.
In summation, existentialism is a great tool, yet, as with everything, needs to be taken with a grain of salt called ‘pragmatism’. If a holistic balance is to be achieved, existentialism must be emphasized for how it improves us, how it enhances our ability to interpret the world, learning as much as we can. And what else can be more metaphysical than learning the proper origins and original, first causes of what we see? Only by keeping a skeptical and open mind can we hope to be sufficiently holistic to tackle all of life’s challenges.
Bertrand Russell is a sufficiently prominent philosopher to start with. He said, in “On the Value of Philosophy”:
“[…] (T)o a great extent, the uncertainty of philosophy is more apparent than real: those questions which are already capable of definite answers are placed in the sciences, while those only to which, at present, no definite answer can be given remain to form the residue which is called philosophy.” (page 15 from my multicultural philosophy textbook)
Yet his overall take is ambivalent towards something that relies on a more pure understanding of the tension between philosophy and science. Earlier in the piece he claims that “the knowledge [philosophy] aims at is the kind of knowledge which gives unity and system to the body of the sciences”. So it must be true that in every single scientific proposition there are untold amounts of philosophic implications. What is to be made of the notion of creating/crafting questions which work to replace a cluster of other questions?
This question-replacement scheme isn’t necessarily definitively answering a set of questions, but merely trying to make the search for definite knowledge more efficient. There is a rational philosophy which tries to understand how some questions are, or can possibly be, more powerful than other questions. ‘What is language’s affect on society?’ is a much different question than ‘what is language?’. A rule of thumb I think worth considering is the notion that the smaller the question the more powerful, because it is typically the case that for smaller questions you have to ask a ton more questions before even starting to arrive at definite answers. In this sense, power can be understood not in the systematic achievement of question-answering, but in the systematic construction of questions which generate more and more questions.
Such requires the true art of philosophy while also challenging Russell’s conception of the scientific. We can apply a knowledgeable mind and perhaps “get to the root cause” by asking one, two, or three questions along the Socratic method rather than a handful or dozen(s) of questions. It would thus describe the interconnectedness of the sciences (“unity and system”) while also providing some sort of measure of scientific certainty. In this way, philosophy and science are always interconnected as certainty and uncertainty aren’t always clear cut in many scenarios.
When it comes to structuralist methodology of thinking about things, it can provide the open and observant mind with a measure of certainty. Not only does language and theories of linguistics have structure, but all theories, hypotheses, and belief systems have some sort of structure that is directly or indirectly observable. A criticism is that it is too static, too absolute in its rhetorical explanations. Perhaps this criticism is misguided on the part of not understanding the structuralist’s intentions. A person who is perceptive of the apparent or underlying structure of observation (or both) doesn’t turn a blind eye and deaf ear to other sorts of observations. A person who is perceptive of prima facie or deterministic structure doesn’t ignore the possibility of thinking about things in a functionalist, mathematical, cause-effect way. By combining both structuralism and functionalism does one person truly do justice to the extent of observable experience. A structuralist, first and foremost, can understand there can be multiple structures, and multiple functions, of one single thing depending on what sort of cause and effect relationship is observed.
Secondly, epistemology has become so important to the systematic study of philosophy that the two terms are almost interchangeable. Philosophy translates as “love of wisdom” and epistemology is taken to be “the theory of knowledge”, taking on dimensions of acquisition methodology, validity, and reach. So how could you ever truly love knowledge without exploring the full extent of systematically studying theories of knowledge?
Think of the mere notion of wisdom. What is wisdom? Theories of knowledge are necessary to study the difference between maturity and technical intellect, your street-smarts and your book-smarts. Wisdom would also apply to the notion of how to put the “book” and the “the street” together, how you apply yourself to the world around you, as well as thinking about how learning what the world is can also teach you something about the world right in front of you.
Thirdly, religion has to be one of the most interesting things in all of philosophy. It’s holism, its all-encompassing-ness, its depth of belief about the spiritual, the timeless, the mysterious, what causality is. These things have been the interest of many people, many philosophers, since before they were named. Its popularity now and throughout history cannot go unobserved.
In religion, as with everything, I try to be balanced. I realize that attempting an understanding of “the mysterious” is an overly-sophisticated concept. The point of “the mysterious” is that it is difficult or impossible to understand, explain, or identify (re: Google search “define mysterious”). Thus, we rationally understand what the concept of mysteriousness is as a descriptive element of contemporary reality, but how are we able to explain what the origins, causes, or behavior of “mystery” is beside a comprehensive collective agreement of what we understand as “reality”? Don’t try to understand it, it’s not supposed to be understood.
To acknowledge this automatically makes one some sort of agnostic. One can still try to have some sort of observation of their “Creator” while still being incredibly skeptical of our abilities to try and understand “the Divine Command” theory. Philosophy houses the discipline of taking very big steps if you decide to stray in any one direction. This is truly Russell’s assertion that “philosophy is the school of uncertainty”. But real philosophy, aside from the grandiose and purely dramatic, takes a bit of art. The real philosopher is constantly aware of the question regarding how large and dramatic steps are to be taken while also not throwing the whole system off balance. Where are lines drawn, what sort of distinctions can be made?
The difference between religion and faith is the extent to which elements of faith become dogmatic. Religion is the organized capital ‘c’ Church, whereas the faithful understands that God is the God of all people, and thus everyone’s collective action makes up the Earthly, small ‘c’ church. I stand against the certain anti-theists who think religion is an awful, misguided concept. They demonstrate the same totalitarian, all-or-nothing scenario which denies the role of individual choice.
The rabid anti-theist probably thinks that modern churches are full of well-to-do, rich middle-class people (an observation not far from the truth). But a more comprehensive take on reality is that a church is not a place for feel-gooders, but a hospital for the broken. Denying someone the right of forming or joining their own faith community shares a lot of similarities with those Bible-thumpers who don’t want to teach their kids about the world. I share the sentiment of the anti-theist in wanting every child to have a comprehensive and in-depth education, but not to the extreme of outlawing all Bible study.
The point to make is that these issues aren’t all black-and-white, either/or, all-or-nothing, or zero-sum. Things aren’t so neat all the time. There is a wide diversity of grey areas. There are religious people that do good things and bad things, there are scientists that do good and ones that do bad. Their quality of being religious or being scientific in no way weighs on their morality one way or another. As with almost everything, it is in the equilibrium, the balance, the classical Greek philosopher Aristotle’s “doctrine of the mean” of finding the middle ground between the extremes.
In summation, structuralism, epistemology, and religion are three very interesting concepts. There is a lot of overlap, and a ton nuanced redundancy. The complexity of diversity and inherent tension of so many contradictions and opposites just testifies to the broad necessity of open-mindedness and critical research. Certainty and order are states of mind, just as periods of confusion or contemplation are.
-the end of Jessica Greenbaum’s poem ‘I Love You More Than All the Windows in New York City’
We need the ability to think for ourselves and create our own sense of power and understanding. An artistic, creative sense of poetry can fulfill these necessities, if we make the effort to understand how. In Jessica Greenbaum’s poem “I Love You More Than All the Windows in New York City”, what does she mean by “the sentence” that she gives “you”? Who is “you”? It doesn’t take much to be able to read poetry, just an ability to read it out loud in order to see how it fills the mouth, as well as an open-minded understanding of metaphor.
Perhaps one understanding of Greenbaum’s poem is that “you” is actually a specific person, one that she perhaps has (or had) some sort of intimate relationship with. Or perhaps it’s the reader. Perhaps the reference to “the sentence inside” of her bag is a poem, or perhaps it’s poetry itself. Is it this poem, or is this a poem about poetry and the event references the creation of a completely different poem? Or perhaps it’s all a metaphor and the person doesn’t exist – the concepts are merely figurative. Is “the bag” a metaphor for the mind, slyly strung in there in an incredibly descriptive narrative of her bike ride? These are all interesting things one can contemplate with just a single poem.
I use metaphor when I reference “life” imagined as a spider (see “Life as a Spider”). It is likewise a reference to metaphor when I say that all of anthropology is actually just the blankets in the much wider context of the “barrel” model of social theory. Now is a good of a time as any to let your perspective be changed by coming face-to-face with the depths of metaphoric meaning. The holistic, integrative, and comparative methodologies can be directly related to weaving a piece of fabric or stitching.
The first way that the essence of anthropology is like a woven web of string and cloth is how it ritualistically treats the many different strands in a systematic, comparative fashion. It combines the essentials of context with the sufficiency of human knowledge. To make a simple weave requires materials (no matter how easy to get) as well as the particular depth of knowledge of how to proceed with the materials (no matter how simple it is to teach). These requisite materials that are needed to begin are like the systematization of context achieved through the anthropologist’s rigorous theoretical construction in a setting of participant observation – a very significant part of any serious attempt at anthropology.
The anthropologist builds this window with which to approach the social setting by actually talking and interacting with the people – this is called “participant observation”. The window is constructed by the anthropologist’s systematic research and exposure to theories and hypotheses. You can’t knit without needles, and you need to account for which thickness of needle you need. The thickness of the needle determines how finely tight the weave is, just like the need for open-minded, systematic research. The more systematic the exposure to research is, the better able to determine the thickness of the needle that you need or prefer.
Due to the very nature of the diversity and complexity of how many anthropological concepts are ideas are out there, the anthropologist must be aware of the underlying structures that determine the hypothetical meaning in any observation, voluntarily participated or otherwise. How can the knitter plan what to knit if they don’t understand the process of knitting? A good knitter can look at a piece and get a rough idea of how much work it took to make it, more so than a person who has no idea how to knit at all. This is compared to how the anthropologist is able to view his or her surroundings and relay certain implications of the events as they relate to theoretical hypotheses.
The anthropologist’s need to “study up” is reflected in the very precise way the weaver goes about completing the project. What sort of project is to be imagined? Do I knit, crochet, or try some mosaic patchwork? As always, I need to check if I have the requisite materials before making a list of what to get at the shop. This requires the ability to fully understand the step-by-step process of arriving at the final project. Similarly, the anthropologist needs to approach observation with a holistic, multidisciplinary method. It takes archaeology, biology, and my particular favorite linguistic philosophy (among many others). The precise measure of holism and complexity of strands of anthropological structure demonstrates the extent to which on will properly understand the meaning of observation. Without “studying up”, the anthropologist’s own bias could affect the observation, just like an inexperienced knitter walking into a hobby shop will have no idea what they are doing.
The third way anthropology is like a woven web is how it is a specific skill and test of competence that everyone relies on yet very few people know very intimately. I don’t want to minimize the art – there are knitting, crocheting, and sowing classes, shops, and magazines available all across the country. My point is that a disproportionate amount of people have no idea how most fabric or cloth is made, having trouble to recall where their clothes, blankets, and upholstery originates. Traditional knitters may realize that and industry that was highly cherished for the social bonds it forms has been taken over by much more impersonal market forces. I think true knitters are wise enough to understand that no form of knitting goes without acknowledging that a freshly woven piece is no less cherished.
The final comparison to take from the woven-web metaphor for anthropology is the notion that, unlike weaving or knitting, we are all some sort of anthropologist. Due to our inherent nature of being a human in the complexity of society, we are each every kind of social theorist. We develop an understanding of the people around us, due to very limited exposure to all available stimulus, and come out with an understanding of the world, like economics, politics, anthropology, and philosophy. By being so curious about language itself, one becomes an armchair linguist. But the point of choosing, or having, or knowing to have the requisite materials is of utmost importance to the anthropologist, and it reflects the quality of his overall observation – whether or not the particular method of participant observation is conceptually valid.
In summation, the metaphor of web weaving can be a powerful one if it’s used to understand the professional’s role in maturing from an amateur position. All people are born to have some sort of understanding of the political-economic complex (even though high-school civics classes are a heartbreaking joke) and so every person who wants to make a living and be an actual professional social theorist needs to embrace a very serious, rigorous, and comprehensive “study up” of the history of their discipline. By “weaving” together many different elements of anthropological study from the past, you are able to make clear and focused observation of the present.
My fascination with language continues unabated – finding new areas where popular misunderstanding gets in the way of factual understanding. For example, the typical exercise of comparing animals to humans. It can be interesting to thing about how active certain animals are in communication between individuals of a group, as well as looking at the inherent complexity of available symbolic structures of that particular species-population. If at the end of the conversation there is not an incredibly well-rounded understanding of determinism, I would be thoroughly disappointed.
A lot of seemingly interesting talk happens about whether or not animals can learn, understand, or manipulate language. I find a lot of nuance in this discussion, stemming from a gross oversimplification of both the complex nature of animal groups as well as the complex nature of language. The point interesting any systematic studier of sociolinguistics is if animals are able to have an innate understanding of the world, as well a the innate mental capacity to be aware enough of the other individuals of the group, and the need or desire to plant ideas or messages in another’s head, letting them be aware of the world as well.
To this extent, showing traits of symbolic manipulation that we humans do, numerous amount of animals have been able to demonstrate certain essential characteristics of this. Vervet monkeys have been able to vocalize (as distinguished from verbalize) different sounds, each grunt, howl, or cry meaning the same thing to every individual, like “threat” or “food”, which other members of the group understand. Much more interestingly, Chantek the orangutan was able to make his own phrase-names from smaller sign-language formations, putting them together in his own creative way to reference a person. We can see the essentials of innate mental faculties, syntactic rules governing the generative structures of well-formed compositions, and the ability to be more aware of symbolic meaning in their environment. Interesting, yes?
Of course it’s interesting, it’s got the essentials of language, just as mathematics and music do. What can be definitively said in terms of what sets humans apart from animals is the inherent complexity of our innate mental faculties, as well as the individual’s awareness of the connection their rational cognitive capacities have with the external repository of symbols. Animals may have the inherent ability to replicate some aspects of human-like language; it is the relative sophistication of the language capacity that makes human language far more interesting.
What is the cause of this interest which far outstrips the interestingness of animal quasi-speech? It is the notion of the individual’s capacity for interacting with and external repository of symbols (such as the letters, numbers, and figures involved in all sorts of writing). It is the aspect of human culture which creates mathematics, or music, and is able to immortalize it in the secondary expression of language, writing (as compared to the primary expression of speech). By writing it down, the next generation can overlook it, even adapt their own variation(s), or perhaps never value until a ways down the road. Then the next generation will have a go, then the next, then another. In short, it is the extent to which our history makes for complexity of symbolic culture.
And much more than just linguistic determinism, or economic determinism, it is a much more politically historical determination. Linguistic and economic determinism may be powerful observations of how social structures come into being, but not to the extent as the complexity of human history – our ability to apply our rationally structured belief systems to the world around us over and over again, not unlike vervet monkeys, orangutans, or chimpanzees can, but no animal can act in such fundamentally diverse, planned-out ways like the likes of us interesting humans.
(This is a short story that I recently wrote, a combination of the vivid description and short scenes of flash-fiction with a story that could, in all reality, be a novel. Telling a friend of the plot, he described it as “thrilling political drama”. Enjoy.)
Prologue: In an almost ancient age: the entire concept of law and order where both completely different. But what does “middle-ages” mean, and what does that mean for our contemporary time? When any sort of reference “medieval” times occurs, where exactly do you mean? Geography has come to be a means of opening the eyes of many people, and so can take not only Euramerican values, but also African, Middle-Eastern, and East-Asian principles.
Scene I: As soon as it becomes too cold for the aristocracy, the market dies down shortly before it becomes nightfall. One night, a substantial bonfire pit was raging, and one financially-endowed aristocrat stayed out late, wrapped in multiple cotton-shawls. Unknown amongst that single chance fire was a particularly vocal advocate for socially common information.
“Hey, who are you?” An elderly man said, breaking the silence between a dozen guys standing huff-puffing around the copper refuse receptacle.
“Uh-huh *ahem*,” the aristocrat coughed. “do you mean, uhm, me?” The aristocrat leaned back and took his hands from underneath his armpits to point at his chest.
“Yes, you, you sophie, you pardon-me-diction,” the elderly man exploded in rage, making a ruckus among the other men, letting the slurs fly, creating a scatter and the aristocrat’s fleeing.
Scene II: The next afternoon the aristocrat came back with a couple of really buff men trained to handle any physical challenge, a cousin and an associate the aristocrat held on indefinite financial retainer.
“Back away, back away everyone!” The aristocrat came into the market, acting like his own sheriff. “I’m arresting this crazy one for violent assault!” His two hired muscles held his arms and legs to prevent him from extensive damage during the thrashing resistance. Both operatives wore cotton cloths around their hands and arms, and so the aristocrat’s cousin, who happened to subdue the elderly man’s upper body, put his padded hands over the old man’s mouth and nose, inoculating him in a matter of minutes.
Scene III: The aristocrat had both of his hands chained to a wall in the building he had built on his property for his guard-servant-mercenaries.
The elderly man, forced to stand for days on end, collapsed to the point that his wrists started bleeding, looking like he was asleep or passed out.
When the aristocrat finally came to see him, he brought some advisors to the minister of the Interior, a bureaucracy the King put together as a state mechanism to facilitate the ongoing change his subjects required. In these archaic strong-man states, with no commercial media, certain advisors ministers, administrators, and social folk’s speech become super-powerful.
“This is the vile attacker, is it?” A snooty man in a spotless silk robe said to the air rather than at anyone specifically.
“It most certainly is.” One of the aristocrat’s hired thugs put his big, meatish hand on to the old man’s face, pushing on it to incite the bobble of his loose neck.
Waking, the old man tried to stand up feebly, lifting his head to look at everyone around him, his even-more-so decrepit state, and the state of his surroundings, thrashing and spitting about in painful anger. “You bastards!” And saliva went careening out. “Ungh, urgh, hmph, ahhh!!!” He screamed loudly.
“All right, all right, already!” The adviser quieted him. “Let’s get him down to the House.” He took a small burlap sack from his sleeve and placed it in the aristocrat’s palm. The aristocrat’s eyes widened and a wide, toothy smile began to form. “well, I don’t want him thrashing about like that in the transfer,” the advisor said matter-of-factly. The aristocrat’s hired muscles took their fists and boots to the elderly man’s head and body, beating him to a bad bloody pulp.
Scene IV: The Advisor to the Minister of Civics, as well as the Minister himself, watch from the main desk with the King’s Constable while the official state Preacher confided with the elderly man through the bars of his cell.
Having finished talking him, the Preacher started walking towards the triad of professional onlookers. The elderly man then became socially vocal, bursting out in verbal speech, thrashing about on his bars and his entrapment. The triumvirate administration officials overheard some of his sayings.
“Yes. Yes!” He screamed emphatically. “And tell me how you know the tortures of hell so intimately, have you felt the fire yourselves?” He said like he was facing the Lucifer in the flesh. The Preacher kept resolute as he walked towards the front desk. Soon the elderly man’s speech was converted into a more general thrashing, crashing his fists and singing some odd estranged hymnal.
“His delirium is intense. It is obvious that he has been denied his vital thirst.” The Preacher announced.
“And to no doubt, a vagrant vandal as he is, doubtful that he has been to any sort of church at all.” The Advisor said, looking at the Constable. The Constable held his resolute sternness, communicating no acknowledgement of significant change one way or the other.
“That is of no doubt, actually, it turns out that he was actually a teacher of art to little children. He soon was teaching the most advanced of young learners in his entire social group in the sophisticated elements of governmental civics,” the Preacher said, tilting his head and neck, looking around at the surroundings, the condition “offenders” were subject to. He let the implications of that sink into the Minister of Civics and his confidants. “He says he maintains skeptical attitudes towards some of the Church’s specific involvements in social affairs, he claims as a matter of faith.”
This was met with three gasps from the other state-actors. The Advisor expressed his outrage outright, even though the Preacher continued to be confused about the higher elements and overall contemplative. “It’s practically blasphemy, right there!” The Advisor laid it out. “If that doesn’t settle it, I don’t know what will.”
“Are you seriously going to consider him this ambitious project of yours?” The Preacher inquired.
The older, cropped grey-haired Minister spoke up. “Oh yes, he’s perfect. My good friend the Constable here assures me, this old codger is an anonymous, a ghost, no next of kin or family, he truly is the perfect candidate.”
Scene V: The sun shines no matter what, out entire concept of weather is driven by our observation of the clouds. Dark grey clouds scattered the pearl-blue sky, a crowd was gathered just outside of the House, the jail block that housed civic criminals.
“We’ve come,” began the Preacher, “to acknowledge the fate of all unrepentant sinners and other practitioners of the deviant arts.” He was holding a black leather-bound book and on a wood platform, elevated amongst the large crowd of commoners, the gallows where three men stood with their hands bound behind their back, adorned with rope necklaces. “Contempt, disrupting the peach, threatening assault, the aggravated theft of property, the murdering of a person. May we have mercy.” He finished very quickly. The crowd responded shortly after: Amen.
The Preacher, dressed in a simple olive-green smock, walked off the platform, moving to the dressed-more-finely. An unnamable man in a black hod walked up the stairs and across the wooden platform to the other side, saying “Let this be a lesson to yehgghhh!” Ending in a type of barbarism.
“God help us, from ourselves,” the Preacher said to the Minister and the Minister’s advisor.
“They need this more than you know, clergyman,” the minister said.
“Need what, law? Order? This, falsity, fraudulence, and fallacy? No, they need morality. We’ll see what these programs of yours accomplish when compared to people doing just and good things.”
“Fairytales, holy man. It is the King’s mighty arm which shakes the economic hand of commerce in this country.” The Preacher clutched his Bible in silence, knowing that there was a truth somehow strung into everything, but that it’s not always so easy to say. “This provides order, structure, security. We have so many kinds of merchants, harmony must be imposed on the people,” the Minister said, attempting to demonstrate the height of his moral principle, all humanitarian-like.
“Yes?” the Preacher sighed. “But harmony for whom?” he inquired.
Three Examples of Moral Hypocrisy: A Range of Behavioral Consequence
The era of cynicism is over, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better. More and more people are turning towards wisdom and virtue, given how much criticism exists of so many aspects of the media, the government, and big business at large, all with very legitimate merit though there is quite a bit of sensationalism in many camps.
In thinking of the evidence of so much hypocrisy, it’s useful to note that that doesn’t mean everything is so morally corrupt as to think that it’s fundamentally hypocritical. In the realm of trying to understand the political economic complex like the interaction of government, business, and other social organizations, it is important to recognize the existence of raw corruption. If pessimism, nihilism, or other negative attitudes towards life comes from recognizing the existence of hypocrisy, ne must separate themselves from the theoretical implications of examining the political-economic complex.
First, there is something to be said over people who want to have a strong say in how children are taught, in the public school system of otherwise, but yet don’t openly advocate for the broad ideal of “intellectual freedom” in other aspects of their life. In certain instances of irony, there can be quite a bit of humor, but my demeanor is of the utmost seriousness (I’ll let Matt Stone and Trey Parker to craft a humorous parody from such tragic circumstances). How scandalous is it that people are campaigning for their ability to teach our kids about society, philosophy, and each other (thus learning about themselves in the process), yet don’t know what it takes to actually educate. Even though board members and council-committee-sitters aren’t the one in the front of the classroom, but especially if they have never been the one in the front of the classroom, how do they base their conception of education of the children if they don’t understand what true understanding is? How are members of Congress supposed to know what is best for the nation’s people if there are incredibly antagonistic towards intellectual freedom of thought, asymmetrically holding one group of people’s interests above all else?
A second example of hypocrisy is of “neoconservatism” in general. Neoconservative innovation was genius in trying to grow the size of government and maximize its affect on shaping the world to its specifications, yet adopting more socially liberal attitudes in some respects so that one does not seem like a person beholden to “big government” tendencies. So while so many conservatives forgot or simply betrayed their moral principle against “limited government”, our country’s finances took a nose-dive for the worst, debt skyrocketing, financial regulation dismantled, and the legacy of war. The Tea Party, to their credit, were able to realize that the only way this appeals to more people is a more moderate position on civil rights, slightly more accepting of civil partnerships, slightly more respect for a family’s reproductive rights, willing to rationalize science instead of just reactionary denialism. Then, after the Financial Collapse of 2008, the Tea Party spontaneously grew to media excess, exploiting social misunderstanding of the complexity of economic issues for electoral gain, bringing their antagonistic attitude toward civil liberty back into the picture. The question is, how is neoconservatism, and conservatism more broadly, ever be trusted again?
A third and final example is completely theoretical, relegated to mental behavior observed through writing instead of the purely physical sort of the previous two. How is hypocrisy recognized among the opinion-merchants that duke it out in the mental arena of high publication houses?
This is the most complex example of moral hypocrisy because of the nature of the sort of media we’re looking at. When it comes to the complex of opinion-merchants in all of the professional literature, you have to realize the inherent allowance for novel creativity that is possible. Thus, when it comes to any aspect of social theory, you can always add one more specific element onto your analysis and be perceived as you have something totally unique in all the world. And truly you may have secondarily innovated some sort of systematic observation, but a huge aspect of such inherent creativity is the long line of writer-thinkers past, carving out new territory in the mind.
Most of the time, the average person should be able to be like “hey, these people are merely repeating the same old social conjecture, with some sort of added stylistic spin, without the concrete facts,’ but mostly it involves supposedly sophisticated editors who should have the industrial dexterity to determine when the writer’s civil ideology is intellectually fraudulent.
In summation, hypocrisy is a pretty specific thing, though it is quite hard to live up to in every single situation, all the time. But instead of embracing negativity and the moral vacuum of nihilism, realize the inherent nature of social theory and disconnect from the observation of the political economic complex. You can be aware of the hypocritical functionings of certain high-houses of business and civil discourse, and also realize that a proper approach to the apparent corruption of it all isn’t raw, ineffectual cynicism, but the complete opposite – creativity, positivity, openness.
(This is a post I thought of one day after yoga class. It is definitely supposed to mirror “We’ve No Poetry In Politics”, expanding a little bit on the benefits and structure of responding to life with more artistic creativity. I’d be very interesting in exploring how I could connect this specific post to “Any Single Jester & the Ethics of Comedian Journalism”. Sooner or later, in one form or another, this will all be in some kind of really awesome book.)
Journalism is very complex to me. At its core it is an industry that exists to help us learn about a world that is larger than the individual. (Why would I need “the papers” to understand what is in front of me?) Over time, more people used journalism in their own way. The industry called for more journalism because the activity that human attention was drawn to was increasingly that which was overseas. Foreign policy, requiring geopolitics, and thus metaphor, becomes important to the development of commercial journalism.
Nowadays, most people are confused about the role journalism, repeating the same old commonsense without their own pursuit of wisdom or understanding, I’ve had it with the cynics who simply know that the media goes astray but doesn’t have an opinion about it one way or another.
For people that try to be journalistic, everything from the traditional, conglomerate newspapers, to the local and regional level news organizations, even including the budding middle schooler connecting to the possibilities of self expression, all need to fully implement their responsibilities when it comes to the quality of presenting their ideas and perspectives to the page (print or web). You have to be aware of your own bias, inherent unfairness, and conceptual asymmetries, you have to be aware of the power of the page, and you have to try and be creative in the way that you ultimately get what you feel like you have to get out there.
Some contexts empower people more than others. A writer working at a retail outlet store will have a different experience of business than a painter will have working in hospitality, ie “fast-food”. Having colleagues, peers, advisors, editors in close proximity can serve as so much inspiration as to never perceive any poverty of structure, your workplace like a citadel-cathedral-mosque, a library where every book is holy. But the truth is that a lot of writers, or budding writers, feel stuck, possibly waiting on something that just takes time, working at a job to pay some bills in the mean time, trying everything in order to research their craft. Outside of the idealized print-house where opportunity is in every step, which every writer aspires to, practice and work are no less forsaken.
As a practiced discipline, journalism is heavy on the politics and philosophy. It’s heavy on the politics because it is how people learn about how the world works, and thus bears heavily on the extent to which we measure our impact on the world around us. It’s heavy on the philosophy because the combination of story, personal reflection, and love of wisdom has the potential to significantly comment on the activities of official authority, such as government, business-organizational structures, as well as the media itself.
Years ago, Tom Brokaw worried about entertainment’s encroaching on journalism, thinking that would mean the end of the individual’s ability to receive hard-hitting facts. Why would journalists worry about journalism if they actually put their effort entertaining the viewer? But nowadays, things have changed. Instead of just being a more-or-less passive, or receptive consumer of the news, almost everybody is also in some sense a media producer as well. True, in some form, even people that use the Internet generate cookies which measure certain traffic and activities. Think of how many things you produce when you use social networking sites such as Facebook… And now observe how Internet activity is prevalent throughout society and you may understand the significance of the change in individual creative output. And so, in a context in which the writer-activist exists, there is the possibility that some literary outputs are better able to be more inherently journalistic while also being entertaining. The Daily Show, as a half-hour show on Comedy Central, is able to be a better source of information about the world than the entirety of Fox “News” Channel.
Too often the root cause of the criticism of journalism is about its creativity. Some journalist-organizations are convicted of “putting spin” on certain stories, they may introduce a story with a predisposed take on the full extent of the implications of the information they portray. There are many examples of the shadiness of some journalists, merely saying the gerrymandered, passed-on from the editor-driven research teams, to presenting their discussion topics so that the personality portrays his or her opinions and uncontestable facts instead of the purely hypothetical, fabricated conjecture they actually are. The art in journalism comes from creating a unique portrayal of some fact about the world without imposing an overarching believe system on the reader, but respecting the reader’s freedom of belief. The art in journalism comes from saying truths to power which don’t attempt to replace the reader’s value system, or try to dominate over the reader’s value system, but attempts to call the own reader’s awareness of proprietary value systems from the reader’s own self-interest.
The media need to be more poetic – an insight plenty of “non-journalist”-types have realized is true yet aren’t professionally recognized in the way they should be. We need more opinion-merchants with the ability to converse in highly-important moral principles, such as fairness, justice, and responsibility. Writers and media-consumers need to realize the extent to which their reading opens their mind rather than shuts down imagination, from the idealizations of poetry all the way to whatever you have in front of you trying to learn more about the world, the Star Tribune or The New Yorker or Ploughshares. We need a journalism that handles the individual’s attempt to experience/ understand the world in a creative way, packed full of meaning, hitting progressive issues substantively and with their own stylistic taste.
In summation, just as we need to have more poetry in politics, we need to have more in the media in general, also. We need a meaningful, artistic response to the writer’s world around them in order to handle the topicality with professionally seriousness. I think everyone is fed up with a lackadaisical, lazy media, unable to their jobs properly, passive to the political economy’s inherent change instead of being a buffer of current events for the individual person.
Not only can philosophy itself structure everyday experience much like a very inclusive economics can, but philosophy can also work wonders in enhancing how open-minded and imaginative we can be.
So not only are pragmatism, naturalism, and positivism necessary for any sophisticated philosopher, but functionalism, existentialism, and logic can be fun for anybody to think about. Hopefully, over time, more people could recognize that what is mentally fun for the everyday layperson can also be very intimately related t what each and every “professional” needs to learn (and vice versa).
First, the notion of functionalism is a powerful tool for organizing our thoughts. Even thinking that functionalism itself is a tool is a form of functionalism. Likewise, thinking that all of language is just a tool with the function of human communication is taking a functionalist approach. Linguistic structuralists try to make the case that you can’t reduce all of language to the communication function. This is true because not all language communicates to others. Rather, some language can bring order and structure to our thoughts. But aren’t these structuralist observations merely a different form of functionalism? In this sense, all language can be functionalist, while also keeping in mind that the domain of language relies on the all-important, innate mental faculty for its existence, regardless of communicative capacities.
People also have the same criticism about other things in social theory. To some people, functionalism is directly associated with mathematics. Then people become terribly upset, thinking their autonomy questioned. People think that, as soon as A becomes or is equal to B that could mean that we humans are just cogs in the machine, not truly “free”. This is a misguided conception of functionalism, a misunderstanding of mathematics itself. Thinking that functionalist thought cannot improve our understanding, for any reason at all, fails to realize that mathematics itself is merely a social function, a product of complex culture (what other species has developed symbolism?). The social theorist understands math as a human construction, and doesn’t ever forget the value of individual freedom and civil liberties.
Yet other people believe that it’s impossible to think of certain aspects of society as mathematics – our rational capacity for being a human doesn’t simple “reduce” to simplistic mathematics. My response is that, technically, yes it can – it just takes a much more creative mathematics. People think that that means you reduce people to numbers, objectifying them, cold, calculating. But these people forget that there is a difference between cardinality and ordinality among numbers. That is, numbers are merely symbols that indicate other meaning – a meaning we choose to give them. Therefore, it is perfectly up to us to define the parameters of a mathematically functional social structure, as long as it is able to describe all of reality and explain significant aspects of our humanity.
Secondly, existentialism is a pretty straightforward concept; any confusion has to do with a misunderstanding of its inherent significance. “Existentialism” doesn’t say that only that which is physical is important or necessary for a complete understanding of the world, but it is to say that what is physical is perhaps more important in more situations than the conceptually abstract. Existentialism doesn’t say that the conceptually abstract doesn’t exist, but a pragmatic existentialism endeavors to find out how it exists. It’s the Quinian method: blending a physical and phenomenal “ontology” on a purely conceptual basis, distinguishing one time versus the next with open-minded skepticism. For the pragmatic existentialist, the physical, or the “existential”, is thus that which is tangible (including emotions, concrete thoughts, as well as the “3-dimensional”, “physical” reality around you). Existentialism doesn’t say that “metaphysics” doesn’t exist, it doesn’t even have to say that emotions are merely illusions to be mistrusted, but it tries to blend both styles to understand more of reality. It realizes that every individual is a completely unique individual, yet shares certain, real commonalities (such as abstract symbolic conceptualism, the capacity for rational mind).
Finally, logic is perhaps the most interesting and fundamental aspect of all philosophy. I call logic “the fabric” of philosophy because logical principles determine the difference between comprehensive understanding and preliminary, hypothetical conjecture. But not only can logic determine between certainty and exploration, but logic can also determine complete bullshit, too. For example, hypothetical conjecture can have its own significant, logical structure and purpose. If the context allows for some creativity and open-mindedness in the realm of predictive behavior, then a sophisticated sort of conjecture could be appropriate. But what is never appropriate is to purposefully mislead people’s sense of rational understanding, or trying to replace one’s own opinion as fact, or trying to unduly influence another by making them feel unqualified and/or subordinate. Logic, of course, does so much more than just determine between the quality of human speech in improving the human discourse, but one quality that can relate them all is the relation of interconnectedness and meaning in the realm of human experience.
In summation, philosophy tries to get at the same thing, yet is so open and inclusive that there are (nearly) infinite ways of getting there. If you are interested in the political economy, I would suggest the three broad categories of geographical politics, psychology, and civic morality. If you appreciate philosophy as a professional discipline, I advocate pragmatism, naturalism, and positivism. For anyone that is interested in open-mindedness and practical, everyday philosophy, I would recommend a structuralist-functionalism, metaphysical existentialism, and experiential logic. By combining all three studies in all three distinct disciplines, you come to a more well-rounded understanding of the specific world around you.
(Here is a poem I wrote during a couple times of running at some hiking trails in the very southwestern corner of Eden Prairie. It was during a pretty tumultuous time for me, and using the actual lyrics from a song in the poem in this way was something I had never tried before. The italicized lyrics come from mewithoutYou’s “Grist for the Malady Mill”,)
Running at Richard T. Anderson
“Sheppard the Southwest wind… “
I parted an air-borne colony of lightning bugs, chasing/being chased by some Spirit of the Wood, driving each foot down fast and hard like words slapped onto the page. My calves can scream at the Muses. I try to imagine what EB White and Whitman would say if they were alive, reminding me of the importance of the simple word, the dramatic difference of lightning with or without the bug.
“Railspikes rip like the
Seam of a wineskin. . “
Don’t be afraid of ghosts; the translucent specter spooking the unsuspected. Be more afraid of memory, the seemingly transparent “ghost” it can rightfully seem like. A forest can have perhaps ten thousand trees like the words popping off the page, like every single wise individual that has passed on, running over literature like playing against the inclines of a hiking trail, poesing all the way.
“Sheppard the Northeast rain …”
A Godsend downpour; I feel whole water droplets splash against my face, making a thin film as I eagerly press on, treating downed trees like track-and-field hurdles. Sometimes I let my pace ebb and flow to the utterly arbitrary nature of stylistic choice. The result of the difference between rational sense and metaphysical truth is arbitrarily called rhetoric. I try to interpret the qualifications of classicism, constantly running off questions to further explicate my sense of reason; a painter picks up a gob of self-worth to slap upon a canvass. No one knows what he or she will make of space.
By this time I have adrenaline coursing on high like I’m just getting started. I continue to course throughout the forest, my running propelling me throughout the words just like the community between people are supposed to communicate progress. Any and all pain becomes triumph, in the right amounts, the learning process of trial and tribulation. I desperately gasp for air, panting wildly – I try to inhale deep breaths of the cold, damp air to remove the pain in my chest. A stitch over, I continue on forcefully, bettering myself by imposing a combination of physical and mental discipline.
“Don’t it just
to hear of so much pain. . “
When I run I assert my autonomy, partially disappearing into no one. Right now, I’m not the one to comment definitively on popular culture, but if any sort of civil metric were to be constructed regarding “perfection” I could argue for a long list of coequally alternative perspectives.
Chapter Seven of Joseph Stiglitz’s book The Price of Inequality is called “Justice For All? How Inequality is Eroding the Rule of Law”. The first paragraph gets at something fundamental to keeping and open and critical mind, as well as commenting on something fundamental to keeping America an exceptional place to call home. He talks about “the rule of law” that “we have championed [to] other countries”. But he also makes a very pragmatic, realistic observation, that “what the pledge really means is seldom taken up. Nor is a still larger question broached: whether America has really delivered on its promises” (187).
This gets at an issue I am desperate for more people to recognize: the nature of hypocrisy. Obviously the American dream has been realized for at least some people, but we have to be critical of the actual state of it among us as a people versus how much of it we actually need. And I don’t mean to say that America, as a whole, is entirely hypocritical, but to get at the notion that reality may not be what it seems like at first. I turn to the Book of Acts in the Bible. Specifically, I want to call people’s attention to the 16th chapter, when Paul and Silas are in the city of Philippi in Macedonia. When they were going to a place of prayer, they had been confronted by a slave-girl who told fortunes for her owner’s clients. The girl followed them and was saying things to the effect of “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the ways to be saved!” This made it very difficult for them to have authentic relationships with the people they were meeting, what with her reducing their entire mission to a gross over-simplification. Soon, they exorcised the demon, for which they got put in jail (ruining the slave-owner’s financing disappear).
There may not be anything inherently hypocritical in any of these actions here, either, but the fundamental nature is revealed: the fortune-teller was making their ministry impossible. Their goal was unable to be accomplished no matter how hard they tried; no matter what, their desires could not be reality, no matter what behavioral action they choose.
Now I turn to a much more volatile notion, that of patriotism, nationalism, and philosophic conservatism. I think each one of these concepts/notions are precious, as such I believe they shouldn’t be utilized to beat people over the head or make them feel morally inferior. Howard Zinn, the 18th essay in his book A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, talks about it like the incredibly thoughtful historian he is:
“National spirit can be benign in a small country that is lacking military power and a hunger for expansion (Switzerland, Norway, Costa Rica, and many more). But in a nation like ours – huge, possessing thousands of weapons of mass destruction – what might have been harmless pride becomes an arrogant nationalism dangerous to others and to ourselves.” page 143.
Even when people think good things, or think that they think good things, and feel good feelings, doesn’t mean their actions are good. Being American and a patriot should be much more difficult than just putting on a T-shirt with an American Flag or an eagle on it, it should be much more than judging others based on the pettiness of purely symbolic actions, such as whether or not someone puts their hand over their heart during the pledge of allegiance, but focusing on the actions that have severe behavioral consequences, such as who they want to put on the Supreme Court.
In summation, you can be utterly patriotic and share your sense of nation-love without saying the pledge of allegiance. We need to recognize when one’s actions fundamentally contradict their words and their beliefs. When you claim someone is unpatriotic on baseless grounds, you reduce a very complex thing with an overly-simplistic judgmentalism. Patriotism should be less about symbolism and more about adhering to the principles that makes America great. And not only that, it should be about actually finding out what makes America a great place instead of blindly following a sense of tradition that might no longer apply like it perhaps once did.
(A couple of months after the break-up and I’m still on about the same girl. Tsk Tsk. Well, here is another fusion of flash-fiction and a novel, where the story could go on and on and on but it is only very prominent scenes. This might not even count as “flash-fiction”, considering it’s almost 1,500 words. I love the Spanish language, and so it feels incredibly natural for me to utilize some Spanish in character development. I took some liberties with the formatting, though. I don’t have upside down interrogative or exclamation points, and I’m pretty sure the “si“‘s need to have an accento or else they mean “if”.)
Prologue: An early-twenties male college student comes back to his hometown in the American Southwest to celebrate his younger sister’s quinceañera. During the dance, he sat on a chair to the side, watching his sister dance with a group of her friends, including his childhood friend who he had had a crush on for quite some time.
Scene I: Her eyes caught his stare, and he smiled to match the one on hers. She waved her hand to beckon him over, but he was intimidated by her clean, freshly-purchased dress, her expensive jewelry, professional hairstyling. He nodded up, as if to acknowledge her, while also letting her know he wouldn’t oblige.
“Hijo,” he turned his head to see where it was coming from.
“Hola, padre,” he said to his father, speaking loud to combat the music. He sat next to him and leaned him, sipping cerveza.
“Did you see Isabela here? Huh? Bonita, no?”
“Si, si, padre.”
“Why do you not go a-dancing with her?”
“Padre, no se, she could never like me like me, not with all the other guys she could choose from.”
“Oh, nonsense, mi hijo, escuchame, such a smart and talented boy like you, any girl would be lucky to get such a young man. Who gets the scholarship to go to such a big American university? Y que guapo!”
“Te amo, padre,” he said, rolling his eyes and giving him a hug.
“Creq que, you need to go talk to you abuelo about this. He would definitely have something to say.”
At that, the kid got up from his chair and said “Muchas gracias” back to his father, he left in the direction of his sister, bobbing his head with the music. He approached the group around his sister confidently, though he had never really been to a school dance with a girl or anything, he still knew by watching the way his father and uncles have made out over the years.
Scene II: The next day the young man visited a convenience store, wanting to get out of the house and enjoy his Saturday for a bit. Much, to his chagrin, he ran into Isabela with her friends, checking out the refrigerated section in the back.
They spotted each other and her friends started giggling and walked towards the cashier. She stayed back and to speak a few words to him.
“I’m so happy to see you!” She hugged him, he reciprocated out of instinct, embarrassed, taken by pleasant surprise. “Congratulations.” She finished.
“Yes, thank you.” He tried to respect the ultimate change of college, even though he wasn’t aware if she was aware that it was a commonality.
“Last night was so much fun, as the Twin Cities are, no?”
“Si, si, creo que si,” he agreed.
“I better see you sometime, it’s almost midterm and we haven’t even explored any place together.” She didn’t make any attempt at putting distance between them.
“Lo siento,” he retreated, spent so much time on his studies, wanting to get ahead, but now he was questioning what was really worth progressing towards.
Scene III: When Sunday came around, he hopped, skipped, and jumped to his grandparent’s house. In the blazing sun, he found his grandparents sitting on a loveseat on the front porch. At least they had the shade of their gabbled roof, some ice cold tea. In fact, he was familiar with the architecture, having spent just a couple of weeks in Minneapolis’s own Dinkytown, and its quasi-Brownstone domicile stylistics. He was familiar with the porch social convention, as well.
Approaching the pair, he leaned in to hug them each, and kiss their cheeks. He hopped to the left of them and sat on the brick. His grandma got up and disappeared into the house.
“Abuelito, tengo una problema…” He began.
“Is it about love?” His grandpa asked with a smile.
“Si! How did you know?” He asked back.
“I can tell these things, I have been in love, you know.” At that, the young man’s grandma came through the door with a large pitcher of tea, floppy circles of lemon, lime, and blood orange floating around, a glass full of ice in the other hand.
“You know how to pick ‘em, abuelito!”
“Oh, there was no picking on my side. It was all her, you know. I knew I was meant to be with her the first time I saw her.”
“His grandma spoke this time. “We went on a blind date, one of my friends set us up. We did have a really good time, but I didn’t know if I would date him again. He kept on asking me, though. I said yes one time, and then we got married a couple months after that.” She clapped her hands together and looked at her husband affectionately.
“What did you do?!” The young man asked of his grandpa.
“Listen, listen, escuchame, mi hijo, no matter what has happened or is happening, the most important thing is to be open and honest. How could you ever have true love if you hide a part of yourself? If you love Isabela, you have to make it known.”
But his grandpa interrupted, “Hijo, hijo, I know these things.”
Scene IV: Since he had to go back to class the next day, he had to leave shortly after speaking to his grandparents. After his Monday classes, he sent her a message over Facebook, “What are you up to? Wanna hang?” He started to lay his study materials on the desk, taking a textbook with him on his bed, waiting for a response. Soon, he fell asleep exhausted from the change of time, the business of his schedule.
When he came to, he panicked. It was dark out. He looked at his textbook, a Post-It with “I thought I’d come say hi, but you were too adorable”, a fresh coat of lipstick with a sparkly tint of glitter to it. He checked his phone, a text. “What are you up to tomorrow night?”
‘She always had a way of remaining tasteful,” he thought to himself.
Scene V: The next night, he found himself kitty-corner from The Lounge, on the corner of 2nd and 4th, waiting for Isabela to show up. As soon as he saw her, he started approaching the entrance.
“Isa!” He shouted to get her attention.
“Hola! I’m so glad you could make it!” She was with three other guys, around the same age but feeling a bit older somehow, all bigger than him. “Did you bring anyone?” She asked with a little bit of a laugh.
“No, sorry,” he half-chuckled in embarrassment.
“Oh, it’s ok,” she told him with a smile. “These are my friends, they are very good dancers!” At that one of the guys put his arm around Isabela. “Marcos, this is Domingo.”
“Hola, amigo. I’ve heard a lot about you, man.”
“You have?” Marcos asked.
“Oh, si,” Domingo replied. Marcos was feeling crushed. What does this arm around her shoulders mean? Is her arm around him? When they got to the doors, the other two guys each met a girl and engaged in hugging and hand holding. They got in line and Marcos hung back, feeling defeated and out of place, but as soon as he was inside of the club, Isa came up to him, speech made impossible, grabbed his hand and for about ten seconds Marcos tried his best to dance back. But the thought of Domingo couldn’t be forgotten. A whole minute spent inside, and he leaned in, uncertain of whether or not she could hear him, yelled out “I’m gonna leave!” And made his way to the door.
Outside on the sidewalk, Isabela came running behind him, yelling his name as she caught up. “Marcos, Marcos, que pasa, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know, Isa, I guess I’m just a one woman guy, and for a long time now that woman has been you. But I just don’t know what game you’re trying to pull with Domingo.” At that, Isa threw her arm over Marcos’ shoulder, putting her hand on the back of his head, bringing it in so she could plant a kiss on his lips.
When it was done, Isabela said, “There is nothing with Domingo, he’s just a friend. In fact…”
A yelling interrupted her, “Isabela! Marcos! Donde fueron ustedes?” It was Domingo, a girl in hand. He brought her in front of him and put his arms around her shoulders, he was like an overcoat thrown over her petite frame. “are you going to come back dancing? What’s going on?” Isabela grapped Marcos’ hand, interlacing their fingers. He had never felt like this before. She smiled, batted her eyes, cocked her head towards the club. He smiled, too.
New Perspectives for Sociolinguistics: A Treatise on Symbolic Interactionism
(This was one of the funnest posts to write, ever. I took the main pathway of topics from my textbook for my Cultural Anthropology class. I’ve been interested in linguistics a long time before this class, however, as well as the nature of relativism and determinism. After reading the sections on Linguistic Relativism and Linguistic Determinism in the textbook, I thought it was a great opportunity to write about ‘em.)
Sociolinguistics is what is says it is – the systematic analysis of language’s relationship to society and vice versa (socio- meaning “society’, linguistics meaning the systematic study of language). One of the most interesting methodologies established to analyze this constant feedback relationship is in trying to understand the role that “social categories” has on language use and employment (and especially what “social categories” even are). When we bring defined cultural contexts and got into the specifics of any single or group of scenarios it’s called “ethnolinguistics”. Therefore, ethnolinguistics is specific, rhetorical normatives considering the nature of social language use, and sociolinguistics proper is the entire theoretical structure of the enterprise (the distinction is fairly arbitrary, wouldn’t you say so? For example, both ethnolinguistics AND sociolinguistics automatically implies the existence of the other, and vise versa).
Sociolinguistics, as well as ethnolinguistics, differs from the broader study of linguistics by turning away from the individualistic approach of how people acquire language from youth and how they form sentences, and goes into how we as people in society use language to communicate among us. This isn’t to say that one or the other is “better” or inherently more interesting, just that they both are important to a well-rounded understanding of the nature of language. In fact, the theoretical methods of linguistics proper are necessary for aiding in the construction of a sociolinguistic framework. If you’re going to study language in a social context, you not only need to understand the history of that very social context (why it’s called “ethnography”), but also the logical structure of linguistic theory (re: Noam Chomsky). Ethnolinguistic methodology couldn’t exist without the inherent study of linguistics, and the overall ethnographic-based approach wouldn’t exist without anthropology, a much more fundamentally conceptual analysis. Thus, ethnolinguistic application and research is a critical aspect of how society and language relate to each other.
Linguistic relativity holds that culture-dependent differences are embedded in the lexicon, or vocabulary, of that culture. A famous example is how many words, or lexical items, that the Arctic Inuit have for “snow” compared to what we have. Who cares if different people have different names for things? Not all people experience the same thing, isn’t this obvious? The theoretical implication is, however, that a particular society/population of people could develop their own, specific way of understanding the world around them. The Inuit create many different words for what we consider “snow” because they experience on a much more extensive basis. Another example of the existence of linguistic relativity could be considered as the intense systems of classifications for all of the cars that we (meaning Americans in general) have. It all depends on the particular people’s awareness, and the history of their conceptual advancement, ideological belief systems. Ask yourself a hypothetical: could the Inuit benefit from learning the extent of automobile diversity that we “city” (or town, or suburb, or rural) folk are able to demonstrate? Perhaps not - it would be only for artistic purposes, they wouldn’t be able to use such words on a daily basis to apply to the world around them. A related question: could some of us benefit from “borrowing” more words to differentiate among the many types of snowfall/snow accumulation that we experience? Perhaps if we were more aware of the different types of snow, as the Inuit obviously are, us citizens living in high snowfall areas could have better expectations of the future instead of trying to factor in other weather-related conditions. If we had more words for the very different kinds of snows there are, perhaps we wouldn’t need to rely on so many muddled modifiers and complex specifiers.
Closely related to relativity is determinism. I’m generally distrustful of anyone who doubt’s language’s ability to affect an individual’s understanding of the world. One has to be completely ignorant or misinformed about the nature of vocabulary to any individual – we can teach ourselves and learn completely new words, changing our understanding of the world in the process. Furthermore, if you doubt the notion of determinism on its merits, you fail to grasp Whorf’s fundamental insights into the Hopi’s system of language. If we are each born into a social context with the innate mental faculty to learn language, then the structure of that language, such as word categories (nouns, verbs, articles) and grammatical principles (in how the physical world is treated in relation to the abstract) affects very fundamental aspects of how an individual makes sense of the world. It’s not about extreme determinism, as in language is prior to conceptual development, but about a mean approximation of how language actually impacts our ability to understand the world. Whorf’s observations indicate that not only do a difference in lexical items (words, vocabulary, inputs into the lexicon such as the multiplicity of “snow) but also about how one comes to understand relationships between fundamental things such as what physically exists, the nature of the conceptually abstract, and the conventions of categorization and systematic understanding. In short, the individual’s relationship to language, whether read, heard, or spoke, influences what you consider logic within the highly advanced, conceptual complexity of contemporary society.
Just like we could perhaps systematically “borrow” words from other languages to enhance our own awareness of certain aspects of the world, perhaps too could we borrow/adopt certain syntactic principles from other cultures/languages if they so happen to improve our understanding of the world. Perhaps we could benefit in blending how the Navajo distinguish between doing and becoming versus how the Anglo perception of practical existence merely reduces to a highly static “being”. Perhaps we would be better off by realizing there are more than one “states” of being. Could anyone doubt that being more conscious of “change” could be a bad thing without succumbing to conservative prescriptivism?
In summation, we shouldn’t let confusing or improper explanations of relativism and determinism get in the way of our comprehensive understanding them on an individual, thorough basis. As (more and more) children are born, in the midst of such inherent cultural complexity, we can’t deny the significance of a philosophically symbolic interactionism – our innate ability to create and improve upon our contemporary conceptual understanding of the world. To be intolerant of change is to be willingly prescriptive, people are going to be inherently creative and dynamic without anyone’s ability to discourage subversive activity. We can not only “borrow” from other cultural linguistic structures in an activist sense, such as being more aware of change to enhance our understanding of the world, but we could possibly utilize an introspective method to create the very changes for ourselves, by ourselves. The point is being able to change our understanding of the world to reflect that of reality instead of sticking with outdated modes of reference, like a child becoming adult.
(Here is a really experimental piece - an attempt to fuse the two seemingly opposing formats of the flash-fiction piece, which is just a short-short story, with the long, drawn out plot of a novel. It was inspired by hanging out with a friend last weekend. I’ve already started, and almost completed, a second one!)
Prologue: There were once two great warriors, each having an army that they commanded on their own. The younger, yet more visionary warrior had an army much smaller than the other, about one-third the size. The larger army was headed up by an older man, about middle-aged, was classically trained in the art of warfare by a complex of King-Knights that came before him. Their feuding was constant, vigorous, always looking for the next skirmish as soon as their paths cross…
Scene I: In their attempt to conquer as many areas and resources as possible, they visited as many little villages as they could. Each party attempted to impress their temporary host with the most extravagant displays.
“I hope you drink until I make you question your entire way of life!” The little visionary said while putting his densely-muscled arm around whoever happened to be the most influential in town, pulling him close in with tremendous strength and force.
Scene II: The elder statesman came into the same town shortly after his younger counterpart had arrived. As soon as they got there, he instructed some of his many warriors to go hunting for whatever game they could find. Skinning and butchering their kills and catches, the townsfolk were treated to a feast, the town headsman supplying more beer.
In the middle of the night, the elder Colonel-figure awoke to screaming and yelling somewhere around the town. He woke up to see the city-head in his quarters, looking over him.
“I’m sorry, me-lord, our allegiance has come and gone. You come here, kill our wildlife, and drink our fine brew, but you will pay!”
“The elder statesman got up and brushed him aside to assess the state of his troops. Outside of his tent he saw some other tents ablaze, some of his troops running around completely engulfed in fire, arrows sticking through them.
He yelled as loudly as possible, “Troops, we have been deceived! Everyone move out! Quickly! Never again shall the wool be pulled over my eyes with cordiality!”
Scene III: The younger lieutenant-figure of the smaller band had gotten to a watering hole first, posted up awaiting the larger regiment to arrive. When he finally began to see the other troops come over the hilltop, he smirked. The elder statement saw him blocking the drinking water and immediately stopped, grabbing his shield and spear closer. His troops imitated him instinctively.
“You look a little lighter than the last time I saw you. Get hung up someplace?” The younger squawked with a bravado, making his troops laugh.
“We still outnumber you 2-to-1, old friend.”
“Is that true, now?” That must have been a coded signal because just then archers appeared from out of the tree-line and fired into the Colonel’s battalion. A rear flank came charging in behind them, forcing them to face each other head on. The battle lasted for only about a half hour before the Colonel called a retreat.
Scene IV: Hours after the skirmish at the spring, the elder statesman and his troops were reeling from the massive amount of losses suffered recently. Camped out around the fire that night, he began to question himself out loud.
“The old rules don’t do it no longer!” Belligerence was now becoming him. “We can’t play by the same rules if the other player is crafting newer and better strategies.”
“What do you mean?” One of his troops asked.
“We need to rethink the game! We’ve got to get dirty, think of things just as ruthless as he does.”
Scene V: Later that same night, the younger warrior had a frightening dream. He dreamt of a young foal, just being born, struggling to stand on its own while its mother bleated in anxiety. It cut to a man in a feathery head-dress with women all around him, the man laughing in mad cacophony. The view got closer and closer to his face until it showed that it wasn’t really a face, but the skill of a skeleton, no blood or guts or dermis. The younger warrior woke up wet with sweat, terrified. After a cou0ple of seconds to make sure that, yes, he was still sane, he got out of his bed and put all of his armor on, walking out of his tent and waking his fellow warriors.
“The time is now!” He ran around, preparing to fight. Soon, his troops were readied, and they headed out. Just as well, they were able to pre-empt a coming assault on their camp from the Colonel’s troops. With the element of surprise gone, the Colonel fell, and most of his troops, unwilling to convert, were laid by the wayside.
The Principle of Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy: Modeling the Complex Interpretation of Moral Virtue
(As I said in “The Decline of the Interview”, Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy is the name of a manuscript of philosophy that I have forthcoming. Here is a primer, the gist of what I mean, whereas the forthcoming manuscript is a longer, in depth, fundamental treatment.)
The point, or one could say function, of philosophy is to acquire wisdom. Philosophy literally translates as “love of wisdom”. We can do this be thinking about philosophy in terms of the sociocultural complex of which we are each a part of in some way. It all starts with the observation that “sophisticated philosophy” is a contradiction in terms.
I say that it is an oxymoron because it combines two seemingly opposite value systems in a way that means more than the two separate concepts individually. To Socrates, philosophy was common property, to be used for questioning and coming to a clear understanding. The Sophists, in contrast, would charge people money for their lectures and speak over people’s heads to make them confused and (seemingly) gain power, prestige, and influence. The culmination of this is to realize one or the other approach can’t ever fully replace the other.
I don’t think we would even want one approach to completely replace the other, The Sophists weren’t all bad – at least they were able to develop a system of passing their “wisdom” on to the next generation and other people. We can nowadays denounce their sophisticated rhetorical wordplay and try to limit how much we put down others that might not be as smart or wise. Even though there is a lot of seemingly contradictory tension built into the oxymoron of “sophisticated philosophy”, the term “ontological” reflects the notion that it actually exists as a force in modern society.
“Ontological” can also stand for the notion that mathematics plays a substantive part in detailing how significant aspects of the world, especially Nature, works. It’s about having the insight of the Pythagoreans, the number worshiping cult that described sonic “harmony” with a mathematical formula. Philosophy, on the flip side, reminds us to be open-minded to learning new things, as well as the notion that skepticism can be a vehicle for being critically analytic and objective about our own sense of experience. Where does Sophism, ie sophistication, come into play in this modern outlook/construction?
Sophism can stand for what counts as “virtue” in any and all social contexts. But instead of the “virtues” of coming off as superior to others, we can emphasize the virtues of the other two houses – “ontological” and “philosophy”. We need to explicitly recognize and formalize the virtues inherent in open-mindedness as well as the notion that there is a rational structure to empirical experience.
This modernist take on sophisticated virtue is desperately needed in today’s society. It’s not about picking and choosing one house or the other, it’s about utilizing all three at once. It’s pure pragmatism – a methodological approach attempting to come to a concise understanding of the world on a case by case basis. It combines the specific specialization of being able to apply it to almost all contexts with a generalized, holistic sense of comprehensive understanding of the situation.
In summation, the principle of ontological sophisticated philosophy is about taking the best (and worst) of the past in order to deal with interpreting the present in hopes of moving progressively into the future. Recognizing the complexity of virtue in social contexts is made simple by emphasizing not superiority and authority per se, but in realizing that knowledge is power. There is only a bankrupt virtue in willfully blind ignorance, certainly none having false knowledge, but by keeping a rigorously analytic framework and an open mind can increase understanding.
(I enthusiastically welcome the third part in the weirdest accumulation of rhetoric ever attempted. This piece is designed to follow “The Case for Politically Economic Normatives”, which is particularly significant considering that that post itself is a supposed continuance of a previous post “The Metaphysics of Economics”. I continue to value hope in my ability to demonstrate consistency in the realm of politically civil politics.)
Economics, as a discipline, is easily equipped to analyze and understand what is considered important from a completely social perspective. Economics talks about wealth, material prosperity specifically, things like technology, opportunity, health, education, things that are supremely important to Humanist-oriented anthropological science.
Just like economics can suggest proper structures to adhere to efficiency and efficacy, philosophy can so efficiently and effectively organize. Just as people need to understand geography, psychology, and morality to be a proper economist, one must rigorously study the trifecta of pragmatism, naturalism, and positivism to be a proper civil philosopher.
First, pragmatism is a very muddled concept – probably because of the overwhelming amount and types of pragmatism. Aristotle was a moral pragmatist in forming his “doctrine of the mean”. It wasn’t an attempt at trying to objectively determine what morality is, but to objectively come to precise methodology for how to know to be moral in almost any given situation at hand. Nowadays, people understand that pragmatism is a necessity given the inherent cultural complexity we are born into. Everyone can understand the moral virtues of trying to figure things out.
Second, naturalism is an obvious thing for people to pay attention to. Naturalism is, in essence, what is natural. It is what we are born into – all of life, existence, and our capacities for mentalist philosophy. Insights into what is natural drive science – like Newton coming up with “gravity”, Max Planck thinking that light has both wave and particle properties, and Einstein’s insight that, though everything is in effect relative, it matters more that you are able to understand what things are relative to.
Third, positivism is an incredible tool for philosophers to understand the world. In the sense that pragmatism can find the connection between empiricism and rationalism, positivism takes it to the next level. Positivism is, in short, the ethics of science. It’s about knowing for sure what you’re talking about. A positivist social theory is necessary because anything else causes the argument to weaken (if you apply a philosophic mind to it). The fact of the matter is that everyone has some sort of rudimentary social theory just by being a human in society. A positivist says “you must learn the full extent of what you talk about before you have an opinion about it’. The fullest extent of this is to realize that we are all social theorists from the time of birth. We all try to understand what society is as soon as we develop self-consciousness – we just need to read empirical research in order to expand our minds. Therefore, the theoretical elements of social theory are a necessity for us to learn.
In summation, the trifecta of pragmatism, naturalism, and positivism are necessities for any sort of philosopher in any sort of social context. Economics can truly be like philosophy due to the affect that rationalism has on organizing everyday experience. You can understand economics by grasping geography, psychology, and morality just like you can grasp the essentials of philosophy by understanding pragmatism, naturalism, and positivism. Economics can very well speak on wealth and material prosperity, just as philosophy can speak about wisdom and virtue, and we need to research all that the disciplines have to offer in order to reach a more decent understanding.
Any Single Jester & the Ethics of Comedian Journalism
(Here is a post that started with just the jester talk after I told the basic thesis to a coworker who seems to take nothing seriously. Thinking about it later, I thought of the “comedian journalism” part. Typing it up just now, I added the ethics parts, finishing it off for a good first draft.)
Any single jester can poke fun at and characterize the King and/or nobility for only so long. And at the end of the day, no matter how much power any single jester has at shaping the public conversation, they’re still a jester, the King the King.
Comedians are more beholden to cultural forces dependent on “the people” at large. And so any journalism coming from them is typically more progressive, having to stick within the confines of what people consider funny. Really good journalism can basically be characterized as speaking truth to power, and comedy can be a good greasing to any such system. But there is a spectrum of how committed to speaking truth and what kinds of truth are spoken; every comedian journalist is different.
Truth be told, a jester had power that contemporary writer-thinkers envy. Comedy of course was explicit, but the really good historical drama took place on the level of interpreting the most fundamental aspects of the world around them. This is what he jester made of the entire social game, the intellectual capacity of the individuals (both in attendance and not), all within the moral complex of performance as a relationship between the stage and audience. A real craftsman knew how to push the boundaries, and more specifically how to manipulate the boundary for their own strategic game. Any writer today could only ever dream of having so much influence.
Perhaps today’s comedian journalist can relate. Popular comedian journalists range on their audience – some really prominent comedian journalists have fans all over the world. The jester had a huge impact on the world around them, but with television and the Internet, the contemporary comedian journalist can have an audience that jesters only dreamt about. Funny men like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert speak an enormous amount of truth to power for the sake of the people that keeps their shows popular. They are true inspirations for anyone interested in journalism, in comedy, and/or progressive politics. Being a fan of all three, I am inspired by awe.
“And we’ve all heard the stories of Queen —- getting jealous of the girls when the King gets to perform seigniorage…” Most of the nobility in attendance gasped when the jester said this, the King squinted his eyes and put his hands together, in front of his face to hide his emotional response. The jester had to have known that this joke could provoke controversy. Interestingly, sex, sexual relations, and the gendered sexes are a common topic, particularly through the lens of light-hearted irony. But also interestingly, the topic of the King’s woman (or women) was severely off-limits.
Another comedian journalist who is really popular is Bill Maher. He differs from The Comedy Central Duo (Stewart & Colbert) considerably – Bill Maher is known for his progressive politics, but also for generating controversy. Some of his comedy doesn’t appeal to me, some of his comedy I and others find distasteful. But some of his comedy is pretty hilarious. One thing that a lot of people could always take away from Bill Maher is the fact that he speaks his mind freely, and he knows that his constant research and learning makes him an intellectual force to be reckoned with.
The jester that made the seigniorage joke probably didn’t know what happened to the jester that came before him. So the King had him killed, chopped his head off. The King won’t be denigrated, he wanted to preemptively stop another last time. The last court jester the King had was truly adept, His performance was such that a lot of people conferred trust on him, giving him real social status. He had to be “fair”, picking on the commoner mentality (because the commoners need to be picked on more, right?) But he also got his fair share of hits at the King in, as well as monarchy and the state of governance in general, and the King couldn’t take it anymore. He had one of his knights find him one evening, put a burlap sack over his head and hit him with a club. No one has ever heard from him sense, and the seigniorageput this jester in much of the same camp.
A comedian journalist at the far end of the spectrum, far from the hard hitting progressive stylings of Stewart & Colbert, and far from Bill Maher’s more abrasive intellectualism, is David Letterman. His slights against Romney are based on very little factual reality – still based on reality but not anything extensively researched. I understand that he wants to stay away from trying to research and be more politically antagonistic, but just repeating the same dog-on-car joke, the same aloof millionaire joke, can get quite boring. It’s fit for such a general audience, such soft progressivism is hardly offensive to anyone.
Any single jester merely wishes for the skill of charisma. With the ability to get so much of the nobility on the side of the jester, it allowed the jester to explore a more dynamic personal vendetta. The first time people actually thought that the jester was more funny or charismatic than the King, the King had him killed, jealousy made violent through a renewed awareness of relative power through time.
Any single jester has their unique situation to respond to, as well as a unique life-history to make a unique outlook on the world. But the point is, given any single jester, even though they have their own special power, they are still a jester at the end of the day, a funnyman in the Kings court. When it came time for the King to think of ways to limit the jester’s overall power once and for all, he decided for simplicity. First, it was just getting a new one. But once that one went sour, he decided to higher multiple jesters and made them all severely impoverished. This prevented the emergence of a front man to bring unity, considering the King could introduce competition between them by doling out rewards to ensure conformity.
There are a lot to say of comediannes, too. I mean the esteemed existence of female comics. There are local-to-MN examples, such as Lizz Winstead. Also, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are very intelligent and very funny. Sarah Silverman is also one of my favorite comedians of all time. Her colleague Tig Notaro, while not overtly political, is also very funny and a prolific writer.
“To feasts! And to hoping I can get fat on the scraps! To the brilliant politician, King —-, who is an expert in the tactic of shitting his enemies up by filling their mouths with cheese and their heads with the finest wine!” The nobility could clap to that; the King lifted his chalice in salute. To any single jester, such a warm reception is welcome.
(Here is a relatively massive post, considering it’s over 600 words. This is to immediately follow The Metaphysics of Economics, I’m working on a post entitled “Economics as Philosophy” to follow this one sometime.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about the question surrounding when it’s an appropriate time to stop researching, especially when it comes to learning r relearning about the theoretical underpinnings of economic analysis. Last Thursday during the Vice Presidential debate, I came upon a solution. In short, it’s everything. I don’t mean “everything” in the all-encompassing sense, but in the sense that it must reflect the advances that economics has made since its hypothetical conception. The three main veins of thought I think are terribly important have to be geography, psychology, and morality.
Secondly, we must understand the impact that psychological insights have made on economics as a social science. This is most famously seen from George Akerloff and the entire emergence of “behavioral economics”. The notion of “confirmatory bias”, where and individual makes a decision based on incomplete information rather than researching all the options beforehand, puts pressure on the Lucas-ian notion of “rational expectations”. In reality, we are really only ever semi-rational, trying to minimize our risk and increase our efficiency by believing in what we trust, even if that means the market as whole reaches a sub-optimal equilibrium. It’s much more than just understand how it stands against the neoclassical economic construction, but how it plays out in the context of the history of systematically forming and understanding of economics (with originators like Adam Smith and Alfred Marshal). Anyone wanting to learn more about how our human nature effects the economy should look up Akerlof’s brilliant books “Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-Being” as well as “Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism”. By actually researching how the individual relates to their surrounding, they enhance how other people are to make systematic observations of all economic activity.
The third and final, and ultimately most important element to learn about, concerns the broad term of “economic morality”. Far from being just the structure of moral codes in society, this also includes the duties and obligations of economists themselves, stressing that to be aware of these deeply imbedded political normative doesn’t just aid in our understanding of economic systems, but it is a necessity on the part of each and every one of us. This is seen by the likes of Paul Krugman’s recent work “End This Depression Now!”, his classic “The Accidental Theorist: And Other Dispatches from the Dismal Science” (the first ever economics book I ever read) and especially Joseph Stiglitz’s recent “The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future”, as well as Matt Yglesias. It’s the issue I am most concerned about as a philosophy major, as it has the deepest of implications regarding the structure of understanding the political economy. All of the contributions that geography and psychology make are subordinate to the broader determination of what constitutes as morality.
Ultimately, morality itself can be broadly understood as the individual’s innate ability to understand the nature of economic discipline. Such holistic takes on what it means to deal directly with the implications of economic theory can be seen by Naked Capitalism.com creator Yves Smith in her masterful “ECONned: How Unenlightened Self-Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism”, as well as Krugman’s “The Accidental Theorist”. The perspectives that geopolitics and psychology bring to the table are fundamental in any economist claiming to have confidence in what they are talking about. We need to be able to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge about the world when interpreting the implications of current events. We need to vehemently call out all sycophants and modern Sophists who try to use research misleadingly or use their title and professional platform to look down on and misdirect others. We also need to be able to talk about the largess of political economic discourse – like how fairness, justice, and equity play an important role in our implicit and explicit assumptions about every level of economic analysis. It’s the difference of a critically analytic take on what the jobs numbers mean instead of just citing any study because it fits with your pre-determined narrative.
In summation, geopolitics, psychology, and a broad understanding of morality are what is needed, at a minimum, from people attempting concrete economic analysis. Concepts like scale, confirmatory bias, and modern Sophism can provide a broad theoretical framework. I’m always on the lookout for interesting and hard-hitting economics research – it’s my duty, as we all are morally obligated, to remain open-minded to everything we haven’t learned yet.
(I wrote this yesterday, largely out of frustration at how immature a lot of the people I spend my time with are.)
I try to be a fairly open-minded and tolerant individual, but one thing that I will no longer be tolerant of is bigotry. Here are three simple but substantive reasons why I am going to vote No on both amendments to the State Constitution.
First, I’m pro-liberty. Voting ‘yes’ on amendments is like saying “I’m OK with the systematic dismantling of fundamental freedoms, unless it’s MY freedom!” The thing about the amendments is that by voting no, you aren’t voting for gay marriage in every neighborhood, you’re just saying that you don’t think that it should be the State’s role in regulating such intimate, fundamental pieces of people’s personal lives. The amendments are anti-libertarian because they say that a whole group of people can’t have the same rights as other people. As a libertarian, I would try to fight to assure the same rights for all people, not limit them in any way.
Second, I’m voting no twice because I believe very strongly in a common-sense approach to what legislation and politics means for communities and individual people. I believe that we need to have some rational civics – like understanding the difference between intent and consequence. You can want the election system to work better – but you have to analyze whether or not the voter ID measure would do this. The facts are that it would limit voter expression, falling very hard on lower income earners, minorities, students, and the elderly. I wish more people were more open-minded and tolerant, able to celebrate our differences instead of be divisive. These things should be more common-sense than what I think is popularly appreciated. Being more sensitive to freedom and social libertarian issues should be more common-sense than what I think is popularly appreciated. Thinking that it’s OK to take one narrow-minded moral viewpoint and imposing that on everybody else with the State apparatus is fascism in any definition.
Finally, I’m voting no twice because I believe in traditional values. I’m voting no twice because I’m a conservative. But wait…one might suggest, isn’t it the “conservatives” that are pushing for these measures? This question is a very legitimate and fundamental, but the answer is complex. Technically the radical change that the conservatives are pushing due to the amendments makes them something wholly different than “conservative”. It’s neoconservatism with renewed visions and goals (because the Bush administration was wonderful, wasn’t it?) I don’t think that one group of people, one Party, or one ideology can have a monopoly on what can be understood as “traditional conservative values”. The notion that Leftist social libertarians are unpatriotic, that they don’t believe in a prosperous national community, that we don’t want a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility – these notions are preposterous. You can want success for people, you can want communities to remain free and autonomous, you can want religious leaders and the faithful to be able to practice their religion however they see fit – you can do all of these without allowing narrow-minded ideologies to imposed on everybody else, making equal rights impossible.
In summation, vote No twice if you appreciate liberty and freedom for all. Vote No twice if you want a common-sense, rational approach to civics. Vote No twice if you stand up for the traditional values of tolerance and open-mindedness which should be accepted as truly conservative traditional values. Please, I implore you, VOTE NO….twice.
(After watching a CNN interview a bunch of small business leaders, it’s clear that the “systemic uncertainty” argument of all/many prominent Republicans just doesn’t make sense. In fact, one could make the case that the far-right-wing intransigent obstructionism is causing more problems than it solves.)
Actually listen to what small businesses are saying: What is causing instability and uncertainty in the market? It is being caused by three main things – the “Repeal & Replace” rhetoric by the Republican Party, skepticism of the tax-code, and about the “automatic sequestrations” demanded of the Federal Budget caused by congressional gridlock.
First, demonstrating that the Republican caucus is completely void of ideas, their agenda is entirely fraudulent when it comes to some of the more important policy movements of recent years, such as what to do when it comes to the health-care sector. The Republican palabum is “Repeal & Replace” with regards to Obamacare, yet any sane, rational individual has to ask themselves: “replace” with what, exactly?! It’s obvious that the individual mandate is a conservative idea from the Heritage Institute in the early ‘90’s (don’t get me started on cap-and-trade and the early 2010 effort to kill any discussion about it with intentional disinformation). If the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act stands, with its subsidized individual mandate and small-business tax breaks, I for one think business would be able to adapt – business is surely able to adapt better than Government. It is the prospect that Obamacare that would be repealed that is causing uncertainty. But, like I said, any sane, rational person has to ask themselves, ‘replace with what?!’.
Second, skepticism over the tax-code is most prominently brought up by right-wing Tea Party reactionaries. Famously embodied in the either/or ‘9-9-9’ tax plan of Herman Cain, the notion of taking the incredibly lengthy, absurdly complex tax code (re: 5”, 3-ring binder) and tossing it in the garbage can be frightening to all those that have learned the tax-code intricately. But the libertarian must question: Would the American public be benefited from scrapping the current tax code? Could individuals and individual industry be better off by simplifying the tax code? One answer: OF COURSE America would be benefitted from re-vamping the tax code. Have you seen the tax code lately? IT’S HUGE! Small business and private enterprise could certainly benefit from a slimmer tax code. The thing to note is that when it comes to a discussion about what should be done about it is entirely different from what right-wing Tea Party-influenced discussion points. The American public, in reality, views the tax code as having a very difficult outcome than what it actually does.
I’m not going into specifics of why I think it’s important to have different outlook (re: The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz). The point is that their agenda is fraudulent. The last piece that small businesses say is causing so much systemic uncertainty is the automatic sequestrations required because of what precisely? The intransigent obstructionism of the obstructionist Tea Party base. The inability of Congress to pass the requisite legislation is the reason we have gone into automatic sequestration, something individual industry doesn’t need (especially after the Financial Collapse of 2008).
In summation, there are more sources of panic and uncertainty caused by the intransigent, far-right-wing Tea Party element, rather than the sweeping liberal idealism of Democratic President Obama (re: irony). The reality: the last two-plus years of the House Republican freshmen and the overall Tea Party influence on American discourse makes for inadequate parliamentary procedure. We need a solidly Democratic Congress so that it will actually be possible to see accelerated growth.
(Another exercise in religious pragmatics that I wrote the other day thinking “what was it like for Noah to try and get his family to help with building the ark?”)
When his family saw the schematics that Noah had drawn up, they knew he meant business. He had told them that God told him to build an ark because it was supposed to rain. Heavily. They took some time to convince. “This thing is huge! Three hundred cubits?!” “Yes, at least! We’ve got to fit two every animal…” “Two of EVERY animal?!” His wife interrupted again hysterically. “Yes! The floods…” “Oh yea, the floods…how long is it supposed to rain for? Forty days…” “And forty nights, yes. I can’t prove it, I just need you to trust me and believe as I do.”
When his sons had seen the schematics that he drew up on sheets of papyrus, they had mixed feelings. It was like night and day. “Let’s get started.” The younger one said, standing up and put his hands together. The older on sat with his arms crossed. “Why are you just sitting there? Can’t you see we have a ton of work to do?” “Can’t you see this is crazy? Do you know how many supplies and raw materials this is gonna take? How do you think everyone is going to respond when they see you making this gigantic boat?” “You’re thinking too small-minded. Can’t you see there are higher plans for us? If God said it’s going to flood, it’s going to flood. Don’t be so hard hearted.” “Don’t be so childish!”
When Noah took the schematics to other older men, in an attempt to get more help in gathering and construction, he got more mixed responses. “If you help out, we can make space for you family and at least some of your flocks.” He tried to reason. “You’ve lost your mind!” A couple of them said. “This ‘God’ of yours! Where is this invisible deity?!” One bombastic man inquired. “He’s inside of your mind’s heart. Inside of all of us. He is in all that is living.” “Bah!” He scoffed. “Nonsense.” “You see the trees grow and flower’s bloom, the wind unseen but felt, what pushes the sun across the heavens?” “Noah! We’re tired of your mythological fairy tales!”
When they saw the schematics, most were highly skeptical, and who could blame them! They were asked to do something extraordinary based on the deepest of faith, flat out conjecture when it comes down to it. But soon, his family had been persuaded, having seen their father’s dedication. Noah’s son’s and their flocks commissioned to heavy-duty lifting. His wife fashioning glues, fixing the food, keeping the prayers going. All others looked on, completely oblivious. When the rain came, every person and critter wanted aboard. The second day of rain and everyone freaking. A couple days more and they were off, but not into the air in complete freedom, an antipathy for waves like the rhetoric sprung from their mouths when they saw the schematics.
(Here is a fictionalization of a dream that I had a while ago. The actual dream was very vivid and much more complex than what 2 pages in my moleskine allows.)
Block-font 3 on the goggle-screen with a beep, 2 and a beep, 1 and a beep, and then a Go! with what sounded like an alarm loudly strewn over a gigantic PA system. Gunshots could be heard immediately, so I ducked and ran around for cover, evading people trying to chase me and gun me down. I kept close to a well, still ducking so as to minimize the extent to which I’m visible, and turned to the corner to be face to face with someone carrying a modified assault-rifle shotgun combo. Before I knew it, I heard the blast of the shotgun, and a block-font number 3 was on spectacles with a high-pitched beep, then a 2, beep, and 1-beep, then a loud Go! with an alarm warning. I automatically saw someone running away from me as soon as I re-spawned, and so I pulled the trigger of my firearm and saw the person completely disappear.
I went to where I saw him last and a flash of light-blue appeared on the goggles we all seem to be wearing, It spawned a circle in the upper-right of my vision, a blue dot in the middle with a bunch of red dots moving all around. I took a moment and watched a red dot as it moved leftward until it was right in front of me. I then pulled the trigger, watching another person vanish.
Soon after, a deep voice came over a PA-like system and announced ROUND OVER. I came to, opened my eyes, and took the helmet I was wearing off, along with the electrical pads attached to my arms and wrists. I sat up and looked around to my compatriot, a beefy bald-headed man with a wide grin on his face. “Wow!” He said aloud. “Just wow!” I was speechless, still in awe.
I got up from the capsule-like bed we were all laying in, just one in long row of hundreds. I looked to my left and saw a female friend fighting back tears. “What’s going on?” I asked her.
“Nothing.” She mechanically responded, an obvious lie.
Later, we were eating at a small round table, talking about The Program. “The slippery-slope…” I began.
“The slippery-slope is anti-libertarian argument, based on conjecture, not fact. Think of the freedom, the raw excitement!” My strong friend interrupted.
“It’s dehumanizing. It objectifies life.” My female friend said.
“No one is making anyone participate.” The strong one reminded.
“Not yet…” I said. They looked at me as if waiting for a continuance. “I just mean that it’s all so huge, so monumental, so engaging. They can start it out one way, and introduce gradual changes such that the overall direction they’re taking it is totally unseen unless you have inside access. Next they introduce real pain, stimulants, drugs, and other performance enhancers, what happens when neuro-imageic interface malfunctions and someone becomes drain dead to real world, only able to act within the project?”
“Conjecture, man. They make sure that nothing like that happens.”
“It only needs one bad egg to ruin the party.” She said. I kept trying to look beyond the façade, to discover more, until the trials the next day began with a block-font 3 and a beep, 2 and a beep, 1 beep, GO!
(This is a short vignette about power and financial status. The dramatic political undercurrent is wholly intentional.)
Kent Xashesupe sat in his subterranean office, candles lighting topographical maps, letters to travel long distance to wealthy sponsors in Chicago and New York, pen plumes with vats of ink. His door burst open, and he yelled “HEY!” reproaching.
“Sorry, sir, I didn’t know, but we’ve got a minor situation.”
“What is it?”
“We have people down there, just, uhh, sitting…”
“Well, don’t just stand there stammering, tell ‘em to get back to work!” Mr. Xashesupe lept up from behind his big, brown desk and went out of his office, walking to a ledge where the whole wretches of the mine could be seen. He stood firm, feet shoulder width apart, puffed out his chest and belted “Hey, are you kidding me?!” Do you think my father would have allowed this slacking, you contemptuous brood!?”
A group of men sitting about five stories down on a rocky outcropping, stood up and started to rebuttal back, but Mr. Xashesupe trumped them. “Don’t think I will hesitate for even a second! I could burry you in these caves and not even your bitch mothers would find you!” He stood there for a couple seconds to make sure that was all the needed, that there was no form of mutiny brooding. When the workers scattered back t their places, Kent turned around and headed back into his office, slamming the door behind him.
Inside, the candles still flickered, and he sat back at his desk, dipping the feathered plume into the ink vat. Since his father’s passing, he had taken the reigns of the family’s mining company, clamping down on subordinates, proving that all his authority is not to be tested. He has, perhaps, contempt for the law, legal codes and the goodwill treatment of others, he only pines for order, his conception of order, like his idea of it was justly autonomous. As he wrote some line n a letter and smiled at his own craftsmanship, there was a commotion outside his office. He lifted his head, quizzical look on his face.
His door burst open and he immediately questioned these happenings, “What’s the meaning of this?!”
“Listen, Lord Xashesupe, this large company and these pitiful wages are older than any of us, yet younger than these lands. We need respect and dignity or else we’re gone, this is how the company will become powerful beyond measure, justly getting our allegiance.”
“You ungrateful brutes!” Kent lashed out, At that, the demeanor of all the men that populated Kent’s office became much more stuff. It looks like Kent’s case was failing in the court of public opinion. “I’ll have you all jailed and replaced by the third shift!” he steamed.
The population in his office didn’t take lightly to be treated like a condescending banker thinking he is all powerful over the economy. To them, he was a Mafioso leader, only harsh with no soft edges to blunt the sharp edge of power. So one of the forefront men grabbed him by his collar and the people behind him cleared the way to the door, he held his bossman over ledge, revealing the scary power of people rightly seeking justice.
(This is a highly experimental piece where I play around with storytelling. They are essentially nonsense, yet I’m told that the have a particular flow.)
i. There was once a father and his son, teaching him how to paint. How to get paint on the brush, swiping techniques, preparation, and cleaning procedures. But there was no fence, the man was painting a room indoors, the son wasn’t even born yet.
ii. A man at a desk sits reading by candlelight in the middle of the night, except he’s not reading, it’s the middle of the day and he’s knitting a scarf.
iii. A man waits by the phone practically all day, from 8:30 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. As the 4 o’clock hour approached, the phone rang, bringing news from the doctor about his test results. “So, Doc, what do the tests say?” The doctor tells him he has two months to live. Except he’s not on the phone, he’s actually stranded alone on a deserted island.
iv. A person weeds their garden, rimmed hat, knee-pads, Marshalltown trowel like a real archaeologist. Except they’re not on a dig, sticking their shins in the dirt, but looking at themselves in a mirror in their bathroom, naked. It’s not their face they see, but the face of a lover or significant other, someone they’re really close to so that at first you might think it’s actually yourself, but then you realize it’s actually someone else. As an example of a blameless generalization, could be anyone’s expectation.
v. Some men speak Italian, some French, yet some yet speak German. I myself dream of learning to speak Arabic, Farsi, think of all the little boys and girls who dream of speaking English, Cantonese.
vi. A person who never dreams is deprived of nocturnal images and the rhetoric whenever the topic turns to nightly visions. I know of a kid that replied affirmatively when an inquiry was made into our nightly vision-having. He never slept and thus never dreamt, yet he told the congregation of people a story that so enthralled them they never thought to ask of his credibility.
vii. A reporter calls someone to get a certain perspective on their story they’re developing. Mistakenly, the old, cranky guru-figure became upset, thinking that he had done the calling, cursing out the reporter for what he thought was a negative review of some work he did. In this scenario, his mistakenness had to do with the nature of diverse generalizations – it is in the mature of our society that some people will either take offense, or be inspired. In fact, you should suspect such things, as you have come to expect the nature of life in the community around you.
viii. A baby smacks on a plastic toy while its family-village looks on encouragingly. A pre-teen pens a poem gets noticed on the margins. An early-twenties guy plays rhythm for a packed house. An old many writes articles that approach the mythology of legend. When caring for the Earth, each other, is Seven Generations too much to ask for? For the sake of us everywhere, I hope in my prayers that it isn’t.
ix. The pads of your fingers shake, a digit-al reflex, edging for a pen. Pen meets pad like magnets, propelling the futuristic train, taking pictures of biological matter, reverberating the deafening sound of hard rock through the speaker. You may find yourself how you once were not, but I tell you pride is in the taking, so go for it.
(This, obviously, came from a dark place one morning when I woke up from a dream that had someone who broke my heart in it.)
This was the day that the pristine crystalesque image, reflected purely in the contemporary zeitgeist, began to crack and blow away like dust, dirt dropped from a hand testing the wind’s temperament. I had a dream that I’m pretty sure was a recurring one, though I’ve never seen it before. Perhaps it was the same story, just a different scene.
“Perhaps you should start thinking of Sammy again?” How did I know she was going to suggest such things?
“Don’t worry, I’ve tried already, but believe me,” I began. I was sitting in a fast-food restaurant with some of my friends. I’m sorry guys, but the nly person that I remember was Ruben Perez, “I know it’s futile, though.” I finished. I had gone back to “Sammy”, as I’ve changed her name to, at least twice. It would go against how I promised myself I would stay out of her life. I think this scene had to do with my present pact to stay celibate and single for an extended period of time.
“Why am I even here? I don’t eat fast-food!” I said while waiting in line, having spot my ex, who recently broke my heart, working on the other side of the counter. It was basically the truth; I was there because some of my friends were going to get some grub. Why I stood with them while they were stick in the cafeteria-like lines, I don’t know. But when I got closer to the counter, I suddenly just yelled it out, more to myself than anything.
I hope to all sweetness that love still exists, that I’m not losing my faith in the people and world around me.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that certain aspects about one’s psyche might be inhibiting – as a result it could be said that you might be better in some sort of “long run” if you are able to demonstrate restraint in some sense. Even if you really, really like it, and you don’t think it is bad, but it could be your undoing. But while you feel some sort of vacuum initially, a hole in your heart, a crushing emptiness, there is also the possibility of individual growth and maturation.
The reality is I still write. I still like the literary craft in many media. I don’t ever see it going out favor with me, and I know only betterment could be achieved, as long as I keep practicing and keep researching. Nobody told me to start writing back in high school, I just did. It would be the same, need be, in the future. Unless, of course, growth, maturation, progress. None of us have any choice in the matter.
The choice that I (and we) make is who we show the writing to. I have numerous blogs that each serve different purposes, and I can tell people about them so that they can check it out if they wish. But there are those private people that we can share ourselves with, and this is where the pain comes from and goes to, as people dramatically sever the ties and the expense of heartbreak. Who knows how many dreams I’ll have, poems I’ll write, thoughts I’ll have…
(The triad of poetry, politics, and philosophy is a theme that I address at length in a forthcoming book of philosophy. Here, I try to address the need for progressivism to restore some sort of exceptionalism and pride to our civic discourse.)
If you make a cross-section of where poetry, politics, and philosophy come together, the overlap of poetry and politics seems to be the least understood by the general populace. If philosophy and politics make law, and philosophy and poetry make aesthetics, then poetry and politics makes progressivism, something that the American people desperately need, reinvigorating their sense of nationhood.
By poetry, I mean much more than just metaphor – I mean meaningful metaphor. Grover Norquist, the famous anti-tax zealot, has said he wants to make government so small that he can drown it in a bathtub. This is a powerful metaphor if you view government bureaucracy as always stifling individual industry. But misses so many things, like how government is a tool for people to organize their own affairs. Seen this way, it is apparent that the social and fiscal conservatism of Norquist wants to move us towards an aristocratic serfdom with whoever at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder to be subservient to the oligarchy.
For instance, poetry is individualistic. It allows (or demands) creativity and self-expression. And not only is it a form of unique and respectable art, but it also allows for great personal freedom and liberty – letting people who perhaps fall on bad times to express their pain, producing in the process something that others could perhaps view as beautiful. In this way, it can connect the individual with something bigger, another meaningful metaphor, such as community.
Poetry can also take on qualities of real professional journalism. When an individual pours his or herself into language in one or several complex moods and attitudes, they can indicate, hint at, and imitate truths about the everyday, day-to-day experience of the ordinary person. But much more than that, the very skilled poet can even capture their unique perspective that perhaps no other on the planet has an insight into. By reading (in general, but also poetry in particular), we grow our mind, learning not just knowledge but maturity. A lot of examples of media drivel – apathetic reporting, a lack of critical thinking, the entirety of Fox News. Yes, there is a concept of “commercial poetry”, but for the most part really good poetry doesn’t bend for anyone. Nay, poetry bends us.
I think the search, manifestation, and advocacy for civil rights needs poetry the most. What other medium can handle the complex themes of justice, honor, equality, tradition, the status of meritocracy? Political “scientists” are the ones crushing the system; the ones with the responsibility. Economics doesn’t exist in a vacuum – we need more politics artists in lieu of the “scientists”. We need people willing to create and not just calculate. The convalescence of the economy, a renewal of aspirations and freedom, moral forces of good – these all have to come from us. We don’t live in vacuums, either. And I doubt few of us would want to.
In summation, we need to start reading more poetry, you, me, politicians, economists, the technically professional, the aspiring amateur, journalists, and editors, professors, and instructors of all types. Let’s get down to the issues, have real talk, real meaningful movement to provide certainty for our business(es), empowerment of individuals, on a scale that matches how little we’ve seen of these in the past few decades.
(Another song fictionalization, drawn from the album Menos El Oso by Minus the Bear)
A. The beginning is always muddled, but sooner or later you begin to realize certain things, seeing the plot under all the story behind you. By then, you already know how to play games, you’ve been enculturated your whole life. But you can learn how to create your own game. And so, we were on the move constantly, you were always good at driving us forward if we got caught up in one place for too long. Last night I had that recurring dream about two men in a car, except that they weren’t sitting next to each other, but there was one man driving anther around. It wasn’t a limo, but some sort of professional escort, and it scares me for some reason I don’t really know…
B. “Unleaded,” I told the gas station attendant, closing the door behind me. I look back a you, almost falling out of the car, so eager to be free, to stretch your legs from the cruelty of that Buick seat. “C’mon,” I tell you, making my way towards the convenience store. I held out my hand, you jumped to get, we strode across the paved concrete in a the dust of the desert wind.
C. Whenever I have that dream, there was a man in a black car, I wake up terribly panicked. In a cold sweat, I try to remember where I am until I see you lyin’ next to me. Suddenly, I’m calm, but damp, I remember the Buick, the cold drinks passing down our throats, that night we laid on the floor of the desert…
D. We opened the door of the convenience store and got a blast of the desert heat. But we stood outside and leaned against the brick wall outside. We don’t have money, so we only get small drinks and enjoy them sparingly. We take sips, glug-glugging away to put the desert warmth on edge. You brush the hair out of your face and lean in, saying in a whisper, “let’s get moving.” I took another gulp of the juice and thought to myself, what you got to lose?
E. You mined and drilled into my mind, asking questions I could only hope to answer with more questions. You lay on the grass along the edge, and I ask you why you think this could be a dream (I harbor my own suspicions). In a fix of pragmatism, we find solutions to some problems of our own invention, no one needing to know the beauty of innovating space, but everyone wanting it, we’re all just selling time.
F. There are worse fates than being captured against your will, like knowing they’re after you, that you’re soon to be captured. Thus, you have no choice but to flee, lest you give yourself over and become complicit in debauchery. But there are worse fates then debauchery. I just wanted a new life for us, want them to please let my girl go without knowing what I know. Skip to midnight on the beach in the Mediterranean, funny how the places farthest from home can remind one of such beauty, I miss you, even here, taking it all in…
G. Learn to sink or learn to swim, running across the desert, the music in my head is ever-changing, just as our location. We stick together and to nothing else. Until we hit the northern Midwest, where our mythic fantasy continues, stories in which men become boys again.
(This is a highly experimental piece that I call “religious pragmatics”, an attempt to elucidate pieces of the Biblical story that aren’t found in the scripture.)
When Yaw found out Eve had been tricked by a serpent into eating the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good versus evil, and we learned we were to be banished from Eden, it took me moments to catch my breath. As soon as I did, all the world around me swirled into a great ball of color, a loud whizzing, sensation all askew and we came to on what I knew were foreign lands.
I looked to my right, and then to my left, surprised it took me more than one second. I turned around multiple times and couldn’t find Eve anywhere. There were these extremely odd…sounds…coming from everywhere, just like the whirring being kicked out of Eden, and soon my face was sopping wet with a salty profusion that seemed came from nowhere. An obnoxious WAHWAHWAHWAHWAHWAH coming from high-up someplace far away, there was movement all around and I began to think that this place was not very peaceful. I started walking forward nonetheless.
“Eve. Eve.” I spoke, trying to find her. Then I realized that perhaps I needed to raise my voice given all of the loud sounds. “Eve! Eve!” I shouted, putting strain on my throat. “EVE! EVE!” I shouted once more, even more loud, letting it sink into my surroundings to see if I could make out any responses.
“Adam?” I heard from not that far away.
“I’m here, I’m here,” And soon I saw her appear from the thick bush. At first I wasn’t sure that it was her, but that feeling was only momentary. She was unmistakable, the pale brown skin, long brown hair with a slight wavy curve. Something was a bit…off…strange, something I’ve never felt before. We looked at each other for a while, was she feeling the same thing? For some reason I wanted to put my lips on her skin, touching her with the pads of my fingers everywhere I could reach.
There was nothing at peace here, or maybe everything was but we couldn’t tell. We had laid out palm leaves as big as ourselves to shield us from the dirt, after clearing a wide space to make for a flat surface. We had taken to naming all of the noises we were hearing – monkey, jaguar, bird.
The world changed as soon as night fell. The Sun, as we had came to call it, what down and it became colder and colder. Hardly any light came through the canopy and we agreed that we felt other eyes on us. When morning came, we decided to leave the place we stayed for the night, seeking a safer place, though we didn’t really know what to look for.
When morning came, we got up and started walking. A couple minutes into the voyage, we felt our stomachs make noise. I wondered where Yaw was, why we haven’t heard recently, why we were all alone except for all of the strange critters. We continued walking until a bright yellow thing fell from above with a loud thump. It cracked open to reveal bright orange flesh and delicious maroon seeds. I looked at Eve and saw her eyes wide open. I picked up the pieces and handed one to her. We took big bites from it and it was so delicious that soon I had eaten ever last bit. I looked up at the sky, wondering where Yaw was, an iota of a thought standing for incomprehensible believe, I gave thanks silently, believing that grace could hear it somewhere…
Life as a Spider: The Mosaic Nature of Rational Experience
I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I was a spider, or if I had just some of the qualities that spiders have. Two things I want to emphasize are the possibility of never getting lost from home and the ability to navigate the intricate complexities of the web.
First, I think it would be very beneficial if I was able to have a string constantly attached to me; I would never lose my way from home. Now, obviously this is heavily metaphoric, and that’s the point. I know where my home is, and I don’t forget it or get myself in such situations where this would even come in handy. The point is that I would physically connect, which automatically means mentally connected, instead of just the mental connection I have now.
Another aspect that would be beneficial if I was more spiderlike would be the ability to navigate the web. The web, sometimes, can be very complex and daunting. If I was a spider, I would have the skillful dexterity to navigate every single layer, every single strand woven together. I would never get caught up, wouldn’t slow down, I’d always have the ability to keep on going. No getting stuck in the web.
Obviously, the web is a metaphor, too. I was really drawn to the notion of what life would be like if I was a spider from a poem that my good friend Jake Smith sent me. At the time, I was awe-struck by his ability to jump right into a new form of media with maturity and taste. It got me to notice that there would be more than just one reason why there are traits of a spider that would be beneficial, aside from romanticizing Spiderman. But you have to consider the notion that society is like an oceanic web – we are all people that are interwoven, deeply interconnected, and deeply complex. We are, have been, and continue going to be integrated; as we grow we learn more and more about each other.
Anthropology details this interconnectedness as “the barrel model”, illustrating how people’s worldview, their social systems, and their economic modes of subsistence are all interrelated. Ask any anthropologist how many types of anthropology there is and you’re likely to get an earful (there’s cultural anthro, physical, forensic, visual, etc.). But here is a better way to think of anthropology that still preserves this holistic take on people. I call it the “Blankets in a Barrel” model. In this metaphor, anthropology is in intricate weaving of anthropologists past, but it is all in a bigger barrel of social theory.
This aims to demonstrate how we are each very political beings, and that we can’t help but to be prejudiced and biased to some degree. This doesn’t mean that rational, objective science is impossible, but that we need to be aware of our biases.
Maya Angelou recognized the importance of the human tapestry, how it’s design is a cumulative effort of all of us, just like the study of anthropology in emphasizing a holistic perspective and how interconnected and integrated we are. The specific colors and design of the tapestry of anthropology is because of the smart anthropologists that have contributed so much to the discipline – Manislow, Lee, and many others are there for the reading, it just depends on us to start taking the blanket out of the barrel to examine its beautiful colors.
(This basically speaks for itself. A commentary on relativity via a vignette that is quasi-pornographic.)
They had no mind, the middle-school era photo collages, the intricate color-doodles with your name in marker and abstract designs with colored pencil, the abundance of family photos gazing out from colorful, illuminating frames. They didn’t mind at all, impoverished of thought, staring down at us in all of our glory. I, on the other hand, minded a lot.
We didn’t really talk, a poverty of speech, but that doesn’t mean we were being quiet. We made our groans and whimpers, our oohs and aahs, littering your bedroom floor with an odd arrangement of our eccentric apparel, cloths like some kind of code hiding our frail flesh so rich with stimulus. We pressed each other’s buttons all day, the cotton-polyester force-field just coming unbuttoned, your shiny, delicious navel as cute as a button. As soon as your house was deprived of all other occupants, minus the couple of dogs we tried to banish, our motivations exploded with opportunity. We found that there is no poverty in a house which has been temporarily vacated, let to two lovers’ rich imagination.
My hand eased its way around the small of your back, drawing you closer, then up to your shoulder blades and down the front, trying to explore and discover all that is beautiful in the world. You put your hands around my back, one on my face like you were trying to fit more of my lips on your skin. Then you put your hands on my chest and pushed me to the ground, jumping on top of my in a marvelous sort of animism. I eased up on the pressure of my hand so that the pads of my fingertips were the only thing you could feel, raising goose-bumps on your skin like some kind of ghost-breath flowing lightly over you.
We rolled around in a half-and-half pile of our cloths; I threw you to the side like the adorable, fascinating, precious plaything that you are, rich with enjoyment after shedding unnecessary layers. I dug into you with my hips, pressing against your pelvis, a feeling we both discovered to be highly satisfactory.
I decided to further our sense of adventure, augmenting the sort of power and confidence that it takes, feeding into its growing self, multiplying as I advance. We take our tongues out of each others’ mouth and I started kissing your cheek, then your neck and shoulders, softly savoring every inch of skin, my hands working make sure none of your body is neglected. The top of your chest, to your stomach, to your navel, a wealth of enjoyment and flavor in the naked vulnerability of it all.
Our liquids began to run out – I could get some pointers for your panting, your exasperated gasps, your sweat determining my movement like a mathematical perspiration. There’s a wealth of information in the simplicity of how you move your hands around my body, on my back to get me closer, my arms for positioning, my pectoral muscles for the raw orgasmic bliss.
And then there was a wealth of voice, yelling out to each other in the emptiness of the room, “oh, yes” over and over until all of the breath was pushed out, I collapsed on you like the pile of clothes scatter all around us, the solemnly brilliant embrace of two impoverished artisans.
“What… is going on… here?” We looked up in a panic at the door to see a pint-size boy, her younger brother, with their mom standing beside them, their mouths were sour-lemon pursed which turned into screaming and yelling that we all contributed to, emptying our lungs with some sort of forms of relative wealth and poverty surrounding all of us.
(The first of the presidential debates was last night, and so I figure this fits perfectly with being disappointed by some journalists.)
Another sort of dream isn’t just the images that come to me while I sleep, but the vision that I have for my future self. When I am sitting somewhere, like a boring lecture, or in traffic, sometimes I let my mind wander…
In this daydream, I am being interviewed by some lethargic-seeming journalist. I must’ve published my book of philosophy that I have in the works because we kicked around some formalities before he finally asked me, “So…what is Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy?”
I know I just must’ve had my philosophy manuscript published, because OSP is the name of it. But the way the interviewer asked me struck me as odd, inconvenient. I didn’t know how to respond besides just telling the truth.
“Umm….it can be many things.” But where do I go from here? “It’s supposed to be many things…” The man sat puzzled waiting for me to continue. “In terms of modern philosophy, it’s a way to get philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians to start thinking about morality and society in a new way. But also, it’s an attempt to try and get religious leaders and spiritual guides to be more rational and scientific.”
“It’s very postmodern then, eh? Working on many levels.”
“Yes, exactly. You could attach a lot of ‘posts’ to the beginning, it aims to be very holistic and critical.”
I am very critical about the process of interviewing; journalism itself is something that I try to pay a lot of attention to. Being so interested in politics, and trying to stand for some sort of beneficent virtue, I take issue with saying that the media has become a corrupted force, unable to help facilitate in interpreting current events for the citizen. It has only been so because the citizen hasn’t been thinking critically enough. Just because the media shows docile and passive tendencies does not absolve the individual’s responsibility to stay informed.
Neither does this absolve journalists themselves from their responsibility to think critical and stay true to the interests and well-being of the reader. The passivity of the media may reflect the overarching tendency of what it takes to establish a market for the paper, but that doesn’t mean that individual reporters, columnists, and editors don’t have to be ever vigilant of the whole truth (not that such a thing is definitely attainable in every instance, but that it is worth pursuing anyways).
In the day dream, I wish the interviewer tried a different approach. Instead of just asking me what Ontological Sophisticated Philosophy is, perhaps how I named it or asking me to explain it in a different way than just flat out “what is it?” I see a lot of really good interviews, yet I also see a lot of really bad journalism, opinion passed off as fact, conjecture sufficing for news, etc. It would be a dream of mine to someday work as an honest, hard-hitting journalist, columnist, editor, or some such profession.
(Here is a pretty intense article that could grow with a ton more research and rambling, but I like the basic outline I have here.)
In the classic philosophic parable The Cave from the classic Greek philosopher Plato, we have what has come to be known as a tale that comments on the unknown, or the spiritual, or the metaphysical. We get a story or scenario that can easily comment on almost anything, particularly the nature of an individualist pursuit of knowledge and the nature of morality in an economics wishing to be science.
In the parable, some people have been forced to see shadows projected on the walls of a cave – for the entire lives. All f the forms and shapes of the materials and people were shown on the wall in shadow-form. The interesting philosophic part comes in when we try to understand what would happen if all the people were then subjected to the actual people and materials? What were to happen if the people saw the actual economic activity?
In short, they would learn. And that is then the metaphysical, in the broad sense, because they would learn the actual state of being and the true, proper original cause of the effect of the shadows. I try to get exactly what is going on in these guys’ heads only to illustrate the notion that learning constantly changes. We shouldn’t shy away from learning and becoming a better person, but we should actively try to learn as much as possible about the world. This makes the moral need for pragmatism in everyday life explicit.
The title of this piece is intentionally modeled after Immanuel Kant’s famous work The Metaphysics of Morals, a huge treatise in attempt to make definitive comments on the structure of civil moral philosophy. Immanuel Kant himself was truly epic pragmatist, realizing that there is inherent virtue in observing the connection between rationalism and empiricism. To him, and many others, it seems that in a lot of theory-based, hypothetical scenarios, Aristotle’s “doctrine of the mean” is a pretty good assessment of moral character. It’s not that rationalism or empiricism are better than the other in all cases, but about learning how they work together to come to a more full understanding.
As a Western philosopher, Kant mirrors Aristotle in many ways. Kant thought that obligation was the key to morality; Aristotle thought about the nature of choice a lot. As a growing Western philosopher myself, my comment is that if any sort of moral philosophy or ethical theory is to make sense of the notion of human choice, you have to first understand the importance of diversity.
Diversity has power in the notion that it allows for originality and uniqueness. A consequence of the multi-faceted nature of choice is the possibility of error, though there is also the possibility for beneficial change and transformation. We need a comprehensive sense of pragmatism, each and every one of us, in order to understand the world, ourselves, and how to interact with the world around us.
Thus, we can’t deny history, nor can we ignore a holistic, anthropological take on the general state of modern human culture. We need to see how things actually are and not the shadow projections. We are at the most unique of times, and the inherent complexity cannot be ignored. Therefore, we must recognize the fullest meaning of the activities around us, addressing the people and not just their shadows, really assess all the facts that you try and notice, not explain them away or subject yourself to denial.
In summation, if we don’t try to actively figure out the advances of the philosophic theoretical literature, we will fail to grasp a more accurate reflection of the state of things. Good rationalism can and should follow from the determination that human experience and the nature of empiricism are critically important structures. We cannot and should not rely on outdated philosophies that don’t adhere to reality.
(This is a short-story/vignette that I thought up a while ago, it has to deal with post-modern “meta”-ness in the sense that the character doesn’t just handle talent a la Entourage, but rather he handles the talent that handles talent, an Ari Gold-esque abstraction.)
I hopped out of my low-riding sports car, turning around slightly to lock it with the remote, walking forward as I do it. I get to the door and say “good evening, Kent, how’s the fam?” to the bouncer and he moves to other side with a “doing great,” opening the door for me, flooding our ears with deafening house techno music.
Inside the house music rages and raves, lights of primary colors scan the expanse of dancers. At the far wall I saw the true exquisiteness of the DJ, large headphones, bouncing up and down like his own unique dance to the music, hands on his instruments wildly manipulating the technology. I walked over to another bouncer once inside and tossed my keys to him, bending over to his ear to say “I don’t be needing these tonight.” He nodded and put them in his pocket, never taking his attention off of the crowd.
I then head over to the bar and take out my credit card and ID, sliding it across the table. The bartender took the cards with one hand and edged forward a glass, heavy screwdriver with no ice. Before I had put it to my mouth, I was interrupted by a short man with an attractive female on his arm. “Oh yes, you made it!” he yelled.
“Of course, of course.” And we shook hands firmly.
“Kristen, this is my boss.” He told her. I smiled and shook her hand as well, lightly. My phone had been ringing off the hook because the talent-management firm of which I am a partner is completely imploding. Two of the other partners have got in a bidding war over their shares of the company and everyone who is anyone is trying to get my word of confidence. But I’ve coddled enough people, bringing certainty by wrapping their eardrums with my selective diction. I was at the club, not just to support my employee, or to support my employee’s exquisite client, but really to blow off steam. I was there for the research, for trend analysis and emergence, for keeping my ear to the ground, trying to understand the changing nature of entertainment. I was there for the people.
I find no awkwardness, or uncomfortableness around my employees or around those who understand the balance I strike with being fully immersed in artistry, yet also trying to maintain distance from the corrupting forces of the industry. It’s an odd position; I don’t necessary just manage talent, but I manage the talent that manages talent. There is something so modern about it all – the prefix “meta-“ is pretty much as far as I go. And as some famous contemporary half-philosopher once said, “no one man should have all that power” but it seems like, in reality, I do.
“Hey, this guy is amazing.” I told my employee and his partner, telling the truth. “Is he signed yet? Let’s get him a contract, at least three albums. Studio time for five hours a day, performing four nights a week, each time at a different club!” I had to yell the last part on account of the noise. An embellishment.
“Oh yea? Oh hell yea!” He said, raising his glass to toast, smiling wildly. I raised mine as well, and so did his lady friend, we were all smiling. A clink, and we drank, I downed the glass and set it down on the bar and with one hand the bartender took the empty one and with the other he pushed another full one forward. I picked it up and gave him a look, nodding slightly. I started bobbing my head up and down to the tunes, soon my hip was involved and my legs took me to a place where all things felt good.
(This is a dream I had a long time ago that I remember very vividly, about a tornado pulling us forcefully.)
I remember one dream that I had, I remembered it very visibly when I woke up after, and I still remember it very visibly to this day. It was overcast, and I was in my car, driving with three other people in the car. We could have been jamming on some tunes…
Ok, I don’t know exactly if there were tunes, but I remember the sky, and the driving, and the people. Now, in order to understand the physics behind what happens next, you have to understand a specific geography. You see, my car was parked at a stoplight on Highway 212, southbound out of Eden Prairie. We were at the fifth stoplight, to be precise, so we were right next to Michaels, overlooking Spire bank. Then, all of a sudden, we felt the car roll back a little bit, which was terribly odd because, stopped at a red, my foot was firmly placed on the break the entire time. Then we stopped for a bit. We looked at each other with eyes wide open. We felt ourselves rolling back a bit, so I released the break, which made it worse so I slammed on the break again. It slowed, but didn’t stop.
Dreams, to me, aren’t particularly frightening. They aren’t upsetting, or uplifting, and quite frankly don’t even confuse me (that much). This is probably just because they are dreams; above all they provide a sense of mystery and wonder. Such things, difficult as it is to fully understand, or even try to make sense of, enhance my understanding of the world while being subjected to forces that are uncontrollable in my life. How else am I able to respond to such dramatically different expectations but by increasing in my imagination?
With my foot on the break and us eeking backwards, I try to look behind me, but the only car behind me was way back, so I tried, of all things, to press harder on the break. It didn’t work, but suddenly the entire car was airborne, about five feet off the ground like we were being levitated. Then, we got flung in the a backwards direction, thirty feet and the front of the car swung starboard, we were facing westward down Prairie Center Drive. Just then we looked up, out through the windshield. We saw a massive, dark twister, ripping up debris in the middle of Eden Prairie, up into the cloudy sky.
When I have a dream, especially if it is as vivid as this one is, I wake up feeling mental fit to tackle the day. Even if it is particularly terrifying, as this dream was, or as getting attacked by a bear would be, I wake up inspired by the dream’s creativity. I echo so many people in appreciate the dynamism of consciousness, unconsciousness, and the ability to imagine totally unique things, characters, places, and events that have never actually happened before. If we are made to believe in the story, then it makes us try to understand and make sense of things, which is an elemental skill to have in all walks of life.
It’s a special time, an important season, there are major presidential elections coming up. For someone as interested in politics as I am, it’s the main event – show time of dramatic theater that we spend months, nay years, nay our entire lives practicing for. For the die-hards, we spend 24/7 reading everything from each other, to the news journals, to hardcover and soft cover books and magazines alike. For the fair-weather, it’s more of an off-the-cuff calculation.
I’ve spoken to most of my friends, those that can at least carry a decent conversation. We’ve talked about the importance of engagement and civic activism. The future is owned by those who participate in its creation, I feel like someone wise must’ve said before. I’ve gotten their opinions, I understand where they are coming from, what’s important to them. I try to surround myself by people that inspire me with hope, for the future and for myself.
My reading and research by and large determines my voting pattern, combined with numerous religious/spiritual experiences I’ve had. When it comes to voting, I take pride in the right that is so precious to have. I don’t confine myself to just one issue, per se, like Foreign Policy, Energy, or the Environment. I am what I call an over-all “Justice Voter”. I vote in terms of what I believe to be just, determined in large part by three broad categories:
1. The appointment of open-minded and critically analytic justices: Romney, with his “severe” conservatism, means more Alitos, more Thomases, and that’s just a bad thing. The judiciary is so fundamental in interpreting what the law means. It is a fundamentally conservative institution which means we need the most open-minded justices which base their ideology in contemporary philosophy and not outdated juris prudence.
2. How we treat “the least of these”, the marginalized, downtrodden, the convicted, disabled, chronically ill, disadvantaged. A piece of my faith that makes good moral sense writ large – if we have the opportunity which we all do, why not?
3. How we educate – especially the youth. But also everyone – good democracy depends on informed and active citizens. Also, happiness, contentment, and virtue are all related in how we find maturity, a sense of how we apply ourselves to the world around us.
The three planks are tad complex once you get into their particular natures, but the overall determination is that the entire intellectual edifice of what is popularly considered “social conservatism” is entirely corrupt. Reagan and G.W. Bush grew the size of government, even though they ran their campaigns on anti-government rhetoric, the same sort of small government rhetoric Mitt Romney runs his campaign on. Another similarity: their budgets were completely fraudulent, putting the government deeply into debt and entrenching the plutocratic ethic of oligarchic rule.
So this November, I’m voting for justice; I’m voting for a way to shrink superfluous government, while trying to strike a balance with market forces to increase the power of individual communities. Anyone who is interested in justice as virtue would never vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket. First of all, I am voting “No” on the constitutional amendments on countless State-wide ballots (as a good small-government conservative should); and then strait ticket Democrat – Obama/Klobuchar/Barnes. The virtue of voting strait-ticket Democrat has never been stronger, until social conservatism’s hypocritical grip on the Republican party fundamentally changes.
(This is an experimental piece that I’ve labeled a “song fictionalization”. Think of a song with really good characterization, setting, or plot, and then create a short story from it. This is an attempt (the first) at fictionalizing an awesome song called “Piss & Vinegar" by Against Me!)
The television pops on surreptitiously, responding to the remote signal drawn from my fingertips, revealing my pretentious roommate and his faux-pop band playing some drivel. The shapes and colors that come forth put me in a rage, the music incited my madness because I know that I shouldn’t place such importance on these attitudes, but it’s tough listening to the same old drab every day. I resist the technology’s influence in allowing the notion of “mute” into my head, tempting my own torture.
How do you get there?! Is it getting more people to watch TV? Now, what a weird concept, prescribing something for the symptoms to make the disease worse. You need steady hands to be a surgeon, as one can learn from the beginning of Jon Franklin’s “Mrs. Kelly’s Monster”; you don’t give a chandelier to an elephant. You don’t take a sledgehammer to someone suffering internal bleeding. We’re killing proper property.
How do I get a real band on there? Don’t they have some concept of chemistry? I hate getting weighed down, more than just excess beakers and chemicals and Bunsen burners to churn the reactions and chemical changes, but also with excess theory. I get loaded up from this sense of research and complex experimenting, I try to understand that perhaps other people have insights, in fact many, many people have genuine insights and so I can always learn from people that have come before me. But when the mathematical qualifications get completely piled up, you get a little annoyed, like a Sisyphean Atlas. So you maybe shrugged it away or off somehow, but is more likely that you felt all bottled up because of the concept of your own inherent power.
You shrugged it all off and inside of yourself until critical mass, the Minsky moment, a point of bursting where sometimes we have to act out and make a mark on the world around you.
And then I threw the remote down, I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran around my house, I got a half-full carton of milk, a role of toilet paper, and a box of powdered cocoa. With all of these things in my hands and arms, I burst out of the house and onto the front yard.
I bolted to my roommate’s car, on the other side of the street, to create a dramatic statement. His smug sense of self, like his stage performance exalted him among the glorious, I could hate an imperialism, not to say that he is out to conquer the world, but that his smug pretentiousness resulted in an ethic that doesn’t reflect the true importance of artistry. Let’s see how brilliant of a craftsman he is when I make his automobile a fool’s vehicle.
It’s not that I want to cause him bodily harm. (Ok, not that often, and never extremely severe) but that perhaps punking his expectations will put him in a mental jam. I’ll compose my own artwork, opening the milk jump and dumping all over. I cracked the packets of cocoa and poured them all over, coagulating in clumps on impact. He burst out of the house door as soon as I started rolling the toilet paper all over, I saw him and burst out in a fit, said what I was thinking with not filter, “You’re a degenerate hack!”
I had a really crazy dream the other night – when I dream I have very lucid images. It feels very real, as if I have control over my actions in the dream.
I was with my friends, two of them, on a porch overlooking an expanse of grass situated between some woods. In the middle of this lawn area was a fence that ran about four-fifths of the way across the entire knoll. Parallel to the tree line, and we were facing right at it, our sight-lines perpendicular. Very close to this fence was an older woman (but by no means elderly) with a bigger, huskier frame. I can’t remember the weather; it wasn’t raining or anything, it could have been sunny or completely overcast.
I’m a huge fan of sleep, and of sleeping in. Sometimes, and especially if I have had some herbal tea, I dream. I love dreaming; I know right as soon as I wake up that a dream was amazing, or just weird. I’ve turned dreams into a short-story, of which “Beef in the Neighborhood” is just one example. Sometimes I wake up from a dream inspired by a poetic attitude. Sometimes they disappear into nothingness, forgotten from my mind, not even existing as some thought in the deep recesses.
Rather spontaneously, a very large bear, a grizzly or brown bear, emerges from the woods, running at full speed, straight at the fence in the direction of the woman. Is it going to jump the fence, or crash straight through it? We are all stunned in space. We watched as it bolted towards the fence, and then curved to head around. By this time the woman, stunned as well I’m sure, realized she was in danger and ran away from the snarling mess, toward us. Her physique was her downfall, and we watched how quickly the bear was able to circle the fence and catch up to her. We were still stunned, feet planted firmly. She cut t her right, away from the bear, who proceeded to ignore her and head straight for us.
I don’t know what dreams are – at least I don’t know exactly what science says they are. Nor have I really bothered to do extensive research to really figure out. I figure it’s some kind of chemical neurotransmitter that affects us while we sleep, combining with delta wavelengths to produce mental imagery. Along Freudian lines, I know that the latent is more important than the manifest; if we say something has meaning then we can find it. I firmly believe that it is a potent source of mystery and the unknown – things that that Einstein understood as being very important for the scientist.
The snarling, fuzzy behemoth passed on the plump lunch to head straight for us and before I knew it the distance separating us form it was closed, we mobilized into action. I jumped down from the porch and turned to see that everyone else got the head start and was leagues ahead of me already. I understood that in these man vs. nature, life & death scenarios, you don’t need to outrun the bear, you just need to outrun the slowest thing trying to outrun the bear. The bear needs to run, too – faster than the slowest of its prey. The African proverb recognizes – “As soon as morning comes, both lion and the gazelle must run” – echoing Howard Zinn’s “you cannot be neutral on a moving train”. I fell to the ground in a heap, the bear in my face within seconds, I lay dead still. The last thing I remember before awaking was the wet nose, putrid breath, and foul odor pushing into my face…
I wish not to comment on Paul Krugman’s performance, per se, but rather on one of George Will’s comments in the video that I first posted. He comments on the “far-sightedness of Trotsky”, and how “Trotsky was so far-sighted that not a single thing he predicted actually came true”. Letting this argument stands implies that he was a bunk scientist, a corrupt positivist ethic. If you don’t predict a single thing that actually happens, then you obviously don’t have grasp of “the experiment” – so goes at an attempt at rationalist rhetoric. George Will performed rather weakly, especially compared to Paul Krugman, but he did succeed in piquing my interest into this particular matter…
It is fair to note that this comment implies a relatively abstract conclusion, it requires a very particular viewpoint in the context of the Romney vs. Obama campaign. But George Will’s point about the far-sighted, absent-headed scientism of Trotsky actually stands for a conclusion that actually isn’t good for a particular sect of right-wingers.
I don’t know if this conclusion is one that George Will has intended, but it is actually a slight against the gold-buggers. A large bulk of my writing will be devoted to this sort of right-wing conception of libertarian philosophy; one that I think need to be replaced by a more liberal, philosophic, and open-minded approach. This right-wing conception of the economy, closely related to the Ron Paul-bot reactionary position has been claiming that Wiemaric hyperinflation is just around the corner for the last five years – a position that Paul Krugman’s blog “The Conscious of a Liberal” has been a phenomenal source of reporting. The fact of the matter is that George Will’s observance of “far-sightedness” actually describes people that are open to putting the Federal Reserve back on the gold standard. But the fact of the matter is that it is no longer the far-right conception of libertarianism communicates any moral worth, nor any unique insight/understanding about the world, but a liberal, open-minded conception.
In this juxtaposition, appealing to the overly far-sightedness of Trotsky applies more to Ron Paul than to Obama. The fact of the matter is that Obama has make strides in health-care reform not seen in a generation, has done the most of any modern president in weaning the American industrial diet off of the reliance on foreign oil by increasing CAFE standards and standards in industrial production in general. In fact, there has been an incredible list of progressive accomplishments he can attest for. Thus, the idealism of Barack Obama as an effective pragmatic technocrat is hindered only insofar as he has presided over a truly divided government – he had a very slim Democratic majority for only a while. But in the time of his Presidency he has attested to a very pragmatic and virtuous take on civil philosophy, as he has a tremendous impact on millions and millions of lives.
No, the corrupt scientism is not of the liberal variety, it is of of the Ron Paul-ite, far-right wing reactionary gold-bugs. The irony is in the very thing that supposedly gives his political ideology such prowess – the Austrian economics he demonstrably champions – based on an ethic of positivist philosophy. It is his objective, theoretical world-view that gives his argument such consistency and appeal. But the important thing to note about Austrian economics is that it relies on an incredibly corrupt positivist ethics – it no longer is a relevant, descriptive tool to argue for libertarianism. There are a lot easier ways to argue for a bona-fide, ontological expansion of individual rights. It comes from a left-wing approach to a positivist ethics – one that realizes the true core of “social theory” and this claims a new take on positivist philosophy.
Positivism is a theoretical approach that says that science itself is able to teach the individual significant aspects about Nature – through science knowledge is gained. The Austrian School was built on the ethics of positivism in order to give economic theorization a solid and firm grounding. So this is all right and well – a good approach in and of itself. It acknowledges that human experience itself can be methodically understood by systems of classification and generalization. The positivist insight is one of changing one’s behavior by opening one’s mind. Anyone who has undergone any statistics class has undergone this insight – the notion that mathematical relationships can exist between people. And so this approach to philosophy, about using the world around us in an activist fashion, fundamentally increases our understanding about the world.
A conclusion like this yields a logical implication: a positivist ethic that doesn’t incorporate a better understanding of what experience itself actually is exists as an intellectually bankrupt process of theorization. It cannot enhance someone’s understanding if someone has a more open-minded, philosophic approach to the world. A more organic and contemporary theorization of a positivist ethic would yield an incredibly more accurate “Austrian School” of economics, overriding the old one while maintaining the same objectivist, theoretical appeal.
My response to someone that says we should actually consider reinstating the Gold Standard is merely What? The argument doesn’t make sense. Why move backwards 50 or so years? Why not always deal with the present that we have at hand and try to move forward with the complete observance of social change? There is a lot of research and Nobel Prizes given to people that have done research into the Gold Standard, arguing that it prolonged the Great Depression (view the picture of the books I have for insight into the social value of two different Nobel-worthy economists.