Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I can understand wanting a car that operates well and even extremely efficiently, yet the phenomena of H2’s and Ferraris baffles me. These cars range from 40,000 to millions of dollars and what are they used for? I guarantee 80 percent of people with H2’s never go off road or enter some kind of insurgence assault. The key is the idea behind the car. An Italian company puts a really powerful engine in the wrong end of the car, adds some curves, and the value multiplies by 10 because of some “rare” factor. H2’s, designed from the army’s HumV, has been designated some kind of “badass” vehicle, while getting about 9 mpg (if even), which leads true “badasses” to pay about 40K for their vehicle to represent their true selves. It does not matter the product. The higher the price of it translates into its value or meaning in society. The Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most well known and valuable paintings in existence, yet, if the idea of genius and age were not behind it, I wouldn’t pay more than four or five dollars for it at a yard sale. It really is not that great of a painting no matter how many times I have been told of its wonder and mystery throughout my life. These expensive and valuable things are not necessary, but the people, in search of higher social standing, flock to the opportunity of owning such luxuries in some illusion of accomplishment or importance.
Doctors and CEO’s spend time in their huge homes while others can’t even afford them, but people try to justify the doctor as if he is the protagonist of society and deserves such luxuries. I know that there are many blue collar workers who work just as hard as the doctor. I understand a high salary for the sake of paying off student loans, but after the debt is gone, they are working just as hard as the cook at waffle house or the secretary in the CEO’s office. Doctors that I have talked to even strongly agree with such statements (at least the ones who are doctors for the sake of being doctors and not the pay). So this is the reason I think everyone deserves the same pay and why I support Obama’s “redistribution of wealth.” I recognize the illusion of value in society and its deteriorating influence. I only believe this though because of the unequal distribution of opportunity in the world and in our society. If the laziest actually made up the population of those in poverty, I would say to help themselves (to a certain extent..no one should die for a want to be lazy), but I grew up in an extremely poor neighborhood and have seen its school systems and inescapable cycles. I was just lucky enough to have one rich parent. So with this “redistribution,” I hope to see people find that real worth is not correlated with currency or salary and overpower the superficial ideas of today’s consumerism.
Becoming part of a modern day business, one can lose their individual thought and can be immersed into the “mob mentality” without being consciously aware of their decisions. This can be detrimental to the ways of society due to the ignorance of other’s well-being. As many have said before, money cannot buy one’s happiness. It is the life style that one conducts day to day that creates an enjoyment of life. To help solve this problem, the author purposes being an active capitalist by buying with values. She introduces companies that try to give back to the community, offer benefits to low-paid workers, and help provide jobs for the unemployed.
If people were to base their decisions to buy goods on their values, would this help build a better community as she suggest? Could it be possible to change a valueless capital system? More importantly, could the mentality that drives the economy today, be changed to a value based mind-set? Sadly, I believe it would take generations to mildly change the greed hungry American society. People may search out business that benefit others, but if it hurts their personal income I highly doubt people would continue in that direction.
The website I recieved my information : garyalloway.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/being-an-activist-capitalist/
Unfortunately, secularism is becoming increasingly unpopular in the political field. While the left-wing has been known to champion separation of church and state in the past, the secularist movement within the Democratic Party was conspicuously absent in the 2008 presidential election. Why? Because Christian evangelicals make up too large a percentage of the vote in America for politicians to overtly oppose Christian values.
While the Bible hasn’t been referenced to justify slavery in the U.S.A. in some time, it has been used to deny civil rights to certain groups in more recent history: ethnic minorities, women, and homosexuals. As recently as the 1990’s there were American states in which a woman could not legally prosecute her husband for rape. The idea that all sex (even violent, forced sex) between a man and his wife is not rape stems back to the cultural belief throughout history that women are inferior to or the property of men; this idea has all too often been backed up by religion – Christianity in Europe and America, Islam in the Middle East, Thai Buddhism in Thailand. The U.S. has a lengthy history of violations against ethnic minorities and immigrants, from Old South slavery to the civil rights movement in the mid-twentieth century. Again, justification was often rooted in religion, specifically Christianity. Today the big issue is same-sex marriage. Just as the case with women and ethnic minorities within America, giving human rights to a group is denied, based mostly upon the religious views of the majority.
Our next reading was the runner-up to Sovereignty, Michael Freeden’s Ideology. Though we didn’t actually vote this time there was a general consensus that the second reading should be everyone’s second choice. As soon as we finished this book, however, Dr. Johnson decided we should read some work of Hannah Arendt’s. Society Must Be Defended by Michael Foucault was similarly chosen. By the time we finished struggling through Foucault the end of the semester was beginning to loom ever closer, and I suggested that we read Disposable People next, since one of our seminar paper topics focuses on Bales’ book. Though a few people offered non-committal nods, shrugs, and throat-clearings, there was no vote once again; if anyone disagreed, they didn’t voice their dissent. Finally, our last book, Capitalism, was picked by our professor, since so many students were expressing an interest in the economic issues tied up with slavery.
My question to my classmates (and Dr. Johnson as well) is whether our power experiment was a success or failure. Did we ever really have any choice at all? What if we decided half-way through reading Sovereignty that it was a waste of time; was dropping the book, which we had chosen, a possibility? More importantly, did our class ever have the power to veto one of Dr. Johnson’s suggestions?
Personally, I think the experiment was a success. The deterioration of our “democratic” system reflects the real-life crises of many nations today. Whether or not the reading material was what we wanted, it is what was believed by Dr. Johnson to be in the class’s best interests. Similarly, many governments have the power to pass laws without the consent of the people. This is made possible in two ways: the citizens either trust that their governments are truly doing what is best for them, or those who disagree keep their silence, believing that their dissension will make no difference. Clearly, Dr. Johnson is not a dictator and our class is not a state; however, the parallel between power within our classroom and power within the world is very telling.
Initially I struggled to grasp Foucault's Society Must Be Defended because I was skeptical of how change could occur and where the change would come from. It was not until I read this story on ESPN.com (I know, not the most academically meaningful website)about New England Patriots safety Je'Rod Cherry. Here is the story: http://myespn.go.com/blogs/afceast/0-4-406/Cherry-hopes-hollow-ring-will-save-children.html.
It is my opinion that professional sports players are grossly overpaid to entertain. I am also not fond of using sports as a metaphor for life, but that is another issue. However, Je'Rod, in an unselfish move, is auctioning off his Super Bowl ring in order to raise money to help start orphanages for sex slaves in Cambodia and Thailand. This is a great intersection of two the books we have read this semester. First, someone is aware of the problem of slavery that Kevin Bales documents. Next, this can be an example of where change can occur in Foucault's system. Although Je'Rod arguably is the product of what has produced him (the American culture that places a premium on entertainment, he worked hard and found a job in the industry), he is doing something to help change the discourse of selfish athletes. Although this is a small step, it is better than no step. I was satisfied in that I could see a real life example of Foucault's philosophy in action.
Unfortunately, I found it unsettling that some of his teammates are trying to keep him from selling the ring for charity. That is a selfish move on the other players part, and simply asinine in general. It is just a ring, practically worthless until we ascribe dollar amounts and value to it, I imagine that the memory of winning the Super Bowl is much more valuable than a rock on a piece of metal.
Turning back to our daily lives, right now, we all breathlessly rush to finish papers and review for final exams. Some of you may find it enjoyable and for you, the difference compared with a normal day is just one more cup of coffee every night from now to Wednesday. Some of you may struggle, trying to study really hard to pull your grade up. Personally, my first semester at Rhodes so far has not been a bed of roses as I EXPECTED; however, I do have fun and I think the struggle is worth it. I hope you do the same.
I just think that, for any country, it is almost impossible to make a perfect decision; one with absolutely 0% chance of backlash. It just depends on how far and at what cost us and our leaders are willing to go to do the right thing.
For example, I think we could very easily fix the problem of slavery in any country we choose by simply refusing trade unless they agree to get on top of their problem of slave labor. Sure, we might make some enemies and other countries might think we are handling it unreasonably, but we will have the support of other nations and maybe even set a GOOD example for those who may be on the fence about what to do about this or other controversial issues.
I also think that it is impossible to have a perfect leader, or maybe even a perfect government, but we can be a nation of conscience.
Along the same lines, being that we live in a culture and nation where the first pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s baby sold for over $4 million, I think that our country would greatly benefit from making some decisions within the realm of morality.
Another example, I think, could be the issue of our gas. Touchy subject, I know. They are low. Good, right? But how good is it for us? Not you…us? I was talking to my dad about this over thanksgiving break, and we sort of came to the agreement that we should have a higher tax on gas. Again, a lot of people would complain, now it costs more to drive their SUV’s – with ONE PERSON in them (that’s another issue) – around all the time, but I just think it would be good for our country. I know this is a really general and simple way of looking at it and there are a lot of complications, but this is the way I figure it: our government needs the money (what are we like $2.4 trillion in debt to the rest of the world?), the people who can still afford to drive around all the time don’t need the money, the rest of us who can’t afford to drive as much as them (the other 98%) will need to drive a little less, it will help break our addiction to foreign oil, and it will be good for our environment because it will improve the demand, profit, and use of alternative energy sources.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
“In the city of Westbury (median income: $83,000/year) officials found twelve immigrants living in a basement flooded with sewage. In Southampton (median income: $64,000/year) officials found immigrants living in sheds with no plumbing or heat. In New Cassel (median income: $62,000/year) officials estimated there were dozens of "shift-bed houses" where immigrants literally rent mattresses for a few hours a day to catch some sleep.”
These conditions are the conditions of slavery. If immigration laws are changed and it becomes easier for immigrants to come, maybe the number of domestic slaves will be reduced. The more work visas that a country can give out, the fewer immigrants will try to come to that country by illegal means, making it hard to document the type of jobs that they take. With the requirements that we have now, it takes lawyers and money for many of these immigrants to find ways to come legally, and that is money that these people do not have. If we are able to reform our immigration system and ease our immigration restrictions it will make it easier for those who are willing to obey the law, work, pay taxes, and learn the language to be allowed in. Though restrictions should still exist, loosening the restrictions will make it easier for those that want to come for the right reasons to become legal immigrants, and if we put better security on our borders it would reduce drug and human trafficking. Because these illegal immigrants cannot get a job without some kind of governmental proof, they have to take underground jobs that lead to different types of domestic slavery. This slavery can continue because there is an availability of illegal immigrants needing to make money. The topic of illegal immigrations has been pushed back in recent years because of the economy and the war in Iraq, but even though immigration is not our top priority, I believe that it still should be a priority and it cannot be ignored.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
In countries such as Brazil, the slaves are moved off into camps far away where escaping is difficult, and where family or support is nonexistent. Without the strong support of a police force to ensure human rights and keep greedy business in check, anything that can payoff the authorities can operate unmolested. If someone manages to get free but is hunted down by the police, or isn’t given any support and help by the government they will just fall back into the slavery they escaped.
Well why doesn’t the U.S. step in? Send in the army and free them? Well to begin with do we really have the right to invade another sovereign country to enforce anything we want? Do we have the authority? I don’t believe we do. As a sovereign country equal with all other sovereign countries we do not have the authority to make that choice.
At the moment, the only effective way to change things, to remove slavery, and see that basic human rights are observed, is through watchdog organizations. We have to raise awareness and support these watchdog organizations for them to then put pressure one the governments of the counties to make changes. This actually works fairly well, but is slow and ineffective compared to other solutions, was well as not being necessary.
The United Nations is supposed to regulate and enforce international policy and law. The only problem is that they lack any sort of capacity to enforce these laws and policies. The only things they are able to enforce are the things that countries like the U.S. want enforced and then use their military to do so. The U.N. is the answer we are looking for. It has the potential to keep things like modern slavery in check. It is designed to deal with sovereign powers in a way sovereign powers cannot. The U.N. needs a military force. Each country should be required to send a certain amount of troops and equipment to serve in the U.N. military for a certain amount of time.
The true power of religion is both its ability to make claims about the existence after death and apply unquestionable moral statements about the interactions between people under constant judgment. The idea of an omniscient being judging every move a person makes allows no room for disobeying his laws, but what about Bilal in Mauritania? For every delivery of water, Bilal received 1 ouguiya (200 ouguiya = 1$). His fear of lying in the presence of Allah prevented him from taking the money he rightfully deserved, keeping him in his place, enslaved and downtrodden. With barely enough food to eat or money to buy it, Bilal will never be able to buy himself out of slavery, and if, through some miracle, Bilal is freed, the possibility of him dying of starvation is disturbingly high. People, when discussing Disposable People, were all morally outraged by the ongoing cycle of slavery in these countries, yet every country had moral justification from their god. No, this religion was not Christianity, but in America, the exact same cycle existed in African and Native American slavery. In the Bible, the Ten Commandments represent the main laws of Christianity or any follower of YHWH, but people seem to ignore the near 390 more commandments immediately following them in Exodus 21 and pick and choose among them. In this chapter, God tells Moses the rules concerning everything, including slavery. “When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property” (Exodus 21: 20-21). In my opinion, I do not see anything about this statement that belongs in a moral standard in governing people's interactions. Whether or not my logic is able to grasp God’s purpose in this statement or the quote was somehow misinterpreted by the writer, this book is the sole foundation of the religion; therefore, it, in my opinion, must be taken at its intended value. . But the Bible is not amendable so where is the room for development? So from this, when communities allow religion to rule them, their moral structure becomes stagnant because of their inability to judge such ethical dilemmas objectively. I think the primary reason that gay marriage is not legalized today is because of this mix of government and religion. Objectively, I really can't think of one thing wrong with it that would label it unjust or unethical besides the Bible's conviction against it.
While religion does provide hope, answers, comfort, and “love,” they all come with this essence of fear, whether of hell or death. Although it is the perfect system for ruling people (implementing rules which are punishable for eternity and the inability to question such rules because of God's sovereignty), it stunts the development of society, creating injustice in society and disrupting our reasoning when faced with this injustice because of mankind's inability to question such things.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
According to Friedrich Nietzsche, we are living in a slave like (think feudal and pre-civil war slavery, if you are now conformed to Kevin Bales’ definitions) society. Society was not always this way, but as the many slaves began to resent and outnumber their masters, a shift occurred (this is a very brief summary of Genealogy of Morals, if anyone is interested). This shift placed what was once “good,” being a powerful and controlling master, to “good” encompassing weakness and meekness of the slaves. What was once “good” was now considered “evil.” A premium was placed on the weakness of the slave because they were in majority. This shift also led to a sensation of a “herd mentality,” and the need to conform to society. Nietzsche despises these shifts because they are life-denying values, because the weak feel that they will be vindicated in another life (think Christianity), so they are resentful of this life. Nietzsche feels that this is completely unnatural, in a literal sense. In nature, it is know that the weak do not survive, something Nietzsche feels should translate into human existence. He also asserts that we have no responsibility to help the weak or the downtrodden, because it is not a naturalistic action, and is only sprung from such socially constructed emotions like compassion and sympathy.
That being said, why do we feel an obligation to endorse a government bailout, especially for companies like Ford, GMC and Chrysler? If they were a bad business, then, like in nature, they are simply not fit to survive in this world. An analogous situation that comes to mind is Wal-Mart. This company effective eliminated a large majority of competition like mom and pop stores, and continues to thrive. While some are critical of Wal-Mart’s “tyrannical” practices, the majority supports them buy buying there goods because they are at a low cost. They are successful because they eliminated competition and are still going strong. In a natural sense, they were the “most fit” species of retailers to see another day.
Nietzsche would assert that it is when feeble emotions delude our mind to feel sympathy and a need to help these people who have already failed. When the government bails them out, they are effectively saying, “this is how your business ought to be: successful and sustaining jobs for Americans.” Yet this denies the reality that they are failing, and therefore fundamentally should face elimination without sympathy from others, according to Nietzsche. Any sympathy or need to empathize with those that lose jobs or suffer from a non-bailout situation is considered weak and slavish. The bailout is already ideologically at odds with a pure form of capitalism, but also in contrast if you subscribe to a form of social Darwinism that Nietzsche endorses.
This ultimately begs the questions: should ethical standards be ascribed to economy at all? If yes, where do ethics come into play when dealing with an economy?
The problem with my new found knowledge is the overwhelming feeling of guilt and responsibility I now have. Reading about the sex slaves in Thailand and the children slaves in India breaks my heart and makes me want to do something to raise awareness, but it also puts a huge weight of guilt on my shoulders. Here I am, sitting in my heated dorm room using my relatively new MacBook about to exercise my right of free speech, while at this same exact moment somewhere across the world a young girl is being raped or a man is being whipped from trying to escape a batteria. Thinking about this, I suddenly get the urge to sell everything I own, donate the money to Free the Slaves, and live on the streets in order to try and understand what life is like for someone who has nothing. Of course, that’s absolutely ridiculous because what would that achieve? Feeling guilty won’t help any slave find freedom.
Well then, it’s as easy as raising awareness; but even that has problems. For one thing, there are thousands of issues in the world that need awareness: domestic violence, rape, increasing CO2 emissions, world hunger, genocide, animal and environmental conservation, and the list goes on. With all of these issues it’s overwhelming knowing which one to actually do something about. Because let’s face it, one person cannot be active in all of these issues, there simply is not enough time. You can definitely support and spread the word, but as to really doing something, really making a difference, I’m afraid we must pick and choose.
As wrong as I think slavery is and as much as it needs to be stopped, I personally pick the environment as my cause-of-choice. I feel that the state of the environment and our role in harming, as well as helping it, is of enormous importance. They way we treat the Earth has a direct affect on our quality of living, as well as the quality of living for the entire world. The scale is just too grand for me to ignore.
So I ask, what is your cause? What are you going to do something about? Not just spreading the word by printing flyers or striking up a conversation, but by really taking those steps to make a change. It’s all good and great to talk about taking action, but until something is done, it's just words.
Monday, December 1, 2008
My friend mentioned something that she had learned in her International Studies class about conflicts between countries around the world: there exist all over the world core countries and periphery countries. The core countries are developed countries, often being rich, while periphery countries are developing countries, often being poor. This existence of the two types of countries allows a similar cycle as slavery does and creates a situation in which these countries are potentially never going to move out of their position. The concept of this phenomenon is that core countries keep the periphery countries poor and weak, while periphery countries keep core countries rich and strong. The periphery countries rely on the core countries for resources to stay alive, creating dependence on the core countries. This means that there is going to be an unofficial debt that the periphery countries will owe the core countries; this creates the cycle. Since the first concern of countries is security, the core countries exploit the periphery countries so that they can get cheap goods from them and so that they can keep the periphery country where it is, and no threat will be put upon the core country.
This core-periphery country idea is a cycle similar to slavery, but is it slavery? I think it is just as much slavery as is exemplified in Disposable People. At some point the periphery countries are put at a point that does not allow them to move up. They have only one option and it is being “controlled” by the core countries. Slavery in this sense is having no other option but slavery.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Bales believes that one of the most important ways to combat slavery is to raise awareness about the issue. One of the best ways for college students to raise awareness about a specific issue is to create a student led organization or group designed to target the problem. Creating an organization against slavery would be fairly easy to accomplish on a college campus because people generally believe that slavery is immoral and unethical. Student organizations are also financially supported by the college. These organizations would have enough power to teach people about slavery and raise money for support.
Almost all colleges around the nation have organizations that attempt to bring awareness to specific local and global problems. Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice grants its students access to forty organizations that target issues ranging from poverty to cancer. Georgetown provides some of the top organizations nationwide but it does not have a student organization designed to combat slavery. Not many colleges do. The issues they combat are important, but it is time to add another one to the list. Creating an organization to fight against slavery at one college has the potential to spread to other colleges and the communities around them. An organization like this is an excellent way for students to take a stand against slavery.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Brazilian slavery is directly tied to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which will continue to have detrimental environmental effects on a global scale. Slaves in Brazil are used in agricultural enterprises. Cheap labor is exploited and the rainforest is being cut down for profit. The world could see a dramatic climate change with its elimination. The Amazon also keeps the production and absorption of oxygen balanced. Throwing this balance off will have damaging effects to the ozone layer, which could increase global warming. Slavery in Brazil should be a main priority of all major countries because of its potential to have these serious effects. There is little concern involving the practice of slavery. If more countries knew the devastation slavery can cause, perhaps they would be more willing to show support for its elimination.
Bales describes the difficulty of trying to end slavery in Brazil, but he also believes that the world is making progress in the fight. Although alerting the media about the situation and putting economic pressure on the people in charge in Brazil has had excellent results, Bales says that this approach is not enough. It is up to the Brazilian people to end slavery in their country. This elimination, however, will be difficult for the Brazilians, especially with such a weak economy. Brazil will need to continue to receive economic support from the rest of the world. Another idea that the world should consider is that better protection of the rainforest may help reduce the practice of slavery in Brazil.
Mark London and Brian Kelly, two of the world’s leading experts on the Amazon, have their own plan to save the rainforest. Supported by the Marriot chain of hotels, they have created protected communities on the outskirts of the forest. The people in these communities serve as protectors and guardians of the Amazon rainforest. In return, the Brazilians that live there receive money, food, and a more modern place to live. This system helps reduce poverty and could help reduce slavery in Brazil.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
First, I think that people would fall into this trap based solely on laziness and the convenience of having their problems solved. I also feel that taking a step down this path would make it hard to turn back. The easy way out is a weakness found in many people, but could be detrimental to our progress in society. To accept the McDonalization would be failing our historical intellectuals that through dialectical idealism, we have created progress. In many realms, we can see that this is true. Even in this class, we continue to mold and shape our perception of power. If we were to accept the definition that was given to us the first day of class, we would have not created some greater knowledge and continue to find a conclusion.
It is important to realize that our thoughts are being influenced even when we don’t realize it. The society that we live in creates a model that we are “suppose” to follow. It is necessary that we continue to question and strive for more so that our power of thought is not fried, grilled, or flipped.
I recieved all my information from myweb.stedwards.edu/mikef/mcdonize.htm
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
An article I read recently in Comparative Politics entitled “Bin Laden, the Arab ‘Street’, and the Middle East’s Democracy Deficit”, by Dale Eickelman, stood out to me as something worth discussing in our philosophy class, because it focused largely on power. Bin Laden, in our minds, is simply a symbol of terrorism, but to his targeted Middle Eastern audience, he conveys so much more. He is an icon in the modern world of media, trying to convey himself as a traditional Islamic warrior. His messages contain many secular elements, which appeal to his targeted audience- the Arab youth, the unemployed, and the poor. “He speaks in the vivid language of popular Islamic preachers, and builds on a deep and widespread resentment against the West and local ruling elites identified with it”(Eickelman). He blames the suffering of the people on American brutality against Muslims. He focuses on themes of oppression and corruption, which are themes that even non-religious people can relate to. He is charismatic and controlled. He even has a major TV logo in the corner of his broadcasts that add to his message’s authenticity, much like an ABC or CNN logo would in American media. Sounds like the majority of politicians we witness daily, right? That’s because to his audience he does play a similar role. His mastery in modern propaganda can be likened to that of political campaigning in the United States. Bin Laden’s audience does not judge him on his ability to cite authoritative texts, but rather on his skill in applying generally accepted religious tenets to current political and social issues. In other words, he knows how to play to his audience.
Through mass education and new communication technologies, such as the internet, he is able to reach large numbers of Arabs. Former Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, said in 2001, “Through access to the internet and other means of communication, a restive [Arab] public is increasingly capable of taking action without any identifiable leadership or organized structure.” Although in the past the generally non-democratic governments of the Middle East would punish organizations that went against the government, the new media is much harder to censor. Because these uncensored news outlets have certainly had an impact on public opinion, or what the article refers to as the “street”, the Arab governments have been forced to be more responsive to their citizens, or at least to pretend to be. So, “rather than seek to censor al-Jazeera or limit Al Qaeda’s access to the Western media- an unfortunate first response of the United States government after the September attacks- we should avoid censorship”(Eickelman). Their statements should be treated with the same caution as any other news source; censoring them will only bring more attention to them. If we look at the war on terrorism from a communication standpoint it turns not into a war on terrorism of one group against another, but instead a war versus terrorism and radicalism in all societies. In conclusion, although the United States has never underestimated the organizational skills of Bin Laden or Al Qaeda, their skills in effectively conveying a message through modern media that appeals to some Muslims should not be underestimated either.
(I couldn't find the full article online, but I have a copy of it in my textbook if anyone is interested)
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
I really like how Ryan once commented in one of the blog that “ignorance to some extent might just be the bliss we need to continue with a purpose.” I do agree that many people do enjoy living an ignorant life because it is a much easier life compared with the assiduous, hard-working life of a philosopher. I do think that in any society, any culture, any country, we all need philosophers, they are WISE, and without them the truth can hardly get revealed. Everyone will question me that, “So if they are so important, why are they not as popular as politicians?” Please don’t feel offended if you are on the politician’s side and observe here that I put politicians on the other side of the equation. I wholeheartedly DO NOT mean that politicians are less wise or ignorant. My point is politicians and philosophers have different responsibilities and missions in this world and it is just a totally challenging work to compare which one is more important. However, I do think we are living in an ignorant world because what we know is limited compared with all the truths out there. Therefore, in order to control that ignorant world, we need politicians, but in order to find out the real truths, we still need philosophers. One of the reasons I took this class was because the last summer, I read The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. The book was very interesting, very realistic. It is based on the fact that men are self-interest and natural venture seeking creatures, they get appealed by mysterious things, and if you can focus on these characteristics of men, you will possess the power to influence, to control, and in general to spread your power on any individual that you desire. Deception seems to be the backbone of all the strategies. At the beginning, it made me question so much whether the book is useful for me and, by any means, moral. Some of the laws sound very wicked and deception-oriented, for example, law 3 states that “conceal your Intentions” by all means or law 10: “Make other People come to you – use Bait if Necessary.” After finishing the book, I realized that the book is written and its laws were designed for a certain category of readers. If you are the one who is on the philosopher’s side, you will get quite skeptical towards the content of the book. However, you are politicians; the book is a true bible that helps you deal with people. It turns me back to the beginning of my stream of thoughts that the truth is still the truth, it is just the matter of time that before it can get discovered; however, ignorant men do not care much about the truth, they are self-oriented, self-interest; therefore, politicians, holding the control responsibility, have to have a different medicine to deal with these patients, deception is just one.
In our discussion of “Truth and Politics” we asked whether truth-tellers can exist in politics to which there was a consensus of no: politicians have to lie in order to appeal to the public. But what exactly is lying? Is it as simple as being untruthful or are there degrees to which one can manipulate the truth before it’s actually considered lying? Is there a difference or should there be? This seems to be a very gray area, a faintly drawn line in the sand that is often crossed.
For example, the issue of negative campaigning was brought up in the presidential debate Wednesday to which both candidates acknowledged that campaigning has been tough. Both McCain and Obama have issued negative ads aimed toward the other but that’s nothing new in politics; it seems to be a good way of attracting attention. But by being negative have the candidates crossed the line between manipulating facts and lying? One of McCain’s ads criticizes Obama’s plan for sex education saying that Obama wants to teach sex education to kindergartners. However, the ad is full of quotes taken out of context to make this claim appear to be what Obama proposes. On the flip side, there are Obama ads that speak out of context in regards to McCain’s views on energy, immigration, and stem cell research. Do we consider these misused quotes to be lies or manipulation? If the ads are not truthful then they are lying; but if the information in the ads is truthful, only presented in a way that is untruthful, is that merely manipulation?
And how does this negative untruthful campaigning affect the American people? So much is taken at face value in today’s society that many who see these ads don’t make an effort to check the facts. They simply accept the message as truth whether it is or not. What does this say about Americans? Are we naïve or so lazy that we blindly believe what we hear without discovering for ourselves the validity of such ads? By not fact-checking are we admitting that the truth doesn’t actually matter? I find it scary to think Americans would rather believe manipulative ads because it gives them one more reason to dislike a candidate than acknowledge there is more to the issue.
Politics would be radically different if instead of having negative ads that often misrepresent their opponents politicians stated only the truth about their views and opinions as well as those of their opponent. It seems that entirely truthful campaigns would be most beneficial to the American people since the majority lack the impetus to discover truth for themselves. So why is negative campaigning used? What is so terrible about telling the truth? I think it is because negative ads stir up drama. They anger people and turn campaigns into he-said she-said games with no progress on actual issues. But that makes life interesting and gives people something to follow. If Americans want and respond to untruthful drama then what’s to stop the media from giving them just that?
Foucault, in his own verbose and difficult way, deconstructs everything that we have attempted to grasp in the class. He “emancipates the analysis” power, in relation to sovereignty and its basic elements of subject, unity, and law into what he calls operators of domination. He wishes for us to extract operators of domination from relations of powers, since power functions in networks, and cannot be possessed. We must then begin with the relationship of power before we analyze the subject, because the subject is only created by power, according to Foucault. Foucault explains his analysis of power to be in concrete terms, in which we must reject the juridical view of sovereignty. However, to theoretically counter his elaborate analysis of power, I would like to introduce to the theory of Occam’s razor. Occam’s razor is a theory that states that when given multiple definitions, the simplest one is the best. While I can accept Foucault’s attempt to reanalyze power, I feel that most people would be quite content with the idea of power as exerted through sovereignty, like in the first book that we read. I assume that the general population does not often think of power the way Foucault does, as a flowing network in which power is not possessed. I think the general population is content with the idea that power can be possessed, like physical strength. I think the common misconception of Foucaultian power materializes when he says that warlike society was replaced by a State with military functions. The State is an entity, which common can be seen as a possessor of power (i.e. a military), but this trap that Foucault wishes for everyone to avoid. Complicating the matter was the beginning of the historico-political discourse that linked war to the institution of power.
Foucault’s argument is very accurate in his own system that he has created, but he himself admits that knowledge (and truth, to some extent), in relation to the histrico-political discourse of war, is based on perspective. This is one aspect that I can particularly agree with. This idea was championed by Frederic Nietzsche. According to Nietzsche, truth is never universal. Foucaualt draws on this in one of his other works, La Volonte de savoir, when he states “knowledge is always a certain strategic relation in which man finds himself placed (xx).” In Foucault’s historico-political discourse of war, truth functions as a weapon, because its discourse can be manipulated in order to fit the situation.
Obviously, this is just fiction, but a good story always has a little truth in it. Black, after years of being labeled a “monster” because of his appearance, becomes one in truth. Which raised the question for me: do people mold themselves to fit society’s expectations? For example, do blondes sometimes purposely act like the stereotypical “dumb blonde” because it’s what is anticipated? The same goes for “fiery redheads” and “dependable brunettes.” Or is society simply programmed to notice the people who fit these stereotypes rather than those who defy them: e.g. the even-tempered redhead, brilliant blonde, and vivacious brunette. No one wants to be stupid, over-emotional, or boring, yet it seems strange how many people “fit” their labels.
I think the same applies to more serious typecasts. If someone can’t speak or read clearly, they must be stupid; obese people are lazy and gluttonous; all African Americans speak in Ebonics. When a person encounters this sort of negative attitude constantly, unless they have very high self-esteem, they might adopt some of these traits, or simply believe they have them, out of pure hopelessness. A girl with a speech impediment, having been told she’s an idiot for the hundredth time, may start to believe it. The overweight little boy might stop attempting to lose weight after enough wise cracks from his thin older brother.
Society’s views and expectations have an effect on how people present themselves. Modern American culture is one full of categories, and almost everyone feels the need to fit in somewhere. We want to fall into a category, even if it isn’t necessarily accurate or flattering, for the sake of having a niche.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Not source in the sense of, “Where does it come from?” or, “How do we get it?” because, as stated above, we cannot have it and therefore we cannot give it or receive it.
For example, Foucault explains that power is not quantitative, that one person cannot have more power than another. Instead, one person can be better at exercising power than another, and that would make them “more powerful”. In other words, one can exercise it with greater efficiency and less expense than someone else. However, this idea begs the question: how does one come to be in a position to exercise power? For example, someone looking at the way president Bush runs the country and makes decisions or policies, that person could say, “I can do it better or more efficiently”. And even if they are right, even if they can they are still not nearly as “powerful” as the president. Therefore, one is not “powerful” because of the knowledge of how to exercise power better or more efficiently.
We say that we give the president power, but I feel like if that was the case, we could take it away at will, or give it to someone else if we feel like it. It sort of implies that we are more powerful than the president since he is only powerful at our will. And if that is the case, how did we come to be in the position to “give” that power to someone?