Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The beginning of Gine’s thesis paper began with the topic of Black College Students and Higher Education. Here she quotes Arendt saying that the majority of negro students were admitted to lower standards in universities and were not qualified to attend the school. In Arendt’s analysis of education, she did not include anything addressing why qualified black students were not accepted into predominately white colleges. Gine’s attributes the acceptance of negroes into these prestigious schools due to what she calls “ white guilt,” which are thought to be actions out of pity. She then began to discuss ideologies, relevant to our class discussions a few weeks ago. She defines her Black Racist Ideology stating that blacks have to develop an ideology to justify their needs and demands. To counter that, Gine’s states that whites grow up having an anti-black ideology, which would explain why blacks don’t get into white school programs. Throughout this part of the paper, I felt that the claims made by Gine’s were extremely bias. Her interpretation of Arendt’s theories seemed to take small parts and analyze them, instead of taking a full look at the work in context.
Following this topic, Gine’s address Arendt’s Reflections of Little Rock Essay. Gine’s feels that the essay is a cultural misunderstanding and is similar to Arendt’s thoughts in other work. Arendt separates political issues from social issues. In her essay, she says that resorts and places of amusement should remain segregated, seeming this is not a political issue. She feels that there cannot be a “right” to go into a private owned place. Arendt says that public services such as buses etc. are public domain and should not be segregated. Arendt follows by saying equality in politics and public domain must be enforced, other wise there should be discrimination because it keeps groups and communities combined. To Gine’s, there is no difference between political and social issues. They are all interconnected. To make the distinction from political and social issues of segregation and integration, is a racist statement.
After the seminar was over, questions were running through my mind. Gine’s had brought up the Brown vs. Board court case that happened over 50 years ago. She inferred that if this is still such an issue today, has anything changed since then? Also, is segregation just happening in the south or is it a universal problem? My conclusion is that one form of suppression cannot be compared to other. Although, Arendt states some questionable topics and claims, these cannot solely define her as a racist.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary philosophy is the “investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods” (633). In other words, part of a philosopher’s job is to research the problems or conflicts in our world and then derive a theory from their investigations. But do their theories inspire anyone to change the problem? Or are the theories in the end just “bitching”? At the philosophy seminar this past weekend at the University of Memphis, one lady read a huge thesis paper she wrote dealing with a problem related to racism. But will her thesis actually do anything or will it just be talked about among intellectuals and then put away in a filing cabinet?
I question this field of study not because I dislike the subject. I enjoy discussing ideas and problems with other people and like to hear their opinions even if they do not agree with mine. I question the field of philosophy when I pick up the newspaper every morning or when I turn on the news or even just talk to another person. It seems that nothing is right in the world, that there is injustice everywhere, and ultimately, there is no hope for a better future. There always seems to be something going wrong. Racism. World War I. The Depression. World War II. Terrorism. AIDS Epidemic. Global Warming. Red Scare. Vietnam War. Hate Crimes. Cold War. 1970’s Oil Crisis. It’s never ending, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.
The Holocaust was an atrocious crime against nature where millions of innocent people were killed. When the event came to light, people were horrified, but it eventually happened again in a different form (Rwanda and Darfur should be flashing through your mind right now). Everything that people wrote on genocide did not help prevent it from happening again. So what’s the point? What’s the point if philosophies are not able to help change things significantly in our country or in the world? Do they not work, because governments get in the way? Or have they become irrelevant in today’s world?
Being politically correct, to the degree that we are now expected to be, is a fairly recent phenomenon. People have to watch their words about whatever they say, and have to be overly careful when making any sort of comment about anyone of a different race, religion, or background from you. Even in writing this blog post, I am feeling the need ingrained within me to maintain political correctness, and will make sure not to use any possibly offensive examples to reiterate my point. As a personal example, I have even noticed that the way my Father criticizes Obama is very different from how he normally criticizes Democratic candidates. He is a staunch Republican, and will usually be quite harsh about the Democratic candidate, but he has definitely toned down his distaste in the case of Obama, which I think is probably because he doesn’t want his political views to be confused for racism. In class we mentioned truths that are never spoken of, such as truths about the diversity level at Rhodes.
With all this being said, has political correctness, instead of being a tool to help bring greater toleration, become something that just forces people, Politian’s especially, to hide the truth? I think so. There is nothing wrong with encouraging people not to use stereotypical or insulting classifications about certain groups in society, but its gotten to a ridiculous point where those issues can’t be discussed as freely. People may shut their mouths, but that doesn’t mean their views have changed. Politian’s have had to learn to be much more highly calculated on what they say and don’t say than ever before, because this is an age where accusations run rampant.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
His remark reminded me of the class discussion we had the other day on Sarah Palin and presidential elections. I had mentioned how degrading it was for the United States to have its Presidential candidates try and appear like celebrities to try and win votes. And answering questions like what music they like or who their favorite actors or actresses are is pointless, since it does not address the important issues of our country like national security or the plight of the economy.
It seems that with each presidential election, the candidates are becoming more concerned about trying to win votes not by their platform of ideas but by their image. It is almost like ideology is becoming less and less relevant in the presidential elections. In Freeden’s book, he says that ideology can never cease to exist in the world (38). But can it stop existing in the sphere of elections in the United States? Will we one day be voting for a candidate, because they are more handsome or because they like Prada instead of Gucci?
Presidential elections have also gotten more media coverage over the past few elections, and people seem to be getting more interested in voting and elections. Now this could be, because of the state that our country is in right now. Again, our economy is doing poorly, and the Iraq War is a mess. Or could it be, because presidential elections have become to resemble the Hollywood scene more, since we get to read about stuff like the juicy details of the candidates’ families?
I feel like people are more interested in presidential elections, because they deal less with issues people want to ignore (is there global warming?) and more with our consumer driven-pop culture. I have seen the candidates for this election on People magazine where they willingly get interviewed and also on TV talk shows like the View or the Ellen Degeneres Show. By doing this, the candidates are able to reach a larger audience and possibly get these people inspired to participate in the elections, but at what expense? The presidential candidates avoid talking about the tough issues, because people do not want to read or watch something that reminds them of the problems or conflicts in our country. So, over time people could begin to vote more and more for a candidate not entirely based on what ideology they believe in or what issues they believe in, but for whose image they like best. It would be the downfall of our nation if over time our presidential elections practically reduced themselves to resemble class elections in schools where kids vote for the most popular kid not because that kid will do anything for them but because he/she is cool.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
The Spindel Conference runs from Thursday evening (Sep. 25) through the end of the day on Saturday (Sep. 27). A full schedule for the conference can be accessed here. All sessions will be held in the Fogleman Executive Center on the campus of the University of Memphis. You can access a campus map here.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
In this way, proportionality has much to do with making an ideology appeal to the masses. The proportions in which certain themes are presented will either catch the attention of the targeted audience or push the audience away. Since the success of ideologies is based on their abilities to “muster significant groups that will assist them in their endeavor to capture control over political language and collective decision making,” ideologies want to proportion their themes in a way to maximize public interest (69). In this respect, certain themes that appeal to an academic audience cannot be too prominent or the average Joe won’t understand. Likewise, the themes cannot be so watered-down that the more advanced audience is bored. The balance in proportion is a crucial aspect in the success or failure of an ideology.
This idea of proportionality seems tricky when it comes to thin ideologies of which Freeden addresses in Chapter 7. A thin ideology is one that has an identifiable yet restricted morphology (98). Unlike a macro-ideology with many concepts, a thin ideology takes a few concepts and focuses heavily on them. With thin ideologies proportionality can go one of two ways: Either there are several concepts that are relatively equal, or, due to the limited number of concepts to begin with, one concept takes over the ideology and becomes its soul focus. The problem with this second situation is that thin ideologies with only one concept will appeal to less people. If the proportionality is so skewed that only one concept is being promoted then only people who agree with that one concept are going to be interested in the ideology. Already, all the people who disagree with the concept are going to reject the ideology because there is no other concept for them to agree with.
Proportionality provides organization for ideologies. It allows them to parcel out importance to their concepts in order to attract the greatest audience. For thin ideologies this is more difficult because they have fewer concepts to organize. It would seem that proportionality favors macro-ideologies because they have more concepts to proportion and benefit greater than thin ideologies where proportion becomes too skewed to be affective.
I left class on Friday feeling a bit displeased after the subject of tolerance was brought up. It seems that the majority of the class believes that America is a tolerant country. Yet, other countries are not. But is it realistic? Is America really a tolerant country? If so, then why are there so many issues, such as abortion, being argued in the political world? If we are tolerant, why can’t the pro-life group continue to support those who are pro-life and agree to the pro-choice group continue with their agenda? Why must illegalizing abortion be such an issue? What about missionaries going to different countries trying to implement Christianity on others? Is that being tolerant?
I disagree with the notion that America is as tolerant as many seem to think. I sense that tolerance only work when it is towards ones self-interest. It is only easy to be tolerant if an issue does not directly affect that person, or if it is an issue that that person is apathetic about. Once a person cares about a subject matter, that person loyalty to his/her argument will cause biased towards that certain view and he/she will find it hard to tolerate different viewpoints. Also, if a person is around people who have similar thoughts on one subject, it is easier to say that he/she is tolerant of the subject because that person position has not been tested nor directly confronted with opposing outlook. For example, many classes at Rhodes have very specific topics. Some of these topics might cause some controversy. However, if a class has only similar groups of student, and no one who disagree with the mass majority, it is hard to decide whether the class is being tolerant of the idea or simply because the idea has not been tested.
We have been taught to be tolerant, but we have also been taught to stand up for our beliefs. But aren’t those two ideas conflicting? I imagine these two are clashing point of views, and it seems that standing up for what you believe in usually always wins. When an idea isn’t complementing one’s self-interest, it is easy to deviate from the “tolerance” stand point. To stand up for ones beliefs and try to prove a point or persuade the other person to believe in the same views seems to be done more.
Saying that you are tolerant is almost as similar to being what Dr. Johnson often called a “lazy relativist”. A lazy relativist is a person that thinks that nothing is absolute and everything is right, therefore there’s no absolute truth, in turn saying that everyone can have their perspective and there is no need for arguments. Being tolerant means you have to respect other people’s ideas and that they can have their perspective and you can have yours without going into a fight. I feel that these two ideas are quite similar. Tolerance is just a nicer euphemism.
The idea of tolerance is a bit naïve in my opinion. It does seem like a great concept. However, to successfully put your beliefs aside and truly tolerate someone else’s without being somewhat judgmental is awfully difficult. I realized not all situations are black and white, however, after class on Friday, I felt like everyone made America sound like such a tolerant country, and I just wanted to point out, maybe, a different point of view.
For example, same-sex marriage does not mean anything by itself. However, if the political concept is put into proximity to the ideology of conservatism, it is defined as “unnatural” and therefore should not be made lawful in the United States (Freeden, 88). Put into proximity to liberalism, same-sex marriage is a social advancement and should be made legal.
However, party loyalty undermines the disclosure of political concepts to different ideologies. Party loyalty is a dominant aspect of the two political parties in the United States, and it destroys political concepts from coming into proximity with other ideologies other than conservatism and liberalism. If a politician is loyal to his party and thus ideology, then he is more likely to be promoted in his party. So, party loyalty suppresses other ideologies, because politicians are in the end trying to do what is in their own best interest: gaining power, money, and prestige.
So, without introducing other ideologies to help execute political concepts, political concepts are not able to evolve and change as fast into a better concept. Two heads are better than one, but three heads are even better, and so it is with ideology. Now, I am not saying that we should introduce other macro-ideologies like communism to help define political concepts but micro-ideologies would be beneficial (Freeden, 78 & 94). With more versions of a political concept being discussed, the more likely a better solution or decision can be made on that particular political concept.
Yes, when we are walking through the airport, we do indeed feel more secure. You feel this way because of all the restrictions that is implemented on what you can or cannot bring. Though in my opinion, this is just a veil to reassure citizens that they are safe from attack. If one would look closely, it is not impossible to smuggle something illegal into the airplane if one would just sit and think about it for a minute. It does not take much to blow up a plane and it can be easily undetectable because metal detectors cannot pick up these materials, since it can easily be plastic explosives. So no matter how many shoes you take off, or how many metal detectors you go through, passengers can still take explosive materials into the airport if they really want to. Also, take into considerations of all the food vendors that are in the airport. I doubt that every single one of these places has been under the scrutiny of checking for any forms of harm to the passengers. In addition, what about airport workers? How strictly of a background check did they go under? There really is no way we can be 100 percent sure that they are of no harm to airports passengers.
Though I do believe we are safer than we were before 9/11, what I do not agree with are all of the forms of securities that we have. I think that the government is creating a false sense of security. Many people are simply looking at these exaggerated appearances of security and using it as a shield against any kinds of attacks. They do not want to have to worry about being in danger, so by depending on the securities provided by the government, they feel more secure. Because the government does have so much power, the people tend to forget their own sense of power, and do not questions whether these new actions are infringing on our rights.
So are we really that safe? No, but if these extreme measures can’t keep us safe of terrorist attack, what more can we do? Do we have to compromise our rights even more or are there something better out there that can keep us from harm and at the same time, giving us our rights?
Proximity of ideologies could be a possible answer as to why political systems around the world are designed so differently, and in turn what the consequences for these differences mean for the well being of their citizens. An example of an ideology that applies to this topic is democracy. Democracy exists on a spectrum, going from less democracy (i.e. autocracies) to more democracy (i.e. liberal democracy like the United States has). Not only are there different levels of democracy, but also different ways of thinking about democracy. One could think of democracy abstractly—as an ideal, a utopia. Then there is a practical way of thinking about it as a way and means of realizing justice and equity. Lastly, it could be thought of concretely as a balance sheet between past and current efforts.
The complication does not end there. There are different aspects of democracy that are viewed as vital in some societies and trivial in others. Political accountability, competition, and civil rights are just a few that we consider crucial in America. Other places put more emphasis on social movements, quality of leadership, and the system of institutions. We could go on to debate what each of these factors truly signifies as well, but that is not the point. The point is that democracy, a political ideology, does not make sense unless examined within a certain environment with its other ideologies that can be used for comparison. This is what proximity means for all other ideologies as well.
Proximity is an essential feature of Wittenstien’s language game, which we studied a few days ago. Words are like signs that represent something, and they only make sense when compared with other signs. Ideologies can only be understood when observed with their proximate counterparts; otherwise, they would not make any sense. Thus, ideologies are relative.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Saying that “with power comes responsibility” implies that if someone has significantly less power than someone else then they are completely free of responsibility, from preventing wrongdoing or ensuring safety. This concept is equally applicable to individuals, societies, and countries. To better understand, let us examine this theory in a different scenario. If the building you are in catches fire, and some of the other residents who are incapacitated are trapped inside, and you are powerless to stop the fire, what do you do? Are you powerless and therefore leave, hoping the firefighters are able to save the poor trapped residents? No. You do what you can to save these individuals even though you are “powerless”. Canada may not have near as many troops as the U.S., but that does not negate responsibility. Supporting other nations in an attempt to fulfill one’s responsibility would be one practical and acceptable solution. Relative levels of power should change nothing but tactics.
Another major problem of this theory is the role and responsibility given the major powers. Allotting them with the specific responsibility of maintaining world peace and security can be a very dangerous proposition. Interpretations for what constitutes world peace could be very unpleasant, akin to a powerful tyrant taking it upon himself to impose “his” version of world peace on the world. There are even more possible and questionable interpretations for maintaining “security”. Under this philosophy any country with considerable power, enough to be considered a major power, becomes obligated to meddle in other countries’ affairs, enforcing its interpretation of peace and security. Under this philosophy, it is the right of the U.S. to attack and destroy any country that does not conform to a “peaceful” manner, or who disturbs its security or control. Under this philosophy, the U.S. can manipulate and conform other countries to its will under the context of keeping global “security”. This view says that the U.S has been fully justified in every war and foreign conflict in which it has engaged. The actions taken by major powers for the “greater good” are reflected in the words of Shakespeare “We are oft to blame, and this tis too much proved, that with devotion’s visage and pious actions we do sugar over the devil himself.”
In closing, one’s power or lack of power does not negate or change the nature of one’s responsibility. Having power doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want in the name of peace, and not having power does not excuse you from action.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
A couple days later, the movie Independence Day was on TV. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s centered around an alien attack of the whole world. Many countries were in contact with each other, trying to decide how to protect the society of mankind; completely forgetting their differences so that they could formulate some kind of plan for this unbelievable war that was coming to them. Military forces from different countries came together to provide defense. Would a threat common to the world bring us together? Could our country act in alliance with other countries completely? Could each sovereign state set aside their individual ideas about how to rule and band together to form one sovereign, ruling one body of people?
Each sovereign state rules how they want: they enforce what they want, they appoint rulers how they want, and they essentially have nobody telling them what to do. Would we be able to forget how we do things to help the common welfare of the world? Part of me says that we would be too selfish and would want to act in a way that would make us feel dominant. (us meaning the United States) For example, Russia could have a completely different tactic to deal with this situation than the United States might.
Would it even be possible, if the world wanted to, to band together and fight, considering communication barriers and the fact that all militaries in the world are trained in combat differently?
I think that it would happen just as it did in the movie. We would ignore all differences because when it comes down to it, everyone wants to live, and when lives are at threat, the world would choose what’s best to stay alive. The real question is: would we continue to be united once the threat was gone? In WWII, we united with Great Britian, and now we are each our own sovereign. I think each sovereign state is so stuck in the way they do things, that it is too late to change how we rule, govern, and act.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
In a way, sovereign nations “failed” by not attempting to solve the situations in
Friday, September 12, 2008
Friday, September 5, 2008
Humans need law, order, and structure to coexist ideally. The most important rights of every person are their rights to freedom, happiness, and life, and in many cases, the border-struggles betweeen sovereigns directly interfere with these innate liberties. Every American celebrates Independence Day in order to commemorate the founding of the United States of America, but in the end, the thirteen colonies were presented a very fortunate opportunity which was taken advantage of. On the other hand, China has held military control of the area known as Tibet for more than forty years. Tibet has never let down their struggle for independence, yet the relatively small area is no match for the Chinese insurgence. If the United States deserves or has the benefit of sovereignty, then it seems only fair that Tibet deserves it as well. The example presents the concept of sovereignty as inadequate in the order humans need to be endowed their most basic rights and the structure to keep these sovereigns in check within and outside their borders.
From the general view of it, the concept comes down to a basic power struggle. In terms of internationality, every country is equal in its sovereignty, but obviously not in power; therefore, the fight for independence or the expansion of borders is just a macrocosmic pecking-order. America overpowered Imperial Britain to become its own entity, while China overpowers Tibet to deprive them their freedom. No process is set into place for gaining independence because the implementation of such a system would directly contradict the idea of sovereignty itself. Is it truly alright to leave conflict up to tanks and guns? Internally, sovereignty abandons those who are oppressed by their sovereign leader. Saddam Hussein was allowed to reign for thirty-four years, depriving his citizens of education, embezzling needed money into his lavish lifestyle, and slaughtering thousands for merely stating a thought. Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe, and many other examples are left unchecked by the world at large. The United States has used its power to defeat Hussein, but what about the other millions that are left to their poverty, terror, and sorrow?
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Although there will be those people that do not catch on to the craze or popular cliché everyone is doing it, and they will rise to the top in an attempt to overcome what has been before them.
I recognize that there is a difference between authoritative comfort, and that extensive power. If you think about the Middle Eastern women and the trials that are faced before them, they probably are not searching this treatment out. Although this is true, sovereignty in the state still exist among the people and these women are to abide by the rules.
Although it is not true in all countries, this comfort will continue to exist, even if sovereignty doesn’t. Especially in the U.S., people rely on the concepts of their leaders as people to surrender their decisions, to blame when things don’t go smoothly, to curse when they don’t have the money, and the list continues.