Saturday, April 05, 2014

Two great articles related to #CancelColbert, by Michelle Goldberg and TBogg

First, Michelle Goldberg's piece "#CancelColbert and the Return of the Anti-Liberal Left", which is good throughout but features this very nice paragraph: 

"There’s a cure for this sort of thing, though it’s worse than the disease. When the right takes power, the left usually discovers the importance of unfettered speech. In the 1980s, with conservatives leading a crusade against the National Endowment for the Arts for funding projects deemed anti-Christian and pornographic, tolerance no longer seemed quite so repressively bourgeois. The same was true during the Bush administration, when opposition to the Iraq War got Phil Donahue fired from MSNBC and the Dixie Chicks pulled off radio playlists nationwide. That’s why the Colbert Report was so cathartic when it first appeared—his relentless mockery cut through the bombastic jingoism, the right wing political correctness, that was stifling us."

Next, TBogg, from "
An oppressive white privileged heteronormative look at Suey Park’s SQUIRREL! interview"
, that features quotes from the founder like:

 "I always paint my white characters to be singular, to be ignorant, to reverse the gaze onto them instead when they are our subjects, instead of always constantly saying people of color are fucked and a way to kind of always reinforce our subject’s location in reference to white men as some metaphor.I think it would be a more realistic socially commentary if I were able to joke about the totality of white supremacy, but I don’t think that’s going to happen on national television."

After which TBogg comments: "David Chapelle wept." Because people joke about stupid things white people do all the time on TV and no one really has much of a problem with it. Ms. Park wouldn't be a trailblazer there.

Both of these folks are progressive and are writing for progressive publications. Neither one are saying that you or anyone else should throw progressive policies out the window. What they are saying is that there needs to be an increased sense of real tolerance, in the original liberal sense of the term, instead of a renewal of the same things that Progressives criticized during the Bush administration. 

I would hazard to say that, in part, these articles, in particular Michelle Goldberg's article, captures in miniature much of what I've been trying to say with regards to the whole Decolonize Seattle/Occupy Seattle debacle. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Hegel's conception of the Absolute Ideal

Hegel's notion of the Absolute Ideal: three phases, the world of Theory, the world of Dialectic, the world of Mind or Spirit. What that means is that in the first place there's abstract logic taken in itself alone, with no reference to anything in real life. This leads to "Dialectic", which in Hegel is the analysis of how the world works from a scientific and sociological perspective. It's dialectical in the Socratic sense because it's a realm of give and take rather than something where absolute logic applies.

Hegel was very, very, big on the notion that world of nature doesn't embody things like perfect mathematical truth, for example that you never see a perfect circle in nature itself. Because of this, a different type of logic, separate from the absolute abstract logic, has to be developed that takes Nature and natural concepts as they are. This is connected also with the notion that nature doesn't deal purely with Aristotelian either/or logic but with many shades of gray, so to speak, and that's another place where the term 'Dialectic' comes in, because the Socratic method was about challenging absolute conceptions of truth and instead approaching ideas of truth through the process of a kind of back and forth of discussion and inquiry.  This process of trying to get at truth is more 'many shades of gray' than either or, more organic, almost, than absolute. Possibly, you could generalize from this to be a more naturalistic way of approaching things.

The realm of 'Mind' or 'Spirit' was formed by combining the previous two together, by applying the rules of pure formal logic to those of naturalistic logic. A way of thinking about this, and an example of it, is Newton's method of mathematical physics, which took observation from life and applied calculus to it in order to understand it. There are a lot of critiques out there, particular that of Alfred North Whitehead, that emphasize that drawing conclusions about the world often involves both observation of nature in itself combined with rational thinking, and this is what Hegel was getting at.

He described the results that could be gotten from combining formal logic with the more organic exploration of nature as describing the absolute ideal, the true form of the universe.

Supreme Court: no more spending limits on contributions. Yay for the Consitution!

So far, strict constructionism has sanctioned unlimited corporate contributions to elections and has certified that corporations are people. Now they've lifted all rules about personal contributions to political campaigns. Perhaps the Constitution is the problem.

Quite frankly, Constitutions are created by people, by legislation, and they can be abrogated as well. When it comes to the most heard objection, that if you just determine a Constitution by legislation there will be no standard of justice whatsoever but just arbitrariness--that's where political philosophy comes in. I'd much rather have people make reference to discussions about justice and rightness in a pure form, and justify or object to a Constitutional issue based on that, than have them blindly venerate a document as if it's a holy script, reading passages in the manner that fundamentalist Christians read the Bible.

*on edit: if there was a section about fucking dogs in the Constitution, I'm sure that Scalia and folks would be keen on interpreting it to mean that the Founders, in all their wisdom, were talking about business rights.

*on edit 2: which is another way of saying that the Constitution is tradition being revered for tradition's sake, blindly, and used for whatever purpose people want to put it.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Materialism and the philosophy of life part 1

Of a series of blog entries.

If there's one thing that my experience on the West Coast has taught me, it's not to take anything for granted. For instance, the notion that people on the Left would necessarily be concerned with learning as a whole, or with culture in the sense of literature, music, art. All of these things, that make a person culturally literate in our society, don't necessarily follow from being concerned with a particular political position. At its worst here, and I'm speaking about a few people I personally knew, are folks who have no interests whatsoever or understanding of life beyond a kind of economic materialism that makes ignorance of anything abstract a virtue...because it's not 'real enough'. More common, and equally surprising, was the discovery that there were folks out here for whose interest in progressive and leftist politics was about the only interesting feature of their lives. Otherwise, they had little interest in the world...books they've read or were interested in, fairly normal, music the same, art, not much of an interest, really....thinking about the meaning of life, where we're all headed, living intentionally, well that was a little bit more nuanced since that's still what everyone who is younger and interested in progressive or left politics is implicitly supposed to be doing. However, even though people may have thought about these issues, there was certainly a lack of ability to articulate a position about them.

I think that while the residual concern for living intentionally that comes from the hippy movement and the '60s is still present today, to some degree, in reality there's no reason why this should naturally come as a package with left politics. Neither should a concern for learning, cultural literacy, or intellectual curiosity, for that matter.

There's a danger, if people start taking the classical Marxist interpretation of society to heart, whether the people who have it consider themselves Marxists or not, that we could see a reductionism in the concerns about life to pure economics. This would be a shame, and I think that there should be two parallel tracks going at the same time: the economic and the cultural, so that neither get ignored.

 Folks on the left tend to see arguments about reductionism as cover for excusing class privilege. Okay, well, then let's keep the criticism of class and also add more existential concerns to them, making the whole deal less of a push and pull between false dichotomies.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Capitalism and values

I think the legacy and effect of capitalism is two fold, first involving rising economic inequality and the creation of a class system, second the destruction of values and the replacement of a cohesive understanding of life with a vacuous one based on greed and materialism. The two are interrelated.

Looking out at the world today, the meaning of life as a whole is not paid much attention to. The big concerns that used to motivate people, the idealism of the past, both moral, ethical, and personal, is consigned to the history books. Instead, we have a vacuum that's filled by self interest and the pursuit of money, where all that exists is a dead world where individualistic atoms bump up against each other.

We don't even have a proper meritocracy, one of the great improvements over the feudal system that preceded all this. Instead, you're rewarded most especially if you decided to go into business yourself.

Along with the rise of class society has come the destruction of any sense of personal purpose in the world.

What's needed is both a socialist economic solution to what's going on, where there won't be massive classes of people, but a commonwealth where a true meritocracy can exist within, and a revival of meaning and idealism in the cultural sphere, where the vacuum of apathy is replaced by a richer understanding of the personal and social world.