Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Seattle Times: always vigilant about government expenditures....because they're too lazy to investigate corporations

And besides, they're their advertisers....reading about the 520 bridge drama and what an outrage the budget going overboard is reminds me of how nice it is to be able to request public records and do stories when the government is obliged to give you all the data. It allows you to stamp your feet and be furious about government programs while ignoring the corporate abuses happening under your own nose.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Two jokes not gotten: assmeblyman attends Purim party in Blackface

Here. Described by the New York Times as a power broker in the Orthodox Jewish community, Dov Hikand attended the Purim party he hosted dressed like "you know, maybe some of these basketball players", which he clarified as "someone gave me the hair of the actual, you know, sort of a black basketball player.” Purim is a carnivalesque celebration that involves dressing up. From the New York Times

"“I am intrigued that anyone who understands Purim — or, for that matter, understands me — would have a problem with this,” Mr. Hikind wrote. “This is political correctness to the absurd. There is not a prejudiced bone in my body.”"

Other folks aren't thinking that it's that funny.

The other joke was Seth MacFarlane putting up a sketch at the Oscars that included a talking, foul mouthed, edgy, teddy bear from the movie "Ted" saying to "Mark Wahlberg that if “you want to work in this town” you have to be Jewish.". The Anti-Defamation League is objecting by saying

"“For the insiders at the Oscars this kind of joke is obviously not taken seriously,” said Foxman.
“But when one considers the global audience of the Oscars of upwards of two billion people, including many who know little or nothing about Hollywood or the falsity of such Jewish stereotypes, there’s a much higher potential for the ‘Jews control Hollywood’ myth to be accepted as fact.”"

Talking Teddy Bear vs. Blackface. I hope that the people who condemn the first condemn the second, because the argument that a person "doesn't have a prejudiced bone in their body", presumably partially on the strength of their religious and ethnic background, doesn't hold water.

*on edit: in essence, it comes down to a question of consistency, the same sort of consistency that's at play with the Palestine-Israel issue. One can't be consistent in their moral life if they take offense to what they perceive as threatening them on one side, and then on the other commit crimes themselves against others that are of the exact same character as what they're objecting to. 

*on edit 2: and to clarify even more, people are suspected of being somehow proto-Nazi for liking Nietzsche or thinking that Wagner's operas are good music, yet it's amazing that sometimes the people who are so sensitive to liking the wrong philosopher or the wrong classical composer have no moral qualms about seeing Palestinian children shot dead in the street. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I'm extremely impressed that people are calling Obama to account for the drone program

Because it means that people haven't totally folded now that a Democrat is in power. Hopefully, now that the second term is not only won but engaged in, folks will feel more and more comfortable about making the sorts of objections to behavior that would easily have been condemned under Bush. There's little to lose, as long as people remember that when it comes time for the next election, you still have to pay attention to what the other side is putting forward in making your decision about supporting or jettisoning a potential candidate.

I don't think it's accurate to blame what's going on in Palestine-Israel on Zionism....

Because Zionism as an actual movement had both liberal, socialist, and conservative manifestations.  It also served a positive goal in galvanizing people to action in the early part of the 20th century. What's happening in Palestine right now is more the result of xenophobic colonialism, which doesn't really have any particular ideology behind it. Zionism, as a term, is often bandied about because it sounds strange and exotic, but the colonizer-colonized relationship is more of an accurate depiction. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Seattle conceals its racism in classism

Because despite having putative progressive values, Seattle is a very class conscious and class discriminatory city. It's a city where class is expressed not in terms of going to country clubs but of being sophisticated, of thinking that you're one of the intelligentsia because you read the right books recommended by the right magazines, follow the latest food trends, and buy the right clothing. Folks who don't follow these norms, who follow others, are looked down on as unsophisticated, as being gauche, the canaille. Although, of course, it can be white people who fall into that realm, more often than not it's people of color, black and brown people, especially younger people, who are the ones who are looked down on with disgust by the sophisticated urbanites of Seattle.

 But it's not because of the color of their skin it's because, you know, they act so, so....what? I'm not talking about kids who hang out downtown on street corners, but about observed reactions to regular folks around town. My observation is that if you're a person of color in Seattle and you don't dress and act completely in line with the elite ideal it's assumed that you're potentially a gang member or trouble maker, someone who should be treated with suspicion, who, in any case *is not ONE OF US*, and so doesn't really *get it*.

Racist disdain abounds in Seattle under other names and justifications. People who have less money, or who actually are poor, are only welcome in the trendier districts of Seattle if they're the virtuous hipster poor, people who come from good middle or upper class backgrounds who have decided to forgo making money for their passion making pottery. If you don't fit into that demographic and you don't have much money in Seattle, or even if you do have money, but have the wrong color of skin and not the style as the elite, you're pretty much fucked.    

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What is virtue, what is vice? In reference to Fitzjames Stephen

Specifically, his arguments in "Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality". Stephen puts forward a good argument that a purely libertarian society, where people didn't intervene with others unless they break the law, can lead to a pretty sorry state of affairs, where though technically no one is seriously hurting anyone, people are treating each other pretty badly. He talks about the need to cultivate virtuous behavior, and he's also pretty down on what he considers to be vice, so why not look at the concepts, specifically vice?

Stephen uses public drunkenness as an example of a vice that shouldn't be tolerated, that people should intervene personally, or possibly with the police, to stop. But what does he feel is the problem with public drunkenness? From his discussion, the problem is people noisy and rowdy on the streets after coming out of a bar, being loud, and being impolite to others that they encounter. Technically, it's possible to be a really big fucking asshole when you're intoxicated with others on the street, and not break any specific law. He considers getting drunk like that, which he imputes to all drinking to excess, to be a vice that should be prevented, either by people taking personal action or the police getting involved.

The vice, though, as I see it in this situation, isn't getting drunk on its own. It's not even being rowdy, something which if done inside a bar according to the tolerance of the bar itself isn't a problem. The vice is thinking that it's okay to inflict your rowdiness on others without consideration for them, and possibly being oblivious to the consequences of your actions. In other words, in this situation, I think that the Utilitarian argument still applies, but that instead of simply recognizing very personal, criminal, hurts, it's expanded to include treating people inconsiderately in the extreme. Vice can be generalized to a mindset or habit or behavior where the rights and well being of others to live their daily lives in peace are sacrificed to one's own selfish indulgence.

That's quite different than saying that getting drunk is a vice.

Again, I think that the solution for this and other similar situations is self help rather than getting the police involved, people being vigilant enough to put personal pressure out there to intervene and to stand up for themselves when things like the above are happening. 

Growing up looking ethnically different, some recollections

With the ethnicity in question being Italian, along with some Eastern European. Going to have to compose something that goes into this in detail, because while it does not, and never will, compete with the discrimination that other groups experience growing up in America, it's still not chopped liver. My experience was that there definitely was a different standard that people who had darker skin and high cheekbones were measured by, by the greater white community, than others, along with exclusion and suspicion. When that is combined with poverty, it's amplified, and, ironically, when a person refuses to stay in an ethnic stereotype established for them but instead tries to participate in alternative culture like any other American, hostility increases. Growing up I was both poor and then well off growing up, and in the well off phase, because I was first a hippy then a sort of alternative culture weirdo, I was perceived by some as being arrogant and flaunting "it", whatever "it" was.

This was not eased any by the fact that for a long time the identity of one of my parents was hidden from me, so that as a kid I mostly grew up thinking that I was a normal American from the dominant, roughly "Anglo", ethnicity. I didn't understand why it was that some people had a different reaction to me, for seemingly no reason, than others. It wasn't apparent why I felt more at home at the Catechism class at my local Catholic Church than, say, at a Cub Scouts meeting. In fact, the Cub Scouts, who I applied to when I was poor, tried to keep me out on the basis that I joined part way through the year and hadn't completed a tomahawk project. The Den Mother's house was located in a much richer, whiter, section of town than where I lived. My mom, who I lived with, was working a job just above minimum wage at the time.

All of this was not helped during puberty when my appearance started to visibly change to be even more ethnic. I remember looking at a school photo from when I was twelve and thinking that the person there looked more Hispanic than they looked like me, and that they didn't fit my self concept at all.

It wasn't helped either when I moved from a largish small town to a small small town, further up in the country, where they reacted to me in a highly amplified way. There were other folks, not many, but some, who were rebels, but despite actually not doing many things that were really bad, I caught much more attention than they did. There was also an undercurrent of sexual insinuation to the hostility, that was ironic considering that before becoming a rebel I was a computer nerd, very shy, and raised by a feminist mother who taught me to be very respectful to women. That especially hurt, and it's not forgotten. Sexual stigmata, in this case of a lusty Italian, is something that our society has used as a weapon from the days of slavery on up.

All of this made me excessively self critical. I couldn't figure out why people were treating me different. Was I really messed up? Was there something that I was doing that really was worse, in terms of juvenile delinquency, than what my comrades were doing? It took a long time, and much introspection, to figure out that how I was behaving wasn't that outside of the norm, but that it was them, not me, that was the problem. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Enjoying James Fitzjames Stephen's book "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"

Which is an English conservative critique of some of them. While I don't agree with everything Fitzjames Stephen says---I like liberty, equality, and fraternity--and while I think his take on freedom of expression is laughable, the main points of the book so far are solid. The book is an extended criticism of John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty", which is a good little essay. 

What Fitzjames Stephen argues is pretty simple: to make a good society, you have to have some sort of public disapprobation for bad acts that aren't bad enough to warrant being called crimes. Simply obeying the law isn't the same as being a decent person, it's just not being a criminal. People have to take it upon themselves to enforce social standards of conduct that go beyond just not breaking the law. Taking it upon themselves, which is not pure vigilante-ism but just calling people out and not tolerating certain behaviors, is the lesser evil of the two options, the other being to institute some sort of regime that codifies these things in law and enforces this with a vast police force.  

Building up an environment of virtuous conduct through personal action and personal disapprobation, is something that people can do on their own, with no need for the State to get involved. 

"Donald Trump Threatens to Sue Macy’s Protester for $25 Million"

From the Hollywood Reporter. This guy was organizing a campaign to get Trump de-endorsed as a spokesman for Macy's. It's always useful to remember, when dealing with Trump, that he inherited his wealth. His father Fred Trump, was not only a wealthy real estate developer, but also the founder of the company that Trump now runs. Trump took over his daddy's business. His "You're fired!" antics are those of a spoiled brat who's used to getting anything he wants.

Came up with a new motto for Seattle

"Seattle, be as white as you want without those 'other' people getting in the way". At least if you're rich.  I swear, North Seattle has unconsciously realized the white supremacist project of a pure white homeland in the Northwest....only it's called Greenlake, and they do Yoga there, as taught by other white people.

Seattle sometimes exemplifies the great Red Meat cartoon portrayed: the black neighbor of the main character comes over and asks if he can borrow his ventriloquist dummy, the guy says sure, but he didn't realize his neighbor was into ventriloquism...the neighbor replies that he was just kidding, that he just wanted to see if white people really owned ventriloquist dummies.

*on edit: that particular Red Meat is Here

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Seattle's obsession with sex trafficking, I can't help but...

I can't help but think that there's a connection between it and the fact that the city banned lap dances a few years ago, a ban that was overturned. The Emerald City is not a sex positive place, overall, and while sex trafficking is real, the Ashton Kutcher fueled hype derived from the Village Voice's back pages is out of proportion to reality. I see the trafficking issue as a sort of last ditch move by the sex-negative crowd to make their case....because of course, if this is going on all the time, than the more consensual aspects of sex work are tainted as well. It's also become somewhat of an ideology for some, with a woman in a social work class I was in seriously comparing sex trafficking to the enslavement of Africans in the United States. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"We the people", so why so much anti-government sentiment?

By which I don't mean people being upset about government abuses, either under Obama or under Bush, but having the attitude, belief, and conviction,  that the government is something external to them, above them, that oppresses them? I have to admit that right now the relationship of people in the United States to their government--any government, whether Obama or Bush--does resemble that because of the character of our system, but shouldn't it be different?  I mean, if we fought a war against Great Britain to set up the first large scale democracy in the world, why exactly do we feel that the government is something alien and exterior to ourselves?

I think that a real revolution, or at least one that wasn't countermanded by a patriotic counter revolution like the one that brought on the Federalist constitutional system, would leave people empowered, confident that the folks who occupied positions in the government were accountable to them.

Government, in its ideal, should be seen as an emanation of society itself, and as a product of it something whose form can be changed, messed around with, or altered, at will as long as the change serves the greater good of society. To not have that confidence, to fall back on decrepit arguments about a Constitution that's half imagined as a religious document, is to admit that you don't control the government you have.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sexual Freedom and character, or, how morality can facilitate liberation

Another V-Day post. Morality and character in politics are often associated with the right wing, with stodgy conservatives, but, in point of fact, they can help liberatory politics as well. Sexual freedom, liberation, and self expression by women seems to be on a sort of yo-yo back and forth. People want to express their sexuality in a positive way through dress and behavior, then there's a reactionary clampdown by feminists themselves. I think that the more sex-positive feminism is wonderful, but that possibly unknown to itself it's based on the premise that the men in the community have the character and morality to respond to the sexual self-expression of women in an intelligent way. That's what makes the difference between this sort of thing being a cool kind of way of being yourself and being an invitation to sexual assault. And to be clear, it's not a case of women inviting this on themselves but of men out there who can't control themselves and deal with sexual stimulation.

But, the kind of culture on the part of men that can really make it safe for women to be more sexually expressive doesn't come out of nowhere. It doesn't come out of a situation where the idea of morality itself is negated, and where, like, it's all relative. It comes out of deliberate and conscious training in ethics.

Good old Filibuster and American corruption

Ever wonder why, in a representative democracy like the U.S., a representative can stop a bill from coming to a vote by endlessly reading from a phone book? Nowadays, folks don't have to go to those lengths for a filibuster, but that's where it came from. I think the use of the filibuster really came into its own in the general corruption in the U.S. government that followed the Civil War. For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, that may have to do with the venality of the successors to Lincoln, from the Grant administration on the sort of nightmare that the founders dreaded of money and power transparently dominating government became a reality. During the robber baron period sub literate nouveau riche coal, iron, and railroad men took over and the idea of good parliamentary procedure itself was forgotten, replaced by a caricature dominated by machine politics.

*on edit: whatever happened started fast. Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's successor, spared no time in dismantling the more radical promise of Reconstruction and welcoming the Confederacy back into the Union.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Since V-Day is coming up, here's an account of one of the funniest juxtapositions from "The Stranger"

Actually from The Slog, their online weblog.....and actually, mostly from the writers of comments to The Slog rather than from the people at The Stranger itself. For those who don't know, The Stranger is Seattle's best alternative weekly, by far.

Anyways, The Stranger has this wonderful little column called "I, Anonymous", where people can send in their anonymous opinions about people in their lives, about people in other people's lives, etc... This "I, Anonymous" column was about a guy going to the University of Washington, which is located in Seattle, who was a racial minority, who was pissed off because some idiotic white girl looked at him outside a club one night and made "gangsta" gestures to him while pretending to shoot a gun. This was the lead in to the main topic, that was the paranoia about white girls around the UW campus towards him as a person of color who wears a hoody. People moving across the street, acting like he's a threat, while in point of fact the guy was a student who works hard and wasn't a threat at all.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Well, in the comments, there was quite a lot of resistance to the idea that this guy's upsetted-ness was justified. The racial political correctness was suddenly lifted for a little while, and the real thoughts came out, as person after person chimed in that they were perfectly justified in treating young black and brown men like threats because of their a) association with crime, b) potential to rape you. One person, in responding to accusations that all of this was racist, replied in all caps "HAVE YOU EVER BEEN RAPED?"

It went on like this until a few days later. You see, that's when Trayvon Martin was shot, partially because he was wearing a hoody, which was claimed to mark him as a dangerous character in the gated community he died in. Suddenly, the comments and the brouha fell silent. Possibly, some of that had to do with the post getting old, and internet time going faster than normal, but it was one of the most popular threads, that was featured on the front page because it had attracted so much attention.

The same types of arguments about why the women of Seattle were right to be paranoid about this UW student who was wearing a hoody were the same types of arguments used to defend George Zimmerman's murder of him, proving that on some topics, the normal rules about what's decent in our society go out the window.

Happy V-Day, and stay vigilant about the sex crazed non-anglo people who its totally non-racist to be concerned about.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Reasserting the rights of Society

Something that is long overdue in the United States. Strangely enough, despite living in a society with other people, where we need to cooperate on a daily basis to get what we need to live, through work and consumption, people in the United States don't seem to regard themselves as living in a society that is interdependent. We're all individuals, and, besides that, our individual freedom somehow adheres to businesses, where the sort of gung-ho individualism is thought to be manifested in business being able to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, with no consequences. It's high time that society reasserts its rights over business.

Society, as a whole, also has rights over individuals. This is complicated because we currently live in a capitalist system where the superstructure is not in line with the base, where our legal and governmental systems serve the rich and capitalism as well as serving people as a whole, yet, some of the basic laws and regulations that are necessary for a decent society to exist still get through. The obligation for individuals to obey what society has established has been greatly misunderstood. If you're born into a society, you may be able to change the laws through lobbying representatives when you become an adult, but in the meantime, you have to obey what's been established before. Society has this claim on people.

I also think that society does exist as a whole, as a body of sorts, although the comparisons are purely linguistic, but that this body is divided against itself due to the division of labor installed by capitalism, that establishes two laws and two standards of living for society: one for those with access to capital, the other for those without. If capitalism is overthrown, the chance will come for society to regain its unitary state. 

We need to save the Post Office

Because, as many people have pointed out, the "crisis" is actually something manufactured by the Republicans in order to try to force the Post Office to become privatized. They mandate that the Post Office have enough money on hand to be solvent for thirty years into the future, or else they have to make cuts.

Friday, February 08, 2013

More about anti-semitism in the U.S.

First off, accusations of anti-semitism should be taken seriously and not downplayed. That said, sometimes folks go overboard in taking things that are just statements of fact and acting like they're anti-semitic statements.

One of the prime ones has to do with people who are Jewish and Hollywood. Objectively speaking, there are lots of people who are Jewish who are part of the Hollywood system, pure and simple. Adam Sandler even referenced it in his Hannukah song, where he says "So many Jews are in show business, Tom Cruise isn't but I think his agent is":

That many people who are Jewish are employed in Hollywood is an objective fact, like saying that there are a lot of African Americans in sports in the United States. What you do with that objective fact is what makes the statement either anti-semitic or not anti-semitic. To use that fact to say that people who are Jewish are therefore manipulating the media, that they rule the media, that they're part of some sort of conspiracy to do x,y, or z, is classically anti-semitic. Just saying, well, that's interesting, but it doesn't necessarily mean much, isn't.

I would say that there are very good reasons why there are lots of people who are Jewish in showbusinesses and Hollywood, and they have to do with the jobs that were historically open to people who were Jewish in Europe. Entertainment was permitted, and with the birth of the silver screen in the United States it provided an opportunity for folks who were involved in the theater to use those skills to make it big. There's really no conspiracy in that.

*on edit: I mean, you could easily look at the success of different people who are Jewish in Hollywood as being a good story of people who were the underdogs, who didn't have a lot of money on the East Coast and who worked really hard, coming out West and getting the status that they deserved.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Right Wing now constantly invoking the Nazis in comparisons, some thoughts

Well, two main trains of thought at least about where some of it comes from, one fairly brief, the other more involved. First off, there's the in my opinion very legitimate comparisons of Bush and his administration with the Nazis by the left, which I engaged in as well. When you set up concentration camps, authorize torture, tap peoples' phones, and abduct people off the street, you have a compelling case for some parallels. The second source is the cultural trivialization of the Nazis by over-reacting to things that have little to do with them.

I'll give you a wonderful example of this. I remember when I was about eighteen, walking into a local Borders' and getting a copy of the double volume of "The Birth of Tragedy" and "The Genealogy of Morals" by Nietzsche, and having the nice older Jewish woman behind the counter put a black bookmark in it and say "Here's some black to go with your Nietzsche".  I doubt that she had any idea what Nietzsche actually had to say, or exactly how the Nazis twisted his words around to justify themselves, but that didn't stop her from making a statement.

Another example: when I was a freshman at NYU, our intro writing class presented us with some example essays of good writing. One of the essays was about a short story that Cynthia Ozick wrote where she looked at two little animals that were running around her yard and pictured herself stepping into their feet, being an animal, with animal instincts. Our essay writer took issue with this, and went off on a rant about how this was Nietzschean and that was the type of thinking that lead to the Holocaust. He had little to say about the actual story itself. Ozick, ironically, is Jewish.

It's a great thing that this guy never read Henry Miller, because he'd have been convinced that he was a goose-stepping Nazi.

This sort of ignorant comparison, where any number of things that are inoffensive are labeled as being proto-Nazi, or as pseudo-Nazi, or as whatever trivialize Nazi Germany itself, even though all of these comparisons are supposedly done in the spirit of trying to prevent a repeat from happening. I remember going through a site that listed things that were supposedly covert swastikas, or that at least demonstrated the disregard of sensitivity of the creators of the icons....and it had Apple's four sided Apple key as one of the semi-Swastikas, surely put there by the nefariously anti-Semitic Steve Jobs to acclimatize people to being okay with swastikas being represented in popular culture. That last is my own color commentary.

The fact is that truth requires truth, not distorted zealotry which will ultimately backfire. This is where the right wing's use of Nazi comparisons to Obama comes in. People see increasingly far fetched accusations and assumptions made, and they get the idea that they can join in on the game. In part, as said, the left helped in this, but only partially. If Nazi can be an insult thrown at anyone without much reason or even sanity behind it, the term becomes devalued and instead allows idiots to appropriate it for their own superficial uses.

Anti-semitism, as an accusation in contemporary America, has a similar, if less conspicuous history. Overall, when you take Israel-Palestine out of the equation there tend to be much less parallels with the term than with the Nazi false equivalency, but even there it crops up, not to refer to actual anti-Jewish actions or feelings, but to things like the supposed motives of the police in Brooklyn for prosecuting the Orthodox counselor who molested over a hundred children.

As said, this is much less of an issue, once you take the false accusations of anti-semitism that are the product of criticism of the Israeli-Palestine conflict out of the picture, than is accusing people of being Nazi-istic, Nazi-symphatizers when they aren't even in the same universe as them, on and on.

People's zealotry to ferret out supposed sympathies with Nazi-ism ironically did not prevent many of the Jewish members of the Bush administration from supporting torture and aggressive warfare against people who did nothing to the United States, from advocating and helping to put into place the same sort of policies that persecuted their ancestors. Nor did it lead to these people, in the main, being called out for their hypocrisy, considering their religious background.

*on edit about Henry Miller: although there are a few anti-semitic stereotypes in "Tropic of Cancer", I remember one reviewer being upset about Miller's use of the term "Holocaust" in his concluding chapter, where he wishes for a general destruction to wipe away what he sees as a hypocritical society. The reviewer seemed to think that Miller was wishing for the Holocaust to happen, and for it to be people who are Jewish to be destroyed. Unfortunately for our intrepid reviewer, Miller wrote the book before World War II happened, and before the mass slaughter was labeled the Holocaust.

Seattle at the intersection between Gesselschaft and Gemeinschaft

 I'm using the words slightly different than the sociologist Tönnies did. Gesselschaft refers to societies, Gemeinschaft to community. Tönnies, but also Durkheim, talked about the transition from an agricultural society to an urban one as the transformation from Gemeinschaft to Gesselschaft, or their French counterparts, although Durkheim was not as pessimistic about this as Tönnies was.

But let me back up here a second. The idea is that agricultural communities and small towns are towns where everyone belongs to the same society, where everything is integrated into one overarching whole that's often divided up according to family.  In cities and large towns, on the contrary, what you find is a society made up of many smaller societies, of groups of people who organize themselves according to affinities, likes, dislikes, preferences. A person can belong to many at the same time.

This is different from a more Gemeinschaft society, where the people who you know, hang out with, etc...are given based on what neighborhood you grew up in, who your family was, things like that. In this scenario you really don't have a choice about what exactly your social world will be structured like.

Durkheim pointed to the positive aspects of the Gesselschaft society, in that it provided many more opportunities for personal freedom and expression than did Gemeinschaft, with the ability to forge new identities and interests that would not have been possible if one had been bound to where one had grown up, in that social setting. Tönnies and others, including some who in latter days have taken up the terminology, tended to romanticize Gemeinschaft and look at the break up of the static, ultimately agricultural, world, as being a tragedy, and as the Gesselschaft society leading purely to fragmentation and alienation as opposed to new possibilities to social integration.

So how does Seattle fit into all of this? It seems to me that despite being a big city, it finds itself on the edge of the two forms: there's a very localist, set, community, that prides itself on long term occupancy and roots, then there's the more cosmopolitan Seattle. But the cosmopolitan culture in Seattle is different from that of New York, for instance, in that it feels like a person can't solely choose to define themselves by their interest groups, but has to establish some more basic community bonds to really feel at home. In New York, by contrast, while there's derision against people who are "fresh off the boat", so to speak, no one really cares if a person has been there for a while, what they've been up to. Instead, you just plug into the culture and pursue what you want. It's the same, as far as I can tell, in most other large cities.

But in Seattle that's not quite enough. To be a Washingtonian and a Seattleite, and feel comfortable, you still have to assimilate enough of what could be called "community knowledge" or "community values" to really be able to navigate society successfully. This is an aspect that is much more in line with the Gemeinschaft society than the Gesselschaft one. It makes, on the one hand, potentially for a stronger community, but on the other seems to be a hassle when what you really want to do is to just get on with your Gesselschaftisch interests. I'm lucky in that I've been here for the shear number of years required to have assimilated that social knowledge, and things are going better, but I can't help but wonder if this requirement for massive amounts of time and cultural assimilation limits the creativity and richness that is present in the community, richness that would be there if folks were more willing to just do their own thing without really caring about the social, local, State and region, history.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Israel and crimes against humanity

Something that's occasionally thrown at people who take an interest in the Israel-Palestine issue is the notion that it's none of our business, that we're not related to either side, it's something that's been going on for a long time, so stay out of it. Well, the existence of the International Criminal Court, as well as the accompanying idea of "Crimes against humanity" says otherwise. To understand the legal terminology, when a crime is committed, it's the state that prosecutes it, because the state understands the crime not to be just a personal wrong done by one individual against another, but to be an act that threatens society as a whole. Crimes, in this case, are by definition crimes not just against individuals but against society. The concept of a Crime against Humanity takes that notion and expands it. There are certain things that folks can do that aren't just a crime in their own society, but are big enough crimes that humanity itself is threatened by allowing them to go unpunished. Because of this, you don't have to be immediately involved to take an interest in it.

Rwanda, Kosovo, Bosnia, these were situations where what was going on interested humanity in general. I think the same can be said of the situation in Palestine.

It makes sense, that is, unless Israel and Israelis no longer want countries to come to the aid of minorities that are being persecuted, deferring instead to the issue being a personal issue that should be settled by the people involved. 

Glenn Greenwald: Brooklyn College's academic freedom increasingly threatened over Israel event

Dershowitz wants to cancel divestment panel, at Brooklyn college. Great, long, article about the "controversy". I put "controversy" in quotes because it shouldn't be one. The event, which is "co-sponsored by numerous student and community groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine, the college's LGBT group, pro-Palestinian Jewish organizations, and an Occupy Wall Street group." has been accused of favoring speakers that are pro-Hamas and Hezbollah, which, although absurd, brings up another question: why should that be forbidden? 

Isn't the point of academic speech to hear all sides of an issue, and for speech you disagree with to be countered by more speech? It's always the tactic of people who can't legitimately defend their position to try to shut down discussion. Obviously, the heyday of free speech where Nazis marching in Skokie were defended is long gone. 

Saturday, February 02, 2013

"Mysteries" by Hamsun and "Homo Sapiens" by Przybyszewski

Wonder if Przybyszewski's book was influenced by "Mysteries". Both of them feature the first person narrative of someone who is mentally ill, explaining his interior life and thought processes. The difference, though, seems to be that Przybyszewski may actually have been crazy, while Hamsun was just an asshole.