“Maha in Sanskrit means big and bharata refers to the great emperor Bharat, whose empire was known as Bharata varsa, and covered the entire world approximately five thousand years ago.
The center of this empire was the region known today as India.
As such, all aspects of India’s millennial (Vedic) culture are compiled in this important epic of the history of mankind.
This episode explores the myth of the Mahabharata, laying out the very roots of Indian mythology, religion and history.
The world’s greatest and longest know epic poem with 100,000 verses exceeds the Bible and all of Shakespeare’s plays put together.
The myth tells of the founding of civilisation and a protracted battle between the two wings of a royal family: the Pandavas and the Kauravas, bitterly opposed in a struggle for life and death.”
April 6, 2014 | Categories: History, Knowledge Creation, Philosophy, Religion, Society, VIDEO | Tags: Anthropology, Art, Books, Documentary Film, Film, Human Nature, Literature, Memetics, misogyny, mythology, Parenting, Patriarchy, Social Conventions, socialization, The Female, Tribalism, Urban Planning, War | Leave a comment
[ŽIŽEK] FROM THE MYTH TO AGAPE. “The elementary skeleton of the Hamlet narrative (the son revenges his father against the father’s evil brother who murdered him and took over his throne; the son survives the illegitimate rule of his uncle by playing a fool and making “crazy” but truthful remarks) is a universal myth found everywhere, from old Nordic cultures through Ancient Egypt up to Iran and Polynesia.”….and the “overwhelming argument for the intimate link between Judaism and psychoanalysis”
Slavoj Žižek. From the myth to agape. Journal of European Psychoanalysis. No. 8/9, p. 3-20, 1999. (English).
all of below written by Slavoj Zizek
Back in the late 1960s and 70s, in the heyday of the Lacanian Marxism, a lot of Lacan’s French followers were attracted by his anti-Americanism, discernible especially in Lacan’s dismissal of the ego-psychological turn of psychoanalysis as the ideological expression of the “American way of life.” Although these (mostly young Maoist) followers perceived Lacan’s anti-Americanism as the sign of Lacan’s “anticapitalism,” it is more appropriate to discern in it the traces of one of the standard conservative motifs: in today’s bourgeois, commercialized, “Americanized,” society, the authentic tragedy is no longer possible, which is why great conservative writers like Claudel tried to resuscitate the notion of tragedy in order to return dignity to human existence… It is precisely here, when Lacan endeavors to speak in favor of the last vestiges of old authenticity barely discernible in today’s superficial universe, that his words sound as (and are) a heap of ideological platitudes. However, although Lacan’s anti-Americanism stands for what is most “false” and ideological in his work, there is nonetheless a “rational kernel” in this ideological motif: the advent of modernism effectively undermines the traditional notion of tragedy and the concomitant notion of the mythical Fate which runs human destiny.
Hamlet Before Oedipus
When we speak about myths in psychoanalysis, we are effectively speaking about ONE myth, the Oedipus myth – all other Freudian myths (the myth of the primordial father, Freud’s version of the Moses myth) are variations of it, although necessary ones. However, with the Hamlet narrative, things get complicated. The standard, pre-Lacanian, “naive” psychoanalytic reading of Hamlet, of course, focuses on Hamlet’s incestuous desire for his mother. Hamlet’s shock at his father’s death is thus explained as the traumatic impact the fulfillment of an unconscious violent desire (in this case, for the father to die) has on the subject; the specter of the dead father which appears to Hamlet is the projection of Hamlet’s own guilt with regard to his death-wish; his hatred of Claudius is an effect of Narcissistic rivalry – Claudius, instead of Hamlet himself, got his mother; his disgust for Ophelia and womankind in general expresses his revulsion at sex in its suffocating incestuous modality, which arises with the lack of the paternal interdiction/sanction…
So, according to this standard reading, Hamlet as a modernized version of Oedipus bears witness to the strengthening of the Oedipal prohibition of incest in the passage from Antiquity to Modernity: in the case of Oedipus, we are still dealing with incest, while in Hamlet, the incestuous wish is repressed and displaced. And it seems that the very designation of Hamlet as an obsessional neurotic points in this direction: in contrast to hysteria which is found throughout all (at least Western) history, obsessional neurosis is a distinctly modern phenomenon. (more…)
January 5, 2014 | Categories: Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Quotes, Religion | Tags: Anthropology, Art, Authors, Books, Death, Gender, Human Nature, Memetics, misogyny, mythology, Parenting, Patriarchy, Relationships, socialization, The Female, Tribalism, War | 1 Comment
“Mandela’s Socialist Failure: In South Africa, the miserable life of the poor majority broadly remains the same as under apartheid, and the rise of political and civil rights is counterbalanced by the growing insecurity, violence, and crime. The main change is that the old white ruling class is joined by the new black elite. Secondly, people remember the old African National Congress which promised not only the end of apartheid, but also more social justice, even a kind of socialism. This much more radical ANC past is gradually obliterated from our memory.” – Slavoj Zizek
Below written by Slavoj Zizek | December 6, 2013
In the last two decades of his life, Nelson Mandela was celebrated as a model of how to liberate a country from the colonial yoke without succumbing to the temptation of dictatorial power and anti-capitalist posturing. In short, Mandela was not Mugabe, South Africa remained a multi-party democracy with free press and a vibrant economy well-integrated into the global market and immune to hasty Socialist experiments. Now, with his death, his stature as a saintly wise man seems confirmed for eternity: there are Hollywood movies about him — he was impersonated by Morgan Freeman, who also, by the way, played the role of God in another film; rock stars and religious leaders, sportsmen and politicians from Bill Clinton to Fidel Castro are all united in his beatification.
Is this, however, the whole story? Two key facts remain obliterated by this celebratory vision. In South Africa, the miserable life of the poor majority broadly remains the same as under apartheid, and the rise of political and civil rights is counterbalanced by the growing insecurity, violence, and crime. The main change is that the old white ruling class is joined by the new black elite. Secondly, people remember the old African National Congress which promised not only the end of apartheid, but also more social justice, even a kind of socialism. This much more radical ANC past is gradually obliterated from our memory. No wonder that anger is growing among poor, black South Africans.
South Africa in this respect is just one version of the recurrent story of the contemporary left. A leader or party is elected with universal enthusiasm, promising a “new world” — but, then, sooner or later, they stumble upon the key dilemma: does one dare to touch the capitalist mechanisms, or does one decide to “play the game”? If one disturbs these mechanisms, one is very swiftly “punished” by market perturbations, economic chaos, and the rest. This is why it is all too simple to criticize Mandela for abandoning the socialist perspective after the end of apartheid: did he really have a choice? Was the move towards socialism a real option?
It is easy to ridicule Ayn Rand, but there is a grain of truth in the famous “hymn to money” from her novel Atlas Shrugged: “Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to become the means by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of other men. Blood, whips and guns or dollars. Take your choice – there is no other.” Did Marx not say something similar in his well-known formula of how, in the universe of commodities, “relations between people assume the guise of relations among things”?
In the market economy, relations between people can appear as relations of mutually recognized freedom and equality: domination is no longer directly enacted and visible as such. What is problematic is Rand’s underlying premise: that the only choice is between direct and indirect relations of domination and exploitation, with any alternative dismissed as utopian. However, one should nonetheless bear in mind the moment of truth in Rand’s otherwise ridiculously-ideological claim: the great lesson of state socialism was effectively that a direct abolishment of private property and market-regulated exchange, lacking concrete forms of social regulation of the process of production, necessarily resuscitates direct relations of servitude and domination. If we merely abolish market (inclusive of market exploitation) without replacing it with a proper form of the Communist organization of production and exchange, domination returns with a vengeance, and with it direct exploitation.
The general rule is that, when a revolt begins against an oppressive half-democratic regime, as was the case in the Middle East in 2011, it is easy to mobilize large crowds with slogans which one cannot but characterize as crowd pleasers – for democracy, against corruption, for instance. But then we gradually approach more difficult choices: when our revolt succeeds in its direct goal, we come to realize that what really bothered us (our un-freedom, humiliation, social corruption, lack of prospect of a decent life) goes on in a new guise. The ruling ideology mobilizes here its entire arsenal to prevent us from reaching this radical conclusion. They start to tell us that democratic freedom brings its own responsibility, that it comes at a price, that we are not yet mature if we expect too much from democracy. In this way, they blame us for our failure: in a free society, so we are told, we are all capitalist investing in our lives, deciding to put more into our education than into having fun if we want to succeed.
At a more directly political level, the United States foreign policy elaborated a detailed strategy of how to exert damage control by way of re-channeling a popular uprising into acceptable parliamentary-capitalist constraints – as was done successfully in South Africa after the fall of apartheid regime, in Philippines after the fall of Marcos, in Indonesia after the fall of Suharto and elsewhere. At this precise conjuncture, radical emancipatory politics faces its greatest challenge: how to push things further after the first enthusiastic stage is over, how to make the next step without succumbing to the catastrophe of the “totalitarian” temptation – in short, how to move further from Mandela without becoming Mugabe.
If we want to remain faithful to Mandela’s legacy, we should thus forget about celebratory crocodile tears and focus on the unfulfilled promises his leadership gave rise to. We can safely surmise that, on account of his doubtless moral and political greatness, he was at the end of his life also a bitter, old man, well aware how his very political triumph and his elevation into a universal hero was the mask of a bitter defeat. His universal glory is also a sign that he really didn’t disturb the global order of power.
Above written by Slavoj Zizek a Slovenian philosopher, psychoanalyst and social theorist at the Birkbeck School of Law, University of London. He is the author of many books, including “Less Than Nothing, “The Year of Dreaming Dangerously” and “Demanding the Impossible.”
December 11, 2013 | Categories: Economics, History, Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Politics, Quotes, Society | Tags: Anthropology, Authors, Books, Current Affairs, Death, Justice, mythology, Social Justice, War | Leave a comment
The Dalai Lama of Mountain Goats
December 7, 2013 | Categories: History, Knowledge Creation, Lectures, People of Thought, Philosophy, Quotes, Religion, VIDEO | Tags: Anthropology, Atheism, Authors, Books, Death, Human Nature, mythology, Nature | 1 Comment
Engaging with different cultures and their languages is great to reflect on one’s own. Growing up listening to Dancehall Reggae, while an adolescent in the Canadian prairies, allowed me a window into linguistics that were not common currency in my geography. What fascinated me then, was how languages/dialects which borrow from West African origins, cultures which prior to Western cultural engagement did not find sexual connotations offensive, hold body function terms as far more offensive than cultures where religious or social dogma dictated that sex was in some way shameful. Jamaican patois is an intriguing syncretization of the grammar and social norms of certain language groups of West African nations such as the language Twi (‘Chwee’) and the words of English. The strongest pejoratives involve toilet paper (or historically, cloth), cloth for menstrual purposes, and terms related to the anus and defecation. The act of sex itself is not a curse word, unlike societies that have evolved from Victorian Anglo norms, although incestuous sex is. The censorship of language is meaningless. Swear words exist to convey emotion, in ways that are not possible through idiotic euphemism.
I often ponder WHY people use certain words euphemistically or with blanks or hyphens or whatever. Words are not the problem or issue or anything, it is the IDEA, the NOTIONAL SIGNIFICANCE that perhaps may be the problem. Such as racism/sexism/homophobia and how every few years, ‘society’ seems to agree than a certain ‘term’ will now be considered a pejorative. It seems some great political step has been taken, while in reality, the actual underlying concerns most likely have not changed at all. Banning words seems pretty superficial, and irrational, when real problems are left unchanged.
The below Christian advert is currently displayed in Toronto public transit. Seems like an instruction manual on how to be a good sheep.
Language is a tool with which to express intelligence and emotion….to display it as a badge of conformance…is…uninspired, to say the least.
November 28, 2013 | Categories: History, Knowledge Creation, Lectures, People of Thought, Philosophy, Politics, Quotes, Religion, Society, VIDEO | Tags: Anthropology, Education, Human Nature, Linguistics, Memetics, mythology, Social Conventions | Leave a comment
Shocking that people keep asking me Emma Who? Emma GOLDMAN (1869 – 1940) was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing, and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.
“There are, however, some potentates I would kill by any and all means at my disposal. They are Ignorance, Superstition, and Bigotry — the most sinister and tyrannical rulers on earth.”
Emma Goldman, responding to audience questions during a speech in Detroit (1898); as recounted in Living My Life (1931), p. 207; quoted by Annie Laurie Gaylor in Women Without Superstition, p. 382
Perhaps one of my top five humans ever. She lived near Queen and Spadina, and her body was laid in state at the building which today is that big Dim Sum restaurant at St Andrews and Spadina, which was in 1940 a Labour Lyceum. Toronto has been cool (culturally/politically influential) for a pretty long time….
Although she only lived in Toronto on three occasions over a 14-year period, and never for more than a year and a half at a time, Emma Goldman had an outsized cultural impact on the city. The well-known anarchist and feminist whom J. Edgar Hoover dubbed “the most dangerous woman in America” filled local lecture halls for talks on topics ranging from birth control and women’s rights to literature, communism, and anarchism. After her death in Toronto in 1940, she become a feature of the Toronto literary landscape, appearing as a character in John Miller’s A Sharp Intake of Breath (2006) and Steven Hayward’s The Secret Mitzah of Lucio Burke (2005). But she spent much her time in Toronto trying to leave it, desperate to return to the United States.
Born in Kovno, Russia (now Kaunas, Lithuania) in 1869, Goldman immigrated to upstate New York with her family in 1885. There she became interested in political activism, particularly in the aftermath of the Haymarket Bombing in Chicago in 1886. She moved to New York City and became a well-known orator and spokeswoman of the anarchist movement. By the age of 24, in the words of Sheldon Kirshner in the Canadian Jewish News (May 28, 2004), Goldman was “widely regarded by friends and enemies alike as a compelling professional agitator and public speaker.” A collection of her essays was published as Anarchism And Other Essays (1910). Continue reading this article…
November 23, 2013 | Categories: Economics, History, Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Politics, Quotes, Society, Toronto, VIDEO | Tags: Anthropology, Authors, Books, Canadian History, Death, Documentary Film, Education, Feminism, Film, Gender, Human Nature, Justice, Leftism, Marriage, misogyny, mythology, Patriarchy, Social Conventions, Social Justice, socialization, The Female | Leave a comment
Postmodernism: what the heck is it and what does it have to do with cats and our perception of reality?
Having been taking photographs around Toronto lately using funky filters on my cheap indestructible smartphone camera (a knockoff Blackberry Motorola running Android)—no one else seems to own nor want to have—I have been enjoying the strange perceptions it’s given me, regarding light and how we view things–in my case the city, its architecture, its denizens and both its daytime and nighttime responses to light; or lack thereof.
After posting some of these shots online, I’ve received feedback such as: “What a crappy filter!” “Stop, that’s not reality!” “Why do you do that?!” “Is your camera broken?”
I like the perspective they give, I am not trying to be a true photographer; nor even claiming any sort of artistic license–although I guess those are simply granted by others if they appreciate/are emotionally affected by, what I am trying to capture or show with what I take pictures of, and the manner in which I take them. A ‘true photographer’ by my definition, is one able to replicate on demand, one who possesses the esoteric knowledge of depth of field, film speeds and what they alter, one who is capable of retaking the shot they took a year ago in almost any environmental condition, and the intelligence, education, skill and practice necessary for all of this. I possess none of these, and may never achieve this calibre of mastery, as I am one lazy sonofabitch.
Funnily though, I had been pondering how people online talk about cats–how stupid they are, or how nonsensical their behaviour be (or mystical or spiritual or…whatever). Living with a cat—one I consider pretty damn sharp—I’ve noticed similar behaviour; such as chasing things I can not see, or staring into the distance…
But I understand that she has optical apparati completely different from mine. Sometimes I’m able to catch a slight glimpse of something moving–perhaps a headlight on the wall, or a tiny flying insect, or someone a few blocks away opening a window and reflecting a quick flash of light from the sun through my apartment. But at other times, I too am at a loss. But this, to me at least, makes me aware of the limitations of my eyes, not the “stupidity of an animal”. I’ve read in some places where people have spoken of folktales where cats were said to communicate with the dead–again, for the same reasons. This of course just leads to my disappointment in humanity and people not using the gift of reason that we have evolved to possess.
Interestingly though, all of this has a lot to do with a metaphor I use regarding postmodern thinking and analysis. Lenses. Lenses provide us with a particular perspective, while limiting our vision at the same time. This is true in most every human enterprise, but namely politics. As I have grown older, I realize that I am accumulating more and more lenses of perception. As I spontaneously meet and engage intellectually with more and more humans (something I love about living in downtown Toronto in 2013), I find myself able to identify with, if not agree with completely, many who hold very strong views about a multitude of issues. Many though, seem to fail to understand that they may merely disagree with those towards whom they profess eternal hatred and enmity, due to a different lens or two..or ten. Most every human endeavour, in my opinion, seeks excellence as well as the betterment of something someone (or some group) holds dear. Humans are not intrinsically evil, nor out to hurt others, without some sense of righteousness. Unless of course they are insane, but that is not to what I refer.
The video below too, (a small vignette of a great documentary series by Richard Hammond called ‘Invisible Worlds’ by the way) made me realize something about reality–so much of what we consider (perceive as) beautiful in this world (flowers for example), we are ONLY limited to perceive through a narrow band of the light spectrum.
This is also true for our sense of hearing. This is a recording of cricket chirps slowed down so their lifespans match those of humans–they now sound like some sort of ethereal hymnal choir:
Our senses limit us in SO many ways, and yet we rarely, if ever, speak to this–we do not tell this to our children. Human-conceived religions and gods and ponderances of our eternal purpose consistently have failed to mention, oh, by the way, most of this reality? —is not available with our software edition. This is actually one of the greatest reasons NOT to believe in God or Intelligent Design or whatever, but I guess the same explanation has been used throughout the world for the contrary argument.
Which all brings me to a vsauce segment. I am addicted to vsauce. It is such the intellectually pornographic injection of thought. He touches on so much, much of what I had been thinking and articulated above, and then some. I have actually made good friends with familiar strangers, just by saying ‘vsauce’ to them instead of hello, on a regular basis.
Postmodern thinking asks you to ‘think outside the box’ but it assumes that you have in fact perceived the existence of a box. This perception requires an awareness of lenses in order that one can become aware of all kinds of boxes, and bubbles and biases; outside of which may just be other realities and dimensions you are unable, or have yet, to perceive.
November 20, 2013 | Categories: Knowledge Creation, Philosophy, Politics, Quotes, Religion, Science, Society, Toronto, Urbanism, VIDEO, virginal commentary, virginal photography | Tags: Anthropology, Art, Atheism, Design, Education, Environment, Evolution, Human Nature, Leftism, Linguistics, mythology, natural selection, Nature, Parenting, Tribalism, Urban Planning | Leave a comment
“In the good old days of Really-Existing Socialism, a joke was popular among dissidents, used to illustrate the futility of their protests. In the 15th century Russia occupied by Mongols, a farmer and his wife walk along a dusty country road; a Mongol warrior on a horse stops at their side and tells the farmer that he will now rape his wife; he then adds: “But since there is a lot of dust on the ground, you should hold my testicles while I’m raping your wife, so that they will not get dirty!” After the Mongol finishes his job and rides away, the farmer starts to laugh and jump with joy; the surprised wife asks him: “how can you be jumping with joy when I was just brutally raped in your presence?” The farmer answers: “But I got him! His balls are full of dust!” This sad joke tells of the predicament of dissidents: they thought they are dealing serious blows to the party nomenklatura, but all they were doing was getting a little bit of dust on the nomenklatura’s testicles, while the nomenklatura went on raping the people… Is today’s critical Left not in a similar position? Our task is to discover how to make a step further – our thesis 11 should be: in our societies, critical Leftists have hitherto only dirtied with dust the balls of those in power, the point is to cut them off”
–Slavoj Fuckin Zizek
November 14, 2013 | Categories: AUDIO, History, Humour, Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Politics, Quotes, Society, VIDEO | Tags: Art, Authors, Books, Education, Justice, Leftism, Patriarchy, Satire, Social Justice | Leave a comment
The Cost of Utopia
There is a joke about the Russians, sometimes told by Russians. A young man from the provinces, inspired by a local doctor, travels to St. Petersburg because he wants to study “life.” He reads, he writes and eventually he enters medical school. On the first day of class the professor enters the hushed auditorium and announces, “Gentlemen, today we will discuss the pancreas.” The young man leaps from his seat, enraged. “The pancreas? How dare you mention the pancreas! We are not here to study the pancreas, we are here to study … LIFE!”
Dostoyevsky would have laughed. Even his darkest novels contain comic vignettes about young Russians inflamed by grand ideas and oblivious to the obvious. The comedy ends when somebody picks up a hatchet and tries to put those ideas into practice. That has happened often enough in Russian history to raise the question: Is there something special about the Russian relation to ideas? Throughout the 19th century the so-called Westernizers blamed the Russian character, which after centuries of religious orthodoxy and political repression had become lazy, mystical and prone to fantastical dreams. What Russia needed, they thought, was a dose of Western philosophy and science to sweep out the cobwebs and rationalize society. They got nowhere, and many fled to Paris, where they bemoaned la Russie in flawless French.
The anti-Westernizers were a mixed lot. Some were believers in the old rites of the Russian church; others defended aristocratic privilege against the revolutionary mob. The most interesting minds, though, were the Slavophiles, who loathed the growing influence of Western philosophical ideas and romanticized the Slavic mind. Dostoyevsky was sympathetic to them and believed that modern Western thought was breeding a new kind of fanatic — cold, materialistic, indifferent to suffering. The traditional Russian virtues of compassion and spontaneity were disappearing in the face of utilitarianism, nihilism, anarchism and all the other isms spewed out by the West. Understanding the pancreas is all well and good, but when rationalists wearing square hats deny the demands of the soul they turn us into beasts.
Now, understanding the soul is also well and good. But what happens when soulfulness stands in the way of rational philosophy and science? Isn’t there a price to be paid? That is the question Lesley Chamberlain poses in “Motherland: A Philosophical History of Russia.” The question is not new, nor are most of her answers. There are very fine studies of 19th-century Russian thought available in English — by Isaiah Berlin, Joseph Frank, E. H. Carr, Martin Malia — and the interested reader will want to turn to those first. But by focusing specifically on how Western philosophical ideas from Descartes through Marx were absorbed into Russian thinking, Chamberlain does complicate the received picture somewhat. As she sees it, the decisive struggle was not simply between Westernizers and anti-Westernizers, but between Russians who stood by the philosophical legacy of France and England, and those who drew sustenance from the far murkier thinkers of modern Germany.
Western philosophy first gained a toehold in 18th-century Russia due to the extraordinary efforts of Catherine the Great, who read Locke and adopted some of his educational reforms, corresponded with Voltaire and encouraged Diderot and D’Alembert in their work on the French Encyclopedia. But after the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, Russian aristocrats and many intellectuals turned away from the clear, distinct and universal ideas of the Enlightenment, which were now associated with terror and imperialism. This was an enormous mistake, in Chamberlain’s view, because it meant abandoning the subtle equipoise between reason and skepticism that characterized the French and English Enlightenments at their best. Instead, Russia found itself coming of age philosophically just when German Idealism was at its peak and gaining adherents across continental Europe.
What did the Russians learn from the Germans? This is hard to make out from the badly confused accounts of Kant, Fichte, Hegel and Schelling given by Chamberlain, an English journalist and novelist. The main story, though, she gets about right. What the 19th-century Russian intellectuals found in, and partly projected onto, Germany was a romantic alternative to the supposedly cold, heartless logic of Descartes and his progeny. They were especially drawn to F. W. J. Schelling, whose philosophy of nature, a hash of intuition and metaphysical speculation, was closer to theosophy than to modern science. (Lots about “life,” nothing about the pancreas.) Schelling’s doctrines proved to be infinitely adaptable and unfalsifiable, and thus served as useful defenses against French and English rationalism. Like Napoleon’s troops, the modern ideas of Bacon, Descartes, Locke and Hume were turned back at the gates of Moscow and beat a slow retreat through the snow.
Hostility to the modern Enlightenment is itself a modern phenomenon, though it usually has archaic roots. Chamberlain says surprisingly little about the role of Russian religion, with its noble lineage of mystics and saints, in shaping Russian attitudes toward philosophy. She focuses on another crucial element, nationalism. In the 19th century, Pilate’s question “What is truth?” was transformed into a nationalist question, “What is Russian truth?” Pride and shame motivated the search for a distinctly Russian path through modernity, one where “integral knowledge” would replace Western logic and “organic personality” supplant Western individualism. Yes, Russia might be a backward land of serfs and despots, but by being true to itself it would one day become the leading civilization on earth. That, Chamberlain persuasively suggests, was the operative fantasy.
It is in this light that she considers the history of Marxism, down through the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. These are her most engaging pages. Marxism was in fact a late import into Russia and was never philosophically deep; Lenin, we learn in an endnote, did not read Hegel until 1914. And the bogus science of dialectical materialism, though dogmatically imposed in Soviet education right up until the end, did not decisively shape the vision or practice of Soviet communism, Chamberlain maintains. Rather, Marxism permitted a modern expression of old Russian ideas of solidarity, sacrifice, hope and collective redemption. The noble peasant would be transformed through revolution into the noble laborer; the Holy Fool would be reborn as Stakhanov, the mythic Soviet worker who exceeded every daily quota. It was not the stuffed suits of the Kremlin who were the rationalists, it was the dissidents — the Andrei Sakharovs and Elena Bonners — who became physicists and doctors in order to cut through Russian dreaminess and devote themselves to truth.
How is philosophy faring in Russia today? Chamberlain does not say, though based on her reading of history she is not optimistic. “Russian philosophy,” she writes, “can’t begin until it leaves behind the superstitious, prescientific world of the 19th-century peasant community and the Romanticism which replaced it in educated minds. It has to separate values from facts, personalities from truth if it wants to be considered as more than poetry.” But as her book shows, there are deep reasons that people remain attached to prescientific worldviews and romantic dreams, even while living in the midst of modernity.
At its best, Chamberlain’s account sheds light on the complex cultural reaction set off when modern Western ideas wash up on the shores of cultures simultaneously ashamed of their social and scientific backwardness and convinced of their moral superiority. In the 19th century Russia was the small theater in which this drama played out; today, the theater is the entire world. The value of this book is that it offers a small window into the mental universe of underground men everywhere.
Mark Lilla, a professor of the humanities at Columbia University. His new book, “The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West,” will be published in the fall.
November 9, 2013 | Categories: History, Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Politics, Quotes, Religion, Science, Society | Tags: Anthropology, Authors, Books, Death, Human Nature, Linguistics, Literature, mythology, Patriarchy | Leave a comment
“London Grammar are a British trip hop trio formed by Hannah Reid, Dot Major and Dan Rothman. Their début EP Metal & Dust was released in February 2013 by Metal & Dust Recordings Ltd. Their début album If You Wait was released on 9 September 2013. ” - WIKIPEDIA
The above quote may or may not be authentic. It really does not matter. Most feel-good kumbayaa (m’lawwwd) clap-trap does not really need to prove its provenance…as the masses nod along, hug and feel ‘inspired’ to another juicy apocryphal morsel.
…But, I used to wonder about Mountain Goats.
Do THEY know that life could be easier on flat ground? Were they meant to just wander on 20 degree surfaces eternally; with 1 or 2 kids falling to their deaths every now and then?
I decided, on the latter; that was indeed just their experience, their reality, their ‘nature’…and then they die–perhaps never realizing life was easier grazing on a prairie–perhaps even only a few hundred metres away– as other ‘prairie’ goats.
So perhaps homo sapien sapiens are just supposed to live the way we always have lived–and evolved–for millennia? Our worry and stress and lack of vision involving complex internal chemistry…our very own ‘nature’…and billions of us (in every corner of the world) are the same way about these things…most of which, only in hindsight do we realize to have been for nought.
But maybe that just IS life.
When death or illness comes close, we ponder things, but otherwise we go back to our perceptual myopism–very much as mountain goats…but there be no mountain goat dalai lama.
Our ‘not having lived’ IS life.
October 26, 2013 | Categories: History, Humour, Knowledge Creation, Philosophy, Quotes, Religion, Science, Society, virginal commentary | Tags: Anthropology, Atheism, darwinism, Death, Design, Education, Environment, Evolution, Health, Human Nature, mythology, natural selection, Nature, Satire, Social Conventions | 2 Comments
Janis, I love you.
October 23, 2013 | Categories: AUDIO, History, Humour, Interview, Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Quotes, Society | Tags: Anthropology, Art, Feminism, Gender, Human Nature, misogyny, Music, Patriarchy, Social Conventions, The Female | Leave a comment
[AUDIO] CBC RADIO’S IDEAS: A 3-part series called “RETHINKING DEPRESSION” — After several decades of messing around, it may now be time to question the pharmacologicalization of melancholia and why the blues may indeed have an overlooked purpose in personal growth, self-development and brain-body communication
“With the help of a number of local and world-renowned experts in the field, producer Mary O’Connell explores what we know – and what we think we know – about depression and the medications we use so often to treat it. The patient and interested listener (the entire series runs for three hours) will be rewarded with some really fascinating but often not well-publicized facts about the social, commercial and political factors that are conspiring to make psychotropic medications “a $20billion per year industry worldwide” and have led the World Health Organization to predict that depression will be the second leading caused of global disability by 2020.” Three Parts, 1 hour each.
Depression. It has been called the mean reds. The blue devils. The black dog. And through history, treatments for depression have varied wildly. In the Middle Ages, depressives were caged in asylums. In Victorian England, wealthier patients were sent to seaside resorts for a change of air. In the 1930’s, procedures like lobotomies and electroconvulsive therapy were used. Psychiatry’s tools were crude and limited. No wonder then, when the Age of the Antidepressant arrived, it was considered psychiatry’s triumph. Prozac came onto the market in 1988, followed quickly by many similar drugs. But, since then, the number of people afflicted with depression has soared. In this 3 part program, IDEAS producer Mary O’Connell explores the short and troubling history of the antidepressant.
Over the years, the descriptions have varied: melancholia, the Black Dog, down in the dumps. The term most used today is “depression”. The World Health Organization says depression is set to become second only to heart disease as the world’s leading disability by the year 2020. An alarming conclusion when you consider the history. One hundred years ago depression was thought to be extremely rare, with 1% of the population suffering. Today it’s often called the common cold of mental illness. But just how effective are antidepressants in treating depression?
Unpublished clinical trials have come to light and they reveal that the antidepressant was never the triumphant treatment many psychiatrists hoped it would be. And we’re also learning that the theory that antidepressants restore serotonin in the brain could be false. However, despite this news about serotonin and sadness, the number of depressed people continues to grow. Now some researchers wonder whether the modern antidepressant has increased rates of depression instead of lowering them. In episode two of Rethinking Depression, IDEAS producer Mary O’Connell examines the debate around antidepressants.
The World Health Organization says depression is set to become second only to heart disease as the world’s leading disability by the year 2020. More recent research over the past decade tells us that antidepressants do not work very well, if at all, for mild or moderate depression. And in severe depression, antidepressants only work in a small number of cases.
So how can those who suffer from depression receive effective treatment and even possibly recover? In the third hour of Rethinking Depression, IDEAS producer Mary O’Connell brings us the stories of the depressed who are on the path to wellness and the methods that can be used to get them there.
The Medicated Me
It’s just after dawn, and I’m sitting on someone’s sofa in someone’s apartment somewhere in New York City. An attractive young woman I used to know is sleeping 15 feet away. Books I read, photos I took, CDs I reviewed as a music critic — all sit like props from a play I half remember. The sunlight looks toxic, radioactive. The murmur of distant traffic sounds alien, hostile, a predator’s low growl. Everything is exactly as it was yesterday yet feels totally different — in a bad way and down to a subatomic level. I feel like a character in some lame sci-fi novel who wakes up in a parallel universe or as a head in a jar. I’d skimmed over this sensation in nightmares and during extreme jet lag but never felt it descend as a full-blown totality, never felt it suck me down into it. I’d compare it with a bad trip if not for one terrifying irony now sinking in. This is my brain off drugs.
Six months ago, after 10 emotionally uneventful years on antidepressants — years that somehow included getting married, losing my job, and watching two skyscrapers implode from 20 blocks away — I began tinkering with my prescription, casting about for just the right med while the sturdy old Effexor trickled out of my system, a few milligrams less each week, a long goodbye to my silent partner of a decade.
Now, having decided to go off everything, putting my years-long chemistry experiment on pause, I am drug-free at last. For the first time in a decade, I am experiencing life in all its rich tones and vivid hues, and I’m about to throw myself in front of the 6 train.
The DSM-V reviewed as if it was a dystopian novel…
“Great dystopia isn’t so much fantasy as a kind of estrangement or dislocation from the present; the ability to stand outside time and see the situation in its full hideousness. The dystopian novel doesn’t necessarily have to be a novel.”
A new dystopian novel in the classic mode takes the form of a dictionary of madness
“As you read, you slowly grow aware that the book’s real object of fascination isn’t the various sicknesses described in its pages, but the sickness inherent in their arrangement.
Who, after all, would want to compile an exhaustive list of mental illnesses? The opening passages of DSM-5 give us a long history of the purported previous editions of the book and the endless revisions and fine-tunings that have gone into the work. This mad project is clearly something that its authors are fixated on to a somewhat unreasonable extent. In a retrospectively predictable ironic twist, this precise tendency is outlined in the book itself. The entry for obsessive-compulsive disorder with poor insight describes this taxonomical obsession in deadpan tones: “repetitive behavior, the goal of which is […] to prevent some dreaded event or situation.” Our narrator seems to believe that by compiling an exhaustive list of everything that might go askew in the human mind, this wrong state might somehow be overcome or averted. References to compulsive behavior throughout the book repeatedly refer to the “fear of dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination.” The tragic clincher comes when we’re told, “the individual does not recognize that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable.” This mad project is so overwhelming that its originator can’t even tell that they’ve subsumed themselves within its matrix. We’re dealing with a truly unreliable narrator here, not one that misleads us about the course of events (the narrator is compulsive, they do have poor insight), but one whose entire conceptual framework is radically off-kilter. As such, the entire story is a portrait of the narrator’s own particular madness. With this realization, DSM-5 starts to enter the realm of the properly dystopian.”
—Read the entire review by Sam Kriss in The New Inquiry–epitomizing perhaps, the function of artful perspective
October 21, 2013 | Categories: AUDIO, Economics, History, Humour, Interview, Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Quotes, Science, Society | Tags: Anthropology, Authors, Books, Child Abuse, Current Affairs, darwinism, Depression, Design, Education, Environment, Evolution, Feminism, Gender, Health, Human Nature, misogyny, mythology, natural selection, Nature, Parenting, Patriarchy, Relationships, Social Conventions, socialization, The Female | Leave a comment
October 18, 2013 | Categories: History, Humour, Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Quotes, Society, Toronto, VIDEO | Tags: Anthropology, Art, Atheism, Authors, Books, Canadian History, Death, Environment, Film, Health, Human Nature, Justice, Leftism, Literature, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Satire, Social Justice | Leave a comment
[PHOTOGRAPHY] Making Love To Toronto — Part Five: THE ROUGE RIVER VALLEY; the only national park located within a city
These photographs were taken in October 2013.
The title references how Urban Planners are encouraged to “Make Love to your City”, an exhortation to observe and appreciate it from different perspectives; physically as well as emotionally, intellectually and historically-well at least that’s my own definition. (more…)
October 14, 2013 | Categories: Knowledge Creation, Philosophy, Politics, Science, Toronto, Urbanism, virginal photography | Tags: Art, Environment, Environmentalism, Human Nature, Nature, Urban Planning | Leave a comment
“The Semmelweis reflex or “Semmelweis effect” is a metaphor for the reflex-like tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts established norms, beliefs or paradigms.
The term originated from the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, who discovered that childbed fever mortality rates reduced ten-fold when doctors washed their hands with a chlorine solution between patients. His hand-washing suggestions were rejected by his contemporaries, often for non-medical reasons. For instance, some doctors refused to believe that a gentleman’s hands could transmit disease.”
So this seriously long article (below) claims to debunk the whole ‘Semmelweis Supermyth’….but I don’t really understand what they debunk or…whether it matters with regard to the concept above. It be like saying, well, Socrates was a Platonic creation for argumentative purposes. But does this actually even matter when discussing or quoting Socrates? I don’t care if Socrates never existed, as long as I can quote him, elaborate a concept commonly recognized as Socratic. The concept of the Semmelweis effect is still handy to know. It reminds me of what is said to be the impetus for the modern notions of Public Health as well as Urban Planning: John Snow and the Broadstreet Water pump handle–another myth? Who cares. That is not the point. Oh and also is the whole ‘Checklist Manifesto/ Atul Gawande description of cleanliness checklists in American hospitals reducing infection rates’ a myth? Not important. Red Herring?
Expert Skeptics Suckered Again: Incredibly, the Famous Semmelweis Story is Another Supermyth
Article by Mike SuttonThe Semmelweis reflex or “Semmelweis effect” , which is a metaphor for the reflex-like tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts established norms, beliefs or paradigms, is another exquisitely ironic supermyth. Continue this article…….
August 4, 2013 | Categories: History, Knowledge Creation, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science, Society | Tags: Anthropology, Atheism, Education, Human Nature, Memetics, mythology, socialization | Leave a comment
the world tends to have a
container already built for us
to fit inside: A social security
number, a gender, a race,
a profession or an I.Q. I ponder
if we are more defined by the
container we are in, rather than
what we are inside. Would we
recognize ourselves if we could
expand beyond our bodies?
Would we still be able to exist
if we were authentically
ARTIST: Paige Bradley
June 23, 2013 | Categories: Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Politics, Society, Urbanism | Tags: Anthropology, Art, Feminism, Gender, Human Nature, misogyny, Patriarchy, Relationships, Social Conventions, Social Justice, socialization, The Female, Urban Planning | Leave a comment
Sometimes I don’t know where
This dirty road is taking me
Sometimes I can’t even see the reason why
I guess I keep a-gamblin’
Lots of booze and lots of ramblin’
It’s easier than just waitin’ around to die
One time, friends, I had a ma
I even had a pa
He beat her with a belt once ’cause she cried
She told him to take care of me
Headed down to Tennessee
It’s easier than just waitin’ around to die
I came of age and I found a girl
In a Tuscaloosa bar
She cleaned me out and hit in on the sly
I tried to kill the pain, bought some wine
And hopped a train
Seemed easier than just waitin’ around to die
A friend said he knew
Where some easy money was
We robbed a man, and brother did we fly
The posse caught up with me
And drug me back to Muskogee
It’s two long years I’ve been waitin’ around to die
Now I’m out of prison
I got me a friend at last
He don’t drink or steal or cheat or lie
His name’s Codine
He’s the nicest thing I’ve seen
Together we’re gonna wait around and die
Together we’re gonna wait around and die
June 17, 2013 | Categories: AUDIO, Philosophy, Quotes, Society | Tags: Anthropology, Art, Atheism, Death, Human Nature, Literature, Music, Parenting, Patriarchy, Relationships, Torture | Leave a comment
[AUDIO] “The real value of education is being well adjusted and that understanding that Freedom is ‘that you get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.'” David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Commencement Speech: “This is Water.”
“In 2005, author David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. However, the resulting speech didn’t become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death. It is, without a doubt, some of the best life advice we’ve ever come across, and perhaps the most simple and elegant explanation of the real value of education.
We made this video, built around an abridged version of the original audio recording, with the hopes that the core message of the speech could reach a wider audience who might not have otherwise been interested. However, we encourage everyone to seek out the full speech (because, in this case, the book is definitely better than the movie).”
May 15, 2013 | Categories: AUDIO, Knowledge Creation, Lectures, People of Thought, Philosophy, Quotes, Society | Tags: Anthropology, Authors, Books, Education, Human Nature, Relationships, Social Conventions, socialization | Leave a comment
[VIDEO] Ze Frank’s ‘Invocation for Beginnings’ – FUCK IT, LET’S DO IT – “Life isn’t just a sequence of waiting for things to be done.”
“Don’t call it a comb-back; I’ll have hair for years.
I’m scared. I’m scared that my abilities are gone.
I’m scared that I’m going to fuck this up.
And I’m scared of you.
I don’t want to start, but I will.
This is an invocation for anyone who hasn’t begun, who’s stuck in a terrible place between zero and one.
Let me realize that my past failures at follow-through are no indication of my future performance.
They’re just healthy little fires that are going to warm up my ass.
If my FILDI (fuck it let’s do it) is strong, let me keep him in a velvet box until I really, really need him.
If my FILDI is weak let me feed him oranges and not let him gorge himself on ego and arrogance.
Let me not hit up my Facebook like it’s a crack pipe Keep the browser closed.
If I catch myself wearing a too-too (too fat, too late, too old) let me shake it off like a donkey would shake off something it doesn’t like.
And when I get that feeling in my stomach — you know the feeling when all of a sudden you get a ball of energy and it shoots down into your legs and up into your arms and tells you to get up and stand up and go to the refrigerator and get a cheese sandwich — that’s my cheese monster talking.
And my cheese monster will never be satisfied by cheddar, only the cheese of accomplishment.
Let me think about the people who I care about the most, and how when they fail or disappoint me… I still love them, I still give them chances, and I still see the best in them.
Let me extend that generosity to myself.
Let me find and use metaphors to help me understand the world around me and give me the strength to get rid of them when it’s apparent they no longer work.
Let me thank the parts of me that I don’t understand or are outside of my rational control like my creativity and my courage.
And let me remember that my courage is a wild dog. It won’t just come when I call it, I have to chase it down and hold on as tight as I can.
Let me not be so vain to think that I’m the sole author of my victories and a victim of my defeats.
Let me remember that the unintended meaning that people project onto what I do is neither my fault or something I can take credit for.
Perfectionism may look good in his shiny shoes but he’s a little bit of an asshole and no one invites him to their pool parties.
Let me remember that the impact of criticism is often not the intent of the critic, but when the intent is evil, that’s what the block button’s for.
And when I eat my critique, let me be able to separate out the good advice from the bitter herbs.
(There are few people who won’t be disarmed by a genuine smile A big impact on a few can be worth more than a small impact)
Let me not think of my work only as a stepping stone to something else, and if it is, let me become fascinated with the shape of the stone.
Let me take the idea that has gotten me this far and put it to bed.
What I am about to do will not be that, but it will be something.
There is no need to sharpen my pencils anymore. My pencils are sharp enough.
Even the dull ones will make a mark. Warts and all.
Let’s start this shit up. And god let me enjoy this.
Life isn’t just a sequence of waiting for things to be done.”
-Ze Frank is an American online performance artist, composer, humorist and public speaker based inLos Angeles, California. He is currently the EVP of Video at BuzzFeed.
May 3, 2013 | Categories: Humour, Knowledge Creation, Lectures, People of Thought, Philosophy, Quotes, Society, VIDEO | Tags: Anthropology, Art, Education, Human Nature, Memetics, mythology, Parenting, Relationships, Satire, Social Conventions, socialization | Leave a comment
[BOOK] Michael Specter’s ‘Denialism': How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives
First Broadcast: November 07, 2009
Refusing Flu Shots? Maybe You’re A ‘Denialist’
Nearly 20 percent of the families in Vashon Island, Wash., aren’t getting their children vaccinated against childhood diseases. At the Ocean Charter School near Marina del Rey, Calif., 40 percent of the 2008 kindergarten class received vaccination exemptions. Author Michael Specter says the parents in these upscale enclaves are prime examples of what he calls “denialism.”
That’s also the title of his new book, . “We can all believe irrational things,” the author of Denialism tells NPR’s Scott Simon. “The problem is that I think an increasing number of Americans are acting on those beliefs instead of acting on facts that are readily present.”
The Motives And Consequences of ‘Denialism’
But the Vashon Island and Marina del Rey communities aren’t places where religious or cultural traditions argue against vaccinations —- like the Amish or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Instead, they believe vaccinations are harmful to their children, citing stories they’ve heard about mistakes by doctors or pharmaceutical fraud.
But, Specter says, when parents make that decision, they focus on the one-in-10-million chance that a vaccine could kill a child and ignore the one-in-1,000 chance that a disease will do so. “These people retreat into denialism,” he says. “It’s like denial, but writ large, [because] this has consequences.”
Those consequences don’t just affect the children who go unvaccinated, but everyone they interact with as well, Specter adds. He points out that diseases like measles, which had almost been eradicated in North America, are now coming back.
The Fetish Of Organic Food
“Denialism,” the author says, is evident in far more than vaccination rates. Take organic food. Specter considers himself a fan, but he draws the line at demonizing genetically engineered food.
“In other parts of the world,” he says, “a billion people go to bed hungry every night. Those people need science to help them. It isn’t about whether people want to go to Whole Foods or not … The thing that killed the most people in the history of the world — except maybe for insects —- was pure water and natural, untreated food.”
He argues that some people look at “natural” products, such as vitamins, and think that they’re automatically good. But, he argues, “it’s no different than anything else you swallow.”
“Someone told me they didn’t want to take a flu shot because they didn’t want to put a foreign substance into their body,” says Specter. “What do they think they do at dinner every night?”
by MICHAEL SPECTER
The most blatant forms of denialism are rarely malevolent; they combine decency, a fear of change, and the misguided desire to do good — for our health, our families, and the world. That is why so many physicians dismiss the idea that a patient’s race can, and often should, be used as a tool for better diagnoses and treatment. Similar motivations — in other words, wishful thinking — have helped drive the growing national obsession with organic food. We want our food to taste good, but also to be safe and healthy. That’s natural. Food is more than a meal, it’s about history, culture, and a common set of rituals. We put food in the mouths of our children; it is the glue that unites families and communities. And because we don’t see our food until we eat it, any fear attached to it takes on greater resonance.
The corrosive implications of this obsession barely register in America or Europe, where calories are cheap and food is plentiful. But in Africa, where arable land is scarce, science offers the only hope of providing a solution to the growing problem of hunger. To suggest that organic vegetables, which cost far more than conventional produce, can feed billions of people in parts of the world without roads or proper irrigation may be a fantasy based on the finest intentions. But it is a cruel fantasy nonetheless.
Denialist arguments are often bolstered by accurate information taken wildly out of context, wielded selectively, and supported by fake experts who often don’t seem fake at all. If vast factory farms inject hormones and antibiotics into animals, which is often true and always deplorable, then all industrial farming destroys the earth and all organic food helps sustain it. If a pricey drug like Nexium, the blockbuster “purple pill” sold so successfully to treat acid reflux disease, offers few additional benefits to justify its staggering cost, then all pharmaceutical companies always gouge their customers and “natural” alternatives — largely unregulated and rarely tested with rigor — offer the only acceptable solution.
We no longer trust authorities, in part because we used to trust them too much. Fortunately, they are easily replaced with experts of our own. All it takes is an Internet connection. Anyone can seem impressive with a good Web site and some decent graphics. Type the word “vaccination” into Google and one of the first of the fifteen million or so listings that pops up, after the Centers for Disease Control, is the National Vaccine Information Center, an organization that, based on its name, certainly sounds like a federal agency. Actually, it’s just the opposite: the NVIC is the most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America, and its relationship with the U.S. government consists almost entirely of opposing federal efforts aimed at vaccinating children.
Fifty years ago, we venerated technology. At least until we placed our feet on lunar soil, our culture was largely one of uncritical reverence for the glories that science would soon deliver. The dominant image of popular American culture was progress. TV shows like Star Trek andThe Jetsons were based on a kind of utopian view of the scientific future. Even the Flintstones were described as a “modern” Stone Age family. We were entering an era without disease or hunger. If we ran out of water we would siphon salt from the seas and make more; if nature was broken we could fix it. If not, we could always move to another planet.
That vision no longer seems quite so enchanting. No doubt our expectations were unreasonable — for science and for ourselves. We also began to recognize the unintended consequences of our undeniable success. About a month before Neil Armstrong made his large step on the moon, the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River erupted in flames near Cleveland, creating an indelible image of industry at war with nature. A few years later, in 1976, Karen Ann Quinlan was removed from life support, igniting the first horrific battle of the modern era over how we live and die. The end of the decade was marked by the ghastly accident at Three Mile Island, which showed more clearly than ever that the effects of the Industrial Revolution were not all benign. The thalidomide disaster, mad cow disease, even the dramatic and sustained lies of Big Tobacco have all contributed to the sense that if the promise of science wasn’t a lie, it wasn’t exactly the truth either.
Today the image of a madman whipping up a batch of smallpox, or manufacturing an effective version of bird flu in his kitchen, while not exactly as easy as baking a cake, is no longer so far-fetched. Indeed, if there is anything more frightening than the threat of global nuclear war, it is the certainty that humans not only stand on the verge of producing new life forms but may soon be able to tinker with them as if they were vintage convertibles or bonsai trees.
Our technical and scientific capabilities have brought the world to a turning point, one in which accomplishments clash with expectations. The result often manifests itself as a kind of cultural schizophrenia. We expect miracles, but have little faith in those capable of producing them. Famine remains a serious blight on humanity, yet the leaders of more than one African nation, urged on by rich Europeans who have never missed a meal, have decided it would be better to let their citizens starve than to import genetically modified grains that could feed them.
Food is a compelling example of how fear has trumped science, but it is not the only evidence that we are waging a war against progress, rather than, as Peter Melchett would have it, against nature. The issues may be complex but the choices are not: we are either going to embrace new technologies, along with their limitations and threats, or slink into an era of magical thinking. Humanity has nearly suffocated the globe with carbon dioxide, yet nuclear power plants that produce no such emissions are so mired in objections and obstruction that, despite renewed interest on every continent, it is unlikely another will be built in the United States. Such is the opposition to any research involving experiments with animals that in scores of the best universities in the world, laboratories are anonymous, unmarked, and surrounded by platoons of security guards.
Excerpted from Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives, by Michael Specter.
Firing Bullets of Data at Cozy Anti-Science
“I always say that electricity is a fantastic invention,” the British economist Michael Lipton once told Michael Specter, whose bristling new book, “Denialism,” explores the dangerous ways in which scientific progress can be misunderstood. “But if the first two products had been the electric chair and the cattle prod,” Mr. Lipton continued, “I doubt that most consumers would have seen the point.”
Here is what they would have done instead, if Mr. Specter, a staff writer for The New Yorker and former foreign correspondent for The New York Times, correctly captures the motifs that shape the stubbornly anti-scientific thinking for which his book is named: they would have denounced electricity as a force for evil, blamed its prevalence on venal utility companies, universalized the relatively rare horrific experiences of people who have been injured by electrical currents and called for a ban on electricity use.
The term “denialism,” used by Mr. Specter as an all-purpose, pop-sci buzzword, is defined by him as what happens “when an entire segment of society, often struggling with the trauma of change, turns away from reality in favor of a more comfortable lie.”
In this hotly argued yet data-filled diatribe, Mr. Specter skips past some of the easiest realms of science baiting (i.e., evolution) to address more current issues, from the ethical questions raised by genome research to the furiously fought debate over the safety of childhood vaccinations. (more…)
April 29, 2013 | Categories: Economics, History, Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Politics, Science, Society, VIDEO | Tags: Authors, Books, Current Affairs, Death, Design, Education, Environment, Environmentalism, Health, Human Nature, Leftism, Memetics, mythology, natural selection, Nature, Parenting, Social Conventions, Social Justice, socialization | 2 Comments
On Death – Khalil Gibran
Then Almitra spoke, saying, “We would ask now of Death.”
And he said:
You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
April 28, 2013 | Categories: AUDIO, Knowledge Creation, People of Thought, Philosophy, Quotes | Tags: Art, Authors, Death, Human Nature, Literature, Old Time Radio, OTR, Radio, Radio Drama | Leave a comment