Political Correctness; the death of Satire and critical thought

“What are the effects of this new protectiveness on the students themselves? Does it benefit the people it is supposed to help? What exactly are students learning when they spend four years or more in a community that polices unintentional slights, places warning labels on works of classic literature, and in many other ways conveys the sense that words can be forms of violence that require strict control by campus authorities, who are expected to act as both protectors and prosecutors?”

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“There’s a saying common in education circles: Don’t teach students what to think; teach them how to think. The idea goes back at least as far as Socrates. Today, what we call the Socratic method is a way of teaching that fosters critical thinking, in part by encouraging students to question their own unexamined beliefs, as well as the received wisdom of those around them. Such questioning sometimes leads to discomfort, and even to anger, on the way to understanding.

But vindictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a very different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.”

 

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Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Educationdescribing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.

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[VIDEO] Myths of Mankind: The Mahabharata [52 MINS]

“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.”

[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.  Continue reading

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.

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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…

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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.

 

 

[BOOK] AMY CHUA’S ‘WORLD ON FIRE’ – ‘market dominant ethnic minorities’ and ‘how rapid switches to majoritarian rule and free-market democracy in many Third World countries benefit certain ethnic groups over others and lead to vicious sectarian strife’

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Yale Global Online
A Review written by Pat Sewell

Many Americans trust that unleashed markets and universal suffrage elsewhere will yield general material betterment, domestic tranquillity, and amity among democracies old and new. Thomas Friedman proclaims a “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention”, asserting “no two countries that both have McDonald’s have ever fought a war against each other”.

But do freer markets and oxygenated “democracy” instead defy established expectation by mobilizing the wrath of the many? Do open markets and popular incitement sometimes kindle backlash and serve to excuse suppression by the few? Amy Chua contends that when injudiciously introduced, as most often happens, wide open markets and hot-housed majoritarianism form “a principal, aggravating cause of group hatred and ethnic violence throughout the non-Western world”. On regional and global planes, too, the dynamic of World on Fire augurs ill for stability, not to mention peace.

Chua outlines this dynamic early and with characteristic clarity: “When free market democracy is pursued in the presence of a market-dominant minority, the almost invariable result is backlash. This backlash typically takes one of three forms. The first is a backlash against markets, targeting the market-dominant minority’s wealth. The second is a backlash against democracy by forces favorable to the market-dominant minority. The third is violence, sometimes genocidal, directed against the market-dominant minority itself.” Continue reading

[VIDEO] BBC: THE STORY OF IRELAND

I’ve always been fascinated with Ireland. It has such an intriguing, tragic and unjust history, much of  which continues to echo to this day, throughout the world, whether in international politics, culture, immigration patterns and much more. 

This documentary series is quite informative to grasp exactly all the many issues throughout the past which lead to this fascinating history.

BBC

The Story Of Ireland is a major new landmark series from BBC Northern Ireland examining the history of Ireland and its impact on the wider world, from the earliest times right up to the present day. This compelling five-part series is written and presented by BBC correspondentFergal Keane.

Over the course of the programmes Fergal travels across three continents, tracing the events, the people and the influences that shaped modern Ireland.

The Story Of Ireland, beginning on BBC One Northern Ireland on Sunday 20 February at 8pm, takes an outward-looking approach to key developments in Ireland down through the centuries mirrored against events and changes in Europe and the rest of the world and challenges long held myths.

The first programme examines the origins of the idea of the emergence of a ‘Celtic’ race, the impact of early Christianity and monasticism in Ireland; and the birth of Ireland’s potent literary culture.

The Vikings are treated not simply as barbarous marauders, but resourceful settlers, as the Celts were before them, who established Ireland’s major towns and placed them at the centre of a vast trading network. Brian Boru is revealed as a man of his time, above all else motivated by the will to power. Far from driving the Vikings out of Ireland he relied on their military skills to achieve his ambitions.

The remaining four programmes span history from the Anglo-Norman invasion, to Cromwell, the Boyne, penal laws and resettlements; on to the economic, intellectual, architectural and cultural rise of Dublin in the 18th century; examining the story of Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen.

Further afield the series also looks at Ireland’s role in the British Empire and closer to home examines the Great Famine and its enormous impact, the role of Daniel O’Connell and then the founding of the IRB and rise of Home Rule; the role of Irishmen in the Boer War; the Easter Rising; the War of Independence and the Civil War and the outbreak of the Troubles.

Finally Ireland’s economic boom comes under the spotlight, asking how the country’s history, as perceived by the rest of the world, has become big business and questions whether this excludes contrary views with a theme very much placed on an ‘old’ version of Irish history.

Fergal Keane, writer and presenter, said: “The Story Of Ireland is vivid, exciting and immensely varied. It is far more than the sum of old cliches and myths which set the Irish as a people who were prisoners and victims of history.

“This series sees Ireland as an international island which is both changed by and helps to change the world beyond her shores.

“As a foreign correspondent who has travelled on every continent I have tried to bring my experience of the wider world to this story of Ireland and I have tried to see our past with a clear eye and an open heart.”

Mike Connolly, Series Producer, added: “It’s both a privilege and a challenge to produce the first comprehensive television history of Ireland since Robert Kee’s acclaimed series of 1981.

“Ireland has opened out in dramatic ways in the intervening 30 years and has achieved a profile on the international stage that could hardly have been imagined back then. It is this changed perception of Ireland, both in the minds of the Irish themselves and in the eyes of the rest of the world, that we address in The Story Of Ireland.”

The Story Of Ireland is a BBC Northern Ireland series with co-funding from RTE

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THE BATTLE OF THE BOYNE

[VIDEO] FILM: ‘SOMETIMES IN APRIL’ –the better version of the ‘Hotel Rwanda’ story

“Sometimes in April is a 2005 historical drama television film about the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, written and directed by the Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck. The ensemble cast includes Idris Elba, Oris Erhuero, Carole Karemera, and Debra Winger.

The story centers on two brothers: Honoré Butera, working for the tribalist Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, and Augustin Muganza, a captain in the Rwandan army (who was married to a Tutsi woman, Jeanne, and had three children with her: Anne-Marie, Yves-André, and Marcus), who bear witness to the killing of close to 800,000 people in 100 days while becoming divided by politics and losing some of their own family. The film depicts the attitudes and circumstances leading up to the outbreak of brutal violence, the intertwining stories of people struggling to survive the genocide, and the aftermath as the people try to find justice and reconciliation.”