After watching Boyle’s new film, Sunshine, I found myself wanting to revert back to focusing on philosophical problems. But before I could really convince myself of this regression I had to again question which was more important: politics (or more broadly, society) or philosophy? The comparison is not much different from rationality versus irrationality.

Since my first course in epistemology I asked myself: so what? Let’s say we, as philosophers, figured out what constitutes practical knowledge. Or for sake of simplicity, let’s say the ethicists figured out definitively that murder was, somehow, absolutely “wrong” in all cases. Philosophers would then have go through this arduous process of trekking through the uncommon and rather irrational and dishonest ground of political rhetoric in order to convince the public and the government of philosophy’s latest and greatest moral discovery: murder by one human of another human is always wrong. Which is to say it is true that murder is wrong. Objectively, universally, absolutely, and any other -ly you can think of.

Philosophers would have to convince religious-leaning lobbyists, “think tanks”, and, in America, the 300 million citizens who generally feel that if you step on their land you without asking first you deserve to be shot.

The beast of politics seems like an unbeatable foe to the mild mannered armchair philosopher. So then what is the point of a philosopher’s job? To convince other philosophers? Unlikely. 99% of a philosopher’s job is to disagree with 99% of what everyone else says. How’s a philosopher going to make a living writing long insightful essays of “I agree”?

As such politics becomes this disgusting behemoth that a wanna-be philosopher would want to defeat before he had devoted his life to a pointless profession. I want to be a philosopher. But I don’t want to be a philosopher if I have to face the current state of politics. The one with the public saying one thing, the media saying two things (in contradiction) and the politicians saying nothing of worth.

That’s why I started reading books on social change, social movement culture, and revolution. However, everything about that stuff is for a weaponized middle class – or enfranchised class. And in America there is no weaponized middle class. The lower class is the most oppressed and the most weaponized, and the lower class constitutes the majority of the military but the middle class is always the class that actually revolts. They’ve got shit to lose while the lower class has everything to gain from conformity.

What then of revolutionary days? You know, the days when the 2nd amendment actually had a point to it? Well, those days are over. But let’s say I’m optimistic of revolution. I’d likely think of myself as a patriot. As such I’d likely think that “exercising” my 2nd amendment rights to buy and own a gun would both be a citizen’s duty as well as a revolutionary necessity. And if I bought the largest gun I could possibly find with the largest and most powerful bullets I could legally buy from the private sector it’d still be dwarfed by the US military’s tank division. And if I hijacked a tank, it’d be dwarfed by the USAF. And if I somehow hijacked a F-Raptor or stealth bomber that’s still dwarfed by the US’s nuclear arms repository – you know, the one that could not only kill me but destroy the entire Earth 50 times.

Violent resistance is absolutely futile. But gosh darnit it was originally the American way. Therou taught us otherwise. But the mere breaking of unjust laws seems futile in an unjust and apathetic political time as today.

And now we’re back at square one. Philosophy seems futile under a political regime such as today. And political and social change seem futile in their own right. I can’t reason my way out of this quantifiably (it’s a word now). As in, “which is the less futile of the two?”

I’m choosing philosophy. I hope that in the future any reverting to the political atmosphere would be a vacation at best. Philosophy is perpetually the more interesting of the two disciplines and the most intellectually rewarding. As long as you relieve yourself of the thumped-in concept that problems demand solutions – as opposed to insight – then you’ll be fine as a philosopher. You won’t be worrying if another philosopher disproves your argument. You’ll not only expect it but be anxiously waiting for it.

Philosophy it is, for now.

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I’m deciding to take advantage of “structured procrastination” (I should be studying for a French test) and write about simplicity – again. A recent digg article shot to the front page about webdesign simplicity. It wasn’t particularly insightful or newly informative. But it did practice what it preached: Link. Mirror(png). Noticed how it was technically in the common five paragraph essay format/structure.

This common format is taught around 6th or 7th grade and then internalized throughout high school where it becomes enforced in college and a necessity for intellectual life. A quick google search produces a simple to understand guide for this: JCU.edu

This past year I read “A Hacker Manifesto” and its unusual aphorismic format was immediately appealing. It succeeds in its brevity where the common 5-paragraph system fails. It does this by breaking the monogamy of argument-example. The main argument to maintain this relationship for the 5-paragraph format is to allow for ‘further understanding’ or “support” of the argument. It allows the reader to more appropriately understand the meaning and context of the body’s premise. But, for certain information, this is not a necessity.

Before I proceed: I recognize the irony in having to utilize the 5-paragraph format in my own writing and I also recognize that I’ll have to use an example to further explain my previous statement. This is only a handicap because I haven’t internalized the aphorismic method, yet. So: For instance, in the above digg article the main argument statements in each body is in bold. You may if you need further clarification/understanding read the body’s non-bolded text. But you could read and understand the entire essay’s point by simply reading those short one-sentence arguments.

This setup makes the logic of the essay more explicit. One of the first challenges schoolchildren have in understanding a block of text in an essay is by recognizing what and where the thesis statement is. In the previous example, there is no interconnected logic but rather an abundance of one-liner arguments. But most other essays, particularly philosophical ones, require step-by-step argumentation.

Consider a simple syllogism:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

Now, if this logic was to be put under the two structures previously described, then you shall see which has its flaws.

Very simplistically, in the 5-paragraph structure you’d have something like this. The obviousness of the supporting statements may come off as stupid but this yet another unnecessary flaw in 5-paragraph sytem.

It is no mystery we humans live and die. Socrates was no different in this distinction. In this essay, I will argue that since men die, and that Socrates is a man, that Socrates has the potential to die.
All men are mortal. This is evidenced by numerous graves and the fact that there are no men who have lived forever. All the decedents of men have died. Since we are living things, we must be vulnerable to death. For example, etc. This manifestation of humanity allows for the analysis of one such man, Socrates.
Socrates is a man. This can be shown in so many ways such as the certain traits that compose “man” which are shared by Socrates himself. For example, he has a beard. Another example, is that he has male genitalia. It is now imperative I describe the most important trait Socrates shares with mankind: mortality.
Thus, because Socrates is a man and that all men eventually die, Socrates will eventually die. It is possible to see the effects of death by his deteriorating health and lack of pulse. The trail and eventual willful execution by poision was the proverbial final nail in the coffin.
I have thus shown the intricate reasons for Socrates’s own mortality. It is taken syllogistically from the major premise that all men are mortal to the minor term that Socrates is a man and finally to the conclusion that Socrates is mortal.

How unbefuckinglievably laborious was it to wade through that dumbfounded essay only to point out the obvious syllogistic logic that Socrates is mortal? This has to be done for virtually every argument presented by anyone. It is beneficial to do this for rather complex arguments and arguments which may require such laborious support but this is only mainly done to cater to the possible stupidity and ignorance of the reader. It is not something that is necessitated by the form or argument itself. In “A Hacker Manifesto” Wark employs a slightly different approach. It is a little synthetic in that it is between the extended form of the 5-paragraph essay and the minimalistic form I’m arguing which would be an Wittgensteinian essay composed entirely of propositions. Wark will have an abundance of propositions in regard to a central idea/subject. He will also support those propositions with sub-propositions which could be separate but are kept within a single paragraph due to their relevance to the main topic sentence. Quote:

In the frontline states of the old cold war, the forces of revolt were most successful. In Tawian, Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines; in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and the Baltic States, the forces of revolt pushed the old ruling classes toward a new state form, in which further movements toward abstraction at least have a fighting chance.

Revolt [237]

Two propositional statements. That whole paragraph could be dissertation. A dissertation analyzing the revolts in all those countries described, in support of a main thesis to describe the success of them as a movement toward Wark’s conceptualization of “abstraction.” Wark modeled his writing for “A Hacker Manifesto” on Debord’s “The Society of the Spectacle” Debord was influenced by Isidore Isou (here is his manifesto) and his hypergraphology theory and Lettrist movement. Another writer’s style whose relevance is undeniable is Wittgenstein. In his magnum opus, Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein dissolves philosophy by logical atomism through arguments about language and reality. In 80 or so pages it critiques philosophical analysis, language, logic, reality, with some ethical overtones and develops a ‘picture’ theory of propositions. Each theses is numbered (1 through 6, with a 7th and last proposition being his famous dictum: “Whereof one cannot speak, one must be silent.” or sometimes translated as “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”) and sometimes has sub-theses which are comments or elaborations on the main theses.

 

In fact, the entire ‘book’ can be simplified into 7 direct statements:

1. The world is all that is the case.

2. What is the case – a fact – is the existence of states of affairs.

3. A logical picture of facts is a thought.

4. A thought is a proposition with a sense.

5. A propositions is a truth-function of elementary propositions.

6. The general form of a truth-function is [p, E, N(E)].

7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

 

That’s it. If Wittgenstein had been forced into the 5-paragraph structure the book would be monumental. His simplicity highlights another flaw in the 5-paragraph paradigm which I consider to be a manifest contradiction. In English writing classes we are taught two things: critical thinking skills and essay writing skills. But, the ideology behind both in regard to the reader-writer relationship is contradictory.

 

The reader is taught to be skeptical and critically analyze the information presented in an essay. They are taught to avoid logical fallacies, and not become victims of persuasion. But, the writer is given intellectual tools which he/she is supposed to utilize to convince the reader that the writers arguments are not only valid but sound and true. Writers are also urged to utilize writing which is not explicitly intellectually dishonest but is just as a persuasive in trying to convert the reader to the writer’s philosophy. This doesn’t make sense. Everyone is a writer and a reader. If you are a writer, you must use as many tools at your disposal to ‘trick’ the reader into adopting your view with the least resistance. If you are a reader, you must use as many tools at your disposal to be critical and open minded so as not to fall into the writer’s ‘traps’.

 

Aphorismic writing is not illusory. It presents a proposition within a logically flowing piece of literature and it is up to the reader to critically analyze it. Analyze it on its own merits and its relation to other propositions in the text. In Aphorismic writing, the potential intellectual dishonesty of the 5-paragraph method is avoided while the information and logic of the argument is maintained.

 

I wrote this entry in part to ‘do’ something today. But I also wrote it to allow myself to synthesize all these thoughts which bounce around in my mind loosely tied together. I didn’t write an outline for this, I just sat and wrote. I feel that I have convinced myself that I want to convert to writing aphorismically. However, first, I’ll have to start internalizing that method.

During this morning’s US history class, I had this brief moment of inquiry into what I’m calling “microenvironmentalism” and just how much of a failure it truly can be if we don’t have a larger focus on “macroenvironmentalism” in America, at least. Micro/Macroenvironmentalism is, I think, is already jargon in a few fields already but since wikipedia doesn’t have a definition for it and google only has 19 pages regarding it I’m going to hijack it for my own purposes.

In terms of trying to “save the environment” and thus the world (apparently, nobody is trying to save the cheerleader here… yet…) there are several ad-hoc McGuyver-esque tips and tricks one can use to micromanage there carbon footprint. This is basically what I mean by microenvironmentalism – miniscule ways an individual can “save the environment.” Here is an excellent example of these tricks: 100 ways to Save the Environment

There are several “all-natural” products that have little pro-microenvironmentalist slogans to make it appear you’re ‘doing your part.’ For instance, Seventh Generation is one of those companies that produce “Natural All Purpose” cleaning supplies with two main quotes that reflect their philosophy. First one is from “The Great Law of the Iroquis Confederacy”:

In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.

Hence the name. This philosphy is in no way small – according to Wikipedia groups have proposed this idea to be a “Seventh Generation Amendment.” The problem is that the other quote Seventh Generation puts on their products is this:

You are making a difference. TM

If every household in the U.S. replaced just one bottle of 32 oz. petroleum based all-purpose cleaning with our renewable resource based product, we could save 7,100 barrels of oil, enough to heat and cool 400 U.S. homes for a year!

Far be it from me to figure out how in the hell they trademarked the phrase “You are making a difference” but this quote reveals the absolute short-sightedness of these seemingly pro-environment companies. 400 houses for a year? That’s what, 1 square mile of a residential area if all 300,000,000 Americans replaced there 32 oz. of WD40 with Seventh Generation’s product? Do the math on that. You’re using 100 percent of the population in order to save 0.0000013 percent. That is statistically irrelevant. They say these microenvironmentalist tips and tricks eventually “add up” and pay off. Well, that might be true if by “add up” you mean having every American citizen doing about a million of these short-sighted tricks every day for decade.

And how amazingly naive is it to think that Seventh Generation could somehow monopolize the cleaning products market? “Saving 7,100 barrels of oil” are they joking? We burn through something like 20 million a day for fucks sake.

This type of short-sighted naivete is what is ultimately killing the environmentalists. They aren’t properly proposing a macroenvironmentalist philosphy that may, actually, do some good. Macroenvironmentalists, obviously, being those ways of reducing emissions and “saving the environment” in a massive way. Two great examples of this are the banning of CFCs and the Clean Emissions Act in the 70s (I think) that required cars to get routine smog checks and mufflers that so forth. This tactic worked during the Ozone crisis and still relatively does work.
But why is there the emphasis on microenvironmentalism moreso than macroenvironmentalism. Well, micro-E is more effective on the individual. Just pick and choose of the 100 ways to save the environment that you can do. They are simple and flexible enough for everyone to fulfill. But ultimately, it’s still short-sighted. Everyone could do them but the reason we have a government, on some level, is get us to do things we must do. The ozone was “saved” not because environmentalists said you should for the sake of the environment get your car’s emissions checked. The ozone was ‘saved’ because the government made it a law. This is macroenvironmentalism. Instead of offering ad-hoc solutions to massive problems confronting mankind, use institutions created for the soul purpose of motiving mankind to solve the problem.

Don’t follow some strange instructions you found on the internet to get your car to run on human excrement, vote for and lobby for policies that enact sweeping pro-environmentalist legislation like supporting green gas power plants, emissions and so forth. Ultimately, if the government and environmentalists work together to do the morally right thing they’ll solve the problem macroenvironmentally – At the very least they’ll be closer to solving the problem than a lifestime of microenvironmentalism ever could.

Now I know I’m sort of misrepresenting my position here because I honestly don’t believe microenvironmentalism to be wholly without merit. The issue I take part in is that microenvironmentalism is only useful if it is to compliment a larger philosophy surrounding macroenvironmentalism. There’s no point in saving 7,100 barrels of oil if we a) still have a major dependence on oil and b) are still sucking oil out of the earth at the same rate.

However, the biggest hurdle macroenvironmentalism will have to overcome is the affinity America has with land, particularly its land. John Locke, the great political philosopher, highlighted the fact that during the American Revolution and America’s inception into the world stage as the power in the Western Hemisphere is that land, specifically property, meant – literally for a time being – freedom and opportunity. This philosophy pervaded much US public policy during it’s Frontier days and even much after the historian Turner said the Frontier was closed – instead of being American pioneers “carving out civilization” we decided to try and conquer Cuba, Philipines and so forth. We still have an affinity for land and property (however property has become a little more intangible ala “intellectual property”, stocks, businesses and so forth) Now that all the property is owned now we have an affinity for power over the land.

America likes using its land and its resources. We’ve liked it since before we became a nation and we’ve liked it ever since. The Turner Frontier thesis shed light on the imperitive for the country to rethink it’s land-centric (or Frontier-centric) philosophy simply because we ran out of physical land to pioneer. Our first response to this was along the lines of “well… conquer someone elses land – Cuba, Philipines.” That’s how we got Puerto Rico and Guam and naval bases like Guantanamo on Cuba.

A hundred years later, our land is threatened again. Now we’re simply not supposed to touch it anymore. We’ve had far far too much fun with it so much so that continuing in a such a way will ultimately be hazardous to us – fatally even. Rome over-extended its empire  and power over Asia, Africa and Europe to the point where it fell. America is over-using its empire to the point where we have to “liberate” countries to impose our political philosophy on so that… hopefully and eventually… America can continue to exist in other forms.

So now, macroenvironmentalism will have to develop a philosophy that either already compliments Americanism or one that must replace it – fat chance though. I see this being it the philosophy’s main impetutus to adoption but also the only way global warming and environmentalism in general are going to surive. You’ve got to convince America of this and do so in such a way that allows for its adoption by even the most hardcore nationalists (or “patriots” as they are sometimes called).  Once that is fulfilled, have as many McGuyver-esque microenvironmentalist tricks you want.

Okay, what is going on? Four days ago Blair proposed a freakish policy of mandatory state intervention in an attempt to “crack-down” on “antisocial” citizens. However, the freakish aspect is that he said he’d be willing to intervene pre-birth children that hypothetically could turn out to be “menaces to society.” And no, it wasn’t satire as far as I could tell. If it was it’d be the first satirical newstory that popped up simultaneously on CNN, BBC, Guardian.UK and a few associated press junkets. Then, about the next day, a letter was made and signed by 17 ministers of parliament asking for Blair’s resignation which has now been set for May 27th or 30th (or officially July 26th). Also, earlier today BBC broke news that there has been a “wave of resignations” throughout Britain under the explanation that Blair isn’t right for the UK or the Labour party. Granted, most of the signatories of the letter from a 2001 intake were unpaid bottom rung aides and I suspect a few of the resignations are of low-importance members, which doesn’t mean that their resignation is insignificant. It merely means that their resignation is meant to be symbolic and attention-getting so as to aid in creating a view of governmental weakness and use the justification of “Blair isn’t right for the UK” as a way of placing blame… while keeping the more important dissident figures still in power so there’s someone to take hold of the reigns when/if the strategy of shifting power-dynamics worked.

Basically, it’s a coup strategy. I mean, you’ve got it all. Propaganda meant to illegitamize the one already in power (the pre-natal behavioral modification policy), then organization for a focused opposition (the letter), the dessemination of information that change is occuring in favor of the focused opposition (The Sun article leaking the Blair’s supposed date of resignation), and now a further symbolic weakening of power coupled with more illegitmating (mass resignations).

Compare with the coup and re-coup made in Venezuela against Hugo Chavez. Massive propaganda suggesting that Chavez was ruthless one-track dictator killing his own people, a focused opposition (Oil company execs with friends), then an military-aided assault on Chavez’s compound requesting resignation [it should be noted that Chavez was being considered a criminal at the time because if the system is illegal then illegal activities against the system (like a coup de’tat) are permissable. Since Chavez didn’t give his resignation he was taken into custody], then the next morning Venezuela woke to a newsbroadcaster saying “Good Morning, you have a new President.” Who was, get this, the oil CEO.

Guardian – “We can clamp down on antisocial children, before birth, says Blair
BBC – Minister joins Blair exit demands 

BBC – Blair hit by wave of resignations

IMDB – Chavez: Inside the Coup 

Social Change

September 3, 2006

Well, I just finished a textbook that I read for intellectual pleasure. I took it with me while I was on a mule trip on the High Sierras of Yosemite. That was weeks ago and I originally thought of bringing A Hacker Manifesto instead but I felt it would be a little too weird to be reading about techno-politics while being completely isolated from that entire atmosphere. Then again, reading about society was probably just as silly. Either way, both books were enlightening.

After reading this textbook on interdisciplinary studies of social change (albeit with a an emphasis on sociological studies, obviously) I wonder just how hungry the US is for change. However, I bet non-US citizens are hungry for the US to change its ways than its citizens themselves. “Terrorists” surely, but Europeans, Venezuelans, and surely those in the Pacific theatre.

Right now there are accusations against the administration in regards to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The people seem to want an impeachment. But I think that the Clinton impeachment proceedings pretty well established that the impeachment process is not a process that involves “the people” anymore. It’s a closed-circuit process completely contained within those in power. The republicans impeached Clinton. Not the people. Since the democrats make up 50-60% of the people but hold only 10% of the power, the chances of a Bush impeachment or any kind of transitory organizational change is just not going to happen.

Besides, who the hell wants Cheney to have more power than he already does? The guy wants to ban homosexuality (note: not just homosexual marriage) even though his daughter is one.

If I were to give a forecast of the possibility of some dramatic planned (or at least “conscious”) social change at the hands of the American people I’d say “fat chance.” Political apathy is greater than it’s been in decades, the iron cage of rationality is exploding (remember hearing about the passenger mutiny? – granted that was Australia but the irrationality is everywhere), a gross misunderstanding of the Islamic faith (and when coupled with irrationality the conclusions people make are absurd: “We value religious freedom. Islam does not value religious freedom. Therefore, we must control Islam.” – What the fuck?) and the fact that since there is also a rise in paleo-conservatism and paleo-liberalism (and neo-liberalism too) people are just waiting for social change to “happen” come election time.

But screw that. The programmer admitted to electronic tampering (even though his book was coming out at the same time he testified). We shouldn’t have to wait for society to change. That’s not how it works. Get up. Stop being apathetic and unnecessarily patient and ask for change. If they don’t answer your request. Demand it. If they don’t obey – make the change yourself. You’ve gone through the system and the system failed. Secondly, when the system is considered a failure and when the system is viewed as illegal then illegal actions are permissible.

Like the guerrilla artist Banksy says (actually, it might be the other guerrilla artist, Simon Munnery):

The greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. It’s people who follow the orders that drop bombs and massacre villages [and uphold holocausts].

And what is really gross is that guerrilla art is more offensive to people. It “destroys property”, “ruins the beauty of the city”, and in some ways affects people’s intellectual property. And yet, guerrilla art is just non-violent civil disobedience. Since civil disobedience exists in all civil atmospheres, I’d much rather have graffiti than the L.A. riots. Maybe they don’t view graffiti in the way that I do – urban folk art; modern civilian calligraphy; and something that simultaneously makes a statement about branding through art and a statement about art through branding.

ahh… pessimistic sociological rants are so healthy.

It's 6:45 am. I'm sitting looking out at a fog-filled view of the San Francisco bay area. Underneath, fog is covering one of the seven great wonders of the modern world: The Golden Gate Bridge. However, that fog is also covering a relatively unknown ugliness associated with that great wonder: suicide.

Since the bridges 1937 opening around 1,300 people have taken the 4-second fatal plunge into the seawater below. If the fall didn't kill them, the bay's unrelentless currents would most likely will just as they have to so many Alcatraz prisoners failing to escape.

On Sunday, at the San Francisco film festival, the movie "The Bridge", documented by Eric Steel, protrayed some of this absurdist horror. At 10,000 hours of filming all 365 days of 2004 the movie is boiled down to 93 minutes depicting 6 men and women taking the fatal dive – out of the 24 known suicide attempts made that year. In 2000, Kevin Hines took that jump and survived. He is now involved in speaking freely about his experience while campaigning like so many others to build a pedestrian suicide barrier. That's remarkable to me. I may be speculating here, but I'm assuming that at the time of Kevin's jump he had been thinking definitively, "It's time to go," but upon his failure to die a revelation hit him on the virtues of life. Could it be that what Kevin needed was actually… failure?

Sociologist Emile Durkheim wrote in his book Suicide that this act can come about in any conceivable circumstance. There is not one specific thing that seems to trigger the act. It's a culmination of innumerable unattended emotions surging in the person's heart and mind until it somehow convinces them that death itself is a solution.

Nonetheless the movie sparked some intense outrage, some outrage voiced by those who haven't even seen the film. It's the very idea they are repulsed by. And maybe that's why it should be shown in the first place. Whether or not this is actually a "snuff film" is irrelevant – the 9/11 footage spewed day in day out for the last 3 years is also "snuff" – what is relevant is that society shouldn't remain ignorant about the sociological problem of suicide. Far too long has suicide been viewed as a "psychological" problem. Yes, it is. But that's not the only thing it is. By suggesting that suicide is strictly a psychological problem is fallaciously saying that suicide is only a problem of the "individual." But when 2 dozen people have been taking their lives every year at the exact same landmark for the last 69 years suicide can no longer be merely a psychological problem. It's now an unfortunate by-product of a flawed society.

San Francisco and the rest of the United States society MUST evaluate this issue from a sociological perspective. School has just started for me and one of the classes I am taking is, you guessed it, Sociology 1A. Even though I've had a grand total of three classes so far I'm going to take the liberty of applying 3 main sociological/theoretical perspectives to San Francisco's Golden Gate suicide problem.

Functionalist perspective:
The basic premise of the functionalist perspective assumes that everything in a society has a function and therefore goes about explaining all behaviors of a society as having a social "purpose." Obviously, this inadvertantly legitmizes even the most blatant of problems like that of poverty and crime. Because of this, the functionalist perspective has been refined to explaining "social facts" through manifest and latent functions and dysfunctions.

Manifest Function:
As far as I can derive, the manifest function(s), which is to say an anticipated or intended function(s), of the Golden Gate as a suicidal landmark is that it, as grim as this may sound, gets the job done. In 69 years very, very few people have survived the 4-second drop.

Manifest Dysfunction:
The suicides themselves create a chain of reactions. Some of the people who've taken the fatal dive have been tourists and copycats. The notorious 'fame' of taking one's life on the iconic reddish-orange bridge should not come as a surprise to anyone. It might not be intended but it is certainly and unfortunately anticipated.

Latent Function:
Nobody wants to admit this but the Golden Gate suicides give it unintended popularity. Tourists and citizens alike are attracted to – just as much as they are repulsed by – the Golden Gate suicides.

Latent Dysfunction:
Well the most obvious unanticipated thing of these suicides is that it sparks such unimaginable interest that a filmmaker spends 365 days importantly chronicling a year of deaths and attempts at death.

Conflict Theorist perspective:
This is the harder to grasp perspective but considering its history and philosophical underpinnings it is also the most interesting, at least to me. Conflict theorists view the inevitable fact of conflict in a society, that of competition for resources by dominant and subordinate groups, and ask the basic question of "Who benefits at whose expense?" For the Golden Gate suicides, the conflict I see is the "will to meaning", the resource are the neccessities of life in San Francisco, and unfortunately the myraid of people who have benefited and continue to benefit at the expense of troubled citizens.

Viktor Frankl used the phrase the "will to meaning" in describing his logotherapy psychological theory as a way of coping with the circumstances of life. He suggested that one can get through even the most horrific ordeals if one finds meaning in the act. Now that I think about it, is almost seems to be a functionalist tactic applied to legitamizing psychological problems in one's life. As a Jew affected deeply by his experience in concentration camps during WWII he concluded that even suffering has meaning (which isn't a new conclusion by any stretch of the imagination, "meaning in suffering" is important to the Jewish faith according to Huston Smith in his book The World's Religions). If one fails to find this "will to meaning" then one views life as meaningless. Purposeless. Futile. Thus, suicide becomes viewed to be a viable solution to the absurdity of living. Albert Camus, one of my favorite French logicians, was fascinated by the concept of suicide in the way that it was a backlash at a meaningless existence. Nonetheless, as I said above of Durkheim, suicide can emerge from every situation. Depending on these circumstances, suicide can give meaning and be meaningful just as much as it can take meaning and be meaningless. The conflict is finding the right meanings in the struggle of life so as not to lose the fight. Suicidal jumpers fail to find these meanings and their social support systems, whether they are viewed as friends and family or society as a whole, failed as well.

Social support, however, is also a necessity of life. But it doesn't seem to be as essential as psychologists might think if it fails to curtail a jumper's final decision. In a large city, like that of San Francisco, the nexus between society and the individual is weakened and stretched. Those who really need civilian attention sometimes don't get it and thus feel ostracized. Just go to www.tenderloin.net to see how society is ineffective and unaffective. It's almost gluttonous. San Francisco surely has some amazing heart shattering beauty but associated with that extreme aesthetic comes heart breaking ugliness. The dominant group of society sucks the resources dry and has the power to ignore it's relatively unimportant inhabitants while the group goes about raising it's standard of living at the expense of those who really need and deserve attention.

The dominant group benefits by maintaining access to these resources but also benefit by the popularity of the suicides. Eric Steel, for instance, will benefit from thematically portraying the suicidal denizens diving to their deaths. I sincerely doubt the dozen or so suicides a year take more money from the landmark's annual revenue and I'd even wager that the cult fanbase of the suicides is part of the lure of the bridge. Who knows; but just about anyone will make money off of death if given the chance – another sociological problem altogether.

Symbolic Interactionist perspective:
Really, this is just as individualistic as the psychological justifications for suicide. Essentially, the SI perspective is how individuals experience, understand, and define what they and others are doing. The symbolic interactionist perspective is also interested in how individuals are influenced and how individuals influence others. Symbols play a dominant role in this model. Symbols being those to which we attach meaning and value to. For instance, "money" is a symbol for power, fame, wealth, and success.

For the suicidal, any number of symbols can contribute to their last act. The loss or gain of these symbols into their social interactions are important factors. For instance, there is the, if you ask me, misguided, perception that success is calculated by wealth. If one loses money, one is a failure. If we lose the symbol of monetary success, we may raise our chances of suicidal thoughts and thus suicidal behavior. Another powerful social symbol is 'love'. We struggle everyday in the pursuit of the symbol of love. However, the symbol is cryptic and interpretive, above all, subjective. In psychology, an important part in establishing a loving relationship is that of "consenual validation." We strive to be accepted by others, maybe not by society as a whole but at least by someone we care about whether it be fathers, friends, strangers, or those who we are attracted to. So when one struggles to find that symbol of love only to have it rejected by those who we want validation from, the loss can be remarkably devastating.

Lastly, it's remarkable to me that there is outrage at the showing of this movie. There should be outrage at the truthfulness of the movie, not its vulgarity. In our post-9/11, post-tsunami, post-Katrina world, society is paradoxically more comfortable with death as well as more frightened by it than ever before. We raise the public's consciousness of the deaths of our enemies (Zarqawi) and suppress the deaths of our countrymen. We see the failures and misguidedness of other countries but disregard our own failures and misguided ideologies. We fix their problems without fixing ours. "The Bridge" must be seen and our society must be fixed.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bridge28apr28,0,6623680.story?coll=la-home-headlines

An amazing analysis. A Long, but not laborious, historical study of Bush's greatest failures compared to other presidents good and bad. Highlights his remarkable decline in popularity from the patriotic record breaking approvals of post-9/11 2001 to almost record breaking disapprovals of post-Katrina 2005 and other rarities in his stunning ability to be America's greatest disaster. Doesn't talk about impeachment but after reading it it's clear that if there was ever a president to impeach, if there was ever a president more deserving, one in which has the most credible evidence piled against him, whose decisions or lack thereof have detrimentally affected this country the most instensely, it's Bush. I've been on the fence about how favorable the odds are at impeaching this president and right now impeaching Bush would be one of the most justifiable actions against a President in US history.

Problem is: Impeaching Bush will not help in progressing this country out of the dire situation he has put us in. But it'll certainly make the majority of us all feel better.

Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties — Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush — have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures — an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

Rolling Stone: The Worst President in History

The Murder of Margaret

April 16, 2006

I was going to say something about the DefendScience.org movement and forum/discussion I went to recently, as well as the cartoon Draftee Daffy, the Dreyfus Affair, and some other crap I had bouncing around in my head but failed to synthesize into a cogent (or short) post. So, without further ado, a story I'm reading at 2 am.

26 years ago this week a Catholic preist stabbed a 71-year-old nun by the name of Margaret Ann Pahl 32 times, wrapped her body in an altar cloth and abandoned her in a hospital chapel. Yes, this is one of those incredibly depressing and sensationalistic journalist peices which come out every week and continue to reaffirm a misanthropic outlook on life. But there is something poetically repulsive about this.

The culprit, Rev. Gerald Robinson, presided over her funeral. He was not caught; until now. It's one of these amazing edge-of-your-seat not-so-happy endings to an episode of Cold Case Files. But why re-open the case? Well… a woman had come to the Toledo Diocese (scene of the crime) with a letter which claims that she was a "victim of Satanic ritualistic sexual abuse perpetrated by a number of priests who were involved in a cult." She also gave a copy of this letter to a Toledo leader of the "Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests."

Reuters


If this story hits the revolting television lackies of FoxNews, CNN, and MSNBC we're in for a long haul of months of immoral debate. These people are not intelligent enough to handle these debates.. or any debates.. even political ones which they are apparently hired to do. One hour does not go by in which a pundit interrupts another pundit for the sake of air-time. Maybe I'm sounding a little too "heated" about this than it really seems, but through doing research for the non-existant "intellectual scene" (it's deteriorated beyond redemption), I've found that if these are our intellectual leaders… we're fucked. The "intellectual" is no longer defined as a scientist, philosopher, artist, economist. In fact, "intellectualism" has nothing to do with the humanities or the sciences anymore as C.P. Snow defined in his famous lecture "The Two Cultures." The current intellectual, the person we look towards for rational discussion has been transformed, or rather grossly mutated, into the politically passionate and horrifically biased Think-Tanks (Bill Kristol head of PNAC wrote several parts of Bush's second inagural address), the tv pundists like Hannity and Colmes who pathetically attempt at debate (it actually comes off as a school-yard pissing contest and further divides the country between the collectivistic neoconservative ideology and the individualistic liberal ideology), and the journalist who has become swayed and disillusioned. We currently live in a society where the evangelist has replaced the scientist(1), the journalist has replaced the philosopher (2), and the public forum is on television being discussed by half-wit models and bigots (3).

1: We actually had the Scopes trial again in Dover. A movement like Defend Science had to be made to counter prevalent fundamentalism.

2. The Philosopher has actually failed. On the Colbert Report a few days ago I caught a glimpse of Harvard philosopher Harvey C. Mansfield (you might remember him from Adam Curtis's deeply intelligently engaging documentary "The Power of Nightmares") plugging his new book: Manilness. Why'd he write a book about maniless? Because he thinks we live in a gender neutral society. Among other bullshit conclusions: ""women are the weaker sex," "women's bodies are made to attract and to please men" and "now that women are equal, they should be able to accept being told that they aren't, quite" Another example of the failed philospher being fired from intelligent discussion and replaced by the journalist is "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman. This book is huge, literally and in terms of popularity. But it's written by a journalist (which isn't neccessarily a bad thing… but I don't think they are entirely capable in progressing intelligent discussion). He has degrees in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern studies and he writes books and op-ed peices about technology and global economics.

3. Half-wits: Hannity and Colms, Carlson and Begala (Crossfire.. and lets all thanks Jon Stewart for killing that show and Tucker Carlson's reputation). Bigots: Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly.

* my style needs to change, quick. It's too preachy. But that's what happens when you write these posts out in one long brain ejaculation.  

One of my sons serves in the military. He remains stateside here in California. He called me yesterday to let me know how warm and welcoming people were to him and his troops. Everywhere he goes, telling me how people shake their hands and thank them for being willing to serve and fight for not only our own freedoms but so that others may have them also.

But he also told me about an incident in the grocery store he stopped at yesterday on his way home from the base. He said that ahead of several people in front of him stood a woman dressed in a burkha. He said when she got to the cashier she loudly remarked about the U S flag lapel pin the cashier wore on her smock. The cashier reached up and touched the pin, and said proudly Yes, I always wear it and probably always will.”

The woman in the burkha then asked the cashier when she was going to stop bombing her countrymen, explaining that she was Iraqi. A gentleman standing behind my son stepped forward, putting his arm around my son’s shoulders and nodding towards my son. He said in a calm and gentle voice to the Iraqi woman: “Lady, hundreds of thousands of men and women like this young man have fought and died so that YOU could stand here, in MY country and accuse a check-out cashier of bombing YOUR Countrymen. It is my belief that had you been this outspoken in YOUR own country, we wouldn’t need to be there today. But, hey, if you have now learned how to speak out so loudly and clearly I’ll gladly buy you a ticket and pay your way back to Iraq so you can straighten out the mess in YOUR country that you are obviously here in MY country to avoid.”

Everyone within hearing distance cheered!

Either my dad or my sister sent me this email earlier today with the suggestion that I send it to all my “proud American friends.” Which if this was Russia during the Cold War I’d sent it to my comrades; my brothers in arms. Frankly, I’d rather not perpetuate this patriotic ideal. It’s been more than 200 years since the American Revolution which is the timeperiod the man is referring to who fought for rights of other people to come here and speak freely. In that 200 years our entire society has completely changed. We are not the same country anymore. Every single ammendment has other stipulations. For instance, we have the freedom of speach… but only if we have the money and power to be published and heard and if we have a city/state permit to have a public speach. We have the freedom to “bear arms” but only if after we have waited for a 5-day background check thanks to the Brady Law, we also need a permit to own the gun and only certain types and models of guns are allowed. We have the freedom of religion but only if we are recognized by the federal government as a religion. Furthermore this freedom of religion is subjected to the laws and regulations of the justice system. No religion would be allowed if it’s beliefs included infant sacrifice, beastiality, and nudism.

So the American Revolutionaries fought so this Iraqi woman could yell irrational insults and questions at a gocery store cashiere who just happened to be a little patriotic in her apparel. They also fought so the soldier to insult the Iraqi woman for utilizing her freedom of speach. So if BOTH people are utilizing the SAME freedom then why the FUCK is there even an argument here? Those people cheering are cheering at what exactly? The ostracization and shaming of a foreigner who just happens to have beliefs which differ from a soldier’s? It’s a contradiction. He’s praising the fact that we live in a society that allows the freedom of speach and belief and in the same breath degrading her for speaking and having opposing beliefs! Why the hell are they cheering!

The US isn’t his land. It’s everybody’s. To quote the famous patriotic American song: “This land was made for you and me.” He might as well say “this is white man’s land but we are tolerating other cultures living on our land.” And even if she was in “HER” land, which by the way doesn’t even have the freedom of speach, and less so for women, she legally could not be this “outspoken.”
For once, may God bless some other fucking country.

An Unsolved Mystery

January 5, 2006

The day before New Year’s Eve I had a very strange dream or maybe it is more characterized by a sleep problem as I wasn’t exactly “dreaming”. Dreaming implies that I was asleep, which is a binary condition; you are either asleep or awake. My problem was I could not fall completely asleep. I was in this grey area. Usually I lay my head down on the pillow, eyes closed, and do one of two things: try to think of nothing, or let my mind go free. I suppose I chose the latter.

There were short periods where I would sleep but it wouldn’t last for more than 30 minutes (which is 1/3 a sleep period according to REM studies). But as strange as all this sounds, it wasn’t what was really bothering me. I guess I was just sleeping a little lighter than usual. What bothered me was the incredibly strange and repulsive reality which existed in my bouts of dreaming. Sounds awkward, yeah. Especially for someone who rarely remembers their dreams.

To start with an example: Take a ball, drop it, and it will bounce. There are two events in this situation. The ball dropping, and then the ball bouncing. The second event depends and complies with the reality that exists for the ball dropping. But, and here’s the important part, my dream didn’t follow these logical rules. A ball would drop and stick. A ball would leave the hand and stay still. The second event would not comply with the previous event. Everything that happened contradicted what happened previously. It’s like reverse-determinism or something. It freaked the hell out of me. Partly because I considered this reality “lying” to me, and trust is an already skeptical idea to me. Almost foreign nowadays. I don’t know whether to characterize this as a nightmare because “nightmare” carries with itself horror-like connotations: ie, monsters, death, blood, goo. This is more along the lines of a repulsive science-fiction dream. Nightmares also usually imply that you are scared while dreaming. I was scared afterwards.

Nightmares also imply that you are asleep, which I for the most part wasn’t. Like I said, I let my mind go free while I was trying to sleep which resulted in an awkward sleep cycle. I had similar dreams episodes for a few days later but haven’t had any problems since. But now I’m back to not remembering my dreams.