Saturday, February 26, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
First off, and most importantly, I am sorry to Natalie Munroe for caricaturizing her. Reading two of her posts, including the most controversial, carefully, it appears that she does not cuss out her students, only laments that cussing out students is not an option. While I still feel that her behavior toward her students in her blog leaves some respect to be lacking, certainly their behavior towards her, in the comments and the classroom, does the same. Whether or not her behavior was appropriate, it was not instigated in the context of the classroom, nor directly intended for her students, so I do believe her suspension is an inappropriate response, but that is just me. Her decision to remove her blog irks me somewhat, as it appears to admit guilt and simultaneously makes it more difficult to evaluate the furor in an informed manner. It is, of course, her blog to do with as she likes though.
Next, the Wisconsin debacle. The information that I have received indicates that the unions are willing to negotiate and compromise on pay cuts. Their main issue with the proposed legislation is not the cost saving measures, but the parts that are basically a bald attempt to cripple the unions. So, I apologize to the Republicans in Wisconsin for making the assumption that their policy had a moral leg on which to stand.
Finally, to my sister, I apologize for me Facebook status. Your series on relationships is VERY nice, not to mention incredibly brave to write! I stand by the rest ;)
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
But I am hemmed in on all sides
Compressed by strangers I will never meet
And so I abide
I want to pour all by rage and frustration
Into a long, lingering ululation
Expel my soul deep consternation
In one violent exhalation
But should I give in and pour my soul dry
I'll not only share my sorrow with sympathetic sky
These people who endlessly cluster all around
Would also hear my primal sound
Though I may pass a hundred on the street
We never speak and we never meet
And while it may cause my heart to break
I choke down the Scream all for their sake
Far be it that I should let loose with a roar
And try to set free my soul to soar
If it t'would disturb the stranger next door
So I shall abide, just a little more
Thus I restrain, exhale, deflate
Return now to my slow demise
Try to accept that it is my fate
To hold the rage of the Scream inside
It's enough to make you Scream
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
However, the request I received most recently was not from an acquaintance, but from someone who was rather a bully when I first met them. Throughout high school I ate lunch in the classroom of a teacher who was willing to shelter me, the specific teacher changed from year to year, with the company of a book. I certainly do not blame this individual solely for my reclusive habit, but my middle school experiences played a roll. Furthermore, my personality is such that my feelings toward people tend not to change a lot over time, sure this leaves me with some deep friendships, but I also harbor some old grudges.
It certainly isn't that I think this is a bad person. Although we didn't interact much in high school, I seem to remember some decent memories. I know that toward the end of my high school years it occurred to me that there were definitely reasons that this person may have acted they way that they did. However, I still felt some resentment upon receiving the friend request, as though my desire to put forward a genial face obligated me to suffer their presence. I carry on a large amount of my social life on Facebook these days, and to accept that request would invite them into this rather important part of my life.
All this rumination on bullying led me to yet another memory. This one comes from the beginning of elementary school, and I can not be certain of its veracity. In truth, I deeply hope that this is simply a memory that I have made up, but I fear it is not. I remember writing, then reading for the class a disparaging poem that I wrote about an unpopular classmate of mine. In fact, the only reason that I cling to my hope that this is a false memory is that I cannot imagine a teacher allowing me to complete my recitation of such a harmful poem.
Later in elementary school I got to know this kid a bit better as well. I remember them turning out to be an admirable person, which, of course, does not assuage the guilt over what I believe happened. Especially considering how much experience with scorn, threats, and ridicule I have accrued in the intervening years. I can only hope that this kid eventually forgave me.
But, if this is my hope, then how can I do otherwise than forgive the bullies of my later life? And not the false forgiveness of the self-righteous, but an understanding forgiveness of one who has walked a ways along that path, who understands what the allure may well be, and who understands both the harm it does to the victim and the bully.
"But I am who I am, in the end; the comics I make are the result of my damage." -Jerry Holkins
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
The concept of violence is central to many of the pieces that we have read thus far. However, the word violence has been used in different manners by the different authors, sometimes in multiple ways by a single author in different contexts. Three main categories of violence seem to exist, violence as a tool, violence as an environment, and violence as a relationship. This paper sets forth to explain the characteristics of each usage, primarily through examples from the readings. Finally, I conclude with an examination of what non-violence means with regards to each of these forms of violence.
Hannah Arendt's definition of violence is an easy starting point. Her attempt to disambiguate the terms violence, force, power, strength, and authority is closely related to the aim of this paper, and necessitates that she make clear what she means when she uses the word "violence." To Arendt, violence, "is distinguished by its instrumental character." (Arendt, 7) Thus Arendt's use of the word falls squarely within the traditional liberal concept of violence as a tool.
This instrumental sense of the word is evoked whenever violence is mentioned as a means by which an ends is accomplished. Malcolm X uses violence in this sense when he says, "in areas where the government has proven itself either unwilling or unable to defend the lives and the property of Negroes, it's time for Negroes to defend themselves. Article number two of the constitutional amendments provides you and me the right to own a rifle or shotgun." (Malcolm X, 155) Violence, as represented by the firearms, is being conceptualized as a means to achieve the stated end, defense of lives and property. This is very similar to the use which Hobbes makes of the word, wherein violence arises out of individuals’ attempts to attain security in the state of nature; it is a form of defense.
However, Simone Weil asserts that the only end to which violence may be made to serve is that of further violence. Obviously this is a different characterization of violence than the purely instrumental. Weil evokes an environment of violence, where it permeates all facets of the decision making process. She asserts that, "violence obliterates anybody who feels its touch. It comes to seem just as external to its employer as to its victim." (Weil, 384) Here she describes violence transitioning from a tool in the hands of its employer to an environment engulfing both employer and victim.
Arendt seems open to this concept of violence as environment, evoking it when she notes that repeated use of violence tends to devolve all authority into a system of violence. "Where violence is no longer backed and restrained by power, the well-known reversal in reckoning with means and ends has taken place. The means, the means of destruction, now determine the end--with the consequence that the end will be the destruction of all power." (Arendt, 10) Here Arendt uses the term "power" as she has specified earlier, to denote efficacy gained through mutual consent. She notes that as the use of violence grows more commonplace, it no longer remains purely a means, but rather becomes an end unto itself.
Correspondingly, Weil seems to accept, at least theoretically, the existence of instrumental violence not necessarily leading to an environment of violence when she comments, "moderate use of force, which alone would enable man to escape being enmeshed in its machinery, would require superhuman virtue, which is as rare as dignity in weakness." (Weil, 384) Where they differ is in their estimation of how likely use of instrumental violence is to spawn an environment of violence. Arendt views an environment of violence as an outcome of excessive instrumental violence, whereas Weil's argument is that the environment of violence is a nigh inevitable outcome of instrumental violence.
One similarity between both Arendt's and Weil's environments of violence is that they arise out of the use of instrumental violence. Further complexity is added to the issue if one examines an environment of violence wherein instrumental violence is not necessarily ubiquitous. Examples of such environments are found in both Hobbes' and Hegel's work.
What characterizes Hobbes' state of nature is not the ubiquity of violence, but rather the perfect freedom of all living in the state of nature to employ violence at will if they believe it shall further their ends. Thus, it is not the presence of instrumental violence, but the common view of instrumental violence as permissible, that presents such a detriment to human well being. Or, to put it another way, it is not a sufficient condition for happiness that we are not immediately under attack, we require some assurance that attack is not immanent, and no such assurances exist in an environment of violence.
Hegel goes further to assert that an environment of violence is beneficial on a national level. "War has the higher significance that by its agency, as I have remarked elsewhere, 'the ethical health of peoples is preserved in their indifference to the stabilisation (sic) of finite institutions,'" (Hegel, section 324) where he asserts that wars are beneficial as they prevent social structures from ossifying. It is possible for Hegel to view wars as both moral and beneficial because, for Hegel, the state does not exist to protect individual citizens, a role it clearly fails in war, but rather to allow them to complete themselves through relationship to the community.
Hegel's emphasis on relationship provides a good segue to the concept of violence as relationship. The conceptualization of violence as relationship makes a great deal of intuitive sense, as violence, in most its forms, is a method through which multiple individuals relate to each other. However, of the theoretical systems of violence that we have examined, only Hegel's, as exhibited in the Phenomenology of Spirit where it describes lordship and bondage, seems to have a clearly relational concept of violence. Here, two individuals engage in a struggle which either ends in the death of one participant, denying the survivor the community necessary to complete his or her self relationally, or the subjugation of one individual to the other.
Having separated out three distinct conceptions of violence, it is productive to examine the different concepts of non-violence that each implies. Once again we begin with instrumental violence, which corresponds to an instrumental type of non-violence. We have, on occasion, described this as tactical non-violence, where the participants choose to employ non-violence because they believe it to be the best method by which they can achieve their goals. This purely instrumental form of non-violence clearly mirrors the concept of violence as tool.
On the other hand, violence as environment seems to steadfastly resist the development of a theory of non-violence. "To respect life in someone else when you have had to castrate yourself of all yearning for it demands a truly heartbreaking exertion of the powers of generosity." (Weil, 388) Here Weil is noting that immersion in the environment of violence erodes the preconditions for non-violence to be a viable strategy, that quality that Rousseau called, "an innate repugnance at seeing a fellow-creature suffer." (Rousseau, Part I) When we must inure ourselves against the agonies of our own suffering, caused by total insecurity of our fate in the face of an environment of violence, Weil does not believe it reasonable to expect people to maintain their concern for the suffering of others.
Arendt seems to concur, as she believes, "if Gandhi’s enormously powerful and successful strategy of nonviolent resistance had met with a different enemy--Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, even prewar Japan, instead of England--the outcome would not have been decolonization, but massacre and submission." In the face of an environment of violence, Arendt believes that any exercise of pure power is doomed to failure. This raises the question of how Gandhi’s unshakeable belief in non-violence would address this concern.
It seems that practitioners of philosophical, as opposed to tactical, non-violence are responding to the third conceptualization, violence as relation. If the relationship of violence presents the choice of responding via a death struggle or submission to dominance as Hegel asserts, philosophical non-violence is an attempt to transcend this decision. By taking suffering upon one's self, the non-violent person demonstrates that they are not a threat to the other, blunting the imperative to kill or be killed. However, the truly non-violent person does not submit to domination; Gandhi characterizes such submission as cowardice rather than non-violence. In its personal nature, philosophical non-violence sets itself up in opposition to violence as relation, rather than the dehumanizing violence as environment.
If one accepts these distinctions, it seems worthwhile to examine what conditions are necessary for an environment of violence to be transformed to such a point that some theory of non-violence again becomes relevant. Must violence be allowed to run its course, eventually extinguishing itself when its rampant flames run out of fuel to consume, or may it be brought to a quicker conclusion? If a quicker conclusion is possible, what role does violence as tool play in halting the unchecked violence as environment, do surgical or preemptive strikes have a practical role in restraining the expansion of violence?
Arendt, Hannah. "Excerpt from On Violence." Ed. Manfred B. Steger and Nancy S. Lind, Violence and its Alternatives. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1999
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Philosophy of Right. "https://angel.msu.edu/section/default.asp?id=SS11-PHL-850-001-895385-EL-04-648 "
Malcolm X. "The Ballot or the Bullet." Ed. Bruce B. Lawrence and Aisha Karim, On Violence. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007
Rousseau, Jean Jacques. A Dissertation on the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Man. "https://angel.msu.edu/section/default.asp?id=SS11-PHL-850-001-895385-EL-04-648 "
Weil, Simone. "The Iliad, or the Poem of Force." Ed. Bruce B. Lawrence and Aisha Karim, On Violence. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Setting aside, for now, the belief that reading and math are both inherently sources for creative, independent exploration, let me first argue that reading and math are cornerstones of science. While I may not have participated in any science fairs, toward the end of elementary school I did design and conduct my own experiment, with assistance from my parents of course. One convenient facet of moving so much as a child is that, if I can remember where something happened, I get a fairly accurate idea of when it occurred.
My experiment involved seeding multiple little, plastic flowerpots with grass seed, then covering them with plastic 5 gallon buckets for different durations throughout the day. My hypothesis was that, since sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis, grass that was covered during less of the day would do better. More interestingly, I wanted to see how significant a small decrease in the length of the day would be and what would happen to the grass living in almost total darkness.
While I don't recall exactly what results I obtained, I do recall there being interesting differences between the pots. In order to describe these differences I used not only qualitative standards, such as the color of the grass, but also the quantitative standard of how high it grew. Any time you use a quantitative standard, there is a good chance your experiment can benefit from mathematical understanding. Most fundamentally perhaps, one can plot the data points then approximate a function to describe the relationship between sunlight and grass height. Then, if one knows math, one can translate one's knowledge about functions into further educated guesses about the behavior of grass. Also, if one is curious about the results that others have already obtained on the subject, the ability to read critically is probably going to be a crucial one to have.
That said, I happen to believe that reading and math are both fertile sources for personal creativity. Some of my most prized remnants of my grade school education are poems that I wrote, either for official assignments or personal gratification, I was a sad little emo-kid (see how I pretend that has changed...). To consider the ability to write as independent from the ability to read seems silly enough that I believe I do not need to address it, please correct me if I am mistaken. Another piece of paper that I treasure contains my verification that the power rule of differentiation works for arbitrary polynomials. This was not part of a homework assignment, but I knew the power rule and the limit definition of the derivative, and I was curious why it worked. If that isn't independent exploration, then what is?
I guess that my main point is that, not only are math and reading essential parts of scientific exploration, but personal exploration is an integral part of any education, math and reading included. Furthermore, we absolutely NEED educators at every level emphasizing this message to students. Otherwise we populate our college calculus classes with students concerned only with what is true and what the answer is, rather than why things are true and how to obtain answers for themselves. This trend is not only deleterious to our education system, but also to our society, as it seems destined to produce citizens who would rather be given the "answers" than wrestle, often futilely, with the important questions.