Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Importance of Food

Beyond the nutritional benefits of food, I believe that the consumption of food, and the preparation of food carries with it significant social and emotional implications, which lie at the very root of the greater health issues in this country. I believe strongly that in order to radically change the way we eat, we have to bring the practice of food (you might say) back to the center of communal life.

The benefits of eating well have become more widely recognized in recent years. We each know that we should consume less sodium, avoid empty carbohydrates, prepared foods, artificial flavors, etc. The information is available, the recipes are available, and yet we are not seeing any substantive change. Why is that? If you ask just about anyone (even yourself) why we don’t practice what we preach the most common reason people cite for not cooking themselves is lack of time. So you really have to look at the problems we face not simply as a matter of nutrition but as symptoms of more pervasive issue with greater social implications.

The time and attention required in food preparation itself is in conflict with the pace at which we live today, and the increasingly secular nature of the family. We have made this remarkable shift as a society from a very agrarian culture into the very technologically driven culture. There are certain benefits to this and there are certain draw backs. Now more then ever we find ourselves compelled in different directs throughout the day, and because of that it is difficult to foster a sense of community. Yet in this common need to be nourished we all share.

We can’t sacrifice this agrarian practice, as we have so many others, because it is tantamount to the survival of every living organism. To correct the physical symptoms of our social dysfunction we must address our cultural relationship with food. The communal consumption of food is not enough. We have to actively participate individually in the creation of what we consume collectively. We must reinvigorate an interest in the cultural importance of food, the heritage of ethnic food. We must make people aware not only of their physical need to find sustenance, but the social and emotional need to be nourished, and to nourish others. I believe that is the only in this way are we going to truly engage people, and raise awareness of the importance of food.

Other wise I fear we will continue to find ourselves alone in front of the glow of the television eating Haagan-Dazs racked with guilt and remorse.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Barbie's Wanton Take Over of the World.

“Barbie is like a Trojan Horse. Inside it, it carries Western cultural influences, such as makeup, and indecent clothes. Once it enters our society, it dumps these influences on our children.”
- Majid Ghaderi designer of Sara

This isn’t the first time Barbie has been attacked for real or imagined impropriety. The strikingly blonde, blued eyed descendent of a German doll named Bild Lili created controversy when the doll was released in America in 1959. American’s notions of women’s place in society in the late 50s, were still vastly different from those held in post WWII Europe. Conservatives in the U.S. feared that her image as a working girl would undermine young girls desires to grow up to be home makers. Mattel worked diligently to reassure parents other wise. Releasing Barbie’s iconic male counter part Ken, and the first in a long series of wedding dresses.

As Mattel worked to reform Barbies public image conform to Americans expectations feminism began to take off during the 1960s. In the decade that followed the doll was harshly criticized by feminists for promoting the patriarchal status quo. Controversy has continued to dog Barbie throughout her 50 year career in this country as an “all American girl.” At the turn of the century Barbie is being admonished by nationalists like Majid Chaderi for promoting Western values. Why does this 11.5” woman attract so much scrutiny? Why does her visage arouse such passionate opposition from parents, religious leaders, foreign nationalists, conservative, and feminists alike?

In surveying Barbie’s career as an iconic character it becomes evident that legions of people have superimposed upon her their own fears and aspirations for the future. People from every corner of the globe view the doll differently. Collectors and enthusiasts see her idealistic form as classically beautiful. Others view her grossly unrealistic proportions as a misleading construct for young girls. Some see Barbie as a role model for girls. While others view her flimsy clothing and permanent make-up as indicators of the doll’s inherently wanton nature. It seems that everyone perceives Barbie through their own subjective filter.

There is no pervading notion of femininity, thus Barbie is subject to the social and cultural discrepancies of everyone’s ideals. Even among Americans no single image of femininity -even one as iconic as Barbie- cannot hope to satisfy the conceptions of all associations. Now at the turn of the century Barbie has become entangled in a multinational culture battle to define the social role of women for a new generation of girls.

Earlier this year Mattel opened their first Barbie megastore in China, hoping the tap into the materialism of the growing middle class, according to the LA Times. The dolls capitalistic venture in China illustrates a stark charge from the world she was born into during the late 50s. When Mattel first introduced Barbie in Japan during the mid 90s the doll was viewed as too aggressive, with her broad smile, and large forward facing eyes. Mattel has since made a number of changes to appeal to Asian cultural sensibilities. Including closing her lips over her teeth, and shifting her eyes to look down rather than forward, to give the doll a coy a appearance, more in line with the patriarchal cultural expectations of the region. Despite these changes it remains to be seen how well Barbie can assimilate in the Asian market.

Other countries have forcefully rejected the Barbie; claiming that she poses a threat to their cultural and religious beliefs. In Iran even the government is taking a personal interest in the platinum blond, Malibu surfer chick. Going so far as to produce dolls to combat her “destructive cultural and social influence.” It might surprise many Americans but the destructive repercussions being warned of in an almost evangelical manner is the spread of women’s suffrage to Iran. “Barbie is an American woman who never wants to get pregnant and have babies,” explains the designer of Sara and Dara Majid Ghaderi, “and this is contradicts our culture.”Wether girls who play with Barbie today will be inspired to establish a women’s liberation movement in the Muslim world future as many Arab nationalist fear, remains to be seen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monkeys in Space

November 29th 1961 NASA launches a chimpanzee named Enos into Earth orbit. Enos was not the first animal in space but he was the first to orbit and return successfully to earth. Although Enos was blissfully unaware of the circumstances which catapulted him into the great beyond, his journey was part of a complex struggle between the world’s greatest super powers. By 1961 the space race had become an integral part of the Cold War. More than the nuclear arms race the formation of the Soviet and American space programs, would reshape not only peoples’ views of themselves as citizens of each state, but their understanding of their place in the greater cosmos. The space race would captive the attention of the world for more than a half a century, and affect generations born long after disarmament.

The launch of Sputnik on October 4th 1957, and the Soviet head start in the space race provoked panic among U.S. citizens and politicians. Just a month later Sputnik 2 blasted into orbit with a dog named Laika aboard. In 1958 NASA was formed, as Americans began to question the social and educational underpinnings of their nation. According to NASA’s website “chances for a manned orbital mission in 1961 now were dim.” Earlier the same year Soviets had successfully rocketed Yuri Gagarin into space, where he had became the first man to orbit the earth. Falling behind the Soviet space program NASA desperately needed Enos’s mission to be successful. Despite numerous technical difficulties and a malfunctioning thruster, which forced controllers to return Enos and Mecury Atlas to earth prematurely, “MA-5 had to be termed an excellent operation, one that had achieved most of its objectives and that would become a milestone on the road into the unknown.” Most importantly Enos’s “mission concluded the testing for a human orbital flight, achieved by John Glenn on February 20th, 1962.”

Enos excursion into space, as well as that of many other animals, paved the way for human exploration. It is important to remember that before the men aboard the Apollo XI made their “great leap for mankind,” our homogeneous relative leapt first. Now in the after math of the Cold War the collective accomplishments of the U.S., Russia, and other nations have made the International Space Station and other joint ventures possible. International cooperation and exploration of space is sure to further our understanding of the universe and the planet that we and our animal counterparts co-habitat, for centuries to come.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Defining Violence: Part III

What makes the 20th century unique from those previous is the event of globalization, the rise of nationalistic aspirations, and the development of increasingly “sophisticated” weapons. Yet these events represented the culmination of human ambition and ideology, which was conceived upon the dawn of civilization. Throughout the early modern period oppression occurred in a disturbingly intimate context. After the fall of the Roman empire feudal kings imposed their rule over small provinces, established laws and levied taxes over the subject population with absolute authority.

Such rulers persecuted resident minorities which commonly included pagans, gypsies, homosexuals, individuals suffering from disease or deformity, as well as people of differing faiths and ethnicities within their kingdom with immunity. Each ruler acted upon varying ideologies thus the persecution of a given subset differed greatly from region to region. The rise of Christianity during this period led to the genocidal killing and forced conversion of all the pagan people of Europe. Even among Christians, Protestants and Catholics fought bitterly and the rise of one faction or another to power often led to the slaughter of the deposed party. It is difficult to know how many people were killed because of the zealotry of individual leaders. The extermination of innumerable people throughout Europe and even the Middle East during the early modern period, although not as systematic as what occurred during WWII, was considerably more pervasive and there for more deadly.

In these agrarian societies peasants were legally bound to the land as serfs, land itself being owned entirely by the king. Under this system laborers turned the entity of their production over to the ruling authority, which divided the surplus among the urban population, before returning a small percentage of the share to the peasants themselves. These small returns were often not a enough to subsist upon, and serfs often died of starvation even as their labor fed the kingdom they were subservient to. Without birth certificates or proper medical records it is impossible to determine how many people died in this manner. We are aware through various accounts that the peasantry from England to the Ottoman empire suffered beneath such a feudal and indifferent system. Thus the collectivization of the agriculture within the Soviet Union was not only reminiscent of such a feudal system, it resurrected the feudal order within the ideology of Communism.

What is notable about the genocide committed during WWII, or the starvation of rural populations under Stalin, is that they were in contrast to much of the rest of the world. Such things no longer being common in our society made them atrocities. The manipulation of national aspirations, as well as the employment of new technologies, allowed for the full infliction of suffering as was in mans nature. Prior to the 20th century man only lacked the capacity for such violence yet the will to power was forever present.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Will to Power

The submission of man is within the nature of man. The desire for power is nothing more then the response to our most animalistic selves. Power is the assertion of patriarchal superiority. Domination of others is the means by which the alpha male asserts his own unequivocal right to pass on his genes: A primitive instinct which still resides deep within the core of our beings, and which continues to motivate our actions into the twenty-first century. Some might observe the suggestion to be uncouth and idea appear unappealing at best yet scientific study has exposed; the social/political domination of individuals' mirrors the assertion of natural-physical superiority observed among animals, and genetically supposed inferior beings. If we wish to examine man's "will to power" we must recognize our most animalistic nature.

"There is no stronger test of a man's character than power and authority, exciting as they do every passion and discovering every latent vice (Plutarch, 46-120 A.D.)" The suggestion of vice as latent rather then developed interests me. Society has the tendency to suggest that power corrupts rather the exploring the idea that power enables the inborn the weakness of man and the indulgence in gluttony, laziness, and every other transgression of the flesh. The suggestion that power corrupts is the suggestion that the very fabric of our beings is fundamentally and irrefutably flawed. Corruption becomes the suggested result of our natural inclination to social-political animalistic supremacy. In 1951 R.H. Crossman stated: "It is not power itself, but legitimation of the lust for power that corrupts absolutely." Still others have suggested that; "The love [and pursuit] of power is generally an embodiment of fear (Bertrand Russell 1931)."

It is my belief that the will to power is born out of the necessity of the continuation of the species: A necessity, which has become perhaps less pressing in resent decades. Without abandoning our basic animalistic nature, mans has pursued the advancement of an ever increasingly complex and demanding social hierarchy. One in which our animalistic nature has become increasingly obsolete. Our social-political matrix has out grown our own intellectual and emotional abilities, and in so many years surpassed our own natural response. Survival in the world today is not dictated by Darwinian theory of natural selection but an increasingly complex social matrix yet we continue to act upon a prehistoric struggle against one another and nature. Power in today's society has replaced physical strength as a means to assure our own right to reproduction, and the continuation of some part of our selves. The truth is we are a nothing more then the inherently flawed product of natural selection, struggling to adapt to the artificial environment we have created for our selves. In the relatively short period of time man has inhabited this earth we collectively have convinced our selves of the organic nature of our self-imposed reality.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rise and Significance of Western Ideologies

The 19th and 20th century opened the flood gates of Western culture to new ideological propositions. The rapid reconstitution of society demanded a contemporary pantheon of political theory to absorb the disillusionment of the Modern Age. Each new idea proposed to espouse the philosophical salvation of civilization. Such theories seemed to take on an air of secular divinity, arousing intense devotion to an idea rather than to God or country. The dissemination of various ideologies, and the devotion led people to redefine themselves collectively, as well as individually.

Liberalism was born out of the Enlightenment, and provided the foundation of a nation apart from Europe, whose national ideals would inspire people across the globe, for more than two hundred years. Nationalism excited great conflict in the West, even as it compelled people throughout the undeveloped world to throw off oppressive colonial regimes. Socialism and Marxism took various forms of which none seemed to provide the utopian society people had hoped for. Romanticism represented a reaction to “the cult of rational thought,” and the classical order. Romanticism promoted the eternal mystery of the soul, even as society seemed perched on the verge of unraveling such a mystery. As Romanticism longed to return to a more ‘natural’ state Modernism rushed forward into the 20th century. Modernism created a radically different vision of the future which seemed to lack boundaries. The uncertainty of the Modern Age, and the multiplicity of conflicting ideologies aroused fear in people throughout the world. Causing a return to near monarchial control in a number of nations under Totalitarianism.

Each political theory responded to the disintegration of another. Western ideology builds itself upon the foundations of all that came before it. Each ideology imposed itself upon the fashioning of our collective history and so suffuse itself into the fabric of our society. In the progression of civilization each concept will be reincarnated, thus their reverberations will go on inevitably to redefine us collectively, as well as individually.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Brief History of Doughnuts

"On October 19th 1917 The first doughnut is fried by Salvation Army volunteer women for American troops in France during World War I."—This Day in History

The above statement falls under some degree of suspicion as cultures around the world have practiced frying pastries for centuries. Making the origin of the idea nearly impossible to trace. Regardless, the Salvation Army can take a great deal of credit—as they do on their website—for popularizing the doughnut among Americans. Following the Great War doughnuts gained near iconic popularity in the United States. Doughnuts became associated with all facets of American society as they began to appear at church functions, office meetings, and social gatherings of all kinds. Shops sprang up across the country to provide for Americans appetite for the soft, sugary treat.

Almost a hundred years since the “first” doughnut was fried Americans relationship with food has changed dramatically. The American diet developed based upon a highly agrarian -and then later industrial- society. The demands of physical labor lead to a diet rich in fat, sugar, protein, and high in calories. As an increasingly large percentage of the population now hold white-collar jobs, the American diet is progressively in conflict with the sedentary lifestyle of most modern Americans.

In addition the very nature of how our food is prepared, packaged, and delivered has changed. During the 1950s commercial manufactures of doughnuts began to emerge, replacing independent bakers. The mass production of these soft, sugary, pastries posed logistical problems for commercial distribution. In order to create a product with a longer “shelf-life,” that could withstand shipping to newly established grocery chains, manufactures began to use hydrogenated vegetable oils. The process of hydrogenation creates fat solids, which helps fried breads retain their shape, and lasts substantially longer than unhydrogenated oils. Fat solids created in this way have been linked to heart disease, high cholesterol, and obesity. So the very composition of what we eat has been altered, although it appears largely the same.

In December, 2006 New York City Board of Health voted to phase out artificial trans fats from New York City Restaurants. The response was mixed. Some applauded the measure. Others begrudge the new regulations. To spite this, years later the move has been hailed as a success and other areas of the country have followed suit. The decision of the board represented a shift in the nations conscious, sending ripple effects through the food service industry. Corporations began to espouse their commitment to the public's well being, and promised to change their recipes.

Despite much posturing little has really changed. A simple glazed doughnut at Krispy Kreme has 200 calories. Dunkin’ Donuts glazed doughnut contains 220 calories. Starbucks website states boldly that you the customer will “be happy to know that your favorite Starbucks foods not only taste better, they are better. We’ve taken out artificial ingredients to leave room for more real goodness. Our new recipes contain, no artificial flavors, no artificial trans fats, no artificial dyes, [and] no high-fructose corn syrup.” Implying that their products are substantially better for you than those of their competitors. According to the nutrition information the company provides, Starbucks glazed doughnut contains a whopping 420 calories.

The doughnut is of course not wholly responsible for such things as increased cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. The doughnut is merely a symbolic component of the broader American struggle to understand our own cravings and patterns of consumption. The doughnut is as inextricably entangled with the future of Americans' health and well-being as it has been to its history, at home and overseas. The events which will play out over the coming decades will redefine the next generations relationship to this iconic American sweet.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Defining Violence: Part II

In the last century the moral composition of much of the world has changed dramatically. What we are willing to tolerate as global citizens has come to bear on such critical issues as corporal punishment, women’s rights, and treatment of minority groups. But these truths which we hold to be self evident today were not always recognized by our predecessors. We are, I believe, bound by all such truths to define violence as the violation thereof and in doing so, acknowledged the inadequacies and inconstancies of our forbearers in this discussion.

The information provided was indeed very compelling and deeply upsetting. It is disconcerting to see how so many innocent people can be eradicated because of their race, sex, orientation, religious beliefs or simply to further the interest of the ruling political party. The notion that, to spite all the advancements of civilization, genocide and other atrocities still go on through out much of the world is truly frighting. Unfortunately such things are no new development nor have they reached any new level of barbarism within the last century. Countries, kings, even the forces of nature, have driven the people they govern to do inconceivably cruel things. The Holly Wars, the 30 Years War, the Reformation, the Inquisition, the Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, this nation’s Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the American Border Wars, the Trail of Tears, as well as countless other events bear testament to this.

Public executions were carried out in Europe in order to discourage disobedience more then to enact justice, which was somewhat distorted to support the absolute authority of the monarchy. Bodies of “criminals” were often hung throughout the city, and about palaces, and prisons. Many times men would be hanged before they were put on display to the public, but other times they where hoisted up in iron cages where they would hang immobile before the public in their own blood, sweat, and defecation to die slowly of starvation and exposure. Prior to the twentieth century people suffering from disease and deformities where pushed to the fringes of society, viewed as “dangerous and morally corrupt,” and forced to fend for them selves. Those suffering from various mental conditions were often treated the same or else confined to asylums which resembled prisons more then hospitals. Those confined to such establishments were subjected to such “treatments” as dunking (a form of simulated drowning) designed to “shock them out of their condition,” as well as a number of other “experimental medical procedures.” During the winter of 1609-1610 early American colonialists compelled by starvation began to cannibalizing one another to stay alive. Diseases brought to the Americas by Europeans intentionally or unintentionally killed or crippled Native Americans all along the Eastern shores during the 1700s. Natives in South America were drafted into forced labor by their Spanish and Portuguese conquerors and were killed in such great number that in less in a hundred years Europeans began to import slaves from Africa to support their economic enterprises in the Americans. Slavery was yet another cruel and inhuman evil, which plagued most of the world up until the twentieth century. Puritans viewed the mortification of the flesh an integral part of the salvation of the soul and carried out public floggings, as well as more unique forms of punishment, on those they believed transgressed upon the faith. For most of modern history man’s “right” to beat his wife and children, was not only protected under the law, it was often encouraged by authorities as a way to “maintain order in the household.” During the Industrial Revolution men, women, and children labored under appalling conditions in factories through out the developed world. Many contracted crippling illnesses because of the poor work environment. Others -often children- were crushed, or mutilated by the machines they worked on. All in the interest of producing wealth for a small minority.

These things can not be classified as genocide -in the widely excepted sense- nor did they occur during or because of a war. They happen -they were allowed to happen- because the publics’ moral composition was very different then our own. That being the case such things have been rendered no less violent by the passage of time for being condoned during their occurrence. I believe that in saying that the brutality of life in earlier modern times bears great weight on this discussion, for it represents no small part of what violence humanity has inflicted upon itself prior to the twentieth century.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Growing Disparity: the economic divide in America.

Since the economic down turn the economic divide between Americans has steadily increased. According to recent statistics this country has not been this economically stratified since the 1940s. Until the economy regains a certain degree of stability this disparity is likely to continue to grow. During these difficult economic times politicians, and critics offer various explanations to the public for why the middle and lower class are invariably the hardest hit economically; taxes, illegal immigration, and overly invasive government regulation. The truth of the matter is slightly more complicated, and fails to provide an appropriate subject for public animosity.

Historically wealthy individuals have always remained some what isolated from economic hardship. One of the most important factors in this disparity is the divide between Americans who work for a living and those that subsist off of dividends. Wealthier people possess substantially greater investments than average working class Americans. These investments (even during these tough economic times) help to subsidize their expenses. Where as many lower and middle class Americans are forced to take out loans and credit cards -with high interest rates- during economic hardship, which in turn drives them deeper into debt.  

     The turn of the century commenced the intended period for retirement of one of the largest generations in history. Every generation has fought a losing battle with inflation. Retirement planing and investment is “suppose” to take raising costs into account but too often savings fall short. Poor financial planning along with a total loss of investments, many Americans can no long afford to retire. Creating greater competition for jobs.

With a now overly corpulent work force, and statistically fewer and fewer jobs, there is no incentive for businesses to raise wages. Keeping the cost as well as the number of man hours low allows the company to run cheaply and effectively, which yields increasingly greater returns for shareholders. Shareholders being largely wealthy Americans with greater investments then average working class people. Which is to say that the interests of the shareholders are in direct conflict with those working for the company, part of what has lead us to the economic crisis we are in now.

Coupled with this economic inequality; the high cost of medicine is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in this country among people from all demographics. This period of economic volatility puts enormous strain on individuals and businesses. Many people who would previously have found secure employment are working in temporary or hourly positions which legally do not have to provide health care. Other people can’t afford the health care plan provided by their employer and many small businesses can not afford to provide their employees with health care benefits. 

This is just a brief examination of the current economic climate, and a somewhat simplistic one at that. The economic realities of the 21st century have become increasingly complex, and would require a greater devotion of interest than I feel everyone is prepared to make to my blog. However I hope that what I have written here might cause some people to scrutinize the economic inequality in this country more closely, although it fails to provide an appropriate subject with whom to assign fault.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Amendment XIV

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, subject to jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.

Section 1. of the Amendment XIV ratified July 9th 1868

The 14th Amendment has commonly been viewed -like the 13th Amendment- as the extension of the rights of man, put forth by the English philosopher John Locke almost a century earlier, to “life liberty and property." Abolitionists saw expansion of such rights to a previously subjugated population as the further fulfillment of the Enlightenment ideals that this country was founded upon. The 14th Amendment to protect the rights of newly freed slaves would unwittingly aide in the establishment of the most influential organization in modern America, the corporation.

Prior to much of the 19th century, businesses were relatively small enterprises run by individuals. As the Industrial Revolution swept through Europe and into America the scale of business enterprises grew considerably. Business leaders and entrepreneurs sought new forms of organizational structure to support increasingly complex ventures. Joint-stock companies had existed for more then a hundred years in Europe. In America these companies took on new form under the 14th Amendment.

Business representatives argued that companies constituted a person under the law and the Supreme Court went along with it. Between 1890 and 1910 288 cases were brought to the Supreme Court on behalf of these newly formed citizens, only 19 by former slaves. Following Reconstruction in the United States former slaves acquired little land, and lacked substantive economic opportunity unlike their corporate counter parts, who procured vast amounts of wealth for their shareholders. Corporations participated far more actively and effectively in American politics than many other citizens during the 19th century. The modern corporation facilitated westward expansion through the construction of railroads, which connected industrial centers and the raw resources needed to promote further economic growth.

The formation of a limited liability company protects individual investors (shareholders) from being prosecuted should the corporation be found to be abusive, negligent or insolvent. Effectively alleviating those who own the company (the shareholders) from direct responsibility for the actions of the company. This business structure has often put the interest of the company and the shareholders at odds with workers and communities in which they carry on business. Over the last hundred years these corporate citizens have become increasingly complex institutions which permeate all facets of the American economy.

Today the America corporation is more influential then ever. They represent an integral part of the national economy, and conduct business all over the globe. Americans’ sentiment toward their corporate brethren is often mixed. Free market advocates argue that the modern corporation is one of the most effective models of organization in the world, and fiercely resist regulation. Throughout the 20th century various institutions throughout America have been privatized, including prisons, schools, and hospitals. Billions of dollars of government funds are awarded to private contractors each year to build public facilities, provide school lunches, and various other services. Critics of these measures argue that increasing privatization provides corporations with undue political leverage over the public. Unlike many private citizens, corporations possess substantial means to advance their personal interest. Many civil groups fear that this power will enable corporations to pursue their own interests to the detriment of the general public. In an effort to limit the influence of corporate interests Congress has attempted to draft legislation to regulate corporate contributions to individual politicians and advocacy groups. Modern corporate lawyers argue that financial contributions to campaigns, and political organizations represent free speech, protected under the 1st Amendment. The further interpretation of the law will determine the extent to which corporations can exert their considerable influence on the public debate.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Yosemite; a brief history.

October 1 1890 Yosemite National Park was dedicated in California. Yosemite was the second national park to be formally dedicated to the public interest in this way, but it was in many ways the place that captivated interest of Americans and inspired the preservation of landscapes across the United States for the benefit of the public. By 1890 the battle to preserve the park for future generations had been going on for almost forty years. Since Westerners discovered the Yosemite Valley during the California Gold Rush in 1851 (p. 2). California represented the last frontier; the final push of Anglo-Saxon Americans westward across the continent. The idea of a “manifest destiny” to occupy all of North America had driven its people in a rapid migration westward. It was here, on the farthest edge of the new American territories, that the concept of the national park would take root.

The idea of public parks had been in Americas consciousness for some time. In Europe kings and noble men had historically claimed great tracks of land for sport. And during the Industrial Revolution socialists and humanitarians advocated the building of parks to make to make city life more livable. However nowhere in the developed world were there landscapes as vast and unspoiled as what could be found in America.

A bill to preserve the Yosemite Valley and the surrounding area was first proposed in 1864, and was signed into law by President Lincoln (p. 13), making Yosemite the very first recognized nature preserve in the United States. The legal recognition of the park did little in reality to protect the park itself from being exploited. The responsibility for the park was given over to the state of California which expressed very little interest in it, and put forward even less investment. Thus the protection of the park was largely taken up by individuals which included James Mason Hutchings, Galen Clark, and John Muir.

“On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill creating Yellowstone Park. Unlike Yosemite, which was being administered by the state of California, this would be the first national park in the history of the world. (p. 35)” Following this dedication of Yellowstone individuals began to lobby Congress to bring Yosemite under federal oversight. The bill that finally consecrated the park was signed by then President Benjamin Harrison.

Following the creation of Yellowstone, Yosemite, General Grant, and Sequoia national parks the federal government struggled to manage the vast expanses of wilderness thousands of miles from Washington. Frustrated with ineffective civil administrations the government dispatched remnants of the Union Army to enforce improvised regulations against poaching, vandalism, and negligence with campfires (p.68). The Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities, signed in 1906 by President Roosevelt, (p.104) expanded the concept of the American park system to include historic monuments. “On August 25, 1916.... President Woodrow Wilson signed into law an act creating the National Park Service to oversee 5.5 million acres of some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. (p 163)”

Throughout the 20th century the idea of public parks would be extended to wildlife preserves, monuments, memorials, and historic sites all across America and this idea was replicated at the State and local leaves. National Parks would be established in almost all 50 states. As the population has increased and urbanization has spread to what were once remote regions of the country parks act as a refuge for native plants and animals.

What began as an effort on the part of a few individuals to preserve and protect the Yosemite Valley in California catalyzed the conservation of native species, vast expanses of wilderness, and historic sites throughout America. It is not only possible, it is very probable that large regions of Virginia, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona would appear drastically different then they do today. Loss of habitat and over hunting might well have driven various animals into extinction. The Civil War battle fields in Gettysburg and Manassas could be buried under strip malls and theme parks. Because of the efforts of innumerable individuals, American wilderness, and American history will exist for generations to come.

All pages cited from The National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I can’t find a justification for colonialism, but that statement is largely meaningless. I have become very frustrated with “the retrospective” tendencies I have been witnessing in this country. I noticed over the last two months as I caught glimpses of television that current events and the world news are being pushed aside entirely by these long retrospectives. The study of history in and of its self is retrospective, and it’s only importance (in my opinion) is in gaining greater compression of the present in order to move forward into the future. The only point in studying history is to better understand how we came to this juncture. Arguing wether or not colonialism can be justified 200 years after the fact is pointless in and of its self. The only thing we can possibly gain from the question at all is our own personal conviction should lead us forward in how best to proceed with the deliverance of annexed American states.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dead Idols and the American Quest for Immortality

Took a friend to Hollywood on Friday June 19th. We had intended to visit Grauman’s Chinese Theater however when we got there the place was being mobbed by crazed Michael Jackson fans, and we couldn’t get any where near the theater. So we pasted on to explore the rest of Hollywood. We visited the wax museum, which was delightfully creepy. From there we moved on through the rest of Hollywood, and the press of hot sweaty people which gravitated back along the boulevard toward the sanitized, make believe tragedy represented by a single two foot, pink star sunken in the pavement. On all sides the store fronts took advantage of the public hysteria pushing forward the neglected photos and memorabilia of the long forgotten pop star to the front of the store in a reverence, which can only be excited by such a capitalistic opportunity.

Following the boulevard away from the crowds I discovered the new site of the Betty Page Clothing company, and I pressed my nose to the glass excitedly like a small child at Christmas time. Hollywood boulevard is crowded with all the diversity and perversity of LA. The farther you venture from the carefully sanitized theaters a more interesting picture emerges, one which is far less glamorous. We stopped into a large costume shop, which by it’s very presence there on the boulevard in the middle of June, gave distinct impression that Halloween is an on going holiday in the State of California.

In the back of the store hidden beneath a pile of boxes I unearthed a 1.8 scale die-cast 1967 Chevy Impala. I clutched the model to my breast the entire way home in a displace of unabashed greekdom, which I am only delivered from only on account of it’s general popularity. The miniature muscle car now sits on my bookshelf next to the erotic photos I brought back from the art fair in Austin, the broad brimmed cowboy hat from Athens, the statue of Hermes from the Getty, five kinds of red nail polish, postcards from friends, and collection of books which has put over five hundred dollars on my credit card in just the last four months.

We visited the Hollywood Museum, which is filled with treasures from the Golden Age of the Silver Screen. Scarlett O’Hara’s dress from ‘Gone with the Wind’. Cary Grant’s Rolls Royce. Marilyn Monroe’s million dollar honeymoon dress. Costumes for Charlie Chaplin, May West, and so many more super stars. I am reminded in this place of that lost iconic grandeur as I gravitate toward the idols of the past that I am wholly out of touch with my own generation. This realization having disturbed me from my reverie and I looked about for my friend who looked utterly confused in the midsts such alien idolatry.

There is only a vague notion of the past within the minds of my peers a time before computers, video games, endless shopping malls, cars with automatic transmission, cable television, internet porn, genetically engineered food, and the corporately synthesized idols of today. These artifacts are nothing more then the Neolithic remains of a civilization as remote as Babylon. We -generation Y- are no more aware of our past then we are of our future. We imagine ourselves suspended in time. The first to live, to love, to laugh like this. We believe ourselves to be the vindication of all that came before. As though this frail frame mantled in human tissue where so grand as to justify all the inequalities, and atrocities of the past. We must believe that we are some how remarkable. It is this falsehood which sustains us. This perpetual assertion of our superiority, a like an unspoken prayer, which will protect us from the painful reality of temporal existence.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

3 Problems Facing the United States Today.

There are numerous problems facing the US today. Many of these problems effect the rest of the world. What makes our situation unique as a country is that our actions (good or bad) will set a precedent for the rest of the international comunity. I wanted to mention these three in particular because I feel they are often over looked.

Water shortage.
The water usage of this country is fundamentally unsustainable. Scientists predict that as the climate shifts large areas will experience sustained drought. Indicators substantiate the notion that water shortages could reach crisis points within the next century. There are a number of simple solutions. Encourage the proliferation of small scale food production surrounding urban areas to minimize dependence on large manufactures (which would help to reduce the cost of food by drastically reducing the expense of shipping, and the emissions produced in transport). Most households and businesses in the United States would benefit from the installation of grey water systems, which can cut water usage by 50% (which in turn reduces your water bill).

Over population.
The population of the world is reaching a critical mass. There are more people alive today then ever before. The issue that arises at this point in time is the lack of resources to support further expansion. If the population continues to grow -at its current rate- it will quickly reach a point at which natural resources can no longer sustain the vast majority of human life, which will cause wide spread famine, and international conflict between countries vying for limited resources. China’s ‘one child policy’ is an example of how some countries are attempting to curb population growth. Such a policy is impractical and its implementation is barbaric but it represents growing concern regarding overpopulation. In the United States - as well as other developed nations - the greater equality for women has directly resulted in reduced birth rates, when compared to less developed countries, but this is simply not enough. We must encourage greater consciousness here and abroad to prevent unsustainable expansion. Greater education to allow men and women to make informed decisions about their reproductive health, in order to help slow the the rate of population growth.

Uneducated citizenship.
The world we live into today is in many ways vastly more complicated then that of our parents and grandparents. There is a lot of public discussion of the failure of the our public school system but the debate falls short of providing any viable solutions. The deterioration of the debate over healthcare reform represents Americans fundamental failure to understand the legislation, and the ease with which the media manipulates the public. I believe firmly that we -as Americans- live in one of the greatest republics in the world today. Unfortunately many Americans remain ignorant of the basic functions of their own government. A large percentage of the population does not vote or participate in the political process. In order for this country to function as a democracy the entirety of its constituents must be able to participate in a meaningful way. The preliminary designs to improve our public school system have been laid out by other countries. Abolish standardized testing (because it forces the teacher to teach to the test rather then the subject). Reduce the time spent in school, the size of the text books, and the size of the class room (doing these things would also reduce the over all cost on the American tax payer for education). Provide children with more extracurricular activities, sports and art programs to help kids develop skills, pursue their own passions, and expand their understanding of the world.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Torture and the Laws that Enlightened Us.

On August 24th 1780 King Louis XVI abolishes torture as a means to get suspects to confess. It was one of a number of reforms the young king made during his historically fateful reign. The mandate was by nature a political move on the part of Louis XVI to alleviate the growing unrest among the populous but it also indicated a genuine desire on the part of the monarch to appear more enlightened then his predecessors. The amends the king attempted to make were ultimately implemented far too late to quell the outrage of the public; who had suffered excessive abuses of power under the crown for centuries.

France was not the first to abolish torture. Many other European nations abolished the practice before 1780, some followed after. The removal of torture as a government function reflected a growing consciousness on the part of the monarchy that the political and moral convictions of the people were shifting beneath them. The abolishment of torture in the 18th century did not have the overwhelmingly constructive effect that the mere statement might cause citizens of the 21st century to imagine. The abolishment of torture eradicated trial by ordeal under the law, and displaced the inquisitorial proceedings of the previous centuries in favor of courts lead by accusatorial process. It did not however change a number of other abuses. The Catholic church continued to impose the idea that prison should constitute hell on earth, foreshadowing the eternal damnation of the condemned in the next life. To spite increasingly humanitarian forms of thought, very little was done to alter this metaphorical hell scape. Many people died in prison awaiting trial without being convicted of committing any crime.

Leaders of the French Revolution “made frequent use of the guillotine, a recently invented machine that brought about supposedly humane executions... In 1793 King Louis and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, themselves went to the guillotine” (p. 790). Corporeal punishment in Europe was not always as influenced by humanitarian thought as in the French Revolution. England retained laws which imposed the harshest punishment on convicted traitors to the crown who were to be hang and quartered.

The Humanitarian thought which persuaded Louis XVI to alter French law, and which shortly thereafter inspired the the French people to over through the monarchy altogether, became an integral part of Western ideology. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century a number of international treaties were created to protect human rights during armed conflict, which included the Geneva Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (p.1154-1155). The United States participated in the creation of both treaties and ratified each of them.

Accusations of alleged prisoner abuse by American armed forces in 2004 enraged Americans as well as members of the international community. In response to these allegations CNN reported that then President Bush “defended his administration methods of interrogating terrorism suspects insisting, ‘This government does not torture people.’” Evidence which has surfaced in recent years documents the abuses of prisoners by their American captors as well as it’s government sanction and internal promotion. The LA Times reports that CIA memos releases earlier this year “provide the most detailed account to date not only of the interrogation tools the CIA employed against Al Qaeda suspects in secret prisons around the world but the legal arguments the Bush administration constructed to justify their use.” After denying for years that suspects were tortured in American controlled prisons members of the former Bush administration, most notably former vice president Dick Cheney, have sought to justify their actions citing the countries national security interest.

Many Americans and international critics have rejected this. Matthew Alexander, former Air Force counterintelligence agent who volunteered to go Iraq to work as a senior interrogator, wrote for the Washington Post: “We’re told that our only options are to persist in carrying out torture or face another terrorist attack. But there truly is a better way to carry out interrogations -- and a way to get out of this false choice between torture and terror.” The fact that prisoners of war were being mistreated over the last seven years flies in the face of American ideology and international law. The torture of prisoners represents regressive policies which were abolished by Europe’s last monarchs in the 1800s. The government sanction of such practices threatens the progressive humanitarian thought of the last two centuries.

The release of the CIA interrogation methods was by nature a political move on the part of the Obama administration to alleviate the growing resentment within the Islamic community but it also indicated a genuine desire on the part of the white house offices to appear more enlightened then their predecessors. In a statement issued with the documents the President said: In one of my first acts as President, "I prohibit the use of these interrogation techniques by the United States.... Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our values, move forward with confidence... The United States is a nation of laws. My Administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals."

Obama promised Americans that ‘steps had been taken to ensure that abuse of detainees would never take place again.’ The removal of Bush administration interrogation procedure revealed a acute awareness on the part of the Obama administration that the American people would not support programs which encouraged torture once it was know to them. The rejection of such programs reflects the underlying strength of America’s humanitarian values and beliefs, inherited from eighteenth century Enlightenment movement.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

America: a brief history of exploitation.

"In Castile, Portugal, Aragon,...and the Canary Islands they need many slaves, and I do not think they get enough from Guinea.... Although they die now, they will not always die. The Negroes and Canary Islanders died at first." Columbus wrote King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1496 on establishing a slave trade from Haiti in lieu of finding gold.

The letter illustrates the economic motivation of the exploration of the New World as well as the ruthless exploitation of the its indigenous population. Columbus’s “discovery” of the Caribbean islands lead to the colonization of the larger American continent by other European countries including Portugal, France, Holland, and England (p.606). The example set by Columbus and his men would dictate the relationship between natives and European colonists in the Americas for the next five hundred years. The tone of the letter revels a fundamental disregard for both the native people as well as those brought from Africa to the Caribbean as slaves. These people where viewed by their Spanish conquerors not only as savages, and infidel but as less then human. Seen as disposable, people of both American and African descendants, were brutally worked, abused, mutilated, raped, and murdered by their Christian overlords.

Howard Zen wrote in his book A People’s History of the United States that Columbus desperate to “fill up the
ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend... went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked five hundred best specimens to load onto ships. Of those five hundred, two hundred died in route (p. 4).”

Many indigenous people, who did not die directly at the the hands of European, where eradicate by the diseases that the foreigners brought with them. In his Book Guns, Germs, and Steel, biologist Jared Diamond wrote:
The grimmest example of germs’ role in history come from the European conquest of the Americans that began with Columbus’s voyage (p.197)... the Indian population of Hisponiola declined from around 8 million, when Columbus arrived in A.D. 1492, to zero by 1535 (p.213)

As the population declined the Spanish where forced to important slaves from Africa to work. “In 1518 the first shipment of slaves went directly from west Africa to the Caribbean, where they worked on the recently established sugar plantations (p. 707).” In this way Columbus not only changed the nature of the islands by annihilating the local population but by involving the economic interest of the crown created an artificial demand for the rich and fertile islands to be repopulated by a second subjugated peoples. Thereby changing the demographic population of the world forever.

Long after Columbus’s death in 1506 American and African descendants would continue to be subjugated by descents of wealth Europeans. The institution of slavery continued throughout America until the nineteenth century. Native Americans where isolated to small portions of the land as European descendants streamed westward. After slavery was abolished in 1865 segregationist policies continued to suppress African Americans and rob them of the opportunities given to European Americans. Racial conflict plagued the South throughout the twentieth century, and racial discussion dominated the 2008 presidential campaign. The conflicts which proceeded the institution of slavery in the Americas and those that followed did more then displace or endanger entire populations. It determined the future of the continent and left irrevocable marks on the consciousness of it’s people.

Defining Violence: Part I

I have come to believe that our collective memory and statistical misrepresentation deceive us in this discussion. Recent history is so much more vivid in our minds then all that preceded it. We feel the impact of this century all the more acutely in it’s relationship to ourselves and our more personal history. The 20th century saw the dawn of a horrific new type of war and the first two World Wars. All wars are terrible and violent. The wars of last century were bloody and costly but war, and the widespread death, and destruction it creates are not the only measures of violence.

Statistics (prior to the the 20th century) provide a vague -but ultimately unverifiable- notion of the cost of political and social violence in early modern times. The wars of the last century claimed the lives of more people than those of any previous century. However those wars engaged a smaller percent of the overall population then prior conflicts. 

  The emergence of modern European states from feudal kingdoms caused widespread conflict, and death. In order to maintain control of their empires the aristocracy imposed increasingly totalitarian authority over its people. Kings -and even petty Overlords- brutally suppressed rebellions, and carried out corporal punishment for public disobedience and political insubordination, which amounted to little less then government sponsored terrorism. Prior to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen and the Constitution of the United States ordinary people had virtually no rights under the law. Although Magna Carta did exist in England, it was only loosely enforced on behalf of the common man. 

  Beyond the abuses of power on the part of the nobility and the church European peasants lived harsh and often short lives. The region was plagued by famine and disease both of which had the most devastating impact on the very young and the very old. “In some areas of Europe, for example, smallpox was responsible for 10 to 15 percent of deaths, but most of the victims were ages ten or younger” (p. 621). Maternal and prenatal deaths were extremely high due often to the barbarous medical practices of the period. Lack of proper sanitation killed countless individuals in rural and urban areas. War, misfortune and malnutrition crippled and maimed men and women who were left without means to subsist to starve. 

  Is violence defined entirely by that which is done with malice or does it not extend to the whole of human suffering? People throughout the new world were enslaved, some in foreign countries, some in their own homes, for cheap labor. The many nations of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East tortured and executed people for their religious and political beliefs. Some indigenous populations were eradicated entirely by foreign pathogens. Greed, ignorance, disease, famine, religious fanaticism, as well as the general apathy of the gentry caused the death and suffering of people, in every corner of the world, to such a great extent that their impact cannot be calculated today. 

  It is impossible to project an alternative history to that of colonialism from this vantage point. It is too intrinsically inter-connected with our cultural, political, and social homogeneity for us to even attempt view the subject objectively. We cannot dissociate, or disentangle ourselves from it. Many of us feel compelled to defend colonial expansion to substantiate our right to the present. ‘Had our forbears not colonized the North American Continent then the world would be vastly different then it is today.’ Such statements are incontestable because there is no alternative history. We can only speculate on the outcome had not innumerable events occurred. 

  The Enlightenment, and the revolutionary ideals it generated, gave raise to political revolutions in American and Europe. The social reforms as they were implemented lead to a less than perfect union, but they laid the foundation upon which all basic human rights now rest. In the United States great progress was made during the 20th century to realize greater equality for women and minority groups, with relatively little violence. Although the advancement of political, religious, and legal equality was achieved largely in industrial nations, the significance of such developments emphasized the necessity for global recognition of greater human liberates. Historically in the 20th century living conditions, due in large part to advancements in medicine and agricultural productivity, improved dramatically for many people around the world. These improvements lead to statistical increases in over all life expectancy for people in most of the developed world, and rapid population grow. While all this changes do not counter balance the atrocities which occurred throughout the 20th century all over the world they represent a continuing shift forward for human kind.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

In Pursuit of the Truth

I believe it’s very possible for two well educated people to disagree vehemently on a variety of different issues. The debate is its’ self in an essential component of democracy. I think that we all have a desire to find a set of facts or truths, which will better govern humanity. I think that we have established guiding principals in this country, which act has beacons in the storm of fanaticism: justice, equality, the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. I don’t know that you can create an omniscient view of the world in a moral sense. I have a lot of suspicion for anything that is presented as such. I think the best thing you can do is to approach each subject in an equitable manner.

“Everyone will have their own views on things because of their social status, their life experiences, etc. Should I bring morals into the equation? Everyone also has their own morals, their own values, their own idea of what they consider right and wrong.”

Within the moral sphere there is such a thing as personal truth. Personal truth is distinct from personal opinion. Personal truth is something much deeper, what you might call a moral root. Edward R Murrow delivered a speech entitled “This I believe.” I want you to cradle these three words in your mind for a moment. Those few words hold so much power for me. The idea presented thus seems almost irrefutable. A statement with so much conviction it defies contradiction. There are times at which our knowledge of a given subject -and even our wits - fail us, and in the mirky darkness of self doubt we much return to those beliefs, which fasten together the moral fiber of our beings. I believe that we are too flawed, too subjective to form a perfect impression of the world. Therefore we must move forward with such beliefs as are our own. We must approach the world with all the inadequacy of our intellect, all the splendor of our imperfect ideals, and all the passion within our souls. The glory of all mans’ triumphs has been in the personal conviction and pursuit of those ideals, which have not yet been cemented into the greater consciousness. This I believe.


Someone asked me recently what I thought of the “2012 Prophecy” This is what I told him.

I think the end of the earth, the death of man is such an interesting concept. Living in a heavily Christian country the idea of the apocalypse has a strong hold upon on society. It’s become something of a sick fascination. The Christian church has up held the belief, since the death of Christ, that we are living in “the end times.” More recently we have been hearing similarly dire predictions for extremist religious groups of all factions. Why is a three century old prophecy from an extinct pagan tradition stirring up so much anxiety?

What really concerns me: Is global warming. Israel’s continually antagonistic behavior. The escalating conflict between Pakistan and India . North Korea’s hostility. The extremist in this country who seem intend on engaging an enemy, which has no country, and no laws, with such barbarous and archaic tactics as the carpet bombing cities and villages. People who are bent on fulfilling biblical prophecies. These thing scare me.

If we are indeed living in the end times. If the “world” -that is our world- is going to end in 3 years. What is the value of that knowledge? We are each so fragile. Our little world has represented by our life is so precarious. 40,000 in the US die in car crashes every year. We don’t think about that when we get in our car, because we assume it won’t be us. But the end of “the world” is so complete and so final, that the idea haunts us. There are many tragic events in the world which can snatch away our home, our future, and not all are so grand and cataclysmic. LA could experience an earthquake a slide off the map into the Pacifica. In retrospect of such an imaginary event what would each of us have done differently if we could? Would we have been better to one another has human beings? Would we have been more honest with each other? Would we have pursued our passions more vehemently? Mostly these things would be among our many regrets.

So if we are “living in the end times,” if the world is going to end in 2012. What are we going to do with the present?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Letters: thoughts on an antiquated practice

Dear Friend, sincerely, I would love to hear whatever you have to say. I love letter writing; I love the composition, the interplay, it’s a beautiful practice, which is being lost to antiquity. Letters in their own way are a freer form of communication then instant massaging, and phone calls; there are no interruptions, awkward moments, long silences. They are simply a stream of consciousness. The out pouring of ideas, experiences, fears, thoughts, and desires. Our physical imperfections, our emotional inadequacies, disappear. I would encourage you to write. What you have to say is not meaningless. There is no comparison between minds; each individual perceives the world differently and that is beauty of our intercourse.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Lone Star State

Just got back from Austin. I forgot how much I missed Texas. It gets in your blood, I think, and you just can’t get it out. It’s in me, underneath my skin, with the ink and the scar tissue. I’ve never seen a place at once so empty and so beautiful. There are no obstructions. Nothing for miles. The highway simply disappears into the sky. I pressed my check to the window of the car, and watch the long tangled barbwire fences, the scrub trees, the bare billboards, the long horns, the rusted pick-up trucks, and the 18 wheelers past by. At dusk we went out to the Congress Bridge to watch over a million bats take flight. The whole city came alive at night, like nothing I have ever seen before. All the clubs, and bars flung their doors open and the music just came streaming into the streets, which become like rivers over sound. It was really amazing.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

On the subject of desire, sex and self validation.

It’s a late here. I know it’s even later on the other side of the globe. I didn’t want to bother but I’ve been thinking a lot about your response, which I found very interesting. I don’t think there is anything wrong with seeking self validation. Unfortunately it’s not something that our society dishes out readily. Particularly when it comes to eros, which of course is what we are talking about. The reason I find the undying urge to needle you on the subject is because I feel that you are not being entirely honest with yourself. I don’t believe introspection should be cause for degradation. I see introspection as a vehicle for self realization, and eventually self-fulfillment, which is yet another one of those dirty, dirty desires swimming about in our heads. Desire itself is a multi-faceted emotion, which I feel the need to emancipate from it’s obscene and other wise ludicrous connotations before proceeding. Desire encompasses so much more then sexual longing. Desire is short hand for affection, attraction, intimacy, companionship, validation, conversation, and stimulation. Western culture itself treats eros/desire as an almost paranormal force, which is both depraved and unharnessed. The pursuit of pleasure, gratification, and validation -not only in a physical or sexual sense- have become almost heretical activities. It seems that with in the eyes of religious authorities and government officials sex, love -and even the desire for such- can only exist safely within the confines of prescribed social norms. I don’t find this to be a particularly pragmatic approach to the human condition. I see guilt and shame to be the byproducts of a set of archaic beliefs that refuses to expect the legitimacy or necessity of human relationships.
Americans are at once publicly oversexed and personally desperately undersexed. We are surrounded, bombard, assaulted by images of unrealistically attractive people selling anything from beer, and cars to laundry detergent and sofas. It seems that more attractive people are cleaner, drive better cars, and can drink endlessly without vomiting, and it is our secret suspicion that they have better sex or at lest have sex, because most of us aren’t having any. There is more sex on television today then most of us are likely to see in a year. “Sex” all be it striped of it’s emotional connotations, cleaned, and repackaged in neat palatable portions, entirely remove from the involvement of inevitably flawed human beings. There is no mystery, no innuendo and yet this thing alludes us. We are caught in the antagonistically stimulatory production of want, which fuels our consumer-culture. So we reach out through the isolation of cyberspace in search of some human contact, recognition, appreciation, and validation. What is so wrong in that? What is weak in that?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Living in LA

Los Angeles is interesting. I think that it has probably changed dramatically since you were living out there. It feels now like the city of forgotten promises. The infrastructure is falling apart and the state has no money to fix it. There is a strong sense that the city itself -like so many of the nubile bodies, which have flocked to its glittering edifice over the years- is aging, and after so much reconstruction, the ravages of time continue to wear away at what once was. The city seems despondent and dejected now (like many other cities in America) as the growing tide of this latest economic down turn sweeps away the dreams and promises of the past. The unemployment rate in California is currently at 10.1 percent. Homes (even in this neighborhood) have been abandoned, standing alone among the perfectly manicured lawns, weeds growing up to the window sills, as if nature could reclaim them. There seems a certain incongruity in the number of empty homes and homeless people, which illustrates the disparity of wealth in this county.
After I arrived in Los Angeles my father took me to downtown Pasadena, which has become one of those self-aggrandizing to displaces of commercialism, which has become its self the the hallmark of capitalism. The juxtaposition of wealth and abject poverty is striking against the back drop of store fronts, selling body cream, designer jeans, manicures, and five dollar coffees. The economic chasm which has begun to consume families and individuals caught between “the American dream” and a new form of debit compelled, capitalistic serfdom, has created a growing divide within America, which many refuse to acknowledge. Passing down the street people give the needy a wide berth as if they can create not only physical but psychological distance between themselves and the intruding reality represented by this person. They wear there blindness like a weapon. They cast they’re eyes down or continue on as if the individual does not exist. As if in not acknowledging them they might sink back into the pavement and disappear. There is a sense in they’re eyes that they know that they are disappearing, that they have become yet a another statistic locked away from the public in a filing drawer, unequal and unattended. They look up pleadingly as if in the acknowledgement of they’re presence they might become human again, but as the mob (not yet damned) passes them they take away yet a little more of their humanity.
There exists an unspeakable cruelty in the bosom of a society which refuses to feed and cloth its own.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lost Dreams

I was musing the other day about the reliquary of lost dreams in this country. I am at the age where many of my friends are putting a side their ambitions and aspirations for families and blue collar work, and I have to wonder where does all that hope, passion and youthful idealism of these souls go? Do these childish fancies simply fade away? Do our dreams go to rest like wrecked ships at the bottom of the ocean? Do we recycle them like used car parts? Do we quietly give them up like old shoes? Do we grow news ones like a lizard, or do we simply go through life incomplete? It is my belief in watching all this pass that some people give there dreams for someone else's and thus they live in constant fear that the Red King will awake. What will we give up our dreams for my friend? For family? For country? For fame? Or for God? Everyone takes away a little piece of you, and our dreams become like relics of the faithless within time. It's just an idea I'm toying with.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

God as Man

We are ourselves are an amalgamation of political, social, and religious believes which we have ether been assimilated into or which we have assimilated into ourselves. We are the misconceived product of evolution, natural selection, and the inconvenient biological side effect of a family, which extends back to the dawn of human existence. If it is our origins (our genetic make up), which defines us as a people we must resign of ourselves to the weaker aspects of our nature, as slaves to our Id. If there is indeed the divine mechanism of history, which we have come to know as fate then we may then abdicate all person responsibility for our actions as victims of God’s greater design. If we entertain the idea of free will and implications of such one is forced to examine the whole of humanity and the history of civilization as product of our own creation. We must therefore assume responsibility for the destruction of God’s creation through the generation and fabrication of our own creation. We destroy, devoir, revise, and reshape this world infinitely in order to emulate, and even depose our creator; reforming God in the image of man. Are we closer to God for what we do? Or are we closer to becoming Gods ourselves?