Archive for the ‘pegleghippie’ Category

I’m Out
January 22, 2009

by pegleghippie

This blog hasn’t been updated in a month, and I am heretofore committing myself to not updating it, with the exception of this post.  

What I’m saying is I’m done blogging, at least for a while.  Neither I nor Mekhami update often enough to have a normal readership, and our #1 fan,Pendel, has fallen off the face of the earth.  

I’ve been told that I’m a pretty good writer, but I want to be better, more diverse.  This blog has been great for my writing skills, as well as a place where I can organize my thoughts about any given subject, but I want to grow my writing in different ways now.  That means writing longer things, maybe some fiction things, poetry, who knows?  I just don’t want an audience just yet for the inevitable failed experiments.  

I may show up in the future, either on this blog, or on a new one.  I’ll still read blogs, and I promise my comments will be epic, they just won’t be centralized.  

All thanks and love goes to Mehkami, who started this thing, encourages me always, and has played devil’s advocate plenty of times.  Any drafts that I have I hereby give to him to do with as he wishes, and buddy, if you ever want me to edit a post or help you with an idea, of course I’ll be there for you.

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The Dead Law
December 20, 2008

by pegleghippie

This isn’t going anywhere in particular, its just an interesting idea.  I worked this idea into a few government papers at the end of the semester, and I was reminded of it while reading this post by Bing, where he discusses the transient nature of language, and how writing something down ties it to an in-transient document.

Basically, the law, our written laws, are dead.  That doesn’t mean they don’t matter, however, cause they’re still there, taking up space the way a corpse takes up space.  

How is the law dead?  Well when a law is written, it is in reaction to something, some event or concern, that was necessarily raised before the law was written.  In other words, laws account for the past.   And not even the entire past, but one particular moment in the past for each particular law.  Let me simplify: when something happens that our legislators think is sufficiently important, we enshrine that moment, and our collective reaction to that moment, on paper.  

Ok, so the law isn’t forward-looking, so what?  Well look at Bing’s post again, particularly the part about transience.  The world isn’t broken up into distinct moments, time doesn’t start and stop.  Rather, things just keep going.  All the time.  Laws are one of the ways that we say, “hey, look what happened there!  Isolate that period of time.  But time keeps going anyway. So, as time keeps going, we’re left with this law on this paper, continually reminding us of a time that isn’t now.

The Law is a leftover, a “corpse,” if you will, of the past.  In this light, maybe laws aren’t the expression of morals that we often think of them as.  And if that’s the case, that means we aren’t moral people simply by following the law. Instead, being moral is something that we always have to strive for, always do better at than before.  We’re never done being ‘moral.’  

But back to the law.  Is the law a cumbersome corpse, getting in the way because it can’t be constantly ‘becoming,’ the way our lives come into being continuously?  No, instead the law is a-moral, that is, free from moral weight.  It does present moral ideas though, things that we can consider when making decisions.  All of our decisions are based on what we know of the past anyway, ignoring what we wrote down about the past doesn’t free us of that limitation.  

So the law is dead, and can’t be said to give us a moral code.  It does provide some thoughts for behavioral guidance, however.  It’s a corpse, but a very interesting corpse to examine.   And that’s it.  That’s enough continental politics for the night.  Now go out, think carefully about your ethical actions, and break any laws that you decide don’t measure up with a clear conscious.

The New “New Deal”
December 6, 2008

by pegleghippie

I’d prefer the “Millennial Deal,” or “Democratic Deal,” or basically anything with a more historically-appropriate name than the elusive word “new,” but everyone you and I know are going to call this the new new deal, so i’ll just go with it for now.

What I’m talking about is this:

Obama says that he will implement a  massive public works program to fully modernize our nation’s infrastructure, both to create jobs and to become environmentally friendly.  

On top of that, there’s talk of the total spending of this depression reaching a staggering 8.5 trillion dollars.  That’s just mind boggling, but it’s also big enough to really get things moving again.  I’ll let Paul Krugman explain why this is a good idea.

So basically I’m really really fucking impressed.  Obama is doing what progressives have been saying needs to be done.  He isn’t playing politics, or “triangulating,” as the Clintons called it.  Sure we can complain that his cabinet is “too beltway,” but that’s a pretty minor complaint considering that he seems to be acting like a better-informed FDR.  In fact, that’s the only complaint that us lefties seem to have.

 Shortly before the election (and before the financial meltdown), I wrote that, based on where our country was, there was nothing significant that Obama had proposed that I myself wouldn’t do.  It turns out that my assessment was more true than I thought, because I wasn’t expecting this crisis, or this type of direction out of the crisis.  A new New Deal is what we’ve been waiting for, and, amazingly, it seems that that’s what we’re getting. 

Just goes to show, absolutely anything is possible in politics, so dream big.

Venting about Humanity
November 24, 2008

by pegleghippie

*sigh*

This semester has done a lot to make me better relate to my fellow humans.  I’ve gotten to know people who think very much like I do, which is a nice validation for my sanity.  I’ve also gotten to know people who think very differently from me, and I’ve come to really appreciate the multitude of perspectives.  Now I’ve been surrounded by people with different views my whole life, but only recently have I come to not be so concerned with bringing those people closer to my perspective.

But recently, and especially tonight, I’ve felt that many of my peers have been less-than-hospitable, less than open to the very diversity that lets me be open to them.

I’m speaking of my involvement in the Student Government.  This is not a strictly political post, but some of the conservatives in SGA have been… irritating.  Last week two of my fellow senators voted against supporting an anti-genocide group on campus, even though there was no required cost or time involvement in the bill.  One senator said he voted against it because “psshh, I don’t care about Darfur.”  I don’t know if that’s true or not, I do know that he has a bit of a grudge against the senator who wrote the bill for his various legislative shenanigans and over-the-top personality.  He went through the rest of the meeting groaning and making a scene every time anything happened that failed to meet his approval. 

The other one who voted against it did so because he’s a libertarian, and doesn’t believe that the rest of the world is any of our business.  As frustrating as that position may be, it’s not necessarily an antagonistic view.  Tonight, however, this same senator used a procedural, political trick to kill a bill before we could discuss it.  We used to have certain rules in place that kept this from happening, but we removed those rules because they were unwieldy, and we collectively decided that we trusted each other enough to commit to honest debate, instead of dirty tricks.  Now there’s talk of bringing back the more unwieldy, less charitable procedures.  I feel that if we need rules to protect ourselves from dick moves, even in something as informal as a group of college peers, then we replace the opportunity for human connection with legalize and impersonal procedure.

In an effort to not just be down on conservatives, there’s another guy whose politics I largely agree with, but who has a dick side of his own.  He has this habit of giving arguments against something that we’ve done after we’ve done it.  I’m not sure why these objections don’t come up during debate.  Maybe he wants us to feel that we’ve made a mistake for some reason, or maybe he’s just releasing steam, but it makes this normally intelligent person look like a dumbass with no sense of timing. He also continually comes up with fun ideas, does nothing to think out the idea or research the consequences, then gets upset when he gets shot down.  On both of these annoying habits, I guess he just doesn’t like getting input from other people, and that really bothers me.  It seems so close-minded. 

The reason these minor things have got me down is two-fold:  First, these events are just recent examples of long term behavior that has slowly gotten under my skin.  Second, in my Peace and Conflict class, we’ve been discussing the need for forgiveness after a genocide, how to forgive is to acknowledge the past without assigning blame or identifying current people with past atrocities.  

From what I can tell, the peace process never moves forward without some level of forgiveness.  The only exceptions are when one side annihilates the other, leaving no one to be reconciled to (like the Native Americans), and when conflicting groups are sufficiently geographically separated and militarily repressed (the various factions of the Balkans are now organized into homogeneous regions).  

The ability to forgive is the ability to assume the best in a person, to see them as human, and give them all the respect that “human-ness” entails.  So it’s a bit depressing when a group of college students, coming from more-or-less similar economic and cultural backgrounds, fail to conceive of each other in such respectful terms.  If we, of all people, can’t treat each other decently, how are the victim’s of genocide and international calamity going to embrace decency?  It takes a lot of trust to break political cycles of violence and repression, and right now, I just don’t see enough trust in my fellow humans to make the future any better than today.

My conservative peer’s childish behavior, my libertarian peer’s use of politics as a weapon, and my liberal peer’s distaste for other’s opinions, all display a lack of respect for “the other.”  This is all just as I begin to really understand this concept of respect, and really start to pursue connecting to very different people in a meaningful way.  

I’ve always been told that I act more open-minded than most, and that my indifference towards cultural norms and biases are something special.  I don’t see why it’s special though.  Liking people, all people, shouldn’t be difficult or idealistic.  It should be the expected response to otherness, the state of mind that grown-ups adopt in order to live in a world that is both functional and worthwhile.  

Waking Life
November 14, 2008

by Pegleghippie

I have a new favorite movie.  It’s called Waking Life, a 2001 film by Richard Linklater, and I’m a little jealous that it exists, because that means that I don’t get to be the creator of such an awesome piece of art.  

Honestly, I was beaten at philosophy tonight.  I didn’t know it was a competition until this film came along and totally kicked my ass.  Now I know a little more about the stakes involved.

Waking Life follows a guy as he has various philosophical discussions with/dreams about writers, philosophers, psychopaths, crackpots, filmmakers, imaginative figments, and one very pissed off libertarian.  Many of these are real people really being interviewed about their area of expertise (oddly, many are faculty from the University of Texas at Austin), but the interviews flow seamlessly between real and imagined.

And imagination is really very important here.  The protagonist spends a long segment of the film not knowing if he is awake or dreaming, and the settings only subtly clue you in.  Eventually he becomes aware that he is in a lucid dream, which turns into a bizarre series of dreams-within-dreams, and the discussions turn increasingly towards what a dream-like reality entails.  Things end with the suggestion that all these dreams are the last firing of consciousness before the protagonist dies, but the narrative is unclear about whether this actually happens.

I can’t accurately summarize everything I loved about this movie.  Top of the list is the conversations, which are consistently mind-blowingly well thought out.  Here’s one example of an earlier one:

Insane, right?  and there are dozens of these, on a wide variety of topics, in the movie.  You could teach a course on this movie alone, going topic by topic, exploring each one for all that it’s worth.

Next thing I loved was the animation.  I’m sure you noticed from the first clip, this movie looks strange.  The style changes at least every scene, and often in the middle of a scene.  The strangeness of dreams is very well captured here.

I’ll admit, if you don’t like philosophy you will not like this movie.  Fortunately for me, I love philosophy, and this movie challenges me in ways I had not even considered.  I need to get a copy of it and watch it until I’m comfortable with the discussions.  Only then will I feel qualified to really engage with all these topics, and to conceptualize exactly what it is that Linklater did here.  

If you do like philosophy, even a little bit, see this movie.  I doubt you will regret it, and it may even change your life.

This may be all over the place…
November 6, 2008

by pegleghippie

So recent events (the election last night, playing guitar hero tonight) have crossed with my philosophy classes in my mind to form some ideas that I want to sort out.  I will do my best to connect the ideas in some way, but no promises.  I’m telling myself I’m writing this for an audience because I think they’ll find it interesting, but there’s just as much of a chance that I’m writing this to talk to myself, in a way (sorry, I’ve been reading about deconstruction, and ever since I’ve had the nasty habit of deconstructing whatever I’m writing as I’m writing it.  I’ll do my best to refrain from here on out.)

Anyway, first a take on my favorite obscure philosopher, Bataille.  Specifically his view of consciousness.  Normally I don’t like the consciousness debate, but his views lead to some fun philosophy.  Bataille was a fan of the “pre-reflective consciousness,” also known as “lack of self-awareness,” or as he termed it, “theopathy.”  What he was talking about is traditionally understood as the idea of a mystical experience, like zen, or transcendence, or buddhist enlightenment.  

I don’t mean to sound like i’m spreading woo. All through history people have found themselves feeling connected to things greater than themselves, to the point where they stop self-analyzing and just interact with the experience.  Similarly, people have spent lifetimes trying to get back to that experience, and often tied the experience into the supernatural.  Supernatural causes weren’t really what Bataille was into, instead he found these moments in deviant sexuality, like BDSM, but also in simple things, like smoking a cigarette, or taking a coffee break.  

I break from Bataille in a few ways.  First, why is this state is so important? I’ve had plenty of “transcendent” moments in life, some purposeful and as Sometimes accidental.  Sometimes its meaningful, sometimes it is just fun. At the same time there are plenty of moments where I really enjoy being self-aware.  Consciousness, much of the time, is pretty sweet!

Second, I think that maybe this is a matter of degree.  You’re aware of yourself, but you don’t have to think about your heart, or you liver.  Unless something goes wrong, in which case your awareness has expanded. I guess that isn’t so sweet.  But this illustrates where I’m going with the degree thing.  

Stick with me here.  Imagine the pre-reflective state of mind, going along its own business, fitting into the pattern of some larger whole.  Suddenly, something appears to the consciousness that doesn’t fit the pattern.  Like getting heart burn, suddenly the consciousness has to account for something that is just weird, something that takes an analysis to deal with.  If the pre-reflective consciousness is to successfully account for the discrepancy, it will have to define itself in relation to the discrepancy.

Ok, now imagine yourself, everything you are aware of, and everything around you that you are not aware of.  You’re self aware, but you aren’t aware of your intestines, because your intestines fit a larger pattern.  When something starts to hurt, you analyze things so you can experience a more comfortable level of awareness.

I’m going to leave the different levels behind now.  This is where things get strange, but at the same time I don’t think I’m writing anything you don’t know here.  The intestine pain isn’t really without a pattern.  It’s not random, it has a cause, say evil bacteria, and fits into a larger pattern of Earth’s biology that is just too complex for the human mind to fully recognize.  A self-aware consciousness is just a consciousness capable of admitting that the pattern we think we are a part of is just a simplification of larger, more complex patterns.  

I thought of this playing guitar hero (I know, I know, I should be studying).  Think of a beat in a song.  now imagine a guitar playing along with the beat.  Suddenly, the guitar plays something quick, something that doesn’t seem to fit the beat, just for a moment.  Of course, if it’s a well written song, it does fit into the overall math of the music.  But it gets our attention because we’re experiencing the beat, and we don’t imagine that the songwriter planned anything more complex than that.  

Now to the next level: to go with the following example, Say maybe we pick up an instrument, or learn some musical theory, and then the change in the song doesn’t surprise us anymore.  This would mean that the pattern we’re experiencing is more complex than before, we’ve expanded our pre-reflective consciousness.

So the reflective consciousness allows us to expand the range of our pre-reflective consciousness.  It’s a cyclical relationship, both feeding the other, and oftentimes both go on simultaneously.  Should we see one as the goal?  I don’t think so.  Maybe it’s important to know the difference between analyzing something and experiencing something, but I don’t think we should be so dualistic about the two concepts.  

I may have had a transition to this next part when I started this, but I’m not seeing it now.  Oh well, you get two posts in one!  Don’t worry, this part is shorter.

Now, a word on Democracy.  I’ve long wondered why we don’t qualify democracy as simply a political committal of the ad populum fallacy.  Ad populum, for the record, is the fallacy of arguing that a position is correct because lots of people hold that position.  The problem is, of course, that all those people can be wrong.  Importantly, even everyone ever could be wrong about a position.  So we appeal to a different set of standards.  

Democracy, at its most basic, involves asking everyone what side of a position they think is right, and then taking action based on which side has the most people behind it.  It’s like the perfect illustration of the ad populum fallacy.  As long as we’re talking about right and wrong, I don’t see any way around it, really.  Democracy is inherently illogical.

At the same time, democratic governments are more peaceful, richer, and advance faster than any other form of government humanity has tried.  Philosophically, only an idealistic anarchy seems more equatorial, more focused on humanism, in short, more legitimate than the democratic attempt to make political decisions that benefit a polity.  Additionally, people like democracy.  If a group comes to a democratic decision, the minority may grumble, but they usually go along with the decision.  

So how to explain this divide?  We have logic so we can make smart decisions, yet our best political tool for making decisions is illogical.  

We do what good philosophers always do.  We challenge the assumptions.  A couple paragraphs back, I just described the democratic process as  “asking everyone what side of a position they think is right, and then taking action based on which side has the most people behind it.”  Why the assumption that Democracy is settling a question of right and wrong?  Can we still have democracy if we ignore questions of truth at the ballot box?

I think we can.  Instead of looking for a right, I propose that the democratic process is asking everyone what experiences, given society’s limited resources, should society pursue for its members, and in what manner, and then taking action based on which path the most people prefer.  Logic only enters into the equation for the “choosing the manner” part of things.

 Because of limited resources and limited time, we can’t afford to make universal proclamations about right and wrong. We can only compare our plans, argue and compromise about them, and, once it’s time to make a decision, use democratic machinery to pick a path.  An advantage of democracy is that since people are involved in the decision making process, previous decisions that led to unwelcome experiences serve as a feedback loop, and the next vote goes differently than the previous one.

So to sum up, the line between simple awareness and self-awareness is fuzzy at best, and Democracy isn’t logical, but we should stick with it anyway, cause it’s not about logical decisions.  Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Congratulations Mr. Obama! Now don’t fuck this up
November 5, 2008

by pegleghippie

Tell me if this was your experience last night.

When it was called for Obama (right after VA went for him!  Being a swing state payed off!), I first felt an immense sense of relief–Our nation was serious about being a first-world nation again, and the silliness of republicans wouldn’t be the norm anymore.

Then I felt immense pride, and humility, because I wasn’t sure the American people had it in them to vote for a black man.  Not just a black man, a progressive, multi-ethnic man with a world perspective instead of an American one.  But the American people proved to me that they weren’t the hicks and yokels that I find myself characterizing them as.

But then, THEN, I felt an enormous sense of responsibility.  The American people were trusting a guy from my side to run things.  We couldn’t be the minority that complained and critiqued from the outside once Obama got elected.  We have to get results now.

So Mr. Obama, don’t fuck this up.  There will be plenty of arenas, not to mention opportunities, to fuck up.  

Arenas like the progressive arena, where we will hold your feet to the fire constantly, and anytime you take action that isn’t to relieve suffering, we will be on you.  

Another arena, and a bigger one, is America at large.  The majority trusts you, that is, they trust us.  we can’t fail this country, especially not now.

Finally, there is the world at large.  We have a reputation to save with Europe and a continent to save with Africa.  It’s getting to the point where if we don’t do something now, the damage may be irreparable.

So right now, I still feel joy!  And I will be so pissed if the man I trusted violates that joy.

The Importance of a lack of Difference
October 21, 2008

by pegleghippie

As you may know/may have expected, I’ve been watching the presidential campaigns closely. I’ve come to the conclusion that, given where America is today (way the fuck to the right), I can only find tiny differences between what I think should be done and what Obama has said he will do.

Don’t worry; I’m still a member of the Left, officially even (I’m still a member of the Green party and all).  But when I look at what I know of the country, it seems really, really far away from where I want it to be.  I’ll go so far as to say that America is dangerously right and dangerously authoritarian.

 From what I understand, part of the financial meltdown came from rich people coming up against a wall of not being able to earn more money; they maxed the system out.  These sub-prime loans and deregulation were a way to allow the rich to draw even more wealth out of the poor.  But because the distribution of wealth was about as upwardly polarized as possible, the system has begun to topple over from becoming too top heavy.

As to the Authoritarianism, people are afraid to speak out, to protest, to dissent.  “Free speech zones” are defended by the legal system, and the rights of some are consistently held up over the rights of all.

The danger of all this is that it isn’t sustainable.  Going this far out of the center is starting to cause real problems, and may be the beginning of the end for America.

If I were to be put in charge of this system, I couldn’t just twist a few nobs and deliver America into a Green-style government.  It would be too much too fast, and, at least at first, it would be a quicker dissemination of the country than what the right is doing now.  Even Kucinich, as a lefty democrat, would be too much change too quick.  I would take a few things that would stabilize the system, such as reforming health care, moderate tax increases to stop the upward flow, and re-integration of more-or-less “equality under the law.”  After that, I’d work for reforms to make things better without shaking things up dangerously.  It would be a big shift leftward for this country, but none of it would actually be a tactic of the left.

Enter Obama: a pragmatist, a little conservative, but pretty much espousing all the ideas that I just mentioned. Especially compared to Mccain’s asinine recent rhetoric, Obama’s rhetoric is very encouraging.  He comes across like he cares about the country, knows how to address it’s problems, and is going to have an eye out for the little guy while he’s at it.  Especially since he’s largely dropped the “reach across the aisle” stuff and has gone full on economic populist (This is pretty much because of the housing crisis, but hey look! a silver lining!).  

Things like improving education and helping people go to and pay for college will begin to pull America out of its dark age.  Universal healthcare, even if watered down, will lead to a healthier, wealthier citizenry.  Investing in environmental initiatives and our national infrastructure will make our industrial activities sustainable while creating jobs and setting us up to get about our business without worries.  None of those things involve giving the market free reign over our lives, but all of it seems necessary.  

Meanwhile, John Mccain has remained an old coot.  “He’s a socialist!” “He’s a terrorist!” “He’s a young whippersnapper!”  “Bush’s policies are too awesome, just let me behind the wheel this time!”  It’s getting silly, and a little desperate.  

So lets say that Obama gets elected and accomplishes those three domestic goals of education reform, healthcare reform, and an environmental reboot for our nation.  If he does it before his term is up, I’ll be right there calling for more action to empower the little guy and reign in corporate greed.  If he sits on his laurels, or if he finds other ways to take democrats right-ward, I may announce Obama is a sellout and there’s no hope for the Democrats in this country.  

But we aren’t there yet.  Right now, what Obama proposes and what I would do are too close for me to complain, and what Mccain proposes is a recipe for disaster.  The difference between me and Mccain is enormous, The difference between Obama and myself, right now, is miniscule.  If Cynthia Mckinney were to magically find herself as president on November 5th, I don’t see any responsible way that she could act differently than what Obama has said he would do.  Whether you’re a Green, a Democrat, a socialist, or even an anarchist, we are at a point now where all of our interests require the same leftward pull; and this election, Obama is the man to do the pulling.

Religious Thought…
October 16, 2008

by pegleghippie

What if religions marketed themselves as experiences, rather than truth claims?  Like what if, instead of describing reality in terms of an interventionist monotheistic god, christianity was all, “churches are pretty, singing hymns is fun, and thinking about this idea will make you feel transcendent and loved?”

At no point do they have to claim that the love is true, or that the worshipper really transcended anything.  Just sell the experience.  Make bible stories (myths) parables for how to reach that experience.  If any stories don’t work, get rid of them.  If you think of a sweet new one, make it canonical.  

If you can’t tell, I’ve been reading lots of bataille. 

Imagine if Martin Luther, instead of posting 95 theses, went to the catholic church and said, “I have a new business model for you?”  If they rejected it, he would just set himself up, like he did anyway, but there’d be no need to fight a war.  Well maybe an advertising war.  “Catholicism:  The original God-high!”

Really, this is what people believe anyway when they come up with little personal religions. I don’t think too many people are so arrogant as to think they’ve stumbled onto the most accurate picture of reality, then keep it to themselves.  Of course some do claim they’re prophets, and get followers and such, and that leads to big religions.  I think all thats fine, as long as these prophets never claim to actually know anything.  Sell your asceticism, your transubstantiation, your nirvana, your piety, your sacred.  Just don’t make any pretensions about the whole thing.

Hell, people would probably start being multiple-consumers, collecting religious experiences.

“This guy’s gonna get an ass full of pipe wrench!”
October 11, 2008

this is what Aha should’ve done the firs time around.  hehe.