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.

The Divisive Power of Religion
November 5, 2008

Or, why I hate Christians, Jews, and Muslims. (Not so much on the Muslims. They keep pretty well to themselves.) (Or the Jews really. I just hate Christians.)

This election has brought out the worst of the religious fiends. Obama is not the anti-Christ. But they’ll have you believe he is! Massive numbers of Facebook statuses out there today with hateful messages like, “I can’t believe we elected a President who doesn’t believe this is a Christian nation.” Newsflash! America is much more than a Christian nation. It’s a Christian nation and a Jewish nation and a Muslim nation and an atheist nation and a gay nation and straight nation and yes, you’ve heard Obama’s 2004 convention speech before.

Somehow, though, the religious fundamentalists will still turn such a progressive and ground breaking election into a spectacle of hate. Mongering about anti-Christs and Christian Nations prompted me to start some arguments with them about how wrong they are. Needless to say, their first proposition was woefully unprepared, as they had nothing to say to back up the point that he was indeed the opposite of their lord god. (caps intended.)

And when confronted about the Christian Nation part? I bluntly told them that they do not live in a Christian nation, and repeated the Obamamantra from a paragraph ago. (About the multi-ethnic melting pot that is this cesspool of hatred and intolerance we call America.) A majority of them, here in the deep south of Texas, actually responded with this.

“Yeah, so we bring them to Christ!”

Seriously??

It’s not your job to convert us lowly heathens. We’ve made our choices. You’ve made yours. Stop converting people. If they want it, they’ll let you know.

Jesus.

Pun intended.

I mean, what force has been more destructive than the Christian religion? The Crusades, the Biblical Genocides, the Spanish Inquisition, even the Holocaust (by association) were perpetrated by these almighty vicars of faith and good will. Catholic Pedophiles and Evangelist Money Launderers. Ugh. I’m so disgusted.

Atheists are the real angels. Tolerant to the extreme. God is dead, save yourselves.

November 4th is here. Will you be successful or guilty?
October 31, 2008

November 4th. I’ve been anticipating this day for almost 2 years. My man, my candidate, Barack Obama, is holding a significant lead and shows no signs of slowing. The electoral map swings heavily in his favor. He’s had one of the most efficient, effective, and mobile campaigns ever.

Why, then, do I feel so apprehensive?

Because we know it can be stolen. It’s happened before, in 2004. That’s why it requires a landslide victory this year.

So let’s assume we get our landslide victory. God save us if we don’t, so let’s keep hope alive for a bit longer. What happens? The democrats control the executive and legislative branches of government. Three supreme court justices positions should be opening soon, allowing for the easy nomination of acceptably liberal candidates. Perhaps then, we will see social progress and economic advancement, domestic and global.

What’s left to fear? The back-to-back victories of George W. Bush haunt our memories. I hear over and over on the airwaves that ‘The Republican brand may be irreparably damaged.’ Well, from my point of view that’s a wonderful thing. We need it to be damaged. We need them ruined. No more shall the hypocritical Christian right control our social agenda. We need the Republican party to stop existing.

Corruption abounds in their little circle-jerk of theft and retheft.  Deregulation led to a bailout which enriched the shrinking number of party faithful. My mind brings up V for Vendetta, the well-timed and underestimated comic book style movie which highlighted so well this dictatotorial regime. In the end, the entire party was destroyed in the symbolic demolition of the British Parliament.

Put Barack Obama in the White House. Don’t sit at home on November 4th. You must vote, no matter where you live. I live in Texas. This state will never be anything but Republican in the electoral college.

But that little teasing thought remains… what if we turned Texas blue? The Republicans are demoralized and democrats are mobilized. Maybe this year is the year all 50 states cry out for a new path. Get out there and vote… and vote straight ticket democratic. Let’s enable Barack Obama to put this country right. Let’s get his efficiency and intelligent to use.

Please go vote. I’m begging you. Take your friends with you. Carpool there. Get everyone. Do it, because if McCain wins, you will regret it. And in 40 years when your grandchildren ask you, “Did you vote for Barack Obama?” you’ll have the pride to stand up and say you did. Just like our grandparents voted for Kennedy. It’s time… don’t fail us now.

“B” to the “i” to the “d” “e” “n”
August 23, 2008

by pegleghippie

Obama is announcing it today.  Not the worse choice, although my hope-against-hope that it would be Kucinich is dead (can you think of a better assassination deterrent for right wingers than the thought of Kucinich as president?)  Biden is a smart guy, led the fight for stricter gun control in the 90s, and he heads the foreign relations committee.  He’s old as fuck though, at 65.  If Obama wins two terms, we may see Biden as the de facto nominee in 2016, at age 73, older than John McCain is now.

 And if he didn’t run then (and he really shouldn’t) then the country has to do the whole double-primary thing again. I just think it would be easier to have someone who could ride Obama’s momentum.  Then again Gore was supposed to ride Clinton momentum, and that didn’t go so well, so maybe this is more strategic.

It’s probably a good idea for Obama to have someone from the old school of democratic politics in his administration.  It’ll be a good balance for his stated goal of giving American politics an upgrade.  At the same time, I would rather have a VP who wholly reinforced the President’s vision, and saved the various dissenting views for lower cabinet positions.

During the run up to the primaries, Biden and Richardson were the only two dems that I liked less than Mrs. Clinton.  That was as a president though.  Somehow I’m not as put off by him as a VP.  We’ll see how it goes.

Oh and I read somewhere that Mccain was this close to picking Romney, then the house(s) scandal broke, and the McCain campaign was scared that announcing Romney would just reinforce the “out of touch rich white guys” perception.

McCain in Good Health (Reporters checkmate doctors.)
May 23, 2008

I just got done listening in on a teleconference involving McCain’s dermatologist, the surgeon who performed the skin cancer removal on his left temple, the CEO of the hospital he went to, and several others. I wasn’t able to ask questions but several reporters were able to.

In the beginning of the teleconference, they said he has 4 malignant melanoma’s. One invasive (meaning deep, and touching stuff) which was on his temple (which by the way is near the brain) and three non-invasive (on the shoulder, arm, and nasal wall.) All were removed, with no sign of reoccurrence.

However, later in the conference, a reporter asked about something they saw on his medical records… One of the ‘non-invasive’ melanomas, the one on his shoulder… was actually invasive! The doctors all got dumb, speechless. ‘Have no information’, you know the drill.

Reporters check-mating doctors makes me chuckle.

Apparently he’s also in great heart health, doing well on stress tests.

Unless another reporter points out the mild hypertension and blood sugar ‘anomalies.’ Which will be further mitigated by the fact that he’s taking medication for his 4 kidney stones, 4 bladder stones… because this medication (Couldn’t catch the spelling of the name over the voice) exacerbates hypertension.

Whoo boy. Father died of stroke and he has signs of heart problems, and he’ll be 72 and our oldest president. Whoo boy.

Now I’m not really all that worried about his health. I’m more worried about the discrepencies by his medical records and doctors, this lack of communication. Whatever, he’s healthy, yay, he’s okay to be a candidate.

BUT

His policy views still suck. No more Bush, folks. Vote Obama ’08.

We didn’t say his name! Honest!
May 16, 2008

More of the usual diatribe from the GOP. Bush’s outlandish statement against ‘some people’ on Thursday are indicative of the same fear-mongering, the same foreign policy failure, the same global alienation that he’s failed to realize, are wrong.

In case you haven’t read it, let me show it to you.

Bush – “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: ‘Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.’ We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement.”

Yeah. Go Bush! Way to blast your own country in front of the 60th anniversary of Israel… an event about foreign policy. Discussing domestic issues at a foreign event… isn’t there some sort of law against that?

I guess not. But hey, this is actually turning out to be a good thing… Let me show you my mathematical formula for how the democrats win the presidential election.

A = Bush
B = McCain
C = Obama

You ready? Here we go!

(B / A) < C

A very simple equation. McCain actually supporting the remarks of President Dumbass is another huge negative mark on his record. In fact, being anywhere near the President is an obviously stupid political move. Noone likes George W. Bush, Sen. John McVain.

BUT WAIT WAIT WAIT. HOLD THE PRESSES. They didn’t say Obama’s name! (I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you…) Despite McCain’s previous assertions that Obama’s a terrorist ally, they are obviously referring to a hypothetical ‘some people’ and not the democratic nominees. Obviously not going to use age-old political attacks, the entire rhyme and reason of the GOP itself. They wouldn’t do that, they’re above that.

H’okay.

I’m starting to understand the media.
May 14, 2008

I think I understand why the media wants Clinton to drop out… I mean, everyone knows why. They have nothing to write about, since this dragging on of the primary is completely predictable. We know what the numbers and results are going to be a week before the primary actually takes place. Analysts talk about the results and pundits make predictions and none of America is surprised. This is why the media wants Clinton to drop out.

And for once, I TOTALLY AGREE WITH THE MEDIA. I have had nothing to write about. Everyone knows what’s going on long before I get to hear about it, or have time to write about it. I guess I’m not supposed to be relaying news… I’m supposed to be relaying opinions. But still… what opinions can you have on predictable statistics? (Cue Pegleghippie writing a long comment about opinions on statistics…)

Everyone knows Mr. Obama’s won the nomination, and needs to start campaigning for the Presidency. That’s what the news media is hungry for, and me too… I need inspiration.

EDIT: WOW. As I’m writing this post, Clinton gives a good interview. On Cnn’s ‘The Situation Room’, she maintained her position on staying IN the race. (Bad.) But she also said that she would work hard for Obama if he were to win, and that her voters would be ‘in error’ to vote for McCain over Obama.

Mm, tasty. Finally, the innards of the big oily machine are going to come crashing down the GOP.