Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The F-Team (the "F" is for "F-Team")

When doing a bit of yard work today (read: searching for buried treasure—according to a map I bought from some neighborhood kids, I live directly on top of a giant, crayola-red X!) I was bit (bitten? bote?) by a rather fat, squat, hairy little spider (it was one of these, I believe). He was a tenacious bugger, I’ll give him that—I swear he swung around like a hairy, bulbous pendulum when I tried to shake him off.

Anyways, that’s my tragic backstory. Right now, all I got to do is lean back and let the super powers develop. Currently, the needle on the Superpower-ometer is resting at “Redness, Swelling, throbbing pain.” But tomorrow? Well, lemme just say that whatever happens, the t-shirt printing place has told me that they won’t take back the custom Lycra costume I bought there, with “Spiderwoman” (uh, copyright issues—it was just easier this way) printed across the bust region in the most crime-avenging font you've ever seen (courier, that is).

So.

Anyone up for a crime fighting duo, trio, possibly even quadro? Spiderwoman is taken, obviously, but the way I see it, I still need a “The Amazing Cerebellum!” or some such to act as the brains, some sort of minority-centric hero (“The Affirmative Axeman”?; “Generic Asian Ninja Man”? "Black Man"?) to help our play with the hip-hop demographic, as well as a boy liege (“Boy Man”?) to act as a deux ex machina to get us out of tough spots when our writers overzealously ensare us.

Also, I’m in the market for a spiritual mentor. Must be gruff and cantankerous, but with a heart of gold and a penchant for random epigrammatic exclamations. May need to die at the hands of my future arch nemesis in order to fuel my rage and signal my full maturation as an independent crime fighting entity. Good dental and health plan available, salary negotiable, must provide own transportation and underground armory filled with fantabulous weaponry.

A couple of metaphors

So, to answer my question, irony is just sarcasm with a top hat, monocle and perfect Queen's English diction.

-----

Studying for the LSAT right now. The analytical reasoning section is giving me problems. I've tried everything: diagrams, symbolic logic operators, crying, reverse psychology, crying some more, blackmailing, promises of ice cream, seduction, epic quests to attain supernatural knowledge--none of it seems to be working.

The analytical reasoning section is horrible--it's Sudoku's anti-social, purposefully misanthropic brother. Like, yunno, he'd be kinda of a cool, congenial guy if he would just drop the arrogant sciolism and stop giving me wedgies.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Phrase o' the Day

"glam rock-inspired androgyny"

You've seen people with this affliction before, no doubt. Now you have a name for it.

Categorize, my young Linnaeus, categorize!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The "So what exactly is the difference between sarcasm and irony?" Blog Post

I appreciate the "Boondocks" cartoon for its subtle social commentary and nuanced worldview.

A few remarks on a reply to a rejoinder to a reply to my "Concluding thoughts on protests," which were apparently well short of conclusive

Remarking on the reply made here, by Mr. Robbins (Shawshank Redemption; Anchorman; Zathura: A Space Adventure). His comments indented, bolded, mine, not so much.
Every step towards the pure idea is an improvement and loosening borders is a step towards equality of opportunity. And I do believe that perfect liberty and perfect equality can co-exist (and I believe the other three you mentioned are just variations or derivatives of these two).
Well, it matters how you conceptualize liberty, equality and security. I don’t believe that security is a species of either liberty or equality, and I do believe that liberty, equality and security cannot exist together in perfect forms. In fact, they cannot exist even independently in a well-run society.

Pure liberty—open the jails and turn out the criminals; eliminate all taxation or interference from the government—indeed, eliminate government all together; allow all actions howsoever destructive and antisocial. Thomas Hobbes famously imagined a state of pure liberty in the state of nature—it was a war of all against all. Every man had a right to everything. Chaos. Violence. Anarchy. These are synonyms for pure liberty, and make life “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Pure equality—the tale of pure equality is the gruesome tale of Procrustes. Procrustes, a bandit in Greek mythology, made men equal by adjusting them to his bed. Those too large, he cut into the right proportions. Those too small, he stretched, as with a rack, until they fit perfectly. Humans, beyond a basic moral equality (with which egalitarians are never satisfied), are unequal. Attempts to equalize unequal men have meant the gulags of Russia, or, less dramatically, the stultifying malaise of Eurosocialism.

Not only can liberty and equality not exist independently in a pure state, they cannot exist together in purity. Give men liberty and those that are exceptional in ability will excel and flourish while the less well situated will struggle to make ends meet—liberty will devour equality. Enforce material equality through laws, through heavy taxation, through strict regulation—equality devours liberty.

As I said at the outset, liberty and equality can be conceptualized so as to not be antagonistic—but I think in doing so we give to liberty and equality definitions at odds with our common intuitions. If pure liberty is not total liberty, free from all fetters, then what is pure liberty? And if pure equality is not equality in everything, then what is it equality in?

If, however, you have perfected the synthesis between liberty and equality, please inform me, so that I might publish it and become rich—or at least the political philosopher version of rich, which means I’ll be able to afford enough fresh fruit to fend off scurvy for another few days.
This would be a tangent to get into, especially because I don't know your reasons for believing they can't co-exist, but essentially, if you're familiar with John Locke's "second treatise of government". I believe that what he wrote there is a society that could practically exist and that would guarantee equality and liberty.
Locke allowed that equality and liberty could coexist, somewhat uneasily, in a state of nature. However, both his equality and liberty were asserted. As for equality, Locke thought that we were, all of us, “promiscuously born to all the same advantages of Nature, and the use of the same faculties.” I think this is obviously not the case. There is a basic moral equality we all share, but as for our advantages and faculties—these we definitely do not share. We are manifestly unequal.

Locke’s liberty, it seems, is in a similar boat. He was able to escape a Hobbesian war of all against all only by saying that although the state of nature is a “state of perfect freedom” it nevertheless falls “within the bounds of the laws of nature.” There are laws of nature which circumscribe our freedom even in its pure form, outside the state. How? We are all God’s property, in Locke’s view. He made us, He owns us—and so our liberty is beholden to his dictates.

Maybe one can find such a theological stance on liberty appealing—I believe there is much to be said for a basic natural law perspective. However, I don’t think this is an instance of pure liberty. It is exactly the role of natural law to rescue us from our pure, licentious liberty. Liberty, even for Locke, must be qualified by God’s will, else it is a perverse liberty.
We may never realize pure liberty or equality (although I believe we will, in the far far future)
This may be the case, I believe, quite aside from anything I’ve said so far. But, when this pure liberty and pure equality are realized, it will not be our current, intuitive conceptualizations of liberty and equality that are so realized. Further, it may not be we, in our current conceptualization of humanity, that ends up realizing it.
Given enough facts the majority will always choose the right answer, and gaining those facts is a slow, but thankfully inevitable process.
I wish I had your optimism, from the categorical “always” just dripping with faith in the masses, to the providential “inevitable,” looking bright-eyed toward the future. Me, I’m no fan of democracy myself—I say with Churchill that it’s simply the least bad political system out there, not to be glorified in itself, but only in light of its alternatives. I don’t love democracy because of what it is, I endure it because of what it isn’t.
My lofty opinion of immigrants . . .
I have nothing against immigrants. Insofar as they are individuals, I’d kick back with any of ‘em and shoot the breeze. Insofar as they are marching down my streets demanding this or that, dude, they get the stone cold rebuke I give to any street pollution.
You seem to take a lot of what I say and turn it into absolute ideas. When I say that "Rationality can only remain a quiet thing when it exists in a society that is free and fair.", you say that rationality can never exist. ... Its a good argumentative tactic, but it doesn't really help either of us learn anything or approach truth
If you're speaking of free and fair as pure ideas, then they can never exist in a society, for reasons mentioned earlier. Therefore, if you make rationality contingent on the presence of these, pure, perfect, “Platonic” conceptions of freedom and fairness, you will never have rationality. It is simply an implication of positing perfection as a necessary precondition for rationality, that rationality cannot exist without perfection.

If such a rendering is absolute, it is the result of the rhetoric of pure ideals you employ, not any argumentative tactic of mine.

However, if you speak loosely of freedom and fairness as the best we can hope to achieve in this imperfect world, then, sure, rationality is possible. This is my view. Rationality is possible, and should be employed, even in an imperfect state. It is a quiet thing, Rationality, and so we must bend our necks and still our passions in order to hear its soft whisper--that is the point I was trying to make in my initial post.
The immigrant protests in France right now are doomed. I am confident that they will result in more bad than good simply because of the way they are being carried out.
Ah, a little bit of French bashing. Everyone can agree on that—even, remarkably, the self-loathing French. It’s the glue that binds the worlds together.
Protests are a form of education that will inform the public. Anything that (correctly) informs the public will bring us closer to Truth.
Education indeed. These protests taught me how much I really hate protests. Which leads you to wonder at their efficacy--how many others have been taught the same?

Monday, May 22, 2006

A belated response to Megan in which I repeatedly use the word "hypnagogic," because, well, I just like it, okay?

[Notes on citation: In this post I quote from John Searle's essay "Meaning, Communication and Representation" and Donald Davidson's "A Nice Derangment of Epitaphs," both from the collection Philosophical Grounds of Rationality, edited by Richard Grandy and Richard Warner.]

Megan, responding to my post awhile back, "A brief word on words":
yes, but what if the words are interpreted in a different light. Does that make the listener wrong? I would argue that we also choose words to have meanings that will be seen in the light we mean them, not just in the light we want them. If I were to call you an asshole but mean it as a compliment, that wouldn't necessarily mean you were flattered.
If the listener misinterprets a word, she did just that—misinterpreted. She is wrong in her interpretation. It is the nature of language—and so not necessarily a flaw in a theory of language or a theory of interpretation—that statements can be misinterpreted. Relatedly, instances of communication through language are often wrong, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t instances of communication through language—Searle writes, “For example, the weatherman who predicts rain only to be confronted by a sunny day violates no rule of language. He is simply mistaken.”

That's a minor quibble. Megan is getting at a relevant objection--but to see its relevance, we first need to clarify the grounds of the debate, as it were. In my initial post about Humpty I didn’t really clarify the problem or explain why its important or purposeful to establish, as I asserted, that words mean what we want them to mean (neither more nor less). Meaning and interpretation present many issues; the specific ones I'm interested in are summarized here by Searle,
[Concerning communication,] what must be added to these noises, marks, etc., in order that they should be statements, orders, etc.? What, so to speak, must be added to the physics to get the semantics? In short, that question can be posed as, ‘What is it for a speaker to mean something by an utterance?’
Or, even more simply, What do our words mean? My response, roughly, is that words mean what we want them to mean. An alternate response to this question (one that Megan seems to be hinting towards) might be “Words mean what Webster says the mean,” or, more technically, “Words mean what they are commonly held to mean among a given set of people.” That is the sociological alternative.

Let me first establish that words have no inherent meaning. A word, not uttered by an intentional agent (that is, by a person or intelligent being) has no meaning. If a random word--say, “hypnagogic"--coalesces in your Alphabits soup, that word has no meaning. If, however, that word is used in conversation by your roommate, then she has impelled that word with meaning in order to convey her intentions. But it must be used intentionally. If your roommate had randomly muttered sounds equaling the word “hypnagogic” while in a hypnagogic trance, the word is meaningless. The word hypnagogic, then, and all other words (and pictures, too) have no meaning unless they are used purposefully by a conscious agent. We, in some sense, give meaning to words by our using them intentionally.

That words have no inherent meaning beyond an intentional agent seems compatible with the idea you put forward, but you offer something further, on how we choose these meanings:
"I would argue that we also choose words to have meanings that will be seen in the light we mean them, not just in the light we want them."

I say this is a false dichotomy. If the purpose of choosing words is communication, then our “want” will be aligned with our “meaning.” We choose words as a means to an end—that is, we choose words that will best convey our intentions. Usually, this choice will fall in line with the sociological alternative mentioned above. We will usually impel words with a meaning close to that of their common usage, because we assume doing this will unable others to easily understand them. However, we can also convey meaning using words that mean completely different things than their Webster/sociological meaning.

Donald Davidson gives this example, paraphrased and slightly modified here, to show that words mean what we want them to mean, rather than have some objective meaning, to which we appeal must be made in order to communicate. Say there is a lady, Mrs. Malaprop we'll call her, who, in conversation, uses the word “derangement” when she really means what we would commonly denote with “arrangement.” Likewise, she substitutes “epitaphs” for what would usually be denoted with "epithets." Now, say you are in conversation with Mrs. Malaprop and she remarks that something is “A nice derangement of epitaphs.” Given the context of the conversation, you can tell that Mrs. Malaprop is referring to what would commonly be denoted as a “nice arrangement of epithets.” You, therefore, correctly interpret her meaning. If she successfully transmitted her meaning in this way, then evidently her words weren’t meaningless. Indeed, her words appear to have meant exactly what she wanted them to mean.

This example makes use of malapropisms, and notes the need for a theory of interpretation or language to account for “our ability to perceive a well-formed sentence when the actual utterance was incomplete or grammatically garbled, our ability to interpret words we have never heard before, to correct slips of the tongue, or to cope with new idiolects.” (Davidson) Malapropisms and the like are where sociological alternatives tend to founder. People constantly “mangle” language, but we can understand them nonetheless, because understanding is not about interpreting “words” themselves but about interpreting “intentions"--what we want words to mean.

So, in conclusion, I’ll amend my admittedly vulgar theory of interpretation as such: Words, themselves, are meaningless. But, when used by intentional agents, such as us, words gain a meaning according to our intentions—they mean exactly what we intend them to mean, neither more nor less. What we intend them to mean is what we expect to best convey our intentions.

Humpty chose to use “glory” in a capacity which, it is clear from the exchange, he knows that Alice will not understand. Therefore, he used “glory” in such a way as to convey no intentional meaning (unless he was speaking solely for the benefit of himself, as in a soliloquy, in which case he was conveying meaning intentionally to himself). So, while Humpty is right that words mean exactly what we want them to, he is wrong that he “wanted” (intended) “glory” to mean what he later says he did (again, unless he was speaking in soliloquy.)

It might seem that words have a certain meaning, but Davidson reminds us:
"There is no word or construction that cannot be converted to a new use by an ingenious or ignorant speaker."

Therefore, in conclusion, hypnagogic.

The post wherein I cite a famous economist to gain a small amount of vindication and, in the process, make a few jokes

From Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's bestselling Freakonomics:
Women’s rights advocates, for instance, have hyped the incidence of sexual assault, claiming that one in three American women will in their lifetime be a victim of rape or attempted rape. (The actual figure is more like one in eight—but the advocates know it would take a callous person to publicly dispute their claims.)
These types of stats are casually tossed around at K-State by the sundry anti-rape campaigns/coalitions/groups/night-take-backers/alliances/marches/protests/group peyote sessions/bonds/leagues/federations/Jedi Councils/etc. I tried pointing out the utter ridiculousness and falsity of such statistic once, in one of my columns, but of course it didn't make it past the copy editors. So, might as well throw it in now:
One in four women will be raped by the time they graduate from college?!?! That’s almost 25%! C’mon Take Back the Night, 85% of people know that if you’re going to make up statistics to scare people, you should at least make ‘em sound real.
Iddn't dat funny? I actually did some research at the time and found that the stat was utterly bogus. But, y'know, if its a good cause, truth can be created. I guess TBtN figures if only they have a powerful enough statistic then we will all join hands and end rape. Hm. Makes sense.

So, to that end, and as a peace offering to the anti-rape intifada, I offer this NEW! IMPROVED! statistic for use: "5 out of every 1 woman, or woman-shaped object, has been sexually assaulted. DEATH TO THE PATRIARCHY."

Feel free to use it. It's yours. Go ahead. Don't be shy.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Great Moments in Feminism

Girls Gone Wild Edition:
Professor Colin Pritchard, who led the research, said: 'Girls now significantly smoke and binge-drink more than boys. They truant, steal and fight at similar rates, and start under-age sex earlier than boys.'
Well, some sort of hurdle has been passed, glass ceiling shattered, or otherwise obstacle obliterated. Which, isn't that vandalism?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

metapost

So, probably no postage until the 22nd or thereabouts. I'm back at the 'stead right now, in parched, Saharan NW Kansas. I forgot my laptop charger back in Womanhattan ("down with the patriarchy!!! Take your linguistic oppression elsewhere!!!") and I can't use any other computers because, you know, they're positivley swarming with germs from the tuberculosis-ridden peasantry. I tried typing with Kleenex boxes on my hands, but my prose started looking like Maureen Dowd's, so, after cleaning myself with a wire brush and a scalding shower, I desisted.

To whom it may concern: I'm working on a post responding to mkatherine29's (whoever that is) totally inappropriate, chauvinist, and, frankly, quite anti-Semitic, remark here.

Other than that, ahhhh....summer time! Kick it, Sublime:

summertime and the livin's easy
and bradley's on the microphone with ras m.g.
all the people in the dance will agree that we're
well qualified to represent the lbc
me, me and louie we gon' run to the party,
dance to the rhythm it gets harder

me and my girl, we got this relationship.
i love her so bad, but she treats me like sh...
im locked down like a penitentiary
she spreads her lovin' all over and when she gets home
there's none left for me.

summertime, and the livin's easy
and bradley's on the microphone with ras m.g.
all the people in the dance will agree that we're
well qualified to represent the lbc
me, me and louie we gon' run to the party
and dance to the rhythm it gets harder

oh take this veil from off my eyes
my burning sun will someday rise
and what am i gonna be doin' for a wife
said i'm gonna play with myself
show them how we've come off the shelf.. so what..

summertime and the livin's easy
and bradley's on the microphone with ras m.g.
all the people in the dance will agree that we're
well qualified to represent the lbc
me, me and louie, run to the party
and dance to the rhythm it gets harder

evil, i've come to tell you that she's evil
most definitely
evil, ornery scandalous and evil
most definitely
the tension, it's getting hotter
i'd like to hold her head underwater, ohh...

me and my girl, we got a relationship.
me and my girl, mmm. we got a relationship.
mhmm, my girl. we got a relationship, ohh, yea my girl.

(take a tip, take a tip, take a t-t-t-tip from me)
and bradley's on the microphone with ras m.g.
all the people in the dance will agree that we're
well qualified to represent the lbc
me, la la louie, well everybody run to the rhythm it gets harder

summertime and the livin's easy....

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A rejoinder to a reply to my "Concluding thoughts on protests," which were apparently well short of conclusive

Tim Robbins (Mystic River; Twister; Bull Durham) leaves a comment here, and so I respond. As always, his comment quoted, indented, and mine, not so much.

"Nothing in this post reflects your usual opinions of equality of opportunity or your usual love of the way America was built. … Any time that any group of people, especially a government, tries to take away equality or freedom we should do anything in our power to stop them."
First, the government, as I understand it, isn’t trying to take away anything. They are in favor of the status quo. Immigrants want something to be granted them. This in itself doesn’t render judgment either way on whether granting them what they want is good or ill, but it should be kept straight that these people are coming here and demanding something.

It seems like national integrity demands some line of demarcation between citizens and non-citizens. Obviously, Mexicans living in Mexico are not Americans. A love of some pure abstract notion of equality of opportunity or freedom is antithetical to a love of actual freedom and equality, as we must experience it in this world. We must temper our pure ideas of the good with our practical intuitions of the possible.

Perfect, theoretical ideas of equality are all well and good--for theoretical people. Actual people, however, require institutions and traditions to mediate between liberty and fraternity, between equality and security. Any of these principles in their pure state cannot coexist with the others. They are as matter to anti-matter amongst themselves, annihilating each other when coming into contact.
"What really suprises me is that you have a problem with protesting in the first place. "
Well...surprise! I do. I despise political activism so much, it takes all my willpower just to go vote. Also, I’m Catholic, and just about as pro-life as you can be, but when the pro-life protestors set up on campus, I felt like getting an abortion. Stay outta my face, dude, I can think about this stuff on my own.
"Not only is protesting hugely American, you are wrong in your assertion that protests lead to some darker side of human nature… Firstly, there is the example of our country itself."
In philosophy, you can either be entirely consistent or you can be entirely right. I choose the former, here. As a conservative, I note that there have been successful, beneficial revolutions. However, during each of these revolutions, I hold my breath. Only after 50 or 100 or 150 years can we exhale and be sure that we have not, in our revolutionary fervor and haste, destroyed that which we meant to achieve. Revolutions are grave things, not desirable in themselves, not praiseworthy in themselves. Only the gravest ends sanctify the revolutionary means, and, even then, with a trembling hand.
"If you look at how the immigrant protests were conducted they were done in the same calm, collected manner. "
I haven’t paid attention to the protests—or any news at all for the past three weeks. But, despising protests, I still render judgment. Ah, the joys of blogging.
"You can't even fall back on the conservative argument that things that exist do so for a reason, because they have suceeded. Because our country is based on protests, and based on a revolution. Protests and a revolution are our the things that have existed, they are the things that have done the best and shown themselves to be superior."
Again, our country is good, not because it was founded by a revolution, but despite this. It was a tragedy that we had to be driven to revolution, as the mothers and lovers of those whose blood refreshed the tree of liberty would attest. Yes a tragedy—but, thankfully (I exhale with relief) a tragedy that birthed a blessing.

And, it must also be mentioned, that the conservative argument for preserving our venerable traditions is not anything so vulgar and simplistic as a blanket demand that everything be preserved, that everything that has happened in history is therefore good. Such a view is known as “historicism,” and historicism is the death of conservatism. For the historicist, whatever has happened throughout history has happened for a reason—history is rational for the historicist (c.f. Hegel, the prime expositor of historicism). But because history is rational in this way, the historicist cannot condemn anything that history has given him. Historicism is a form of relativism—they do not believe in supra-historical objective truth. The real is rational and the rational is real, for the historicist. Hegel referred to history as a “slaughter-bench”—a place of horrible deeds, but deeds that nevertheless pushed history progressively forward, and so were a net positive.

That this is not conservatism is evident. If conservatives thought that any historical occurence was swell, then we would have no grounds for condemning anything. As soon as an event happens it is history, and so it would be consecrated and uncondemnable--at least on the sickly view you put in the mouth of conservatism. But conservatives are very vocal about condemning certain historical events--for example, the sixties counterculture and such.

The conservative is not a historicist (or at least most, including myself, aren't). He does not accept everything that history has handed him. Yes, tradition receives a strong presumption of innocence and inherent worth—the reformer has the burden of evidence that reform is, indeed, necessary. Nevertheless, reform is vital to conservatism. Burke famously wrote in his Reflections: “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.” Controlled change is necessary to conservatism. It is how this change takes place that is the key. For the conservative, it takes place slowly, in the form of percolations through the public consciousness, of slowly changing attitudes.

Maybe the protests are a legitimate form of such. I would, however, prefer a slower form of change. Change is a vestment which fits itself to the body politic—if the body politic is convulsed with violent motions, the vestment is rent apart before it can properly conform. Quick change will lead to discontent—an anti-immigrant backlash, xenophobia and isolationism. It will be self-defeating. Attitudes cannot change overnight and cannot be the result of legislation.

I cannot stress enough that my views on history and tradition are not equivalent to “whatever has happened is therefore good.” This would be self-contradictory, for good revolutions have happened and bad revolutions have happened—which one of these, then, is good by virtue of history? They can't both be. I recently wrote a lengthy paper for a political thought class attempting to rescue conservatism (specifically as developed by Burke) from the charge of historicism. If anyone wants to read this I can email them a copy—beware, though, it 15 pages of dull stuff.

Also, and my fault on this, we shouldn’t compare protests exactly with revolution. I mentioned revolution because the observation from Marx struck me at the moment and because it seemed somewhat related to (although not identical with) the underlying dislike I have for protests (or at least the part of my dislike that isn’t arational). Also, blogs are a continual work of eclecticism—or at least mine is, and I like connecting disparate thoughts.

Although, still, I’m glad that I did, because it leads this conversation into much more interesting territory…
"And to say that violence is always a bad thing? That is completely out of your usual train of thought."
Violence is always a bad thing. It is a horrible thing, a thing which should not be sought, a thing which should be viewed with disgust and revulsion like some maggot-ridden hellspawn. There are very few things on this world worse than violence. Nevertheless, there still are those very few things, and, against them, violence must be wielded.

Wielded, though, with trepidation and ultimate anxiety. When we kill, we become killers--that is a tautology. “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” –Friedrich Nietzsche.

I support the mission in Iraq. But it is terrible, terrible beyond words and tears, that people younger than me must take lives with their hands and bear that red mark on their conscience. The Jefferson quote on fertilizing the tree of liberty with blood--well, my opinion on that is summed up in my allusion to it earlier. The tree of liberty would be a terrible tree if it only grew on the blood of the innocent—an evil, vampiric tree, whose roots starve for death and suffering.

I would not prostrate myself before that tree.

The necessity of violence should not inure us to its inherent evilness. It deforms the soul of those who wield it, even those who wield it out of necessity—think Frodo, twisted and tortured by the evil ring he had no choice but to bear, ultimately unable to even part with it of his own free will.
"Rationality can only remain a quiet thing when it exists in a society that is free and fair."
Then rationality can never exist. There is no society, ever, that will match up to your abstract, Platonic ideas of freedom and fairness. That is an impossibility—freedom and equality are opposite ends of a rigid pole. The attempt to realize both, to bring them together, snaps the pole in two. Factor in security and fraternity, and these numerous competing principles ensure that society will always be an imperfect, unfair creature to some. It is the place of rationality to quiet us, to console us, to keep us in our rooms and meditate on what needs to be changed, that we might act with serene confidence and assurance in the work of our hands.
"I have a number of immigrant friends who have worked twice as hard as any American I know just to survive and I have never heard them complain about it."
Ah! So it is possible. They should rein in their impetuous comrades. Such silent sufferance, such will in the face of adversity—that is America. Grabbing bootstraps and such. That convinces me. Indeed, that is what had convinced me of the rightness of easing restriction on immigration--before the impudent, restive segments of the immigrant population manifested, and they began demanding. I take not kindly to such arrogance to a country I love, to a country that moves slowly, but that is all the more lovely because it moves slowly. Justice is a weighty inertial matter—it is right that realizing it takes a slow swing.
"Nothing about being born in this country makes us deserve to have more opportunity, there should be equality of opportunity for everyone."
Correct! We should send welfare checks to people in Africa! Stop building roads in Kansas, and instead begin building them in Mongolia! Why should we privilege our citizens over others? Bigotry, I say! Why should some people be American citizens and others not? But not only should we ensure equality of opportunity for everyone around the globe, we should equal out the distribution of jellybeans and rainbows and satin-covered bears!
"Not only is this morally right, but it will be economically better for everyone in the long run."
Oh, quite right. I totally agree on the economics. Immigration is a net positive. Globalization=hell yes. But for me this is not about immigration. It’s about protest. Which, y’know, I despise.

-----

In summary, I'd say my dislike of protests can be summed up in these points:

1. Change should be slow. Attitudes must change, not merely laws. If laws change before attitudes, we are likely to see racial animosity, xenophobia, anti-globalization sentiments, isolationism, increased anti-immigrant sentiments, etc. By demanding change now, immigrants hurt their own cause. We saw this in the gay marriage debate--when courts began acting counter to common sentiments, it provoked a backlash, and now we have an anti-gay marriage amendment here in Kansas.

2. Pure ideas of equality and liberty are not realizable. We must have borders, we must treat some differently, we must allow traditions that seem to hamper the perfect realization of any one principle. By doing this, by inhibiting the perfect manifestation of one pure principle, we allow the imperfect manifestation of many principles--this is the only way that liberty, equality, fraternity, diversity and security can coexist.

3. Large aggregations of people bearing the same ideas of the perfect and impelled with a passion for their cause are not the most rational entities. We should encourage quiet room sitting at every chance we get.

4. I despise protests on a level simultaneously both visceral and aesthetic. Protestors are generally unattractive and smelling of an open air fish market. Many are just self-righteous hangers-on, that are only in it for counterculture cachet of being against the Man. It is an open appeal to the government to rush in and save us from our problems, rather than doing it ourselves. (These might apply to the immigration protests in varying degrees--I don't know. As I said, I haven't paid particularly much attention to them. And I've noticed my support for immigration is inversely related to how much I do pay attention to them--so pro-immigration types should pray that the protestors don't march through my particular fied of vision.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Concluding thoughts on protests

This quote from Blaise Pascal nicely sums up my feelings on the immigration protests (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), and other types of unthinking political agitation:

"The sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room."
--Pensées (1670)

---------------

Marx thought that revolutionary fervor changed people--and, to a degree, he is right. Get a bunch of people together that hold the same idea strongly and the idea will gain a strength greater than the sum of individuals holding it. The dark gravitational pull of this supra-individual idea will warp the individuals under its sway, suck away their usual civilized inhibitions. And then, violence.

This is the story of revolution. It has been told many times; once by the the guillotine, once by the gulag, once by the leering grimace of Death's Head. Rationality is a quiet thing, but a whisper against the raging tempest of human passion. If ideas are impelled by the latter, by our deaf, screaming passions, then rationality, sitting quiet and cross-legged in its room, will be ignored as a recluse.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Experiments in Altered Perception

Ever drop a tab of Nietzsche while still still gliding on some Burke? Guhguguh... I can hear colors.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

REPENT, FINALS APPROACHETH!----UPDATEDETH!

As finals beset me like a nest of wronged hornets, and the week clings to me like a soaked t-shirt, I don't think I'll manage to post much/anything. So, for the next week-to-two-weeks, FIND YOUR JOLLIES ELSEWHERE, SICKO, I'M NOT YOUR CYMBAL-PLAYING MECHANO-MONKEY.

I'll leave you with a poem by George Santayana, one of my favorites (both poet and poem), even relevant to some degree in these next hectic days:

update:
So I couldn't get the poem to properly indent. Blogger just passed pharmacysts on my "List of Things that Make me Blink Asynchronously out of Rage." So, for the poem, just go here. Or, if your Blogger, just go to here.

update:
To tie together the loose ends on this blog before I make my exit, here is Edmund Burke on pharmacysts:

"Naturally, men so formed and finished are the first gifts of Providence to the world. But when they have once thrown off the fear of God, which was in all ages too often the case, and the fear of man, which is now the case, and when in that state they come to understand one another, and to act in corps, a more dreadful calamity cannot arise out of hell to scourge mankind. Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thoroughbred [pharmacyst]. It comes nearer to the cold malignity of a wicked spirit than to the frailty and passion of a man. It is like that of the Principle of Evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil. It is no easy operation to eradicate humanity from the human breast."

Well, uh, he might not have exactly used the word "pharmacyst," but I'm pretty sure that's what he was driving towards.

We get comments!

So, another kindly visiting pharmacyst takes the time to leave a thoughtful comment, time in which, one can assume with little hyperbole, four patients perished while waiting for their meds to be filled, one of them surviving long enough to write a final, farewell message to his five young daughters and pregnant wife, using his own diseased blood as ink to send a message from his heart to theirs.

So, given that these two passing pharmacii have condescended to communicate with us "unclean" leper-masses, I feel it is demanded of me that I reply, with due thought and seriousness.

The following five points were left by a pharmacyst, Jbytes ("Jb" is the English language rendering of a sound that only pharmacysts and other beings with yard-long, forked tongues, can properly pronounce). My brilliant, insightful commentary follows. Jbytes says that the reason I have to wait is because pharmacysts are busy working on:

1) the 5 other waiting customers' prescriptions that arrived prior to you

2) the stack of 40+ rxes for patients scheduled to come pick up in the next hour

3)listen to the 10 new voicemail

4) help the 3 people behind you (who according to them have illnesses/diseases/gaping skin wounds/pain/STDs 100x worse than you)

5) get the drivethru, and

6) listen to your insurance company's hold music for about 15/"said 20 minutes"

-------

Okay, now having read this apologia for the black art of pharmacy, which one of the above tasks could not be completed by a highly trained monkey, or other simian agent? And monkeys, you see, are generally pleasant to be around--at least when they throw feces at you it is done with a spirit of levity.

Pharmacysts, however, are dead to levity and niceness, and throw feces only with the evillest of intents.

Or so I deduce, based on one incident

(Previously: Part 1 (now, with more comments!!!) and Part 2, in my newly acquired, bitter, lifelong vendetta against pharmacysts--based on one incident, but BURNING WITH THE HEAT OF A MILLION RED HOT JOLLY RANCHERS.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Despair/Elation

Reflections on the Revolution in France, by the illustrious Mr. Burke, is, quite simply the best book ever written. (To answer to your accusing look, one needn't consider the Bible a book, nor, necessarily, as ever written.)

With every passage I read, I am stunned as if by the beauty of Helen, and am powerless but to seize it with all force, a thousand thoughts in close pursuit. Here is the seed of all political wisdom, the manual for the proper ordering of men--and all this arrayed in the finest of rhetorical fineries.

I'm trying to write a paper on Burke, but it is slow going--nay, it is not going. How to quell the uprising of thoughts each passage inspires? Ugh. So much work for finals, and Burke luring me with an apple from the tree of wisdom.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The post wherein my newly acquired hatred of pharmacysts is cemented into lifelong vendetta based on one incident

A kindly passerby took issue with my anger at Pharmacysts (the "y" is oh-so purposeful) and left a rejoinder in the comments. So, I respond. His comments indented, quoted. Mine, not so much.
"Pharmacists are not evil, because you have to wait. Patients wait for long periods of time in Doctors offices and Emergency Rooms."
No, you're right, pharmacysts are not evil because they make me wait, they're evil because they realize that, despite their sizable paychecks, their whole societal purpose is "glorified vending machine." This causes them to arbitrarily abuse power in a number of petty ways in a vain effort to aggrandize their self-worth. That, in shorthand, is why they're evil.

And also, see, doctors actually do stuff, like cut off moles and other unwanted fleshy protuberances.

Pharmacysts, on the other hand, move their arms in 45-75 degree arcs, to access items on shelves. Some waist pivot action may also be required, but rarely.

"They don't go to school to learn how to put stickers on bottles and put things in bags."

No wonder it frickin' took them so long.
"they are also doing the same for people before you, and answering important questions to others, and counseling individuals on other medications, interactions and ensuring individuals get the right medication"
So, basically, they provide an incredibly expensive and time-wasting level of redundancy between doctor and patient, in order that, in extremely rare cases, someone might benefit. Hm. Makes sense.
"A good pharmacist can actually help improve outcomes in patient care, many studies have been done that show the benefit of having them involved in the health care system."
And, y'know what, if we added another cyst into the health care machine, between the pharmacyst and the doctor--we'd probably make health care even better! I mean, if we didn't die in the process of trying to fill our meds.
"Pharmacists get at least five years of intense clinical training"
...and they still have trouble with the bag-stuffing. Five years? Dude, I can stuff pills in a bottle and then google their side effects. Years of training required: zilch.

Seriously, a good search engine designed specifically for pharmaceuticals, which identified probable drug interactions, would eliminate human error and INCREASE THE JOY OF MY LIFE TWENTY-FOLD. I WANT THOSE TWENTY-TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES BACK.

I didn't purchase pills that needed to be counted. It was a bottle. On the shelf. I didn't have insurance information that needed to be processed. I didn't talk with a pharmacyst about side-effects. And then she says "It'll be 20-25 minutes."

Evil. Sublimated evil. That's all I can say.

"Oh, that's no problem. Me and my gaping spear wound of death can wait."

Pharmacist: Okay... here we go, yep, we have that in stock.

Me: Great.

Pharmacist: Yep, it's right back there on the shelf. See it, see it on the shelf right there?

Me: Yep.

Pharmacist: On the shelf. In stock.

Me: Uh, huh.

Pharmacist: It sits but feet from body--I can feel its presence.

Me: Quite.

Pharmacist:...

Me: So...

Pharmacist: 20-25 minutes and we should have it ready for you.

----

Okay, I'm sure pharmacists have legitimate, medical-type reasons for why THEY ARE CONSUMED WITH THE SPIRIT OF EVIL. What, do they think, "Hey, maybe if we make this guy wait he'll develop another disease, and we can charge him for that one, too!"?

I'm sorry, just a little bitter. It's just the wait seemed a little excessive, seeing as all they did was STICK IT IN A LITTLE BAG. Did they make me wait just to make sure I was legit, that I wasn't pulling their leg, twisting their arm, or in some other way manipulating their body so as to indicate deceit? Judging from this, I'd say pharmacy school must consist of a few introductory courses on identifying pills, and then FOUR LONG YEARS OF STICKING THINGS IN SMALL BAGS. With electives, of course, like "How to Project an Aura of Disaffection and Displeasure on Everyone You Meet" and "Torturing Small Woodland Creatures."

I've had it up to here with pharmacies [I'm gesturing towards my forehead right now, somewhat theatrically, in order to indicate up-to-here-edness]. I'm taking my business next door! That's right, there ain't a thing the Wal-Mart pharmacy can whip up that my neighbor's garage can't!

The post in which fantasy intrudes on reality and I have trouble distinguishing 'twixt

Whenever they have the tornado sirens/warning alarm here in Manhattan, it freaks me out. Not the siren itself. That's straightforward enough. BEEEEyuuuuuuuuuBEEEEyuuuuuuBOOP-BOOP-BOOP-etc.

No, it's the voice on the loudspeaker afterward, drifting over this whole backwater burg like some oppressive fog, momentarily smothering everything, pausing life for a second while it has its say. That freaks me out.

That p.a. voice, instructing us, telling us it's only a test, machine-like and yet rigid with authority and dominance--shudder. I half expect it to instruct us to remain in our houses, while a swarm of black helicopters circle in from the clouds, masses of gun-toting government agents in identical black biohazard suits rappelling from them into the street. Then, while the p.a. voice keeps instructing us, the agents march house to house, rounding up civilians, sleek black Humvees having cordoned off all major exits from the city.

"Manhattan, Kansas? What's that? I've never heard of that town before."

Or maybe one just shouldn't mix late night readings of crackpot libertarian literature with excessive ruminations on possible dystopian futures sparked by the coming technology explosion.

And, y'know, a nagging nervousness about zombie viruses doesn't help much either.

And then I respond: "Have I read Hegel? Heck, I don't think that Hegel read Hegel!"

My chances of ever actually getting to use this line may be slim, but I hold out hope. I'll be ready. Of that you can be sure.

update!: But seriously, the number of pretentious academiacs throwing Hegel's name around is far disproportionate from the number that have actually read Hegel. Which, I'll cut them some slack. The Phenomenology of Spirit appears to have been written by some sort of super-conscious Oiuji board. "So, the Absolute Spirit is guiding history from the subjective consciousness to an objectivity based on the universalization of morality through the State, huh? Well, that doesn't entirely answer my question about who my future wife is, but thanks, I guess."