I lost the original, so this terrible photo of it, which I sent to my Mum on a whim, will have to do!
Also, cheers for a fun year everybody!!
It seems far more difficult than one first realizes to create incredibly long sentences, while maintaining any logic or understanding, or, indeed, to make an argument. This blog, written by Archie, read by others, will attempt to develop the skill, without undermining the value of the actual argument, which is inherently confused, due to the nature of the argument, which is, that you can make long sentences without losing meaning. That is, I will be trying to push myself, to the best of my ability, to increase the length and complexity of my grammatical structures, without limiting the actual point within the text, which is inherently difficult, but perhaps it will require me to adopt some of Sebald’s other techniques. Namely, the use of the frame narrative, which certainly allows him to have long sentences without contradicting himself, and also allows him to flow forward without losing meaning, or the pace. So, I will try to engage in separate levels of narration, introducing a frame narrative, using… let’s say, my parents, as paradigm cases through which I can attempt to justify my claims. My mother once began a story, on a Tuesday afternoon in the midst of February, where, in Perth, the temperature almost always reaches above 30 degrees, and thus, as my mother knows all too well, one often finds themselves far too hot, even within a house deliberately designed to cool down, without the use of too much energy in air conditioners or fans. The story was complicated, and begins when she met my father in the 1990s in London, as she engaged in a journey of discovery and escape, from both her home and her home country, from which she left some years prior, and found herself in the country of the Queen, her majesty, the majestic, Elizabeth. Matthew, she said, was a bikie, a literal bike courier, who met her on Australia day, which is on February 25th, and spoke, during the first few hours of their conversation, in an American accent, which, as she reminds me, was something of a turn off, given her residual resentment dictated by her Canadian identity, which, of course, she tells me, precludes any positivity toward those south of the border. Matt, she explains, was funny, but boisterous, and had a beard and a sense of frivolity, which I notice even to this day, after he had changed significantly, having become a father, which, she claims, was incredibly endearing, but also slightly worrying. As they caught the same train, he was questioned by her with ferocity, being tested to see how well he would fare as a partner in life, which, she reflects, was a little bit of a funny thing to do, which of course I agree with, as does my father, although, she rightly points out, this did not raise too much of an issue for Matthew, who, at the time, was able to point to not only a degree from a university, which, my mother tells me, was necessary for any boyfriend of hers, but also to a propensity for musical ability, which I know is his most wonderful quality, amongst other things, of course, and thus, he was able to pass the first tests she set for him. My father, mother explains, jumped up at the very last minute, as she exited the train, and lept off onto the platform after her, presumably offering to walk her home, hoping, I can imagine, that she did not say no, which, inevitably, would have caused some issues, given the train doors, my mother notes, had closed rapidly behind him. Ok- that story, which of course eventually leads to my own existence, not, it must be said, on that night, which, my parents agree, would have been something of a mistake, not, it must also be said, because having me would have been an error, but that because they had only just met, it mightn’t be clever to introduce a child to the world, as the future of their relationship was, it seems clear, was not known. Holy shit, this is so difficult, but I think maybe I got there in the end, I think, but with less beauty, clarity, or cleverness as Sebald himself, who, Jason argues, is one of the greatest post-war German authors who ever lived, which, Jade said, was simply inaccurate, as Elizabeth related to me on Tuesday last, as she, that is, Jade, read in an article written by myself, in a magazine that Alex threw at her feet, on Wednesday, which, as we know, cannot be, given the logical necessity of Jade’s and Alex’ movements on those aforementioned days, which leaves us, my mother tells me, with a situation in which, it seems clear, where I have completely failed in my first efforts, which was, I wrote, was to maintain my argument while consistently increasing sentence length and complexity.
Racism in the world today. I felt like I was in a Toni Morrison novel just the other day as I travelled through the countryside of Oregon and Washington, on the way back to Vancouver. I was sitting on a bus going from one small town to another, and 4 other people were on board. A black man sitting at the back left, who looked rather put together and well dressed, almost too perfectly. The two at the front could have been absolute druggos, all pock marked and scarred by years of drug abuse, both white. Then, a teenage boy about my age sitting directly behind me.
Well, as I often do, I began to converse with the most likely target for interesting chats. I began describing to the man at the back of the bus my last few days. I told him about the dangerous rides I’d picked up on the Oregon coast, and my lack of places to sleep in the cold evenings, and other such exciting things. He listened, a look of growing concern on his face. He had the look of someone who had something to say. Then he said it. “But what’s the value of travelling for other people? You got God, kid?”. Oh, here we go. “No, I don’t really have god, but I mean, I think I learn a lot from this type of trav…”, “I don’t care what it does for you, where is the generosity, the love, where is God!”.
I really didn’t know how to respsond, so I sort of let him speak, until the lady at the front turned around, saying “Well, I think what you’re doing is very brave, and this guy can just shut it!”. Oh no oh no not racism please please please I can’t handle blatant racism oh my god why did I come to this country holy shit. Then the black guy responded in a completely shocking way. He says, “I see you, I see you being crazy. You a little crazy, I saw that about you, I did.” This guy just called a lady crazy on the bus! I couldn’t believe it.
Well from there things really kicked off, and I couldn’t help but think: are these white people (who all ended up berating the guy at the back, while he yelled back at them), just stupid racists, or are the defending me because this guy is preaching at me in a really obnoxious way. I sat in silence. Admittedly I was a little gleeful at the intensity which my purportedly boring bus ride had developed.
But all that being said, it’s just a little bit like a Morrison novel: racism, conflict, yelling, excitement. I was certainly shocked.
When someone commits a crime, the question of punishment is the first to come to mind. One has to ask themselves: what do I want out of my response to this criminal? In my estimation, there are 4 answers to this question today. First, to punish. Retribution as an attempt to create some “justice” and to “right an imbalance” in the world. Second, to protect. Keeping society well clear of our most hardened and vicious offenders, so more people don’t suffer from their illegal and destructive actions. Third, to rehabilitate. Changing the psychology and social position of the criminal so when they are released, they can conform to societal structures that they previous failed to handle. Finally, to prevent. Invoke fear into the hearts and minds of criminals that they won’t commit a crime out of the possibility of personal suffering.
Well, the question becomes, which should we preference? To answer this, we must first determine the type of ethics or justice we are attempting to invoke, and then weigh them up against one another, working out what order we should priorities our 4 outcomes of the criminal justice system.
Punishment appeals to the principle of “Justice”, a notoriously difficult idea to exemplify or explicate. There is no “justice” we can point to in the real world, and, while Plato might refer to a Justice as a balance within the city and the soul, that doesn’t seem to be the reason we want criminals to suffer. Instead, it seems retributive, an attempt to placate the families and people who suffered at the hands of the crime. So instead of “justice”, we might understand the reason we punish as “vengefulness”. We fulfil some animalistic desire to “get back” at the people who didn’t follow the rules. This seems inherently problematic, but we’ll come back to the importance of punishment later.
Second, protection of society appeals to simple utilitarianism. We don’t want more people to be hurt, so we don’t let the hurters hang out with the rest of the normal, un-abrasive individuals who aren’t in the clink. There are two problems with this theory: first, it might be problematic when we look at some crimes that are relatively victimless. Smoking marijuana grown from a plant in your back garden is a great example; no harms, yet unfortunately, in many societies across the world, marijuana is highly illegal and punishable by death (or imprisonment—the death of freedom). Second, when putting someone in prison actually makes them all the worse. It’s referred to as a “university of crime”, as if you go in with a diploma of car-jacking and come out with a PhD in rape and murder. While that might be a trope, it is entrenched in some reality- in you surround yourself with other violent people, you probably learn things through osmosis. Also, you might begin to resent the state which is keeping you here, making you even more likely to fight back and become angry, committing more crime when you are let free.
Third, rehabilitation. This is another utilitarian calculus: if we can stop these people committing crimes, we can make their life better, and the people around them are less likely to be attacked or suffer the effects of crimes. This one has the least problems with it, and should quite obviously be preference above the rest. There is no harm in attempting to rehabilitate, unless we give weight to the idea of punishment being “justice”, which requires much more argumentation than “we stop people physically suffering at the hands of criminals” (the hopeful effect of rehabilitation).
Finally, the one that causes the most issues- prevention. It also appeals to utility, attempting to stop people doing crime out of fear. Also seems VERY reasonable and legitimate…. But it contradicts everything we just discussed. If we want people not to want to come to prison, it can’t be wonderful. But if it’s not wonderful, then we are unlikely to be able to rehabilitate them, and we end up with worse prisoners. So we can’t rehabilitate and prevent at the same time, because they necessarily negate one another.
The outcome? I have no idea. I don’t think we should “punish” for the sake of punishment, but possibly a prisoner must suffer to prevent people wanting to come to back into the slammer. I’m certainly confused. Not sure about you? Does anyone read these? I’m not sure if this will ever get back to me. Hmm. Anyway, hopefully this gets me the participation marks I so slavishly grasp after. Cool, bye.
When we tell stories to our children, they become normalized and expected as elements of their reality. In the same way that a four-year-old doesn’t quite grasp the sleight of hand required for a card trick, they also don’t recognize when they are presented with false representations of reality. So, we can pretend a coin can exist and then disappear, and they buy it, much in the same way that they will just accept the binaries we put in front of them.
When a four year old is a boy, and watches a film in which no man ever cries, has a certain body type that might not even be healthy, and is told he has to “get the girl” to be a success in life, why would we expect him not to aspire to those goals as he grows up? His parents – for the time being – are the moral arbiters of the universe, so when they sanction an ideology, it’s unsurprising that the child will take it as gospel. Where then, is the space for development of that child? If from the earliest age he is indoctrinated with the belief that man falls in love with woman, and then begins to have feelings which put into question that dogma, there will be psychological turmoil.
Why do we continue to read our children these stories then? Well- it’s because they are stuck. They are stuck in our collective consciousness—as a society – because we grew up with them too! It might not be our fault, but we are conditioned to believe that these stories are somehow wonderful moral tales which will indoctrinate the leaders of tomorrow with all the correct narratives they could possibly need. Only, there hasn’t been a lead character of questionable gender identity, or sexuality, or even someone who isn’t perfectly beautiful. So, we teach our kids not just that it’s the straight, good looking, monogamous individuals who succeed, and also, probably more importantly, that any other identity actually doesn’t exist. Never confronting a child with the reality of the multitudes of varying human experiences is tantamount to instilling ignorance, and should be avoided at all costs.
Not only do fairy tales instill regular norms regarding the way we “should” behave, but they trap us into believing that we can’t be happy without money. As Marx would love to remind us, modes of production are controlled by the few, and cinema is simply another mode of production for the self fulfilling capitalistic ideologies permeating its creative output. The simple binaries regarding gender, sexuality, relationship type etc. all work because we already are conditioned to believe it. We are literally being controlled by a corporate elite, told what to think and who to accept, because it brings more capital into their pockets and out of ours. Cinema, but more specifically fairy tales (and their production in film) reflect a firm ideological stance of the majority of our society, thus morally and financially bankrupting us from the inside.
Fairy tales, we might say, are four times removed from the truth. They don’t attack any real fundamental truth, they don’t even show us our physical reality, and then—extending Plato’s original concern – they don’t even represent the truth of human experience. We are beings of many levels, almost everything is on a bell curve, and we can’t be stuck in one or another binary. So, stop reading fairy tales, and start thinking more critically about our culture.
Horror films seem to reflect, in their plot, form, mise-en-scene, and other technical elements, the society in which they exist. The Cabinet of Doctor Calligari is an illustration of Weimar Germany, in an expressionistic sense, because the film is imbued with an air of strangeness, uncertainty, and imbalance. This is a parallel to German society in the 1920s, which has just lost WW1, and is entering into a period of harsh reparations, foreign control of German territory, and a fluctuating economy. There is very little known about the future of the German state, and people are suffering psychologically from the horrors of the Great War, leading to a country which was shrouded in danger and mental illness. Think of Cesar, the somnambulist, who had stark and pale makeup, gesticulated in large, unrealistic ways, and was barely human. He typifies the lack of clarity in the direction of the German state, not having clear gender, sexuality, or motivations; he is controlled by outside forces, and has no autonomy. The jagged sets and non-realistic colors, as well as the strange perspectives forced upon us by camera angles, all add to this general tone of uncertainty and “creepiness” which is so prevalent in German society.
Calligari then sets the precedent for horror films well into the future. To prove the argument that horror reflects societal values and emotions, we must analyze another period of filmmaking. Take the 1960s and 70s, where horror films are characterized by slasher flicks, extremely violent stabbing murders, and strange unknown terrors such as Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers. What is the societal parallel? Well, the Vietnam war! It is a period where war was, for the first time, streamed at near-real time speeds to the West: to the home front. We were surrounded by actual violence, seeing the horrors of a war fought in the jungle, where chemical weapons were dropped on largely innocent civilians to tragic effect. No longer are horror films filled with a sense of unease. Instead they are replaced by openly violent scenes, with blood gushing (think Nightmare on Elm Street when Jonny Depp’s character is dragged into his bed), and unquestionable evil monsters who have no soul. One has to wonder about the parallel to the Viet Kong, another enemy largely unknown, with values so different to our own that we cannot emotionally connect in the least.
The horror genre consistently reflects the most terrible elements of our society, as Calligari illustrates. It’s almost like the Horror genre is attempting to deal with the elements of a culture which we otherwise wish to repress. We don’t want to remind ourselves, in a cognizant way, that Germany is on the brink of economic and social regression, nor that we are engaged in an ideological proxy war where war crimes of being committed. So horror films play an important role, it allows those terrible, unthinkable things to be dealt with in a fictional, often cathartic way. We can handle the uncertainty of Weimar Germany in a film about a somnambulist, and we can work through the horrors of the Vietnam War when we know every death is a matter of special effects.
When evolution is used wrong:
Evolution, it must be said, is fairly reasonable. The evidence is overwhelming; fossil records, contemporary examples of natural selection (see the black and white spotted moths of post-industrial England), similar structures across species, and gene analysis all add to what seems to be a rational explanation of the origin of species.
HOWEVER, what evolution does not do is devalue every element of religion, or even go any particular way to “disproving god” (obviously an irrational approach, given that God is inherently un-refutable).
This leads me to a whole-hearted criticism of Richard Dawkins latest speech given in Vancouver at the Chan center, and more generally his approach toward religion in the world today.
Dawkins organized the speech, and yet decided, instead of bringing in a debate partner, or some opposition, had another famous internet atheist interview him. The conversation was full of self-congratulatory nonsense, like explaining how great his books were, and that they had impacted so many previously stupid religious people who had converted to “humanism”. Let me be very clear; the speech was anti-intellectual at its very base. They laughed at the straw man arguments they would present on behalf of the religious, then fail to adequately respond to those ideas even in their deliberately weakened state.
One question was on the nature of islamophobia, where Dawkins responded with this:
“Islamophobia doesn’t exist. It is a ridiculous claim. Firstly, Islam is not a race, and secondly, if the fundamentals of a religion are completely evil and the effect is ISIS and terrorism, then we can be entirely critical of it”.
Well Mr Dawkins, let’s not jump to conclusions. Islamophobia is a word describing a phenomenon where people feel a deep antipathy to people who associate, or even simply seem Islamic. It isn’t controversial to say that anti-Semitism exists, and thus neither is it reasonable to claim that islamophobia can’t exist. It indicates a certain approach toward the religion which is reductive and focuses on the violent and awful aspects, as opposed to the large majority of individuals who practice in a similar way to moderate Christians of the developed world. Where there is a genuine link between the religion and violence, I would postulate instead that this is a product of social and economic climates as opposed to vehement religiosity. Given Islam not existing, I think the middle east would likely be still in turmoil based on a lack of redistributive economic policies, corrupt governments, and rather hot weather (only sort of joking when I say that last one).
Also, at a human level, it’s never nice or useful to figurate spit in someone’s face, denying any value in what they find an important aspect of their life. If my roommate wants to go about believing in a God as an invisible means of support, and it stops him doing too many drugs or stealing things, then that sounds great to me. It would be counterproductive and absurd for me to tell him he is an idiot, and I would lose a friend. So, Dawkins, here is my contention; I can have a conversation with my roommate about God- an argument, even- and end it without him hating me. You, Sir, cannot. You are deliberately inflammatory, to the same level as a religious zealot. You create divisions and delineations amongst people, you deny people the ability to govern their own beliefs, and you take away an element of hope and love in their life.
So, evolution is not, indeed, any particular proof against God, and even if it is, let’s try not to be so rude when we use it to debate.
Once upon a green we spoke,
Beneath the arms of a willow
In the shade of our brethr’n folk,
What we said you now will know
“Black and white makes me see red!
The little fellow begins a funk,
Frankly I’d prefer him dead.
Man, fuck the dreaded skunk”
“Hard to see in blinding light
Their shadow ‘lone gives me the chills,
It comes out every single night
When anger ‘lone drives some to kill”
Countless of them here in this place
Cares on pigment, has not a face
Isms a plenty we oftentimes face
The worst of them all the one about race
The problem with the discourse on inequality amongst men:
There is a glaring fault of logic in Rousseau’s Second Discourse. I will illustrate it using an analogy, then explain why they are comparative.
A Discourse on the reasons Jason Lieblang became a professor:
Jason began his life the son of a bread maker in the midst of the prairies in Canada. He had 3 siblings, triplets, all 10 years older than himself. When he was 14, he read his first book. He was immediately hooked, and from then on couldn’t stop reading. Book after book was ingested by Jason, from English literature to graphic novels, he devoured all. He dropped out of school and became a bread maker with his father and mother, but regretted it before long. He had no education, a love of books, and a professional relationship with yeast. When Jason turned 20, having made just enough money to buy a train ticket to Vancouver, he left home and came to the west coast. Befriending the head of the university in a chance encounter at a second hand sport store, Jason was offered a position teaching German (which he had never studied). He took the job, and managed to keep a lesson ahead of students by taking online classes, eventually, and relatively quickly, taught himself the language in turn. From here, Jason was himself a professor.
Ok, now: why this is the same as the discourse on inequality. THE PREMISES ARE INVENTED. Every reason, every inferential move, every fact is false. I don’t know the first thing about Jason’s childhood, nor do I know why he wanted to become a professor, and I particularly have no clue about his education. Doesn’t this remind us of Rousseau? In the same way that Jason was a “bread maker”, original/natural man was a peaceful being, in human form, who never conflicted with the others in his species. Hold on? Why and when and how did he come up with this? We might forgive him due to it being the 18th century when it was written, but then, I’m not a nice guy, so I won’t forgive him! If you’re righting a discourse on inequality and are determining when and where it arises from, you can’t begin the chronology with a lie! My whole argument, even if in the end correct (Jason does indeed become a professor), was predicated on invented facts which will be disproven, in the same way we know the state of nature as described by Rousseau just didn’t look the way he describes. There was brutality, unhappiness, relationships, and families from the beginning of the human society. It seems logical to assume property existed in some way; in the sense that if I set up camp somewhere, I will defend it, and it is my property- at least while I’m living there- and will fight anyone who challenges that right.
His argument is wrong because his starting point is wrong. EVEN IF he is right about property being the foundation for inequality, his ARGUMENT to get there is entirely faulty and has to be rejected.
Nature is not kind, Jason did not make bread.
BLOGGING AS AN ART
A blog is an interesting concept, it not only reveals the personal views of an individual, but it isn’t restricted by the formal elements of academia, and thus allows a varied, thoughtful approach that can branch out in any direction, particularly because it is not marked, and thus no rubric has to be adhered to, which in turn gives its author the right to write in any idiomatic, unstructured, amusing, or ridiculous way he pleases, and furthermore, in a personal context, isn’t going to be heavily reviewed by 3 other classmates and Jason in a little room filled with great big books and a general air of obfuscating intellectualism, further providing the author with a complete emancipation from the archaic and dull dogmatic practices presented by the APA referencing style; indeed, one could potentially write a blog without any full stops, and, if one wished, would even be at liberty to put quotations marks wherever he please”d, with absolut””””ely no consequences what so-ever, in fact, I think one, in the form of a blog, one could even present completely incorrect spellings of basic words, and haavee nott 1 konsikwwent; indeed, numbers could be used without spelling them out (which itself is such a god-damned (Oh look, one can swear as well!) waste of my time!): one cannot begin to describe the sheer quantity of literary material that has been burnt at the proverbial stake due to ‘grammatical errors’, as if such a thing should plainly exist; as if grammar is some important part of language- which, I contend, it is not, and should not be commonly accepted; language exist, in its most fundamental sense, to convey meaning, and if one wishes to break every rule of grammar in doing so, then so be it- it would take an individual with a serious case of anti-intellectualism to deny the value of breaking the rules once in a while- Galileo would attest to that- so I compel you (the reader) to adopt some kind of new approach when blogging, because it is the one time in your life that you won’t be callously and forcefully restricted from expressing yourself in an academic environment, for, as we know, no academic wants to be challenged; or at least, not at a fundamental level; sure, they want to have their ideas probed and questioned, but only so they can go ahead and strengthen them, thus keeping themselves relevant, but not one academic will truly be able to claim they want the rules -which their work is restricted to- to be undermined, as this blog has so successfully done; so, in the interest of academia, break the rules, question the assumptions, and write however you want?