28.11.10

Gay Rights and Teen Suicide: A Polemic

Why Tyler Clementi’s Death is a Hate Crime
Tyler Clementi, a gay college student, committed suicide
                  by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.
In 2010 gay men and women enjoy more acceptance in the United States than they did fifty years ago. Being gay has entered the social vocabulary, more so in urban areas than in rural parts of the country, but for the most part, gay rights have reached a middle ground in America. Gay people are not rallying in the streets with the same intensity as their older gay counterparts did. The LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning) community has successfully mainstreamed itself into secular society. So, the question remains, why does hate continue to exist? Has Gay Rights really won? Even though a gay man or woman can more or less exist in America as an openly gay person, everyone in America does not entertain a copacetic harmony with the integration of the Rainbow flag with the American flag. The sobering statistic is not even Gay Rights can ameliorate hate completely.
The Case of Tyler Clementi
According to the Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Why is that? What makes being gay harder to deal with, then say, being too tall or too short, or too wide or too shy? What makes “being gay” a driving force for a young person to end their own life? Hearing the story of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge because his roommate broadcast a video of him kissing another guy, my first reaction is to think homophobia kills gay kids. Hate kills. Tyler’s death was driven by the same hatred that killed Matthew Sheppard. I say hatred because hatred is the only human emotion that I know of that actively and forcefully seeks to expel another person outside of the human circle. Tyler Clementi’s death is a hate crime because he was punished for being openly gay in the internal forum. If this is the case, then, Gay Rights has still far more reaching activism to spread.
An objection can be made, of course, that Dharun Ravi (with the help of Molly Wei) was not driven by hate when he chose to broadcast to the world his room mate’s private life to the world. People who use this argument miss the point. The intention of the perpetrators, in this case, does not wipe away what happened. Only a deep-seated feeling of hatred drives a person to end his own life out of shame. Tyler Clementi’s wall post on Facebook captures his shame: “"jumping off the gw bridge, sorry." The statement feels like a self-indictment and an apology for his own actions. The question of whether it is legitimate shame or not is a moot point. It is the same argument the bully uses. “I did not mean it.” Does it matter if the bully means what he says if the person bullied is obviously affected? If not, then these cases would be called mere pranks or pallor games. Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei’s action go beyond bullying because the actions extend beyond face-to-face harassment and into the broader social sphere.


26.11.10

Philosophy Thought Experiment: Nietzsche's Allegory of the Demon


Friedrich Nietzsche's most famous articulation of eternal recurrence of the same is imagined as a thought experiment.
The question Nietzsche poses is, ‘Would you live this life over again under the same conditions?’
After reading the quote, think of Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day and the allegory makes more sense.
 
Here is an excerpt from the text:
The greatest weight.— What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence - even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!"
Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?... Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?
- Friedrich Nietzsche
The Gay Science, s.341
translated by Walter Kaufmann
Source: Nietzsche, Friedrich W, and Walter Kaufmann. The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs. New York: Random House, 1974. Print.
image source: fractal ontology

25.11.10

Cinema Paradiso: The Best Ending in a Film

One of the best endings in cinematic history is Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso (1988).
First There is the Film's Score
     The score by Ennio Morricone is the most moving cinematic piece ever produced for the silver screen. The music is deliberately made to induce emotions and I think it is what adds to the overall sympathetic tone of this movie.
Second There is the Film's Meta-ending 
     To fully appreciate the ending, one has to watch the entire movie. The last scene is a kind-of-love-letter to cinema itself. As a boy, the protagonist, Totò, befriends his hometown's cinema projectionist, Alfredo. In this small skirt of a town in rural Italy, the Catholic Church has considerable sway over what her parishioners can watch at the local cinema. The parish priest personally censors the films on view and directs Alfredo to edit out any scenes that depict kissing. At the end of the movie, Alfredo who has since died, and Totò, who has become a famous movie director, there is a discovery. Can you guess what it is? The discovery becomes the movie's final scene. And it brought me to teachers. If there is such a thing as poignancy without sentimentality, it's this film.  

22.11.10

Monday Morning B&W Photo


Unfortunately, I'm not certain to whom I should cite the above photograph, but I post it anyway, as a valediction to Monday Mornings. People to see. Places to go.

21.11.10

Video: Free Music for the Masses

A video taken in the Union Square subway station of musical performers in New York City.
YouTube Video
A troupe performs in the public concourse at 14th Street Union Square station.

16.11.10

The Spirit of Capital: Philosophy Graduate Student Conference on Hegel and Marx at the New School for Social Research


Call For Papers
KEYNOTE SPEAKER: MOISHE POSTONE
APRIL 28TH -29TH, 2011
55 W 13th St., New York, New York
The New School University
The New School for Social Research


It is impossible completely to understand Marx’s Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the  whole of Hegel’s Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the  Marxists understood Marx!!” wrote Lenin in 1915. In 1969, Althusser responded, “A century and a half later no one has understood Hegel because it is impossible to understand Hegel without having thoroughly studied and understood Capital.” What are we to make of this challenge today? Are we now ready to understand Hegel through Marx, and Marx through Hegel?
It is high time for a reassessment of the core stakes of the Marx-Hegel debate. What would it mean to think the concepts of capital and spirit together? This conference is a place to explore the internal relations between Hegel and Marx’s philosophical projects. Some possible questions include: how does Hegel’s phenomenology, logic, philosophy of nature, history and right internally contain the elements that Marx will use to decipher the world of property, labor, commodities and capital? Is Capital a logical theory of forms or a theory of history? How does Marx negate and realize Hegel’s project? What is the role of labor in Hegel, and the role of spirit in Marx? Does the development of history show the unfolding of freedom or the unfolding of capital?  This conference echoes the early Frankfurt school tradition, with its project for a critique of the social forms of the present.
Themes
We encourage submissions on a wide range of topics and thinkers: 
Themes
Thinkers
The Philosophy of Right
I.I. Rubin
Substance and Subject in Capital
György Lukács
Hegel’s Logic and Marx’s Grundrisse
Karl Korsch
Property, Alienation, and Class
Ernst Bloch
Form and Content in Hegel and Marx
Walter Benjamin
Concrete and Abstract Labor
Alfred Sohn-Rethel
Master and Slave
Theodore Adorno
Critique, Dialectic and Method
Herbert Marcuse
Time and History
CLR James
Freedom and Necessity
Raya Dunayevskaya
The Value-Form
Guy Debord
Critique of Labor
Alexander Kojeve
Revolution and Negation
Jean Hyppolite
Proletarian Self-Abolition
Frantz Fanon
Materialism and Idealism
Helmut Reichelt
Commodity, Money and Capital
Hans-Georg Backhaus
Capital and Spirit
Gillian Rose
Submissions
Papers ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 words should be submitted in blind review format to s p i r i t o f c a p i t a l @ gmail.com
Include the following in the body of the email:
i. Author’s name
ii. Title of Paper
iii. Institutional affiliation
iv. Contact information (email, phone number, mailing address)
Please omit any self-identifying information within the body of the paper.

8.11.10

Plato's Allegory of the Cave in Plain Language

Retold from The Republic of Plato


image credit: "Plato and the Pure Forms"
       Once upon a time, everyone on earth lived in total darkness. In a cave.
       The only light people had was from a huge fire. The fire never stopped burning. The fire shone light from behind the people. But people were unable to turn around and see the source of the light because they were all chained to a wall. In between the fire and the people were cut-outs, of animals, trees, dogs, cars, etc., all the objects of the sensible world.
        The light from the flame cast the outline of the paper cut-outs onto the wall of the cave. The people chained to the wall were only able to perceive shadows of objects and not real objects. People only saw images. People were content. No one attempted to escape.
        But, one day a man became unchained. He at first did not know what to do with his new found freedom. But, he decided to turn around. He was surprised to see, when he turned around, that what he thought was real, was only shadows cast onto a wall from paper cut-outs.
         "That's lame," he said.
         He walked around the fire and the paper cut-outs and found an exit out of the cave. He climbed out. He stood on solid ground. He looked up and saw the brightness of the sun and shielded his eyes. The light was intense. After living in a cave all his life he had never experience the light of the sun. The intensity of the light was way too much for his unaccustomed eyes. But after a few hours above ground he began to adjust to the light and was able to see more clearly. He could discern leaves on trees and was able to distinguish goats from dogs. Everything was way more clear than down in the darkness of the cave.
        He became so overjoyed at what he was seeing, that he decided to tell all his friends in the cave so they could know the truth. He went back underground. Into the darkness.
        "Hey, guys. It's me. Look. You're all chained to a wall and what you see on the wall is not really real. Those are just shadows. You cannot see it, but behind you is a fire that casts shadows of paper objects onto the wall. None of that is real. I have been above ground and seen the sun and have seen real trees and real dogs. Not shadows. Allow me to release you from your chains and you can see for yourself."
        The people would not have any of this. They said amongst themselves, "He is crazy. Let us kill him." So they did. All at once they pounced on him and killed him because they could not accept the truth of his words.
         After they killed him they forgot about him. To this day no one speaks of the unchained man.

The End

If you would like to teach your students the Allegory of the Cave and you need additional resources, check out this lesson plan I created on Teachers Pay Teachers. You and your students will love it - and I gave it a lot of extra time and attention (which I hope you'll use and appreciate).
Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Adult Education, Homeschooler, Not Grade Specific - TeachersPayTeachers.com

7.11.10

Art Review: Hitler McDonald

Learn about Noah Lyon, an artist in New York City who does mashups of Ronald McDonald-cum-Adolf Hitler.
Noah Lyon, an artist in New York City, has showcased at the New York Art Book Expo his poster image of an amalgam between Hitler and Ronald McDonald. Strangely, the combination seems appropriate, don't you think?

2.11.10

Analysis: Freud, Derrida and the Magic Slate

Do you remember playing with a magic slate as a child? Learn how Sigmund Freud uses this device to talk about the unconscious mind.
Do you remember this toy from your childhood? It’s charmingly called a “Magic Slate” or an “Etch-a-Sketch”. In German, the Wunderblock. I had a version of this toy as a kid. The novelty of the apparatus consists in the ability of the pad to retain impressions, such as drawings, and like a normal slate, the impressions can be erased, but not by an eraser but by simply lifting the page. Presto. Freud and Derrida loved this thing. Freud liked it because the Magic Slate is a model for the human mind. Psychoanalysis! Derrida liked it because Freud's reading of it seems to suggest the unconscious is inhabited by writing and is prior to speech acts. Deconstruction!
Deconstruction!
The stylus is used to write, scribble, or draw on the transparent plastic sheaf which creates an impression on the middle thin layer. The magic slate I had as a kid was a simple plastic, red stylus. The slate itself was a flimsy plastic backing with the “magic sheaf” part lightly affixed to the backing.

When the sheaf is lifted, the thin papery layer which exists beneath it is erased of its impression. At the bottom, a resinous wax layer exists which retains etched into the resin the residuals, or traces of all the previous impressions.

Freud on the “Magic Slate”
Freud wrote a short seven-page essay called "A Note Upon The Mystic Writing Pad." He wrote the essay to explain his theory of memory via the working apparatus of the Wunderblock. The outer coating represents the protective layer of the mind. The layer protects the mind from too much excitation. Notice if the thin paper layer is torn or contaminated the Wunderblock ceases to work in the same way that trauma can irreparably damage the psyche. The stylus represents a stimulus from the outside world. The papery layer is the conscious mind and the wax resin is representative of the unconscious.

The memory of the present can be erased, but like the mind, retains the impressions in the unconscious. The Wunderblock can both destroy and create.

Freud thought the Magic Slate was the closest machine-toy resembling the human mind. The only difference between the Wunderblock and the human mind is the mind's waxy resin layer can come back and disrupt the psychic life. Notably in dreams and trauma.

Derrida On Freud
Derrida, in an essay called "Freud and the Scene of Writing" was astounded that Freud, as a metaphysical thinker, could have inadvertently stumbled upon a machine that is a metaphor for the techné (production) of memory.

Derrida wonders how Freud could have imagined the Wunderblock to represent the psychic life while not realizing that the fundamental essence of the toy, like the mind, is its reserve of graphical traces, not phonetic signifiers.