What sort of music have I been enjoying the most this year? Which albums spent the most time in my stereo over the past twelve months? Why, I’m glad you asked! Let’s do this thing. Sorry, Brian and Heywood, it’s been a pretty metal-free year.
We Believe In Nothing, Lebowski, Nothing
Chris Hedges is indeed wankeriffic when he gets on his anti-atheist hobbyhorse, but I do think Ebonmuse is being slightly unfair to him here:
As I’ve written before, Chris Hedges is a nihilist. He flatly denies the possibility of moral progress, and vehemently asserts that any efforts to improve humanity will inevitably end in mass slaughter and destruction. He says so bluntly at the beginning of his book:
Those who insist we are morally advancing as a species are deluding themselves. There is little in science or history to support this idea. Human individuals can make moral advances, as can human societies, but they also make moral reverses… We alternate between periods of light and periods of darkness. We can move forward materially, but we do not move forward morally. The belief in collective moral advancement ignores the inherent flaws in human nature as well as the tragic reality of human history… All utopian schemes of impossible advances and glorious conclusions end in squalor and fanaticism. (p.10-11)
First, moral progress, though it may be slower than we would like, is real and it is undeniable. A glance over human history would offer as examples the abolition of slavery, the granting of equal rights to women and minorities, the emancipation of state from church, the flowering of democracy worldwide, the increasingly greater efforts at avoiding war through diplomacy, and many more. This is not to say that there aren’t many evils remaining, nor that no new ones have arisen.
History is not an ascending spiral of human advance, or even an inch-by-inch crawl to a better world. It is an unending cycle in which changing knowledge interacts with unchanging human needs. Freedom is recurrently won and lost in an alternation that includes long periods of anarchy and tyranny, and there is no reason to suppose that this cycle will ever end. In fact, with human power increasing as a result of growing scientific knowledge, it can only become more violent.The core of the idea of progress is that human life becomes better with the growth of knowledge. The error is not in thinking that human life can improve. Rather, it is in imagining that improvement can ever be cumulative. Unlike science, ethics and politics are not activities in which what is learnt in one generation can be passed on to an indefinite number of future generations. Like the arts, they are practical skills and can be easily lost.
We’ll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet
Yet already something new is entering the world of human relations with these innocent-seeming sites. There is a novel ease with which people can make contact with each other through the screen. No more need to get up from your desk and make the journey to your friend’s house. No more need for weekly meetings, or the circle of friends in the downtown restaurant or bar. All those effortful ways of making contact can be dispensed with: a touch of the keyboard and you are there, where you wanted to be, on the site that defines your friends. But can this be real friendship, when it is pursued and developed in such facile and costless ways?Real friendship shows itself in action and affection. The real friend is the one who comes to the rescue in your hour of need; who is there with comfort in adversity and who shares with you his own success. This is hard to do on the screen — the screen, after all, is primarily a locus of information, and is only a place of action insofar as communication is a form of action. Only words, and not hands or the things they carry, can reach from it to comfort the sufferer, to ward off an enemy’s blows, or to provide any of the tangible assets of friendship in a time of need. It is arguable that the more people satisfy their need for companionship through relationships carried out on the screen, the less will they develop friendships of that other kind, the kind that offers help and comfort in the real trials of human life.
How You Say…?
Roy and Doghouse, two blogospheric wordsmiths who turn me green with envy on a regular basis, do a little riffing on “The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English.” I love these sorts of lists. I just love words, period. I love reading dictionaries. I love sounding a new word out, rolling it around my tongue, thinking of a sentence to use it in. I love having to look up a word when reading someone else’s writing. I love going here to hear how to pronounce a word I’ve never heard spoken before. In fact, one of my pet peeves is how often it’s used as a putdown to accuse someone of using ten-dollar words, or some such thing. Granted, some people use vocabulary like a cuttlefish uses ink, to hide in obscurity, but still, it’s such a cheap shot, to act as if your familiarity with any particular word is the standard to judge by. Well, I’ve never heard of it before, so fuck you, Professor Tweedcoat Elbowpatches! Yew think yer better’n me?
And, You Know, Through This Situation I Found Jesus and Asked Him for Forgiveness and I Turned My Life Over to God…
Police say a Colorado man is suspected of stomping his girlfriend’s puppy to death because she wouldn’t answer her phone.Colorado Springs police arrested 25-year-old Christopher Blackstone on suspicion of felony cruelty to animals after his girlfriend discovered her dog wrapped in a garbage bag in a trash bin outside her apartment on Dec. 24.
Voltaire dared to criticize and question the ruthlessness of the Catholic Church’s power and its coordination with the oppressive government of Louis XV. Armed with pen and paper, he faced a government and church that wielded the power of life and death. If Voltaire was not an action-hero, he was a hero all the same, and if had to throw a joke-bomb and run, let him run! Mankind is the better for it. Voltaire promoted tolerance as the most important tenet of civilization and mocked fanatics of all stripes. For this, of course, he was hated and reviled by the powers of his time, and even some of our own.
I Declare War On Stupidity
How does that saying go? First time’s an accident, second time’s a coincidence, third time’s an enemy action? Well, then, I feel confident in accusing Mary Elizabeth Williams of waging ignorant aggression, and justified in responding with extreme prejudice.
So let’s get this straight — at an age when plenty of young adults are still living at home, working part time at Chili’s, and making their biggest plans based on the merits of $5 pitchers or Jager on tap, Bristol Palin is a home owner contemplating her educational future. You’d think that maybe the prospect of Palin — a girl who got knocked up at 17, has a high profile and an often justly reviled family, and whose recent claim to fame involved dancing in a gorilla suit — becoming a property owning, possibly matriculating member of society would be enough to make her numerous detractors pause a moment and say, hey, good for her.
She sure does have a soft spot for the helpless and downtrodden, doesn’t she? First she felt obliged to take up for the poor millionaire athlete against the mean old animal welfare workers, then she bravely stuck up for a plucky little Bronze Age mystery cult against the tyranny of a billboard suggesting it’s a crock of shit, and now this. I’m actually intrigued to see what she’s going to come up with next!
You know, I faced a serious dilemma here, one that took an actual coin flip to resolve. No, really. I’ve said before that the amount of scrutiny the Palin family gets is in inverse proportion to their actual significance, that far too many bloggers have been lazily using them as a crutch to avoid writing about anything remotely interesting or important. My first instinct here was to avoid this low-hanging fruit, to refrain from wasting any more pixels on these clowns. But I’ve only become aware of what a fucking moronic hack Williams is in the last couple weeks, so the novelty of mocking her still hasn’t worn off quite yet. What to do, what to do? Well, the coin came up heads, so here I am.
But before I start launching salvos, let me concede a general point she tries to make: it’s a bad thing when urban, educated liberals gratuitously sneer at people simply because they happen to be rural, poor and uneducated. Not everyone who lives in a trailer park or a small town in the middle of nowhere is a bigoted yahoo, it’s true. Nevertheless, we’re talking about the Palins here, and you kind of lose any expectation of sympathy or fairness when your entire public persona, since the very first time we made your accursed acquaintance, has been purely based on condescending, judgmental sneering at anyone who doesn’t fit your bullshit definition of what “real” Myrrhkins are supposed to be like. I suppose it’s possible that Bristol could turn out to be something other than the perpetual resentment machine that her mother is, but based on what we’ve seen so far, it ain’t bloody likely, especially since she’s already been generously rewarded for simply being one of her mother’s appendages.
Being a hack, though, Williams can’t just leave off at suggesting that maybe the kid should be given a chance to become her own person. She has to go for the gobsmacking, counterintuitive comparison between Bristol and her peers as evidence of why she should be respected, if not admired. Oh yes, Mary Beth, let’s get this straight, indeed: Sarah Palin is the telegenic face of a political movement that takes a malicious glee in scolding other people for their supposed moral failings and lack of responsibility while making endless allowances for the inbred children of their aristocracy. If George W.’s last name had been anything but Bush, he would have been living in a cardboard box outside an ABC store in his forties, not being groomed for a career in politics. Most of us don’t have fathers with rich friends who will pour millions of dollars into keeping us out of the gutter. And unlike Bristol Palin, most unwed teen mothers are not going to be given tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees to go around and tell other teens what a mistake it was to have a kid at such a young age, because, hey, look at how much she’s suffering. They’re not going to be provided with lucrative appearances on imbecilic reality TV shows simply because of name recognition. In a society run by people like Bristol’s mother, they’re going to have extremely limited access to birth control, education and employment opportunities, and almost no margin of error when it comes to making the sort of dumb choices that adolescents are indeed prone to making. I had a few peers who made the mistake of getting married too young before getting stuck raising a child on their own while working two or three jobs and going to school part-time, but all I seem to recall hearing from the conservative aristocracy was that these sluts with their loose morals were destroying the fabric of society, and they needed to get back to church and stop being so quick to leave their husbands over a little infidelity or physical abuse.
I don’t blame Bristol, or anyone else given the opportunity, for grabbing that cash with both hands and making a stash. But there’s something fucking obscene about someone like Williams, who you would think should know better, acting as if she earned a damned thing, rather than being just the latest example of an entitled brat benefiting from incredibly good fortune while telling everyone else that it’s all due to being a “hard ass worker“.
Don’t Break the Law if You Can’t Throw a Ball
The White House says President Barack Obama has commended the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles for giving quarterback Michael Vick a second chance after his release from prison.Obama spokesman Bill Burton says the president told owner Jeffrey Lurie that while he condemns the crimes Vick was convicted of, he believes people who have paid for their crimes should have the opportunity to contribute to society again.
It Was Twenty Years Ago Today
Wittgenstein liked Hollywood westerns and crime fiction. Jiddu Krishnamurti enjoyed detective novels. Me, when I want some light reading, something for sheer fun, I turn to fantasy novels. Dungeons and Dragons sort of stuff, although I never actually played D&D.
I liked this little Christmas story of Alex Balk’s:
One of the tragedies of our lives is how much we miss out on because we think there’s something more interesting happening wherever were aren’t; it is a lesson always learned too late.
– I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason –
The peculiarly noticeable thing about the personality of Zen people is the uncluttered mind. When you deal with Zen masters, you have a strange feeling that so long as you are with them and addressing them, they are absolutely with you. They have nothing else to do but talk to you. They are just “right there.”