Sep 23 2009

Through a Glass, Darkly

The Problem of Personal Experience

When you stare into the Space Bunny, the Space Bunny stares into you

When you stare into the Space Bunny, the Space Bunny stares into you

Most educated people like to think that their beliefs are borne out of careful consideration, and their positions rationally upheld by objective evidence and moral clarity.  It is not inaccurate to say that generally, this is how I feel.  How else could I argue my positions, and participate in the cultural debate, and attempt to sway my colleagues and friends to my perspective?  It’s one thing to subscribe to the Platonic ideal of questioning everything and never taking what you think you know for granted.  More often than not, this approach results in academic dithering, the occasional bout of self-doubt, some drunken introspection, and maybe you finally change your feelings on a subject that is no more pressing than the lightshow’s projected up on Plato’s cave.

Woah, I think that enlightenment is starting to kick in

Woah, I think that enlightenment is starting to kick in

Personal involvement in an issue tends to scatter the academic detritus, and can have a profound impact on the way in which one perceives an issue.  The intellectual demands of being immediately involved in an otherwise hypothetical question can very quickly demolish your entire carefully constructed argumentations.  Activism and advocacy can only really be explained by the personal experience of engagement, and yet activists and advocates are easily dismissed from consideration as ‘being too close to the issue.’  Does this speak to a weakness in any person’s carefully constructed belief system?  Or does becoming personally involved in an issue really sap one’s objective clarity of thought?

These are questions that I have struggled with recently, after finding my house-of-cards thinking woefully inadequate for dealing with reality.  The implication I take from this, and it’s not a pleasant one, is that people are 95% full of shit.

The first count is gay marriage.  Sure, why not? I thought.  Equal rights, let em be as miserable as the rest of us.  Truthfully, I thought the gay community had other, more pressing issues to bring to the national debate.  Marriage seemed fairly low in the struggle for equality.  But then the country voted for change, and an ugly reality spoiled the mood.

California voters went to the polls, and an increased number of black voters showed up to vote for our first black President.  These same voters overwhelmingly supported the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

Would Somebody Think of the Children?

Would Somebody Think of the Children?

What should have been an unvarnished, unequivocated vote for progress instead became, in the California vote, an ugly reminder that all Americans, regardless of race, are assuredly capable of hate.  Now, I should mention that one of my younger sisters is gay.  This turn of events made me angry.  Under the cloak of a national reconciliation, agents of ignorance decided to play to a populations prejudice, and explicitly deny a right to my sister that we usually take for granted.  My thinking on this has changed, now.  I feel this is a civil right’s issue, and the refined air of academic detachment is no longer relevant.  It’s personal now.

The second count is America’s involvement in Afghanistan: in the war of necessity.  In the moral war against jihadists.  It has been plain for a very long time that the Afghan operation has been poorly executed.  It has been clear that the resources diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq were critical, and the diversion itself a towering mistake.  But hey, we voted for change. Obviously we cannot allow insurgents to overrun that ravaged country yet again; we cannot allow al-Qaeda an unmolested operating space; we cannot abandon our national commitment there while extremists still wage guerrilla war across the Pakistani border.  I supposed that if the generals on the ground said we needed more troops, who was I to argue?  After all, I seem to have been proven largely wrong about the Surge in Iraq.  It’s half a world away!

Of course, all of this wasn’t quite so near the surface; my arguments were sincere, my thinking thorough.  There were grave misgivings, to be sure, but the level of personal engagement simply wasn’t there.  And now a very good friend of mine, who wanted to fly but got knocked down on a bullshit technicality, is being shipped out to Afghanistan in the infantry.  My thinking is now very confused, my positions not nearly so neat.  I looked in the mirror, and saw something different.  Something I didn’t like.  What else do I hold in near-certainty that will just as easily away at the first engagement with the real-world?  The experience to be had in this world is so vast, and our understanding of it so infinitely limited, is it no wonder the cultural debate devolves rapidly into caricature and gibberish?  Attempting to be open-minded as new information emerges is of little use in the data-spiraled maelstrom of the 21st century.  Question Everything! is a trendy cliche; Question Yourself! can only go so far.  Question what you know?  I am deeply unsure as to how effective that can be, when what you know is so easily changed.  Knowledge is the distorted reflections of our lives, through a darkened glass . . . and what we come to know can be as terrifying as what we thought we didn’t know.

A Long Way from Home, A Long Way to Go

A Long Way from Home, A Long Way to Go

Sep 17 2009

The Ignorant Third


Thanks to ElCaptainAmerica for digging through the sewage so I don’t have to.  Bill the Butcher would be ashamed of these imbeciles.

Sep 16 2009

SteelRap 2k9 Project

Presenting the earliest stages of a new Dallas-wide hip-hop project of tremendous ambition and scope.  A diversity of styles, skills and approaches defining a Futuristic Sound for the South.  Featuring:

Castro Pimpswell, the Vigilante, Benny Chan the Asiatic Automatic, Seanzy, Mr. Cobb aka Bobby Skrillz, Reynaldo Walnero, Freewill and FSR (forever), Kemetik, John Merrick, Tricky Nixon, Ilya Rostolev, DJ Cool Mil, Big Swing (aka Russia aka Glass Daggers aka Sabian Colosso aka the Digital Journalist) and many more.

Comments, interest and enthusiasm are appreciated.  Updates will drop in due time.  Survival Horror Sound EP and the Harmonica Breaks one-shot are in the pipeline.  Keep scanning the radio waves, wastelander.


Sep 15 2009

Concepts of Identity in a Tribalized Society

The Founding Fathers were Strapped

James Madison, one of the flyest and most forward thinking of the founding generation, was gravely concerned with the impact of factional divisions in the nascent American republic.  He defined a faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”  So grave was this threat that he helped erect an elaborate series of checks and balances, proposed in the Federalist Papers, to keep this factional impulse in check.

The Taoist philosophers that compiled the Tao te Ching proposed a different approach to moderating the factional impulse: “Fill the bellies [of the people] and empty their minds.”

These two ideas have become superimposed in the contemporary social atmosphere of rampant tribalism and factional partisanship.  In a country as vast and diverse as America, rallying a unified section of the populace to any particular action is massively difficult, save for in two instances: when the appeal to patriotic love of country is invoked (or the love of God, often interpolated with patriotism); and when a minority faction’s sense of security is threatened . . . or when that faction believes they are threatened.

A Popular Faction

A Popular Faction

Motivated special interests (as the faction is known today) range from the Health Care Insurance Lobby to the the Republican and Democratic parties.  Factions can become defined by region, race, sex or ideology.  Being that America is a liberal bastion of free-thought, defining a faction in terms of what it is becomes difficult and necessarily exclusionary.  The terms used then become so big as to become pedantic and largely symbolic: American, patriot, Christian, conservative, liberal.  These symbols can only be wielded as bludgeons, inarticulately smashing differences and polarizing opposition to a fever-pitch.  This can work in focused, intent time-frames – such as the run-up to the War in Iraq and the election of Barack Obama on a platform of Change – but in the long-run these forces burn themselves out.  It is a more effective, and destructive, strategy to define a faction not by what it stands for, but by what it stands against. This strategem operates in phases.  The first applies the Taoist logic of keeping the peoples bellies full and minds empty.  This is done by propagating the static wave gibberish of partisan cable news, narrow-casted ideological websites, vacuous entertainment and substandard education.  Many of these elements are self-realizing in a capitalist material culture, and so engage a perpetual feedback loop, rendering their subjects ever fuller, ever emptier.  The people become convinced that their interpretation of reality, filtered by talking heads and vitriolic polemics and assumed folkloric knowledge about their place in the world, is right by virtue of the people who agree with them.

A Popular Television Personality!

A Popular Television Personality!

Your Grandma is Doomed! Ahahah!

Your Grandma is Doomed! Ahahah!

The second phase of this factional indoctrination  consists of defining the faction is reaction and reflex to ‘the Other.’  The Other can be whatever is handy and at hand, so long as the faction this fear is being sold to remains largely ignorant of that fear.  Historically, the Other has been anyone who doesn’t belong to your ethnic stratum: Jews, peasants, blacks, Irish immigrants, communists, socialists, Arabs and Mexicans.  The election of Barack Obama presented a unique problem for many partisans, in that as a popularly elected person of color, traditional ‘Other’ oriented smears proved to be largely self-defeating.  Attacks on the President’s ethnicity and character went no-where, and so attempts to define him as ‘Other’ devolved to cartoonish levels: he is a secret muslim and a Nazi.  The only factions biting these bizarre claims are the most under- and uneducated factions, their minds a vacuum and their bellies bloated.  It is historically significant to recognize that these factions are persistent not only in their ignorance but in their cultural influence.  This is the ‘disastrous third’ of the population Alexis de Tocqueville identified in his critique of American democracy.

The Other is easily defined as contrary to any factions interests; therefore, the factions most susceptible to partisan radicalization generally have the most to lose . . . or they feel they have the most to use.  The delivery systems identified earlier as the first phase of inculcating factional vigor are also extremely adept at delivering messages of fear.

Litany of Fear

Litany of Fear

to be continued . . .

Sep 5 2009

Back to School Bash!



Sep 3 2009

Objectification in Sports – a Contemporary Redundancy

Just part of the job?

Just part of the job?

Or: missing the point.

Overt sexuality in womens’ athletics is big business, no doubt.  It’s hard to flip through a major sporting publication without being inaverdently drawn to these airbrushed forms of athletic idealism, perfectly proportioned like some chiseled sculpture by Phidias, the pervert Greek.  It goes without saying that the most prominent female athletes in our twisted contemporary culture are sexy.  Some of these athletes, like the Williams sisters or Maria Sharapova, cultivate their sexual appeal through sincere physicality; it must be noted that they exist at the highest tier of competitive play.  Below this rarified level of media image crossover, we see a seemingly endless field of hard-bodied women athletes converting their innate sexual energy into media exposure, in the pages of laddy magazines, in photoshoots for ESPN, in endorsement deals for whatever the Man is trying to sell us this week.  That these women possess immense sexual appeal to the consumers of mass media is without doubt.  The question we must ask is whether their agreement to perform in this hyper-sexualized role (like lionesses prowling the vast wasteland Serenghetti, pursued and photographed by desperate huntsmen looking for the one final glory) is the result of social pressure or a conscious decision to maximize opportunity.

If one were to confront these super-realized athletes in an abandoned restaurant and demand answers – if one were to call for justification as if it were holy writ – it is not hard to imagine their responses:

“It makes me feel empowered.”

“I’m comfortable with my sexuality.”

“If you got it, flaunt it!”

Swing a birdie on the 9 iron.

Swing a birdie on the 9 iron.

Any deranged soul who has had chance to flip through a haphazardly compiled porno mag in an ugly waystation bathroom will attest that these responses hew very near those given by pornographic actresses as to why they do ‘what they do.’  Indeed, it is the argumentative subtext that these athletes are a careless slip of the heel away from engaging in soft-core porn.  And in fact they are, but we as a culture are too chickenshit to admit it.

The first two waves of the feminist movement concerned themselves with gender equality, and they were mercilessly burnt out like a bra set to flame.  Some gains were made, but in the end evidence strongly suggests that the ‘gender equal’ utopia the feminists were fighting for was nothing more than a chimera.  The third, contemporary, wave of feminism (at least, the reasoning and adaptable wing of it) has abandoned gender equality in the face of physiological differences and innate gender qualifications, in pursuit of the more fashionable ‘gender opporunity.’

These sexified feminine athletes are effectively engaging in equal opportunity capitalism, and it takes a swinging righteousness to proclaim that these women should be denied the opportunities readily afforded men.  Sports is about dominance . . . it is about superiority, and the conquest of potential.  Men display this dominance in primal fits of aggro-madness, whether this be trash talking a worthy but fundamentally weaker opponent, barking like a dog and pissing on the field or simply stacking dollars far higher than any competitor could imagine, athletic achievment be damned.

This sort of masculinized stomping about is not easily accepted in the womens realm, for any number of socially conditioned reasons that are hardly worth hashing over.  Imagine Sheryl Swoops mugging at the cameras after a dagger J, flexing her biceps and barking at the confounded play-by-play commentators.  It would elicit disgust, horror, existential angst.  Kobe Bryant engaging in the same histrionics is given a pass: “he must really want it.”

eye of the tiger

eye of the tiger

Women athletes then exhibit the primeval sporting need to dominate through intensified sexuality.  This shows that they are fitter, more feminine, sexier and more capable than their would-be rivals.  Their proclamation is played out in the mass media, in the parallel ESPN Top-10, and it is self-centered to suggest they do not truly feel empowered by their globally recognized prowess.

It is also full-thrust myopia to think they are not selling their bodies.

In our idealization of the sporting ethic, we tell many lies.  Our shared mythology cannot stand without the purity of the competition, the soul of the ideal, the pursuit of the championship. Imagine a Macedonian admitting Alexander was defeated by an inscrutable knot of rope and let it be.  Imagine an avowed American patriot suggesting Lincoln was defined by his time, and a racist to boot.  Imagine a stiff-lipped Brit acknowledging Churchills grave and drunken mishandling of Hitlers initial aggression.  You cannot have it.  It will not do.  We would do just as well to cut off our right hands.  The worthiness of sporting is our birthright as a post-martial people.  It is also, unsurprisingly, deeply corrupt and illusory.

at the Top of the Game

At the Top of the Game

The allegation to be heard at this swiftly disregarded tribunal is that women are compelled to sell their bodies for media exposure, for fame and money, and for success.  This is a foolhardy way of looking at things.  These women are professional athletes.  It is their job, just as it is every athletes’ job, to sell their bodies – preferrably for millions of dollars and worldwide recognition.  This is the deal that is struck, and if someone doesn’t like it, they are free to go into a less demanding line of work, like sweeping mines or counselling distressed carnivores.  Our great and dominant nation has nothing but contempt for the athlete who has let themself go, who shows up to training camp out of shape and overweight.  We shower scorn and ridicule upon those who refuse to give it 110%, however mathematically problematic that may be.  We celebrate the champions and forget the losers.  An athlete’s body is little more than the transient temples in which we offer burnt sacrifices to the gods of Competition and Victory.

Sporting is deeply rooted in the humanistic urges for violence and sex.  It is the modern, ‘civilized’ distillation of that inescapable mortal call.  Consider an athlete at full tilt:  think Usain Bolt humiliating the stopwatch, or Roger Federer calling forth a lighting bolt serve, or Valentina Vezzali slashing quicksilver mercury (what, you don’t follow fencing? well, let’s not blame sexism for that).  An athlete honed to maniacal focus is a totem for sexual energy and violent response.  Our culture finds their bodies attractive because we find their bodies dangerous, impossible, desirable.  If we could trot the offensive unit of the Dallas Cowboys out to Thermapolye to be slaughtered by Persian invaders, we would, and the event would break all television records.  If the Gold medal Belarussian gold-medal team were to comfort the Romanian silver-medal runner-ups by sticking their tongues down their throats, the Youtube hits would calculate into the billions.  We want our athletes sexed up and on the brink of crucial injury, like psychopathic fillies running to their doom.  We want freaks and monsters and Goddesses.  We want our mythology live, at 60 frames a second, with the recap on SportsCenter.  It is the Circus Maximus, and none can deny the allure of our primal Colisseum.

Her technique is solid, but she could use some more cleavage Dan.

"Her technique is solid, but she could use some more cleavage. 8.7!"