By Samir Chopra
The characters in Nevil Shute's On The Beach know that barring natural disasters, and other unforeseen circumstances, they will die in a few months time--in September 1963--of radiation sickness, brought on by the thirty-seven day thermonuclear war that has already wiped out life in the northern hemisphere. They know its painful and uncomfortable symptoms--diarrhea and vomiting--will resemble those of cholera; they have the option to commit suicide by using a pill--supplied by the government and made available at local chemists. All humans know they will die; these ones know when and how. (As John Osborne notes, ""You've always known that you were going to die sometime. Well, now you know when.")
Perhaps unsurprisingly, last week, during a classroom discussion centered on Shute's novel, the following question slowly hoved into view: Would you want to know the time and manner of your death? We live our lives with the knowledge of our certain death; would we want to further refine it in this fashion? Why or why not? (We could also induce another twist by asking whether, if possessed of this knowledge with regards to someone else, we should tell them about it, without withholding any details. A variant of this situation occurs quite often, I think, in some medical contexts involving terminally ill patients and their doctors. Other twists include the knowledge of the details of, not our deaths, but those of loved ones.)
The answers to this cluster of questions are likely to be quite revealing. Knowledge of the time and manner of death may permit a settling of affairs, a more directed planning of one's activities, a more systematic prioritization of one's objectives; it may induce an urgency into our lives that some may find currently lacking. It may have a calming effect on some, But it may also induce paralyzing anxiety for some; the fear of the manner of death--perhaps gruesome dismemberment for some, or brutal murder for others--may have such an effect.
Why is the raising and answering of this question a philosophical exercise? Perhaps because these answers reveal valuations crucial to the chosen path of conduct in our lives--and what could be more fundamental a philosophical question than 'What is the good life?' Perhaps because in answering a question about whether some item of knowledge is desirable or not, we may possibly articulate limits on what should be known by us--a puzzle that, in the past, often confronted those who worked on thermonuclear weapons, or as in these days, those who work on cloning technologies. Answering this question could be an introspective and retrospective exercise, forcing not just a look inwards at our beliefs and desires, but also a look backwards at the lives we have lived thus far, an act likely to be imbued with an ethical and moral assessment. Such an examination of our beliefs and our plans for our lives, and the manner in which we would choose to live them, seems a fairly fundamental philosophical activity, perhaps even of the kind that Socrates was always urging on us.
Note: This post was originally published--under the same title--on samirchopra.com
As someone who has spent the better part of her career researching, analyzing and teaching not only about the structure and nature of oppressive power regimes, but also better and worse ways to resist or transform such regimes, I've nevertheless been unable to settle in my own mind, to my own satisfaction, my position with regard to the moral or political value of revolutionary violence. I can say that my core moral intuitions (for whatever those are worth) definitely incline me toward favoring nonviolence as a principled ethical commitment... though, over the years, I have found those intuitive inclinations fading in both intensity and persuasiveness. As a philosopher, a citizen and a moral agent, I continue to be deeply unsettled by my own ambivalence on this matter.
First, a preliminary autobiographical anecdote: I spent a year between undergraduate and gradate school in the nonprofit sector, as the Director of the M.K.Gandhi Institute for the Study of Nonviolence. (That was back in 2000, when the Gandhi Institute was still housed at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, which is now my academic home, evidencing the kind of bizarro turn-of-fate that can only be credited to some particularly clever-- or ironically humorous-- supernatural bureaucrat.) I went to the Gandhi Institute initially because nonviolence was an all-but-unquestioned moral virtue for me at the time. But, after a few years in graduate school and consistently since, the many and varied until-then-unposed questions about the moral or political legitimacy of violence pressed their way to the fore of my mind. In roughly chronological order, I'd say that the combination of (1) my first real engagement with Frantz Fanon's argument in "Concerning Violence" (from his Wretched of the Earth), the arguments by Marx (and Marxists) in various texts advocating more or less violent revolution, and Noam Chomsky's considerations of the same, (2) my extensive research into human rights violations, transitional justice and transitional democracies, postcolonial theory, feminist theory and critical race theory, which collectively constituted the subject of my dissertation, (3) the radically dramatic shift in what counts as properly-speaking "political" and/or "revolutionary" violence in the post-9/11 world and (4) my own experiences, from near and afar, with the increasing number of (threatened, proto-, aborted, defeated and/or more-or-less successful) revolutions taking place in my adult lifetime (e.g., OWS, the Arab Spring and, much closer to home and far less violent, the current and ongoing academic revolution surrounding the Salaita case), all worked together to contribute to my rethinking the merits and demerits of violence as a way of resisting/combatting/correcting oppressive, exclusionary or otherwise unjust power regimes.
Posted by Leigh M. Johnson on 05 September 2014 at 00:53 in Academic freedom, Academic freedom , anti-fascism, Disaster capitalism, immaterial labor, the social factory, and other Autonomia notions, Interdisciplinary work, Leigh M Johnson, Philosophy, Political Affect, Political Economy, Political murders, Politics, Race, (anti-)racism, race theory, Racism, War | Permalink | Comments (8)
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How can we combine the economic necessities of work with caring for infants? This dilemma recurs across cultures, and western culture is no exception. In a series of interviews with professors who are mothers (which I hope to put on NewApps by the end of this month), one of my respondents, who has grown children remarked about their preschool years:
"I was completely stressed out. It wasn’t just that childcare was expensive—and even with two salaries it was a stretch: It was insecure. If a childcare provider decided to quit, I would be left in the lurch; if my kid wet his pants once too often he’d be kicked out of pre-school [which had strict rules about children being toilet-trained] and I’d have to make other arrangements."
This concern resonates with many parents. It is especially acute among low-income, single mothers who struggle to find last-minute childcare to fit their employers' unpredictable scheduling. Also symptomatic are heart-wrenching stories about a woman whose children were taken away because she failed to find childcare when she had to go on a job interview and left them in a car, or a woman who was arrested for allowing her nine-year-old daughter to play in a park while she worked in a nearby fast food restaurant.
Can we learn anything from how other cultures solve the working mother's dilemma?
For they know they are not animals. And at the very moment when they discover their humanity, they begin to sharpen their weapons to secure its victory.
--Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
America has been and remains an apartheid state. That sad but increasingly undeniable fact was made apparent last night in Ferguson, Missouri to a group of peaceful protesters amidst tanks, deafening LRADs, a haze of tear gas and a firestorm of rubber (and real) bullets. The other tragic fact made apparent in Ferguson last night is that America is only ever a hair's-breadth away from a police state... if we understand by "police" not a regulated body of law-enforcement peacekeepers empowered to serve and protect the citizenry, but rather a heavily-armed, extra-constitutional, militarized cadre of domestic soldiers who provoke and terrorize with impunity. Much of the time, we are able to forget or ignore these unfortunate truths about contemporary America-- and by "we" I mean our elected officials, our bureaucrats and financiers, and a lot of self-delusionally "post-racial," though really white, people-- but the mean truth of gross inequality, both de facto and de jure, remains ever-present in spite of our disavowals, simmering steadily just below the allegedly free and fair democratic veneer of our polis.
Greg Howard, journalist and parrhesiates, said it about as plainly as it can be said this past Tuesday in his article for Deadspin: America is not for black people. The truth of "American apartheid" should make us all ashamed, saddened, angry, deeply troubled as moral and political agents. And, what is more, it should frighten us all.
“Yo” Is an App that doesn’t let you do much: it just lets you send or receive a “Yo” message to/from another subscriber. Purists might insist on this being content, but it really is pretty de minimis, which lets you ask the obvious question: why on earth would a communication technology that doesn’t really let you communicate anything interest anyone? My colleague Robin James has a brilliant answer to that question, which is that Yo basically embodies what Jodi Dean calls “communicative capitalism.” Here is James:
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned, both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake, and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets the trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
In a recent FB status update, Justin E. H. Smith cites James Scott approvingly:
As the anthropologist James C. Scott has compellingly argued, it is a fool's game to attempt to learn about human nature from 'isolated' or 'primitive' tribes, since every human group about which we have any knowledge has existed in some relation to a broader network of other human groups, and usually of states and empires. In this respect the idea of homogeneous national cultures attaching stably to territories is not only an illusion, to the extent that the homogeneity was initially imposed by a concerted campaign, but also to the extent that influence and goods are always flowing in from outside, even if in certain places and times foreign faces and foreign tongues are an unfamiliar occurrence. James C. Scott, "Crops, Towns, Government," London Review of Books, Vol. 35, No. 22, 21 November, 2013, pgs. 13-15.
While I agree grosso modo with Scott's point about skepticism about direct and naive conclusions from existing foragers back to pre-State times, I think we can make some reasonable, modest, and always open to re-interpretation, guesses (or if you want, hypotheses) for pre-State forager bands. When we do that we have to remember that claims that inter-group war was the dominant form of inter-group relation are themselves prone to illegitimate analogies with nation-state behavior (that is, society as boot camp: impose a homogeneous culture to better ensure success in war through loyalty to the group, etc).
Ein Mann wohnt im Haus der spielt mit den Schlangen der schreibt--Celan.
Yesterday, I posted a very lengthy (by our blogging standards) piece about the role(s) the purported contrast between understanding and explaining the Holocaust can play in the arts, ethics, and social science. It was framed as a response to a two-part review by Mark Lilla. I was careful not to motivate my disagreement with Lilla in political terms. In fact, I avoid mention of "politics," "Israel," "evil," "Hitler," (etc). Interestingly enough, three out of four published comments on the piece thus far (two by fellow NewAPPSies),* focus on political abuses of the Holocaust in Israel or Stateside (or elsewhere); these comments seem to target primarily what they take to be the political and legal implications of Lilla's position.
Every advance in research that adds a new complication to our understanding of what happened on the Nazi side, or on the victims’, can potentially threaten our moral clarity about why it happened, obscuring the reality and fundamental inexplicability of anti-Semitic eliminationism.--Mark Lilla, NYRB, 21 November.
In a two-part article, which is a review of two films and some books, Mark Lilla presents us two competing approaches to the Holocaust: one -- represented by the author Hannah Arendt -- attempts "to find a schema that would render the horror comprehensible and make judgment possible;" the other -- represented by the film-maker Claude Lanzmann prior to the film (The Last of the Unjust) under review -- embraces a "refusal to understand." Without wishing to obscure the differences between Arendt and Lanzmann as presented by Lilla, the point of aiming and obtaining understanding, or not, is in some sense moral on their views. (I return to this below.)
As the passage above reveals, Lilla's position also embraces the "fundamental inexplicability," of "anti-Semitic eliminationism" by which he appears to mean the Holocaust of the Jews.* But in Lilla's approach the inexplicable has no stated moral purpose. In fact, in the passage above, Lilla offers us an asymmetry in the possible consequences of obtaining new facts, insights, even "understanding" of a historical event: (i) in the moral sphere they can undermine (or fortify) "moral" judgment; (ii) in the epistemic sphere, they leave untouched what is fundamentally inexplicable. To be sure, in the moral realm certain forms of historical explanation are presupposed; in particular, one needs a functional or teleological account why something happened before one can obtain "moral clarity" or not. But Lilla's position also involves the further claim that even with some such "understanding," an event can remain fundamentally inexplicable. We are not told much about what remains elusive such that a functionally or schematically understood event is still not just a mystery, but at bottom a mystery.
He may say with Parmenides, who, upon reading a philosophical discourse before a public assembly at Athens, and observing, that, except Plato, the whole company had left him, continued, notwithstanding, to read on, and said that Plato alone was audience enough for him.--Adam Smith
The English Bill of Rights (1689) expressly forbids ""cruel and unusual" punishment, and this found its way into the U.S. Constitution. One important, enduring argument against such punishment -- and many other forms of cruelty that may not, in fact, constitute 'punishment' -- can be found in Seneca's Letter 7: viewing and otherwise participating in the degradation and cruelty of others, even in the context of justified punishment [ille meruit ut hoc pateretur], can harm not just the victims or punished, but perpetrators and spectators alike. This is especially so if the cruelty produces pleasure as it is likely to do at public spectacles [spectaculo]* because then this pleasure makes our soul receptive; a desire for more cruelty creeps up on us [per voluptatem facilius vitia subrepunt].
Seneca's particular target is the institution of aestheticized, public spectacles of cruelty and inhumanity [crudelior et inhumanior].** He emphasizes the significance of audience participation [spectatoribus suis obiciuntur]. He reorients and subtly transforms Plato's arguments for censorship of the arts to focus on the more pernicious institutions that indirectly teach people to celebrate cruelty. Seneca's argument applies to a lot of issues that we are not likely to consider primarily in terms of political speech: mass sporting events; war coverage; disaster tourism, and any form of entertainment that rely on the pleasures derived from exposure to the suffering of others. (This is not to deny that the targets of Seneca's argument can overlap with Plato's, and that his argument is indebted to Plato's moral psychology.)
Over lunch my dad asked me why the use of chemical weapons is thought morally worse than other weapons (some of which capable of tremendous carnage and deaths). I couldn't do much better than, "it's against international law." Upon reflection my answer is not entirely silly (I return to that below). It is worth nothing that as so-called 'weapons of mass destruction' go chemical weapons are by no means the worst in killing potential. First I turn to Owen Schaefer, who wrote a very thoughtful blog post with a purported answer:
It is indeed generally worse to be killed by a chemical weapon than a conventional one. Chemical agents such as nerve gas typically cause significant suffering before death – choking, vomiting, chemical burns, defecation, convulsions and the like. For those lucky enough to survive, chronic neurological damage can be expected. Conventional weapons are not pleasant either, to be sure, and can similarly cause severe burns, painful wounds, infections, loss of limbs and so on. Nevertheless, the suffering is pretty much inevitable in a chemical attack, whereas at least those killed by conventional weapons may be killed quickly, even instantly. What’s more, chemical weapons are more dispersive than most conventional weapons, more likely to cause collateral damage to noncombatants. These factors indicate we have strong pro tanto reasons to prefer, if a conflict is going to occur at all, that conventional rather than chemical weapons be used.--Schaefer.
I doubt this answer will fully satisfy my dad (a Holocaust survivor who has seen his share of horrors). For Schaefer does not really address the hypocrisy charge given the fact that the legal status quo on the use of Nuclear weapons is -- pace this advisory opinion -- far more permissive. (I am no expert, so feel free to correct me.) Because I am skeptical about the 'more likely to cause collateral damage' claim, it appears that the main moral rationale for focused outrage over the use of chemical weapons is that we prefer our mass killing without prior suffering to the killed. It is, thus, in the spirit of the displacement of torture and needless suffering in 'civilized' penal codes (suggested by Foucault) since the late Enlightenment.
It is, of course, no argument against this anti-suffering ethic to note that it fits a common anesthized (or aestheticized) picture of war. Yet, if consequences matter (as they clearly do in Schaefer's analysis), we also need to ask ourselves if we are taking all the relevant consequences into considerations.
"Strauss' interpretation of Plato is wrong from beginning to end." M.F. Burnyeat.
Although we philosophers are thought of as a cerebral bunch, our loathings can be pretty intense. I need not mention the hundred-year, fraternal civil war, which around here we label a 'divide,' between analytic and continental philosophy; we are not known for our fondness for what passes as 'theory' among literature and cultural studies departments (and I have experienced plenty of uncivil behavior from folk in, say, science studies in return). But when professional philosophers are not just puzzled by the Straussians they encounter, we reserve a special kind of bile and invective against them, especially as Strauss's students found their ways into advising Goldwater and Reagan (and beyond); once I was halted in my invective against Wolfowitz by (The University of Chicago's) Ralph Lerner's, 'Paul once sat in that chair, and was no less passionate than you.' Undoubtedly a few of us were at least mildly irritated by reading Steven Smith's very respectful review of books on the legacy of Strauss in a recent New York Times Book Review--"doesn't he know that 'Strauss is not a Philosopher!'"?
In his famous essay, Burnyeat (a former teacher) overreached. Invoking "ordinary scholarship," Burnyeat treats Plato (surprisingly Popperian) as a "radical utopian," primarily relevant for opening up "a reasoned debate on the nature and practicality of a just society" (emphasis in Burnyeat). Given that Burnyeat was in no sense an ordinary scholar, who also searchingly pioneered the historiographical construction of the classics, these lines are painful read; Burnyeat reduces the significance of Plato's political philosophy to being a forerunner of Rawls. Those of us living in the shadow of the surveillance state may find Strauss' "anti-Utopian teaching" ("invented" or not) about Plato a useful touch-stone, sometimes. For in Republic and Laws surveillance are ever-present and its limits thematized. The cause of Burnyeat's overreach is that Plato's Laws has always been a blind-spot to him (and until recently ordinary analytic scholarship).
At some level, Burnyeat must have known he overreached, because he allowed the original and reprinted version of the piece to have a clear reference to a famous short story by Oscar Wilde, -- which may be read as an allegory on philosophical madness [Murchison is introduced as a truth-teller] ! -- that ends with that enigmatic "I wonder."
This looks fascinating:
During the Second World War, three prominent members of the Frankfurt School--Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse, and Otto Kirchheimer--worked as intelligence analysts for the Office of Strategic Services, the wartime forerunner of the CIA. This book brings together their most important intelligence reports on Nazi Germany, most of them published here for the first time.
These reports provide a fresh perspective on Hitler's regime and the Second World War, and a fascinating window on Frankfurt School critical theory. They develop a detailed analysis of Nazism as a social and economic system and the role of anti-Semitism in Nazism, as well as a coherent plan for the reconstruction of postwar Germany as a democratic political system with a socialist economy. These reports played a significant role in the development of postwar Allied policy, including denazification and the preparation of the Nuremberg Trials. They also reveal how wartime intelligence analysis shaped the intellectual agendas of these three important German-Jewish scholars who fled Nazi persecution prior to the war.
Secret Reports on Nazi Germany features a foreword by Raymond Geuss as well as a comprehensive general introduction by Raffaele Laudani that puts these writings in historical and intellectual context.
Suppose that you want to defend someone or some institution from criticism that it has engaged in unacceptable behavior of type t. Here's a common rhetorical strategy understood by all professional pundits: First, you define some spectrum, relevant to t. Then you find a way to identify demons at the right and left-hand ends of that spectrum that will allow you to place your hero in the rational middle. It helps if one of the demons can be associated - even if unfairly - with actual people, preferably people that are already demonized by your likely readers. Balancing that first demon needn't actually be real people. Rather, you can use some vague phrase that suggests demonizable extremism. Such non-referential vaguery is useful because it allows you to suggest to readers that real critics fit this extreme, without having to actually defend claims about what they really say. Next you assume the middle, with high fanfare and moral certainty. Finally, you rhetorically assimilate your spectrum to three discrete points: point occupied by you and your hero; the crazies on one end, and all critics on the other.
Voila: Hero defended without having to actually address any of the substantive criticisms. No one who is a crazy spectrum-ending demon needs to be engaged with seriously.
So Nine does not simply insist that the collective in question adds material and symbolic value to the land and is in turn shaped by its ways of dealing with the land. While land-use patterns are important, what matters is that these land-use patterns are geared towards the establishment of just communities. To illustrate, in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, the evil Orcs build a sophisticated underground system of dungeons and mines in preparation for future misdeeds. When the Ents (tree-like beings that keep the forest) flood and thereby destroy these structures during the Battle of Isengard, they are disrupting established land-use patterns. But since the Orcs did not build this system to advance justice, no loss of moral value occurs.--From this review by Mathias Risse of Cara Nine, Global Justice and Territory.
From Risse's description it is not entirely clear if the example is in Nine's book (a quick search suggests not). Let's stipulate (a) that the Ents waged a just war in self-defense and (b) that as a matter of fact the Orcs' land-use patterns do not advance justice (regardless of the Orcs' views on such matters). I am, however, troubled by the final claim that "no loss of moral value occurs." For it seems that cultural genocide is endorsed in the example. (Quite a few, unnarmed Orc laborers also die--most of the Orc warriors of Saruman were fighting elsewhere.) Here are three reasons for concern: first, we should not be blind to Tolkien's racialized stereotypes--the Orcs are dark-skinned 'others.'
Max Weber defines political sovereignty as the monopoly on the legitimate use of force within a territory. But there is a problem: how to unleash yet control the killing potential of the forces of order, the army and the police? The problem is especially acute in the crucial point of counter-revolution: will the army fire on “the people”? Plato saw this problem clearly in his analysis of the character of the guardians, who had to be kind to friends yet fierce to enemies (Republic, 375c).
Interestingly enough, the problem is more on the “unleashing” side than on the “controlling” side, for killing is less easy than it might seem for those raised with a Hobbesian outlook in which the ability to kill is assumed to be widespread. We should recall here the way Hobbes emphasizes the role of fear in the state of nature in prompting the agreement to form the civil state—and fear of a return to the state of nature once in such a state. The reason we must be afraid in – and of – the the state of nature is the widespread ability of people to kill each other; while asleep, even the strongest can be killed by the weakest.
It would be unjust to allow Erik Loomis's presence in the blogosphere to be defined only as someone to whom those concerned with free speech rallied when he was attacked in the wake of the Newtown massacre. For Loomis is also the author of an extraordinary series of posts at Lawyers, Guns, and Money entitled "This Day in Labor History."
Today's post begins:
On January 25, 1941, A. Philip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the most important civil rights leader of the World War II era, called for a March on Washington to protest discrimination in defense industry work. The success of this movement in convincing the government to act on employment discrimination both opened unprecedented economic opportunities for African-Americans during the war and helped lay the groundwork for the modern civil rights movement after the war.
One of the key insights:
Roosevelt was desperate to avoid the embarrassment of a nation preparing to fight fascism having its own caste system publicized before the world.
You should do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.
It turns out that most trauma victims — even survivors of combat, torture or concentration camps — rebound to live full, normal lives. That has given rise to a more nuanced view of trauma — less a poison than an infectious agent, a challenge that most people overcome but that may defeat those weakened by past traumas, genetics or other factors. Now, a significant body of work suggests that even this view is too narrow — that the environment just after the event, particularly other people’s responses, may be just as crucial as the event itself.
I thought this one about Nepalese ex-child soldiers provided a good concrete example:
But in villages that readily and happily reintegrated them (usually via rituals or conventions specifically designed to do so), they experienced no more mental distress than did peers who had never gone to war. The lasting harm of being a child soldier, it seemed, arose not from the war but from social isolation and conflict afterward.
Contrast* the social integration approach to an individual pathology approach, using cognitive behavioral therapy and / or SSRIs to handle symptoms or beta-blockers to intervene in memory formation (another h/t to Greg Downey for this link).
It was a rather strange situation because the war was over. Before the war there was quite a strong fascist party led by Oswald Mosley and he and his cohorts were put in detention (jail) during the war by Churchill. After the war they came out and immediately started up again with their anti-Semitism and running through the streets and having meetings, it was quite ridiculous. Many truly brave Jewish ex-servicemen started the “43 Group” because there were 43 people at the first meeting they had. These were tough men who had been through the war. Of course volunteers were needed, I was 16 or 17 at the time, most of my friends joined the 43 Group and there were quite a few hundred of us. Truly the fascists were smashed in the streets and yes if you were scared at times because it was scary. But after we saw the pictures that came out and the whole story of the Holocaust, there was actually no way we could allow fascists to run through the streets. I was arrested one night and put in jail, the following day the judge told me ‘to be a good boy’ and let me go. That was our life in those days, we decided that we were absolutely not going to allow what happened pre-war when Jews were just beat up indiscriminately in the streets. It worked beautifully because of mainly the tough Jewish characters that were in the British armed forces during the war, they were the people that did it. But also there were quite a few gentiles who had seen the camps, the horror of Europe and fought with us.
You owe it to yourself to watch the video (below the fold):
[I]n his opening statement to the jury one prosecutor suggested that “it’s not illegal to watch something on the television. It is illegal, however, to watch something in order to cultivate your desire, your ideology.”
But there is another factor that might be playing a role in the increasing rates of the disorder, one that has escaped attention: the military’s use of stimulant medications, like Ritalin and Adderall, in our troops.
Histories of Violence is a multi-media project directed by Brad Evans of Leeds University. The project is "dedicated to exploring the theoretical, empirical and aesthetic dimensions to violence." From the home page of the project:
This trans-disciplinary project provides an open access platform for the specific purposes of academic and public engagement; knowledge transfer; political discussion; philosophical reflection; along with exhibiting works which directly engage the perennial problem afflicting human life. Amongst the sites key features include:
Yesterday I visited the Lakenhal museum in Leiden, which by chance was hosting the last day of an exhibition on the Siege and Relief of Leiden (1574), a major episode in Dutch history. The background were the religious and political disputes between the catholic Spanish rulers and the large protestant population, led by charismatic leaders such as William of Orange (who then went on to become the first Dutch king [CORRECTION: See E. Schliesser's comment below]). The Spanish were determined to conquest the rebel areas by force, and had already violently subjugated the cities of Naarden and Haarlem. But after an unsuccessful campaign in Alkmaar, the Spanish rulers opted for a different approach, and began a siege of the city of Leiden in 1573. For the first siege, the city was well-prepared and could withstand the siege, which was then terminated after a few months. But in May 1574 a second siege began, and this time Leiden was not prepared , in particular with no special food supplies.
Thanks to our "liberal Democrat" president, revocation of the Magna Carta is now permanent. Would it be too much to ask that people wake the hell up and take this seriously?
Sadly, I think the answer to that question is "yes". And so I'm allowing myself a day of wallowing - exemplified by my title, which refers to this bit of brilliant despair - I'll no doubt come around to something more positive in a bit.
(I also know that "Political Music Friday" has begun to function like "Holy Roman Empire" but it is not dead, just resting.)
Posted by Mark Lance on 15 December 2011 at 07:31 in beyond cynicism; or, what's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?, Capital punishment, solitary confinement, and the prison-industrial complex, Mark Lance, Politics, War | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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I usually start this talk with a joke that the title page needs more hyphens, since I'm really talking about "geo-bio-neuro-political-techno-affective assemblages." The slides are here. The text of the paper is here. My thanks to Andrew Marzoni, Joe Hughes, and everyone with the Literary Theory Reading Group at the University of Minnesota for the invitation.
From the very interesting blog We Meant Well, ex-State Department Foreign Service member Peter van Buren provides an excellent analysis of an important reason behind the decision to withdraw US troops from Iraq by the end of this year. Briefly put, the Iraq government refused to extend the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) that basically grants immunity to Iraqi law for US personnel serving there. Without a SOFA, the military will not operate in a "host" country, so Obama's decision was forced.
Why did the Iraqi government refuse a new SOFA? Van Buren argues that the 2007 massacre of Baghdad civilians by Blackwater mercenaries was a prime motive. The horrible irony? The State Department will employ 5000 mercenaries for security purposes beginning January 1, 2012, and they don't need a SOFA, as they will have diplomatic immunity!
Also of interest for thinking about political affect is this piece by van Buren, "Warrior Pundits and War Pornographers," which is less about war porn than about the way an affective bond between soldiers and embedded journalists is produced by daily acts of helping the newbie cope and even simply survive.
I’m just back from an extremely enjoyable family vacation in sunny Fuerteventura, which also means that I am swamped by a zillion work-related things that need to be attended to asap. I also want to resume blogging, and have a few posts already lined up in my head (in particular, one on the ‘climate for women’ discussion which has re-emerged), but where do I find time for all this? (One almost regrets going on holiday and forgetting about it all for a while, given the harsh conditions upon return!)
But anyway, today I came across two interesting links, via the New Scientist twitter feed, and thought it might be a good topic to resume blogging. As it turns out, Steven Pinker’s most recent interest is the history of violence, which he takes to be a privileged window for his long-standing interest in human nature (broadly construed). In his new book The Better Angels of our Nature, he claims that there has been a significant decrease in homicides and violent deaths over the centuries: ‘Humans are less violent than ever’. This becomes particularly clear if the death tolls of historical occurrences of horror are estimated on the basis of the human population at the time, and what the proportion would mean in terms of the current human population in the world. This was done by finding the per-capita death rate at the midpoint of the event's range of years, based on population estimates from McEvedy and Jones.