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Topics - The ZAPINATOR
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« on: November 22, 2004, 11:48:46 AM »
OK. Saturday night was the Ryan Adams show at the Ryman. I am a big Ryan Adams fan, but I didn't expect to be as thoroughly blown away as I was. Ryan was great, his band was perfect, he played an amazing (and thankfully lengthy) set full of his truly great songs (he really has so many to choose from). During the course of the show it dawned on me: I was watching a future legend. Ryan Adams is a fairly young man. With the number of amazing songs he's already written, I fully expect him to go down in history with Dylan, Neil Young, and all the greats.
I think the one thing that took me the most by surprise was what a great guitarist he was. You don't think of Ryan Adams as an amazing guitarist, but he has serious talent in that area. I guess it's just generally overshadowed by his songwriting, but he's seriously an amazing guitarist as well. If you get a chance to see Ryan Adams, you'd do yourself a favor to go. If you don't have any of his albums, I'd suggest starting with Heartbreaker (if you like stripped-down, bare-bones achingly great music).
Just thought I'd report. It was a truly great show.
« on: November 08, 2004, 02:53:37 PM »
I had mentioned last week that I was in the process of reading this book. I got it finished up this weekend. My initial thoughts are to tell everyone they need to read it, but since that's unlikely to happen, I'll just say that it's remarkably insightful. Although it's kind of political philosophy, it will help you understand the basic human motives for why we act the way we do politically. It also lays out the case for why liberal democracy (in the classical sense, not in the contemporary usage of the word "liberal") is a more satisfying system of government to basic human nature than about any other system we've come up with thus far. At the end of the book, he raises the spectres of things that could plunge us back into history (history understood in Hegelian terms, being the process of the thesis/antithesis/synthesis dialectic).
First, Fukuyama takes a look at Hegel like Marx did. If you view the dynamic pushing history forward in strict economic terms, Marx had it right. However, there's one thing that Marx left out of the equation, and that is the conception of thymos, or human worth. What Communism sought to do was to eradicate all class boundaries, but it didn't take into account man's tendency to seek recognition. Fukuyama posited that because Marx assumed that everyone could be equal, and that equal recognition would satisfy everyone, he was overlooking the fact that thymos would continue to manifest itself. And in the lack of a decent outlet, Marxism was crumbling because of the inherent conflict between its ideals (universal equality) and its reality (basic human need for recognition).
Fukuyama then looked at past stages of history, and how thymos (the quest for recognition, a willingness to fight to the death in a battle for pure prestige) had manifested itself at different stages of societal development. Monarchy originally grew out of the conflict between master and slave; a monarch was a monarch by virtue of the fact that he was willing to fight to the death for the irrational recognition of superiority, whereas the slave would seek self-preservation and bow out. Over time, out of this master/slave dynamic, monarchy developed. But whereas the master/ruler found his sense of worth and prestige in his position (and over generations became less hardened), the slave strata of society found a justification for their existence in their work, through the act of creation. Through their work, they secured for themselves recognition.
Christianity, according to Fukuyama, evolved from the slave ethic and was originally a religion of the lowest classes, preaching the equality of mankind. The work ethic (from which the slaves derived their sense of work) was therefore carried into the next stage of history. The work ethic and principle of equality, according to Fukuyama, were essential aspects of Christianity which made democracy possible.
Democracy finally was birthed when the twin concepts of liberty and equality were paired. It succeeded where Marxism failed, because the free market system (closely tied to democracy wherever it's sprung up... and where capitalism fails democracy generally fails shortly thereafter) left a place for thymotic expression. In going to the polls, voters could vote their thymotic values and demand recognition of their views. In capitalism, there's a system where people can seek recognition, which provides another outlet for thymos. In the environment of free discussion, such as is to be found in a liberal democracy, people respect each other and mutually recognize each other. This cuts down on the destructive human instinct to battle to the death for pure prestige, for the rightness of your ideas.
Ultimately, though, according to Fukuyama, the biggest obstacle to the future of democracy (which, if we have indeed reached the end of history, could propel us back into history) is megalothymia. This is a manifestation of thymos which pretty much corresponds to the most ambitious members of society. Those who don't merely seek basic human recognition, but who seek instead to be recognized as superior. (Megalothymia is contrasted to the other manifestation of thymos, which is isothymia, which pretty much means equality... we all recognize each other as equal to ourselves). His point was that, as Nietzsche has pointed out, there's a part of human nature that is lost when we all aspire to equality... we become "men without chests". In a liberal democracy, according to Fukuyama, we have devised other ways to manifest our megalothymia. Such manifestations would include the competitiveness of the business world, the political world, the sports world, etc. But this megalothymia, this basic human need to be not only equal but *superior*, the need to have *my* views be better than *your* views, would ultimately be the thing that would destroy democracy and throw us back into the historical dialectic.
Because ultimately, there is a part of all of us that says "I'm right" and "I'm better" whether we admit it or not. When put to constructive uses, it can push society forward (such as through invention, capitalist competition, etc). But when we allow it to consume us and refuse to acknowledge the thymos of the other side (a good, practical, real-world example would be the gay marriage debates we've been having around here, where some people have flat-out refused to see the other side, and both sides have been guilty of this to a certain degree) this is a manifestation of the one thing that may eventually destroy liberal democracy, if anything ever can.
Once again, it's an excellent, thought-provoking book with brilliant insights into human nature, and how human nature relates to political philosophy. I would encourage everyone to read it, if you read nothing else all year.
« on: November 04, 2004, 10:39:30 AM »
I posted this in another thread, but I don't want it to get buried because I think it's an important point with all this "you can't let the Bible dictate cultural morality" talk going around. At the least, it should give you all some cannon-fodder for discussion.
Get over separation of church and state. There, I said it. In a shocking way, for shock value alone, because I don't believe it's that simple. But you guys have simplified separation of church and state such that it has to mean what you interpret it to mean. That's not the way early America interpreted it, by far. And in understanding any concept, wouldn't you agree that it's useful to look at the source of that concept, and to understand it in context, instead of from a postmodern perspective?
For instance: prior to the 1900's, and in the earliest days of the American experiment, God was far from a taboo subject in schools. It was a given that schoolchildren were raised in a community of faith (in fact, Christian faith, to be more specific). How is that compatible with the idea that religious moral values were "separated" from Government? I have an answer to that, but first, check out this link.
This is a link to the entire text of the New England Primer, 1805 edition. This was used in public schools. You might be a little surprised by it... give it a look-see.http://www.gettysburg.edu/~tshannon/his341/nep1805contents.html
Now, here's a link to a brief explanation of the New England primer. It was used well into the 19th, by the way. http://www.nd.edu/~rbarger/www7/neprimer.html
This should at least make some of you gawk, because basically this isn't the America you know. It's the American history, instead, that is glossed over in our high school history classes. I think there's a reason it's not taught... I'll let you make up your minds on that. But I certainly think there's an agenda in whitewashing the legacy of our forefathers' faith, in how far it was entwined with public instruction and the shaping of morality.
Basically, the Constitution's establishment clause states two things: there shall be no establishment of religion, NOR shall the free exercise thereof be prohibited.
The link below seems to be a balanced source that explains what this means in practical terms. As you might guess, the establishment clause and the free exercise clause actually butt heads, to a certain extent. http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/estabinto.htm
I personally, as you might guess, take the more narrow view of what the establishment clause means. The founders were trying to avoid what they had run away from in Europe: forced observation of some particular religion and an officially established "state church". In context, this narrow view makes sense to me. After all, we're talking about a society that was using the New England primer in public schools, that saw no problem with indoctrinating children on the taxpayer dime. (Sorry, I calls it as I sees it, and I'm being blunt here). It wasn't until the humanist revolution of the 1900's that these things started to be challenged, or were brought before the Supreme Court. By that time, society had changed and shifted, so the court's holdings followed that shifting morality. By virtue of the shifting morality, they had to hold for the point of view on the establishment clause that would justify this.
I read a book not long ago called The Godless Constitution, written from the liberal point of view. And yet, even they did not deny that in early America there was an ideological split on the meaning of separation of church and state, and that in early America it swung the way, more or less, of what we would call today the "social Conservatives". This is a fact, and even they could not deny it.
So all this to say, stop spewing uneducated liberal myths. Even if you don't agree with people that hold to my view on the establishment clause, at least admit that we are not just trying to neuter the Constitution. Thanks, that's all.
« on: November 03, 2004, 01:02:09 PM »
Well, I agree that we've all bickered a bit today, and I like the idea of Reeve's thread where we don't talk about politics. But I think there is one political thing we should all be able to agree on, regardless of our specific beliefs or positions. People actually voted!
This election was American democracy revitalized! This was our nation at its finest on both sides, voting for things they cared about. We actually went to the polls as a nation, and although the youth vote didn't turn out as heavily as expected in overall proportion of the vote (17% of the vote last time, same this time) a greater overall number of young people voted because the greater voter turn-out made it harder to just hold that 17% solidly.
So let's hear it for popular participation!
« on: October 29, 2004, 05:05:23 PM »
I trust that you found it acceptable. We here at LSD will do everything to ensure that you have a happy stay with us. You thought the welcoming committee was over the top? Oh no... we were just getting warmed up.
« on: October 29, 2004, 03:10:21 PM »
« on: October 28, 2004, 01:42:29 PM »
OK, you heard it here first... as of a few minutes ago, my second and final LOR has been processed by LSAC! I am so excited I could burst... the final piece of the puzzle that was still missing!
« on: October 28, 2004, 12:51:32 PM »
Search for "third tier toilet" on google. The first link that comes up is a thread I started! I should get some kind of prize.
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