Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Review: Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages (Richard E. Rubinstein)
Well, this is one of the most beautifully written, intelligent, intriguing, and thought-provoking books I've read in a long time, and it was actually FUN TO READ. It was like a good novel, with surprisingly vital characters, even though they've all been dead for a millennium or so.
Go on. Give it a try.
Pearse charges the English with taking away their language and traditions (see my own book, Printing, Literacy, and Education in Eighteenth Century Ireland: Why the Irish Speak English for more information), usurping Irish sovereignty, creating foreign social, political, and cultural institutions, and then educating (or "re-educating") the Irish to administer them, essentially alien institutions, administered by alienated people -- all in their own land.
The "murder" Pearse refers to is a spiritual murder -- a murder of the soul.
Read it. And seethe.
It is available in electronic form at the CELT (Corpus of ELectronic Texts) site.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Die Vorstellung, die Diskussion, die, wenn ich zu Gunsten von Social-Networking argumentieren begann gefolgt, ich glaube, es wäre so etwas wie diese gehen:
Peter : Facebook hält mich in Kontakt mit Menschen, die ich nicht auf einer täglichen Basis sehe.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a frighteningly beautiful book, based on old, oral, Celtic legends and folktales, of a "bad girl" with a good heart, of illicit love, of the difficulty of following the call of your heart, and of the comfort -- and discomfort -- of living in the skin we're in.
Anne-Marie Cusac's "Silkie" is smart, and sensual, and funny, and sad, and scary. It is a beautiful and emotional work that tells us not only about its characters, but about its author. And, if you're paying attention, it will tell you something about yourself.
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My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Spoiler alert: This book is not about a "philosophy of love" as many reviewers seem to believe. As every dream has its manifest content (a storyline) that masks a latent content (the suppressed, unconscious emotions that bubble into our semi-conscious REM sleep), Socrates' discourse on the nature of love thinly masks the true subject of this dialogue: bullshit, how to produce it, and how to recognize it. For the reader, his dialectical approach gives us a hint about how to resist it.
With self-deprecating charm -- true to form -- Socrates schools beautiful young Phaedrus on his own susceptibility to bullshit, alternately praising Phaedrus's current object of infatuation, the silver-tongued rhetor Lysias, and ruthlessly dismantling the rhetorical artifices of Lysias' manufacture.
This excellent translation by Christopher Rowe is not only accessible to the reader not familiar (or terribly comfortable) with the Socratic dialogs, but manages, too, to emphasize Socrates' sharp wit, good humor, and gentleness of pedagogy. Rowe's scholarly introduction provides context and background making clear the significance of this work.
It is a testament to Plato -- an early generation child and devotee of alphabetic literacy -- that he takes pains to accurately convey to us Socrates' belief that writing would sap the intelligence of the Athenian youth, making them both less knowledgeable about the universal precepts of logic, and less inclined to engage in a dialectic with thought externalized and made permanent.
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Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Monday, December 24, 2012
This Christmas, as always, my fervent wish is that we use our wealth and our might to lift people out of poverty, to share the blessings that God has given us with the billions in the world who, through no fault of their own, have been left behind. But my most fervent wish is that we take back control of our media from the hands of multinational corporations, and bring real journalism back to America. Otherwise, we will remain ignorant of the crushing poverty and pain that others suffer, and we'll continue to live IN THE DARK.
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.'
'Have they no refuge or resource?' cried Scrooge.
'Are there no prisons?' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses?'"
- A Christmas Carol, Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
There’s no question that the attitudes of average Americans changed during this time. Where white Americans once either ignored the group of people we once called “negroes” or thought about them as somehow less than human, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was very likely helped by the emergence of television. Images of men, women, and children in peaceful protest being beaten with truncheons, attacked with dogs, and swept off their feet and blasted with fire hoses, brought home to America the injustices of inequality. The powerful, emotional images entering our homes night after night sparked our sympathy for Americans of African descent and changed our minds about accepting the status quo of Jim Crow segregation.
I’m pretty certain that anyone reading this post who happens to be white will vehemently – angrily! – disagree with me, but we’re fooling ourselves. Ask a white American what he or she thinks of racism, and they will tell you just how awful and inhuman it is. Ask a white American if he is racist and he will be shocked – shocked! – at the suggestion. “I am not a racist,” he
will tell you. “I have black friends.” But, I repeat, we are fooling ourselves.
No one wants to think of himself as racist any more than he would think of himself as stupid or ignorant or hateful. But stupidity, ignorance, and hatred are in no short supply in the United States in the second decade of this new millennium. So you must be talking about someone else. It’s not me.
Racism did not disappear from our nation in the 1960s. It merely disappeared from our words and actions. It lives on, alive and well in our hearts. Certain words have disappeared (we all know the words I’m referring to). Certain behaviors have disappeared. We now consider the words vile and disgusting and the behaviors boorish and uncivilized.
But have we changed? Have our hearts changed?
A lot of the problem stems from our understanding of the words “racism” and “hatred.” It’s very easy to have a friend, black or white. Friends are people we like. We like them because we believe they’re good, and we believe they’re good because we’ve bothered to get to know them, to know
their hearts. I have black friends and white friends and Asian friends and Latino friends. I have Christian, Jewish, and Muslim friends. My students are black, white, Latino, Asian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and atheist. I can honestly say I love my friends. And I can honestly say that I love the vast majority of my students (if I have a problem with a student, it would be more
connected with their seriousness and work ethic than their ethnicity). They are, like me, American. Does that mean I am not a racist? It’s a bit more complicated than that.
If I am walking down a Chicago street late at night and a young black man wearing a “hoodie” is walking toward me, am I uncomfortable? Why? I do not know the young man, not anything about him. I have no reason to believe that he has any intention, good or ill, other than to walk down the same street I am walking. What could possibly be the reason for this discomfort?
Human beings tend to fear two things: 1] that which they don’t understand, and 2] that which they do understand, if they understand it incorrectly. And here’s where racism comes in. Very few (if any) Americans will admit this, but we all have preconceived notions of others based on social categories. We react to people that we don’t yet know not as individuals, but as members of one of these categories. And we make decisions about what category people belong to based on their appearance. We all do this. All of us.
In an earlier post, I talked about both white racism and black racism (what some white people refer to as “reverse racism”). And I said I understood black racism far more than I understand white racism. I said that white racism is based on deeply-seated feelings of privilege and cultural superiority, and "reverse racism" (black racism) is based mostly on resentment of white privilege and on fear – fear of someday being a victim of white racism.
And here’s where hatred comes in. In order to hate, it is not necessary to actually take a gun and shoot someone. It is not necessary to beat someone with a club until unconscious, chain him to a pickup truck, and drag him around town until his lifeless body literally falls into pieces. In
order to hate, it is not necessary to make someone sit in the back of a bus, give him a separate bathroom, or make him step off the sidewalk as you walk by. In order to hate someone, it is not necessary to call him a vile and disgusting name.
All that is really necessary to hate someone is not to give a shit about what happens to him. And when we don’t give a shit about what happens to a whole group of Americans because of the color of their skin, that is racism.
So I feel it necessary to point out the following inconvenient truths:
On average, African-Americans have a lower life expectancy than white Americans, with higher infant mortality, greater risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes, stroke and HIV/AIDS. (source)
African-American unemployment is on average twice the white unemployment rate, at all times, not just during the current economic crisis. (source)
At some point in their lives, 42% of African-Americans will experience poverty as opposed to 10% of whites. (source)
One third of black children live in poverty today compared with 15% of white children. (source)
- Black Americans experience homelessness at a rate seven times that of white Americans. (source and source)
- 70% of white high school students go on to college as opposed to 55% of black students. (source)
- A black man is three times more likely than a white man to be stopped and searched by police (racial profiling), and once stopped is four times more likely to encounter physical force by police. (source)
- A black man is nearly 12 times more likely than a white man to be sent to prison on drug charges, even though the greatest number of drug users is white. (source)
- Young black students are three times more likely to be arrested than white students. (source)
- If and when arrested and convicted, black prisoners spend about 10% more time in prison than white prisoners. (source)
- A white man who kills a black man is far less likely to face the death penalty than a black man who kills a white man. (source)
- Someone of any race who kills a white man is four times more likely to face the death penalty than someone who kills a black man. (source)
White Americans will never admit it, but deep in their hearts they still believe that black people are inferior. And any attempt to point out the disparities and injustices in our social and economic structures, any attempt to suggest that there are structural inequalities built into the
system that we have never addressed, any attempt to argue that racism survives in America – these are all met with the charge of “race baiting!”
None of this is ever going to change until each of us changes. The change has to come from us, and the object of that change is us. We have to change our hearts. And we have to change our
minds. We have to stop thinking in terms of stereotypes and deal with people as people. We have to stop thinking in terms of narrow self-interest and begin to reclaim the idea of the common good.
A week before he died (forty-four years ago last week, to be exact), The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached at the National Cathedral in Washington DC. He called his sermon “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” In it he said the following:
We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.
John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: "No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." And he goes on toward the end to say, "Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." We must see this, believe this, and live by it if we are to remain awake through a great revolution.
Trayvon Martin’s tragic death is bigger, I think, than a debate over a really bad self-defense law (“stand your ground”). It is bigger than our own narrow political agendas. It is bigger than our bruised egos when someone accuses us of racism. It is bigger than the terrible, incompetent
justice system in a small Florida town. It is about something bigger than all of these, I believe; something universal. It is about looking at ourselves and being honest, it is about realizing that no one in America is safe until everyone is safe, that no one in America is a success until everyone is a success, that there is no more central a self-interest than the interests of all. We are all Trayvon Martin.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a 'gangsta' … You're gonna be a gangsta wannabe? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace. That's what happens. It is an instant reflexive action...
Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background. Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be ok because it didn’t look like him?