Articles

  • The Fetishization of Structures, and the Fantasy of the Left [Part 1]

    Claude Levi-Strauss was on to something when he suggested that there are universals when it comes to cultural structures. He suggested, way back in the 1950’s, that every human culture possessed a number of structural universals [here a universal suggests that it exists incidentally, and can be found – without planning – in every human culture on earth] that appeared different when compared to other cultures. Take ‘myth’ for example. L-S suggested that the concept of ‘myth’ existed, naturally, in all cultures.

    Why am I writing about Levi-Strauss and cultural structuralism? Well, I’ve been trying to figure out the difference between the Occidental [or, Western, depending on what terms you like] Left and Right along the traditional political spectrum. I’ll try and tie this in a little later.

    When Levi-Strauss was conducting his field work, he noticed several things that were inter-cultural: Myth, Taboo, Kinship, Marriage, etc. Unfortunately, at least for structuralism, L-S was a product of his times. And here is where I’m going to try and bring it back to the concept of L/R politics in western society.

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  • Blood Punch Movie Review

    Blood Punch Poster

     

    Blood Punch (2013)

    IMDB Page

    Blood Punch is the story of Milton, Skyler and Russell who end up at a farm house after escaping from a rehab facility. Their goal is to have Milton cook them Meth to sale for a huge sum of money however things take a supernatural turn. They end up finding out that they are reliving the same day over and over again similiar to the misadventures of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. They need to find a way to end the vicious cycle of bloodshed and land a huge score of dough in the end.

    I really enjoyed this concept used in a horror movie. There's quite a few comedic moments and also quite a few scenes of violence and blood. I highly suggest this.

    I give it 4 headless dolls out of 5

     

  • The Fetishization of Structures, and the Fantasy of the Left [Part 2]

    In the end of it all, what is a space if not an intersection of concepts?

    Think of a town square in Europe, or Latin America, or a Mall in North America – the image that probably comes to mind contains a number of people, colours, and shops or stores and cafés. The space – here defined as the limits of that area; in the case of a town square the limiting walls that contain the shops, and in a mall the actual extent of the building – is literally the geographic region that is capable of containing/restricting the notion of the ‘area’ and all that can be put in it.

    Okay, great. We’ve got a basic notion of a philosophical space. What does that have to do with Levi-Strauss and the title of the last post? Let me sort of explain.

    I like the idea of a space, because it can be extended past the limitations of the physical, and exist in an intellectual (epistemological) or symbolic (ontological) sense. The ‘problem,’ I guess, is that it can mean very different things intellectually and symbolically to different people. And here the idea of space becomes applicable to what I was rambling on about last time. Space, in a liberalized occidental democracy, is inherently a transcultural space (or, at the least, a trans-sub-cultural space) that allows for the flowing and exchange of ideas.

    That’s a good thing, right?

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  • Sexy FanGirls of Star Wars!!!

    Check out these sexy fans.

    Sexy Fangirls of Star Wars

  • Yes-Means-Yes: The fetishization of consent and the actualization of pornographic fantasy in Rape Culture [Part 1]

    Let me preface this entry by explaining that I’m not sure if the ‘No Means No’ campaign (http://cfs-fcee.ca/take-action/no-means-no/) exists in the States or Mexico. Now that that’s out of the way, let me dive into attacking the ‘Yes Means Yes’ campaign (http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/) and how it is nothing more than an ideological expression of modern rape culture.

    What the hell is ‘rape culture’ anyways? Well, our friends at Wikipedia define it as ‘describ[ing] a culture in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender, sex, and sexuality.’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_culture). What does that mean to you, to me, or to your children? And, what does it mean for the way in which we interact in occidental society?

    There are obvious ways to express the concept of rape culture to a reader, or in conversation, and I am going to avoid them. While I am aiming for accessibility and readability with this blog, I am here going to skip over the pedantic and move towards some slightly deeper issues. Actually, I think that this paragraph might have fit in with the preface above. Oh well, I’m feeling lazy.

    Rape culture is integral to the functioning of many of the ideologies we are currently affected by on a day-to-day basis, and it is here that I am hoping to place my argument. From the way we speak to each other, how we conduct business, the ways we experience advertising (and therefore consumption – I’ll come back to this one), and how we demean each other are very real, very visceral forms of how rape culture is manifest in our daily lives. The very problem with rape culture, and all of the many ways we go about replicating it, is in the concept of consent.

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  • Yes-Means-Yes: The fetishization of consent and the actualization of pornographic fantasy in Rape Culture [Part 2]

    When does ‘yes’ not mean ‘yes’? Is this even a concept that enters into most sexual encounters? Are there stages of consent?

    Last time I started to discuss the concept of the ‘modified yes’ and the way we, in advertising and in society, take ‘yes’ as an absolute in terms of consent. Just to summarize: By making ‘yes’ an absolute positive, the very word itself is taken over by rape culture. How does this apply to you, you might ask?

    There is a brilliant documentary out there called Sexy Inc (http://documentaryheaven.com/sexy-inc-our-children-under-influence/). It tries to explain the prevalence of rape culture at the high school level, interviewing students and faculty alike, and asking them to share their opinions and stories about the various sexual issues that face adolescents today. I highly recommend it. I will, however, suggest you only watch it if you don’t mind hearing some pretty explicit stuff. Watching this doc, I was drawn to the idea that several of the girls interviewed (and several of the anecdotes shared by faculty) admitted to having participated in sexual activity that made them uncomfortable, and/or cause physical or psychological pain, and did not see themselves as having been raped. Referring back to my last post, I understand this now in terms of consensual rape.

    Consensual rape, I will define here, as rape that takes place after consent is given. Conceptually, this requires us to understand sex as a dynamic interaction between two people whose ideas on sex might not be the same. By my agreeing to participate in sexual intercourse with my partner, what is it I am actually agreeing to? Am I agreeing to anything my partner wants, regardless of a post-consensual discussion, or am I agreeing to a mutually approved upon definition of sex? This is where the divide begins.

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  • Ideology, Part 1: Belief and Idea

    Preface: This article is going to be part of a running series on ideology. It’s not going to be followed immediately by ‘Part 2,’ even though it isn’t exactly a standalone. The idea is to work towards a smooth, relevant, and easily understandable definition of ideology, which in and of itself is tackling a massive monster. Breaking it into parts will help make it readable, and won’t make anyone run screaming after the 5th week of an ideology article. I hope.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how to actually explain, or start going through, the concept of ideology in a relatively digestible way. It isn’t that obvious, and some great minds have been going out of their way for a while in an effort to do it. (As an aside, I highly recommend The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology narrated by Slavoj Žižek).

    According to Wikipedia, Ideology is ‘a set of conscious and/or unconscious ideas which constitute one's goals, expectations, and actions.’ This definition is problematic in a few ways, specifically as it leaves out the common usage of the term. Here I’ll pause, again, for an aside and warn the faithful reader that this is a problem inherent in philosophy: The dreaded definition of terms. Philosophy (and many/all specialized forms of anything) has an internal jargon that makes them exclusive, and – like medical doctors, lawyers, and engineers – uses a specific vocabulary to limit participation. That being said, I still think there’s a need here to explain a little about what I mean when I write the word ideology. (If you’re interested, Žižek gives an interesting – and brief – take here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGCfiv1xtoU).

    By ideology, I refer specifically to the ‘unconscious ideas’ mentioned in the Wikipedia definition. What the media refers to when it uses the term ideology (take for example the recent Globe & Mail article headline that reads: ‘Video left by Ottawa shooter reveals political and ideological motive: RCMP’) should more properly be called ‘outward political beliefs’ or something as abstract as that as, and this is the unfortunate aspect of ideology, they are reinforcing several ideologies every time they use the word in this way.

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  • Myth & History: The Fetishization of History and the Fantasy of Objectivity

    Before I really get into this, I’m going to work on defining some terms a little bit. First off, let me contextualize ‘objectivity.’ Philosophically, objectivity is the idea that there is some form of ‘truth’ that exists in the universe. It is the idea that there is a way to view the world (scientifically, religiously, emotionally, take your pick) that is ‘true,’ or (to add more to it) exists independently of human observation. Any discussion about objectivity runs the risk of jumping too far into the deep end and becoming so abstract that it doesn’t clarify anything. So, I’ll try and provide a counter-point:

    Subjectivity – as an opponent to objectivity – is the idea that there is no ‘truth’ and that everything depends on the human observer. An amigo of mine once put it perfectly when he said that, because of trigonometry, there is never only one rainbow, even when a crowd of people are looking at it. Because of how the light refracts when it hits air-born water particles and interacts with the visual cortex of the observer, each person looking at the rainbow is seeing their own, personal rainbow (thanks, Bish!).

    How do we determine or agree on what a rainbow is, then? There are a number of things we can call this act of agreement: inter-subjectivity, symbolic interactionism, the Big Other, the list can go on. What it boils down to, though, is that there is something happening outside of us (in this case, a rainbow) that has an agreed upon name (or even a definition), allowing the rainbow to seem like one rainbow exists for multiple observers. I like to go with inter-subjectivity, but that’s a personal preference.

    What does this have to do with anything (other than everything)?

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  • Towards an understanding of Paradigms and the involvement of the Meta

    This week, well, I’m going to post something more of a thought project than an actual analysis of something. So I’m going to ask the reader(s) to bear with me here while I take a little wander down abstraction lane and work more within a broader philosophical angle. This comes at a slightly unfortunate time, given that I have already been developing several ideas for this week’s post. That being said, having looked into this a little, I feel that it’s something I might want to get down.

    According to Wikipedia, a paradigm ‘is a distinct concept or thought pattern.’ I’m sure we’ve all heard the term before. People talk about paradigms and paradigm shifts in everything from science to philosophy to programming language to the engine that drives your favorite video games. A paradigm, to be a little reductive, is an operable mentality (and, to relate it to the general theme of this blog, can be paralleled with ideology) that creates understanding for/within a worldview. Let me try and unpack this a little.

    For the longest time, the music industry was run by, well, the industry (let’s call this Paradigm A). There were a great many internal (and external) aspects that not only allowed this system to be maintained, but reinforced its existence. A band, if they were ‘good enough’ (or, when it comes to things like music, if they fit the current marketable trends) would envision its entire reality within the bounds of this paradigm. They would write songs that were listenable to a broader audience; play shows while hoping to garner the attention of an agent, manager, or record exec; record demos and send them to record companies, and; if they finally got signed, release music through that record company (and, generally, under the authority and influence of that company). Records (cassettes, CDs, etc) were the only way for a listener to purchase an artist/band’s music.

    This, within its own reality, was how (pop) musicians (to generalize) sought stardom and/or a wider audience. Then, something happened to change the way this all worked.

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  • The Implications of (Social) Media: The fetishization of documentation and the fantasy of active participation

    It’s arguable that the media – that great and ever-growing network of journalists, TV shows, online newsfeeds and, for the time being, newspapers handed to us for free before we board public transit – is in some way a part of all of our lives (at least in the West). For the most part, we receive our information about the goings on in the world from the media. Their reporters and camera people are out there, filming poverty, war, famine, and even some nice stuff once-in-a-while, turning these events into a summary that allows us to situate ourselves – and, to a greater extent, our society – in the world. For some of us, working in the media is an appealing career – we want to do something when it comes to all the horror in the world; to comment on it, to make people ‘at home’ aware of these things.

    We know all of this. That’s the great thing about the media; they tell us what they are doing by showing it. I’m sure there’s a little bit of sarcasm detectable here, as it should be. The realities of representation, and the notion that the media is made up of long-dead idealists who, by necessity, have turned performers, are interesting issues. But that’s not what I’m on about in this set-up. I’m more interested in the socialization of the media’s concept of non-participation into our everyday lives. Armed with cameras on our mobile phones, we have accepted this notion that we are all members of the social media, giving us the power to document acts and events immediately, as they occur in front of us. Through this shift, we’ve started to re-imagine what it means to participate – ideologically and, therefore, subconsciously – holding the act of documentation above interaction and involvement, even as it offers us no answers or responses once the action has been reported.

    I was watching Rocky III this week (for the first time – my partner could not believe I’d never seen any of the Rocky movies before now) and, like everyone else in the world, felt a pang of sadness when Rocky’s good friend and former nemesis Apollo Creed died in the ring. The scene got me thinking. There our hero is, crouching beside his dying friend while screaming for a doctor. In the scene, the press has all charged the ring, surrounding Rocky and them.

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  • Ideology, Part 2: Systems and Turtles

    A system, according to Wikipedia, is ‘is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole.’ That sounds pretty good, to be honest with you. There’s definitely a lot there to work with, from a philosophical standpoint. The problem with this definition is that most people, when reading it, will try and make the distinction between, say a social system and a technological. It’s true, when we think of systems we don’t tend to see them as being necessarily a social issue (well, other than our friendly neighbourhood sociologists and a few anthropologists). So, I think this is a good way to jump into this week’s thought experiment.

    Take a look at your computer for a moment. Not the inside, that’s not important right now. Just scan the outside. It’s pretty cool, to be honest. I mean think about it: there before you sits a bunch of plastic, silicone, coltan, and various other elements and compounds, all bundled into an aesthetically-appealing box (or set of boxes). Somehow, we’re interacting with it. It’s doing something, and it’s not just a pile of those elements and compounds. It is – to be really obvious about the whole thing – more than the sum of its parts (engineers, computer programmers, and objectivists please place your criticisms and comments below, or on the Facebook page). Because of the manner in which these things are molded, combined, and then arranged, it becomes capable of doing more than nothing (other than existing which, in my mind, is effort enough some days).

    Of course, there is the programming. The programming is (and I think I can get this right) that thing that instructs a computer on how to perform a task. Basically, it is required for that computer to execute not only a task, but to allow for other tasks to perform within itself (take a word processor: The operating system runs the processor, and the processor allows me to type, save, print, etc). Without the programming, then the computer (as we know it today) would be a much different machine (it would be more like some of our parents knew it in the 1960s and 70s).

    I am going somewhere, I promise. And, to anyone for whom this is painfully obvious, forgive me. It’s a work in process (pun intended).

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  • Redistributive Systems of Capital: The Fetishization of Altruism, Education, Travel, Mega-Hospitals and the Fantasy of Benefit and Grassroots-based economic support and Middle-Class Indulgent (Part I)

    This one took a while to write, given the various computer-based ailments I’m currently working through…oh well!

    We’re coming into it, my friends: Christmas.

    Please don’t read this as some sort of religio-cultural bias on my part, it is a simple statement that calls so many images to mind, cross-culturally (in Western states), and in regards to global capital. Fred Claus for being an excellent entré into such a discussion – for all the mention of productivity and corporate necessity, there is not word one in that movie about how the elves are paid!). Nope. Not going to do it. Rather, I’m going to fill this ‘season of good cheer’ with a rousing discussion and analysis of how a few of the things we, in Western Capitalist societies, hold dear, and how they relate to what some are seeing as class warfare.

    Unlike other pseudo-religious holidays, Christmas is perhaps the only one so thoroughly coopted by consumption that it is worth singling out. That being said, I’m not going to analyze the problems that Christmas creates (globally, and there is a lot to be said here), or how Santa’s Elves are actually Third World citizens working for (a more obvious) slave-wage in the production of toys and other consumptive commodities, or the planned obsolescence inherent in the re-productive ritual (special thanks go to

    We see them on the streets in many of our major cities: The ubiquitous Salvation Army Santa Claus (or pseudo-military uniform), ringing their bell and asking for donations. Moreover, according to a poll in USA Today, North Americans tend to donate more as the holidays approach than at other times of the year (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-12-28/charity-holiday-giving/52253398/1). I don’t even really see the need to speculate on the specifics here, only that there is still some prevalent notion of charity and ‘goodwill’ associated with Christmas. As a point, charitable donations are (generally) on the increase in parts of North America, indicating that there is an extension of the ‘Christmas spirit’ (to be facetious) to the rest of the year as a whole (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/11/14/canada-charity_n_6156270.html). But what does charity do?

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  • Redistributive Systems of Capital: The Fetishization of Altruism, Education, Travel, Mega-Hospitals and the Fantasy of Benefit and Grassroots-based economic support and Middle-Class Indulgence (Part II)

    In last week’s post I began an analysis of redistributive economic systems, looking at altruism (in the form of donating to a charity) and education. Both, as I framed them, were dependent on David Harvey’s concept of redistribution in neoliberal economics, which implicates the state as a body that opens (and does not drive) new economic markets for the accumulation of wealth among privately-held corporations and those who own them. This week I will be exploring the ways in which these theories are applicable in the analysis of mega-, or super-hospitals, and how they constitute aspects of a greater system of economic repression, redistributing wealth upwards towards the 1% (as a note: I really enjoy the term ‘the 1%’ – again, made popular through the Occupy Movement – as it doesn’t imply any necessary social hierarchy. It is a number, a representative number, and while it is indicative of hierarchy and the concentration of wealth, it does not limit – the way language so often does – in the same way that ‘upper-class,’ ‘middle-class,’ and ‘lower-, or ‘working-class’ does).

    If you aren’t familiar with the concept of the super-hospital, they are an often newly-built hospital that is nominally constructed in an effort to improve services to a wide range of people, within a wide geographic area, while lessening wait-times and several other negative aspects of local or satellite hospitals (what we might refer to here as the traditional model of the hospital system). In many ways they offer the benefit of concentration: Super-hospitals (which are often funded by universities and private companies, as well as through government subsidies) put a great deal of talent into one place, increasing access (nominally) to services while conveniently locating them to lessen the need for patient travel and transfer. It’s a groovy idea, you might say and, despite the following analysis, you might not be wrong. Why is it bad to put a lot of services under one roof? Some might even say that this is the definition of customer service and hospital care, despite the existence of some pretty obvious logistical and other organizational problems inherent in massive endeavours like this.

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  • Whose Solstice is This Anyways? – The Fetishization of Fetishes and the Fantasy of the Straw Man

    Caveat: I will be using the word ‘God(s)’ throughout this week’s diatribe, but I do this for typing ease. Please read this to mean any power that you understand as divine. I am not trying to limit my discussion (language being a prison, notwithstanding) to any one system of beliefs. As I have done before: if it makes you more comfortable, I invite you to copy this article into a word processor and replace ‘God(s)’ with your own choice. Thanks!

    I’ve been giving a lot of thought to ideas of the sacred, holiness, and the like these days. Who wouldn’t? I mean, with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, Bodhi Day, Pancha Ganapti, Christmas, the Pipe Master’s, and Boxing Day (needed one for atheists and for those worshipers of the Church of Consumption) all happening in the same month – not to mention my having been married last week – there’s a lot of nominally sacred, holy, spiritual, and important things going on for a lot of people these days. Seeing as (very roughly) 89.8% of the world’s population (and, to be honest, this stat is only reflective of religions boasting a .1+% of the world’s population) is religious in some way, I figure there is a lot on people’s mind. And, as is the nature of this blog, something worth analyzing.

    Then again, much better people than me have gone out of their way (some having spent the majority of their lives) analyzing religion, as a concept, a whole, an idea, and a way of life. To that – and to them – I will bow out of the overall conversation, given my (temporary, of course) deference to their skills and wit. That being said, religion offers an interesting way to get into something a little more specific without (for once, perhaps) attacking anything specific at all. That being the case, all of this ‘thinking’ has been focused – more or less – on the concept of the sacred and the idea of sacral authority. Given all of the various headpeople, deities, and sacred sites that will be visited (and killed over) this month, I figure that the entire concept of the sacral, and what that actual means to an individual, is worth going over a little – without being too critical or political.

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  • Bullies Are Heroes: The Fetishization of Hierarchy and the Fantasy of 'Anarchy,' Part 1

    A new year, and so many topics to write about. The problem with coming up with this week’s post has been that there is so much to write about: Nationalism and the nationalist myth in sports; Fundamentalism in religion and pseudo-religious structures (like the economy); Sexism in film. It’s actually been a little difficult to choose. Then again, with my desire to return to a more accessible method of writing, and with this being a new year, I figured that I might as well just stick to the broad and – in many ways – fundamentals (I guess that makes me a fundamentalist). To that end, I’ve decided that a quick examination of hierarchy and its friend hegemony would be a good place to start the year off.

    To dive right into it, I’m going to start rather abruptly. ‘Torture is always an improvisation, a combination of learned techniques and the human instinct for brutality that is unleashed wherever impunity reigns’ writes Naomi Klein in her 2007 The Shock Doctrine (p. 47). Sure, she’s writing about the development of the US security state and the implementation of torture among it and its proxy regimes throughout the Cold War – two things that I may only discuss by association today. The broader implication of this sentence, however, is very clear, and very specifically relates to hierarchy and hegemony.

    Over the holidays, I lucked out and managed to have several really fantastic discussions with several really fantastic people. At one, a Cégep professor of computer sciences and a UN employee were talking about the way ‘anarchy’* would reign without proper societal or hierarchical oversight. An interesting point, and one several anarchistic authors take exception to. Why is it that many people (a generalization, of course, based on popular representations of a post-social order in films like Doomsday and the Escape from New York/LA series) tend to see the decline of a structured society as setting the stage for bedlam and chaos (two words that would be better descriptors of what my associates were discussing)? Is it because humanity’s natural state is one of chaos (a point, I might clarify, that many highly regarded philosophers reject)? Or that western society has been conditioned to accept and desire hierarchy and coercive structures that there is a fear that if those structures are removed then only murder, rape, and theft would be left in its wake? Personally and philosophically, I feel it is the latter.

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  • The Hegemony of Ricky Bobby: The Fetishization of Hierarchy and the Fantasy of 'Anarchy,' Part 2

    Last week I began with a quote from Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, and I think it’s worth going back to. At least the second half of it. When she writes that ‘the human instinct for brutality that is unleashed wherever impunity reigns’ (p. 47), Klein hints at something much deeper than just the application of torture. Or, at least, her statement can be analyzed in that way. Is there ‘a human instinct for brutality’ that is universal, or is its being ‘unleashed’ dependent upon the conditional reality of how/when/and if ‘impunity reigns’? ‘Wherever,’ here, is very important to my analysis, given that it suggests far more than a spatial or geographical location, but an ideological one that is way more terrifying.

    Removing the ‘whenever’ from the bounds of the geographical, the meaning of the sentence can be reimagined, or analysed on a much deeper level: If the use of ‘whenever’ infers the temporal, then it is not a constant. More importantly, if ‘whenever’ is extended into the ideological, then the idea that ‘the human instinct for brutality’ exists and is encouraged through the application of ‘impunity’ necessitates the idea that brutality can and should exist, making it – and its imposition and reliance on hierarchy – hegemonic.

    Hegemony is domination, to put it bluntly. It is the domination of a state over another. Or, and this is closer to the postmodernist use, one thing over another, including but not limited to: culture, ideology, medicine, language, belief, etc. To simplify, I will say that hegemony is the act of domination by one structure over another. Last week I wrote a great deal about hierarchy and the nature of stratification, an idea that I will be bringing to the context of hegemony through the idea of brutality and bedlam (touched on last week as well) in this week’s post, trying to understand how the idea that bedlam will lead to brutality is, inherently, a hegemonic idea promoted and re-produced through the imposition and socialization of hierarchy.

    Hegemony is non-cooperative by its very nature. To say that it is competitive, however applicable, would be misleading (it is much more coercive than that – sometimes the competition is an aspect of the application of hegemony). It can be expressed as a discursive relationship (in that it creates signs and meaning in its interactions, in the Foucauldian sense – as if there was any other!!), making it appear cooperative and competitive at the same time.

    Let’s use poverty here as a quick example of a hegemonic relationship.

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  • An Issue of Perspectives: The Fetishization of Affluence and the Fantasy of Poverty

    It’s been nagging at me for years and, apparently, it isn’t going to go away. I read a chapter in a book in the summer of 2011 that greatly influenced my thinking in regards to relativism and relative perspective and, despite my best efforts at on-line searching, can’t find the title, let alone the author’s name. It dealt quite specifically with the concept of poverty and used an ethnography conducted among an Aboriginal group to examine several concepts that were immensely powerful: Use-value; Free Time; Wealth; Poverty; etc. Despite not finding the exact chapter (or article), I will warn the reader that the following is heavily influenced from that mysterious article, and many thanks go to its author.

    I’ve been reading a lot about economics and its various social effects recently. Yeah, I’m a super fun dude. Anyways, what I keep coming back to is how it literally affects people and, given the continued degradation of socialized and government-run programs throughout the world (I have a sinking feeling that Cuba – say what you will about it – is next), why people continue to view the economy as something that is necessary when they consider politics. I’m not going to answer those questions (for an interesting discussion on the economy, and for a different philosophical perspective – including one trying to answer that very question – see these posts: http://erikhare.com/2015/01/14/forward-into-2015-and-beyond/, and http://erikhare.com/2015/01/21/why-economics/ by Erik Hare on his blog). Instead, I’m going to look at the nature of the idea of poverty.

    Definitions of poverty are telling. Wikipedia explains that poverty ‘is general scarcity or dearth, or the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money,’ (quoted itself from M-W) while dictionary.com says it is ‘the state of having little or no money, goods, or means of support.’ That both reference money is highly indicative of the binary nature of poverty. It cannot exist without wealth. I’d normally say something here about my being reductive, only this time I’m pretty sure it is that simple. These 2 definitions are revealing of the general, Occidental concept of poverty (that’s why I use sources like these) that are so specifically tied to an abstract concept of wealth that the elimination of 1 will lead to the elimination of the other (in an analytic way).

    According to these definitions, wealth is the inverse of poverty: Wealth is the excess of ‘material possessions or money’ and ‘goods, or means of support.’ To assemble a ‘means of support’ that transcends your need is affluence, and – unfortunately – telling about the nature of Occidental economic thinking, leading anyone participating in this binary system to strive towards that accumulation. Which is fine, for the most part. Or is it?

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  • Hippies that Litter: The Fetishization of Our Own Beliefs and the Taboo of Other People’s Opinions

    Seems like everyone these days is talking about ‘class warfare.’ From the books I read to things I hear on the radio, my facebook newsfeed and twitterfeed, to the movements that are manifesting and assembling in the street. It’s all anti-austerity and pro-worker’s rights. That must be all that anyone’s talking about, right?

    Nope.

    It came to my attention this past week that my ADD is manifesting itself blog-style: I say in one post that I will be analysing something (say, False Majority and/or Hypocrisy) and then, months later, have never returned to them. Well, today is a double-whammy (because they actually relate, by extension and analytically). I’m going to – with no more ado – take a look into what psychologists call ‘False-Consensus Effect’ (or False Majority, which I will extend beyond the personal) and how it relates to our concepts of hypocrisy,* the political bi-polar spectrum, and the ridged hierarchical ideological impositions these things create (and I’m going to try my best to analyze this without falling back on Gramsci et al. and cultural hegemony and look at it more from another perspective). AND, again, I’m going to try and keep it concise.

    False Consensus Effect, in many cases, is when an individual feels that their beliefs are somehow shared by (many) others. We need to be careful here, because it doesn’t imply that absolute, right-wingers (for example) fully believe that their opinions and concerns are shared exactly with everyone, but that their estimates about how many people share some level of agreement are elevated. This can happen to everyone, particularly considering personal bias and social media. I read leftist stuff, I watch leftist documentaries, and, when I was on facebook, I ‘liked,’ ‘followed,’ and had ‘friended’ things that were representative of my personal beliefs (or, at the very least, harmonized with them). Given this crafted reality, it is very understandable and easy to see how many of us get lulled into a false sense of majority: Our opinions/beliefs (or at least aspects of them) are bounced back to us through all of these personally selected sources.

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  • Comitiis Interruptus: The Fetishization of the Orgasm and the Fantasy of the Fantastic

    What was it about the 2008 presidential election in the United States that had everyone so worked up? Was it that – after 8 years of war, terror, NSA wiretapping, and the continued decline of the American working-class* – people were ready for a change? If you believe the propaganda posters, and the rhetoric of the time, this is part of it. Maybe it was also that, finally, there was a new partner in the political tango: A relatively unknown who, despite his left-leaning political platform, seemed like an individual that many people could embrace. In short: It was the sex.

    Many things can be boiled down, analytically, to the sexual. It’s one of the natures of certain branches of philosophy and, unfortunately, a large portion of psychotherapy’s history. Despite not being a big fan of Freud and the neo-Marxist attachment to psychoanalysis, I can sometimes see the parallels, let alone the desire that comes from wanting to analyze a topic along sexual lines. It adds a dimension of the perverse to the analysis and, in many ways, touches upon one of the fundamental interactive experiences of the western mind. Sex, in many ways, has been a western fetish for a very, very long time, making it hard to resist analytically. Taking a page out of one of Žižek’s books (literally, 2014’s Event), I feel that the desire, buildup, and inevitable decline offered by the orgasm (and, thus, the ruin of the fantastic) offers an excellent lens through which to examine (sideways) a decline in interest in our democratic system(s – the North American ones at least).

    Žižek warns that one of the most visceral breaches in human realization can often be observed during copulation. It is during the act of sex when the fantasy of sex ceases to be fantastic – when it becomes real (not in that it is something ‘real,’ but in the philosophical sense that it is removed from symbolic attachment) – and the humdrum human action is seen for exactly what it is. This is fascinating as, I can reasonably assume, sex offers us a lovely inter-subjective point – one many of us have experienced – of connection (pun intended). It’s also observably and experientially removed from the philosophical: We’ve all had sex that, despite the buildup to it, becomes so commonplace that it lacks all the fantastic elements that might have been involved in making the buildup exciting. Well, that’s sort of what our democratic system is like these days, isn’t it? Bad sex.

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  • Mastery of Nature: The Fetishization of the Earth and the Fantasy of Nature Needing Saving

    Forgive the cynicism of this post. I often describe myself as an environmentalist and, in all honesty, completely feel that the environment is something worth saving. That being said, there is an analytical perspective here that in some ways needs to be evaluated. At least, that’s what my subjective desire got me on to this week.

    Everyone loves Bacon. Francis Bacon, that is. He is one of the sacred cows of objectivists, and his name is often dropped whenever a subjectivist questions the infallibility of scientific methodology. Science, and the Baconian Method, are objective. That’s the line. And it’s true – internally to their own belief structure, Bacon was objective, and so is his method. But all of this is beside the point. One thing that doesn’t often get brought up about Bacon is his stance on nature. For the more subjectivist parallel (and to not pigeonhole objectivists), I’ll add Descartes here. We generally don’t mention – for all of their positives – that they both extolled man’s mastery over the natural world.

    Putting Bacon on the back burner for a second, the idea that nature is something that can (and maybe must, depending on who’s in the room) be dominated by man is actually pretty old. There’s mention of it in the Book of Genesis (so it’s part of the foundations of the Western Big 3), where God gives man stewardship of the world, and this idea has sort of permeated occidental concepts of humanity’s relationship with nature for a while. Basically, what Bacon and Descartes were talking about was an idea influenced by their contexts. They were both socialized in heavily Christian societies, where Christianity influenced and affected almost every social structure of their times (despite some best efforts).* All of this to say that nature and the natural world have been something to be dominated by man for a long time, and across paradigms. The Earth, essentially (and without delving too deeply into religious naturalism and/or animistic and/or otherwise non-Islamo-Judeo-Christian religions, let alone the way many indigenous cultures treat humanity as a part of nature), is one massive fetish.

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