Sunday, May 20, 2018

Philosophy and Social Media


Cogito, ergo sum.



Social Media are used for many purposes. They are used to keep in touch with friends and family. By corporations they are used as a Capitalist tool to advertise and woo customers. News services use them as print versions become less desirable. Politicians use them for propaganda. To paraphrase Plato, as in a democracy, any ass may troll social media and bray any opinion or empty sound it likes. As a form of genuine communication or thoughtful commentary most social media fail.

The social network most under scrutiny today is Facebook.  In the 10 years I have used it, it has provided me most importantly with re-establishing contact with dear friends. It has also helped create or sustain new friendships. In those respects alone I think FB has been of great value. My life became richer as I think those of my friends have as well.

Yet there is also a dark side and a mediocre side to FB. At its worst, it allows dogma and misunderstanding to dominate many threads of conversation. It is as likely to create fights or anger as to bring a higher harmony, learning, or a better perspective. False information also makes things worse since many people do not examine their sources, or look for reliable sources, looking  instead for confirmation of what they already believe. We get suckered into points of view that lead to hate or prejudice rather than understanding or empathy.

As a lifelong philosopher and lover of all the arts, I find thoughtless posts and cute pictures rather monotonous. Photographs of travel are fine for friends or family, and may teach us about other places. Yet, the way many people push the "Don't worry, Be Happy" attitude is to me mindless at best, and immoral when it ignores the suffering and needless destruction going on globally. It is the selfish, privileged attitude of those with money who live in comfort. It is a cruel response to environmental damage killing humans and wildlife alike. When FB perpetuates this response and self absorption it moves toward evil. That does not make me angry; it makes me sad, and more pessimistic about our future-- ecologically, politically, and morally.

This blog service offers a place for shared introspection and reflection on how we use the internet. It allows us to do more than make a brief comment or reaction to a comment. It gives the opportunity to look at the values we hold, to ask what we hold dear, what matters most to us, rather than how we can impress others with our trips, our animals, our possessions, and our appearance. Obsession with how we appear to others may be the most despicable and absurd aspect of social media, yet it is almost impossible not to give into it at times. 

Descartes and his Cogito, "I think therefore I am," take on another level of meaning in the wired/wireless world of the 21st Century. Serious thinking may also be an endangered species.




Jameson




Sunday, May 13, 2018

The MeToo Inquisition



Another thought-provoking thread:


LATEST #METOO TARGET:
LITERARY LUMINARIES.
LOOKS LIKE #TIMESUP!
After hitting Hollywood with a high profile takedown (Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, etc.), nailing the newsmen (Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Tom Brokaw, etc.), popping the pop stars (Seal, R. Kelly, Nick Carter, etc.), and picking on the politicians (Al Franken, Roy Moore, John Conyers, etc.), MeToo is taking aim at literary luminaries.
The latest is Junot Diaz, an M.I T. professor, MacArthur fellow, and author of successful novels, including "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," which snapped up a Pulitzer Prize in 2008. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say he's one of the leading novelists writing in America at the moment.
But now a raft of accusations over forceful advances and misogynist verbal abuse toward his grad students and fellow writers has caused a firestorm. His enemies have called the Dominican Republic, Diaz's Caribbean homeland, an "island of toxic masculinity."
Writer Roger Morgan called Diaz "a survivor of abuse and a purveyor of it" and declared: "Men are coming to terms with their own boorishness and brutality, the monster within and the monster next door." Penalties are starting to pour in for Diaz: withdrawals from writing festivals, books pulled off bookstore shelves, the soaring career you just know has been hit with a damaging, perhaps fatal missile.
Sometimes the penalties include being dropped by one's literary agents, as was the case with children's author James Dashner, whose dystopian "Maze Runner" series was made into three feature films that made a billion dollars in box office worldwide. Native American literary hero Sherman Alexie, author of "Smoke Signals" and "Reservation Blues," has been disgraced, accused of trading on his literary celebrity to forcefully kiss and undress unwilling women. One of Young Adult literature's biggest stars, Lemony Snicket, aka Daniel Handler, has a reputation for inappropriate sexual and racial remarks. For unwanted touching and libidinous emails directed at another employee, NPR canceled writer and radio personality Garrison Keillor's contract, drained Lake Wobegon, and ended "Prairie Home Companion" after nearly a half century on the air.
One of the brightest literary lights of the last half-century, David Foster Wallace, went far past these men in the area of misbehavior. Writer E. Price calls him an "abusive, explosive man who cashed in writing about his own misdeeds." Mary Karr, the married lover Wallace met in rehab and a talented writer in her own right, claims: "He tried to buy a gun, kicked me, climbed the side of my house at night, followed my son home from school, and (prompted me to) change my phone number twice." Other times he stalked her, punched out her car window, threw her from a speeding vehicle, and threw a coffee table at her.
Certain male authors should be glad they're not at their literary peak in this current climate. These include notorious misogynists like Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Martin Amis, and John Updike. Imagine the reception Nabokov's brilliant but hebophiliac "Lolita" would get from SJWs if its publication date were 2018!
E. Price lobs this grenade at David Foster Wallace: "I believed he was a complex, hauntingly beautiful soul. Now that I know the truth about him, I find most of his work unimpressive, and I feel grateful that he is dead. If he were still alive, he'd be abusing students, harrassing exes, and tiptoeing around his own capacity for evil in his hand-wringing, exhausting prose."
Yikes! She reminds me of the people who vandalized the books of Ted Hughes over his adultery and tyranny while married to fellow poet Sylvia Plath. After Ted Hughes' crucifixion by feminists, which included attempts to chip his surname from Sylvia's gravestone in a Yorkshire village, a number of contentions are being reassessed: Ted's editing and reordering of the poems in Sylvia's magnum opus "Ariel" looks savvy, Ted's own Sylvia-soaked "Birthday Letters" is now considered a masterpiece, and Hughes' own abilities as a poet seem close behind hers. Like "Brangelina" or "Bennifer," "Tedylvia" was a synergy, a married couple who bounced ideas off each other and finished each other's sonnets and sentences.
Here is where MeToo runs into trouble. Richard Morgan wonders: "What do we want men in to MeToo reckoning to be, besides apologetic, broken, and punished? Do we even know? Don't we want them to be BETTER?" Morgan suggests that Junot Diaz has already changed, his violations now 4-12 years old. He has mended his ways and invited other men to do the same. In a stunning piece for the New Yorker last month, Junot declared:
* "I was raped when I was eight years old by a grown-up that I truly trusted."
* "(There was) no more me, only an abiding sense of wrongness and this unbearable recollection of being violently penetrated."
* "The rape excluded me from manhood, from love, from everything...By fourteen, I was holding one of my father's pistols to my head."
Scratch a misogynist, and you often get a man who when he was a boy was mistreated or abandoned by older men. MeToo, a muckraking movement, only goes so far. It exposes the gross, squirming life beneath certain rocks, but it isn't a movement of repair, healing, or change. That isn't its responsibility anyway. Men need a movement of our own.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. There's no female Shakespeare, Mozart, Michelangelo, nor anyone with the XX chromosome anywhere near their stature in their respective art forms. One can blame oppression and bigotry, but then one has to recall that Milton wrote poems blind, Beethoven wrote sonatas deaf, Sade wrote novels in his own blood while incarcerated, and James Baldwin wrote as a gay black man before civil rights was achieved for either minority. How's THAT for overcoming obstacles?
Compared to women, men have more "culture babies," i.e., produce more novels, murals, gadgets, bands, businesses, symphonies, and scientific discoveries. Women, who often have ACTUAL babies, feel less motivated to make culture babies, impressive exceptions noted like Mary Barra (CEO of GM), J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Mead, Frida Kahlo, Madonna, Elizabeth Warren, etc. It isn't I who is claiming this. It's HISTORY that is proving this.
Camille Paglia sees teen boys as being passed "from control by their mothers to control by their wives" with only a "brief season of exhilarating liberty" in between. Many men learn to resent the way their awakening sexuality makes (the hetero majority of) us need women for another compelling set of reasons long before we're out of the shadow of our mothers, who in this post-patriarchal age of divorce, rule the familial roost ever more utterly, our first witness, first boss, and first love.
The dual power of mother and female lover that so affects and controls men has rarely been better expressed than in the vaginal, uterine imagery of Kurt Cobain's "Heart-shaped Box":
"Meat-eating orchids
forgive no one just yet.
Cut myself on angel's hair
and baby's breath.
Broken hymen of your highness
I'm left back.
Throw down your umbilical noose
so I can climb right back.
Hey! Wait!
I've got a new complaint,
forever in debt to your priceless advice."
Kurt's "new complaint" refers to a humiliating male dependency on women that leads to the kind of resentful misogyny and misbehavior that MeToo is exposing across the board, in the worlds of television, film, pop music, politics, and literature. Now that it is in the open, however, what will we do about it? That's where MeToo runs out of answers and also where iconic minds like Camille Paglia's and Jordan Peterson's come in to offer a fresh perspective.
--C. Schmitz 5/10/18
25 Comments
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Diana Rosen This is a tremendous opportunity for men to learn and understand what is inappropriate behavior, and learn, as applicable, that vulnerability in a man is okay (and their penises will not fall off; honestly!) Those men who, for whatever reason, are su...See More
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Paul T. Corrigan Kind of odd to label sexual harassers and abusers as targets. It's not like #MeToo is causing assaults, it's revealing them.
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Christopher Thomas Schmitz Absolutely, Paul T. Corrigan, but I'm merely pointing out the limits of exposé, highlighting how importantly different it is from healing or solving anything. The jury is still out on MeToo, since we don't yet know our culture's full response to it....See More
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Norman Green Is this real? It’s not the Onion?
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Andrew Dabbs I listened to an NPR piece on Sherman Alexie a few months back. Interviews of victims, the works. I thought the whole thing was a crock. Alexie was a jerk who used his star power to get laid. He never held a gun to anyone's head. He slept with consenti...See More
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Tom Warner Watching all this play out is truly demoralizing. Not because I'm on a "side," exactly, but because of how unconscious we are of what perverse savages we can be. The desire to make the world a better place is great, of course, but so often it's a skin deep facade hiding the darker elements of our personalities that well and truly rule us.
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Christopher Thomas Schmitz Though I'm further left than you, Andrew (although a libertarian Leftist who's not way far from center), I find myself agreeing with almost all of what you said as well as appreciating its depth and Intelligence.
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Christopher Thomas Schmitz That's a very cynical observation, Tom Warner, and right on the money.
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Susan Tammany well - I think some of the stuff coming out seems over-the-top - but honestly I don't like Ted Hughes and I think he was a prick - as far as the other people are concerned, I don't have enough information about them - but I challenge any man to give up...See More
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Julian O'Dea Interesting post, Christopher. Thanks.
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Jay Corwin People who read and examine literature for its value do not care about the authors' sex lives. We can call that "the poitics of fucking." It has nothing to do with literary merit. The current trend looks an awful lot like iconoclasm and very similar to the screaming hoards of worthless losers who destroyed history and priceless art and ruins from Syria to Afghanistan.
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Alexander Vömel on any career path you may take, and independent of gender you will be confronted with individuals with more power than you, sometimes in key positions. and you will have to decide for yourself how much of yourself you are willing to sell out to please...See More
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Kerry Grant This is excellent, Christopher. So, E. Price believed that David Foster Wallace was a "complex, hauntingly beautiful soul", but his prose suddenly became "hand-wringing" and "exhausting" after Price became disillusioned with him? Huh. I didn't know that art became trash after their creators are revealed to be human and not the gods we view them to be.
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Maria Agui Carter Have you considered men have had more "culture babies" because for centuries other men have been in charge of green-lighting, prize-giving, etc. rather than blaming women for not having had these successes? I agree that we need a culture of healing in...See More
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Julie Klawon Loeschke DUE PROCESS NOT ACCUSATIONS ALONE
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Margaret Bloom Sorry to hear DFW was caught in the tide. I really like his writing, specially the short stories.
The me-too stuff has been at the very least stretched too far in some cases, but there is a very positive point. It shows that everybody is vulnerable, including the ones who consider themselves invulnerable.
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Eric May I think Diaz and Wallace are both overrated
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Norman Green This is a witch hunt. It won’t end well.
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Evan Rofheart Artists and writers are not better human beings than anyone else, never have been.
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Eirik Seim Isn’t that what gives them the edge, that they’re often more wounded than others, but consequently the pain of these injuries produce more compelling art?

We’re all broken, but all responding to it in different ways, often dependent on the degree o
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Jim Tarwood I long ago concluded #Metoo feminism doesn't want men to be better. It want them gone.

All charges are equal: a forward kiss, an unanswered phone call, a rape. 
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Jack Miller  The problem, as you say, is that Metoo offers no healing, forgiveness, or answers. It slips in some people's mouths into misandry. Vengeance and hatred of men is not going to get us anywhere as a culture. Change the culture rather than singling men out for punishment. Think of all the art, literature, and science that would go up in smoke if we judge them by the moral misdeeds of their creators! As for great women artists, writers and leaders, there are many from Sappho to Murasaki Shikibu to Mary Shelly to many many other artists, world leaders and philosophers. I'm all for equality, not patriarchy or Matriarchy or just plain Malarkey.
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Christopher Thomas Schmitz ^ The best comment on my post!
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Larkin Vonalt Honestly, I don't care. Are these ewomen adults? Yes? Then they should stop playing the victim card. Too many women "go along" to an extent, hoping to benefit in exchange. When those benefits don't come, then suddenly they're helpless. I think #metoo will prove to be one of the most damaging things to have ever happened to women's rights. And I say this as a survivor of sexual assault.