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Facebook and the Unexamined Life

April 27, 2011

Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. As a farewell to this blog I would like to examine the role of social networking in our daily lives and the dangerous dependency that we have developed.  The addictiveness of social networking continues to make people slaves to an Internet website and truly keeps one from living an examined life.   Life experiences have become supplements to the Facebook status as people search for recognition in any corner that they look.   Does anyone really care about one brushing his or her teeth, taking a shower, catching the bus or any other miniscule daily event?

Facebook makes people feel like they do matter and places them in an alternate world in which they are the masters of how people perceive them, yet Facebook is the true master. Every social outing or event becomes littered with digital cameras trying to capture the moments so that the rest of ones 1000 “friends” can  share -in jealously.  Does anyone really have 1000 intimate friends? Spending time in a virtual universe around 1000 of ones “friends” keeps one from the personal sphere in which they may cultivate relationships and makes the true connections that are friends. The private realm no longer exists under Facebook as all of ones thoughts, pictures and communication are open to everybody, including employers.  One must always be under the professional guise or risk lowering their chance of employment if any of their Facebook content is deemed inappropriate.

With a current population of over 500 million people, eclipsed by only China and India, Facebook has the power to bring globalization to its zenith and dumb the population down to its core.  Don’t get me wrong, the intelligent use of Facebook can be wonderful- it played a key role in mobilizing the initial Jasmine Revolution and subsequent Arab revolutions and can be used to network and meet people one would otherwise never meet.  The danger of Facebook comes from its addictiveness, often likened to a drug, and the level of use that results in ultimately negative repercussions.  One becomes a slave to Facebook as all of their daily activities or life plans/goals become a supplement to their Facebook page.  The danger is that these websites are taking people away from what really matters; living and examining their lives, true friendships and a whole lot of time that could be usefully used elsewhere.   Excessive Facebook use creates a life that is perpetually unexamined, an impersonal life that is essentially a supplement to the page.

Yes, Facebook can keep one up to date on various events and gossip but it ultimately keeps one away from private time in which one can reflect and truly examine their life.  It is Facebook, along with all other destructive technology, that may work to keep a population at bay when horrible injustices occur- people are often too consumed by what another ate for lunch or where they went out last Saturday.  In a study done by LightSpeed Research it was found that over 1/3 of women ages 18 to 34 check Facebook when they first wake up, even before they go to the bathroom (mashable). This illustrates the dangerous grasp that Facebook has on many people’s lives and the power that it has to distract them from other things as the priority immediately upon waking up is to check Facebook. The rise of the proletariat, predicted by Marx in the Communist Manifesto, may be kept at bay by the distraction that is Facebook as mass populations become engrossed more on the Internet and less in life. Arguably every single person with a Facebook is a slave to it.  Socrates believed that all should be questioned but people are far too often straying away from examining their lives and with Facebook as such a powerful fixture of many lives it must be examined!

Turn on, tune in and drop out before Facebook becomes an unbeatable power and enslaves us all.

http://mashable.com/2010/07/07/oxygen-facebook-study/

Marx and Reality of Selfish Behavior

April 23, 2011

Marx, in his philosophy, said that individuals are not selfish by nature; however they are selfish through the environment they are in. This environmental manipulation causes a major change in state as well as poses a serious threat to Marx’s ideal society view of communism. We have studied many philosophers throughout the course of this class that have touched on the idea of selfish ideals in humans. What do they think and how would they react to Marx’s ideas? Also based on other’s philosophies, can a Marxist society exist and would it ever be successful?

Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, states that individuals cannot be selfish at all in order for society to function properly. All must work their hardest in order to further their society and all earn the same wages even if they are a doctor, or a garbage man. Everyone has their place in society and stays in it as well as maintains the idea of no one being a higher class than others. This controversial view raises many questions concerning human nature along with how their behaviors effect society formation.

Many philosophers we discussed theorized that selfish behaviors in individuals are a portion of human nature. Locke said that humans are allowed to be selfish in order to preserve their individual right to life, liberty, and their possessions. Hume also says that humans are too selfish to work towards the common good and only do so to further themselves in society. If humans are born this way, it would be very difficult to have an ideal communistic society which we have seen in historic examples of such societies. Without the intense cooperation required for this type of totally equal society, it will not function properly and lead to rebellion. Also, submission to the greater good as a whole is difficult for humans due to their invested interests in their rights and not infringing upon them.

Others feel that humans understand their place in society and will submit rights in order to further their society overall. Rousseau believed in utilizing a social contract where individuals were required to submit particular rights and abide by particular rules to create a safe and successful society. The type of submission that Marx requires though is much more intense than Rousseau hypothesized, however according to his theory it still could be possible. Also in Solnit’s work “Uses of Disaster,” she describes how people can come together and work as one unit, but only in times of life-threatening disaster. This can loosely be applied to Marx’s ideas.

Overall, there is overwhelming support for humans having selfish behaviors from the philosophers we have studied through this course, therefore I believe that humans are selfish to a point. Selfish behaviors are usually associated with unhelpful behaviors, however I feel it is what drives a society economically as well as socially to create incentive to prosper. This selfishness also helps advance society through striving to do better for one’s self as well as advancing ingenuity in a society. Marx’s idealistic society has not worked in the past, and will not work due to the idea of human selfishness and desire to provide for yourself directly. I believe many other philosophers agree with my idea and this raises issues with Marx’s work and idea of a communistic society.

Go Go DIY Squad!

April 22, 2011

Internet to DIYers: “You’ve got a friend in me!”

DIY Squad

This image was borrowed from diysquad.co.uk. Obviously.

This is a blog post which touches on a topic close to my own heart: the phenomenon of the DIYer (Do-It-Yourselfer).  In all my years as a human male, I’ve fixed computers, built computers, fixed tvs, made several microphones – a few dynamics using old speaker diaphragms, and a 9V powered stereo condenser with parts from an online store – recorded my own music, made digital graphics and videos from scratch, modified my own electric guitar (an old Fender Squire on which I replaced the neck and bridge pickups, and added two FX switches for an astounding 11 combo sounds, compared to the stock 5), etc.

Porsche 944

This is a 1983-85 model Porsche 944, similar in appearance to my own fixer-upper project car. I hear the letters "TLC" and I'm there!

My current project is fixing up an old 1983 Porsche 944, like the one in the photo on the right.  I have the old Hayne’s manual, years of experience with a wrench, but without the internet and websites like clarksgarage.com and the forums on PelicanParts, I would be sunk trying to take care of an entire automobile while doing all the otherwise expensive maintenance myself.

So what does this have to do with Political Science?  Well it has a lot to do with Karl Marx, to be sure.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that knowledge is power.  Reading and writing were once the privileges of upper-class status, and it’s largely through perpetuating the under-education of the lower class that they retained social dominance.  Most especially, in this case, I’d like to look at knowledge in the form of know how, or the ability of persons to create and produce.  For it is this sort of knowledge whose ascertaining is revolutionized by the DIY movement.

“… as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes… it [is] possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”     -Marx & Engels, The German Ideology

In the above quote, it becomes blatantly apparent how the politics of Marx align with the DIY plight, and the eclectic sort of know how which has become so readily feasible for private persons thanks to the advent of the internet.  If, say, I want to produce something for myself, evading all the typical postmodern means of production via factory mass-production and assembly-line labor – such as a stereo condenser microphone, or a computer, or if I want to ignore how my labor has been appropriated by my own circumstances and restore a classic car without a background in engineering, mechanics or whatever else the task may call for, the deciding factor in how successful I’ll be is knowledge of the know how sort.  And to attain said knowledge is easier now than ever before, thanks to the politics of like-minded DIYers who learn, and post their own experiences and knowledge to the internet.

And why should the rights of production lie with the bourgeoisie?  Why can’t every man become a renaissance man in the truest sense, producing for himself and his own what he so desires?  In a communist society, Marx, says, the rights of production lie with the workers.  It is, ideally, a beautiful model, in which each is rewarded directly by the fruits of his own labor, rather than by the comparably arbitrary monetary scheme to which a society holds itself.  My own personal feelings are that there are even adverse psychological effects from not producing for one’s own self, namely that without a sense of where a thing comes from, and what goes into it, the entire means of evaluation of worth (of the aforementioned object) is thrown askew, and thus a proper system of cause and effect, and proportionate rewards/punishments is never learned.

What we see with the internet is, perhaps, the beginning of the actualization of a portion of Marx’s prophecies.  He writes:

“The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the laborers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”     -Marx, Communist Manifesto

If we count the internet in with this “advance of industry”, as a development from modernization in a postmodern society, then considering its enlightening capabilities, the bourgeoisie does truly cut the foundation from under its feet, as information, it would seem, is now essentially free.  My hope is that as the internet progresses, a DIY mentality will replace a lot of the previously-upheld norms with regard to the rights of production, and “folk-knowledge” if I could call it that will assume a position just as important in reshaping the intellectual landscape as more “scholarly” knowledge.

A final point I want to introduce is the ethics of piracy.  It’s a hot-topic, with people on either side of the fence, yet I would be surprised if there were a single person reading this blog who wasn’t “guilty” of it at some point or another.  If knowledge is power, and books, films and music all contain knowledge, do we allow the bourgeois upper-class to fix a price to it?  One can learn volumes just from listening to music, for instance, and the open-minded diversification of personal experiences is infinitely important to one’s own development.  So am I committing a crime by [illegally] downloading everything from Mozart to Dr. Dog?  Tchaikovsky to Zero7?  It’s one of those places in the broad landscape of political theory where the right to accrue wealth and receive [monetary] reward for his or her work butts heads with the rights of the individual to enlighten themselves with all the best that world culture has to offer.  If I were to buy all my Mozart and my Dr. Dog, my Tchaikovsky and my Zero7, and the plethora of other artists I listen to, I would be completely bankrupt, and therefore I’d never have developed the cultural perspective and enrichment that I have today.

Could it not be that, perhaps, the laws of supply and demand are inept at adjusting to account for personal liberty and the enlightenment and enrichment of mankind?  Popular artists hardly starve these days; is it possible the rewards they reap are disproportionately large compared to the work they produce?

“… the separate individuals [will] be liberated from the various national and local barriers, be brought into practical connection with the material and intellectual production of the whole world and be put in a position to acquire the capacity to enjoy this all-sided production of the whole earth (the creations of man).”     -Marx & Engels, The German Ideology


Are Boys better than Girls?

April 20, 2011

But really, are boys better than girls? Ever since the second grade when the “cooties” were a rampant disease and proving that your gender was superior to the other was a sport, the debate of whether boys are better than girls has been ongoing. A major factor in this dispute as a whole is that women have not always had the same rights as men. So, historically speaking, women have always been considered less apt to participate in certain aspects of society than men. But does this actually constitute that men are better than women? According to John Stuart Mill, in his 1869 piece, The Subjection of Women, the sexes SHOULD be equal! So, in my opinion, much like Mill’s, boys are not necessarily better than girls.

In order to fully explain why I believe that Mill is correct in his thinking, we must first briefly examine his work, The Subjection of Women. In this 1869 essay, Mill asserts that during this time women were generally seen as submissive to their husbands and fathers due to the status quo that said that women were both bodily and intellectually less able than men. He continues on in his essay to explain that this prevailing social norm has no substantial evidence to deem it true. I consider this to be Mill’s strongest argument against the case that boys are better than girls. In Mill’s time, the notions that women had to be “taken care of” and biological determinism (the hypothesis that biological factors such as an organism’s individual genes (as opposed to social or environmental factors) completely determine how a system behaves or changes over time) reigned. In today’s world, these ideas would be considered irrelevant to the argument, not only because biological determinism is now considered an inaccurate understanding of the biological model of evolution, but also because 21st century women are now in major positions of power in the work force and tend to take care of their entire family, including their husbands. This shows that women are just as capable as men to taken care of themselves as well as become respected professionals. Finally, one of Mill’s most compelling arguments in favor of girls being just as “good” as boys, is that women in his time were not given the chance to do certain things because men innately believed that women were naturally worse at specific tasks. He goes on to explain that if women are not given the opportunity to prove that they can complete such jobs, there is no substantial evidence that can establish that they are physically or intellectually inferior to men. To further substantiate his claim, Mill states, “The anxiety of mankind to intervene on behalf of nature is an altogether unnecessary solicitude. What women by nature cannot do, it quite superfluous to forbid them from doing” (Chapter 1). By this, Mill suggests that men believe that women are in fact capable of doing certain activities that are usually reserved for men, but men do not want women to engage in these jobs. It is clear from Mill’s arguments that women (in his time) should not be considered inferior to men on the grounds that women are not “allowed” to perform tasks similar to men.

Now that we are familiar with Mill’s arguments, it is now worthwhile to address, based on his arguments, whether or not Mill is a feminist. In terms of today’s standards, I believe that Mill would not be known as a feminist, but in the 19th century, yes, Mill went against the norm and would be considered a feminist. For example, in today’s society women have the right to vote and therefore are clearly trusted enough to have a say in government alongside men. However, in 1869, women did not have the right to vote. In his essay, Mill addresses this issue and contends that everyone should have the right to vote except for barbarians and uneducated people. This is because he believes that every reasonable and sound person should have the chance to defend his or her own rights through the power of the vote. For the time, this would be considered a controversial statement because women were not seen as voters but rather solely as homemakers, wives, and mothers. In my opinion it is commendable that Mill had the guts to go against the discourse of the time and not only address the subjection of women, but to rally against it and make a case that women are just as able as men.

Although Mill makes an excellent case for why girls are just as good as boys, in reality, the only way to know who is “better” is by allowing both men and women to perform the same tasks and then evaluate “who did what better”.

http://bcove.me/11n3g44g — follow this link for a girls vs. boys debate video!

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Subjection_of_Women

Boston Rob and his Machiavellian Ways

April 20, 2011

“You will find people are so simple-minded and so preoccupied with their immediate concerns, that if you set out to deceive them, you will always find plenty of them who will let themselves be deceived. (37)”

     It’s Wednesday night and once again I am anxiously awaiting tonight’s episode of Survivor. As I was sitting at my computer brainstorming ideas for my last blog, I realized that one of my all-time favorite characters, Rob Mariano or “Boston Rob”, was a perfect example of a Machiavellian. Rob has been in 4 seasons of Survivor and continues to earn his villainous reputation through his constant control of the game through controlling his fellow contestants. A central theme of Machiavelli in “The Prince” is that in order for a prince to be successful and maintain his power, the prince must use whatever means are at his disposal, and Rob does just that. Rob is known for his crafty, cunning, and tricky ways, as has been known to give many people his word (to keep them safe from being voted out), and then without a blink of his eye, he votes them out. At the same time, he makes it known that if you aren’t “with him” then you will get voted off. He uses fear as a means of control and as a way to make his fellow alliance obey.

     Also, Rob, like Machiavelli, acknowledges that a prince who keeps his word is generally praised by others, but realizes that if you look at history, there have been many successful rulers who have not. Knowing this, Rob always tries to portray to the rest of the survivors that he isn’t so crafty, cunning and tricky. For example, during the season of Survivor: All Stars, Rob had told fellow survivor Lex that if Lex could keep Rob’s love interest (and now his wife), Amber safe, he would “take care of him” in return. Lex followed through by keeping Amber safe, but during the next episode, the tribes merged and Lex was voted out, despite Rob’s previous commitment to him. Rob justified himself by saying, “Make no mistake about it Lex, but the word I gave you was that if I could take care of you I will. I’m sorry, I cannot.” Rob clearly used Lex for his own selfish means and then discarded him when he didn’t need him anymore.

     In addition, Rob agrees with Machiavelli by using his “warcraft” as the foundation of his game. In the current season of Survivor, he has installed a “buddy system” within the 5 other players of his alliance. This buddy system ensures that no one from his alliance is ever by themselves, and ultimately never in jeopardy of being swayed by the competing alliance to join forces with them. His alliance faithfully obeys because they know that if they show any kind of disloyalty, Rob will not hesitate to vote them out. It is this combination of smart tactical strategies, and his intelligent use of domestic politics, which prove that his “warcraft” is his groundwork for success. Rob believes that his ends justify his means, just as Machiavelli does. The following clip is a great example of how Rob plays the game. His quote, “Fear, basically, it’s a tough principle, but fear keeps people loyal. If they’re afraid they have something to loose, then they’ll do what you tell them to do,” shows that he follows Machiavellian principles.

Citations:

Machiavelli, Niccolo. “The Prince.” Modern Political Thought: readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. Ed. David Wootton. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2008. Print.

Farewell Machiavelli

April 20, 2011

For my final blog post, I decided to revisit one of my favorite political philosophers for this course: Niccolo Machiavelli. I believe it is his concept of “Ends Justify the Means” that keeps me so interested in him. What it is about this concept that I find so fascinating I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps it is because I find a way to fit this concept into every aspect of our current life? Whether someone is blaming, forgiving, lying, telling the truth, making or breaking alliances, making or breaking rules, making or breaking promises, or even misleading someone, the Machiavellian concept is being applied in some way. Take even school work for example, how many times have you thought to yourself or said to someone, “Just do whatever it takes to get it done”? I mean that is the main goal is it not? To just get the assignment done as fast and as accurately as possible? Of course you want to get a good grade on the assignment but the end mind set is to just get it done whichever way is possible. This is where a student can falter if they are not careful and take Machiavelli’s idea to far, committing plagiarism or even cheating. I like to believe that I am a good person as well as everyone else on this earth. I am genuinely an optimistic person and pretty forgiving, but there is something that causes all of us, and even myself, to step outside our morals and up-bringing and follow Machiavelli.

While I was researching Machiavelli, I stumbled upon a famous comic that is an all time classic: Calvin and Hobbes. For those of you who have never read it or heard about it, it is basically a comic about a cat (Hobbes) and boy (Calvin). In this particular episode however, Calvin doesn’t believe in ethics and takes on Machiavelli’s concept of ends justify the means.

Calvin and Hobbes meets Machiavelli

When the table is turned and Hobbes takes on Machiavelli’s style, Calvin no longer likes Machiavelli’s idea. Calvin thinks that this concept should only apply to him and no one else. A bit selfish don’t you think? Then again he is only looking out for his best interest is he not? What do you think?

One last example I found was in a movie called Pride and Glory. In the movie, a brother gets caught up investigating a case that involves another brother and brother-in-law. The family is a multi-generation cop family and their morals are being put to the test. In this specific scene I am posting, two of the brothers who are a part of the NYP, get in an argument about how crime has gone down and collar has gone up. The one is upset about how he got lied to and the other one is claiming that it did not matter because he still achieved the end results he was asked to do. Take a look here Pride and Glory .

The number of examples I could find for Machiavelli seem endless. The few I listed above were just the ones that caught my eye and were what I thought practical examples of “Ends justify the means” were. After examining my own life, I came up with a few instances when I have used this principle. One of the main instances is when I play sports. No matter what sport, whether it be basketball or football, I will do whatever it takes to win. This is the view that almost all athletes have adopted who are super competitive I believe. They will play dirty when the ref is not looking or even talk smack. They, myself included, will do whatever it takes to win. It seems that if one thinks hard and long enough, they can relate Machiavelli’s concept to just about anything! Enough about myself, I’m curious to see in what ways you use Machiavelli’s idea of “Ends Justify the Means” in your life. Leave your comments below!

Farewell to the Blog

April 18, 2011
by

I thought that it would be fitting to make my final post a reflection on blogging through the lens of political theory.

I have found it engaging to be able to learn about theorists in class and to immediately apply them to everyday life. The blog has become one of the first places that I turn when I want to better understand a theory or to see new ways to apply it. It is a fast paced place where we can get our views and interpretations out in the open. We also get to spice things up with videos, pictures, and even polls.

The greatest feature of the blog is the user base. Through comments we are able to give input. We identify good posts and bad posts with ratings. We give our interpretation, critiques, and ideas for improvement. Everyone has something to add.

Haters gonna hate

I also enjoyed how we were able to avoid the "hate"

I feel that Mill would be envious of what we have to work with here on the blog. As he said, “the particular evil of silencing a particular opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion still more than those who hold it.” Here no one is silenced; no opinion or view is wrong until someone gives a convincing argument proving so. Even then, one is only right or wrong in the eyes of those agreeing with a given interpretation. We are able to contribute to the greater understanding of all the students of the class, and it really isn’t an issue of whether we are “right” or “wrong”. All posts have something to add and nothing but the passage of time can hide them. We can even spark up a conversation about new applications and interpretations or add our own ideas in the comments. It’s unbelievable!

We are able to bring about a general will of sorts, similar to the one that Rousseau talks about in his theory. We contribute our interpretations, give rebuttals, and inform other readers of how we feel things should be interpreted. We are able to grow toward a consensus as peers and become more articulate in our interpretation and expression of theory.

This blog is an amazing tool and is an exercise in political theory in it of itself. It has been interesting and I am proud to say that we have been working toward the truth as scholars and equals.

I just like this video and wanted to work it in before the end of the year

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