All The More Reason


We’re pacifists, and you?
August 29, 2007, 5:47 am
Filed under: Peace, Rhetoric

If there’s one phrase that rings of the high and mighty it must be the line “I’m a pacifist.” I heard Martin Sheen say it the other day. I think that it’s a pretentious thing to say not because there are instances where pacifism equals nihilism or death, something which the person claiming pacifism probably doesn’t have to worry about, but simply because it is said in a way where it leads one to feel like the opposite position stated would be “I’m a warmonger.” Here’s a piece, linked from aldaily, which discusses the growing peace movements in the West. I can’t vouch for how good it is because I was turned off it by this line:

Invariably portrayed in the media as a charismatic and (these days) grandfatherly champion of decency, Galtung is in fact a lifelong enemy of freedom.

(The italics are mine.) Has Galtung been nominated for an enemy of freedom award? It’s quite possible that this is just a quirk of mine, but I don’t understand why a writer needs to resort to that kind of rhetorical move when it hardly strikes me as necessary. Still, City Journal does have many interesting articles so maybe I’ll try and finish reading this piece another time.

J.S.



Stop the Press! Evidence of sex differences found!
August 25, 2007, 4:18 pm
Filed under: Education, Man

I can remember in an otherwise long forgotten undergraduate course reading about how the existence of female seahorses as being dominant and the males being pregnant was evidence that masculinity and feminity in humans was a cultural and not biological phenomenon. This is not unlike finding one bad Picasso and using it as evidence that all of art appreciation, let alone Picassso’s oeuvre, was backwards (even that analogy might have been troublesome ten years ago). And yet, lo and behold we have yet another study done which shows that women do indeed prefer the colour pink and their motivation could in large part be due to the relationship with the colour and the caloric content of fruit.

All this suggests a biological, rather than a cultural, explanation for colour preference. And Dr Hurlbert and Dr Ling have produced one. They suggest that their result may be connected with the fact that the colour of many fruits is at the red end of the spectrum. An evolved preference for red, pink and allied shades—particularly in contrast with green—could thus bring advantage to those who gather such things.

Well paint me red and call the fire department, as my head’s steaming trying to comprehend this! I thought my education taught me that this kind of study was just another way of enforcing the patriarchal hegemony!

On a related note, surely this is another example of how binary thinking is not always to our advantage. The either/or distinction between culture and evolution, nurture and nature, is arguably not the most interesting debate one can have. At the very least, it’s not the only debate one could have. Furthermore, a debate in such a manner implies that these two elements can be cleanly distinguished from one another. And yet, because the pendulum on this debate does swing quite far it does appear that we’ll be in store for a real shift to the materialistic/nature/evolutionary explanation of things in the years to come. Perhaps one thing defenders of reason can do is to help keep the pendulum from swinging too far in the other direction.

J.S.



Allen Carr and Nicotine Addiction
August 23, 2007, 2:46 am
Filed under: Smoking

I recently stumbled upon the author Allen Carr who has written numerous books on stopping smoking and other vices. This post is not about the various pleasures and pains that these vices can cause. It is simply to mention that he wrote an open letter to Tony Blair urging him to consider having his method adopted by the Department of Health for people who want to stop smoking. He also wrote an online book called Scandal, which I don’t have the nerve to read yet as it sounds too conspiratorial. Regardless, his main point is that pharmaceutical companies are somewhat in bed with the government by encouraging smokers to use Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). Carr, who has since died of lung cancer, felt that this was maintaining the same addiction but simply changing the manner in which it was administered.

Addiction is a small room that has the deepest bed, the widest pillows, and a gas pipe left on high in the corner. Not knowing the history of tobacco and nicotine well enough to expound upon it here I shall simply say that in our current zeal to eradicate smoking the question has remained open to see what will replace it. If it is to be a potpourri of sanitised and authorised nicotine coming in gum, patches and inhalers then I’d prefer living someplace where the real stench of tobacco always reminded me of the danger of the game being played.

J.S.



Judging Arthur Miller
August 18, 2007, 5:45 pm
Filed under: Arthur Miller

A certain Suzanna Andrews decides to judge self–righteously Arthur Miller in this barf piece in Vanity Fair. The article is about a son he had who was born with Down syndrome and put in an institution. What I found most interesting about the piece was not only her willingness to judge the man by our standards today on treating children with disabilities, but also by the current vogue of public confessions and public consciousness. In other words, if a feeling is not admitted to the public (especially if one is a celebrity) then it’s an open debate as to whether the individual has that feeling at all. This idea is wedged so thickly inbetween the ears of writers like Andrews that she barely pays homage to the idea that Miller may have been decidedly private about certain matters and not necessarily out of shame.

For example, in the piece she mentions that Miller does not write about his son in his memoirs. Is it not possible that someone like Miller would have felt it unjust to bring so much attention to his disabled son? Surely a public acknowledgement of his son would not only have brought the likes of Andrews to interview Daniel but could also draw leeches who would use him to try and pawn off the old man.

I could quote almost any paragraph from this piece to demonstrate the false high–mindedness of this writer but I find I almost can’t bear to reproduce her work in any vain. Still, here’s one example of her style:

It would be easy to judge Arthur Miller harshly, and some do. For them, he was a hypocrite, a weak and narcissistic man who used the press and the power of his celebrity to perpetuate a cruel lie. But Miller’s behavior also raises more complicated questions about the relationship between his life and his art. A writer, used to being in control of narratives, Miller excised a central character who didn’t fit the plot of his life as he wanted it to be. Whether he was motivated by shame, selfishness, or fear—or, more likely, all three—Miller’s failure to tackle the truth created a hole in the heart of his story. What that cost him as a writer is hard to say now, but he never wrote anything approaching greatness after Daniel’s birth. One wonders if, in his relationship with Daniel, Miller was sitting on his greatest unwritten play.

So not only is Miller guilty of not being a good father to his son with Down syndrome, but also for not using his son as motivation as a writer! Also, the tactless and faceless charge of “some” who judge him harshly – would that include the author? Because “some” think Suzanna Andrews is a buffoon who sees the world in an infantile manner; and that some would include me. I will say this: I don’t know the story of Arthur Miller and frankly don’t know his work very well either. That being said, anyone who tries to pull a reader not only to the smear trough but also to dunk them right in it usually draws more attention to themselves than to their target. At least for me…

J.S.



I’m a big fan of language!
August 13, 2007, 8:09 pm
Filed under: Language

It looks like the expression “fan of him” is also quite popular as “fan of his”. As best as I can guess, because it makes sense to say “I’m a big fan of his work” then it could easily be reduced to simply “I’m a big fan of his” although in that second case the “his” feels like it’s hanging a little since it doesn’t seem to be referring to anything.

J.S.



The right to self–defence
August 9, 2007, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Crime

This is an unbelievable story from the ever reliable Daily Mail. It describes how a man has been arrested in regards to the death of a burglar who fell from his house. If a man breaks into my house, do I really want to be worrying about what the magistrate might charge me with after the fact? Surely if we can’t defend the idea of survival within one’s domain, where can we? What I find upsetting in this case is that the man was arrested. I can understand the need for an investigation, but to be arrested? But as always, I’m willing and eager to hear the other side on this, if there is one.

J.S.



The Incredible Willard Wigen
August 7, 2007, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Art

First off, I have to apologise for the spelling of this artist if I’ve got it wrong but I wasn’t able to find an official homepage scouring google over the last 30 seconds. Take a look at this video of him doing his tiny sculptures. In it, he says that he’s “trying to prove to the world that nothing doesn’t exist” in reference to the idea that no human being is too small or inconsequential to make a difference.

J.S.