On Sunday September 21 2014, Special K and I attended the first international People’s Climate March. It was an event held around the world with a special focus on New York City two days before the U.N. Climate Summit was set to begin. It was organized by 350.org an environmental group founded by writer and activist Bill McKibben. 350 represents the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists say we need to stay at to keep further climate change at bay. Earlier last year there was a point where the parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere was recorded at 400ppm.
Wikipedia records an estimate of 311,000 people attended the People’s Climate March. There were numerous staging areas for different groups that started at Central Park West at 59th street and went as far as 86th street. Special K and I ended up joining the designated area for the generational groups at around 66th street. Among the participants we marched with were families, the elderly, and students. It was intended to be a peaceful march and it was. I interviewed several people: One of the peacekeeper volunteers, some students, a carpenter, an urban planner and a TV film editor. Join Special K and I as we take you through the march on that humid cloudy day. Enjoy the show.
Listen up (36m45s) :
Other things discussed:
Hegemony – “…is the political, economic, or military predominance or control of one state over others.”
Tesla Battery – “…shouldn’t the government legislate its use?” – Liam
Deliverance / Dueling Banjos
Imagine by John Lennon
It took me more than two years to get through this book. I put it down after page 42 in 2012 because of its dense content and academic language. I am a fan of Judith Butler because she has some unique and thoughtful ways of looking at difficult questions. In this book of essays, (some of which she gave as lectures), she is looking at how we frame war and violence to justify it and give it meaning. She touches on how the media manipulates our emotions to reinforce or create our sentiments. This is not a new idea. Of course we all know the power of propaganda. But she has more to say about how we frame the idea of war so that we can bear its negative affects.
According to Judith Butler, each of our lives is “…always is some sense in the hands of others”. She points out that we are nothing but social creatures that depend completely on each other for everything in our lives. And she means everything. From the survival of each infant born to the food on our plates to the infrastructure that provides the food on our plates including the plates. Each of our lives is necessarily dependent on others. She makes a case that our global social entanglement shapes how we view each other as human beings. Or not. Consider that she makes this observation:
“…war [divides] populations into those who are grievable and those who are not. An ungrievable life is one that cannot be mourned because it has never lived…it has never counted as a life at all.”
In a war where the one side (say Hamas) stores armaments in schools, community centres, and houses of worship, the destruction of those armaments means that the people in those places, be they children, women, holy men or teachers do not have grievable lives. Their lives have and had no meaning because they were already dead before they were born. They are not alive and never were. We may believe that the people in those places are being used by the enemy as human shields. Therefore if the enemy does not give their own people the status of living beings worthy of being mourned, missed or valued, why should anyone else? So the bombing of these places becomes justifiable. Butler makes the entire idea of killing ludicrous when seen from this point of view. She is coming from the position that all human life, all interconnected on this planet, is grievable. Yet,we divide the world into those who are worthy of being grieved and those who are not. Otherwise we cannot justify war and violence. In one of her many brilliant statements she writes,
“…war seeks to deny the ongoing and irrefutable ways in which we are all subject to one another, vulnerable to destruction by the other, and in need of protection…[via]agreements based on the recognition of shared precariousness.”
She goes on to assert that “[w]ar is precisely an effort to minimize precariousness for some and maximize it for others.”
Apart from these ideas and some interesting discussion of the impact of media and photography, the essays for the most part left me cold and wanting. I was distressed by her use of language. For example, she uses the word alterity at one point when otherness would have made her point much more accessible. There are also statements and ideas that I found completely incomprehensible. For example, I could not make sense of this:
“The point is not to celebrate a full deregulation of affect, but to query the conditions of responsiveness by offering interpretive matrices for the understanding of war that question and oppose the dominant interpretations — interpretations that not only act upon affect, but take form and become effective as affect itself.”
If you can decipher this, I’d love to know what it means.
I was also shocked that she actually used the (non)-word irregardless (page 178 for anyone that cares). I will give her the benefit of the doubt and consider that an incompetent editor or grad student made the slip-up.
In matters of our global attitudes to war, violence, hatred, and non-tolerance, accessibility of her ideas is important for real change in my opinion. I am not sure she is interested in changing the world so much as she just wants to explore it philosophically and for the fun of it.
(note: this review, slightly edited, was cross-posted to Goodreads on Aug 31 2014)
“Why can’t we just do everything we can while we’re here for one another?” – Pearl Goodman, 2013
On today’s show I interview Pearl Goodman who has written Peril: From Jack Boots to Jack Benny. In 300 pages, Pearl gives us portraits and vignettes of what it was like growing up in the nineteen-sixties and seventies. This was a time when many holocaust survivors had ended up in cities like Toronto putting geographical if not psychic distance between them and the horrors of World War II. Everything about her childhood is coated, clouded and influenced by her parents’ experience during the war and after.
Her parents were survivors of the Nazi’s attempt to exterminate the European Jews. The remainder of their lives was infused with this terrible knowledge, the death, the suffering of entire family members, friends, neighbors and many others left behind. As we roll ever closer to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the numbers of survivors who can still remember and tell us anything of those times are dwindling to a precious few. All the stories we can find, first-hand, must be sought out, recorded and shared. And those who can relay much of those untold stories and insights, as the survivors of World War II pass on, do so as translators, interpreters and paraphrasers of the original tellings. Ms. Goodman and other children of survivors must speak for them because they no longer can.
It is said often that we are doomed to repeat history if we do not learn from it. Indeed, genocide has been attempted and succeeded many times to greater and lesser degrees before that war and after. And Jews throughout history have been no stranger to attempts to being eradicated and removed from everywhere we have ever called home. We see the story of the holocaust repeated over and over again in small and big ways in the modern era in such places as: Cambodia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, The Congo, and Pakistan.
In that sense, Ms. Goodman is not just telling her parents story and her own, but the story of all survivors and immigrants trying to overcome the persecution and oppression of their birth country. Join me in my conversation with the author, on a pleasant spring evening in a local restaurant on the very street that Pearl grew up on.
Or download media: Hotfrm 217 (33mb 36mins)
In the aftermath of the horror that took place in Norway recently, the headline on the Globe and Mail print version today reads: Can Science Really Explain Evil? Doesn’t that seem just a bit sarcastic to you? It did to me. Let’s have a look at that statement – shall we? First of all the statement belies an underlying assumption about science, in this case, as an authority that makes you sit up and ask challengingly, “Yeah? Can they?” Note that I did not write it. I wrote they. That is because here is another assumption: That science represents the collective opinion of a group of people rather than a system of knowledge. Now let’s imagine that I am ultra-religious. Or even a little bit religious. Or even religious in a tiny way ; in a way that has been unexamined, say the type of faith you have in a belief that you have never bothered to question. Like Christmas: good; Ramadan: makes me feel funny and uncomfortable. In this case the belief is: There is a group of people called scientists that arrogantly believe they can solve the mystery of life, the universe and everything (to turn a phrase). Oh and by the way these stuck up geeks think I caused global warming. This ingrained belief in the truth of what a scientist really is leads me to the next question I then ask myself: If science can’t explain evil, what can? What is the next choice? Oh! Maybe faith? Maybe religion? It doesn’t matter. The question is the hook that makes you buy the paper. If you’re a skeptic like me, the last thing you want to do is fork out the coin. Instead I went to the internet version and read the associated article. Nowhere in the article is there any implication or certainty that science has the answer to this pseudo-authoritative question. I’ll repeat it again – just in case you forgot : Can Science Really Explain Evil? Who said science ever has explained evil? There is only discussion of neuroscience and psychology. In fact one of the more banal statements that is made in the article is that the scientist, who is representing the complexity of this question, reveals that empathy is on a spectrum and that “[t]he spectrum approach reminds us that none of us are angels and none of [us] is the devil [sic] …” Well. Thank you so much for that gem of wisdom. Now I understand everything. You may be wondering as I did, why there is no mention of that other discipline that explores the problems of our day known as philosophy. Oh, but there is. It is explained that the scientist’s “…investigations are more practical than philosophical”. It seems to me – call me a little out of it – that neuroscience and psychology, being rather young disciplines, ought not to have been called upon as the only route to explain the question of acts as disturbing and vile as the recent events in Norway. Using philosophy is wanting because, well, it’s difficult to distill and present the difficult concepts to a layperson – especially when, as a writer, you are trying to make deadline to keep the paper afloat in these times of yellow journalism. And anyway – philosophy is way beyond what most of us can handle in the age of quick sounds-bites and headlines delivered to our already overflowing inboxes.
Was the media ever anything more than yellow journalism? That’s a good question to ask too. And mostly I want all of us to ask a lot of questions.
Why? Because 1+1 gives you the same value in China, or in Japan, or in the U.S. or in Saudia Arabia, Africa, or South America. God is different across cultural, racial, national and individual boundaries.
Listen to the show :
When the Scarborough Dude shows up, you can bet that the conversation will not be safe for work and the podcaster meetup in December was no exception. We start out discussing C words, the W and T word, J word, D word and F word. We then effortlessly move onto the discussion of violence – domestic and workplace. Talking out of my ass, I refer to bill 184, but what I really meant was bill 168. This bill came into affect on June 15 2010 and amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act specifically with respect to violence and harassment in the workplace. Bill 184 is an act to amend the floral emblem act – not remotely related to workplace harassment or violence. I for one come away less closer than I expected to a working definition of psychological versus physical violence.
So you are forewarned. Don’t play it full blast at your cube or within ear’s reach of your mother or nana.
Political issues discussed: Nanny State, Treason, The FLQ crisis, Pierre LaPorte, and Julian Assange. Fictional heros mentioned: Lisbeth Salander. Deserts mentioned in a pejorative way : May West, the uniquely Canadian fluffy cake snack, not the film and entertainment sex symbol of the early 20th century.
Listen to the show: