Monday, July 21, 2014

Philosopher of Prussia

Noon, as it turns out, is a great time to wake up. Especially if all you need to do that day is attend a seminar about Hegel, Marx, and Zizek. 

That's right, Andy gave an optional lecture about Hegel, Zizek, and basically all of Western philosophy. It was awesome. I had 17 major epiphanies in 3 hours.

Obviously I don't instantly understand every part of Hegelian philosophy now, but Andy demystified Hegel and Marx and Zizek and showed how their ideas relate to, and have been constantly reappearing in, our class in social justice.

In his critique of charitable/social consumption, Zizek perfectly expressed a problem that has been a source of inexplicable angst for me; Americans' cherished belief that simply buying things from corporations that promise to do good is sufficient to remedy all the societal ills in the world. Zizek points out that "charitable consumption," buying things that promise to do good for the poor, has combined consumption with charity and commoditized philanthropy. This model has made every act of buying something a social and political act. But shopping it isn't a sustainable, or even remotely feasible way to alleviate the world's problems and to believe that it is is an act of staggering egoism and complacency. 

The discussion continued from Hegel and Zizek to all sorts of criticisms of capitalism. Some of the things I learned about from the lecture today challenged institutions and and events that I venerated as proponents of liberal values. Events like the green revolution and genetic modification, which I have so enthusiastically lauded as the tools that will inevitably lead to the improvement of global standards of living and increase liberty and equality, must be seen for what they are; a manifestation of capitalism's self-preservation instinct. Rather than ushering in the next phase of history, these events have been prolonging the current system and protecting the status-quo. 

The truth is that capitalism demands unlimited growth and the world has finite resources. This means that there is a "zero point" that capitalism must reach, but capitalism has no mechanism to identify the boundaries it is about to encounter. As such, the Green Revolution, which inarguably saved at least a billion people from starvation, is temporary relief for the underlying problem. Eventually we will run out of stopgap measures to extend the limits to growth. We may be there already. 

I'm still an idealist. I still think that genetic engineering is a necessary step to solving our ecological problems, but I no longer think that Monsanto and Syngenta and other companies' insidious privatization of the commons is an unfortunate side-effect. I understand that corporate behemoths like Monsanto and Nestle are exactly as evil as I have always maintained they are. Science might still save us, maybe, but if it continues to be hijacked by corporations we are definitely all doomed to extinction.

On that bright note, I had a great lunch today. I went to an awesome salad place with my roommate Maayan, and a group of our peers. It had been so long since I ate arugula, quinoa, goat cheese, and kale, and I was feeling acutely nostalgic for my usual West Coast cuisine. After lunch, I returned to the dorm to rest up a bit before dinner. Also, I needed a quiet place to continue to internalize all my epiphanies. 

After dinner with almost the entire Cohort and Mr. Hilyer, Shebek and I had to go to another Social Justice seminar, this time about feminism. We discussed intersectionality and the kyriarchy, which is a neologism derived from the greek words for "lord" and "to rule or dominate" which seeks to redefine the analytic category patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination. Essentially, kyriarchy is a post-structuralist version of the patriarchy. As a concept, I like it better than the patriarchy, because it recognizes the complexities and multiple varieties of oppression that are present in the struggle for equality. Though I think some people will be confused when I shake my fists and yell "Death to the kyriarchy!" 

We also watched a film about second wave feminism, featuring all my old idols (Robin Morgan, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem). The film, Feminist Stories From Women's Liberation, was possibly the first in-class film that Andy hasn't paused at least three times to interject and discuss. (We discussed it afterwards, of course.) Initially, none of the males in our post-film discussion group thought they were feminists. (If I hear one more person say "I'm not a feminist, but I believe men and women should be equal," I will ... do something. I don't know what. Something drastic.) Fortunately, after being told the definition of feminism, (belief in equality between the sexes -- that's all it is folks -- I kid you not,) they changed their minds. Troublingly, they still maintained that they were allies of feminism but not willing to be involved in the movement. 

This brings us to the last event in our day. Our encounter with the insect-thing-of-unknown-origin-and-intention-and-too-many-legs.

When we returned to the dorm room, it was there. Shebek saw it first. 

This, This... THING. It has a lot of legs. So many legs. Too many legs. I don't know what it is and I don't care to know. All I know is that it looks like it just crawled out of some pre-cambrian sludge and it would probably eat my face while I sleep. 

What is it? How did it get here? What does it want?
So I sprang into action and neutralized the threat. 

Entrails. Entrails everywhere. Legs and bug guts. It was beyond gross. It transcended gross. 

What is worse is that 1) there may be others of its kind. What if this is just the beginning? What if its kindred want revenge? and 2) I am legitimately guilty about ruthlessly murdering it. What if it wasn't here to eat my face while I slept? Do I have the blood of innocents on my hands? It might have been totally ignorant of the danger it was in until I annihilated it! How would I like it if I were that wretched overly-legged creature just minding my own business crawling around without any conception of my impending demise until some behemoth flattened me with a shoe? ...What have I done?!?!

I'm sorry dear mutant-insect-creature-from-hell. I'm sorry that I destroyed you with my footwear. I'm sorry that I took one look at your noble carapace and assassinated you before you had time to explain your position. I'm sure were a noble soul, destroyed in the (many legged) flower of your youth.

Today, July 20th, 2014 -- a date that shall live in infamy -- The Demon-bug-horror-thing was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the flipflop forces of Julia. The Nightmare-cricket was at peace with that person, and, at the solicitation of Julia, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Dorm Room....

May you rest in peace, unidentifiable-centipede-of-terror. You are gone but not forgotten.

1 comment:

  1. That bug is disgusting. Glad you had it neutralized.