Narrating war and terror. A historical perspective.
For those of us in developed societies, it is hard to overstate the importance of words and images and the effect they have on our lives. Although we live in a world in which many people don’t have the time or energy to read much in the way of books or hard news, words and language are as important now as ever before. Whether we’re aware of it or not, those of us in modern, developed societies are immersed in an ongoing narrative that’s constantly swirling about us, informing and transforming perspectives. Powerful forces in over-extended economies desperate to generate infinitely increasing profits focus tremendous energy on creating and broadcasting information to influence how we should feel about ourselves, others, and the world in general. While the Shakespearean stage has never and will never really exist for many of us, an unceasing flood of commercially-generated narrative holds us transfixed in a rush of words, images, and archetypes that are constantly chiseling away at our brains: shaping, directing, urging. We exist within and are caught up in this narrative even though most of us are merely observers and bit players in it.
Where do you find the rebel in a world where James Dean travels around on a postage stamp? Or when he’s a corporate CEO sporting a $4,800 leather jacket out for a ride on his Harley 1)see James Dean Transfigured: The Many Faces of Rebel Iconography by Claudia Springer? Or for that matter, the president of a major country, like Vlad “Bad Boy” Putin tearing around Moscow? Or those almighty iconoclasts in Silicon Valley sporting designer jeans and turtlenecks?
A compilation of photo galleries, facts, and ruminations documenting the most extreme weather events of the past several years. Assembling this information in one place where connections can easily be made offers a powerful statement about the world in which we live. It also raises a number of serious questions. Res ipsa loquitur, as the old judges used to say.
Even though we haven’t had a sensational weather event in a while to make the climate question a topic of chatter, I thought it would be important to survey recent disasters using photographs from around the web. I think assembling this information in one place where connections can easily be made offers a powerful statement about the world in which we live. It also raises a number of serious questions. Res ipsa loquitur, as the old judges used to say.
Anyone who’s over 40 can tell you that something feels different about the equilibrium of the climate today compared to when they were much younger. Something doesn’t feel right. Too many super storms; too many records broken in too short a time period. Rain, when it comes, is often erratic.
Perhaps one of the most interesting observations history will make in regard to the present bull market is just how much it’s governed by language and not numbers. While this may have always been true to some extent, there are few times in the history of the American stock market when this fact, by itself, so obviously outweighs fundamental and technical considerations.
So clear and present is the power that language, backstopped by no more than mere words, wields over today’s market that I’d even go so far as to describe what it has become as a managed stock market.
If the post World War II years introduced the law to normative economic analysis in a modern way, it was September 11th that solidified its dominance in legal and policy-making circles. I believe this is one of the reasons why, despite all the tireless talk about God, country, and our duty to the unborn, both the word and concept of morality has been wiped from serious consideration in precisely those areas that need it the most.
Today, truth and morality aren’t much more than bytes of information that can be shaped at will by those who believe they have the power to get away with it. Instead of the Golden Rule, policymakers increasingly rely on ideas whose main aim is to maintain the status quo for the power elite while delivering pre-selected values to the largest quantity of people in the most efficient way possible. Yet, for all the scholarship, mathematical equations, and bright red lines, there is little about these snaking, complex ideas that isn’t open to interpretation. Consequently, what passes for morality has been turned into a matter of subjectivity.
Conventional explanations for recent mass shootings, like Sandy Hook, are overly simplistic and fail to help society fully grasp the reasons why these tragedies keep occurring. These ready-made answers often tempt society into narrowly focusing blame at the expense of searching for deeper answers and devising needed solutions.
Since the horror of the Columbine shooting in 1999, there have been 31 school shootings in addition to a number of other mass shootings. Each time one of these tragedies occurs, we understandably engage in a public dialog that asks why. Unfortunately, each time the dialog is cut short by a barrage of ready-made answers that steadily and thoroughly whacks each question away.
Viewed within the context of Columbine, the past six months raise these questions again, since this time period contains three mass shootings that urgently cry out for a level of understanding that transcends these overly simplistic, self-serving answers.
Why, after shooting and killing his mother, did Adam Lanza, 20, walk into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and shoot 26 people, 20 of whom were children? How come, three days earlier, Jacob Tyler Roberts, 22, opened fire in a Portland, Oregon mall food court with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle? Tragically, two people were killed, but Roberts’ intention was to kill a lot more had it not been for the gun jamming. Or why is James Holmes, a 24-year-old former neuroscience graduate student, believed to have opened fire on an audience in a crowded movie theater in Aurora, CO, with a 12-gauge pump action shotgun?
Here’s the situation in Texas and other parts of the country where fracking for natural gas has come on the scene: it’s producing a hell of a lot of gas, excitement, and money.
All of this gas is also producing a hell of a lot of wastewater, which, according to experts is producing a hell of a lot of earthquakes. Earthquakes? Yes, that’s right, earthquakes, as in the kind that shake the ground. According to some geophysicists, it isn’t fracking itself that’s causing earthquakes, it’s all the wastewater being pumped back into the ground for storage.
“I saw it coming across the river, the air went very electric and the sky went black. And then the wind started to whistle. This was like a juggernaut roaring through here,” witness Suzanne McFadden told New Zealand’s Newstalk ZB radio. 1)http://news.yahoo.com/rare-tornado-kills-three-zealands-biggest-city-024431885.html
* Prefatory Note: This post is intended to be satirical.*
As an American citizen who loves his country and is concerned about its future, I’m proud to admit that I also love money. So much so that I spend hours a day pouring over financial news and sage commentary from our nation’s army of astute economists. Through my constant attention to this barrage of knowledge and, if I may say so myself, my own rather sagacious wealth management, I’ve come to see myself as somewhat of a financial guru. Not formally or professionally, of course, but what I’d humbly refer to as the armchair variety.
For modern man, form increasingly dictates the substance of thought. Recall from the previous post, Happiness is a Balance, that optimum happiness depends on sustaining optimum internal and external conditions. Since forms are human constructions and are therefore imperfect, it stands to reason that an optimum external situation will be one that contains the least possible quantity of forms necessary to achieve this optimum happiness.
Ok, as we left off in the previous post, What does it take to be happy?, Bonnie and Clyde have finally saved up enough loot and have escaped to their tropical paradise. Here we have it: Hollywood’s great formula for happiness: boy meets girl; boy gets girl; boy and girl get a lot of money; and, finally, escape from the rat race. Elements of this formula compose many of the advertising messages Madison Avenue constantly bombards us with.
I think most of the developed world has been having a pretty limited conversation when it comes to formulating questions about the conditions necessary to bring about happiness. I don’t mean to suggest that people don’t think about happiness very much. I believe pretty much everyone believes they want to be happy. But I think the breadth and scope of modern man’s ideas concerning what will make him happy have been pared down considerably. For many of us, ideas of happiness have been shaped to a great extent by the needs and language of commerce.
The second major concept of the happiness principle holds that all people are equal before the throne of the happiness principle.
This is a radical, perhaps revolutionary statement. It runs contrary to fundamental values inherent in many of the world’s leading contemporary societies. Most of us have been taught to believe that talented, hardworking people can possess more happiness than those less well endowed because they have more resources to purchase the things that will supposedly satisfy their needs and wants. Modern economics has been rooted in this idea for a long time.
I’d like to introduce you to the happiness principle. What is the happiness principle you ask? This is a good question and is very likely one of the most important questions you’ll ever ask. For when it comes down to it, what could be more important than your happiness? The only answer I can think of is my happiness, since my happiness is certainly more urgent to me than yours. Or is it?
A 2003 story in the China Daily relates some strange occurrences just prior to a large earthquake that hit Chifeng, a city in Mongolia. Villagers reported that they saw water spurt more than six feet into the air from a river bed that had been dry for many years.
Cellphone signals were reportedly knocked out for up till 10 hours prior to the quake in an area about 90 miles from the epicenter. Experts speculated the cause may have been interference from “abnormal terrestrial magnetic waves.”
A Google search using the words “earthquake trends” 1)without using quotes in the actual search reveals that earthquakes have been on a lot of peoples’ minds. But it’s not just since Haiti. As one high profile earthquake gives way to another, the Internet clearly indicates that many people are starting to ask questions. It’s interesting to note the different interpretations of what is perceived by many to be an increase in either the frequency or strength of earthquakes in recent years. This post takes a look at some of the popular stories currently circulating about earthquakes. They constitute the common beliefs that many people share about earthquakes and how they relate to contemporary societies. As such, it is felt that these stories represent modern folktales about earthquakes.
This is an ongoing post chronicling some of the stories that have been summoned into existence by the droughts now ravaging Africa.
Wild Animals in Kenya Threatened by Extinction as Severe Drought Causes Food Shortages
In an article titled, “Kenyans eating wild animals as drought worsens,” The Nairobi Chronicle reported on its blog last September that the drought in Kenya was so bad that people were resorting to hunting bush meat in the national parks. This includes monkeys and baboons, which, until a short time ago, were considered taboo. The situation has gotten so bad that in some parts of the country, frightened monkeys that used to roam freely have taken refuge in the bush, far away from humans. In other parts of the country, gangs of half-crazed baboons have banded together thrashing everything in sight, pounding dogs into “mince meat”. Continue reading “Kenyans Desperate to Survive Resort to Poaching”
Killer Earthquakes and Other Problems Beneath the Surface
Silent and unexpected, without warning, they smite with irresistible force. All that dwells upon the surface is subject to the invisible fury of the earthquake. Shacks and mansions, buildings, bridges, and roadways; their permanence rendered illusory. Yet for all its titanic power, the earthquake, unlike other natural forces, does not kill man directly. It exerts itself on the very things that sustain our civilization, causing what normally provides shelter to cave in and crush us.
Presidents Obama, Bush, and other politicians routinely call them and their leaders evil. Others say they’re hapless dimwits lured into sacrificing themselves on the altar of jihad for the sake of remuneration or virgins in paradise. There are also theories that they’re trying to rid their countries of what they perceive as military occupations by foreign governments. Who are the suicide bombers and why do they want to kill us so bad they’re willing to blow themselves up? Why are there so many people volunteering to end their lives in such a gruesome way? Continue reading “The Monster Dialectic”