“Kant” Revisited: Mental Illness in the Modern World

Did I already post this one?

Anyways, I’m attempting to locate all of my old Life With Kant scripts and then post them here. So I might’ve already posted this one.

If you’ve never read this one before, keep in mind that I don’t edit or spellcheck. So please forgive any errors.

If you have read it before, read it again.

Enjoy!

branches&creatures

How much has the human mind changed since we have officially evolved into “homo sapien SAPIENS”, because, apparently there’s a slight distinction between “homo sapiens” and “homo sapien SAPIENS”. If you’ve listened to this podcast before, you’ve heard me ask this question. And from what I gather, apparently it hasn’t really changed at all.

Yeah, like it or not, we’re still that same primate that was simply roaming the land thousands of years ago. We haven’t changed, only the bullshit that we’ve surrounded ourselves with has changed. Thankfully, our forefathers conquered all the beasts and tailored the earth to fit our needs. So I think that this has given us the illusion that we are more evolved or have things more figured out than our ancestors. And maybe we do, we certainly have a better understanding of the universe that we occupy. We can definitely achieve many more things than they ever could. But…what does it matter? I mean, we’re still going to die in the end. Or at least, you probably will. I’m going to live forever.
But I think that there’s this mistake that we all believe, that says, the most optimal time to live is right now. And as the future rolls on, then THAT will be the most optimal time to live. I think I might have also beaten this horse to death as well. But in our modern time, we have exchanged pure survival and minimal existence for material gain and information. Additionally, because we are very social creatures, the increasing population and constant awareness of others have greatly altered what it means to be a human. Does this make sense? So if you’re living in First World Society, there’s a whole NEW set of problems that the mind has to deal with, and isn’t accustomed to dealing with because the human mind and body are adapted for survival, and our social habits are a tool. Now we have to learn to survive in a highly sociable world.

The belief that we have evolved out of animal status, or our methods of living today are superior to those of our ancestors, is an arrogance of modernity. To an extent, we are just trading one set of problems out for another. As much as I hate it, I think to a large degree, the human mind is made to suffer. Instead of having to worry about animals and competing tribes out to kill us, we have exchanged those problems out for more Nietzchian-like struggles. Like how to we bring meaning to what seems to be a meaningless life? So, which problems would you rather face? Immediate survival with your fellow hunter-gatherers, or figuring out your purpose in a world that encapsulates you with its meaningless laws, morals, mythologies?…Probably the latter, I would too.
However, these new sets of problems have created a new set of illnesses. Or at least it has brought awareness to a new set of illnesses. But it’s interesting to consider what causes what…if I’m making sense.

The work I’ll be relying on for this episode is “All We Have to Fear: Psychiatry’s Transformation of Natural Anxieties into Mental Disorders” by Allan Horwitz and Jerome Wakefield. And they start of by saying, quote: “Fears, worries, and apprehensions are painful and ubiquitous aspects of human existence, whether they are common or idiosyncratic, specific, or diffuse, rational or irrational.” End quote. And it is. I think that everyone has suffered from it as some point in their lives. Love it or hate it, it’s a very effective tool that evolution has bestowed upon us. Without fear, who knows where we’d be?….

But Horwitz and Wakefield point out, that in the 1980 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Health Disoriders, it stated that only 2 to 4% of people would classify as having an anxiety disorder. Now that number reaches to 1 in 5 persons. And to the authors, this calls for an explanation.

Now us philosophically-inclined folk like to think of anxiety as feelings we get when we try to contemplate life’s meaning. Which, to be honest, I don’t really get anxious. Angstful…hell yeah! But let’s sideline that thought for awhile. When most people get anxious, at least in our comfortable first-world existence, it’s over small things like…I don’t know, being late to a meeting or failing to meet deadlines. However, having those small concerns in-themselves, are not enough to meet the criteria of having a mental illness. Unless, of course, these sorts of concerns come to dominate your life. In that case, these feelings can cross the threshold into a disordered anxiety.

Of course, fear itself is not an unreasonable thing. As I said before, fear is in fact, a very useful thing. However, in our modern sterile world, where a lot of these fears have become irrational, the human mind can sometimes find itself out of place, as it tries to grapple with mundane realities using cognative tools that evolution granted us. This can often lead to disproportionate reactions to problems that the individual has no control over. Then fear and anxiety themselves become things to avoid, even if they are natural reactions from the body. Thus new anxieties are developed out of these incontrollable fears.

But we come to define these anxieties in not only biological or neurological terms, but we also look at them through social terms. Which is why the severity of these disorders vary from person to person. Therefore, to the authors, questions arise, like how can we distinguish between normal and abnormal amount of anxiety, should the fears instilled in us through evolution (but seem out of place to us now) be considered a disorder, and what role does psychiatric evaluation have in making this distinction, in addition to the role of medication, among many others.

But the authors contend that by simply looking at the brain, you cannot adequately recognize any mental health problems. Or as they say, quote: “Looking at the intensity of amygdala activity is not a way to “see disorder” in the brain.” End quote. Only in extreme cases, where physical trauma has been enacted on the brain, you won’t be able to determine any abnormalities. Just because someone’s brain waves are exhibiting anxiety or any other forms of natural stress, doesn’t mean that there’s a disorder in place.
Another popular theory is that undesirable responses to stimuli can be a learned trait. For example, when you see someone else respond with fear to something, you echo that response. And some believe that mental illnesses can be considered a social construct. But either way, Wakefield and Horwitz don’t necessarily reject these positions, but they downplay the significance they might have had in the rise of mental health diagnosis’. Instead the authors support a more evolutionary focus on anxiety. They say, quote: “A disorder indicates that something is wrong with some (possibly inferred and as yet unknown) internal mechanism that is biologically designed to do something but is failing to do it-or is designed NOT to do something that it is doing, as in panic attacks when no threat is present.” End quote.

So as I said earlier, fear, panic, anxiety…those are all natural things. And occasionally…very useful things. It’s only when those functions start firing off at the wrong times, or even if they fail to fire off at the RIGHT times, can that be considered a problem…and therefore a disorder. These mechanisms are designed to respond to the world in a particular way. But perhaps the real problem isn’t the brain, it’s that the environment around it has changed, and so our brains are responding to a world that it’s ill-adapted towards.

This is where Wakefield and Horwitz introduce the idea of the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation, or EEA. Which, to me, sounds similar to Hobbes’s State of Nature. I don’t know if the author’s agree, but that’s what I’m rolling with. And in this environment, is where humans developed their emotional responses, and a number of other adaptations. And this environment was distinctly different from the one we live in today. I’ve discussed before how much of human history really isn’t history at all. It’s just people wondering around as hunter-gatherers. And our psychology evolved to fit those needs. It’s only been within the last few thousand years, where we haven’t had to fight predators and hunt our food. If we brought a newborn baby from 50,000 years ago, raised it in modern times, that person would function normally. Same thing, vice-versa. We haven’t changed, the world has changed, and our psychology might be struggling to adapt.

How many problems are out there, that aren’t really problems? Am I making sense? You have a report that’s due tomorrow…well what would happen if you don’t turn it in? Are you going to die? You think back to those people 50,000 years ago, and I’m sure that there are millions of people living like this today, but their problems had to do with REAL survival. So those stress mechanisms that fire off in us today, were quite valuable to those ancient peoples. It’s what kept them alive. Unluckily for us, those stress mechanisms didn’t evolve away. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the same stressor that kept the ancient peoples alive, start firing off for a much lesser problem. So society, unintentionally for the most part, manipulates those adaptations. That’s why college students stress the fuck out for completely useless reasons, or why I stress out over this podcast. None of it matters, but because society or high demands on oneself dictate that these first-world problems are akin to survival, people will either react in proportionally to the problem, OR truly believe that this means survival. So this modern world is a cruel machine…

Struggle is a normal, and to a large extend, healthy function of life. And as a sports fan, there are all kinds of quotes from athletes and coaches that explain this, but the one I am reminded of (and is perhaps the most applicable) is the one from Michael Vick (I believe, when he is addressing a group of inmates), where he says: “If you don’t struggle, you can’t make changes”. And you know what…I don’t even if he said that, or if anyone said that…but neither here nor there…the point is that struggling is part of the human experience. Ideally, we all want life to be sunshine and roses, but it doesn’t work that way. There’s almost a movement towards Aldous Huxley’s world, where once when we start to feel bad things, we can just pop a soma, and all of our bad thoughts go away…to move into a sterile world….
…but…not to sound too much like Captain Kirk in Star Trek V…but I need my pain. I need my personal struggles. Because that’s what shapes who I am. And who the hell knows where I’d be without it….probably a lot happier. That’s for damn sure.

Thought of the Day: The Roger Goodell-era needs to come to an end.

I love football. But let’s be honest…it probably won’t be around for much longer.

Between CTE, poor leadership in the professional league, a questionable college playoff system, and colleges valuing athletics more than academics…football is in its supernova phase. Sure, it’s star is brighter than it’s ever been, but that’ll quickly fade.

Truthfully, I’m far more of a NFL fan than college. People like me are increasingly harder to find. I never understood the animosity that college fans had towards the NFL. Well…okay, I do understand it…but it doesn’t make any sense. Because NFL players get paid millions of dollars?

First off, it’s not your money. Secondly, there are second-rate players in the MLB that are getting paid WAY more than the best players in the NFL. Thirdly, between having a 100% chance of injury and literally being the best athletes in the world, don’t you think that deserves a hefty compensation? I mean, with all the revenue that’s generated from these guys in both NCAA and NFL, they can’t continue doing this shit for free. Fourthly, although I am a diehard fan of a specific NCAA school, professional sports are a better product than their collegiate counterparts. Top to bottom better players and coaches. There’s a reason why Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, and Chip Kelly had massive amounts of success in college but couldn’t hack it in the pros. And fifthly, as my favorite NFL writer Chris Wesseling pointed out when explaining his disinterest in college sports…NCAA players are kids! Yes, I’m a fan of a specific NCAA school, but I’m essentially rooting for a bunch of college kids that are only getting compensated through free college tuition while the school makes millions of dollars off of them. Plus, like many other college sports fans, I didn’t go to that school! I don’t know, it always seemed weird to me cheering and getting pissed off at kids just trying to pay their way through a school that I didn’t attend.

But what confuses me most about college purists is their belief that they’re taking the moral high road by not supporting a group of self-centered millionaires while completely ignoring all the NCAA violations and questionable conduct that their school commits in placing their athletic programs above the integrity of their academics. Yeah, way to take the moral high ground.

Yet, I find myself enjoying NCAA football far more than the pros this year. Well, really I only enjoy watching the Big 12 because that entire conference strangely lacks defense. It’s not because I oppose the players kneeling. I’ve called out the protest for being more about Trump’s stupidity than about police brutality, but whatever. People shouldn’t get their panties in a wad for a simple expression of speech. But no matter where you fall on the protest, it’s evident that the NFL has problems.

Many have called out the lack of “good games”. Which is bullshit. There are terrible games at every level of the game…High school, college, NFL, CFL, etc. But the NFL has been lagging behind in one key aspect…production value. The truth is that somehow the NCAA puts on better show despite a lesser product on the field. The excitement in the audience and the geography of the stadium is better felt during college games than the pros. This gives the illusion of a far more exciting product. Meanwhile, many NFL games have the production value of a high school game. And I’m not the only one to make that complaint. But perhaps the most damning criticism of the league is that the attention has been on everything but the game.

This was a problem long before the protest. Inappropriate or inconsistent punishments for player misconduct, terrible officiating, and most importantly DEFLATEGATE has tarnished the league. The commissioner Roger Goodell’s philosophy has supposedly been to “protect the shield” by producing the best product on the field. Under his leadership, viewership has increased (at the cost of saturating the market and causing viewer fatigue) but it’s also under his watch the NFL has been more about crap off the field than on it. I don’t know if that’s entirely Goodell’s fault. This might just be the result of how social media has effected everyday life. But other professional leagues seemingly lack these sorts of distractions and when they occur they don’t appear to dominate the entire discussion of the game. Add this to the fact that players and owners are growing distrustful of each other and what we find is weak leadership from the top.

You may hate the Papa John’s guy, but he’s correct in his assessment of Goodell’s lack of leadership. It’s obvious that the NFL needs a shakeup, and it should start by removing the most hated guy in sports…Roger Goodell. I don’t know enough about the decline in ratings, but people seemingly hate the NFL more than ever. If Goodell is truly concerned with “protecting the shield”, then he should step down (or be fired) as commissioner….this should have been done long ago.

 

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

Cats get a bad rap.

Not that they aren’t cherished. They’re probably more celebrated today than they ever were in Ancient Egypt. But there’s been (a really stupid) battle between owners of dogs and cats over the years about the superiority of their animal.

And I must say, dog owners have been owning this fight…especially with recent evidence supporting dogs “loving their owners” far more than cats. (Apparently there’s some chemical release in the blood when the emotion of love is felt, and dogs have an abundance of it when around owners. Or some shit like that.) There’s most certainly problems with that evidence, and I could probably put together a Searle-Ian “Chinese Room”-like argument to challenge it….by saying something like “output we receive from the machine (or the dog) might be perceived as genuine love, but where in the machine (or the dog’s mind) is there actual love? The animal (or machine…or Chinese Room) is simply following a set of procedures to produce a desired response from the owner, which the owner perceives as love therefore reciprocating the feeling but nowhere in the animal is there “actual feeling of love”, just like the man in the Chinese Room doesn’t actually understand Chinese”….or something like that. ANYWAYS. We could probably use that as an argument against “love” in general, but with dog’s over-the-top response to their owners, it’s probably safe to assume they actually have genuine feelings for humans.

Meanwhile, cats with their apprehensive nature, are perceived as being deceptive and secretly trying to kill their owners. They don’t love their owners and use their cuteness to get food and warmth. Their “love” is not genuine. Additionally, because they’re generally smaller, furrier, and fragile, people use “feminine” as a pejorative to describe cats…they’re nowhere near as cool as dogs, completely ignoring the excessive neediness of canines. Cats therefore get an undeserved bad reputation while ignoring how deceptively badass they are.

In fact, I’d say that the felidae family of species is the most badass on the planet.

I should probably mention that I grew up with both dogs and cats, so I have a love of both. But hatred for cats is far more prevalent than hatred of dogs. While owners of cats, especially a large number of them, are thought of as being cooky and otherwise strange…owners of dogs don’t have the same sort of stigma. I should point out that MOST people that own these animals do so because “that’s just the thing to do”…but “dog people” don’t get called out for their bullshit, at least not on the order that “cat people” do.

What I find most disturbing about the exclusively dog people is the borderline psychotic need for discipline from their animal. Assholes like the so-called “dog whisperer” popularized the idea that the owner must demonstrate “alpha male” tendencies to their pet if they are achieve any sort of discipline. “Don’t let your dog walk in front of you when walking them “, “Don’t walk around your dog, make your dog move!”, “Send your dog to a training school”, etc, etc. Do you have any idea how crazy that sounds? Why have an obsession with having a “well-discipline dog”? Do you own a pet for companionship or to fulfill your overbearing desire for control? And few people seem to bat an eye when “dog people” do this shit. To me, that’s just sociopathic behavior. If people did that to their kids, I’d just think they’re an asshole.

You can counter by saying “it’s for the good of the dog because it allows them to understand you.” Fine. They might “respect” you for being the “alpha”, but how is it for their benefit? Which dog do you think is happier…the one hopping around, wagging their tail, and licking (and possibly annoying) everyone? Or the dog that’s well behaved and only does things on command and therefore doesn’t bother and lives in fear of their owner? Face it, if if this is how you treat you animals or kids, you need to go see a therapist.

But this is why some “dog people” don’t like cats…they don’t bend to our will as easily. If you piss off or scare a cat, you’re gonna have to do a lot more to regain its trust. While the evolution of the domestic cat hasn’t been untouched by humans, domestic dogs meanwhile are totally a human perversion of wolves. Behavior that we found acceptable prevailed and characteristics we didn’t like died out. Thus we get the modern dog. Cats have grown accustomed to us, but dogs have totally evolved to be of service to humans. Unlike most people, I don’t take awe in human achievement. In fact, I think most things we touch turn to shit. While I love dogs and don’t think they’re “shit”…cats on the other hand are objectively FAR more badass and you have to EARN a relationship with them. If you treat them like shit, they’ll say “fuck this” and do everything they can to avoid you.

Dogs, on the other hand, will love you unconditionally…even if you treat them like shit. A dog’s love is given.

There has to be something in it for the cat. You’ve got to respect them and let them live their lives the way they want to. For a cat…their love is EARNED. And which love is more rewarding? The kind that’s programmed into the animal to depend on you? Or the kind that’s deserved because not only do you provide for it, but you also show it respect? A relationship with a cat must be mutually beneficial.

Owning a pet simply to emotionally and physically dominate it is not “mutually beneficial”. And it’s far easier to dominate a dog in this way than a cat because THEY DON’T PUT UP WITH THAT SHIT. Try yelling a cat and see how far that’ll get you. Cats have far more respect for themselves because their existence is not dependent on US.

So c’mon, let’s give cats some fucking respect.

Thought of the Day: “I prefer not to”

While in rehab, a fellow drunkard explained his life this way: “when you boil a frog, the water has to start off cool. If it starts too hot, the frog will jump out”.

I don’t know if that’s true. I never boiled a fucking frog before. But the analogy seemed appropriate. When we jump into our addictions, it starts off cool. The longer we stay in it, the heat rises and then it’s too late. We’re boiled.

I’ve been sober for just over three months. Honestly, I’ve made it look easy. It hasn’t been difficult necessarily, but there’s been many times where it’s crossed my mind….To dip my toes into drinking, have a swig or two because no one will find out. But that’s how it starts. The waters are cool in the beginning, but it progressively gets hotter. The next thing I know, I’m boiled. So I’ve decided to step off that merry-go-round. But I’ve spent most of my adult life on that ride. I try to block the past from my mind when  the weekends or evenings come around and I’m all alone. That’s the way I once did things but not now. And I must admit, it’s strange sometimes to sleep in on the weekends, only to wake up and find myself NOT hungover. But that’s been nearly every weekend since turning 21.

But I’m reevaluating myself, trying to find a new identity under my newfound sobriety. And what I’m finding is surprising. My favorite episode so far of Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite is where she visits a “loaf coach”, played by Jason Mantzoukas. Maria wishes to avoid overextending  herself and being back in a psyche ward due to stress. Mantzoukas attempts to teach her to “loaf” and avoid taking on too much responsibility. This naturally fails, nevertheless Maria learns a valuable lesson in….taking it easy? Honestly, I don’t remember, it’s been a few days. But the episode stuck out to me because I found myself wanting to be Jason Mantzoukas’ character. Hell, I wouldn’t mind being Mantzoukas the man. That being said, I guess we all wouldn’t mind loafing around the house all day, but the episode taught me a lesson in not rushing things.

In the end we all die. So I might as well enjoy the ride towards death.

I don’t know if that’s what the episode was saying. But that’s what I took out of it.

I vaguely recall Slavoj Zizek, in one of his many interviews that you can see on YouTube, once wearing a shirt that read “I prefer not to”. I later learned that that’s a reference to Herman Melville’s short story Bartleby, the Scrivener about a man that turns lazy while working on Wall Street. I never read it, and probably never will. Not because “I would prefer not to”, but because, well….I’m lazy. So yeah, “I would prefer not to”. But I didn’t know that at the time, so I saw Zizek’s shirt as an endorsement of laziness.

I mentioned in an earlier post how I was dreading turning 30. It’s amazing how people are living much longer, yet culture still embraces youth like it means something. “30 under 30” are bullshit columns that we find littering the internet. And now we find more people than ever going through a “quarter life crisis” because we’re told that we have to accomplish shit early if we are to ever find success in life. Despite thinking that I was better than that, I came to find out that I wasn’t immune to that sense of dread either. So I pushed myself into getting a second degree and falsely believed that I was capable of handling a managerial job.

Living life in America, we’re told to do MORE. As some asshole explained to me, it’s part of our “protestant work ethic”.  (Fuck that guy, by the way) And now we have a generation of people buried under student loan debt dissatisfied with their employment because “it’s not what they went to college for”. Additionally, a fuckton of people are being diagnosed with a mental disorder and many more are becoming addicted to prescription medication, alcohol, opioids, and who knows what else. And few of us have the money to pay for all of our student and medical bills. Because of this “DO MORE” attitude, everyone is fucking miserable and addicted to something.

So here’s a revolutionary idea: do less. You know that you want to. Are you pushing 40 and stuck in a dead-end job that you love? Fuck it! You were meant to do that job!

But the larger lesson to be learned is: you don’t have to wait for something to be happy. You can choose to be in that state RIGHT NOW. No amount of money, college degrees, job responsibilities, houses, cars, etc. are necessary to achieve that. In fact, the less shit you have…the happier you’ll probably be. But it’s something that you and I have to bring to ourselves, nothing (or no one) else can do that.

As some wise people once said:

“I’m in a hurry to get things done. Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun. All I really gotta do is live and die. But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”

Yes, I quoted the band Alabama. Don’t fucking judge.

So I’ve decided to slow down. It’s a hell of a lot better option than making a return to drinking.

“Kant” Revisited: Zizek and Hegel

Let’s traverse down memory lane once again with another transcript from the defunct My Life With Kant podcast.

Through mismanagement, I’ve lost track of most of the transcripts. As I find them, I’ll be publishing them here.

As usual, I don’t edit and spellcheck. So good luck and enjoy!

branches&creatures

Believe it or not, this podcast was one bad day away from being called “My Life with Hegel”…which, by the way, I completely regret naming this show “My Life With Kant”. You know…in hindsight, I probably should have named it “Existential Angst” or “The Arguing with Myself” podcast. But whatever, here I am.

But it was the German Idealists that intrigued me first…Notably GWF Hegel. There’s just something so enigmatic about him…the fact that he influenced so much of 19th Century philosophy…and yet no one understood him. How does that even work? But I’m such an audiophile, that I listen to all kinds of books and podcasts…and Charlton Heston’s reading of, the synopsis of Hegel’s career, contributes so much to the mythos of Hegel the Philosopher…you know, by saying things like: Hegel not remembering what he meant with certain paragraphs, and making it the reader’s responsibility to understand the reading…to the point where he would deliberately make his writing difficult. All of this seems to indicate that Hegel teeters on the border between philosopher and simple madman.

His philosophy can be considered so “out-there” and convoluted, that he has more or less fallen out of favor in modern circles, despite his influence. But not everyone is intimidated by this labyrinth of a philosopher. Slavoj Zizek, the contemporary Slovenian thinker, in his work titled “Less Than Nothing”, calls the decades between the publishing of Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” and the death of Hegel, as some of the most crucial regarding human thought. And it’s a shame that I never got around to exploring German Idealism in its entirety (well, at least not yet), But Zizek says of the big Four within this sub-genre, as echoed by Badiou…quote “Kant relates to Newtonian science, his basic question being what kind of philosophy is adequate to the Newtonian breakthrough; Fichte relates to politics, to the event that is the French Revolution; Schelling relates to (Romantic) art and explicitely subordinates philosophy to art as the highest approach to the Absolute; and Hegel, finally, relates to love; his underlying problem is, from the very beginning of his thought, that of Love.” End quote.

And thankfully from that, I have more ideas for new episodes. But, I guess the project for German Idealism…especially for Kant…is that when seeking philosophical certainty, we needn’t concern ourselves with the objectable “Thing-in-Itself” that we don’t have access to, but instead…with the phenomena of our PERCEPTIONS of the thing-in-itself. This, understandably, is so disconcerning for many thinkers, notably Schopenhauer…who essentially criticized Kant for constructing a barrier, to shield us from the fact that he was, basically defending Christianity.

But Zizek asks the question: “What if there is more truth in the mask, than the face beneath it?”. Therefore Kant missed the biggest point of his gigantic philosophical project. Remember how I was trying to deny reality in the last episode? Well, thanks to Kant and the German Idealists, I can ALMOST do that. Not that I can deny the EXISTANCE of reality, but I can almost deny our INTERPRETATION of reality, as being nothing more than a self-serving device, (Not intended to isolate us from truth, but instead, it is to help us navigate the landmine that is “the thing-in-itself”), and because this a construct of the mind, the perception of the TOTALITY of the “thing-in-itself” can be changed, and is not concrete. Therefore, the real project of philosophy is understand THE MASK, and not the face behind it. So, please invite me back to your parties, I’m not THAT crazy.

But Zizek wants to place Hegel above the other three German thinkers. Because according to him, We ponder and observe the unknowable thing, and because of our frustrations with understanding, this is evidence of Truth.

I should point out though, That Zizek is not without some controversy, and his YouTube videos are a glorious sight to behold. He often flips people’s arguments, and then draws the same conclusions. This can appear insane at best, and downright Evil at worst. I read somewhere, that he thought Nazism failed, not because it was an evil ideaology….but because it didn’t go far enough! If a celebrity said that, there would be a MASSIVE apology tour. I’m pretty fucking far from being a Nazi apologist, but just think about it….what if the Hitler succeeded in his world domination? We don’t even need to do that much thinking, there’s a very good television series on Amazon about this very problem. But if they succeeded in the real world, would that have been a major paradigm shift in our morals? So we appeared to have dodged a bullet. But that’s the kind of road that we have to traverse when we explore Zizek.

And the book “Less than Nothing” is quite an undertaking. Luckily, Zizek seems to road rage his way through philosophers (which is pretty much what I do), so hopefully I’ll be able to make it through this book. We’ll see though.

But I’ve always thought fiction or creative reflections make far better philosophy than typical treatises. And in a Kantian sense, where we are far more concerned with the veil covering ultimate reality, writing and are provides us with a far more accurate picture on the monolith staring back at us. It’s unrestricted from the true themes that affect the heart. Philosophers can attempt to describe these experiences in a clinical sense, but rarely is there any connection to the actual human condition.

What really takes the reader into an alternate world, is reading testimonies of terror and survival. The case in point here, as Zizek explains, is the Holocaust. No amount of words put together in any order, can adequately explain the true horrors of this event. Yet those that did survive, needed to convey to the world what actually happened, even though we are disconnected from those experiences. Zizek explains that survivors returned home, only to find that their family and friends couldn’t comprehend the gravity of those experiences. To cope, or as a way to direct their message to a willing receiver, they told their journey to something called “The Big Other”. Or, in other words, something that will understand, even if it’s not present in a temporal sense. Some writers might direct their angst towards future generations, who might be more understanding of their predicament. But this is not a given.

Some might despair at the thought at not finding an audience, but perhaps the bigger picture is to capture moments between the Idea and the Real…with a capital I and R. Or as he says, quote: “There is more truth in appearances than what may be hidden beneath.” End quote. And that’s some pretty spooky stuff. Leading him to say that the benefit of having a poem about the Holocaust is that it provides the “Idea of the Holocaust”, which forces us to reckon with the terror that it really was. The terminology here, gets a bit wonky for me, but the things that we perceive, often distracts us from the reality of what it really is; sex being an exchange of bodily fluids, food being dead animals and vegitables and such. And the ideas that we receive are not perceptions of the Real, but are actually DISTRACTIONS….or escapes from the REAL, as Zizek says.
So those ideas do not generate on their own power, but are a culmination of the empirical world. Therefore, as the positivists are all too aware of, only the physical world is real. Bringing us to the problem Hegel was trying to answer….the problem of metaphysics. But Zizek explains that the question doesn’t become: “how do we discover truth behind ideas, but how are ideas generated from truth.”

So perhaps this is why I call this thing “My Life with Kant”, because this is essentially Kant’s project. If Zizek is any indication, philosophers today haven’t really moved passed this problem…we form our conceptions of the thing-in-itself based on a priori means, making these means the basis metaphysics, post-Kant. According to this definition, even the analytic philosophers are unwittingly engaging in this metaphysical discussion…namely by focusing on language. Which, we can think of in some ways as being an a prioric tool to understanding the world. I don’t if that’s correct, so don’t get pissy with me, analytic philosophers, I’m just saying it. And Google brought up all kinds of nonsense when I tried to research it, so who knows?

But Zizek places Hegel above Kant, so in actuality, we haven’t moved passed Hegel’s project. And speaking of nonsense, get a load of this. Zizek says, quote: “Appearance is appearance reflected against the background of nothing (or, to put it in terms of quantum physics, all entities arise out of the quantum vacillations). Appearance is nothing in-itself.” End quote. YES!!!! Everyday I get one step closer to rationally denying the real world. But what does this mean?

Just as matter is the filling of the void…as to are the appearances of things. Our perceptions are the fillingness of the nothingness behind it. As I’m saying that, this sounds dangerously close to George Berkeley…as in…”to be is to be perceived”. But as where Berkeley would claim that nothing exists outside of the mind…perhaps Zizek would say that not even the mind exists! So we can quit this whole philosophical discourse, because when it comes to the ultimate question of “why is there something rather than nothing?”, Zizek would say that there is ONLY nothing, OR, “from Nothing, through nothing, to nothing.” So I’m just completely wasting your time. Or, as the great Sammy Hagar would say, this is all “mental masturbation”.

But this nothingness isn’t all gloom and doom. After all, the Buddhist notion of no-self, would lead us to the nothingness, or flame out, which is the path towards Nirvana. But Zizek doesn’t subscribe to this, preferring to see this nothing as just a “pure gap”, ontologically speaking. And its from here where we can bridge off into the mechanics of reality, where the positivists might reduce everything to matter in motion. But it’s also from here, where we can take away the matter, and just leave motion. That is, if I’m understanding this correctly.

Carl Sagan said something similar in “The Cosmos”, during his whole “making a pie” sketch. We’re all dorks here, you know what I’m talking about….that atoms are mostly empty spaces. So the universe is primarily made up of, nothing at all. And if Carl Sagan said it, then it is good enough for me. So the matter that does occupy an atom, is really just energy in motion, causing mass. And when that energy ceases to be in motion, then it reverts back to nothing. What am I talking about? Doesn’t matter because I’m talking about…nothing. But again, we find that positive reality is just a network of interconnectedness. So how do we bring about free will? Or something that can generate an act, independent of this network?

Now for Zizek, we seem to be at a crossroads….we can choose the metaphysical path of Plato (not that I know anything about that). Or we can continue to kick the same materialist/positivists/postmodern can down the road.

One of the things that distinguishes the human mind from others (and why I suppose, a purely Darwinist approach would be insufficient to explain it) is that we are able to willfully deceive ourselves in order to believe fiction…or become infatuated with the veil. If the veil were to be removed, it would reveal the emptiness behind it, and the charade would be over. This is the mechanism of fetishness. The infatuation falls unto the cloth that covers the reality behind it. And if it was taken away, the mythos disappears and we are left with a void…the reality of nothing.

Now I have to spend more time of social media than I like, mostly Twitter because I’m lazy. And you look at the work of fellow starving artists…and what you find is the celebration of awkwardness, or the quote “creepy cuteness”. And those things are fine, a lot of it is very well done. But that’s the infatuation with the veil that I was speaking of. The reality of the perpetually awkward is how socially crippling those situations can be…or that a zombie will eat your mother fucking face off!!! And zombies aren’t even real, they’re a veil over the veil. The dwelling in the so-called “darker” aspects of life, is not the acceptance of the nothingness of life…but only serves to distract you from the terror that REALLY exists.

Not to put words in Zizek’s mouth, but I suppose we can take this grand assumption all the way down…down to the subatomic level…where we see the atoms, and protons, and God-knows what else that makes an atom…but we see them for what they really are…a mask. But what alarms me about this absence of reality is…other than the obvious being, half the horseshit we deal with, day in and day out…but in the age in which we live, how much of our politics are just facades?…Trying to deceive ourselves into believing that our projects are all that important? Like there’s an “end all, be all” solution to our problems. Or would we rather not face the fact that, heh…we are all just making it up as we go? Are the policies which we create just stand-ins for myths…that get categorized for having practical implications for the real world? So is Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” just another mythologizing of mathematics, economics, and politics that we hold dear today? Making it no different than Aesop’s Fables?

Now there’s a shitton more to this book, but it’s longer than War and Peace, I mean like…literally, it’s longer than War and Peace. So, I completely missed Zizek’s larger points, so if you want to learn more…read the damn book yourself. You’re welcome Slavoj Zizek…you just got free publicity.

But what I actually was Hegel…who has alarmingly gone seldom mentioned in this podcast. But look, I don’t know if the idea of nothingness is empirically sound…but, I just hate this world so much, that I’ll believe anything that contradicts it. So instead of talking about Hegel, we got to talk about…nothing at all.

Thought of the Day: Maybe it’s a good thing “Blade Runner 2049” flopped

I’ve been slacking on my blogger responsibilities, but I just haven’t been feeling it, ya know?

But one thing I have been feeling, perhaps a little too much of, is the underperformance of Blade Runner 2049 at the box office. (By the way, I’m writing this on my phone at work, so I apologize if this looks like shit) As of today, the film has grossed $240,000,000 (est. a month after release) against a $150,000,000 budget. I don’t know if that classifies as a box office “bomb”, but it appears that it’ll break even at best.

At first I was wildly upset. WILDLY. Americans, and indeed worldwide audiences, once again failed to appreciate a sci-fi classic; a sequel to a film that was an underappreciated sci-fi classic in 1982. Outside of Star Wars (and possibly Indiana Jones if you count those) filmgoers must hate Harrison Ford with science fiction. The 1982 film was later admitted into AFI’s top 100 movies OF ALL TIME and 2049 was rated as 51st top movie by IMDB last time I checked. Yet once again, audiences didn’t go for it!

Even the criticism of the sequel is a repeat from 1982. “It’s too boring”, “there’s not enough action”, “it doesn’t make sense”…everything that was said about the original Blade Runner. I remember watching Rutger Hauer give an interview during the 1992 re-release, once when the film started getting appreciated, and he stated that people simply didn’t get it. Harrison Ford was an action star, and audiences just weren’t expecting to see him not only get his ass kicked, but have an existential crisis…in the future! It just wasn’t what audiences wanted in a year that saw the release of ET, Poltergeist, Star Trek II, The Thing, and others. Although like Blade Runner, those films were dark…but Blade Runner was far more in-tune with 2001: A Space Odyssey than with the direction that 80s filmmaking was turning towards despite a few 80s trappings. It was out of time and it would be years before people would catch up with it.

Zoom ahead to 2017 with its sequel being released and I had assumed audiences now “got it”. But perhaps I placed too much faith on a public that elected Donald Trump president…when audiences would rather watch CGI porn like the Marvel films than be presented with anything that’s halfway intelligent. My mistake. But the more I thought about it, I felt its underperformance was quite fitting.

It was clear that the producers intended to do a third Blade Runner film. It appeared as though they wanted to do a story involving a replicant uprising along with Rick Deckard and his daughter. While that sounds interesting, it just comes across as too conventional. What made 2049 so compelling is that it took so long after the first film. And the producers made the right decisions to allow an auteur to direct rather than Ridley Scott or some conventional action director. Had it achieved the box office success that it intended, who knows if Villeneuve would have returned for a follow-up. Since that would have been unlikely, then we would have absolutely been stuck with some hack directing which would have turned the franchise into standard action fare.

Additionally, this shows that filmgoers simply aren’t ready to face the reality Blade Runner presents to us….a world covered in trash and rain…a world where our technology is more human than us. It’s STILL ahead of its time.

Although I’m still somewhat disappointed in modern audiences, we might’ve dodged a bullet. So get excited about Blade Runner 2079…coming October 2047. (And will inevitably bomb)

Shut Off Social Media! (and mob mentality)

I hate social media.

That shouldn’t shock anyone.

Unfortunately, in order to promote anything you have to be engaged in it to some degree. But I don’t give a shit about promoting this thing. I do this for my satisfaction only.

I’ve been trying to slowly wean myself off Facebook. In fact, I haven’t even checked it in several weeks. I forgot the password and I deleted that email account…so that’s really helped me out. I quit Twitter outright. I never belonged to Snapchat, Instagram, or anything else. Given the events of the last few months, I haven’t really had the inclination to pay attention to any of that crap.

I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll continue to say it….social media serves no purpose except to feed our narcissistic sense of self. I’m sure that there’s many others that have said something similar.

“If that’s narcissistic, then what’s this blog Wes?” you ask.

The difference is that I don’t give a shit about impressing you. I try to be accurate with my facts, but I don’t care. I try to present a logical presentation of my thoughts, but if you don’t understand it or find it stupid, oh well!

But perhaps you’re right! Maybe this blog only exists to serve my narcissistic sense of purpose. Fine. Honestly, I’m too lazy to argue against you. But the difference is that this is an HONEST representation of my thoughts…correct or not. Plus, I don’t care if anyone reads it!

I don’t write to appeal to any audience…I only write shit that I WANT TO READ.

The purpose of Facebook and similar platforms is to present an image of yourself that you want others to see. It’s not realistic. It’s not true. Again, it’s only there to inflate your ego.

“But I use it to stay connected with friends.” You say.

No you don’t. You have selfies.

Social media has divided us more than bring us together. You’re not staying connected with friends. You’re only seeing a false portrait of them, and they of you. We find ourselves comparing our lives to a bullshit and impossible image others, and we are far more miserable because of it. And even worse, it’s become a replacement for actual interaction. And even worse THAN THAT, it feeds into our mob mentality!

The Orville is a pretty good show. I’m a Star Trek fan, so of course I enjoy it’s old-school Trek appeal. And like old-school Trek, it provides social commentary.

In a recent episode titled Majority Rule, the crew of the Orville attempt to retrieve a couple of anthropologists from a culture similar to 21st Century Earth. What they find is that the scientists became victims of the planet’s justice system, which functions similarly to an American Idol-like voting system where “criminals” are found committing socially inappropriate acts in public by others posting images of them on a widespread internet stream…or the “feed”. When caught, these offenders must engage in an “apology tour” where the public determines whether or not they are truly sorry for their actions. If their apologies aren’t found sufficient, then they must undergo a lobotomy-like procedure. Eventually, a crew member of the Orville is caught committing such an act (by humping a statue) and he must go through an apology tour which turns out disastrous.

In order to save him, the Orville enlists the help a girl currently living on this planet. By providing information as to how this “justice system” works, the Orville is able to retrieve their crew member and the girl learns a valuable lesson on “majority rule”.

This society also requires citizens to wear approve/disapprove badges that allow others to rate the behavior of people by pressing “approve” or “disapprove”. It’s implied that if someone receives so many “dislikes”, they become pariahs in society. In one scene, a woman is denied service at a restaurant because she has received over 500,000 dislikes in her lifetime. She would go on to plea her case to restaurant, claiming that she received most of those when she was young. This doesn’t sound all that dissimilar to our justice system, where felons are sometimes denied services regardless of when the crime was committed or if they fully paid their dues.

So this episode is a not-so subtle critique of our 21st Century society.

I was quite excited when I saw this episode. “Finally”, I though “someone is addressing my concerns for how future historians will evaluate how technology has effected our 21st Century mores, which in turn infused narcissism with our sense of politics and criminality therefore creating a social justice mentality that favors mob rule over any constitutionally-bound method of justice.” My thoughts verbatim. And after it aired, I wondered if the so-called “social justice warriors” thought the episode funny or if they found it a direct criticism of them….because honestly, there’s probably some people that favor this method of justice.

(For the record, I didn’t find this to be the funniest episode…just a clear-cut critique addressing the issues I’ve been discussing in this blog. The “SJWs” might not feel that it was a criticism of them, but there is a scene where an Orville crewmember gets “called out” for wearing a hat that seemingly didn’t belong to her culture, then she gets a dislike and narrowly avoids having an image of her being uploaded into the stream…a move that seemed stereotypical SJW)

If interpreted as so, then it’s easy to deflect this criticism by saying that the episode only provided an exaggerated picture of the SJW intention…which is to actually bring about awareness of social injustice by using methods of free speech to fight hateful free speech….therefore invalidating any concerns about “leftist suppression of free speech.” (or something like that). But, to me, this is essentially the leftist version of the same argument a racist asshole uses to defend his hate speech.

While on one side, such combative use of free speech is warranted (the leftist one) because it brings to light an injustice by “calling out” offenders. On the other side (the racist/alt-right one) is unwarranted because it contributes to ongoing suppression of minorities, groups, etc. What both sides fail to consider is the consequences it has on its target. It’s easy to sympathize with the target of racist hate speech because, well…they are the victim of hate speech! No one feels sorry for the piece of shit that got filmed saying the hate speech which later got posted on the internet and had several Yahoo and HuffPost articles written about it.

And why should we? They received a well-deserved lesson.

While a lesson was deserved, the intention SHOULD be that they correct their ways, apologize to their victims, and become and honorable well-intentioned citizen. That’s ideal at least. But then let’s consider that woman from the Orville that was banned from a restaurant for having too many dislikes from her youth….”justice” might’ve been delivered, but at the cost of social isolation for life? Whatever mistakes she made had to stick with her forever…quite literally in that her badge had the entire number of her dislikes.

It’s a cliché now: “what happens on the internet, stays on the internet”. Potential employers will Google your name. Anybody can search for you. Our online identities have become just as “real” as our actual living, breathing lives. Once when the internet passes judgement on you, it is impossible to overcome it. Which is why simply using free speech in it’s racist, sexist, and otherwise prejudice or even SOCIAL JUSTICE form is no longer easily dismissible as being simply “speech”…it has very REAL consequences on everybody involved.

We don’t interact face to face. What we know of others is what we read about them on the internet…which naturally doesn’t provide the full picture. If they do something to anger us, it fuels our narcissistic sense of outrage. And that can’t be easily shut off. This makes it easier to divide ourselves into Us. V. Them. Thus the internet fosters mob mentality.

At the end of Majority Rule, the girl that helped the Orville retrieve their crewmember awakens from her sleep. When entering the kitchen to watch another “apology tour” on her TV screen, instead of voting “approve” or “disapprove”, she simply turns off her TV.

The only way to stop this mob mentality is to not engage it.

Look, I’m not anti-internet. Clearly that’s ridiculous because you’re reading this on the internet! But this being the most important invention in the history of mankind, let’s not make it the instrument of our division and narcissism. With great power comes great responsibility…so let’s use it for more than just posting selfies, looking at porn, and hating each other.