Protest on College Campus

Throughout the day on Thursday students on the University of Tennessee campus gathered to protest the presidency of Donald Trump. At the height of the protest there was up to 300 students participating in both the protest and the counter-protest. Students, forming a ring around the sitting ‘marginalized’ students, chanted and repeated slogans from the speakers of the event. In an explanation of the purpose of the protest, one of the speakers elaborated that it “is not a pro-Hillary protest, it is a fuck Donald Trump protest.”

I joined the protest around 2:00 pm on my way to class and stayed for a few spare hours. Just walking close to 100 meters away from the gathering I knew instantly what it was, the police cars parked along the road with flashing lights only confirmed my suspicion. I gathered later that it was organized by the campus diversity organization. After positioning myself in the crowd I found myself chanting along with them, although abstaining once or twice when I found their slogans distasteful. A few of the favored rallying cries were “Not my president”, “Fuck Donald Trump”, and the now famous “No Trump, no KKK, no fascists USA.” The chorus to Kendrick Lamar’s song “Alright” was also frequently chanted, which is always expected.Read More »

What Is To Be Done? A Message to the Left

I imagined the mood of the American people this morning to be like a bad hangover where none of us were quite sure what we did last night. Instead I hardly remember ever seeing this much optimism and triumph in people’s faces. It could be short-lived, or could be a prolonged sense of victory. But the important thing now is that all people, specifically the left, stay vigilant.

The republicans control both the house and the senate (albeit by a small margin) and the presidency. Trump is in position to manipulate a reactionary judge into the supreme court, raping the American people for decades. The question now is, what is to be done?

The first thing to do is to organize. The left has been in pieces for decades and this is the best chance to finally unify. Many people were content with the idea of a Clinton presidency merely to avoid a Trump regime, but that has all changed now. If Clinton had won I expected no real movement to spawn simply because there would be a universal feeling of dodging a bullet. But there can now be a shared feeling of anger. Anger towards Trump and anger towards the reactionaries that elected him, a feeling that could be shared by all on the left. But the danger here is to rebel through the establishment, meaning we cannot just hope for a new progressive hero to come from the democrats. If nothing else this election the democrats have proved they are unwilling to change when they need it most. The mistreatment and abuse of the Sanders campaign have shown that the DNC and the RNC alike must burn, this is what they asked for.

Why can we not accept the democrats anymore? Regardless if Bernie could have beaten Trump or not, the DNC manipulated the race and chose one of the most hated politicians in the country as their leader. Whether they were fully aware of it or not, they chose Trump instead of Bernie. They were unwilling to change. It is foolish to think that real change, the change we desperately need, can come from a party that is part of the problem. They are not the lesser of two evils, they are just evil nonetheless.

When we organize, what exactly do we need? Many will already call for grassroots action to help facilitate change but there are serious limitations to this approach. The absolute ideal is for top-to-bottom change. Grassroots action can be useful for specific issues, such as protesting the DAPL or for higher wages, but it cannot bring the systematic change that is needed. If we wish to truly change the political, economic, and social corruption that we face, we need first focus on the broadest issues that we can. Mass civil disobedience is now needed, not a passive resentment.

Part of the outrage last night was that Clinton did not speak at 2:00 am, that she waited until morning to give her speech. I hoped with all my heart that she would not concede, but of course that never happens. Previously I had little respect for Clinton but that would have changed immensely if she had just stood up for herself. But she’s spineless. She stood on stage and told millions of people that we’re “Stronger together” and that she accepted a Trump presidency. What would have happened if she did not?

First of all she would have jump-started the wave of protests that are sure to come. Her defiance would have meant everything, but instead she chose to crawl away in passivity. She gave the message that we should merely accept our position and try to make the best we can, but this is folly. The true message, the message they don’t want you to hear, is that you can reject this altogether, that you can revolt. This is not the time to work with our enemies. Don’t accept the decaying image of our country they want to push, we can still change it.

Organizing is crucial to the rebuilding of the left, but it is not the only factor. The second step is to learn. If we want to build a movement we must have the philosophical, political, and economic foundation firmly set if we are to avoid the mistakes made by leftists of the 20th century. We must read, learn, and know as much as we can to fight against the demoralizing propaganda and deliberate misinformation that will be shoved down our throats. We must no longer be subjects to the misinformed elite, they have shown with all fervor they cannot help the country any more than they can help themselves.

We cannot be afraid to express our opinions just because we are in the minority. This is one of the most important things I’ve learned being in the South, with my views being largely in the minority of my peers it’s clear their own beliefs can be without foundation and based on faith. The ruling elite, the ruling elite, cannot justify itself. It cannot stand up to scrutiny and that’s why an open discussion about the greatest issues we face are often suppressed. To quote Martin Luther King Jr:

You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.

This gets to the heart of the issue, if you question one aspect of the ruling ideology you must question the entire thing, and that is exactly what they don’t want you to do. People can be fight ferociously if the values they’ve been told they believe in all their lives are put into question.

In 1943 Jean Paul Sartre wrote “If war breaks out, it is in my image, it is my war and I deserve it” and this can be true of today as well. This fate is our fate and we deserve, we all could have done more to prevent it. But the important thing now is to change the future, the future that we believe we deserve we can have if we just fight for it. Unification of the left is our only hope at this point as the wave of reactionaries continues to grow throughout the world. We are in uncertain times and we must fight to keep our hopes and dreams alive.

Art as a Form of Escape

The classic problem of people hiding from their lives and retreating to art has fundamentally changed within the last few years. The typical portrayal was some slightly disillusioned child preferring to read their stories or paint a picture than go to class. This concept is littered throughout popular literature and film, but hardly ever captures the real situation that we are facing. I don’t think any reasonable person would object to a child that wants to spend the majority of their time reading or painting, mostly because we think of this as classical art. The major art forms we see today are radically different and therefore require a different analysis.

To any common observer there are two depictions of modern art. There is the contemporary abstract form of art that we all love making jokes about, where there is always some deep meaning to jumbled up colors and tin sculptures that nobody understands, and there is the online culture of art production. The latter is the more baffling, because it is a phenomenon that is almost entirely unique to online culture but has been seeping into the public frame lately. Read More »

Why We Should Avoid Labels

There was a good while where I didn’t know whether the phrase “Don’t label me” was a joke or if it was a serious statement. That phrase would usually come up during situations where people say “Don’t be such an X” or “If you believe that, then you must be X”. For the most part people can say this phrase jokingly, but we can’t ignore the fact that a growing number of people try to avoid labels in some sense. Even if it’s just an attempt for that person to feel unique there must be some validity to this idea.

The main issue with labeling certain ideas is that there is no inherent meaning in the label itself. To illustrate this we can look at two of the most common labels used in politics, the split between liberal and conservative. When I speak of a person who is liberal, I myself have a very specific idea of what that word means. The problem is, the person I’m talking with may have a different conception of what liberal means. For instance, I may have in mind that I’m speaking of classical liberal political philosophy as a whole, while the person I’m talking to may think of being liberal on a specific issue. Even then, if we were to agree on a single definition there will still be confusion. Say that just for convenience we decide to use the Oxford Dictionary definition of liberal:

Favouring individual liberty, free trade, and moderate political and social reform.

Read More »

Boredom

It turns out that with Summer here and the hot sun, the dangers of boredom is a very real threat. What is it about boredom that makes someone want to gnash their teeth and smash their head up and down? This feeling comes naturally when there is nothing particularly interesting to do, or when there is no will to get up and do them.

One trait of boredom is that the person is very aware of their own boredom, making the whole situation worse. For instance it’s one thing to lay on the couch all day, but it’s another to lay there and constantly complain how boring it is. It’s almost as if that constant reminder that you’re bored just perpetuates it. So the obvious solution here would be to get up and do anything, really anything to get your mind off the nothing. In fact that’s what many people suggest, citing how beautiful of a day it is or how many things there are to do around. The likelihood of any of those curing your boredom may vary, depending on their excitement and personal interest it has.

But perhaps boredom may actually be somewhat beneficial. It plays a very odd role in our day to day lives, from being minimal some days or devoting an entire day to boredom on other occasions. For instance boredom can cause someone to be ‘begrudgingly productive’ by doing tasks just avoid the boredom, and this in many ways is the only way I personally function. For others it causes them to lash out and seek some sort of excitement, many times without an end. In his book “The Conquest of Happiness” the mathematician Bertrand Russell devotes an entire chapter to the relationship of boredom and excitement, writing that:

The desire for excitement is very deep-seated in human beings, especially in males. I suppose that in the hunting stage it was more easily gratified than it has been since. The chase was exciting, war was exciting, courtship was exciting. A savage will manage to commit adultery with a woman while her husband is asleep beside her, knowing that it is instant death if the husband wakes. This situation, I imagine, is not boring.

In this attempt at being witty a good point arises, mainly that our domesticated and increasingly restrained way of life doesn’t leave as many chances for a base excitement. I’m not saying that we should try to imitate a hunter-gatherer type lifestyle, but it’s important to consider how the average human day has evolved over time. So that for the majority of human history, much more time was devoted in a single day to working, getting food, taking care of a family, ect. That’s not to say boredom always springs out of unused time, because often times we find great excitement in being completely unproductive. But perhaps our ancestors weren’t as bored as we are.

But regardless, this is mostly just speculation. I doubt that anytime soon we’re going to see a comprehensive scientific survey of boredom, and in many ways we don’t need it. Anyways I’ll keep these thoughts short so it’s not so dull, and as many probably guessed, these thoughts are a product of being ‘begrudgingly productive’.

Finding Meaningful Jobs

A Gallup poll found that a staggering 87% of people worldwide don’t feel engaged at work, more specifically only 29% of millennials are engaged at work. It’s also important to remember that millennials have the highest rate of unemployment and underemployment in the U.S. but somehow we are still described as an idealistic generation. The poll also found that again 87% of millennials believe development is important for meaning in a job.

The first insight from this of course is that people do not simply want jobs, like so many politicians claim, but in fact they want good jobs. A good way to think of it is to think if it were possible to add millions of jobs to the economy by simply picking strawberries all day, that would be missing the point! Just imagine how much less people would be engaged at work. People want to go to work and find some kind of meaning without doing too much actual work, in many ways the paycheck is just a byproduct of this. What exactly makes people engaged at work? And more importantly, what makes any type of work more meaningful than others?Read More »

Notes on Enjoyment

It was sometime in the evening Thursday night, just as the noises of the toads gathering outside my window began to emerge, that I couldn’t help but shatter. On my nightstand next to me books I hadn’t even begun reading: Plato, Lucretius, Shelley, Kant, and so on. A little earlier in the month I created a chart of all the books I was going to read this year, a whole product line of philosophy from Spinoza all the way up until Wittgenstein and Zizek, only stopping along the way for some light reading of Adam Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Malthus, and Keynes, and the whole nine yards of economics to go along with it. In fact, in the moment I was reading a book on the history of economic theory, only about halfway through, when I took the bookmark out closed the book and put it back on the shelf. I don’t plan to return to it.

I shredded the reading schedule I made and trashed the bastard in the cans outside my house, I don’t think I’ll need it. There is a sudden moment people are faced with when they come to terms with their own boredom that they can’t help but laugh. I made the grave mistake of aspiring to be some kind of academic, and therefore thinking that one should only shroud himself with the most sophisticated and mind fucking texts to make himself feel smarter, so that’s exactly what I tried to do. A person can only take some much time reading about history, god, and everything inbetween before going bonkers and running through downtown nude. Read More »