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 »

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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 »

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 »

Books Every Boy Should Read

I distinctly remember being in elementary school and only reading a select few books. There’s always the few books schools would assign, the ones that tested your reading comprehension, but none of those were as interesting as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles books my mom would buy me. I don’t remember much else from those years other than that I knew everything Tolkein like the back of my hand, and I don’t remember even understanding them, but definitely chugging through the Lord Of the Rings.

That point being that the time when a boy leaves elementary school and goes on to enter middle school is an odd transition period, in many ways more awkward than the transition to high school. Middle school is distinct in that the kids never even raised the question of finding themselves before, and suddenly they are thrust into the entire matter. It is their first taste of drama, their first glimpse into adulthood and freedom and all the misery that comes with it. By no means are they adults by this age, but simply they have the aspires to be adults by this age and that’s what counts the most. Some would argue that children seem to be growing up faster, and, whether true or not, presses this issue of adulthood even further.Read More »

Writing Advice: Editing Steps

I recently started editing the rough first draft of my novel, and boy is it rough. I don’t remember being that bad of a writer when I started on that project. But, that doesn’t exactly matter because it’s only the edited work that people see. I’ve used this method on a few of my short stories and it’s always served me well. So, here are my steps to editing your writing.

  1. General Editing: This where you go through and edit any spelling mistakes, take out any superficial words, any punctuation errors, grammar, and other proofreading fixes.
  2. Flow: It’s important that your story has a certain flow and rhythm to it. Go through and read each sentence aloud as if you’re reading it in front of a class, or you can put the text through text-to-speech software. Add punctuation, cut individual words, or add entire sentences so it reads better. Any awkward spots, or sections that don’t quite make sense, or anything too cluttered should be reworked or cut.
  3. Story: Now that the text has been worked out, it’s time to work on the story. Go through and ask yourself if each decision or reaction from a character makes sense. Did their personalities stay consistent throughout? What about their mannerisms? Take a step back from the text and think about every little thing in the story. Is it believable? Did it achieve the affect intended, and, if not, what can be changed to get this desired affect? The story should resonate with the reader but too many unbelievable scenarios or fake emotions is off-putting.
  4. Feedback: Now that the story is complete, or at least you think it is, it’s time to get some feedback on it. You can ask anyone really. Maybe you and your friends can trade stories for a critique or ask your significant other, or if you really don’t know anyone interested there’s always people on the internet that give a good critique. For reddit users, /r/Writing has a popular weekly critique thread, or there’s dedicated feedback subreddits such as /r/KeepWriting and of course /r/DestructiveReaders. But please not: if you are going to submit here please offer a critique to a previous poster so everyone gets feedback. Once you’ve gotten feedback on your story take consideration for each suggestion. Pick and choose which suggestions would work and which things you want to stay the same. Whether it be word choice or story points, it’s still your story. Feedback can be helpful but it’s still only one person’s suggestion.
  5. Finalize: So this is it. You’ve edited everything to perfection and gotten feedback on it. Your writing is tight and the story is believable/enjoyable. It never hurts to read it one last time to yourself or put it through another text-to-speech processor. But once this is done what next? Well you can pat yourself on the back and move on to the next project, you can submit it to websites such as Booksie, Deviantart, or Writers Cafe (Please note these websites are always hit or miss with things like readers, feedback, quality and overall satisfaction), or you can submit it to different literary journals for consideration and spread your story to more readers.

A few more general notes. People always say that openings need to be engaging and catch the readers attention, but rarely do people explain this. It doesn’t always have to mean your story should open with a gunfight or huge explosions, just some sort of enticing verb. Something that immediately puts an image in the readers mind and opens up their interest to learn more.

Endings should be memorable. I love the feeling when I put down a book and it’s like I was just punched in the stomach. Make the reader feel something, put them in shock and awe and disbelief. There doesn’t have to be a twist ending for this but just something that will last with them. It’s no good if after the climax a story teeters off and dies out at the end, it needs to be consistent.

One last thing. Writing is your art. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t be afraid to change perspectives or say something controversial, art is not apologetic.