Archive for the politics Category

The Way of the Dodo: “Political In/correctness”

Posted in Culture, politics with tags , , , , , , on March 23, 2010 by 99ppp

Browsing amazon.com, I came across a description to a series of books called “The Politically Incorrect Guide to..”. Now, I’ve been exposed to the phrase through Bill Maher’s excellent show in the 90s and even used it myself, yet I noticed I haven’t used it or heard it recently and wondered why. I thought the books were a humourous attempt at satire, but looking deeper they seemed to be a serious attempt to argue outdated ideas.

I’ve always been opposed to political correctness, and always felt that we’ve lost sincerity due to the fear of offending someone. Some were trying to redefine terms towards people who didn’t even refer to themselves as such. “Hearing impaired” for deaf, or “African-American” for black, so on and so forth. It became a sort of joke of hypersensitivity back in the 90s. The joke now seems to be those attempting to resurrect the terms “PC/P-inC” as a futile attempt to brand antiquated, racist and sexist ideas as rebellious and subversive. It stinks of desperation by people feeling left behind by trends towards inclusion, diversity and egalitarianism. It is not a bold exploration towards new ideas, but entrenching oneself into outdated ones.

There is a sad irony of those who currently tend to use that term. They are offended by others’ offense! Just like people have the freedom to express their views, people have the freedom to react and respond to those views. Our disgust disgust them, and the hypocrisy seems lost on them.

In the age of the internet, where one can delight and be disgusted by a variety of sights, sounds and texts, the terms “politically correct/incorrect” have become anachronisms, very much like those who tend to spout it. So I bid you good-bye “PC”, you were a useful term for a while, but now you sound pretty hollow. Now you only help me identify those who aren’t really censored, but whose ideas are ignored into irrelevancy, and often rightfully so. I guess we can call it linguistic natural selection.

Advertisements

Review: Flow: For Love of Water

Posted in business, Culture, Environment, Media, Movies, Philosophy, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2009 by 99ppp

While channel surfing, we had the good fortune to stumble upon a terrific documentary on The Movie Network : Flow: For Love of Water (TMN, DVD) which highlights the importance of our potable water and challenges our preconceptions about its treatment, abundance and accessibility. This documentary also provides a robust critique of privatization and how these huge conglomerates make exorbitant profits while limiting access to the impoverished local populations. When profit reigns supreme, it is unsurprising that control by a few of this precious resource, necessary to sustain human life, jeopardizes and marginilzes the most vulnerable whose welfare depends on it. Corporate control of potable water is not solely a concern for those in the developing world as a legal battle between Michigan citizens and a Nestle bottling plant emerges. The safety of bottled water is also challenged and the perception that is somehow better than tap water.

It isn’t all bad news as the film also presents those communities who’ve applied creative solutions in a local, decentralized, and affordable manner, showing that innovation can come elsewhere than a corporate boardroom and at high infrastructure costs. I highly recommend this enlightening film, and check out this review from the New York Times on this award winning documentary.

Questioning Competition

Posted in Anti-War, Culture, Philosophy, politics with tags , , , , , on January 28, 2009 by 99ppp

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with competition. I grudgingly admit that it is necessary in various contexts, but I question the level of importance that is often placed in our society. The ugly side of people often arises, and I believe the stigma of “losing”, keeps many of us from taking risks and challenging our conditioned patterns. We tread the same paths, follow formulas for “winning”, anything to avoid losing the game. I began this post with the intention to make a case against competition, but I can’t in good conscience. Competition can wean out poor ideas in favour of better ones, and also gives us the ability to test our skills against a worthy opponent. In the business sphere, competition allows us a range of products without a monolithic monopoly. Yet I wonder how much energy we waste upon defeating our opponents, and in the case of war and peace, at the cost of human lives. Cooperation seems to be more energy efficient.

Can there be competition without ego?

I’ve been an avid club level chess player for the longest time. I was playing a much higher rated opponent in an online correspondence chess site, and I was grateful since I often don’t get to play such an opponent. Wanting to test my skill, I made highly deliberate moves, always checking for errors, giving this game a greater amount of time for analysis, and seeing how long I could last before he would crush me. I found the game was fairly even after a substantial amount of moves. After a while, my opponent accused me of using a computer to cheat. I assured him that I was not, just giving the game a greater amount of attention that I usually would, but he insisted I was cheating. “Look at your rating”, he said. The game stopped being fun. I told him that and resigned in disgust. I stopped playing chess, a game I love for a few months after that unpleasant incident. I re-contextualized the game in my mind, as two people exchanging puzzles in order for me to have the stomach to play again.

If one wins a game, but loses goodwill, what is really won?

Dallas — The coach of a Texas high school basketball team that beat another team 100-0 was fired Sunday, the same day he sent an e-mail to a newspaper saying he will not apologize “for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”(LINK )

There is no honour or integrity in crushing one’s opponents, especially in this case where the losing team is a formed from a school that specializes in learning disabilities. This “victory at all costs” mentality is pervasive, and hard to shake as it even permeates foreign policy, as the pro-war propaganda machine often mocked the voices for peace and restraint as those who didn’t want to “win the war”.

Explorations into competition

I will explore further topics on competition, the next time on professional sports fans, and competition in the context of the Prisoner’s Dilemma,  business, science innovations, and ideas (intellectual property) in future posts. There are many examples and expressions when it comes to “The Game”, yet perhaps not enough on whether The Game is worth playing. I will also explore cooperation, and why the concept seems elusive to so many.

Deciding to Decide

Posted in Culture, Economy, Philosophy, politics, Uncategorized on January 23, 2009 by 99ppp

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt” – Bertrand Russell (philosopher)

“I am the decider…” – George W. Bush

I had a difficult time deciding what to write about in the new year. There are so many topics that capture my interest but not one that overwhelmed me in importance. There is the economic crisis, the Obama inauguration , the conflict in the Middle East (although I prefer discussing ethics over politics), and the costs and benefits of competition. So I thought about decision, why we need to make more of them, who should make them, and how to make them.

Why is there a need to make decisions?

Eventually we need to act. Without making conscious decisions, we are simply reacting to circumstances, often out of fear. In my case, I couldn’t pick an essay topic, had many potential ones but I didn’t know if I had enough content in each to warrant a post, so I failed to write a full essay on ANY of those topics. I HAD to pick one in order to get anything done. Paradoxically, choice is pain, yet making a choice is freedom from that pain. Once I made that decision, that pain was relieved. So whatever variance there will be in quality, there WILL be content here every Wednesday at the very least. This one is late, but it is done.

If you don’t have a plan, someone has a plan for you.

This is why Bush said he’s the decider. Not A decider, but THE decider. That means all of us can’t decide on some important issues that affects us. And there’s a dark truth to that, as many of us don’t want to make decisions. This is associated to the word “responsibility” which I have previously written about. To avoid getting blame, or being bound by duty, we give away our power. We make others make decisions for us. This is why so many are so giddy about Obama becoming president. Many people see him as a saviour, and will keep us from making decisions for ourselves. Like this Monty Python clip, many need someone to tell them what to do. We are quick to blame the politicians, but we placed them on that pedestal, just to knock them down when they are wrong. Better that someone else be wrong. This is why politicians need to project an air of infallibility to get elected. They don’t admit mistakes, and the system relies on it. This is why during the Iraq War, they were so adamant that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. They couldn’t admit a mistake until much later, especially considering the human cost of such operation.

Obama seems like a thoughtful enough fellow but he (or anyone else) can’t be trusted with power over others.  It’s not because he’s mean or duplicitous, he may be perfectly well-intended. It’s because power over others is addictive and even I wouldn’t trust myself with it. It’s best for each of us to decide what we value, find consensus and explore disagreements among ourselves. Looking towards the peak of hierarchies keep us as perpetual children, avoiding responsibility, and looking to the Daddy-state to solve our problems for us.

To make a decision does one need to be “cocksure” and restrict your intelligence as Russell suggests? It is good to acknowledge our ignorance, we don’t know exactly what’s the consequences of our actions will be. This is when we fall on faith, faith in ourselves, or confidence. Many will embrace a faith that comes outside themselves, from some ancient book or archaic traditions. While some contain great wisdom, the self is the best arbiter to selecting principles. We can listen or read, consider, accept or reject.

How to make a decision?

There are a myriad of resources on how to make decision, and some very creative tricks to do so all around the internet, although I’d be cautious on those that seem too complex. Whatever the tool, guided by conscience and acted upon will help give us direction through pure trial and error. In these uncertain times, we have a great space to direct our actions, yet that won’t start until we make the decision to do so.

The Clapper: Mark Fiore’s Brilliant Animation on the Bailouts

Posted in business, politics on December 16, 2008 by 99ppp

Explaining the schizophrenic flip-flops of the financial elite concerning the bailouts, Mark Fiore’s “The Clapper” is a hilarious animation on the crisis and a definite must see! You can find the full video HERE.

clapper1

Review: The Dark Knight

Posted in Culture, Media, Movies, Philosophy, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2008 by 99ppp

I was never a fan of the Batman character. A very wealthy man playing superhero with gadgets only he can afford, to foil crooks from money he obviously doesn’t lack. I preferred perpetually broke Spiderman. After hearing the phenomenal reviews and ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, I got curious. Just how well written can a bombastic summer action blockbuster be? I tend to prefer smaller indy films with good scripts, yet decided to venture in the movieplex with the expectation that The Dark Knight was way overrated. Boy, was I surprised.

The Good Stuff
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s screenplay and Christopher’s direction is above and beyond what viewers usually get from these action blockbusters. I am pleased that it has finally dawned on some of these studio execs that people will reward you, if you don’t insult their intelligence. Nolan’s adaptation adds ethical dilemma and alludes to contemporary issues like intrusive surveillance, torture and corruption in some of the institutions we rely so much on to get our sense of security. They also put a ruthless variation of the Prisoner’s Dilemma to add to the psychological and ethical tension. The characters are well fleshed out and the storytelling compelling.

The acting was solid, and Heath Ledger’s Joker is probably the darkest and most sinister portrayed on the screen. While his fine performance might not quite be Oscar worthy, he’s likely going to get serious consideration since it was his last role before his tragic death. Aaron Eckhart did excellent job in the role of righteous DA Harvey Dent, a performance that might be easily overlooked facing Ledger’s intense presence. Christian Bale’s Batman was competent, acting behind a mask using a raspy voice limits one’s ability to show a nuanced performance.

The Quibbles

FX and score overwhelm dialogue: This has happened in various instances where I couldn’t sort out the dialogue from the booming sounds. I’m not sure whether it was the cinema’s issue or the sound editor, but it did distract me enough to mention it.

Batman’s raspy voice: Mentioned above. It makes some sense that Batman would attempt to disguise his voice not to be recognized, but Bale’s raspy voice does not make him “creepy” and just hampers comprehension and performance. I hope that Nolan will have Bale just use his regular voice in future films and the audience will forgive that. It’s already tough acting through a mask and the voice didn’t help. We accept Superman’s ludicrous disguise (glasses), so having Bale use his regular voice isn’t a big deal.

Film still slightly overrated: #1 on IMDB??  Really?? It’s a fine film worth seeing, but I can rattle off twenty better films off the top of my head. At the moment it’s a pop culture phenomenon, and I suppose that many are so starving for fine intelligent entertainment that this film appears above and beyond what’s come out in recent memory.

All in all, it’s a good, unusually intelligent summer flick that reminded me how fun it can be to venture into the cinema. 8.5 out of 10.

On a side note, I saw the great trailer of the upcoming Watchmen movie, an adaptation of the brilliant comic book/graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The story is a thorough deconstruction of the superhero archetype. The trailer looks promising and lets hope director Zack Snyder doesn’t muck it up.

The Empty Spectacle of the Olympic Games

Posted in Culture, Media, Philosophy, politics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2008 by 99ppp

The Olympics. The spectacle begins with the ceremonial lighting of the torch in Greece, giving homage to an ancient tradition brought down from the Age of Zeus. A magnificent sight full of significance and pageantry by young women in robes. The Games, an occasion for nations to compete without violence in the spirit of sportsmanship and fair play. The Olympic Torch is lit, to begin its travels around our vast planet, a beacon of hope and harmony across national borders. People line the streets to witness its journey and the carriers running with both pride and honour. At the Olympic Stadium, elaborate productions involving twirling dancers, dazzling light shows and ultimately the precious children, the hope of the future, celebrate its imminent arrival, and the start of the greatest athletic event on Earth.

The Parade of Nations begin. Athletes from all over the world dressed uniformly carry the blessed flags of their homelands, The finest physical specimens their nations have to offer. Once the Stadium is filled with the potential heroes, the carrier makes his lap around the track, pauses dramatically so the crowd can take in the great significance of the moment and the smaller torch lights the larger one. The Games have begun.

Behind the Spectacle

I find it hard to grasp how some deem this highly commercialized sports event founded by aristocrat, a movement. Popular movements blossom from the grassroots, not by some privileged wealthy benefactor attempting to “save the world”. Its even given a term called Olympism, which is a hollow philosophy for “fitness, fair play and mutual respect”, which is amusing since the Olympic Selection committee has a corrupt history of bribery when selecting the host city.

It’s questionable how “fortunate” it is to be selected a host city, for example, the Athens games cost over $8.5 BILLION dollars for a 2 week event. Montreal’s Olympic Stadium (1976) was just recently payed off in 2006 , a debt of $1.5 billion , after 30 years. In China for the upcoming games, up to 1.5 million people are being displaced to accommodate the event according to a Geneva housing rights group, and usually those moved are among are poorest in society. Squandering these massive funds simply to accommodate these games, the athletes and the tourism for a COUPLE OF WEEKS, is obscene when many cities need better infrastructure and accessible housing.

Commercial interests tend to be most eager to push the “prestige” of the games, often subsidized by the taxpayers who must deal with the strain on their infrastructure to increase private opportunities. Socialize the risk, privatize the profit. It’s great PR for some of these giant corporate conglomerates who appear to be giving to a great humanist cause as sponsors, instead of just giving greater exposure to their company logo. It’s just advertising costs to them, in my opinion, not some altruistic attempt to expand the “Olympic Spirit”.

The Politics

This so-called bridge between nations has failed spectacularly several times as boycotts have been used to send political messages, especially during 1980 and 1984, casualties of the Cold War. Even now one is being considered for the Beijing games, due to valid concerns over human rights, but unfortunately at the end of it all, nothing will change.

Those who want to send a message violently, as they did in the games in Munich and Atlanta, get the attention they clearly don’t deserve. These centralized global sporting events can attract those who are willing to harm others to make their point, and the security costs can be astronomical as was the case in the Athens games which was five times higher than the Sydney Games after 9/11.

The Athletes

Doping scandals taint the games, as the pressure to win pushes some athletes to compromise their health and the spirit of fair play to get a better chance at Olympic glory. The organizers are addressing the issue, although there have been ridiculous draconian mesures like banning marijuana. The idea that this is a performance enhancing drug is pretty insane.

Professionals are now allowed to participate in the Olympics, which attracts more sponsors (read: more money) to the games, so the games themselves are becoming less and less about the so-called Olympic Ideals of amateur (“lover of”) sports. Even some of the victorious amateurs will quickly leverage their metal trinket into becoming professional spokesman for an often unrelated product you’re supposed to be more inclined to buy.

Resistance is Growing

The Games are looking less and less like a great honour, and more like a great burden and many are beginning to voice their concerns about the cost to taxpayers and strain to local infrastructure. In the case of the upcoming 2010 Games in Vancouver, these concerns were brought up by dissenters to the Olympic Committee . With good reason as costs are spiraling up. There is a great site keeping an eye on the preparations of the 2010 games at 2010watch.com .

How about the World Cup?

There are differences between the World Cup of soccer and the Olympic games although they are both popular global sporting events.

  • The World Cup tends to celebrate the sport, soccer. The Olympics is about the event.
  • As mentioned above, the Olympics tend to suggest its a great humanitarian and philosophical movement, while the World Cup doesn’t make such grand presumptions.
  • The strain on local infrastructure is much smaller for the World Cup, where one needs a soccer field and place for people and cameras, while the Olympics need many specialized facilities for the bloating number of sports, many of which few care about anyways.

The Olympic Games have lost any appeal or credibility in my eyes. There are many international sporting event going on annually all around the world, but I wondered why did I watch a game I had no interest in to begin with simply because it was on the Olympics? Was it the Five Rings? The hypnosis is over, as far as I’m concerned. The Games are an overproduced corporate event subsidized by taxpayers where athleticism appears as a secondary concern to a global spectacle to glorify the organizers and the advertisers. I can’t wait until “regular programming” on the tube comes back when it on.