Archive for society

Clarifying Guilt

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2010 by 99ppp

I’ll describe guilt as that uncomfortable feeling that one has gone against one’s conscience, at least that’s what ideally it should be. Yet that feeling can expand into situations where that unease  can erode our principles and undermine our values.

We begin to form our moral foundation from the discipline of our parents . We defer to their ethical experience, and believe that they have a greater hold on what’s right and wrong, what’s fair, and so on.  Parents become the primary agents of culture, teaching us how to acclimate to societal norms..As we age, though, we could see that they are only human, they make errors, and perhaps their moral compass was calibrated to their environment and times. “Because I said so” becomes an increasingly weaker argument, and solely a declaration of power. In fairness to parents, often they are simply attempting to keep us from repeating the mistakes they made. Often ethical transmission may be simply an attempt to validate their principles. That does not stop the questioning, though as the universality of teen rebellion can attest. We begin to challenge our parents assertion of what’s ethical and fair. We may look within, to our peers and the wider popular culture to get our new cues on how to behave.

Breaking customs appears to be one of the greatest difficulties within families since they are often the rites that are considered unifying. My mother used to get fixated on dates, on one particular occasion there was a silly family altercation simply because someone else forgot Mother’s Day and didn’t call. Now I didn’t believe in  recognizing these “greeting card” holidays (and still don’t) , but did it to appease her. When I found out about this conflict and my mother’s righteous indignation, I immediately declared I would no longer recognize those holidays, since they were now becoming a potential source of conflict. My mother suggested I cared less about her if I didn’t, I responded I didn’t like my feelings to be dictated by the calendar.

Enter religion. I was taught on the importance of God at home and in school, and was told that without that religious guidance I would go astray. I was skeptical, and felt that I could infer some of the rules of the Bible intellectually (I was raised Roman Catholic), and didn’t feel that was needed for it to be sent down by God. I get the sense that guilt drives much of religion, as we must carry the burden of Adam’s original sin, making us responsible for decisions we didn’t make. I confessed to a priest only once, and never again. I can see the use many people can get some peace of mind  from it, but couldn’t see how this man could give me absolution.

Guilt cues us in to violations to our values, ethics, principles, and agreements. However, I began to feel that it is unfair to hold us accountable to principles we didn’t pick. Often guilt can simply be a response to seeing a loved one get hurt after some act or expression. We often believe we’ve hurt the person, but it can be just as likely that the person hurt themselves by projecting expectations onto us, and holding us responsible for surprising them in an unpleasant way. Nonetheless, we feel bad, call it guilt when perhaps it’s simply a fear of alienation. To fulfill expectations we didn’t agree to condemns us to reaffirm existing culture instead of engaging and participating with it by questioning, examining and challenging it when it fails to resonate with us. We become agents of conformity. We can erode the confidence to form our individual principles and become spectators to the ever-shifting tides of ideas that make the amorphous blob of mores and customs we call culture.

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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.

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.

Oprah’s hollow Mea Culpa

Posted in Culture, Media with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2008 by 99ppp

Oprah’s Mea Culpa sounds hollow

Oprah Winfrey, the queen of talk TV, claims she’s gotten off the wagon after tipping the scales at 200 lbs. due to some thyroid condition and food addiction. She’s gotten enough publicity from her weight losses and gains, that her little revelation sounds like an attempt to place herself in some sort of underdog position. This can be effective for everyone to forget her billion dollar media empire.

We usually don’t write about celebrities here, but Oprah is an exception. as she carries incredible influence in popular culture. Her backing of Barack Obama was instrumental in making his candidacy credible and visible to many people when he was relatively unknown. Her book club often creates best-sellers.

You see, Oprah needs to appear more accessible to the common woman. I’m not suggesting that she gained the weight purposely, but it is very difficult for me to feel too much compassion towards her, considering that she has access to the best personal chefs and trainers.

I have little doubt that she’s has difficulty with food. The problem is that she’s appealing to other’s compassion by labeling herself a “food addict” and claiming some thyroid condition gave her a fear of working out. This from someone who made a public display out of finishing a marathon. Her trainer got a best selling book out of the deal, and doubtless that her O magazine is full of tips on “how to lose weight.

Here at 99ppp we are getting into better shape and managing to deal with the struggles that go with it. We can sympathize with Oprah’s inconsistency, yet we have to cook our own meals, and train with our home equipment (resistance bands and yoga mats) and videos. We have no access to Oprah’s resources (chefs, gyms and trainers), so any appeals by her to saying how hard it is, sounds very hollow to us. I prefer to read a blog post from average folks dealing with their struggles, than the one of a billionaire using a sensational headline to sell more magazines.

“I’m embarrassed,” she writes. “I can’t believe that after all these years, all the things I know how to do, I’m still talking about my weight. I look at my thinner self and think, ‘How did I let this happen again?’ “(from Link above)

Yes… she’s embarrassed.. so embarrassed she decided to publish a feature article about it. I don’t know about you, but if you are so embarrassed about something, wouldn’t you keep it to yourself instead of trumpeting out to the world? Of course, she’ll now work on losing the weight, having the thyroid and food addiction as an alibi if she fails, and painting herself as an underdog whose battled all odds if she succeeds.

Winfrey writes. “I was so frustrated I started eating whatever I wanted – and that’s never good.”

That narcissism is indicative of a decadent society faced with its overindulgence. Many have little time to cook, opting for cheaper fast food. Healthy food gets more expensive, yet Oprah surely can afford it. Not to mention in-house cooks/chefs to prepare delicious meals. What befuddles me is that so many viewers perceive Oprah to be “one of them”?

Is Oprah responsible for her Guru status?

Not fully, but she certainly doesn’t discourage it. She appears to have developed a Messiah Complex, attempting to save everyone. The onus lies on her viewership who could place greater scrutiny on her values and so-called lessons.

She hopes to get started with her upcoming “Best Life Week,” starting Jan. 5 with an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” during which she is expected to talk candidly about her weight.

Her weight gains and losses give her content for her increasingly vacuous show. Her “candidness” seems like a calculated attempt to position herself as an underdog, one of YOU, which is quite difficult for a extremely wealthy person during a economic downturn.

I don’t question that Oprah genuinely believes that she has great information and lessons to pass along, sometimes she does, shifting her materialistic “Oprah’s Favorite Things” episode this year into “How to Have the Thriftiest Holiday Ever” showing some sensitivity to these troubled economic times. Nevertheless, it’s best for more people to think for themselves, choose their own books,  and frame their own reality. Whether it’s Oprah or some other celebrity attempting to bring wisdom to the “clueless rabble”, it’s high time that we develop our own individual critical skills and maintain an open mind, while tempering it with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Oprah’s show reminds me of a great scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, but I doubt very much that she’d make similar declarations as Brian below. [vid 1:05min]

Fat Acceptance and Attraction

Posted in Culture, Love, Media, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2008 by 99ppp

This is a response to the Ask Aunt Fatty post on Shapely Prose called “Ask Aunt Fattie: How do I stop feeling negative about my girlfriend’s fat?” where I was unceremoniously censored from what I thought was an interesting discussion. Then came the little pot shots after that fact. It’s her blog and she’s perfectly entitled to do that. We have one here, and we’re free to speak here as well.

We have full sensitivity to media and society conventions and the possible effects on body image, please note our poem “Insecurities of the Flesh”.

Now to clarify some issues:

The term “letting oneself go” is the affliction of many long term relationships where one or both partners take for granted that the other is going to be attracted to them no matter what change in appearance and behaviour may arise. This could include changes in hygiene, fitness and/or behaviour.

There were suggestions I was a “concern troll”, a straw man argument since the concern is the letter-writer’s in this instance as witnessed by the title of the Aunt Fatty post. I am libertarian in view, and if people overindulge, it’s their business, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, food or some other activity.

Attraction is a prejudice and I said that “I believe no one needs to apologize for what they are or aren’t attracted to”. Few would argue this is an unacceptable prejudice. This is a question of aesthetics and as the old refrain goes.. “its in the eye of the beholder”.Bigotry towards overweight people is also a prejudice, an unjust one. I believe fat acceptance is about respecting another person regardless of their size. This does not mean that one needs to be attracted to one.

Now it can be said that media and society do have some influence, but how much? How much was the letter-writer inherent affinity to some aesthetic? It’s hard to gauge, yet here Aunt Fatty’s advice falls short, suggesting the letter-writer keep her doubts to herself.  I’ve learned it is wise to share doubts and concern and have a debate, discussion or even an argument so we can come to an understanding and consensus to what we fear about change. Maybe at the end of it all, we fear being alone, so sometimes we do become complacent and leave out a few detail to “not rock the boat”. That is for each of us to explore both as individuals and as a couple.

We blame TV, books, magazines, other people and genetics. When do we start taking responsibility for our behaviours and actions instead of blaming society on how they perceive us? This is road to powerlessness, as it is easier to change oneself than society. But one need not change to accomodate society but to accomodate oneself.

UPDATE: New post on FA: Fat Acceptance: An intriguing idea gone wrong

what is culture?

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Poetry, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2008 by 99ppp

religion, ritual
christian, gnostic
judeism, kabbalah
muslim, sufi
beliefs, traditons
is this cultural?
What is culture?
who decides, who defines?

society, civilisation
class, elite
upper class, ruling class
social class, racial class
middle class, lower class
What class, no class?
is this cultural?
What is culture?
who decides, who defines?

culture jamming
advertising, consumming
art, philosophising
popular, unique
texting, gaming
loving, hating
music, writing
symbols, language
is this cultural?
What is culture?
who decides, who defines?

understanding, creating
thinking, exisitng
values, systems
tools,rules
spirit, nature
universe, mysticism
is this cultural?
what is culture?
who decides, who defines?

capitalist, socialist,
sexist, fascist
evolution, revolution
democracy, freedom,
will we ever find a simple solution?
one word, many words
too many words, No words
silence, just for a moment
one conclusion!

do we really need another word
to further divide?

Will the New Iron Man movie Peddle or Decry the War Machine?

Posted in Anti-War, Culture, Media, Movies, Philosophy, Uncategorized, Vids with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2008 by 99ppp

As propaganda is our bread and butter here, I just saw the trailer for the Iron Man movie, and was dismayed to see few arguments against the Military-Industrial complex within it. I haven’t seen the movie, but according to the book “Comic Book Nation” :

The most political of Marvel’s superheroes was Iron Man, a hero literally forged on the battlefields of Vietnam. In his first act as a superhero, he demolishes a Viet Cong military base and overthrows a sadistic Communist warlord. As Tony Stark, he serves a vital function in America’s military-industrial complex, both as a weapons inventor and a defense contractor. As Iron Man, he foils Communist agents and battles Soviet supervillains in symbolic Cold War contests of power and will….. The Iron Man series showed the extent to which Marvel endorsed Cold War assumptions. There was little room for dissent. As Iron Man once asserted, “No one has the right to defy the wishes of his government! Not even Iron Man!”

Now replace Vietnam with Afghanistan, Communist/Soviet with Terrorist, and Cold War with War on Terror and suddenly the film may be updated to modern times while pushing the same agenda.

In fairness, the comic did take a turn and begin to question the initial premises during the early seventies and the film may take a similar approach. Yet taking a peek at the trailer below, especially Iron Man flying “majestically” alongside high-tech products of the war industry, it doesn’t bode well that the film will be a critique of the Military-Industrial Complex. For that, I recommend Lord of War, Why We Fight (documentary) .

Robert Downey Jr. is one of my favourite actors who usually picks interesting roles, and it’d be a shame if he’s compromised himself to land the big paycheck.

Here’s Eisenhower’s warning on the Military Industrial Complex:

Here’s the Iron Man Trailer: