Category: Arts & Letters (Page 1 of 5)

Stoicism & the Destruction of Man

By: Glen Paul Hammond

Recently, the American Psychological Association (APA) took aim at “traditional masculinity” by, amongst other things, criticizing “stoicism” as one of its problematic characteristics (APA Guidelines 11). But the essence of stoicism, and our understanding of it, stems from a philosophy that is meant to allow the individual to reach their full potential as a human. What follows, then, is an argument for both the preservation of stoicism and its maintenance in the concept of masculinity.

In its most basic form, rationality or reason is the hallmark of Stoic philosophy. Speaking from this perspective, Epictetus (55-135 AD), the famous Stoic philosopher, described a human being as “a rational animal, subject to death” and so encouraged people to focus on the instrument of reason as a means of distinguishing themselves from the beasts without it. Failure to do so is to let the human inside of you perish.

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Abraham Lincoln’s Request

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Dear Modern Republican Party,

Seven score and fourteen years ago, I went to the theater and apparently died for nothing.

A few years before my untimely demise, I warned that a house divided against itself cannot stand and then I went out declared a little something called the Civil War. You may have heard of it. That’s right, I decided to protect this house! And after the bloodiest four-year period in the history of our country, I thought that all of that sacrifice and loss of life was going to be worth it. I’d managed to preserve the union.

But it’s looking like that decision was pretty stupid.

You see, you refer to yourselves as the Party of Lincoln. Well, I am here to tell you that you are not the Party of Lincoln. I knew the Party of Lincoln, and you, ladies and gentlemen, are not it!

Do you think I would’ve jeopardized the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, including my own, over the course of a bloody four-year war, had I known the Grand Old Party would eventually be reduced to this?

Like I would’ve reared us through tremendous trials and tribulations just so you could act like petulant children a mere century and a half later. Believe me, there were plenty of nights as Commander-in-Chief when I was tempted to simply drop out of the Civil War, emancipate the tequila from mother’s liquor cabinet, and anger tweet about how putrid James Buchanan was. It would’ve been so easy to simply opt out of leading – to declare that the preservation of this union was wholly unnecessary. How easy it would’ve been to blame the other side for everything that ailed us as a nation. But no, I let the better angels of my nature dissuade me from doing that, and I tried to steer this country through its darkest time just so all of you could have a promising future.

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Plato’s Crito: When should we break the law?

By: Spencer Case from 1000-Word Philosophy

Plato’s Crito describes a conversation that takes place in 399 B.C.E. in an Athens prison, where Socrates awaits execution.

Not long before, an assembly of more than 500 Athenian citizens convicted Socrates of corrupting the youth and impiety, essentially failing to respect the gods of the city. Socrates denied these charges. Moreover, he insisted that his public philosophizing, far from being subversive, was for the benefit of Athens and in the service of the god Apollo.

The jury wasn’t convinced, however, and found him guilty. They were further incensed when, during the sentencing stage of the trial, Socrates suggested that his “punishment” should be a lifetime supply of free meals at the prytaneum, or central hearth, an honor typically reserved for Olympic champions and the like. These antics did not play well and Socrates received the death penalty. A religious observance delayed the execution for a few weeks, but it now appears imminent.

Enter Crito, a friend with deep pockets and deeper affection for Socrates. Early one morning, Crito shows up at Socrates’ cell with an escape plan. He bribed the jailer and, with the help of other friends, has arranged for Socrates to be whisked away to Thessaly, another Greek city-state. There Socrates can live out his remaining years in exile with his family, who will also leave Athens. Everything has been taken care of except for the hardest part: convincing Socrates to agree with the plan (43a-44b, 45c).

Anyone who knows Socrates knows that this isn’t going to be easy. Crito is determined to save his friend’s life, however, and so he comes armed with a battery of arguments. Crito knows that Socrates isn’t afraid of death, and so he wisely appeals to considerations that are the most likely to resonate with Socrates: his sense of honor and his obligations to others.

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Scapegoat: How a Television Show Perpetuates Blame in the Dannemora Prison Break

By: Monica Duncan

Showtime is now airing a new series about the 2015 escape from the Dannemora Prison in New York. The show looks sensational. And you already know how I mean that. It looks like the flash of illicit sex and the bang of murderers threatening the public with their renewed freedom. We are supposed to watch until the escapees are killed or captured. (Stay tuned to find out which, if you don’t remember the real-life story from three years ago.)

I have seen firsthand the excitement that the filming of this series has brought to the small North Country city of Plattsburgh (the closest city to Dannemora itself) during my visits there. You see, Plattsburgh is my husband’s hometown. And it looks like Showtime is giving us exactly what they think the viewer wants. They are depicting the story by leading with the most sensationalized aspects of it. That is the point of a flash bang. It distracts.

So I am skeptical about what this series will tell and what it will miss, in part because I know that the Showtime folks did not interview one of the key individuals in the actual story, someone from the inside who is liberally depicted in the show. That person is my husband’s brother, Gene Palmer. Gene was the corrections officer charged with unknowingly passing saw blades in a chunk of hamburger meat through a flawed security system. What he thought was a routine delivery ended up including the very tools that would aid in the prison break of two established killers.

The script for “Escape at Dannemora” was largely derived from Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott’s 154-page report on the matter, and the series has been hawked to the public as a “based-on-a-true-story” drama. Writer Michael Tolkin said in an interview with slashfilm.com that the director, Ben Stiller, “encouraged us to write this as accurate as possible and truthfully as possible.” The people behind this show may have had an agenda in portraying the show as truthful because they wanted it to be taken seriously.

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President Donald Trump Lashes out at Mother Nature for Being a Woman

Speculation he’ll sign Executive Order renaming it “Father Nature”

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Washington D.C. – The President, who is no stranger to early morning tweets, continued his critique of Mother Nature today, with a series of comments that has left the meteorological community reeling, and many political figures wondering as to the timing of the remarks.

The United States hasn’t seen this kind of bullying on display by our President in at least an hour and a half.

It’s unclear what led to the social media confrontation, but aides to the President have stated that he has become increasingly annoyed at the fluctuating temperatures that have occurred in recent months.  It is their conclusion that this fluctuation is hampering his ability to deny that climate change is real.  Compounding the issue is the fact that Mother Nature is a woman.

“He hates to lose, especially to powerful women he can’t control” said one aide, speaking on condition of anonymity.  This aide overheard the President state that a man, such as Old Man Winter, wouldn’t change his mind as much as Mother Nature does.

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One Year Later: Reflections on #MeToo

By: Jared Marcel Pollen

Social movements, like revolutions, tend to follow a similar cycle in the process of rewiring certain beliefs and norms of behavior. This was perhaps best diagramed by Crane Brinton in his book The Anatomy of Revolution (1938), a study of the English, American, French and Russian revolutions, respectively––and how all of these revolutions (with the American being the perennial outlier) echoed one another in their stages of development. The same pattern can be mapped onto intellectual life during any period of cultural change; for moments of cultural upheaval are themselves soft revolutions, in a way, smaller in the order of magnitude than revolutions that demand a renovation of state power. This cycle goes as follows: right-to-centre, centre-to-left, left-to-far left, back to centre, back to right. Or, put differently: exposure of tyranny, modest demands, modest demands not good enough, rise of the radical left, reign of terror, reaction to the terror. What happens after that can vary.

We’ll come back to that in a bit though. At the moment, the #MeToo movement has reached its first anniversary: the Harvey Weinstein exposé turned one-year-old this past weekend, Bill Cosby has been through a court of law and will see the inside of a jail cell in this life, and the Preminger-esque drama that was the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh has come to a close (we’ll return to that soon as well). Even as we are living in this, the second year of his highness, Donald J. Trump the first, the #MeToo phenomenon has been arguably the most journalistically exhausted subject in the Anglosphere, with scarcely a side of its episodic saga gone unexamined. (I say this because at the moment I am living in central Europe, and talk of it here has been, so far as I can tell, peripheral.) Thus, one’s proverbial two cents feel even less asked for than usual, but a few things are still discoverable, and need to be pointed out.

In relation to the cycle sketched above, the #MeToo movement continues to tarry (one hopes for not much longer) in the Terror phase. If you think that sounds hyperbolic, or unduly harsh, try to come up with another word that describes a) the vigilance with which accusers are rooted out and brought forward, b) the limpid motivation to destroy careers and eliminate transgressors from public life, and c) the fear (however unfounded) that men may have about their pasts and their behavior in the future. This is not to say there can’t be legitimate and just censure of sexual assault and misconduct during the Terror phase. The Kavanaugh case is certainly one of them. One more disclaimer (just in case): I support the #MeToo movement and believe it is long overdue. The reason I add this disclaimer is precisely that a feature of the Terror is the way in which even a modicum of criticism is perceived as opposition or treachery––the discourse at this point having all the nuance of a cudgel.

If #MeToo has followed the revolutionary cycle, then the first two phases (exposure of tyranny and modest demands) were short-lived. Signs of unthinking started to appear as early as December 2017, when Matt Damon reasonably suggested there is, “a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation,” and that both, while reproachable, should not be conflated. The response to this was what you would expect: You don’t respect women’s pain. What gives you, a man, the right to say that? You simply can’t understand what it’s like to be a woman. Really? Seriously? Seriously?
Yes, seriously.

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Senator Orrin Hatch Time Travelling to 1851

Mission to Correct America’s Timeline by Changing the Past

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Washington, D.C. – In a surprising turn of events, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), has announced that he is retiring from the 115th U.S. Congress and is time travelling back to 1851.  Once there, he will run for Congress again.

The 84-year old Senator feels that this move will do him and the country some good.  “1851 certainly lines up more with my ideals and vision for what this great Country should stand for.  Too many people have rights in 2018.  Too many of them insist on being treated fairly and, frankly, it’s become rather disgusting,” said Hatch.

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On the Strange Agreement Between Artists and Trump Administration: Doubts About the International Criminal Court

Art of Politics, Politics of Art, A Series By: Jeanette Joy Harris
In this series, Jeanette Joy Harris looks at how artists around the world are using public and participatory art forms to describe, analyze, and influence contemporary politics.

In a rare case of agreement, politicians and artists alike are casting doubts on the viability of the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.). In a statement last week, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the U.S. might sanction the I.C.C. because it is considering prosecuting Americans for war crimes in Afghanistan. This stance is also one of the major concerns that underlines Milo Rau’s performance and film work “Congo Tribunal,” and Chris Weitz’s recent film “Operation Finale,” both of which question the potency of the I.C.C.

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New Study Indicates that Childhood Vaccinations May Increase the Risk of Dying from Natural Causes Several Decades Later

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Atlanta GA. – A recent public health study conducted at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that children who are exposed to a routine battery of vaccinations in childhood are at an increased risk of dying from natural causes, several decades later.

The medical community is hailing this research as a definitive argument in the fight against the anti-vaccination movement that has swept the country in recent decades. In 1998, a fraudulent research paper in the journal Lancet claimed a link between the mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR) vaccination and autism, which created a stir that is still having a negative impact on the public’s health.

“Finally, we have proof that when children receive these safe, non-autism causing vaccinations, they live long enough to die from other things,” said a spokesman for the CDC. “This should settle the argument over the importance of receiving childhood vaccinations once and for all.”

Members of the anti-vaccination movement, however, remain troubled by the findings that getting vaccinations will increase the risk of death in the distant future. “Have you ever seen an elderly person die from natural causes?” asked a concerned parent whose children have not received vaccinations. “It’s horrible.”

Bob Rondell, another anti-vaccination advocate stated, “It’s terribly disconcerting to watch a loved one die in old age from absolutely nothing, and after having lived a full and rich life. I’m not sure that sort of thing is in the best interest of my children.”

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Populism: The Long Con

By: Jared Marcel Pollen

Some time ago, likely in a moment of procrastination over some more important task, I found myself browsing through a cache of old interviews from The Daily Show (the Jon Stewart era). One such interview was with Mike Huckabee (2015), which I’d remembered watching live years earlier. Huckabee was promoting his apologia, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy–– another puritanical installation in the great conflict between the provincial interior and the cosmopolitan coasts. After likening Beyoncé to a stripper and mocking the Harvard faculty, Huckabee posed a question: “If your car breaks down in the middle of the night on a country road, who do you want coming by? An MBA in a Beemer, or do you want a couple of good ol’ boys in a pickup truck, with a toolbox in the back?”

These “would you rather” scenarios are a common trope in the culture war. The most famous is probably William F. Buckley’s claim that he’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the phonebook than by the Harvard University faculty. Huckabee, who grew up in Arkansas and was educated at a Baptist University, might be able to claim membership in the heartland, but Buckley (a Yale man) certainly couldn’t have, no more than most Republicans in the House of Representatives can today.

With decades of this stuff piled high in the American consciousness, the mental conditions required to give rise to a populist like Trump should have been obvious. These kinds of sentiments, aside from being very stupid, are also very insidious, and highly corrosive to the idea of an informed society. For populism’s great peril is in its mawkish insistence on normalcy as a kind of authenticity––on there being a “real America.” And more still, that this authenticity is somehow measured by, say, how much gravy one has coursing through one’s veins. It also produces rip currents of anti-intellectualism and vulgarity (and by vulgarity I don’t mean profane, but simply that which is “of the common people”). The apotheosis of this has been reached (one hopes) with the 45th president of the United States, who is less a portrait of someone with an anti-intellectual posture than someone living an anti-intellectual existence.

Populism is an old trick. It’s been around since the earliest democracies. Plato, Aristotle and all the classical thinkers wrote about it and rightly condemned it, understanding that it would naturally end with a demagogue. And it should come as no surprise that they regarded the most threatening aspect of this kind of politics to be its disdain for the educated. One of the best dramatizations of this in the ancient world is Aristophanes’ The Clouds. Written during a lull in the Peloponnesian War, it’s considered one of the playwright’s lighter, apolitical comedies.

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