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Archive for March, 2011

Birds sound the same as them. The way the notes travel up and down like teeter-totters and dip and twist like ballerinas dancing around each other; tongues–rolling like children down hills in the grass in the summer time. I understand some of what they say but only because I’ve been here with them for a while now. Languages are fascinating. The mind is fascinating because it can make sense of it all; at least enough sense that stories emerge and memories form, and ideas of what once were transform into ideas that are new and larger. The world is a puzzle with each piece a puzzle of its own. A language tells a story. The story becomes a piece of your thoughts. Your thoughts become who you are. I remember now what it was like before I spoke my first word. English no longer works the same as at home; it has become the baby babble that I once spoke before my native tongue. Instead, I am forced to re-learn how to speak. I am re-learning how to tell someone I’m hungry and what I want to nourish myself: I realize what I want is not always available to me. I am re-learning how to ask for a bathroom, to tell someone where home is. Home- I’m not quite sure I really understand that word anymore. What is home? Is it the place where I sleep at night? Is it where family is? Is it where I come from? Where I was born? Where I am now? I no longer know who I am because a piece of me is constantly changing. I am not the same and never will be. Only some distant memories allow me to realize that my past is the only constant and, therefore, I must have grown from what stays the same. Babble, I have become babble. I can no longer express my thoughts because I, too, do not understand myself. My thoughts have become babble for my ability to have thoughts has somehow surpassed my ability to comprehend them. What is home? Is it the language which I speak that defines home for me? Is home a place or is it a concept? Is home a feeling or a word? Did the concept of “home” become a word that became a feeling, or was it that the feeling became a concept that became a word? What is it that I am? Am I, too, like a home? Did the concept of “I” come, and then the word that became a feeling- or was “I” a feeling that became a concept that has now become a word? What therefore is a word? And what meaning does it have? I can understand the word for “home” in many different languages but what is so special about that word that makes me question my existence so? What is it about this different place that makes me wonder so tiresomely over words and meanings?

~Justin Allen Philcox

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While it is undeniably horrifying to think of the number of people who lost their lives after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the implications of the destruction of the nuclear plant will be felt long past this date. Germany, China, and Venezuela have announced that they will halt large parts of their nuclear programs. The question that remains is: If they do not have energy coming from nuclear power, then where is the energy going to come from?

One choice that may be opted for is renewable energy (solar and wind). While these types of technologies could (and may) replace nuclear power, the problem with this idea is the lack of current infrastructure. Where are these countries going to install clean, renewable energy plants overnight? Chances are, either nuclear power will be kept on the table for a short time to make the transition, or else the fossil fuel industries will win big. The only viable alternatives to nuclear and clean renewable energies are coal, gas, and hydroelectric; but these alternatives are all environmentally damaging. Something will need to fill the energy gap; and whatever that something is, will very likely drive up prices in that industry. If energy prices rise, the cost of living goes up. The cost of other goods and services may rise, as well, to cover increased overhead costs.

So, while shutting down nuclear power may look like a good idea now, the end result could be worse for a time before it gets better. I think the most responsible decision would involve setting up clean renewable energy plants that are ready to go before all these nuclear facilities go offline. Just because there is a problem in Japan does not mean there will be the same problems everywhere all at once. Emotions are high–and so they should be after such tragedy–but coming at things clear, and collected will yield the most reasonable result.

May our hearts be with those who have lost those dear to them; but may our minds remain calm and our decisions surefooted.

~Justin Allen Philcox

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Probably the most disgusting things I see in this world all end in -ism: racism and ethnocentrism, sexism, and extremism. In my ideal world, none of these things would exist. But, lets face it, we are nowhere near this ideal. We must strive toward it, nonetheless. We must all want to shed our ignorance. Unfortunately, some people pretend to like being ignorant.

All of these -isms I have just mentioned are socially constructed falsehoods about the world that we live in. Race doesn’t actually exist, no one ethnic group is superior to another, no sex is superior, no extremism serves a virtuous purpose. We live in a time when we have more than ever been able to witness the brutality that these -isms bring, and have brought, to this world. We are intelligent beings; capable of growth and understanding. We should all know and accept that playing along with people who espouse these -isms does no one any service.

In fact, when we choose to embrace a racist, for example by listening to a racist joke, we are responsible for perpetuating racism as much as the joke teller; especially if we tell one as well. But, this is not about ignorant jokes; it is about willingly choosing to be ignorant human beings. Acting in this way does not change the world in any positive way.

While it is sometimes hard to stand up to thugs, bullies, and lowlifes, sometimes taking advantage of their ignorant moments to teach them how they are wrong can put a good seed within them. Change can happen. It does happen. People can learn. People do change. It is not an easy project, because people have to be willing to learn. Next time someone tells a racist joke, tell them you are not impressed that they willingly choose to be so ignorant. Heck, make a point of showing a documentary on Martin Luther King Jr. next time the person comes over. Next time you hear someone ranting about how the west is better than the east, call them on it–then show a film like Gandhi when they least expect it. Next time you see a man or woman talk badly about the opposite sex, name a few people that do not meet their stereotype.  As for the extremist, maybe steer clear for now since they can get violent to try to prove their point (even though being violent does just the opposite). Find out how to reach the person, send them a copy of Schindler’s List and show them where extremism leads.

One of the problems pegging many societies down is a lack of good teachers. In this situation, I think we have enough good teachers but not enough of them teaching the difference between right and wrong. Unless those that have woken up to smell the 21st don’t make some coffee for the rest of the household, they might just sleep all day. Wake up, make some coffee and stick it under their noses until they drink it. We should all be wide awake by now.

~Justin Allen Philcox

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In the 1980’s a group of Canada’s business elite set out to destroy government ownership of business and resources. This same group funded Brian Mulroney’s election campaign. Effectively, over the last several decades, the Washington consensus has taken a strong hold on our lives. The upper class that is so few in number fund our universities, our think-tanks, authors, the mass media…and in so doing, they effectively undermine what is best for the greatest number by educating the population that what benefits the upper class most, benefits the rest in society. This is a sham. Neoconservative and neoliberal ideologies make up the vast majority of what is there to choose from when it comes to voter choice. And when the population is socialized by those with the resources (and thus the power) to think the way that these elites want them to think, there is a SERIOUS problem with the efficacy and legitimacy of democracy as a government by the people for the people. Good government in a democratic nation ought to be contingent upon what is best for society as a whole and not just what is best for a small group with power and influence (the business elite).  As long as the population is educated to think that we must look out for the richest of the capitalist class first and foremost, society itself is on a path for disaster. Deregulation, as has happened increasingly throughout the world for the past several decades, is a path for disaster and it needs to be put into the forefront of world debate and discussion now before it is too late. Bailing out the upper class so they can remain rich at tax payers expense, when they make irresponsible financial decisions, is not good democratic government; it is a tyrannical oligarchy. The fact that there is still unsettling employment data speaks to the fact that even though the majority bailed the few out at the majority’s expense, the wealthy few are still unwilling to take some of the hit by employing  the people who lost their jobs because of the economic elite’s own negligence. We need to rethink this system; because it is not working fairly.  Why should a small few get rich if it results in a larger number growing poor?

~Justin Allen Philcox

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I realize that I have rarely written about certain aspects of philosophy in my blog postings to date. I do, however, try to find the time to examine philosophical issues that I am exposed to or think about. Philosophy is a love of wisdom. If I practice philosophy, I surely must think the thing that I love is attainable, i.e. wisdom. I think it is important to question what this existence is. Skepticism can be used as a tool to examine certain ideas. If there is reason to question, then questions should be asked in the pursuit of knowledge. Ignorance leads us down a dark path. If we can shed light on certain issues and realize the boundaries of our knowledge, we can then make more enlightened decisions.

My last blog, in which I asked if I can really know myself, was meant not as an end all be all solution to what the world around me is. It was meant to demonstrate, rather, that we usually only ever scratch the surface of things. With deeper inquiry we can realize that there is plenty about the world that we can know. For instance, I can know that I exist (Augustine, Descartes, etc.). I know that I can distinguish objects from other objects–things from other things. I know that, through experience, a person can gain vast amounts of knowledge about any given topic. I know that often the more experience a person has with something, the more they come to know that thing. I, therefore, am inclined to think that, since I have had all of my experiences with the world,  I ought to know myself more than any other thing in this world. I know myself more than anything else.

However, with the skeptical view in mind, I allow myself the benefit of a sort of dialectic. I pose questions about the world and discover answers. I can, in some way, converse with the world around me. I doubt something and then I find reasons not to doubt it. The other side of the coin would be to blindly place faith that my assumptions about the world are always correct. I err. I err so many times. I make mistakes and so does everyone else in this world. Mistakes in judgment allow people the opportunity to correct the way of thinking that led to such ill judgments.

I can play the skeptic. To do otherwise might be considered foolish. Questioning the legitimacy of beliefs can have positive effects. It can lead to a better understanding about the world around us. This is a deep complicated thing, life. It deserves inquiry at every turn.

That does not mean we should be always skeptical. Once something is learned it can become a part of your knowledge about the world. At such a point as knowledge is achieved it can be utilized–it does not need to be rediscovered again and again.

When I hint towards the idea that I can never really know myself, there is so much at play. It does not mean that I cannot know things. It does not mean that I cannot know myself. It means that I cannot know every minute detail. I can, however, choose to a certain extent which details I want to know about. I cannot know it all. Nor, do I want to. What would be the fun in knowing everything? If I were to know everything, there would be no fun in learning.

~Justin Allen Philcox

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Can I ever know myself? Can you know yourself? How about the objects and encounters with other living beings?: Can you ever really know them? These questions may seem silly. Please think for a moment about the screen in front of you that you are reading this from. Think for an instant about the chair you are sitting on. Can you ever know these things? We only ever see them in certain periods of time. European existentialist philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty would say we never see anything from all its various angles. We can imagine the underside of a chair–we can imagine what is inside of a computer screen. We can see, hear, feel, touch, smell, taste and breathe most moments of our individual lives. Can we really know those things in this existence that we interact with? There must be something about this life–this place–that we can come to know about it.

I see my chair. I can feel it under me supporting my weight. I assembled it out of the box. I spent time in this chair, sitting upon it; others have sat in this chair. How did this chair come into existence? Imagine the person who designed it. Imagine all the bugs that may have landed, or crawled, on it. Imagine all the places this chair has been. Maybe the materials to make it were shipped from Canada to China; then it was manufactured in China; designed in the US; and sold in Canadian outlets of US corporations like Walmart. The point of all this rambling is that I don’t really know the chair that I am sitting on. I don’t really know the computer screen in front of me. Hence, I don’t really know much about any of the things of my existence. However, I exist; I come to understand parts of the world through existence. I can never fully know all parts of the world. I can only know parts of things and fill in the blanks; in an attempt to understand the world I interact with and that interacts with me.

If my experienced existence is comprised of merely my interactions with parts of various things, then I am prone to err in my understanding of the world. If what all that I have said is true, then I base most of my judgments about the world on things I know relatively little about. I fill in the blanks, make stories about, create illusions about the other side of things which I cannot immediately be exposed to. It takes time to really get to know a chair–but we can never fully experience the chair from all angles or all times and spaces. We know the form of the objects in this world, in a sense; but we can never really know each particular part of these objects’ existence. We share but moments of our existence with everything we come into contact with. Moments of things. As Heraclitus would say, everything is in a state of flux; you can never set foot in the same river twice. If we try to measure flux, it will change in the process. Every moment is fleeting. With all this in mind, I ask myself, what do I really know?

~Justin Allen Philcox

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It is relatively easy for any of us to state our opinions about what the world ought not to look like. Not many of us want to see war, death, destruction, high taxes, joblessness; none of us wants to be a slave, nor homeless, afraid. Many moral, social, and political theorists have spent time and energy attempting the more difficult task of trying to express what the world ought to be like. From Plato to Aristotle, Marx, Mills, Adam Smith to Che Guevara, to Milton Friedman–all of them have attempted (even without success) to create a system that will overcome the ills in the world. It is a difficult task to espouse an entire theory of state or social and economic theory.  It is so easy to look around the world and see it’s problems. Solutions are always so much more difficult to come by.

I would like to say that I live in a world without poverty. War is greed. Success is defined too often by Bill Gates’ and not often enough by Gandhi’s. While I think it is important to acknowledge ideals,  I would like to avoid being overly idealistic because idealism must exist in the face of realism. I do not think that a social utopia is possible to achieve in a world with so many competing interests; but I do think we can do better. It is our duty as people to create the best possible world. Rather than tell you how we can make the world a better place, I would like you to tell the world how we can make it a better place. Please leave a link to an inspiring story (video, book, blog…etc.) in the comments box. This story should include something that would make this world a better place. How does it sit in the face of realism, that is, is it something attainable for the many? Be creative.

Thank-you for sharing your inspiration with the world.

~Justin Allen Philcox

Here is a link I have chosen in response:

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