(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Directive: Challenge Authority

A common theme I've run into with English classes here in college is this idea of challenging authority, disrupting the status quo, subverting the established social order, questioning power and in short: thinking for myself. Postmodernism (poststructuralism, deconstruction, whatever you choose to call the greater majority of contemporary academia and critical theory) is all about shining the light on binary systems and showing how nothing is real. Nothing as we know it, from gender to life and death to sexuality to religion is based in a concrete, objective reality. The very idea of reality is false if we can augment and change it through thought, through will, through technology.

There are some who would say I'm oversimplifying, that this critique misses the nuances of the movement and that none of these things are the same and that using postmodernism as this kind of umbrella term to attack is wrong. I see it as this kind of amorphous octopoidal construction that serves its own purpose as a reaction to its own socio-cultural and historical influences

Paradox: If I challenge authority, I must challenge the original directive (to challenge authority), but in doing so I would be obeying and failing to challenge, risking complacency and blind following.

Feedback Loop.

We then cannot rephrase the directive with the potential implied meaning: Challenge all authority but mine. To take this Directive into the appropriate context, challenge authority is not so much a preconventional notion of "fuck the man, you can't tell me what to do" so much as a postconventional challenge to think critically and reason why something might not be worth doing. Ideally, it has moved beyond that kind of narcissism, that I, me, self that is incapable of thinking about the communal we or even further about the global we.

I'm in part being influenced by my reading of Ken Wilbur's A Theory of Everything, a thoughtful gift from my friend Emerson, and I think it would be irresponsible of me to ignore this contribution to my thoughts. I'm attempting to approach this reading critically, not blindly accepting everything Wilbur says, but I think it's important for my development of these thoughts to use the tools made available to me to critically analyze what I already know and see how it interacts and reacts with these new thoughts.

My biggest understanding so far is the integration of hierarchies. In order to understand how systems work, to understand how to affect them, you cannot ignore hierarchies and hierarchal thinking. Hierarchies may be false, they may be constructs of society that malign and marginalize identities and groups, but on some level they have to exist. They serve a necessary function in the social and psychological evolution of an individual and culture.

In my English class today, someone brought up the socio-evolutionary argument for why binary thinking exists, which is to say that from an evolutionary standpoint, which translates to mean from a biological sense, we are built to think in binary ways. The sooner you can make a snap judgement of friend or foe, the more likely you are to survive. The argument then was made that the power of literature and therefore education is to defamiliarize us to this instinct. Our current cultural climate and industrialized society allows us to train ourselves to overcome this instinctual process. Away from the false core of a self to a we and as we progress further from a humanist (which is egoist on a species level) to a global or what Wilbur would call a holistic level.

So on the holistic level, a hierarchy is part of a greater system of society and culture. A lot of styles of thought focus on this, but I think the difference is in the approach. The holistic approach is about integration, the nested realities that coexist.

New directive: Question authority critically.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Getting Political on the Fourth of July

“The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher plain." - George McGovern

To everyone saying that we need to honor and remember our service members, I challenge that this does not mean we have to simultaneously honor and respect blatantly wrong wars and acts perpetuated by our government. Respect those who have fought for our freedom by using that freedom to tell your government to be a source of justice in the world.

As a starting point, here are some of our basic freedoms as outlined by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

"No law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," means not favoring one over another, means we cannot be a Christian nation any more than we can be a Muslim nation or a Buddhist nation or a Pastafarian nation. Separation of church and state is as much protection FOR the church as it is FROM the church.

"Freedom of speech, or of the press" means we can express ourselves. Not with full impunity because historically there have been court rulings limiting what kind of speech is okay. Things like the fuzzily defined obscenity, and libel, slander, etc are generally not okay.

The freedom to "peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" to me is not just a right, it is a call to hold our government responsible. This does not mean immediately go out and protest, but also protest with your vote. Protest with your wallet. Tell the people you voted for that they owe a responsibility to you to work for peace, justice and equality; they need to protect your rights and your interests over some private entity. And if it comes to it, protest. Gather in numbers and let the government know that it has done wrong by its people.

For more information:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Yet another poem post so I can at least say I blog once a month...

This piece has been bouncing around in my head for a few days and now I unleash it on the world. Any and all feedback is welcome.

Social butterfly:
a leaf trapped in the wayward breeze of impartiality
you fleeting flutter to and fro
caught not by the red rose of lovers' trysts
nor the painted daisies of the well-tended garden.
No, the butterfly dips and dodges clasping hands and gilded nets alike.
Do you taste the nectar of every conversation
or merely touch the surface before you're gone again?
Social butterfly, your wandering ways bewilder,
where do you belong?
"In-between! In-between!"
rally the cries of the extrovert elegant.
Then carry on, untouched by the dervishes of many faiths surrounding you.
It must be lonely being a butterfly, sometimes,
always surrounded but never quite there.