Monday, November 8, 2010

Our Academic System: A Pretty Okay Joke

Rant time!

The difference between the people that will get the job at the interview and become successful in life will be someone intelligent with appropriate experience. When we chose committee members for our club here at UCB, we took people who interviewed well. The resumes didn't really help and I'll tell you why- they were awful. Some went back to their sixth grade class presidency. I do not care that you were popular in sixth grade and you wasted your time on writing a speech once so that your friends could think you were important. I care if you are going to be good talking to kids about UC Berkeley now or whether your going to be good at whatever your actual specific job is going to be. Similarly, I feel like I wouldn't care what school someone went to- only if they are or are not capable of doing the job. I would want to see previous things they did and worked on and check their references. UC Berkeley is one giant reference that says "hey, pick this guy- he paid for this degree and passed classes here! It probably wasn't too hard, but he's a hard worker- right?"

Okay, so let's look at the system we have going on right now. I am taking one of my courses solely because it's a requirement. There is no way to get around it, I can not possibly avoid taking this class. It is by far the most inane class I have ever taken. I only have three more weeks of class and I can say that the History of Ancient Philosophy has only damaged my academic career. I hate taking easy classes. I also hate taking classes that are about stupid topics. Socrates and Plato are fun to read, but honestly- all I learned in this class was that Plato was a communist who basically thought that Brave New World was a pretty sweet idea, minus the drugs and sex (Which honestly, just sounds extremely boring and unpleasant to me), that Socrates probably didn't exist and that they were both probably pedophiles (the greeks were pretty into that, and there's an odd reference about Socrates finding a pretty boy in one of the Platonic dialogues).

Anyways, why would a system force us to take certain classes? The only reason I can think of is to discourage us from actually taking that major or pursuing that interest. Political Science 4 was so stupid that I literally couldn't stand attending the discussions because the Grad Student didn't understand my interpretation of the Grand Inquisitor. Luckily for him, the professor did an outstanding job of explaining the exact interpretation the next day in lecture. Nevertheless, the class was so easy that lectures which happened after I did the reading were a waste of my time (thanks to the lovely We the People program- we should give these guys MORE money).

It would be okay if I could take it pass/fail for fun. But that was not the case. To be a political science major, it had to be a letter grade. And when the time came to choose between a B(participation was 20% and I never went to class) and not being a poli-sci major, I switched majors to philosophy (because I hated the class). The breadth requirement stopped me from majoring in a subject I loved because it made me think that everyone in the classes would be idiots forever (it probably might not have been).

Next let's look at the dreaded mandatory discussion section. I can see why this might be useful in ensuring that we are grasping the material and helping those who need help. But honestly, there are office hours and if I don't understand, I would just fail- so I'm clearly going to go ask for help if I need it- why make it mandatory? Please don't hold my hand through education. I am nineteen years old and I have been learning for nineteen years. Not surprisingly, I know how to learn things. I can't not learn. I do it every day. I learn people's names, I learn how to put back together poorly-constructed pens when they break, I learn how to cook something on the internet right before I do it, and when I'm working I learn math and how to use it practically as I try to make a shot glass. I learn legal things when I file for business permits and I do things better than ever. Starting a business will be my MBA. I feel like this is the case for most people. So why not jsut offer an incentive instead of creating a competition? Our system is geared to be a rat race instead of a way to learn and grow.

But why would we have breadth requirements in college? Do you honestly think half a year of learning anything is going to stick? I asked my roommate who was one point short of an A+ in astronomy one year ago a basic question and he couldn't remember. Sure, he remembers some other stuff- but this diminished so quickly it definitely wasn't worth studying for three exams and doing five labs. He just remembered fun facts that I knew before I ever took astronomy from watching the Magic School Bus and playing the computer game where they go into space. It's a half-assed attempt to keep us well-rounded. And if it's not, then what? A chance to get us into something why might not ever have known we loved? Like I'm seriously going to change my plans instantly? If I thought I might possibly change careers or majors, I would be trying out different classes anyways.

I think what we need instead of giving billions and billions of dollars to a school with so much red-tape and bureaucracy that we can't even learn anything- we should just buy every person a laptop and provide free high-speed internet to all of America (probably macs, so the stupid people couldn't break them). Then, if they want to do a job, they can just Google it. I learn how to do things as I do them. I'm currently starting a business, pitching a sitcom and writing philosophical exegeses on Sartre on this blog and it's all for fun.

The best course I have so far is Logic- all I do is the homework once a week and I understand it very well. The only problem is that I went into my midterm without knowing it was a midterm and with no sleep- so I didn't answer two thirds of a question and missed a lot of points- like an idiot. That's how I learned that I should try to go to lecture every once in a while! See- more learning done without explication.

But honestly- I would go to lectures if I didn't have to waste my time doing all this stupid homework for a class I never wanted to take. Seriously. I am getting a 6000 dollar opportunity to listen to some of the most intelligent people lecture and teach me something. Why would I need an incentive to do that? I saw Bill Clinton speak for free! UC Berkeley is a fantastic school and I love it. But why do we let unions bully us into paying tenured workers full salary for the rest of their retirement? And then why do we have an easily exploitable system that allows them to hike up their salary in the last year so that we can pay them more than they technically deserve? Honestly. It's bullshit. I don't blame them for exploiting a broken system- I mean professors actually deserve to be paid as much as they can get. That's capitalism and it's beautiful. But we need to reach a balance. That is a bad system for paying professors. It's just not good. And I know it's a lot of work to get tenure, but they're already getting paid that whole time they're working. So why not, instead of paying ridiculously high tenure so that they can be rich when they retire, we just pay them higher salaries so they can be rich while they have to go through the agonizing pain of working. Then they can save money for retirement or rely on their universal healthcare and improved medicare now that Obama agreed to pay for it.

Not surprisingly, (based on what I hear from Benjamin) private schools seem better than public schools because they don't coddle you and they don't try to make you fail- as most Berkeley students would tell you they try to do here- the only problem is that private schools charge more money. This is because they exist to make money and the best way to do this is to produce students that will go make money and donate back to them later. And that's honestly the only reason UC Berkeley has money. I got 6000 dollars in financial aid per semester. How much did my sister at UCSB get? Not a lot. About 1/6 as much as me, to be exact (get it!?). But that says something when the difference between two public schools financial aid is different by that much for two students in literally the same economic situation (a dependent with the same parents and same income). Seriously, Harvard can't even spend the income they receive from the interest on their bank account. I think that's a fact. I don't know. Look it up, you're on the internet.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Neat Things That Little Kids Say

I have the privilege of working with a first-grade class on Thursdays, and have collected for your enjoyment a bevy of the darnest things that little kids say:

Kid A: I have a cat.
Kid B: I have a dog, and two cats.
Kid C: I have two dogs and cats and a fish.
Kid D: I have dogs and cats but they ALL DIED.

Sam: Guess where I'm from.
(after many failed guesses on my part, he reveals that he is from Oregon)
Sam: Guess where my brother is from.
Me: Oregon?
Sam: (looks at the ceiling, scratches his head) I forgot.

Erin: Maisie says that she loves you.
Me: Oh. That's good.
Erin: I love you too. (grips my shoulder)
Me: Thanks.
(Erin runs back to her table, next to Maisie's)
Maisie: (hushed) What did he say?

Erin: This is my polar bear. It's upside down.
(she has drawn a picture of a striped sock. its colors are red and blue)

Kid: Look how small this pencil is.
(it's pretty small)
Kid: Isn't that funny?
(it's alright)

Erin: When are you leaving?
Me: In about twenty minutes:
Erin: Well, you are staying forever, OK?
Me: OK.
(I didn't)

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Microevolution of the Human Species in Today's World

"What you're looking at here are three strains: biological; anthropological, development of cities- cultures; and cultural, which is human expression. What you've seen here is the evolution of populations, not so much the evolution of individuals. And, in addition, if you look at the time scale that's involved here: two billion years for life, six million years for the hominid, a hundred thousand years for mankind as we know it; you're beginning to see the telescoping nature of the evolutionary paradigm. And then when you get to agriculture, when you get to the scientific revolution, and the industrial revolution- you're looking at ten thousand years, four hundred years, a hundred fifty years; you're seeing a photo-telescoping of this evolutionary time.

What that means is that as we go to through the new evolution it's gonna telescope to the point we should be able to see it manifest itself within our lifetime, within the generation.

The new evolution stems from information and it stems from two types of information: digital and analog. The digital is artificial intelligence, the analog results from molecular biology, the cloning of the organism and you knit the two together with neurobiology.

Before on the old evolutionary paradigm, one would die and the other would grow and dominate. But on the new paradigm, they would exist as a mutually supportive, non-competitive grouping- independent from the external. And what is interesting here, is that evolution now becomes an individually centered process emanating from the needs and the desires of the individual and not an external process, a passive process where the individual is just at the whim of the collective.

So you produce a neo-human, with new individuality and new consciousness . But that's only the beginning of the evolutionary cycle. Because as the next cycle proceeds the input is now this new intelligence. As intelligence piles on intelligence as ability piles on ability, the speed changes. Until what? Until you reach a crescendo. In a way it could be imagined as an almost instantaneous fulfillment of human and neo-human potential.

It could be something totally different it could be the amplification of the individual. The multiplication of individual existences: parallel existences, now with the individual no longer restricted by time and space. The manifestations of this neo-human-type evolution, the manifestations could be dramatically culturally-intuitive, that's the interesting part.

The old evolution is cold, it's sterile, it's efficient. And it's manifestation of those social adaptations. We're talking about parasitism dominance morality, war, predation. These would be subject to de-emphasis, these would be subject to de-evolution. The new evolutionary paradigm would give us the the human traits of truth, of loyalty, of justice, of freedom- these would be manifestations of the new evolution and that is what we would hope to see from this. That would be nice."

-Waking Life, painstakingly transcribed right now, for this specific post.

Wait, wait- what the hell was all that up there? Neo-humans? Certain traits are emphasized and others are not in personality? But how can mutually beneficial actions cause evolution, if evolution is caused by natural selection? The point of this article, is that as humans domesticate the world around them, we put a stop to the necessity of genetic evolution, and we instead evolve our perception and conception of knowledge and the world. As we each become self-aware and choose to evolve, the evolution of the individual is what allows for the evolution of the species. We suddenly cease to become the conscious organism that is slave to the evolution of it's cells and components- but we are the new building blocks of humanity that work together to evolve their species as a collective force of will. The ideas that survive and allow for the happiest lives and those that are the most conducive to the advancement of knowledge and the species would continue to advance in spite of a human life that may not pass on its genetics. The genes in this evolution are therefore replaced with bits of information that advance to the next generation which discovers a superior truth.

But how can evolution be caused by ideas when so much of the world is subjective? It strikes one as impossible. One idea can't possibly beat out another when our interpretation of the two ideas is entirely subjective. But consider this:

Sam Harris on subjective morality

Although it strikes us as easier to consider that no view can said to be objectively better than another, we must consider the ramifications of this assertion. To say that there is no moral objectivity is to state that Ghandi and Charles Manson are on the same moral level- but with different subjective moral legislation. So then can we state that some is objective and other subjective? No, for this creates a line in the sand that is less productive than accepting all alternatives to be equally satisfactory to their answer of morality. The second that you admit that one is definitively better than another, we must admit that this creates a relativism that can be extrapolated to organize all our ideas on morality.

Though many would not agree with my previous statement, we can examine various general life philosophies and their moral ramifications on a life experienced with these moral parameters. Let's take the man who lives by the old evolutionary paradigm- the man who takes all that he can. Though this man can quickly rise to the top, what is most likely is that his reputation of a man who cannot be trusted will alienate him from the rest of the population. People gain the knowledge "do not trust this man" and his opportunity for advancement slows to a stop. Consider the hedonist who removes himself from most of society to enjoy the simple pleasures in life; whether it's drugs, it's sex, or it's any sort of pleasure so temporary that it will stop once you stop actively performing the action. This seems like a potentially great life. But people and things are fleeting and so is their happiness. Is there a way we can reach a more enriched and enlightened happiness which helps us advance as a species? Let us consider the life led with truth, loyalty, justice and freedom. We consider that truth allows us to maintain trust with the world around us. This allows us a more certain communication. Loyalty allows us to work with the same people in the same environment and prevent closing off opportunities in the future. Justice allows for a collective insurance. If we maintain a system that upholds justice, it benefits everyone, as everyone might someday be falsely accused of a crime. If a crime cannot be proven without a shadow of a doubt, an acquittal- this modus operandi seems to be an inefficient path towards justice. But it in fact is its most important component. The government is not to ensure that vengeance is given to those who were victimized, but to ensure that a criminal is justly convicted of a crime. If the innocent can be found guilty than there is no justice in the justice system and there is no incentive to be good, because one could be just as easily be thrown in jail if they retain their innocence through an unfortunate and coincidental process. But what of freedom?

Within freedom lies possibility. When we pursue freedom, what should be stated in the new evolution paradigm shifts is that the goal of our pursuits shift from one of more negative freedom (a world in which we want as few constraints as possible), to positive freedom (a world in which we are capable of any action). Well if we are pursuing morality and micro-evolution is occurring, than why is it that in this age of technology, we are not all evolving? Information is being thrown at us and we have the world at our fingertips. So why are so many people still so stupid?

"The most advanced technologies and craftsmanship bring us, at best, up to the super-chimpanzee level. Actually, the gap between, say, Plato or Nietzsche and the average human is greater than the gap between that chimpanzee and the average human. The realm of the real spirit, the true artist, the saint, the philosopher- is rarely achieved. Why so few? Why is world history and evolution not stories of progress, but rather this endless and futile addition of zeros. No greater values have developed. Hell, the Greeks three-thousand years ago were just as advanced as we are. So what are these barriers that keep people from reaching anywhere near their full potential?

The answer to that can be found in another question and that's this:
Which is the most universal characteristic: fear or laziness?"

-Waking Life, seriously someone should just put the script online (I bet it already is and I just can't find it)

It is not the idea that we prefer living a decent hedonistic life to the best possible life we could work towards achieving. But, it is the idea that we are satisfied with the mediocre. We accept the concept that we can exist without purpose. So how then do we advance? How then do we find the motivation to evolve? It can only be caused by the quintessential fear of our death. The end to an identity. This leads to a questioning of purpose. If everything I do will someday be forgotten by all of humanity, then what is the point? In fact, if humanity will someday perish and the universe will end, what is the point of humanity? Perhaps the point of humanity is to glorify God? But then what, we were all created to worship a narcissistic God, who is necessarily narcissistic because he is everything and he must love everything because He's God? So then is narcissism a virtue? Or is it only a virtue if you are God? Is pride, then, a virtue? The answer to this lies in the difference between two concepts that can be exemplified by contrast of the following words: confidence versus cockiness. The former being something justified and beneficial, the latter being unjustified and derogatory. So then, we must seek to be the best and pride ourselves when we have found purpose. But then what is the purpose of my life? That is the question I have been asking this whole time. The purpose of my life must be to be happy. If I was happy I would have never asked the purpose of my life. When I asked "what is my purpose?" I was truly asking "How can I be happy when my life seems to be so meaningless with all of the knowledge that I've obtained." So then, once informed to a point of a constant dissatisfaction, we discover meaning. To be happy is to live.

So then we approach the question of how to live the happiest life. How do I live the best life? The most pleasant moments examined and assessed. To be the winner of the super bowl, to carry your true love across the threshold, to live the happiest moment is to reach the most difficult goals that we have committed ourselves to and worked for throughout the entirety of our lives. But is it just commitment that benefits us? If I decide to become the best cello player int he world and commit until I have achieved my goal, is that acceptable? Am I happy? Well, did I want to become the best cello player or did I just set an arbitrary goal? So then what separates these two possible options? Passion. So then to be happy is to be passionately committed. Is it that simple? What are the disadvantages of being committed to a passion? Failure can often be the cruelest thing. The most unhappy of a time, failure is the death of a dream. So then how can we avoid this despair and still achieve the happiness we are capable of achieving. Failure is unavoidable if you are to ever succeed. If failure was not a possibility than victory would be meaningless. So then we can say that failure plays an important role. So there is nothing wrong with failure, actually it's what makes the world beautiful. The evil is what allows for the existence of the good. Without contrast, we lose all value of an option. If you cannot choose between various options, what is the point of existing? Living a deterministic mess? But wait- if science is correct then our lives are deterministic. When we consider the impact of this assessment we find ourselves at a paradox. If life is predictable even if we try to act unpredictable (because if we were to see our future as a prophecy and change it, it can be said it was destiny that we changed the potential future to ensure the stability of a world in which you were destined to change the outcome of prophecy- in which case the prophecy would not be a prophecy but an alternate possibility that was never intended to exist in this specific universe), then an impossibility of free will becomes pragmatically meaningless. So though free will does not exist, the appearance of freedom creates pragmatic freedom in a deterministic world that cannot see the determinism it exists as within a plane of possibility.

So once we understand these fundamental issues, we suddenly realize that in this age of technology, where we have infinite amounts of verifiable knowledge at our fingertips and we can adapt to do exactly what we wish to do. And as long as our goals and aspirations align themselves with these morals of the neo-human culture, we can see an addition and re-examination of knowledge until we have perfected a world view that will soon be taught to humans in such a way that teaches humans to evolve and to spread the micro-evolution to others to create a collective consciousness, that is now evolving itself. With a collective organization evolving rapidly as neo-humans reach their intellectual plateau, we can only assume that the species itself can then evolve until it hits its piqued potential. The startling part is that in a world of constantly compounding information that can be used to gather gradually more and more previously inaccessible information, the crescendo where human growth ceases seems to lie at the end of an ever expanding, infinite Universe.

The only other plausible option is that at some point in time this expansion will pique before we learn how to possibly gather any more knowledge than we've already obtained. This proposition of a world in which knowledge cannot be constructed a priori because any possible additional premises that we can use to build are unattainable through our limited knowledge of the Universe. But we had thought this to be possible many times before human ingenuity and previously un-applied knowledge combined forces under a few individuals to eventually discover a solution. This leads to one of three possibilities:
1. The human species will go extinct before it reaches this piqued neo-human stage.
2. The human species is very unlikely to record any artificial intelligence or apparent consciousness that is capable of surviving after resources that humans require in order to maintain their existence run dry OR that they are unlikely to make an artificial intelligence or recorded streams of consciousness that run potentially ad infinitum because they can expand continuously into the universe infinitely and that entropy will never needed to be reversed in an ever expanding Universe that expands faster than humanity can chase it's edges.
3. The human species is almost certainly a recorded simulation that exists in a computerized or otherwise virtual and artificial world that was created in the past.

To read more on these theories check this out!:
Simulation argument whaaaat!?

It's something Scott Adams blogs about often, but to pragmatically evaluate these options and their impact we must examine all three possibilities and their moral ramifications. If we are infinitely expanding than we should attempt to fulfill our potential. If option one is humanity's destiny, then we would never know it and should only try to escape this possibility as if it were avoidable. If it is option three, then we would never know it and can only try to actively pursue the goal of the Universe as it appears to us in option number two, as we cannot see the definite end of the Universe as of yet.

So then the best way that we can evolve to a crescendo to someday make our own AI; which if option three was true would still be an AI within an AI (most likely to an infinite regression until we can no longer assume that one reality might have actually existed). If there is no crescendo, then even better- we can keep evolving and improving ourselves infinitely as long as the Universe expands faster than humanity. So then we have come to the ultimate conclusion that it is most pragmatic to try to evolve to become a species that expands rapidly and transcends the individual. The only way in which we can achieve this is if we as individuals all evolve to become neo-humans whom have impeccable moral standards that allow for both individual advancement and collective advancement to occur simultaneously. These advancements only occur when people have enough knowledge to have a strong desire to pursue more knowledge. Once the regular human has had a taste of knowledge, the thirst for it becomes unquenchable. And we discover that all that stands between us and fulfilling our purpose, within society and within our own personal sense of purpose, is to stop being lazy and just grow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To those whom it may concern

Suddenly life is exploding. Doors fly open as the ones I never even considered slam shut. Don't look once at an opportunity or what could have been and think "what have I lost?" Ask only what you have gained. Opportunities are always infinite. Look into the future and write the character you wish to be. Write a story so well it becomes truth.

I am a character in a novel.

I realized that I often include symbols in my life without even noticing it. I am doing things with even more significance than I could hope to recognize until right after I had lived it. My personality and instinct are now catering to my conscious efforts to write a beautiful life. The world is a mysterious place and God works in mysterious ways. I act without knowing why I act, and yet I act so meaningfully that it could not be a mistake.

The trick to writing the future is to read about the world and read your characters. If you know your characters you can do anything. So get at there and experience so much that you know exactly what you someday hope to do. Then figure out how to do it and go do it. It's as simple as that.

Friday, September 3, 2010


People often only pray to God in time of need. These are the prayers that we often see as most important, yet they are also the prayers that we see go most unanswered. The reason that these pivotal prayers are left to chance isn't due to the lack of a God, but to a fundamental misunderstanding of the Holy Trinity.

There is something mythical about the number three. It is found to be holy in many cultures, and many agree that there is good reason for this cultural phenomena. The reason would be that the nomena of the number three, the reality of it, is essential for a complete and whole works. These three stages are more often than not broken up as such: Two parts that are considered to be directly contrasting and the sum of those parts is considered a third entity. This is true of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father, who is necessarily less anthropomorphic than his creation, the Son. So it can be said that to be less anthropomorphic is to be more Godly. The holy spirit is said to be everywhere and everything, meaning that it necessarily includes the Father and Son. The Holy Spirit is God, the Father is God, and the Son is God. One interpretation of Jesus self-referencing himself as the Son of God or God himself essentially both mean that he was a creation of himself. Jesus was a self-made man who was always going to be self-made.

Though this interpretation may seem controversial, it gives the best of both worlds to Christians and atheists. To Christians, it says Jesus was God on Earth and that the Holy Spirit inhabits God and that Jesus owes the sum of who he is to the Holy Spirit as much as he owes to his own personal development (the controversial part being that the superego and the level of consciousness that interprets and explains the world around us would refer to our Father, or our internal version of the Paternal God). Arguably, from Berkeley's idealist perspective, all of our own ideas are merely taken from the infinite mind of God and the father superego that we consider to be our own stream of consciousness is borrowed from the infinite multitude of God. This is also consistent with Russel's counter-arguments against Descartes's claim "I think, therefore I am." We can only assert that there are thoughts, we can't claim them as our own.

To the atheist this says that the Holy Spirit is a metaphor for the Universe, that the super ego guides our physical demands and that we should all be self-made and advance towards a bright future together. It only become problematic when you add unnecessary dogma to either side. An atheist who hates religion, does not appreciate art- likewise, the theist who cannot stand a questioning of faith often does not appreciate science.

This is one place today in which culture has become muddled. Caught up in the struggle of religion versus atheism, art versus science, and Dionysian versus Apollonian forces; we have forgot that both informing opposites are necessary in creating the whole. Beauty is needed just as much as knowledge for a fulfilling and happy life. It is both the for-itself and the in-itself that create a picture worth looking at, to inform and please.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


What is love? Other than "Baby don't hurt me" I haven't heard too many answers. So then, how are we to begin in this philosophical pursuit. As any other, with deconstruction and examination of existing definitions and the determination of definitions for this particular inquiry.

What is love?

Love has many definitions, but if we examine the most common, we will soon discover the solution. Love is traditionally defined as one of three types. There is agape, eros, and philia. Modern Greek has come up with a word for natural love as well, storge. The modern type refers only to familial love, love that is said to be natural. I, however, disagree with this classification for several reasons. There are several reasons to believe that storge is not anymore natural than any other type of love. Love develops from affection into something stronger, so I am arguing that familial love is not a new "natural" type of love as much as it is a classification of a developed love. Freud would have often believed that the Oedipal and Electra complex is due to our original tie to our paternal figure as the only opposite sex we know within the first period of our life. We begin to form our gender schema of the opposite gender from them, and often the parent of the opposite sex is the first person that you say you love. This explains such phenomena as the latest Mrs. Woody Allen. (Get it? Almost-Incest jokes!)

So, for the purpose of the discussion, we will assume that storge is either an awkward composite of some of the other three types of love, or what I perceive it to be- philia. Philia is known as the fraternal love. It is the love we feel amongst friends that we are not attracted to physically. Whether it is a girl or a boy, if you are not attracted to them at all physically, it is fraternal love, philia. So if it is fraternal, than how can we say that it is the same way in which we love our parents? I would argue that we feel a fraternal bond that differentiates itself through the respect and esteem we give those who are twenty years our superiors in age and experience. Over time, when teens are in angst and claim hatred of their parents, it is because there is no longer respect for them from a foolish teenager who has lived slightly over twelve years and think that they have seen all there is to see; and when they are no longer are friends with their parents, whom often isolate children unintentionally through the necessity of their busy schedules.

The reason I refuse to classify a combination of philia and respect as a new type of love all on its own is because respect, is in no real way a game-changer. I can love my idiot friend who is a loveable-oaf and constantly doing stupid actions and not respect him, the same way I can respect a past professor without loving him. Furthermore, in a certain sense, true philia might require respect to express a more true and sincere feel of equality within the framework of fraternal love. So if anything, storge does nothing more but express what philia truly intends to express in a full and true fraternal love. Philia describes the commitment we see in true comradery. A love of brothers that would die for one another.

Eros is the fundamental component that ignites Agape. Eros is the term used to refer to passion. A passionate love is usually one that begins with sensation. This often means a physical reaction to physical beauty. There can, however, be eros between two people without sexuality. Say two people are passionate about the same interests, it creates a love and passion between two common fans that can be transferred into a mutual sort of self-appreciation in which people see their own passions in others as an admirable or desirable trait.

Plato used the term eros stating that it often transcends a love for another person when it transcends physicality. It ceases to be an admiration of a person and becomes the admiration of beauty. Eros is the love that we live to someday feel, one of exhilaration and excitement. This is why young love is often one short-lived. We will use an archetypal romantic experience for the common person in today's society to examine the way that eros, philia, and agape interrelate.

Two people fall in love, Person A upsets Person B by pointing out an imperfection. Person B is offended and either leaves or is told to leave. Person A either accepts this departure, as they reject Person B due to their imperfections; or, Person A returns to Person B, apologetic that they had seen such imperfection as irreconcilable.  Unfortunately for Person A, (except in the case of the most perfect tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, in which neither character sees the other nor develops their views and both meet their end thinking that they understood love) Person B usually has seen this criticism as insincerity within the other person. They have been attacked and their reconsideration of their own feelings has led to the realization that Plato is correct: "I was admiring the idea of romantic love and not actually loving a person."

This disillusionment is not impossible to overcome, though it is rare that Person B can do so while dating the same person who now represents to them "the idea of love." What is more likely to happen is that Person B will find Person C. What person B does not know is that for Person B to fall in love, it must be with a person who appears to be sincerely passionate in all of their endeavors, so as not to fall into the same trap as Person B. Person C and Person B might fall in love, but it will once again be eros. What Person B does not know, is that Person C is so easily passionate in every endeavor because Person C does not commit to any of their passions, with Person B as no exception. Person B will then be taught the same lesson they once taught Person A. When times get rough, Person B is forced to make a choice: commit or abandon. If he abandons he will be just as Person C, passionate but fleeting. But for Person B to ascend to true love, he must realize he must commit wholeheartedly to his endeavors. Eventually, because Person C was defined as passionate but fleeting, Person C will leave.

Person B, must then come across the same exam they gave to Person A when they left. That test is as follows: Is commitment ever worth it? This statement can be rephrased in this way: Hedonism or agape?

Agape is what I choose to describe as a blend between Philia and Eros. The phrase it most easily equates to in colloquial American English is "in love" as opposed to simply "love." Agape can best be described as a blend between commitment and passion. When someone is in love, it combines what you live for with what you would die for. Passion makes the relationship beautiful and fun, whereas commitment makes it meaningful and stable. Each day of Agape, Person B will awake and see the person he loves with the same beauty and vibrancy as the first day the two met. Person B will remember that it is the imperfections that allow for such a complete picture of beauty. Person B will see the beauty within each person. When Person B finds someone willing to accept it, Person B will give their wholehearted devotion. So Person B waits for Person D, a mysterious newcomer or someone whom Person C might become and whom Person A might have always been.

In a way, Person B is no longer Person B. Person A and B started out as young lovers whom had no value to their love. Person C has the appearance of a genuine passion, but still no value in its fleeting graces. Person D, the long sought after lover is passionate but committed. It can be said that there are three classes of lovers. Those ignorant of passion, those who feel passion constantly,and those who are constant when they feel passion. A person constant with their passion can only love another of the same sort. The two remain independent and grow; teaching and learning with each other. Both must show each other the world and both must see more of it each day. A tag team of dreamers and artists seeking knowledge and beauty together. Someone willing to be loved and love back, willing to leap without looking, willing to jump without falling. That is love.


The validity and value of lucid dreaming has only been recognized by the scientific community since about 1978. However, Lucid dreaming is almost as old as history. The Hindu culture wrote on lucid dreaming as early as 1000 B.C.E. and Aristotle refernced a knowledge of lucid dreaming in his treatise entitled On Dreams in the year 350 B.C. Before the Reformation and Enlightenment, the Catholic church and some of the most famous philosophers of the era begin to dismiss some dreams as false and others as true, creating a subjective value that cost dreams any significance in the scientific community and Western Culture. However, at the end of Descartes' Meditations, Descartes dismisses his own Dream Skepticism, as he recognizes that he can tell the difference between a dream and reality. This is a mere hint to where we can see a record of his own lucid dreams in a private journal entitled by future students of the work as: The Olympica.

Controlling your own dream creates limitless potential. You can build your own world, live your greatest fantasies, you can fly and you can defy physics entirely. There are few rules in dreaming, but since their rules are different than the confines of our common reality, it creates an alluring place for people to assert control.

However, not many people realize that this attitude and practice can also be applied to our waking lives. In Waking Life, a film by Richard Linklater, we follow a boy walking through a dream. He encounters nothing but what seem to be disconnected and unrelated experiences, occasionally with recurring characters. After reading The Words, Jean-Paul Sartre's autobiagraphy, I can say that I am beginning to understand Waking Life to a much greater extent. In Waking Life, the main character slowly begins to become lucid. He must struggle with the knowledge that his experiences are but a dream and that they are merely fleeting moments.

Although this describes dreams perfectly, it also describes reality in a vague sense. For example, when we take a look of Zeno's paradox of motion.

"If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless." -Aristotle, Physics VI:9 239b

Motion appears to be an illusion when we consider that within each moment, a unit we can assume to be the smallest divisible unit of time, we can take a snapshot of reality in which no motion occurs. Motion can not occur within this instant because it takes time to travel any distance. If time is removed and we examine an individual space on the spectrum of time, a single moment, then there is no observable motion. Which means that at this particular instant, I am only where I currently am and no motion is occurring. How then am I able to type and push these different keys if there is no motion between these instants? If motion does not occur in any particular instant within time- then how can motion exist?

There is a fleeting disconnect between each moment of time that it is difficult to grasp. We are not floating through time space, but we are one singular object. We exist as one entity from the moment we are born until the end. Any change is just an illusion created by a limited perspective. So then, does predestination exist? Yes, but it matters not- for the illusion of freedom is enough to guide us all pragmatically. If freedom does not truly exist, than we must re-invent it so that it may. So then, what about the possibility of a multi-verse? Does this create possibility, or does the illusion of possibility create a multi-verse? And if this multi-verse can possibly exist, does it's potential existence demand that it must? I say, no. Many people posit the possibility that the only moment that exists is the present one and that all past moments are merely illusions, implanted as false memories within the very singular moment of the present. This only becomes problematic when we begin to take our memories for falsehoods instead of experiences. If in the moment, we accept the possibility of infinite falsehoods and confirm our reality, than we are in better shape than most could hope to be.

But wait, just pick one at random and that's it? I know I'm leaning heavily on rhetorical questions, but bear with me. No, I reject that answer even more-so than living in doubt. That answer is to reject human development. It is laziness incarnate. It is what separates the Ubermensch from the nihilist; it separates happiness and meaning from abysmal despair. So then, we can do nothing but determine our limitations and how our lives can best be lived.

"On this bridge, Lorca warns: Life is not a dream, beware, and beware, and beware. And so many think because then happened, now isn't. But didn't I mention? The ongoing WOW is happening right NOW. We are all co-authors of this dancing exuberance, for even our inabilities are having a roast. We are the authors of ourselves, co-authoring a gigantic Dostoevsky novel starring clowns... An assumption developed that you cannot understand life and live life simultaneously. I do not agree entirely, which is to say, I do not exactly disagree. I would say that life understood is life lived. But, the paradoxes bug me, and I can learn to love and make love to the paradoxes that bug me, and on really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion. Before you drift off, don't forget, which is to say remember, because remembering is so much more a psychotic activity than forgetting: Lorca, in that same poem, said that the Iguana will bite those who do not dream, and as one realizes that one is a dream figure in another person's dream... that is self-awareness!"

We are the clowns that star in our own novels. We can write our own characters and live our own lives hoping to be Shakespeare's comedy- a story with a happy ending. So why would we avoid writing them to be the best stories we could possibly imagine? To understand life is to live it, in the way that we must read before we write. We must know the rhetoric of the language before we attempt to use it, or all meaning is lost. But is it simple enough to understand? It is a difficult question. Knowledge demands its use. You can not know things and never use them, or else you effectively know nothing. Fill your life with knowledge as if it were passion and you were living life as passionately as one could hope to live. This creates quite the paradox- quite the art and quite the beauty. How then are we to write our lives when so much of it is unpredictable? When other authors will stumble over us and when we know so little of the world around us? The answer lies in reading. Always read as much as you plan to write. keep the readings relevant and learn all that you can before your pen touches the paper. And once you start writing, don't stop reading. Always read as much as you plan to write.

And now for the final line. The (imagine your own accents) coup de grace of the self. A destruction of all knowledge long since sought by Descartes; a restoration to a Socrates just before we can build to a life worth living. A book worth reading as you write it.

What of those who don't dream? Some who refuse to face their selves and refuse to hope and evolve as a person. They will be bitten. This is no longer about real dreams, or it at least transcends them. For in his poem Lorca cries out:
"Nobody is asleep on earth. Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists. Kisses tie our mouths"

We must live in a real and grounded world with hopes and aspirations and the will to continue to move in a world where death is not our inevitable destination, though it is inevitable. I will not live forever in the conventional sense, but I will live forever. I am unlimited as I exist in someone else's dream. I can control it to an extent, I am fleeting and I am dependent on something outside of myself for my reality. I am self-aware. Once someone wakes up, I will not exist. But in this dream I can do just about whatever I want to do, remembering that I am only a reflection of where I am.

The eternity in this instant is enough to satisfy me, but to be happy I use this instant wholeheartedly to make an unforeseeable next instant better. In Sartre's view, we are constantly redefining ourselves, an incomplete work until the exact instant of our death. Only in death are we entirely complete. So then, with an uncertain deadline we should do nothing more than to make the most perfect works we can. We must write our magnum opus, realizing that our greatest work should be ourselves. So read on, and learn to write. Then write the best you can. Lucidity is the key.


Sunday, August 29, 2010


Art is described by Heidegger as being aesthetically pleasing or otherwise beauty because it effectively removes an object from its purpose to show it as it truly is. Heidegger's main focus in his work on Aesthetics is arguable the "A Pair of Shoes" done by Van Gogh. By painting shoes, a mundane object that we use to protect our feet, it shows us it's form it's essence. Shoes suddenly become beautiful once you can't wear them.

It is the for-itself that makes the in-itself valuable. The infinitely abysmal lack of purpose that moves us. The truly beautiful is not real. So then is the subject of all art without purpose? No, but it is often a statement that moves us in a specific way for a specific end or literal purpose. Heidegger's ideal form of art is that of the poem, his example being: "The Roman Fountain" by C.F. Meyer. Poetry often has a purpose. So how then can art with a purpose be beautiful? Examining a poem, I personally prefer verse and rhyme schemes because they evoke more emotion when read. Every syllable, every word is chosen for the most specific of meanings and it conveys language so well that it's beauty arises not out of what it's saying, but how it says it. Still removed.

My favorite art form of late has been the paradox. Logic removed from it's purpose. Recently, Scott Adams made a blog post that was full of words intended to make you feel a specific way, without really saying anything.

I can't explain the way it emotionally moved me when I first read it. I can't explain it because I don't understand it. I just felt feelings with no idea why I was feeling them.

Take a look at some of the more famous paradoxes:

This sentence is a lie.

A simple and obvious paradox. This doesn't engage the reader as much. But if you try to wrap your head around it. To logically combat it, you are met with frustration. You know you can't beat it, but you're tempted to try. Why can such a sentence exist? It evokes an emotion a desire that can never be fulfilled all within the instant that you finish the last proposition that the sentence asserts against itself.

And brought to you by wikipedia:
"If there is an exception to every rule, then every rule must have at least one exception; the exception to this one being that it has no exception." "There's always an exception to the rule, except to the exception of the rule — which is, in of itself, an accepted exception of the rule."

Art is everywhere. And I'll leave with a quote:

"I would say that life understood is life lived. But, the paradoxes bug me, and I can learn to love and make love to the paradoxes that bug me, and on really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To Live is to Dream

If you can control your dreams, you can do anything. I tried to fly in a dream once, when I realized it was dreaming. I could only jump really high, as if the gravity was less intense but still there. Something was still holding me to the ground.

I was born a romantic. A curse only made such through brief encounters with reality. When I wanted to be an author I would fix the world with my stories. When I wanted to be a lawyer, it would be my last name up on the building. When I wanted to be a lover the relationship would last forever and our love would only be exceeded by our friendship. But relationships seldom last forever. What's worse is that the romance stops. The love seems to fade and the feelings dim down. The passion dies. What then is a romantic to do when the Passion he lives for fades? A deep depression and an introspective recoil into solitude and sadness. Passion can't be created, so then what can I do? Can a passion for romance and commitment keep a relationship alive? Only questions from this point forward. I know nothing, I never have.

But wait- a clear and crisp whisper in my ear. From the person you would expect it the least telling me the opposite of what I need to hear. A trick so deceptive that its falsehood writes the truth. I am a man in a novel. I am the author and the pen. Passion is nothing without commitment, a spark means nothing unless it's a fire. So burn bright and bring lots of fire wood. The whisper? The trick to success is to succeed. A truth so glaring and obvious that it can only be understood through hypocrisy. The minute you stop being your worst enemy, you become your best friend. Live life, appreciate art and read before you write.


I realized the reason that Futurama is my favorite show, or rather- why it's so good. Matt Groening and David Cohen are two of the most hilarious people to ever grace the television writing population. They are talented and have written a works that literally was so good that it became a defining and pivottal moment in our culture. The Simpsons is so big that it is still growing and evolving beyond the grasp of its original creators.

Keep in mind that this was done through the limited scope of a family living in an unspecified town living in a real world that they had concocted. Based on his own experiences as a boy, Groening probably had most of The Simpson's written for him as he lived it. Imagining the people in his life exaggerated to their most hilarious extent, Groening is able to personify his beliefs and values as they were originally developed.

However, Futurama, is what I believe to be Groening's true magnum opus. Unconstrained, Cohen and Groening work in a world that is unlimited. The characters are infinite in a world where everyone and anyone can be immortal. The future allows for any setting, and ridiculous science fiction thought experiment, and any satire that they wish to exemplify through an extreme.

But of course what makes Futurama, which David X. Cohen and Groening are so aware, are the characters. Each one is developed so well. The punchlines and the jokes only improve with the character humor. There can be a meaningful episode that can make you cry, and it can also be the funniest. What makes Futurama funny is their commitment to the characters and the fans' commitment to the show.

This punchline is perfect. Who would say it? This is the order in which a good writer often thinks. They come up with a good idea and find a way to make it happen. To make fiction into reality. And that's what Futurama best exemplifies. The show that is so good it becomes the fiction which it tells. Like Jules Verne, bro. Someone still needs to go to the center of the earth though. I mean, seriously? Submarines took like less than 50 years for the submarine. Come on, guys.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On Modern Culture

We live in the greatest time to be alive. Anything is possible and we have unlimited capabilities. The story of the capitalist is that of the self-made man. But in a world with limited resources not everyone can be self-made. So then what? A Brave New Dystopia has emerged where people live meaningless lives.

In a world where we are free to discover our own morality, so many fall trap to the dangers of middle-class hedonism. There is no commitment in a world that protects individual freedoms and rights. So many fall victim to the normalization of a society that exists with no purpose.

People interact and encounter and follow only their present desires. Dreamers are rare. Everybody dreams but the cowards choose to forget them, to live their life and become "successful" instead of becoming happy. They forget themselves. They ignore the possibility of created value. Men forgo the scenic route in life for the more efficient path, never stopping or slowing to admire the scenery. They race down the road so that they can turn around once they've run out of gas just to say "I sure drove pretty far," is too busy driving to realize that they're not driving anywhere at all.

So stop and remember the sites you've always wanted to see, the places you've always wanted to be. Don't ever use your mirrors, either. Just look out the window to the sides and know where you're going, always. Drive the most beautiful route, live the most beautiful life. Play some jazz.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Starting New Failed Prospects

This blog was originally intended to keep track of my head and practice in something I've always loved to do: write. It was practice that I definitely needed based on the syntax of that last sentence. But nevertheless, I proceeded to build my hopes too high and write a mostly intellectual blog with Yu-Hsuan. This led to the decision that I should only posts eloquent and entertaining enough to captivate. This inevitably led to procrastination and an eventual death to this blog, as we stopped having classes to force us to write about our ideas.

I have also started a wide variety of projects of things that I have wanted to do for quite some time. In 5th grade, I wrote an entire kid's book similar to Captain Underpants in the hopes of some day publishing the book and becoming rich so that my parent's could retire and be happy. I wrote the whole thing and was trying to figure out copyright law as a 10 year old before my dad told me how unlikely it would be that I would succeed. I immediately stopped dreaming.

When I tried to learn guitar, I played every day for an hour for three days. I learned 5 or 6 chords and a simple version of Blackbird. I now pick up the guitar every few months and practice the chords I know so that when I do gain some initiative backed by serious commitment I'll be three hours ahead of the game.

When I tried to learn Spanish, I started very motivated in the seventh grade so that I could one day have a conversation with my grandparents so that I could get to know my family a little better. Five years later I came away with a loose understanding of the language and a motivation to not visit my grandparents often.

The failures I can just keep on counting. But mostly, I've lived life with few regrets. Every mistake is an opportunity to live much more of life. But still I'd like to taste success. And I know that all that keeps me from it is my own lack of motivation. Maybe I'm afraid of not succeeding the way I hope I could. Maybe it's that having the dream lingering in front of me; maintaining the possibility that if at any moment I turned and decided to quit my job and start writing that it could happen is enough to abandon chasing it to only understand more failure.

But I don't want to live life knowing that it could have been better if I had only worked for something. I've always thought that my one virtue is commitment. And here I can't even commit to an idea for long enough. I am going to make a TV show. I've written a script for the first episode and I've gathered most of the actors. I will film and direct it and I will edit the shit out of it. I'll slave over it. Then I'll do it two or three more times and I'll send in the best ones to dozens of networks. I'll post some previews on the internet. I'll gather a fan base. I'll send e-mails and market the shit out of the show. And I will sell it to someone for something. And I will be able to live my life making this TV show for a short period. The moment I receive the news I will break down. I'll sit down and I'll start crying. I will finally know success as the way I define it for myself. I could be a famous litigator who reforms tort law in the United States to something reasonable that helps lower the cost of health insurance, protects property owners and allows for a more free and social presence. But I won't be satisfied until I am the modern day Daniel Webster who has folk lore written about his prowess in the court room and whose violent alcoholism is the only thing that stops him from being Commander in Chief. Success to me is to live as exactly what I want to be. And whether or not I am Daniel Webster, I want to entertain people. I want to make them laugh. I want to laugh.

A pathetic rambling, indeed.

Monday, May 31, 2010

My Letter to the Residential Services in Compliance with Punishment for Dorm Drinkin'

Juan Madrigal
AOD Reflection

My meeting at with social services brought me great insight to the dangers of alcohol. Many people there had got into some serious trouble and one man even had a friend who passed away from alcohol poisoning. The experience reminded me that alcohol is dangerous and that I need to be careful. They also taught me valuable facts about alcohol and weed that can help me avoid an untimely death or other serious consequences. For instance, while blacked out the other night, I talked to my roommate. Apparently, I said “Hey Andrew. If you drink a bunch of alcohol really fast, that's how you black out. It doesn't even matter if it's not a lot. So, I could be blacked out RIGHT NOW.”
Furthermore, I was informed that if you drink alcohol with carbonation, it is absorbed faster into your bloodstream. With this knowledge, I quickly realized that chugging a few cups of rum and coke at a 1:1 ratio is the fastest and most cost-effective way to get drunk. This saves me time and money. I also understand that shotgunning a few beers is another quick way to become intoxicated when there is no hard alcohol. I plan to apply both of these lessons in the future. Furthermore, I learned that the different strains of weed actually do matter. Before I only thought it mattered if it was indica or sativa. Apparently, each strain can change the type of high and intensity as well. Although I knew this to be true with the higher end strains, such as Trainwreck, I was not aware it mattered for most strains. Now, I can be sure to be business savvy and privy the next time that I purchase or sell marijuana. Not that I would ever do that, because it is illegal.
In addition to having knowledge that will not help me unless I insist on doing things that are illegal, I also learned that the best way to avoid danger is to avoid what is illegal. The government is pretty trustworthy and just because we have a black president does mean that doing drugs is okay. However, Obama can, because he's the president and he's charming. He smoked weed and did cocaine as far as I know. I am not citing that, because I consider it either common knowledge, or inaccurate. You know, whatever. Anyways, I don't necessarily support Obama and the way that he re-opened Guantanamo in a sneaky way and is supporting more power being diverted to the executive and stripping the Constitution of its power as higher law- however, the man looks very cool while smoking a cigarette. And hey, I can't argue with cool.
Harm-reduction to me, means a strategy by which we can reduce harm. When pertaining to illegal substances, this would include such actions as abstaining from taking any sort of drugs, or not drinking so much that you die. For example, you could drink some water or take some of those pills that get rid of your hangover. One thing that I do to reduce the harm of alcohol is to practice and build up my tolerance. I also do my best to make sure that I mix drugs that go well together. I don't want to drink and do ecstasy, for example. That would be insane.
There are many signs that people are abusing alcohol or other drugs to an extent that is just not okay. One such sign is that perhaps they are dead, or dying. Another hint could be if they begin abusing drugs more than once a day, or they become dependent on the drugs, threatening to murder you in your sleep if you don't tell them where you hid their goddam booze, you worthless mistake that could have been prevented if condoms just did their damn job for once. Luckily more for me, I am almost done with this three page assignment, and will soon be rid of the burden caused in my life by abusing various substances. After this, there will be no burden, just an awesome high and a sense of satisfaction- just as God intended. Not that I believe in God. I think I believe in something similar to the God that Spinoza described. Except maybe one that makes more sense. Either way, if I ever see God or he tells me to build a boat or something, I will trust that that is when I can know that I have a problem with alcohol or drugs.
Alright, time for the conclusion. In this concluding paragraph, I intend to summarize some of the stuff I said, and then make a deep reflection on all that I have talked about. So, in the AOD workshop, I learned that problems are very serious and that the world isn't perfect. I also continued to take this assignment seriously past the first few sentences, and discuss how great weed is. I think that's what I did. I don't remember. Anyways, there was also a paragraph about harm reduction, and I made sure that I answered all four questions. I think I put some stuff in there about Obama, too. I think that I should get extra credit for the unnecessary academia.
I decided to indent to make it appear that this conclusion isn't just the idle rambling of a mad man. I don't really remember what the fourth question was, and I don't really want to scroll up. I believe it might have had something to do with knowing that your father is an alcoholic. However, I dismissed this question on the basis that he loves and cares about me very much anyways. Plus I am out of house, so I have nothing against him- and I owe him for paying my way through college mostly. Man, who else is excited for the World Cup? I know I am. The Stanley Cup is almost over, too. Time is just flying. Also, earlier in spring semester I wrote two essays while under the influence in like four hours, and they were pretty good. Anyways, I learned a lot about both weed and alcohol. I also learned about some other drugs. I appreciated these lessons and they have touched me (in a good way).
These are the lessons that come with time and alcohol workshops. But it is really all part of growing up. I will be sure to pass this knowledge on to my children and their children for generations. I won't really keep in contact with any children I have actually. So probably not. Anyways, I will be sure to share it with any children that I meet in the next few weeks. Hopefully that will go over really well. I'm almost positive that it will. Also, I am unsure if 3-5 pages means that I barely have to write on the third page, have a full page, so I wrote this sentence just in case. Well, thanks for reading I guess, see you next time!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On Last-Minute Application Essays

I had to write an essay as part of my application to my school's writing program. Basically, if accepted, I would get paid to help other college kids write and stuff. I had a week and a half's notice. Naturally, I began writing the essay two hours before the deadline. We had the opportunity to create our own topic, and were instructed to imagine that we were submitting the essay for the sake of a college application. This is what I wrote.

Note: Nomos is Greek for law. Thiasus is the posse of Dionysus, God of wine and revelry, for whom comedy plays were written and performed.

Topic: What is your current career goal? Why?
Internal conflict between interest in law and comedy, as presented by dialogue between Nomoitus and Thiasus respectively.

Nomoitus: Good evening, Thiasus.
Thiasus: Hey, what’s up.
Nomoitus: I see that you are, as usual, huddled over your laptop. Tell me, what endeavor absorbs you so?
Thiasus: Nothing much, man. I’m just watching some YouTube videos.
Nomoitus: Ah. Narcotizing yourself with mindless drivel.
Thiasus: Whoa whoa whoa. This is Mitch Hedberg here. Dude’s a genius. Here, listen to this.
Nomoitus: I shall have to decline. I refuse to entertain myself with material so base.
Thiasus: Dude, come on. You and I are both just metaphors for diverging forces within the ego of the same personality structure. You don’t have to get up on your high horse all the time and hate on my passion.
Nomoitus: Passion? Your aimless obsession over stand-up comedy and awkward sitcoms hardly warrants such a highfalutin label. If we deem any such trivial hobby a passion, we shall have no end of them.
Thiasus: Ah, but you don’t understand. I don’t watch or read comedy just to delay my inevitable responsibilities. Sure, sheer escapism can be end in itself, but comedy doesn’t numb me; it enervates me. I aspire to wield words with the vitriolic confidence of satirists, to confound with the paraprosdokians and non-sequiturs of stand-up comedians, and most of all, just to make people laugh. There are few that I admire more than the comedic geniuses of the ages, especially those gifted with the courage and incisiveness to reveal the absurdities of social wrongs. Also, I like fart jokes.
Nomoitus: I cannot believe what I am hearing. You want to be one of those?
Thiasus: Oh, that I could.
Nomoitus: Outrageous! Inconceivable! Blarghehgsh!
Thiasus: What was that last one?
Nomoitus: You are sorely in need of redirection. I, for one, have no confidence in your abilities, however many of these “comedic geniuses” you may try to emulate. Do you wish to starve like so many failed artists and writers, and wither away in an alley with nothing to keep you company but syphilis and a broken heart?
Thiasus: First of all, people didn’t even boo when I did stand up. Second, that’s a complete mischaracterization of the entertainment industry. I could always, like, work at Blockbuster or something. Besides, what else would you suggest?
Nomoitus: I am glad that you should ask. I would settle for nothing less than the noble pursuit of law.
Thiasus: This is where you cue the laugh track.
Nomoitus: Sure, there are those in the industry that besmirch the reputation of the whole, but law itself is so incredibly fascinating. Even its very evolution from the ancient Code of Hammurabi to the social contract of the Enlightenment provides us with such fertile ground for research and reflection. One need not practice law to appreciate the myriad of issues that lie at its core, and to understand the implications they have for society and the people therein. And lastly, the relish of constructing your case and demolishing that of your opponent is a thrill unsurpassed.
Thiasus: You need to get out more.
Nomoitus: I do not think you are qualified to tell me that.
Thiasus: Touché. But I cannot agree with you. Sure, the study of law sounds interesting in theory, but would you really want to spend three years of your prime studying it, and then the rest of your life figuring out ways to get around it? I can’t imagine anything more dull and uninspiring.
Nomoitus: I think you will quickly change your mind when you notice that the only positive numbers in your bank account are to the right of the decimal point. But alas, we do not have two lives to spend. Trial and error would not be in our best interest. You and I can come to a compromise.
Thiasus: And what might that be?
Nomoitus: We go to law school. However, during our enrollment, we may try our luck with comedy writing and performing. If, by chance, we shall find success in this field, we will duly pursue our fortunes therein. Otherwise, we will find ourselves with a law degree, and with it, reasonable means of livelihood.
Thiasus: Sounds great.
Nomoitus: And we will have to take the LSAT.
Thiasus: D’oh!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Response to "Incessant Rambling"

This was actually going to be a comment, but I ran over the character limit. So here it is.

I must inquire as to your definition of "belong."

Does belonging to someone make you the express and exclusive possession of that person? That is, you are the subject of that person, and bound by his or her will? From this definition of belonging, one may infer two logical consequences with regard to freedom. The first possibility absolutely precludes any form of freedom--that is, any action you perform must come from the express will of your master, and you may do nothing which is not commanded by this master. This is surely not what you are referring to. The other poses an owner-pet dynamic. The pet is granted autonomy only as long as its behavior does not displease the owner, and the owner's will is (ideally) followed. Even then, the pet may still make demands, and it may sometimes persuade its owner to change his or her mind.

What if belonging merely denotes a relationship? You are my friend. I do not own you as I own a dog or a car. You are "mine" only insofar as your relationship to me is that of a friend. This relationship has little to no consequence in regards to your freedom.

What of investment? Can one invest in a friend as he can in a pet? I believe so. And clearly, the friend's freedom is not limited in this investment as the pet's freedom is. It is therefore possible to belong to many, and have many invest in you, without significant consequences to your freedom.

What of love? Would those that truly love you "give" you back to yourself? I assume that by this you mean to strip away any "belonging" that existed. Using this assumption, we may examine the possible senses of "belonging" that we have heretofore outlined. Since we have already established that you do not intend to talk about an absolute master of your actions, we need only to examine the owner-pet dynamic and the friend-friend dynamic.

If I truly loved my pet, would I relinquish its belonging to me? That is, would I release it to the wild? This cannot be the case, even if I know that the pet is self-sufficient. If I truly loved it, I would provide it the best possible care, and by releasing it I am creating that possibility that it may suffer in the quality of its lifestyle. If I truly loved it, I would only release it if doing so would cause the pet greater good than harm. It seems that it this dynamic, an owner who loves his pet must not necessarily "give it back to itself."

What if this pet was self-sufficient and satisfied prior to it falling into my possession, and did not gain a significantly better lifestyle thereafter? That is, if I tamed a fox, and did not provide it with morsels more delicious, a shelter more comfortable, than it had already been accustomed to. In this case, would I release the fox if I truly loved it? No; for in taming the fox I have accepted responsibility for taming the fox. I have made him mine as I have made me his. Once again, unless releasing him would do more good than harm, I see no reason that my love must compel me to do so.

If I truly loved a friend, would I strip away this relationship of belonging? Would I cease to call this person my friend? This also cannot be the case.

Therefore, it would seem that truly loving someone does not prompt giving that person back to himself, if doing so means to remove belonging.

What if giving someone back to himself entails simply granting him more autonomy, or freedom? But would a doting parent let a child wander onto the train tracks? Would a good friend let you gamble yourself into destitution and ruin? Once again, it has been demonstrated that to truly love someone does not mean you have to give him back to himself.

What if giving someone back to himself simply entails granting him freedom as long as he does not cause himself harm? That is, he may do whatever he wishes, to you or others, as long as he himself is not directly harmed. Would true love require you to grant this freedom? No; for to do so would be to deny self-love, and concern for others. You can truly love a friend and still stop him from bludgeoning your face incessantly with a hammer--for to love is not to utterly obey, just as to be loved is not to be utterly controlled. Therefore, it would seem that love entails respect for the other as much as respect for yourself, and understanding of the other as much as understand of yourself. It is therefore a complete fallacy to utter something akin to "If you love me, then you would let me do whatever I want." A truer sentiment would read "If you love me, and have no self-respect, and have no concern for others, and are oblivious to the harm I may cause to myself, then you would let me do whatever I want." I am not here to prescribe morality, but I believe that the most true proposition is merely this: "If you love me, you would respect and consider my opinion and weigh it against your own before acting." For to do any more or less would be to either deny self-love or to love for another.

Lastly, your final paragraph is a simple case of equivocation. It is true that one can never been completely happy or completely free. However, the pursuit of one does not entail the complete abandonment of the other. It is true that one must exercise freedom to perform actions to reach happiness, but this freedom does not need to be absolute or infinite. Happiness and freedom can each only be obtained in degrees, and it is a mistake to claim otherwise.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Incessant Rambling

If Berkeley has taught me anything it is that the systematic bureaucracy of advancement in the world is one which I am trapped in and that Berkeley itself is a part. It has also taught me that the bureaucracy is harmful to everyone who is constrained by it (everyone).

Luckily protesters have come up with the solution of destroying this system as best they can. This destruction consists of damaging anything they presently have access to within the system, and thus leaving themselves with nothing. Sounds good, but what if not having things is a disadvantage?

A good goal, therefore is to become all powerful and assume that with power comes the knowledge to use the power wisely, because after all- knowledge is power.

Sounds awesome. All options. But wait- a third one? What if I leave the system entirely and go live somewhere it can not affect me? I would be in total crippling solitude. What if I bring my own friends? Oh, we would have to create a new system between us? Hm. But what if some outside force comes to crush our humble commune? After all, property isn't owned by people unless it's also owned by everyone.

So then, nothing is mine but me? Do I belong to other people? I hope not. But I hope that I do, too. Because if I don't belong to anyone, than I only belong to myself. If I only belong to one person, that means only one person is invested in me. Do I belong to the people whom I love? I hope not, because then I would be a slave to people who don't even necessarily love me enough to give myself back to me. Do I belong to the people that love me? No, because if they truly loved me they would give me back and I would once again belong to myself. So then maybe it is enough to belong to myself but to be loved? But then I could only love those that love me if I wished to remain free. Doesn't that limit my ability to love others? So then even when I am free I am only a slave.

I can never be free, perhaps. Why would I want to be free? Why would I want the impossible? I guess, I shouldn't. Because if I want freedom I will never be happy. But what if I would prefer freedom to happiness? Then I have nothing. For I can never either. This is quite a wretched state. I could redefine freedom, but a word isn't a concept. Maybe if I focused really hard, I could convince myself that I want happiness more than freedom. But to choose happiness over freedom is an action of choice. Choice is an exercise of freedom. Maybe I naturally prefer happiness to freedom? So then is happiness the ultimate end? But then how do I make myself happy, if it is what I should desire most? Is it through my actions, each of which require exercising my own freedom?

What a dreadful state of affairs.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Incidental Thought Experiment of An English Paper

In my English class, we were given the assignment of making an argument about Rousseau's "Emile" (italicized!). Unfortunately it was due on Vincent's birthday. This is the unfortunate, but very entertaining result (actually, i think it's one of the best things I've ever written):

This Is Where The Title Goes

It is 8:26 AM on a Wednesday and I am supposed to be writing a narrative which reflects my beliefs on a certain topic. Here I sit facing my computer screen, still drunk from the night before. How then is it possible for me to transfer my knowledge from the confines of my head to the complexity of the pixels arranged on my computer screen? I am unsure but continue to try. My party hat is on and I have already finished writing my philosophy paper. Somehow I have managed to make my thoughts so clear that my most intelligent friend, who is awake only because he lives three hours in the future, is able to understand them well enough to refine them into an intelligible utterance. In this paper, however, I have decided to construe my thoughts through a sort of metacognition.
As I sit here writing, I am learning about myself and the way that I learn. I am learning about the way that I express myself and thus the way that I express what I have learned. What have I learned? What am I expressing? Is it syntax and grammar and the frivolous usage of words? Is it the clever irony of writing only truth in the hope that that somewhere within that which is truth lies intelligence? Or is it simply a throwaway effort which leaves me missing five percent of my English grade? One can only live and discover. I also find in this almost existential of a quandary that each experience is entirely unique. Learning can guide and inform our decisions- but only probabilistically.
It is 8:36 AM on a Wednesday and I have spent ten minutes writing a paper for English. I have abided by its confines and still found a method of narrative that in fact breaks the rules- a paradox of sorts. I sit here and reflect upon my career choice. I wish to be a lawyer, a litigator to be precise. I chose this path not because of the money it makes or because I love reason. I did not choose it because it would make me happy or because I value what makes me happy above all else. I did not choose it because I love justice or the law. I did not choose it because I love language and its ability to retain whatever meaning I chose it to convey. I chose this path because all of these reasons are true and coexist as truths. I chose the path of the litigator because it is my passion in all aspects and passion itself is in a way my true passion. I love to love and live to live.
Recalling the words of one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite shows, a nearly androgynous female known as Radical Edward in the show called Cowboy Bebop, I consider the formula to happiness. Radical Edward says in a philosophical examination of the series that she only does things which seem fun. If she is forced to do something which is not fun, she tries to find some sort of fun within the task as to always stay happy. If she can't find something fun to do, she goes to sleep. This is truly all one needs to live, this is what it means to be strong.
It is 8:46 AM on a Wednesday and I have linked happiness, intelligence, and strength in my paper. Still hoping that my cop-out of a narrative is acceptable I decide to write for its defense and explanation, further diving into the rabbit hole of a paradox that I have constructed. I have written a narrative about the thoughts of an author of a narrative. This is a very real experience, as real as I can make it. Perhaps it is too true, perhaps it is all fiction. Either way I have accomplished the goal within its means. This is innovation and intelligence. This is enlightenment. This is only made possible through the observation of that which is clever and through the experience of doing clever things. Observation and experience is what makes us capable of all that we can accomplish. It is our humanity. That's what I learned from this experience and this consideration of learning. Learning from learning about learning. AHHHH! Onomatopoeia is an author's friend.
It is 8:56AM on a Wednesday. I think I am sober, but I can never be too sure.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Thoughts on Freedom

This post needs editing.

I started reading Rousseau's "Emile"(pretend it's underlined) recently for my English class. I now find him even more of an amusing spectacle than a philosopher. His points are not derived through logic nor do they build on one another. He merely rambles about various topics incessantly. He contradicts himself often and really only has a few decent ideas total. One thing that I find interesting is that when he describes education from a broader standpoint, it reminds me of the education of Arthur by Merlin in T.H. White's "The Once And Future King" (I realize that that should be underlined, but fuck html).

He wants a natural education so that when the boy grows into a man he will be free. This freedom, Rousseau describes is when a man only wants what he is capable of having and does what he pleases. Another thing that Rousseau stated was that children cannot learn about property and its value until he has invested himself into it through his labor. This point reminded me of Little Prince, which was cool. Everything else I have read has been a contradictory mess.

What is more interesting is the concept of freedom itself. My entire Political Theory class is centered upon this topic. Positive versus negative freedom and collective versus individual freedom. Positive freedom pertaining to the ability to act and negative pertaining to the lack of restriction. Collective freedom refers to political rights and individual freedom more refers to capitalist freedom of exercising ones own freedom.

When reading Dostoevsky's "The Grand Inquisitor" (actually in quotes this time, yes!), the question of freedom being good or bad was proposed. The answer of the Inquisitor is that it was bad, because people would not be able to handle the "great weight" of it. Upon further examination of the three trials which Jesus went through in the desert, the burdens become apparent. The temptation of bread, the temptation of miracle, and the temptation of authority. God could enslave people through giving them bread and ensuring them life, through performing miracle and ensuring them of their purpose, or through an authority ensuring them unity.

Though there was more to it, essentially it came down to: People give up their freedom because they fear death or lack of purpose.

But can people even give up their freedom? Because to choose to give up their freedom to a higher authority, they are essentially choosing. And in this choice, they bear no greater consequence than that of any other choice: the loss of the options which they have forsaken to make their choice.

Then why is it considered slavery when we worship these things? Because the beauty in freedom is that we are free to determine our own morality and see the beauty inherent to life itself. Freedom enables to experience good through determining what is good. It also determines what is bad- but what is bad but a negation of good? To exist with good and bad is indeed perfection. Once we understand the beauty of both, we understand the necessity and sublime grace of freedom.

Plus, this one time- I saw a cab with a ramming cage (like the kind on the front of police cars) and it had "Adventure Cab" painted on the side. So yeah, berkeley is pretty neat.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

On Terrorism Part II

I lost my essay.

EDIT: Wait, no. Found it:

Since the United States was first established and it first encountered the Muslim world, the two have met with great strife. In the article “The Fallacy of Greivance-based Terrorism,” Lee explains that the first encounter with jihadists that set the precedent for American interaction with the Muslim world occurred shortly after the American revolution. From the first conflict and attempt at resolution through treaty, the United States attempted to take a secular position and ignore the basic system of Islamic culture. This obviously led to some conflicts in attempting to negotiate. Furthermore, most of the former Ottoman empire had continued to reject most Enlightenment ideals, thus leading to a larger communication gap with the West. These radically different cultures conflict almost inherently and lead to a relationship that has been full of animosity since the beginning.
Near the turn of the century, the Barbary pirates were causing a large problem for the United States, blocking their trade routes, stealing their supplies and imprisoning sailors. The founding fathers of the American Revolution were still struggling to establish commerce and freedom of action with the international community. For most of the Barbary states, a peaceful negotiation was not an option, as the pirates attempted to claim their religious right to jihad and claim infidels as slaves. This, in stark contrast to Enlightenment ideals of human rights led to a standstill in compromise. Eventually, the United States took military action to assert its dominance in the seas. Maintaining a completely secular approach, we remained distant to the Muslim world.
Throughout the 19th century, the United States found itself in conflicts with the Ottoman Empire, and attempted to take the secular liberal path each time. American attempts at neutrality went unappreciated, as the Ottoman empire continued to attack ships. This led to more American intervention in the form of missionaries and aid being sent to the Middle East to protect the Jewish population that was under persecution. Unfortunately, most missionaries were captured and conflict with the Muslim world arose once more. Only in the 20th century, did Woodrow Wilson acknowledge the differences between the two cultures and actively try to be understanding of their religious background during negotiations.
Even if the United States understands that the heart of the conflict lies in cultural differences, there is still much ground to be made in forming a positive relationship with the Muslim world. The Ottoman empire could not negotiate completely with the United States due to their rejection of Enlightenment ideals. Furthermore, their natural spite for democracy and human rights philosophy is difficult to overcome. Lee states that many Muslim states outright reject Enlightenment ideals, despite it being detrimental to the standard of life of its people as well as to the economy of the state. This rejection is due to the close association with Western democracies to sin and corruption. Osama bin Laden stated that it is the capitalist mechanism that soldiers are dying for when they fight for America. The current culture of these countries does not understand the economic principles behind capitalism and believes that there is no way for the righteous to flourish. While one culture completely opposes the very nature of another, compromise becomes difficult.

After acknowledging that the United States has always had a poor relationship with the Muslim World due the radically different cultures, Lee proposes some possible solutions. Diplomacy, though it has been ineffective in the long run, can help America make great strides in its relationship with the Muslim world. The divide is not solely one of secularism versus one with a fanatical religious base; it is also one of a conflict between a society that values the rights and life of the individual, compared to one that sees killing infidels as the path to paradise. Lee proposes that we support the teachings of less radical Islamic beliefs which are being taught by various leaders in the Middle East. Through such efforts, we can only hope to close the gap between our two world and reconcile for the benefit of both cultures.

Sorry for the weird formatting. My html exploded.

Friday, January 8, 2010

On Terrorism, Part I

Coincidentally, Juan and I both had terrorism as one of the topics for our final essays in our international relations classes. Since they offer contrasting takes on the issue, it might be interesting to see them side by side. Here is mine:

In a stunningly short period of time, global terrorism has emerged to become the greatest security threat facing the United States today. Although Islamist radicalism, the driving force behind the most globally salient terrorist organizations, has been on the rise for decades, it was not until September 11, 2001 that Americans became acutely aware of terrorism’s deadly capacity. This phenomenon can be perplexing at first glance. Relative to the forces that opposed America in the 20th century—those of fascism and communism—our current foes seem almost laughably impotent. Unlike Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, Islamist terrorist organizations do not command massive economies or industrialized armies. Instead, they are scattered across the world, recruiting their forces from the local population and relying on the sponsorship of sympathetic states and other entities. It is this amorphousness, this perception of eerie omnipresence, which makes terrorism more frightening of a challenge than anything the United States has faced before. Because terrorist organizations are non-state actors, they can neither be deterred conventionally nor bound to international institutions. This unprecedented problem requires a reassessment of classic assumptions, such as those made by realist and liberal schools of thought. To address the issue of global terrorism, policy-makers must take a constructivist approach to identify the causes of Islamist radicalism and prescribe long-term stabilizing solutions within the social construct of Islamic societies.

Among the myriad of issues facing the United States, Islamist terrorism demands the highest priority because it is a direct and unequivocal threat to the United States. Organizations like al-Qaeda have explicitly stated their intent to kill Americans wherever they are found, and unless the U.S. government takes active precautionary and preventive measures, citizens both domestic and abroad are vulnerable to attacks. Not only does the United States have the greatest reason to combat terrorism, it also has the greatest responsibility to. The U.S. is the only nation with the resources and force projection capability to thwart and root out terrorists in all corners of the world, and however adept our allies may be at creating environmental and economic policy, they cannot tackle terrorism without American leadership. And at the risk of echoing clichéd apocalyptic predictions of bygone eras, we must fight Islamist terrorism because it promotes an oppressive ideology that, if embraced, will create societies as harmful to their own people as they are to other societies.

All these reasons are only convincing if one truly appreciates terrorism’s capacity for wreaking havoc on civilian populations. September 11 was a catastrophic tragedy, but nothing even close to its level of sophistication and destructiveness has occurred on American soil since. There are various explanations for this hiatus, but the absence of deadly strikes domestically obscures the ease with which they may happen. As the recent attack on Fort Hood by a single gunman demonstrated, small arms have a tremendous capacity for murder. If a solitary assailant, one without logistic support or any strategic motivation, is able to carry out such carnage, a mildly competent terrorist cell in America will be able to inflict much greater damage at minimal cost. Terrorists can also be aided by crude weapons like dirty bombs, conventional explosives that spread radioactive material which, while not directly destructive, can paralyze a population center and incite panic. One must also not ignore the possibility that terrorists may acquire more potent biological, chemical, or even nuclear weapons in the future. If al-Qaeda is ignored, we risk immediate and long-term threats that will not only be difficult to mitigate but also potentially crippling to our national sense of security.

A willingness to prioritize the issue of terrorism must be coupled with a clear understanding of its causes. To discern these complex ideas, the lens of constructivism is especially well-suited. Constructivism takes the perspective that the behavior of people and states “is premised on their understanding of the world around them, which includes their own beliefs about the world, the identities they hold about themselves and others, and the shared understandings and practices in which they participate.” Therefore, it provides an alternative to purely materialistic assumptions, which cannot comprehensively explain the motivation of terrorists, by elucidating the ideas that give meaning to material factors. A materialist interpretation of Islamist terrorism can explain why, among the Western nations that Islamic Middle Eastern societies bear grievances against, the United States is the single most prominent target, for it has the largest and most involved presence in the Middle East. However, this interpretation alone does not explain why such grievances exist toward the U.S. in the first place. After all, although America has a significant military presence in the Japanese islands, no violent Japanese organization has materialized against the United States. A constructivist examination of this issue would yield a hypothesis based on the notion that Islamic societies form their perceptions of the U.S. from a pattern of social interactions. Because Japan considers the U.S. an ally and a friend in a mutually beneficial relationship, it does not resent U.S. occupation. In contrast, Middle Eastern societies have not fared so well in their interactions with the West. The Middle East’s encounter with modernization, which is viewed as a product of the West, has yielded obscenely rich and corrupt aristocrats while failing to introduce liberal concepts that have propelled East Asian nations to genuine economic and social progress. American intervention, especially its support of Israel, is therefore seen as a reincarnation of imperialistic colonialism. A study of this pattern of interactions and its effects can reveal clues for a foreign policy that can redress the failures of the past and reshape relations between the Western world and Islamic nations in the Middle East.

Aside from social interactions, constructivism can also identify the construction of states and state interests as factors in behavior. We can apply this framework to the construction of non-state actors like terrorist organizations to understand their goals. Islamist groups like al-Qaeda believe that sovereignty belongs to God alone, and thus aim to impose shar’ia—Islamic law—on all Muslims. Thus, Michael Scott Doran characterized September 11 as an attempt to provoke an aggressive American response and polarize the Islamic world between the faithful umma—Islamic societies—and the United States and its Muslim allies. U.S. military action, which is bound to cause heavy Muslim casualties, will exacerbate tensions between America and the Middle East. Bin Laden can use this as political ammunition against what he views as apostate Islamic nations and thereby facilitate his vision of an Islamist revolution. Aggression against the United States is therefore a means to the ultimate end of Islamist totalitarianism.

An application of both the understanding of Middle Eastern perception of the United States and the motivations of terrorist organizations leads to several potential and complementary solutions to the issue of global Islamic terrorism. A crucial first step is to mitigate resentment toward America. Policy-makers should take concerns from the Islamic world seriously and adopt a more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is possible that Israel’s relinquishment of some settlements could lower Middle Eastern hostility, but even if it does not, we can rest assured that opportunity and peace have been restored to millions of displaced Palestinian. Furthermore, the U.S. should attach conditions to its support of Middle Eastern regime and press for greater liberalization of the political process. If Islamists have peaceful and democratic venues for political participation, we may see a decline in terrorist activities. Furthermore, the U.S. should dispel the negative myths about America that have been perpetuated by Islamist propaganda. This response should not be counter-propaganda; rather, it needs to be an honest and accessible forum that utilizes highly-trained spokespeople and all forms of media. Earnest diplomatic engagement between America and the Muslim masses can heal many wounds.

These approaches might be appalling to certain realists. They might argue that terrorists by and large remain unharmed in the process, and would be able to fearlessly continue their assaults on the United States. However, the constructivist methodology outlined above have the potential of significantly reducing motivations for terrorism because they are so minimally disruptive to Islamic society. If the U.S. refrains from overt breaches of sovereignty, like its invasions of Afghanistan and Iran, it can chip away at the casus belli that Islamists extremists have tried so hard to establish. When America no longer seems like the Great Satan, terrorist organizations will find fewer and fewer recruits with whom to bolster their ranks. At that point, it matters little that perpetrators of terrorist acts remain alive and well; they will have become largely irrelevant. When their ideology is no longer accepted by Muslims, their material resources will vanish as well.

Of course, these are very optimistic predictions, and the solution to terrorism provided is an incredibly difficult one to implement successfully. But given the failures of previous attempts at curbing Islamist terrorism, we must give the constructivist approach the chance it deserves. Global terrorism is the paramount threat to the U.S. today, and constructivism alone can provide real and long-term solutions to this problem.