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I like divine proofs. They’re fun because the good ones force you to acknowledge the hazy boundaries of materialism. I’ve written about a few before, and though none of them have changed my mind, they still offer unique ways to contemplate the universe and our position within it.

I’ll just quickly go through them because they’re not that complicated. The first is similar to the First Cause proof, which I outlined in a previous blog, where the universal chain of causation needs to have a beginning, and that beginning is God. The finger that pushes the first domino, so to speak. This new variation looks at contingency instead of causation, but follows a similar pattern. For example, I may have been caused by the biological pairing of my parents, but my existence is contingent on a lot more than that. I depend on air to breathe, food to eat, millions of different types of bacteria to digest food, etc. The planet upon which I depend is also contingent. It is contingent on gravity to keep it composed as it is, a sun around which to revolve, its elemental makeup to determine its type, and so on. Our planet, our sun, our solar system all depend on the universe itself to house us in space. So again if we continue this chain, and we consider the entire set of contingencies that make up the universe, there would need to be some necessary entity upon which a universe of contingencies would need to depend. Contingency without necessity cannot be sustained indefinitely, so this necessary entity becomes the immovable bedrock upon which everything else is built. This necessary entity is of course God.

Next is the ‘layers of reality’ proof. It posits that there is a hierarchy of realities, each one providing the “realness” for the one below it. For example, if I think I glimpse a snake, I may become frightened and withdraw. This “snake” is real because it evoked a response, but its realness exists at the most minimal level because after a second, more inquisitive look, I determine that it is not a snake, but a rope. The reality of the “snake” is provided by the similarities in shape and coil. The rope is thus the second layer of reality. However, we can examine the rope further and analyze its fibers, its tautness and strength, the structure of its make, and so on. This offers a third layer of reality: the type of rope. This type of rope further determines the reality of the previous, nondescript rope of a semi-casual observation. These layers of reality go further, as the molecular makeup of the rope will determine its rope-ness on an atomic level. The type of rope is again predicated on this deeper level.

Do we go further than this? The deeper we go, the more assured we become, as each layer of contemplated reality offers more information than the last. Beyond the atomic level we cannot glimpse, but do we assume that because we do not possess the tools to measure beyond this level of reality that it does not exist? That an extra layer cannot exist that represents the foundation of reality? A determining layer of reality upon which all else sits might not in fact be measurable by sensory-based tools that humans could ever produce. It is an assumption to opine beyond this level, but no more absurd an assumption than saying that just because we can’t measure it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. We never would have discovered magnetic fields until we had the magnets to measure them. This doesn’t mean that we will eventually create a tool to measure this extra-material layer of reality since we may already be imbued with the means of accessing it!

And yeah, blah blah blah I know you can’t say anything about a God proven by either of these methods. Get over it.

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Charles Eisenstein (2013) predicts that a convergence of crises where the devastation of the environment, the increasing social hostilities across the world, the domination of monolithic international corporations over the global economy, and the impotence or facilitation with which governments typically respond to these factors will inescapably lead to the end of civilization. Ronald Wright (2004) looks at the rise and fall of previous civilizations and sees that there is a large sampling of civilizations that grew too large, consumed all their resources, and then spread out once those resources were finished. In an effort to see how humanity behaves without any room to expand, Wright looks at Easter Island as an example of a confined society where every last resource, in this instance trees, was eliminated, thereby destroying the civilization and the ecology of the island.

This analysis of the past and prediction for the future paints a bleak picture for our now global civilization. Humanity has run out of room to spread, and it is quite quickly running through its finite resources. Eisenstein (2013) suggests that those who wish to do some good for the world should continue their progressive practices in order to provide a solid foundation upon which humanity is to rebuild after the coming calamity. Another somewhat facetious approach is accelerationism; if we accept that the end of our global civilization is inevitable and imminent, the morally righteous course of action would be to speed that process along so as to hasten the opportunity to rebuild. This posits a critically important question, however: are we truly bound by a predetermined Armageddon where all hope of salvation for our current world is already lost?

Possibly the greatest threat to the stability of the world is the proliferation of international corporations. The Corporation (Achbar, Simpson & Abbot, 2003) illustrates the way that businesses that might otherwise be benign have infected the status quo by externalizing the problems they produce and internalizing anonymous blamelessness. Corporations lack any kind of accountability (outside of the profit motive) due to their personhood lacking any kind of body to incarcerate or otherwise punish. This leads to environmental and ecological destruction which damns future generations, and inhuman working conditions that damn the current one. Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices (Greenwald, Gilliam, Levit & Smith, 2005) localizes these issues by demonstrating how large corporations can turn communities into ghost towns by using predatory market practices to eviscerate smaller businesses and unfair labour practices to impoverish their workforce. These corporations run not just an oligopoly in the world’s economy, but in the media as well. In 1983, there were 50 different companies running the news media in America, and as of 2004 there are six (Perkins, 2011). By achieving a stranglehold on what the general population consumes as ‘news’, and by providing only the dominant cultural narrative through it (Mullaly, 2010), the corporate agenda can act with an even greater impunity than what the anonymity of corporate personhood normally would allow.

While these corporations continue to increasingly subjugate every aspect of the planet, the general populace faces contrasting destitution. The debt of the average Canadian is approximately $1.64 of debt to every dollar of income and continues to grow (Wong, 2015). This spiraling debt is the result of the credit industry; a tragedy caused by a gluttonous system creating superfluous demand to consume its petty trinkets (Perkins, 2011). This demand is built on a foundation of nothingness, however, and by witnessing its rapid growth we can predict a debt bubble destined to burst.

In addition to these worrying dilemmas, speaking out against them has its own problems. The film What Would Jesus Buy? (Morgan & VanAlkemade, 2007) depicts the criminalization of dissent as the protagonist of the film, Reverend Billy, is routinely harassed by police and security, or even arrested as he attempts to decry the commercialization of one of North America’s most sacred holidays. While many armchair activists might like to believe that posting a politically-themed status update on their Facebook page might be the equivalent of enacting social justice, the reality is that change will only occur through tangible efforts made by real people, such as the Reverend Billy. However, by forbidding that kind of activism through the use of police and the laws to which they adhere, the status quo clamps down on any real activism that might take place. While purporting to celebrate free speech and social justice, by relegating activism to predetermined locations where it might safely go unheard, society creates a wall where change breaks like a wave on the rocks.

Those working to create that change often find themselves at odds with one another as well. By being entrenched in a society that fosters competitiveness and creates a zero-sum funding method for social programs, activists are forced to fight not only against the structural inequalities of our broken system, but also against other activists that are labouring toward common goals. The system by its very function disrupts progress simply by exerting its default ideology of competition and capitalism (Bishop, 2006).

In addition to the systemic factors undercutting progress, there is a further burden on those advocating for change. Quite often when things go wrong, the blame will fall on those working toward ameliorating them. One example is the death of an Aboriginal teen which was primarily blamed on the “persistent indifference of front-line government workers” (Changes being made, 2015, para. 4). The problems inherent in the structure of racist policies that function to the detriment of Aboriginal youth go unnoticed as culpability is thrust upon the persons closest to the issue. This culpability further stigmatizes those seeking social improvement, and acts as discouragement toward even bothering in the first place.

So in the face of the impossibility of overcoming insurmountable global obstacles, or, on the off-chance that they are overcome, doing so in a timely enough manner that the already crippling environmental damages do not become irreversible, why do we bother? What leads us to bang our heads against this wall, suffering the slings and arrows, while facing off quite literally against the world? Would it not be simpler to merely give in, let the wave of inevitability wash over us, and accept somewhat less facetiously the merits of accelerationism?

The existentialist philosopher Albert Camus utilizes the myth of Sisyphus to illustrate how one might be able to confront meaninglessness. While Camus speaks ontologically, the method applies to social justice as well. Sisyphus is condemned to an eternity of pushing a giant boulder up a mountain, seeing it roll down the other side, then walking down to push it back up again. Camus, rather than seeing this as dreadful punishment, celebrates it and declares that Sisyphus must own his task and complete it passionately. He claims that Sisyphus overcomes the will of the gods in this manner in spite of them, and announces that “there is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn” (Camus, 1956, p. 314).

Bob Mullaly mirrors this view by declaring that anger is the necessary tool to combat futile odds: “anger at governments that cater to the wishes of the wealthy at the expense of women, children, visible minorities, and other marginalized groups; anger at a social welfare system that homogenizes, controls, and monitors people who are forced to go to it for assistance and that has proletarianized its workers; and anger at the discrimination, exploitation, and blocked opportunities that so many people experience today” (Mullaly, 2010, p. 283). Mullaly suggests anger as a tool to rally a community around an issue in an attempt to overcome it. From this perspective, it is only through owning the cause and becoming passionate about it that pointlessness can be conquered.

There are also those who believe that when knowledge is gained and compassion is utilized, fighting against these crises is humanity’s natural response. Si Transken defines these fruitless warriors as fuchsia elephants, who “may be on the verge of extinction,” but still “cannot blend into the chicken crowd” (Bryant et al., 1999, p. 33). No matter the outcome, fighting for social change compels them, and no amount of pressure from outside forces will quell the fires that have been lit inside. Once one adopts the mantle of the fuchsia elephant, it cannot be discarded. One may submit to the “exhaustive demands of the circus crowd” (Bryant et al., 1999, p. 33) and have their fire reduced to embers, but the fuchsia will never fully wash out.

Whatever the cause, be it natural or passionate, we must continue to fight. Even in the face of impossibility, in the face of meaninglessness, the battle for social justice must continue. Accelerationism works solely on the faith that there will be enough of a world left to rebuild once the convergence of crises has devastated it, and that is a deadly gamble. Giving up is not an option.

References:

Achbar, M., Simpson, B. (Producers), & Achbar, M., Abbot, J. (Directors). The Corporation [Motion Picture]. USA: Big Picture Media Corporation

Bishop, A. (2006). Becoming an Ally: Breaking the cycle of oppression in people. Black Point, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Publishing.

Bryant, V., Dahl, P., Lane, L., Marttila, M., Transken, S., Trepanier, C. (1999). Battle Chant. Sudbury, On: Battle Chant Ink.

Camus, A. (1956). The myth of Sisyphus, p. 312-314 In Kaufmaan, W. (ed.) Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre. Cleveland: Meridian Books.

Changes being made after report on death of Aboriginal teen: Children’s Ministry. (2015, Oct. 20). Prince George Citizen, p. 6.

Eisenstein, C. (2013). The ascent of humanity: Civilization and the human sense of self. Berkeley, CA: Evolver Editions.

Greenwald, R., Gilliam, J., Levit, L., Smith, D. (Producers), & Greenwald, R. (Director). Wal-Mart: The high cost of low price [Motion picture]. USA: Brave New Films.

Morgan, S. (Producer), & VanAlkemade, R. (Director). (2007). What would Jesus buy? [Motion picture]. USA: Arts Alliance America.

Mullaly, B. (2010). Challenging oppression and confronting privilege. Oxford, NY:Oxford University Press.

Perkins, J. (2011). Hoodwinked: An economic hit man reveals why the global economy imploded – and how to fix it. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group.

Wong, C. (2015, Sep. 12). Household debt ratio grew in Q2 as debt increased faster than income. Prince George Citizen, p. 32

Wright, R. (2004). A short history of progress. Toronto, ON: House of Anansi Press.

Today marks a day that all Canadians recognize as the day we honour our veterans and the sacrifices they have made over the course of our nation’s history.

It is not enough, however, to solely remember the innumerable soldiers who gave their lives. It is crucial we remember why.

What drives someone to die for their country? What makes a soldier give up their homes and their families to fight halfway across the globe?

These soldiers we remember today died for a story. They fought so that their families, children, and grandchildren could live in a peaceful, free, and just society. They believed in the ideal of their nation and gave everything they had in pursuit of it.

Did they succeed? Absolutely. We no longer live in a country where we need to worry about dying as we continue to fight for peace, freedom, and justice, but this does not mean that the story that has claimed so many young lives has yet come true.

We remember today those who have fought so that we might continue to fight. Our ideal still eludes us. The war may be over, but the battle continues.

Lest we forget.