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Member since: Sat Nov 29, 2008, 02:55 PM
Number of posts: 17,671

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Why the NRA wins. (2)

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4

Everything about a gun is authoritarian in nature. Guns are defined by unequivocal closure. You can’t call a bullet back. Guns are made to kill and death is about as unequivocal an end as you can get. The authoritarian nature of firearms defines social practices and institutions where they predominate. So, for example, from the four rules of gun safety to the military, if it’s about guns it’s about following the rules and the authority they imply. It should be unnecessary to point out the authoritarian nature of conservative ideology.

The symbolic implications of firearms attract conservatives like ants to a picnic. Firearms can be seen in the hands of troops in the field and they are inexpensive and ubiquitous enough for almost anyone to own. Guns are an actual object that can be valued beyond their utility as readily as a house or (ahem) a car. They symbolize as few other objects can the realities of survival and the history of a country that was born of violent revolution and has engaged in at least one victorious world war that cemented our place as a very wealthy and aggressive superpower. And you can wear one on your belt. Is it any wonder that conservatives regularly feature them at political events?

If anyone in the lobbyist business wanted to find an object to promote for profit they could hardly find anything better suited to that purpose than a gun. The business model almost writes itself. It’s easily recognizable, portable, ubiquitous, historically significant, entertaining and necessary for survival under certain circumstances.

The NRA and the firearms industry wouldn’t mind a bit if people spent every dime they had on guns. That’s the nature of the free market. Liberals, as the voice of economic parity and defenders of the commons, need to come up with an answer to the basic problem that people are trying to solve when they buy a gun. It doesn’t matter whether the purchaser of that gun will ever have to use it or not. It doesn’t matter if gun owners are more likely to get shot than non gun owners. People own guns to solve a certain kind of problem and if you want them to seek a different solution, it’s a good idea to have one ready for them.

It’s an especially good idea to have a solution ready if you’re trying to eliminate their preferred option while simultaneously telling them that they are irrational, stupid, deluded, cowardly, and sexually repressed.

Why the NRA wins. (1)

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

There can be little doubt that without liberal ideology we would be living in a dystopian nightmare. Liberals have given the United States the greatest advances in social equality and cultural progress in the history of the nation. Furthermore, given the events of the last thirty years, the inadequacies of conservative ideology have been made painfully obvious. I shouldn’t have to belabor that point here.

So if the benefits of liberalism are so obvious how does the NRA, which overwhelmingly supports conservative politicians, enjoy the success that it does? Policies that the NRA supports have enjoyed legislative success even in light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. If any event could galvanize support for liberal positions, from the political center if not from the right, the grisly murder of children by a mentally unbalanced young man wielding an AR15 should have done it. It didn’t. While liberal policy initiatives moved forward in traditionally liberal bastions of the nation (with the notable exception of Illinois), on balance across the country policy initiatives supported by the NRA have shown considerable success. And even though there are reports of shootings in the media with depressing regularity, the sale of firearms has continued unabated.

As I understand it, scholarship on ideological morality divides liberalism and conservatism, in the very broadest of strokes, between nurturing and authority. Given the fact that liberal policies have proven to be beneficial to our society have at their base been an effort to nurture people through the expansion of material, educational, and social support, the validity of that dichotomy seems to be borne out by events on the ground. And of course the dangers of excessive authoritarianism are equally obvious.

Human lives can be understood as a series of events that occur over time. Those events are governed by relationships with others within the context of a range of variables that have changed little for most of human history. Those variables can be managed by the way our culture is designed and, generally speaking, positive reinforcement by nurturing people is preferable to authoritarian negative reinforcement.

But there is one type of human event where that preference does not hold true. That event occurs between the period of time between the manifestation of a genuine threat to one’s survival and the elimination of that threat. That event occurs after all the preventive measures to avoid it have been taken and failed. Whether that threat is some guy in a dark alley with a knife or an invading army, you’re not going to nurture your way out of that mess.

I'm not much into poetry but here's a couple

by Robert Francis

His art is eccentricity, his aim
How not to hit the mark he seems to aim at,

His passion how to avoid the obvious,
His technique how to vary the avoidance.

The others throw to be comprehended. He
Throws to be a moment misunderstood.

Yet not too much. Not errant, arrant, wild,
But every seeming aberration willed.

Not to, yet still, still to communicate
Making the batter understand too late.


D. H. Lawrence
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
i o And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

Liberals are all about cultural change.

Some change is slow, some change is rapid. Generally speaking, the more liberal you are, the more cultural change you want. There is a reason the word "revolution" appears so often in left leaning discourse.

It's my understanding that revolutionary movements have a fairly predictable life cycle. As success is achieved through change, there is always a group of revolutionaries who are more radical than the rest. Thus, there is a certain amount of tension between those revolutionaries that have achieved a measure of their revolutionary goals and those who feel that more change is in order. So now, the actual "winners" in the revolution become "conservatives" and thus enemies of the "true revolutionaries". Depending on the power dynamics there could be purges by the the radicals against the conservatives within the revolution, or the radicals could just become a contentious fringe.

So why doesn't this process of change through ideological purification continue until a utopia arrives? I think one way is that the more "radical" the radicals become the more they focus on ideology and doctrine than on how it will actually work in the real world. It becomes a litmus test to judge others instead of a plan for change. Whether the most radical of the radicals are actually able to enforce this adherence to their understanding of doctrine depends on how much real world power they have.

So now, consider the history of HoF here at DU. There was contention, a power struggle, an attempted coup, ideological splintering, demands that rivals be purged, and constant drum beating demands that others adhere to an ideological ideal.

You don't need a god to have a religion. And you don't need a holy book to have a sacred text. It all depends on the passion and objectives of the true believers. Is this a bad thing? Not really. There's nothing wrong with devotion to an ideal. Philosophers and shamans have devoted their lives to such things for millenia, and since politics is the religion of the enlightenment, that impulse continues right along with it.

Okay, I went back and looked at this thing.

The title of the piece is called Casting Off My Womb, which employs a play on words using a term for knitting meaning to tie off the piece so that it doesn't unravel. The title of the piece combined with the medium used to perform it (the artist and yarn) and the phrase "vagina knitting" sets up a play on words related to the role of women in society that views them as disposable goods or little more than baby factories, traditional attitudes regarding menstruation as repugnant, the female womb as the source of life, and the societal contradictions associated with the vagina and by extension women in general.

The confrontational nature of the piece is achieved by the shock value of the nude exposure of the artist and the storage of the yarn in her vagina prior to the production of the work. As the yarn is knitted into a long scarf like garment, it is suspended on coat hangers and stained with menstrual blood.

Metaphors relating to female sexuality, reproduction, abortion, the male gaze, and female control of their reproductive process work in conflict and resonate with the surrounding culture to create tension in the content of the piece. So the knitting phrase "casting (tying) off" resonates with "tying tubes" to prevent pregnancy and of course the concept of tying or binding is associated with bondage and repression. And the phrase "casting off" can also be applied to the concept of women as disposable due to infertility or aging. The "product" of the artist's vagina is suspended on coat hangers, an implement which has considerable symbolic associations with "back alley" abortions and the political and cultural repression of female control of their own reproductive process. Also, knitting is associated with the traditional knitting of baby booties by pregnant women, now suspended by coat hangers.

The result of the piece is the display of a bloody offering suspended by implements of repression of women by men. The method of execution is designed to both titillate and repulse the viewer through the nudity of the artist and the garment she creates. While the overall balance of metaphors and the tension they create in their relationship with each other is carefully crafted and the sublimation of the artist as the artwork itself validates the piece as a well crafted bit of performance art, it suffers a bit from a somewhat too obvious awareness of the market for which it is intended, evidenced by the tone of the commentary in the link provided and the somwwhat deravitive nature from the previous work of Carolee Schneeman. Also, while the overlapping metaphors work well, perhaps they work too well and become an exercise in riffing on hot button issues and metaphors without digging any deeper than their obvious connotations and contradictions. Overall, a successful piece but hardly groundbreaking.

That's my initial impression, but I'm tired now and I'm going to bed.

Well, I'll just have to work with what I've got then.

Every group of people from a single family to an entire country has an embarrassing lunatic fringe. From the obnoxious unreasonable uncle at Thanksgiving to fringe political groups causing havoc in an entire nation, they're an embarrassment to the rest of the group of reasonable people who have a more intelligent and nuanced grip on reality.

So for example the Republican party has the Tea Party and to the right of them gun toting militias running around in the woods playing soldier. Those preening right wing nuts would embarrass Il Duce. And lets not forget the religious fundamentalists and their peculiar obsession with medieval science and morality. The political left no doubt has its share of bombastic nuts as well, but probably not enough of them. Since the collapse of communism the ranks of our lunatic fringe have been seriously eroded.

A fellow smarter than me once said that an unexamined life is not worth living. I would add that an unexamined ideology is not worth having.

These members of the lunatic fringe all seem to have something in common; an unwavering devotion to ideology as an object in itself. It becomes a fundamentalist religion, a precious thing that has to be defended at all costs, right or wrong. I expect there are many reason for this unquestioning embrace; fear, pride, arrogance, greed, ignorance, or any combination of all of them. There are times when unwavering devotion to ideology is essential, as in war for example. Extreme times call for extreme devotion.

And we are at war. A culture war. It's an ersatz conflict manufactured out of the most selfish motivations of its combatants. It's a wag the dog Las Vegas feathers and brass production for the emotional gratification of people who view culture as a product to be acquired and hoarded.

I asked you to engage in something any rational person should be willing to do. I asked you to engage in a bit of ideological self examination. And you couldn't do it.

Finally! An intelligent OP on the subject. Thank you.

I expect the last thing we would want is a Progressive Theory of Everything as attractive as that may sound. Such a theory would be codified into an authoritative holy writ against which others would be measured and, more importantly, would be punitively defended because of the emotional and financial investments of those who control it. Banesbane has pointed out the inequities of capital distribution in financial systems but has overlooked the the dangers of iniquitous intellectual capital distribution.

Only a fool would argue that feminism hasn't been a benefit to society and that many of the objectives of feminists carry with them considerable moral authority. But there are inherent dangers in the transformation of any ideology into a holy writ to be defended rather than a tool for cultural development. When ideology becomes an object, it becomes a product and when that happens it can be coopted by capitalist interests. Everybody wants to be told what they want to hear, and there will always be somebody out there willing to do that for a price.

Now, here's the money quote: Pornography is art. It is a fictional representation of human activity. So when freedom loving, fearless novelty seeking, big tent inclusive, personal expression accepting liberals run into rape porn we are forced to put our money where our mouth is. The intellectual and emotional discomfort and conflict ain't pretty, but it's real. That puts people like me in the unenviable position of defending something they find disgusting. I don't like rape porn. But then again, I'm not interested in seeing a bullwhip stuck up some dude's ass either. And I'll go you one better than that. I'll even defend Thomas Kincaid's shit as art. And that one really hurts.


Why don't you summarize them and explain them. Can you do that?

The use of media is a collaborative effort between the artist and the viewer, or in this day and age between the producer and the consumer. They are, as with any other interaction between human beings, a relationship. All media alters our brains because interaction with everything in our environment alters our brains. Television alters our brains just as cave paintings altered our brains fifteen thousand years ago.

The "problem" with certain types of media consumption is not the media but the consumption. Or rather, over consumption. People have been exploring new and interesting ways to insert tab A into slot B since the advent of sex, and they will continue to do so. There is nothing that will halt, or even slow, human innovation in the field of fucking.

Have you read 1984? The dystopian society that Orwell describes is only possible through forced complete immersion in state propaganda. Hence the torture. The problem with seabeyond's OP is that she is proposing to "cure" people's perversions through forced immersion in the media that she feels is so destructive. Not only is it an oxymoron, it is a punitive solution that flies in the face not only of healthy cultural development but liberal ideology as well. The real question is how she came to those conclusions.

The relationship between Fox News and the people who consume it is purely commercial. They are telling people what they want to hear. It's a sort of highly focused banal wish fulfillment just like any other bad art no different from a Thomas Kincaid painting or a trashy romance novel. For such a commercial enterprise over consumption, or addiction, is profitable and total immersion is just another term for market domination.

Of course around here Fox News is always a ready example of all that is evil in the world but there are liberal ideology producers with the same business model - produce heroin content for market domination of peoples confirmation bias. Through it's role in the tremendous social advances in this country, feminism is an important part of liberal politics and liberal ideology. Such success has not gone unnoticed by those who would make a lucrative living telling people what they want to hear and over consumption of liberal ideology is just as pernicious as it's opposite number.

So many of the culture war issues that seem important are little more than the source of a lucrative revenue stream for people who make a living turning ideology into an addictive drug. There is no functional difference between the cheap wish fulfillment peddled by televised talking heads, hyperbolic polemicists, romance novelists or pornographers. It's all pornography one way or another.

Young earth creationism and Orwell's 1984.

I revisited 1984 the other day (hey, Audible deal of the day for three bucks) and was reminded of this:

(O’Brien) ‘We are the priests of power,’ he said. ‘God is power.’

(Winston) 'But the world is only a speck of dust. And man is tiny – helpless! How long has he been in existence? For millions of years the earth was uninhabited.’

(O’Brien) ‘Nonsense. The earth is as old as we are, no older. How could it be older? Nothing exists except through human consciousness.’

(Winston) ‘But the rocks are full of the bones of extinct animals – mammoths and mastodons and enormous reptiles which lived here long before man was ever heard of.’

(O’Brien) 'Have you ever seen those bones, Winston? Of course not. Nineteenth – century biologists invented them. Before man there was nothing. After man, if he should come to an end, there would be nothing. Outside man there is nothing.'

When ideology of any kind becomes more important than humanity, horrible injustice is the result.
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