Earthpages.org

The Real Alternative


Leave a comment

Ditadura e fascismo. É tudo igual?

Use Google translate if necessary. It’s worth it. –MC

Miluramalho's Blog

“Fascismo: O Governo duma ditadura, marcado pelo controle da economia pelo Estado, pela arregimentação social e por uma ideologia de nacionalismo beligerante;

 

Nazismo: Fascismo, segundo praticado pelo Partido Nacional-Socialista dos Trabalhadores Alemães, sob Hitler.

 

A PALAVRA “fascismo” geralmente suscita imagens de milícias militares italianas de camisas pretas e de tropas de assalto alemãs, de uniformes pardos, portando a suástica. Mas outros países também tiveram suas experiências com o fascismo.

Na década de 30, o fascismo ganhou destaque na Hungria, na Romênia e no Japão. Durante a Guerra Civil Espanhola, o apoio fascista ajudou Francisco Franco a obter o controle da Espanha, embora a maioria dos historiadores não encare a ditadura de Franco (1939-75) como tendo sido de natureza genuinamente fascista. A ditadura argentina de Juan D. Perón (1943-55), por outro lado, era fascista.

O termo “fascismo” provém da palavra italiana fascio e refere-se a um antigo símbolo romano de…

View original post 1,838 more words


Leave a comment

Talcott Parsons – “It’s no game”

Cruising along through summer, here’s an entry updated at earthpages.ca


1 Comment

Revisiting Marx

Marx neu entdecken (Rediscover Marx): quapan

Marx neu entdecken (Rediscover Marx): quapan via Flickr

This essay on Marxist theory, Time to Reconsider: The Case of Wallace and Wolf, was written in the 1980s when I was an undergraduate at Trent University.

Please note that I’m not a Marxist nor a communist! Far from it. This assignment was part of a required course in sociology. I had to take the course if I wanted my degree. Simple as that. Turns out, my young, growing mind found sociological theory quite interesting (not just Marx), and generally aced out in it.

These days I can see the shortcomings of sociology. But back then, it was all-new and a big challenge, trying to score those A+ grades.

This was converted to PDF in 2009. Since then I’ve picked up a better scanner, so I might try redoing it some day. But this copy is legible.

Feel free to mention this – and the ideas it contains – in university and college assignments but be sure to use one of the standard citation styles if you do.

» Time to Reconsider: The Case of Wallace and Wolf

—MC


7 Comments

Wake up! The social construction of sleep

Sleeping

Sleeping by soylentgreen23 via Flickr

If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying.
It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.

Dale Carnegie

It’s 2:42 a.m. Two cats howling outside my window woke me up. Unable to get back to sleep, it seemed like a good time to reflect on some of the cultural assumptions that modern, technological societies have about the idea of “a good night sleep.” 1

Don’t get me wrong. I’m the first to agree that sleep is a great restorative. The ancient Greeks extolled it as a sacred salve that releases mankind from the pain and worry of daytime reality. And the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, spoke favorably of dreams as the “royal road to the unconscious.”

Freud’s brightest student, Carl G. Jung, was also interested in dreams. Jung felt that our nighttime productions compensate for what we’re missing in daytime. Jungians also maintain that dreams guide us toward a greater, integrated sense of meaning.

Sleep Deprivation

In a National Geographic article a Harvard neuroscientist claims that US society is “tremendously sleep deprived.” If we don’t sleep well during the night, it’s usually recommended to try to nap, rest or meditate sometime during the day.

The controversial mystic Sri Aurobindo had a completely different view about sleep, one not supported by contemporary medical science. Aurobindo saw sleep as a sluggish, inferior form of consciousness that’s best overcome through intense meditation. In fact, Aurobindo claimed to have conquered the need for sleep. Christian monks also get less sleep than the average layperson but, arguably, for different reasons than Aurobindo’s.

Medical science tells us that sleep is important. The body synthesizes proteins faster in the retina and cerebral cortex during sleep hours, enhancing growth and restoration.2 Sleep deprivation actually impairs cerebral cortex functioning, this being the newest part of the brain to appear over the course of human evolution.

Sleep deprivation also has harmful effects on memory and contributes to anxiety and even paranoia. Keeping people sleepy is a great way to brainwash, manipulate or indoctrinate. No wonder cult leaders and political interrogators use sleep deprivation to get subjects to comply with their wishes (at the risk of offending some, one could argue that a similar dynamic exists in some monasteries).

Snake Oils

insomnia by Jonathan Jacobsen

insomnia by Jonathan Jacobsen via Flickr

Over the counter sleep medications tend to have deleterious side effects and don’t really engender sound sleep. No wonder so many online marketers are peddling the latest sleep-inducing herbs and alleged wonder-drugs.

Clearly, this is a case of buyer beware. Scam artists more interested in profit than helping people often have a crafty sales pitch, one which postmodern deconstructionists would have a field day with.

For instance, if you don’t get your eight hours every night some of these unscrupulous marketers will declare that you’re suffering from an illness.3 You’re then informed that substance X (which they happen to sell at their website) is the just thing for you. This idea is then backed up or, I should say, apparently backed up, by quasi-scientific truth claims. Your wonder-drug may be an extract, a herb or perhaps some other expensive snake oil—all to make you healthier, happier and a more productive member of society.4

Admittedly, this is an extreme scenario, one facilitated by cheesy internet and TV ads. There is solid scientific support for the responsible use of some herbs and extracts. Healing with herbs is also advocated in the Old Testament (Sirach 38: 1-15).

However, a recent CBC Marketplace documentary notes that we normally don’t know the long-term side effects of many herbs. It’s also good to remember that the phrase ‘side effects’ is a medical and pharmacological euphemism for unhealthy effects.

To take herbs and oils on the reassuring word of a total stranger seems unwise. Hopefully herb and wonder-drug companies will soon be integrated with reliable health officials to prevent the possibility of harmful side effects. A definite step in the right direction seems to be the Adverse Drug Reaction Database.

Allopathic sleep medications may also have unhealthy side effects and are often addictive. But sometimes their use can be more positive than negative, providing they’re taken responsibly and with professional supervision.

A red flag should go up, however, whenever anyone tries to make a religion out of any kind of treatment. Both allopathic and homeopathic practitioners can cling to their respective paradigms while closing their minds to new possibilities.

New Age Fancies

An artist's rendition of Neanderthals

An artist's rendition of Neanderthals via Wikipedia

Some New Age figures like Deepak Chopra say the electric lights and general hubbub of modern society have disrupted our natural biorhythms, often called the Circadian rhythm. These pundits of the soul lament that we’ve severed some kind of sacred connection with the natural environment and with our distant ancestors.

This calls to mind romantic myths of the natural man, or as some put it, the noble savage. But who can really say what’s natural and what’s not?5

Anthropological research suggests that Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals weren’t so different from contemporary mankind. Our distant friends probably awoke in the dead of night just as we do in the 21st century. Instead of worrying about money or health, our ancestors — if that’s what they were — probably suffered anxiety over hunger, hostile animals, ambushes, storms and seasonal weather changes.6 Indeed, a BBC article about Neanderthal violence indicates that life in prehistoric times was anything but idyllic.

So to say that primitives lived in some kind of stress-free, golden age replete with tranquil nights seems more like fanciful fiction than reality.

Transpersonal Connections

As to why we awake in the night, this is often attributed to personal stress or some kind of medical disorder. But in some cases, perhaps many, sleep disturbances could be caused by transpersonal connections.

By transpersonal I mean essentially spiritual connections among souls. Not everyone believes in this idea. But almost all saints and mystics do. (Mind you, Buddhists don’t really believe in souls, but they do believe in spiritual attributes that can migrate from one being to another).

One great figure who definitely believes in an individual soul is the Catholic saint, Faustina Kowalska. And her Divine Mercy Diary, makes frequent mention of transpersonal connections.

For instance, Saint Kowalska writes that she once awoke in the middle of the night in response to a distressed soul in need of prayerful intercession.

During the night, I was suddenly awakened and knew that some soul was asking me for prayer, and that it was in much need of prayer. Briefly, but with all my soul, I asked the Lord for grace for her.7

Like a lightning rod for other people’s anxiety, Faustina rarely got a solid eight hours sleep.

Polski: Fotografia św. Faustyny Kowalskiej

Polski: Fotografia św. Faustyny Kowalskiej via Wikipedia

For some, this kind of scenario is hard to understand. Perhaps one could imagine an intern who’s always on call. There’s a 3 a.m. emergency and the intern is awakened by her pager. And so it is, one could say, with the spiritual work of the sensitive soul or contemplative saint—but unlike the medical doctor, the saint doesn’t need a pager to sense what’s going on.

Again, most people just can’t imagine, let alone appreciate, this kind of dynamic. It’s far too subtle for the average person, mired in conventional wisdom and their historically informed conception of the universe and beyond.

For many, saints like Sister Faustina would appear to be an oddball, flake or, perhaps, mentally ill. And the tormented souls for whom she intercedes are just figments of her imagination or, worse, pathological hallucinations.

Sadly, this kind of materialist bias has crept into some corners of the contemporary Catholic Church, a place where a bona fide mystic like St. Faustina could, at one time, be recognized for what God called her to be—namely, a contemplative saint.8

Of course, most people aren’t called to be contemplative saints and must hold down 9 to 5 jobs to maintain a desired standard of living and to provide for their families. These folks are obviously necessary to society and it’s probably in their best interest to do everything possible to maintain a predictable nighttime sleep pattern. But let’s not suppose that this is a natural way for everyone. There are always important exceptions to the rule.

Sometimes these exceptions are built-in to an entire culture. Consider, for instance, India or South America. In these cultures a daytime nap is a normal and expected part of living. During the afternoon stores close, windows are shuttered and most everybody sleeps.

In the Western world, geniuses like Mozart, Winston Churchill, Elvis Presley and James Joyce took advantage of late night hours. Likewise, Jesus Christ, arguably the best man of all, stayed up to pray through the night.

It’s hard to imagine what kind of world we’d have if these outstanding individuals hadn’t surpassed cultural conventions and expectations. By the same token, not everyone is a born artist, politician or spiritual leader. And it seems only a relative few can stand aside and see beyond their immediate society. Indeed, getting a solid eight hours sleep can be quite pleasant. It’s reassuring to “fit in” with the real or imagined status quo, as most of us did in childhood.

But when childhood’s over, we must consider alternatives, especially if our “good night sleep” doesn’t come as easily as before. Waking up in the middle of the night — or perhaps keeping late hours — could be an opportunity for enhanced creativity and productivity.

For all we know, making the most out of unpredictable sleep patterns might be essential to the new global order, where one person’s day is another’s night.

Notes

1. I’m alluding to the idea of the ‘social construction of reality,’ outlined by the sociologists Berger and Luckman.

2. It’s conceivable that Sri Aurobindo managed to activate these metabolic conditions while meditating, but on this we can’t be sure.

3. Readers interested in the notion of the ‘medical gaze’ are referred to Michel Foucault’s The Birth of the Clinic.

4. An internal FDA study suggests that about 2/3 of FDA scientists have lost confidence in that agency’s ability to protect the public from potentially harmful substances. See “Inside the FDA,” CBS.news.com, December 16, 2004:  http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/08/26/health/main638721.shtml?CMP=ILC-SearchStories

5. The idea of the natural can be critiqued from sociological, philosophical and theological perspectives. Meanwhile, some maintain that the natural is qualitatively different from the volitional and the spiritual.

6. Ronald Wright’s discussion in A Short History of Progress is worthwhile, available on iTunes.

7. Divine Mercy in My Soul, p. 319. While the transfer of anxiety may not always be as clear and distinct as with this example of a recognized saint, it seems reasonable to suggest that everyone may be open, in varying degrees, to the ebb and flow of collective emotions and other psycho-spiritual qualities and experiences. In Indian philosophy, this points toward the idea of karma transfer, as noted by Indologist Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty in The Origins of Evil In Hindu Mythology. Also, C. G Jung and other transpersonal psychiatrists such as S. Grof similarly speak of syntonic countertransference.

8. (a) Not to ignore the possibility of spiritual deception. Please see ETs, UFOs and the Psychology of Belief and related articles at earthpages.org and earthpages.ca dealing with the idea of discernment. (b) The Church’s organizational structure stresses that the clergy conform (and to some degree laypersons) to a relatively fixed mode of worship and service. And perhaps in an attempt to be ‘modern’ and receptive to the scientific establishment, the Church seems to uncritically embrace some of the more spurious scientific ideas that are circulating today. This is no abstract point. In keeping with Michel Foucault’s thinking, giving credence to questionable discourses may have potentially harmful effects on individuals and society.

Wake up! The Social Construction of Sleep copyright © Michael Clark. All rights reserved.


5 Comments

Postmodern Theology – Who’s got the power?

Postmodern Sock Monkeys.JPG

Postmodern Sock Monkeys by deglispiriti via Flickr

When I studied Michel Foucault and postmodernism in the 1980s, many so-called intellectuals overlooked the idea of the holy, as taken on its own terms, and focused on a stripped down notion of socio-cultural power.

Society was just the outcome of competing discourses and institutionalized practices of power. Everything else didn’t really matter. And if psychology did manage to squeak its way into an academic discussion, Freud was fair game but Jung, well, he was definitely out.

This approach seemed pretty thin and I remember talking about or, rather, trying to talk about the idea of the numinous and how it could relate to power, both psychological and social.

I’d written an essay on Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, groundbreaking back then, likening it to the numinous potential of Jungian archetypes. I only got an A- on that paper, probably because my sociology professor, although a nice guy, just couldn’t see the connection I was making between pop culture and spirituality. Ironically enough, the arguably silly distinction between pop culture and spirituality is still reinforced today by many religious people who insist on the primacy of their own rigid beliefs and agendas.

Later, in the early 1990s, I got interested in the ethical ambivalence of power. By this I mean that power isn’t always oppressive, bad or solely based on self-interest, as some professors seemed to say. In fact, power can be used for the good and, moreover, the Good can be powerful.

Fortunately, the postmodern scene has evolved since the early days. Bookworms and information seekers began to embrace figures like Jacques Derrida, who speaks to a ‘metaphysical space’ in-between linkages within endless chains of connotative signification.

Reminiscent of Sartre’s ‘gap of nothingness,’ the apparently radical postmodern agenda began to discern cracks in the interpretative process and was asking what might lay beyond them.

Spirituality perhaps?

A fairly recent trend called Postmodern Theology takes postmodernism in the opposite direction from it’s limiting beginnings. Postmodernism is apparently restoring the holy and encouraging meaningful interfaith dialogue in an age where many are turned off by religious dogmas and yet duped by the reductive claims of science. A good example of this trend can be found here: “Toward a Theological Understanding of Postmodernism.”

Contemporary postmodernism may be spiritually liberating or restrictive. On the plus side, the conceptual deconstruction of sacred texts, teachings and practices strips away bogus, culture-laden ideas about God and moral righteousness. But on the down side, some postmoderns still seem unable to consider the idea that power may be holy, that the holy is ‘good power,’ and so on.

At the other end of the spectrum there’s an equally unfortunate scenario where authoritarian personality types are consumed by a numinous power that’s less than God. These individuals haven’t developed any appreciation for postmodernism’s potential usefulness. In fact, these folks probably don’t think at all because they just know they’re right (at least, that’s what they say or imply).

One way to identify an authoritarian personality is in the inability to admit uncertainty. There’s always “no doubt” in an authoritarian’s mind. They simply must have things their way, intellectually and often practically. The last thing they’re willing to do is compromise, and this can happen in any religious, political, scientific or New Age circuit.

Perhaps the next important task for postmodernism is to strip away its elitist, specialized style and make its ideas more accessible to the general public. There’s a branch of philosophy that says if you cannot say things clearly, in a way that everyone can understand, chances are you don’t really understand it yourself.

While this approach engenders its own set of complications (e.g. how can we ‘make it clear’ if an audience always interprets what we say?)  it does seem worthy of consideration.

Copyright © Michael Clark. All rights reserved.


1 Comment

Opinion – Olympic opening speaks volumes

Vancouver 2010 Inukshuk: janusz l / Janusz Leszczynski

Last night’s Olympic opening ceremony wasn’t my top priority. I wasn’t going to bother watching it but realized I should see what my country was up to.

After all, I graduated in sociology and should know how the Canadian Olympic officials chose to represent this country to the world.

I suppose considering the budget they did a pretty good job. But what I found sort of bush-league was how the emphasis fell on Canada’s greatness instead of the greatness of Olympic Sport.

When doing graduate work in India in the late 1980s I saw a similar phenomenon. Anything of merit in India was pumped up to emphasize how “world class” that country was.

Canada is much the same.

This might be a sign of some kind of grand national insecurity. I mean, if you’re really the best you don’t have to talk about it. You just do it… and most everyone gets that you’re number one.

Having said that, I am proud of some of the claims made about my country last night. I believe we are miles (oops kilometers) ahead of many other lands in terms of forging a working and peaceful cultural mosaic.

It’s easy to talk about the wonders of multiculturalism when you’re banning religious groups from your country or beating up on minorities. It’s quite another thing to actually live peacefully with many different kinds of peoples (and their divergent beliefs) in close proximity.

That’s probably what I’m most proud of. And it’s probably the future of not only Canada but hopefully the world.

So why the lingering social insecurity? Is it because the US media tends to ignore and sometimes mock us? And if so, who cares?

From my experience the Americans worth interacting with see past all that, just as the Canadians worth interacting with don’t construct an identity by saying “we’re not the US.”

How boring!

Defining oneself as Canadian by saying “we’re not America” is also a bit thin and hypocritical. Canadian media anchors, for example, often jump at the chance to appear ‘cool and hip’ by being on Twitter and Facebook.

Uh… what country developed those social media? Or WordPress, for that matter?

So let’s get real. Canada does get a lot of things right but also depends on the USA and many other countries to stay afloat.

It’s an international world. So why don’t we all start thinking that way?

–MC

Share


1 Comment

Review – The Conspiracy to Rule the World: From 911 to the Illuminati (DVD)

Reality Films

Reality Films

Back in the 1980s, I looked at the G-7 countries through an arguably simplistic lens.

Although getting top marks in sociology at university, in retrospect I was only dimly aware of what was happening in the world around me.

Graduate studies in India and later in Ottawa, Canada, certainly helped to open my eyes. But as Plato noted in The Republic, wide eyes can make for blurry vision. And once my eyes returned to sharper focus I realized just how little I really can know.

Conspiracy theories abound on the internet today on countless topics but, from my perspective, there’s little way to know what’s what.

Almost everything I see of importance comes through the media. A bit of Photoshop here, a touch of video editing there, and who knows what an unscrupulous profit seeker or mad-person could produce and try to pass off as fact?

Sure, I get impressions from time to time like anyone else, but these are just gut feelings and their verification often seems impossible.

The Conspiracy to Rule the World: From 911 to the Illuminati raises important questions and does this very well. But to an outside observer the movie cannot escape the irony that, while talking about presumed secret societies, social power and media deception, it too is part of the media.

Given that, the production company behind this DVD (Reality Films) differs from most. It pushes the envelope a bit further and attains a degree of self-awareness not found in, say, the major networks around the world.

A good example can be found in two other Reality Films where the British UFO investigator and former MOD employee Nick Pope is asked, on camera, if he’s just a government disinformation stooge merely pretending to be free of all the machinations of state power.

The second time he’s asked Pope discusses the issue, recognizing that viewers cannot really be sure if he is or isn’t (See Review – Nick Pope: The Man Who Left the MOD and Review: Lies and Deception: UFOs and The Secret Agenda (DVD)).

To return to The Conspiracy to Rule the World, however, the major bases covered in this film are:

  • The notion that ordinary men and women are unfairly ruled by elites and soon to experience a progressive lack of human rights and freedoms.
  • The allegation that an unspoken but all too real selection process ensures the legitimization and reproduction of hidden social agendas through the media.
  • The idea of the Apollo Moon Landings Hoax, conceding the (and I quote) “remote possibility” that the Moon landings actually happened but arguing that media coverage was augmented by still images and video footage taken during earthbound simulations.

All this, of course, just leaves us with more questions.

But in my opinion it’s far better to ask questions and consider all the angles before getting stuck on one particular point of view. And for that reason, alone, The Conspiracy to Rule the World is well worth a careful viewing.

–MC