Welcome to Alternative Ideas...

Providing a platform for new and different voices...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Intelectual Ownership

The concept of plagiarism is based upon the assumption that the individual is of primacy and that they act alone. There are of course many individuals that are denoted as having come up with great ideas and 'theories'. But, each one of these individuals is only singularly set within one interdependent, yet whole, social system. People don't create work on their own and aren't the originators of these ideas that are attributed to them. Ideas are in fact universal collections that are only communicated through that one individual. They are not ‘their’s’, but ‘ours’. Our history’s, our culture’s, our society’s, our civilization’s, etc. Collective knowledge has evolved throughout time and cannot be credited to one singular place or individual. How is it that one person can claim intellectual property rights to the historical accumulation of thought? What one person was taught in school and seems commonsensical to them today but may have been revolutionary 2000, 500, or maybe even 100 years ago. Thus someone else’s ideas are in fact our collective community’s ideas, not mine for my own intellectual profit.

'Plagiarism' as a term maybe 'a crime' in today's perception of reality, but a crime 'against intelligence, honesty and authorship'? I would argue with this notion and say it is more of the opposite. It think it is dishonest to claim my ideas for myself knowing full well that I am just a conduit for information - an interpreter of social existence - and a socially constructed interpreter at that. Perhaps we can start arguing structure v. agency now, but I don't think it can be argued that our information comes from anywhere within ourselves, or that as academics we tend to keep it for ourselves. We 'need' to publish or we will perish as the old moniker goes. The real question is, do we claim lordship over our thoughts and seek to profit from these ideas (financially, status-wise, professionally, or egotistically), or do we recognize them for what they are - simple ideas based on a common history. Try to take a step outside the world as we are taught it is, and assess things on separate terms.

Now obviously, the principle of plagiarism is the foundation of modern academia and if you want to be a part of it you are required to follow the principles outlawing 'plagiarism' in order to graduate, publish, have a job, etc. But this does not make the principle 'right'. I think it should be our jobs as academic minded individuals to assess all of the principles that we view the world with as well as what we see within it. And the individualistic idea that my ideas are somehow my own property, based on singular experiences, and should be recourse to some form of individual profit is one that I strongly disagree with.

Obviously though, if you want to 'succeed' in academia, I am probably not your best model to follow ;) but it is worth thinking about exactly where you believe your ideas come from, where those ideas in fact came from, and exactly who's property they really are - if anyone's at all. If you come to the conclusion that they do in-fact come from your social surroundings, your experiences within society, and that these ideas are ultimately for the benefit of society, then why would you ever claim them to be your own?

We are simply momentary caretakers of those ideas. They are not mine, his, hers, or those two's; but they are ours, all of ours, and it is a sad state of the only recently dominant 'self-interested' world that we all claim something as simple and arbitrary as 'a thought' to be our own property.

The Sixth Sense

Do human beings have a ‘sixth sense’ that we have simply rationalized away? Animals – of which we are of course included – tend to be thought of as having a ‘sixth sense’ that alerts them to various circumstances or scenarios and causes them to react to various changes, anomalies, dangers, etc. Birds, will feed if it will rain all day, but not in short storms – how do they know? Dogs, cats, whatever, sensing fear, etc. We all are pretty familiar with these types of scenarios… but what about humans? There are people that claim to read minds: psychics, shamans, what-have-you. They are right often enough to have still have enough followers to exist after several millennia; so is there truth to this? Is this simply an untapped human sense that we have not learned to use, or is it something that we have ‘rationalized’ away?

If the theory of evolution is correct and we did evolve from animals, then it would seem that we would have once had these abilities, or at least enough of an understanding of them to use them. With the rise of ‘man’ and his/her capacity for rational thought, is it possible that we have chosen to explain this sensation away because it is not so easy to quantify, grasp, or master? I mean, it is no secret that there is a great deal of skepticism regarding this type of thing. So are we today still doing the same thing? Pushing it further away with the increased value of rationality, and even further away with the decreased belief in spiritual existence?

There are at least two possible lines of thought here. One is that a hard to understand sixth sense exists along the lines of Daoist/Budhist concepts of energy flow and animist practices that can be harnessed through meditation, rituals, and other internal practices. The second scenario to explain this ‘unexplainable’ situation is that of western religions were spiritual life was used to explain ‘unexplainable things’ and the focus and ritual remained external in nature. Either way, there was a path towards allowance and acceptance of possibly ‘unexplainable’ events, experiences, and powers.

This possible sixth sense, was able to find a home in both of these types of religious traditions, but today, with the decline of religion in its all-powerful/believing form in the face of the concept of the truly ‘rational’ actor, is there no longer a place for the exploration of a sixth sense?

As ‘rational’ beings things tend to follow fairly logical – even mathematical – lines of explanation. And while we have been able to diagram the workings of other senses, this possible ‘sixth sense’, seems to be elusive. So claim its existence, some think of it as absurd and simple illusion. Is it that it does not exist, or that science has just not discovered a way to ‘prove’ its existence as of yet?

I guess in the end, animals are animals. So why would virtually all animals seem to have an ‘awareness’ that one other animal does not? Is this because perhaps humans are the anomaly – the one with the capability of ‘rational’ thought? Did humans ‘trade-in’ a sixth sense for ‘rational’ thought – only to leave a few lingering anomalous practitioners? But what if humans are not different? What if the one anomaly of all animals – humans – are simply using that one anomalous feature – rationality – to make this simple sense ‘disappear’? Are humans so focused on the quantification of logical rational thought that they have imagined these unquantifiably mysterious capabilities away?

Can Power be a Manifestation of Energy in Social Form?

This is really not a sound/completed thought, but worth a mention as it came up today...

Many theories of power are generally applied to our social world and the ability of individuals and group/class actors to maintain power over others. I would expand upon this to go beyond ‘social’ form to include any entity as having power. It seems to me that ‘power’ is actually a simple ‘quantification’ of comparative energy use. It is obvious that all things in existence have some sense of power affixed to them, a rock, gravity, a mind, a strong person, a social norm, etc. There is always interplay between entities – both of singular or plural composition – that can be defined as power relationships to do any number of infinite things in relation to another entity.

I always find it interesting that people (i.e. academics) spend so much time arguing over trivial things. I mean is it not common sense to think of power as an ability to do something in relation to another thing? Yet books and books are written about things that seem to be common sense. I mean there is always someone attempting to order pathways and sequences of where power rests within society and even causality. But how is this ever possibly definable? It’s like doing an infinite number of equations where infinity is used in an infinite number of variables an infinite number of times. How does one diagram and/or map the complexities of society’s every actor – human or otherwise – and honestly think that they can define anything? Power is completely subjective to time, space, and EVERY possible factor weighing on said scenario – I.e. infinitely. There can be no definition of a power system; it is indefinable, yet so thoroughly ingrained within our social fabric as to be indefinable. So why do we spend so much time trying to diagram patterns that ‘explain’ it all rather than just running with it?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Can We/Society be Different?

Russian girl...

My point here is about the behavior (not the horrible treatment of this girl - though this is tremendously saddening). That a human child - living primarily with animals - ends up behaving socially as an animal. Think about what this illustrates of the human susceptibility to our socio-cultural environment. If all you see is 'dog social behavior', this becomes your social interaction; if all you see is to focus on our own individual self-profit, then that is how you will act in society - for ourselves.

Imagine if we as human being were all socialized in a different way as this young girl was? What would/could we become as individuals and as a society if we were socialized to think in ways more conducive to cooperation and support of all and others, rather than being individually motivated?

The point is, that we can be whatever we are taught to be or learn to be. The problem with this though is that it is confined by our imaginations and the social realities/prisons that we live in. When will we become different? How will we become different? Who will make us different? Is it You??

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Imperial Tiger

So I understand the situation is tenuous here, but is it really the ‘right’ thing to do to ‘destroy’ the animal? And yes, why don’t you just say ‘kill’ it? I realize the effort at political correctness, but ‘destroy’ sounds even worse. What did you do, drop a giant cement block on it and squash it like a grape? Of course, I guess this analogy is exactly the point: ‘it’.

This Tiger does not deserve to die. It is taken and encaged in a zoo. Away from its natural habitat, outside its realm of instinct and comfort, and then chastised and killed for acting, well… like a Tiger. As this blog will come to show, it is the belief here that all living things are of equal worth and should be of equal importance in our eyes. This Tiger is no different. It should not die for acting out against enslavement, yearning for its natural life. Come on people, stop seeing things through imperialist eyes, and start realizing that true ‘civilization’ requires compromise, constraint, and cooperation with our environment and everything in it. Tigers or any other living entity does not deserve to die at the hands of arrogance, ignorance, or stupidity, especially for simply being themselves.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An Analogy of Today’s Individual

An Individual’s ability to make their own decisions rests on their social existence. Their upbringing, their life experiences, those surrounding them, etc. A good analogy for this is to think of American football. Take one great player on a team full of average players. No I am not going to talk about how the team is only as good as its weakest link, or one great player doesn’t make a team – though this concept of team is important to keep in mind. The thing that I want to elucidate is that this one player may be great or may not be great depending upon their utilization within the ‘system’. If the ‘system’ was of no importance, then why would there be offensive and defensive playbooks or coaches? It is the system that can bring a player’s skills to light. A good receiver on a team that runs the ball 75% of the time may never be seen as a great player unless the offensive system accentuates that individual’s skill set – thus they are beholden to the system they play in. Its easy to say in football that they can go play for another team, yet in the team game that is life, we can’t just decide to go play somewhere else, we are in this game and this offensive system whether we like it or not.

The problem that we face today is that the social system we are in produces societal ‘players’ solely focused on themselves. We are taught about individual freedoms, personal choice, individual rights, private property, etc. All of these are valuable and admirable things, but on the whole, self-based motives and actions – Me. Mine. Ours.

So how does a self-obsessed player like this translate to the analogous football field? They are the ‘pre-madonna’ wide receivers that whine when they don’t ‘get the damn ball’. We all know them and we love watching them make plays, but then chastise them for what they say and do otherwise. Imagine a football team with nothing but flashy pre-madonna wide receivers at every position? That is what our world is turning into. Some of us have been on those teams, even been those players, but that is not what makes successful team chemistry. Why then should we pretend that what doesn’t work in the most obvious team sports we’ve seen will work in the largest and most indefinable team sport we play – life?

How do you ask someone to do something you are not willing to do yourself...??

Monday, May 25, 2009

Proliferating an (actual) Balance of Power

So North Korea has reportedly tested another nuclear weapon and Iran is testing new missiles with longer range capabilities. It seems like every few months we come back to the same basic questions about how to ‘destabilize’ the world. I find this argument very interesting yet also theoretically very absurd. I mean when we take our heads out of the cloud-like prisons that our lives (and the societal scenarios that control them) have become, and put this situation in simple terms it is as hypocritical as can be. I have a hammer, you can not; I have a TV, you can not; I have a car, you can not; I have a university education, you can not; I have a gun, you can not; I have a tank, you can not, I have an army, you can not; I have missiles, you can not; I have nuclear weapons, you can not. BUT WHY NOT?? Oh, of course, its all so that ‘you’ do not ‘destabilize’ the ‘balance of power’ in our little one on one/regional scenario. In other words, you live in fear of me, and you mustn’t try to change that.

Every individual or country (as the world is set up today) should be said to have every right to pursue their own Human Security interests. An individual’s ability for a secure existence: food, shelter, freedom from war, etc. These are all things the Western order espouses, and of course it would be great if everyone could have these things. Yet, at the same time the world’s powers see it fit to handcuff ‘lesser’ nations so as not to allow them to do as they wish, but rather as they are told (because it might destabilize the world).

And realistically, type of Human Security is what defense, military, and nuclear capabilities are really about today. The chances of the use of nuclear weapons in today’s world by a state actor is virtually nil, terrorist organizations would pose a greater risk of using them (if they can obtain them) due to the ideological uncertainties. But is this threat in fact a bad thing? I am not claiming that terrorist are rational or there is any norms or mores that check them, or that I’d like for them to have these weapons, as a usage of them goes against my pacifist principles. HOWEVER, if everyone has the same weapons, and is fairly equally adept at using them, then the ‘balance of power’ is actually that, a BALANCE of power.

Current geo-political scenarios are not in ‘balance’ as the terminology claims, they are in ‘stable’ positions or positions that maintain the ‘status quo’. This is not a ‘balance’ as the word is linguistically intended to be used. It is simply the stronger kid on the block (the international community – lead by a few bullies), posturing to the weaker kids on the block that they better not try to do anything to gain equality, as an actual BALANCE, would ‘destabilize’ the situation – i.e. take power away from one, give it to the other, thus rendering their relationship one of EQUALS.

!?!? WOW ?!?! You mean the world could be based on the negotiation of equals? I find it absolutely absurd that the established powers – and the sheep that call these countries home – do not recognize the absurdity and hypocrisy of this notion of a ‘balance of power’ as it is used today.

If North Korea gained nuclear capabilities, it is said that South Korea and Japan would then seek a nuclear weapon – except that they already are teamed with nuclear powers (the US obviously being key). Do these countries need to build one? No, would they, perhaps. If Iran – which doesn’t not seem to be anywhere near a nuclear weapon – where to gain the capability, what would this do to the Middle East? Israel already has Nukes, so how is this not actually ‘balancing’ an existing power imbalance?

The fact is that the countries and entities in the world that do not wish to fall into line with the powers of the world are ostracized and told they can’t work to achieve an equal negotiating field with the established powers. In turn they are told that they must always be second, or they will be MADE to be second.

Currently the more established powers of the world are happy with the ‘stability’ of the global order; of course, they are on top. They do not want to actually have to undertake EQUAL dialog with other countries. If Iran, North Korea, and/or even Al Qaeda had nuclear capabilities, you bet that the US, Israel, and others would pay a heck of a lot more attention to the interests and requests of these entities – maybe even (Gasp!) negotiate with them!!! If ‘I’ am a big arrogant f**ker with no qualms about using violence to force others into submissive stances/positions regarding the way I want the world to be (by pushing my cultural, economical, and political ways) then of course, I use my strength and intimidating position to force my way on others. I don’t HAVE to, or even NEED to respect your ways; I will make the world as I want it and don’t have to listen to you at all. However, if all things are equal, and I know that you could harm me, or make me change my way of life, then of course I will do what I can not to provoke you. I may perhaps even do preemptive negotiating and consulting to allow for us to find common ground – a compromise – so that we never come to blows.

This is what the world actually needs – TRUE balance; a world where all cultures, creeds, economic ideals, and political scenarios can be respected under mutual appreciation in an effort to find common ground and a way to live together peacefully and respectfully. This is not the world we live in as there is OBVIOUSLY no ‘balance’ in it.


Words from today’s news stories on this issue:

Belligerence, destabilize that region, provocations, recklessly challenging, endanger security and stability in the region, resolutely opposed, a danger to the world, alarming, irresponsible, direct threat against the peace and stability in the region, deeply disturbed, a clear violation of its U.N. Security Council obligations, threat to international peace.

India who recently flouted these ‘balance of power’ principles and gained nuclear capabilities said: “India is against nuclear proliferation,” LOLOLOLOLOL…. Unless it is us proliferating of course… Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran’s president) said: “In principle we oppose the production, expansion and the use of weapons of mass destruction.” – Yeah, ‘in principle’, but in the real world, since those trying to tell us what to do have them, we hope North Korea does as well…

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Is that your work ... or a pill's?

Valuable stance...

Arbitrariness Reigns

In the fascist state, according to Poulantzas, law no longer regulates and arbitrariness reigns. Rules are not strictly ever put in place to follow – there is ‘no system’ to ‘predict its own transformations’. My question to this is, ‘is this a bad thing?’ I understand the implications of anarchism that lace that question. But that is not my intention, Anarchy would be about chaos for the most part, no? But what about on a philosophical level thinking about a state that had a fluid legal accord with its population? I am not sure that it is possible to envision – and of course not in today’s capitalist landscape – but think of the implication for human freedom on a larger scale with a limited amount of intervention but with fluid regulations. I know I am not making much sense right now, and if it is, it seems like there is no middle ground here. But perhaps there could be in an alternative system.

The problem is that we think of a situation today that is ruled by violence and strength. But one of peace and a recourse to cooperative dialog could go a long way to allowing for less rigidity towards change in a society. Strict laws, election cycles, and societal norms, do not allow for much change or alternative dialog. Check Poulantzas’ The Fascist State and the third chapter (I think) on General propositions on an exceptional state. I feel like this ‘arbitrariness’, is different from anarchy, and may open a different type of door to think through...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Initial Post: On questioning reality

If the world as a social entity as we see it today ‘ended’ and all that remained of our literary and philosophical tenets was a few scattered books of the Star Wars franchise, not even the whole story but pieces of it, what would the new belief system that arose from it look like? We can laugh at it now, but only because we ‘know’ better. Today’s society is just like this, fact today is tomorrow’s humor. The incomplete pieces to a new puzzle that we don’t even know exists yet. Today, our ‘reality’ is complete fact, until tomorrow we find out that world actually isn’t flat…

This is not a new line of thought, but it is an important one. Reality is what we see and accept today as that ‘fact’. But reality could just as easily be something completely different. We believe what we are taught and what see, but that does not mean that it must be reality or that it is set in stone. The story of life is often said to be through the eyes of the beholder – in many stories this is the victor. Obviously we should be challenging these notions, critiquing the world in front of us and working to create an alternative that we are more comfortable with.

Over time with this blog I hope to question this system, lay out some philosophical tenets, and work towards creating a future system that we can then strive to achieve.

I am not interested in taking a system from the past and trying to revisit it under a different name or place, but to look at systems throughout time and try to assess what has ‘worked’, what has not ‘worked’, and what may have worked well together. With this type of analysis it is possible to try to construct an alternative system that may be more conducive to all human – and other – life on earth. Obviously this is a monumental task and one for a lifetime/lifetimes. But the effort must be made as the world’s present focus rests on dressing its wounds rather than treating the causes of the wounds – systemic causes.

I subscribe to the basic principle that "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness." The basic premise to this is that we do not create ourselves, we do not make our foundational core, but rather that the social order that we grow up in, what we are taught in life, what we see and hear happen, etc, all shapes who we are and the decisions that we make. Yes of course, we then make our own make day-to-day choices, but these decisions are based on an upbringing that is not of our choice and do not allow us to decide where those decisions come from.

This bring us back to the systemic nature. The way we see the world today is based on the socio-cultural systems that we grow up in. Why do Americans, Russians, Chinese, others primarily believe that their country is the best? It certainly isn’t because of any concretely accepted ‘factual’ tenet; it is because a nationalistic fervor has slowly been ingrained into our world order since the treaty of Westphalia in 1648. This is not to say that competitive regional pride did not exist prior to this, but it is now global and national. On an individual level this of course can extend down to our own individual relationships, products, and beliefs. We all believe what we are ‘grown’ to believe.

There are always anomalies that extend their curiosities beyond simple learning, but for the most part, we are all products of the system we grow up in and confined to its parameters. If one grows up believing that competition between individuals is of paramount importance to society progressing, then it will be tough for you to go against years of indoctrination and the people that dot your social life, and believe something otherwise. It is an uphill battle to fight against this. But that is exactly where we find our selves in society today.

It does not take the most intelligent person to look at the world and see that we are not in a good place. War and conflict have been increasing in scope and practice over the last several centuries. But this still is not the point; war and conflict pervade human history. But this des not in-fact mean that it is inherent to human existence. If it is possible to socialize people and society, then it must be possible to create a ‘truly’ civilized society that is more beneficial to all and rewards individuals for looking and acting beyond their most basic individualistic animal tendencies.

The modern socio-economic system marks this ‘individual’ as primary and the community as something secondary that will ‘rise’ automatically with each individuals’ own success. This method has found success in mainstream culture, and via material reward. But is this the best longer term method for happiness amongst the masses? Communitarian methods such as communism have not shown the material results that ‘free’ systems have. But does there have to be one or the other? Individual versus community? Free versus dictatorial? What if ingrained within the motivations of humanity, equal importance was given to both the individual and the community. That a person was equally rewarded in the freedom of their choice for thinking communally – if communal thinking was in fact individually the most rewarding? What if it was a win-win situation, not me or the community?

Some people may say this exists, but it is very difficult to ignore the essence of a thing and what this means for most probable outcomes. Ultimately our society produces people that – at their core – will put themselves, their family, their country, and their situation above another’s. It is this individualistic, nature that does not foster cooperation, but competition and in-turn increases the likelihood of conflict. This competition may create growth, as one may want to ‘outdo their neighbor’, but that is not the world that I want to live in. I don’t want to be trying to be better than my neighbors; I want us both to be happy so as to bring a much more harmonious life to us both. Therefore decreasing the chances of conflict, minimizing stress, and most likely causing more happiness…

This blog is obviously not extensive or detailed, it is an opening word designed to set a broad agenda for its future. There aren’t cohesive and conclusive statements in this post, simply observations, incomplete thoughts, and questions. It is not about whether they are right or wrong, sourced or otherwise, but they are constructive thoughts to move forward with. Let each of us build upon them with more thoughts – for transition is impossible if you have nothing to transition too. We must create ‘B’, our ideal social setting first, and then we can worry about transitioning from ‘A’ to that idyllic ‘B’.