Archive for June, 2007

How our schools kill creativity

This is a video of a talk Ken Robinson gave to the TED lecture series in California on how schools kill creativity.

In this talk, the always hilarious, but also always informative Ken Robinson first asks whether our schools stifle creativity.  I thought this very personal discussion by Robinson about whether this sanitation of our creativity is done and how it is done, does a great job of illustrating how this, the basic driving force of industrialization, ultimately poisons ourselves and cannot continue on indefinitely.

And besides, I laughed my butt off at his description of university professors, so even if you disagree with this, I still figured it was worth sharing.

Enjoy.

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click here for Ken Robinson’s talk

The myth of humanity as naturally violent

Howard Zinn debunks the myth that it is human nature to be aggressive, kill and initiate wars.

This short answer wouldn’t be even half as powerful if Zinn himself hadn’t been a participant in WWII and had come to the hard conclusion on his own that even the putative ‘good war’ was less than good and his part in it, was less than heroic.

graphs showing party support by province

I have recently decided to expand the Paulitics Provincial/Regional Polling Resource to include a long-term graph showing a rolling poll average for each province (or region).  Here is the preliminary data for all provincial/regional polls conducted by all polling firms in the past 6 months.   The graphs are rolling averages so, unlike here, it is actually possible to see a clear picture of what’s happening.

Here are the trends in party support for the past six month for Ontario, Quebec, BC, Alberta, Atlantic Canada and the Prairies.

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Megalomania and the problem with U.S. politics

No amount of writing or blog posting could be able to better prove the point that the elite-centred cult of personality which is the American political system corrupts than this quote.

This quote is from current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg after announcing that he is leaving the U.S. Republican Party.

“I believe this brings my affiliation into alignment with how I have led and will continue to lead my city.” (source)

That’s right folks:  “my” city. 

The city belongs to him.  

He owns it.

The irony is that some U.S. Democrats will probably jump on this quote as evidence that their Republican counterparts are just so full of themselves that they lead themselves to belive things like this.

But the fact of the matter is the Bloomberg has been a Democrat for most of his life and thus is a perfect example of how the problem with U.S. politics isn’t the Republicans… its the entire structure of their system around the concept of what Marx called the ‘Cult of Personality’ (which developed very deliberately largely as a result of the progressivist reforms in the 19th Century).

If anybody needed any more evidence that authority like this corrupts, then this is it.

~

P.S. thanks to Red Jenny for the above source on the scientific study of the corrupting influence of authority on people.  She posted quite a while back and, after reading this story, I couldn’t help but think of it.

An atheist argument for teaching religion in school

This video is of a short but fantastic lecture given at the famous TED lectures in California by Dan Dennett.   The lecture makes a compelling case why we atheists should support the teaching of religion in schools (with Dennett’s caveat, of course, that ALL religions are taught and that instruction be factually-based).

As a product of Ontario’s publicly-run Catholic education school system from kindergarten up until my first year of university, I do have to say that while I hated catechism class and found it terribly brainwashing, Dennett does make a very strong case.

Looking back, I can see that the one religion class of my entire pre-university schooling which I actually enjoyed was the one which was taught without bias and which was geared towards exactly what Dennett is talking about — all world religions.  This class helped lay the foundations for me to understand the ability of religion to manipulate society and opened my eyes to many issues and topics which still continue to influence my research.  And that was just one short class.

Maybe we athiests have been going about it all the wrong way?  Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to ban religion from the classroom, but should try instead merely to get away from the parochial cuius regio, eius religio by presenting a complete anthropological account of religion stripped of its dogma?

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For Dan Dennett’s TED lecture, click here.

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For the TED website with links to other very interesting lectures on Technology, Entertainment and/or Design, click here

Paulitics Polling Resource: Tories’ surge halted

With the latest Decima poll released earlier this week, there’s now evidence to suggest that any momentum towards recovery which the Tories had enjoyed only a few weeks ago, is now gone.

The Tories began their slow slide down from the 38% range in the Paulitics Polling Resource around April of this year.  However right when their rolling average trend line slammed into the comparatively stagnant Liberal rolling average trend line, they bounced back from just over 32% back up to 36%.

It is this latest rebound which has effectively been halted and the Tories are now dropping faster or at least as fast as any party has dropped in the polls in the past 12 months.  The only two other instances of parties dropping approximately this fast in the polls in the last 12 months have been: 

(1) The New Democrats between November 13 and December 13 2006 who dropped 18% to 12% in rolling averages; and

(2) The Liberals between mid-December 2006 and early March 2007 who dropped 10 points from 38% to 28%.

Now this does not mean that the Tories are in a crisis or anything.  Their rate of decent may be greater at this point than either the Liberals or the New Democrats’ lines were in these two previous times, but the Tories’ fall hasn’t been going on for very long.

Long and short of it is:  Things are definitely interesting, but I wouldn’t want to put money on what will happen by the end of the summer let alone next week.

With this latest poll (and the Leger poll which I hadn’t previously included in my master list), the Paulitics Polling Resource now stands like this:

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For National Results and long term trends in party support, click here.

For a breakdown of party support at the provincial and regional level, click here.

BREAKING NEWS: Michael Moore gives a GOOD speech

I’m not normally a fan of Michael Moore.  But the segment which Democracy Now! did on his testimony at the California state legislature has a clip of what is truly a fantastic speech delivered with an oratorical style I did not think Michael Moore capable of.

There is no way that I can say this without sounding pretentious as hell, but I have previously felt that Michael Moore’s brand of progressivism – especially when compared to true luminaries such as Noam Chomsky — was a bit like cousin Cletus’s 5-part serenade ‘Ode to a swimmin’ hole’ on his banjo after an afternoon of good moonshine.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 

Before this interview, I always thought:  Entertaining?  Yes.  Enlightening?  Not as much.  So, while I may be losing some of my commie street cred by saying this, I do have to say that, regardless of your opinion of Michael Moore, his speech in this Democracy Now! segment is well worth the watch especially considering the neo-liberal forces at work within our own country working to bring us closer to U.S.-style healthcare.

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Click here to view the Democracy Now! segment (opens in Real Media Player)

 

 

If you don’t have Real Media Player, you can download it for free here

All that glitters is not golden

Manitoba’s “Golden Boy”:  The unintentional symbol for what’s wrong with Canada.

First, before going on from that incendiary statement, I should begin with the obligatory statements to prevent too much hate mail:   I’ve spent several summers in Manitoba and have visited the province many times throughout my childhood and I really do like most of the Manitobans I have encountered.

So, now that that’s out of the way, it is truly remarkable how Manitoba’s “Golden Boy” – their beloved statue and unofficial symbol of the province – can have so much symbolism for Canada which exists at multiple levels without having been intentionally designed.  Regardless, much of this symbolism is, shall we say, not something to be admired or celebrated as many are wont to do and, as such, is worth a critical look at.  The unintentional and profoundly unflattering symbolism of “Golden Boy” exists at three different levels.

Symbolic item #1: “Golden Boy” isn’t gold at all.

Yes, that’s right, “Golden Boy” is only gilded gold made using much the same technique ancient counterfeiters used to pass bronze or lead or non-gold coins off as gold ones.

When you think about it, it’s a fitting symbolic equivalent to the country which considers itself so superior to the United States; which claims itself to be ‘golden’ and as pristine as the untouched snow when, in actuality, we generally actively support the U.S. in their emperial adventures…. so long as we get to preserve our illusions of golden purity.

In Iraq, the Chretien Liberals helped out by sending a fleet into the Persian Gulf to assist the overtaxed American fleets with patrols.  But the list goes on.  Afghanistan.  The U.S.’s illegal war in Kosovo.  Haiti (historically and currently).  Yep, we’re just about as ‘golden’ as “Golden Boy”.

Symbolic item #2: “Golden Boy” represents Mercury — the Roman god of trade, profit and commerce.

Yes, “Golden Boy” is in the end merely a statue designed to glorify and pay tribute to our society’s new gods: trade, profit, commerce and – since the root word of ‘Mercury’ is related to the root word of ‘merchandise’ — consumerism.

But, while we glorify trade, profit and commerce, there were even segments of ancient Roman society who were not so easily fooled.  In the ruins of ancient Pompeii, on the other hand, we see murals such as the one depicted left, which show the god Mercury depicted with an unusually large phallus which, contrary to in our culture, had a profoundly undesirable quality.  Under this particular mural there was profanity written which was directed towards the god of trade and commerce.  I won’t relay what the profanity said, but it doesn’t take much to imagine what the jist of it is.

Also of note is that this particular depiction of Mercury, by employing the large phallus, might have also been a reference to prostitution as paintings of phalluses often pointed (literally) the way towards the prostitution sectors of the city for tourists.  Interestingly, since Poet Langston Hughes famously called America a prostitute in his poem Columbia (“Columbia, my dear girl, / You really haven’t been a virgin for so long / It’s ludicrous to keep up the pretext”), it does not take a huge leap of reason to see that so too can Canada be considered to have prostituted herself towards the ends of capitalism, trade, profit and commerce.

Symbolic item #3: “Golden Boy” is rotting from the inside

For those of you who were in Manitoba around 2002, you’ll remember that “Golden Boy” had to be taken down because he was literally rotting from the inside out.  What is more, if you followed the much-reported (at least in the province of Manitoba) story of his ‘repair’, an interesting fact was revealed after he was returned to his perch atop the legislature building:  the ‘repair’ is only going to last for about 20 years before he’s completely rotted out again.

This is especially prophetic when one considers that, as economic analysts have recently noted, since the American economy — the engine which fuels North American capitalism — is anemic, but the stock markets are on the rise artificially through increased money flow, we are perhaps heading towards a 1929, Great Depression-style collapse sooner rather than later.  Add to that the fact that credit card debts are increasing at alarming rates and we can see that our deficit-financed consumerist lifestyle truly is rotting from the inside out.

But here’s where the ironic symbolism of “Golden Boy’s” rot jumps to another level:  It was discovered in 2002, when “Golden Boy” was taken down, that much of the rotting experienced by the statue was caused by the electrical wiring leading to his torch.  Since the torch represents the torch/flame of knowledge and the quest for learning, this discovery reminded me of Voltaire’s Bastards by John Ralston Saul.   In this work, Saul argues that the kind of knowledge which has come to be rewarded in modern Western capitalist civilization is an exploitative, power-seeking and ultimately corrupting knowledge. 

Saul writes “Knowledge became the currency of power… The most common characteristics of our elites are cynicism, rhetoric and the worship of both ambition and power.”

In short, the only kind of ‘knowledge’ “Golden Boy” – the god of trade, profit and commerce – is capable of giving, is a corruptive knowledge which, ultimately, is mercinary since it is not coupled with other human virtues such as Rousseauian pity or Socratic civic duty.

Two quotes that are essential for progressives to know

These are two great quotes I serendipitously came across in the same day which I think all progressive comrades should have at their disposal to throw back and right-wingers in certain circumstances.

Scenario #1:

Right-winger:  “If socialism is so great, why hasn’t it become wildly popular?”

Comrade:

“It took us 5000 years to put wheels on luggage”
     -William McDonough, “The wisdom of designing Cradle to Cradle”

Scenario #2:

Right-winger: “socialism is dead” or “socialism failed” or “Marxism is irrelevant”

Comrade:

“Marx is definitely dead for humankind.”

Now this quote in and of itself isn’t such a great response until you mention that it was written by Itallian thinker Croce in the year 1907 – ten years before the Russian Revolution.  And Croce wasn’t the first to prematurely dig a grave for Marxism and, as Alan Maass notes, since people are still parroting this line, he clearly hasn’t been the last.


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