Thursday, April 28, 2011

Short Night

1:50 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
Last night I completed a staggering feat. I started working on a research paper in the afternoon, and turned it in early the next morning. Granted, my subject knowledge was already exceedingly strong, and I already knew the sources from which I wanted to draw my support, but it was still a grim battle with fatigue to churn out such a staggering work of astute comparative analysis.

One never really realizes how much church there is during holy week, until the rest of one's time has been greedily gobbled by work and homework. Only in retrospect can I see the crunch, I did not even think of it at the time, and I was so concerned with other matters, that the paper sort of snuck up on me. It does not make matters easier that Bartky does not believe in giving a month's notice, as he realizes the class will procrastinate the first to weeks anyway. So he elects to procrastinate for us, and gives us the paper without any extra procrastination time.

The result is that today I am tired. For most this would be a big problem, and I will probably find myself crashing in the middle of my last class/my drive home, but to this point in the day I have only marked an increase in my ability to assimilate information with which I am presented...which could not have come at a worse time.

Today, music for the listener class was dealing in Modernism. My poor, confused, addled, and possibly unbalanced, teacher was talking about it in almost rapturous terms. He finds music from this period to be the most interesting....Interesting, I say, is certainly a word for it.

Atonal, poly-tonal, arrhythmic, and disquieting; the "music" drifted from one place to another with no semblance of development--as is found in previous classical music--and no real functional harmony or recognizable melody--as is found in, what is that word I am looking for, music. It was a serious of increasingly dissonant and ugly sounds, which ended--by God's mercy and providence alone--without once resolving any of the tension. I did not get any catharsis to purge all the bad juju that was being pumped into my system, and toward the end I was left with a vein pulsing unpleasantly in the side of my head.

I am not someone who is a stranger to discord in my music.,and I can definitely appreciate dissonance as a device in music. While dissonance adds interest to a consonant piece, a piece that is made up entirely from dissonant ideas is not interesting; it holds as little interest as an unadorned consonant piece, and it is painfully ugly to boot. I have been searching for an adjective that truly encompasses the achievements of modern music, and I think I finally found it.

Blegh

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nuremburg.

2:13 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
I joined battle with half a classroom today. I had one ally to my name, but as it was Scott, who is TA for two professors, I felt like I was in good company.

The topic that we were engaging was Nuremburg, and whether or not it was a case of victor's justice, or if it was indeed a fair and just trial.

Scott and I both pointed out a massive inconsistency in the trial. The Leaders of Soviet Russia were as guilty, if not more guilty, of every charge brought against the Nazi leadership by the London Charter than were the Nazis. If you look at the death tolls, the simple fact is that Stalin was more deadly, and he did not confine himself to dissidents, Jews, and "defective" people. The Soviets went after every cultural and ethnic anomaly; the cossacks--or anyone else with Tatar, Turk, or Alan blood--were also subject to genocide. Why were Russian judges sitting to convict Nazis of these atrocities?

Nuremburg was victor's justice; it was selective justice. We dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; we firebombed Dresden and every decent sized town in Japan. We did what we felt we had to do to win the war, and we have better excuse for being on the defensive, but the fact remains that it is the victor who gets to decide what is counted as an atrocity before the law.

The charges leveled by the London Charter could almost be a summary of WWII, of war in the abstract. The Nazis would have executed Russian and American leaders for war crimes if they succeeded. One of the ugly aspects of war is that the loser dies.

If you appeal to some higher ideal of justice in justifying the trials at Nuremburg, you need to understand that the victor was guilty as well, perhaps not to the same extent as the foe--at least in the US case--but more than guilty enough. War is hell. If men understood history; they would know that war is never good or desirable.

When we won the war, it was the triumph of our perspective over theirs. Our perspective is certainly many times better, but we were by no means blameless. The Nazis were evil, but they thought of it as progress; the next step in the evolution of humankind and civilization. Had they won they would have been the heroes of history, and the Russians would have been what the Nazis are to us, and justly so.

Whoops! out of time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another Rainy Day. Aweseemo!

4:51 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
I don't believe I can possibly impress upon the reader the extent of my love for rain. It is not just the delight of having the myriad droning, bleating, sounds of the world covered over in the gentle wash and echo of the rain. Nor is it the sight of the tastelessly and scantily clad masses scurrying for cover as they shiver. Nor is it even the pungent and oddly cheering wormsmell and greenness that blot out all the unpleasant smells, which the constant passing of thirteen-thousand people and their jalopies leaves behind. One would not have the whole of it, even if one were to add to the first three pleasures, the delight which comes from the markedly pleasant sensation of rain on the face...I need hardly get started on the difference wrought by the release of days of pressure built up in the joints.

I do not much care for cloudy days, but I love a rainy day; thunderstorms are even better. I never think more clearly than when I am walking, and the rain only serves to aid this effect. For the last three days I have felt rather bogged down. Yesterday, it was well beyond me to write anything cohesive, and all my attempts to research turned immediately into headaches. I spent the entire day reading novels, and there seemed times when even those seemed like they might be a bit much.

Today, it simply is not so. I wrote two paragraphs of German in twenty minutes, spoke in full--cohesive--sentences during German class, held my own in an argument in Ulmschneider's class, and described the Concert that I had been to this weekend in terms that would make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

(Couldn't help myself)

Rain, when I actually get up to go mess around in it, is a most remarkable restorative. I have heard much of the waters at Bath, but what need have I of Bath when I regularly receive, in pleasant droplet increments, waters from the heavens!

One should also note at this point that people do not often take note of their facial expressions as they walk into the rain, making for some particularly amusing displays. A word to the wise, do not walk around with your mouth wide open and your lips pulled back over your teeth. With the the right affectation, even the loveliest faces can be transformed into something rather grotesque. When in doubt, do not walk around with your mouth open...please.

Alright, seerius biznez.

For years, think 14-18, I considered my life a crusade; a crusade to annihilate every single negative homeschooler stereotype in the minds of all sentient beings that I encountered. I was determined to have a thorough, intelligent, amusing conversation in every establishment that I entered, especially if it sold coffee. I considered myself an ambassador from the homeschooled of the world to those of a more "normal" background. I was tired of the socialization question. I was tired of the doubt,the disapproval, and the condescension. I would not allow myself to be branded with a negative stereotype, and I dared anyone to talk with me for three minutes and try. Most of the time, when my background finally came up, my partners in conversation were shocked; they would never have guessed that I was homeschooled, and wondered if I was the norm or the exception. I always answered that Home school kids came in as wide and varied types as did those who went to regular schools.

If a negative stereotype is in the way, it must be removed. This is, and has been, my attitude.

That said, in German today, the three most accomplished students--excluding one--said that they would be ashamed of their American identity when traveling in a foreign country, and cited stereotypes that Europeans have for Americans as the reason.

Needless to say, das gefällt mir nicht gut. I like all three of these people, but the first word that comes to mind is cowardice. They would not even try to represent their countrymen well, one of them (who is possibly my favorite person of the three) went so far as to say that he/she/it would apologize for being American. At this point I was fairly dumbfounded. You would apologize for what you are, your heritage, based on the fact that the other person doesn't like it? The KKK wishes that King had thought like that.

Disassociation. Can there even be self worth? Can a person with the idea that they are a complete and valuable being believe that the culture they came from is a thing of which to be wholly ashamed? These are also the people who are gradually turned to agreeing with controlling government. The citizens of this country cannot be taught, so government needs to lead the way. Problems are not dealt with through personal interaction, but by government interdiction.

OK. The grotesque, loud, gluttonous, obnoxious, American tourists of the world do exist, but that does not mean that you say "sorry, I'm American." It means that you stand as a counterbalance. You go out into the world and change the stereotypes, you grind out the impression of the loud American tourist, and you leave a positive idea in its place. You do not apologize for your background because the other person has prejudices against it. You tear down the prejudices, that you may be judged according to your own merit.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Brilliance of the Sun and of Marx

2:10 PM Posted by Patrick No comments
Well. It is a sunny day outside, warm, clear, with hint of a cool breeze to drive away any threats of humidity. The masses have affected an ungainly waddle, which an expert on the ground judged to be the result of the return of the flip-flop. Student elections are in session, and students only vote if there is free food to go with the vote. The classroom atmosphere has changed, the eager beginnings and smooth mid-semester stride are long since passed. Attitudes range between those who have taken on an almost inhuman intensity, and those who just seem glazed over and sleepy.

It is in this intellectual climate that we began on Marx. By the end of the lesson, Bartky actually had some of the students nodding along, agreeing with the precepts. To those of us who had a few minutes to linger, he confided that sections on Marx always end up with him getting some newly converted Marxists coming to his office, and that it is always necessary to correct them.

If you are someone for whom the Metaphysical has always appeared to be gobbledygook, then Marx may seem like your balm and tonic. He understands the problems that you see manifest in liberal ideals and capitalism. He even has answers to finally stop the madness, bring about full conscious knowledge of the "species being," and promote the universal love and brotherhood of all mankind. His theories make such sense; they make no appeal to God or higher nature, only that which is physically demonstrable.

The final step of false sophistication. A system that claims itself scientific, posited with no regard to anything so abstract as morals or higher ideals, only equality and sustenance.

In every case this political system has failed and met with disaster, genocide, and tyranny.

Marx, for all of his supposed realism, fails to understand human nature. He actually thinks that human desire would be content with pleasant subsistence. He fails to understand that human desires are infinite, and that the anarchy he dreams of would be chaos. He is just another sort of idealist and refuses to deal with the ugliness that is everywhere apparent. He wants to believe that men would be just and good, if only all these human machinations got out of their way.

He makes a disastrous mistake that Machiavelli, the Greeks, the Romans, or any other philosophers could have told him would lead to ruin and bloodshed. He sweeps away all the religion, morals, and conventions that bind the monster and tyrant that sleeps in every human breast. All the higher authorities that direct man to a higher good--a good which Marx would not acknowledge--are swept away, and man sets out to satisfy his ambitions and appetites, free of all restraint.

Nonetheless, the picture of a world free from division and struggle that Marx paints is so tempting, and the methodical, scientific, process by which he goes through the creation of such a world lends such confidence. But it is like staring at the sun. It is beautiful, but it is not obtainable on earth, and by staring after it you only damage your own sight, so that you cannot even see the good that surrounds you.