Saturday, November 26, 2011

Just a little rant

I’m tired of hearing people say that Obama is a divisive leader. Obama is not divisive. We leftists have been astounded at his willingness to work with the just-say-no-Republicans. No matter what he proposes Republicans will never support it. For instance, the health-insurance reform package was pretty much the same as (R)Bennet's Healthy Americans Act. It's also the same policy that Republican front-runner (R)Romney instituted in Massachusetts. It's bipartisan legislation, but, just because Obama proposed it, suddenly it's SOCIALISM. Obama and the Democrats caved to tons of Republican proposals to try to attract their votes during the health-insurance reform debates. We leftists lost key provisions like a public option, but not a single Republican will broke ranks to vote for the bipartisan legislation. That's divisiveness, but it's divisiveness manufactured by Republicans.

Then, Republicans decide to start playing political brinkmanship with the nation's credit rating and refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Under Bush, Boehner, McConnell, and Cantor voted to raise the debt ceiling every time--5 times. They didn't have a problem with it back then. But under Obama, it's suddenly OK to put the entire nation’s finances into trouble. And thanks to them the nation’s credit got downgraded for the first time in history. S&P released the following statement regarding their decision to downgrade:

"The political brinkmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy."

Republicans used the debt ceiling to hold the entire nation hostage. And not surprisingly, the nation bore some trauma as a result of their rough-handling.

Obama is trying to work with a Republican party whose "single most important goal," according to Minority Leader McConnel, is to make sure he doesn't get reelected. Notably their most important goal is not to make life better for Americans, because they don't really care what the consequences are of their stubborn refusal to work together to solve problems. There is divisiveness in this country, but it's not Obama's divisiveness. Unless you consider it divisive that an eloquent black man got elected as President and then tried to improve things.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Haters are the best lovers.

My wife is a self-proclaimed "hater." And I think it is worthwhile to develop an argument for why anti-social types with a small circle of friends are actually better than us extroverts.

I don't believe people who claim to love everyone. At the very least this means that having their love is meaningless because they give it away so cheaply. I'd rather be loved by someone who hates most people, because possessing their love is a more exclusive privilege. Being loved by a hater is more difficult, and the most valuable things in life are difficult to obtain; therefore, loved by a hater > loved by a lover.

Furthermore, love is exclusive, and as such it is violent. Fastening on one person causes me to ignore my obligation to every other person, and ignoring my obligation to other others is a hateful act. Every moment I spend with my brother I could be spending with my wife. And every moment I spend with my wife could be spent trying to help a refugee get a job. And every moment I spend doing that could be spent visiting with lonely people who I've never even bothered to talk to, ad infinitum. We have to draw a line somewhere and cut some people out. Those inside the line are those we choose to love, those on the outside are those we don't. I would rather be loved by some who cuts the line a little closer to home so that they have more time for me. But maybe that's because I'm selfish.

But I don’t think I’m alone. Haven't you ever felt guilty for spending time with one person, because you felt that you should also be spending that same time with another? Like on Thanksgiving when you want to go to be with your wife’s family, but you also want to go to be with your side of the family. If they happen to be celebrating at the same time, in vastly different geographic areas, you have to choose. And when you choose, it feels like a betrayal. You feel guilty even though all you’re doing is trying to show love to one group. But that love comes at the expense of another. Not only do we feel guilty, but this guilt is earned, because we put one group of people above another. Extending this logic to all of humanity, we have to choose who to love, and there are millions of people equally deserving of our love. Therefore, we have to commit a violent act and choose (seemingly at random) some people over others. But that is love. It is irreducible to anything else than a choice to elevate one individual to the point of singularity and say this is the One (or one of the Ones) that I will love.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My wife is really clever. (Also, how I exercise power over her.)

So, I'm arguing with my wife, Aubry about what to watch. She wants to watch a sitcom, I want to watch cartoons. The tension is in the air for a stand-off. Before the fireworks can start, I proceed to get her sitcom going on Netflix, yielding to her preference.

Her response, to my giving her what she wanted (my gift), was brilliant.

She said, "you can't concede, and win!" Meaning don't just give in like that! Now, on first blush, her statement seems to be self-contradictory (How can one both concede and also win?). But Aubry was actually exactly correct, as I will explain.

You see, the stage was set for a confrontation. And the fight would follow a predetermined script. We would disagree. We'd stonewall for a bit. One of us would grudgingly yield. The situation was such that one of us was going to get our preference on Netflix, and the other was going to get to yield; thereby rendering the person who got their preference indebted, indefinitely. Thus, the gift of yielding to Aubry's Netflix preference, was no gift at all, since it was in fact a reciprocal exchange. (When a buyer gets a house, in exchange for a promise to pay for it later, it's not correct to say that the bank gave the buyer a gift. It is instead an exchange. Similarly, when I give Aubry her way and make her indebted to me, what I'm doing is not giving a gift. I'm just making an exchange.) We tally up our gifts and debts, and the next time we're trying to decide what to watch on Netflix, the person with the most Netflix IOU's gets to choose. (This is an example of what Derrida and Caputo call the many "cunning ruses of love" and "the gift".)

Now, as to Aubry's objection ("you can't concede, and win!"). What she was reacting to was the fact that I didn't stick to the script. I short-circuited the conflict and skipped straight to the conclusion by immediately giving-in. We knew how it would end, so that wasn't the problem. Insteand, what bothered Aubry is that she was denied the opportunity to make the gift, the initial yield that would set the recipricol exchange into motion, because I (rather than stonewalling and making arguments) skipped right to the end of the confrontation and started her show. By excluding her opportunity to act, I took the choice out of her hands. I conceded and won. I got to choose how the exchange would take place, and secured a debt from her without even giving her the opportunity to object. Not only that, but by acting so quickly and not acting petty about getting my way, I reserved the moral high-ground for myself. This in turn, made her look petty. Therefore, I cheated. I didn't play by the rules. And by conceding so early, I won.

I think I do this a lot. It is just another example of my will to power. In the face of confrontation, even conceding can be form of taking power, and, thereby, winning. You force the other into a position of indebtedness and retain moral authority over her. Perhaps this is what Jesus Christ meant when he taught that the "weak things of the world [will] shame the strong".

Built in to the act of yielding to the other is an act of assuming power over the other. I sometimes wonder, is it possible to escape this economy? Where does love fit in? Is love an economy, or is it something that exists interstitially between the feints and parry's of this ongoing spar?

il n’y a pas de hors-texte

My professor in Legislation and Regulation said something interesting today. She said, "today everyone is some kind of neo-textualist." I was initially appalled, textualism as I understand it is the most boorish, wooden, unsophisticated, type of legal interpretation.

However, even I may be willing to admit to subscribing to textualism, with one caveat: That as I understand it nothing is outside the text. Of course a textualist who recognizes that "there is no outside-text" is essentially meaningless. Because, everything is inside the text, being a textualist should allow one to use everything, words, grammar-rules, dictionaries, historical context, and perhaps most importantly personal life experience to interpret a text.

As per Derrida, meaning is a matter of différance. D
ifférance is a play on the French word for difference. So to say that meaning is a matter of difference, is first to say that a word can only mean something in relation to other words. "Medium hot," means something different than "mild," and something different than "hot," and this difference gives sense to the word. Différance also suggests that meaning is constantly differed. To define a word we use other words, whose meaning is themselves only found by reliance on other words, whose meaning is themselves only found by reliance on other words, ad infinitum. Therefore, meaning is constantly differed. Furthermore, because a word can only be understood relative to every other word; and because there is, literally, an infinite separation between a word and its meaning; there is nothing outside the text.

Therefore, anything a reader brings to bear in their interpretation of a text is legitimate because there is nothing outside the text.