Wednesday, May 26, 2004

empathy, fear and neo-cons (oh, my!)

my response to a colleague's post about the need for us to be more empathetic to other cultures (and anyone other than ourselves, for that matter):

Interesting idea…distribution of empathy, access to empathy…seems like we are bankrupt of the product (empathy), despite the fact that the lines of distribution are in place. Of course, being empathetic means being vulnerable, Lord knows ‘merikans aren’t really keen on doing that right now. The neo-cons are really good at force-feeding fear to all of us. I also think that they are really good at tapping into our cultural conditioning of being abused…they act just like those authoritarian care-givers that many of us were raised with. When someone is confronted with similar behavior as an adult, it is not uncommon for them to just respond like they did all those many years growing up…”I know nothing, the authority is always right, the authority is like God, etc.” I know that despite the fact that intellectually I know that they are lying, self-serving bastards, when they start talking, there is a part of me (emotional) that just goes into some kind of automatic fear of challenging them, conceding that I AM stupid and that they are right.

Alice Miller has written some great material on this.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

surprise, surprise

It doesn't (nor did it) take a Ph.D. to figure this one out BEFORE the war started. The consequences of a radically, fundamentalist run government (OURS, that is).

Monday, May 24, 2004

Jesus, the bummer

I was at our local Satsang for Ammachi on Friday night. Typically, we sing songs, chat, meditate and pray. While singing a song about Krsna, I realized how different the Hindu religion is from mainstream Christianity. The Krsna story is a happy one, the songs about Krsna are happy, light, playful. The Jesus story (as typically told) is a bummer. Not because of Jesus, nor because of what happened, but because of the emphasis on the story. the whole thing about the cross and dying for our sins, is, IMO, not the main story. The main story is that here was this realized soul, living in a human body, who loved, loved, loved and died because he loved so much.

While growing up Catholic, I never understood the whole cross thing and I still don't -- it seems like a side note to the entire message. More reason to agonize about our humanity, more reason to fight against some group of people, etc. Again, the Jesus story is about love and ignorance...His love, our collective ignorance about His love.

So, what about we re-write the Jesus story and transform it from a bummer to a hummer (not the H2 kind)?

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Watch out, The Republicans Are Coming!!!

See here for the announcement...

Friday, May 21, 2004

a bumper sticker i gotta make

Ignorant and Unethical! Hell, if its good enough for our President, its good enough for me!
Documentary on Republican Women

In case you haven't heard, there is a shocking, "tell all" documentary about Republican women coming out in June. Details here.

The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

Now this is great applied sociology.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

God Bless America, Goddamn it!!!!

Using those current events skills I learned in seventh grade, I offer the following:

In case you haven’t been following the Ahmed Chalabi story, allow me to briefly summarize who this guy is and why this is so ironic (and truly frightening in how it reflects the leadership of our country)

Ahmed Chalabi:

* Is a convicted felon (in absentia) in Jordan
* Was one of the prime sources of info for the Pentagon on the alleged WMD stockpiles in Iraq
* Was a prime source of info on WMD’s and “all things bad in Iraq” to Judith Miller, star NY Times reporter
* Has been on the Pentagon payroll for years
* Has been discredited by the CIA and the State department
* Was flown into Iraq by the Pentagon days after Saddam lost leadership
* Is a current member of the Interim Iraqi gov’t
* Told a reporter that it didn’t matter if Saddam didn’t have WMD’s, what was relevant was that Saddam was gone (note that he made this statement after Iraq fell and after he allegedly told everyone and their brother unequivocally that Saddam HAD WMD’s)
* Is the uncle of the lawyer assigned the task of prosecuting Saddam for crimes against humanity
* Has recently been charged with making side deals in Iran about the future of Iraq

Oh, and ALL of this has been reported far and wide in the mainstream media, so if that little voice in your head says, “john is just overreacting” please note that I have simply gathered existing longitudinal data on this guy.

So, if the enemy of your enemy is your friend, and then turns out to not be your friend, what does that make him? And more importantly, YOU?

Damn, this international relations stuff REALLY is hard to follow – good thing we are the moral leaders of the entire world and that our morality is not based on self-serving situations and exigencies...and monkeys really DO fly out of my butt regularly!

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


not what you think, or, maybe not, check it out.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

more temporary-emergent meaning...

My response on a sociology list I subscribe to:

To clarify my statement about empiricism a bit…(consequence for writing in haste)…

I don’t see a distinction between empiricism and humanism, although I would hazard a guess that committed positivists/empiricists would. I personally base my use of empiricism as an epistemology on humanistic values – I do not see it as an end in itself. I suspect that some, if not all, positivists would disagree with this and argue that positivism is value-free and objective (despite that fact that ALL IRB approved research is based on humanistic values).

I think that this strikes at the heart of the recent discussion. The notion that empiricism is somehow trans-cultural and therefore demonstrably universal and “objective” is intellectually untenable, IMO. Again, I refer to our inability to know, through the use of symbolic systems, anything that allegedly exists independently. I think it is absurd to consider that this kind of knowing is possible (a symbolic system – language – is an inherently CLOSED system – it is bounded). “Knowledge” of anything is inherently cultural – anything that is inherently cultural is not, by definition universal and/or objective. Again, I think that ethno points this out in spades (as does feminist literature – at least feminist sociological literature).

So, I see the limitations of empiricism and truly do not believe that the application of the scientific method, sans values leads anywhere – especially since it is not possible in the first place. The application of empiricism is a value-based action (valuing sensory data over some other kind of data).

I think that this is the distinction that needs to be acknowledged, i.e., the ridiculousness of claiming some kind of knowledge is objective and exists independent of culture. I am very much in favor of using empirical methods. I do not see then as producing knowledge, however, but UNDERSTANDING. I think that this is another crucial distinction that we neglect in social science. Again, I value verstehen as a methodology. Is it empirical? Of course. Is it objective and does it produce objective knowledge? Nope. Can and does it further understanding of self and others? If done properly, yes.

I see any type of methodology as being an iterative process that never arrives at any REAL (i.e., independent) solution. Can we as humans grow in the process of applying the scientific method and the values that underlie it? I think so…and I think that this is the true value of our discipline. Not some ridiculous notion that we are creating independent knowledge about the social world.