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Monday, April 15, 2013

The Tenets of the Realistic Optimist

I've been working on a paper for my Catholic Social Teaching class.  The title of the unit is "Criminal Justice", but for the teacher, that translates into "The Death Penalty and Why it's Bad".  She's about as close to a hippy as you can get for someone who's in her mid-thirties.  As a moderate with a liberal slant, I don't take kindly to that shit, so I'm writing this paper my way.  Technically, tonights assignment is to just work together an outline, but I've drafted the first couple "disclaimer" paragraphs already just so I have them down.

I actually had to do a report similar to this back in middle school, for what was effectively the same class as this one.  Once again, this paper will not cover so much what I've learned or how I've grown during this unit -- I can count the number of "new" things I've learned in this unit on one hand, maybe two if I stretch definitions and classifications -- but rather what, if anything, has been reinforced.  Additionally, I will not be approaching this topic as the indoctrinated drone, spewing the Catholic Church's opinion on this because that's what this class is all about.  I will be approaching this from my opinion, my point of view and position on the topic at hand.  I will cite the provided documents where relevant, and support or refute them as necessary.  

I tend to think of myself as what's known as a "realistic optimist".  The idea behind the title is more or less as follows.  

One, an understanding of the fact that the world is just as bad as it's made out to be, and in some ways worse.  We as a species have long since surpassed this planet's ability to sustain us indefinitely, policy that is flawed, whether by design or circumstance, has allowed lives to be built at the expense of others, et cetera.  

Two, the remembrance the fact that the world is better than it's made out to be.  Overall global poverty is dropping, slow as it may be, the global standard of living is going up and is more accessible, violent crime in this country is dropping at a staggering rate, and has been since the early 1990s, et cetera.  

Three, the knowledge that humanity has the power within itself to pull its head out of its ass and set to work fixing the problem the major media outlets, the bleeding-hearts, and the nutjobs love to harp over.  

Four, the acceptance of the fact that humanity is composed primarily of narcissistic and factious idiots who have their heads so deep in the sand that they forget that there's a world around them, and are perfectly contented to let it burn around them if it means they get to stay comfortable and cozy in the cherry-picked opinions and "facts" of their narrow worldview.  

On the whole, these are ideals with which I approach things like the topic of this paper, and as such this paper will be what I think, "right", "wrong", or different, and my decisions are based on that, and that alone.  The Catholic Church and its doctrines have no stake in that.  Because, in all honesty, it makes for a much less mind-numbingly dull paper.

I've actually considered writing a book about the realistic optimist.  I'll be jotting some notes down, see what I can come up.  I'm sure I can at least pull together a pamphlet.  

City Psalm—Denise Levertov

The killings continue, each second
pain and misfortune extend themselves
in the genetic chain, injustice is done knowingly, and the air
bears the dust of decayed hopes,
yet breathing those fumes, walking the thronged
pavements among crippled lives, jackhammers
raging, a parking lot painfully agleam
in the May sun, I have seen
not behind but within, within the
dull grief, blown grit, hideous
concrete facades, another grief, a gleam
as of dew, an abode of mercy, have heard not behind but within noise
a humming that drifted into a quiet smile.
Nothing was changed, all was revealed otherwise;
not that horror was not, not that killings did not continue,
but that as if transparent all disclosed
an otherness that was blessed, that was bliss.
I saw Paradise in the dust of the street.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pride and Shame

It's a sad day when you realize that in the trial of the news media, the prosecution is a comedian and the evidence is the satirist in the next time slot. What makes it that much worse is:  A) They're both pointedly right.  B) The defense doesn't take the hint that they should shape up.  C) The defense acts persecuted to the point of martyrdom.

And frankly, all the defense does is make the problems worse. The blatant partisanship, the unfounded conjecture, the impulse to be the "first" to get the story and to hell with anything that gets in the way (Integrity? Who needs that?), all it does is misinform and mislead the majority of the populace, and drive the rest to disillusionment, cynicism, and apathy.  I know it's all about the Benjamins for a lot of the people at the top, whether they know it or not, but is it too much to ask that they earn their hookers and blow in a way that doesn't disembowel the financial, economic, political, and social structures in the process?

I know the blame isn't just at the top. The end-user also carries the responsibility to control the media by slapping them upside the head when something's not right. It is the fault of many people for lapping up the spin and bias, bumping ratings and hailing shows like the O'Reilly Factor and Hardball as bastions of reliable information, and promoting the sensationalist take on a very serious and analytical field like politics.  For the most part, we're stupid, and they know they can make off like bandits by exploiting that stupidity.  But the fact that it happens over and over again every day just makes my stomach churn.

How is it we as a society can be so collectively dim that Jon fucking Stewart (with all due respect to the the man) is one of the only guys bright enough to act as a lighthouse?  How did we reach the point where a guy who is paid to crack jokes four days a week has to shoehorn in all the fact-checking that fell off the to-do list of the people he's cracking jokes about?  The court jester is pulling a double-shift as the royal advisor.  Is he going to wear Jimmy Dean's coat now, too?

I think the only reason why I find the show as funny as I do is because it gets me to laugh at an otherwise scary prospect: we're getting stiffed, and I can count the number of people who are capable and willing enough to challenge that on one hand.

I really hope that Stewart and Colbert aren't the best that the higher powers can send us. If they are…well, I fear we may have just out-dumbed intelligent design.