Time Heals All Wounds.. And Then Kills the Patient
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Sat Dec 8 01:50:29 2007
Dodging Determinism

When I was a little kid, I started reading about great topics/debates in philosophy (yay libraries), and came across the idea of determinism versus free will. Being the young kid that I was, I was creeped out by the idea (I have no idea if I accepted it or not - this was in elementary school - maybe I didn't even have a firm idea of what it meant to accept or reject ideas in one's Weltanschauung back then). I remember trying for awhile to move in more unpredictable ways, make decisions that were not easy to trace back to their causes, and similar possibly-cute foolishness. I think the idea of being plastered into the cosmos like a piece of string bothered/frightened me and I thought I could escape it that way. I eventually stopped (no idea if I just grew bored of the concept or came to some conclusion about it), but occasionally I still look backwards when it looks like my reality is based on thin strands of probability (thin over my notion of all reasonable possibilities) and/or time-travelers from the future couldn't, I imagine, see broad trends in what I do by my external acts (take that, psychological behaviourists!), as silly as that seems under examination.

The other half: Today on the way back from dinner (the dice have been rolling very oddly recently - went out again for dinner with other people despite still feeling like I'm falling apart), a fragment of a tune snuck into my head, too small to "get a running start" and use "musical momentum" to make my brain complete the whole song so I could identify it. (Somehow the notion of local genetic alignment algorithms in Bioinformatics crept in there but turned out to be unhelpful in identifying the song..) Eventually I got it, it was Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn", a sad song that's always struck me as sweet and pretty. A bit of research showed that her version is a cover, the original having been written by an obscure group called Ednaswap. A bit of work gives us:

This led to a daydream of Chrisamaphone singing/playing it on guitar, which was very pleasant. I may attempt to play it myself on my accordion, but I doubt that'll be anything but comic.

To tie it back into the first part, this path of events felt rather random indeed, and woke/pleased that ancient part of myself that still thinks that way.

Onto a rather less pleasant topic, while searching for that music video, I stumbled across another video with the word "torn" in it - it appears to be tied to an American anti-semitic group (or maybe just that guy). It made me sad to find he had mostly positive comments (although the video selects the audience). I've come to the conclusion that it's important to try to engage people in society, no matter their views - from what I understand of ideological subcultures in the United States, isolated or not, their members get a certain amount of strength in not hearing challenges to their views except during protests and other times when they're not listening. Challenging their views (and especially their understanding of history) in a careful, respectful conversation may in the short term lead to at least moderation of perspectives, and in the long term will help them understand that other perspectives exist - providing a "reality check" of sorts to people who could otherwise feel that their perspectives are mainstream and it's just a small set of "enemy people" preventing their dominance. While pretending their perspectives to be somewhere inside the realm of reasonable discourse in history (or science, for people who are just fringe science folk) may be too much, some sort of dialogue still needs to happen where knowledgable, careful people talk with them. I always worry that that will not occur when people talk of "not giving them the dignity of debate" - this leaves radical (and possibly dangerous) groups isolated from social forces that normally may moderate them, and these views likely will be passed down through generations and possibly live in isolated communities when they may be resolved or moderated in much less time, posing less of a risk to society. The possibility of needing to do something firmer than talking (e.g. breaking up of a community, mass arrests, and similar) would lead to considerably more damage, and if it can be avoided to prevent things such as the collective actions of the Klan or the continuing wave of murder/violence by white supremacist groups in eastern europe/russia, it seems like it's worth stomaching discomfort, for those who are able, to engage and try to prevent that. I approve of groups such as Anti-Racist Action, a group that does everything from organising counter-protests to radical-nationalist/fascist/racist groups to performing vigilante action on specifically dangerous people, both done all over the world, but their tactics should not be the only ones used (and in a more ideal world, one which I believe those who are able to should help to build, would not be necessary).

Watching some of this guy's videos, I would want in particular to point out that the notion of an ancient German nation (or even a particularly coherent single German ethnicity that isn't broad enough to include most of central and western Europe) is largely illusory, as Germany, like Italy, was born very late when the idea of nationalism became common in Europe. His sympathy for the Romanovs would probably be considered suspect in the Third Reich given their attitudes towards royalty/nobility, racial mixing (the Romanovs, like much of European royalty, were of fairly mixed ethnicity, at least within the European scope). His portrayal of Germany as posing no threat to the rest of the world before being attacked by the Allied forces, combined with the insinuation that Churchill and FDR were as Communist as the Soviet Union claimed to be are ridiculous.

It is kind of embarassing that some prominent strands of thought within the Soviet Union (and some strands of existing communist thought) mirror the Fascist (or neo-fascist, in his case) position, seeing the rest of the world as being either dangerously communist (from Fascist perspectives) or just more forms of capitalist (from some Communist perspectives). The lack of ability to distinguish the dangers (or acknowledge the marked difference in ideologies and risks) that led towards dangerous pacifism was shortsighted in that it failed to acknowledge the importance of creation the necessary conditions towards positive advances in culture/ideology in nations that would aid mankind (and theoretically lead towards preconditions of socialism). Presumably either movement would have done well to recognise each other as the greater danger to their position than the rest of the world (their ideological differences being more irresolvable than either towards the evolving form of Bourgeois Capitalism that existed at the time).

It's funny (well, really, more tragic) to think of all the things in life we can see we might've wanted that we never get the chance to try to make. Friendships, relationships, jobs, sharing experience. I've been jealous of a few generations of CMUfolk - not for their education (I think I got a pretty good one even if the school-independent study ratio was rather different) but rather the social opportunities and the people. CMU feels a lot like Brecksville - I had experience with Pitt for awhile when I was dating Nicole (she was in the last year of her triple-major), going to some classes with her and helping her with homework - it felt not that different from OSU in some ways (actually, a few good ways too, but...). CMUites feel a lot more like the people I grew up with.. and more like the kind of University I should've gone to if I hadn't been so stubborn. I often think that if I had gone through these experiences with them, not being so personally worn out and sharing more experiences, perhaps I would've built closer friendships and enjoyed the social atmosphere more than I did my own undergraduate times at OSU. It's hard to really know, it's just easy to be sad about this because opportunities for much of anything don't seem to come up anymore, and I don't have the energy left to keep trying to make them myself very often. Life is almost full of non-events and invisibility..

Ahh well. Back to (hopefully) daydreams of pretty guitar/singing music, and maybe eventually some sleep.