Tag Archives: Philosophy

Sweatshops, Welfare and Poverty

As Ben Powell says, “defending sweatshops is not about defending corporate profits, economic efficiency. It’s about the welfare of the third world workers.” I think this has some merit. Sweatshops are notoriously lambasted for exploiting individuals, and/or providing “too little.” But I think it’s much more complex than that. To start, I’d recommend watching the below video. Ben Powell, PhD (from Suffolk University), along with the Institute for Human Studies, lends some insight into this:

To lend additional insight, for sake of argument, Professor Matt Zwolinski, over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, says this:

Even if they are unfair, there is very good reason to believe that all of the exchanges described above are usually mutually beneficial.1  In other words, both parties come away from the exchange better off than they would have been without it.  This claim is supported, I think, by the rather impressive empirical data on sweatshop wages.  But even apart from the empirical evidence, there’s a fairly strong a priori argument to be made in favor of the assumption of mutual benefit.  After all, if workers didn’t expect to be made better off by working in a sweatshop – if they didn’t think it was all-things-considered their best available alternative – then why would they take the job?  And the poorer workers are, the more dramatic the impact on their overall welfare will be of even slight improvements to their material conditions.

So sweatshops are doing something to make poor workers better off.  On the other hand, I assume that most of us do nothing to make any serious improvement in the lives of people in desperate poverty.  We might give a few dollars to the Red Cross when a tsunami hits and makes the evening news, but most of don’t do anything on a regular basis that is going to have any real long-term impact on the lives of poor workers in the developing world.

I think this is a tremendous point. And yes, surely it sucks that they are making a choice between meagerness and starvation, but it’s a choice that they own. Hell, sometimes, “sweatshops are a dream.” But to ridicule the sweatshop owners isn’t going to do anything about the poverty, or the welfare of the workers.

I say keep up with the sweatshops. Let them be. I want to provide them with the choice. Meanwhile, as Kristof says, let’s “promote manufacturing” in these countries. Encourage imports and exports. Open up trade barriers. Set them free.

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Aren’t You a Feminist? Nah, I’m an Individualist

Yesterday, Jessica told me I should wear this t-shirt that says “this is what a feminist looks like.” I told her that, while I do believe that all are equal, I have qualms with the term.

Isn’t it, to call oneself a feminist, inviting gender into the equation? As I see it, that undermines, and is contradictory to the intent. Their intent is to say that all are equal – men and women. I certainly agree with that. But to employ “feminist,” one is quite blatantly concerning themselves with gender.

I think it’s more apt to say “I am an individualist.” And that’s what I am. Men. Women. There’s no difference. We should all treat each other as individuals. Gender shouldn’t play a role, unless it’s relevant for the context (i.e. you are a woman or man and you are seeking a mate in another woman or man, or man or woman). Of course, there are other (minor, irrelevant) differences, but in consideration of the most relevant, we shouldn’t be evaluating others based upon their gender. We should be evaluating them based upon their value as an individual – not as a man or a woman.

Voltairine de Cleyre - the Great Individualist - Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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Open Spaces, Ignorance and the Pursuit of Knowledge

Over the holiday break, I went to visit my mom and the whole Loomis gang up in the beautiful central coast of California. It’s really quite a peaceful place, slowly-paced and enough open space to lose yourself (which I certainly recommend).

The House Amidst the Open Spaces

My mother lives out in this open space, on the land my grandfather had purchased- and continued to acquire up until 15 or so years ago- back in the 60s. In this space, there isn’t a neighborhood, nor is there another house to be seen. In this space, landscape overwhelms the senses. The oak trees. The poison oak (of which I always manage to contract!). The quail, with their intermittent bursts of speed, their momentary flights, or jumps, of fancy. The mountain lions. The rattlesnakes. The deer. The latter two species my mother skins and makes a stew of, respectively.

Seriously. My mom is like a less violent, less angry and less drunk Calamity Jane. Okay, she’s like a Doris Day Calamity Jane. And she’d take the comparison with happy, open arms.

In this open space, on the day after Christmas, my mom, brother Tannen and I went for a hike. We didn’t see any rattlesnakes or deer, but we did get to talking about philosophy and religion. The end result, as I pondered later, was to ask the question: at what point is one considered ignorant?

You see, in the grand spectrum of things, in regards to this great, big world of ours, no one- not a one- is going to find that they know everything. Considering the context of a human’s place in this world, for instance, a Christian would say that it’s all about living according to God’s will; that one lives in accordance with the gifts that He has bestowed, and in tune with the virtues and morals He has established, as it is written in His word, the Bible.

Conversely, an atheist or humanist (my type of atheist/humanist; the type that is skeptical of the altruism of “non-religions” of today) would say that it’s all about living life according to one’s own will, in accordance with the independent pursuit of one’s own happiness; to do so productively and dutifully. To them, there is no more living after death. One lives, and one dies.

Which way of living is accurate, which way is right? Can one really know?

At this point, in regards to my life, I can say that I think that there is no all-powerful, all-knowing creator. I can say this with the backing of experiences as a believer, with introspection as both a non-believer and believer, with the studies and books and philosophies. But I can’t really know for sure. what I do know, however, is this: one weighs their choices, considers the evidence, and makes a decision. During my journey, along the way, I’ve decided that a world without a god is one that makes the most sense.

Yet, upon that realization, do I cease from learning, studying, seeking? Heck no.

And I suppose this is the point I’ve been trying to reach: that one should never – not ever – give up that search and thirst for knowledge. But I see this all of the time, and it irks me. On one side, I see the believers, unwilling participants in the quest for clarity and knowledge. To them, it has already been decided. And why not? They have a good thing going, with an eternal life of joy at the end of it all. To them, just knowing that is enough.

On the other side, I see the atheists in a way doing the same thing. They know too, and refuse to know more.

So I ask you this: at what point is one considered ignorant?

I say that it’s at the point you stop caring to learn more. It’s at the point you stop yearning for knowledge. It’s at the point you live your life with your mind transfixed by a proposed afterlife, or at the point you live your life with your mind transfixed by carelessness.

Two quotes from Ayn Rand come to mind when I think about this:

Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.

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Favorite Books Read in 2010

It’s nearing the end of the year, and so I thought I’d compile a list of Favorite Books Read in 2010. This isn’t to say the book had to be published in 2010, but there will be that too.  Here goes.

My Favorite Books Read in the Year 2010 (in no particular order):

The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Most Anticipate Reading for 2011:

Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell

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You’d Love This! What? No, I Hate It!

My conversation with Jim Kelman via Instant Messenger:

Non:
I am trying to figure out the reasons for Harry Potter hatred. I have a few: One, general dislike/hatred for the genre of Fantasy. Two, general dislike/hatred for anything mainstream.

Jim:
Yes. Agreed.

Three, hating anything that everyone is telling you to love.

If enough people tell you that you just HAVE to read/see/do something, I feel like ODD kicks in and you want to dislike it.

N:
Agreed.

But I think that’s wholly irrational. And I dislike it for its irrationality

J:
Oh yeah.

But I haven’t read Twilight, though I’m almost certain I wouldn’t care for it.

HOWEVER, I trust the book recommendations of those who like Harry Potter.

Not those who read Twilight.

I feel like if enough awesome people are telling you to check a book out, it’s probably awesome.

N:
That’s a different thing altogether. I am the same. If I heard book recommendations for Twilight from those I trust, I would give it a shot.

J:
Yeah, exactly.

Though I have read a chapter and it DOES actually suck.

Four, people sometimes don’t see “kids books” as a viable reading option as an adult.

N:
But I think I like the idea of being surprised by something. If I have some preconception that is strong, my curiosity says I should give it a shot and ignore what others are saying. So I usually do. But I don’t think one can really, genuinely criticize without having experienced it.

Yah, Four is true.

J:
I totally agree. I think it’s pretty silly when someone has a strong opinion of something without trying it.

My best friend does that more than anyone I’ve ever met.

But it does make for some of the craziest arguments I’ve ever been in.

N:
It’s like the kid who hates some food his mother makes before he’s tried it.

J:
Yes.

Shrug.

It seems pretty silly.

Those who hate Harry Potter are missing out on some pretty killer adventures.

N:
That’s what I’m saying. It’s such fantastic storytelling and adventure tales.

If you don’t want to experience storytelling at its best, then you sir are a doofus.

J:
That’s the best way to describe those kind of people: doofuses.

N:
Agreed.

I love that word. Doofus.

It’s so very apt.

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Being Not of This World

Well, we found a new place to live! So that’s exciting. We’ll be moving out in less than a month to a place that is less expensive and simply better all around. With that, and all of the hectic mania of relocating, as well as the madness of the holiday that is known as Christmas, my work on the novel has come to a halt. Don’t fret though, I’ll pick it up again after the new year, after we move and settle in.

In the meanwhile, I’ve continued my usual, contemplative writing, of which is posted below.

Driving this morning to work, I was cut off by a slick, gargantuan, black Ford F-150. Aside from the obvious coolness of the truck’s killer off-road wheels and the way in which those same wheels raise the truck’s frame to a point that is high enough to be out of touch with practical driving necessity or reality, the back window was brandished with one of those Not of This World stickers.

Evidently, considering the occurrence, the driver doesn’t act like a sane, solicitous individual of this world. So if this guy is not of this world- my world, the world in which I live- it stands to reason that he is from some other world. From there, I can only estimate that his world is a world in which people cut each other off on their way to work.

Is that what the sticker is supposed to mean? That he, being Not of This World, can do what he wishes, regardless of how it affects others?

And on a grander, more philosophical level, what does a sticker like this mean for those who decorate their automobiles with them?

We know that they are Not of This World and we know that they want others, complete strangers, to know this fact. But why live in this world if you are not of it? If you, as you claim, do not belong, what is there to live for? If you are proud of what the sticker espouses, and you live according to what it implies, why be here at all?

On the surface, I understand what the sticker is meant to imply. It says: I am a believer; I have a greater purpose, unfettered by the material superfluousness of this place. It says, this World is fleeting, this World will perish, and on the other side, at the end of my life, there is a World that is worthy of my care and concern.

But what it really says is this: in the meanwhile, in this World, I can cut people off on my way to work and pay it no mind because hey, I am Not of This World.

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The Philosophical Underpinnings

As I’ve said before, we write what we know. Part of what I know, or what I deem to be important in knowing, is an understanding of philosophy. Just as I consider it a necessary part of living life, the characters within my stories do the same. Why, because they need to.

As Ayn Rand put it, in Return Of The Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution,

Philosophy is the science that studies the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence. The task of philosophy is to provide man with a comprehensive view of life. This view serves as a base, a frame of reference, for all his actions, mental or physical, psychological or existential. This view tells him the nature of the universe with which he has to deal (metaphysics); the means by which he is to deal with it, i.e., the means of acquiring knowledge (epistemology); the standards by which he is to choose his goals and values, in regard to his own life and character (ethics)—and in regard to society (politics); the means of concretizing this view is given to him by esthetics.

In the case of A Thousand Screaming Rabbits, Alasdair reacts to the world around him based upon his own philosophies. Which is to say, based upon much of my own philosophical views. I personally think it’s of the utmost importance to question and challenge and try to understand that which exists in this world. If not, what is the point?

The following is an excerpt from the novel. In it, Alasdair comments on the philosophical underpinnings of religion and, specifically, the failing dichotomy his father exemplifies.

After my mother died, I figured he’d change. I wanted so desperately for that to happen- for myself, for my sister, for my brothers, and for himself. But he did no such thing. He became worse. Only what was infidelity before became some grotesque display of prolonged middle age crisis. It was his arrogance. It was his insistent victimization at the hands of his almighty god, and the martyrdom that persisted at the hands of his forgiving god. It was his parade of the severest form of hypocrisy: a garbled, gargantuan mutant that amounted to all of the insincere, disingenuous, power-hungry musings of beltway preacher ebullience, television minister kitsch, and depression era fundamentalism. His struggle was not one that consisted of any form of what one could call a traditional good versus evil. His struggle was one that matched the vile machinations of his life as only human, forgiven, and blessed, to the vile hypocrisy in his life as esteemed presenter of the purity of religion, god, faith, and Christianity. His struggle, his life, was no longer mine.

It won’t be me. It can’t.

Project Update:
It’s coming along. It’s been a hectic few weeks. The wedding planning, work and countless other things we find to busy our lives- these all seem to have exhausted me to no foreseeable end. But I’m here. Trucking along.

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