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Changed your mind?

October 29th, 2004 No comments

I have been wondering recently about people casting their vote in a few days (or who have already casted their vote). Has anything caused you to change your mind about who you will be voting for? This could be applied to all office positions, but for this, I do just mean the presidential election. So I pose these questions:

Have you changed your mind from one candiate to another?
Have you changed which party you will be voting for this tome compared to 2000?
What has caused you to change your mind? Friend? Family? A Blog? News? Political Ad (I REALLY hope this isn’t the case - yes, I know not a very onjective statement, so sue me)? The debates? Someone one of the candidates said? One particular platform stance? Anything else?

If you haven’t changed your mind, have your reasons for staying with the same candidate changed or been strenghtened?

How do you view such things as polls that show one candidate over another and then change 20 minutes later? Have polls changed anything for you?

I am specifically interested to hear if blogs have changed anything for you. I don’t just mean blogs on modblog, but the larger blogosphere - if you pay attention to it that is.

One thing that blingking brought up which I thought was particularily important was how you read the reaseach you do: Do you read in order to confirm your opinions or do you read to create an opinion? I find it very difficult to read many blogs that will take any piece of information and make it fit their agenda/beliefs. Research, ideally, should be done objectively and should therefore create a position - that position could strengthen your current beliefs or it could force you to re-evaluate your beliefs. To be open minded you have to be open to the idea that you may have to change. Blindly following one party is a pitfall.

Thoughts? Comments?

I suppose I could start out answering my own questions.

I have to admit that since 2000 I have changed quite a bit. I am somewhat embarassed to admit that I did not vote in 2000 because I didn’t really know who to vote for. I didn’t really look into either candidate. I felt that it was better not to vote rather than vote for someone I know nothing about. Kinda stupid because I should have looked into it more. So one big change is that I have looked into it a lot more, or more specifically have been very impressed with Bush thus far (overall) and so have payed attention to this race a lot more than I ever have before.

That being said, the candidate I will be voting for this time around (Bush) has not changed. Through the campaigns my support for him has strengthened. Political ads have just pissed me off on both sides. Listening to friends and family has been good and debate there always causes one to figure out why one believes what he beleives. Blogs have been really interesting in that there is a wealth of knowledge there. (That isn’t always a good thing as Postman has pointed out numerous times.) My bias does come in to play here in that I have largely only read the blogs that have supported Bush(adonai and tonyr), but I also frequent those that try to present the information in a way that makes sense and will allow the reader to make up their own mind (even if they are also biased). I have been really disappointed with the blogs that I have read on the left. They are largely just attacks on Bush and don’t really have substance. atruk, strategery, and thisishardwork have given great sources of entertainment but have had very little substance. They think that spouting out links and news articles equates to substance. They don’t seem to understand that you can take many pieces of information and make them appear to support your cause. Context is so important and many of the leftist blogs seem to ignore it and take anything they can to attack Bush. (Please note that I have only linked to Modblog users, but modblog is actually only a very small percentage of the blogs I read.)

For me it has come to this: In all my reading of blogs, news articles, listening to debates, speaches, and whatever else I have come across, Bush deserves my support. He has been the most truthful and the most realistic with what he wants to do. Kerry continues to do what ever he can to get the vote. I don’t believe anything he says especially when he promises anything and everything to everyone without raising taxes. I don’t support everything Bush does, but he is sound in his values I think. Bush has convictions (that I believe are lergely correct) and he follows through with them. Kerry will just say what ever for the vote without actually remaining consistent with a large number of issues.

PS. I am also really tired of people just blindly calling people stupid for following one candidate or the other. I recognize that therey are quite intelligent people who will vote either way. If you have a different focus of interest than I do you may vote a different way than I. So people that just call someone stupid or moronic for their political following is fairly ignorant. Ignorance is one thing, stupidity is another. Ignorance should be removed in order to make the most informed decision, that does not mean that I think that if ignorance is removed you will therfore believe exactly as I do. I am just suggesting that much of what I have seen as support is clouded in ignorance and THAT should be removed.

PPS. Feel free to join the discussion over at my post Calling all Conservatives and Liberals!! [The original post and comments no longer exist]

Please head over to the original post to see the discussion for this entry. [UPDATE: The original post and comments are no longer available. :( Sorry!]

Categories: Politics Tags:

Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”

October 28th, 2004 No comments

This is the first version of a book review for my “Theology of Culture” class at Regent. (Yes, I know there are typos and such, as I said this was the first draft.) Unfortunately I had to cut it from over 1600 words down to 1250, that was really difficult.

This is a great book that I recommend to anyone, I also recommend Postman’s other works such as Technopoly, The End of Education, and Conscientious Objections. Postman is great at making critical remarks, although often doesn’t offer too much in the way of suggestions for change (and I don’t that is necessarily a bad thing as I think he sees himself as a social commentator, not necessarily a corrector).

Matt Jones

Regent College

October 22nd, 2004
INDS/THEO 515: The Theology of Culture
John Stackhouse
Word Count: 1659

Book Review #1
Amusing Ourselves to Death:
Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Neil Postman

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.

Neil Postman aims to show how the Age of Show Business has changed how public discourse has changed for the worse. In Amusing Ourselves to Death he asserts that we are living in a Huxleyan society and not an Orwellian. Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us (viii). The title suggests that, as Huxley did, we will be caught up in the act of watching television and not see its significance and that will kill culture. To be more specific, the subtitle brings it down to public discourse. Discourse in our society has changed throughout the years and Postman suggests that the age of show business through the use and prevalence of television will kill culture in the way Huxley suggests.

Postman structures his book in two main parts: Firstly he addresses the setup, historical background of how discourse has been carried out in society and how it has changed. And secondly, he delves into the topics of how television will cause us to amuse ourselves to death.

The just of the first part aims to show that there has been a decline in the Age of Typography caused by a rise in the Age of Television (8). Postman states, I must, first, demonstrate how, under the governance of the printing press, discourse in America was different from what it is now generally coherent, serious and rational; and then how, under the governance of television, it has become shriveled and absurd (16). The five chapters of this part center on that task.

He shows that culture is connected to its conversations and its conversations are formed by the medium in which they take place. Our culture set in the frame of typography was able to use language as a means of complex argument that was pleasurable and common to many areas of the public sphere (47). Through many inventions and events culminating with the introduction of the television, the typography mindset was pushed to the periphery and as typography moves to the periphery of our culture and television takes its place at the center, the seriousness, clarity and, above all, value of public discourse dangerously declines (29).

The first five chapters that make up part one move logically from one to the next, setting up the framework. Chapter one shows that, as the title suggests, The medium is the metaphor. The medium in which we learn plays an important role because what important ideas are convenient to express inevitable become the important content of a culture (6). This leads to chapter two discussing the media as an epistemology. Postman asserts that the concept of truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression (22).

He is then concerned that the epistemology of television is inferior to that of print-based epistemology and is, in fact, damaging (27). Because he feels this way, he then launches into chapter three that discusses what our culture was like in the print-based, typographic focus and then shows that mode of discourse leads to a typographic mind discussed in chapter four. He then, in chapter five, contrasts those two chapters to prove his assertion of chapter two that televisions epistemology is damaging. Chapter five is the lead in chapter to the larger discussion of how discourse has been damaged by television.

The second part of Postmans book takes on the challenge of proving his premise. Chapter six discusses not that television is entertaining but that it has made entertainment itself the natural format for the representation of all experience (87). The nature of television does not allow complex thought to be achieved or encouraged. It is bad television to have a camera on someone who is thinking. This leads into how education is attempted on television but before Postman delves deeper into the discussion of education in chapter ten, he first goes into a discussion of the fragmentation of reality depicted on television and how that leads to trivialities.

NowThis has been used widely in television and brings with it the thought that what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see, or possibly to anything one is ever likely to hear or see (99). Drama is what has become important on television, not content, thus bringing fragmentation to culture. The abundance of information that is presented means nothing because it has no context and has no bearing on our lives; we dont actually do anything with the information. The shift of discourse from content to entertainment seemed natural and was unchallenged. Chapter eight goes to further his point that television is about entertainment and not content by looking at the specific case of televangelism. While criticizing how televangelizers work, Postman does say what makes these television preachers the enemy of religious experience is not so much their weaknesses but the weaknesses of the medium in which they work (117).

Another case example of how television has failed to be a content filled discourse is tackled in chapter nine dealing with politics and how elections use television. If politics is like show business [which Postman says it is], then the idea is not to pursue excellence, clarity or honesty but to appear as if you are, which is another matter altogether (126). Postman draws similarities between politics and the commercial.

After these two case examples, Postman turns back to education and how it is negatively changed by television. That is the main problem: education is changed by television instead of education controlling television. In the Age of Television the classroom is starting to mimic, to become entertainment. Television is also used in the classroom, but because of the nature of the medium, very little context, nor content, is transferred. This section concludes his argument and leads to the final chapter of a Huxleyan warning and some suggestions. Postman warns that if it is not recognized what television does and how it should be used, culture will die. This embodies his main suggestion: ask questions. Such examples, but not limited to, are: How do different forms of information persuade? How do different information forms dictate the type of content that is expressed?(160). If these questions can be discussed, it is the first step to taking back television.

Postman argued very well for his stance against television. He did say that the problem, in any case, does not reside in what people watch. The problem is in that we watch. The solution must be found in how we watch (160). His argument is well thought out and concise. His argument relied on the premise that in the typography type discourse, culture was well nurtured and cultivated an analytical mind. His first section proved that quite well. One example of how he proved that was the Lincoln-Douglas debates (44ff). The extensive timeframe in which the debates occurred is unthought-of in todays culture. The only way for such in-depth events to occur would be for people to have the capacity to comprehend what was going on.

Postman also proves his point by comparing the discourse of theologians such as Edwards to that of Falwell implying that Falwell relies more on the television mindset of culture rather than the content filled discourse of the print-based. Through the foundation of what he proves about the print-based discourse, he goes on to prove that the television-based discourse does not work. Using the examples of evangelism, elections, and the more involved topic of education, Postman shows that, indeed, the use of television has negatively affected those areas. The nature of the corruption is not that people view it as being bad, but that it is seen as being good. No one seems to mind that there is very little content provided through television. What is worse is that it is changing education, if content leaves education, then there is no point. Postman sets up each of these examples and uses them to prove his point very effectively.

One thing that impressed my positively about this book was that he laid out his foundations very well. He didnt just start showing how television is bad, he showed that what it had to say was bad because of the lack of content and fragmentation and was is direct opposition to the print-based discourse. Another than that also impressed my positively was Postman wasnt complaining about content as a reason for the failure of television. He went much deeper in saying that it is the nature of television and that the horrible thing is that no one sees it. It is easy to complain about the content of television but until the nature and heard of what television can say (as Postman has done) the other complaints are as trivial as the information presented by television.

One thing that impressed me negatively was that Postman did not offer too many suggestions to correct the problem. His main suggestion to ask questions about what television can do and to do that through our educational system is good, but I dont think it goes deep enough. He did recognize that telling people to get rid of their televisions would not work, but he doesnt offer much alternative. A second thing that impressed me negatively was his assertion that in the print-based discourse people had a sense they could control some of the contingencies in their lives (69) more so than those of the television discourse age. While I agree that people could comprehend the cohesive information being presented to them (for example in the Lincoln-Douglas debates) I dont think that necessarily leads to people taking action any more than people of today. If they did take action, they were more informed to do so, but I dont feel that just because people dont have the content because of the television medium, they act on that information any less (it will just be less informed).

Categories: Regent College, Writings Tags:

What do the polls say?

October 21st, 2004 No comments

Before I get to the topic at hand, I want to mention that Greek is very difficult. Specifically Koine Greek or Biblical Greek. I am assuming that many of the forms of Greek are hard, but this is the one I am learning so it is all I can speak of. Koine is a form of Attic Greek (that itself was a branch of Ionic, one of the forms of Classic Greek). Kione is the “common” form of Greek that was spoken by the common man as it was a simplified form of classical and thefore doesn’t have some of the subtleties of its more pollished predecessor. I seven weeks we have covered all the noun forms and over 66% of the words in the Bible (of course part of this is because words like “and” and “the” are used quite a bit - did you know that in Greek the definite article “the” has 24 different forms?). Anyway, it is a tough language, but I am really excited about learning it. That was quite the digressions, so if you feel like you will never have those two minutes back, I am sorry.

On to the topic at hand. Polls. What do the polls say? My answer: who cares? I have many problems with polls. As far as polling goes I think that election polls are probably the most accurate and by that, I still mean not very accurate. Depending on who you talk to the presidential polls will say different things. I have seen numerouns maps that show what the polls are telling us… Bush is going to win! No wait, Kerry is going to win! No wait…

http://vodkapundit.com/archives/KerryWin.jpg

http://vodkapundit.com/archives/BushWin.jpg

http://www.electoral-vote.com/

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/vote2004/politics101/politics101_ecmap.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/election-test-fl,0,1851284.flash

http://synapse.princeton.edu/~sam/pollcalc-map-undecideds-assigned.html

Got the idea? And these are just a few of the maps you can find doing a google search. What does this mean? It means that polls are completely useless. I like I said, election polling are the most accurate form of polls we have. Who do you want to win? A? B? or maybe C? Pretty cut and dry, and yet we have no consistency with the electoral college maps, predictions based on current polls and past trends just do not work. WHY BOTHER? There really is no reason to continue with this as it just makes people either feel good about themselves or feel bad and have something to complain about (yes ironic that I am complaining).

Other types of polls are even worse. Questions are often asked completly out of context and often about subjects that people don’t understand or even know about. How is that data to be explained? Even “yes” or “no” questions will not give great answers depending on how the question is asked. I always think of the “poll” - Dihydrogen oxide is a number one leading cause of death throughout the world and yet our country spends loads of money to work with this deadly chemical. Do you think this chemical should be banned?” What do you think folks?

I am reading a book by Neil Postman (that I will post a review of later) and I am reminded of some of his comments in another of his social commentaries: Technopoly. I will start with an example he poses: “Two priests who, being unsure if it was permissible to smoke and pray at the same time, wrote to the Pope for a definite answer. One priest phrased the question “Is it permissible to smoke while praying?(126)” and was told it is no, since prayer should be the focus of one’s whole attnetion; the other priest asked if it is permissible to pray while smoking and was told that it is, since it is always appropriate to pray.” Questions asked are of huge importance. Getting back to the specifics of polls I draw, again, on Postman’s Technopoly. Making up an example he suggests: “The latest poll indicates that 72% of the American public believes we should withdrawl economic aid from Nicaragua. Of those who expressed this opinion 28% thought Nicaragua was in cretral Asia, 18% thought it was an island near New Zealand, and 27.4% believed that ‘Africans should help themselves,’ obviously confusing Nicaragua with Nigeria. Moreover, of those polled, 61.8% did not know that we give economic aid to Nicaragua, and 23% did not know what ‘economic aid’ means.(135)” Eventhough this is a fictitious example, you can see how it can cause problems in real world situations. The chances are, the only thing that gets reported is that 72% of Americans thing economic aid should be withdrawn. This is reasonable to assume because the other questions are genearlly not even asked.

The other issue with polls, which has already been hinted at, is that that the public is given the chance to speak and give opinions about things they know very little about. I believe people should continue learning and always seek to know more and if you have knowledge about something, please feel free to comment on it, if not, you should sit back and listen and learn but just keep quiet. This also makes me think of celebrities who know very little but have much exposure say anything about everything and people actually listen to what they have to say. The problem with this is that when people,celebrities or not, spout off about that which they don’t know it creates a problem in that it is hard to listen to anyone. If I hear 30 people, who don’t know what they are talking about go off on something it is going to be very difficult for me to listen to that 31st person, even if they really do know what they are talking about. (I have way too many run-on sentences, sorry)

This has been somewhat fragmented, but here are my concluding thoughts: Don’t listen to polls. Go and try and make a difference in things if you can and to do that you will have to become educated about things. I am glad when people in authority don’t necessarily follow polls or public opinion. Do what is right, learn about something before you comment on it. Political polls can show anything you want them to, just ask the right questions. Go vote on the 2nd, don’t pay attention to the maps.

Shalom

[UPDATE: The original posts and comments are no longer available. :( Sorry!]

Categories: Social Commentary Tags:

Calling all Conservatives and Liberals!!

October 6th, 2004 No comments

I just read an amazing essay by Bill Whittle over at ejectejecteject.com in 2 parts. Conservatives and Liberals (and everyone else) should read this. Part 1 and Part 2

Some might think it is a bit long, but I would ask that everyone who has an interest in the United States read this. It is well worth the time.

I genearlly don’t like to blog about politics because it just makes people mad at each other. I consider myself to be more conservative about a lot of things and will be voting for Bush, because I actually like him. Understand this: how you vote does not indicate what kind of a person you are so I may disagree with what you believe, that doesn’t effect what I think about you as a person. That being said, I do want people to believe what I do. :) I also recognize that there are extremely intelligent people on both sides of the spectrum so no one can simply say you are a liberal so you are stuid and visa versa.

My worldview is also shaped by my Christian beliefs which I would also like everyone to believe. :) This does not mean that I will automatically vote for Bush, I know many Christians who will not be voting for Bush. I am voting for Bush because I believe he has shown that is truly is a leader and will continue to lead the US in a great way with correct convictions that will protect us as a country.

I am a little disappointed in that it seems many Kerry supporters are Kerry supporters because they don’t like Bush. You should support someone because you think they are the one for the job not because you don’t like the other one.

Anyway, you should definitely take the time to read the essay, it will be well worth your while.

Shalom

Original Post with extensive comments. [UPDATE: Original post and comments are no longer available. :( sorry!]

Addendum:
Another thought:
We like to say that the world changed that day. What a ridiculous, self-centered thought. The world didnt change. Our illusions about the world changed. The scales had (mostly) fallen from my eyes in the years leading up to that morning. But many, many conservatives (as I define myself) were born precisely at 9:17 am EDT, when United 175 flew past the burning North Tower an accident? and exploded through the second, on the morning of September the 11th, 2001.
I don’t know if Whittle is a Christian, I haven’t seen anything to suggest that he is or isn’t. But this quite immediately brought some lyrics to mind. Sorry if you think I over quite Five Iron Frenzy, I probably do, but this was just very fitting.

Night came and I broke my stride, I swallowed hard, but never cried. When grace was easy to forget, I’d denounce the hypocrites, casting first stones, killing my own. You would unscale my blind eyes, and I stood battered, but more wise, fighting to accelerate, shaking free from crippling weight. With resilience unsurpassed, I clawed my way to You at last. And on my knees, I wept at Your feet, I finally believed, that You still loved me.

Response from ADW
…except Matt, when you are essentially locked into a 2 party system it is a little more complex than simply voting for who you think is best for the job. I mean how much air time has the likes of Ralph Nader had? He’s not really invited to the soundbyte war that’s currently going on. So if I’m not very happy with Bush (which I am not) then I need to think very carefully whether Kerry is at least not as bad as Bush and whether I want to risk voting for somebody I really want in the office etc.

Its this same kind of black & white mentality that I feel Bush is working under. I don’t think that politics is as simple as he is making it out to be. I wish it was, and I think a lot of Bush supporters wish that it was to the point that they actually believe it is.

Consequently I do agree with you about not voting according to party line but rather on a case by case basis. I appreciate the open forum you provide at your blog and the range of topics covered as well as the thoughtfulness behind your posts.

Upon review of the linked article above I have to express my dissappointment. Matt, it seems to me to be the same thing we were talking about…oversimplifi cation. Am I supposed to feel better about the fact that the author used to be more liberal? His own picture of his formal “liberal” self is of an oversimplified characiture that I do not at all identify with. It seems to me to be the very same “cheerleading” I hear from both sides that really doesn’t accomplish anything but to make set conservatives feel good about their position. Is his confession that he used to think burglars should steal from him really supposed to appeal to liberals, or for that matter anyone? I can just as easily find liberal posts that do the same for the other side.

His assessments of Kerry are done oversimply which again is attractive because we have to think less but unfortunately doesn’t get the job done as far as really getting somewhere. I don’t think I’m being unfair to him and I don’t think he’s lying. I just think he, like many others, are turning complex issues into easy black and white choices that can be made from the comfort of your own laptop.

I think we need to start reading books on political and diplomatic theory and start talking to people in person who have more knowledge and wisdom in this area and use them as resources. I am constantly dissappointed by the lack of effort involved in this process. Don’t get me wrong, countless hours can be spent on-line gathering info from newsposts and blogs but in the end it appears that we’re getting a lot of the same cheerleading that I just spent 30 minutes reading.

Please, let me know if you think I’m being unfair.

-Andy

Addendum II:
I wish we had more, equal, parties that we could vote for. Yeah, you could vote for Nader, but that would essentially be a vote for Bush, so what is the point? I would love to see three or four, equally footed, parties that would give us more options. As big a fan of Bush as I am, I do disagree with many of his policies. As big an un-fan I am of Kerry, I do agree with some of his policies. What I need to figure out how to do is genetically combine the two to make an uber-candidate. But, as you said, we are forced to pick between the lesser of two evils. That being said, I do feel that Bush is quite a bit lesser of two evils.

As far as oversimplification goes for the Whittile article goes, I would have to agree and disagree. I believe he has oversimplified because he is only writing an essay. In order to deeply get into the complexities of what he has brought up in that article would require a book, I don’t know if Whittle would be able to do that sort of complex theorotical writing or not, I don’t know him. But I do agree that we should be rading those books, as I am sure they are out there. I have not read any of them and am lacking because of it. I did, however, feel that he was more complex than many others that I have read. As far as being one-sided, I think he was, and I think he knows he was. I don’t think he was trying not to be. I think he was suggesting that as a former liberal (whether he actually was or not, you would have to take up with him), this is how he has arrived at his current mind-set. I don’t think they way he arrived there will or shoudl work for everyone, but I believe it can and will work for some. That is probably just a true as the counter-arguments.

I think that Bush does see some things as black and white issues. I don’t feel that he doesn’t see the complexities that surrounds that, I just think that at some points you have to say, ok, these are complext issues with many options, you haven’t chose the one that I feel is correct so I am going to disagree with you. During the administration you can’t be as black and white as that (which he may have been during his last four years, to a degree), but during the debates that is exactly how they are going to be. They simply don’t have much time to get complex. Sadly, I see the debates as doing only two things. The first is good, they give the broad public access to what the condidates believe and where they stand on issues. Second is really bad, they essentailly become a who looked or sounded best contest. If someone is more eloquent or looked better, they are perceived as having done better.

Largely, I do see blogging as essentailly “cheerleading”. Does it ever change anyone? Probably not, but ya never know. At least, it sparks interesting debate. The potential to help flush out beliefs and make people think is a good thing. For me, what it comes down to is Bush and Kerry and what they say and stand for, not the cheerlearders (like me) on the sidelines. As I stated at the onset of this post, I don’t like posting political posts because they just make people mad at each other which is stupid. Having opposing political standpoints is a stupid reason to not like someone. Being unintelligent about things though… ;)

Response II from ADW:
Thanks Matt,

I of course understand that in any essay, debate, speech or even book for that matter a certain amount of simplification must go on. I know that this is a necessary evil and that benefits of the doubt must be given to both sides. That being said I’m not simply claiming that Bush is presenting complex things in black and white terms, I think that he really sees things in this light and creates his policy accordingly. Now this is a mostly coherent and mostly consistent practice on his part. And if you see the world in a similar way then you are going to much more easily see eye to eye with him.

I think that’s what a lot of this is about. How one sees and assimilates the surrounding world. In a way it makes it a much more personal thing and thats probably why its so easy to get angry when it comes to political posts. But I think that if we can recognize this, that political preference has much to do with how we see the world in our everyday experience then political difference will be easier to swallow and easier to talk about.

NOw I don’t mean to suggest that every Bush supporter necessarily sees his or her world in black and white. On the contrary I don’t think that’s true of you or many others. But what I am suspicious of is that in our armchair politics there is a high degree of oversimplification that must go on because of our lack of knowledge/experience . This is not to say that we cannot make wise decisions or increase in that knowledge but the point I’m trying to make is this: that it will be tempting to side with and identify with a candidate who actually oversimplifies in practice. There will be a high level of correspondence and sense-making between me and that candidate. But in reality I would much rather have someone who is dealing with blurred lines even if I have trouble understanding from my armchair.

My personal problem with Bush is not that I don’t understand him and his policies, they are coherent in and of themselves, its that I simply disagree with them and I may never hope to get a nuanced defence of them from him because by his own policy he simply does not answer to criticisms. He is ready to cut his losses. His claim is that if you don’t agree with me you probably just don’t agree with me and it will do no good to defend myself. I think this is a mistake. I think that critics have a right to hear a defense of policy. I would be bold enough to claim that my mind is open to being changed by Bush should he ever enage in the art of nuance and apologetics. That being said I don’t think he wil.

-Andy

Addendum III:
Good stuff Andy and I pretty much agree with you. I think I do give Bush a little more credit. I agree that he probably does see many things as black and white, but I don’t think that is how he sees everything. That being said, I do tend to agree with those some of those things, even if he does see them as black and white.

Is there any way around oversimplification? The general public, most likely myself included, isn’t going to sit down and read books on political theory. I am all for people becoming more educated and feel that everyone is capable of that if they try, but the reality is that, on the most part, it won’t happen. So is there really any reason not to over simplify? Both parties over simplify and probably wouldn’t actually get very far if they didn’t oversimplify.

If we do simply side with someone because they make us feel better about their oversimplification, they we are missing something. If anything, I think that Bush doesn’t make us feel good because he does make hard decisions that we many not necessarily make ourselves. I think the Bush is compassionate towards people and therefore some of his views cannot be black and white because being compassionate means you will have to do things that some people will not like or feel good about because it can hurt in the present but will be better over time. I feel that Kerry is purely (maybe that is harsh and oversimple) calculational. That he just sees what will make people happy, what the current trends are and makes decisions based on that while not really looking at the over-all good. He seems very cold to me.

I agree that Bush is lacking in his defense of some of his policies. I think he would be wise to at least attempt to explain why he has choose certain courses of action. I think he does it well on some policies, but not others. It is a little defeatist to say “you disagree with me so you will always disagree with me so why bother explain?” I tend to agree with many of his policies but would still like to hear more from him.

On the other hand I feel that I don’t know what to take from Kerry. He record on defense is horrid so him telling me he is going to protect us, I find that a hard statement to swallow. He is concerned with making allies in Europe and that seems to be a very important issue to him. I would love to have friends all over the world, but that is somewhat secondary to our security and making “friends” with those that could actually help us with not just our own security, but the security of countries around the world, namely relationships with Muslim countries. If Muslim countries want to show the world that Islam is not full of suicide-bombing extremists, they are going to have to step up and help, we need to form relationships with them to help rid the world of these terrorists. Trying to pursue relationships with countries like France is somewhat futile in the fight against terror (their own interests are of upmost importance to thim, especially when it comes to Iraq and oil).

I guess it comes down to this, I shouldn’t accept the oversimplified statements that are made by either candidate, but with what I am given I have to make a decision, I think that Bush’s oversimplified views fall in line with what I believe, in my oversimplified mind. :)

I just tried to stay awake for the last debate… I finally had to change the channel. There was nothing new, I didn’t learn anything. Policy this, policy that… None of it meant anything. Kerry promised everything, and it all for free, I would love to be part of that. Bush pretty much jsut said stuff that has already been said, but at least I believe him and he has some passion. I just don’t believe a word Kerry says. Bush is real even if I don’t agree with everything he says.

Funny comment here.

Call it oversimple, but I think it is funny:
“Kerry said, “most importantly and I mean most importantly of restoring America’s reputation as a country that listens, is sensitive, brings people to our side, is the seeker of peace, not war, and that uses our high moral ground and high-level values to augment us in the war on terror, not to diminish us.”
Imagine President John Kerry at the Berlin Wall. “Mr. Gorbachev … I challenge you to get to an emotional place where you can imagine a different kind of non-wall reality, that fully respects the ‘wallness’ of your current reality, yet takes us on a spiritual journey in which …”" by Ann Coulter.

Good post over at vodkapundit.com with a letter from a soldier in Baghdad. You should check it out here.

There is an interesting post about American elections and what it will mean in Iraq by an Iraqi over at Messopotamian. It is worth the read. Yes he is just one person and doesn’t necessarily believe the same way as all Iraqis… but he might.

I keep adding more and more to this post. I just read an email exchange between Medienkritik and George Soros that is really insightful. Here is the link to the exchange.

I will quote some of it because it is really good stuff I think.
“You also made no attempt to answer my concerns involving the United Nations. I wrote, “There is nothing the United States could have done to convince nations like France or Russia to take 17 UN resolutions seriously and actually enforce them.

Over a twelve-year period, Saddam Hussein refused to cooperate and abide by international law, hoping to eventually have sanctions lifted so he could resume development of weapons of mass destruction. Neither France, Russia nor China, all members of the Security Council with veto power, made any serious attempt to hold Saddam to over a dozen Security Council resolutions. In fact, the opposite is true. In 1998 when Hussein refused to cooperate with UNSCOM inspectors, France, Russia and China refused to back tough measures to get inspections back on track, resulting in the collapse of the UNSCOM inspection regime and the expulsion of UNSCOM inspectors from Iraq. It is also important to remember that all three nations had extensive business dealings with the Hussein government and were owed billions in debt by Iraq. Recently, allegations that Saddam bribed Russian and French officials have also prompted new questions as to those nations true motivation for resisting military action to enforce international law in Iraq.

Mr. Soros, in your book you quote the following passage from a UN commission reporting to Kofi Annan:

The Security Council should take into account in all its deliberations that, if it fails to discharge its responsibilities to protect in conscience-shocking situations crying out for action, concerned states may not rule out other means to meet the gravity and urgency of the situation—and that the stature and credibility of the United Nations may suffer thereby.

Not only did the United Nations fail on Iraq for twelve years, it also failed on genocide in Rwanda and it failed repeatedly in the Balkans. How can you honestly expect Americans to trust their national security to an organization with a track record of failure in a post 9/11 world? How do you expect the UN to effectively stand up to Iran and North Korea when they werent even able to deal with Rwanda or Kosovo? Clearly, the stature and credibility of the United Nations has suffered over the past decade.”

and

“Mr. Soros, you also add in your reply:

Im all in favor of removing tyrants like Saddam Hussein but the way we went about it has made it more, rather than less difficult, to do it in the future, because we acted unilaterally and arbitrarily.

I appreciate the fact that you are in favor of removing tyrants like Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, had we followed your plan to deal with Saddam through the United Nations, his regime of mass murder and torture would likely still exist today. I would contend that it is the fundamentally flawed United Nations system, chronically blocked from taking any real action to enforce vital resolutions, which has made it more, and not less difficult to remove brutal dictators from power. Mr. Soros, on page 118 of your book you state that NATO military action in Kosovo was justified even without a UN resolution, you write:

I believe we were justified in intervening in Kosovo without UN authorization, and we would have done better if we had relied on NATO and not the United Nations in Bosnia. But unilateral action that goes against international public opinion cannot be justified, and it can endanger our national security by turning the world against us. That is what the Bush administration has accomplished by its rabid unilateralism.

I disagree that the United States should base its national security policy on international public opinion. In many parts of the world it was unpopular to stand up to the Soviet Union during the Cold War, yet it was the right thing to do. In many parts of the world it was unpopular to oppose Fascism in World War II, yet it was the right thing to do. Bluntly put: The United States should not and cannot change its foreign policy to match the ever changing whims and fancies of international opinion. To ask it to do so would not only be impractical, it would endanger the nations security. It was right to act in Kosovo, and it was right to act in Iraq, where, by the way, the humanitarian situation was far worse.

You label the Bush administrations actions as rabid unilateralism and on page 174 of your book you even call them rampant unilateralism. How so? The Bush administration spent months at the United Nations hoping against hope to see real action on Iraq. Nothing the President or anyone else could have done would have convinced nations like France, China and Russia to fully enforce the seventeen Security Council resolutions on the books concerning Iraq. That was the fundamental problem. We all know that the three veto powers opposing the US had big money tied up in Iraq. For them it was more about national interest and less about international justice.

So did President Bush subsequently engage on an arbitrary and unilateral campaign? Not at all. How can you call putting together a coalition of dozens of nations rabid unilateralism? Tell the leaders of Great Britain, Poland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Denmark and the Netherlands that Mr. Bush is rabidly unilateral. Soldiers from all of those nations have fought and died next to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush was enforcing the UN resolutions that the UN itself could not and would not enforce. How can we see a body that cannot even enforce its own laws as legitimate Mr. Soros?

Bluntly put: The United Nations Security Council and the five veto powers do not have a monopoly on the terms multilateral or legitimate nor does acting outside the United Nations necessarily make an action unilateral or illegitimate. That seems to be where we have a fundamental difference of opinion.

To me, a failure to confront a humanitarian crises or international threat through the United Nations is far more illegitimate than a willingness to take action outside the United Nations to confront that threat. Until we fundamentally reform the United Nations, this will always be an issue and a problem. I appreciate the suggestions you make in your book on UN reforms. The problem is actually getting them implemented. ”

Interesting stuff, eh?

[UPDATE: Original post and comments are no longer available. :( sorry!]

Categories: Politics Tags:

“Theology, Music and Time” by Jeremy Begbie

October 5th, 2004 No comments

Here is my first book review at Regent. The parenthetical references refer to the page number in the book. This was really difficult in that my first draft was 1800 words and that was already somewhat slim. I had to then get it down to 1500! The guidelines were as follows: Explain title and how it relates to subject, thesis, and purpose. Set out the basic structure of the book. Evaluate the book. Two things that impressed positively and negatively. All in 1500 words! Here it is!

Matt Jones
Regent College

October 4th, 2004
INDS 500: The Christian Life (Section B)
John Stackhouse
Word Count: 1497

Book Review #1
Theology, Music and Time
Jeremy S. Begbie

Begbie, Jeremy S. Theology, Music and Time. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Jeremy Begbie, in his book, Theology, Music and Time, strives to show the connection between the three nouns in his title. He aims to show that theological understanding can come through music and its relation to time. Here we try to show how the experience of music can serve to open up features of a distinctively theological account of created temporality, redeemed by God in Jesus Christ, and what it means to live and with time as created creatures (7). Begbies title is a straightforward assertion of his subjects with theology and music being the most important and time being the medium in which a relation is formed between the other two. His motive for this task is his guiding conviction that music can serve to enrich and advance theology, extending our wisdom about God, Gods relation to us and to the world at large (3).

He structures his book under three main categories: Introduction, In Gods good time, and Time to improvise. Each of these main categories includes subcategories relating to the main theme. The introduction outlines what Begbie hopes to achieve as well as give a jumping off point into the two other main themes. The first subcategory deals with the actual capabilities of music to say anything. He talks about the relationship between music-making, music-hearing, and our emotions. This discussion leads into the next subcategory pertaining to the nature of time and the temporal relationship to music as the production and reception of music deeply implicates physical realities and these realities are themselves time-laden (31). This subcategory goes into a discussion about the past, present and future which deals with time existing and how we perceive it. Music should not be looked at as moving through time, but that time is its medium (67). The main goal of the introductory chapters is to define relationships and characteristics associated with time and briefly relate those to theology. After time is introduced, the next category naturally arises: its relation to God.

In Gods good time combines the nature of time with what we can learn theologically through music. The first question that arises is whether time is a good gift from God or if it is merely a threat to us. Music demonstrates that change through time does not necessarily imply chaos or a negative view of time. There has arisen a view that suggests that because something takes time to be what it is, it is thereby of deficient value or goodness compared to that which is not subject to created time (86). Music is in direct opposition to that and therefore cannot, in this sense, be rushed and therefore cultivates patience (87). Time is divinely created and should be looked upon as such. This talk of time as a medium takes us to the first subcategory that deals with tensions and resolutions that are created in music. Through its layered patterns of tension and resolution, music relies for much of its effect on generating a sense of the incompleteness of the present, that not all is now given (99). Begbie then delves into a discussion on metrical waves. Metrical waves are used to show how tensions and resolutions are patterns that occur at multiple levels (from single bars to entire pieces). The more levels resolution involves, the greater sense of an immanent final closure (107). Music can show that the end of something is actually a beginning of something else. The next subcategory follows from the discussion of finality and the eternity of God. Begbie goes into the next subcategory and deals with the relationship between repetition and the sacrament of the Eucharist. In music, repetition is used heavily and does not get boring because repetition is natural to music. The complexities in metrical waves through their tensions and resolutions reveal that nothing is ever exactly the same, even in repetition. This is important in the ritual of the Eucharist because we are called into something holy that should never become stagnant. The liturgical nature of repetition leads to the next main category that offers a different view of how music relates to theology.

Time to Improvise moves away from a highly structured view of music to that of improvisation. The three sub-sections show that the practice of musical improvisation correlate to the theology of freedom, election and ecclesiology (269). Areas such as giving, constraints within freedom, creativity and tradition are all crucial points in this category and subcategories.

Begbie did a very thorough job of relating time to music and theology and then using that foundation showed that there were many principles in music that can offer insight to us about the theological understanding of God. Our understanding of Jesus saving grace is heightened by Begbies discussion of tension and resolve; our understanding of the Eucharist would benefit from the musical standpoint of repetition; and our desire to give might be lacking without the arguments put forth by his discussion of improvisation. Those three theological examples are merely samples of what Begbie has been able to in this book. He was able to argue quite extensively for his position and didnt seem to leave anything out. This is a difficult subject to make any very definite claims about as music is not something tangible. It is not possible to say this equals that because music is not descriptive in that manner. Begbie was aware of that and addressed it. What he did was show that there are some very direct relations that can be applied to music and theology. Begbie never asserts that music can be used as a primary authority when learning theology, what he does do very well is to show, through music, that you can learn subtle nuances, reaffirm certain theological beliefs that are held as well as gain new insight. Examining the temporality of music has elicited conceptual tools ways of thinking, models, frameworks, metaphors for exploring, clarifying and re-conceiving the dynamics of Gods world and his ways with the world (271).

One thing that impressed me negatively was his somewhat over extensive discussion of time. As time was one of the major themes of the book it makes sense to have a formal discussion of its nature. I felt that, at times, Begbie went too far, especially in his discussion of the nature of the past, present and future. I believe his arguments would still be valid without going into details about how some people think the past and future dont really exist in certain ways. I feel that what was most important was relating time to its divine creation and how temporality affects music. The other discussions seemed to be superfluous.

Another thing that impressed upon me negatively was that he didnt use as many examples as I would have liked. There were many places, especially in the discussion of metrical waves that Begbie could have brought in examples from the Bible to show how they are used. He did bring up the main examples to show tension and resolve and how that relates to promise and fulfillment, but I feel he could have pulled some examples in especially to show how metrical waves have many different layers.

That being said about examples, his discussion about promise and fulfillment did impress me in quite a positive way. The nature of Biblical promises has always interested me in that they were always fulfilled but not necessarily in the way we (including the original people) thought it would. Fulfillments, far from lessening hope for resolution, serve to heighten it (106). Fulfilled promises in the Bible are not a final word, they are pointing to something more and that is a great thing that music alludes to. The very conclusion in Christ, climactic and utterly decisive as it may be, also brings with it an intensification and an enrichment of the promise originally made to Abraham (109). The tensions and resolutions throughout the Bible are very artistic and all come to the final conclusion when Jesus returns and the Kingdom of God is fully realized.

It is because the universe is so finely tuned to produce life, but only through the process of death, that death receives from life the highest possible tribute and valueit is not possible to have life on any other terms than those of death; but where you do have death, there immediately you have the possibility of life (92). This concept put forth by Begbie also impressed me positively. Christians live in this world where we are in the now but not yet and are continually dealing with death. Music greatly points out that through death there is new life. This is a great comfort in our daily lives when we see death around us but also eternally where we can find that promise of everlasting life through Jesus Christ. I was very glad that Begbie pointed this out as I have never related musical themes to the nature of death and new life.

Categories: Regent College, Writings Tags:

Verbage? Verbiage?

October 4th, 2004 No comments

I have found it funny that some of my inbound linking have come from search engines where people are looking for “Birthday card verbage” or “Thank you verbage” or something along those lines. I find this funny for a few reasons. It is interesting that my title which is supposed to represent a combination of Verbiage and Garbage actually gets external links because people often misspell Verbiage. Also, why are people searching for verbiage about a birthday card? For one, can’t you just be original and yourself? And secondly, verbiage means “An excess of words for the purpose; wordiness.” I have NEVER gotten a card where I was glad someone was wordy. I would rather it be short, sweet, and to the point, or better yet, just give me the two bucks for the card and write “happy birthday” across Washington’s face.

So the question arises: Should I change my title? Does using “verbage” just make me look silly, or is it clever enough to keep as a title?

Anyway, just a few thoughts before class.
Shalom

PS. Edgar is done with baseball :( And the darn tv stations up here didn’t play the M’s last two games. I really wanted to see “Edgar Day” oh well, maybe someone got it on tape or something. Melvin was fired today, not too surprised about that, nor am I too upset.

Original Post [UPDATE: Original post and comments are no longer available. :( sorry!]

Categories: Blogging Tags: