Letter to Dr. Bennett about Philosophical Education

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Dr. Tony Bennett,

I strongly believe Philosophy should be offered as a required subject for elementary though high school students. Any basis for asserting otherwise needs some kind of philosophical justification. It’s a self-negating premise. Of course, like any other subject, lessons must be taught according to their level of understanding.

We have both lived in America long enough to know rational/logical thought is not guaranteed. Without rational thought and understanding as the centre of all areas of study, we have adults who can’t apply what they’ve learned, and perpetuating this generational hostility to the educational system as a whole.

We ask students over and over again “what do you want to be when you grow up?” This isn’t very easy to answer. When we ask a child this question, we’re asking what adult job, that they know very little about, captures their childhood imagination the most. When students become older, we begin to realize this question as more frightening implications. You’re asking high school students “What do you want to do with your life?” How can we possible expect students to examine this question without a forum to ask the big questions about life itself?

Remember what voting was to the women’s right movement?

It’s the right that, once acquired, would open the door to all the others. That’s what I feel about critical thought given to students. Once they can open their eyes and think, everything else will just be a mater of time. As long as we don’t have these classes readily available, we’re churning out irrational thinkers by the generation.

I’m not asking for an elective, I’m asking for a new centre, a new connecting point for ALL areas of study. I firmly believe that as long you have the power to make this readily available, and squander it, you would then be complicit in the existential degradation of the people we’re raising.

 

Without philosophy, there is no “free will.”

I hope this letter will open your mind to the choice you’re now faced with.

Indiana can set a new standard for education like you’ve always wanted.

 

The only question you’re left with is:

“Will it, or will it not?”

 

Thank you.

 

-Daniel Ballow

(I am a student of Ball State University majoring in English Education minoring in Philosophy.

I Graduated from Key Learning Community class of 2010)

Rape is a Horrible Crime, And…

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Every time I listen to/ read the stories of rape survivors, it’s usually their cultural, sociological, legal, or religious setting that MAKES it more emotionally devastating, and as such, is considered the worst crime in the world.

But upon realizing this… it occurred to me that’s it’s really each of US that makes it into what is is.

Just about every other crime where an attack/violation/exploitation/threat of violence/coercion occurs… doesn’t have this much bullsh*t attached.

Do you SEE what I’m getting at here? It’s OUR faults.

WE turn it into the worst thing in the world, and in doing so, inflict the worst thing in the world to the victims of this crime!

Then in making the perpetrators guilty of the worst crime in the world, nobody can objectively or compassionately examine why it happens, thereby leaving the reasons unexamined by anyone doesn’t think of them as not quite human, or by someone who is not out for blood. And letting it go on, and on, and on… unabated.

Don’t you get it!?

We’re WORSE than rapists!

Privilege

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       “The smallest minority on earth is the individual.” –Ayn Rand

 

In the context of the rest of Ayn Rand’s teachings, this was to run parallel to the idea that the individual should be held in consideration above all else. She was of the idea that institutionalized equality necessarily kept the able in chains, stifling their progress. On the contrary, I believe the strength of the enlightened individual can generate tectonic shifts in the world directly around him, for ill or for good, once he realizes the society is a brick house of individuals. I don’t like Ayn Rand’s teachings; I wouldn’t quote her unless it was extremely important.

 

When division is present, privilege will always be subjective. America may be one of the most prosperous nations, but we’re also one of the least happy, unappreciative, close-minded, and insulated nations. If truth is the greatest virtue, then isn’t the one who possesses it privileged regardless of how long he lives, how he makes ends meet, etc. With an optimist’s eyes, there can be an advantage to just about anything.

Now when I say these things, I do not mean to say oppression is non-existent. It’s a real pervasive force within a society and between individuals. However, oppression can never be eradicated if it goes mis-identified. I am not of the belief that societal division necessarily equates oppression. Real oppression, I believe, is precisely the “exaggerated” model initially presented in “The 5 Faces of Oppression.” That model of the conquered having the others will involuntarily imposed upon it. Such a state, or state of being, is the only truly, absolute non-privilege.

 

I am not in such a state, but I’ve felt marginalized my whole life. I am an alien, somehow, someway, though my parents love me, they are relatively socially retarded. The basic hi, bye, please, thank you, excuse me was all gotten to a T. What else was there? I sometimes joke, I’ve FELT alienated, but Clark Kent actually IS an alien. Imagine how he felt.

 

However, in my later years, understanding the mechanisms behind my lifelong frustrations have left me immune to their assigned power. Free to chose or deny that power at will. One of the few things my mother taught me that I hold close to this day, is that a culture can be wrong. Cultural rules reflect underlying assumptions about the nature of reality. Just as I am under no obligation to obey an unjust, written law, same can be said for unwritten ones.

 

It’s also put me in a very unique position to play with the old tropes in creative and exciting ways.

I have been the subject of racism before in my kindergarten years. Fellow student. I didn’t quake in my boots at the prospect of being put down, nor did I boil over in some Pavlovian response. My child’s mind just dismissed the stupidity of the event. Now that I have historical context in my adulthood, I wouldn’t have had myself react any other way.

 

My general deprivation of companionship had nothing to do with my race, class, gender, religion, age, sexuality, location, level of education, language, or marital status. (One could make the argument that my relationship status was a result of the other things.) I have been put in my position because I’m an individual, and for no other reason. Not as a black man, but as a person.

It’s been a privilege.

My “letter” to DC about Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Apocalypse (that I finally sent electronically)

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Hello, my name is Daniel Ballow and today I’d like to talk to you about sexism. Especially regarding the release of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. (Or as it should have been called, “Superman/Batman: Supergirl.”)
Before I continue I’d like to give some background information:

I do not readily identify myself as a “feminist,” but I am a gender egalitarian and opposed to sexism. I believe holding onto our fixed gendered perspective and focusing on what separates us, and what has been separating us is a barrier to true gender equality. I believe modern feminism often sabotages itself in this regard.

I believe that something is only a gender issue when the person performing the action or the observer contextualizes it as such. There is almost always an explanation for things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with these things.

I’m not one to cry “objectification” whenever artists tend to fall into the tendency to “idealize” female heroes. Most living creatures sexual objects alongside whatever else we are, and it would be dehumanizing to mask that fact (though this does not excuse nonsensical renderings, and poses that serve no storytelling purpose. I’d chalk that up to “bad storytelling, not sexism).

I give this context to set up that I firmly believe that something is only a gender issue when it is contextualized as such, and I am decidedly hesitant to label something as “sexist” for the aforementioned reason. But in spite of all of this, the more I thought about the title of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, the more I realized how undeniably sexist this name-change was, and how it would be hypocritical of me not to object to it.

Superman/Batman: Supergirl (I read the story in paperback form) is one of my favorite Superman stories of all time. As far as I am currently aware, the original storyline aptly titled “The Supergirl from Krypton” sold very well, as well as the trade paperback. (Be sure to respond with any contrary data so my disappointment will subside, please.)

It was exciting news that the Superman/Batman: Public Enemies movie would be followed up by an adaptation of the “The Supergirl from Krypton.” But it was a peculiar move to name the movie “Apocalypse.” The movie itself was stellar, featured one of the best-animated fight sequences of all time with (ironically) Wonder Woman. The adaption from the source material was true to the spirit of the source material, so why the name change?

According to a newsarma interview:

“I think the main reason why they didn’t call this piece Supergirl is because for some reason the Wonder Woman home video that we made, which was very, very good and filled with (fe)male* characters, didn’t sell well,” she told us. “And so marketing people said, female titled pieces don’t sell well. So this is a female piece, it’s got a very strong feminine character in it but they called it Superman/Batman: Apocalypse just to get people to come into the video stores and buy them.”

http://www.newsarama.com/film/superman-batman-apocalypse-interviews-100929.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Newsaramasite+%28Newsarama.com%29

I spoke with my father about this some time ago before writing this. He asserted that chauvinism wasn’t the motive behind the name change, and that the decision was of pure monetary motivation. I would not argue that the decision was sexist, but the thought process behind the decision was sexist. Because according to the marketing people’s assertion, “female titles don’t sell.”

It became sexist when gender was contextualized as the reason behind Wonder Woman’s less-than-ideal sales. They made this a gender issue, and I will call them out for doing so.

According to www.the-numbers.com, the “consumer spending for Wonder Woman was listed as $6,974,613. Batman: Gotham Knight was listed as $8,059,255. Superman: Doomsday was listed as $9,442,880.

At face value, this data would back up their claim, but there are other reasons for this.
First, the Batman animated movies were riding off the success of the ’89 film all the way to the Joel Shoemaker movie, the award winning animated series (airing around the time I was first cognizant, contributing to me becoming the DC fan I am today), The Batman, and Batman Beyond.
When you generate movies and television shows in such a way, it generates nostalgia for young viewers. You create “comfortable memories” associated with the character.

Superman has the success of the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve film series, The Lois and Clark tv show, Superman the Animated Series, Superman Returns, and Smallville.

If you look closely, there is a direct correlation between the success of the animated movies and the legion of fans generated by different media.

Wonder Woman has not had a solo television series since 1979. To expect her animated movie to perform as well as Gotham Knight or Doomsday is like asking Batman to rely only on the success of the Adam West tv show. There are not many young fans left that have grown up with Wonder Woman outside of her “Superfriends” and “Justice League” appearances.

Wonder Woman has not had an award-winning animated series, another animated series, a romantic comedy, a primetime drama, a beloved classic that’s generated more comic book writers than any other, or a highly successful reboot.
She’s only had her solo comic book series for decades, and Lynda Carter. On that alone, however, the sales of her animated movie outsold Green Lantern: First Flight ($6,070,921), Justice League: The New Frontier ($5,232,076), Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths ($5,220,061), Batman: Under The Red Hood ($6,656,692), and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse ($5,847,410).

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies had the advantage of featuring both Superman and Batman, making it to ($7,996,266). Yet, that by itself apparently was not enough to guarantee the success of the sequel. “Supergirl” was consciously removed from the title because “girls don’t sell.”
(That’s right… the Catwoman film featuring Halle Berry movie did poorly because she’s a woman…*)
*Sarcastic.

The title of the project was affectively changed on a dubious, gender biased decision.
How could you let this happen?
The title was not “just changed.” A poor business decision was made. Not everyone knows Supergirl even exists. The potential, interest in the origin of this prospective character may have been lost because the title
As it is, a passive observer might interpret:
a) a vague reference to the Fourth World by Jack Kirby, something that even less people know about, or…
b) indicating the name of another disaster movie.
I was fishing through back issues one day, as a couple walking into a comic book store for the first time, apparently. The girl was presently surprised by the amount of female heroes there were (as she should be). Then remarked at astonishment, that a “Super-woman” existed (referring to the Supergirl statue she was eyeing.)

The thing that upsets me more than sexism is hypocrisy. I would prefer to think that DC comics to take the principles their beloved icons fight for very seriously.

I’m not asking anyone’s resignation.
I would like this letter, or the summarized contents thereof, to be drilled into the skulls of whoever is responsible for this.
I would like some kind of public indicator that this ought not to have happened at all.
I want nothing like this to EVER happen again.

Sincerely,
-Daniel

Superstitious cowardly lot

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1. Misfortune is always the cause of some moral failure on the part of the receiver.

2. 666 (There is a room 666 in my building. I assume none would want to be assigned there due the number, so it’s for trash.)

3. “You know having an umbrella open indoors is bad luck, right?

What are you superstitious?

“No, it’s just bad luck.”

I started writing this in a dining hall with my black umbrella wide open beside me several hours after attending a church service. Surely such an experience would leave me with list overflowing with examples, correct? Not really.

All I’m left with is the idea that superstitions are just “irrational metaphysical beliefs.” But so many people have irrational, untested beliefs that have nothing to do with mirrors, ladders, or umbrellas, that I tend to put them in the same category:

1. First impressions often give an accurate assessment of a person’s character, personality, and performance.

2. Emotions are externally imposed.

3. Feel confident in yourself and success will follow!

Indeed, it would take magic for any of these to be true.

In retrospect, the main difference between the two is that superstitions are more difficult to disprove. Conventional mistruths can be disproven in experiments and tests. There are numerous examples of people feeling good about a test and failing miserably and vice-versa. “But the chances are much higher if you feel better!” Could it be the person feels better about the test because they know the material, and not some superimposed, pseudo-new aged pop-psychology? You felt pretty confident about your position, but you failed the logic test. How does this factor in?

Whatever you believe about the metaphysical you, it must be subject to SOME sort of test; otherwise you should just toss out the “-physics” at the end of it. The belief that God is in absolute, direct control over everything would make it a logical companion to “doing /believing X to be in God’s favor.” If the former were true, it would be a sensible assumption that God is displeased with something that is being done. But what of ethically questionable rich people living long lives, and “bad things happening to good people?” If it’s all part of the plan, then quality of things happening to you is virtually independent of His favor, at least in this plain of existence.

Certain assumptions are so ingrained into our culture, that indicators of decency are measured by following rules that presuppose their truthfulness. I will certainly teach young ones in my care about these things, but in the same vein as: “In Japan, bowing is the customary greeting,” or “conservative churches don’t allow men to wear hats during prayer.”

Underlying beliefs, of any kind, always have a negative and positive emotional baggage. It’s unavoidable. Feelings grow off thoughts and beliefs like moss on a rock or tree.  Just consider that you may be defending something that isn’t real, and shouldn’t become too attached to something that can’t be proven.

Forgiveness Forever

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Friendship, by definition of positive interpersonal connection is more vividly felt in moderation. One would have to be exclusively devoted to the experience of friendship to in order to evenly disperse attention/affection wherever one incidentally interacts with people. One will eventually choose certain people from among them, incidentally prefer certain people, or simply decide on casual quantity over intimate quality. The point is that friendship has many possible ways to manage while still being the same practical concept. Forgiveness on the other hand transcends, relationship type. My dictionary application defines forgiveness as ceasing to feel angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, flaw, or mistake. Feelings of anger dissipating are a natural occurrence as the insignificance of the action becomes more and more evident.

“Forgiveness” as a natural occurrence is inevitable under circumstances favorable to the “victim.” However, forgiveness as a willing “cancellation of debt,” both monetary and otherwise is NOT as inevitable. It requires a thought and attitude shift in the recipient. These shifts are often resisted because of the high emotional state against the person who deserved it or their “mad at.” I’m under the experiential impression that an over abundance of RAGE distorts decision-making, and even IF what someone is doing or saying is wrong, the response must NOT then be fueled by anger. A shift in attitude must take place if the feelings of anger on an issue are to dissipate.

Although this is to be true across the board, this philosophy is immediately relevant to managing friendships. If Plato’s comment about one should remain friends as long as “the other person doesn’t change” is to be believed (I don’t believe it.), then forgiveness for “being who they are” should be doubly extended. To agree never to it again would be to eliminate a nuance in their personalities. I think friendship should leave room for maturity on the parts of both persons, and static refusal to develop comes across as kind of Randian. (“Randian” is being uses to describe internally inconsistent rigidity.)  Generally speaking friendships are formed in the context of the person’s most redeeming character traits, the negatives may/may not be necessary impurities in whatever good the person is capable of. The capacity to accept that will reduce instances of “throwing the infant out with the dirty bath water.”

Now what of our enemies and people we don’t care about/for? If they don’t deal with us, why should I not provide myself with a healthy, unrelated target for my resentment? If enough people take this approach, then we have cases of mass alienation, mass mutual resentment, self-alienation, or resentment of masses. Many school-based peer mishaps can be attributed to this. Boiling it down, they can be attributed to think this practice is a good idea. See, the only thing I HAVE A MORAL OBLIGATION AGAINST EVER FORGIVING: is the continued existence of flawed thinking/ideas. Note: The anger is never directed toward people, but to the ideas. I get major release from beating the tar out of stupid arguments, and making fun of them post-mortem.

To put a condition on the forgiveness of an action not mutually considered a mistake, error, or bad habit, is to threaten your friend with emotional isolation unless your way of thinking/behavior is adopted. (This is not to advocate unconditional alliance with anyone, which would be potentially disastrous.) It is fascistic to make and expect action on that demand SOLEY on the basis of your friendship. Now to order someone to correct something mutually agreed upon to be a mistake, error, bad habit, lapse of judgment is a separate matter.

Anger generally presupposes “I have been wronged.” I’ve learned that most people’s mistakes are not generally made with YOU in mind. The exceptions usually take place when the previous paragraph is in affect, during which the perpetrator usually believes your treatment is entirely appropriate. Most people can find some circumstance where it is appropriate to torture someone in the worst way possible. (Some people’s standards are just “higher” than others…)

When malice is not the issue, the anger is usually misplaced. Other times, the anger is from the friend not constantly being considered. Perceived as a form of neglect, an accusation the accuser is often immediately guilty of. Not being forgiven by a friend is usually painful. This is worse when the accuser knows this to be the case. Intentional hurt for punishment of unintentional hurt. (What a great buddy YOU turned out to be.) I maintain that even IF the person’s feelings are “considered” it’s usually IMPOSSIBLE to know their reaction until they react. Then you’re making a demand that the person intuitively know how you’ll feel before they do anything. This is a feat that takes MANY years of training. It would be unrealistic to assume this to the case. And even WITH the years of training… “Realistic” is by definition, whatever actually happens.

And lastly…what’s with the overexertion of power? Shouldn’t you HELP your friend avoid an action he considers to be heinous? Isn’t that what friends do for each other? …Instead of the angry jumps to untested conclusions?

No End in Sight

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I believe in a lot of things, but the last thing I’ll ever believe is that there will be an end to belief. There are no endings. Sure I will stop writing this essay. You will stop reading this essay. But some day, neither of us will be reading or writing, but it won’t be the end of reading or writing. It’s a recurring theme in most religious and spiritual sects that the ethereal aspect of humanity will continue living in spite if its body’s decay. If you are not spiritual, the ideas, culture, and history being passed on that won’t die like we do. Even if you’re some depraved Freudian who believes none of the above will necessarily survive, at least your genes and organic matter will survive in some way to maintain future life.

Whatever seems to end, there is a force at work behind it that will last longer. The recursion stretches infinitely. A good example of recursion is holding a mirror in front of another mirror or looking closely at a box of “Land O’ Lakes”. More pertinently, this paragraph may soon end, but the paper will keep going. This paper may eventually run out of words, but the author will write more. The author may grow tired of writing, but his works will continue to inspire. He may write until his death, but the ideas gave the words meaning will persist. The readership may lose interest in the truth, but the reality will be despite what its observers think of it.

I’m a moral objectivist. For every wrong decision, there is a right one. A few views on right and wrong deal with things revolving around other things, like planets, moons, and stars. Is what is morally right revolve around what we think, or must what we think revolve around what is right? The latter is called relativism.

If heavenly bodies were sentient, moving in whatever way seemed okay at the time. Imagine how zany and erratic the universe would be. They would be more like electrons zipping around protons than planets around a star. I don’t think this question should ever sink into the “you believe that, and I’ll believe this” cliché. The sun didn’t revolve around the earth because people thought it did. But imagine sentient planets moving in an orderly fashion because we live on one? They aren’t, but it wouldn’t negate the integrity of the choice that they move one way instead of another. The earth moving like an electron would be disastrous. That’s how the universe would work if that were the case. How things could and would work under certain circumstances are ever present.

I stated earlier “for every wrong decision, there is a right one.”   The decisions never end, but the sentence about them ended with “right one.” Ending on a good note, even though there are still more things to be said. Even if our heroes maintained a successful, fulfilling marriage and lived “happily ever after”, it’s not “the end” by the narrator’s own admission. The events must have played out for his statement to be true, but we don’t see them. This is especially true if this dream marriage included children in the equation, not to mention the eventual funeral. What is the consequence of their lives on the one closest to them? As you can see, “The End” is merely a statement of “narrative cut-off point.” No autobiographer’s life ends on the last page of his or her book.

Don’t think it pessimistic that I say, “There are no happy endings.” It means there are no bad endings either, just happy times and sad times. I watched To Kill A Mockingbird and thought there would be a sad ending after a series of events resulting in tragedy. But the play did not end at that moment, the play went on, and the curtains closed with smiles across the characters faces. It didn’t negate the unpleasant turn of events that transpired before, but on the other side, a sad finish doesn’t negate any joyous events. It put’s Romeo and Juliet in a whole new light, doesn’t it?

“To Be Continued” is the state of the universe. It will go on without you or me. It’s not a cop-out; it’s honesty. Our appreciation of literature demands a sense of finality, but that sense will ultimately be an illusion. The TRUE cop out satisfy’s how people want to see the world, where the truth brazenly challenges it. That’s probably another reason why I love superhero comics so much. Even if a character is retroactively removed from existence, they STILL made a difference, especially in future writer’s minds.

If you’ve read or seen V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, then you may be familiar with the quote, “Beneath this mask is more than flesh. There’s an idea. And ideas are bulletproof.” It’s true that things only change rather than die. It only feels like death because we attach our emotional well being on how things are at a time. If the law of change applies to everything including ideas, then there is no need to panic if you failed to write down a now forgotten, really cool idea. It will inevitably spring up somewhere else.

There was an essay that was a prelude to this one. An “aborted” rough draft, if you will. You’ll probably never read him. He was shorter than this one. He lacked focus. He didn’t know what he would amount to, if anything. But his incomplete existence carried weight in the world, and the lives of the few it touched. This “I Believe” essay wouldn’t be the same as it is today if it wasn’t for him. He gave this piece something it can assuredly say it believes in. It will not be forgotten, even if the file is deleted, and the only tangible copy is shredded.

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