For What It's Worth – a literary site

The literary site of Jason Bentsman and Contributors. Entertainment, illumination, edification

dove_crossed

The American electorate has become so divided in 2016 that those who don’t plan to vote for DT have been puzzled and distraught by how so many— seemingly 45% or more of voters— can be willing to support him. This succinct analysis highlights some of the reasons as to how this situation has come about.


The reasons why someone like DT can rise to power in the contemporary United States— and shockingly enough, gain so much traction in the polls in a matter of days before the election, after Clinton held a substantial lead after the debates— are complex and somewhat unprecedented.

Some of the main ones include:

• Relativism (or ‘Radical Subjectivism’) sweeping the world as the prevailing philosophy in the last half-century— contributing to a diminishing of reason and anti-intellectualism
• Acculturation by and addiction to Media over the last century (especially with the advent of the Internet and Social Media over the last 25 years)— much of which is sensationalistic and manipulative
• Fear of suffering in myriad forms (shame, injury, poverty, unneededness) and death (ego dissolution)— some of these fears natural, some culturally constructed
• Threats of Futuristic technologies, human redundancy through Automation and Globalization, and seemingly random Terrorism
• The rise of the automobile and related infrastructure, as well new cultural norms, leading to a loss of community and increasing isolation and loneliness
• Consolidation of power, and subterfuge, coercion, and oppression (economic and emotional) by large corporations and wealthy vested interests and their media and governmental outlets and connections

 

Leading to:

• People only paying attention to media outlets that already ratify one’s own opinions—
many of which are intentionally untrue and manipulative
• Ignorance (diminished education)
• Primarily responding through emotion
• Diminished capacity for reason (loss of discrimination)
• Centring on the self and stifled sense of empathy (diminished empathy, intersubjectivity, and ability to take other perspectives)
• Only short-term attention span (loss of long-term memory span)
• Addiction to regular sensationalism (as an escape from one’s fears)
• Total identification of one’s ‘self’ with one’s thoughts and opinions (most of which come from media and society)

At this crucial juncture, let us hope that, nonetheless, the balance tips in favor of Reason and Compassion, and a person whose actions are inveterately fascist, racist, sexist, derogatory, sexually predatory, swindling, paranoid, vindictive, and pathologically lying does not become the leader of the most economically, militarily, and technologically powerful country in the world— which could easily lead to darkly dystopian, World War, and armageddon scenarios, setting back civilization for decades and centuries— and that just as many of these detrimental forces emerged in the last centuries, many equally beneficial ones conflux and civilization evolves for the better and effloresces in the 21st century


– Nov 7, 2016

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white-fang

 

 

I’m about 3/4 through the novel White Fang by Jack London. I never had given much thought about this late 19th / early 20th century American writer other than in the context of forgotten, lesser ‘classics.’ I was flabbergasted when I began reading it. His writing style in this novel is excellent: deft, incisive, evocative, eloquent, rarely overwrought. Some of the sentences are some of the finest I’ve read in American literature...

 

The plot is excellent. It’s essentially a bildungsroman about a wolf (actually a 3/4 wolf, 1/4 wild dog mix) from the wolf’s (or kindred animals’) point of view, told mostly in a limited 3rd person narrative which allows one to feel both the wolf’s perspective, as well as the wider worldly karmic and at times even ‘metaphysical’ context, which begins with the wolf’s parents years before he is born…

 

The plotting of the first section is rather ingenious in that it doesn’t even hint that the book will be a bildungsroman, but begins with two sled-men in the remote Yukon, portrayed almost as a remote planet, during a famine in the wilderness, hired to bring back the body of a wealthy businessman’s wannabe adventurer son who recklessly traveled and froze to death there, way overschedule and running out of rations and energy, as they are aped by a pack of wolves that each night, in spite of their best efforts, kill some of of their sled dogs. The denouement in this section is exceptional…

 

London’s psychological understanding of wolves and wild dogs is amazing. Surely there are probably some inaccuracies here and there, but overall it seems to be unparalleled. It’s as if he had been a wolf in a previous life. His knowledge of wildernesses and the life of the wild is also keen…

 

Sometimes he makes statements about animal instinct, heredity, and other biological impulses far beyond his time, merely by dint of intuition, which only recently have been gaining some credence and articulated scientifically (Epigenetics, for example). He also, sparingly, manages to make profound metaphysical observations. The first section in which he is describing the whiteness, vastness, inhospitality, and severeness of the arctic landscape is especially piquing…

 

The book of course does have some missteps, as all books do, some passages out of character, but overall I’m very surprised by how good it is and, per this, how little London is remembered today. I would assume it’s one of his best. Also get the sense that, interestingly enough, he may not actually have had a deep understanding of *human* psychology and relations. In this novel the human characters are perfectly serviceable and realistic, but their roles and interiors are secondary, exist mainly in service of showing the interiors and developments of the animal characters…

 

Anyway, highly recommended. A great (re)discovery.



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We recognize a few types of environmental and sensory Pollutions (Air, Land, Water, and less considered, Noise, Light, Visual, and Thermal). But we fail to consider some of the most harmful types of all: Emotional and Mental (or Psychic) Pollution.

For instance, watching contemporary television or surfing the web indiscriminately leads to a lot of these kinds of Pollution. Closely following the 24 hour Reality TV “Politainment” landscape that politics has sadly become, likewise. As a friend of mine commented recently: ‘I’m just exhausted with Trump as mental pollution. I can’t pay that close attention anymore. It’s awful for my health’

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society_of_the_spectacle_washed_out_smaller_rounded

 

 

Social media has some benefits, but it has also set society back considerably. The essence of literature is the eternal. The essence of social media is the ephemeral. The two are somewhat at odds. The former prompts one to meditate deeply and repeatedly on whatsoever is indestructible among inherent impermanence and death. The latter to encounter the next stimulus, the next frisson and fix.

 

However deep a social media post, most are conditioned by the expectations of the medium to regard it as transient and move on. The deep is leveled with the pedestrian, discarded into that mediatic realm of forgetfulness where the other quintillion posts of the past reside.

 

Surely literature is varied and can create its own needless desires and problems: but at heart its intentions are eternal. Social media’s intentions, much like a drunkard’s playful gesture at a party, are of the moment.

 

Using social media as one’s primary literacy medium can breed addiction to fleeting, lowly desires; a centring on the self; voyeurism; unfounded envy and jealousy; distractibility, even ADD; reduced awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, sensations, and other internal processes; and ultimately total belief in one’s small sense of self, in distinction to the other selves populating the pages, and whatever verbal and emotional messages it sends —  most actually regurgitations of corporate, governmental, mediatic, and other organizational manipulations; entrenched cultural prejudices; and the utterances of myopic, biased individuals deeply under the zeitgeist’s sway —  which one rarely ever observes attentively.

 

Social media, thus, cannot be a vehicle for new literature, but at best a sounding board for pieces of works in progress and a cistern for re-exposing and rehashing the fine literature of old. The true place of literature is in whatsoever format can create a context for regarding it as a lasting repository of inspiration and wisdom that one can return and refer to repeatedly.

 

And so too this post will go the way of other social media offerings: regarded for a moment, likely with slack attention, and forgotten as deeply as the curling vestiges of this morning’s dreams.

 

— Maximus Minimus

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Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.47.04 PM

 

 New Charter of the Rights of Persons for the 21st Century (a Draft) 

 

I. Main Articles

 

Every person living on Earth or anywhere under its jurisdiction has the right to the following, which will be provided by the government or currently presiding collective body

 

1. Clean water and healthy food enough to satisfy their thirst and hunger

 

2. Sanitary and healthful lodging

 

3. Freedom from Physical Harm and Emotional Harm

 

4. Satisfactory medical treatment

 

5. Freedom of speech, peaceful demonstration, and legal representation

 

. . . . .

 

Any person(s) or organization(s) willfully depriving others of these rights shall be subject to prosecution.

 

This charter shall be interpreted broadly and compassionately, not narrowly and self-servingly.

 

See endnotes for consensus on what constitutes ‘Personhood’ and other salient terms used in The Charter and each Article. Also, see supplementary Charter of the Rights of Non-Human Animals and Other Sentient Beings.

 

 

 

 

   


 

Note: The fact remains that a large percentage of the world’s population live (or die) without access to sufficient food and water, shelter for the night and away from the harsh elements, freedom from physical and emotional torture and harm, and medical treatment. 

Whether these rights inhere through God or the collective compassion of society is rather moot. But it should be incumbent upon government— or whatever the presiding collective body at the time— to provide at least these basic rights to every individual. 

It’s a pretty simple point: in the 21st century, given collective knowledge and intelligence, and when we have so many resources at hand— and more than half the stuff manufactured and grown in the world gets thrown out— we should learn to manage resources better, and no one should go hungry, without shelter or medical treatment, and so on. 

At least these basic things should be considered inalienable rights. (Not to mention access to Free Information, Education, and Transportation— but if people at least had enough to eat and a place to sleep, these would likely take care of themselves.) 

In a highly developed, intelligent world, this kind of disparity is unacceptable, and indeed society cannot call itself ‘enlightened’ or ‘compassionate’ without redressing it. 



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“This is the strangest life I have ever known.” 

       —Jim Morrison

 

“How strange it is to be anything at all.” 

       —Jeff Mangum

 

“The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.” 

       —Albert Einstein

 

 

I wander around this strange universe, this strange existence. I speak to these strange beings: each one an unfathomable mystery, with something to say, some piece of the whole. I regard these strange objects, surfaces, and surroundings, infinitely complex, simple, and beautiful, ever-changing with the play of light and the fluctuations of consciousness.  



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What would your life be like now if your main driver during the majority of your time wasn’t earning money but actualizing yourself, through whatever sensibilities are naturally given you, and seeking truth? Life will be such centuries from now (if humanity doesn’t eradicate itself first). Can you imagine what these successors will think of our slavish pursuits and factiousness? 



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