Wednesday, December 30, 2009

'80s Synthpop at Its Best

'80s Synthpop at Its Best: New Wave music in the 1980s can be characterized as a synth-revolution. Although synthesizers had been around since the late 19th century, it was not until the 1970s that they became compact enough to be used on a wide scale. These new synthesizers could synchronize with other electronic instruments and even tap into the developing world of computer software. For the most part, New Wave music originated from the British punk scene in the late 1970s. Bands like New Order and Soft Cell came to define the New Wave genre in the early 1980s. But by the mid-1980s, New Wave music had spawned a sub-genre called "synthpop." With its central focus on the synthesizer, synthpop first gained notoriety in underground music circles. In fact, New Order and Soft Cell scored their biggest hits, "Blue Monday" and "Tainted Love" (which was actually a cover) with a synthesizer at the center of each song. Synthpop, fortunately, continues to evolve even in today's watered-down pop scene, as bands like Ladytron and Justice are still pushing the sub-genre forward.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Infamous "K-Hole"

The Infamous "K-Hole": Recreational use of ketamine has skyrocketed in recent years. Like most anesthetics, its recreational value went undiscovered until decades after it was first synthesized. In the early 1960s, scientists began to develop anesthetics with reduced psychoactive side effects. Ketamine was one of the primary drugs to originate from this development process. And as such, it underwent immediate testing in both animals and humans. Essentially, the drug acts on the central nervous system by inhibiting neuron transmission, which impedes the brain's ability to access memory. This effect made the drug a hit among wounded soldiers in the Vietnam War, as their brains were unable to process the pain "memory." Today, ketamine is primarily used in veterinary medicine because it still possesses a variety of hallucinogenic effects, many of which are similar to PCP. As a result, the drug is also used in the "rave" scene, where ecstasy (MDMA) and other amphetamines are popular. Where the term "K-Hole" becomes relevant is when a ketamine user consumes a particularly high dose. The net effect of such an act will cause a kind of paralysis where the user experiences a psychedelic detachment from the body.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nat Turner's "Confessions"

Nat Turner's "Confessions": In the early morning hours of August 21, 1831, a slave rebellion erupted in Southampton County, Virginia. Led by Nat Turner, an African-American slave who saw himself as a prophet, the insurrection resulted in nearly 200 deaths overall. Although the revolt only lasted two days, Turner evaded capture until October 30, 1831. While awaiting trial, Turner's lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, visited him in jail. Gray subsequently proceeded to interview Turner about why he decided to organize and carry out such a heinous act. Turner's responses were deeply religious. Rooted in Judeo-Christian principles, Turner wished to deliver his people from bondage, much like Moses and the ancient Hebrews in the Book of Exodus. He claimed to have visions from God, which inspired him to take up arms. There were solar eclipses and other celestial happenings that also pushed Turner to act. After the interview, Gray compiled his notes into a book and published it as The Confessions of Nat Turner. But to what extent can this book be considered historical evidence? Authorship is the primary question of concern, as Turner merely dictated his responses to Gray. Nevertheless, the book does offer valuable insight into Turner's mind.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On Simone de Beauvoir's "Second Sex"

On Simone de Beauvoir's "Second Sex": When French feminist, Simone de Beauvoir, published The Second Sex in 1949, few understood its significance with respect to the emerging philosophy of existential feminism. In fact, one of the most well-known phrases surrounding the feminist movement originated with Beauvoir's book. It follows that "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman." Such a statement makes an important distinction between the terms of 'gender' and 'sex.' Whereas 'gender' is more of an acquired trait, 'sex' is a permanent condition. Today, people can have 'sex' changes at the hands of a skilled surgeon, but attributes of their original 'sex' still exist underneath the surgical work. Building on the themes expressed in Beauvoir's "Second Sex," Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. This book effectively launched feminism onto the same stage as the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s; as Friedan went on to establish the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. Much of the feminist legacy, however, has shifted in scope since the mid-twentieth century. Naomi Wolf, the woman in the above video, advocates "third-wave feminism," which basically seeks to redefine the feminist movement in the wake of the Cold War by getting women more involved in politics and creating a greater awareness over issues like reproductive rights and sexual harassment.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Maslow's Hierarchy of Inborn Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Inborn Needs: When American psychologist Abraham Maslow first published A Theory of Human Motivation in 1943, it was truly revolutionary. Part of what made Maslow's theory so compelling was its application of a scientific rationale to basic questions of human behavior. He argued that a person's elemental needs such as food, water, and shelter must be met before that person could move up the pyramid to be concerned with other (less important) priorities. And there is certainly an intricate connection between each level of human needs. For example, belonging is a need that entails the idea of people as being inherently social creatures. Maslow's argument, at least on the surface, appears logical. But upon further investigation into the belonging level, one will find that it is, in fact, the most difficult need to secure. The mere existence of the Kierkegaardian Self, which is innately unique and individualistic, counteracts the need for large-scale societal belonging. Of course, people can self-actualize, albeit perversely, without feeling a sense of belonging to society at large. Radiohead's song "Creep" speaks almost exclusively to this kind of psychological trauma.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Theory of Prejudice

A Theory of Prejudice:
What is it about preferential thinking that makes people categorize others into social groups? The answer may reside with the difference(s) between familiarity and strangeness. Of course, there is the old cliché that familiarity breeds contempt; but on a more instinctive basis, strangeness also spawns antagonism. It appears the two basic emotions that stem from familiarity and strangeness are hatred and anger (as opposed to kindness and curiosity). According to American psychologist, Gordon Allport, "anger is a transitory emotional state" while "hatred is more deep-rooted" with an element of permanence. Building on this distinction, Aristotle alluded to the idea that "anger is customarily felt toward individuals only, whereas hatred may be felt toward whole classes of people." Such a claim is particularly evident in the experiences of young children. The "doll experiments" of Kenneth and Mamie Clark, which served as evidence in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, helped to explain the ingrained nature of racial prejudice in school children. For both black and white students, the white dolls consistently proved more appealing. With a proper (integrated) education, however, these kinds of preferential thoughts can be mitigated over time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Secularizing the Mosaic Covenant

Secularizing the Mosaic Covenant: The Mosaic Covenant symbolizes a specific contractual agreement between God and His chosen people, namely the Israelites. God put forth his Ten Commandments to guide the Israelites in their collective quest for communal harmony. Yet with the birth of Christ, which Kierkegaard refers to as "The Instant," a New Covenant permeated the Judeo-Christian tradition. By no means did this New Covenant invalidate the Mosaic One. It was still immoral (against God's will) to murder and steal and commit adultery. But the Old-Testament consequences behind such actions became somewhat muddled, as the New Covenant offered salvation to even those who broke the Mosaic Law. And it was precisely this kind of redemptive Grace that weaved its way into the founding documents of republican societies throughout the Western world. A social contract, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau once wrote, forms when "each of us places his person and authority under the supreme direction of the general will, and the group receives each individual as an indivisible part of the whole." This statement speaks to the fundamental principles of Christianity whereby man holds Faith in Christ to fashion wholesome communities rooted in self-evident truths like liberty and equality. Rousseau merely uses secular language like "the general will" to avoid having his argument corrupted by the controversial nature of the Catholic Church in eighteenth-century France.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Hell Masquerading as Progress

On Hell Masquerading as Progress:
In his essay What is Metaphysics? (Was ist Metaphysik?), Martin Heidegger asserts that humans are constantly on the edge of the Abyss. That is, each person faces the prospects of non-existence on a constant basis. A certain Being-toward-death (Sein-zum-Tode) exists to put each person in despair from time to time. It's that primordial feeling of anxiety, which subtly creeps into a person's unconscious, especially in times of extreme self-awareness. This anxiety constitutes an irrational fear, which is neither directed at a specific entity nor governed by personal insight. As a result, one becomes increasingly hardened in his attempts to repress the visceral fears that afflict him. For example, flying on an airplane demands a conscious trust of the aviation process (physics, machinery, etc.) by people. After attaining this trust, a basic co-relationship develops in which people effectively become machines. When the pilots grasp the controls, they are, for all intents and purposes, man-machines (Die Mensch-Maschinen). And whenever turbulence strikes, it reminds people of the greater-than-thou physical forces acting on the aircraft. At that point, death is merely an accepted risk that one assumes when flying.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Suburban Ghetto

The Suburban Ghetto: Suburbanization, at least in the 1950s, was an exclusive process. It entailed the movement of whites from an area of high concentration in the city to an area of low concentration in the country. And like the inventions of jazz music and the hamburger, suburbanization was a wholly American phenomenon. Europeans never quite adopted the cookie-cutter style housing techniques, as they preferred to use brick and mortar instead of wood. There was simply less land available in Europe for this kind of mass development. Even so, planned communities effectively became the norm throughout post-World War II America. These communities came to fruition in the midst of Jim Crow. The federal government in the 1930s, with New Deal agencies like the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC), systematically sought to prevent certain social groups from moving to the suburbs. By denying loans to people in urban minority neighborhoods and guaranteeing them to white contractors who built massive suburban communities, the federal government essentially controlled the sociological aspects of suburbanization. The classic example is Levittown, New York (pictured above). Between 1947 and 1951, this suburb saw a net increase of 20,000 homes; but not one of them contained a black family.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fox News' "Red Eye"

Fox News' "Red Eye": This late-late-night talk show on the Fox News Channel (FNC) has quickly made a name for itself. Having begun in February 2007 with a 3 AM Eastern Time slot, part of its viewership relies on those who record the show and watch it later. Although its main competition comes from re-runs on other cable news networks, Red Eye performs consistently well in the ratings. The show's creator, Greg Gutfeld, is a witty conservative pundit who used to be the chief editor of Maxim magazine in the United Kingdom. Other permanent faces on the show include T.V.'s Andy Levy, who serves as the "Ombudsman," and Bill Schulz (a relative of William Dawes, Jr. - the "other" rider with Paul Revere), who is the show's liberal voice. And there are always a few guests on the show each night who proceed to offer their opinions on the topics being discussed. One particularly comical episode involved Gwar's lead singer Oderus Urungus (R.I.P.) serving as the show's interplanetary correspondent. Occasionally, Gutfeld will lament to the camera that his show really sucks, and he wonders why FNC continues to air it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Social Networking and Narcissism

Social Networking and Narcissism: In today's information-driven world, no mechanism has revolutionized the process of communication more than the internet. As a global network of interconnected computers, the internet serves as a postmodern means of not only commerce, but also community. And it is the development of these cyber-communities that fundamentally alters the egos and personalities of the people who engage in them. For one thing, the explosion of social-networking websites, such as Facebook and MySpace, which critics claim are nothing more than cash cows for advertisers, has led some people to the precarious zone of situational narcissism. Psychologically speaking, this kind of narcissism is emblematic of extreme self-love, as users of a social-networking site attempt to augment their communal importance by carrying out such acts as acquiring friends, displaying photos, and updating statuses. The fact remains, however, that communal importance is a self-perceived notion. According to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, human beings are meant to rise above the petty concerns of communally-reflected glory. Social networking fills the mind with vices rather than virtues. Instead of living like a herd animal, which is what social-networking websites do to us all, we ought to disconnect and see what our true collective potentiality holds.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Irrational Man

The Irrational Man: Have not you heard of that irrational man who in the bright morning took up his pen and wrote about the existence of God? Call him a theist! Call him irrationally pious! Call him what you will! But God knows that only irrational men understand the true basis for Christian worship. Some might say prayer is merely a form of lip-service to God. Some might say God is dead. Some might say religion is for those who do not possess thoughts of their own. Well, according to that primordial Frenchman, Pascal, 'the heart has its reasons, of which, reason knows nothing.' The idea of God resides deep within our collective unconscious. Besides, is not there an absolute dependence upon something higher than ourselves? How do you explain the very nature of your inner-most Being? Reason gets you far, and the "will to power" (Der Wille zu Macht) gets you even farther. Yet it is the soul that ultimately pushes you above and through to the next life. Comprehending the soul means understanding resurrection. Death is not the end. There will be times of doubt and pain. And when the hand of death is approaching, be not afraid, for eternal bliss lies just beyond its touch.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Thomas Jefferson's Utopian Experiment

Thomas Jefferson's Utopian Experiment: In what was perhaps the greatest sentence ever written, Thomas Jefferson composed the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1779. When it later passed the Virginia General Assembly in 1786, after support from James Madison and a large constituency of Baptists, it marked the first law of religious freedom in all of Western civilization. In the statue, Jefferson put forth a simple, but effective argument for religious freedom in republican societies. Given that "Almighty God hath created the mind free," then it was only natural to make religious worship a free and open practice. He realized that the worst kind of tyranny occurred when religion and government worked hand-in-hand to create a theocracy. State-imposed religion curtailed man's free will. Now it is important to remember that Jefferson drafted this statute during the Revolutionary War. There was no guarantee that the American confederation would survive the British onslaught. Even so, after securing an alliance with France in 1778 and winning a mere three out of nine major battles, the Continental Army persevered on its way to eventual victory over Britain. Aside from the military campaign, Jefferson's statue represented an alternative course in the ideology of republicanism. It allowed for the creation of a wall that separated religion and government. Thus, Jefferson's statute was simultaneously a gateway to secularization and symbol of common sense.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nine Inch Nails Reinvigorated

Nine Inch Nails Reinvigorated: After several unsuccessful bids to carve out a living in the music industry with various bands, Trent Reznor finally enjoyed the benefits of widespread notoriety with the release of Nine Inch Nails' (NIN's) first album, Pretty Hate Machine, in 1989. Generally described as an industrial metal group noted for eccentric tones and heavy drum and bass elements, NIN has effectively become a musical genre in its own right. The above video is actually a remix of the 2005 NIN song "Only." It includes a visual interpretation of the lyrics (which are solipsistic in nature) and it incorporates animation from The Sims 2. Although the remix is neither produced nor engineered by Reznor, major portions of the original song are still intact. As for the bigger picture, NIN is considered one of the most creative industrial bands that originated in the 1980s. With songs like "Wish" and "Happiness in Slavery," both of which won Grammys for Best Metal Performance in 1992 and 1995 respectively, Reznor truly puts his soul into NIN's music. And likewise, one must commend him for maintaining such a high degree of musical integrity throughout NIN's existence.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Technics in Time

Technics in Time: The origins of the mechanical clock can be traced back to a French monk at the close of the tenth century named Gerbert d'Aurillac, who later became Pope Sylvester II. Attributing full credit to him is still controversial, but the general implications of the mechanical clock's invention are widespread and undeniable. At that time, the monastery was the seat of a regular life where bells rang at specified intervals to call the monks to prayer. Although sundials and water clocks had been in existence for thousands of years, the invention of the mechanical clock signaled a fundamental change in the progression of daily life. As a result, a definitive form of social regimentation developed in urban life around the thirteenth century. The drive for routine and rigidity stemmed primarily from the introduction of the mechanical clock, which demanded efficiency, punctuality, and responsibility from all citizens. Such a radical departure from previous epochs in human history, where people subjected time to their individual needs, could only mean that modern man was a creature that necessitated discipline. And it was precisely this healthy appetite for discipline that led to the foundation of modern capitalism. Man was finally able to self-actualize and create a better future for himself by furthering innovation.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Family Guy: A Crude Reality

Family Guy: A Crude Reality: No cartoon series has had a bigger impact on the world of cable television than Family Guy. Sure, there are other cartoon shows like South Park and The Simpsons, but Family Guy currently airs on as many as four channels during the week. In 2008, creator of the series, Seth MacFarlane, became the highest paid television writer in history after signing a four-year, $100-million contract with FOX. Given Family Guy's liberal slant, Rupert Murdoch, current Chairman and CEO of News Corporation (owner of the FOX network), clearly put business over politics. Part of what makes the show popular is its controversial depiction of middle-class family life. Nothing in American culture, especially Christianity and conservatism, is safe from the sarcastic commentary that arises from characters on the show. In fact, the show frequently uses cutaway gags and tangential vignettes to illustrate certain points. Another common feature of Family Guy involves the blatant self-awareness of characters who know that they are on television. Otherwise known as metahumor or "breaking the fourth wall," such a tactic merely enhances the comedic response from viewers.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Half-Way Covenant

Half-Way Covenant: Conceived by New England Puritans in 1662 as a means to incorporate partial church membership, the Half-Way Covenant offered a viable alternative for congregants to participate in ecclesiastic circles without having had an authentic "conversion experience." Reverend Solomon Stoddard advocated this doctrine in order to extend the church's influence throughout the Puritan community, which was becoming evermore impious due to the growing commercialization of New England in the late seventeenth century. The central problem, however, rested with the third generation of Puritan settlers, whose religious affinities seemed increasingly aloof. Less parishioners received baptism, and thus, the rights to exercise the church's fundamental dogma. Therefore, ministers preached warnings of moral decay, otherwise known as "jeremiads" after the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, as a great fear of societal declension swept through the colony. Often cited as one of the first religious crises in early America, the controversy surrounding the Half-Way Covenant served as a precursor to the First Great Awakening, which entailed Reverend Jonathan Edwards delivering his notorious Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon in 1741.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How Racial Slavery Spawned Racism

How Racial Slavery Spawned Racism:
It seems logical to assert that racial slavery spawned racism. Yet as the "peculiar institution" of racial slavery solidified in America between the 18th and 19th centuries, the ideology of racism grew to substantiate the cheap labor demands of Southern planters like Landon Carter. In American Slavery, American Freedom (1975), historian Edmund Morgan argued that colonial Virginia initiated the first laws to suppress free blacks. Indeed, slavery had existed for thousands of years prior to the founding of America. In the Old World, it mainly centered on prisoners of war and basic criminals while in the New World, it became racialized. Historian Winthrop Jordan claimed that racial slavery was only about 150 years old by the time it reached colonial Virginia in 1619. And it was after Nathaniel Bacon's infamous rebellion in 1676 that Virginia planters largely went from holding white indentured servants to driving black slaves. But race was not necessarily their primary motivation in making that transition. In fact, it was their deeply-rooted beliefs in protecting property rights that brought about this act. To colonial Virginians, the threat posed by landless whites proved more pernicious than that of enslaved blacks. Ultimately, as historian Oscar Handlin contended, the aura of inferiority that surrounded American slavery in the South had less to do with one's race and more to do with one's status as a slave.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Against Boredom

Against Boredom: Amen, amen, I say to you. For what would Christ do? Would He save you from becoming one of the dead? Perhaps that is all in your head! Maybe it is better to focus on this life. Of course, you could always end it with a knife. As Nietzsche once wrote, "Against boredom, even gods struggle in vain." It's that feeling when everything becomes one and the same. Is not Christian love the product of fear? That question will certainly provoke a sneer. The image of Christ on the Cross surely proves that question wrong. And it even makes the laundry list of complaints by atheists not-so-long. Yet whenever I look at my watch, I see my life slipping away. I hope I do not expire today. But there is one thing I would like to do before I go. And that is simply to take it slow. With one life to live, unless you are a Hindu. It can very easily turn into absolute poo. Yet I cannot afford to let that take place. For if I do, I will be on my way to Hell with great haste.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Daft Punk Story

The Daft Punk Story: As an electronic music duo from Paris, France, Daft Punk has certainly pushed the limits of the electronica genre to new heights. Thomas Bangalter and Guy Christo have taken elements of older electronic groups such as Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, and given them a wholly postmodern feel. Like Kraftwerk, Daft Punk sees an explicit connection between electronic music and robots. As a result, Bangalter and Christo frequently dress as robots in their music videos and during live performances. The atmosphere that stems from such antics is very conducive to the deliberate nature of their music. In fact, most of Daft Punk's songs follow a pattern of progression and regression that seeks to invigorate the technologically-oriented minds of their fan base. For instance, the song "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," which is on display in the above video, has a musical score littered with crescendos, decrescendos, and repetition symbols. In short, it is this kind of musical notation that defines the electronic genre today.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Christianity and Communism

Christianity and Communism: One of Christianity's major tenets emphasizes the inherent sacredness and equality of a community. Whenever people gather in the name of Christ, He is present. This divine sacrality merits attention insofar as Christians comprehend the full implications of what they worship. Take the archetypal image of the Last Supper, for example. It highlights equality in a communal setting, as God Himself is effectively on the same level as His disciples. And in doing so, it lends itself to an ideology like communism, which understands the civic virtue of a community in a more secular, albeit atheistic, fashion. An image of the Soviet Politburo could just as easily be superimposed over the Last Supper. Given that Christianity is fundamentally antagonistic toward socio-economic hierarchies, it is essentially analogous to the classless society that communism endorses. In fact, Christianity, as an agent of inversion, seeks to level all hierarchical orders that inevitably rise from social constructions of knowledge like gender, race, and class. The True Levellers, who assumed their name from a passage in Acts of the Apostles, were a prominent social group during the English Civil War that called for a leveling of the property distinctions in England, which they perceived as the root of all class consciousness. This kind of thinking found its way into separatist Christian sects such as the Pilgrims. When they conceived of their Plymouth Colony in America through the Mayflower Compact, the Pilgrims understood the necessity for equalizing social conditions among members in their community. The dire circumstances that befell them in early America forced the Pilgrims to put aside their petty differences and bind together in a collective effort to survive. The problem is, of course, communism ceases to function as a workable ideology in a society driven largely by notions of private property and individualism.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Video Game Evolution

The Video Game Evolution:
First-person shooter (FPS) games have been in existence since the days of Doom back in 1993. But it was not until the 1997 release of GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 console that the Video Game Evolution truly soared. Its connection with the 1995 GoldenEye movie only heightened the game's popularity. Prior to James Bond mania in the late 1990s, most, if not all, FPS games were made for the personal computer (PC). And given that PC technology was slow to personalize the video game industry, home consoles such as Nintendo 64 became extremely popular. To streamline sales and make matters more cost-effective, video game companies like Nintendo decided to adopt the old "loss leader" marketing technique whereby the consoles themselves sold at prices below their production costs and the video games sold at prices higher than their production costs. This business model is similar to the razor and blades paradigm invented by King C. Gillette at the turn of the twentieth century. In short, the Video Game Evolution began to assume all kinds of themes after GoldenEye 007 popularized the genre of first-person shooters. Video games like Half-Life moved the genre in the direction of science fiction while simultaneously spawning the field of tactical first-person shooting with Counter-Strike.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why Chicago??

Why Chicago??: According to American environmental historian William Cronon, Chicago developed as "nature's metropolis." The land upon which Chicago sits today was conducive to the growth of a major urban area. A low-lying ridge (Valparaiso Moraine) exists about ten miles west (and south) of the city. This ridge ultimately determines how water flows to the Atlantic Ocean. East of the ridge, water streams into Lake Michigan and eventually out the St. Lawrence River. West of the ridge, water trickles down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. With respect to shipping, this distinction in water flow patterns is key. Early Chicago entrepreneurs quickly realized that they could ship goods to Europe by way of New York (Erie Canal) and South America by way of New Orleans (Mississippi River). The geographic location of Chicago necessarily enhanced its prospects for trade. Railroad barons saw huge potential for expansion, especially regarding the agricultural development of the Midwestern plains. Texas cattle ranchers would drive their herds as far north as Kansas in order to meet the railroad lines that would take their cattle to Chicago slaughterhouses. And given the heavy demand for railroads to transport everything from farming produce to raw materials, Chicago became the railroad capital of the United States by the late nineteenth century.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Art of Intellectual History

The Art of Intellectual History:
For some people, intellectual history is nothing more than the history of philosophy. To others, it is the history of ideas. The variety of -isms conceived throughout history are essentially ideologies or sets of beliefs that determine the way a society functions. For the Puritans, it was providentialism, which saw the hand of God playing an active role in everyday life. Intellectual historians, therefore, find that what happens in people's minds is more valuable and intriguing than what occurs on battlefields or in courtrooms. Religious movements like the four Great Awakenings and cultural movements like the Enlightenment are just a few examples of when ideas changed the fundamental course of social progress in Western civilization. More specifically, the Puritan settlements in seventeenth-century New England had profound implications for the intellectual development of early America. Some intellectual historians actually prefer an anti-intellectual approach to history whereby instinct trumps reason. Thus, what people feel is more important than what they think. Feelings presuppose thoughts, and hence, they are more visceral in defining human experiences. And as Martin Heidegger so eloquently stated in his essay What Is Called Thinking?, "the most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

That "Otherness"

That "Otherness": In twentieth-century America, race relations were often unstable. As noted civil rights activist and sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois suggested, the African American constantly battled with the dilemma that existed between his blackness and his American citizenship. There was a distinct "color line" that persisted among whites and blacks. How could the United States endorse liberty as a civic virtue and then substantiate de jure segregation to keep blacks in their place? This contradiction tugged at the root of the African-American identity crisis. Du Bois argued that African Americans possessed a kind of "double consciousness" in The Souls of Black Folk (1903). What was it about being a black American in the early twentieth century that elicited feelings of "otherness" in the faces of whites? Nevertheless, the United States could no longer promote a colorblind society. Recognizing race was vital to realizing inequalities. If one recognized race, then one became cognizant of the separation that existed between the races. And like the Brown decision in 1954, which stated that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal, Americans began to understand that programs such as mandatory busing and affirmative action had to be enacted to rectify the inequities among black and white Americans.