Thursday, April 29, 2010

Xela Notes - Class Day Uno


Eating three meals each day with the same people produces heightened levels of intimacy and deeper levels of togetherness that many Americans miss in their rush-rush, no time for a sit-down lunch and dinner lifestyle. In Xela, I see my host family at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I watch each member of the family eat his or her black beans, plantanos fritos y drink jugo de frutas. We do this together with compañerismo, a bilingual table sharing our stories of the day. Sylvia, who works with pre-kindergarten kids, tells the story of a 3 year-old girl who slumps in her arms and says she is too tired to work. I tell, or should I say try to tell, Particia, Sylvia and Miguel about mi maestra. Ella es simpatico y su pelo es castaño claro. With my first 5-hour Spanish class packed into my brain, I am eager to practice and start work again at the I.C.A. Spanish School tomorrow.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lacy Spring Garter Garden: April 17, 2010

Signs of Spring on April 17, 2010 & Seymour Cat

Saturday, April 10, 2010

We Dance

Angelique Kidjo: Dancing Her Way to the Front

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Unforced Force of the Better Argument

[I loved the article “The Shout Doctrine” by Mark Kingwell in the April 2010 journal The Walrus, so I have selected a few of the key passages to post because civility in discourse is key to moving forward as a society, and the article is four pages long.]

From “The Shout Doctrine” by Mark Kingwell

The Walrus

Underneath the road rage politics and bratty teenage campaign rhetoric lurks a creeping nihilism, a disregard for the very idea of reason.

Discourse, no less than consumption, has positional and hence competitive aspects. Indeed, winning the argument — or, rather, being seen to win it — is the essence of many discursive exchanges, especially political ones. If politics is reduced to elections or debates, it goes from being a shared undertaking of articulating ends and means and becomes a game of status and one-upmanship.

So much for what Jürgen Habermas called “the unforced force of the better argument,” that fanciful lodestar of rational discourse. In actual discursive markets, bad currency tends to drive out good. Birthers and Tea Partyers can thus dominate the public debate in the United States by saturating it with misinformation, the discursive equivalent of shoddy but cheap merchandise; corporations, meanwhile, can increase their power through effectively limitless donations to election war chests (thanks in part to the Supreme Court’s 5–4 decision in January to strike down electoral spending restrictions for private organizations).

Further accelerating the decline, on both sides of the border, the practice of deindividuation — adopting an online nickname, for example, or hiding behind a political action committee — has become widespread, snapping the bonds of personal responsibility for what people say. It is a small irony of the digital world that John Rawls’s famous “veil of ignorance,” behind which he imagined anonymous citizens rationally choosing fair principles of justice, has in the real world translated largely into nameless flaming. So it goes.

That air of bozo entitlement, coupled with a disregard for anybody else’s views or right to speak: pretty much your basic definition of incivility.

Pleas for civility are commonplace even as current discursive practice places a growing premium on rudeness and incivility in everything from opinion-dominated newspapers and unbridled blog posts to the words of groomed television hatchetmen and politicians whose idea of a good riposte is escalating the insult.

Well, who cares? You should, even if you never watch those shouting matches that pass for Sunday-morning political commentary or pay a lick of attention to the duelling reductionists of the op-ed pages. Parliamentary democracy is nothing more nor less than a conversation among citizens, both directly and by way of their elected leaders. Here, and only here, can our interests and desires be made into law. A good conversation is a delicate thing to sustain, as anybody knows who has attended a dinner party where wine was served. We all have a direct personal stake in seeing such discussions thrive, because every time a good citizen checks out, the tactical forces of incivility lower democracy’s value by one more notch.

Civility is, on this account, something like the political air we must all breathe to negotiate our differences and, maybe, serve the cause of justice.

Rage and politics really should be separated, or there will be no such thing as discourse, just shouting. Even anarchists demonstrate this; otherwise, they wouldn’t bother penning manifestos that make studied factual claims and offer rational arguments.

The point is not, it never has been, that civility is some abstractly good thing, a nice idea. If we do not repair our political conversation, if we do not demand that elected leaders speak rationally if they want to go on claiming the privilege of our interest, then we all lose. Collective self-defeat.

About Me

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What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.