Wednesday, January 17, 2024

ENG 102 Spring 2024: Resources Archive #4

Although it may have been possible in the past to seriously take the materialist position to explain the function and meaning of human life and society on a physical material basis, it is no longer possible to do so. Nowadays we need other viewpoints: we must develop our spiritual existence and finally ask ourselves what the meaning of life is. Because if one says that life develops according to material laws, it means that life has no meaning. No one who thinks about it even a little can agree that life is meaningless.
When it is said, for example, "No, your life isn't meaningless when you sacrifice yourself in order that future generations can live better" - that is absurd and insincere because it means that the human beings who sacrifice themselves physically have no right to live for a higher objective. To sacrifice oneself for another is wonderful, but its not enough; its more important to develop spiritually than to become fodder for future generations. - Tarkovsky, Andrei. From an interview with Nathan Federovsky in What is Happening in the Anthroposophical Society (July/August 1985)
We understand the encoding of genetic sequences, the folding of proteins to construct the cells of the body, and even a good deal about how epigenetic switches control these processes. And yet we still do not understand what happens when we read a sentence. Meaning is not neuronal calculus in the brain, of the careful smudges of ink on a page, or the areas of light and dark on a screen. Meaning has no mass or charge. It occupies no space - and yet meaning makes a difference in the world. -- Dr. Ha Nguyen in Ray Nayler's The Mountain in the Sea (2022)

Allen, Danielle, et al. "What is Education For?" Boston Review (May 9, 2016) ["In 2006 the highest court in New York affirmed that students in the state have a right to civic education. It was a decision thirteen years in the making, and it spoke to a fundamental question: What is an education for? Lawyers representing the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), which brought suit, argued that the purpose of education is to develop not only vocational capacities, but also civic agency. Students, in other words, are entitled to learn in public schools the “basic literacy, calculating, and verbal skills necessary to enable children to eventually function productively as civic participants capable of voting and serving on a jury.”"]

Baldwin, James, et al. "I Am Not Your Negro." Making Contact (November 8, 2017) ["Master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished, Remember This House. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material. I Am Not Your Negro is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter. It is a film that questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond. And, ultimately, by confronting the deeper connections between the lives and assassination of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., Baldwin and Peck have produced a work that challenges the very definition of what America stands for."]

Jackson, Matthew O. "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviors (Vintage 2019)." New Books in Economics (January 5, 2024) ["Social networks existed and shaped our lives long before Silicon Valley startups made them virtual. For over two decades economist Matthew O. Jackson, a professor at Stanford University, has studied how the shape of networks and our positions within them can affect us. In The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviors (Vintage, 2019), he explains how network structures can create poverty traps, exacerbate financial crises, and contribute to political polarization. He also explains how a new awareness of the role of networks has been used to improve financial regulation, promote public health knowledge, and guide vaccination strategy. Jackson also discusses how he first began to study networks, previously neglected by economists, and how economists can both learn from and contribute to the exciting cross-disciplinary dialogue among researchers from sociology, math, physics, and other fields. Professor Jackson's website provides free access to the chapter on contagion, of particular interest in this time of pandemic. For those who want to learn even more than the book can cover, he offers a free online course on the topic."]

Marquis, Moira. "Censoring Imagination: Why Prisons Ban Fantasy and Science Fiction." Lit Hub (December 7, 2023) ["Which is why it’s especially cruel that U.S. prisons ban magical literature. As PEN America’s new report Reading Between the Bars shows, books banned in prisons by some states dwarf all other book censorship in school and public libraries. Prison censorship robs those behind bars of everything from exercise and health to art and even yoga, often for reasons that strain credulity. The strangest category of bans however, are the ones on magical and fantastical literature."]

McReynolds, Leigha. "Eugenics and the Human/Animal Divide in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3." Tor (September 19, 2023) ["American culture is shaped by eugenic systems of measuring people and assessing their relative value. Prominent examples include the quantification and testing of intelligence through the intelligence quotient (IQ); use of the body mass index (BMI) to assess the health of individuals; and the SAT. From the vantage point of 2023, all of these have been rightfully criticized and are in the process of losing some of their power, but they are still widespread ways of judging individuals’ worth in comparison to others. Even things that we can generally agree are of huge value can be rooted in eugenics—the history of modern contraception has been intertwined with eugenic goals and legacies. In addition to the “old eugenics” policies like sterilization, the development of genetic technology is shadowed by “new eugenics”: the desire to “improve” individuals through genetic and reproductive technology. While this includes beneficial interventions, like eliminating diseases, including sickle cell anemia, it includes more controversial possibilities, like eliminating deafness, which would also destroy a culture. While most of us agree that people should have access to IVF to address infertility and genetic diseases, there’s convincing evidence that widespread IVF usage would lead to a disproportionate number of male offspring. As genetic technology is currently developing at an astonishing rate, the potential harm of new eugenic practices is significant and under-appreciated. If we cannot label eugenics for what it is, if we don’t know its history, if we let such actions fall under the category of “nature” or “evolution” or “progress” then we are complicit. If we decide to let parents choose their children’s genetic traits—a possibility imagined to its fullest extent in the 1997 movie Gattaca —then we need to be willing to admit that there are traits that we are not choosing, and that our choices are products of cultural context and are often grounded in bias."]

Rogers, Steven. "Accountability in State Legislatures (University of Chicago Press, 2023)." New Books in Political Science (January 8, 2024) ["Political Scientist Steven Rogers’ new book focuses on the deceptively complex question of how it is that voters do or don’t/can and can’t hold their elected state representatives accountable. Rogers takes his jumping off point from the basic understanding of the relationship between the voter and their elected representatives: namely that the election process will, in some way, act as a means of making the elected official in state government accountable to the voters, who cast their ballots for or in opposition to that elected representative. State house elected officials across the United States are, indeed, closer in proximity to the people they are elected to represent and govern; and the legislation and regulations passed by state legislators generally impact us more directly and more frequently than do national-level laws, regulations, or decisions. And while there is a of literature focusing on state and local politics, the unique approach of Rogers’ research focuses specifically on the state legislatures, how the elites and voters act in elections, and if we can actually see accountability demonstrated in these interactions and connections."]

West, Stephen. "Should we overthrow the government tomorrow? - Anarchism pt. 1 (Chomsky, Malatesta)." Philosophize This #192 (December 27, 2023) ["Today we talk about some common misconceptions about Anarchism, the weaknesses of traditional government structures, a possible alternative way of cooperating and whether or not the government is the hierarchy we should be focusing on."]

Yazdiha, Hajar. "The Struggle for the People’s King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement (Princeton University Press, 2023)." Princeton UP Ideas Podcast (January 12, 2024) ["In the post-civil rights era, wide-ranging groups have made civil rights claims that echo those made by Black civil rights activists of the 1960s, from people with disabilities to women's rights activists and LGBTQ coalitions. Increasingly since the 1980s, white, right-wing social movements, from family values coalitions to the alt-right, now claim the collective memory of civil rights to portray themselves as the newly oppressed minorities. The Struggle for the People’s King: How Politics Transforms the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement (Princeton UP, 2023) reveals how, as these powerful groups remake collective memory toward competing political ends, they generate offshoots of remembrance that distort history and threaten the very foundations of multicultural democracy. In the revisionist memories of white conservatives, gun rights activists are the new Rosa Parks, antiabortion activists are freedom riders, and antigay groups are the defenders of Martin Luther King's Christian vision. Drawing on a wealth of evidence ranging from newspaper articles and organizational documents to television transcripts, press releases, and focus groups, Hajar Yazdiha documents the consequential reimagining of the civil rights movement in American political culture from 1980 to today. She shows how the public memory of King and civil rights has transformed into a vacated, sanitized collective memory that evades social reality and perpetuates racial inequality. Powerful and persuasive, The Struggle for the People's King demonstrates that these oppositional uses of memory fracture our collective understanding of who we are, how we got here, and where we go next."]

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