Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’
* Coetzee: There is nothing wrong with arguing that a good humanistic education will produce graduates who are critically literate, by some definition of critical literacy. However, the claim that only the full apparatus of a humanistic education can produce critical literacy seems to me hard to sustain, since it is always open to the objection: if critical literacy is just a skill or set of skills, why not just teach the skill itself? Would that not be simpler, and cheaper too?
…in the end, I believe, you will have to make a stand. You will have to say: we need free enquiry because freedom of thought is good in itself. We need institutions where teachers and students can pursue unconstrained the life of the mind because such institutions are, in ways that are difficult to pin down, good for all of us: good for the individual and good for society.
* If you can’t make a case for a discipline on the basis of the actual objects studied by that discipline, it’s doomed. The field needs to have confidence in the things it takes as its subject matter.
* Not for the first time, vandals are wreaking havoc in central Europe. Russian police say they’re looking for the intellectually minded miscreants who graffitied “Kant is a moron”—along with a flower and heart—on the philosopher’s home outside Kaliningrad.
* Keywords for the Age of Austerity 16: Flexibility. Special appearance by Plastic Man.
* The New York Times ran the Duke story—a story about the internal politics of an English department—on its front page.
* Everything’s different in Denmark: Porn belongs in the classroom, says Danish professor.
* What could possibly go wrong? The Scientist Who Wanted To Bring A Death Row Inmate Back From The Dead.
* Rise of the Gender Novel: Too often, trans characters are written as tortured heroes. We’re more complex than that.
* I’m Al Lowe and I created a series of games called Leisure Suit Larry for Sierra back in the ’80s and ’90s along with another 20 games and titles back in that period. I was with Sierra from 1982 until 1998 when it — well, it was the poor victim of a hostile takeover by criminals. How about that for an opening?
* Did Terry Brooks save epic fantasy? Given the years involved if anything did it seems more likely to me that it was Dungeons and Dragons, but it’s a nice remembrance of the franchise regardless.
* I’m good for five seasons at least: Bridgeport Priest Who Ran Meth Ring Pleads For Leniency.
* Really bad idea watch: Sherlock Goes Old-School For Its Christmas Special.
* You had me at fully automated luxury communism (FALC).
* And because you demanded it! Sam Jones Says New Flash Gordon Is A Sequel.
* The New World Order One World Government wants to ban golf! Wake up, sheeple!
* From Aaron’s latest Sunday Reading:The Intellectual Situation of n+1. For U.S. universities, a failing grade in economics. The Irish Begin to Wake Up to the Fact That They are Repaying Money That is Then Burned. The Hand That Feeds. Historicizing the Conservative Think Tank. A short history of the vibrator. The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by Its First Trailer.
* Crooks & Liars has some advice for Lakoff-style reframing.
1. Never say Entitlements. Instead, say Earned Benefits.
2. Never say Redistribution of Wealth. Instead, say Fair Wages For Work.
3. Never say Employer Paid Health Insurance. Instead, say Employee Earned Health Insurance.
4. Never say Government Spending. Instead, say The People Are Investing.
5. Never say Corporate America. Instead, say Unelected Corporate Government.
* And here comes the Romney shadow cabinet. It’s even worse than you think!
A third principle is that virtually every use of force in international affairs has been justified in terms of R2P, including the worst monsters. Just to illustrate, in his scholarly study of “humanitarian intervention,” Sean Murphy cites only three examples between the Kellogg-Briand pact and the UN Charter: Japan’s attack on Manchuria, Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, and Hitler’s occupation of parts of Czechoslovakia, all accompanied by lofty rhetoric about the solemn responsibility to protect the suffering populations, and factual justifications. The basic pattern continues to the present.
The historical record is worth recalling when we hear R2P or its cousin described as an “emerging norm” in international affairs. They have been considered a norm as far back as we want to go. The founding of this country is an example. In 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was granted its Charter by the King, stating that rescuing the natives from their bitter pagan fate is “the principal end of this plantation.” The Great Seal of the Colony depicts an Indian saying “Come Over and Help Us.” The English colonists were thus fulfilling their responsibility to protect as they proceeded to “extirpate” and “exterminate” the natives, in their words – and for their own good, their honored successors explained. In 1630, John Winthrop delivered his famous sermon depicting the new nation “ordained by God” as “a city on a hill,” inspirational rhetoric that is regularly invoked to this day to2 justify any crime as at worst a “deviation” from the noble mission of responsibility to protect.
Call it the soft bigotry of low expectations or heretofore unexpected reserves of good will for the franchise—or maybe J.J. just nailed it—but I found Star Trek surprisingly good. And “good” is an amazing accomplishment given the self-contradictions inherent to the project:
1) innovate and revitalize a franchise that, let’s face it, is built almost entirely on the bedrock of nostalgic repetition;
2) do so while further hamstrung by the excruciating prequel format.
But Abrams strikes a more or less successful balance, aside from a few hamhanded “R2-D2, meet C-3PO” moments and a little too much handholding and lampshade-hanging.
As is probably to be expected, the prequelization provides both the worst parts of the movie and its primary source of narrative pleasure. As a certified member of the Nitpicker’s Guild I confess I was a bit annoyed to see how little effort was made to stick with the original continuity, even granting the timeline shift. Many of the gadgets had different behaviors and limitations than in the original show; no one knew Romulans were related to Vulcans until part of the way through the original series; Chekhov didn’t join the ship until later; Pike wasn’t the first captain of the Enterprise; etc, etc, etc. (You can fanwank most or all of these away with “The USS Kelvin Changed Everything,” but that’s not very satisfying. Clear lines of cause-and-effect matter, especially in time travel stories.)
That this cherished original continuity is essentially bulldozed permanently by the film is pretty unfortunate and will, I think, permanently damage the franchise in the eyes of its loyal and notoriously defensive fanbase, especially as fifty years of strict adherence to Roddenberry’s particular Utopian vision has not prepared them well for our heroes to lose a planet, much less the entire timeline.
But at the same time it is quite fun to see these characters meet each other, and Abrams does an amazing job of capturing the feel of the original series (all the way from aesthetics right down to the level of contrivance and occasionally nonsensical plot points). That the actors playing McCoy and (especially) Spock are very good mimics of the original actors helps things along a lot as well.
It’s also astounding how apolitical the film tries to be; I went in with the idea of writing a post about neoliberalism and Star Trek and it just didn’t give me much to work with. Now, this is a neoliberal, United Nations fantasy of the future, to be sure, in which difference only exists to be flattened out—but that’s really true of almost all Trek, DS9 and some other choice episodes excepted. (There’s also a making explicit of the longstanding metaphorical connection between Vulcans and Jews, with a Vulcan Holocaust followed by a choice between diaspora, assimilation, and resettlement in a “new colony,” but I don’t know what to do with that yet.)
Star Trek (2009) is no better or worse, politically speaking, than what Star Trek‘s always been: a fantasy of what the world would be like if consumer capitalism had no labor or environmental costs and American military-cultural hegemony was pure, stable, and uncomplicatedly good. It remains our defining ideological fantasy, in other words, the thing that blinds us still to the sort of world we’re really living in and the sort of future we’re actually creating.
So it’s no surprise that at this point my thoughts turn to the mediocre, to the unchosen, to the radicals and the subaltern and the dissidents. What becomes of difference in this future? We see these people only sometimes, in the background: Sisko’s dad, Picard’s brother. Usually they exist only to be made Star Fleet officers or good Federation citizens by the end of the episode, and we see no one like this in this movie at all. The lack of flexibility in this narrative template has grown, I think, exhausting, and it’s for this reason that over the years I find myself much more drawn to presentist and mundane SF, or apocalyptic futurity, or to anti-Trek futures like Firefly, the first few seasons of BSG, or Samuel Delany’s Triton.
But all the same every so often it’s nice to come home again.
Just one request: no more product placement, please; there’s no money in the future, much less corporations…
Another round: religion and politics.
* The U.N. has apparently passed a resolution banning the defamation of religion. In the U.S., at least, truth is absolute defense to defamation…
* Don’t tell the U.N.: quantum theory may make omniscience mathematically impossible.
* Richard Nixon analyzes an episode of All in the Family. Those White House tapes are a national treasure.
* And are video games teaching kids the skills they need for the Apocalypse? The Onion reports.