Jan 22, 2016

Psychic Readings, Nagarjuna and the Middle-Way: A review of James Hurtak's The End of Suffering

Psychic Readings, Nagarjuna and the Middle-Way: A review of James Hurtak's The End of Suffering

I thought I was reading a Philip K. Dick book when I flipped this open to the chapter about the CIA secret-project that succeeded (!?) in applying psychic non-local viewing powers to Cold War data collection of a Soviet research site.

This is an exerpt from Russell Targ's author biography:

"At the Stanford Research Institute in the 1970s and 1980s, Targ and his colleague Harold E. Puthoff co-founded a 23-year, $25-million program of research into psychic abilities and their operational use for the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and Army Intelligence. These abilities are referred to collectively as "remote viewing". Targ and Puthoff both expressed the belief that Uri Geller, retired police commissioner Pat Price and artist Ingo Swann all had genuine psychic abilities. They published their findings in Nature and the Proceedings of the IEEE. From 1972 to 1995 the program was classified SECRET and compartmentalized with Limited Access. That is to say, the program was not only classified, but every single person who was informed about the program had to personally sign a so-called bigot list, to acknowledge that they had been exposed to the program data."

I question whether it was kept secret because it held valuable and sensitive information, or if it was rather out of sheer embarrassment that such a program was actually funded.

This is the kind of book that makes me vomit. How did it end up in my library pulls?

Then the next chapter offered a very compelling critique of Aristotle and a sober application of the thought of Nagarjuna and Einstein's musings on the interconnection of consciousness and the universe, so maybe I'll keep reading?

While there was nothing offensive here, the authors continuously backed off from the title. The suffering they refer to there is more the emotional or existential suffering we get from thoughts like, "why is everyone against me? Why am I not successful?" and so on.

There was a lot of fluff here. Essentially Aristotle teaches us of the excluded middle. Everything is either black or not black. This leads, the author says, to slavery/racism and strange political claims like when Bush says, "you're either with us or your a terrorist". Nagarjuna, an ancient Buddhist philosopher, claims that there is no absolutely true or absolutely false - everything is middle ground. It follows that there is no Me and Them - everyone is in this together and we are all connected. The authors then make an extraordinary leap into some hocus-pocus about curing all diseases.

Next time perhaps the authors could publish a pamphlet. The psychic readings aspect of the book just turned me off. There wasn't much depth to the Nagarjuna and the Middle-Way analysis.

Jan 15, 2016

Femenist Philosophy - A Review of Gender Trouble by Judith Butler (1989)

 Femenist Philosophy - A Review of Gender Trouble by Judith Butler (1989)

Butler does a great job dismantling the heterosexual dominance in society and giving more power to alternative sexes, genders, and sexualities. I think feminists and Social Justice Warriors would do well by reading this book - it criticizes some of the idiocy I see in mainstream feminism (spouted by people that were born after this book was published), but also the importance of a type of feminism.

This was a tough read for sure. I have some thinking to do on the topic. I had always thought that 'sex' came from biology and 'gender' came from society. There's a strong correlation between Male and Masculine - Female and Feminine; but not an absolute connection by any means. Butler, I think, questions the foundation of 'sex' coming from biology - which is fair enough since humans are, ultimately, the ones that are slicing reality in that way - there are examples of humans that don't adequately fit into that type of Aristotelian categorization. One of the section in this book, which is for the most part an extended literature review and critique, has Butler dissecting Foucault's essay about such a person.

I want to point out that Butler is very analytical. To the extreme of dissecting Foucault's answer to an interview question about homosexuality. The response that Butler spends two pages discussing? "[Laughter]". Yes, she dissects the meaning and implication of [laughter] using examples from Avicenna and other various historical and contemporary sources. - so I can't be blamed if I didn't find the book entirely convincing.

Each section of this book starts with a quote from an influential scholar. I think a lot can be discovered from the quotes alone.

One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one.
Simone de Beauvoir

Strictly speaking, “women” cannot be said to exist.
Julia Kristeva

Woman does not have a sex.
Luce Irigaray

The deployment of sexuality ... established this notion of sex.
Michel Foucault

The category of sex is the political category that founds society as heterosexual.
Monique Wittig

This really is essential reading for feminist philosophy. Check out this humorous explanation of Butler's gender theory.


Jan 8, 2016

Unmeasurable Externalities: Advertising and Children

Most discussions concerning advertising to children demand government intervention to reduce it. I suggest that the issue will not be solved soon and parents need to take the issue into their own hands: if you believe that advertising negatively affects your child, avoid subjecting you child to it. This seems like pretty obvious advice; yet, many parents, while submitting petitions to the government, allow their child to watch television for hours a day.

Marketing to children has been growing in intensity since the early 1980s when it got its start due to working parents spending more money, and less time, on their children. This symptom highlights an issue with the structure of working life in Canada (and many other countries): we work more than we have to. But, paradoxically, we have to work a certain amount of hours due to hours-worked being tied to benefits. Marketers took advantage of this situation and the powerful new consumer group that it created. The processes involved with children's advertising have become more sophisticated over the years. Marketers have expanded beyond achieving an immediate marketing goal. If children grow up and become adult buyers, marketers can create lifetime loyalty. In fact, the goal of some advertising to children is not to get the child to purchase the product but to introduce the child to the brand with the intent that later in life the child will become a customer. As an example of this early-life advertising, there was a BMW commercial that aired a few years ago. It showed a young boy that goes to a BMW dealership. The salesperson allows the boy to go into the car, and later gives the boy a business card. The advertisement ends with the implication that the boy will but a BMW once he ages and has the means to. The intent is not to sell a car to a child but to introduce the brand to the children watching the commercial. Brands are instilled into a child at a young age.

There have been a few policy acts that purport to control the amount and type of advertising that marketers can direct towards children. There have been strict laws in Quebec, as wells as a few European countries, that directly concern, and prohibit, advertising to children. In 1978, the FTC attempted to ban advertising to children less that seven years of age claiming that children are often unable to distinguish between advertising and program content.  The general population has come to accept advertising to children as a normal activity. This acceptance leads to a circumstance where children are exposed to hundreds of commercials each day through TV watching.

Ethical consideration concerning advertising to children, I believe, is extremely important. Children are unable to see the fanciful elements of advertisements, As adults, we are able to understand that an advertisement portrays the product in an unrealistic way. We do not expect the product to be as "amazing" as the advertisement shows it to be. If children are being advertised to, marketers should not take unfair advantage of the child;'s inability to rationalize the advertisements. However, marketers are concerned about selling a product and will work within the boundaries of the law to do that. Thus, the government is expected to jump in, but the negative externalities related to advertising to children are extremely difficult to prove, and even more difficult to put a price tag on. Marketers and the Government are concerned about the economics of the situation. This allows children to be abused. As responsible parents we must be aware of the negative affects of advertising on our children and bare the burden of prevention.

Sandra Turner
Relaxing while my child watches her shows in Kelowna BC
July 2014