Monday, 25 April 2011

Lonesome No More!

I watched an indepth piece on The National (CBC news flagship) yesterday called, Canada's political reality, by Keith Boag ( that reminded me a lot about America starting with the Nixon era, which Harper has infected us with here in Canada.

In a Playboy interview with David Standish, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in 1973 said that he didn't think Nixon was evil but that the problem was that he didn't like the American people. Vonnegut wasn't sure how much executive responsibility the US President has or how much the government runs itself but that he (Vonnegut) knew the influence the US Presidency has on the behaviour of Americans whether good or ill:

"But the lessons Nixon has taught us have been so mean. He's taught us to resent the poor for not solving their own problems. He's taught us to like the prosperous people better than the unprosperous people. He could make us so humane and optimistic with a single television appearance. He could teach us Confucianism."

when asked what he meant by "Confucianism, he replied,

"How to be polite to one another - no matter how angry or disappointed we may be - how to respect the old".

-I would say, how to respect one another, period.

No doubt. we all intuit the imperative to prepackage and spin facts by partisan politics which right-wing ideologues have perfected, but, as Vonnegut said,  "we've changed from a society to an audience".

When asked how he would have campaigned against Nixon, he replied,

"I would have set the poor against the rich. I would have made the poor admit that they're poor. Archie Bunker has no sense of being poor, but he obviously is a frightened, poor man. I would convince Archie Bunker that he was poor and getting poorer, that the ruling class was robbing him and lying to him... Nothing was done with my suggestions... Something is wrong. I'll tell you what's wrong: We're lonesome! We're being kept apart from our neighbors. Why..? (the rich) wants us lonesome; they want us huddled in our houses with just our wives and kids, watching television, because they can manipulate us then... Here's a war cry for the American people: 'Lonesome no more!' That's the kind of demagoguery I approve of."

To fight this existential alienation of a people by fear-mongering of right-wing politics (the evil and dangerous coalition of Harper's) Vonnegut suggested tongue-in-cheek that the American people should not only swear allegiance to the country but that they also adopt a new middle name from a computer, for eg Daffodil. "His name becomes Laszlo Daffodil Blintz. He has 20,000 relatives all over the country with the same Government Issue middle name. He gets a Daffodil family directory, a subscription to the Daffodil family's monthly magazine. There would be lots of ads in there for jobs, things to buy, things to sell... The joy would be that nobody would feel alone and anybody who needed seven dollars until next Tuesday or a babysitter for an hour or a trip to the hospital could get it."

There is a similar concept in China of the smallest political unit that serves a same purpose as Vonnegut's middle name idea. If we could all just remember our idealistic junior civics' curriculum, which Vonnegut says he never unlearned and still believed in, I think that we could again dare to dream. And given that

"We're in a constant electionitus, a fit of toxic partisan attacks, and that's our politics and that stinks" Peter Russell, one of Canada's leading authority on Parliament,

I'd say that we're ripe for a cure.


Monday, 18 April 2011

Anomie, nihilism and suicide

I don't think there is a single Inuk in all of Nunavut who has not lost someone to suicide - either a friend, a sibling, a spouse, a child, a parent.

In the discourse on suicide by Inuit, I have not heard of the notion of "anomie", or "a personal feeling of a lack of social norms", as something to be examined to try and address this extremely important issue in Inuit Nunaat. Anomie is a feeling of a breakdown of social norms and values, something that most Inuit feel or intuit in a profound way.

I know that most researchers and interveners have not come across this term nor considered it as something insightful. Perhaps it's something that is ideologically daunting to consider seriously but we're talking about human lives wasted.

"Nihilism" is a philosophical term for the notion that there is no meaning to life but it is, in my view, a logical conclusion and not the source of the social malaise which we all feel. Anomie, by contrast, is, to quote a Wikipedia entry:

"For Durkheim, anomie arises more generally from a mismatch between personal or group standards and wider social standards, or from the lack of a social ethic, which produces moral deregulation and an absence of legitimate aspirations. This is a nurtured condition".

I know in Nunavut (in Canada) there is willful resistence to honestly see our "modern" society as founded on a wholesale displacement and colonialization of other societies, peoples. Couple this unvoiced policy of assimilation with the absence of overt draconian exploitation agenda and Inuit will drop like flies.

Ostensibly, our supplanting system is "secular" and views "spirituality" as antithetical to its aims, but it is something not founded on discourse but imposed. One can be "secular" yet at the same time be educated in the liberal arts curriculum. In fact, that is how the modern Western world came into being, through liberal arts.

The Nunavut Government pays much lip service to valuing IQ but it doesn't know what it's talking about for it views Inuit culture as something strange and untrustworthy. This disingenuous power dynamics has to stop in order for self-murder to stop. Since Inuit children spend inordinate amount of time in a "foreign" school system (for all intents and purposes), it is up to the school system to provide moral and ethical guidance that it has supplanted by default. That moral and ethical guidance is in the form of a liberal arts curriculum where archetypal values of humanity are discussed and assumed with "informed" consent.


Sunday, 17 April 2011


After a day exploring Iqaluit as a man, a wolf named Wolfy said to himself: I wouldn't want to be "man's best friend".

There is a story I heard not once but many times about how a mother would cut the end off of a pork to roast the thing. Apparently her children followed the practice though never having asked why the mother did that. After many months of Sundays, the Chinese, who were Communist and starving, became jealous and wanted not only the food but also America's toilet technology which had just been introduced to South Korea.

Truth, to Stephen Harper and to all fascists, is a brand-name to profit from. Since he got into the Canadian parliament, he's had a hand in triggering all of the federal elections. He says Canadians are tired of these things, so he'll get Bruce Carson to burn the Parliament. It'll take about $250,000 to study the problem, which he'll take out of Aboriginal Peoples' Programs, and prove once again that the APP thing is a voracious blackhole. Since all of the APP pot is slated for these types of studies anyhow, every wasteful federal spending will now be called, Aboriginal Peoples' Programs.

Harper believes in the theory of beer-lens: he surrounds himself with ugly girly-men on PMS and cute little mensches so he can look good and manly. Almost all of Aglukak's junk mail has her picture with Harper's godly presence by her side; in almost every scrum I see Baird barking; every conservative MP precedes their statements by saying, "Stephen Harper..."

Stephen Harper wants to be "your best friend". Guess which of you is the man.

Stephen Harper doesn't want Aboriginal Peoples of Canada to have access to America's toilet technology. But who cares; there is no clean running water in any of the reserves to run the toilets anyhow.


Friday, 15 April 2011

Beliefs, semiotics and disjunctures

One of the people I admire is Umberto Eco, who is not only a great writer but whose writings and novels reflect an original mind. Before his claim to fame, he was a semiotician, or a natural philosopher of signs and meaning.

Much of Eco's popular works center around the notion of beliefs in political/ideological terms. The Name of the Rose, Foucault's Pendulum, Misreadings, are all preoccupied with the (mis)use of problems in communication and its consequences. In The Name of the Rose, he talks about the ironies of censure on human nature; in Foucault's Pendulum, he talks about perversion of signs/brand-names in a narrative (belief systems); in Misreadings, he wrote a series of scientific papers as written by Eskimo anthropologists from the future and their musings on the long-dead culture of the Italian Pensula which is now covered by a mile-thick ice.

As a semiotician, he is the one. He has that rare ability to spin a yarn around profound questions of meaning and of being human, to hold a mirror up for us, using his science faithfully. A cigar is sometimes just be a cigar... But, somewhere along the line, a cigar may take on a meaning all its own, something not apparent in the thing itself but nontheless real to the initiate.

Earlier in my career as a thinker on IQ and Inuit rights, I tried to convince people about this reality: that I may not understand the potlatch or the tea ritual or the burka but it's not up to me to decide whether these are somehow dangerous to my sense of being and identity - live and let live, I say. I am an Inuk, but whatever Canada is I identify myself as a Canadian and I accept its laws and mores, and do my best (however small) to make the social vision that is Canada better for all. Canada is not just a static, perfected society but is actually an on-going discourse on what social justice means (to us).

But where the danger lies, as far as I can tell, is when signs/brand-names become perverted by social/ideological conservativism. Hegemony is the lowest common denominator of any society and requires no discussion and visioning, requires no intelligence, really. All it needs is passivity, but passivity bought at the cost of fear and lies (contrasted with "useful fictions" of identity).

John Baird was distressed and consternated by the "fact" that the Liberals and the leftist Canadian media see nothing wrong with picking on "women" Ministers during the Oda affair. The disingenuous manner in which he said that left bile in my mouth because the Oda affair was not about bullying but calling the government to task on (perceived and real) abuse of governance systems. It is a question of trust, and not a personal attack on anyone.

Those that people the conservative party of Canada, or any political party for that matter, may be prone to such gaffes but Canada and the Canadian parliament are above such immaturity. The non-partisan principles are sound; the reasons why I don't mind being a Canadian.


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

IQ on learning

One of the hallmarks of Inuit Qaujimaningit (IQ or Inuit Knowledge) is the assumption that every human being has a natural capacity to reason and feel, but that this capacity can, and has to be, cultivated. There a certain way of learning that observes, then makes "hypotheses" before trying out what one has observed. After trying something out, one then thinks about and refines one's hypothesis.

This is a powerful principle. And can be as abstract or concrete as one wishes. Observation (of something being done or explained) is important so exposure* is important; from there, one talks or thinks about what one has seen or thought just happened; then, a statement or expectation is formed and tried out.

*what I mean by "exposure" is to personally witness something or to have read up on the subject enough to be able to "see" what's happening.

This is how I learn. I've been able to apply this learning principle to everything from learning music to mathematics and physics to creating something by hand. I don't want to just learn how to play a song, I want to learn how music is structured; I love the succinct clarity of thought in thinking about maths that can be attained through one's own efforts(!); to exercise the ability to create and recreate something with one's hands - all of these build confidence and a more realistic knowledge of one's abilities and limitations.

The learning scheme is one of problem-solving: The first step is to learn how to state a problem properly. The second step is to talk (internally or with someone) about the problem to form hypotheses. The third step is to try out one's hand. The last step is to revisit the problem and refine hypotheses. This is looking at things structurally and in terms of how those things relate.

Some things may take years to constellate but every "aha" moment is mystical no matter how small and insignificant the insight. I get so caught up in thought and reverie sometimes that while walking down a street I can't see three feet in front of me.


Thursday, 7 April 2011

the "sila" hypothesis and Kantian dualism

The great Kant, a mind of such subtlety and discernment, a pinnacle of applying reason and feeling to problems of epistemology and ontology to their logical ends. But nonetheless he ultimately failed in bridging the apparent schism between the worlds of idea and of the material. He resolved one fundamental issue at the cost of accepting the separation of knowledge of being and scientific knowledge.

His notion of space and time being the primitive basis of human cognition was right on with the IQ notions of "silarjuaq" where our material bodies are formed, grow old and die (disregarding for the time being the IQ belief in reincarnation). According to IQ, "silarjuaq" (or, the universe) is "reflected" in "silatuniq" (or, wisdom) or "silaituuniq" (or, state of impituous, uninformed mind) of each and every person (ie, by the contents and grasp of the relevant issues/factors in the human mind).

Now, this is where an extremely intricate labyrinthine mine-field is exposed: From where (and how) does human cognition arise? -Kant assumes that human cognition and perception occur in an unvoiced Platonic realm of idea without explaining how and in what forms it actually interacts with the material world. -As I said in the last entry, human perception and cognition may naturally arise out of the quantum theory and mechanics of the chemical and electronic interaction between complexly coherent beings (ie, us) and the larger, external reality (which is awashed in and governed by quantum and relativistic principles of interaction).

The uniquely human cognitive reality actually has the ability to refine our modelling and make predictions about the structural aspects of reality around us with the assistance of technology and theoretical understandings. But, at the end, the photonic, phononic, biochemical quantum interactions are "captured" and "processed" by a being structured and created within that self-same quantum-based reality. However and whatever we create and recreate our understanding/anticipation of the significance of these inputs and overall trends in our interface (in poetic terms, scientific terms, etc.) is a logical necessity and virtue of being that complexly coherent being (ie, us) that is created in and consequently develops in and interacts with a physical (and, that which follows, culturally informed) "objective" reality.

Our particularly human cognition is a by-product of a quantum-initiated physical process. but which by happenstance, one that has the capacity to grasp and understand the elemental principles of these quantum-based, and derivable events, big and small, and with the capacity to reflect and contemplate order upon these disparate complexes of facts and issues. But the initiation of the interaction cycle "builds in" within the process response and act upon imperatives of being, conscious or not is immaterial (excuse the pun). But in order to respond coherently to the interaction itself necessitates upon the being cognition and memory-learning (awareness) to inform and guide such a response.


Monday, 4 April 2011

Antinomies: a question of linguistic logic and structure

As an analyst, I've always been struck unsatisfied by the overall Western approach to constructing philosophical arguments by following each statement to its logical extreme. I guess, more precisely, what leaves me ambivalent and skeptical is how cluttered and shoddy a thinking is used in coming up with an original premise.

Like, for eg, Russell's paradox: the barber shaves only the men who do not shave themselves; who, then, shaves him? To me, this is more indicative of a tendecy to confuse linguistic anomalies for structural integrity, not to mention its unvoiced assumption of a singular possibility of interpretation. What if the barber has severe trichotillomania (the psycholgical urge to pull out one's hair)? The linguistic ambiguity is thus resolvable withhout generating a paradox (also, using such a slogan for a barber shop as tongue in cheek is permissible); another way of resolving the apparent antinomy in mathematical terms is to define the barber as a "function" among other permissible operations on a set. In other words, it is an economic transaction between men who do not shave themselves and the barber, which is permissible, and without necessarily negating the personal hygiene needs of the barber - ie, the barber, by necessity, transcends a given set by virtue of his function role and the function's larger generality outside of the set).

In terms of philosophical analysis to logical extremes (a la, Hume, Kant, etc.), a similar problem occurs where there is profound confusion over linguistic ambiguities and structural antinomies. Hume started out a strong believer in and advocate for applying rigorous Newtonian principles in the examination of humanity and human being but all he found was nothingness. In short, he come to conclude that if all human knowledge is based on, and derivative of, empirical facts, but inductive reconstruction cannot be justified by logic, then all knowledge is suspect.

The problem here is even worst than trying to resolve mathematical antinomies because the metaphysical arguments are not based on an axiomatically-derived overall theory to inform their constructs. What I mean here is that there is a lack of that creative and predictive power of succinct statements of principle to build up arguments that is afforded axiomatic mathematics.

The dichotomy between idealism and materialism is assumed without any thought given to how the two extremes might be related, how they may relate, to generate novelty from the logical structure itself. The great Kant goes slightly further by basing all of consciousness of being on the primitive, elemental notions of space and time. But he falls short in suggesting that there is no plausible division between our awareness of existence and the outer world. It was before his time, but quantum physical principles that allow chemistry and life to happen can also be used to explain that sensation is facilitated by photon, phonon and molecular interactions within our corporeal bodies by way of a cerebral structure which, in turn, facilitates and gives order to and acts upon these interactions. It is a seamless, continuous cybernetic reality between us and the world.

The use of external sensing devices (empiricism par excellence), such as in particle physics, is a complement of and intimately linked to an interpretative apparatus we call a "theory", else empiricism would be sterile and pointless collections of data. Somewhere along the line, volitional consciousness and awareness becomes a necessary logical element of the system, reason is born and decisions are made. Upon looking at the disparate, raw sets of sense data and lexemes without a theory/grammar (linguistic or mathematical) to inform one's interpretations and reconstructions of them, as like Hume, only meaninglessness and chaos is to be seen.

It is the playing with these logical elements within a rule-based system (our consciousness, and its theories) that creates meaning and novelty but because the process itself can generate anomalies, decision-making for allowable and unallowable (appropriate) outcomes and reactions becomes a necessity. How and why it is thus we act and behave becomes a more productive enterprise.

Kantian notions of space and time, by the way, is cognate with IQ conceptions of "sila", that which allows existence to happen.


Friday, 1 April 2011

Another distinction between "conservatives" and "liberals", or type I and type II errors

In his book, Innumeracy, John Allen Paulos write about Type I and Type II errors that come up in statistical analysis. He says that Type I errors occur when a sound hypothesis is rejected, and Type II errors when a false hypothesis is accepted.

In terms of entitlements and dues (and I'd say, rights) he goes on to say that "...the stereotypical liberal tries especially hard to avoid Type I errors (the deserving not receiving their share), whereas the stereotypical conservative is more concerned with avoiding Type II errors (the undeserving receiving more than their share). When punishment is meted out, the stereotypical conservative is more concerned with avoiding Type I errors (the deserving or guilty not receiving their due), whereas the stereotypical liberal worries more about avoiding Type II errors (the undeserving or innocent receiving undue punishment)".

I know that this is a rather pat way of presenting the differences between "conservative" and "liberal" politics but it seems to hold as a sound principle. There are fiscal conservatives and there are social conservatives; as there are fiscal liberals and there are social liberals. In terms of governance, the fiscal conservatives tend to be less concerned with right-wing ideology than social conservatives, and therefore tend to be more tolerant and understanding of economic classes and other cultural differences.

I heard the other day an interesting take on negative campaigns and attack ads especially. In terms of personal attack ads, the right tend to be more accepting of personalizing attacks on their political opponents (remember Dion being bombed by a bird, or Chretien's lop-sided face? - things can get very immature), whereas liberl-minded people tend to be put off by such things and are less tolerant when the party they identify with do the attack ads being as they are more interested in discussing social programs/policy than power for its own sake.