An Excerpt on Homosexuality, from “On Human Nature” by Edward O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson is a preeminent biologist at Harvard University and quite frequently called the heir to Charles Darwin. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Pulitzer Prize winning author. The excerpt below from his 1978 book, “On Human Nature”, is taken from the last few pages of Chapter 6, entitled “Sex”. In it, Wilson argues that human sexuality does not merely serve a reproductive function, but rather is meant to facilitate bonding and stability within family and society. He asserts that because homosexuals have been unable to reproduce on a massive scale, they have thus stood the test of natural selection, and must serve a biological benefit to mankind. Additionally, he delves into the purpose of Gays and their importance as carriers of culture. Using biological and anthropological evidence, Wilson produces an overall stimulating read.

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Human beings are connoisseurs of sexual pleasure. They indulge themselves by casual inspection of potential partners, by fantasy, poetry, and song, and in every delightful nuance of flirtation lead­ing to foreplay and coition. This has little if anything to do with reproduction. It has everything to do with bonding. If insemination were the sole biological function of sex, it could be achieved far more economically in a few seconds of mounting and insertion. In­deed, the least social of mammals mate with scarcely more ceremony. The species that have evolved long-term bonds are also, by and large, the ones that rely on elaborate courtship rituals. It is consistent with this trend that most of the pleasures of human sex constitute primary reinforcers to facilitate bonding. Love and sex do indeed go to­gether.

The biological significance of sex has been misinterpreted by the theoreticians of Judaism and Christianity. To this day the Roman Catholic Church asserts that the primary role of sexual behavior is the insemination of wives by husbands. In his 1968 encyclical Hu­manae Vitae, which was reaffirmed by a mandate from the Congre­gation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1976, Pope Paul VI prohibits the use of any form of birth control except abstinence at ovulation. Also condemned are all “genital acts” outside the framework of marriage. Masturbation is not a normal part of erotic development; it is an “intrinsically and seriously disordered act.”

The Church takes its authority from natural-law theory, which is based on the idea that immutable mandates are placed by God in human nature. This theory is in error. The laws it addresses are biological, were written by natural selection, require little if any enforcement by religious or secular authorities, and have been er­roneously interpreted by theologians writing in ignorance of biol­ogy. All that we can surmise of humankind’s genetic history argues for a more liberal sexual morality, in which sexual practices are to be regarded first as bonding devices and only second as means for procreation.

Nowhere has the sanctification of premature biological hypoth­esis inflicted more pain than in the treatment of homosexuals. The Church forbids homosexual behavior. It is “intrinsically disordered.” Various other cultures have agreed. At Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, and other Nazi death camps, homosexuals wore pink triangles to distinguish them from Jews (yellow stars) and political prisoners (red triangles) ; later, when labor became scarce, surgeons tried to rehabilitate homosexuals by castrating them. The People’s Republic of China and some other revolutionary socialist countries, fearing the deeper political implications of deviance, suppress homosexual­ ity pro forma. In parts of the United States homophiles are still de­nied some of their civil liberties, while a majority of psychiatrists continue to treat homosexuality as a form of illness and express pro­fessional discouragement over its intractability.

That the moral sentinels of Western culture have condemned ho­ mosexuals is understandable. Judeo-Christian morality is based on the Old Testament, written by the prophets of an aggressive pastoral nation whose success was based on rapid and orderly population growth enhanced by repeated episodes of territorial conquest. The prescriptions of Leviticus are tailored to this specialized existence. They include the following: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman: that is an abomination.” This biblical logic seems consistent with a simplistic view of natural law when population growth is at a premium, since the overriding purpose of sexual behavior under such circumstances will seem to be the procreation of children. Most Americans still follow the archaic prescription, even though their demographic goals are now entirely different from those of the early Israelites. Homosexuals must be fundamentally deviant, the reasoning goes, because their behavior does not produce chil­dren.

There have always been a great many sinners by this definition. A generation ago Alfred Kinsey found that as many as 2 percent of American women and 4 percent of men were exclusively homosex­ ual, while 1 3 percent of the men were predominantly homosexual for at least three years of their lives. Today the number of exclusive homosexuals is conservatively estimated to be five million, while gays themselves believe that the number of closet homosexuals could raise the number to twenty million. They form a consequential American subculture, employing an argot of hundreds of words and expressions. homosexual behavior of one form or another is also common in virtually all other cultures, and in some of the high civilizations it has been permitted or approved: in classical Athenian, Persian, and Islamic societies, for example, and in late republican and early imperial Rome, in the urban, Hellenistic cultures of the Middle East, in the Ottoman Empire, and in feudal and early mod­ern Japan.

There is, I wish to suggest, a strong possibility that homosexuality is normal in a biological sense, that it is a distinctive beneficent be­havior that evolved as an important element of early human social organization. Homosexuals may be the genetic carriers of some of mankind’s rare altruistic impulses.

The support for this radical hypothesis comes from certain facts considered in the new light of sociobiological theory. Homosexual behavior is common in other animals, from insects to mammals, but finds its fullest expression as an alternative to heterosexuality in the most intelligent primates, including rhesus macaques, baboons, and chimpanzees. In these animals the behavior is a manifestation of true bisexuality latent within the brain. Males are capable of adopting a full female posture and of being mounted by other males, while fe­males occasionally mount other females.

Human beings are different in one important respect. There is a potential for bisexuality in the brain and it is sometimes expressed fully by persons who switch back and forth in their sexual prefer­ence. But in full homosexuality, as in full heterosexuality, both that choice and the symmetry of the animal pattern are lost. The prefer­ence is truly homophile: most completely homosexual men prefer masculine partners, while their female counterparts are attracted by feminine ones. As a rule, effeminate mannerisms in men are mostly unrelated to their choice of sexual partners. In modern societies, but not primitive ones, transvestites are only rarely homosexual, and the great majority of homosexual men do not differ significantly in dress and mannerisms from heterosexual men. A parallel statement can be made regarding homosexual women.

This special homophile property may hold the key to the biolog­ical significance of human homosexuality. Homosexuality is above all a form of bonding. It is consistent with the greater part of hetero­ sexual behavior as a device that cements relationships. The predis­ position to be a homophile could have a genetic basis, and the genes might have spread in the early hunter-gatherer societies because of the advantage they conveyed to those who carried them. This brings us to the nub of the difficulty, the problem most persons have in re­garding homosexuality to be in any way “natural.”

How can genes predisposing their carriers toward homosexuality spread through the population if homosexuals have no children? One answer is that their close relatives could have had more children as a result of their presence. The homosexual members of primitive societies could have helped members of the same-sex, either while hunting and gathering or in more domestic occupations at the dwell­ ing sites. Freed from the special obligations of parental duties, they would have been in a position to operate with special efficiency in assisting close relatives. They might further have taken the roles of seers, shamans, artists, and keepers of tribal knowledge. If the rela­tives – sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, and others – were bene­fitted by higher survival and reproduction rates, the genes these individuals shared with the homosexual specialists would have in­creased at the expense of alternative genes. Inevitably, some of these genes would have been those that predisposed individuals toward homosexuality. A minority of the population would consequently always have the potential for developing homophilic preferences. Thus it is possible for homosexual genes to proliferate through col­ lateral lines of descent, even if the homosexuals themselves do not have children. This conception can be called the “kin-selection hy­pothesis” of the origin of homosexuality.

The kin-selection hypothesis would be substantially supported if some amount of predisposition to homosexuality were shown to be inherited. And some evidence of such heritability does exist. Mono­zygotic twins, which originate from a single fertilized egg and hence are genetically identical, are more similar in the extent to which they express heterosexual or homosexual behavior than is the case for fraternal twins, which originate from separate fertilized eggs. The data, reviewed and analyzed by L. L. Heston and James Shields, suffer from the usual defects that render most twin analyses less than conclusive, but they are suggestive enough to justify further study. Some of the identical twins, according to Heston and Shields, “were not only concordant for homosexuality, but the members of each pair had developed modes of sexual behavior strikingly similar to each other. Furthermore, they did this while ignorant of their co­ twin’s homosexuality and, for [one pair], while widely separated geographically.” Like many other human traits more confidently known to be under genetic influence, the hereditary predisposition toward homosexuality need not be absolute. Its expression depends on the family environment and early sexual experience of the child. What is inherited by an individual is the greater probability of ac­quiring homophilia under the conditions permitting its development.

If the kin-selection hypothesis is correct, homosexual behavior is likely still to be associated with role specialization and the favoring of kin in hunter-gatherer and simple agricultural societies, in other words those contemporary cultures most similar to the ones in which human social behavior evolved genetically during prehistory. The connection appears to exist. In some of the .more primitive cultures that survived long enough to be studied by anthropologists, male homosexuals were berdaches, individuals who adopted women’s dress and manner and who even married other men. They often be­came shamans, powerful members of the group able · to influence its key decisions, or were specialized in some other way, in women’s work, matchmaking, peacemaking, or as advisors to the tribal lead­ers. The female counterparts of berdaches are also known but are less well documented. It is further true that in western industrial so­cieties, homosexual men score higher than heterosexuals on intelli­gence tests and are upwardly mobile to an exceptional degree. They select white collar professions disproportionately and regardless of their initial socioeconomic status are prone to enter specialties in which they deal directly with other people. They are more success­ful on the average within their chosen professions. Finally, apart from the difficulties created by the disapproval of their sexual pref­erences, homosexuals are considered by others to be generally well adapted in social relationships.

All of this information amounts to little more than a set of clues. It is not decisive by the usual canons of science. A great deal of addi­tional, careful research is needed. But the clues are enough to estab­ lish that the traditional Judeo-Christian view of homosexual behav­ior is inadequate and probably wrong. The assumptions of this religion-sanctioned hypothesis have lain hidden for centuries but can now be exposed and tested by objective standards. I believe it en­ tirely correct to say that the kin-selection hypothesis is more con­ sistent with the existing evidence.

The juxtaposition of biology and ethics in the case of homosexual­ity requires sensitivity and care. It would be inappropriate to consider homosexuals as a separate genetic caste, however beneficent their historic and contemporary roles might prove to be. It would be even more illogical, and unfortunate, to make past genetic adap­tedness a necessary criterion for current acceptance. But it would be tragic to continue to discriminate against homosexuals on the basis of religious dogma supported by the unlikely assumption that they are biologically unnatural.

The central argument of this chapter has been that human sexual­ity can be much more precisely defined with the aid of the new ad­vances in evolutionary theory. To omit this mode of reasoning is to leave us blind to an important part of our history, the ultimate meaning of our behavior, and the significance of the choices that lie before us.

Through the instruments of education and law, each society must make a series of choices concerning sexual discrimination, the stan­dards of sexual behavior, and the reinforcement of the family. As government and technology become more complex and interdepen­dent, the choices have to be correspondingly precise and sophistica­ted. One way or the other, intuitively or with the aid of science, evolutionary history will be entered in the calculations, because hu­man nature is stubborn and cannot be forced without a cost.

There is a cost, which no one can yet measure, awaiting the so­ciety that moves either from juridical equality of opportunity be­tween the sexes to a statistical equality of their performance in the professions, or back toward deliberate sexual discrimination. An­ other unknown cost awaits the society that decides to reorganize it­self into smoothly functioning nuclear families, or to abolish families in favor of communal kibbutzim. There is still another cost – and some of our members are already paying it in personal suffering – for the society that insists on conformity to a particular range of heterosexual practices. We believe that cultures can be rationally designed. We can teach and reward and coerce. But in so doing we must also consider the price of each culture, measured in the time and energy required for training and enforcement and in the less tangible currency of human happiness that must be spent to circum­vent our innate predispositions.

From Edward O. Wilson’s “On Human Nature”, pages 141-148, Harvard University Press (1978).

The Media Effect: A Look at the Communication Strategies of the President and a Comparative Look at Other Branches

In the last 50 years, the method by which the media reports the news has vastly changed. Starting with the television age, in the late 1950s, and moving through the modern dot-com era, entwined with social media, the means by which the President is reported has undergone dramatic reconstruction. The relationship between the news media and the presidency has grown closer, but continues to be an imperfect union. Though one can hardly survive without the other, the two do not intentionally service each other, but rather live off one another in mandated symbiosis.

The delicate relationship is key to each of their successes and the change in which news is received has caused the union to evolve. The President relies on the news media to maintain and craft his image as well as get his agenda across to the country and the other branches of government. The media looks to the Commander in Chief for a constant story to report, in order for it to raise its profit and revenue.1

Since the first televised presidential debate in 1960, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, the president has had to maintain himself visually at all times. Before television, a majority of Americans would have never seen the Executive live. This was a contributing factor to more substantive and less sensationalized politics. It would be next to impossible for a Presidents FDR or Taft to be elected today because of their physical differences (FDR was crippled at a young age from polio, and Taft was morbidly obese.) Today’s media would have latched on to their physicalities in a similar manner to Governor Chris Christie’s portrayal.

Television has also changed the way presidents and politicians are perceived. They have become reality TV stars, in their own right, and have been branded celebrities. This celebrification can be blamed for many of the negative opinions people have towards politics, as well as much of government’s dysfunction.2

Looking back on history, many of the most significant events covered, have also been among the most tragic and political: JFK’s assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald’s subsequent assassination, the Vietnam War, Watergate, Bill Clinton’s scandal and impeachment hearing, September 11th 2001, etc. Each generation since the dawn of the television age, has had to grapple with negative nationalized political events, contributing to the stigmatization and distrust of government.3

The President is the one political actor who is covered 365 days a year, therefore the office of the President has had to develop a communication strategy playing off the strengths of each commander-in-chief. The White House maintains an active press office, led by a press secretary, charged with the duties of branding the president’s face and voice and working with reporters. The best communicators were presidents who not only had a knack for public speaking, but also the ability to speak concisely. 4

Ronald Reagan’s team would package a White House message daily for news organizations, dealing with one topic. Known as the “line of the day”, it not only gave them the power to set the agenda, but also proved to deliver more favorable coverage of the President. By making the job of reporters simpler, the press office was able to garnish more positive portrayals.5

On the contrary, George H. W. Bush did not believe in only providing basic information. An intellect at heart that grasped the finer details, he would provide conferences in which he would go into great length the many particulars of whatever it was he was discussing. This proved to make the job of reporters more difficult, because they then had to sift through copious amounts of information and fit into a small segment. His coverage was thus, more negative.6

Those who have been successful communicators have been presidents who have realized the necessity of the media as well as the importance of working with them. Every day, the president’s team completes a daily brief of all the coverage dealing with the president, using it to create a communication strategy. Some presidents, like Nixon and Clinton, have taken it incredibly seriously while others, namely George W. Bush, have paid no mind to it. Balance must be struck, because of the brief’s genuine importance. Presidents who have realized this, have turn been able to develop efficacious communication strategies.7

Presidential speech writing is also a key component in effective media tactics. Presidents JFK, Clinton, and Obama have all been highly involved with their speeches, and while this worked/continues to work for them; however, the great communicator, Ronald Reagan, preferred to be heavily scripted (so much so, that he even had taped markers of where to stand!).8

Often times, the greatest and most memorable speeches come out of the most terrible tragedies: Johnson’s announcement following JFK’s assassination, Reagan, the explosion of the Challenger, Clinton, the Oklahoma City Bombing, and George W. Bush’s bull horn speech at Ground Zero. These speeches are remembered because the president is able to set aside their political party and grieve with the nation as a human being, while promising to lead the nation out of darkness.9

The President’s communication strategy, is much different than that of Congress or the Supreme Court. While each branch of government is equal, their media coverage is not.10

Congress has the lowest approval rating of the three branches and has hovered at about 15% for the past year. Congress receives the worst coverage of all three. It is only ever covered when something negative happens and its dysfunction is a highlight of the news. In addition, with 535 members, the likelihood of scandal is greater and more prone to coverage. Because the legislative process is dry and difficult to explain concisely, the media will forego actually substantive news and focus on negative story-like coverage, which contributes to an undesirable view of Congress.11

The Supreme Court has the highest approval rating among it’s three counterparts; however, it receives the least amount of coverage. Priding itself on tradition and secrecy, the Court rarely gives interviews, and prohibits cameras within the courtroom. Supreme Court Opinions are also hard to read and interpret, which cause reporters to stay away from them. By limiting coverage, the Court is able to better control its image and prestige within the country. 12

While the television age has definitively changed the way in which government is portrayed and communication strategies formed. While Congress and the Supreme Court are normally better off without much coverage, the Presidency must maintain an active role in the media. While the media’s portrayal of the government may differ between branches of tragedy, it’s role in shaping public opinion and overall political importance cannot be denied.

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1 Cox-Han, Lori. POSC 317: Media and Politics [Lecture]. (2013)

2 Cox-Han, Lori. “How Did Television News Change Politics?”. POSC 317: Media and Politics [Lecture]. (February 28, 2013)

3 Ibid.

4 Cox-Han, Lori. “White House Communication Strategy”. POSC 317: Media and Politics [Lecture]. (April 18, 2013)

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Cox-Han, Lori. “Congress and the Media”. POSC 317: Media and Politics [Lecture]. (April 23, 2013)

11 Ibid.

12 Cox-Han, Lori. “The Supreme Court and the Media?”. POSC 317: Media and Politics [Lecture]. (April 25, 2013)

The Presidential Horserace and Media’s Avoidance of Substance

The news media plays a vast role in the election of the President of the United States. It offers the only way for a candidate to speak to every American without being physically present, and thus holds much power to sway voters during election season.

News is driven by story, because, at the end of the day, the most interesting tale will make the company the most money. This causes reporters to decide between style and substance. More often than not, style is chosen, because it offers a more interesting segment. This could not be more applicable to politics, where news is seen by many to be of a drier variety.

Presidential elections offer the media a continuous ordeal fit to be chronicled. Stylistic coverage is better received because it is relatable and captures the attention of the audience. The 2008 election was the first open field presidential election since 1952. Within the Democratic primary, the media had to choose which of the two nominees would be a better narrative: Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

Both had the opportunity to create history if elected and break boundaries, but the media chose Obama.1

In addition to being a minority, President Obama faced much adversity throughout his life. It was his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, however, and catapulted him onto the national stage for the first time. The media saw a young, charismatic, and vivacious spirit, capable of energizing crowds of thousands of people. 2

Hillary Clinton’s introduction to America, was not so grand or positive. It was her appearance beside her husband on 60 Minutes to discuss his previous affair. With only one first impression, she lost her immediate ability to make people love her. 3

The television age has also changed the way nominees are covered, by creating a “candidate-centered” approach to covering elections. Both candidates are pitted against each other and are made to seem like polar opposites. By creating this tension, the media begins to develop their narrative. Party beliefs are not focused on, but rather the candidates’ personalities, idiosyncrasies, and physicalities dominate the coverage. Parties are then damaged, when one individual fails to maintain their approval rating.

The perfect example of this is George W. Bush. When he left office, the economy was in a recession, the country was fighting two wars, and consequently, his approval rating hovered at just below 30%. The negative view of his presidency damaged the GOP, making it impossible for a 2008, or even 2012 win.4

Much of the coverage in elections is generally negative. A tactic developed by Republican strategist and Bush advisor, Karl Rove, was to take the strengths of an opponent and turn them into a weakness. John Kerry’s military service became overshadowed by his anti-war effort and rumors of him going “AWOL.” The strategy was then picked up by Democrats, who turned Romney, a successful businessman, into a venture capitalist obsessed who ships jobs oversees.5

The last presidential election to achieve voter turnout over 65% was back in 1908. For the past hundred years, it has averaged at only 53%. While there are many contributing factors to low voter turnout, many of them can be traced back to the media. Voter alienation, apathy, and dissatisfaction can all be related to the media. Negative coverage makes for a better story, but it also alienates voters; as a result, turnout for elections remains low.6

This reality makes it apparent that by covering candidates stylistically and focusing on negative coverage, the news media does a disservice to democracy.

Rather than focusing on substantive material, news organizations remain set
on sales and profit. The media would much rather create a celebrity out of a politician than cover anything about the broader political scene, because it makes a better narrative and thus sells better.

This is not to say that reporters intentionally choose to not cover substance. The finer details of politics can be difficult to be understood and explain concisely, which leads journalists to focus on the personable aspects of government. While this may make the news more interesting, it can hardly be said that voter are more informed as a result.7

The stylistic coverage does not create citizens of a deliberative democracy but rather targets the same audience that find themselves watching reality TV attentively. Viewers love dramatic sequences, and the news offers plenty of them. While most people will say they hate reality TV, one would find that those same people would also speak negatively about politics. The effect of covering government for entertainment value is causing voters to become disillusioned.8

While the cause might be evident the solution is not. If covering style over substance has created an issue, than should not the obverse be the answer? Unfortunately, viewers dictate what is broadcasted. They are the market that must be pleased. Evidence suggests that despite the negative effects of covering politics stylistically, viewers prefer this type of coverage to substance.

One need only to look at C-Span. Founded in 1979, the private, non-profit company offers constant unedited “gavel to gavel” footage of congress. It receives no government funding, and is meant to be a service to the American people. Despite being the most trusted and substantive news source, many voters would rather watch the impassioned coverage that Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN have to offer. 9

The media’s focus on style is a result of viewer’s preference. While it may lead to negative coverage of politics or television programming focused on candidate image or character, unless the population at large demands otherwise, the media will continue to feed it market. As a result, voters will continue to be disillusioned and turnout will remain low. While a deliberative democracy is ideal, it cannot be achieved within the current state of media and politics.

1 Cox-Han, Lori. “American Campaigns and the Media”. POSC 317: Media and Politics [Lecture]. (April 2, 2013)

2 Ibid

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Cox-Han, Lori. “Congress and the Media”. POSC 317: Media and Politics [Lecture]. (April 23, 2013)

No, the Supreme Court is NOT Under Attack

I read an opinion article today, written by Curt Levey (an apparent “Constitutional Law Attorney”), entitled “Will our next Supreme Court Justice usher in a new progressive agenda?”, and quite frankly, I could not be more disappointed in the lack of intelligence and critical thought that went into it.

Mr. Levey’s entire premise is that either Justices Antonin Scalia or Anthony Kennedy will retire during the Obama Administration, causing a dramatic shift to the left in the Court’s ideology.

For starters, I could not disagree more. The fact that he even mentioned Justice Scalia, the Court’s conservative Rottweiler, just goes to show how very little he actually knows about how the nation’s highest court actually operates.

Each justice’s primary goal, in choosing a time to retire, is to do so, during the presidency of someone who shares his or her like-minded philosophy (Republican: Originalism, Democrat: Living Constitutionalism or Pragmatism). No member of the Supreme Court would ever hand off his or her legacy to someone who would just tear it down (ESPECIALLY Scalia, the most outspoken man on the court).  

Mr. Levey even has the audacity to compare the Papacy to the Court, saying “The sudden retirement of Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that when personal decisions… shape history, there is often little or no warning.” This argument is entirely flawed. The modern Papacy, unlike the Supreme Court, is not a political office. The Pope, today, is more like a father, someone to look up to for advice, or like the Queen of England, a figurehead for a body of individuals.

Levey fails to realize that this is not the 1600s, the Pope does not rule over governments, nor are his decisions binding over them. Comparing the Pope to the Court is like comparing a Professor of Economics to a CEO of a large company, one talks about theoreticals or past experience, the other is actively engaged in business decisions.

He goes on further to site statistics and percentages, which seem to have appeared out of nowhere. His imaginary probabilities show that though each individual conservative justice near the age of 79 is not likely to retire, as a group it is unlikely for all the to stay past 80.

Right…

On the court, age is but a number (unless you are Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and have personally exhausted all possible numbers). Basically, as I said above, a justice is more likely to preserve his or her legacy than throw it away because they happen to be turning 79. Though this might be true in district courts, the Supreme Court is an entirely different league.

To even suggest that they base their retirement on age is asinine, and shows a complete lack of analytical thinking.

Mr. Levey spends the next half of the piece explaining the terrible future that will befall the nation if Obama replaces one of the conservatives, thus giving way for his motives to shine through.  Guns will be outlawed, gays will marry, abortions will be free, and illegals will get free candy from immigration officers… “All that stands in the way of this legal Armageddon for conservatives is fortune and the 45 Republicans in the Senate.” So be sure to call your Senator today and “educate” them on the Warren Court, making sure to “demand” that they filibuster any attempts by Obama to pack the court with liberal cronies.

I know it’s almost to ridiculous to be true.

I thought we were done with scare tactics.  Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas, are not willfully going anywhere, at least for another four years… when a Republican is elected.

Every credible political scientist who studies the Supreme Court, fully recognizes that Justices don’t just retire. They do it either when they feel they cannot contribute anything else to their cause or during the presidency of a likeminded individual.

Judging by the fact that Obama has found it in his nature to test the buttons of the Court with his unique interpretation on legislation and his public criticism of the Court, the conservative stronghold is unlikely to be willing to have him find their replacement.

The only justice Obama should be preparing to replace is giddy Ginsburg, which probably will not happen for another two years (she loves the court).

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 12.54.06 AM

I don’t know what Mr. Levey was doing at Harvard Law, but he was obviously not listening.

Daylight Saving Time…

I, like the rest of the world, am rather confused as to why most developed countries choose to deliberately make one hour disappear and then reappear ever year! This morning, my body decided to boycott this madness, and woke up at noon, as opposed to eleven.

Despite me missing my first class, I was late to my midterm on Constitutional Law (for a completely different reason… basically, a car decided that it would be convenient to explode on the onramp to the 22 from the 405…It was like being on Indiana Jones without the exciting music, and fast paced high thrill movement).

After arriving at Chapman, and finding PRIME parking on the street, in front of Argyros, I hobbled into my class. I am certain, the clunk clunk clunk, of my metal appendages, distracted everyone’s intense thought processes as they were writing one of three essays on the differing opinions between Chief Justice Taft and Justice Brandeis in the fourth amendment, search and seizure case of Olmstead v. U.S or deconstructing Chief Justice Taney’s draconian majority opinion in the infamous case of Dred Scott v. Sandford.

They all hated me…I’m sure of it… but probably also simultaneously felt guilty for getting mad at a cripple…#SorryAboutIt… #ButReallyIfIDistractedYouIApologize… #BlameTheCheapPyrotechnicsOnThe405…

On a side note, it’s going to be a life mission of mine to undermine Daylight Saving Time (DST) (so much rhyming…). According to an article written today, in the Daily Caller, Benjamin Franklin spoke of DST in a letter to a friend of his, who also happened to be the Editor for the Journal de Paris.

 He basically said that people should get up earlier to use all of the daylight, and if they refused, they should be taxed. Such criminals would include people who kept their blinds shut after sunrise or drove in a carriage after sunset.

Sounds ridiculous, right? That’s because it was ALL SATIRE… and the recipient of the letter, a Frenchman, decided to publish it in the journal, as an earnest proposal from the great Benjamin Franklin, on April 26, 1784.

The US then adopted the practice in World War I, as a method to conserve fuel needed for electricity, and in 1918, Congress passed a law officially adopting the system.

How is this not a joke?

Approaching Literary Postmodernity

A Look at the Postmodern Condition Emphasizing it’s Influence on John Fowles’ The Collector

The postmodern author is one who is not defined by  the conventions of the literary rules which defined his predecessors. He is a pioneer in his own right. His mission: to explore unknown depths of literature, with a goal of exposing the fallacy surrounding the conception of reality.

Postmodernism rose to popularity following World War II and gained steam in the height of the cold war during the 1960s. The arms race, having taken the imaginations of world hostage, instilled fear of the possibility of the annihilation of mankind by use of the nuclear bomb. This anxiety led the greatest minds of the mid-twentieth century to question their understanding of reality. “If all that we know today may be gone tomorrow, what is the point of continuing?” This thought process, profoundly altered the established view of reality as a concrete, rule-based concept.

Therefore, it became the sacred duty of the postmodern author to turn the very concept of reality on its head and make the point that there is no absolute truth. Since the idea of truth is constantly evolving, the postmodern asserts that one’s truth today, is a another’s fallacy tomorrow. (Much of the postmodern theory is taken from existentialist philosophers like: Søren Kierkegaard or Friedrich Nietzsche.) Because of the postmodern belief that no theory can ever be absolutely correct, philosophers like Richard Tarnas have been quick to point out that “[Postmodernism] cannot on its own principles ultimately justify itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself.”

Overall, the postmodern philosophy stresses the individuality of reality. Rejecting the truth of abstract theories, postmodernism stresses that only concrete personal experiences can be relied on to develop truth. Understanding that these personal experiences are unique to every individual, the postmodernist recognizes that theories of reality are subject to the singular interpretation of each person and are therefore fallible.

Artist, René Magritte, painted this photo with the words “This is not a pipe.” Though seemingly a contradiction, it is technically true, as the painting is not a pipe, but the image of one.

The postmodern approach to writing literature is inevitably a reaction to the linear and conventional method of the novel. It prides itself on the use of irony, paradox, and the rejection of fairy tale endings. To the postmodern author, “reality” is seldom happy.

The novel, The Collector, written by John Fowles, is a classic example of the effects of the postmodern condition on story telling. Hailed as the first modern psychological thriller, Fowles captivates his audience with a critically acclaimed horror story.


The story focuses on a city clerk named Frederick Clegg, who wins a large sum of money in a British football pool. Clegg, a collector, of butterflies, uses the money to purchase an isolated home in the countryside. He is obsessed with a beautiful art student, named Miranda, whom he kidnaps and places in an underground cellar of his new home. Clegg, is convinced that she will come to fall in love with him and promises to shower her with gifts and not sexually assault her. The one condition is that she cannot leave the cellar.  Part two, is narrated by the captive Miranda, who at first is terrified by Clegg. She then begins to pity him, comparing him to Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Miranda’s several attempts to escape are foiled by Clegg, and before she is able to do so again, she becomes sick with pneumonia and dies. Clegg decides to commit suicide, but eventually opts out after reading Miranda’s diary, which reveals that she never loved him. Having accepted this fact, Clegg convinces himself that he was not responsible and hints at kidnapping another girl in the near future.

Fowles’ novel is the classic example of postmodern literature. The story breaks from the linear time line of the pre-postmodern novel, and opts instead to use the opposing viewpoints of the two main characters.  By offering contrasting viewpoints, Fowles makes clear the point that reality is subjective. The use of one narrator is ineffective if the entire “truth” is to be understood. Because of the postmodern belief in the subjectivity of reality, Fowles incorporates two narrators, on opposites sides of the spectrum.

The use of intertextuality is also evidence of the postmodernity of The Collector. Having referenced and alluded to themes of famous works in western literature, Fowles attempts to subvert them, and show that such works are entirely unrealistic. The entire story is reminiscent of  Beauty and the Beast, a story in which the captor and captive eventually fall in love and live happily ever after. It is the idealistic result of stockholm syndrome. This, however, does not turn out to be the case in Fowles’ story.

Fowles, also makes reference to The Tempest, by use of Miranda. He not only  names his characters after those of Shakespeare’s play, but makes subtle references to them throughout the novel. Miranda, compares Clegg to Caliban. By doing this, Miranda becomes Prospero, Caliban’s “master” a woman who wants to better him by teaching him. Meanwhile, Fowles ironically names the two characters Miranda and Frederick (The english version of  the name Ferdinand). In The Tempest, both Miranda and Ferdinand fall madly in love and get married. He brings her the upmost joy. Though ideal, Fowles rejects this ending and causes Frederick (Ferdinand) to be the misery and death of Miranda.

Again, Fowles makes reference to Shakespeare at the end of part three when Clegg is contemplating suicide, after Miranda’s death.

Clegg says,”All I had to do is kill myself… I could go into Lewes as soon as the shops opened and get a lot of aspros… Then take the aspros and go down with the floweres and lie beside her. Post a letter first to the police. So they would find us down there together. Together in the Great Beyond. We would be buried together. Like Romeo and Juliet. It would be a real tragedy. Not sordid.”

Fowles takes the definition of the western literature, Shakespeare, and unequivocally transfigures its meaning, calls to question its reality, all while artfully mocking its greatest works. Intertextuality is key in a postmodern work, precisely because of the author’s ability to attempt to prove the notions of western literature false.

The postmodern approach to literature is not one of reverence but rather subversion. By taking societies accepted reality and challenging it, the author has the ability to make his point: that there is neither absolute truth nor  one correct way of producing literature. Writing as a concept changes from being defined parallel lines to perpendicular fragments. The postmodern author in effect sees it his duty to call into question the west’s perceived truths in an effort to offer another way of thought. He is the true Advocatus Diaboli.

Unlinked Sources:

Fowles, J. (1991). The collector. New York, NY: Back Bay Books.

Hutcheon, L. (2004). A poetics of postmodernism: History, theory, fiction. New York, NY: Routledge.

Pollheide, J. (2003). Postmodernist narrative strategies in the novels of john fowles. (Doctoral dissertation, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany).

Read-Davidson, M. (2012, April). [Lecture]. Post modernism. , Chapman University, Orange, CA.

Shakespeare, W. (1994). The tempest. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

My Conversion.

I started out as a Democrat. My earliest political memories were of the presidential election of 2000. I was fiercely in support of Al Gore. My mother has never been the most political person, in fact, she hasn’t really ever cared for politics or government in general. My father, was a bit more “in the loop” when it came to knowing which party he stood for, but he too, was never politically active. Both of them were registered Democrats. I don’t know how I developed my interest.

I have always enjoyed a good heated debate, and have never been intimidated to share my opinion; so naturally, as the young elementary school that kid I was, I loved being around adults. This isn’t to say I wasn’t comfortable around kids my age, I was, but when it came to discussion, the grown-ups just seemed to get what I was saying and engage my attention.

Like I said earlier, I was always a Democrat. I can clearly remember several instances of debating adults. They’d always assume I was naïve. I was certain I wasn’t. Turns out, I was. Though in my defense, there’s not much literature, economic statistics, or life experience that an eight year old can cite. I was steadfast in the knowledge my mother imparted in me, “Republicans are only about businesses, Democrats are for protecting and helping families.”

As I grew older, that love of debate never ceased. They say never discuss religion or politics, the only problem with that saying was, those were the only two things I loved to discuss. Debate for me was a method of learning; the back and forth colloquy intrigued me.

Around 7th or 8th grade, I began to critically question my beliefs. More specifically, I began to question the Democratic Party. I’d say abortion was the turning point. It never made any sense to me. I could not fathom a mother so absorbed in her own life, that in order to keep change at bay, she would readily sacrifice her child. This issue, however, did not change me entirely. I still loved Bill Clinton, FDR, and Al Gore. As a matter of fact, I remember writing on my english teacher’s whiteboard “I HATE GEORGE W. BUSH!” For that transgression, I was rightly scolded.

As a freshman in high school, I was still a Democrat trying to reconcile his blossoming conservative values. I remember googling “Pro-Life Democrats,” in order to see if others like me existed. Turns out there were, and so, I brandished myself a Pro-Life Democrat.

Halfway through the school year, I would have my conversion. Again, I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but I know it did. (It probably had to do with my conservative great-aunt, who at one point was a hero to me, not because of her conservatism, but because of her conviction, intelligence, and articulate speech patterns.) Either way, I gleefully left the Democratic party in exchange for economic freedom, constitutional originalism, and smaller government. For the past five years, I’ve never looked back… except in personal thought experiments where I pretend the opposing side is the one who has got it right.

I Write to Share.

Writing, the constant flow of words on piece of paper, swimming with ideas, authored with a purpose. Whether in a journal, poetry, essays, or stories, one can find enjoyment in the literal solidification of their thoughts on paper. Writing, however, is not a singular action, it is meant to be exchanged with others.

Thoughts and verbal ideas are fleeting; one minute, you have the ability to grasp an entire concept, the next, your understanding vanishes. The beauty of writing is that any idea put down on paper is frozen in permanence.

After penning one’s words on a sheet, the next step is to sharing one’s writing with another individual. By allowing another person to read the inner workings of your mind, an intimate connection forms between author and reader. This connection, is much like a conversation. The writer shares his thoughts, and the reader listens and reacts. Whether or  not, the reader agrees with the ideas of the author, thoughts processes are exchanged.

The familiar relationship that develops between the reader and author does not cease with the last word on the page; rather, it continues for life. The ideas exchanged will forever affect the outlook of the reader on the topic at hand.

A writer possesses a unique gift, which is meant to be exchanged with others. When ideas flow, dialogue begins, and learning is initiated. The influence of a single thought should never be underestimated and undermined; it should, instead, be allowed to shine giving light to others and igniting the flame of knowledge in the heart of the companion of the writer: the reader.

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

George Bernard Shaw

 


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