Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Cities are Full of People

Scanning another subject, this being one of those whom I've gotten to know over the several times I've scanned him. That's one of the things I never expected about doing science - it's not exactly social for me in the same way that it's social for people who are properly part of the system (faculty/grad students) - my path as research/supporting staff means that while I sometimes have my names in papers, I'm not meeting people or going to conferences in the way fully vested people are. Still, during the half hour or so that wrap a scan, I talk to my subjects, and some of them become acquaintences. I've never had the professional distance thing - I'm distant in my own way but not inhuman/"professional". Like with a lot of people I kind of know, I introduced him to several now-distant friends of mine whom, and they became friends. Life is funny that way - that seems to be the biggest social role I play - relay runner. .. BIRC has changed a bit since I was last here - more people have swapped out or gone part-time. After my last study, I thought I'd be out of here before starting another. Change in situations, potential and actual, seems to be pretty high... I sometimes think about cities, how they really are full of people, constantly in motion around each other. Wants, needs, people trying to hold up to ideals, trying to live a certain life, all the splits and rejoining. When I want to see friendships, sometimes I watch people in the park, or linger near a bar for a moment longer when passing by. I get the feeling that I'm growing rather distant from all of that again. I think always backing away to see the big picture eventually leads one to be alone. Every so often one finds someone close enough to bridge the gaps, and one isn't always operating in that mode..

Vaguely related, from a daydream:Overheard at the edges of a dinner party...

  • Philosopher A: Yeah, they blame themselves for not impoverishing their kid's mind to the point where he could never think of such a thing. Ridiculous...
  • Philosopher B: ... Maybe really seeing all the options in a situation would usually overwhelm any of us, especially a child.
Did they smash the mirrors to prevent heresy, or to avoid seeing themselves?

A random memory... watching Shirley Temple movies with my sisters when I was much younger. I always felt strange mixes of irritation and joy at those films..

Because I've been away, I haven't mentioned the important commented newsstuffs for awhile. Here goes:

  • Cindy Sheehan, celebrity mother of a soldier who died in the recent American invasion of Iraq, "resigned" as a fulcrum for war debates because she was disappointed that the Democratic party of the United States, by and large, backed down on proposals for a definite end date to their military engagement there. I think this is shortsighted of her - she cites a two-facedness in their criticism of the initial invasion not being matched by an equally strong call for rapid (immediate?) withdrawl. While I don't think it's sensible to immediately withdraw from the situation as it is now, I think it's more important that people realise what's at stake - understanding situations, identifying options, and weighing each of them for what is best for society at large given a certain value system is not an easy task. It would be a mistake to roundly condemn people for not taking the simplest "out, now" position that we could imagine - there are many liberal perspectives on the matter, tied to liberal notions of the public good, that might say that it was a terrible idea to invade initially but withdrawing given the current situation would also be terrible. Shrill voices and emotional manipulation (which I think is what some parts of the Democratic Party and the liberal movement as a whole used her for) are unfortunate when they lead people to want unrealistic simplicity in how issues work. This is something that our political system is not good at.
  • On the topic of missing nuances, this oversimplfies things considerably. It's rare that people have careful, point-based discussion on these matters. If one wants to come to an understanding of or careful dialogue on racial/ethnic/cultural favouritism in Israel, presumably one would bring up specific laws/instances/similar, possibly tying them together into a larger thesis. That almost never happens though - filtering through this piece, one only finds one real argument, and it falls apart on light investigation: "it's prejudice, according to which the Palestinians and other nations have the right for self-determination, while the Jews don't". If we look at the many different peoples of the world, we find a number of them do not have states, and those accused of this prejudice of singling out Jewish people do not seem to hold with this proposed universal right for peoples. From Kurds to Tibetans, the world is full of groups of people that lack a state. This is the only real argument there, and it's a bad one. This is what separates people who think of politics politically from those who think of it philosophically - the first tend to blind themselves with their zeal to take a side.. (Sidenote that shouldn't be needed for frequent readers: My current thoughts on Israel are that it, both as a state and as a society, needs nuanced support and encouragement to change)
  • I may have mentioned this before, but universal health care looks to be a major issue in the next American presidential election. I've been wondering who writes the proposed plans for each candidate, how much effort they put into that, and how much we would expect that plan to be reflected in whatever finally makes it into law. As much as I would like a head of government to be knowledgable about these things, I wouldn't necessarily expect them to be writing much of it themselves, although sufficiently curious and intellectual people might read their proposals and judge their candidacy by these specifics. How these specifics are actually tied to them, and tied to what happens should they win isn't so clear. It's probably more important between the final representatives of each party - the differences between Obama's plan and Clinton's plan may have these issues, but between one of them and Giuliani or Romney, the differences would probably be more apparent and tied to the actual beliefs (or choices of representation) of the candidates.
  • An interesting interview with the president of Sri Lanka on their ongoing (and recently very active) struggle with the Tamil Tiger Liberation Army.
  • A bit more on Turkey's concerns with the Kurds having broad autonomy in northern Iraq. I am concerned that this may escalate into a small-scale regional conflict.
  • Putin has been unusually agressive in his relationships with Europe and the United States recently, which has caused some concern.
  • Tony Blair has made another high-profile move that's bad for Britain and the world - normalising relationships with Libya and making motions towards transferring captured Libyan criminals closer to their home soil. As charismatic (and principled) as Qadaffi is, I think he and his state need to be isolated (or at least kept at arm's length) by the western world. I am lightly amused that the Scots are upset over their small role in this.
  • It's not really news, but I was amused to stumble on a site that offers genetic testing for family tree projects. Their most expensive test is $840. I am kind of amused.

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