Sunday, October 30, 2011

Middle East and North African Revolutions Continued

There are many revolutionary events in the Middle East and North Africa. This year has seen the beginnings of what is often called the "Arab Spring." I am posting a 60 Minutes episode on the recap of the Tunisia revolution sparked by the self emulation of Mohamed Bouazizi. This also shows the role of Facebook in the Tunisia revolution. The second video is from Link TV and shows several news clips from various media outlets covering these regions. It starts with discussing the first historic elections in Tunisia since the overthrow of the dictatorship.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Death of Muammar Gaddafi and Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud: A Tale of Two Obituaries

Commentaries on the death of Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud (of Saudi Arabia) sharply contrasts with that of the death of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. US/NATO just had to help the people of Libya against his evil rule. We all know how crazy Gaddafi was. He had virgin female body guards, funded international terrorism, claimed he was not the leader of Libya while functioning as absolute leader of Libya, killed his own people and constantly said outrageous statements. This is the standard analysis given regarding Gaddafi's legacy. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud was a wise monarch that prudently built up his country militarily: a good statesman in fact.

Even Al Jazeera favors the late crown prince over Gaddafi. I once read on my former professor As'ad AbuKhalil's blog site (the Angry Arab) an interesting observation. He pointed out that Al Jazeera generally has made severe statements about regimes facing revolutions in Arab republics and near silence, or less severe criticism, towards Arab monarchies. This makes sense understanding that Al Jazeera is located in monarchical Qatar. Al Jazeera wrote this a month ago:
Calling themselves the 'Friends of Libya,' 63 world leaders met in Paris on Thursday to discuss the country's future.

Among them, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Al-Thani admits that Muammar Gaddafi could not have been toppled without NATO, but he did point out the Arab League could have done more.

Qatar was the first Arab nation to support the allied forces and send its jets into Libya; a move praised by Western leaders who said the intervention was a turning point for the region.
Oh!I forgot to mention the Emir's monetary donations to Al Jazeera. This may have added a little bias.

It is notable that France, Britain and the US intervened to topple Gaddafi and simultaneously continue to sell so many weapons to Saudi Arabia. Trevor Mostyn of The Guardian writes:
Sultan created a massive military establishment in Saudi Arabia through arms purchases from the US, the UK and France. He built military cities, largely with US support. However, the massive British-supported defence programme was also crucial.
Telling is also the media silence about what Saudi Arabia does with their military aid in places such as Bahrain.

Was Gaddafi more "crazy" and tyrannical than the current Saudi Arabian Wahhabi rule overseen by the late Sultan? In 2002 The Guardian wrote a story on the more "sane" Saudi kingdom:
Saudi Arabia's religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress, according to Saudi newspapers...One witness said he saw three policemen "beating young girls to prevent them from leaving the school because they were not wearing the abaya".

The Saudi Gazette quoted witnesses as saying that the police - known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice - had stopped men who tried to help the girls and warned "it is a sinful to approach them".

The father of one of the dead girls said that the school watchman even refused to open the gates to let the girls out.

"Lives could have been saved had they not been stopped by members of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice," the newspaper concluded.
I don't see US/NATO zooming in to help Saudi girls anytime soon. Of course it is not clear how NATO's "help" will really help the new Libya just yet. I send all my hopes and wishes to the Libyan people in this post-Qaddafi era and to the Saudis in their continued Wahhabist one.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rancière's Latest: "Aisthesis"

Many different factors play into how a person chooses his or her dissertation topic. When I began my PhD studies, I figured that I would be writing something on recent French philosophy. I had, in the previous few years, been reading lots of Badiou, Agamben, Lacan, and others. And then, in early 2005, I decided to write a dissertation on Schelling's philosophy of art. Not much had been written on the topic, nor, for that matter, on Schelling in general. I don't even know if I had thought about it in those terms--at most, I must have still been in that phase where reading Schelling was one of  the more unique (and sometimes more bizarre) experiences I had had in studying French and German philosophy (not to say that this experience no longer happens...). The project would also give me a chance to read up on Kant, Spinoza (and then, to my chagrin, Jacobi), Fichte, and Hegel, and work on my German.

Over the years, explaining my decision would remain a complex task (this ended, incidentally, when I published the book), especially if the person asking knew that I went in thinking about French philosophy. Eventually, I started telling these people that the best reason to work on a historical figure is that he or she would never publish anything new while you were trying to finish your dissertation: so if Schelling leapt out of his grave and presented a new system, we'd have bigger problems than my dissertation.

Since I've been working on Rancière, this joke was the first thing I thought of, when I discovered that he's recently published a new book on the aesthetic regime of art, entitled Aisthesis (Galilée, 2011).

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Nothingness of Equality

I've been putting the finishing touches on an essay that ought to see the light of day sometime in 2012 (it has already been accepted for publication). If you were in Montréal last April at the Sartre Society conference, you've already heard parts of it. If everything works like I want it to, it will eventually form part of a chapter in my book on Jacques Rancière. Here's an abstract of what you have to look forward to:

The Nothingness of Equality: The ‘Sartrean Existentialism’ of Jacques Rancière 

I propose a mutually constructive reading of the work of Jacques Rancière and Jean-Paul Sartre. On the one hand, I argue that Rancière’s egalitarian political thought owes several important conceptual debts to Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, especially in his use of the concepts of freedom, contingency, and facticity. These concepts play a dual role in Rancière’s thought. First, he appropriates them to show how the formation of subjectivity through freedom is a dynamic that introduces new ways of speaking, being, and doing, instead of being a mode of assuming an established identity. Second, Rancière uses these concepts to demonstrate the contingency of any situation or social order, a contingency that is the possibility of egalitarian praxis. On the other hand, I also argue that reading Sartre with Rancière makes possible the reconstruction of Sartre’s project within the horizon of freedom and equality rather than that of authenticity.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What Does the Occupy Wall Street Movement Stand For?

There is this ridiculous chorus about how the Occupy Wall Street movement needs to define itself. For the sake of argument I'll define it right now. Know anyone out of work or underemployed? Know anyone that has lost a home or is struggling to pay their mortgage? Know anyone that is in debt over medical bills and college loans? Those of us lucky enough to still have work or a home may lose both soon. When we do, we know where to find our next residence. Some people talk about taking responsibility for our own actions. Translation: let everyone fend for themselves. Then fend we will! I think the reason some elites are lending public verbal sympathy to the protests is because they know the ironies that come with getting what you ask for.

Why aren't the Tea Party folks joining or lending support? They are the ones that claimed the bank bailouts were evil in songs and media clips early on. I challenge the Tea Party people to come join. If they don't like hippies and the smell of patchouli then let them set up separate camps with large flags and mediocre country musicians. While their at it they should ask the Koch brothers to fund rows of portable latrines. I also invite all the vets to come join. Bush and Obama ask/ed you to occupy other countries. It is time for you to occupy your own. After all you have been through (and I mean this sincerely with all my heart) I know it is wrong to ask you to mingle with not-so-talented musicians and rank patchouli smells, but your country needs you.

I am writing this while in a state of depression. So many things deep within my heart are burning inside me. I will admit that I have been staying at home and working. I have not went out in the streets yet. My own story is personal. The struggles of other individuals (especially in other countries) are worse. Some things are just subjective but others are not. The way our world "works" really does matter. I have a friend that has tried to kill himself twice due to what happened while he served in Afghanistan. He struggled to get health care and a steady job. The majority of people that will meet him will not know this part of his life. He knows many many comrades that also suffer in silence. The economic system and militaristic state of affairs is a state of international decay, spiritual decay. When I say "spiritual" I mean our sense of values about life.

So, what does the Occupy Wall Street movement stand for? The Occupy Wall Street movement stands for an elevated value of life.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

A CSCP Roundup

Over the previous weekend I attended this year's meeting of Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy in St. John's, Newfoundland. Which brought with it a number of firsts, including the first time I had participated in a CSCP conference, and first time I had traveled that far east--at one point I visited Cape Spear--in North America. I found the locals--the organizers and participants from Memorial University--and the CSCP committee to be a welcoming and hospitable bunch, and most importantly, I left the conference feeling that I wanted to dive into more:  more reading, more writing. A paper here, a book review there, and an abstract for the first annual SSNA meeting.

The conference ended, on Saturday night, with a panel on the 'Theological-Political Schelling,' featuring papers by Joseph Carew and myself with Sean McGrath and James Bradley of Memorial. Sean likes to say that one of the great benefits of Schelling research is that everybody has their own favored 'period' of his thought, which means a plurality of Schellings (Sean's comment is actually wittier), and this panel was no exception.

Nevertheless, it stands out in my mind as the first time that an important conference event (for instance, a concluding panel on a Saturday night) that I had participated in, at a big tent thing like the CSCP, was oriented around Schelling. It, of course, is not the first time for others, but it provided a stark contrast with those three years during which I was writing my dissertation and later book. During that time, I don't think I ever gave a paper at a conference that had more than one paper on Schelling. This sounds like a complaint, but I would like to stress that it seems that Schelling has slowly become a more prominent figure for those who are interested in German idealism in particular (recall that many of these scholars still say 'German idealism' and mean "Kant or Hegel maybe Fichte") and 'continental' philosophy in general. Until the CSCP I had never received that impression.

Before closing, I must thank Peter Gratton for his hospitality during my stay in St. John's, and also the APTPUO (the part-timer's union at the University of Ottawa) for funding my travel.

Monday, October 10, 2011

CFP: Schelling Society of North America



The SSNA is open to anyone who conducts research on Schelling and Schellingian philosophy in the English language. The SSNA mission is to (1) further research in English, both historical and systematic, on Schelling and related figures (eg., Boehme, Oetinger, Baader, Fichte, Novalis, Hölderlin, Schubert, early Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Oken, Fechner, Coleridge, Bradley, Peirce); (2) organize a stand-alone Schelling conference every other year at a North American University, with proceedings published online, and the best papers published every four years with an academic press; (3) gather data concerning current graduate research in English on Schelling; (4) coordinate translation projects of Schelling into English.

JASON WIRTH (wirthj[at] AND 
SEAN McGRATH (sjoseph.mcgrath[at] 
by 15 JANUARY 2012.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Malalai Joya on the Past Decade of War in Afghanistan

Since the events of 9/11, terrorism and women’s rights violations have been used to support a decade long war and occupation of Afghanistan. In this short video, Malalai Joya writer, activist and former parliamentarian in the national assembly of Afghanistan – successfully highlights the obscenity, greed and absurdity of the war in Afghanistan. Who can ignore that the human rights violations perpetrated by armed forces are motivated by economic gain and strategic foreign policy in Asia? Joya denounces the Obama administration for increasing the death tolls, heightening violence and violating the human rights of Afghans. On the 10th anniversary of NATO’s war in her country, she asks us to speak up to end the occupation of Afghanistan by military troops and to protest to grant Afghans the right to self-determination. In the words of Joya: “…democracy never comes by military invasion, democracy without independence and justice is meaningless.”

Long live freedom and down with occupation!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jason Wirth Reviews "Freedom and Nature in Schelling's Philosophy of Art"

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews has published a review by Jason M. Wirth of my Freedom and Nature in Schelling's Philosophy of Art. Read it (HERE) and you will find that Wirth concludes:
Shaw has given us a thoughtful retrieval of the problem of art that invites us into the epicenter of Schelling's project.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Sci-Fi Flowchart

I've been working on my presentation for the CSCP over the past few days, at least when I'm not at that hourly wage job that I've got. It's a busy week, but I'm not about to let by the recently published SF Signal's flowchart guide for NPR's list of the Top 100 science fiction and fantasy books. From SF Signal (see here, and the interactive version is here):

Thanks to Caroline for pointing this out.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

President Eisenhower and Anwar al-Awlaki: The Death of the US Citizen

Anwar al-Awlaki, accused of terrorism, has recently been assassinated by the US government from a drone strike in Yemen. Unlike Osama bin Laden, al-Awlaki was a US citizen. Some say his annihilation was a blow to al-Qaeda, others say it was a blow to US democracy and civil rights. Obama has set a new standard for US presidents: The US president is now the judge, the jury and the executioner. But this is Obama, not Bush, so I guess I should feel better. Trials are tedious after all. We are safer now right? Ironically al-Awlaki became anti-American because he thought US foreign policy was terrorizing Muslims. This so-called war on terror has a way of keeping momentum on all sides.

I was contemplating what video clip I wanted to show. I thought a clip from Republican President Eisenhower's farewell speech would be appropriate. He warned of the abuse of power tied to the growth of the US military complex. This is no conspiracy theory. The only conspiracy is that more Americans have not seen or heard him say what he said. This is the same man that helped crush the US veterans protesting in front of the White House (1932) while Hoover was president, that fought the Germans in WWII, and set in motion the overthrowing of democracy in Iran (Operation Ajax: 1953). He was no peacenik and was not leery of using covert operations. Eisenhower's own legacy makes his parting words all the more eery.