Social Criticism

Social Criticism


Modern American Problems Reflected in Poetry

modern American problems May 13th, 2018

There is a multitude of complex modern American problems, I think we can all agree. I was listening to a song the other day (which is essentially poetry set to music, is it not?), and I was overwhelmed by the idea that a song written in probably 1980 was alarmingly prophetic. Then I reflected that Neil Peart, lyricist of the rock group Rush, is uncanny in his ability to communicate meaningful and pithy messages in just a few short words (that can be successfully put to incredible music, no less!). So in this blog, I share a few opinions about modern American problems and reflect them off of the clear mirror of poetry and lyrics. The poet’s words are set off in dark blue.

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Environmental Sustainability: Our Top Priority

environmental sustainability April 21st, 2018

Environmental sustainability should be humankind’s top priority, but it clearly is not. Though it is obviously only one of many priorities and goals for individuals in competitive societies, it’s “game over” if pollution makes the planet unsafe. Even worse, it’s “game over, you are a bunch of losers” if we fail to heed the loud and clear reports by legitimate scientists about climate change caused by human activity. Without environmental sustainability, we will all be too sick to pursue other goals such as creativity, social justice, values such as peace and family, and ultimately, wisdom. Here is a brief call to action. 

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Income Inequality: Right or Wrong?

income inequality April 7th, 2018

Thomas Piketty, a French economist, made a big splash in 2014 with his book Capital in the 21st Century. It piqued my interest in regard to social justice. Specifically, social mobility, status quo, and economic freedom. I believe that America has a serious issue with wealth inequality, and income inequality, and has for quite some time. We are now less of a socially-mobile society than many countries in Europe are. Cross that with some of the standard of living/life satisfaction measures in which Europe and a few other countries do well, and you have a fairly grim assessment of the United States. Here are some thoughts on income inequality by Thomas Piketty.

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Quotes About Wisdom and Values in Full Color!

quotes about wisdom March 29th, 2018

In the last decade, “memes” have become very popular on social media. Memes are graphic images with a very small amount of text. They can be funny, trenchant, pithy, provocative and catchy. I have made a number of memes, and I do so with a bit more wording, and really consider them to represent wisdom and value. In this blog which features quotes about wisdom, I show some of the memes I have made over the last year or two, and point out how the quotes about wisdom and values depicted can really be made engaging and thought-provoking when coupled with graphic imagery. Enjoy!

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Protesting, Organizing, & Nonviolent Direct Action

nonviolent direct action March 24th, 2018

Non-violent direct action is what persons as great as Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Cesar Chavez counsel as the main way to bring about social change. Indeed, protesting, collective action, organizing, struggle, and the like are key tools in the social justice arsenal. This blog is in commemoration of today’s stellar event that barnstormed Washington, D.C. — the March for Our Lives. I will share a few things, and include many quotes about non-violent direct action, protesting, organizing, social change, and struggle.

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The Enlightenment Luminary Voltaire on Ancient Philosophy

ancient philosophy March 17th, 2018

I have spent nearly forty years of my pilgrimage in two or three corners of this world seeking the philosopher’s stone that is called Truth.” With those interesting words, Voltaire, the 18th-century writer, skeptic, and iconoclast begins an interesting essay about ancient philosophers. It is actually the submission to The Philosophical Dictionary, a project of tremendous importance to the Enlightenment, and it is entitled “Precis of Ancient Philosophy.” Alongside Denis Diderot’s and Jean d’Alembert’s Encyclopedia, published starting in 1751, France was churning out some incredible works of Enlightenment nonfiction. Considering this was during the reign of King Louis the whatever and Pope whomever, the use of the pen was actually dangerous business. We should all take our hats off to these men of great courage and vision. And be happy Switzerland existed.

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Fifty Remarkable Quotes by Activists

activists March 10th, 2018

One of the best ways to learn what activists thought, felt, and knew is to read a diverse sampling of engaging activist quotes. Assembled in this blog are fifty or sixty remarkable quotes by activists who were on the front lines, went to jail for their beliefs, or faced social consequences. Heck, many brave activists were jailed for years (Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela, etc). America has often led the world when it comes to activism, struggle, strikes, social and economic progress, and political change. Very often, though, activists have to take a back-seat compared to politicians, officers of the law, and for a time, public opinion. Without further ado, I present to you fifty enlightening and challenging quotes by famous activists.

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How to Find Happiness in Modern America

happiness March 9th, 2018

Attitude is everything, so they say. There is truly something to that. According to one strain of research, our happiness is about 50% “determined” by our genes. There is little we can do to stray very far from our “set point” level of happiness. A death will bring us very low, and that “new car smell” will give us a happiness bump for days, perhaps weeks. A promotion will engender some greater satisfaction, but it’s effect, too, will fade (perhaps only leaving a somewhat larger paycheck and potentially greater stress associated with increased or different responsibilities). The point is, If genes account for 50% of one’s level of happiness, what does that leave us with? This is a blog about psychological research, applied philosophy, and values and virtues such as personal growth, free will, and responsibility.

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Liberals Are the Heart of the American Republic

liberalism February 25th, 2018

Liberals are the heart of the American republic. At least in my opinion. I think evidence can be found for why the spirit of liberalism in its classical sense imbued the Declaration of Independence and Constitution with something that was missing from hereditary aristocracies of Europe. As well, much or all of the social progress that has occurred since the country’s inception has been due to the liberal impulse to improve conditions, make everyone more truly equal before the law, and rein in the abuses of government and corporations to improve the lives of people. It’s people-power, really. Yes, Democrats have sullied the sterling image of true liberalism, but progressive causes have never been about one political party (evidenced by the massive movement undergirding the Bernie Sanders phenomenon in recent years). One of clearest examples of why we’re liberals was penned by author Eric Alterman, Ph.D. in a book that is, not coincidentally, entitled Why We’re Liberals. In this blog I share a bit of background about liberalism, progressivism, and the like, and use a hundred or so Eric Alterman quotes to illustrate what I think is best about the book and, therefore, most consistent with the wonderful philosophical, political, and economic phenomenon called liberalism. Enjoy. And buy the book.

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Is Education 2nd or 3rd Place at Elite Universities?

education February 17th, 2018

I am on a liberal education trip these days. I have zipped through books with titles such as In Defense of a Liberal Education; Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life; and Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. It’s a fascinating subject, considering I like things ancient, think Good Will Hunting and Dead Poet’s Society were fantastic movies (can you tell that I miss Robin Williams!?), and spend a heckuva lot of time reading and recording fantastic quotations about values. My latest acquisition is by scholar William Deresiewicz and is entitled Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite. In this blog, I highlight some interesting quotations about education and reflect a bit on the Ivy League, America’s values, and what education means.

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