Tag Archives | Culture

Stephen Bond: ‘Why I Am No Longer a Skeptic’

strawman2Writer Stephen Bond’s eloquent rejection of  the skeptic movement is sure to ruffle a few feathers here.  Is he overstating his case and condemning a large group of well-meaning people for the actions of a poorly behaved few? (I’m particularly intrigued by his own dismissive and somewhat patronizing generalization of people who hold minority beliefs as only doing so because they’re powerless and marginalized and need to reject whatever authority has dictated to be an acceptable  belief system.)

What about his suggestion that many of his former colleagues prefer to spend their time reaching for low-hanging fruit instead of taking a swipe at thornier issues? It is important to emphasize that he isn’t rejecting the idea of skepticism, per se, and certainly not reason and science. His fight is what he perceives as dogma rather than the message itself.

Excerpt:

Our political system, education and culture leave a lot of people marginalised, lost, impotent, irrelevant, and made to feel so daily.… Read the rest

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Kenneth Smith: Cultural Critic of the Modern Era

Kenneth SmithIn 1988 artist and philosophy professor Kenneth Smith began writing a philosophy column called Dramas of the Mind in The Comics Journal. Smith’s column ran there intermittently for the next twenty years. Smith wrote about philosophical issues as they relate to modern civilization, covering ethics, violence, sex, education, science, art, etc. Smith wrote powerful analysis of contemporary manias and delusions in a blazing, take-no-prisoners style. His insights into the modern age are penetrating and worthy of the great cultural critics and essayists of the past, in the traditions of Chomsky, Mencken, Bloom, Orwell, Bertrand Russell, Edward Said, Vidal, Žižek, etc. Certainly his is a voice that deserves greater exposure.

This information page gives an overview of Kenneth Smith, links to many resources, and posts scans of his classic run of TCJ columns. The scans contain his most essential writing, but there is a Tumblr blog and a Gaim library that provide quotes from longer pieces.… Read the rest

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Alan Moore and Psychogeography

Picture: Karen Karnak (CC)

Picture: Karen Karnak (CC)

Alan Moore interviews are always worth reading. Here he discusses psychogeography as it applies to various of his works.

via Reasons I Do Not Dance:

What exactly, in your not unlimited understanding, is Psychogeography?

In its simplest form I understand psychogeography to be a straightforward acknowledgement that we, as human beings, embed aspects of our psyche…memories, associations, myth and folklore…in the landscape that surrounds us. On a deeper level, given that we do not have direct awareness of an objective reality but, rather, only have awareness of our own perceptions, it would seem to me that psychogeography is possibly the only kind of geography that we can actually inhabit.

What books and writers ignited your interest in psychogeography?

The author that first introduced me to the subject was the person I regard as being its contemporary master, namely Iain Sinclair, with his early work Lud Heat.

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Cultural Illness and the Curse of Shifting Sands, DSM V

Cultural Relativity

In evaluating dysfunction or illness, we have long followed the seemingly straightforward model of diagnose, treat, evaluate, iterate.

However, diagnosis has long been the secret — or not so secret — Achilles heel of the psychiatric establishment. Many philosophic issues arise, issues of cultural relativism, ethical issues of financial interests in pharmaceuticals, to name a few. These are issues that ‘by the book’ psychiatrists frequently dismiss as ‘merely philosophical.’ Indeed, it’s been a relatively long time since Freud or Jung were taken entirely seriously by the establishment doling out the meds. ”By the book.” What is “the book”?

Since DSM-III (American Psychiatric Association 1980), disorders have been defined in terms of syndromes—that is, clusters of symptoms that covary together (see the section following, titled “Need to Explore the Possibility of Fundamental Changes . . .”). …

The major focus of field trials for DSM-III was establishing the reliability with which multiple clinicians could come to the same diagnostic conclusions when presented with a patient’s expressed signs and symptoms.

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How Occult Ideas Infiltrate Normal Culture

Via Reality Sandwich, discussing the state of the occult in 2013, author Mitch Horowitz on how esoteric ideas saturate contemporary society:

This notion of using your mind as a causative agency colors almost every aspect of our culture. It’s spoken about from evangelical pulpits by figures like Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes. It’s heard in political speeches, such as when Ronald Reagan used to say, “nothing is impossible”; at the heart of our business motivation philosophies; it appears in the recovery movement; and it’s a form of popular religiosity that’s spread all across the culture.

You turn on the television and one sitcom character is telling another to think positively, and they’re having a laugh about either the potential, or the dismal irony, of trying to use your mind to change a situation. It surrounds us. Americans embrace ideas and discard terms, hence you don’t hear terms like occult or New Age within mainstream culture, yet the assumptions around them are everyplace.

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Third, Fourth, and Fifth Genders In Cultures Around The World

Via PBS, a fascinating tour around the globe of societies which did not or do not recognize a male-female gender binary:

On nearly every continent, and for all of recorded history, thriving cultures have recognized, revered, and integrated more than two genders. Terms such as transgender and gay are strictly new constructs that assume three things: that there are only two sexes (male/female), as many as two sexualities (gay/straight), and only two genders (man/woman).

Skoptsy were a Christian religious sect with extreme views on sex and gender. The community, discovered in 1771 in Western Russia, believed that Adam and Eve had had halves of the forbidden fruit grafted onto their bodies in the form of testicles and breasts. Therefore, they routinely castrated male children and amputated the breasts of women to return themselves the the state prior to original sin. Sex, vanity, beauty, and lust were considered the root of evil.

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Sante Muerte: Encountering Death

An article about personal expeerience with Sante Muerte from Modern Mythology by M.G,

“Popular in Mexico, and sometimes linked to the illicit drug trade, the skeleton saint known as La Santa Muerte in recent years has found a robust and diverse following north of the border: immigrant small business owners, artists, gay activists and the poor, among others – many of them  non-Latinos and not all involved with organized religion… The saint is especially popular among Mexican-American Catholics, rivaling that of St. Jude and La Virgen de Guadalupe as a favorite for miracle requests, even as the Catholic Church in Mexico denounces Santa Muerte as satanic, experts say.” - ‘La Santa Muerte gaining in popularity in the U.S.’,Associated Press

A friend of mine, (of dubious character but capable of remarkable scholarship), once told me that the more marginalized a people, the more powerful their magicks will be. If true, few figures must be more powerful than Santisma Muerte, the death saint of Mexico.… Read the rest

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