an obession with first principles

Leftist Globalization

Posted: Thursday Jul 5th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Anthropology, Philosophising, Politics | View Comments

I couldn’t even read Fukuyama’s book “The End of History”. It’s on my shelf, and the first few pages are so dripping with ideology and holding his hands over his eyes I had to stop. I firmly agree with Derrida’s critiques. Fukuyama’s largest crux is “democratic peace theory”, which, I believe, is wrongly stated. The reason that “western-style democracies rarely go to war” has nothing to do with democratic representation of the polis. It has everything to do with economics.

I’m reading “The Great Transformation” by Polanyi right now. And it has a simple thesis: market commodification is responsible for the first world war. The industrial revolution upended the entire makeup of human society. Polanyi likened the psychological effects recorded in England to those recorded by slaves kidnapped from their homeland and dropped into an entirely different world.

The governments actually were primarily responsible for the welfare of the poor (and in this time, “poor” meant anyone who had to work for a living, e.g. not landed gentry). All of the nationalistic responses to the commodifications of labor and goods was an effort to restore the results of the welfare government. All fell short, and sometimes had disastrous effects.

The gold standard that was adopted in order to facilitate the further commoditization of labor and goods resulted in nationalistic responses of checks and balances, tariffs, etc. His thesis (and keep in mind, Polanyi is an avowed socialist) is that the abundance of nationalistic responses to market capitalism is what created the conditions for a world war.

I find his thesis and arguments very compelling. We can say three things as a result of this kind of argument:

  1. Market commodification does reduce violence between nation-states.
  2. Nationalistic reactions, even well-intentioned, to preserve both the welfare of the poor, and the welfare of capital at the same time set the stage for war.
  3. Market commodification replaces the violence of war with the violence of the market/capital

In my opinion this has ramifications for how leftists battle the current regime of neoliberal economics (which can easily viewed as capital’s battle after WW1 to re-introduce favorable economic terms and doctrine for capital), and the current battle against neoliberalism seen in the Trump administration.

It’s clear due to his often conflicting economic policies, that he really does not have a handle on how international economics works at all. In ways he continues neoliberal doctrine of hollowing out any and every state apparatus and banishing it from having any interplay with “the free market”. But his international obsession with tariffs and protective measures (I honestly have no clue who he thinks he is protecting) are precisely what Polanyi observed during the Hundred Year Peace. And the retaliatory tariffs and policies being put in place by Canada, China, the coming reaction from the EU, and I would presume Mexico once the new administration is seated, is what Polanyi argues led directly to WW1.

If the traditional attempts to fight globalizing market forces, like isolationism, lead to war, then how should we address the violence that market forces deals out to all of us each day?

The constant refrain from the anti-WTO protests of the late nineties and early two thousands was that capital has been globalized (e.g. moves without any restraints across any and all borders), but citizens have consistently been prevented from the same freedoms. Indeed, this is a direct contradiction (ala David Harvey) of what a labor commodity market ought to stand for. And of course this is being wielded violently against the citizens qua workers. What would a truly globalized citizen look like?

The other aspect of Polanyi’s critique is that the welfare reforms that intended to help the poor rarely did. One reason they often cannot is because they must always first satisfy capital, either through a gold standard which is enforced harshly, or other mechanisms. What would a truly globalized welfare system look like that refused to satisfy capital? Which, instead, forced capital to compete after all competition is supposedly enshrined as a virtue?!

Data Architecture in Complex Projects

Posted: Wednesday Feb 22nd | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Design, Programming | View Comments

This post is an attempt to be more a comprehensive thought that I expressed here in a previous post. It’s also an attempt to think in-depth about something besides todays annoying politics.

Every project starts off as an MVP. Which means it starts off small in scope, and as simple as it can possibly be. The path of least resistance for every project is a normalized relational database accessed via an OOP ORM. The problem is that this works very well. When projects are simple and small this is undeniably the fastest and most bug-free approach. Some projects grow in size, but remain simple. There are just more UI elements, more records to be tracked. But in a real way, the project remains a simple implementation of simple business rules where there are few considerations, few conditional code paths, and little interdependence between elements of the system.

There are many different kinds of complexity in business systems.

Historical data is a complexity where normalized relational data fails the hardest. In these systems there is a core set of data around which all of the business rules operate. When you have complex business rules and unexpected results you’re trying to explain, if you do not have clear record of the operations performed on the historical data you are going to have a real hard time explaining, understanding, and ultimately fixing the unexpected results. Normalized relational data always retains the current value(s) of the data set, while discarding previous values. And you have to fight hard to try and keep previous values.

The complexity of multi-user interfaces are where OOP ORMs fail the hardest. Once more than one single user is operating on a object/record/dataset you instantly create a problem where the last update wins, and it crushes previous changes. These issues can create serious problems and unexpected results in your dataset without any clear path of resolution. Your solutions are inherently limited, and then further limited based on the constraints of the rest of your architecture. Getting a full eventually-consistent backend is highly unlikely because of the time and effort you’ll need to complete it.

A smaller complexity that does exist is around reporting. Every business process needs reporting. It’s never the first thing you write. It’s always the last. The performance needs of your operational system always come first. Optimizing your relational data, indexes, etc for daily operations means its never optimized for reporting.

Principles That Prevent Problems

Keep that core data your business rules rely around in your language’s native types (for me in Python that means, list, dictionaries, tuples, strings, ints, and Decimals). Doing this means that you can store it in all the various places you’ll need to. If you have to put it in a relational database, you can store it as a JSON encoded string which you can then parse with standard libraries into your language’s native types. Or if your database supports native JSON storage, even easier. If you have a document store available it will go there without a problem as well. Try to avoid storing your base data set as a set of related records in a database. It means that all if your main business rules are then *forced* to be run through your ORM layer code. In a complex system this is very limiting as I outlined above.

When you have recorded all inputs and operations and have the original data set you can always replay those operations. So if a serious business rule changes you can easily run simulations to see what the outcome of that change will be. And you don’t have to write extra/repeated code or migrations to change you data. You’ve already written it, in one place, and tested it. This architecture pattern allows you to write more functional code. Which is easier to write, read, and test. This architecture pattern allows your to move easily towards more micro-services/distributed servers when your load demands it.

Creating a second system for reporting where data is ported (either in batches or real time) into it and then reported is a necessary step. It also creates a good pattern that your reporting data, if it is ever found to be wrong/have bugs, you can always regenerate it–because its existence is based on a record elsewhere.

The Common Liberal’s Problem

Posted: Friday Dec 16th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: In the News, Politics, Power | View Comments

Most people in the US have pretty casual ethics. That means its generally seen as moral to just obey the law. And if you’ve transgressed in a less-than-major way its fine so long as you didn’t get caught. The law has always been seen as generally good and in the best interest of everyone. There have been rare instances where its been seen as moral to be civilly disobedient — and the disobedient actions which have been taken have been incredibly mild and non-violent (e.g. marching on roads or bridges, sitting at counters, boycotting services).

A “common liberal” believes this to be the height of moral structure. When I say common liberal I don’t mean “people who vote democrat”. I mean those people, and “moderate republicans”, as well as anyone who claims to be independent or “fiscally conservative but socially liberal”. I mean the people that don’t follow politics, but view voting as the height of their civic duty, and generally believe “everything will just be ok”.

Here is their problem. Those who have come to operate the majority of the Republican party no longer believe it is or morally correct to obey the law or the governing norms set down through tradition over the decades. The “liberal” continues to believe that mere statements or penned documents are going to stop the GOP from continuing to do whatever they want. Both these people, and the DNC (which is the bigger problem), believe that by stepping behind a microphone and stating that their political opponents are acting immorally and need to stop they are acting meaningfully.

They are wrong. And if the longer it takes for them to realize this the more ground they will lose. Here are three immediate events to show them they are wrong:

  1. The governor of Maine has directed his administrations department of labor to refuse to enforce a minimum wage bill passed by the state legislature. This is a direct assault on the separation of powers and the rule of law.
  2. The state legislature of North Carolina has placed every single appointment by the incoming democratic governor’s administration subject to the republican led legislature, and removed the possibility of the UNC to have any party majority, thus deadlocking its ability to take any actions. This is once again a direct assault on the separation of powers, and the functioning of the state education system.
  3. The president-elect is in direct violation of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution and is refusing to take any action or even hold a press conference about the problem. And the GOP leadership in the Senate has declared this constitutional violation not a problem. Once again a direct assault on the rule of law.

Meanwhile no one in any position of leadership in the DNC has done anything more than talk into a microphone as re-assert that laws exist and legislative norms exist. There have been no lawsuits filed to my knowledge. There have been no injunctions filed to my knowledge. There have been no calls for protest to my knowledge. And the common liberal still thinks that calling your representative is a solution. Representatives are not the solution and they are showing us why.

RDBMS and Data

Posted: Wednesday Mar 23rd | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Programming | View Comments

I am coming to the realization that certain patterns and systems need a non-standard idea. Well, its not entirely non-standard, its becoming quite standard: the document store. The patterns that I am currently dealing with are interesting. Normally you would think they are perfect for RDBMS operations. And lots of the characteristics of the system really do. And those wouldn’t change. However, when it reaches a level of interdependence, where each piece of data can’t actually contain its own logic, because it has no meaning without other pieces of data, this is where RDBMS falls down for me. You have to fight against it to get good performance. All because there is one central piece of logic that needs all the pieces of data. And that means multiple JOINS, over many different indexes.

This central black box logic that you continually use to determine the state of your data will be run a lot. From a lot of different places. With a lot of different parameters. Because the business needs dictate it. This makes dealing with the limits of RDBMS problematic. It would make much greater sense to actually have a simple data structure of all this info. Sure that can get stored in a record of the RDBMS, but it is still flat there. The issue isn’t that the data is dense, sure there are lots of flags and details, but its relatively small. The issue is that there are lots of records. Iterating over them in memory is by far the better choice. I only wish I saw it sooner.

There is one more issue that moving it out of the relational system and into a document store solves: historicity. Both in terms of data and in terms of code. When you want to change the “present” object you are also stuck with changing all the past data that references it. This can have obviously negative side-effects. You can also operate on the presence of a key within the data store (e.g. new versions and releases will introduce new keys) rather than having to run data migration to update the new, now non-historic, RDBMS field accordingly.

I hope that in the future I get a project, and that I have enough foresight, to see this pattern coming and make the appropriate decisions in the beginning to more easily facilitate this kind of architecture.

Making A Murderer

Posted: Sunday Jan 3rd | Author: JohnO | Filed under: In the News, Philosophising, Politics | View Comments

My lady has been binging it this weekend, and I’ve dropped in on some of the episodes. It’s very well done, and I’ve been hearing lots of people raving about it and being entirely addicted. But I have a problem with it.

Lots of people are being opened up to the possibility that police, courts, and prosecutions are continually and repeatedly fraudulent. This is openly accepted while binging on Netflix watching the life and trial of a man from Wisconsin. However, lots and lots of people repeatedly and continually refuse to accept that police, courts, and prosecutions act in precisely these, and much worse, ways in the lives of Black and Brown Americans every day. I can only imagine that very many of the people watching this and drinking it in are the very same people denying that it happens to black and brown people in America.

In my view these two problems are not only correlative, but very nearly causative. Take, for example Goldie Taylor’s highlight:

“Prosecutors alleged Daniel Holtzclaw preyed on poor, black women while on duty because no one would believe their claims in court. He was wrong.”White Cop Convicted of Serial Rape of Black Women

Because white people refuse to believe that black people are truthfully telling their lived experience in America black people will continue to suffer. Why? Because of white supremacy – that is to say, that white people have created all the institutions in this country in their image, to uphold their image, and their general welfare.

In general, to be “normal” is to be white. To be beautiful is to be white. To be powerful is to be white. Which is why whenever a black man is perceived as powerful, whether they are The President Barack Obama or a football player like Richard Sherman, they are routinely attacked based on their race with clear dog whistles. The argument is never that they are wrong in estimating their power, but rather that their power is rooted, evilly, in their race, which is abnormal, other, and therefore wrong and out of place. Whenever a black woman is seen to be a paragon of beauty, generally a singer or actress like Beyonce, they are again denounced on the basis of their race as other. Whether it be the style of hair or dress, or their attitude or even the manner in which they are entertaining. And then the moment a white woman does precisely this same action they are hailed as innovative and vaulted as an example of how to be.

Even this basic accounting of white supremacy (which I admit I am not sourcing right now, but could source both generally and incredibly specifically from black authors going back several decades) is denied by the majority of white people in America.

Why are police, courts, and prosecutions – that is The State – able to repeatedly and continually abuse its own citizens? Because White America refuses to believe the testimony of Black Americans. This is why White America is policed differently than Black America, why Baltimore gets the National Guard called because of protests, and why white Ranchers in Nevada and Oregon can point weapons at law enforcement without any repercussions. It is this very basic fact that sustains the entire institution of policing and law enforcement in this country.

So when Hillary Clinton meets with Black Lives Matter protesters in a closed door meeting and is reported to have said “You don’t change hearts, change policy” you better believe there is a serious problem at hand. We can change whatever law and policy around policing you want. Nothing is going to change unless White America starts believing the stories that Black America tells about their own lived experiences in this country. The issue is *not* that police are behaving lawfully and the law is wrong, or they are following policy and policy is wrong. The issue is they can willingly ignore the law and policy and White America believes they ought to have because Black America is deserving of it. Because they refuse to believe anything Black America says.

How do I know that white people don’t listen to black people? How do I know the issue is the black messenger? Because white people will listen to other white people talking about black people.

This is why #BLM operates the way it does. This is why protests are focused on shutting the normal operation of things down. Why they aren’t holding “get out the vote” drives for the DNC candidate. Yes, they did actually hold voter registration drives in Baltimore. However, they know better than to place their hope in any candidate – black or white. This is an issue for the next generations of white people to fix. Black America can’t fix the ears of White America.


Reasons I am not a Statist

Posted: Thursday Apr 30th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Philosophising, Politics, Power | View Comments

First, It can never be called justice when a person makes a decision that affects hundreds, thousands, or millions of other people. If a person is to actually be free, they must be directly involved in the process which governs their lives and are free to agree, disagree, and affect that process. Voting based representative democracy as practiced here in the United States fails to meet this basic qualification. Not to mention the world-wide ability the United States has to affect the life and death of an individual halfway around the world that is never allowed to be involved in the process which may at any moment determine their death.

The simplest argument I can make for this that a “liberal” or “progressive” (as opposed to a leftist) will understand is around women’s reproductive rights/abortion/feminism. The paramount defense is always put forth in the form of “this is my body, not yours”. This form of argumentation is fundamentally correct — yet needs to be established for a whole host of other issues. No person can make decisions for others and do justice. If we cannot make decisions for ourselves we do not retain our autonomy.

The decisions made by such an individual may be prudent, or efficient. They may result in a better situation that without the decision being made. They could easily result in terrible conditions or be called tyranny. But in no circumstances can these decisions be called just.

Second, It can never be called justice when agents of the state force you to do something or accommodate the state with something you find morally reprehensible. It can never be called justice when agents of the state are allowed and encouraged to lie and manipulate you for their own ends. The monopoly of force the state enjoys is the most basic form of non-freedom. It crosses over into fascism when the state enforces morals decisions with force, and those moral decisions become intwined with allegiance/dissent to the state. These actions come into play when the state denies you the ability to help those in need, or takes your home from you through either gentrification, redistricting, rezoning, or imminent domain. It also comes into play when the state uses the resources you provide against your wishes.

If people are not treated as equals then there is no freedom. Once a party is immune from the repercussions of their own actions, once they cease to be responsible, justice has been given away. The monopoly of force is the underlying problem here. When one side, agents of the state, have this monopoly people are no longer equal. Agents assume their actions are correct because of their immunity.

Third, it can never be called justice when a majority oppresses and silences a minority. Nor is it justice when a minority is able to prevent the justice desired by the majority. John Adams admitted in Federalist No 10 that the design of the United States Constitution was to enable the rich minority to prevent the just cancellation of debt and redistribution of land by the majority who were poor and at the mercy of the landed gentry.

All forms of representative government: Constitutional Monarchy, Parliamentary Democracy, a Democratic Republic, Democratic Socialism, and even Communism all fail each of these three fundamental principles of justice. This leaves me with Anarchism as a principled choice of order. Anarchism is not without order, but it is without hierarchy. It is not without governance, it relies on mutual agreement of true equals. Anarchism is not a singular arrangement, rather it is the process by which order and governance is agreed upon without the reliance on force, without agents of the state. There is no state.

Life, Death, and Punishment

Posted: Friday Apr 10th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: In the News, Philosophising | View Comments

If you’ve seen any headlines lately you’ve seen that here in Boston the Tsarnaev trial has gone to sentencing. Unsurprisingly, he’s been found guilty of all 30 charges. This is what everyone expected.

I’ve shared a small bit of my own feeling about this whole experience. It touched my life indirectly. The morning of the marathon I biked, with my girlfriend at the time and six friends, the marathon route. We started in Boston and went out to the starting line and back in to the finishing line. We arrived according to our plan at the finish line just before the wheelchair race started. We took a group photo, all our bikes lined up in front of the finish, and we posted it with joy. We rode off to breakfast with two of our friends. Ate, went home. Showered, and went back down to the marathon to watch and support some of the runners. Since we were up at 4AM for our ride, we got tired pretty quick. We went back to Cambridge and took a nap

The constant buzzing of our phones woke us up. People were trying to get in touch with us because they saw our photo at the finish line. We were shocked at the news. I jumped on twitter to learn what I could quickly. We assured everyone we were safe. That was the extent of my personal involvement. But my girlfriend at the time was not so lucky. She lived in Watertown, two streets over from the boat in which Tsarnaev was found. That night she was woken up by gunfire, terrified, and texted me. Again I jumped on twitter to gather as much as I could as fast as I could. I relayed all the info she was able to tell me about what was happening back into twitter. Eventually her and all her roommates were removed by SWAT police from their apartment for over fifteen hours. The travel-ban was lifted, but they had not yet gone back to their apartment.

So many people throughout Boston, and beyond, have been personally touched by the events of that week. And now the city is at the end of it. But, of course, we’re witnessing the vulgar underbelly within peoples hearts and minds about what happened. And many of these people aren’t even in the city proper. The city of Boston is specifically against the death penalty in this case. Only 27% support the death penalty. But throughout twitter and facebook I see the emotion and desire from people to see Jahar killed. I want to examine this thinking specifically.

I think there is a powerful argument to be made that killing Jahar is precisely the same logic that vindicates his and Tamerlan’s actions. It was widely reported that the instigating thoughts and feelings behind Jahar and Tamerlan (whoever took the lead, or followed, is irrelevant in this case) actions were reactionary. Their actions were a response to US led aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan. To be sure, many operations outside US borders were conducted within international norms for military operations. However, very many were not. Countless non-combatants, men, women, and children, were killed both at the hands of US troops and drones. And I do say countless because the Department of Defense conflates the numbers in order to hide the deaths of innocents.

So let us recount that in detail. In their eyes Jahar and Tamerlan witnessed the killing of innocents in countries and lands they felt a solidarity with. And their response was to kill. They killed those in solidarity with the perpetrators. They didn’t need to kill the exact solders or remote drone pilots to get their point across.

Now let us look at those calling for the death of Jahar. Some want him to be sentenced to death by a court. Others literally want him dropped off in Dorchester to be killed (we’ll ignore the inherent racism in that comment by Massachusetts residents). Notably, Massachusetts has no death penalty. Which is largely (in my opinion) why this course went Federal. None of the crimes crossed borders, everything took place within Massachusetts. Someone wanted blood. That is to say, people saw Jahar and Tamerlan killing innocents they felt a solidarity with. And their response was to kill. They have in custody the perpetrators and they want to kill them.

Is this not the exact same logic that motivated Jarar and Tamerlan? Are we at all different from them when we call for their heads? I submit we are not.

There are many Americans who call into question the drone programs and the death they deal. At every turn these Americans are called un-patriotic. But the very same “patriotism” that “real Americans” evidence to defend these drone programs is the same emotion and feeling the resulted in two actual American citizens — let it never be questioned that both Jahar and Tamerlan are real US citizens, who participated fully in our country and the state of Massachusetts — killing other citizens who triumphed in the death of people they felt solidarity with?

As Americans are we fully incapable of believing that our borders truly are porous? That people who live here have ties to many other places around the world? And that even as Americans we are inevitably tied up integrally with the rest of the world through politics and economics — despite the fact that some of us, like myself, have never even left our shores? The fact I’ve never been out of the country is irrelevant. We are all tied up together. And to imagine that we live in some kind of pre-WWI isolationism is a sick joke.

Do we realize that the exact forces that are compelling us to kill Jahar are the exact forces that compelled Jahar and Tamerlan to kill people?

If we realize that then there are some repercussions. To me it means that we are not ruled by law. And as I observe all the facets of American life this is unsurprising. There are so many elements of American life that refuse to be ruled by law — the execution of black Americans by police is the first, but no where near the last. I don’t honestly believe that we really believe we are ruled by law. The notion that we are a nation ruled by laws is a fanciful tale we believe and reify consistently while actively denying through our lives. If we believed we were ruled by law we’d know how many laws we could be arrested for just living our daily life. But we don’t — until police feel like imposing those laws on us. And then we react “Wait, there is a law against that?!”. If we really believed that we were ruled by laws why would we continually see the same reaction by the media when massive corporations are brought up on charges, whether financial corruption, environmental disaster, or otherwise. And we react with “Well that company will never be found guilty”, while the CEOs and managers remain in power to continue their corruption. Blue laws are still on the books from the 19th century that we routinely break every weekend — but they’re still laws. NYPD tried bringing up a 19th century law against masks as a reason to arrest protestors. We all sit idly by. We know with such accuracy that the laws do not matter — the only thing that matters is the monopoly of violence the state has to enforce whatever it wants. You can be arrested for only resisting arrest, without any other charges. You didn’t break the law to be arrested, but you were arrested for not being arrested. This is clearly unlawful. We put up with it. We instinctively understand “This really means that the police didn’t like you, so they arrested you.” This is not law. We know this. We refuse to change it.

I only wish we would tell the truth. If we are not a nation of laws. And we operate on the same logic of death as the people we want to kill — then let us all admit this is about the efficacy and efficiency of our killing apparatus. And we should continue with the fact that our “defense” spending is greater than the next eight countries combined, seven of which are our allies. If we kill them faster we win, otherwise we lose. Let us all admit that is the logic we are operating by. Then let us ask “who is us”? Because I’m not sure we’re all on the same page there. Because I have many friends living abroad. And many friends have family living abroad. And one of these days we’re all going to be touched by the death of someone we’re connected to at the hands of the US death apparatus. While the recent “House of Cards” seasons 3 tried to give a narrative to this by bringing the victim of a US drone into the White House, few Americans are currently dealing with this, and many will. After all, US citizens have already been killed abroad by drones. Which, I shouldn’t have to tell to you, required State Department attention, when black American citizens are killed every day within our borders without being recognized by our government.

I don’t for a minute think this is about punishing Jahar for his actions in the bombing and after the bombing. This is not about punishment. This is not about law. This reaction to Jahar is in the same identical spirit as his actions. Americans are no different than him. After all — he is an American. He went to Rindge and Latin here in Cambridge. He is slightly younger than me and he consumed every song, news and TV show that I ever have. He obviously learned this lawlessness from somewhere. And in my estimation he learned it from us. Because we exhibit this lawlessness every single day. Now we’re doing it again in calling for the death of Jahar. It just reifies and defends his own actions. His actions had nothing to do with law. Our drone killing program has nothing to do with law. We kill civilians every day abroad. Police kill unarmed people in our country every single day. All of this is unlawful. We recognize the monopoly of violence, but we refuse to be honest about it.

Anti-blackness and Ideology

Posted: Thursday Apr 9th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Philosophising | View Comments

Zizek happens to be writing in a far different context from the context the United States has experienced, and is experiencing. He was born and raised in Slovenia in eastern Europe, which, prior to his life was annexed under fascist rule by Nazi Germany and Italy, and then during his life was under Communist rule. This has forged for him the major points of reference and critique for his work.

It is with that understanding that I want to explore this passage. It is focused on the concept of ideology. Though it uses examples consistent with his frames: anti-Semitism and Nazi Germany. Upon reading this passage it was immediately apparent to me that anti-blackness operates on the exact same ideological logic. Of course, my frame is within the United States, so I cannot speak for specific examples of anti-blackness in the regions of the Middle East, and South Africa, though it is a well-documented phenomenon there as well

Here is the passage:

Let us suppose, for example, that an objective look would confirm – why not? – that Jews really do financially exploit the rest of the population, that they do sometimes seduce our young daughters, that some of them do not wash regularly. It is not clear that this has nothing to do with the real roots of anti-Semitism? Here we have only to remember the Lacanian proposition concerning the pathologically jealous husband: even if all the facts he quotes in support of his jealousy are true, even if his wife really is sleeping around with other men, this does not change one bit the fact that his jealousy is a pathological paranoid construction.

Let us ask ourselves a simple question: in the Germany of the late 1930s what would be the result of such a non-ideological, objective approach? Probably something like: “The Nazis are condemning the Jews too hastily, without proper argument, so let us take a cool, sober look and see if they are really guilty or not; let us see if there is some truth in the accusations against them.” Is it really necessary to add that such an approach would merely confirm our so-called “unconscious prejudices” with additional rationalizations? The proper answer to anti-Semitism is therefore not “Jews are really not like that” but “the anti-Semitic idea of Jew has nothing to do with Jews: the ideological figure of a Jews is a way to stitch up the inconsistency of our own ideological system.”

That is why we are also unable to shake so-called ideological prejudices by taking into account the pre-ideological level of everyday experience. The basis of this argument is that the ideological contrsuction always finds its limits in the field of everyday experience – that it is unable to reduce, to contain, to absorb and annihilate this level. Let us again take a typical individual in Germany in the late 1930s. He is bombarded by anti-Semite propaganda depicting a Jew as a mostrous incarnation of Evil, the great wire-puller, and so on. But when he returns home he encounters Mr. Stern, his neighbour, a good man to chat with in the evenings, whose children play with his. Does not this everyday experience offer an irreducible resistance to the ideological construction?

The answer is of course, no. If everyday experience offers such a resistance then the anti-Semite ideology has not yet really grasped us. An ideology is really “holding us” only when we do not feel any opposition between it and reality – this is, when the ideology succeeds in determining the mode of our everyday experience of reality itself. How then would our poor German, if he were a good anti-Semite, react to this gap between the ideological figure of the Jew (schemer, wire-puller, exploiting our brave men and so on) and the common every day experience of his good neighbour, Mr. Stern? His answer would be to turn this gap, this discrepancy itself into an argument for anti-Semitism: “You see how dangerous they really are? It is difficult to recognize their real nature. They hide it behind the mask of everyday appearance – and it is exactly this hiding of one’s real nature, this duplicity, that is a basic feature of the Jewish nature.” An ideology really succeeds when even the facts which at first sight contradict it start to function as arguments in its favor.

The Sublime Object of Ideology, Zizek, pg 49-50, emphasis mine

The ideology of anti-blackness so permeates our consciousness that white people really do believe they are in fear of their life when the actual reality of the situation dictates that the black man is fleeing in fear. Reality is entirely covered over with the interpretation provided by the ideology.

A (Condensed) History of Race

Posted: Wednesday Dec 3rd | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Historical Method, Sociology, Uncategorized | View Comments

The non-objectivity of Science

Posted: Sunday Jul 20th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Philosophising, Power | View Comments

One of the more commonplace and prevalent misunderstandings of the nature of scientific activity, [Thomas] Kuhn thinks, is the Baconian notion of a random collecting of facts in a theory-free and “unprejudiced” manner, from which a theory slowly emerges. But that sort of fact gathering is most likely to produce a morass, not to move science forward. Fact gathering proceeds in the most efficient and productive manner when it is guided beforehand by a theory, by a certain conception of the way things are. Theory leads science to generate facts of which is had not the slightest suspicion and which, outside the theory, appear to be of no significance whatever. Facts are arti-facts. They become facts only within the “network of theory” to which they belong, as when Heidegger says that, because an entity is what it is only within the horizon of the understanding of Being within which it is understood, there can be no “bare facts”. It is interesting that, while the Anglo-American world had to suffer through a dark ages of positivism before reaching this realization, the interpreted character of perception has been a basic staple of continental through since Husserl’s Logical Investigations
Caputo, Radical Hermeneutics pg 215-216