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Gord Barentsen

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About Gord Barentsen

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    I exuberate fantasticisms!
  1. who cares about DNA anyway?

    I was talking about DNA with someone just recently and telling them the story below reminded me of this thread. I seem to rememeber reading something about how someone who underwent a complete marrow transplant ended up having two - count 'em, two sets of DNA in his body! That would mean that a tissue sample from this person would return one set of DNA and a marrow (or blood?) sample would return a different one entirely. I wonder the degree to which this throws the proverbial wrench into simple forms of DNA identification?
  2. THE DOCTOR IS IN.

    That is just...wrong...on so many levels....
  3. Ira Wells, "The Age of Offence"

    A very interesting article on the status of free speech on Canadian campuses. Dated April 2017. Original article at: http://reviewcanada.ca/magazine/2017/04/the-age-of-offence/ Important quotes (chosen by myself): Recent events in Canadian universities suggest not only that freedom of speech does not include the freedom to offend, but that those who position themselves as “offence takers” currently hold the balance of power at all levels of campus politics. Many students, administrators and student services organizations currently find it morally compelling or politically expedient to take the side of offence takers—particularly (though not exclusively) when those taking offence are members of racial, sexual or religious minorities. Taking offence, or aligning oneself with those who have, has emerged as a kind of credential, a way of claiming one’s place within a righteous inner circle. We live in an age of offence. This is not to regurgitate the familiar claim that the internet enables more of what some consider offensive speech than was available in more innocent times. Rather, it is to recognize that offensiveness and offendability have emerged as our distinctive form of cultural literacy. Never has the taking of offence (and the performance of offended-ness) enjoyed more widespread cultural legitimacy. But what is offensive speech? The fluctuating (and always contested) historical standard for identifying discriminatory or otherwise hostile speech reveals that such language is not offensive because of any measurable property inherent to the speech itself. Rather, the offensiveness of the speech registers in the emotional response of the audience. [. . .] a speech act isn’t offensive if it doesn’t offend. [. . .] Short of positing some omniscient, God-like arbiter of offensive language, we must recognize that such speech is a socially constructed category produced by particular communities of people in particular historical moments. There is nothing inherently offensive about certain combinations of words. The unavoidable corollary is that, because offensive speech does not exist in the world, offence can only ever occur when another human claims to have been offended. And who could possibly validate the claim of offence other than the offence-taking party itself? In his London Review of Books essay “What Are We Allowed to Say?” the Yale scholar David Bromwich quotes Tariq Modood, the director of Bristol University’s Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, who argues that “the group which feels hurt is the ultimate arbiter of whether a hurt has taken place.” The Ontario Human Rights Commission already provides this subjective understanding of offence taking with juridical force: “Discrimination happens,” the commission explains, “when a person experiences negative treatment or impact, intentional or not, because of their gender identity or gender expression [or other protected grounds].” The violation resides not in the intention of the offender, but in “experiences” and “impacts” perceptible only to the victim. Today, neo-Nazis and university administrators can link arms and sing in celebration of diversity as a cultural value. But the lesson here is not only that the rhetoric of diversity and inclusivity has been weaponized in the promotion of white nationalistic propaganda (although Duke’s intended audience will immediately grasp that recognizing “difference” is a necessary first step in establishing more permanent racial hierarchies). To the contrary, words such as diversity and inclusivity were always weaponized—and never more obviously than when they are used by liberals themselves. When administrators at Laurier invoke inclusivity to justify the firing of an insufficiently race-conscious employee, they reveal that the primary function of such language always involves the consolidation of political power: inclusivity is predicated upon the violent expulsion of those identified as unfit for the enlightened new order. Inclusivity only becomes inclusive through repeated acts of exclusion. In the late stages of the U.S. presidential election, the simmering conflict between the opposing sides of offence culture came to a head at the University of Toronto. On September 27, psychology professor Jordan Peterson posted a YouTube video called “Professor Against Political Correctness.” The video was an hour-long diatribe against Bill C-16, an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination. What really provoked the ire of his opponents, however—and turned the incident into a cause célèbre—was Peterson’s stated refusal to address his students by their preferred gender pronouns: It was characteristic of arguments against “political correctness” that Peterson’s most urgent case study—the coercion to use ze, hir, zhe, em and so on—existed in the realm of pure fantasy. No student had ever actually asked him to use those pronouns; no administrator had instructed him to do so. No matter: he would courageously refuse a request that had never been made. In the course of the various protests and debates that followed, Peterson exposed himself as ignorant of many of the finer legal and scholarly facts upon which his case rested: Bill C-16 does not make it a hate crime to misuse a pronoun; there was not a “remote” chance that his infringement of the Ontario Human Rights Code could land him in prison, a Solzhenitsyn of our times; and there is a large body of scholarly literature recognizing the existence of non-binary sexual expression and orientation. But despite the imprecision and falseness of much of what he spoke, Peterson could always revert to the fallback position that he was, after all, speaking, and should be free to do so. His basic message—that you could oppose a “murderous” radical-left ideology through boorish behaviour directed toward sexual minorities—was a message that some people were perfectly attuned to hear in the fall of 2016. Peterson was at his most persuasive when defending his argument in free speech terms—a defence that had nothing to do with gender, the law or the linguistic evolution of singular versus plural pronouns, and everything to do with the claim that his opponents wanted him silenced. The fetishization of moral outrage contributes to a social feedback loop that, in turn, construes offensive speech as a kind of incantatory black magic, capable of producing trauma and sickening minds. This claim was persuasive because it was true. Peterson’s adversaries were quite open about the fact that they wanted him fired or otherwise muzzled. In some cases, such as when protesters brought a white-noise machine to a rally, this silencing was literal. When the U of T agreed to host a forum about the debate, the Queer Caucus of CUPE 3902, a trade union representing 7,000 U of T sessional and contract staff, called for a boycott of an event that they claimed “questions the legitimacy of trans rights.” In agreeing to hold the forum in the first place, the U of T had struck an uneasy middle ground between the two cultures of offence. On the one hand, the university allowed Peterson to undercut his own argument (that he was being silenced) by handing him a megaphone. Free speech was given its due. On the other, by “arranging for support” just outside the auditorium for those who felt overwhelmed by Peterson’s speech, the university gave credence to the suggestion that Peterson’s views really were psychologically harmful. And if that were the case—if Peterson’s speech did cross the line from speech into harmful action, if it constituted “hate speech,” as Professor Mary Bryson explicitly alleged during the forum—then the university had indeed provided a platform to a hate-monger. Where do we go from here? Some will see the popular legitimation of Trumpist macroaggression (alongside the rise of right-wing media: Breitbart and Drudge in the United States, Rebel Media in Canada) as further evidence that now, more than ever, the university needs to be inclusive and respectful of difference—a safe space where diversity is valued and students are sheltered from the atavistic forces ascendant in the wider political culture. On our increasingly cosmopolitan, diverse and globalized campuses, we must remain ever vigilant against naturalizing our own assumptions and cognizant of the minor yet morally important ways in which offensive speech can be an impediment to learning. This approach will involve the re-entrenchment and expansion both of implicit norms and explicit disciplinary measures for curbing the freedom of expression. There will be more cultural sensitivity training, more censorship, more calling out, more exclusions to preserve the purity of inclusivity. The right-wing media will continue to do its work. The university will appear increasingly ridiculous, brittle and irrelevant. The classical liberal rebuttal is that we need more speech, not less, and that treating students as so psychologically delicate and fragile as to be traumatized by disagreeable speech is infantilizing. Here, the offence-taking student or group in question is told to grow a thicker skin. The proper response to offensive speech is additional speech, preferably in the form of a dignified and well-reasoned rebuttal. This is a position favoured by Timothy Garton Ash, when he asks: “Do we want to be the kind of human beings who are habitually at the ready to take offence, and our children to be educated and socialized that way? Do we wish our children to learn to be adults or our adults to be treated like children? Should our role model be the thin-skinned identity activist who is always crying, ‘I am offended’?” Anyone who has attempted to converse with the online homophobe or neo-Nazi (whose utterances are typically clogged with hashtags like #WhiteGenocide or #AllLivesMatter) will ­immediately recognize the futility of the “more speech” argument. Bigots are not famously receptive to dispassionate ratiocination (“Yes, after further deliberation I have concluded that blacks are not sub-human after all”) and anyway, the notion that the pain and humiliation caused by racist or religious epithets are somehow ameliorated by additional speech is wishful thinking. This is Stanley Fish’s argument in There’s No Such Thing as Free Speech … and It’s a Good Thing, Too, in which he argues that the freedom of any speech always emerges against the backdrop of what is unsayable. In Fish’s words, Anyone opposed to the teaching of Holocaust denialism in public schools has already abandoned the fantasy of free speech; the truth is that what is sayable in any society always has to be balanced against what is unsayable, and what remains unsaid. Fish argues that we must be particularly wary of those who would cloak their own agenda beneath the veil of abstract principle—“I’m for free speech,” or “I’m for diversity.” Such slogans are almost always intended to conceal the actual political motives and stakes of the speech under consideration. The real question is: what is such speech intended to do? The modern university’s provisional and tactical embrace of the logic of microaggression and offence taking did not (contra Lilla) cause the current eruption of Trumpist macroaggression. But the fetishization of moral outrage contributes to a social feedback loop that, in turn, construes offensive speech as a kind of incantatory black magic, capable of producing trauma and sickening minds. Students pick up on the institutional signals, which at this moment seem to confirm that racist, sexist, and homo- and trans-phobic language really does have the power to wound. Whether that message will equip students for the brutalities that await is one question. Another involves the ethical stakes of an education that encourages students to internalize language that constrains, circumscribes or unduly shapes their identity. Students today, as Mark Kingwell argued in the Globe and Mail, are not “snowflakes.” Millennials are no more fragile or precarious than students of any previous generation. Rather, students today must be educated into their own unique sense of fragility, and some factions within the modern university have found it politically efficacious to provide that education. One can recognize that hateful speech must be chilled while also recognizing that offence taking as a default response to the world is politically nugatory and often self-defeating. What is clear now—as Donald Trump prepares to unleash another round of executive orders, and as the likes of Kellie Leitch and Kevin O’Leary fire up their populist engines, hoping to rekindle the latent forces of conservatism in this country—the culture of offence is here to stay. The urgent question for all of us is how to operate within that culture—how to advance a progressive political agenda without contributing to further polarization and fuelling the rise of aspiring demagogues. We can recognize that political correctness is a phantom construction of the cultural right while also recognizing that the popular perception of that phantom remains a politically charged force—and that we can play a strategic role in neutralizing it. A first step will involve recognizing that the very distinction between offence taking and offence giving construes one side of the debate as fragile, responsive and hypersensitive, and the other as robust, active and resilient. The truth, as anyone familiar with the president’s Twitter feed can attest, is that Trump himself is constantly taking offence—from the New York Times, from the cast of Hamilton, from Meryl Streep. As an incubator of blind outrage and wounded indignation, the academy pales in comparison with what Trumpism has been able to achieve. Cathartic as it would be to savour the countless instances in which Trump has proven himself to be congenitally thin-skinned and easily offended, squabbles over offendability will only distract from our most urgent priorities in the current power struggle. The defeat of Trumpism will be a long-term project, involving continuous judicial exertion and radical political innovation. But we also need to devise new ways of speaking to one another, new ways of communicating across difference, and this is a project for which those in higher education may be uniquely suited. At a minimum, we must refuse to contribute to a populist cultural support mechanism that feeds on our well-intentioned outrage. Short-circuiting Trump’s engine of resentment and indignation is not, of course, any sort of political end in itself; it is only the necessary precondition for reimagining the more equitable future that many progressives thought we had already achieved.
  4. New: Sticky Notes!

    Hi everyone, Introducing a new feature I've added to the site: Sticky Notes! Sticky Notes are an eye-catching way of making Members aware of new developments on the site, whether it's scheduling notifications for Tutor Clients, downtime for the site, or contests for you to win stuff! I felt this might be a better alternative to the Announcements window at times, which should really stand out a bit more so that people notice it as soon as they splash down on the main page. Sticky Notes are much more noticeable! Right now, Sticky Notes will appear pinned to a side or corner of the site's main page. Once you've read a Sticky Note, just click its X to remove it from your view.
  5. How Nietzsche made me 'not a Jungian'

    Thanks for this @rhlangan. I haven't read all of Nietzsche and Philosophy, but there is a particularly pithy quote I remember which frames Nietzsche as a thinker of forces, intensities, and potencies. We will never find the sense of something (of a human, a biological or even a physical phenomenon) if we do not know the force which appropriates the thing, which exploits it, which takes possession of it or is expressed in it. [. . .] All force is appropriation, domination, exploitation of a quantity of reality. Even perception, in its divers aspects, is the expression of forces which appropriate nature. That is to say that nature itself has a history. The history of a thing, in general, is the succession of forces which take possession of it and the coexistence of the forces which struggle for possession. The same object, the same phenomenon, changes sense depending on the force which appropriates it. History is the variation of senses. [. . .] Sense is therefore a complex notion; there is always a plurality of senses, a constellation, a complex of successions but also of coexistences.[1] There's obviously a lot to be said here about sense as well, which i think would be a topic unto itself! Footnotes ^ Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 1962, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia UP, 1983), 4-5; my italics.
  6. Why camera angles are so important

    i wonder what this says more about - the photographer or the person seeing this stuff in the pictures....
  7. @Graham Barnett cleaning out his email prompted me to think about doing the same, since I have correspondence almost 10 years old in my old Gmail account. Found these, which fit this blog perfectly!
  8. How Nietzsche made me 'not a Jungian'

    I have more I want to say about this response, but right now I'm sitting in Saskatoon International Airport, which is anything but an intellectually stimulating environment. For now, just a personal remark: I used to be against forgetting anything that happened in my life - even if it was painful, at times I would insist on making myself remember, repeat (but perhaps not work through, to use Freud's rubric) painful events in the belief that it would some how benefit me in the future (the perfer et obdura, dolor hic tibi proderit olim approach). But as one gets older, one (in one's wisdom, I would agree with Nietzsche) I have less and less issues with forgetting the painful and traumatic experiences in my life. Maybe that's where meditation is on to something - forgetting the tribulations of consciousness in the name of connecting with a rejuvenating life force (which I wonder wasn't at the heart of The Birth of Tragedy). Source please?
  9. Blanchot on poetry

    Or maybe questions are answers themselves simply by virtue of pointing to their sheer existence? And it's us who project on to poetry the questions, quests and quotients which concern us at the present moment?
  10. Jung's concept of the archetype

    As opposed to apologising for sounding like I'm advertising my dissertation here and there, I'll just say outright that much of what I say is derived in one way or another from my dissertation research. I think it was Haule who wrote an article a while back about how even in his earliest thinking Jung was far more influenced by thinkers in the dissociationist tradition such as Janet and Théodore Flournoy and wasn't nearly as dependent on Freudian "discipleship" as the traditional narrative suggests. Which is not to say that Freud never flirted with what you call the "horizontalism" of the unconscious. I think it wad Adrian Johnston, for all his misunderstandings of Jung, who pointed out an important knot in Freud's thinking on the unconscious - in his essay "The Unconscious" (1915?) Freud says the unconscious is "timeless," but how does this square with the prominence of the Oedipus myth and its insistence on beginnings? Moreover, while I think you're absolutely right to argue that Jung sees myths and symbols in religion, philosophy and literature as more important than Freud, Freud nevertheless puts a myth (Oedipus) arguably at the the center of psychoanalysis (I say "arguably" because the issue of a "centre" of psychoanalysis is a complicated one - would it be the Oedipus myth? The death drive? None of the above? Can the death drive be seen as a "center"?) This is also interesting because by all accounts Freud was a much better writer than Jung...although I would obviously need to know much more German to substantiate this. Regardless, I always enjoy reading Freud's essay on the uncanny for this reason. yeah, Freud got all paternalistic on him at the end, but at the same time there are a couple of moments where he acknowledge some very important influences from Jung. In one amazingly subtle letter, Freud says that Jung says things that Freud would like to say but cannot! The mind only boggles as to what that means... There's a good article by Maria(?) Leitner that discusses the way in which pathology was used by the inner circle of Freudian psychoanalysis to vilify and marginalise its dissenters.
  11. Jung's concept of the archetype

    Thanks for this, especially because it made me reread my first post and want to modify the language I used. When I said that the archetype is "a force which has an effect in the natural world" it should always be remembered that there's a crucial paradox in Jung's formulation. Archetpes are producers in the natural world, but equally, and at the same time, they are also products insofar as the infinite nature of the infinite economy of the archetypes hinges precisely on Nature's perpetual evolution and mutation. Which is why there are an infinite number of archetypes, which is why Jung's definition of archetypes in his therapeutics of presence is ultimately arbitrary and can only be arbitrary (or is that arbitrariness a moment within a larger necessary purposive indiviudation process - for Jung or otherwise? The mind boggles ). I think we discussed this after the conference (or after our session had ended), but I can't help but wonder if this has anything to do with the dark precursor as (in my reading of Deleuze anyway) the in-itself of difference, or that philosophical moment where difference is "arrested" (inhibited in Schelling's terms?) into something "less than" difference, but which allows difference to step forward as a concept whereas previously it recedes behind its own work? You also make reference to the "supernatural edge" of synchronicity. Could you explain that?
  12. Housefront, Wivenhoe

    From the album Wivenhoe

    A housefront in Wivenhoe.

    © 2017 Gord Barentsen

  13. Wivenhoe

    A few pics from an evening walk from Colchester to Wivenhoe during my last day in the UK after the Holism conference.
  14. Street, Wivenhoe

    From the album Wivenhoe

    More architecture in Wivenhoe.

    © 2017 Gord Barentsen

  15. British Flags

    From the album Wivenhoe

    An argument for "British Power"?

    © 2017 Gord Barentsen

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