Finished Graduate School… Back to Reality

I began this blog with the intention of chronicling my experiences in a philosophy master’s degree program. Well, graduate school is over with and I did very little writing here. That is not to say that there was nothing to share; on the contrary, my experiences over the past two years led to a deep critical engagement with myself, causing me to grapple with who I was and who I would eventually be should I continue down the academic path. My graduate school experience showed me the ugly side of philosophy as a profession and sometime during my second semester I began to turn a critical analysis on the classroom and the university system as whole. I began to lose interest in the discipline as I burned out over long papers and course material I could no longer identify with. As my interest waned, my relationships with my classmates became strained and by the end of my program I had become removed from department functions and extracurricular activities related to the philosophy department. In the meantime I became acquainted with American pragmatism, discovered Marx, Machiavelli, and (re-discovered) Nietzsche. The culmination of these influences, along with inspiration drawn from John Dewey and Cornel West, pushed me to take a more active role in my community and I began attending demonstrations off campus. My classwork over the past seven months took a back seat to my community engagement, and though I received high marks in my classes during this time, my heart was some place else.

I now look forward to the future, and I expect that along the way this blog will be resurrected. In addition, I have worked with members of the Indianapolis community to launch a local media blog titled Solidarity: A Grassroots Collective. This was a lot of work, and continues to be a lot of work. We accept submissions from the community and help in the editing and publishing process. We also try and keep up on community events and promote and cover protests in the area. I am also currently working on a series for SolidarityGRC that focuses on the need to raise the minimum wage in Indiana. Time will tell how this project pans out. I will work from a distance on SolidarityGRC, as I am currently packing my bags to move to Seattle, Washington to be with my wife. Wrapping up this self-involved post, I ask that you check out my other project SolidarityGRC. Our most recent post comes from an Indianapolis citizen who reflects on the Israeli-Palestinian two state solution and draws a parallel to the United States, asking us to think about what might have happened in the U.S. had we gone the path of a two state solution rather than desegregation. Check it out here: http://www.solidaritygrc.org/message-from-the-grassroots-it-could-have-been-us/

Seattle: a tale of two drug transactions

 20150101_023706She stood alone with a cardboard sign against a sea of Seahawk fans barreling their way out onto the streets through a passageway connected to CenturyLink Field. I had arrived moments before. My train was 5 hours late, placing me at the footsteps of a football stadium moments after the finale of a late season home game.

“What does your sign say?”

“I’m trying to get home. I lost my purse earlier today. I’m trying to buy a train ticket but they won’t sell me one without I.D. A friend wired me some money too, but I can’t claim it without I.D. I just want to go home.”

We settled on a bus pass. She thanked me and pulled a small container of hashish out of her pocket. Ten minutes off the train and I am handed drugs on the street – a busy street, swarming with police, some of who are standing feet away from us assessing the crowd situation.

“Is this legal?”

“Yeah, you just can’t smoke it out here, that’s all.”

Approximately true. I accepted her gift, but later found out that while it is true that use of marijuana in view of the general public is prohibited in Seattle, this also extends to opening any package containing a marijuana product. Our violation of the city ordinance, had we been caught, would have resulted in a penalty less severe than most parking tickets – $27.00. I love Seattle. In my home town of Indianapolis we could have been arrested and may have faced jail time for passing a pinch of concentrated, processed plant material between us.

We parted ways and I stood with my wife in downtown Seattle, discussing the novelty of possessing drugs with no worry of prosecution or incarceration. The hash in my pocket was, in light of the law, as significant as the fuzz in my belly button. Despite the legality of the ordeal, some of the same concerns about the drug remained, namely worries about chemicals and the unknowns associated with an unfamiliar strain – like, is this stuff going to turn me into a social nightmare or make me too paranoid to leave my bedroom. Essentially, even though I can’t be arrested for possessing it, I don’t really know what the hell it is or what might be in it. Black market marijuana varies in texture, taste, cost, and in the effects produced when ingested or smoked; this isn’t news to anyone who has smoked marijuana more than a few times in their life. That’s why, next to the fact that you will not be taken to jail for possessing it, the best thing about legalization of marijuana is the regulation of the marijuana product. You know what you are getting when you buy from a legitimate distributor because the label tells you what is in it and even what to expect when you smoke or ingest it.

A few days after my street encounter, I headed to a legitimate recreational marijuana dealer, Dockside Cannabis, located a few miles north of downtown Seattle. I was giddy as I approached the entrance and paused to compose myself before walking in. Dockside did not disappoint. I was given a menu when I walked in and was encouraged to look over it for a few minutes before a sales person approached and offered to answer any questions. The best part of this experience was being able to comfortably ask questions like “Where did you get this weed from?” We also had a conversation about the negative side effects I had experienced in the past from marijuana and the sales person used this information to guide me toward strains that she thought would be more enjoyable for me.

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I settled on three strains and purchased a gram of each. The one that really blew me and my wife away was a strain called Headband. Pot usually shuts me down and makes it impossible for me to socialize while I am buzzed. This strain was very stimulating and put me in an active, social mood, something I have never experienced smoking marijuana before. I also experienced a come down that left me feeling normal and mentally functional; all of my previous smoking experiences had left me dazed once the effects wore off. The only negative effects I experienced were extreme munchies, my appetite just wouldn’t shut off. Everything tasted so much better after smoking Headband.

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What I love most about this is that I can go back to the store and buy this specific strain again – I know where it was grown, when it was harvested, the THC content, and the packaging claims that no pesticides were used. If you find yourself in the Seattle area (and if you have never been there you should go, what an amazing city! – and not just because of legal marijuana, I only smoked 3 or 4 times during the month I was there) and plan on having an enjoyable legal drug experience, I have two suggestions: 1. Do some research on the laws and the local city ordinances. The locals here, like locals everywhere, tend to pass on info from “some guy I know” – even the employees at the shop I bought from seemed a little fuzzy on some of the finer details of the laws that do not directly affect their business practices. Penalties for marijuana offenses seem pretty lax in Seattle, but a little research could save you from an annoying fine.  2. Spend some time researching the different strains and the different marijuana products available. Leafly is an awesome site that provides detailed strain information, customer reviews, and information about where to buy different strains and how much different shops are charging for it. Have fun, and thanks for reading.

What Is Whiteness?

Black Millennials

I often talk about Blackness. I analyze it thoroughly because, to an extent, Blackness defines me. Blackness defines my anger, my love, and my passion for social justice.

But very rarely do I offer analytical insight of whiteness. For one, I’m not enthusiastic about delving into the roots of whiteness, fleshing out its mechanisms, and ultimately, defining its functions. When I mention whiteness, I assume that those around me already have a solid understanding of what it is.

Recently, I published a seemingly incendiary post on Facebook about my upcoming trip to St. Louis. On a national call to action, I will be joining approximately 6,000 people to protest the frightening frequency at which police brutality prevails, and the subsequent injustice that follows. Initially organized around the tragic slaying of Mike Brown, the Weekend of Resistance gained renewed fervor when Vonderrit Myers was gunned down 17 times by an off duty officer.

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What do I know?

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I need to remind myself every now and again that the people around me are just as ignorant as I am. I sometimes go through periods where I feel as though I am surrounded by a group of people who have all accessed information that I have not. Other people face the same limitations as myself. They can’t all know everything while I am left ignorant to most of the information they appear to share. The university is a weigh station for actors and actresses.

The situation may be more like this: we all have access to portions of information but we do not always have access to portions of the same information. When we claim to have the correct information or claim some sort of privileged view, we are really just privileging the small portion of information we have accessed. If it happens that those around you have accessed the same information and have also privileged that information – then, all you must do to pass yourself off as a certain type of so and so is to publicly display that you also privilege that information. Every narcissist and psychopath plans his or her day around that latter point. Keep that in mind the next time you find yourself overwhelmingly impressed with someone’s intelligence.

 

 

 

Alfred Jules Ayer, England’s Logical Positivist

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Alfred Jules Ayer (1910 -1989), heralded by many as one of the great thinkers and philosophers of the 20th century. His best known work, Language, Truth, and Logic, was written when he was only 24 and has since become a key text for use in academic philosophy. In addition to his philosophical contributions, Ayer was also for a time an MI6 agent for the British Secret Intelligence Service; his confrontation with Mike Tyson in the 1980’s is well known among students of philosophy.

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The internet is abound with quality biographical accounts of Ayer written by scholars as well as people who knew him, so I will leave this post short by including below a few links for further reading and a discussion between Ayer and Bryan Magee on logical positivism and Ayer’s contribution to that movement.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Alfred Jules Ayer

Encyclopedia Britannica: Sir A.J. Ayer

Ted Honderich: A.J. Ayer’s Philosophy and it’s Greatness

The following interview should be of particular interest to students of philosophy. Here is A.J. Ayer, a significant contributor to logical positivist philosophy, discussing the history of logical positivism among other things.

 Click here for more videos from this series.

Adventures in Graduate School #1

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This blog originally began last August, at the start of my first semester in a masters program studying philosophy. I intended to blog about my experiences and to share any nuggets of wisdom that I might pick up along the way. Unfortunately, the semester began with my girlfriend leaving me and moving out the first week of classes. I also took on a course load that will likely prove be the most difficult I will have faced throughout my masters program. These factors, along with several weeks of self-medicating my depression with alcohol, conference preparations, extra-curricular functions, and life in general kept me behind schedule around the clock from August through December – did I mention that I have a job too? Blogging didn’t happen.

This semester has gotten off to a much smoother start, and though I am still very busy, I’m not drowning – yet… So I’d like to return to my original form, blogging about my life in a graduate program studying philosophy. Perhaps some may find this interesting – I am more interested in preserving this time in words with the hopes of having something to look back on someday. Anyway, expect something like this every Monday:

I am so broke! And I’m one of the lucky ones. I got funding for a masters degree in philosophy! My classes are paid for and I receive a monthly stipend from the university. In return I work 20 hours a week for a scholarly project on campus associated with the philosophy department. I wouldn’t trade this for anything, but I have to tell you, I don’t think this lifestyle is for everyone.

Until this past August, I shared a spacious two bedroom apartment with my girlfriend. This allowed me my own study/library(I own over 1000 books) and plenty of room to move around. It was a nice upgrade from undergrad, a time period that saw me occupying a number of small studio apartments, one of which I shared for a year with about 3 million cockroaches. When my girlfriend left, I took on two roommates to help with the rent; everything I own is now packed in to one room, and I sleep there. I moved my bed into my study, one roommate took my old bedroom and the other converted the living room into his bedroom.

I also do not own a vehicle. I haven’t owned one for more than five years. I got rid of my car when I moved to this town, quarter way through my undergrad (I actually finished my bachelors fairly quickly, but I worked on two simultaneously – a B.S in psychology and a B.A. in philosophy). I live about three miles from campus and being downtown, everything I need is within walking or biking distance – and I get by with a little help from my friends from time to time.

If you have ever thought of going car-less, I highly recommend it, especially if it scares you or seems beyond comprehension. Living this way has literally changed my life and in many ways it has changed my orientation toward people, things, and events in my world. It is like life with a car, only slowed way down and I am much more in tune with my environment. I will admit that this winter has put limitations on me. Our city has recorded more snow this winter than during any previous winter on record; in between snow storms we have seen consistent single digit temperature days, several which never got above or even reached 0. In the 5 years without a vehicle, I have had to cancel only two engagements due to my inability to travel because of the weather. Both of those cancellations took place last month. This afternoon’s weather forecast is calling for more snow and we are expected to dip back down in the single digits again afterward.

In short, I’m cold and I’m broke and my life has never been better. I’ve spent the past few weeks reading David Hume and A.J Ayer and becoming acquainted with Medieval philosophy as well. In my free time I am sitting in on a course on Philosophy of Art (being taught through a Peircean lens) and also an English course on writing for social change. I do not know where this path is leading, but I am enjoying the scenery and I feel so fortunate and grateful to be here.

Thanks for reading. See you on Wednesday

This song is where I am right now, enjoy!

Slow Reading Proposal

shared ignorance

I would like to propose a little Slow Reading Project. I launched this blog into the world about Plato’s Republic, mindful that not everyone, indeed very few of anyone, happened to be actively reading it or thinking about it. I appreciate those of you have have been reading the blog, despite doing other things. But my real goal can only be attained within the context of philia, of friendship, and friendship always has a third partner, some object or activity of mutual interest. So let me make my offer:

Let’s take some time this upcoming week to read together slowly and discuss Republic, Book I. Some of you may have never read the Republic before, so here’s a chance to start. Some of you may have read it a while ago, and here is a chance to notice some things that you didn’t notice the first time…

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