The “Otherness” of “The Other”

“…the difference between the tolerant and the extremist was not so great. “Looking into the Other, we can always find something of ourselves within.”
― 
Manil SuriThe City of Devi

“Of course all such conclusions about appropriate actions against the rich and powerful are based on a fundamental flaw: This is us, and that is them. This crucial principle, deeply embedded in Western culture, suffices to undermine even the most precise analogy and the most impeccable reasoning.”
― 
Noam ChomskyGaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians

“We must do all we can to imagine the Other before we presume to solve the problems work and life demand of us.”
― 
Toni MorrisonThe Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

The issue of “the other” could be understood in at least two ways or more. In the context of social integration, the disappearance of “the other” is an ideal. An outsider getting wholeheartedly accepted in a society is an exemplary condition. In this light, the person is no longer considered an outsider as s/he becomes part and parcel of the society that has accepted/adopted her/him. At the end of the day, s/he is no longer considered “the other”.

But generally, a highly evolved society is complex. In many aspects of social life, we get to the realization that there is no absolutely homogeneous or monolithic social constituents. People within a social formation differ from each other in terms of social relations. There are people groups at different levels of connectivity and disconnectivity. In practically all cases, one important social dynamic that spontaneously emerges is the dominance of one people group over the others. Behind this emergence are a variety of factors and reasons prominent among which is material affluence spurred by immense opportunities by whatever means. In the final analysis, we find segments within a society that dominate other segments automatically ranked lower than the former. At this point, social stratification/classification pops up. And this is where “the other” gets alienated. “The other” remains as such as s/he is always treated as lower in status than those who occupy the higher echelon of the social order, so to speak.

But the worse condition wherein “the other” is subjected within the context of the same society is at the individual level when a dominant people group cannot accept the reality of the person’s distinctness so that the group requires her/him to toe its line otherwise s/he will suffer the fate of a “pariah”. This is the principal characteristic of a totalitarian condition. “Totalization” is the absolute reality that cannot tolerate differentation. Simply put, this is a “totalizing situation” where the reality of “the other” is rendered unacceptable. In contrast to this is an open society that tolerates everybody as a matter of giving respect to their humanity. In this case, “the other” is given importance and her/his “otherness” is respected.

In certain significant ways, we may conclude that there is actually nothing wrong with “the other”. Having this in mind, we therefore have to respect the “otherness” of “the other” because s/he will always be with us.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 01 June 2020

ARMCHAIR PHILOSOPHY vs “LIVED” PHILOSOPHY

There has been a traditional distinction between armchair philosophy and “lived” philosophy. In a wider sense, they are both considered legitimate.

However, the armchair variety–which is generally more associated with academic philosophy–is more characterized by “straitjacketed” trajectory whose sideline boundaries have long been traditionally fenced by the myriad of interrelated and interconnected flurry of published treatises loaded with quotes and references from acknowledged academic philosophers both past and contemporary. The unwritten rule is, deviation from this path delegitimizes one who calls himself a philosopher.

The late Richard Rorty was one courageous soul who fearlessly decided to cross the “academic-lived” divide thus making himself not only different but controversial and then the consequent delegitimization occurred.

Among the “unalloyed” philosophers of the “lived” category were the American transcedentalists most prominent among them being Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.

On the “old world” side of the globe, the late Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess took courage to abandon armchair philosophy (linguistic analytic philosophy in his case) and decided to devote the rest of his life in promoting the philosophy of “deep ecology” which he actually practised as a tireless mountaineer and forest dweller. Some decades earlier, we had the distinguished Greek intellecetual Nikos Kazantzakis of Zorba The Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ fame who penned his Spiritual Exercises and thereby made known his association with the “lived” philosophy variety.

The list could go on and on especially in the contemporary period when many intellectuals are directly involved in varied disciplines and whose priceless “philosophical” contributions have substantially enriched those disciplines though they never call themselves philosophers.

Lastly, it would be unfair not to mention the classic Oriental thought systems whose practitioners have always been traditionally considered as genuine disciples of the “lived” variety of philosophizing.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 27 May 2020

Not Contradiction But Paradox

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

― Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy

“One must not think slightingly of the paradoxical…for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling: a paltry mediocrity.”

― Soren Kierkegaard

“How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”

― Niels Bohr

“As a small child, I felt in my heart two contradictory feelings, the horror of life and the ecstasy of life.”

― Charles Baudelaire, My Hear Laid Bare

******************************************

Classical dualistic ontology (the objective-subjective divide)—tilted to the axiological primacy of the objective (objectivism) over the subjective—advances what it holds as a truism that objective reality is basically consistent within itself. If we find inconsistencies in it, these are not in reality but in the way we look at and describe reality in human terms (the subjective).

However, looking at reality is not a unilateral act; it is perspectival in a situation of innumerable perspectives. On this basis, a specific description of reality is actually that of a perspective of reality. In other words, what is out there (the objective) is epistemically well-placed and the things that constitute it cannot in anyway contradict themselves. It is what is in one’s mind (the subjective) that creates contradictions . . . stultifications. . . clashing notions . . . contrasting opinions . . . irreconcilable differences . . .

But what is reality in this sense? What is the meaningfulness of things “out there” which are said to be constitutive of the so-called “objective reality”? How do we get to the point of tentatively determining that those things “out-there” are epistemically “well-placed”? What ontological agency has determined once and for all the “consistency” of reality within itself?

Hence, “objective reality” qua objective is meaningless. Reality as a general notion becomes meaningful only via the operation of the subjective: the human mind whose “reality” is characterized by a continuous stream of consciousness that interacts with what is “out there” and in the process makes reality a world of experiences in all their varied forms and substances . . . at times consistent . . . at times contradictory . . . at times harmonious . . . at times clashing.

In this light, there is no stopping in the recurrent rehearsal of certain issues of socio-political importance at different moments of historic time. There is therefore the echoes of the past that do not just die down because of the reflective and critical characters of generations that come and go amidst realities that linger and dominate certain cultural persistences that constitute a people’s determined contrary advocacies and generate seemingly endless debates among interest groups. And these very echoes make the past present. Through these reveberations, we witness the “presence of the past” (with apologies to the holistic biologist Rupert Sheldrake who titled one of his controversial books the same).

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 7 May 2020

Work Doesn’t Pay (Off)

It is a given that a person engaged in gainful employment gets paid. Nevertheless, whether they are paid fairly or not is a more specific concern for this is the factor that checks on the accuracy of the description “gainful”. In the first place, when do we say that an employed person is paid fairly or otherwise? The basic point of reference is the legal prescription that covers what we generally call “minimum wage law”. On this basis, an employer “underpaying” someone who has rendered useful and beneficial services to them is violating the law for committing unfair labor practice and could be held liable before a legal court.

Another instance that could be construed as unfair without necessarily violating the minimum wage law is when an employee receives a wage that squares off with what the law says but does not commensurate with the bulk of job responsibilities assigned to them. In other words, a job overload where the wage does not fairly match the bloated quantity of work assigned to be accomplished by an employee is definitely another case of unfair labor practice. Simply put, this is an issue of work that doesn’t pay fairly, and when there is such a kind of situation, it is fair to say that in reality work doesn’t pay.

Without resorting unfairly to equivocation and confuse people in the process, we are at this point in the discussion treading on the path of another context that does not however necessarily veer away from the original topic we have introduced. Previously, the meaning of “pay” we have established is “to give money to a person in exchange for the useful and beneficial services they have rendered.” In the present context that accommodates the statement, “Work doesn’t pay,” the concept of “pay” takes another signification to mean, “providing an advantage to someone”. In this sense, “pay” is not only measured in terms of money but more as a matter of enlarging the scope of one’s circumferential influence by being endowed with a new prospect of a better life and more challenging opportunities. Having this context in mind, the statement, “Work doesn’t pay,” could be reconstructed to “Work doesn’t pay off” which in this sense refers to a kind of work that does not provide one with a new possibility to improve their life due to the absence of challenging opportunities.

By and large, we are no strangers to the circumstances that surround this problem. We have seen overworked and underpaid (not necessarily in the sense that there is a violation of the minimum wage law) employees. And in a social situation aggravated by certain economic difficulties where there is a scarcity of available jobs that fit the education and experience of prospective workers, no bright alternative is present. In this limited condition, the only chance to earn a living to sustain the basic needs of the family is to take a low-paying job and convince oneself with rancor in their heart that getting into it is much better than not having a job at all. Finding oneself in this situation is getting into a work that does not actually pay fairly on the one hand and does not pay off fairly on the other for it does not provide one with the chance to make their life better since no challenging opportunities are in sight.

This is a pathetic situation that directly and precisely controverts the very essence of “gainful employment” for being underpaid confutes the denotation of “being gainful”. Moreover, the case of losing the possibility of improving one’s life because of the absence of the challenges of new opportunities has never been reckoned either as something gainful at all.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 29 April 2020

HAIKU IN THE TIME OF TERROR  [Novel Coronavirus Epidemic 2020]

It’s an endless night
And there seems to be no dawn
While the world’s in pain.
*******


Let’s gather around
We suff’ring humanity
And keep hope alive.
*******


Despite tragedies
We plod along life’s highways
Heading safely home.
*******


The nightmare persists
As the shrouded nemesis
Stalks its feeble prey.
*******


Just a faint flicker
Will melt the brooding terror
Of a daunted soul.
*******

 


Let’s gather our strength
And cross the rickety bridge
Over the abyss.

 

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 23 April 2020

QUO VADIS?

What we are facing is not Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history”. History goes on and is not ready to give up as yet. It is rather the end of an era that we are facing right at this point in time.

We are heading toward the unknown as things of the past which we have been used to are disintegrating not in a slow pattern but in a sustained exponential velocity.

We are leaving behind a lifestyle that is gradually being blown away by the west wind (with apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley). And without any guidance at all, we are being pushed into a pitch black tunnel that could break or make our trek depending on the strength of our will to go on.

Hope does not seem to have a place at the point of entry but neither does hopelessness. It is all instinct that operates and the single factor that makes us want to live–or perhaps, it is not even a matter of want.

There is something that pulls us as we plod along not knowing our destiny. There is not even fear in our hearts for we have left it behind with the untraceable remnants that will no longer be a part of where we are now.

But where are we now?

Is there a way to go around the frontiers of the present unknown and exact the boundaries that define space and time? There must be space and time for we are here and now.

But where is the here and now when what we only feel is our own breathing and our presumed physicality despite the fact that darkness has not even granted us the luxury of seeing its very existence?

Whatever the upshot might be, it is useless to stop and linger at this point for we don’t even have the agenda to reflect on. It is therefore of the essence to proceed without asking questions.

Or is there really essence in all of this? Perhaps there is because we are still alive. This is the only reality we can perfectly and absolutely be sure of. Whether this is reality or dream, it doesn’t matter; for even dream could prove to us that we are alive. And so we hold on to this certainty that we are alive.

Are we at the threshold of the tunnel now? Or is it really a tunnel? How do we know? We don’t even know that it is really a tunnel.

For certain poetic reasons, let it be a tunnel and at this point, we make an assumption.

We are therefore not only alive; we are developing a new sense of imagination and this is a good sign for it will spontaneously give us a new sense of direction.

And a new sense of hope.

And a new sense of meaning.

And a new sense of creation.

Soon, we will all be ready to create again.

To create what?

To create our lives in this new reality where we will soon be aliens no more.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 21 April 2020

DEFENDER-Europe 20 and The Thousands of Deaths in Europe due to Covid-19

HAVE YOUR HEARD OF “DEFENDER-EUROPE 20”? . . . Well, this is it:
[https://shape.nato.int/defender-europe]

“Exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20 is a U.S.-led multinational exercise, including NATO’s participation. It is the largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe in more than 25 years with 20,000 soldiers deployed directly from the U.S. to Europe. As such, it demonstrates U.S. commitment to NATO and its resolve to stand by its European Allies and Partners.”

The HIDDEN agenda of this large-scale continent-wide military operation is a MASSIVE SHOW OF FORCE whose main objective is the implementation of containment strategies against Russia which has long been demonized with the suspicion that it will invade Europe–a mythical narrative concocted by the US “deep state” to achieve total military, political and economic control over Europe, particularly the European Union (EU).

At the moment, the project has been TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED:
[https://www.eur.army.mil/DefenderEurope/]

“In response to the current outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and recent guidance by the Secretary of Defense, we have modified exercise Defender-Europe 20 in size and scope.

“As of March 13, all movement of personnel and equipment from the United States to Europe has ceased. The health, safety and readiness of our military, civilians, and family members is our primary concern.”

But when the pandemic is over, DEFENDER-Europe 20 will definitely resume operation. And the following are certain concrete issues whose necessary bearing with the ongoing crisis particularly in Europe cannot simply be set aside and ignored:

1. The Covid-19 pandemic that has been hitting Europe hard particularly the EU-member states of Italy, France and Spain is DIRECTLY CONNECTED with this continent-wide project called “DEFENDER-Europe 20”.

2. This continent-wide military operation is not just a short-term exercise but a long-range programme designed to institutionalize large-scale US military presence in continental Europe.

3. In the light of point #2, massive financial and logistical inputs are of vital importance to sustain, strengthen and “perpetuate” the programme. In this connection, the finances will have to be shared by both the EU and the US in trillions of euros and dollars combined. (Since the US is the spearheader of this project, it will require the EU to shoulder the bigger chunk of the finances.)

4. In the light of point #3, EU will have to produce its financial counterpart to sustain the project. But the arising issue is, Where will the EU get the money? Well, the EU has to rely on its member states’ financial capabilities.

5. In the light of point #4, we have seen what’s going on now in Spain, France and Italy: thousands of death cases due to the Convid-19 pandemic and 90% of those who have died are old folks whose ages range between 70 and 90. These were PENSIONISTAS! By the way, Spain, France and Italy have the largest population of old folks in Europe.

6. In the light of point #5, unleash your mind and let it put together the pieces of a puzzle to form the picture that connects DEFENDER-Europe 20 and the thousands of dead elderly in Italy, France and Spain.

This whole scenario explains why there have been so many death cases in Italy, Spain and France. And don’t forget that most of these cases were PENSIONISTAS. Now that thousands of them are already dead, where do you think the pension funds allocated for them will go? Remember, DEFENDER-Europe 20 needs massive financial and logistical inputs.

(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 10 April 2020