On Grindcore by a Grindcorist

A classmate of mine posted this on Facebook. I’ll keep him anonymous just in case, but I found his analysis of his favorite musical genre to be very eloquent and wanted to share it. There is cultural validity in every artistic expression because every person is a member of culture. Period. Music (and all art) that defies expectations follow the tradition every generation has practiced: usurpation of the preceding order. This music is no different, and as long as the artist respects the art, there is no shame in sharing it. I put in in “philosophy” because he mentions dadaism, which is an aesthetic philosophy that hopes to broaden society’s perspective.  Grindcore has value, and my friend explores it aptly here:

“I have been listening to Heavy Metal music ever since I was five years old and my Dad gave me Rage Against The Machine’s self titled album after he recieved it in the mail from a CD club. I listen to and enjoy all types of metal/hardcore but for the past six or so years I have narrowed my focus on Grindcore and Powerviolence. Metal to me has always been about, as Scott Hull says ‘twitching that adreninal gland’ and I find no other genre does this for me better then Grindcore. Grindcore to me is a lot of things. It is the logical extreme the ultimate fullfillment of heavy metal and punk’s initial promise of playing loud and fast and scaring the Hell out of your parents. I also view it as a sort of dadaist art form, an art form for a world no longer deserving of art. Much in the way dadaist’s reacted to the wholesale slaughter of World War I by producing art that was visceral, unconventional and absurd, we can look at grindcore bands employing the same techniques to channel a world rife with mass capatilistic dehumanization and nearly endless military operations. And if nothing else, Grindcore to me is an exhibition of absolute freedom, of total ctharsis through sonic chaos, a tantrum of primal and violent energy aimed at no one and everyone.”

In fact, the sh…

In fact, the shift from a criminality of blood to a criminality of fraud forms part of a whole complex mechanism, embracing the development of production, the increase of wealth, a higher juridical and moral value placed on property relations, stricter methods of surveillance, a tighter partitioning of the population, more efficient techniques of locating and obtaining information: the shift in illegal practices is correlative with an extension and a refinement of punitive practices.

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish. There’s so much more to this quote, I would say just read the book. Foucault talks about how the Western model of punishment in modernity has become a focus on the spirits of the citizenry and how they can be culled and controlled. Very thought-provoking stuff.

Cultural Relativism

Relativism is the philosophical belief that all opinions and views on morality are equally true to the believer and none should be considered false because all truth is subjective (or relative). Cultural Relativism takes it a step further by claiming all self-contained societies with differing beliefs should be respected, and those systems of beliefs are true to them and should not be questioned by other cultures. After all, we’re only entitled to our own opinion and no one else’s. Cultural Relativists assert that the moral code of a society determines what is right within that group of people so to ask what is True depends on the culture asking. This means that no objective truths exist for these codes to be judged by; no one morality holds all people at all times. This means it is arrogant to deem our personal culture’s code as superior or truer than any others as all are equal. Tolerance is a strong principle of Cultural Relativism and understanding of bizarre beliefs (compared to ours) is strongly promoted to all peoples.

This belief is commonly agreed with because the tolerance flag it waves; people don’t want to question the beliefs of someone else for fear of being questioned themselves. To attempt to command another’s beliefs has become a human rights violation. The question of marriage has been puzzled over for centuries, constantly changing to fit the standards of certain societies. In America, we are allowed to meet, date, and marry anyone we please as long as they concede to it all. In India, certain parents arrange marriages for their children so that the perfect environment of financial stability is created for future generations. Americans would interpret this view on marriage as rigid and constricting, removing love from the institution. Actual practicing Indians, however, see it as logical and accept whomever their parents choose for them (there are plenty of exceptions of course). Inversely Indians would look at Americans’ flagrant treatment of marriage as unceremonious and impractical. Despite these differences, America and India accept these contrasting practices and allow the other to continue them, showcasing a relativistic view on marriage.

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We all want harmony, so the acceptance of all beliefs is necessary to achieve that, but conflict occurs when a custom practice in one society happens to be a crime in another. Female circumcision is traditional among the Maasai tribe in Africa, as well as many others, and many outside cultures would call it mutilation and sexual oppression. Cultural Relativism protects that belief and puts obstacles in the path of those fighting against this archaic tradition. It becomes difficult to turn to one’s own philosophy for truth and yet still accept an opposing belief. Although tempting on the surface, general Relativism is a paradox, claiming that no opinions dominate any others yet assuring its own validity; there are absolutely no absolute truths says the relativist. If an Indian woman were to defy her parent’s choice for her husband, it would be going against the beliefs of society and therefore against true morality. In her culture she’s being immoral, but to Americans this defiance is rational, justified, and even encouraged. This brings up the problem of Cultural Relativism: if they disagree, who is right? By the tenets of the philosophy itself, no one is; they both should just agree to disagree and walk away. This can’t be done in every case (look at World War II), so unconditional tolerance becomes too difficult to muster, and Relativism loses its appeal.

No matter what problems you find with it, Cultural Relativism’s vocation of tolerance is still important, but the blind acceptance of all belief systems as individually true and the denial of a universal truth cause serious flaws for moral philosophy. On the surface, Cultural Relativism appears to be a final call for global harmony through cultural understanding, but it digs up so many questions that find weaknesses in its simple structure. Its altruistic and humanistic approach to ethics may be on the right track, but is just another voice among the thousands of others spouting “ moral truth.” It attempts to label this cacophony as harmony, but we know better.

Hitler Was Not Evil

An interesting and surely controversial article. I think the title was intended to be buzz-worthy, and the real message is that “evil” is an arbitrary label we place on people and ideas to avoid complexity. The positive message in this is that we should have an objective and nuanced perspective on history, but read it yourself and decide what you think.

Thought Catalog

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Unlike most of the rest of the world, I do not see Adolf Hitler as the “personification of evil” or the most “evil” person that has ever existed.

Hitler was simply a politician like one of the many politicians today. And just like almost all politicians today, his actions were defined by a core belief, greed, ego and a certain love for the country he ruled.

The more sensitive readers would react now with “whoa! whoa! Hitler and love?! Hitler is EVIL! EVIL!”

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Evil does not exist, but is a concept of the human intellect. What do we define as evil? We tend to associate unjust things with evil, or things we do not agree with. Essentially, what we feel or think is evil is simply what we do not agree with.

“Who cares about a technical definition? What Hitler did was EVIL! ”

Aiming to…

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Magical Rings in The Hobbit

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J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the main character Bilbo Baggins experiences an exile from his hobbit hole when he forced to go on his perilous adventure with the dwarves. At first he complains inwardly, wishing to go back home on various occasions, but as he becomes entangled in the encounters along his adventure, Bilbo finds himself rather committed to the overall goal and thinks back to his home less and less. He also develops several talents along the way such as his riddle telling/solving ability with Gollum – which comes in handy with Smaug – his bravery and combative aptitude in fighting the giant spiders of Mirkwood, and his burgling acumen when freeing the dwarves from the Elven king. These experiences are alienating because the little hobbit becomes a very different person than he expected himself to be, let alone his family and neighbors. The experience is also enriching because Bilbo enjoys the changes (once all the danger has subsided) and appreciates the rewards that the adventure merits him: not just talents but treasure as well! The largest change he goes through is in his moral decisiveness, which is shown when he gives the Arkenstone of Thrain to Bard thinking it will settle the conflict and avoid a battle. This alienates and enriches him, for as a result of his treachery Thorin expels him from the company that he has grown so close to throughout the story. But Bilbo is confident that he made the right decision with the best intention in mind, showing that his journey was not only into danger but also into maturation. This sheds light on the whole meaning of the novel; how an adventure can be a journey into one’s self. It may take great courage to battle giant spiders, but even more to betray one’s family.

The novel begins with describing a hole in the ground, the hobbit hole, which is reached through a specifically round door. Beginning the story in this place of comfort and homeliness sets up the lesson Bilbo must learn, which is that he cannot learn anything without leaving his comfortable home and explore the world and its real dangers. The dwarves don’t have the luxury he has, and he realizes they want that feeling of home that he already has. In the end, he returns to his home and comfort, having learned all he did. He calls his tale “There and Back Again” which suggest a circular image, like the shape of his door, and the magical object he obtained on the way. The theme of rings and circles is present throughout the work and gives it so much more life.

Emotional Magic in Harry Potter

When works of literature employ magical elements like in the genre of fantasy or science fiction, the author must clarify the rules and limitations of the physical laws that govern the universe. Works like The Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, and Star Wars are fraught with magical forces, which are explored by the authors in detail and are used by the characters for both good and evil. There is usually a level of neutrality in the force at work, almost as if it’s a scientific power used by the characters for whatever purpose they desire, but there remains the opportunity for the author makes claims to moral truth The world of Harry Potter is held together by magic, and J.K. Rowling spends a lot of time describing how this magic works. Within this world, emotions govern all human beings and therefore also govern all magic. Benign feelings inspire good magic, while destructive intentions create dark magic.

The strongest example of this influence rests in the nature of Voldemort’s horcruxes. To create them, he has to commit murder – which rips apart his soul – and infuse the split off piece into an object making it a horcrux. Rowling is claiming that murder is an ontologically immoral action that rips apart someone’s existing soul. She is making a moral statement describing how magic affects the soul, setting a standard for objective truth in her world. She uses this truth to teach ethics with her stories. Near the end of the last book, when Harry is sent to King’s Cross, he sees the part of Voldemort’s soul that has passed along. It’s a shriveled entity due to its torn apart state; Rowling is saying, “this will happen to you when you commit murder and use dark magic.”

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This is of course, a running theme of the work. When the mechanics of magic are explained, they usually require emotional commitment for completion. Violent spells are done with violent thoughts, and the more powerful a wizard’s will is, the stronger the spells from his wand will be. Rowling pits good against evil, but has the magic turn against his evil users. Dark magic is destructive by nature and so destroys even those who wield it. The reader then learns not to be evil, basically. The lessons for children are clear and invigorating. The villain is a deeply emotional person, but he is filled with evil emotions like bigoted hatred, jealousy, and violent anger. The heroes also have anger and jealousy, but they overcome these conflicts with love and friendship, which form the center of all good magic. The spell that protects Harry is a spell of love, and Voldemort is not able to overcome this magic for a very long time. It’s a thought-provoking structure to establish a fantasy realm on, and one that I hope children continue to embrace as they learn from these stories.

Kant’s Absolute Morals

The prominent moral philosopher Immanuel Kant postulated morality as the product of human reason alone and therefore should be approached rationally. We have desires which will be reached by following hypothetical imperatives: if you want to become a doctor you ought to go to medical school. The “ought” is only necessary to do if we have the desire that it fulfills. In moral reasoning, first we must accept that there are moral absolutes that can be discovered by following the Categorical Imperative which is detached from personal desires. We ought to do good because we are rational beings; there is no alternative, we have a moral obligation to ethical rectitude simply because we are reasonable. The setup of the Categorical Imperative could be seen as a variation on the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Kant’s version turns the action into a standard, so when we perform an action, we are following our maxim that we consider to be universal law. We believe others should be allowed to do the same and even wish it to be done unto us; so Kant’s version of the Golden Rule would be: when you do something, its being done by anyone at any time. So before any action, we must ask if it compromises any absolute truth we believe in and if we would want others to do as well. This already calls for basic altruism because no one would make laws allowing harm to be done to them. Only irrational beings would compromise their own moral standards and wish others to do so, so we shouldn’t make any exceptions to these foundations we build morality upon.

He Kant say no

He Kant say no

The ideal in using the Categorical Imperative is to lead a fully virtuous life uncompromised by immoral behavior but this means having to keep one’s principles in mind before every decision. For example Kant believed it is morally impermissible to lie under any circumstances because doing it even once would sanctify as universal law, and we can’t live in a world where everyone is allowed to lie. One problem with leading life by universal laws is a decision in which a law must be broken for a benevolent purpose, such as in the case of lying to defend someone’s life. Do you break your own rule about lying or protecting human life? Kant would say to tell the truth and allow the consequences to happen without guilt; after all what’s one human life versus the dignity of society? It was not the intention of the person to hurt anyone but only to uphold their own personal morality and the results of doing so is none of his concern; this of course is not a satisfactory answer to such a moral question. Elizabeth Anscombe, a more contemporary moral philosopher of similar ideals, provides a better solution saying that a person’s maxims should be designed to more properly express the person’s ethical beliefs. The person can lie to protect the person in danger without breaking a rule if the rule allows them to lie under the circumstances, so that instead of maintaining the universal law of “never lying” (at the expense of an innocent person) they uphold the law of “lying only to protect human life.” In this way they can live a full moral life with clear maxims that express their true beliefs.

If a majority of individuals were to adopt the Categorical Imperative as a method of moral reasoning, it would have an interesting affect on society as whole. The strong emphasis of the theory is following absolute moral truth, so laws would become vital to the individual. Each person would be called to moral rectitude at all times, so general crime rate levels would plummet. Society would be fairly harmonious as most universal laws would be shared like not killing or stealing, but common moral reasoning would be challenged in conflicts such as war or moral dilemma issues (abortion, capital punishment etc.). People would hold different beliefs on the details of these issues and those who disagree would be hard pressed to compromise because of their immovable principles. That is a common problem in a Kantian society: compromise on the grounds of differing universal laws would be impossible as either would have to breach their standard in order to reach harmony, but he couldn’t by the Categorical Imperative. Therefore a person must have clearly defined morals that coincide with society’s wishes, but that would be a difficult end to fully reach, so an entirely Kantian society is undesirable at the moment.

Immanuel’s teachings on absolute truth are enlightening, and his Categorical Imperative, if followed correctly, can lead to a proper moral life that anyone could agree with. His method of explaining his beliefs may be shifty on the surface (for example his radical defamation of lying could be stated better), but if properly studied and understood, the Categorical Imperative can have a heavy impact on anyone’s personal morality.