Postmodernism and Spirituality

For my blog post this week I’d like to tie in the concepts of postmodernism and spirituality trends that have had a recent spark amongst millennials especially. With Halloween approaching it seems like an appropriate time to analyze alternate spiritualities and practices. In my senior seminar course, I along with my research group am analyzing the reasons and ideologies surrounding the movement of neo-paganism within different groups of people. Postmodernism pushes the idea of individualism, and challenging forces that were the base for structuring society in previous generations. It appears to be true that many forms of spirituality amongst the youth do have individual twists to them in the way that they are practiced and materials that are used, and I wanted to put more thought towards the concept of participating in a faith that is a trend yet simultaneously individualistic.

I met many different people at the job that I had prior to my current, and one of my close coworkers was Jessica; a self-proclaimed wiccan and believer of neo-paganism. Before my senior seminar class or even understanding what neo-paganism is, Jessica and I talked often about her identity as a wiccan. As a friend, I was interested and listened to her discuss her faith in an unjudgmental manner since I didn’t know anyone else who had similar practices. She talked about how she fasted around Halloween and read books that were recommendations of other friends who had similar practices. We discussed how her initial interest in the faith was brought about by a group of friends that she met at a festival, and ever since then she adopted new habits in order to assimilate with the culture.

Initially, she talked heavily about how becoming a wiccan gave her independent values when it came to religion. It seemed as though her family always gave her the opportunity to follow what she found the most truth in, even though they followed Abrahamic religions mostly when she was a child. As I learned more about postmodernism as well as the movement of Wicca within my friend’s demographic it seemed to feel like less of an individually motivated cause. Even though this is not an example of postmodern religion I think that this situation exhibits underlying effects of postmodernism. Regardless of her personal affiliations I know that Jessica just feels the need to participate in her ideas of truth. The reasons why I believe that this is a contradiction to individualism is because of the movement in which many practitioners use the same literature and materials in forums that are arranged to attract similar kinds of people.

Moving forward as I discover what truths have the most relevance in my life, I want to take a sociological approach and make sure that my narrative path and identity is not the result of a trend but made to seem individualistic. I say this, because I feel like lots of organized religions have the same affect, and regardless of what works best for an individual I think that it is important to understand the reasons why certain things become trends and therefore decide if those reasons still relate to your personal truth.

 

Home Away From Home

 

My first semester in Richmond has allowed me to get to know the city better and really appreciate its’ aesthetic. Almost every street in Richmond has a different feel from the others, and with one simple turn you could feel as if you were in another city all together. Buildings for simple things such as shops, restaurants, homes, and religious buildings have so much character. The Catholic Church and Altria Theatre, which used to be a mosque, both have really interesting architecture and the students of VCU get to admire them each day on our way to class. Without traveling far Richmond can offer you so much, and these are few pictures that I see on an average day around campus.

 

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Controversial Clothing: How Much is Too Much?

The trends in fashion over the past ten or so years have taken a somewhat dark turn, and sometimes, extremely offensive. For some reason, tragedy is glorified and even after the offenses the fashion industry barely even apologizes for the controversies they portray and sell to the masses. It is true that controversy stirs up audiences and brings attention to the people behind them, so this may be why they are continually used in fashion, but is fashion enough reason to continue offending large amounts of people?

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These first sets of photos by Raj Shetye depict a woman who seems to be trying to defend herself from numerous men. These photos were released to the public after the December 2012 New Delhi gang rape, that left its’ victim dead after the assaults. Buss Feed News explained how “The men had not only gang raped her but also penetrated her with a metal rod and used their hands to tear out her inner organs.” Obviously this incident was not anything to depict or glamorize. When asked if the photos were related to the gang rape Shetye denied that that the two were related. He also explained how “the aim is to create art that will gather some reaction in society.” “The Wrong Turn” which is the name of the photos, proves that the photographer was in extremely bad taste with his concepts. The fact that the woman is in glamorous clothing proves that the intent was not to condemn the crimes, but instead to sell an innapropriate concept.Reactions and the desire to be noticed obviously outweigh respect and common sense in some cases.

 

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Here are a few more examples of ads that have glamorized violence or taking advantage of women.

Another questionable area is the over sexualized portrayal of children in the industry. Frankly, we all know that sex sells, but with children it takes a creepy turn for the worst. It seems that in every other aspect of society these issues are frowned upon, but for some reason countless photographers and fashion stylists are okay with the uncomfortable images they sell to their customers.

 

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In many ads today the sexual depiction of children has become popular in many ads that sell clothing as well. Over time the fashion industry has become seemingly okay with the fact that children are being styled in extremely inappropriate ways. Why does a child need to be sexy in order to sell clothes? Personally I am not sure what this accomplishes or how it benefits anyone promoting or buying the clothes, but there must be a reason because it keeps occurring.

The topics discussed in this post are only a few of many. It has also been a trend to glamorize death, massacres, and starvation in women. As someone who enjoys and appreciates tasteful fashion and clothing, I hope that these distasteful trends dwindle out as people become more aware of them. The best way to do so is to not support companies who depict child exploitation or violence in a glamorous way. Lots of times people in the fashion industry go for shock value, but it is never okay to express “art” as something that has caused harm to anyone unless it is raising awareness in a positive way.

Neuroenhancers: Do You Think They’re Acceptable? (Evolving Ideas)

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Performance enhancing drugs like Adderall and Ritalin have become the staples of many college campuses around the country. Due to the need for young people in schools to accomplish more than the average human is capable of on a day-to-day basis, these drugs are used and often abused in order to “get the job done”. Whether one approves of this trend or not, it is proven that these drugs have helped many accomplish their goals and finish school at a higher GPA than they could have achieved naturally on their own, thus producing more successful people in general.

Margaret Talbot, the author of this article, explores the college lifestyle of a young man she calls Alex, since he does not want his actual name to be used in this article. Alex discusses his list of over-achieving, and seemingly impossible, activities that compose his weekly schedule. These activities include dozens of college level papers, working at least forty hours per-week, and staying involved in many student led organizations on his campus (which is Harvard by the way). My first semester in college has included less than half of these activities and a level of stress that I didn’t think was possible. In comparison to Alex’s schedule, drugs seem to be the only possible way to complete all of these activities with success. Alex explained how the writings he completes while on Adderall produce a different paper than his regular mind does. He said that the drug causes him to do extensive research and he often includes too much information that can cloud his argument, but at the end of he day the worst he gets on his Adderall influenced papers is the grade of a B. Most are quick to judge this lifestyle since it often includes the use of other drugs like marijuana or even cocaine on a weekly basis, but Alex’s situation make you think: is the use of non-prescribed drugs really something to look down on?

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Personally I do not think it should be the norm to use drugs that your body does not need, and while they may seem great at one point in time, the effects of the abuse will show in your body either sooner or later. Dependence and cardiac problems are two of the main reasons why someone would not want to make it a habit of using these drugs. Many people who use Adderall cannot seem to function properly without it, therefore causing them to use the drug for activities they could certainly do on their own without drugs. In the same breath, what is to look down upon about a student who wants to be the best? The work force after college is so competitive that in some cases good enough just is not good enough, which leads over-achieving students looking for a way to become the best or often to just survive the heavy workloads at tough colleges. Having a very wise nurse for a mother, I would advise against the use of these drugs in people who care about their long-term health, but also I would not judge others for choosing to use these drugs to carry out advanced, demanding lifestyles.

The “Perfect” Family (Evolving Ideas)

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“Stone Soup” by Barbara Kingsolver is a very interesting article about the constructs of societies views on non-traditional families. According to this author, non-traditional can mean anything from a divorced set of parents, to gay or lesbian partners as parents, or single-parent families. Basically it is a term for anything besides the “normal” four person family idea that America has loved for most of its’ existence. Referring to this work the question is: why do people feel the need to scrutinize these families, when at least half of the families today are non-traditional?

Personally, all I have ever known is a two-parent family, I guess if any aspect of my family were to be un-traditional, it would be the fact that my younger brother is my adopted cousin. Besides that I have “normal” parents and a younger, biological sister. Kingsolver’s article caused me to analyze my family, as well as those of my closest friends. In reflection, it seems that her claims are completely true in that most of American families are extremely diverse. In my circle of friends alone there is a single parent home, a family with separated parents and two separate homes, a traditional four-person family, and one similar to mine with three kids and married parents. Never have I personally felt the need to judge one of my friends for their un-traditional family. Matter of fact, un-traditional has become the norm for my generation I feel. Most of the time no one thinks anything of these situations, unless they are actually being talked about in conversation. When one of my friends was going through the process of her parents deciding to separate, she spoke little about the situation and if it did come up, she would be very short and to the point. It wasn’t until she and her family moved out that some of our friends who knew about her parents. This was probably to avoid judgment, but anyone who was judgmental has obviously lived an extremely sheltered life.

Half of my formal education was in private school, until sixth grade. The rest, seventh through college, has been at public institutions. I do notice a difference in the level of acceptance between these two environments. Whether this is because of location, or financial statuses, I’m not sure, but I feel that public schools do a better job of representing diversity because of the different types of students that attend them. This then leads certain kids to have a better association of the word family.

A point in the article is made that marriages that end are referred to as “failed” instead of finished. This places a lot of pressure on couples to be perfect, and this pressure alone could break a couple. My hopes for the future are that society will understand that a “perfect” family comes in many, more practical forms, and I understand the frustrations of the author. The perfect traditional family had many behind the scenes problems and pieces that made it appear as perfect as it does. This is not true of every four-person family, but certainly past research and examples in the article prove that this may be the case. As of now America is headed into the right direction, and hopefully with time ideas of the American family will reshape itself for the better.

Is Hunting for Sport Ethical? (source 4)

Source: Gunn, Alastair. “Environmental Ethics and Trophy Hunting.” Ethics & the Environment 6.1 (2001): 68-95. Indiana University Press. Web. Oct 20. 2014

 

Slob hunting is a term referred to as killing simply for the sake of killing something. This is the most uncivilized form of hunting and it is usually avoided in sport hunting. The article talks about “charismatic megafauna” which refers to the western mammal population that is extremely prized to both environmentalists and hunters for different reasons of course. These major target species are the key areas for lots of debate and ethical argument amongst the hunting community. These animals are mainly at danger in sport or trophy hunting, because of course dead carcasses or some part of the animal is needed for the sport. Another interesting argument in this article is that “sustainable hunting kills only animals that would die anyway”. In my opinion this argument is not really justifiable, because in theory every living thing will die eventually. Hunting interrupts the natural circle of life in nature by causing premature deaths in groups of animals. One specific animal was talked about in the article; the whale. Whales are a good example of animals that suffer due to their size. Animals that are uncontrollable due to size are often handled more roughly, because of the need to hunt them quickly and in large numbers. Marine mammals are special cases in themselves and scientists explained how no marine mammal could be ethically hunted in a way that does not cause suffering to the animal. Once you determine which animals can only be hunted with suffering it may be easier to determine what should and should not be taking place in the hunting community. Hunting animals that cannot be afforded to be lost is a huge problem.

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Angus Taylor explained how “having a flourishing natural environment” is essential to the well being of our existence. I believe this because so many people today have spiritual or cultural ties with nature. Even though hunting will not completely annihilate the environment, large portions of it can be taken out because of sport hunting. Sometimes hunting balances out species that are over populated due to a decrease in their natural predators. When I read this I decided that hunting should only be accepted under these circumstances. When hunting like this takes place it is more natural and can be appreciated because it is more practical. Overall I think this source did a great job on explaining how different types of hunting affects the environment. Once I understood how other types of hunting affected nature it is easier to determine if sport hunting has an unacceptable affect on nature itself.

 

Is Hunting for Sport Ethical? (source 3)

Source: List, Charles List. “On the Moral Distinctiveness of Sport Hunting.” Environmental Ethics 26 (2004): 156-69. Print. 19 Oct. 2014.

 

“What makes this a question worth pursuing is that the very practice of sport hunting is a matter of moral debate, unlike tennis or basketball.” This quote explains how hunting for sport is a topic that must be debated a lot differently than other sports. This article summarizes the basics of the question at hand. What exactly is hunting for sport and why is the killing of animals considered a sport in the first place? This article claims that hunting has the same purposes as other arts or hobbies, and can therefore be considered a sport. The idea that people have “ritualized” hunting since the beginning of time allows for the debate that there is more of a purpose to the sport besides for goods or mindless killing. Sport hunting is generally the act of hunting with a “morally relevant difference” than other types of hunting. For example, when one hunts for goods they are shooting with the intents of a slaughter to use the animal for some sort of award. Subsistence hunting is also varying different from hunting from sport because the act of hunting for substance is used for survival in most cases. In this article the author says how hunting for sport was originally used to relieve stress and develop character among a community.

This article gave me a better look as to what exactly hunting for sport is and why it was originally used. As far as using hunting for sport as a “developer of character”, I find that to be a little ironic. Since when does slaughter become a morally acceptable determinate of character? I guess this is the moral the difference that sport hunting has when compared to other types of hunting. The article also talked about how different cultures adopt rules when hunting that make the situation seem less savage and more appropriate, but these rules were usually adopted when hunting for subsistence. I think this is because cultures that hunt for substance have an appreciation of the animals they hunt since they will need them for survival for future generations. This is also where ritualized hunting comes in to play. Once you have a better understanding of different types of hunting it is easier for one to understand what sport hunting lacks as far acceptable ethics in today’s society. This article helped me to understand the origin of the sport, and how overtime the original purpose has been taken for granted for money or trophies. The author had an appreciation for hunting that I have yet to see from my other sources. Personally, I do not understand how sport hunting is ethical, but he helped me to understand a different point of view while researching.

 

Analysis of “The Case Against Free Will” from Evolving Ideas

“Actions are caused by forces beyond our control” was the main idea of the article by James Rachels and Stuart Rachels. When placed on trial for murder, Clarence Darrow defended two young boys who seemed like the last people to be involved in a murder case. The boys were eighteen and nineteen at the time, and they said that their only motive for the murder was to prove that they could actually carry out their plan to society. As their lawyer, Darrow stated that he personally did not believe in crime. According to him, the actions carried out by individuals have nothing to do with their personal choices. Nature is the main determinant when it comes to the way life plays out according to this theory. Because of this idea, Darrow believed that the two boys were not guilty of a crime, but rather victims to nature. When seen by psychiatrists, the boys were in fact diagnosed as sociopaths due to behavior that had been occurring all their lives. These findings somewhat supported Dawson’s case, because even though the boys killed a man, it was not their choice to seemingly have the genetic makeup of a psychopath.

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Even though the claims made by this lawyer can seem a little far-fetched, this was not the first time man has given credit to nature for the way life is carried out. “Nature consists of particles that obey the laws of physics, and everything that happens is governed by the invariable laws of cause and effect.” Personally I find this claim to be true in nature, and if humans are subject to nature then I can see where a claim can be made to prove a human innocent. Genetics are of course a major factor in one’s behavior, but the nature versus nurture debate seen in psychology shows how genetics should not be the main advocate to one’s behavior. In fact, it is usually a person’s environment that yields a specific personality. In the article I think that the two young men were completely responsible for their actions. Most of us are equipped with at least basic morals that can differentiate between right and wrong. Even though the men were seen as psychopaths to doctors, they should still be held accountable because they completely understood that they took a life just for the heck of it. Thankfully the judge understood this as well and the men served their time, but I think today this idea is becoming more and more acceptable. Of course there are laws that prevent certain ill people from being guilty in the eyes of the court, but there are some cases where a person may not be diagnosed and yet something seems “not quite right” compared to the rest of society. These cases are hard to handle, because you don’t want to abuse a person who is “at the hands of nature’s fate”, but at the same time justice must be served especially when lives have been taken.

 

 

Is Hunting for Sport Ethical? (source 2)

Source: Patrick, Bateson. “The Ethics of Hunting.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (2005): 392-97. Ecological Societies of America. Web.

“A stalker shoots an animal in the expectation that death will be instantaneous.” (Bateson) This idea is one that was not expressed in the first source summary. Basically when faced with the argument that “anyone who participates in hunts should be aware that they are involved in a sport that causes unnecessary suffering” the article discusses this point of view. Hunting with dogs has been illegal, and therefore the hunter can hope to ensure the deaths of the animals they hunt are quick and not long-suffering. Another point in the article claims that “high levels of unsustainable wildlife exploitation is occurring in Africa. With this idea in mind the reader can assume that some aspects of hunting are ethical especially in non-urban locations. Even though this is true, some animals are still being hunted for unethical reasons. In the past, as early as the 1900s, safari hunting in Africa was a lucrative sport that can earn one up to fifteen thousand U.S. dollars, which is worth even more in certain foreign countries. So with this incentive, of course hunting will be hard to restrain on the boundaries of ethics. Many do not see the harm in killing animals, especially with large sums of money in mind.

Personally, I can try to understand the difference in culture when it comes to valuing animals over money. The activity certainly is not ethically appealing, but to some it’s a way of life. The problem is when trophies and money blind so many people that large numbers are being killed at alarming rates. Unfortunately certain countries are not as enforcing on their laws preventing the quick extinction of animals. On the idea that some hunters hunt with the hopes of an instantaneous death, I feel that this is a good hope to have, but realistically the hunters have to know that certain weapons do not yield instantaneous deaths. Unnecessary suffering will happen, because simply causing the death of animal for sport is unnecessary suffering for nature nearly every time it happens. It is a good thing that hunting has laws have been enforced in certain areas, but in some regions of the world that were talked about in the article the laws are not so enforced. Killing animals like elephants and jaguars, or prized trophy animals, should not be legal anywhere. Their beauty should not be taken for the sole purpose of receiving large sums of cash or shiny trophies. I agreed with the article when it stated that cases can be made for hunting for food since sometimes it is necessary, but besides that hunting should not be acceptable.

Is Hunting for Sport Ethical?

Source : Davis, Bill. “Does Hunting Help or Hurt the Environment?” Scientific American (2009). © 2014 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. Web.

 

In several countries hunting for sport is a popular activity, but with this hobby or sport come many debates on ethics and overall morality of the sport. Killing animals is something that, if proven correctly, can seem natural. Seeing how humans use to survive solely off hunting animals you might think it would not be a big deal. Hunting merely for sport is when the ethical gears shift into a different direction. Bill Davis talks about how “hunting for pleasure” is what differentiates the morals of certain levels of hunting in his article, “Does Hunting Help or Hurt the Environment?”. Basically the difference in hunting now, and with our ancestors is that they had to hunt in order to live. The reality for most humans today is that hunting is not necessary to sustain life when it becomes a sport. In this article, the debate is also made that hunting balances out the overpopulation of certain species, whose numbers in population could increase at a dangerous rate. According to this article “78 percent of Americans support hunting today”. This is certainly an increase from past statistics involving hunting.

In my opinion, there are ethical debates on both sides of this spectrum. Personally, I have a few friends who engage in hunting for sport, and even though I would not personally participate I certainly do not think they have malicious intentions when engaging in hunting. Guidelines have been set for hunters, for example certain animals can not be hunted at certain times of the year. Culture certainly comes into play when deciding if hunting is a moral right. Certain cultures appreciate and value animals when hunting. Instead of just killing for bragging rights they make economical materials from their kills. The article explains how some hunt for “therapeutic” purpose. This is where I feel the line should be crossed. Killing or taking the lives of animals is something that should be taken seriously. By making it a sport it becomes about what is important to the hunter rather than what is best for nature. There will certainly always be advocates for the rights of animals and nature as a whole, but I feel as if hunters should have a better understanding of why taking animal lives should not be seen as such a casual thing.

The article represents a few justifiable arguments for hunting as a sport. In conclusion, I believe that hunting is just not ethically okay. Humans should not kill unless there is a clear and morally right purpose. Of course, each person has a different ethical approach, but most people understand that killing is not necessary in most cases therefore it should be a last resort and not a sport. Bill Davis ends his article by talking about the medium hunters and environmentalists are trying to come to as a people. Oddly enough fewer Americans are hunting today, and hopefully those who do wish to hunt will consider the effects of their sport morally and appropriately before participating.