Ram Pages Reflective Analysis

On our first day of class, we spent nearly and hour and fifteen minutes discussing what a ram was.  While at sometimes the activity felt slightly irrelevant or far-fetched, I’ve realized how influential that activity has been.  Throughout the course my mind has expanded to see objects, ideas, people, and events from multiple perspectives, at different levels, and for different reasons.  It has helped me see that there is a time and place for different types of thinking- which was proven fairly obviously by one of my favorite readings of the semester: Two Modes of Thought, written by Jerome Bruner.

This can be seen on my rampages site.  I have a tendency to not necessarily lose focus, but pay specific attention to certain things while loosely ignoring others.  While at first this probably sounds like a horrible thing to do as a student, I think it has actually been beneficial for me.  In my posts, I often found one specific idea that is linked to several others that I focus on.  Typically I choose the thing that either doesn’t make sense, or I can’t seem to forget about to discuss.  As a student I think there is little to no point to extensively discuss things that either make sense or don’t elicit some type of further thinking that connects to other ideas and topics.  I believe this reflects my curiosity in that I’m not particularly concerned with addressing every single thing that was discussed, but the ones that make me think at a greater level than the others.

Consequently, this course has made me ask questions and poke and prod at myself.  Many of our activities, especially within Unit 2 has made me reflect upon myself and my experiences and how that influences the way I learn academically and socially.  Prior to this course I like to believe I was a relatively open-minded person; however, our Unit 1 work challenged me to empathize with ideas I may not be able to understand or agree with.  Joshua Holland’s “There Are No Vagina Voters” forced me to confront my own identity and how it influences my decision making.  It also created a greater relationship between experience and choice for me and made understanding the viewpoints of someone I don’t agree with understandable.  

This also demonstrates my skepticism in academics.  While I have made efforts to improve my understanding of other ideas and beliefs, I don’t necessarily accept them as fact, but a possibility that should be considered.  RamPages has made me aware of the way I articulate my ideas and encouraged me to be careful when discussing controversial or sensitive topics.  It has also made me elaborate as to be sure my point came across the way it was intended.

Ultimately I don’t have the deepest or most intellectually stimulating ideas, but I do have a natural curiosity and respect for learning that is leading my towards the former.  The more I read and write in this way the more I have learned about the world around me and myself.  

Sandel

Who Deserves What? /Aristotle, written by Michael Sandel, highlights Aristotle’s perspective on justice and other topics through modern scenarios.  For instance, Callie Smartt, one of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders and Andrews High School in West Texas is disabled, and at the end of the season removed from the team.  The efforts to have Callie removed from the team trace back to another girl’s father, and according to Sandel the reason being the father felt the value of his daughter’s abilities were depreciated by having someone be on the same team as her with lesser capabilities. By putting someone on the team incapable of performing at the level his daughter had worked to achieve, it discredited the worth or honor of being a member of the team.  This calls into question the relationship between justice, fairness, honors and telos.  Telos is the purpose for something.  By using teleological thinking it means assuming the person best suited to achieve the purpose of something (ex. Being a cheerleader, playing the flute, tennis, etc.) should be awarded the right to use the good.  This type of thinking is easy to apply to objects and positions; however, it becomes more complex when applying to social injustice, voting, and opportunities such as education.  While there is value in this type of thinking, there is also undemocratic ideals because it separates people by their worth.  This isn’t inherently incorrect or unfair, but it is different from the standard Americanized notion of “fairness.” In reality, while all people are, or should be, created equal, they don’t necessarily die that way.  By this I mean that not everyone will achieve the same level of education, experience, understanding, talents, or abilities.  Similar to the concept of telos this draws into question: what is the purpose of a person? Is it to be equal to all other humans or is it to grow and develop as an individual, therefore meaning  not all people will choose equal paths.  Also referenced within the text, you can’t compare apples and oranges.  Simply because two things are not equal does not mean one is superior and one is inferior.  They can simply be different.  This type of thinking is extremely intriguing to me and helped pull together the Ethics readings to help clarify my understanding of these topics.

 

Mass incarceration has plagued not only the United States as a whole, but specifically minority and youth groups.  This epidemic is thoroughly explored in Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy.  This image was taken from the Performing Statistics Newspaper.

This picture helps to humanize the incarcerated, something that often gets overlooked.  Very often criminals are assumed to be rapists, psychopaths, murderers, or lack remorse.  However, many are locked away for nonviolent crimes, or those who do commit heinous acts are filled with regret.  Unfortunately, it is undeniable that culture and community contribute to the likelihood of being incarcerated.  Throughout the Performing Statistics Newspaper there are dozens of references to lacking role models, especially male, and wanting to be a better version of themselves.

This image made me pause because this person is expanding their understanding of their purpose beyond themselves.  They are aware of how their actions impact their community and they want to build a better one for themselves and others.  This truly reflects the good within this unknown person and creates an undeniable human connection for me.  

This also directly relates to my question of power: how is the significance of a tragic event determined within a community?  This man’s perception of community and purpose reflects how the actions of one can impact many.  Ultimately the image gives me a sense of empathy which is what Stevenson was trying to encourage through his own work, Just Mercy.

From my personal experience as a white female I don’t naturally relate to the struggle of a black man in the country with the highest incarceration rate; however, moments such as this help to bridge that gap to develop a deeper understanding of not only my own privilege but the struggles and disadvantages others face.  By far that has been one of the most memorable aspects of this course in that it has made me view the world, as much as my own abilities will allow, in the shoes of someone else.

Adichie and Bruner

Stories have been a fundamental part of every culture across the globe.   They are a means of communication and inherently part of our brains given humans form and develop their own memories in a very story-like way.  

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jerome Bruner have very interesting perspectives on the meaning and purpose of a story.  

Adichie chooses to explore this through telling her own story as a woman who grew up in Nigeria and later moved to The United States.  Her experiences as a child, such as only having access to English literature, gave her a single story, as she later refers it to in her TED Talk, of what the rest of the world was like.  Her opinions about domestic help were limited to only what her parents would tell her; however, later she discovered there was more to both of these stories. This is where she brings up the “danger of a single story” because when fundamental parts of a storyline are ignored, a new story is created.  She discusses the capacity and history of a story to do harm or good, and that this outcome relies in the choice to tell a story the way it truly is.

Jerome Bruner discusses the story as one of the two modes of cognitive functioning.  His discussion revolves primarily around comparing and contrasting the narrative and paradigmatic modes.  He argues that the two are necessary and cannot exist without their opposite.  He also makes the distinction that with stories the requirements are in life-likeness or verisimilitude, not factuality, implying that some components of reality can be ignored presuming the story to some degree seems real.  This contrasts Adichie’s talk primarily in that her focus was to tell more ethical stories, as Bruner only focuses on the process of creating a realistic series of events.  

This difference in purpose is likely due to the fact their audiences were completely different.  While Adichie wanted to give a talk to inspire the world to consider the implications of their storytelling and listening behaviors, Bruner wanted to clarify the purpose of each mode of thought so the two could be used more effectively.  

Ethics

Why are some people forgiven while others are not?  After listening to the story of William Cimillo and his joyride in a New York City bus down to Florida, which would technically be classified as grand larceny, and how the court chose not to punish him, this question formed in my mind.  What was it about Cimillo that made him forgivable?  

This also drew in a question of ethics.  Principles of ethics typically rely on equality, common good, or virtue, so at first glance it seemed unethical to forgive someone while not forgiving others.  It looked as though there was a massive failure in making ethical decisions.  However, within the fairness and justice approach there was a reference to Aristotle’s idea that equals should be treated equally.  

The idea that Cimillo is not an equal to another hypothetical man who could have stolen a bus seems unfair, especially having grown up in a country that put the idea “all men are created equally” into their doctrine.  The word that stood out was “created.” This bridged the gap that I had felt was there because although all men are born with a certain set of rights, through life experiences men can make more of and for themselves.  Cimillo was a good, hardworking, family man.  He wasn’t planning on selling the bus for profit.  He wasn’t smuggling drugs or kidnapping anyone  He showed up to work one day and made a very weird and spontaneous choice people across the country were fascinated with.  This distinction separates him from what most would think of as a criminal.  

This idea of fairness and justice and treating equals equally seemed the most fitting for my paper simply given it appeared to be the most logical connection I could make within the framework for ethical decision-making given the uniqueness of Cimillo’s story.  

 

Consider the Lobster

Consider the Lobster, an article written by David Foster Wallace discusses the ethicality of the way lobster is consumed for our “gustatory pleasure” or more specifically the way it is prepared for this simple pleasure.  The Maine Lobster Festival is a vital part of the midcoast industry and every year attendance booms over 80,000.   Perhaps the mass consumption is what spurred this discussion.  

Wallace takes the approach to first introduce what the MLF even is prior to really discussing the actual lobster.  He depicts the festival as a fundamental part of the midcoast culture.  There are tents with pamphlets, free recipes, lobster cooked every delicious way possible, t-shirts, families walking together, toys and more.  It is described like it is a familiar, welcoming place to go.

However, throughout the piece, Wallace moves on to discuss the actual anatomical features of a lobster, putting into perspective that it is a live being, not just something on our plates.  He continues to describe how the festival is a massive money maker for the industry, often even inconveniencing the attendants.  More importantly though, he asks the question: “Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?”

When phrased in such a way it makes even the most lobster-loving person pause.  To boil something alive seems barbaric, yet masses upon masses of lobster are boiled and served as if there is nothing wrong with this custom.  Many would argue that there isn’t.  Wallace picks apart these counterarguments by introducing information that contradicts popular opinion.  

He introduces the idea that yes, lobsters feel pain, and that the way it is prepared is often overlooked or even avoided by placing them in the pot and leaving until it is over.  The term to “prepare” really just means to kill in this context. Wallace makes it blatantly clear that he isn’t buying into the idea that they don’t feel pain when their distress is so obvious.  

Wallace concludes by urging readers to at least put moral thought into their food.  Although his arguments could easily fit into several of the ethical approaches, I would say his actual hope is that every individual will want to improve their own individual choices.  Afterall lobster is prepared on site specifically for whoever orders it.  This idea of virtue is what drives social change and by masses of individuals choosing to boycott this unethical practice change is possible, which is what Wallace wants the reader to believe.

Why Rowers Need Stories in Response to “Why Doctors Need Stories”

In his essay, “Why Doctors Need Stories,” Peter D. Kramer claims that storytelling is essential to medicine to understand the meaning of a moment and to deepen the the human experience; both of which contribute to a doctor’s ability to make appropriate, effective decisions.  He argues that by discounting the credibility of a story, it leaves the medical world with only numbers, which can be ineffective contextually. He also illustrates that numbers are rooted back to the story, but by starting at step two, the numbers, it eliminates a vital portion of the case, the story, thus destroying important information that could potentially have severe consequences such as someone going misdiagnosed and without treatment for forty years.

This concept is directly related to the experience of athletes.  There is something particularly mind boggling about what it is that drives a person to challenge their limits and continuously demand it of themselves to go beyond them, and go far beyond them. What rowers endure is a special journey that deserves to be told in the way it truly happens.   

Rowing is the definition of a team sport.  Nine people sit in a boat together, one with a microphone and eight with oars in their calloused hands.  Everyone works in absolute unison.  The girls in the boat are referred to by their seat number, not their name because there are no rewards for how well an individual rows; it’s all dependent on how the crew rows together.  

One thing I have learned about the sport and how it differs from others is how quite literally “being in the same boat” as your teammates can alter your perception of pain.  There is something about knowing that with every stroke you take there are seven girls taking that exact same stroke.  Every stroke is your best stroke and there’s no excuse for it not to be.  Period.  This isn’t something that magically happens on race day just because of the adrenaline rush.  It happens in the months leading up to the race day when eight girls chooses to come to practice before the sun rises, to sit on an erg (a rowing machine) for an hour every single night, to do extra lifting sessions, to put their names and times up on the board in a dusty old basement of a boathouse, to show up to practice even when they’re sick, sore, and beaten down.

Athletes need their stories to be told.  By ignoring the countless hour of training, the blood, sweat, tears, vomit, heart and soul athletes pour into themselves, their teammates, their coaches, their sport- it ignores the “why?”  “What” without “why, how, when, etc.” doesn’t give the same message that fifth place might.

The story of my crew deserves to be told.  That story is not synonymous with fifth place and by ignoring this the meaning of what our crew accomplished would be unrecognizable.  Fifth place doesn’t get to medal.  It’s respectable, but nothing spectacular.  However, there is no doubt that what happened in that boat was the product of something incredible.

Bruner and Bryan Stevenson

Throughout Jerome Bruner’s, “Two Modes of Thought” he explores the ideas presented within the title: the paradigmatic and the logico-scientific along with the imaginative.  He argues that without one, the other cannot effectively stand alone to achieve the full potential of it’s meaning.  Within these modes, there are also even deeper divides that depend on an equal or at least adjusted balance between the two umbrellas of thought.  For example, within a story, the progression and impact of the events depend on not only action but consciousness and without the two merged together, carrying the story farther, it would lack a deeper meaning.

These ideas are almost flawlessly connected to Bryan Stevenson’s, Just Mercy, a powerful story constructed to affirm that there is a chance for redemption within us all and also combats the broken criminal justice system America continues to systemically allow to progress.  While reading Just Mercy the reader is engulfed by injustice, heartbreak, disappointment, continuous hardships and it is powerful enough to infuriate the average reader, giving them a call to action.  However, had Stevenson simply presented the serious of unfortunate events, no pun intended, without emotion, without human connection and not provided the psychological impact of it’s consequences, there would be no call to action.  Readers would be able to shake away the facts or the basic outlines, but the journey of the individuals, Bryan himself included, are what will stay with them.

Bruner would probably asses Just Mercy as such: a balanced piece that explores both modes of thought thoroughly and expertly.  The work is constructed with calculation to what will make a reader’s fingers continue to flip pages and discover even more of what Stevenson has to present.  Stevenson succeeded in understanding what Bruner said from the very beginning, that “ignoring either mode fails to capture the rich diversity of thought.”

In “There Are No ‘Vagina Voters” Joshua Holland explores the concept of “identity politics” and its application to modern elections.  While “identity politics” do not visibly drive every vote in the predicted way, there are many underlying factors in almost any scenario that could potentially be linked to the trend of identity politics.  Cherry picking traits and assuming trends is not always an effective method given the quirks and complicated depths of each individual. However, Holland did draw attention to the common occurrence when “identity politics” are only mentioned in regards to marginalized groups: LGBTQIA+, people of color, women, etc. when in reality all groups engage in some degree of identity politics and that there is a distinct difference between identity and membership, all of which play a role in how voters make decisions and view the political world.

In “The US Presidential Campaign and The Crisis of Identity Politics” Carl Raschke notes when strict identity politics act as a factor verses more economic, universal goals.  Identity politics are often the product of “good times” meaning people are comfortable enough to notice things like sexism or racism, and their thoughts are not consumed by simply trying to get a meal on the table.  However, during severe economic crisis, the emphasis on identity reduces itself.  It is also noted the evolution of identity politics have broken down to be more specific in definition to further make distinctions among these groups.

Both texts discuss the important topic of identity groups and politics and relate them to present-day events.  While Holland’s piece focuses primarily on falsifying the common notion that “identity” means marginalized, which is an assumption many have in modern society.  In this sense, both works mention the concept of perspective in how many whites may view black voting patterns to be evidence of identity politics but not their own race’s trend.  Raschke also demonstrates how divisions in language can influence perception: “woman of color” versus “white heterosexual male.” While one implies disadvantage, another implies unwarranted privilege.  However, both may play a role in their voting trends.  Personally, I preferred the Holland article in that it was relatable to me as a white heterosexual female in how many within my own race assume themselves to be the “norm.” This simply isn’t accurate to me.  Just because a group consists of the “majority” does not mean that socially they should be labeled the standard figure and that anything else is a deviation from this norm.  However, this is prevalent within society.  More factors, and more so the combination of these factors, are what I believe ultimately influence preferences and choices especially given that over-generalizations run the risk of ignoring other important factors that may have otherwise not been noted.

femrubio-rnc-bt

August 30th

Video 1: “Donald Trump Biography Introduction” presented Trump as a hopeful, optimistic, dedicated and talented man capable of taking on the task of being the President of the United States.  The video was inspiring in nature, making references to Trump’s upbringing, his philanthropic efforts, his achievements in selflessly re-establishing New York.  It also made the argument that Trump was not running as the Republican candidate for personal reasons, but to create a better future for America, it’s citizens, and his family.  The importance of his company and all that it encompasses gives value to his willingness to place it on the back burner.  Over all the video is convincing in that he is competent, willing, experienced and driven enough to handle the responsibility.  The video also demonstrated that he wanted to represent all of America, including women, minorities, and the less privileged and this is demonstrated by his willingness to promote women before it became a popular trend, which as a woman myself makes him more viable as an option. The biography establishes a sense of trust and creates a great argument for his election.

Video 2:”Hilary” was modeled similarly to Trump’s: emphasis on upbringing, family, and values. With extensive references to 9/11 and the measures Clinton took to rebuild New York were inspiring and made me feel as though she truly cared about the well being of us all.  She is depicted as being strong-willed and brave with ample evidence: making radical statements about women’s rights in 1995.  She is relatable in her upbringing with a military father and strong values.  Ultimately the video achieved its goal in making her seem like a trustworthy, intelligent and caring candidate for all of the United States.

In regards to the readings, both resonated with me.  “For Millennial Voters, the Clinton vs. Trump choice ‘feels like a joke” was extremely accurate. As a millennial who turned eighteen almost a year ago and has voted twice, November seems promising only for disappointment.  Many millennials, including myself, are wary of either candidates ability to represent our nation or our generation.  The elections is catching “global interest” yet many still feel isolated from the race because the two most prominent candidates are detached from our interests and needs.  However, the article brought up an important consideration that it is not necessarily their age or values that separate us from them, but their character.  Bernie Sanders had been popular among people my age for many reasons including that he was relatable and trustworthy.  People, more specifically millennials, generally did not feel as if his actions were contrived given his track record since the 1960’s.  The article also mentioned the trend that previously Obama had inspired young voter turnout, yet the 2016 election is decreasing involvement.  Many have given up staying updated on current events because “the more engages I become, the less I care” is a common feeling.  Many people under the age of thirty are looking to third party candidates, but feel that their odds are dismal which is something I can certainly relate to.

“A Case for Putting ‘None of the Above’ on the Ballot” interested me more so than any of the other videos or articles.  It was a topic I had never thought about, except in joking statements.  Prior to the article I had no idea that Nebraska actually had a NOTA option.  While it at first seems humorous, it actually holds an extreme level of power and importance.  If NOTA were to be expanded as an option many would not feel the way they do about the 2016 election.  NOTA has the potential to increase voter turnout, decrease corruption, and decrease incumbency influence which are generally issues across the board most would like to see be addressed.  The idea of NOTA gives a personal sense of security that if something like this can be enacted in 1976, our future may not be as hopeless as many of us think.

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