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Thinking Cap SIX

Thinking Cap SIX

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Published by stephenstgermain

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Published by: stephenstgermain on Mar 16, 2011
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Starting, perhaps, with Duchamp’s “Fountain” the Western art world has gradually purged itself of any clearly articulable standardsof evaluation. In the 21st century it seems anything can be considered “art” as long as it’s displayed in the right setting or expounded in theright context. Alas, this dissolution of aesthetic standards has bled into the moral realm. The fashionable nihilism of the contemporary art worldreached its zenith with Guillermo Vargas’ 2007 work “Exposición N° 1” a piece of “conceptual art” displayed in the Códice Gallery, Nicaragua.One aspect of the piece involved tying an emaciated stray dog to the gallery wall so as to make a display of its suffering. This incident created in-ternational headlines after it was reported that the dog starved to death while tied to the gallery wall. The precise details surrounding the “exhibi-
tion”, the artist’s purpose, and the fate of the dog are vague. Conflicting reports make it impossible to say what really happened to the dog. What
is clear, however, is that Vargas used this vulnerable creature in an obviously inappropriate way; no animal should be treated as a mere objectunder any circumstance. Yet, the agents and patrons of the Códice Gallery stood by and let this happen.The song “Fuck Art” is inspired by Vargas’ depravity. Its basic message, however, can and should be generalized to include anyinstance where the mistreatment of animals is supported by an appeal to artistic or aesthetic ends. This particular instance of cruelty is essen-tially underwritten by the aforementioned annihilation of artistic standards. It seems that we live in a culture where nearly anything is permissibleunder the guise of “artistic license”.
The often repeated phrase “Nature Red in Tooth and Claw”originated in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s grand, lengthy poem “In Memorium”.
Who trusted God was love indeed 
And love Creation’s final law 
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw With ravine, shriek’d against his creed 
Tennyson’s poem is one of the highlights of 19th century literature. Written as a kind of eulogy for Tennyson’s deceased friend Arthur Henry Hallum, “In
Memorium” provides critical documentation of the crisis of faith that came to plague many of the greatest Victorian minds. Though finished ten years before the pub
lication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, Tennyson’s poem addresses the apparent conflict between our evolutionary origins and the view that we are the products of an
omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity.
There were numerous speculative evolutionary theories floating around in the 19th century British zeitgeist. While some of these theories reserved a place
for God as fashioner of the system or the controller of evolutionary laws, all of them are were at odds with a literalist reading of Genesis. Essentially, the science of Tennyson’s day began to suggest that the earth was very old and that the creatures on it emerged via a violent struggle for survival. This introduced a challengingnew version of the problem of evil (the question of why a wholly good, wholly powerful being would allow evil to exist).Earlier generations of Christians were able to answer this formulation of the problem of evil by appealing to original sin to explain the violence and miserythat typify the animal kingdom. Man, endowed with free will, chose to eat the forbidden fruit and is thusly responsible for all the depravity in the world. Hence all of the seemingly “natural evil” we encounter is due to man’s failure rather than to God’s; God allowed for the possibility of evil by giving us free will and we, of course,
abused this gift. Freedom of the will, however, is such a great good that giving it to us justifies the resulting evil and seemingly gets God off the hook.It is easy to see the problem that arises when the literal reading of Genesis is rejected. If Adam was not the actual first man and the garden was not an actual place
then there is no original sin and thus no clear way to explain, from within the bounds of a Christian worldview, all of the violence that is seemingly “built in” to the
laws of our world. Tennyson’s generation was one of the first to clearly see this conflict and it is on this basis that their crisis of faith emerged. If “love is creation’sfinal law”, then why is the world so inherently violent? If it’s not our fault, then it must be God’s fault. But why would God create such a world? Regardless of one’s
theological views, it seems clear enough that violence is part of the natural order.The question that emerges for, us- as free beings endowed with a moral sense and able to make choices- is whether the “naturalness” of this violenceprovides any basis for perpetuating it. The song “Nature Red in Tooth and Claw” is written as a response to those that would defend the practice of meat eating (andother varieties of animal abused) by claiming that it is “natural”. Vegans hear this argument all the time, in various different guises. No matter what kind of languageis employed, all of these arguments are specious. That we are naturally predisposed towards some practice doesn’t provide any sort of moral grounding for it. The
idea that a practice is justifiably on the grounds that it is or has been accepted by the majority is bollocks. What we have done or are doing right now is in no sense
equivalent with what we should do, at present or in the future.The way the world is ain’t always they way it ought to be
hence the line about a “defect in design”. This brings us to the David Hume reference. Hume,
a incredibly important 18th century British empiricist, is famous for championing the view that normative propositions (“ought” claims) cannot be deduced from
descriptive propositions (“is” claims). Every argument that employs a claim about the “natural-ness” of meat eating as a premise commits the fallacy of deriving an
“ought” from an “is”. Anyone who doubts that this kind of moral reasoning is fallacious need only reflect on rape and slavery to see the erroneousness of the appealto nature. Both practices were at one time or other common to most societies and are perhaps based in our natural predispositions. So what? What’s natural is noguide to what’s right. I also snuck in a Kant reference in the line “Cruelty leads to hardness of heart.” Read the Lectures on Ethics and see if you can figure it out.
“Hang” is pretty self-explanatory. It’s inspired by the people I have known, specifically older people, who have quit the straight edge because of unhappi
ness with their station in life. Do they really think drinking will improve things for them?
Lots of people dabble in the hardcore scene as kids; usually they go through a straight edge phase. Invariably, most SE kids move on. As I’ve mentioned above,while I believe that SE is the best way to live I recognize that it can be demanding and socially isolating. I understand why lots of people succumb to the pressure to
drink. It’s absolutely pervasive. Why cut yourself off from the world over a matter you don’t take to be all that important?
Nevertheless, I’ve been seeing a lot of 25 to 35 year old dudes decide to start drinking after years and years on the edge. I know too many people who’ve dedicatedtheir youths to hardcore and then found, upon reaching adulthood, that there’s nothing there for them. Now, it’s certainly true that if the only thing on your resumeis touring and record collecting you’re probably going to be stuck with a service industry job. You’ll probably have a hard time meeting members of the opposite sex
who’ll actually date you. You’ll probably be broke and have little to gloat about at your high school reunion. But so what? If you’ve
spent the better part of your life living by your own set of standards it just makes it that much more pathetic when you break downand try to join normal society.
Newsflash: while your tattoos may convince a few drunken 21 year olds that you’re a fuck-worthy rebel
you’llalways be an outsider. Drinking won’t make you happier and it won’t really help you to fit in. The time for fitting in is long past;
you missed the train of normalcy and there’s no way to board later down theline. Think about it
when your co-workers talk about prom you’re still goingto be the guy who skipped it to go skateboarding. When the conversationturns to college you’re still going to be the guy who dropped out to tour.When the folks at the hipster bar start talking music you’ll still know, deepwithin your soul, that anyone who hasn’t heard the Antidote 7” has no right
to speak. Whatever drew you to hardcore and SE in the first place keptyou there for ten or fifteen or twenty odd years; a few drinks won’t undo alifetime of marching out of step. Seeing a 30-something drunk for the first
time is just sad. There’s nothing to gain; if you hate your life so much thatyou’ve begun to consider drinking, think about the real changes you couldmake to better yourself. If you already feel like you’re in the gutter, why
would you turn to the very substance the puts most people there in the firstplace? Alcohol will wash what’s left of you right down the drain.

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