What'd He Say?

Avicii’s Existential Crisis

Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can’t tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start
They tell me I’m too young to understand
They say I’m caught up in a dream
Life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes
Well that’s fine by me

Avicii is lost. Recognize that Avicii is claiming he is lost, not that he has lost something.  Avicii is lost in darkness, guided by a beating heart, not sure on when his journey will end, but he know’s that he is embarking on one.  These lines should be interpreted as Avicii’s understanding of life.  He is working his way through the fog of life, cognizant of his existence due to his heart beating,  unsure of where his journey will cease, but he knows there is a motivation for his heart beating.  His journey is not a journey of life, but a journey amidst life.  Avicii is in search of a substantiation of his existence, guided by a beating heart, but why is his heart beating?  He admits he is at times misguided.  Avicii becomes distracted by youthful ignorance, dreams which provides false meaning.  Concluding the stanza there is a reference to Ferris Buhler’s famous quote, which deserves its own analysis.  The final line of the stanza is an important foreshadow, which affirms Avicii’s youthful ignorance, and more importantly, his acceptance of it.  

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost
[x2]

The refrain emphasizes Avicii’s wandering.  Avicii understands he is in a struggle for a meaning of existence, not a journey of life which will have a set start and end, birth and death.  One can discern the difference Avicii is trying to make as he states he wants to be awoken not at the end of his life or death, but rather at the point that he understands the meaning of his existence.  He wants to be wiser, older, to be able to look back and recognize his journey towards an existential purpose and his attainment of it. However, what is he going to find when he is older that assuaged his journey?

I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
I hope I get the chance to travel the world
But I don’t have any plans
Wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
Life’s a game made for everyone
And love is the prize

The second stanza begins exclaiming he has attempted to substantiate his life in a few ways, many of them individual attempts.  By saying he only has two hands there is a connotation that he could not find meaning by himself.  The third and fourth line again refer to a possible subsistence for existence, traveling the world, but again Avicii, the individual, has no plans.  The second half of the stanza moves quickly. Recall the final line of the first stanza, “Well that’s fine by me,” which referred to his acceptance of his youthful ignorance. Avicii again admits his youthful ignorance is bliss.  He is able to avoid sleeplessness nights thanks to the false-meaning he finds through his dreams and attempts at carrying the world.  However, Avicii quickly concludes the stanza with a bold statement.  After stating that everyone who lives must partake on this journey, he claims he has recognized what affords life meaning.  For Avicii, love substantiates and motivates each person’s existence. 

So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn’t know I was lost
[x2]

After the second stanza the refrain takes on a new meaning.  Avicii recognizes that he is lost and what would end his search.  He must find love to garner meaning from his existence.  He yearns for the day when he is older, wiser, and existentially placated.

I didn’t know I was lost
I didn’t know I was lost
I didn’t know I was lost
I didn’t know I was lost

Avicii didn’t know he was lost, how about you?  Have you found your prize, or are you still caught up in dreams?

(Lyrics courtesy of http://www.lyrics.com/wake-me-up-lyrics-avicii.html)

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Rant

A First Look at American Guns

After another mass shooting in the United States gun control is sure to be a hot topic in political circles over the next few weeks.  It is a convoluted topic that there simply is not an easy way to approach.  Similar to the problem of drunk driving, gun control in different states does mandate different laws.  This would make it seem extremely difficult for a federal law to make headway in this battle.  However, as guns cross state boundaries intrastate commerce is certainly applicable.  More thought and discussion will follow in the upcoming days, but first let’s consider the simple utilitarian argument that is regularly made in favor of the proliferation of guns in America.

Utilitarianism is currently in vogue among many philosophers, and even more persons who think they understand philosophy.  Journalists, columnists, tv personalities, and others, often make claims based their haphazard utile calculations behind two options.  Economists base many of their models and theories on the idea of greatest possible utility being the best possible option.  However, most people only invoke such calculations when they see it as beneficial to their argument, which results in misrepresentations of situations, misunderstanding of how utilitarianism is supposed to work, unadulterated fabrication or hypocrisy when they confront other situations.  Consider the following example.

A large group of Americans have a headache.  Not a simple lightheadedness that will shortly disappear, but a full on migraine that causes hours of suffering.  This migraine is the result of   industrial pollutants in the air.  By some quirky mathematical formula it is proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if x amount of Americans are killed per year, the strain on the industrial complex will be relieved to the point that the air pollutants will be reduced to a level such that every American’s migraine is no longer an issue.   Do you kill the x number of Americans?  Does it depend on the number, or do you stick to a strong no?

A large group of Americans have a sweet-tooth.  However, it is not a sweet-tooth for sweets, it is one for guns.  This large group of Americans derives a palpable pleasure from owning and firing their guns.  This pleasure is derived only from morally permissible ways, i.e. sport, target practice, sense of protection, or securing a livelihood.  But not all guns are used in morally permissible ways.  In order for the large group of Americans to satisfy their sweet-tooth, x number of Americans are killed per year as a result of impermissible gun violence.  Do you feel this is a justifiable trade?  Does it depend on the number, or do you stick to a strong no?

In the first example a utile calculation is being invoked to decide if the negative utiles associated with the migraines experienced by a large amount of Americans, are worth dispersing with at the cost of a lesser number of negative utiles, the death of x amount of Americans.  The second example pits a large amount of positive utiles, people using guns in morally permissible ways, against the cost it has on the rest of the country, x amount of American lives that are lost as a result of morally impermissible gun violence each year. Remember, if you’re going to invoke utilitarianism, the decision to be made is strictly dependent on the utiles associated with each outcome (yes, the decision to be made, however, can depend on whether or not you are a rule consequentialist, or an act consequentialist).  The question put forth is simple; if you wouldn’t kill Americans to relieve others’ migraines, why is it the case that America trades American lives for others’ ability to garner pleasure from gun ownership each year?

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For 2011, the applicable value for x was 31,672 gun related deaths. (CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm )

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Rant

Why Demonize Socialism?

Let’s imagine an industry where there are thirty-two competitive companies who all produce a variation of the same amenity.  Each year in this market the thirty-two companies have agreed –the agreement is created and enforced by an overall unifying organization that protects all of their interests– to re-distribute each company’s profit among the thirty-two companies.  The companies that have the largest profit margins have some of their profits redistributed to the less fortunate companies , while those with the smallest profit margins happily accept the redistribution from the more productive companies.  Each of the thirty-two companies has a ceiling for the payroll they can offer their employees, again enforced by the overseeing organization.  At the end of each year new technology is released that may  increase productivity and the quality of the amenity the companies are producing.  The companies that suffered the worst production and quality ratings have the first opportunity to purchase and instantiate the new technology that is predicted to be most efficient, while those with the highest production and quality ratings have the last crack at new technology.  Every year each company successfully makes money under this system, and a highly valued product.  No company remains at the top of the profit lists for a large number of years consecutively, and it is possible for a company to move from the bottom of the profit list to the top in a short amount of time.

These thirty-two companies clearly operate under a type of socialism.  For those who couldn’t figure it out, the example is based off of the National Football League.  Yes, the most successful sports league in American culture actually maintains itself according to a type of socialism.  You have to ask yourself, why do Americans demonize socialism, or anything that might be socialist leaning, when their favorite and most successful leisure event are inherently socialistic?

Jon Stewart’s take via CBS

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Follow Up to Subtle Propaganda

I am not confident that the message the previous point attempts to communicate is as clear as it could be.  Here is an attempt to re-articulate:

The military’s advertisements are doing much more than recruiting a type of person.  The advertisements are not hoping to capture the imagination of a person who wants to join the ranks of a world police force, at least that is not their only purpose.  Instead, the advertisements, and this is the subtle propaganda within them, are normalizing the idea that the United States operate its military as a global police force.  That is, by advertising with statements that include “a global force for good,” “move towards the sounds of tyranny, injustice and despair,” “We don’t just defend America…” and others, the advertisement is making actions in those veins appear commonplace to the objectives of the American military.  This propaganda  results in the Congress and President having an easier time selling intervention in foreign conflicts, conflicts, which have nothing to do with the protection from America’s foreign and domestic enemies, to their constituents.

The American military is owned and funded by the citizens of the U.S., the taxpayers.  By creating advertisements as those shown the military is subtly proclaiming that it is within their objectives to operate as a global police force, or in a the Navy’s words “a global force for good.”  But the American taxpayer should ask themselves, is this where they want their money to go?  Are Americans agreeable to the fact that the military they own, the military that represents each and every individual American through its millions of personal interactions with non-Americans across the globe, currently has at the center of its objectives to operate as a global force for good?

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America’s Subtle Propaganda

Over the past twenty years or so the American military has constantly evolved its role in the world.  But as an American, what do you think the role of the American Military should be? Is it to defend America against all enemies, both foreign and domestic? (A second question immediately follows as to what qualifies as an enemy?)  Or maybe the role is to defend any and all American interests, both human and economic, throughout the world?  Or possibly, as a leading first world country, America should act as a global police force?  If you haven’t watched the youtube videos attached, take a few minutes and watch them.

Did the videos impact your perception of what the American military’s agenda is?  Do you still feel strongly about the objectives that should drive the American military?  More importantly, do you feel that the government is adhering to the creed and mission of the military?  Recent events in Syria have caused a popular debate to resurface.  Is it America’s duty to act as  a global police force? After years of endless wars, many Americans are tired of paying tax dollars and American lives to foreign wars.

So how do the president and congress, keep getting approval to send soldiers across seas?  These videos are good examples of recent propaganda attempting to garner American’s support for such wars.  Did you miss it?  Maybe you’re already inured to it.  Here are a few things you may have missed, but certainly deserve discussion:

-In the Navy commercial did you catch the closing line from the voice over? “America’s Navy, a global force for good.”  Besides all the statistics that are already invoking a world picture, the closing line of the commercial sounds a little too similar to “global police force.”

-In the Marines’ commercial again the voiceover may have slipped a line past you.  As the inspirational images capture most of your attention did you hear, “And when the time comes, we’re the first to move towards the sounds of tyranny, injustice and despair.”  Tyranny, injustice, and despair.  I must have missed the part where these three were inherently -American enemies.

-In the Air Force commercial there is a lot going on as it is quite capitivating.  As they brag about their technological capabilities, such as the ability to read a license plate from 53,000 feet in the air, did you notice them zoom in on New York City?  And the voice over again states at the end “We are first responders for relief efforts around the world.  We don’t just defend America, we do the impossible everyday.”

-Being candid, out of all the service branches the Army seems to advertise most inline with the traditional mission of the military.  They emphasize defending and exuding American values through the development of each individual solider.  However, the commercial includes clips highlighting some of America’s historically imperialistic campaigns and the voice over claiming “They lead to higher ground, to build hope, to break through barriers, to free a continent, to explore new worlds and to carry on the ideals of a nation.”

Each American should be intelligent and objective enough to digest these and other facts and ask themselves: Is the government –Senate, House of Representatives, President– adhering to what we as citizens expect and support our military to do, or have they expanded the military’s role beyond its institutional objectives molding it into something its not?

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Strongly Suggested Further Reading:
The Permanent Militarization of America by Aaron B. O’Connell
The Role of Military in Our Society Letters

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