Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tragedy, Bad Times, and What it all means Part 1

Intro Post

     So I briefly touched on what tragedy is and I mentioned that I find this situation tragic. I want to go into why its tragic and how the tragedy needs to be resolved.

According to the  I would like to throw out some numbers.
In 2000, 1,242 children in the United States died from intentional firearm-related injuries. Homicides of children are most often murders of teens by other teens.

Youth homicides represent the greatest proportion of all firearm deaths. Each day in the U.S., firearms kill an average of 10 children and teens, even though the number of teens killed by firearms in the U.S. has dropped by 35% in the past four years. In 1999, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey reported that almost one-fifth of the 10th and 12th graders indicated that they had carried a firearm within the previous 30 days for self-defense or to settle disputes.
According to the CDC, 25,423 murders by gunfire took place in the United States in 2006 through 2007 — the years of the most recent available statistics.
Among these deaths, the rate of firearm homicides was higher in inner cities than in other parts of cities and higher than the murder rate of the country as a whole, Dahlberg said. People living in 50 of the largest cities, in fact, accounted for 67% of all firearm homicides.
In addition, children and teens aged 10 to 19 in these areas — more than 85% of them male — accounted for 73% of all firearm homicides, Dahlberg noted.
So most firearms deaths of children in the US from intentional sources are connected to youth crimes. But when older (18 and 19 year old teens) is removed from the equation about as many children die from firearms realted violence as die from surgical misadventures. You have about a couple of hundred deaths of children that happen outside the inner cities from firearms homicides, less then 2 a day (average). In a population of 10s of millions of children. This is why things like school shootings are such a tragedy because it is: A reversal of fortune.
But lets take a look at these tragic shootings (College and lower levels of school) In the 2000s: The United States had 11 school shootings of the sort we just experienced. In the 90s we had 14. in the 80s we had 17. In the 70s we had 5. In the 60s we had 11. In the 50s we had 19. In the 1940s we had 10. In the 1930s we had 9. In the 1920s we had 3. In the 1910s we had 2 and in the 1900s we had 7. Now in the 2010s we've had 6 . These sorts of events are tragic because they are so uncommon. But in the world of the 24 hour media and the world of social media you have a sense of seriousness focused on these events which prevents us from experiencing them in a proper tragic method. A common message I saw among friends who were parents was "I want to hug my kids." This reaction is the proper Cathartic experience from tragedy.
But when we look at this tragedy we also lose aspect to the other aspect of the tragedy. We go to Hegel's definition of tragedy Tragedy presents ethical conflicts, between state and family, intention and action, responsibility and necessity. Conflict may exist even where ethical principles are not the primary interest, because the tragic character may experience internal conflict, as Hamlet or Othello. Tragedy lies in the denial of absolute right on either side, or affirmation of equal right, and its spiritual value consists in presenting justice as reconciliation:
We look at school shooters like Cho at virginia tech: Due to mental illness he developed a profound sense that the humanity in others held no value to him. Lets also take a look at another shooter:
On February 29, 2012, Tim Grendell, the juvenile court judge presiding over Lane's case, allowed the release of the suspect's juvenile records to the press. According to his records, T.J. Lane was arrested twice in December, 2009. The first time, Lane restrained his uncle, while his cousin hit him. The other case involved Lane hitting another boy in the face.[42] To the second charge, Lane pled to a count of disorderly conduct.[43]
Although family court records concerning T.J. Lane had not been released, as of March 12, 2012, the press did expose criminal records of Lane's father, Thomas M. Lane, Jr. The records showed that in 2002 the elder Lane was incarcerated for one year for attempted murder. In an ordeal lasting nine hours, he physically and verbally assaulted a woman while three children were present. In addition, "he has arrests on a wide range of offenses including drug abuse and possession, violation of probation, public intoxication and disorderly conduct".[42]
A child who grew up in a home where violence was common became a young man to whom violence was not only common but became an answer. The tragedy is of course that these violent experiences do not happen in a vacuum. People see these children and families. Teachers and administrators encounter warning signs: and they ask the question "What am I legally required to do" and they do not move to the more important question "What am I morally and ethically required to do?" The tragedy of these shootings is they have increased in number as the community has declined in the 20th and 21st century. But if you go back further into the 19th century you see these shootings still occurred and occurred during times of social upheaval:  1880s (6), 1870s (2), 1860s (3), and1850s (1).

As we have changed and faced the challenges of becoming a modern country and as there were challenges of economic/social/political inequalities we see an increase of these mass shootings. Because the conflicts of these inequalities are ones that invalidate others.

"The Man is keeping me down"
"Queers are trying to change our marriages"
"the 1% is stealing from the 99%"
"Illegal aliens are stealing our jobs"

We invalidate the humanity of other people in general, and we ignore the humanity of people more specifically that we see falling through the gaps in our society. Some of them are beyond our ability to help but we are unable to help them all. We need a society where we are not individuals existing in a cynical relationship with our social/political/ and cultural institutions. People can live in material poverty without being violent: But if they live in material poverty with a cultivated spiritual poverty (that the world is out to get me and violence is the answer) we will see these sorts of violent incidents continue as people who feel they have no way to change their place in the order of things snap and become violent.

Gun control isn't the answer (as these crimes increased during the increases of gun control in the united states) people control is the answer. We need to be a society of neighbors and communities again so the communities can help diffuse this sense of indignity and rage.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Tragedy, Bad Times, and What it all means Part 0: Introduction

Out of respect for the wishes of others and because I have been out there being a productive adult I have not talked about the latest spree killing in these here united states. But before I get into the meat of this matter I want to talk about what we say it all is and what that really means. Its a Tragedy. But where does Tragedy and just bad times become divided in the mind and in the heart. So lets start with Aristotle's view on tragedy

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such emotions. . . . Every Tragedy, therefore, must have six parts, which parts determine its quality—namely, Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Melody.” (translation by S. H. Butcher;
Tragedy depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine, usually through some combination of hubris, fate, and the will of the gods. The tragic hero's powerful wish to achieve some goal inevitably encounters limits, usually those of human frailty (flaws in reason, hubris, society), the gods (through oracles, prophets, fate), or nature. Aristotle says that the tragic hero should have a flaw and/or make some mistake (hamartia). The hero need not die at the end, but he/she must undergo a change in fortune. In addition, the tragic hero may achieve some revelation or recognition (anagnorisis--"knowing again" or "knowing back" or "knowing throughout" ) about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods. Aristotle quite nicely terms this sort of recognition "a change from ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate." 

Key to Aristotle's definition (that applied to a play) is Katharsis:

The end of the tragedy is a katharsis (purgation, cleansing) of the tragic emotions of pity and fear. Katharsis is another Aristotelian term that has generated considerable debate. The word means “purging,” and Aristotle seems to be employing a medical metaphor—tragedy arouses the emotions of pity and fear in order to purge away their excess, to reduce these passions to a healthy, balanced proportion. Aristotle also talks of the “pleasure” that is proper to tragedy, apparently meaning the aesthetic pleasure one gets from contemplating the pity and fear that are aroused through an intricately constructed work of art

His definition of tragedy was not just limited to plays because he was trying to codify the formal systems of the world he lived in. But because the play was a thing that allowed you to experience the pity and fear and gain release and knowledge from the experience.Key also is the reversal of fortunes. That seemed to require the hand of the god's (or hubris and pride of men).

As we get to more modern philosophers we get deeper into Tragedy and how that ties into what we are experiencing and sharing through the poor people in Connecticut

August Wilhelm von Schlegel, Comparison between the Phaedre of Racine and that of Euripides (1807). The unity of ancient tragedy consists not in a single action, but a single idea, the heroism of the impossible struggle of man against fate. In Renaissance tragedy this may become a meditation on destiny, as in Hamlet. In A Course of Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, volume 1, 1809, Schlegel stated 'the spirit of ancient art and poetry is plastic, and that of the moderns is picturesque', a contrast also adopted by Coleridge (Lectures on Shakespeare 1849). The dichotomy is between the Greek arts as demonstrating sculptural beauty, 'a refined and ennobled sensuality', enjoyment of the present and celebration of the human will; while northern European art expresses the desire for the sublime, the infinite, and the annihilation of the self. A Romantic approach is also evident in Schlegel's view of the function of the chorus as 'a personified reflection on the action ... the incorporation into the representation itself of the sentiments of the poet ... In a word, the ideal spectator' (Course 69-70).
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Philosophy of Fine Art (c1820). Tragedy presents ethical conflicts, between state and family, intention and action, responsibility and necessity. Conflict may exist even where ethical principles are not the primary interest, because the tragic character may experience internal conflict, as Hamlet or Othello. Tragedy lies in the denial of absolute right on either side, or affirmation of equal right, and its spiritual value consists in presenting justice as reconciliation: order is achieved through disorder, in an aesthetic version of the dialectical principle. Hegel does not consider fate or evil as important factors in the tragic conflict.

Our German Friends take it further: The source of tragedy in addition to huberis we see the conflict of our many roles in society and our role as an Individual. And we have tragedy being the very struggle against the impossible in life (and failing to fully be heroic).

     So I want to go into the tragedy of these events
  1. What makes this event tragic is the failures of people to act in a place of duty as they would wish to act.
  2. Without a deeper examination of these failures these events lead us to a deeper pain
  3. The people who commit the vile actions are themselves tragic because the cause to such violence is far more then a choice but is a path. And a path they rarely choose fully.
  4. It is the making of these events unknowable (when their can be knowledge gained) that makes these events tragic.
I am going to after some sleep and some free time expand on this further. But the tragedy is not the murder, the murder is the catharsis. Parents and people are having an emotional reaction that is giving them a release and a sense of connection. "What if this were my child?" This is a natural part of the order of such things. But while tragedy connects us to horror and feelings of horror, we must understand the limits of feelings (as much as we understand the limits of thought).

But I also want to take a step further:
Children are murdered and that is terrible but Children are murdered and brutalized every day. Do we pray for all of them?Some children are neglected and left to rot, do we pray for all of them?

We see illustrated in the movie Bruce Almighty the absurdity of such a vision of prayer. So   We can visualize and hope for the best for those who suffer but unless we open ourselves to them all we are doing is using them to experience their horror through their own lives. We can pray to god like he is some kind of prayer concierge, or we could take a deeper step (which the movie bruce almighty shows) being there for people.

Because you see not being there for people is why this tragedy and others like it always seem to happen. And being there for people is part of the answer to stop it. An Answer thats bigger then governments or men but is small enough for communities

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