Jeffery L Nicholas
Philosophy and social theory
to building a society of flourishing people
united in common goods.
to building a society of flourishing people
united in common goods.
Independence Day: Resurgence takes place 20 years after the original Independence Day movie. In the original, for those who need a reminder, Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman save the earth from invading aliens. Pullman, who plays the president of the US, gives a rousing do-or-die speech before the final confrontation.
Mankind -- that word should have new meaning for all of us today.
We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore.
We will be united in our common interests.
Like Ozymandias in Alan Moore's Watchmen, Pullman's president believes that an invading alien species is enough to pull the world together into a unity. Gene Roddenberry held a similar premise, though in his case, the species were the peace-loving Vulcans.
One would like to think that a common enemy could unite all of humankind. But could it?
Resurgence rests on the idea that it did and will continue to do so. The world is united in preparing for the next alien threat. They have joint forces working on the moon to establish a defense system. A governing council collaborates on what actions to take when the aliens return. Discord seems absent.
The movie opens with the world coming together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Earth's victory over the aliens. The president rehearses her speech, telling her audience--us--that the earth is united and petty divisions have been overcome. Unity is the name of the day. And indeed, the earth comes together again to save themselves from the new alien threat. This coming together is captured in two of the main characters overcoming a "petty dispute" to work together to bring about victory.
Yet, if we look closely, we see two glaring holes in this story.
The first, and the over-riding one, is the neoliberalism and military-industrial complex that holds the world together. Roddenberry, premising his Federation on the introduction of the Vulcans, can pretend that the people of Earth will respond by coming together in unity and overcoming their differences. In fact, that was his plan all along--for Star Trek is about overcoming difference to work together. We do not see the fruits of Ozymandias' trickery in Watchmen, so we do not know how the people of Earth will respond to a presumed attack by an alien species.
Yet, we should imagine, I think, that the response will be much more Resurgence rather than Federation. The Earth would need to prepare for the next attack. Living in fear of the Other, they can only hope to mobilize, and, of course, the US would be the leader of this mobilization, defined, as it is, by the military-industrial complex. The president of the US makes the final call on whether to attack the first alien ship. As we saw after WWII, the US, among other nations, was able to sustain a long period of economic growth centered around building military equipment. That sort of activity would propel the world economy forward in ID--or would it?
One significant difference is that, after WWII, Keynesian economics had won out. Tax rates were higher, and created wealth was distributed downward, not upward. Today, the case is different, as it was in 1996 when ID opened. Would the wealth created by new industry be distributed fairly, or would it go to the 1/10 of 1%? If so, would most workers continue to contribute to the building of the weapons?
One other issue to be aware of is the fall out of the first ID attack. DC and New York, as well as every major city on the planet, were destroyed. Much of the infrastructure that supports neoliberalism and the military industrial complex would be gone. Moreover, many of the wealthy would also have been killed in the attack, since they live in or frequent major metropolitan areas. What would such devastation have done to them and the the balance of economic power?
The second striking element that speaks against unity in Resurgence is the role of Dikembe Umbutu. Umbutu is an African warlord--what other sort of Africans are there, after all? His country have fought a long battle with remnants of the alien invasion for the last twenty years. He is able to travel with others to Area 51 to defend against the aliens. He does so, of course, using machetes. He tutors the science geek that you have to attack the aliens from behind, which he does deftly.
I have already pointed to the racism and ethnocentrism of this character. Yet, what about the backstory. Umbutu's people have had to fight--witch machetes--the aliens while the rest of the world is unified building lasers on the moon. In the great unity of the world, the third world is left behind--just as it is in our everyday lives. Economic and political prosperity and independence belong to first world--white--nations, not to Africans.
The rhetoric of Resurgence is good, though not as powerful as the original ID. Yet, its rhetoric as veneer, hiding the real disunity of the world.
Ron Beadle Column June 18 2016
‘Vox Populi Vox Dei’; the voice of the people is the voice of God.
This phrase, bequeathed to us from correspondence to that early pioneer of European Union, King Charlemagne, has particular resonance today. But what is less often quoted is the whole sentence in which that phrase was first recorded. For Alcuin of York (735-804), warned: “And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always close to insanity.” In the weeks to come David Cameron may well have pause to reflect on those words; and time too.
The abandonment of the grand project of shared sovereignty by one of its principal nations is truly a world-historic event; after all the ambition to pool national decision making across such a range of policy areas was itself unprecedented and the abandonment of that project equally so. No other governments had ever voluntarily sought such a relationship and who knows how long it will take before nations seek to share sovereignty again.
After the votes have been counted we will witness both panic and recrimination. There will doubtless be panic as the pound falls, interest rates rise, homes are repossessed, emergency budgets proposed and the inevitable recession deepens. That will be one story. A second will be the less predictable political fallout but the third will be the blame game. Remain supporters in particular will wring their hands and try to find reasons why people have voted for such an obviously traumatic future.
Some will point to the astonishing levels of ignorance exhibited by voters whose average estimate of EU inward migration is four times higher than its actual level, whose estimate of its spend on administration is six times its actual level and who believe that the UK contributes a far higher proportion of the EU budget than we do. Others will point to decades of media scare stories from banning bendy bananas to ‘Up Yours Delors’; others will blame a Remain campaign led by Tories whose only narrative is one of fear and others will blame the historic failure of the centre-left to make the case for Europe.
All of this is partly true but in my view the problem lays far deeper. What we are witnessing on a grand scale has the same cause as the failure the North East referendum in 2004, the failure of artificial states such as Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the failure of Prohibition in the United States in the 1920s. All of these and many more exemplify the truth that lays within “Vox Populi, Vox Dei”; that when the political class becomes too distant from the people it is the political class that loses.
When the post-war federal European pioneers decided that the way to end European wars was to tie Europeans in political and economic bonds so tight as to be inescapable they forgot this truth. The only way that a true union of people can work politically is it first works at the level of identity; we simply cannot have a European union without a sense of European identity. The sad truth for those of us who see ourselves as Europeans is that we are in a vanishingly small minority.
Monnet and the other architects of European Union had the noblest of ideals – they believe that the wars that had annihilated millions of Europeans and undermined Europe’s power in the world should never happen again. Leaders scarred by war understood the dangers of nationalism all too well, and from Willy Brandt to Ted Heath they believed that the best way of ending war was political and economic union with the economics coming first. And so when Brexiteers tell us that we were conned into voting for a common market in 1975 when the plan was always for political union; they are right. The great gamble made by the European elite was that a European identity and a European politics would follow from an economically united Europe. They were wrong.
In our century Identity politics has taken over from the great secular political creeds of socialism, liberalism and conservatism. Wherever you choose to look in the world from Trump’s desire to “make America great again” to the Salafi’s bloody attempt to recreate the Caliphate, from the SNP to the campaign for an independent Catalonia, from LGBTI liberation to the Austrian Freedom Party political allegiance has become more and more a matter of identity allegiance. And in such a context the re-awakening of a distinctly British identity is the death knell for our membership of the European Union.
Ron Beadle is Lib Dem Councillor for Low Fell
Thanks to Professor Beadle for letting me reprint his column and being the first guest writer for my blog
We've seen two interesting votes in the past few months--specifically, the Californice democratic primary and the Brexit vote.
The night before the democratic primary, before any votes had been cast, the Associated Press declared Hilary Clinton the presidential nominee, stating that she had enough delegates. The AP delegate count, however, included the superdelagates. As Snopes, among others, has reported, superdelegates have not yet cast their votes and will not do so until the democratic convention in July. In short, Clinton had not won. Yet, almost all major news sources repeated AP's story declaring Clinton the winner.
Did this announcement affect the CA primary?
At last glance, turnout for 2016’s Democratic presidential primary will be in the neighborhood of 3.5 million votes – about 1.5 million less than eight years ago, but better than the contests in 2004 and 2000, both of which were closer to 3 million. (Real Clear Politics)
Most likely, the AP announcement suppressed voter turnout, which, in the end, most likely harmed Sanders and his supporters more than Clinton. But imagine if it were the other way around? Would that make the problem any less obnoxious? Of course not. The fact is, the AP should have sent that such an announcement would affect voter turnout. They are culpable for this suppression.
Later in June, during the same week that the Brexit vote was to take place, several articles announced that the Remain campaign had slightly more votes than the Leave campaign in opinion polls. It would be a close vote, but the Remain seemed to be ahead by 52%. This announcement, unlike the AP announcement, did not declare someone a winner by default or say that someone had enough votes to be a winner. Yet, its announcement probably had an effect--even if unintended. The day of the Brexit vote, the UK suffered some severe weather. Combined with the feeling that Remain would win, should I go out and vote? Who knows how many people asked that question and how many stayed home? What we do know is that the Leave campaign won, that the win was a surprise, and that the surprise kneed the market in its private parts (all except for Soros). Regardless of what effect it might have had, the reports on Brexit polling during the same week as the vote was irresponsible.
Which brings us to the real issue: our desire for news and for keeping track of the race horse contest which our politics have become is damaging. It is damaging because it demeans our own activity, making it seem like we are trying to win a horse bet rather than participate in determining the direction of our lives. It is also dehumanizing, because it gives others the potential to call a race for us and suppress the vote. Yes, of course we should resist such announcements. Yes, we should vote always, all the time. But we do not treat our vote in that manner.
We have washed our hands of determining our political fate in favor of watching a horse race--or bowing out. The news media profits from this Pilatian act and also gains control over elections. One of the many problems democracy faces today.
Yet, for some reason, no uprising stormed the AP' Bastille and demanded someone's head.
Well, should we really call it after Brexit? Perhaps it best to call After the Brexit Vote, or maybe Brexit Vote Take 1.
I've read quite a bit about the fall out--stock markets spiraling on Friday, some billionaires losing several percentage points of wealth, others, like Soros, making money. I've also seen the post about how "EU" was the most searched term in the UK after the vote. Of course, we had the inevitable comparisons between what happened with the Brexit vote and what might happen with the US presidential vote later this fall.
As someone who defends the local community, I want to be happy about the vote, but I don't think that is the right reaction. Local community did not win out here. Nationalism won out. That is what we have to fear.
So, even though I oppose the idea of cosmopolitanism, it at least offers us something. Cosmopolitanism offers the idea that humanity can move beyond nationalism and ethnocentrism. It offers us the hope that we can be more united on what it important, rather than divided on superficial distinctions. It is the hope of Kant and of Roddenberry that we can move beyond these divides into a more enlightened age. Though, we might want to remember Alan Moore's caution about that in Watchmen.
The reason we should Brexit and what it might entail for the US presidential election is that it captures a certain racism that remains part of our 21st century cultures, as reported in this article. Racism, sexism, speciesism--these are all forms of division and arise from the baser human nature. They motivate us to act against peace, against, charity, and against our own self interest.
The opposite, of course, is solidarity. Solidarity is the idea that lay behind the EU--that Europe might unite so that it and the world would not be torn apart again by division. In the end, the Brexit vote appears to be driven in many people's minds by that division, and against solidarity.
Left Brexit would have us hope for something different. It would have us hope that Brexit was a vote against austerity. Presumably, a vote against austerity is a vote for solidarity. But only time can tell.
Jeffery L. Nicholas (Ph.D philosophy, University of Kentucky) is an associate professor at Providence College and an international scholar on ethics and politics. He serves as research associate for the Center for Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics at London Metropolitan University and a foreign research associate at Universidad Sergio Arboleda in Bogotá Colombia. Dr. Nicholas is co-founder of and executive secretary for the International Society for MacIntyrean Enquiry. He is the author of Reason, Tradition, and the Good: MacIntyre's Tradition Constituted Reason and Frankfurt School Critical Theory (UNDP 2012), as well as numerous articles. Dr. Nicholas writes on midwifery and birth, the common good, friendship and community, practical reason, and Native American philosophy. He aims to develop a philosophy of integral humanism that synthesizes the philosophical traditions of Alasdair MacIntyre, Frankfurt School Critical Theory, and Feminist Care Ethics.