Bret Weinstein on the end game of prosperity

“Tyranny is the end game of prosperity.”

–Bret Weinstein is a biology professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., who supported Bernie Sanders, admiringly retweets Glenn Greenwald and was an outspoken supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Mr. Weinstein, who identifies himself as “deeply progressive,” is just the kind of teacher that students at one of the most left-wing colleges in the country would admire. Instead, he has become a victim of an increasingly widespread campaign by leftist students against anyone who dares challenge ideological orthodoxy on campus.

This professor’s crime? He had the gall to challenge a day of racial segregation.

A bit of background: The “Day of Absence” is an Evergreen tradition that stretches back to the 1970s. As Mr. Weinstein explained on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, “in previous years students and faculty of color organized a day on which they met off campus — a symbolic act based on the Douglas Turner Ward play in which all the black residents of a Southern town fail to show up one morning.” This year, the script was flipped: “White students, staff and faculty will be invited to leave campus for the day’s activities,” reported the student newspaper on the change. The decision was made after students of color “voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election.”

Mr. Weinstein thought this was wrong. The biology professor said as much in a letter to Rashida Love, the school’s Director of First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services. “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles,” he wrote, “and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away.” The first instance, he argued, “is a forceful call to consciousness.” The second “is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.” In other words, what purported to be a request for white students and professors to leave campus was something more than that. It was an act of moral bullying — to stay on campus as a white person would mean to be tarred as a racist.

Reasonable people can debate whether or not social experiments like a Day of Absence are enlightening. Perhaps there’s a case to be made that a white-free day could be a useful way to highlight the lack of racial diversity, particularly at a proudly progressive school like Evergreen. Yet reasonable debate has made itself absent at Evergreen.

For expressing his view, Mr. Weinstein was confronted outside his classroom last week by a group of some 50 students insisting he was a racist. The video of that exchange — “You’re supporting white supremacy” is one of the more milquetoast quotes — must be seen to be believed. It will make anyone who believes in the liberalizing promise of higher education quickly lose heart. When a calm Mr. Weinstein tries to explain that his only agenda is “the truth,” the students chortle.

Following the protest, college police, ordered by Evergreen’s president to stand down, told Mr. Weinstein they couldn’t guarantee his safety on campus. In the end, Mr. Weinstein held his biology class in a public park. Meantime, photographs and names of his students were circulated online. “Fire Bret” graffiti showed up on campus buildings. What was that about safe spaces?

Watching the way George Bridges, the president of Evergreen, has handled this situation put me in mind of a line from Allan Bloom’s book “The Closing of the American Mind.” Mr. Bloom was writing about administrators’ reaction to student radicals in the 1960s, but he might as well be writing about Evergreen: “A few students discovered that pompous teachers who catechized them about academic freedom could, with a little shove, be made into dancing bears.”

At a town hall meeting, Mr. Bridges described the protestors as “courageous” and expressed his gratitude for “this catalyst to expedite the work to which we are jointly committed.” Of course, there was also pablum about how “free speech must be fostered and encouraged.” But if that’s what Mr. Bridges really believes, why isn’t he doing everything in his power to protect a professor who exercised it and condemn the mob that tried to stifle him?

The Weinstein saga is just the latest installment in a series of similar instances of illiberalism on American campuses. In March, a planned speech by Charles Murray at Middlebury ended with the political scientists escorted off campus by police and his interviewer, Professor Allison Stanger, in a neck brace. In April, a speech at Claremont McKenna by the conservative writer Heather Mac Donald had to be livestreamed when protestors blocked access to the auditorium.

Shutting down conservatives has become de rigueur. But now anti-free-speech activists are increasingly turning their ire on free-thinking progressives. Liberals shouldn’t cede the responsibility to defend free speech on college campuses to conservatives. After all, without free speech, what’s liberalism about?

Book: “Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently”

Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently

The Science of Seeing Differently

By Beau Lotto

Hachette Books, 9780316300193, 352 pp.

Publication Date: April 25, 2017

Description

Beau Lotto, the world-renowned neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and two-time TED speaker, takes us on a tour of how we perceive the world, and how disrupting it leads us to create and innovate.Perception is the foundation of human experience, but few of us understand why we see what we do, much less how. By revealing the startling truths about the brain and its perceptions, Beau Lotto shows that the next big innovation is not a new technology: it is a new way of seeing.In his first major book, Lotto draws on over two decades of pioneering research to explain that our brain didn’t evolve to see the world accurately. It can’t Visually stunning, with entertaining illustrations and optical illusions throughout, and with clear and comprehensive explanations of the science behind how our perceptions operate, Deviate will revolutionize the way you see yourself, others and the world.With this new understanding of how the brain functions, Deviate is not just an illuminating account of the neuroscience of thought, behavior, and creativity: it is a call to action, enlisting readers in their own journey of self-discovery.

Houston, Port Arthur, Beaumont – and Some Music

To my mind, one of the most amazing things to come out of Houston and the Harvey disaster is this video of a man playing a partially submerged piano in a flooded room. The sound is downright eerie, the playing as sensitive as any I’ve ever heard:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/tanyachen/texas-piano-man?utm_term=.ev4ZxRykv#.ipjB9vlJ8

Another city in Texas flooded out by Harvey is Port Arthur, the birthplace of Janis Joplin. Here she is, during the halcyon days of the San Francisco Renaissance, with Big Brother and the Holding Company:

The song here, “Summertime“, by George and Ira Gershwin, was originally conceived of as a lullaby. What Big Brother does with it is hardly what you call soothing, rather making one’s hair stand on end, but it totally works. Note the close attention to dynamics in the above live performance – rather than beating the listener over the head, they know when to play really soft and when to crescendo. Also note: in those days, many guitarists wanted to play like John Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders, but Janis Joplin was somehow able to produce the multiphonics made famous by the latter – with her voice!

Finally, there’s Beaumont, where the whole water supply has been knocked out by the flooding. Many Prosperos from the old days will remember our erstwhile colleague Billy Graham (no, not that Billy Graham, our Billy Graham), as warm and sweet a person as I’ve ever known, who hailed from there originally…

“Asteroid Goddesses: The Mythology, Psychology, and Astrology of the Re-Emerging Feminine” by Demetra George and Douglas Bloch

This book shows how the discovery of the asteroids Ceres, Pallas Athena, Juno, and Vesta coincided with the shift of a woman. The creating, supporting, nurturing aspect held by the goddess Ceres, the universal mother, brings us to how we feel nurtured and how we function with our roles of mother-child. She embodies the principle of unconditional love. Pallas Athena is our Warrior Goddess, a woman in a man’s world, carrying the principle of creative intelligence. Vesta, our goddess of Focus and Commitment, is our High Priestess. Juno, the Queen of Heaven and Divine Consort, is our capacity for meaningful relationships. Understanding the themes that each goddess holds enriches our understanding of that function and expression in our lives.

(from Amazon.com and Robert McEwen, H.W., M.)

A Map of the Universe, According to René Descartes (bigthink.com)

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Often regarded as the father of Western philosophy, René Descartes (1596-1650) is mostly remembered by the pithy summary of his method: Cogito, ergo sum – ‘I think, therefore I am’.

In short, his thinking shifted the philosophical debate from the question What is true – with God the ultimate guarantor of truth to What is certain, wherein it is humanity’s task to sort the knowable from the unknowable.

But the cogitating Frenchman did even more than this. He also was a mathematician (developing analytic geometry) and a scientist (contributing to the field of optics), and had a thing or two to say about the cosmos as well.

This map of the universe was taken from his Principia philosophiae (‘The Principles of Philosophy’, 1644). The map illustrates Descartes’ vortex theory of planetary motion, by which he attempts to explain the orbits of planets and comets and other celestial phenomena.

In cartesian cosmology, a vortex is a large circling band, containing these planets or comets, and other material particles. Our solar system, and the entire universe consist of a network of interlocking vortices, which are subject to gravitational and centrifugal powers.

All matter in the universe exists in one of three elements, and the universe itself operates, mechanically and circularly,  as it did when it was created by God. By placing the earth at rest within a vortex band as it circled the sun, Descartes aimed to endorse a form of heliocentrism without confronting Church doctrine, which stated that the earth rests motionless within a celestial system that revolves around it.

While this vortex theory originally was one of the most influential aspects of cartesian physics, that influence was on the wane by the mid-18th century.

Map found here at Pinterest and here at Brain Pickings. More on the vortex theory here at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

California Arts Council: Feature on Actors’ Gang Prison Project


Fact: Most prison inmates are eventually released. Tim Robbins’ Actors Gang Prison Project is sending them home with changed attitudes and new problem-solving skills. We’re proud to partner with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to support this important, life-changing work. The Actors’ Gang Prison Project is one of ten Arts in Corrections programs funded through our Arts in Corrections program.

The California Arts Council has created a series of short-form, documentary videos that celebrate creative expression in California. The series of videos follow art programming across California, from rural towns to some of the state’s largest cities, which are making positive impacts in our communities.

Consciousness, sexuality, androgyny, futurism, space, art, music, physics, astrology, democracy, photography, humor, books, movies and more