Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Read this, and then you'll know better

One of the most difficult things about being ethical is knowing what you are doing, and then proceeding to do it anyway. It is one thing to not know what you're doing; there's divine forgiveness for such things. But knowing what you're doing is another thing altogether. Especially in cases where you know better.

There are three ways to read a text. They are as follow:

A neutral reading. The reading begins at the start all through to the end, and the reader tries to take the text for what it is.

Benevolent reading. The reader tries to understand what the text wants to say, and forgives those cases when the argument is weaker than it ought to be. If there are passages that can be interpreted in different ways, the most charitable interpretation is chosen.

Hostile reading. The reader begins with an intent to find flaws and weaknesses. If anything is less than 100% irrefutable, it will be refuted. If there are passages that can be interpreted in different ways, the least charitable interpretation is chosen.

It goes without saying that a text changes depending on how it is read. That which according to a benevolent reading is a minor mistake, is an active act of ill intent according to a hostile reading. The reader provides as much information as the text itself, and depending on how the reader reads, the text can be either this or that. The fact that we can choose which reading to employ does not change this.

Thus. There are three ways to read a text, and we can choose which reading to employ.

Remember that first paragraph? The one about ethical dimensions in knowing what you are doing, and the inescapable ethical weight of knowing what you are doing yet proceeding to do it anyway?

From this point on, you will always know if you choose to read something in a particular fashion. Especially if you choose to read someone in particular in a hostile fashion. You will never again be able to claim that you do not know what you're doing, because you from now on explicitly know exactly what you are doing. Because you are choosing to do it.

Welcome to your new, more ethical life.

Originally published April 23, 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The geopolitics of birds

My old home had a very special, very present feature. No less than thirty meters from it, some thousand jackdaws made their nests, and they did it with great alacrity.

They also did it with a large degree of noise, as you might imagine. When they all took flight at the same time, it was like hearing the ocean lapping onto shore. Or, to quote a line oft repeated by me, "their rising all at once was as the sound of thunder heard remote".

If you know the first thing about jackdaws, you know that they cackle. If you know the second thing, you know that anything (any thing) can set them off. If you know the third thing, you know that they are a flock species that reacts in a collective manner to individual distress.

Knowing all this, you can figure that there was a lot of birds and bird sounds going on. At all times.

There was also an (one, 1) owl living somewhere around. Just the one, mind.

Thing is, this state of being/birding was not an accident. (Except for the owl.) It was a result of a deliberative municipal policy. Specifically, it was a result of a policy to drive the jackdaws out of the city center. Not to any place in particular, just away from the parts where the commercial activity went down. Away from the, as you might imagine, rich people.

I did not live in a part of town where rich people resided.

This policy resulted in two things. The first thing is that the jackdaws migrated away from the central parts of town, out to the periphery, giving me this lovely experience. The second thing is that the jackdaws, after a while, moved back in to the central parts, being clever animals capable of outmaneuvering any attempts to keep them out. Only, they now resided both in the central parts and the periphery, whereas they before only kept themselves in the centre. Which, if you want to be blunt about it, means that there are now more jackdaws in the city, rather than less.

The cackling swirling vortex of solid blackness approves of this. It will not be moved.