India Arie & Aristotle

India Arie was born in 1975 in Detroit and moved to Atlanta when she was 13 years old. After high school, her mother encouraged her to learn and play the guitar. She rose to popularity early in the 2000s with her song “Video” on the album Acoustic Soul.

Although this may be one of her more recognizable moments, one of her more brilliant (and there is sooo much brilliance #swoon) is the song called “Back to the Middle” or “Come Back“. (I’ve embedded a live performance but the hyperlinks include a video with lyrics and the genius lyrics).


Raul Midon is a baaad, baaaad man.

“She is, twenty five, spent over half of her life
So afraid to speak her mind, it’s such a shame
Cause what a brilliant mind she has
And now she’s been introduced to confidence
She doesn’t see, that she is bordering on arrogance
When will she learn, to come back to the middle
He is, a young black man, grew up without his father
And now it falls into his hands, to protect his mother
Cause if he doesn’t, well then who will, his older brother lives in fear
Of everything, especially, trying to fill his father’s shoes
Respectively, they go to extremes, of masculine and feminine
Chasing dreams, but they keep on falling
Cause they don’t know no balance
When will they learn, to come back to the middle.”
Aristotle is a philosopher and scientist born in Ancient Greece. As a teenager he joined Plato’s school in Athens and remained there for over twenty years. He literally wrote about EVERYTHING from math and science to government, politics, theology, and linguistics.
One of the topics he covers extensively in his series of smalls books called Niomachean Ethics, is virtue and the specific qualities and nature that virtue takes on.
In everything that is continuous and divisible it is possible to take more, less, or an equal amount, and that either in terms of the thing itself or relatively to us; and the equal is an intermediate between excess and defect. By the intermediate in the object I mean that which is equidistant from each of the extremes, which is one and the same for all men; by the intermediate relatively to us that which is neither too much nor too little- and this is not one, nor the same for all.
Basically, Aristotle and India are saying the same thing! Come back to the middle!
…virtue must have the quality of aiming at the intermediate. I mean moral virtue; for it is this that is concerned with passions and actions, and in these there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. For instance, both fear and confidence and appetite and anger and pity and in general pleasure and pain may be felt both too much and too little, and in both cases not well; but to feel them at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way, is what is both intermediate and best, and this is characteristic of virtue. Similarly with regard to actions also there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. Now virtue is concerned with passions and actions, in which excess is a form of failure, and so is defect, while the intermediate is praised and is a form of success; and being praised and being successful are both characteristics of virtue. Therefore virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen, it aims at what is intermediate.
India as an Aristotelian student? Rumor has it Aristotle studied in Africa #lit
Basically, the homie Aristotle is saying to avoid the excess and the deficiency of any and all traits associated with virtue. The perfect example is confidence. The one that India uses in her song: “And now she’s been introduced to confidence. She doesn’t see, that she is bordering on arrogance. When will she learn, to come back to the middle.” We all know that no only is arrogance a dangerous trait to have in certain situations, but it does not work well in social situations or contribute overall to the goal of happiness. Arrogance can be confusing and stunting. Conversely, self-consciousness and insecurity can be just as debilitating and limiting. There has to be an intermediate. A median. Or, as some refer to it, the Golden Mean.
Another example might be Bravery versus Fear. Soldiers that are too brave are hazards to their units. Take Leigh the Soldier for example. She would  be reckless and run into battle without all the details, endangering the people around them. Leigh’s intentions may be the best, but her bravado is not taking on the context of virtuousness. I think Aristotle and India might be like “Aye, slow down, find the middle Leigh.”
Does our culture glorify excesses while ridiculing and belittling deficiencies?
Image result for scared soldier cartoon gif
Tommy boy is not cut out for war in this state… But is this what fear looks & feels like?

On the flipside you have Tom. Tommy is afraid of his own shadow. He would be a terrible soldier. And it is obvious why his fear would not be considered virtuous. It is a hindrance to his personal growth and to the safety of his unit.

I have no idea whether or not India is all up on her Aristotelian Ethics. But these ideas of moderation and intermediacy in virtue repeat throughout history from Ancient Greece all the way to 2005.
As we reflect on the lessons we teach our youth, and things that we do on a daily basis for ourselves, I think that it is important to acknowledge areas of excess as well as areas of deficiency.
Like India said, family structures and social projections have led us to increased binaries in everything including gender: “Respectively they go through extremes of masculine and feminine.” If the nature of virtue is in the middle (the intermediate) then maybe we need to challenge things or constructions that we consider in the binary (there is either A or B). If it is feminine to be sweet, patient, and committed while it is masculine to be brave, ambitious, and just then would it not be best to live in the intermediacy of these ideas of feminine and masculine? (I’m not suggesting we all wear gender neutral clothing. Just embrace a set of gender neutral virtues.)
Would this be appropriate on Brock Turner’s son or Bill Cosby’s son?

Would not the most virtuous man and woman be the ones who find the right “golden mean” for them between all virtues? I think this line of question challenges hypermasculinty and hyperfemininity as relevant and useful structures for society. I know that gender presents numerous differences in a variety of areas from psychology to biology. However, the emphasis on the binary nature of gender is very convenient for divide/conquer tactics sociologically and for selling baby shit.

I don’t want to dive too much into gender. However, the overwhelming reliance on binaries in all walks of life: Democratic/Republican, Liberal/Conservative, Northerner/Southerner, Gay/Straight, Different/Normal, American/Non-American.
What we might all might be sorely lacking is some good ole fashion training in virtue and the golden mean. We need to get back to the middle folks.
So let’s learn. Let’s build. Let’s grow. You already know! (yeah I’m gonna let that wack rhyme remain. Lol. #JudgeFreeZone)
“Come Back to the Miiiddddlllleeee”

Image result for chunk deuces gif

Love,
Mari

Numerous sources hyperlinked, not limited to:
Acoustic Soul by India.Arie
Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
Sex and Gender Roles by Safiya A. Jardine and Dr. Arlene Dallalfar

Power & The Amoralist: Part 1

BLUF: Understanding the philosophical debate around morality can help inform how we interact with each other about issues surrounding justice and fairness. Power (Starz TV drama) relies heavily on moral arguments & issues to develop characters, scenarios, and drama. This post can also give an opportunity to learn how to teach and interact with our kids that may be watching these shows and explain some of the philosophy behind the character development (thereby preventing the glorification of traits we don’t want to see replicated). So let’s learn!

Power is one of the most popular shows on my social media timeline since it debuted a few years ago. It is a super interesting look at the whirlwind life of James ‘Ghost’ St. Patrick who TV Guide describes as “a New York City nightclub owner doubling as a drug kingpin to an elite clientele, which could hinder his attempts to turn his legitimate business into a wide-ranging empire.”

The show is dope. My dad and my brother watch it every week during the season! (I’m much more of a binge watcher myself! #guilty)

As I am watching hours upon hours of the show it dawns on me that Ghost & Kanan are brilliant characters. Their lives are the perfect display of the complexities and dichotomies surrounding morality. Both characters are consistently faced with different dilemmas that have some interesting philosophical implications. Snoop gets it.

An English moral philosopher named Bernard Williams’ wrote a book in 1972 the first chapter is entitled The Amoralist and it opens with the question:

Why should I do anything?

… Why should I recognize moral obligations rather than just things that serve me?

Why should I care about your morals homie? I’ma do me. #dab #BernardWilliams

Morality is defined as a “particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society.” Essentially, it is what we all accept as right and wrong.

For example, James Rachel philosopher (1941-2003), asserts that in order for societies to continue there has to be a basic assumption or agreement that murder, lying, and harming the youth are immoral behaviors. There should be corresponding social outrage at these behaviors.

Makes sense. Consider a society without these mutual understandings. Lets call it Societycity. How long would the life expectancy be in Societycity if it was acceptable behavior to kill, without concern for social repercussions?

*shrug* I could be being dramatic. #SocietycitySaturdayNightOut

Would Societycity be able to survive if it openly accepted or encouraged infanticide?

Mandela is expressing a philosophical understanding that our society’s future is partially dependent on our ability to protect our young

Societycity’s lack of obligation to reinforcing morals involving murder and protecting the youth might not be conducive to the survival of the people within its limits.

Similarly, if truth ceases to be the expectation then we will live in an alternate universe were it is hard to believe anything we are told (*cough cough*). [We aren’t talking white lies here. We are talking about how time and our conception of it exist because we believe that someone or something is telling us the truth.]

What if you couldn’t even believe the calendar was true? #alternativefacts

We all know people that believe primarily in their self-interests but can only exist BECAUSE they take advantage of the morality of the people around them. The question is, are these people amoral?

We might ask first what motivations he does have. He is indifferent to moral considerations, but there are things that he cares about, and he has some real preferences and aims.

Omari Hardwick acts his tail off in this show as “Ghost”!

If anyone had given me a few basic facts about Jamie “Ghost” St. Patrick, I might conclude that he is the story’s amoralist. Check it out:

  1. Cheating on his wife and spending time away from home and his children to enjoy the side-witch’s company, while putting everyone he is supposed to love in some serious danger. #rollseyes

2. He is a killer for certain. Both directly and indirectly.

Can someone look amoral? If so, what does that look like?

3. He is taking drug distribution to the next level. Pushing chemicals into the streets at blistering speeds, most likely using disenfranchised and impoverished young men to push product.

HOWEVER, it is the COMPLEXITY of Ghost’s interrelationships that prove that he subscribes to a system of morals. So we have to dig deeper than his actions to answer the question of his morality.

He gives us, I think, almost enough. For he has the notion of doing something for somebody, because that person needs something… He operates within this notion in fact only when he is inclined; but it is not itself the notion of his being so inclined. Even if he helps these people because he wants to, or because he likes them, and for no other reason, what he wants to do is to help them in their need, and the thought he has when he likes someone and acts in this way is ‘they need help’, not the thought ‘I like them and they need help’.

Two major keys in the above clip: First of all, Ghost puts a lot of weight into how much help he has given Tommy (his best friend and road dawg for the first two seasons and most of the third). Secondly, an amoralist wouldn’t be asking whether his daughter has her shoes for tap!

Ghost does not stand to directly gain anything from helping his daughter find her shoes. He does it out of selflessness & love. This small act and others like it in his character development bring to light a man with a tortured soul. Ghost acknowledges and lives by a strong moral code that allows for a lot of illegal shit (what is illegality? a topic for another post!) but ultimately, he is more than capable of thinking of someone else, meaning that according to Williams’ philosophies on morality, he is a moral human being.

Williams is smiling on ya Ghost. For now. Lol.

This is a vital point: this man is capable of thinking in terms of others’ interests, and his failure to be a moral agent lies (partly) in the fact that he is only intermittently and capriciously disposed to do so.

I think that any and everyone that has seen the show through at least the second season can easily identify at least one amoralist on the cast!

#plottin

Kanan. I am not even sure how to describe how this man makes me feel (he’s my favorite character though. Lmao. #guilty)

I’ll let Williams take it:

The rest [of society] may have some tendency to admire him, or those may who are at such a distance that he does not tread directly on their interests and affections. He should not be too encouraged by this, however, since it is probably a wish-fulfillment (which does not mean that they would be like him if they could, since a wish is different from a frustrated desire). Nor will they admire him, still less like him, if he is not recognizably human.

#NailedIt

I would not call it admiration as much as respect and fear. I wouldn’t want to cross him or piss him off.

Is 50 Cent’s character, Kanan, recognizably human? One of the most infamous scenes in the series (Spoiler Alert!) is when Kanan kills his son for a reason I still haven’t fully fathomed.

Does he care for anybody? Is there anybody whose sufferings or distress would affect him? If we say ‘no’ to this, it looks as though we have produced a psychopath…

The fact that Ghost asked about his daughter’s shoes changes the nature of the game and this is just the one incidence that I could find. Throughout the show, Ghost is concerned with people around him including his family. He behavior is narcissistic and he could be perceived as a parasite to the moral system but it is a system he subscribes to nonetheless.

Kanan just straight up ices his son, Shawn, in cold blood. And then pushes on with the plan.

I wasn’t reaaadddyyy. Lmao.

Notice in that last Williams’ quote he said we may have PRODUCED a psychopath. Can society and the pressures of life in certain environments create psychopaths and amoralists?!

A deeper question is whether or not our current systems (schools, prisons, healthcare, etc.)  are designed to develop moral human beings that will be good additions to society? Williams’ entire philosophy is that people relying on morality in some sense can be reformed with hope and the right motivations.

The flip side is if we remove hope what do we make of the moral human being?

Are criminal behavior and participation in the black market (drug distribution) always manifestations of immorality or amorality? Part 2 is going to break down the economics of the black market in relation to Power and the black community.

As we look around our country and the world at the people in powerful positions maybe we could benefit from revisiting philosophical debate on topics like morality and its place in our culture!

You know why we’re doing this.

#LetsBuild #LetsLearn #LetsGrow

Love,

Mari X

 

 

 

Some sources in no order, along with embedded links, details on request:

The Challenge of Cultural Relativism by James Rachel

Morality an Introduction to Ethics by Bernard Williams

Why Do Parents Kill Their Kids? by Beth Greenfield

How New York Gang Culture is Changing by Seth Ferranti

ending image of Quinoa, the toddler model!

This formatting is used for Williams’ quotes throughout the post.

MLK Jr & Discussing Protest

“If one hundred thousand Negroes march in a major city to a strategic location, they will make municipal operations difficult to conduct; they will exceed the capacity of even the most reckless local government to use force against them; and they will repeat this action daily if necessary. Without harming persons or property they can draw as much attention to their grievances as the outbreak at Watts, and they will have asserted their unwavering determination while retaining dignity and discipline.”

Martin Luther King Jr.– Where Do We Go From Here?

In 2017 in America protesters are becoming increasing criminalized. Lawmakers in ten states across the country are introducing anti-protest bills.

Below I have a video of a small rally/protest in Arizona, I have linked footage to some disturbing videos of protesters being hit by cars, and pictures of protests in the 1960s along with Martin Luther King Jr’s guidance on protest and it’s purpose.

Fox News Phoenix reported this story locally and it was shared on my newsfeed by a friend of mine along with all of the comments her friend shared about the video (#thenatureofsocialmedia):

    Vid 1: Protestors blocking traffic in directly off of a highway in Arizona.

“If one hundred thousand Negroes march in a major city to a strategic location, they will make municipal operations difficult to conduct; they will exceed the capacity of even the most reckless local government to use force against them; and they will repeat this action daily if necessary. Without harming persons or property they can draw as much attention to their grievances as the outbreak at Watts, and they will have asserted their unwavering determination while retaining dignity and discipline.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Anti-Vietnam War Protest in Oakland in 1961
In reference to Vid 1. Comments written underneath a post about protesters blocking the road in Arizona.

A: All I know, is if I was in an emergency… I’d flatten the lot of them. Like little kittens under my tires.

C: I’d do it if I were going fishing or hunting or breathing.

J: Just wouldn’t stop. Seriously I don’t give a shit I’d idle if they continue to stand in front of me well I have a truck I might feel a little something lol

Construction workers clash with police during a pro-Vietnam War demonstration, New York, 1970.
In reference to Vid 1

There are some obvious differences in the way we are talking about protest now versus the way historical figures and populations dealt with protest. That’s cool. What we need is a more educated context to discuss these issues! The number of protesters in the Arizona video as a reason for an illegitimate protest was never brought up by Fox News nor any of the people on my timeline.

Why can’t we become more educated on the best way to conduct small scale rallies and protests?!

The fact that people ADVOCATE FOR HITTING OTHER PEOPLE IN THE ROAD when it inconveniences them… I try not to hit animals in the road if I can help it. These people took the time out of their days and their lives to protest some cause. Until they are moved, sit patiently and research what they are protesting.

If you have an emergency then pull up and TELL THEM.  I bet the line would open for you in a hurry if you are polite. If you cannot get to the front in your car then leave your car in idle and walk up there. I really don’t know what the solution is to us being individually inconvenienced as a result of a protest.

HOWEVER, I know that this country would not be the country it is without peaceful protest in some form. Maybe we should devote some time to teaching our children how to be politically active and responsible.

FOX NEWS could also include information about protesting as a civic responsibility. Donald Trump’s rallies were municipal nightmares too. The issue with Facebook being the most popular site for displaying media in a social forum is that most news sources and stories appear divisive and without critically analyzing the various perspectives, users come up with assertions like these:

Z: I bet these people are trump haters because they’re on welfare and they feel the bern and think they’re entitled to all things good. They probably got all their snacks and stuff from Walmart with a EBT card because their too lazy to work for it.

Scientists protesting in Boston, 2017
Veterans protesting Trump, 2016
Veterans protesting homelessness, 1930

Political Activity & Respecting Civic Action should be taught as young as elementary. The comments here are mild versions of threads that are common on these posts. It’s clear that we are not educating people to critically read these scenarios with duty, love and respect. And the media certainly does not seem bothered to try and decipher it for us.

Let’s think on that.

Mari X

“I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo: a Disney movie about a puny, weird-looking elephant that everyone made fun of. As the story unfolded, I realized to my amazement that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, the ones who despised and tormented the weak and the ugly, were rooting against Dumbo’s tormentors. Over and over they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to the bullies. But they’re you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn’t know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.”

Elif Batuman, “The Idiot”

 

History, Facebook, & Digital Media: A Beginning

I am going to use very few of my own words to display why historical perspective is sorely lacking from the American psyche.

Instead I am going to analyze digital media and comments made about that media on Facebook.

Utilizing the words of a variety of Black thinkers, I hope to demonstrate that there is a dire need for a thorough decolonization of American education. By introducing diversity in the study of our social interactions, we can bring to light the inhumanity in our public conscious and begin teaching our children to move in a truly moral way.

I will also be writing a brief rhetorical analysis of each piece of digital media that elicits these responses from commenters including but not limited to: Fox, BET, CNN, TVone.

Let’s lay back, relax, and see what we can uncover about the nature of America through the people (or computer algorithms) that comment on social media posts.

 

        —- Mari X —-

 

If your interested:

Here are some demographics on social media users from the Pew Institute & Advertising Age.  According to Pew, 86% of Americans are currently internet users.

Facebook remains the most popular social media site. It uses a variety of digital media created by users, companies, and the media and allows for open discussion about that media. Therefore, FB will be a key part of this analysis series.

 

Who is Mari-X?

I am just the descendant of slaves.

And I just need a place to breathe. A place to exhale.

Those history books and classes you had….

I am looking for somewhere to bring together all of things that matter to me; that may seem to be contradictory to many. I am an avid reader, music enthusiast, sports fanatic,  and freelance historian.

I am an American. And while I do not believe in American exceptionalism; I believe that the conditions people of color have been able to transcend in this country are exceptional.

But the push cannot stop. We can’t become complacent and believe that the system now serves us because we have black faces in high faces. We must PERSIST.

For our children. For our futures. For our livelihoods. For our lives.

So this is the history of some of the strongest people in the world told through a lens that classrooms have yet to adapt.

Whether you’re reading this from a beautiful MacBook overlooking waves in Hawaii; a small apartment in a high rise in Chicago; your cell phone on the commute from the suburbs of Long Island; or at bar while you wait out Metro Atlanta traffic… Know that we are all connected in ways that very powerful people do not want us to realize.

Without the struggles that have brought our community together we would not be here. We have to keep fighting, keep loving, keep laughing, and keep learning.

We must live.

I am writing this so that we can be aware of ourselves as a community. So that we can all come to the agreement that there is nothing better in the world than to be of African blood, with an extraordinary American swag.

So these are just thoughts penned…

From the descendant of a slave.

Inhale.