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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Podcast #2: CHANGE

So, I understand if no one comes back to this entry, but I've got something to add.  I just finished reading Mockingjay, final book in the Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins, and I found a couple of paragraphs in a dialog that seem pertinent to the discussion here. 


  • "Are you preparing for another war, Plutarch?"
  • "Oh, not now.  Now we're in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never be repeated," he says.  "But collective thinking is usually short lived.  We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.  Although who knows?  Maybe this will be it, Katniss."
  • "What?" I ask.
  • "The time it sticks.  Maybe we are witnessing the evolution of the human race.  Think about that."
Maybe the rebellion war of Panem was indeed enough to bring about the actual adaptation of the human species.  Does that mean this fictional event was bigger than the various wars we've experienced?  Because none of them--the real wars--have resulted in our permanent change, or am I really missing something?


So this installment doesn't have quite the razzle-dazzle, or hype, or whatever of the last, but I hope the point comes across.  I've learned a little bit about putting these things together, including something that I need to work on more for the next time: REHEARSE; and a little bit about myself: like, man, it's so hard to hold onto a train of thought or keep things interesting (doubtful I managed) or even organized when there's no class of noisy kids sitting in front of me.  I need you guys there raising your hands or shouting out questions and comments!

And it's still really freaking weird watching myself like this, propless, close-up.  I need a chalkboard.

Oh, yeah.  This too:

This replaces any questions for Chapter 12.  I'll pick up tomorrow with the rest of Chapter 13.

part 1


part 2


  1. So I just watched myself again. Ugh! What a drag. The next one's way better.


    A couple days ago, for my German class, I watched, "Das Leben der Anderen," or, "The Lives of the Others," which is a movie about East Germany in the 1980s, and specifically, the Stasi putting this one screenwriter (fictitious, though) under surveillance. Anyway, at one point, he and the thug who's minister of the Stasi are talking, and he says, "In all your plays, you suggest that man can change, but the truth is that, no matter what your plays say, man cannot change," (except all in German). That thesis becomes the proposition for the movie, and, in the end, it is false because a member of the Stasi, who used to be the cruelest, most oppressive of the bunch, helps protect the writer from being imprisoned for writing a controversial anti-East Germany article. So that is one perspective that your podcast reminded me of. Also, this is just a great movie. Highly recommend it. Even though I just ruined the plot. Sorry.

    Anyway, I think you raise two questions. One is whether humans as a species can change, and another is whether individual humans can change. As a species (and I'm going to leave aside the issue of evolution and just speak about character), I do not think that humans really change. Whether it is one generation or another, self-interest rules the day. I could see an argument made at the margins that the type of society in which you live affects this. For example, in a secular, capitalist democracy like America, this probably plays up self-interest more than in a feudal society where one would want the good of the land, estate, or family, but essentially, I think these are varying forms of self-interest. Tocqueville discusses this question of political societies shaping human nature in "Democracy in America." So any part of that that seemed interesting and not stupid, you can attribute to him rather than me.

    I think that the case is a little more optimistic when referring to individual humans. While as a species, self-interest and, I would argue, instant gratification are the rule, there are examples of people who deny themselves these. Personally, I tend to think that everyone is born this way. I don't really want to get into the sinful at birth discussion again, but that's just what I believe. But some people do change. A literary example might be Ebenezer Scrooge, while a real-world example might be John Newton who was a slave-ship captain before he had a change of heart and helped promote the abolition of English slave trade, as well as write "Amazing Grace."

    But why are a lot of these people so famous? Because it's REALLY rare and REALLY hard! There may be plenty of people who break an addiction, but I think fundamental change is even more than that (and breaking an addiction in-and-of-itself is a major achievement!). Real change is an ability to transcend the corruption of oneself and the circumstances and society in which s/he is placed and, to quote Paul, to, "overcome evil with good."

  3. This podcast was not my most graceful.... I was definitely saying that, no, I don't believe that people as a species--as a group--will change. The masses--the vulgar crowd--are just that, and I don't see that changing. The lowest common denominator is static. Mob mentality rules out. However, I think there are a lot of ways to accomplish personal change, the great majority of which, I think, are never visual. To be that deep, true change--and certainly the kind Paul is talking about--it must be deeply internal. Of course, symptoms of internal light will show outwardly, but even people already possessed of that light aren't perfect and may yet seek improvement, change, and even perfection.

  4. ...and I'm going to have to check out that movie as well. Sounds good.


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