“I’d rather be a cyborg than a goddess”

This semester I am being immersed in theory. It’s overwhelming, but I appreciate the new layers it’s likely going to bring to this project. In one class I’m reading feminist theory for the first time as well as post-modernism, post-structuralism, deconstructionism – and in the other I’m drowning in the political, sociological, political, anthropological theories of community…

I have so much in here *points to head* that I need to get some of it here…I’ll try to leave class discussion to my classes and just bring what I can relate to my particular interests here – though there is still a lot that’s relevant that may be left out.

Let’s start with my introduction to cyborgs. Last week I read Donna Haraway’s “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980’s” – and before I started I was so deeply skeptical of how I could bring it back to the Contagious Narrative. And yet here I am. I’m grappling with it and will likely build on this entry later in the semester when I get to read about Haraway’s use of the vampire metaphor (as I’m sure it’s different from my own).

“…a cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with animals and machines, not afraid of permanently partial identities and contradictory standpoints.”–Donna Haraway

But already I’m interested in this vision of the cyborg. Something part animal, part machine. But when Haraway used the word “hybrid” to denote cyborg it became something less technology based for me… what about vampires as hybrids…clearly they are hybrids of living and undead. They are human, but not. They are animal – but machine? We could potentially see the “undeath” of a vampire as mechanical in some ways. Take a computer for example…it isn’t biological, but it is partially alive – it “thinks” – so vampires do not breathe or bleed or live – but yet they live, and devour, and turn. And there is more than one way I can think of the activities of the undead as being somewhat mechanical…or at least methodical…

And then my thought processes turn elsewhere…How do we get from there to here….

“Cyborg writing must not be about the Fall, the imagination of a once-upon-a-time wholeness before language, before writing, before Man. Cyborg writing is about the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other.” -Donna Haraway

I like this quote. I started thinking of recognizable cyborgs and inevitably got mixed up…but here is where my mind went. I thought about Frankenstein and his creation. At first look we would consider the monster to be the cyborg. He is human and yet he was built by a human, he is man-made, part animal, parts of many animals.

But “The Fall” has become so distanced from what we feel as “our origins” that we no longer relate to Adam/Eve, but turn from it and even equate it with what we consider monstrous. If cyborg writing must not be about the fall – then the monster’s felt connection with Adam and his attempt to return to the “once-upon-a-time wholeness” that Haraway knows, we know, and Frankenstein knows does not exist then are we more cyborg than he?

Thoughts?

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A U.S. Death and the Morals of Epidemic

As I’m sure most of you have heard by now, the U.S. has had its first Swine Flu related death. A 23 month old toddler. It’s terrifying and sad, and now we have to wait and see if it gets much worse than this.

In other news, I’m giving a very brief presentation today in Art and Catastrophe about Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year and his concern with human behavior in epidemic. Quite and interesting time to be writing this paper, let me tell you.

Here are a few of the things Defoe worries about….and I wonder if we will have to worry about them too:

–if there is a higher being responsible, punishing us for our wicked, immoral behavior. I think you all know by now my thoughts on this, but it is worth mentioning. it was a much more popular belief in Defoe’s time (that the plague was a punishment for sin <and sin itself is a disease…but I digress>) — but I wonder if there are still those out there that hold with this. Why not? If the gays caused 9/11…why not the plague?

–self-preservation and abandonment. the two go hand in hand and can not be separated. at what point does self-preservation take over? take over to the point of leaving loved ones in order to save oneself? as Defoe says, “the best physic against the plague is to run away from it”

–the dilemma (a dilemma which does not really occur in non-plague related catastrophe literature) of what I have lovingly termed (hijacked from Major Henry West in 28 Days Later) “people killing people” — what Defoe calls “in the nature of the disease that it impresses everyone the is seized upon by it with a kind of rage, and a hatred against their own kind” — a desire to spread the illness.

BUT whether the desire to spread is there or not, we have to remind ourselves that due to the nature of disease it is all just “people killing people”—right? One person becomes infected, they spread it to five people, those five people spread it to five more people each…..they all die from it. Yes, it is the contagion that kills, but we CAN NOT over look the physical act of one human passing the disease to another. Our need for society and physical closeness with other humans is what ultimately brings our downfall.

For more thoughts on this I recommend the “People Killing People” chapter of The Contagious Narrative PDF.

YOUR THOUGHTS??!?

[now…off to present this thing that i just pulled out of my butt this morning! thank you…thank you…….]

Teen Suicide: The Epidemic of Stupidity

I just saw a news story with some horrifying stats.

Teen suicide is through the roof! Yikes.

Some scary thoughts:

–60% increase in suicide in 45 years

–Suicide is in the top three leading causes of death for people ages 15-44

–In 2005, more than 32,000 people committed suicide in the U.S. (there are 1 million suicides a year globally)

Now to these freakish like statistics I have to say: WHAT THE FUCK?

I don’t want anyone to look at the title of this entry and think that I am in any way diminishing the seriousness of depression.

Trust me–I understand depression. I spent way too much of my life suffering from depression without understanding what it was. But I also know that suicide is an act of selfishness and stupidity.

As an atheist, I believe that this life is the only one I get. And even if I’m unsure (maybe there is a heaven or hell) — I’m not going to take any chances.

And this is where I really do believe that religion is harmful.

(I’m sure there is a more recent study…but this is what I found) 77% percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian. That is Christianity alone. It does not include Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, or the various other religions which make up much smaller proportions of the United States.

That is 77% of people believing in Heaven and Hell. And while many people believe that taking your own life is a sin great enough to get you a one way ticket to hell, I am going to go out on a limb and say there must be some who are willing to take the risk (because it sure as hell cannot be that Atheists are the only people to commit suicide).

In fact, though I would imagine stats on religious affiliation of people who commit suicide would be incredibly hard if not impossible to find, I am willing to bet that the number of atheists who commit suicide would be very small. They don’t believe in the after life…they aren’t going to throw this one away.

But what Howard Ditkoff of SystemsThinker has pointed out to me in our here and there conversation about BPD and the word epidemic is that especially epidemics, but even the word contagion, can be applied to things that do not necessarily spread biologically. Ditkoff pointed to a book titled Emotional Contagion.

I think the combination of depression having the ability to become an emotional contagion, religion spreading the idea that there is an afterlife that is better than this one, and peer pressure making teens feel like suicide is a way to be noticed is what has our nation with thousands of teens killing themselves.

This goes way beyond people killing people.

This is rage, contagion, and hatred for yourself. You are your own disease.

This is why every day I become less and less of an atheist, and actually become anti-theist. I am not really content sitting by and saying “religion is okay for them as long as they don’t try to force it on me” — I am pissed. I am angry that the ideas religion puts into the minds of teenagers may eventually lead them to believe they will “be alright” in some other life, so it’s okay to end this one.

It’s stupidity, and yet…it’s not entirely their fault. Religious indoctrination has probably destroyed them.

Okay, wow. That was quite a rant, and I am sure I have pissed more than a few people off and maybe lost myself a couple of readers. But that’s how I feel about it.

I’m also posting this over at Homosecular Gaytheist so you if you want to follow the discussion, their may be more than one to follow.

News Story

http://www.vitabeat.com/death-of-38-venezuelan-indians-may-be-linked-to-rabies/v/8893

 

Well, while we are on the subject of rabies…

There is apparently an outbreak of rabies in Venezuela. 

“Preliminary studies of the latest outbreak that killed at least 38 Warao Indians in northeastern Venezuela indicate that it may be a type of infectious rabies transmitted by bites from bats, according to indigenous leaders and researchers from the University of California at Berkeley.”

The article goes on to say that the same group of Indians suffered from an outbreak of Cholera in the early 1990s that killed nearly 500 people. 

These people certainly don’t abuse the earth the way we do, nor do they have the love of technology and advancement that is tearing our society apart. But yet they suffer from the physical disease. We are infected in a different way, but it is a way the kills us much slower than the Warao Indians. So lack of technology and medicine can lead to a different kind of infection. Ours spiritual, theirs physical. 

It’s hard to see how that’s fair. If WE are the truly diseased ones, those who are nearly begging for own destruction…shouldn’t we be the ones nearly wiped out by rabies or cholera?

The Rage Demon

Here is a link to a blog post from an author who is incredibly religious. He also believes that there are evil spirits that enter us and cause us to do evil things, but those who have a strong will and pray can cast the demons out.

http://healtheland.wordpress.com/2007/04/09/demon-of-the-day-rage/

The particular “demon” he discusses in this entry is “rage” of course. He was responding to a news article from MSNBC that indicated that rage was a kind of disease (because of the physical side effects accompanying an outburst of rage). 

While I find much of this post incredibly hard to respond to, there a few interesting (though perhaps misguided) ideas. For instance, the assessment of certain people being more susceptible to rage—I totally agree. While I do not believe it is a genetic trait, or that a demon has been inherited through many generations of my evil family, I do believe that by simply living in the world we live in today, we are becoming predisposed to letting rage overcome us.

And while I do not generally abide by the “television, video games, and movies are ruining our culture” theory–I do recognize that the violence inherit in them is a product of our currently rage consumed society. What I do not agree with based on the article, is that praying will fix it all.

I am trying to keep my work on Two Smokin’ Hot Freethinkers (my podcast with Reed about atheism) separate from this blog, but it seems today they have intertwined a bit. (Another reminder about how connected all of these sociological themes really are. And today, Rage and Atheism are both on the table). 

I am not convinced that even if all 6 billion people on the planet right now sat down and prayed it would do a damn thing to fix our society. That is where I find religion harmful. The author of the blog prays to God to ask him to fix it, but at this point I feel we can’t depend on anyone else to fix our world.

So how do we fix this problem of rage? I don’t pretend to know, but I am sure that recognition of the present state of the world and human nature is at least a first step. How many people on this planet haven’t even looked around recently and said, “Wow, we’re fucking up pretty badly.”

I also disagree with the author on the point of rage not being related to physical health problems. His dismissal of stress related health issues bothers me, especially given our previous posts and comments. 

 

But despite my disagreement with the actual concept, I can’t seem to get the visual out of my head of a physical rage demon who enters our bodies and helps us spread the rage–infecting our closest family, friends, co-workers, STRANGERS….

Unfortunately I can’t blame a demon—it’s just us. We’re the problem. There is no one to blame but ourselves.

I need a little help on this one, any thoughts?

 

Paradise Lost, Book III – Response

Dearest Devoted Readers (Rob, Pamela, and Mom–soon to be joined by others hopefully)–

Some old news for me to keep you occupied while I figure out my next topic. Wrote this early in the fall of 2007 as I was just getting started on my research and hadn’t even worked rage into my thesis completely yet. This was part of a huge discovery for me.

—Katie

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“…seest thou what rage / Transports our adversary…” (III, 80-81).

“…on me let death wreak all his rage” (III, 241)

            What I found very interesting in this book was the very distinctive use of the word “rage.” While the word appears elsewhere in the poem I was interested specifically in the variety of meanings it had prior to and during Milton’s life, specifically the connotations it has in these two lines. While many of these meanings are not vastly different from the definition we think of when we hear the word today, it has some subtle nuances that bring an entirely new layer and richness to the text. The word today has a very specific connection to anger, especially in the context of an “outburst [especially] of pent-up anger and aggression triggered by a specific event” (Oxford English Dictionary). When we think of Satan’s character (of whom the word is used in reference to in line 80) this present day definition seems fitting and likely would not give a reader any cause to investigate further. It is easy to read Satan’s constant lust for revenge as an emotion connected to anger, and in some ways he is very angry. But there is a subtler emotion at work that is more clearly defined by the word rage and what it would have meant in the seventeenth century.

            According to the Oxford English Dictionary, as early as the fourteenth century the word had connotations of “madness or insanity,” and later it developed into a description of “violent passion” (OED). However, of all the many meanings and subtle connotations the word may have carried at the time, the definition I was most struck by was “a violent feeling, passion, or appetite” (OED). Once aware of this definition, the word “appetite” used to describe Satan’s driving motivation instead of “anger” seemed so much more appropriate. After all, it is Satan’s hunger and desire for revenge that moves him onward; it is his lust for power that initially led him to revolt against God. The word “appetite” is exceedingly subtle, but incredibly powerful. In line 80, it is God who is speaking and recognizes Satan’s appetite and acknowledges that this is the force which propels him onward.

            The next appearance of the word in Book III occurs at line 241 when Christ uses it in reference to death, and his ultimate defeat of death. I was immediately reminded of a passage in Book II where Death is described as being hungry:

                                                         “…and Death

Grinned horrible a ghastly smile to hear

His famine should be filled and blessed his maw” (II, 845-847)

When Christ then offers himself as a ransom for mankind he states, “…on me let death wreak all his rage” knowing that when he dies a human death he will ultimately rise again and thereby defeat death. When Christ offers himself to die for mankind he also knows that death must have the first victory before the final defeat; or that death must fill his appetite on living beings before his ultimate downfall.

            Another meaning of the word “rage” is one of sexual desire or violent lust. This would apply to Death and his violent rape of Sin. It might also apply to Satan and his covetous desire for equality with God. The word “rage” also has a connection with disease, specifically rabies. Since rage and rabies share a common Latin root the connection is clearly in the psychological aspects of each, and perhaps where the more modern meaning of rage comes from. While there aren’t any particular references to Satan being diseased in any way, it is possible that it could imply his psychological state is not what it should have been. His “rage,” his lust or his appetite, might possibly imply his lack of faith.

 

Sources:

Oxford English Dictionary Online

http://0-dictionary.oed.com.fintel.roanoke.edu/entrance.dtl

 

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My teacher, who would read our weekly responses and then ask a few of us to share with the class (we usually felt really honored to be picked since it was such a tough class), asked me to share my response. After I had finished she mentioned she was somewhat disappointed I ended so abruptly, but that she understood I had reached my two page limit. My teacher next uttered the phrase “SPIRITUAL RABIES” in connection with Satan, which perfectly ties into yesterday’s post and subsequent comments.

Spiritual rabies. Wow. I just want to chew on that phrase for a bit. It’s one thing to just think of a spiritual disease and the corruption of our souls because of sin….but think of the new connotations brought on by RABIES. The madness and insanity, the drooling, the anger, the BITING and gnawing….–to me it is a HUGE difference.

I take it back.

We’re not just spiritually diseased…we are spiritually RABID!

Milton and Disease

When I took a class called Milton last fall, I backed out of doing my term paper on what I really wanted–which would have been the language of Infection and Contagion in Paradise Lost (that work was the main focus of the class–we used other poetry and prose as supplementary material to aid in our reading of Paradise Lost).  

I think I will save my observations on infection in Paradise Lost for another time, and write about something I found in a “new to me” Miltonian work. 

I read Comus yesterday, which is a long poem set up in the style of a play. Comus is a sorcerer who lures a virginal maiden away from her brothers and threatens to tempt her into sin. The elder brother has these lines to his younger brother as they look for their lost sister:

                                                    “But, when lust,
 By unchaste looks, loose gestures, and foul talk,
But most by lewd and lavish act of sin,
Lets in defilement to the inward parts,
The soul grows clotted by contagion,
Imbodies, and imbrutes, till she quite loose
The divine property of her first being.”

lines 463-469

To me, Milton is the master of guilt, and in revealing our emotional, mental, and SPIRITUAL disease rather than a physical one.

Milton was no stranger to physical disease, however. He spent much of his life living in seclusion in the English countryside because he was terrified of the plague in London. In 1665, just two years BEFORE the publication of Paradise Lost, England saw one of the worst outbreaks of Bubonic Plague in recorded history. (Followed promptly by the Great Fire in 1666—I personally believe there is no coincidence in ANYTHING Milton writes, but especially in his use of language involving disease and fire—a popular belief at the time being that fire was the only true way to destroy disease or end an outbreak). 

But I want to just say a few quick words about spiritual disease. Milton was HUGELY religious. The disease he saw infecting the human spirit was sin. The more one sins, the more infected their soul is. And Milton often illustrated the way in which sin can spread, and the more you are surrounded by it, the more susceptible you are to it. It’s like breathing on your neighbor. (“Breath infect breath”  — Shakespeare, Timon of Athens)

Or for Milton it is like Satan tempting Eve who in turn tempts Adam –and their post-lapserian lives are full of disease. The first thing they do is satisfy their new found lust for each other.

But I love the image in the line from Comus “the soul grows clotted by contagion”–what a physical image–I can almost see the phlegm caused by sin blocking up the lungs.

For Milton the resolution for all of this spiritual disease was a relationship with God. But how do we reconcile this in an increasingly secular world? As an atheist I have a real issue with having to create a relationship with God in order to cure my diseased spirit. But I believe the answer has less to do with God and more to do with humans. How we treat each other, and our earth, and ourselves. 

 

Time for thoughts from my readers—how do you cure a diseased spirit. If you can’t see a physical infection, then how do we go about finding a cure?