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Justin M. Stoddard


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It’s an Addiction
February 17, 2007 — 6:17 pm

Here are the books I got in the mail today (via Amazon.com), with a book description following each title:

Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. launched the Civil Rights movement and demonstrated to the world the power of nonviolent direct action. Why We Can’t Wait recounts not only the Birmingham campaign, but also examines the history of the civil rights struggle and the tasks that future generations must accomplish to bring about full equality for African Americans. Dr. King’s eloquent analysis of these events propelled the Civil Rights movement from lunch counter sit-ins and prayer marches to the forefront of the American consciousness.

Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic. a project by David Nadelberg.

In the days before blogs, teenagers recorded their lives with a pen in top-secret notebooks, usually emblazoned with an earnest, underlined plea to parents to keep away. Since 2002, David Nadelberg has tapped that vast wellspring of adolescent anguish in the stage show Mortified, in which grown men and women confront their past with firsthand tales of their first kiss, first puff, worst prom, fights with mom, life at bible camp, worst hand job, best mall job, and reasons they deserved to marry Simon LeBon.

I first heard about “Mortified” here:

It wasn’t until I heard Sascha Rothchild read from her diary for a live stage show of Mortified on This American Life, however, that I knew I had to get this book.

I’ve always loved this sort of stuff. I check out Postsecret every week and own nearly every book from that project. I also enjoy Found Magazine and other such endeavors. I guess there is a voyeur in me that needs to be satisfied.

How to Cheat at Everything: A Con Man Reveals the Secrets of the Esoteric Trade of Cheating, Scams and Hustles by Simon Lovell

How to Cheat at Everything is a roller-coaster ride through bar bets, street hustles, carnivals, Internet fraud, big and small cons, card and dice games and more. You’ll even find the exact frauds that the NYPD regard as the most common and dangerous today, and learn top tips on how to avoid each one. This inside information comes from Lovell’s lifetime of experience in the field, along with additional information from both sides of the law.

This was a complete impulse buy. I saw it reviewed on Boing Boing and decided to give it a try. It’s not that I’d ever try to pull any of these scams, I just like to know how things like this work. (Kind of like magic. I don’t really have the energy to learn any “magic” tricks, but I love figuring out how they work).

Remembered Prisoners of a Forgotten War: An Oral History of Korean War POWs by Lewis H. Carlson

Of the 7,140 Americans who were taken prisoner during the Korean War, about 40 percent died in captivity. Oddly, Korean War prisoners were not treated as heroes; instead, the popular press seemed to regard them at the time, and for some years afterward, as brainwashed turncoats or weaklings. Carlson (We Were Each Other’s Prisoners: An Oral History of World War II) here argues that an America affected by the Red Menace and McCarthyism chose to blame the victims. He attempts to correct the misperception by demonstrating that the main causes of POW mortality were starvation, lack of medical treatment, and execution by their captors, using the voices of surviving prisoners as evidence. The narratives of the prisoners themselves are remarkable for their forthrightness and matter-of-fact tone. In many cases, the men’s survival, under conditions of extreme privation, torture, and psychological pressure, is nothing short of amazing.

I got this book (and more like it to come) to research a theory I’ve been working on regarding the highly popular “Teen Help” industry alive and well in America today. For more information, I highly recommend Maia Szalavitz’s Help at Any Cost. I’ll be writing much more about this at a later date.

The Scapegoat Generation: America’s War on Adolescents by Mike A. Males

Violence. Drugs. Pregnancy. Suicide. Are our nation’s teenagers out of control? Mike Males provides a different picture–how politicians, private interests, and the media unfairly scapegoat adolescents for America’s problems. Among the myths he explodes:

Myth: Drugs, guns, gangsta rap, TV violence and “innate” youth savagery are causing crime and mayhem.

Same as above. My studies in psychology have led me to the conclusion that adolescents are probably the most demonized social group in our society. This is nowhere near a benign situation. Children and adolescents are routinely beaten (physically and mentally) into cruel submission by a society that does not care to understand them. What society wants (with psychologists, psychiatrists and “child experts” backing it up) is obedience. If it doesn’t get obedience, it will condone sickening measures to achieve it; hence the quickly growing “Teen Help” industry I referred to earlier. Again, I’ll write more on this later.

What I’m reading right now:

The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The Social Contract is simple to understand. It’s even easier to deconstruct; and it’s been done before. But, even if you’re not as radical as Lysander Spooner, you don’t have to put too much thought into what’s wrong with the following argument (from Mrs. du Toit:)

WHY you support something or agree with something is as important as your conclusions, and that is why I am not a libertarian.

For example, I think it is perfectly acceptable for some city (or state) in the U.S. to pass laws which prohibit people living there because of their race/creed/religion. They can also have laws which make sodomy, out of wedlock sex, or adultery a crime, punishable by imprisonment. If they want to pass laws that require you to do a jig on main street once a month, they can do that, too.

Now, do I think that is wise or would I want to live there?

Of course not. But that’s not the point. (I might think the jig thing was a hoot, though.)

People in the U.S., in their individual communities and states can and should pass all the laws and rules they want, because that’s what Freedom of Association really means. It is what representative government means. It is a Constitutional protection, and one I support 100%. I might not agree with how a community chose to exercise that right, but I will support their right to exercise it however they wish. I think most of the problems we have in this country are because people can’t do that anymore, and they used to be able to do that. We have too many people telling them what they must do, but not enough people telling them what they MAY do as groups.

There’s only one asterisk I’d add to that: Anyone can choose to leave that community/state at any time (meaning, you are aren’t anchored there with a ball and chain).

People form factions and groups. That’s what humans do. It is what all pack animals do. Denying that, or attempting to create a philosophy that discounts it or makes it sound evil, is both silly and wrong headed.

This is lazy thinking at its very worst. It’s something I’d expect out of a high school sophomore confronted with social organization for the first time; someone who has put no thought into what freedom really means (she got the gist of democracy down nicely, though).

But, even worse than that, she has absolutely no sense of history. The whole statement begs the question, “What happens when the community/state passes a law that does not allow you to leave?”.

Well?

This is how Mrs. du Toit defines “freedom”. One can almost imagine her reading the following passage from Rousseau in delight:

Hence, in order that the social pact shall not be an empty formula, it is tacitly implied in that commitment – which alone can give force to all others – that whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be constrained to do so by the whole body, which means nothing other than that he shall be forced to be free; for this is the necessary condition which, by giving each citizen to the nation, secures him against all personal dependence, it is the condition which shapes both the design and the working of the political machine, and which alone bestows justice on civil contracts – without it, such contracts would be absurd, tyrannical and liable to the grossest abuse.

There is no freedom here…only moral bankruptcy.

The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Szasz

I just got done reading Szazs’ Cruel Compassion: Psychiatric Control of Society’s Unwanted and really enjoyed it. I find Szasz to be on of the most engaging writers I’ve come across. I found little to disagree about in Cruel Compassion (a completely different situation than with “The Myth of Mental Illness…of which I’ll probably write more later) and I look forward to reading more of his works.

Well, that’s about it, for now. I didn’t expect this to be such a large post, but I guess I had a bit to talk about.

— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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