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A couple weeks ago Christopher Hedges (American Fascists, 2007; Empire of Illusion, 2009; The Death of the Liberal Class, 2010) was interviewed on TVO’s The Agenda. TVO blogged last week that Steve Paikin’s interview with Hedges back in October of 2010 became one of their most-watched YouTube videos, with almost fifteen-thousand views. Hedges’ latest Agenda interview, with Piya Chattopadhyay as part of The Agenda in the Summer, aired last week, and has been viewed almost 8,300 times already…

He was interviewed on two days:

Day One: Chris Hedges calls them “sacrifice zones,” huge pockets of impoverished America on the verge of cementing a permanent underclass. The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist has teamed up with cartoonist Joe Sacco in his latest project “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” to shed some light on this issue. He joins Piya Chattopadhyay for more on his warning. <link>

Day Two: Chris Hedges on what he sees as the consequences of an uneven distribution of wealth: destruction, violence and revolt. He tells Piya Chattopadhyay what the Occupy movement should be about and how best to deal with these socioeconomic issues in the public discourse. <link>

My first encounter with Hedges was during my days involved with the ‘New Atheist Movement’ in the mid-2000s. I had originally thought Hedges, having published American Fascists (2007) about the dangerous rise of religious fundamentalism in the US, was allied with the politics and views of this group (which included intellectual titans like Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens, among others). I was wrong. Here is the debate between Hedges and prominent advocate for the movement Sam Harris that made this clear for me and changed my thinking dramatically during my undergrad:

More recently however, here is the lecture that revitalized by passion for this man and his work:

Journalist and author Chris Hedges delivers a lecture based on his book Death of the Liberal Class. Hedges argues that there are five pillars of the liberal establishment – the press, liberal religious institutions, labor unions, universities and the Democratic Party – but that these institutions have failed the constituents they purport to represent. <link.

You can also hear these TVO talks, as I prefer, in podcast form.

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Wikipedia describes anti-intellectualism as “a sentiment of hostility towards, or mistrust of, intellectuals and intellectual pursuits. This may be expressed in various ways, such as attacks on the merits of science, education, art, or literature.” And goes on to say that anti-intellectuals, “often perceive themselves as champions of the ordinary people and populism against elitism, especially academic elitism. These critics argue that highly educated people form an isolated social group tend to dominate political discourse and higher education.” <wiki>

This idea strikes me as particularly interesting because anti-intellectualism seems to be, for the most part, the basis for the anti-scientific perspective. Of course there are real concerns and criticism that exist in regards to intellectual institutions (such as certain approaches to education and science), but to be fundamentally opposed to the pursuit of intellectual development itself? This belief is fascinating because of its self-limiting character.

Where do these sentiment stem from? What are their origins?

And perhaps more importantly, what can be done to curb their spread and growth?

Surrounding the recent US presidential election, and even before, this topic gained a lot of attention. Here is a selection of articles that highlight this important issue and shed light on why we should care about the role of anti-intellectualism in political and international affairs.

With the last word, its zefrank.

“Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Health and Medicine, and Science and Technology Policy.” <home>

Click here to support Science Debate 2008

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Welcome to OpenLearning! Here you will find the useful links to online learning material suxh as academic podcasts, video lectures, and audiobooks; in addition to posting must-see videos on topics of interest.