Another Brick in the Wall (Kyklos, Violence, and Oppression)

Danielle, a good friend of mine, posted this George Carlin quote about education (the image is from “Knowledge of Today,” but I have no idea who owns the copyright on the quote or the photo itself. No infringement intended).

from "Knowledge of Today"

from “Knowledge of Today”

And I immediately thought of two things:

1) The industrial revolution, assembly-line origins of our American public school system. To vastly oversimplify, factory owners and big business owners favored and helped fund public education because they needed literate, competent workers. Critical thinking and independent analysis were not priorities.

2) Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” video.

Well, I hadn’t watched that video in a long time, and I have to say, it’s still pretty shocking. It’s a terrible, unsanitized exploration of two types of human dysfunction (or, if you will, two kinds of human evil):

Dehumanizing institutionalization (fallen, twisted order)

Blind, rioting rage (fallen, twisted chaos)

It seems we so often rush from one unholy, inhumane extreme to the other (I’d argue that from a Christian perspective, any definition of “holy” that doesn’t massively overlap with “humane” is fatally flawed, but that’s a topic for another post).

The French kings, starting with Louis XIV, crushed the peasants financially and turned the nobility into pampered lapdogs. The French revolution slaughtered thousands, almost indiscriminately.

The Russian Tsars oppressed the weak and persecuted the Jews. The Communists killed tens of millions, erasing whole villages from the maps and the history books.

Plato and Polybius saw this in ancient Greece. They called it Kyklos, the cycle of oppression and revolution.

And in the video, the same children that were so ground down, so oppressed into banal sameness by that terrible school … devolved into the violent homogeneity of a riot, culminating with burning the school and dragging the hated teacher toward the bonfire to be burned alive.

This is our way as humans. We cast of the shackles of one evil, and run headlong into another. We burn down the palace and slaughter all inside, then cry out for the next strong man who promises order. And for him, we build an even bigger palace.

Things won’t get better just because we kill (or even jail or disgrace) the right people. Building up is harder, but it’s the only thing that works, long-term.

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Habits, Plans, and Wasting Time

Distracted Bunny

Drawing by Nuraska, Creative Commons

I’ve cursed the day we got a DVR. I’ve cursed my own short attention span, my ability to be drawn into the limitless flood of information on the Internet, pulled by one current and then another, until my mind is as muddled as a dry-season creek bed.

But I haven’t really stepped up and made those changes. You could switch that paragraph with one about serious regular exercise or half a dozen other things, and it would be the same lame story.

Today I’m going to try.

I’ve been reading about habits, and how out ingrained subroutines shape our behavior far more than our intentions do. Though I’m not finished with it, Jeremy Dean’s Making Habits, Breaking Habits has so far proven to be well-written, accessible, and research-based.

It’s been eye-opening, reading the results of study after study that says we don’t even really know what we’re doing when we act according to our habitualized patterns. And actually studying what we do, disrupting our habits by recording and understanding, is an important first step to breaking them.

So, I’m going to attack my wasting time habit first.

My plans are

Write down all the TV I watch for a week or three. Hopefully just seeing what I watch will help me stop watching stuff I don’t really care about just because I’m tired or bored or want a distraction.

Use Randall Munroe (writer of xkcd)’s trick to break the web-distraction habit. He explains it here in some detail. To make a long story short, he breaks the “novelty” feedback loop by powering down his computer after each task. If he checks the news on CNN, he powers his computer down.

He can turn in back on immediately, and go on to whatever else he wants, but the delay breaks the little addictive kick you get from moving on to the next link, the next story. He said it worked better than all the “focus” programs he tried.

I’m going to try the same thing, and see how it works. I like to read, but honestly, I get a lot more good out of reading a book than reading ten times as much material on the web.

Time is about to become far tighter with the addition of a daughter, and I already feel stretched thin. I’m going to have to become better at managing my life. And I think this will be a good first step.

Wish me luck!