25 November, 2003

Marx's Communist Manifesto: What Happened to the End of History?

The following is an assigned essay which was completed for a grade. Unfortunately, some formatting has been lost in the transition to LJ.

Eric J. Herboso
Fr. Williams
English 243
Tuesday, November 25, 2003.

Marx’s Communist Manifesto:
What Happened To The End Of History?

The world has progressed a long way since the first publication of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. Many ideas that started with Marx have disseminated throughout the global society, and many minds have been influenced by his predictive rhetoric. But even after all of these years, no country has yet done what Marx called inevitable. Where is the classless society today? Where is the universal brotherhood that Marx promised?

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx put out a call to arms, using powerful emotive content to bring about a change to revolution. But as Marx makes very clear in his Das Kapital, the idea of universal brotherhood is not due merely to his imposition of will upon the public, but it is instead the necessary future society: “[T]he fall [of the bourgeoisie] and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable” (Marx §1). It, as Gus Tyler remarks in Marx’s Manifesto Revisited: 150 Years Later, is “not because Marx wanted it but because natural factors at work in the world preordained it” (Tyler 1). One must remember Marx’s criticism of Hegel: that yes, the history of society follows strict logical rules (“In his eyes, to credit [Marx] with fathering the numerous movements that have claimed his name would be equivalent to crediting Darwin with inventing the process whereby the ape became man, or crediting Copernicus with inducing the earth to revolve around the sun instead of vice versa” (Tyler 1) ), but that what exists today is definitely not the ‘end of history’. Marx very much disagreed with Hegel on the issue of the economic system in place in his day: capitalism. (Though to be fair, Hegel did not say anything specifically about economic systems; he was merely making a generalization about history having ‘run its course’.) But Marx did agree with Hegel on the idea of history being scientifically predictable, and it is in this vein that he shows clearly that capitalism will eventually be replaced with the ‘universal brotherhood’.

But the universal brotherhood as predicted by Marx has not yet come to pass, despite numerous attempts. The questions begs to be asked: Why not?

As Tyler states quite aptly, “during the past 150 years there has not been one country where the economy has been collectively owned and democratically controlled. In a number of Western industrial nations Socialists, Social Democrats or Laborites have been in power over extended periods of time, but they have never fully socialized the economy. In the USSR and Communist China there have been forms of collective ownership sans democracy. Why has the inevitable been so evitable” (Tyler 2)?

Jeremy Smith cuts right to the heart of the matter: “Before capitalism, incomes doubled every 630 years. From the advent of the first industrialized nation until today [1999], incomes have multiplied 10 times in Great Britain, 18 in the United States, and an astonishing 25 in Japan” (Smith 1). He goes on to mention the growth of life expectancies, communication, transportation, and agriculture. Of course, these items would not go away if a universal brotherhood ever did come to pass, but it is clear that once such a society comes into existence, capitalism will cease to be able to encourage growth in so many varied areas.
But this is merely an evasion of the question – just because capitalism encourages growth should not change the logic of Marx’s masterpiece, Das Kapital. Capitalism should grow and grow until “[s]ociety as a whole is more and more [split up] into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other – bourgeoisie and proletariat” (Marx §1). Once this happens, the eventuality of a revolution seems quite inevitable, indeed – but then here is the answer to the aforementioned question: obviously society was never split up into those “two great hostile camps”. The following is from Aijaz Ahmad’s “Problem of Universality”: “It can be argued that in the actual history of the past one hundred and fifty years capitalism has not ‘simplified’ class antagonisms but created a very intricate system of differentiations based on scales of property, salaries, and wages, both nationally and transnationally, while this global class structure is further complicated by the feminization of certain labor regimes as well as racialisms and ethnicizations of various sorts” (Ahmad 5).

Marx foresaw “the entire middle class being wiped out, leaving only a small number of bourgeois exploiters on the one hand and, on the other hand, the rest of humanity, the proletariat, sinking ever deeper into a mire of misery” (Tyler 2). But in industrial societies, this never happened. Instead, we got the The New Deal, shortened the workweek, and “won job security, workmen’s compensation, unemployment insurance, occupational safety and health legislation, Social Security, better housing, and medical care” (Tyler 2). A delicate balance was contrived between outright laissez faire capitalism and radical socialism. As Smith puts it, “society [has] atomized into a hundred contending subcultures and occupations, each of its members identifying with a consumer niche instead of a ‘class’ (Smith 3).

But that is only the beginning. Of the ills plaguing the proletariat, the Manifesto proclaimed, none was more devastating than “the commercial crises that by their periodic returns put on trial, each time more threateningly, the existence of the entire bourgeois society. … In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that in all earlier epochs would have seemed an absurdity – the epidemic of overproduction” (Marx §1). Marx assumed “they would grow increasingly menacing as long as capitalism existed, because the state was nothing more than ‘the executive committee of the ruling class’ and would give the bourgeoisie a free hand to do whatever it pleased” (Tyler 4). But Marx was wrong. Instead, the “worldwide crisis of the 1930s…provoked a political response. … [Governments] developed what the Swedes called the ‘middle way’, what some called ‘social democracy’, or the ‘social market’, and what the United States called the ‘New Deal’ ” (Tyler 4).

But what of those countries who did turn toward the more progressive socialism hailed as inevitable by Marx? Why have they not flourished as Marx predicted?

Marx said that once the soviets came into power, oppression would end on a governmental scale. And yet: “under the thumb of Lenin and his successors the soviets became probably the most oppressive state in all previous history” (Tyler 6). The abolition of the state became the absolutism of the state. As Lord Acton put it, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Tyler goes further in depth: “As the Communist experiment evolved in the Soviet Union, it became evident that instead of shifting from a brief interim dictatorship to an ultimate democracy, it was going in quite the opposite direction” (Tyler 6). Everything was falling apart. Marx decried: “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need”; and yet although everything was taken according to ability, things were only given based on whether or not you were part of their communist party. Marx had: “a chiliastic view of life that is most commonly held by religious seers who prophesy a Judgment Day when the evil will be tossed into Hell and the virtuous will live happily ever after” (Tyler 3).

Thankfully, those Socialist governments that come into power today have learned from the lessons of history. They “do not rush to put an immediate end to capitalism by socializing the economy. They prefer a ‘synthesis’ in which the economic advantages of capitalist production are countered and balanced by the ethical imperatives of a socialistic distribution of income and wealth” (Tyler 6).

It is obvious that Marx was wrong when he called the revolution of the proletariat eminently inevitable. But his critique of capitalism is certainly right on the money. And because of his voice, the world is changed, whether he would want to credit himself for it or not.

Ahmad, Aijaz. “The ‘Communist Manifesto’ and the Problem of Universality”.
1998, Monthly Review June v50 n2 p12(12).

Marx, Karl & Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Trans. Samuel Moore.
1888, first English edition.

Smith, Jeremy. “Manifesto Destiny: The Enduring Sexiness of Karl Marx”.
1999, Dollars & Sense, March-April i222 p7(2).

Tyler, Gus. “Marx’ Manifesto Revisited: 150 Years Later”.
1998, The New Leader, Oct. 5 v81 n11 p11(4).

22 October, 2003

Niccolò Machiavelli: Morality Via Human Nature

The following is an assigned essay which was completed for a grade. Unfortunately, some formatting has been lost in the transition to LJ.

Eric J. Herboso
ENG 243
Father Williams
22 October, 2003

Niccolò Machiavelli:
Morality Via Human Nature

Machiavelli. The very name brings up an image of harshness at its basest, of hatred of “true” ethics, and of a man that would rather a ruler be contrary to morality than give up the position of his rulership. But are these accusations valid? Is Machiavelli truly as horrible as so many people make him out to be?

It must be granted that his advice does seem to contradict what traditional morality might have a ruler do. Consider that, according to Machiavelli, a ruler should not allow freedom of speech: “if anyone may speak frankly to you, respect for you will soon disappear” (Machiavelli 81); should deceive his subjects: “a prudent ruler cannot keep his word, nor should he” (61); and should be cruel: “it is much safer to be feared than loved” (59). No wonder, then, that Machiavelli is considered so immoral.

Yet despite these things, could an argument be made that, in fact, Machiavelli was doing his best to create the most perfect world that he can? And if so, then wouldn’t that necessitate his being more moral than even those that would be considered more moral by the public?

Consider what Machiavelli says about Scipio, a general in the Spanish army: “Scipio [was] considered a most remarkable man not only in his own times but in al others… [yet his] armies rebelled against him in Spain. The…reason for this was that he was over-indulgent, and permitted his soldiers more freedom than was consistent with maintaining proper military discipline” (60). Here, Machiavelli is trying to show that what is generally considered to be kind is not always necessarily so. Notice how he ends his description of Scipio: “when Locri [, a Greek city in Calabria,] was ravaged by one of Scipio’s Legates, the inhabitants were not avenged by him, and the legate was not punished for its arrogance, all because Scipio was too easy-going…. [B]ut since he was controlled by the senate, this harmful quality was not only concealed but contributed to his glory” (60). It is clear that Machiavelli has an interest in what is good, but he does not think that the path to that good lies in what is commonly thought of as good.

In the dedicatory letter to The Prince, Machiavelli makes clear his intention to avoid any usage of metaphor: “I have not embellished this work by filling it with rounded periods, with high-sounding words or phrases, or with any of the other beguiling artifices of apparent beauty which most writers employ to describe and embellish their subject-matter” (3). Because of this, his incorrect usage of grammar and sometimes vague way of explaining more complicated terms takes on a whole new meaning: what if he writes in the way he writes, not because he wants what he says to be true, but that he writes over the Prince’s head, with the full intention of coercing that Prince to do as he commands?

Early on, Machiavelli writes that: “men are very ready to change their ruler when they believe that they can better their condition…. But they are mistaken, because they later realise [British translation] through hard experience that they have made their condition worse” (7). What if, contrary to what he intends the Prince (his reader) to believe, he is writing things that he does not think could ever be justified, except in the name of maintaining a stable government? It is clear that Machiavelli does not think that revolution could ever be justified, since revolution involves death, pain, and displeasure: “a new ruler is always forced to injure his new subjects, both through his troops and countless other injuries that are involved in conquering a state” (7). He is, after all, a well read man – perhaps it is in Plato’s Republic that he first understood the idea that no matter how wonderful a state may be made to be, it will never be perfect. But it really does not matter where Machiavelli first understood this principle, so long as he understood it; for once understood, the move to the realization that revolution is inherently unjustified becomes more and more obvious. Machiavelli, it seems, is not really grounded in reality for reality’s sake, but is instead insistent upon reality in the face of abstract theory for the sole reason that Machiavelli wants to make a difference.

Machiavelli realizes that many of the states that exist in his time are governed stupidly, and their citizens are: “unjustly oppressed by great and cruel misfortune” (4). To combat this, he writes The Prince, with the idea that a ruler who reads it will be more inclined to make a more favorable state for all to live in. In this way, Machiavelli is increasing the good for all, by relieving the populace of strife through pointless rebellion and wasted lives. Certainly, it is clear that Machiavelli is very much concerned with what is good; consider what he says about Agathocles’ abuse of power: “[I]t cannot be called virtue to kill one’s fellow-citizens, to betray one’s friends, to be treacherous, merciless and irreligious; power may be gained by acting in such ways, but not glory” (31). Note also, that he very clearly distinguishes between what is necessary in order for a ruler to maintain a kingdom best, with the least discomfort to its citizens; nearly every quote from The Prince has a reference to what is best, and then to what is necessary. Some would call Machiavelli unidealistic; but how much more of an idealist could he possibly be, than to want so badly for the impossible perfect state that he refuses to allow revolution to get there?

The very qualities that make people call Machiavelli immoral are those qualities which make him most moral. All systems are bad; no one form of government surpasses all the others. Even a fictional government specifically created to be perfect in every way (The Republic) has huge problems inherent to its core. Why, then, would revolution ever be justified? Machiavelli is tired of dealing with stupidity in charge; note how he urges Italy to be brought under one governor, and that governor is the one that has his book, and hence, his ideas in mind: “It seems to me that so many things are propitious for a new ruler that I am not aware that there has ever been a more appropriate time than this” (87).

Machiavelli is the start of a huge change in philosophy. From him stem all the rest of the modern philosophers. He said it first, though in a very obscure way. That revolution is only justified when it can (A) be easily accomplished, to the good of the people, or (B) be in response to a governmental structure that has no idea how to govern effectively within its own system. The within-its-own-system part is important; Machiavelli does believe that ideal systems would be perfect, but he does not believe that they could ever exist – hence his predilection for working within the system.

Why bother moving from capitalism to communism when both are flawed? Isn’t it far better to improve capitalism from within, rather than to forcefully move to communism? It is true that Machiavelli says harsh things: “A ruler should…always be concerned with military maters, and in peacetime he should be even more taken up with them than in war” (52); but he says these things because of the world he lives in. It is obvious that he would not approve of such ideas unless they were necessary in the world that he lived in. Machiavelli is very concerned with making the best possible world for him to live in; but where does he get all his assumptions?

It should be obvious, from the quoted statements above, that everything Machiavelli says is based on fundamental assumptions about human nature. How could any of Machiavelli’s methods work, unless all men were committing actions and thoughts based upon some ‘thing’ that is called human nature. Thus, Machiavelli is attempting to approach morality via human nature. Whereas others try approaching morality by creating the most perfect system, Machiavelli feels that attempts that fail are not worth attempting; thus he uses his knowledge of human nature to create the best possible system in his world. His method may not apply in another world, but for the world that he lived in (, and perhaps we do, too), it was the most moral way of accomplishing the existence of a better world.

Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince. Quentin Skinner and Russell Price, ed.
Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1988

30 September, 2003

Plato, Boethius, & Marcus Aurelius: Happiness Through Logic & Ockham’s Razor

The following is an assigned essay which was completed for a grade. Unfortunately, some formatting has been lost in the transition to LJ.

Eric J. Herboso
ENG 243
Father Williams
30 September, 2003

Plato, Boethius, & Marcus Aurelius:
Happiness Through Logic & Ockham’s Razor

The concept of logic has consistently been used throughout history by most of the cherished thinkers of the Western world, starting with the ancients themselves. It is this ideal of logical consistency combined with the space-saver of Ockham’s Razor that has served as the foundation for the arguments toward happiness given by three of the greatest thinkers in the Western tradition: Plato, Boethius, and Marcus Aurelius. Unfortunately, whether due to biases of their time, or perhaps misunderstandings of the limits of logical thought itself, all three of these thinkers made grave errors in their logical arguments, not quite living up to the ideal that they themselves put up for themselves.

Plato wrote most of his dialogues just before and during the birth of Aristotlean logic. Because of this, one might expect his logical arguments to be the most consistently valid of all three of the writers commented upon in the previous paragraph; however, because Plato used common sense in order to go through his logic (this was, of course, the accepted form of using logic before Aristotle formalized the language), it is not always clear that his logic holds consistently. Indeed, at some points during his tougher dialogues, it becomes unclear as to exactly what he himself means in his questioning, which is not exactly the best way to go about when composing a logical argument. However, instead of focusing on such parts of his writings, which could after all be nothing more than the limitations of the understanding of Plato by the author of this paper, it seems more worthwhile to focus upon those parts of Plato’s writings that most clearly illustrate his skilled use of logic and also those few parts that most clearly illustrate his worst failures in logical thought.

In “Euthyphro”, Socrates goes into the question of where morality arises from; it is his intention to be able to define “piety” (though it must be pointed out that in the Greek use of this word, much more is meant from the word than is connotated by its English translation) – and through this definition, Socrates hopes to be able to more accurately determine in what way he may be helped in his upcoming trial. However, it can be easily seen that if this definition were truly arrived at, then it could serve Socrates in that of his explanation of happiness, and in how it may be arrived.

During Socrates’ interrogation of Euthyphro, an attempt is made by Euthyphro to define what “all the gods love [as] pious and holy, and the opposite which they all hate, impious” (9 Plato). However, Socrates questions in this further in his usual dialectic way: “The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods” (9). What Socrates is asking here is whether a thing is good because the gods deem it to be good, or whether the gods deem it good because it is already good for some other reason. Because, Socrates says, if it is good merely because the gods deem it to be good, then it does not matter what it is that the gods deem good, for whatever they so choose as the good will necessarily be the good, and there is no higher authority to which one could appeal. If a thing is neither good nor bad until the gods either deem it good or bad, then what they choose as good or bad is entirely irrelevant to the matter at hand; if the gods say that murder or stealing is good, then it is good – and there is no getting around that, because we are defining whatever they love as what happens to be good in and of itself. This viewpoint makes all the things that we consider good to be completely and utterly arbitrary, for they had no value or preference toward good or evil until the gods deemed it good or evil. This is a completely reprehensible view to take on the matter, and so it must be (by disjunctive syllogism, to use Aristotlean logic terminology) that what is good is good before the gods deem it to be good; and so the gods are not making a thing good by considering it good – rather, that thing is good by the existence of some other attribute that the gods can somehow discern, and they relay the fact of it being good in the act of deeming it good. The parallel that Plato uses is that: “a thing is not seen because it is visible, but conversely, visible because it is seen; nor is a thing led because it is in the state of being led, or carried because it is in the state of being carried, but the converse of this” (10). Therefore what is good is not good because the gods say it is; rather, those things are good in and of themselves, and the gods must observe that they are good before they are able to deem (in other words: inform others) that they are good.

Socrates’ logic here is impeccable, though difficult to comprehend at first. He used the Aristotlean logical forms of disjunctive syllogism, modus ponens, and modus tollens to systematically prove that whatever the good may in fact be is not good because of any gods’ existence. Whatever makes a thing good is some attribute of it that is not placed there by any deity saying it is so. This, of course, does not deny the idea that whatever a god may say is good may in fact be quite good; but it does deny the idea that it is good merely because the god considered it good.

But Socrates’ logic is not always impeccably valid. Consider Plato’s “Phaedo”, for example. In it, Socrates is awaiting the end to come, and is talking with his friends before he is to end his life. During the conversation, Socrates considers the question: “Are not all things which have opposites generated out of their opposites” (68)? Socrates wants “to show that this [generation from opposites] holds universally of all opposites” (68). He goes on, giving specific examples from which to compound his data, asking whether what is greater must have once been lesser, and whether what is worse must have once been better, and whether what is swifter must have once been slower. In each of these examples, his criterion holds true; however, he then goes on to ask: “is this true of all opposites? And are we convinced that all of them are generated out of opposites” (68)? His implication here and the answer which is given to him is that of all things coming from their opposites, regardless of what they are. He is employing the method of Ockham’s (also known as Occam’s) Razor here, taking numerous examples from thought-experiment data, and constructing a general rule about everything from these numerous examples. There is no facet of logic which necessitates Ockham’s Razor to be true; instead, it is a maxim that is generally accepted to be true without any actual logical necessity of it, and this is a concept that Socrates himself either did not entirely grasp, or else ignored during his last day of life, perhaps to help himself feel better. It seems more likely that he was just unaware of Ockham’s Razor not being a necessary condition, since Aristotlean logic does not go into detail on the subject, and Aristotle was Plato’s greatest disciple.

The reason why it is clear that Socrates did not understand this point is because he misuses Ockham’s Razor: “is there not an opposite of life, [death,]… [a]nd these then are generated, if they are opposites, the one from the other, and have there their two intermediate processes also” (69)? He continues, further down: “What is generated from life? / Death. / And what from death? / I can only say in answer—life” (69). It is clear here that Socrates is taking the specific principle illustrated in his earlier examples with what is stronger, swifter, or better; and he is now applying that same precept to a basic generality which does not necessarily have to hold true. In “Phaedo”, then, Socrates uses logic only up to a certain point, and then veers off into speculation – educated speculation, of course – but still just speculation. (In Plato’s defense, it must be mentioned here that this same misuse of Ockham’s Razor is prevalent even in scientific circles, whenever a finding is made that bases its presuppositions upon ideas which do not necessarily have to be true. Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics are two of the biggest examples of this.)

Boethius, too, uses logic to arrive at the route to happiness. In his book, The Consolation of Philosophy, Lady Philosophy helps Boethius to understand as to how happiness may be achieved. One of the best examples of Lady Philosophy’s use of logical argument is when she reminds Boethius of the nature of the goddess Fortune: “You are wrong if you think that Fortune has changed toward you. This is…the way she always behaves. She is changeable, and so in her relations with you she has merely done what she always does” (21 Boethius). Lady Philosophy continues on, explaining why Boethius should not be saddened by his new position: “[T]he misfortunes which are now such a cause of grief ought to be reasons for tranquility. For now she has deserted you, and no man can ever be secure until he has been forsaken by Fortune” (22). She then attacks the same argument from another perspective: “If you cannot keep [the goddess Fortune], and if it makes you miserable to lose her, what is fickle Fortune but a promise of future distress” (22)? Her attitude toward logic here is as impeccable as Socrates’ logic was in his argument for the causation of the good being separate from the gods deeming it so, though it must be noted that Lady Philosophy tends to use many more rhetorical and psychological ploys than Socrates did. Still, even if you strip away the emotional rhetoric, repetition, and psychological arguments, Lady Philosophy’s logic remains intact and immovable (though sparse).

However, Boethius did not always write with complete logical clarity. Like Plato before him, he neglected the limitations of Ockham’s Razor. Consider Lady Philosophy’s treatise upon the Good as being what she maintains it to be: “[N]othing which can be lost can be a supreme good…because it is obviously less good than that which cannot be lost” (29). She asserts here that the supreme good must not have anything better than it; this, of course, holds perfectly true. But then she states that that which can be lost can never be considered a supreme good, since that which cannot be lost is necessarily better than that which can. However, this only holds true if you presuppose that there will always be a thing that is wholly identical to a thing that can be lost, except in that it cannot be lost. In other words, the logic only holds if for every instance of a thing that can be lost, there exists a thing which is just as good in every detail, plus it has the additional attribute of not being able to be lost. Now, it could be the case that for every instance of a thing that can be lost, there really does exist a thing which is just as good, but cannot be lost. If so, then Lady Philosophy is correct by concurrence; but the method by which she reaches this true conclusion is still just as invalid as before. The reason why it is necessarily invalid is because it is not necessarily the case that for every instance, there exists its counterpart. The assumption that it is the case is an assumption by Ockham’s Razor. Again, it must be stressed that this says nothing against Ockham’s Razor per se; after all, Ockham’s Razor is not an actual logical principle, but rather a useful device for cutting away what is generally considered to be unnecessary information. This is fine when one is constructing general forms of rules for the physical laws of the universe or for predicting whether the stock market will rise or fall on the long term – but because Ockham’s Razor is not a purely logical instance of modus ponens, the laws of the universe are still not distinct in their entirety with each individual interaction, and the particular ups and downs of the stock market on any given day are not accurately predicted using the methods of Ockham’s Razor. It is not wise to rely on Ockham’s Razor in rigorous mathematical proofs, and it is this lack of rigor that Lady Philosophy suffers from in her attempt to define the supreme good as that which cannot be lost. Again, it may be true that the supreme good is that which cannot be lost; but it is not necessarily true that this is the case.

In Marcus Aurelius’ “Stoicism and Self-Discipline”, a similar search for the path to happiness is attempted. He, too, tries to use logic to arrive at his conclusions, but generally relies more upon reason and common sense to clarify his approach to the ideal of happiness. Aurelius observes the world around him, and uses that observation to influence his outlook upon life: “Nobody is surprised when a fig-tree brings forth figs. Similarly, we ought to be ashamed of our surprise when the world produces its normal crop of happenings” (537 Aurelius). He also goes into logical thought later in his Meditations, when he says that: “No event can happen to a man but what is properly incidental to man’s condition…. Then if all things experience only what is customary and natural to them, why complain? The same nature which is yours as well as theirs brings you nothing you canot bear” (542).

However, in each of these instances, his logic is not that of sound or unsound valid forms, but rather of strong or weak invalid forms. This type of logic is not conducive to complete proof, but rather to merely an attempt at convincing others of what proof (or lack thereof) there is. It is clear that he fails in the category of absolutely proving what he has to say; but it is not clear that he has the intention of doing so, anyway. After all, he does not have the same amount of time to write a well-polished essay as the previous authors mentioned did.

With each of the above examples, logic was used in the pursuit of happiness; but in no such case was that logic used one-hundred percent effectively. But the question remains: does an argument have to be completely necessarily true in order to be worthwhile to write or even to read? Certainly not, for each of these authors has done extremely well in their pursuit of the true way of approaching happiness, and that is all that truly matters.

Aurelius, Marcus. “Stoicism and Self-Discipline”, Meditations. Maxwell Staniforth, trans.
Class Handout; unknown citation.

Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. Richard Green, trans.
Library of Liberal Arts: New York, 1962.

Plato. “The Apology”. Weller, Shane, trans.
Dover Thrift: Toronto, 1992.

18 September, 2003

Capital, Volume One: “Production of Relative Surplus Value”

The following is an assigned essay which was completed for a grade. Unfortunately, some formatting has been lost in the transition to LJ.

Eric J. Herboso
18 September, 2003

Capital, Volume One: “Production of Relative Surplus Value”

In Karl Marx’s Capital, Volume One, Marx explores many different ideas, all of which argue against one basic concept: capitalism. In Part VI, Chapter XV, Section 3 of the text, Marx talks of what he terms as “Production of Relative Surplus-Value”, which can be loosely described as that principle effect of the development of machinery upon workers – in other words, exploitation. His argument is basically a response to Mill, of whom tacitly assumes in his “Principles of Political Economy” that the goal of mechanical inventions is to lighten the workload of society in general. Marx says that the goal is not as not Mill would purport, but rather to increase production. By the emergence of machinery, what used to require hard labor can now be done by workers with less strength and endurance, and thus the door opens for women and children to work whereas only men worked before. This additional workforce may be more expensive to hire and pay for initially, but the relative increase in production is a far higher gain than the loss accrued in the extra cost.

Furthermore, this mechanical “revolution” has become the “most powerful means…for lengthening the working-day beyond all bounds set by human nature” (Marx 404). This seeming paradox is an idea that, according to Marx, even the ancients knew nothing about. He says of them: “to preach slavery of the masses, in order that a few crude and half-educated parvenus, might become ‘eminent spinners,’ ‘extensive sausage-makers,’ and ‘influential shoe-back dealers,’ to do this, they lacked the bump [referencing the pseudo-science of phrenology] of Christianity” (407).

Marx makes a very compelling argument of capitalism using the emergence of technology to further “enslave” mankind. It will be very interesting to see what else he says in Capital.

Tucker, Robert C. Capital, Volume One, The Marx-Engels Reader. Au. Karl Marx.
W. W. Norton & Company.: New York/London, 1978

11 September, 2003

On The Jewish Question: But What Exactly Is The Jewish Question?

The following is an assigned essay which was completed for a grade. Unfortunately, some formatting has been lost in the transition to LJ.

Eric J. Herboso
11 September, 2003

On The Jewish Question: But What Exactly Is The Jewish Question?

In Karl Marx’s essay entitled On The Jewish Question, Marx explores the question of how to emancipate the Jew. But he doesn’t accept the idea that for the Jew to have religious freedom in a Christian state is true emancipation, since having that religion legally established by the state would not allow the emancipation to be of a “true” kind. Nor does he accept that the Jew may be politically emancipated, since no one in Germany is politically free. (Why this is so is not made clear by Marx, though Marx probably presupposed that anyone reading his essay would at least understand the state of the state at the time.) In fact, Marx refuses to admit of any kind of emancipation as truly being free, unlike the person to whom he is responding, Bruno Bauer (Die Judenfrage, “Die Fähigkeit der heutigen Juden und Christen frei zu werden”).

So what exactly is it that the Jewish question of emancipation is in regard to? Marx restates Bauer’s idea that religious opposition is made impossible by “abolishing religion” (Marx 28). Marx’s wording isn’t always quite clear (probably due to the translation from German), but what is clear is the idea that “the state which presupposes religion is not yet a true or actual state” (29). Therefore, the Jewish question becomes: “what kind of emancipation is involved” (30)? Having reached the appropriate question, however, still has yet to resolve the answer. Marx continues on, attempting to determine how to answer this “Die Judenfrage”.

Marx denies the idea of political emancipation being anything more than a tool with which to ultimately give individual emancipation. He says that “[i]t is not…the final form of human emancipation, but it is the final form…within the framework of the…social order” (35). He even shows why this is so: “it is because [the Jew] can be emancipated politically, without renouncing Judaism completely and absolutely, that political emancipation itself is not human emancipation.” It would help if Marx defined some of his terms a bit better, but the logic here is good enough to show the main distinction between that of Marx’s “species-life” and “species-being”. The existence of the “species-being” requires that “the privilege of faith is a universal right of man” (41). Unfortunately, this distinction becomes much more blurry when Marx quotes the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen on liberty, security, and property. Is Marx saying that a “species-being” requires these rights in order to exist? One would think so, especially when Marx observes that the rights of man should always come before the state: “the citizen is declared to be the servant of egoistic ‘man’ ” (43); this observation is most obvious in Marx’s criticism of the Constitution of 1793, which states that “ ‘the freedom of the Press should not be permitted when it endangers public liberty’ ” (44): since we are giving the public liberty in order to achieve individual liberty (apart from the state, or citizen, or species-life, depending upon your choice of jargon), then that same individual liberty (of which freedom of the press is a part) must trump over the public liberty whenever they happen to clash. But does Marx say that the constitution should be better worded? On this, he is unclear; he calls the situation an optical illusion and a problem, but in what way exactly is it an illusion?

But despite the ambiguity here, Marx makes it clear that political emancipation is not the emancipation that the Jewish question is asking about. Rather, it must be human emancipation. At least, that’s what Marx seems to be saying. But then he goes into section two.

Marx begins the second section with quoting Bauer’s views on the very capacity of Jews to be free. But Marx does not stop with Bauer’s ideas of the Jew requiring Christianity in order to be truly free; no, rather he goes on to talk about the so-called “real Jew”, of whose religion is supposedly nothing more than that of money itself.

It need not be said that this view is either totally and completely wrong, or else the Jew of the German world must be completely and utterly different from the Jew of today. But despite this, Marx goes on to say things that seem to make little to no sense at all, and the reason for these statements to be included in his argument is equally unclear:

“The Jews have emancipated themselves in so far as the Christians have become Jews” (49). Is he saying that Christians have become more interested in money? If so, what does this have to do with Jews at all?
“The monotheism of the Jews is…, in reality, a polytheism of the numerous needs of man…. The god of practical need and self-interest is money” (50). Is Marx seriously saying that the God of the Jews is money? Literally?
“Judaism attains its apogee with the perfection of civil society; but civil society only reaches perfection in the Christian world” (51). One wonders as to whether this quote of Marx’s should even be commented upon or not.

But truly, the most strange statement of all is that of Marx’s concluding sentence: “The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism” (52). What Marx is saying right here may be construed from his earlier stated sentiments, but the logical conclusion of this point is still very far from clear.

Tucker, Robert C. “On The Jewish Question”, The Marx-Engels Reader. Au. Karl Marx.
W. W. Norton & Company.: New York/London, 1978

02 September, 2003

On Liberty: Chapter III: “Of Individuality”

The following is an assigned essay which was completed for a grade. Unfortunately, some formatting has been lost in the transition to LJ.

Eric J. Herboso
02 September, 2003

On Liberty: Chapter III: “Of Individuality”

In Chapter III of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Mill argues that the individual actions of human beings should be considered one of the “elements of well-being” (53), assuming, of course, the limitation of disallowing hindrance upon other individuals. His main argument here rests upon the grounds that liberty of action is a necessary requirement for development, and that “it is only the cultivation of individuality which produces…well-developed human beings” (61). Thereby, any proponent of development must necessarily also promote individuality. This follows from the idea that it is only through a good mix of ideas, influences, and (especially) actions that any new ideas may be sought; for if stagnation is the rule, then development is completely impossible.

Having said this, he attempts to go on to argue against those who would still be against individuality and yet admit “that originality is a valuable element in human affairs” (61). (He ignores, of course, those who would argue that the world is already perfect, assuming that such people do not exist.) However, the remainder of this chapter at least fails in this attempt. Though he says that he plans “to point out to those who do not desire liberty, and would not avail themselves of it, that they might be in some intelligible manner rewarded for allowing other people to make use of it without hindrance”, he finishes the remainder of the chapter without accomplishing this goal. Instead, he continues the argument that the presence of liberty of action in a society helps that society to improve itself developmentally. While Mill’s argument is indeed strong, it remains weak enough to be resisted by those who either care little for progress or those who view liberty of action as inherently negative, regardless of it being a necessary requirement for progress.

However, this minor point aside, it is likely that Mill’s argument for liberty will be accepted by a great majority of the people. However, Mill takes this argument to the very extreme, seemingly daring the reader to respond negatively against it. (A justification for this view can be made from Mill’s earlier statement in Chapter II: “Strange it is that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but to object to their being ‘pushed to an extreme,’ not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case” (20, emphasis added).) Mill talks of government by the one or few as more conducive to freedom than by the masses themselves, and on the ‘good’ being best achieved by “the more and more pronounced individuality of those who stand on the higher eminences of thought” (64). Mill even goes so far as to almost jokingly call into question the idea of public education, saying that it causes an assimilation of the masses’ thoughts and actions to such a high degree that it may well be a hindrance to progress itself.

However, Mill takes this game of extremities a bit too far when he reaches to China as an example of a state without advances or progress of any kind. In Mill’s day, this euro-centric viewpoint was very much accepted, but any competent arguer would now stay far away from such generalities, even if it turns out to be a valid criticism of that culture.

It will be interesting to see how Mill’s overall argument will continue in the remainder of On Liberty. So far, he has been very persuasive – though, like most arguments, there still remains a limited number of gaps in the logic which preclude a definitive understanding of the topic of Liberty. It remains to be seen if these gaps will be filled in by the end of his essay.

Rapaport, Elizabeth. “On Liberty”. Au. John Stuart Mill.
Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.: Indianapolis/Cambridge, 1978

09 July, 2003

A Wonderful Place To Be

Originally posted in my RAE journal.

It has started.

Today, on Wednesday, July 9, 2003, Robin told me that she trusts me. I am, to be quite honest, ecstatic.

It was barely five days ago on Independence Day that we first decided on a date and location: we will be married on Sunday, the twelfth of December, 2004, in Disney World itself. (c;

My joy, it seems, is overwhelming. And Robin's is as well.

What will the future bring, I wonder? Whatever it may be, I can be sure of one thing at least now: It will be a wonderful place to be.


19 June, 2003

Dino Hunting!

[As originally posted on the MTGN forums at "http://forums.mtgnews.com/showpost.php?p=1642424&postcount=439".]

For nearly two weeks, from June fifth to June eighteenth, I experienced a trip very unlike anything that I'd ever enountered before.

I went dinosaur hunting.

I had never before done anything truly paleontological, though when I was younger I did do a short archaeological stunt in Pensacola, FL, where in the course of building a new highway, they inadvertently dug up an old spanish fort site as well. But that was just kids' stuff; nothing fancy, and nothing major.

But dino hunting? Now this was major hardcore stuff.

Pleasantly, I packed my bags, looking forward to what I thought would be the vacation of a lifetime. This was the real deal: true field work experience, albeit in a field somewhat divergent from my theoretical physics and fundamental mathematical background. To think of it! Actual unadulterated field experience! It was an experience beyond what I had ever accomplished before.

I mean, I've published in a national magazine. I've had a few poems printed in amateur poetry books. I even had done a little prep work for an old professor's then unpublished findings (though my name was not put on the published material, since I had not contributed much to the experimental findings). But I'd never before done anything truly intellectual, that I might be published on, or even that might further the advance of science itself. Instead, all I had done are things that I cannot help but to view as second tier: bland advertisement, perfunctory immature poetry, and 'rip-offs' that deserve no better than a cursory glance by any intelligent reader.

But this... This was the chance of a lifetime. To think of all those preadolescent days when I dreamed of going into xenomacropaleontology (don't ask), and to realize as to just how few people actually get to accomplish those dreams held to them as a child...

Alas! Dreams, like shadows and heroes, diminish the closer one appears.

This is not to say that all dreams are bad in any sense more than shadows or heroes might be considered bad. But it does, in some senses, remain quite true. (Of course, this leads into the argument that any categorical distinction is as true as it is untrue; whereas the ends do not justify the means, you also can't make an omellete without breaking a few eggs.) And in that sense, at least, I found out a great lesson in my dino hunting trip. A great lesson indeed.

Inasmuch as my enjoyment went, I had an absolutely glorious time. I found a triceratops (my personal favorite dinosaur, due to a mid-eighties trike craze I experienced in my childhood), minus the skull and limbs, but with at least one intact vertebra and multiple ribs and tendons. The specimen was not articulate, unfortunately, but the spread of the bones did indicate that it had been killed by a neotyrannosaur, and later scavenged by some form of cretaceous raptor that we couldn't identify. Teeth marks were found on the bone, but no teeth were imbedded within the bone itself. All in all, it was a fairly average find, with nothing of particular scientific interest. But to me, it was wonderful. Exhilirating. Delightful. Enjoyable.

But there remained that voice in the back of my head, understanding what was to become of these bones after they were fully prepped. They would be sold, I came to understand, and the profits would remain with Dr. Garstka, the paleontologist of the group.

But then again, he wasn't really a paleontologist. And there, I think, is where it all came out wrong.

Bill, you see, had his training in biology, specifically in snakes and lizards. Of course, his education came from the Vietnam era, so the biology he learned is now horrendously outdated, though he still works his day job teaching the stuff at a mid-sized 'government' (his description) university. He used to do research on specimens, but when the animal rights activists got a whole bunch of government regulations on cage size, feeding habits, and the like, he found that he was unable to cope with any of it, and switched over to field work in a national preserve instead.

The preserve at that time was headed by a country boy, very unlike today's common park ranger head honchos who come from more of a law enforcement background. Accordingly, Bill was allowed considerable leeway in his field experiments; this all changed once the leadership changed, and suddenly Bill found himself unable to conduct useful research without first leaving the country.

It was at this point that he turned to paleontology. "Surely," said he, "there will be no such restrictions on animals that have been dead for sixty-five million years!"

But, as he isn't a paleontologist by training, his research could not be funded by the university he was employed at, and instead he got his funding through the selling of dinosaur bones to the general public.

Now, I don't want to go into all that this means, though I'm sure most of my readers can glean exactly what a pothole of philosophical questions this opens up, especially in the field of a historical science like paleontology. Remember: once it's dug out, it can never be dug out again. And once it's sold to the general public, it would take a hell of a time to get it back into a museum in even the worst of conditions.

As a historical example, allow me to cite the old westerns that Hollywood did back in the day. Remember all of those headresses and teepees and stuff they used as props? Those were all real. They went out into the poor parts of native american land and bought out all of the old stuff, merely to be used as props in movies. Because of that, there are no old headresses anymore. They were all destroyed and thrown away by old movie actors who ruined them. Nowadays, all there is access to is fifty year old and younger artifacts from Native American land, excepting what is found in archaeological dig sites.

So it bothered me somewhat when I came to find out that Bill funded his bone-digging by selling his bones. It turned a scientific escapade into a lesson in marketing. I could see no difference between digging up these bones and selling them at inflated prices than I see in the raping of the earth for natural resources like oil and gold, and selling them for a profit as well. Hell, I can even see an argument for why oil must be drilled for and sold, whereas there is absolutely no reason why dinosaur bones should be sold to the public, especially at the loss of museum pieces that is sustained because of it.

Do you realize that there have only been twenty-eight complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons dug up in the entire history of paleontology, and, of these, only half of them are in actual museums? And only one of the articulate ones is in a museum, where it rightly belongs! And for that matter, most museums have mere plasters of skeletons, and few actual bones to speak of. All because of money-grubbing entrepeneural 'pseudo-paleontologists', who pervert the science of paleontology into mere profiteering.

As you can see, my comfort level of working with Dr. Bill Garstka dropped tremendously almost from the very beginning.

But I tried not to let it get to me. I tried not to think about what would happen after the entire process of prepping the bones had been finished. Instead, I concentrated on the thrill of finding a Trike vertebra in the flaky North Dakota rock, and of the beauty unraveled before me as I swept the dust away with a paintbrush.

Truly, it was an amazing adventure for me, despite all of the conceptual problems I had with the whole situation.

But, I suppose my disagreement with the situation became quite apparent with Bill. I kept noticing the local scientist types bothering him, circling planes above him with the intention of pure annoyance, and driving up to a far-off butte, sitting and watching as Bill dug into the rock below. I realized: they had no way of stopping Bill from doing what he was doing in any legal manner whatsoever, and yet the cared enough for the sanctity of pure, profitless science that they took time away from their day specifically in order to try and intimidate him from digging there.

But truly, what could they do? What can they do? They talk with the local ranchers, trying to persuade them to not lease out the dinosaur digging rights to anyone other than a university, but there aren't enough universities sponsoring such digs, and besides: profiteers like Bill give huge handouts monetarily in order to keep their leases current. And how can you ever convince a rancher not to take huge sums of money that is offered to him, even if it is in the name of science to turn profiteers down?

I read B. F. Skinner's Walden II while I was there. It turned out to be a most appropriate book to be reading for the occasion.

I had planned on staying there longer. But, after nearly two weeks, I was asked to leave. Not just because of my views, but for a number of other things. Bill, ironically enough, was just too damned objectivist for me.

But irregardless (i.e., with regard) of my misgivings after the fact, I still think that this trip of mine, above all other trips, has been the one where I not only learned the most, but also got the most experience, and best of all, became cognizant of certain ideas and thoughts that I hadn't fully understood before now...

All in all, I had a most rewarding trip, and I am very, very glad that I took it.

If you haven't read Skinner's Walden II, go read it. Now. I'm serious. I picked it up on accident, thinking it was Thoreau's Walden, and I'm glad I did. What a find!

Read it.

02 April, 2003

JAM on Phoe

I talked to Jason earlier tonight, and we talked at length on many things. Anyway, I figure a few highlights would be worth taking a look at...

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: Greg got that security job
Jam37wcc: But he quit
---end copied text---

Yeah, that sounds like Greg, alright.

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: Nick told me Casey just cut Greg's hand earlier tonight
Eric J Herboso: With what?
Jam37wcc: Greg was asleep and Casey got a metal pizza cutter and put it on his hand like brass knuckles and held it to his throat
Eric J Herboso: You're not serious, are you?
Jam37wcc: He woke Greg up and I geuss it startled Greg and he took his hands and pushed it out of the way and sliced his hand open
Jam37wcc: Yes
Eric J Herboso: And why is it that Greg still hangs out with Casey?
Jam37wcc: I don't know
---end copied text---

You'd think Greg would have learned better by now...

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: You know where th airport is don't you
Eric J Herboso: Yeah. [note: it's about a forty-five minute drive from Saraland]
Jam37wcc: Do you think driving about 2 or 3 miles passed that is worth $5.50 an hr if you live in saraland
Eric J Herboso: No, of course not.
Jam37wcc: That is where Casey works and Greg thought it was a good job so he applied there
---end copied text---

I wonder what Greg's excuse for this one is... Greg always seems to have an excuse, whether it's valid or not.

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: Greg said but it's a permanent job
---end copied text---

A permanent job at $5.50 an hour? My, but Greg surely is dense.

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: Clay is going to buy a new Trans Am
Eric J Herboso: Again?
Jam37wcc: And I wouldn't be surprised if Greg wants to also
Jam37wcc: This time he is going to get a new one not used
Eric J Herboso: Brand new?
Jam37wcc: Yep
Jam37wcc: That is what Nick told me
Eric J Herboso: Did Clay say that this time he would wait a few months before he wrecked the car?
Jam37wcc: Not that I know of
---end copied text---

In the past, Greg has done his best to keep up with Clay car-wise. When Clay bought his last Trans-Am, Greg bought one just like it but of a different color on the same day. That same month, Clay wrecked his car. Greg did the same two months later.

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: You know what Greg is doing for a job now
Eric J Herboso: Asking his mom for money?
Jam37wcc: He works for his mom three nights a week
Jam37wcc: He watches the exit doors at the theater so no one sneaks in
Jam37wcc: So pretty much is mom is paying for his car and insurance
Jam37wcc: If it wasn't for Greg no one would be watch those doors that closely
---end copied text---

Okay, I know this sounds bad, but I've got to give Greg the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the job has a little more to it than Jason thinks...

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc : If Greg whines enough he doesn't even have to go to theater and work
---end copied text---

... ... Never mind. Forget I said anything.

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: He has another girlfriend
Jam37wcc: Guess where she stays
Eric J Herboso: In Pensacola?
Jam37wcc: At his house
---end copied text---

I said Pensacola because it's an hour away, and I figured he'd be the kind of person who'd drive for an hour just to see some girlfriend for five minutes. But no, she actually lives with him. I wonder what she's like...

---begin copied text---
Eric J Herboso: Have you met her?
Jam37wcc: Yeah
Eric J Herboso: What's she like?
Jam37wcc: She didn't say much but
---end copied text---

Okay, here it comes... I wonder what Jason's opinion of her could possibly be...

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: She is very controlling
Jam37wcc: She doesn't have a job
Jam37wcc: She dropped out of school
Jam37wcc: Isn't going to get her GED
Jam37wcc: Nick, Greg, and me went to mobile one day and stayed out there for most of the day
Jam37wcc: When we got back she was standing in the front yard cussing Greg out because he wasn't there to get up and get her food
Jam37wcc: Because she felt sick
---end copied text---

You know, I was expecting him to say she's a bitch, or maybe a bad choice, but no, Jason didn't even utter a single opinion that he had about this girl. Instead, he gave facts, and left it to me to decide what kind of girl she is. My opinion: She's a bitch.
Surely he wouldn't be putting up with her just for the sex... He can get it elsewhere so easily. My only guess is that she must look really good, and even then, I can't comprehend Greg's stupidity in putting up with that kind of shit.

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: Did I tell you he got some more tatoos
Eric J Herboso: [sigh - not again] What did he get this time?
Jam37wcc: A dragon, a sword, and a man with wings not an angel
Jam37wcc: Guess where
Eric J Herboso: Knowing Greg, it's probably his forehead.
Jam37wcc: You think he would be at least smart enough where you could cover it up with a short sleeve shirt
Jam37wcc: He has to wear a long sleeve shirt to cover it up
Jam37wcc: It is on his right fore arm
Jam37wcc: I asked him why he didn't get it higher on his arm so a short sleeve shirt would cover it he told me he had a brain fart
---end copied text---

Damn, he's stupid as fuck... God only knows why a person as good-natured, honest, and good looking as him has to be that fucking retarded. I guess there's some universal constant out there that states no person can have all the good qualities all rolled up in one.
I blame it on Casey, though... You know how bad company acts on one's personality.

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: Did Casey have his car before you left
Eric J Herboso: What kind of car does he have?
Jam37wcc: A firebird
Jam37wcc: the small Trams Am
Jam37wcc: He traded his trans am for it
Jam37wcc: It is red and Casey thought it would be cool to paint the rims red
Jam37wcc: When he decided he didn't like it he was going to use gas to get it off
Jam37wcc: Which is pretty smart
Jam37wcc: Guess what he did
---end copied text---

Umm... I don't know, but I'm hoping it's not what I'm thinking in my head...

---begin copied text---
Jam37wcc: He poured gas on them and set them on fire
Eric J Herboso: On fire?
Jam37wcc: Yeah
Eric J Herboso: Are you serious?
Jam37wcc: Very
---end copied text---

01 February, 2003

My AIM Profile

As copied from my AIM profile at this date.

Likes: physics, Tae Kwon Do, books, Magic: The Gathering, big band, Command & Conquer, Final Fantasy VI, Geico commercials, drum corps, first dates, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, composing

Dislikes: stupidity, indecisiveness, laziness, unassertiveness, Dr. Laura, raw oysters, & retards.

"Only 3 things can stop TRIX from winning. And they are BAD player, BAD construction, and BAD consult." -Warren Malsh

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." -Dr. Seuss

" 'Nice' bears little relationship to 'kind'; it's simply the path of least resistance for those with so lttle confidence in their real talents, intellect, and power of discernment they cannot support or even question their own ideas and convictions."

08 January, 2003

Wasted Time

The following entry was written in the very early morning of January 8, 2003, while I was taking a break from moving into my new dormitory.

Well, here I am. How do I feel about this new change? At first, when I started college, I held on to my apartment, since it was the last remnant of specialty left to me. But now, even that is gone. Now, I am no better off than any others here...

I'm twenty-one years old now, and am very rapidly approaching twenty-two. But I only just started college earlier last year; this is only my second semester here at Spring Hill. I am the oldest freshman here; the next oldest only just recently turned twenty. Even he was only nineteen when he started here -- I, on the otherhand, was twenty-one.

I guess one could say I am finaly getting my life back on track... Strange how it derailed quite some time ago. Has it really taken me this long to recover? And yet, I still am not fully healed. I have lost every benefit I gained from my obtuse choices of years back... I no longer have a family, I lost my talent of music through years of misuse, I stopped going to Tae Kwon Do classes regularly, I stopped playing soccer, I no longer have my house, or even my apartment anymore, and I am really no better off monetarily than I was four years ago.

In short, I am like every other freshman here, except I am three years older.

Dr. Allin said that I had life experience, and that is a priceless thing tohave. He said that at least I appreciate being at college, whereas most other students simply do not care.

At the time, I agreed with him, but now I am not so sure. I mean, I know that I do appreciate being here, unlike most of the other students here. But do I appreciate it because of my life experience? Or would I have appreciated it just as well years ago if I had started college then, instead?

It is true that I did indeed start college for a short semester, subsequently dropping out after only a few classes. But this was quite some time ago, and circumstances were very different back then. It was at that time of my life that I first got off track... Dropping out of high school depressed me, even though I didn't admit it at the time. I can remember saying that I wanted to drop out, but the real truth is that I didn't. I felt as though I were forced out. I wasn't ready to grow up. Hell, I'm still not ready to grow up. I liked being on the drum line and the soccer team and just living the life of a high school kid. I didn't want to quit. I didn't want to enroll in college early; everybody at college was old, and I was still young. How old was I? 16? 17? Hell, I don't even remember off the top of my head. I was living in a nightmare that wouldn't end. But the worst part was that part of me actually enjoyed the nightmare... I liked the idea of college; I just didn't feel ready yet. No, that's not quite right... I felt ready, but I didn't want to be forced. I hated being forced. I felt like I had no choice; I absolutely had to grow up right then, and I had no say in the matter. It was horrible. I couldn't function like that. Not back then. Now, years later, were I in the same predicament, I might be able to handle it. But I must stress the word "might". After all, I may be a very different person now, but I no more wish to be forced into a situation now than I did back then.

So it is no surprise that I dropped out back then. But if we were to rewind time to a happier period in my life, to a time before that nightmare began, I think that I would have appreciated college. Sure, it would be a different appreciation from what I have now, but it would still be there just the same. Maybe I wasn't ready for college when I was 17, but back when I was fifteen, I was definitely ready. I'm glad I didn't drop out that early, of course, but this has nothing to do with my ability or anything similar; it is just that I prefer having had the experiences that I had in high school, right up to when that nightmare first began.

But ever since that derailment nightmare occurred, my life has been nowhere near where I wished it to be. What makes me feel so bad and depressed about it all is that I went through all of that derailment crap and I have nothing to show for it. Dr. Allin was wrong: I haven't gained appreciation; I had appreciation before I screwed my life up. No... I have nothing to show for it. Nothing.

What have I gained since then? A PS2, some power nine, and a discovery of Milton. But beyond that? Nothing.

Sure, I now have two very nice rocking chairs and an excellent TV, but this is immaterial. Even the soft sheets on my bed aren't that important. No, all I have is a PS2, which I would have bought anyway, some power nine, which I would have gotten anyway, and a discovery of Milton, which I would have discovered eventually anyway.

To think... All of these years of pain, and I have nothing to show for it. Everything I gained is crap.

Fuck life experience. I'm not happy for having had the experience that I had. The knowledge of how fucked up life can be is not worth experiencing how badly life might fuck you up.

Please excuse my language today. Writing this entry has not made me very happy, nor calm.

... I'd write more, but my hand hurts. Damn you, hand.