‘Act of War’ Response

Act of War tells the story of Hawaii’s overthrow by a league of private actors supported by the United States government. The first clips are perhaps the most powerful in the entire film; Hawaiian protesters march through the streets of Honolulu calling for sovereignty and responding to the tragic events of the past. They make concrete the historical abstraction that is an “overthrow”—the faces shown are the ones affected by the actions of greedy men more than a century previous, and their voices express the pain and anger of generations. It is an interesting choice to put these clips at the beginning, which puts the effects of the overthrow at the forefront of the viewer’s minds, in order to lend meaning to the historical explanations that follow.

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The story of Hawaii’s history as part of the United States is a tragic one, especially so because it was achieved by relatively few people, and in the face of much anger, opposition, and resentment from both the Hawaiian people and the American citizenry. By tracing the lives and decisions of particular individuals and groups, such as Queen Liliuokalani and the Calvinist missionaries, the film achieves both concise explanations of the cultural and social forces that influenced their reactions, as well as their characters as human beings. The characteristics of Calvinism are important in understanding Hawaii’s colonization, though I wish more time had been given to an explanation of Hawaiian cultural values and practices prior to the arrival of Europeans. Outside of the crowd shots at the beginning, the film fails to convey the attitudes of Hawaiians towards the overthrow, as well as the effects, both positive and negative it had on Hawaiian society. 

Truth and Propaganda

In the days before the printing press, and for a long time after, information was controlled by a minuscule group of people, who because of their monopoly were able to wield almost complete control over the beliefs of the general populace. Therefore the distributed propaganda favored the large, stable, monopolistic systems, whether they be a monarchy or organized religion.

No longer. The internet has distributed the locus of information control among the general populace and thus made propagandists of us all. The very nature of this democratization means that much of the distributed propaganda instead favors the diffuse, progressive, experimental ideas that themselves form the basis of our new systems of mass communication.

True, accurate information now exists in greater abundance, but in far greater proportional scarcity than before.

Accurate information is rarely emotionally compelling when compared to lies that have been designed specifically for the triggering of emotion in a targeted group. Therefore, because in regards to information for the general public, what is most emotionally compelling is what people are most willing to pay for and consume, the profit motive drives all propagandists, whether they be independent bloggers or large media conglomerates, to craft scandalous, controversial narratives that never resolve so long as they can generate attention and escalate so long as the public is entranced.

In the western world, detailed and entertaining information is now easier to get than food or water. But truth regarding contentious issues and moral quandaries is as difficult to obtain now as it was during the dark ages.

Not because the truth is nowhere to be found, but because we all believe we’ve already found it.

Myth of the Tortured Artist

A Small Island

The “tortured artist” is one our society’s most toxic cultural archetypes. Not only because it puts forth an unsustainable identity framework for creative achievement, but because that framework isn’t effective for making great creative work possible. 

It is true that abnormally creative individuals are more likely to suffer from dramatic swings in emotion. But to assume that those swings are what makes creativity possible takes away from an artist’s authentic merit.

The tortured artist idea is simply another offshoot of that even more prevalent conception of creativity; that great works are produced in an unconscious, unwilled flash of brilliance, rather than over large amounts of time wherein a huge amount of competency within a medium is established.

The 20th century hosted an abundance of great talent, doomed to die at a young age. These culture heroes fell victim to the modern phenomenon of extreme and quickly cultivated fame, as well…

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Equality is Evil

A Small Island

The surface of a liquid only becomes flat when there ceases to be energetic motion upward or downward. This is called stagnation.

Blades of grass are only equal in length once they have been cut down by a lawn mower. The pleasant smell is their chemical cry for help, the beginning of a desperate effort to recover from the injury.

Human beings are equal at no point during their lifetime, save the end. The fastest sperm wins. Our species survival is contingent on this race. The failures of the slower are precious gifts to posterity. But if equity is the benevolent principle of organization, then let us apply it. Weights for the fastest sperm, jets for the slowest. But what abominations would be made from that billion strong stalemate?

But no, they say, you go to extremes. Your strawman is ridiculous. We wish only that the sperm would begin at…

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