Tuesday, May 29, 2007

2 newspaper headlines from Jamaica

I am presently in Jamaica and two headlines in two different newspapers caught my attention and led me to think about Martin Heidegger's concept of Dasien (Being-in-the-world). The two headlines read "Witter warns gays - 'Flaunting sexual preference may incite violence'" ( http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20070425/)and "mob beats cross-dresser" (http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/html/20070428T020000-0500_122324_OBS_MOB_BEATS_CROSS_DRESSER.asp).
the reason why i thought of Dasien is that Heidegger, in Being and Time, argues that one of the characteristics of Dasien is it brought into existence at sometime, somewhere, some culture, and so forth. The result is that Dasien is exposed to the prejudices of that time, place, and society. The incident of the second article, where the mob beat up a cross-dresser with stones and sticks, clearly reveal the predominant prejudices that Jamaican people have about sexuality, and public displays of sexuality deviating from the 'norm' can result in the majority (or what Heidegger would call 'the they') acting out their own form of 'justice'.
The first article reveals, for me, more about the official discourses of sexuality in Jamaica, where an MP states it is OK for homosexuality, but this must remain private, and public 'flaunting' of homosexuality can incite violence. the discourse attempts to control homosexuals, or other forms of deviants, behaviour, stating what is felt acceptable and not, and portraying itself as a 'liberal' discourse.
On a more speculate note, i was wondering if the two newspaper articles are even further linked? With Public defender Earl Witter stating flaunting homosexuality can incite violence, did this, indirectly, give a form of justification for the crowds actions. Did the people read the article and think that flaunting homosexuality is asking for violence, which they could then do? Although, I have to warn this is pure speculation, and i have no evidence for this linkage, but i do feel the closeness of the incidents could maybe suggest a linkage? Other factors of course need to be taken into account, the main one being the general homophobic culture of contemporary Jamaica.


The Brooks Blog said...

Out of curiosity, what is especially "Heideggerian" about any of this? Yes, he uses the term "Dasein" (translated as "being-there") and it is historical and sensitive to context. But that's just the first couple pages of SEIN UND ZEIT and he has much, much more to say about being-in-the-world and how Dasein carves out its own space, no?

In essence, you could have easily used Mill's quip that we are all "children of our time" (repeated even earlier by Hegel, who, too, uses a techical understanding of Dasein in his work).

So the question I'd raise is what exactly is Heideggerian (and not Millian, Hegelian, etc) about your experience? It strikes me as simply the view that---whatever place there is for "nature"---"nurture" has importance in understanding our lives. This is a thought we see discussed by countless figures, not least Plato.

Mark202 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark202 said...

yes i agree that heidegger has a lot more to say about Dasien, and i also felt this example could show the danagers of someone trying to carve out an authentic self, which, as this example illustrated, could conflict with 'the they'.
My Hiedeggerian point, i think, is starting a project without thinking about prejudices is a no starter. also, another Hiedeggerian point, is to understand a state, city... a good place to start is to try and understand what they care about, which in this example, shows Jamaica cares about having a public heterosexual image, which sets to threaten others, or the possiblities of others, authenic projects.
However, saying all that, the main question remains is when do we know when someone is trying to carve out an authenic self? could simulation not have a play in the factor? one of the things Derrida has taught me is that you cannot judge actions from intentionality, also this is not to suggest people do not intend.

The Brooks Blog said...

These points are all fair enough, Mark. I entirely agree with you that we come to the world with presuppositions and so on. I suppose my question was what precisely is "Heideggerian" about your views. In speaking with others who are mesmerized by postmodern and postmodern-friendly thinkers, the claims that are allegedly "postie" and found in a peculiar set of (for most professional philosophers) relatively minor figures are either (a) actually the views of other philosophers or (b) straightforwardly false or at least superficial. This criticism is not aimed at your views, so don't understand me in that way. However, I do think that most people into postmodernism simply lack much, if any, background in mainstream philosophy. If they read Kant, etc., then they would clearly see that the problems they take as stemming from a postmodern literature actually have been discussed for centuries (and often in better in detail) by past thinkers. We reinvent the wheel in failing to note, for example, that Hegel and several German Idealists wrote volumes of material on the question of whether a presuppositionless viewpoint is possible. At least as early as John Locke, we have the view that the world is both mediated and often indirectly: we have representations of objects which may deviate from the objects-in-themselves (to borrow a phrase from Kant) and so on. I fail to see the Heideggerian moment. Rather, it has appeared to me --although I'm no expert on Heidegger, although I did take a class on his Being and Time at MA level -- I suspect his innovations are with respect to the philosophy of language. Just a guess.

On intentionality and Derrida, again, Kant has extended discussions (written in the late 18th century that Derrida surely knew) on whether we could infer intentions from actions. The answer is largely no, but it is more complex. Hegel argued against this view. Their is a huge literature over the last 100 years or so on this question, often cropping up repeatedly in the criminal law literature. I fail to see the point as anything novel by Derrida. It's just recycled material from past thinkers...and around whom we have an extended and detailed literature to work from.

I am not trying to be heavy-handed, Mark. In short, I've always been interested in why these postmodern figures are so attractive to non-philosophers.

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