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Reading Ponderings (and what makes a life worth grieving for)

rachelr's picture

In completing the readings for next class I was left with many questions. The article brought up great points about intra-action, right relationships, accountability, action, and mourning. How does it all fit in with gender and sexuality? Some connections I can see, others I am struggling more with.

From what we read of Humbach, I was somewhat puzzled by the example with Mr. Able, Baker, and Charles (11). I understand that Able represents a right relationship and that Charles is not, but how Baker is described as imitating a right relationship confuses me. Is it that he himself considered stealing the camera the problem, or would just recognizing the fact that it could be stolen be a problem? If you see a car door left open, expensive stereo equipment inside in a bad part of town and think to yourself that someone might or could steal it put you in a “wrong” relationship? I’m not sure of the line on this one…

 In addition, does the fact that someone can and does “act most viciously” mean that all of their relationships are wrong relationships (13)? I don’t think so- even murderers care about friends and family, and their wrong relationships with their victims does not invalidate the right relationships that they have had in their lives. Can “seeming” even count as a right relationship? How can you tell if a relationship is right or if it only seems to be?

My biggest problem with this reading, however, was on page 14 where he writes, “… there are people, especially in the field of law enforcement, who make whole careers out of pressing for the dissolution troubled relationships and urging those in them to exist.” Ummm, excuse me?! Wasn’t he just talking about how rights are established by a group and when someone is considered a threat based on the magnitude of their wrong relationships in the community that they need to be “carefully supervised and subject to restraint” (15)? For this to happen we need police officers, security guards, and federal and international agencies for crime. The fact that we have forces to combat wrong relationships doesn’t create the wrong relationships, the forces were created to combat them.

 In “The Ethics of Control” I was confused by the assertion on pages 28 and 29 about soft power. The American (and Western in general) media influence is huge and far-reaching, but how can “nonmilitary expressions of power also have economic, ecological, and human costs” that could even compare to the cost of genocide? Maybe I’m missing the point behind this, but I’m having trouble equating the soft and hard power. There are cases when soft power has “immense human costs, as is evident in the case of the sanctions against Iraq,” but how does there become a balance between when information (soft power) has maxed out and when an outside ally to the people, the majority, needs to step in with hard power? 

Lastly, in Butler’s excerpt I was struck by her discussion of the value of a life: “The question that preoccupies me in the light of recent global violence is, Who counts as human? Whose lives count as lives? And, finally, what makes for a grievable life?” It made me think about the outpouring if mourning that was seen for Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was a pioneer in the current world of technological advancement. A world that belongs to the 1st World countries. His was one death. The genocide in Darfur has been going on since 2003. Since the beginning over 5 million people have been affected by the conflict, an estimated 2.85 million people being displaced and well over 300,000 people have died, many being simply dumped into mass graves. President Bashir puts the death toll at 10,000. This isn’t on the news any more.






someshine's picture

Written by whom?

rachelr, I was also quite confused by the idea of soft power in The Ethics of Control. I'm also torn wanting to understand and embrace this concept, but have a sour taste in my mouth at the introduction of another binary (soft and hard power). Can't there be an outwardly (initially) soft, inwardly (finally) hard idea of power, a progression of sorts, ... or vice versa? 

On the topic of Humbach's knowledge categories (declarative and procedural), I took most issue with a sentence on page 12, "the world of the justice of right relationships is one for which, to paraphrase the prophet Jeremiah, the law is written on people's hearts." In the scriptural sense, the law was written on people's hearts by God. In a cultural sense, who writes the law on people's hearts? Even if knowledge becomes procedural in the building of right relationships, did it not come to be that way because of the writer's influence? Who is Humbach suggesting is responsible for the written law (if anyone?), as described in V. Rights, Right Relationships and the Irrational