An Unexpected Lesson On The Emotional Complexity Of Children

On Sunday, while watching David Lowery‘s Pete’s Dragon, my daughter turned to me during one of its late tear-jerking moments–as the titular dragon, apparently named Elliott, faces grave danger from the usual motley crew of busybodies, law enforcement types, and crass exploiters who would imprison him for all sorts of nefarious purposes–and said that ‘sometimesContinue reading “An Unexpected Lesson On The Emotional Complexity Of Children”

Dehumanization As Prerequisite For Moral Failure

In An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (§III – Of Justice, Part I, Hackett Edition, Indianapolis, 1983, pp. 25-26), David Hume writes: Were there a species of creatures intermingled with men, which, though rational, were possessed of such inferior strength, both of body and mind, that they were incapable of all resistance, and could never,Continue reading “Dehumanization As Prerequisite For Moral Failure”

Political Pathology And The Inability To Accept Love

In a post on ‘the underestimation of the capacity to love‘ I wrote of its converse, ‘the inability to accept love’: That inability, that lowered view of oneself, the judgment that one is unworthy of the love, caring and commitment that is sent our way by our lovers, parents, children, and friends, leads many to rejectContinue reading “Political Pathology And The Inability To Accept Love”

Broadchurch’s Grieving Mother And Our Reactions To ‘Victims’

Viewers of the BBC’s Broadchurch are subjected to a trial of sorts: we have to watch, in some excruciating detail, the reactions of parents, and in particular, a mother, to the violent death of a beloved child–at the hands of a malevolent, unknown actor. Paying close attention to our reactions to what we see andContinue reading “Broadchurch’s Grieving Mother And Our Reactions To ‘Victims’”

‘Westworld’ And Our Constitutive Loneliness

The title sequence to HBO’s Westworld is visually and aurally beautiful, melancholic, and ultimately haunting: artifacts–whose artifice is clearly visible–take shape in front of us, manufactured and brought into being by sophisticated devices, presumably robotic ones just like them; their anatomies and shapes and forms and talents are human-like; and that is all we needContinue reading “‘Westworld’ And Our Constitutive Loneliness”

Prisoners As Subjects Unworthy Of Moral Concern

The Intercept notes–in an essay by Alice Speri–that ‘deadly heat’ is killing prisoners in US prisons, that state governments would much rather spend money on legal fees than on installing air conditioning. In one egregious instance, Louisiana spent one million on legal fees to avoid spending $225,000 on AC. As the secretary of the Louisiana DepartmentContinue reading “Prisoners As Subjects Unworthy Of Moral Concern”

Grieving For Others When ‘There Is Sobbing At Home’

In Koba The Dread (Vintage International, New York, 2003, pp. 258) Martin Amis includes in a footnote, a quote from Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn citing an alleged Russian proverb as follows: Why grieve for others when there is sobbing at home? The sentiment at the heart of this query about apparently misdirected grief may be summed up,Continue reading “Grieving For Others When ‘There Is Sobbing At Home’”

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, And Ours

There are many ways of coming to realize you are turning into a sentimental fool in your old age. One of them is to find tears in your eyes when you listen to a ‘sappy song’ on a cinematic quasi-bildungsroman‘s soundtrack. Which was indeed my experience last night as I finally watched Richard Linklater‘s twelve-years-in-the-makingContinue reading “Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, And Ours”

A Sympathy Inducing Reminder Of Basic Human Wants

A few years ago, a young union organizer stopped by my office to talk with me about an upcoming campaign of activism directed at CUNY administration. As we spoke, I felt increasingly impatient. I didn’t need to be ‘organized’; my participation in the activities planned by the union was a foregone conclusion; this young manContinue reading “A Sympathy Inducing Reminder Of Basic Human Wants”

The Underestimation Of Our Capacity To Love

In response to my post yesterday on biological and adoptive parents, my friend Maureen Eckert wrote: Another way to think about this is that the tragedy is that people routinely underestimate their capacity to love. Maybe that is terrifying in all its implications. My older doubts about adoption, which I expressed at the beginning ofContinue reading “The Underestimation Of Our Capacity To Love”