Alex’s Blog

Yee Haw

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Perseverance, Presentation, and Perception

The Winter PLP Exhibition 2021 took place last Wednesday. The PLP class and I presented our conceptual art pieces, and like most of the exhibitions I’ve been a part of, it went surprisingly well. That’s awesome! We were tasked with creating conceptual art pieces that explored the historical significance of the atomic bomb through a variety of different lenses, mine being ethical philosophy. In all honesty this is one of the most challenging yet in depth projects I’ve ever done with PLP, not only because of the volume of work but because of the amount of thinking I had to do. I had to work around my preconceived ideas on what art should be, and manage to convey an idea of how ethics has changed since the Bomb.

 

Going through this project, we read and critiqued “Hiroshima”, learned about the fascinating art movement known as Conceptual Art, defined as any art piece where the idea is of more importance than the aesthetics. Personally, I think any art piece could be defined as conceptual art (if the viewer chooses), therefore, to me, I think that the movement is more accurately identified as the abandonment of art mediums (I.e the canvas, and the sculpture), and we also heard a plenty of lectures and activities relating to the timeline of the Manhattan project.

“ One and Three Chairs (1965)” by Joseph Kosuth is a very famous example of conceptual art.

Externally, outside of PLP class time, I found some resources on ethical philosophy. I am very much into the aestichis of philosophy in general, but mostly my reading has been on metaphysics, meta ethics, and a little bit of ontology. I was very excited to extend my learning into ethics as I believe that to be the most “practical” branch of philosophy. Considering all of the content that was rolled into and connected together in this project, it really validates my opinion of PLP essentially being this awesome weird postmodern cult.

 

The actual products I created this project include: my literary analysis and critique of “Hiroshima”, the introductory video for the exhibition that I made with Brenton, Kaia, and Meg, and finally the art piece I created titled “Perceptions of the bomb”, which was presented at the exhibition.

 

“Perceptions of the Bomb” from the front view, what I would label the “Western Self Perception Pre Bomb”

 

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The video we made was relatively straightforward as we had a lot of direction from Mr Hughes, and it was also just a quick summary of the timeline that we had been learning about for the past few months, in all honesty Kaia did most of the work here, I essentially only polished the script and video but she laid the majority of the groundwork. I am pretty proud of how nice I made it look though. Attached below is the introductory video and the art that I presented at the exhibition.

 

Making the video or writing my critique does not compare to the difficulty I had making my art piece though. “Perceptions of the Bomb” was a a perceptual art piece (now destroyed) intended to be about how the aftermath of the bomb destroyed the linear narrative of the west and furthermore, the bomb, being an absolute good within the world. That is to say, I don’t believe anyone that was a part of the bomb completely revolutionized ethics (although Einstein’s personal philosophy is pretty cool), but I do believe that the bomb was the catalyst for the destruction of the narrative of polarized ethics that one could argue was predominantly believed in the west during world war 2, “absolute good vs absolute evil”. You can read my full artist statement here, this is a more in depth explanation of my interpretation. Most importantly however, I don’t believe my intended interpretation should hold any greater value to the viewer compared to their own, as said in my artist statement, I believe that the real beauty of conceptual art (or any art) is found within the discussion it creates, not the picture it paints. So, the only thing I really truly wanted to say and ask was, we were here at one point with our perception of the Bomb, where are you (the viewer now). I don’t care if the viewer doesn’t see my vision of what that means, I only care to see them critically think about their own interpretation. 

 

During the exhibition, we stood beside our art and talked about it with guests. I hated that. It felt like the audience were to be walked through the art and told what to think, because that’s what the majority of other students presenting were doing. I really didn’t like doing that, I much preferred to just ask what the viewer thought about it, and I had some great conversations with guests as a result of asking stuff like that. My teachers might think that to be kind of lazy or perhaps even bullshitty, but I genuinely believe that my interpretation as the creator holds no more value than the viewers own unique one that exists, ideally, without the influence of my own. To me, I existed outside of the art (once presented to the public, it no longer belonged to me), I was not an authoritarian voice that told you what my art meant, instead, I wanted to try and be on equal terms with the viewer, discussing our interpretations as equals. For example: I had one really great conversation with a gentleman who claimed that the art portrayed how many different ways we could have ended the war, and how furthermore that was kind of bull crap to suggest since we can’t change the past. I agreed. That claim sparked a more in depth conversation on meta ethics, and how exactly we should determine the judgement of others and oneself. That was my favorite part of the entire exhibition. Seeing my art spark a conversation that I can take part in. That is when I really displayed my learning the most. That is when I feel human.

 

My original plan for how I wanted to portray my ideas was a lot simpler, I wanted to have a copy of “Hiroshima” hanging over an ethical compass, in order to ask “Where does the bomb land ethically?”. I felt that to be lazy and shallow. So I pivoted to what I eventually created, my perceptual art, that reads “absolute good” from a certain angle. I thought that perceptual art was a lot more nuanced and more applicable to my ideas inspired by postmodernism. Making it however, sucked a lot. I’m not a very naturally artistic guy, at least in the traditional sense of the word, and I had 0 idea on how much time it would take to get things to line up properly and look at least half decent. In my head, it seemed pretty straightforward once I had my vision, yet, through the choice of some less than cooperative material, and some poor motor skills, it took many hours to map it out properly. The final straw of stress was caused by my mistake of not setting it up fully at home, meaning I did my final glueing of the pillars the day of the exhibition. I remember feeling as if I was on one of those cooking shows, where the chefs are frantically racing to get their meal presented on the plate until finally they get it on perfectly just as the judges exclaim: “times up!” and they all raise their hands off their dishes.

 

Attached below is a timelapse of me mapping out the art at home.

 

This was one of the best projects I’ve done with PLP (not claiming it’s my favourite). I know I didn’t really show it all that well in some of the early stages, but I am proud of what I did produce. Most importantly, I’m very happy with what I learned along the way. After all, that is what school is about, right? 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Out yonder there is this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking” – Albert Einstein

 

kind of corny but his philosophy is pretty cool

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A Ethical Critique of “Hiroshima”

Like any great piece of art or literature, John Hersay’s 1946 new journalism novel “Hiroshima” raises more questions than it answers. Mainly, it challenged the western view of the Japanese population at the time. To me, this asks: does the decimation of a mostly civilian, an arguably innocent, city justify the end of the bloodiest war in Human history? It is important to note I will not be looking at any type of alternatives anyone could have taken in history, only alternatives on how we look at this event and book now. Simply saying that there was an alternative that America could have taken that might have been more ethical does not constitute a good answer to the question, for it does not abide by Occam’s razor principle, which I will accept to be true for this critique.

Hersey paints the people of Hiroshima as just that: people. The people that lived in Hiroshima, aren’t directly attached to the military happenings of the war, that is to say, I believe Hersey wanted us to see them as individuals, not attached to the atrocities that the Japanese military were perpetrating onto parts of the world. One could argue, through instances like Nanking(link) in China, that the Japanese military were evil enough to deserve the same punishment that they gave innocent victims of war. Through this logic, stopping the war as fast as possible to prevent further heinous acts, dropping the bomb was the best option. This raises an unanswerable question that I do not wish to attempt to answer, is the amount of suffering that the military of Japan caused greater than the suffering caused by the atomic bombs dropped by America? I don’t believe this is the main question “Hiroshima” aimed to ask though, because this question asks to compare the west and Japan at standards of their own, instead of a more practical and less subjective bar to meet. This is why the first question is a better one to attempt to answer.

To me there are two main ways to look at Hiroshima when you are attempting to answer if it was right or justifiable in any manner. There is a fundamental difference found when looking at the people of Hiroshima as simply people, or looking at them as intrinsically attached to the military of their country. Depending on which way you look at the people constitutes an answer to the question; as part of a people or individuals? I believe that “Hiroshima” and Hersay encourage us to look at the historical event through the Individualistic perspective, he does this through making the peoples stories relatable, not only through virtue of telling the stories as a story (instead of a list of facts and events) but also through how he tells the story. His rare use of a strong diction towards the physical appearance of his characters paired with seldom reminding us that the people are in fact Japanese allows us to empathize with the people “There, in the tin factory, in the first moment of the atomic age, a human being was crushed by books”, metaphors aside, Hersay blatantly refuses to attach the individual (Miss Sasaki) to the stigma of belonging to the collective of Japan, the use of referring to her as a human, is what makes a quote like this all that more powerful. Again, through telling a story, it allows us to see the people as individuals, and come to the conclusion that they are not responsible for the war and therefore it was wrong to put them through that suffering.

I’d like to make it clear that I don’t think, “Hiroshima” pushes an anti American perspective per say, Hersay even includes “It was war and we had to expect it.” From Mrs Nakurmara. I would instead propose, if it had to be anti something, it would be anti widespread collectivism (the opposite of individualism), specifically in the case of when we are judging others. The morals that “Hiroshima” argues through its style is that identity and virtue are decided by the individual, and in this vain I would come to the conclusion that the people of Hiroshima did not deserve to suffer to the extent they did.

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The Historical Significance of “The Second Sex”

As I conclude my first PLP project of the year (“You Think You Can Do Better”), It is now time again to transition into a new one. The Manhattan Project. During this project we will focus on historical significance, and look through a multitude of different lenses to see how an event changes the world.

 

So, what is historical significance? Historical significance is defined by historicalthinking.ca as “Significant events include those that resulted in great change over long periods of time for large numbers of people.” I would like to note that change has an element of subjectivity to it, as impact can be felt on different scales, although a true and complete historically significant event would affect everyone in a direct manner (World War 2 is the best example). I was tasked with finding a historically significant event found in the subject I chose. The choices were: Politics, Science/Technology, Sociology/Culture, and Philosophy/Ethics/Morals. I chose the philosophy one as I believe that to be the subject that most directly connects to all the other areas since one could argue it is the root of all academia, I am also just interested in it. 

 

My Event, The Publication of “The Second Sex”

The books cover

Simone De Beauvoir was a French existential philosopher and feminist. In 1949 she published “The Second Sex”. The book argues that, just as our meaning and purpose is not predetermined, neither is gender or sexuality. This concretely defines the difference between gender and sex. Along with all of that, it builds the bridge between feminist theory, and philosophy, the first argument I cited is an example on how she did just that. These core ideas are what makes the book so important, and so significant. The significance is not just found within the book itself, but also within the inspiration that it created. 

 

We were given a template to determine why and how it was significant. I go into more detail here. (Please use the link, not sure why the photo is so bad quality)

In class assignment for my eventTo put into a metaphor, I would argue that, “The Second Sex” was one of the largest logs added to the small fire that was the femnist movement at the time. Like I state, in my Historical Significance template, “The Second Sex” helped legitimize feminism in the world of modern philosophy. I would even go as far to say that it was the catalyst for the acceptance of femnist theory. Although this book isn’t remembered very directly, we can see and feel the effects of this in our everyday lives through how far womens rights have come in the last century. At least, when we know when to look. 

 

Thanks for reading.

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A Ubiquitous Reflection

“How Should We Govern Ourselves?”

 

This, the driving question of my latest PLP project. During this project we learned about ideology, Canadian government structure, and about political strategy in general and we were tasked with creating our own unique political party that could run in Canadian elections, the Zettlekasten system used to take notes and store our research. I’d like to point out that I feel that this driving question was a huge question to ask a bunch of 16 and 17 year olds that mostly knew nothing really substantial about politics, but this was definitely a double edged sword as I feel that everyone learned a lot (or at least had the opportunity) yet I don’t feel any closer to an objective answer to that question. Of course though, my group (Jordyn,
Meg, Liam, Alex V) and I came up with our subjectively true answer, The Ubiquitous Party of Canada was formed, we aimed to take what we deemed to be the best qualities of different ideologies and form into one kind of like a meta-centrism. Here’s our statement of intent.

And here’s why you should vote for us (if we were real), this also shows some of our answer for “How Should We Govern Ourselves?”

And here is a link to a blog post that goes more in depth on some of our ideals and platforms.

 

I think that has been one of my favourite PLP projects I’ve ever done, I think it had the potential to be the favourites of a lot of students too, but I think that the entire project fell short for our group because we were all looking for the right answer, while also being aware that there isn’t. Secondly I don’t think the mix of grade 11s and Grade 12s has meshed that well this year, yet. All of this disappoints me because I think this project had more potential than was realized by everyone, including myself. It was also really hard to differentiate our parties from pre existing parties in Canada. Generally, it was the structure of this project that challenged me the most, my mistake was that I tried to work around it, instead of simply through it. Our own answer disappoints me though, it was what we as a group wanted, but not what I, as an individual wanted, perhaps this is the downfall of democracy, or perhaps it is the biggest strength. Either way I wish we had more time to critically analyze how and why, we should govern ourselves.

 

My heart was really into this project, I really do think we made a killer final video, our points were thought out well and there are very few things I would change (for once, most of those things I would change weren’t done by me which is cool) but I fell short in the stepping stones, not due to lack of effort this time, but due to a lack of direction. I felt that I didn’t really know where to go with my Zettlekatsen, and I should’ve, the tools were there for me, I just started building the wrong thing, I don’t think that means I’m necessarily a bad builder, though. Lastly, my blog posts have been quite lacklustre this project. I want to get into the habit of polishing these up more, not particularly for the grade, but for me. 

 

Thank you.

 

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The Ubiquitous Party of Canada

Today, I’m sharing with you the press release for my political party. This is a brand new PLP project, that project being to form a political party that brings something new to Canada. This has proven to be incredibly challenging, while this project is incredibly interesting, I would argue that none of us can really bring something functional and new to the table of politics, in other words none of us have a political science degree. This doesn’t mean that we won’t try though.

 

Enter the “Ubiquitous Party of Canada”, we aim to incorporate the best of all sides of the political spectrum, that is to say what we believe to be the best aspects for all. You can read our press release which fills you in more right below.

 

Universal Basic income is definitely our most radical goal and platform, we think that it is an idea that has a lot of potential, our financial plan revolves around it and if we are to strive for a green economy UBI seems like a necessary step in the process. For those of you who don’t know UBI is, it is a standard amount of money (we suggest 1000$) that every adult in Canada would receive every month indiscriminately. UBI, in theory, would help redistribute wealth, end poverty, and help us financially move towards a green economy. How would we get the money for this though, tax reform is necessary also we plan to tariff national corporations that have monopolized certain industries in Canada, the cell provider industry is a great example. This tarrif system would be less of a tax and more of “pay us this % of your projected annual income before you’re allowed to sell” this is quite an authoritarian approach to big business in order to provide our libertarian platform, hence our namesake. Read more about the pros and cons of UBI here.

 

UBI has never been tried before on a national scale and people seem to think that makes it lesser, but I think that illustrates how modern the idea is. We constantly need new ideas to shape our world, yet there still is value in the tried and tested, we aim to try the best of both. 

 

We believe that political reform is necessary to move forward in the country, and my group and I have come up with a lot of ideas on how we would change the current situation and political atmosphere in Canada. I’d like to make it clear, though, we certainly aren’t the most “focused” party (yet), that is to say, we need to narrow down our goals for sure, we don’t have enough knowledge to implement all of our broader ideas. Soon, we will release an advertisement on why one should vote for us (if we really existed), and there will be more focused ideas to present there. 

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Election Reflection

The 2021 Canadian Federal Elections have concluded for us Canadians, and more importantly, I’ve started my final year of PLP and high school. One would assume that change is on the horizon, but as far as this election is concerned, not much really did change. The Liberal party has re-secured another minority government, with the conservatives being the opposition, it is also important to note that the PPC saw a significant growth of seats acquired, make of this what you will. I would say that this is the most controversial and interesting chance that has happened with the results of the election.

 

I am not here to talk about the results though, I am here to point out what I view to be a flaw in our electoral process. In Canada, parties select representatives known as Members of Parliament (MPs) to run for election in different regions across the country, members of parliament, if elected, work with their communities to voice their concerns in parliament, and work with their party to voice their ideology. If an MP is elected they win their party a seat in parliament, the party with the most seats will form the government and their leader will be appointed Prime Minister. If a party wins more than half of the seats it is known as a majority government, if it wins the majority of seats but less than half it is known as a minority government, which is where our current government falls under. MPs do not have to agree with their party or their leader all the time and usually don’t, this is where the problem arises, voters should not have to choose between voting for an MP or voting for a leader. To illustrate this, I interviewed 3 different age groups of people and asked them if they have ever felt conflicted about voting for an MP that is inherently attached to their party leader. 

A voters relationship to an MP is vastly different from their relationship with a party leader, a voter may resonate with a Conservative MP but believe a Green leader is more fit for the role of Prime minister, I don’t believe we should abolish a prime ministers or MPs attachment to their party’s but I do believe that we should have a separate vote for each. Some may argue that this  would slow down an election process too drastically but I would argue that the opportunity cost of losing that time will be regained by voters voting more fit MPs and Leaders when they are not so attached to one another, the amount of desirable MP candidates we lose to their attachment to a leader (and vice versa) has lead voters to forget about how important both are independently. 

 

If we separate the votes, I believe it will allow us to select the best MPs and Leaders for us, although I don’t reasonably believe this radical of political reform is plausible in the near future, I also don’t believe this to be, necessarily, the right answer, I aim to just point out the attachment of MP and Leader to be a problem. I hope perhaps we as a society can take incremental steps towards the best answer to the dilemma of voting between an MP. 

As always, thanks for reading, and have a wonderful rest of your day/evening. 

 

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Advancements in Technology has led to Many Young People With Feelings of Nihilism

For many generations religion is what dictated most people’s morals, but as technology has advanced and now that ideas are so easily shared, religion has become less and less popular. Young people are surrounded by ideas and trends that challenge these old ways of thinking, there is an overwhelming amount of knowledge that reminds us how insignificant we are, I believe this to be a factor in how easily young people get attached to radical ideas that can seemingly give people’s lives, the sort of profound meaning they search for when presented with the idea that there is none. Echo chambers in modern media is good example of this idea as it re affirms people’s beliefs very strongly, making their paradigm increasingly narrow.

sources:

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Lima’s Perspective on The Shining Path

An Interview with dad who lived through the era of The Shining Path

To read a brief overview of Abimeal Guzman and the shining path click here for my zettelkatsen literature note

What was the general opinion on The Shining Path inside and/or outside Lima?

Most everyone in Lima believed the shining path to be a monstrous organization, people in Lima generally had more acsess to information about the group compared to people in more rural places like Juancayo, yet people in Lima still didn’t really know who Guzman really was, or what he was really about. Very few people sympathized with the cause in Lima because all they saw was the terror without reason. However outside of Lima was a different story, my dad recalls occasionally seeing “People’s War” spray painted or murals of shining path fighters in places outside Lima.

What was the scale of fear felt towards Thr Shining Path? It fluctuated, early on it didnt seem terrible, yet when they started to force small villages into submission they knew the worse was yet to come, people tend to forget that a the Shining Path was heavily active for almost over 20 years, and small factions still remain to this day, when the Shining Oath took the war to Lima, the fear really set in, but again sometimes there would be months with no attacks or major fights in Lima, yet other times there would be a bombing every week. For a good 5 years though many people would stay clear places that were heavily bombed like banks or certain types of cars. The Shining Path was made up of scared Villagers following a strong voice just as much as it was made up of radicalized idelogical belivers of the “people’s war”

When did you realize the real ness of the threat that was The Shining Path? For my dad, it was when the Shining Path heavily bombed a very busy main street about 10 blocks from his house. This was in early 1992 and was after my dad had moved to Canada yet, he had a friend that died in that bombing and an uncle in law who had half his face maimed with large shards of glass. His brother was also at home during the attack and felt the ground shake when the bombs hit. Acts like these is what led most people in Lima to antagonize the shining path, not because of politics but because their means could never of justified their ends.

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Quarter 4 – Reflection 1

And we’re back! After a very long hiatus, I have returned to the PLP classroom due to the quarter system my school is doing this year (2 classes for 10 weeks each then a switch). Of course, there’s a new project, this time we are crafting a “second brain” through a note taking system called zettelkasten. Zettelkasten connects core ideas that are derived from more informal notes. This project has so far been unlike anything I’ve ever done with PLP, it really focuses on the small steps and planting “seeds” of knowledge rather than a larger more focused and direct project (e.g Bluesky (2019)). Historically speaking, the smaller, stepping stone like aspects of projects have been the areas I’ve struggled with the most, and so far this has mostly been an exception to that rule.

 

We have been doing lessons on turning points throughout history, every lesson we write a “Literature note” which summarizes the lessons and allows us to take meaningful ideas from the lesson/resources provided by the teachers, we then put those ideas into our ever growing network of Zettelkasten notes. I’m fairly proud of my Riverview closure note as well as my Watergate note, because I was able to connect those to ideas I was already passionate about. 

 

Right now, I’m very busy with both things inside and outside of school so I’m honestly kind of pleased with how I’ve been keeping up with PLP so far this quarter, but I know that I do have the ability to extend my work to higher levels and also stay organized a bit better (this evident as this blog is being uploaded a day late) I will aim to do better as we move forward with this project.

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Shrew You: Reflective Post

Welcome back readers, time for another look into my learning with PLP. This project focused on building our essay writing skills along with studying “The Taming of the Shrew” in order to answer our driving question: “How can the suffragette movement demonstrate both how much and how little has changed for women today?” you can read my answer to the question linked here in my final essay.

 

Similarly to my last project this quarter I’m very happy with turning everything in on time this project, it doesn’t seem like much (mostly because it isn’t) but I am pretty happy with myself for putting more effort into this course this year. I’m also really happy with the amount of learning I explored outside of the realm of the assigned curricular competencies, if that was for better or for worse is debatable, you can read about most of the extra research I did for this project here in my Milestone Two assignment. Like every project with PLP there are still a lot of things I could have done better with retrospect, for starters that milestone two document linked earlier, should have related a lot more to texts assigned in class and less about the other research I did, and I had the chance to revise yet I didn’t. I let myself get caught up in, what I determined to be, more important assignments even though if I had just managed my time better I could have revised and still done all the assignments at the same caliber I presented anyways.

 

The biggest blow to my performance in this project was easily my acquisition of strep throat that caused me to be absent from 6 classes. I definitely had 2 days there where I was not functional at all but I used it as an excuse to not put in 100% for the remainder of my time away from school, I barely hung on to my contracted grade of 93%, if it at all. Taking this into consideration I’m very grateful for my teachers for letting me move along with my final essay, because in Mr Hughe’s words… “We asked for a cherry pie, but you made us an apple pie, the apple pie still demonstrated my baking skills but it’s still not a cherry pie”. To that I would say that firstly, pie isn’t that good in the first place why are you teaching us how to make pie, and secondly, apple pie is better than cherry pie. All that said I am still proud of my final essay, Ms Willemse challenged me to take stance on the “right” interpretation of taming of the shrew, and I think I soundly argued my case on how the interpretations of the play over time represents a positive shift in the ideas of what place of women is in society. 

 

So, overall I think I did a relatively good job on this project although I should have paid more attention to feedback and/or asked for more considering the recent controversy on Suns and Rainbows (our grading system) within the PLP 11/12 cohort. I think I learned a lot and I would argue that my perspective on many things and ideas has broadened during this project, which is great. I don’t really care about my grade that much as long as I took some real things out of a course, and I did this quarter with PLP. I recommend you check out my final essay linked above, any feedback is cool with me!

 

Hopefully you will see some other cool blogs on here during the time in between now and the next time I’m back in the PLP class which will be in the last 4th of the school year. Thanks for reading and as always, have a great rest of your day/evening

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