Author Archives: Travis E. Cohen

About Travis E. Cohen

It's weird to say he's an outsider, but that's most likely what you'd call it. Travis thinks of reasons people do the things they do, including himself, and wishes they'd apologize more. He thinks he's best at writing film reviews, but hopes to branch out towards personal essays and screenwriting. As it turns out, Travis is obsessed with ideas. He wishes he'd spend less time thinking and more doing but hasn't thought that far yet. It's a pity, really.

Planned Parenthood

This was initially going to be a comment on Facebook to a friend’s post. He is in the army (not sure if that’s relevant) and someone I greatly respect, but there are a couple things with his post that I felt needed to be clarified. I also don’t like stirring up issues on Facebook, though, because I think broader political topics tend to bring out not the worst in people, but the disingenuous. He also didn’t ask for rebuttals and it’s not like I disagreed with what he was saying. It’s more that I felt a need to drive a larger point: that we can’t be okay with these decisions.

His post:

I support a woman’s right to choose in every way possible…that said…we knew that defunding of planned parenthood was pretty much bound to happen considering our government. Whats important to remember is that it isn’t going away…they didn’t cut these programs they’re defunding them…they’re still there. While its frustrating that people don’t want to support a company like that with taxpayers dollars, we must help each other out. donate to planned parent hood. help them to help us. just my thoughts on the issue not really looking for any rebuttals or arguments. just some thoughts I had this morning.

Scribbled quickly in Notepad, my comments:

People also didn’t want integrated communities for fear of the market values  on their homes dropping. We live in a country and there is a lot a lot of things we’d prefer our money to go to, but it comes down to what we believe to be morally/economically soluble and representative of our national best interest. Poverty is a massive problem, widely understood to be the base-most issue that stems into the many things ailing our social climate. Contraception is a provable solution to this.

It’s also the statements these decisions represent that worry me. If it’s true that we vote with our dollar, then what is our government actually voting for? I fully support people shelling out their own money for something like this, but discretionary spending is so adhered to the national consciousness that it worries me what this will mean for women 20 or 30 years down the line.

And what if people don’t fund it? In the financially fraught climate that many Americans find themselves (especially the ones immediately impacted by the things PP deters) is it right to expect the people to bank-roll it? I feel that we do vote with our dollar, but if PP goes under, I’d be remiss to blame market interest. Plus, with inevitable overpopulation, scarcity, widened poverty gap, this is just one of many things that will only perpetuate instead of doing much to relieve individual suffering.

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Free Speech

To what end are we responsible for the free speech of others?

The idea came up because of the whole thing with Milo Yiannopoulos losing his book deal. I was talking to my boss about this, although I think it was prior to me hearing this news, so I still thought the deal was on. We work at a very liberal-leaning book store so management thought it wouldn’t be wise to stock the book on the basis that it would probably bug some customers and, most importantly, it wouldn’t sell. We would have no problem ordering the book for people, but it just didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would do well just lying around.

My boss was lightly condemning Simon and Schuster’s decision to publish Yiannopoulos’ book. The publisher claimed to have done it for free speech’s sake, my boss gave a eye-roll and said they most likely did for the controversy, which is inextricable with book sales. I agreed, but it got me thinking about external bodies’ responsibility with 1st Amendment Rights.

I’ll establish this: that it is everyone’s responsibility to secure and promote the right of Free Speech to their fellow countrymen (and anyone for that matter). When someone wants to speak their mind, they should be allowed to do so. But the question I’m wrestling with is to what extent should we do so? Like, sure, allow Yiannopoulos to write the book, but to what end should Simon and Schuster publish and promote it? So, first off, it’s their right to do what they want with their business. They can say no for the sake of doing so. But what would I have done in that situation?

So, first off, I am a bit Darwinian when it comes to ideas. I think if an idea is bad enough or doesn’t fit in society’s current framework, then it will be inevitable ousted. Or, at least, that’s how I’d like to believe it works. That we can publish Milo’s book and widely distribute it and because they are objectively abhorrent ideas, society as a whole can dismiss them.But on the other hand, there’s something about Milo, as a type, that interests me. Watching him on Bill Mahr answered a lot of questions I had about him, and Sam Harris touches on some of these. One of them being that Milo himself doesn’t seem to fully agree with his own ideas. He really comes off as a provocateur and nothing more. He likes the debate, the banter, and, of course, the attention. I really believe Milo does what he does simply so we can have someone doing it. That shitty ideas should have some focus so we can morally align ourselves as a society.

Sure, okay. But to what end should we bolster these ideas, especially in a society as susceptible as ours? I mean it’s one thing to put these ideas out there and they get universal disapproval, but I don’t think that’s how it works any more. People are getting their news and information in all these strange and sometimes peripheral ways that, most often, we’re not even arguing about the same thing. To argue about the value of racism seems simple, cut and dry. But that’s not what people are arguing, and yet they sort of are. Take the Muslim ban or Trump’s Wall. While many liberals are decrying discrimination and some cases of racism, conservatives argue that those aren’t the reasons. One side argues against racism, the other agrees, and yet there’s still an argument.

The marketplace has fallen off its axis, I think. The things we’re talking about aren’t fully the things we’re talking about and that’s where people like Milo Yiannopoulos and Tomi Lauren can thrive. By blocking their rhetoric with liberal-trigger words, they can say what they want without fully meaning it or being misunderstood by the other side. While the Lefts argue for things the Right agree with, the Right is getting sub-info that inadvertently leads to racist or discriminatory or climate-fucking policy. Mainly because the triggered liberal, or the caricature of one, is an ugly sight. And that is enough evidence for some Conservatives to not listen. So what you get is perfect alchemy for miscommunication. Two sides unwilling to listen to each other. The Lefts won’t listen because of the hateful rhetoric. And the Right won’t talk because Liberals won’t seem to handle it.

It’s appealing to say that both sides are misguided, and I agree for the most part. But ultimately, in the case I’ve established, it’s the Conservative that is still unwilling to listen. What they’ve done in this case is think and discuss in the 2nd Dimension, opposed to the 3rd which the liberal has achieved and can only achieve.

2nd Dimension discourse is any confined to the space or the act of the discussion itself. Say you and Barack Obama are having a discussion about music. Assuming you’ve never met him, it’s reasonable to imagine that it would be a tough thing to pull off without thinking about/being excited about the prospect of shooting the shit with a U.S. President. While he went on about whatever it is interests him musically, it’s likely that you would think “holy shit fuck dick shit I’m talking to BARACK OBAMA!” which would make conversation difficult. While one party tries to discuss what is actually being discussed, you are thinking about not the topic, but THEM. Perhaps you want to impress them, so you try to sound or even gesticulate a certain way. In this context, what you’re into is the person you’re talking with, not the full pursuit of the discussion. This is discourse in the 2nd Dimension. 3rd Dimension discourse has a goal, a plot, a horizon. You converse in the pursuit of truth and understanding with respect to the topic, not the person.

All conversations hold elements of both, of course. It’s impossible, or at least incredibly hard, to debate without considering the other person in some facet. Humans are naturally biased like that. But Conservatives, I’ve noticed, are more focused on the Liberal as a person rather than the topic as a means for finding a solution.  They believe Liberals to be misguided snowflakes that need sound logic to debunk their regulation-pressed agenda, masked as trite/overly-intellectualized garble. In this case, the Conservative isn’t trying to learn anything, they’re trying to reveal the Liberal for what they are: a moral fraud or worse, a child.

The Liberal, alternatively, feels altruistic.  In so, they make the folly of wanting to convince the Conservative. What they don’t appreciate is that the Conservative already is, in fact, convinced. They just don’t care. They believe that the Liberal, in their zeal for symbolic/moral/intellectual arguments, are misguided in their understanding of the practical and immediate issues, that they simply do not live in the real world.  They point our contradiction, no matter how offensive or severe, in order to pop the liberal ‘bubble’ and out them into a real moral dilemma. I think, to Conservatives, Liberals are fairly useless.

And they’re right to an extent about us not living in the real world. Moral hypotheticals, while intrinsically useful, don’t fully lead to solutions for the desolate many living  in America. Part of living in privilege is being afforded the time and comfort to think past one’s own body. Just as the invention of agriculture allowed for the subsequent creation of the arts, and just as the invention of the printing press allowed for the creation of modern philosophy, comfort and time are always precursors to progress. Liberals get wrapped up in the moral and symbolic because, I think, they can afford to.

And maybe that’s the crux of this debate. Which is correct: the symbolic or the immediate?

Going back to considering the Free Speech of others, I can only go as far as to think that everyone should have a platform, but that platform should be an earned position. To have a functioning democracy, ideas need to be allowed not a place in the conversation, but in a running for that place. With the internet and whatnot, everything has at least a chance at making it to the table. And humanity has already tried autocracy, fascism, racism. These ideas are outright refused by many for historically and empirically good reasons. If we morally deny Milo the chance to publish, it’s on quantitative grounds. But if his argument is that we need to weed through the hate to get to some level of enlightenment, then maybe it’s on him to clean up his rhetoric.

There’s plentiful evidence to suggest that racism is a poor philosophy. Even if someone were to come to me with quantitative proof that racist policy would lead to the most good, I’d have to argue that, in the long run, that’s seldom the case. The point of a constitution is to implement laws and statutes that predictably navigate man’s inevitable bias. If a law were passed to make blacks subservient to whites again, but all the whites unanimously agreed to not take advantage of such a system,  it would be easy to see how the tides could eventually turn.

I’d like to end on an interview I heard on On The Media, shortly after the election, between Bob Garfield and Jared Taylor, a white supremacist and founder of American Renaissance. On it, Taylor argued that it is every man’s right to choose where they would like to live and who they would like to live around. If a white person only wants to live around other white people, then it is in their full right to do so. What bugged me about this opinion was how many of my liberal friends I could see agreeing if you simply stripped down the racial overtones. That every person has a right to live in whatever community they wish, which ultimately can be broken down to: every person can do what they wish so long as it doesn’t negatively effect others. This is an idea I’ve always been irked by.

Going back to Taylor’s opinion, I’d say no. It is not within their right to do so, because no one fully understands that desire and, simultaneously, how that desire to do so impacts others in horribly negative ways and the evidence of this is all around and fuck it if I don’t cite anything.

What does it mean to fully know what you want? To what extent can personal bias be made accountable for your desires, and to what extent would those desires poorly impact others? It seems strange to say that people should not be allowed to do whatever they want, simply because what they want is the product of a long history of selfish, type-A,  group-think. Plainly: people have no clue what they want. We can make safe assumptions on some things (i.e. food, water, safety, education), but to say it’s okay for people to choose who they live around is a recipe for terrible behavior, especially when one considers what effect societal pressures have on certain races and locations. To say you only want to live around people who look like you is to ignore both the humanity of others and the systemic pressures that made them perceptively ignoble in the first place.

I struggle to find any other way of considering this.

 

Travis C.

 

Pop Music Today Vs. Yesterday (1)

This is not going to be brief, it’s something that has bothered me for years. By and large, people seem to feel that music has gone “down hill” since the ’90s. They view pop music today, the Cyruses and Swifts and the Jonases and the Kanyes and see a lack of either inspiration or plain understanding of what music today is. To me, this is largely untrue. I’m a music lover, perhaps obsessively so. One of the few whose group of friends takes pleasure in shutting the hell up around a set of speakers (singular in my case. My left Bose blew out and now have to run both channels through the right.  Besides panning, everything still sounds great) and simply listen to very diverse music. We informally critique, find what works, and move to another artist. It’s a fun exercise that you don’t see many people do. I think it’s because people typically view music as a vehicle for experience. They do something, so surely music must accompany it. It’s a lifting force that can add a spectrum of emotions to anything you do.

So I think it is pretty excitingly odd that my friends and I normally do nothing to music. We simply listen. Not because we’re so up our own asses that we’d rather analyze than live, but because music is an art form that requires so much attention. The reason I think it’s so popular is because of its passive nature. It’s hard to read War and Peace. It’s hard to even convince yourself to approach that work. Imagine sitting down and allot all 248 minutes to viewing Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra (1963) with intermission (can’t recall if that is included in the run-time). While for some, this isn’t a challenge at all, the fact is that both require a level of attention dedicated. You can’t claim to have read War and Peace is you don’t literally read it. Music can be heard while doing just about anything. While different activities allow different levels of attention, the fact that music allows any room for multitasking is a huge advantage. Now take any work (regardless of length) from Beethoven or Brahms to Cage or Davis and there is something simpler in those approaches. You can listen to any of them in the car, or while running, or while drawing, or while watching.

Music strikes us in a different fashion. How many soundtracks have you heard? Have you heard any of them separate from the media they were meant to accompany? In other words, do you need to listen to John Williams’s work by themselves to have appreciated them? War and Peace holds cultural, historical, and linguistic divides that prevent a large consumer base from fully enjoying it. Music holds very few barriers and even in extreme cases rhythm serves as a fantastic bridge. When in doubt, watch for the bass.

But what bothers me is how people view music of today. Despite amazing technology and talent, people still feel like eras previous were “better.” It’s unfortunate because that’s such a repulsive view. What good can come of it? That’s the ultimate betrayal of music’s mythology, particularly that of Orpheus. Why look back?