Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Scandal and the modern world

“To the glory that comes from God, invisible in this world, the majority [of people] prefer the glory that comes from humankind, a glory that multiplies scandal and it makes its way. It consists in gaining victory in mimetic rivalries often organized by the powers of this world, rivalries that are political, athletic, sexual, artistic, intellectual … and even religious.” – RenĂ© Girard

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


“Religion is something we belong to, not something that which belongs to us; something that has got hold of us, not something we have got hold of. IT is something which determines our whole approach and our whole relation to life; if it is not that, if it is to be a mere fad or a mere pose, it had better be cut out altogether.” – Ronald Knox

Monday, November 07, 2005


Progress. What does that mean? It implies some sort of goal or destination, therefore it implies a beginning and an end. In order to measure progress, must one know the goal? Take technology for instance. Do we know what the end goal is? I would say that we have a general idea, but not an exact knowledge. But still, we say the we are making technological progress. I think that this idea a progress comes from the notion that technology is improving. Yet once again we are forced to answer the question, “How do we measure improvement?” We would answer this by saying that computers are faster than they used to be. They can do more things. They (hopefully) make less mistakes and are (hopefully) easier to use. But how about the rest of technology? I think that we can apply the same reasoning. But nonetheless, we do not know what will be the final version of any piece of technology.
One of the first principles of progress is that there is a end. Another one is that we have hope/faith that we will attain this end. This is a very Christian idea. Christians believe that there is an end (heaven), and we have hope/faith that we will attain this end (through Christ).
Is it correct to apply this principle to humanity without considering religion? I don’t think so, but it seems to be happening all over the place for the last hundred years or so. If we take away religion, how do we measure progress? Our secular society seems to attempt to measure it by ‘freedom.’ Of course without religion, how do we define freedom? It seems to me that a lot of non-Christian people define it as: “being able to do whatever I want to do, within agreed upon boundaries (laws)” The boundaries are necessary to avoid all out chaos and survival of the fittest wars.
I content that this is not progress at all. Of course I speak from my Catholic perspective. Without religion, people have no real idea of what the human person is, and what it is to become. They cry “freedom” in order to make progress, but by my definition of freedom they are becoming more enslaved to their desires and passions. This is not true freedom. This is not progress, its regress.
Progress of the human person is measured in how well they love and serve and become more like God. It means embracing the reality that we are made in God’s image and we are meant to become more and more like Him. That is true progress.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Officer DeMars

Since I recently bought an ex-Minnesota State Patrol car (see below), I decided to attend a Halloween costume party as a Minnesota Highway Patrol Officer. This is a picture of me, Officer DeMars, at the party. I went to the party with my roommate who was dresses as my convict, a biker gang member. When I get the pictures I'll post them. It was a fun party and everyone loved it when I brought my roommate into the party handcuffed. The costumes were a great success.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

This is my new car. It is a 2002 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. It was a Minnesota Highway Patrol car just a few months ago. Give me a badge and a gun and I'll be ready to protect and to serve!

I plan on decking this thing out with cool features like:
- an armrest!
- cupholders!
- a CD player!

and all kinds of other high tech options. Maybe I'll even buy tires that aren't bald!

While it may seem cool to own a ex-cop car, they get pretty bad gas milage and they have almost no modern features found standard in most other cars. One good thing I can say about the MN State Patrol, is that they order thier cars from Ford with a few more options than standard cop cars. Like mine car has carpet floors and cloth seats unlike standard cop cars that have rubber floors and plastic/vinyl seats (which is easier to clean vomit out of - they just open all the doors and hose her out). MN State Patrol cars also have posi rear ends (for all you car people out there) and traction control and cruise control - all of which are "options" on cop cars.

So I got a pretty nice car - for a cop car. the down side is that the car has over 100,000 miles on it. The up side is that I paid only $4000 for it. In the end - a good deal.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Technology and Relationships

In this post modern age as we desperately grasp for control and rule over our own lives, we find that machines often dictate how, why, or when we do things. For example, I am a student who needs to write papers. While it may be acceptable to turn in a handwritten paper, teachers expect typed papers these days. This forces me to use computers. I could not post on this blog if it were not for computers. We all know that technology and machines pervade our lives. But they do more than merely pervade; they often control our lives as well.

Technology keeps improving, but when will it improve to the point of invisibility? In my opinion, technology is supposed to help us and make our lives better, not worse. I used to watch Star Trek, and I was fascinated by the way the show portrayed computers and technology. If the crew needed the computer, they would simply say “computer” and the computer would then take commands and perform tasks. It also did things in the background like open doors, turns on lights, and keeps the ship from falling apart. While this show is pure fiction, it presents a more person friendly way of computing.

We need more personal human contact. Mail is wonderful; it allows people to communicate over vast distances, but it cannot replace speak to the person directly. Phones are a great invention, especially the wireless ones, but they are meant to augment personal contact, not replace it. E-mail is great, but it reduces the level even more than phones and written letter – we can’t even hear the other persons’ voice or see the character of their hand.
In my recent discussions with classmates, it has been revealed that MOST of the contact these people have is through e-mail and cell phone.
Pros: We can be in many, many more relationships than our ancestors could.
Cons: We are not in full relationships with these people because we lack person contact.
So we have more relationships, but more of them are surface relationships.

Technology needs to augment, not replace. I have lived by the personal rule that I speak to someone in person more than via devices. This usually means that I have less relationships than most of my friends, but in my opinion it is worth it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Corportations and Consumers

It is obvious that most people understand that companies are out to make a profit and their primary goal is thus to maximize profits.

I was studying abroad in Italy last semester and experienced a totally different world view from what I am used to here in America. It is very obvious to me that America and our capitalistic economy has changed the way people see each other. In Italy, a persons status is defined primarily on birthright and secondarily on social status. Contrast this with the "melting pot" of America 'the land of equal opportunity', where social status alone defines who we are. Our social status comes from our economic status, so more money means more importance and power.

As was said by another student here, companies make money off "making consumers happy", so the companies define what it means to be happy. Of course this is only possible in this modern day and age when we know longer have a general census about what it means to be a person and what our purpose in life is. Only in this modern era have corporations had the power to define dignity and happiness. and as long as they keep people confused and guessing, they will jump from fad to fad always grasping to finally be happy.

What we need is an objective standard by which to define dignity and happiness. But of course the corporate machine will fight this with all its power and resources, because defining these things objectively will mean the end to their large profit margins. The rich and powerful will try legally (and every other way possible) to make it impossible to define anything objectively thus ensuring their wealth for the foreseeable future.

But we must ask ourselves, if we want to be rich and powerful (and thus happy) would it not be better to just leave the machine alone? If we understood the machine would it not be possible to 'work it' in order to get to the top? As the old saying goes, if you can't beat them, join them. Should we just give up and join them?

My answer to all of these questions is no. I believe in a high objective standard, and I believe that no one should be used as a tool for someone else's profit. But to go against the corporate machine these days means to go against what it means to "be American." It means to buck the whole system and not just part of it. It requires a new world view.

Friday, September 09, 2005

New School Blog!

I have created a new blog to cover the thought I have regarding my education. The last post will be duplicated in both blogs. Visit my blog at

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Restructuring of education?

Ever since I came back to college at the University of Saint Thomas and read books about the days of old (3000BC to 1600 AD) I have wondered what Rhetoric is, why we don't hear about it in everyday life anymore, and why it is not taught at school.

Here are some of the conclusions that I have found on this topic:
Rhetoric – The art of being able to express oneself in language elegantly and persuasively.

Rhetoric was a required part of education until after the enlightenment (1600’s)
In the pre-enlightenment period of education (henceforth called the ‘old school’) it was part of primary/elementary education, that is to say it was pre-university education (whether you would like to say that it was part of the secondary education instead of primary/elementary education is up for debate).

Oration was a large part of school, and life in general, back in the old school days. Books were mostly hand copied and rare, thus students were expected not to simply buy and ready textbooks, but instead they were expected to memorize and recite sections/passages of books. Being able to speak elegantly and persuasively was not a mere luxury, but an expected necessity.
Society was largely communal, with people for the most part ‘staying put’ in one community one’s whole life. There are, of course, exceptions to this, particularly the nobility/governors (who were the people receiving the education).  A person was expected to be a fully participative member of the community and everyone looked after each other to make sure all was well. Life was centered around personal relationships, which of course meant that communication was extremely important.

Rhetoric was part of the primary education called the Trivium. The Trivium consisted of three phases:
  1. Grammar

  2. Dialectic

  3. Rhetoric
The Trivium was meant to teach the pupils the proper use of the tools of learning. Learning was not broken out into subjects as it is these days. Subjects did not come until a person started school at the university level. Grammar involved learning how a language is put together (structured), Dialectic taught how to use the language (defining terms, detecting fallacies, etc.), and Rhetoric taught how to express oneself using the language.
In this modern age we would associate these topics with:
  1. Grammar

  2. Logic

  3. Public Speech (or Debate)
In my educational experience, Grammar was still taught at the primary education level (and poorly at that), Logic was eliminated altogether, and Public Speech/Debate was optional in secondary education (I took Interpersonal Communication instead). I finally took Logic at the university level of education – after I had formed bad logic habits. I now wish I had taken Public Speech or Debate in High School, but the past cannot be changed.

Nowadays, the people who receive education in ‘Rhetoric’ are the ones who get into politics and marketing. Of course without the tools of Logic/Dialectic, the average person is unable to see the errors in the debates of the politicians and the fallacies in the advertising of the marketers; so we are duped into supporting people and buying things that are not right for us.

Perhaps it is time to revisit the old school way of structuring education.

(This article was inspired by an article by Dorothy Sayers:

Monday, August 29, 2005

Partisan Problems

I was published in the St Paul Pioneer Press on Tuesday August 23rd. This is what the article said:

"I recently returned from a study abroad college program in Rome. During the course of my time there I learned a lot about the election process in Italy and how the many different political parties there have to work together to get things done in their government. Then I returned to Minnesota in June to find a dysfunctional State government boggled down by gridlock and partisanship bickering. After the extended special session and government shutdown, I thought all politicians would have learned their lessons and understood the need to work with everyone, not just their own party. Apparently that has not happened with Chris Coleman. He is constantly taking Mayor Kelly to task simply for reaching out to people of other parties and elected officials from other states. By doing this Coleman seems to be advocating that the St. Paul government needs more partisanship and isolationism. I have a feeling the voters are not going to buy his prescription."

Monday, August 15, 2005

The pullout of Isreal

As I read the news today of the pullout of Israel from the Gaza strip and other Palestinian areas, it recalled to my mind of how much history these people have. I was reflecting on how a modern man in Palestine and an Israeli man can both claim rights on land going back more than 5000 years.

I started to wonder why we don't have problems like this here in the states, but quickly realized that we have no historical claim on this land going back more than a few hundred years. Our land was nearly completely taken over and there has been no looking back. I think that is why us Americans have such a hard time understanding the difficulties and anger expressed by these people fighting over land. Mix religious views into that, and we have an extremely volatile situation.

I do not know if it will ever be possible to us Americans to fully understand the situation over there, but I think that we can learn something and have at least a basic understanding of the situation. We should remember that no one (anywhere in the world) want's to be evicted from their land.

Shoes of the Israelis:
You have inherited land from your father. Or perhaps your grandfathers land was taken by someone else years ago, and you are now being given back the land. What a day of rejoicing! Now years later, you and your family have settled in and you are now being told (not asked) that you must leave your home and move because the land belongs to someone else. I'll bet you would want to fight for your rights to the land and your right to stay.

Shoes of the Palestinians:
The land of your grandfather was taken by strangers. You have been fighting to get your land back for years now, and finally you are getting the land back. What a day of rejoicing!

Whose land is it? If you can answer that you are the grand prize winner. People have been debating this for hundreds of years and there is no simple answer. It belongs to both and neither of them. So who should get the land now? That's another bonus question worth international peace. This is no simple matter to be resolved quickly or easily. I am happy to see that instead of violent action one of the sides have decided to take the road of humility and willingly leave. I hope that this sparks peace in Palestine and a new era of friendship and respect.

I have a whole new respect for the Israelis now (if they follow though with the whole thing, of course). I think that the Palestinians should equally be humble and end the violence that has rocked that area for hundreds of years.

May God bring peace!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

iMedia... What the heck is that?

I just read a great article about iMedia. (article from the August 2005 issue of Readers Digest) Before reading this article, I had never heard of the iMedia movement. I think that sometimes people just like coming up with new names for things out of sheer boredom or pride.

So what is iMedia? It is a way of life. It has also been dubbed the me me media, meaning that I get what I want when I want it. It typically involves iPods, DVR's and Blog's.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good:
Most of us have complained about the media sometime in our lives. The scenario involves us innocently watching something we love, only to be rudely interrupted by commercials which try to convince us that we are lacking in some way but can be better if we just buy their products. When our program ends, we often continue to sit there looking for something else to entertain us for a little while longer. The problem is that we have limited choice (more choice if you have cable service, ever more with satellite service). With the iMedia movement, the consumer has nearly all the control. We feed ourselves only those things that we want, and nothing more.
This means that we can get rid of those pesky commercials and programs that annoy us the most. We no longer have to be subject to the Media Man who makes our choices for us.

The Bad:
All of this me me me stuff has an effect on us. This American culture has been moving this direction for quite some time now. We can already see the effects of it on family life and social life in general. I think that we need more human interaction and contact, not less. This iMedia seems to be a divisive movement rather than a unifying one in that people are more and more focused on what they can GET from everything and everyone. Relationships become more and more functional and transaction-like; consumerism gone rampant.

The Ugly:
I was walking around the city last week and noticed that almost everyone who was alone was wearing those identifying little white ear buds. It screams of iPod and Do Not Disturb. It seems as if a lot of people, especially younger people, are spending a good portion of their day plugged into portable music devices. I might be the only one who thinks this, but I think it looks strange to see all these people walking around with wires hanging from their ears. Perhaps people will start wearing them just as a fashion trend.

Like most things in this world, this new trend is not black and white good or bad; it is a mixed bag. Hopefully we can take the good and leave the bad behind as the movement continues to change and morph over time.