On my conversation with Clean Water Action New Jersey (Vlog)

So, I’m in search of political organizations to establish relationships with and collaborate with in the efforts to bring more about more global justice. Clean Water Action New Jersey was one organization I decided to interview with and see how we might work together. Maybe we will become allies in the future but as I was a little concerned with some of the organizations approaches both to its employees and in its political planning/lobbying priorities.

Hi! Thank you for visiting Public Comment and welcome!

I’m Sean O’Connor, a political activist, philosopher, writer, vlogger and podcaster. My goal here on Public Comment is to contribute to a universal dialogue of critical, creative, and introspective thought on politics and philosophy.

Thank you so much for taking the time to consider my contribution to the public discussion on politics and the occasional tangent. I am extremely grateful and flattered and hope you are able to find some of the information on this blog valuable.

Please feel free to share with me any feedback you want to give, positive or negative. I do not shy away from criticism. I want to be a good writer and to do that I will always need your help to keep me accountable, clear, reasonable, and diplomatic. Speaking of diplomacy, that’s my only caveat when it comes to criticism. I don’t have patience for insults or anti-intellectual attacks on character, et cetera. I like to foster a polite and diplomatic civil discourse.

Thank you again.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

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On the Opposite of a Tweet & a Woman President (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment Video Diary vlog– episode #20)

Yesterday I pledged to vote for a female candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential Primary and this generated a lot of discussion and debate on Facebook so I want to delve into this deeper.

TRANSCRIPT:

“G’Day folks! Today there are two things I want to discuss with you.

First, I want to clarify my purpose for making these vlogs.

You see, YouTube recommends I work on a trailer to make this channel more enticing so you and so many other people will want to subscribe. Like a college student who wants to get a 100 percent on his senior capstone thesis, I’m trying to adhere to every bit of seemingly reasonable advice. It comes highly suggested that I explain to you my purpose, that I describe my content, the type of videos I produce, and what you can expect to get out of my channel.

Well, this is a video diary. What does one get out of watching such a thing?

In theory, greater knowledge of humanity, “the human condition,” “the human experience” as artists, philosophers and readers might say (?)… greater knowledge of….a RECORD OF what people, in their deepest depths, appear to be like.

The way I look at it…someone has got to do the record keeping of the so called soul searching, of the individual’s streaming consciousness, or thoughts, or mind… whatever you might want to call that phenomena which is that “inner life of the self.”

I figure it is logical for me to do this because I’m in love with uninhibited personal thoughts that seek clarity of meaning in life because I believe it leads to greater universal understanding, thus facilitating a deepening empathy among us.

Like my favorite essayist Michel de Montaigne— and I’m gonna quote the back of my book collection of his essays here:

he discussed subjects as diverse as war-horses and cannibals, poetry and politics, sex and religion, love and friendship, ecstasy and experience. But above all, Montaigne studied himself as a way of drawing out his own inner nature and that of men and women generally.

My goal is to follow in his footsteps, and explore humanity’s inner nature within the medium of the vlog which I believe is a most revolutionary form of self expression for its intense intimacy. Video hasn’t been around much longer than a somewhat over a century compared to other art mediums, and vlogging in particular is radically new.

I’d like these vlogs also to reflect…somehow…a spirit of unconventionality married to logic (as I think all good innovation is)–…. And since the medium of the vlog really still is in its early, early infancy, I think now is a perfect time to try it–I want do talk to you in a way that is (and forgive me for the brief oncoming  adjective storm here)…in a way that is philosophical yet artistic, theoretical yet practical, intellectual yet emotionally open, to utter the opposite of a tweet– I mean the opposite of fast paced, short, off the cuff thoughts on this and that. Instead, I strive for depth and the fulfillment of an aspiration I’ve clung to since I was 18 (I’m 33 now) which has been to do contribute to something culturally exciting, revolutionary and which makes the world a better place.

Some people that come to my mind: Like Michel de Montaigne, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Nietzsche, Van Gogh, Helen Keller, Dostoevsky, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Martin Luther King Jr., Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Ariana Huffington, Mark Zuckerberg, President Obama— they’re not the only ones but I hope they might bring to your mind a sense of what I aspire to.

Yesterday I pledged to vote for a female candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential Primary and this generated a lot of discussion and debate on Facebook so I want to delve into this deeper. (I do want to also point out that I am not alone in this point of view, though I did think maybe I was as I hadn’t stolen this or adopted this opinion from anyone on tv or in the media. But I did discover this morning an article from VOX, written by Matthew Yglesias also calling for us all to vote for a woman president.

My friend William Scott Smith from West Texas deeply disagrees with me here and remarked that I “blame gender” in general for the fact that a woman has never been president of the United States.

To be clear, I do not and never said I do “blame gender.”

I do blame misogyny and sexism though.

Sadly, anti-woman thinking is all around us which is perhaps most evident in the anti-abortion laws emerging, especially the one in Alabama which outlaws abortion entirely, even when the woman is raped, unless the procedure will save her life. (It is ultimately a woman’s body, and I do think nature makes it therefore, quite clear that the woman should be in charge of what goes on with respect to what she does about her pregnancy. One could ask, “what about the body of a fetus, and what about when it can live outside the womb?” which I do think is a fair question however my answer to this, to the best of my thinking is that you have to ask, is a woman a slave to that which is unborn inside her and until outside of her, subject to her body?

Metaphysically speaking, the answer seems to speak for itself. I wonder then if it might be fair to suggest that constitutionally protected, defined person-hood should begin at birth. I would think, if we are contemplating from the point of view of moral theories, that the Natural Rights theory, properly applied would suggest as much.)

William Scott Smith also says I am “voting for a woman because she is a woman” which he adds is “identity politics.” Maybe it is identity politics but that doesn’t prove it’s illogical or destructive politics. When someone expresses something with greater clarity than I can I like to cite that person, so I’m gonna cite Washington Post columnist Helaine Olen here. She asks:

[what about] a form [of identity politics] that goes mostly unrecognized and unacknowledged. A minority with power and money — white men, mostly wealthy, often religious or pretending to be so — [which] has controlled societal and political norms so effectively that when those left outside simply insist on their rights, they are viewed as angry, resentful, demanding and divisive. When ‘identity politics’ is practiced in such a way that it allows a small group to access and maintain power, it gets labeled as ‘norms’ and treated as simply the way the world works.’

To that I say “amen!”

Part of understanding the well-being of the individual must include the well-being of the individuals within the wider society. In a society that fails to value inclusiveness and diversity sufficiently there is prejudice, bigotry, racism, sexism, classism, exploitation, elitism– unhealthy social trends run amok.

And in the interest of improving society and thus…to speak figuratively here…cleaning up and purifying the air on this earth which we ALL breathe,  we do need to ask, what actions can we take to bring more inclusiveness and diversity to our society, to our global community.

Does that mean I am voting for a woman simply because she is a woman?

No.

I am voting for a woman because there are so many candidates, men and women, who are in my estimation, equally qualified, (among the men for example, I think Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro are qualified) that it complicates the usual criteria and that we thus need to look to other criteria for how we elect a president and how we understand what it means to elect a president as well as what we understand the role of the president to be …(versus the question also of what the presidency ought to be. For example, I do not think a president ought to have as much power as the president has come to possess. Foreign Affairs and Washington Post have both written about how the excessive power of the president and the weakness of the congress– how this imbalance has harmed America on various fronts…)

But based on where we are now, as Matthew Iglesias puts it:

“One of the important ways electing a woman to the presidency would matter is by providing a role model. Role models make a large, quantifiable difference in life. Detailed empirical studies by the Equality of Opportunity Project show that girls who grow up in places where there are an unusually large number of woman inventors are unusually likely to themselves grow up to become inventors. Similarly, Amelia Showalter’s research shows that when women get elected to statewide office, more women start running for state legislature.”

(With respect to role modeling and the power of images in media I would also refer you to research I cited in my essay on Native AMerican writer elissa Washuta and her approach to bringing down stereotyping)

The bottom line is that in a pool of so many talented people of different demographic sorts, when the leadership position in this country has for so long exluded those qualified demographic sorts, it is fair to say it is time for us to open that leadership position up to those who for so long have been denied it.

I am going to leave it there for today and want to thank you for your time. Please let me know what you think in the comments below and I hope you subscribe to my channel!

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at 
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment 


A Better World? Who’s Gonna Care? (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog– episode #17)

…suddenly it occurred to you that in fact, if you look at it from this other perspective, you could make more money doing x, reach more people doing y, keep your soul doing z, et cetera…

TRANSCRIPT:

To what can I attribute the confusion over the decades plaguing me with respect to matters of career?

So many things happen to interest me.

In the broadest sense, I suppose we could perhaps characterize my condition as culture transfixion syndrome? (My father– who was a psychologist– actually hypothesized sometimes that I suffered from ADD. Ironically now I’m the opposite of the ADD type– I enjoy hyper focus to the point that the slightest distraction irritates me like nails on a chalkboard– even innocent things like a text message alert from my cellphone while I’m reading and taking notes on the news.)

Anyway, my point is that in my utter fascination with life and culture, naturally–I hope you’d grant– I like envisioning cultural improvements: better movies, better politics, better literature, better philosophical principles. How does one pick from that lot when one wants, in the broadest sense, to conceptualize what it might mean to help and do one’s part in advancing us towards “a better world?”

Yes, since I was a kid I’ve had lofty ambitions though in those days perhaps those ambitions were… more egotistical?

Marred by my sense of utter and complete incompetence, I suppose the perfect elixir was the dream that one day I might be the opposite.

You know…day in and day out envying like mad hell the people you think look so much better than you, who are so much smarter than you, who come from so much more money than you— of course you might, in this context, dream of something that feels better. I think even when I used to want to be president of the United States— at least the first time I believed I wanted to do that– in part I just wanted to believe I really could achieve it! When you have the bizarre notion that everyone around you is just inherently better than you…if you have a certain kind of defense mechanism you want to think you could be as good…maybe even sometimes you want to think…I could be better…to feel like you are better…or best! Have you ever “been there and done that?” Wished for the feeling of true excellence? The kind that wins you praise, money, sense of power?

But at some point– I can’t say exactly when– I began to change and care more about…just wanting to prove to myself I could acquire and develop a basic sense of competence and critical thinking ability.

One reason I’ve always been so shy is because I knew at least that I didn’t really know how to think about things critically– how to process, for example, the latest news that…oh…for example…if we were to apply this to today’s news…that Google said to hell with Huawei! And what that means..

. (I say, Go Google Go! Right on! God bless China and all but I’m not for enriching those who imprison critics and Uighur Muslims just for being critics and Uighur Muslims. And I think Google demonstrates some sense of integrity– even if in theory it is good PR to suspend business with Huawei and the protest isn’t entirely genuine– Google didn’t HAVE to make any kind of stand. There’s plenty I don’t know about Google but I know I respect that they’re not afraid to make Huawei think!)

Anyway, my point is that just a few years ago I would not have had the courage to even contemplate technological news because I lacked the confidence.

And so now…to get…psychological with you…it would seem…my sense of ambition is transforming…focusing less on maybe…subconscious (?) needs to believe I can grow more valuable than I believed I was — and now…more on …very…direct…interests.

Is “direct” the right word?

I’m interested in thought in a very cut and dry sense…personal thoughts on navigating through life, interpreting and processing the surrounding culture, and acting ethically, thinking logically, talking “straight” as some may put it…straight as in straight forward, not heterosexual…though I am heterosexual but I have nothing but love and support for the LGBTQ movement, sexual liberation, and all of that.

I should tell you, the career aspiration confusion though…it was more complicated than that.

(Hey…if you want to know the value of an English degree or a few literature courses…it’s understanding in a visceral way, beyond the psychology “research” papers, the complexity of human nature…I think we are rather rarely so 1, 2, 3, or 4 etc dimensional.)

Even when I’ve been at my most belligerent and condescending, would you believe me if I insisted to you that I had good intentions?

Really, even if my thinking has suffered severely from extreme irrationality and subjectivity, I’ve usually had good intentions and usually have desired deeply to do my part in making this a “better world.” Even in my acting days, as a young teenager…for example, I played an Auschwitz survivor, and wrote the one-man- movie about him, and the goal was to raise awareness about the importance of never forgetting the Holocaust.

I also played a cocaine addict. I didn’t write that movie but took the role seriously because I believed in raising drug addiction awareness.

Even in my love for the Bee Gees by the way…their music is about romantic love…as opposed to anger, hatred, utter depression and despondency…

So…you get these lofty hopes for the world in your mind and you wonder—well I don’t know if you do…but I have…I wondered…what is the best way for me to make this a better world based on my understanding of what a better world might be!?!

And the little things can mess it up. For example, at times I’ve not wanted to be a poet SIMPLY because I know very few people care about poetry and therefore my efforts could be in vein.

At times I’ve not wanted to write political commentaries because…unless I have a column…who is gonna care. It’s not like the New York Times is gonna publish my Facebook note. It’s not like my opinion holds so much weight. So…when your ambitions are intense and for awhile your convinced of a particular strategy by which to express your ethical hopes only to find that some bit of information suggests…seemingly credibly to you— that your strategy and your plan is ultimately useless…that no one will care…(isn’t that the worst one…feeling no one will call in the massive din of competing voices?) or that suddenly it occurred to you that in fact, if you look at it from this other perspective, you could make more money doing x, reach more people doing y, keep your soul doing z, et cetera? Could I get an amen on this one folks?

Have a great day in the meantime and I shall chat with you tomorrow.

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at 
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment 


On Globalism & a Cosmopolitan, Secular, One State Solution for Israel & Palestine (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog– episode #15)

TRANSCRIPT:

So, yesterday the New York Times reported that the Trump administration announced they’re going to hold an “economic workshop” in Bahrain hoping that their contribution to an improved Palestinian economy will lead to a friendlier approach to Israel. Meanwhile, the Trump administration appears to lean towards a pro-Israel one-state solution, as President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is on record saying “let’s just not say” ‘two states’ (God forbid– and no pun intended)

This unreasonableness here, and the bias is blatant.  Not that I’m in love with a so called “two state solution.” I have many reservations about this. But my opposition to a “two state solution” is of the unconventional sort.

I do understand a case for cynicism that Israel and the Palestinians could ever live in a secular and cosmopolitan democracy. The recent violence in Gaza– the worst breakout of violence in 5 years, as has been widely reported– is ample proof that both sides of this conflict are deep in the thickness of zealous, indignant nationalism.

But that is the root of the problem– nationalism! Thus, a two state solution is at best a temporary band aid– a cheap one, ready to fall off the first time you wash your hands at that–  since it does not address this notion that the Israelis and Palestinians simply can’t co-exist as people beyond ethnicity, beyond “nation,” beyond race, and beyond religion, in a spirit of tolerance and real representative democracy.

Still, that being said, if there is to be a “Jewish” Israeli state, I think it would only be fair that there be a Palestinian state. But I must reiterate, logically, this is not a good long term plan!

And frankly, this whole “nationalism” thing is becoming a real serious global problem which the Trump administration is only adding to. I believe we need to start re-examining a cosmopolitan and globalist philosophy.

Just like states in a union can be “laboratories for democracy” as the expression goes– why can’t countries be seen as such ultimately? We’re all humans and our anxieties over resources will only get more complicated.

And what does that look like?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the media industry, and even education and academia, and what the internet means for it in the longer term as things have been evolving over the last decade or so. For example, what does it mean now that podcasts and smaller internet media organizations, whether through social media or cheap apps are emerging? With the means for them to develop getting cheaper and their willingness to produce without making much money persisting, more and more people are gaining access to information for free.

There are a lot of benefits to this—more people are self actualizing, expressing themselves, developing the sophistication of their productivity, but media and academia as we know it are also, it seems, hemorrhaging.

No, I’m not worried about Amazon, Jeff Bezos, Comcast, NBC, or Netflix overall. But there is a massive economic shakeup going on. And it’s not just the way information and technology are shaking up academia and the media.

And how does China’s Huawei innovation of a 5G network play into this? Frankly, considering how we know they don’t believe in free speech, and imprison millions of Uighurs in the North Western Province of China— Xinjiang for being Muslims … as they buy more cellphone parts from US companies — could they manage to shake up so called American values in such a way that those benefiting from Chinese subsidized technology ultimately choose to preserve their way of life — I mean their money and business regardless of  any bad intentions China might have with the use of its marvelous technology? Don’t doubt it…we’ve seen how money and power corrupted a nationalistic Trump coalition GOP.

What’s my point? Wouldn’t Chinese influence over a nationalistic U.S. agenda lead to more globalism? Would it? Or could it lead to complex cyber conflicts playing on our economic anxieties, and vulnerabilities exacerbated by competing nationalistic drives?  

It’s one thing to talk about nationalism versus globalism in the abstract. That will only get us so far. We need to be more assertive and start talking about anti-nationalistic policies, like calling for more aggressive cooperation between the Palestinians and the Israelis with the end game ultimately being a secular, cosmopolitan one state solution.

Navigating Through the Debris of Information Overload (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog–episode #7)

LISTEN TO THE PUBLIC COMMENT PODCAST

How can we gain a sense of the world, of life, living it to the fullest, appreciating all that’s “out there” with such a bombardment and deluge of information…an overwhelming plethora of options to contemplate everywhere? How does this impact the way we process, say, the news, for example, when historical, monumental, complex events transpire: I’m thinking of President Trump’s Attorney General William Barr who faces Contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report, and how this thrusts us, (say Judiciary Committee Nadler and Speaker Pelosi) into a “constitutional crisis.” What does that mean? What does it mean for the future of our country, our democracy, and the rule of law as the president persists in obstruction of justice and his executive branch plays along?

This conflict of prioritization has bothered me for a long time. Back in the Spring of 2011, for the first time, I identified my “priorities” of awareness. This was when I discovered the value and importance of the news, politics, & philosophy.

Read the New York Times article: “House Panel Approves Contempt for Barr After Trump Claims Privilege Over Full Mueller Report

Since then though, the struggle to determine exactly how much attention one should pay to the news has been yet another complex question for me, which persists, not because I’m a news enthusiast or “politics junkie.” Rather, I cherish basic awareness; I consider it a fundamental ethical principle.

And then I wonder: which news sources should I prioritize. I love the New York Times and the Washington Post, but I can’t read every article they publish. What about Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, Politico, et cetera?

And what about the challenge of sorting through all of the news’ complexities? The details, the confusing concepts and contexts which require deeper understanding…additional research?

And beyond the news reports (the articles, the television commentaries, interviews, segments, et cetera) there’s accounting for, and mentally processing official government business: official documents, pending legislation, proposed budgets– to name some examples.

Read the resolution recommending Barr be held in contempt of congress

And what about the rest of the day?

How do we fit in our meditation, exercise, work, entertainment, cleaning, paperwork, social media feeds, all the while trying to acquaint ourselves further with art, science, technology?

It could be argued of course that the world has gone “niche” but it seems so cheap to me to abandon a holistic perspective, as if it leads to a denigration of life…of the universe and the miracle of experience.

Extemporaneous Speaking & Guns (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog– episode #6)

…YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

The most microscopic aspects of things complicate if you delve into them enough, zooming into the depths like…a microscope. So sometimes when it comes to making choices it can feel quite challenging. For example, I could mull over every word in every sentence I want to say to you and spend months attempting to perfect my verbal expression, and in the meantime, miss out on things I want to tell you now, that will end up cast aside (is this just prioritizing?) or…one can just…and I’ll quote John Mayer here, when he sings “say what you need to say”…

The opportunity to talk directly to you here and now… I view it as its own “art” in contrast to “writing” in the more “literary” sense. Not to say I wish to be arbitrary. I don’t. It’s important to spend time just thinking, researching, processing, analyzing…having something to talk about…kind of like prepper for a jazz performance? Wasn’t THIS what especially the “Beat Poets” were really after? The art of talking? So that is what I am going for here, aesthetically, medium-wise, contextually. I want to talk to you from where I am psychologically and metaphysically.

In today’s video blog this is my first topic. But then I move onto the topic of gun policy. Instead of getting into the depths of the “politics” of gun “policy” though, I’ve decided to delve more specifically into the philosophy behind gun politics. Why do we say one has a “right” to own a gun? Sure, you can cite the U.S. constitution, but the U.S. Constitution is not the “golden words” of some “God” (I believe in a God but I do not say “I know a God exists”; a belief is different than knowledge). What is a “right?” I take a look at some dictionary definitions and propose my own, for your consideration.

And how do we determine then, what a “right” is?  There are epistemological and ethical considerations here. Do you believe in thinking objectively? If so, how do we think logically and objectively about this? Do you believe in ethics/morality? It’s fundamental ethics that lead to fundamental policy views. This means, what rights do you think we should have, and why? And tied to this, how much do you value human life? Do you value human life enough to grant that there is an ethical need to keep guns out of the hands of those who are mentally unwell  and seek to murder?

One other point: some statistics. There are significantly more homicides per 100,000 people in the U.S. than in the U.K. Moreover, you are more likely to get stabbed to death in California or in Texas than you are in the U.K. In the UK there were 285 knife/stabbing related homicides between March of 2017 and 2018 in a population of roughly 66 million people. In contrast, there were 280 knife/stabbing related murders in 2015 in California in a population of merely a rough 39 million…or Texas where there were 175 knife/stabbing related deaths out of a population of roughly 29 million.

I bring these points up because I hear from conservatives and libertarians this idea that in the UK even if they don’t have a gun problem, they have a stabbing problem, so the real problem is world wide homicide, not homicide by guns in the U.S. They are wrong. Homicide is a bigger problem in the U.S. than it is in much of the world. It’s not about guns versus knives. It’s about homicide, guns and knives and we must take measures to address all of these issues.

#4 Balance in Life; Globalism; Economic Anxiety

Greetings! Today, I look beyond politics (though not quite away from it… [can I ever, really?])… to speak with you as honestly and intimately as I can about what it means to me to find a balance between practicality/responsibility and also seeking self-fulfillment/self actualization. In other words, I am thinking a lot about what my “sense of purpose” is…how to be the “change [I ]want to see in the world.

My mother has liked to say in the past that she believes I have the “gift of gab.” I like to talk. That is the whole reason behind why I write in fact. Though one frustration I find with my writing is, as a result severe perfectionism, it takes me a long time to finish writing projects, so extemporaneous speaking enables me to try and balance a sense of trying to speak constructively without spending many, many months just to say one thing.

Also in this blog, I talk about immigration, the violence between Hamas and Israel, globalism versus nationalism, and I reflect on our changing economy.