Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Working Out the Kinks

Today went much smoother than yesterday.  I got up early enough to get to breakfast at 7:30 AM and was one of the first people in line!  I was able to relax and enjoy my breakfast, and still had plenty of time to get to class.  In the morning portion of our class which lasts from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM, we were introduced to the philosopher Zizek (through a Youtube video) who speaks out on issues regarding Social Justice.  We mostly discussed his analysis of former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's famous speech about "knowns" and "unknowns."  In Rumsfeld's speech he noted that there are Known Knowns, the things we know that we know, Known Unknowns, the things we know we don't know, and the Unknown Unknowns, the things we don't know we don't know.  An example for the Unknown Unknowns is that we know that Climate Change will have an effect on the planet, but we don't know what that change will be and what will be the consequences.  Yeah, a little confusing at first, but after watching the video of his speech multiple times and discussing it as a class, we were able to grasp these concepts.  Zizek however watched Rumsfeld's speech and took a logic approach to it.  By doing so, he immediately noticed a missing concept which is that there are also Unknown Knowns.  This term explains that there are in fact things that are so embedded in our everyday lives that we are not in fact aware of that we already know them.  For example, Prof. Lamas explained how a foreigner he had spoken to thought it strange that Americans spend most of their free time keeping themselves  busy instead of resting.  The majority of Americans tend to go shopping on the weekends, for instance, instead of simply taking both days off to rest their bodies.  Personally, I do not think that many Americans even realize this, I most definitely did not although I myself do it.  In class we watched a video on Zizek's theory of this last concept, and he conveyed the message in an extremely basic and uncommon way, using the toilets of different countries as an example to show how common objects can reveal entire ways of life in a community as well as how that community may think and act on certain issues.  By using a method of illustrating and examining everyday reality, one can become aware of common knowns that they were not previously aware of.  To end the class this morning, we were instructed to spend time alone reflecting on the intellectual experience of the class so far and then illustrate our feelings and thoughts on poster paper.  It was really interesting to see what everyone came up with and talk about the symbols of the works as well as the mental process each one of us experienced during this exercise.

Nearby Protest
During the second portion of the class, which runs from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM, we went on a field trip to a park near Independence Mall and had the chance to hear from five different active members of the Occupy Movement.  From Philly to Albany, NY, these students and activists have had experience working on political campaigns, environmental protests, and social and political movements.  We all sat together in the middle of the park and listened intently as they answered our questions and replied to our concerns.  This was extremely interesting because I had not yet had an in-depth conversation with members of the Occupy Movement, and had only really received my knowledge of it from the news.  I love that we had the opportunity to engage people who are actually in the midst of this movement, as I feel that hearing from direct sources is an integral part of understanding where we ourselves stand on this issue, and how we really feel about the events taking place. 
Ivette and Susan

Clara and I

Cameron and I

The remainder of today was mostly spent regrouping with my cohort as we have not spent that much time together since we arrived here.  This time was well spent and I am completely loving being here!  Like I have said before, all of the staff and students are super nice and I have made a bunch of awesome friends already.   I can already tell that I will be really sad to leave this place at the end of July, but hopefully it won't pass by too quickly! 

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