Societal Impacts of Alcohol and Marijuana, Revisited: the German Model.

    In Germany, over the last 25 years the consumption of alcohol has fallen by a third. Legal marijuana use rates (in the Netherlands or abroad, or in decriminalized settings at home) have increased in 18-24 year olds from 7% to 28% during this time period. The economic growth has been enormous, suggesting a link between the two, in order to confirm it would be advantageous to compare the numbers with those outlined in the data from my previous paper on societal impacts of alcohol with a low to moderate impact on the national IQ. In this paper it was demonstrated that while the first 5-10 points of IQ decrease would remove 80% of the geniuses or highly gifted workers from a community, more than this had limited effects until the damage reaches 20 or 30 points. This is because the population begins to move along a straight line on the bell curve, where the initial damage from lead, or once the pollutants in the environment are removed, from illegal or decriminalized marijuana (it should be noted that in a legalized setting, marijuana has been associated with a societal increase of 5 points in IQ, while contaminants or parasites in illegal or decriminalized pot have been connected to a decrease) or alcohol, moves along a steep exponentially defined curve.
    Lead was removed around the same time as this trend in drinking occurred. According to the DAX, the Deutsch (German) stock market, the value has risen by over 4 or 5 times since then, as seen in this graph (1989-2014) from under 2000 points to over 9000 points. The GDP, which is predicted by the DAX, a list of around 30 of the heavyweights in the German economy, to a great extent, also has increased in this period from under 1500 to nearly 4000. These are both in keeping with the increase indicated by an increase in geniuses of 500% in an intellectual property dominant economy (such as Germany or America) as found in most of the modern world.
DAX index of German listed companies:

German GDP from 1970-2014

     While this can seen initially as true and true and unrelated, the fact that previous research in SPECT scan imaging has made the connection between responsible drinking and low cognitive functioning concrete in the last few years seems to indicate that this link is more causal than correlative. This can be seen in previous research into light and moderate alcohol or marijuana use this year. That the hypothetical model outlined in the research into societal impacts of these substances fits exactly to the statistics gathered in the real world is encouraging as well, and demonstrates that this is a legitimate and probably accurate method and application of the scientific information available.×137.png×137.png

Marcovaldo Response

Paul Andreas Fischer
The neo-realist novel, Seasons in the Summer, by Italo Calvino is a fantastical narrative following the life of a simple factory worker, protagonist Marcovaldo. Marcovaldo “since he does not have great powers of communication” (97) himself is forced by his concrete surroundings to seek a better life for himself and his family in the urban jungle. Though he finds at the end of the story that he is interviewed by a reporter for television, largely he goes unnoticed in the city, a ghost or a vagrant to some, mostly representing as a quiet factory worker, helping every day to produce the city’s many goods.
The post-fascism, almost communist views of the author are latent in the text. In chapter 16, Marcovaldo at the supermarket, the consumers come “to dismantle, to gnaw, to grope, to plunder,” (84) and the irony is, of course that though Marcovaldo works in one of the factories that produces the wide variety of goods, his family cannot afford to actually shop and only take the minimum requirements at the supermarket.
Combined with this socialist commentary, which the narrative style of the story affords the author great room in inserting, is an environmental lamenting of the passing of the country from the lives of the city’s inhabitants. Rather than focusing on the joys of country life, or the beauty of nature in and of itself, this environmental criticism instead highlights the contrast inherrently experienced by a family of city urchins. The family goes to nature on occasion, when his son, Michelino follows a herd of cattle to the country, Marcovaldo’s first questions are, “How are you? Was it beautiful?” (49) There is an envy for the boy, though he worked like a mule, it is a completion for Marcovaldo’s earlier dream that his children might one day be able to go in the meadows.
While Marcovaldo himself never was able to go into the country, or even to see a forest as a child, being of the first generation of truly urban city-dwellers, he still has an instinctive wish to see his children experience nature for themselves. Explaining to his child the need for good air and taking them to the hill, their response is almost comical, “Walls without a roof… Did they bomb them?” (41). But even in this passage, the hills and pastures that Marcovaldo finds for the children to roam, and play in, the land is owned by a Sanatorium, it seems to be a statement that in today’s urban world, nature is for the insane.
Calvino is writing with a strong voice that retains a playfulness reminiscent of European folk tales. In fact he is in a sort of way recording urban legends or myths, compiling his own series of modern tales following this unlikely protagonist of his own creation. The result is a compelling work that forces the reader to reconsider many assumptions that may be held about industrial “progress” and uncovers some of the realities of urban life. As the book has two parts, one set in hard times, post-war Italy and the second during boom times of the sixties, it is very difficult to define a set of values though out the work. Certainly it is possible that some recurring themes can be identified, the need for escape, and constant watchfulness of a caring father for his children’s health and well-being for example. While it would be impossible to characterize this book as ideological in a specific sense, it is better compared to a series of folk tales, with morals and consequences for the reader and protagonist as the narrator manages to remain suitably distanced in giving outright judgements. Marcovaldo doesn’t attempt to change or influence the world he is in, but merely to survive in it.

Yakov Bok Bound

Yakov Bok Bound

Paul Fischer

Religion and Philosophy
Richard Sugarman

In Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer the handyman for whom the book is named has broken everything in his life. He is the kind of man that, as the Talmud goes, is alive but dead. His wife, after five years of fruitless marriage, has left him and when he seeks opportunities outside of his Jewish Shtetl, enemies of the Jewish Nation imprison and try him in a misguided political prosecution. Nothing can go right for Yakov.
He finds himself “the kind of man who finds it perilous to be alive.” It appears that Yakov’s only ally is the lethargic Bibikov, a member of the prosecuting team who does not share his colleagues’ misgivings for the Jewish race. He realizes that the charge is trumped up political nonsense, and he will ultimately be murdered for his continued investigation. Yakov can be compared to many historical and mythical figures. One of these is Prometheus, of Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, a hapless hero of ancient Greek mythology.
Prometheus is the Greek champion of mankind, a fearless titan who defies Zeus to bring fire, and more importantly, hope to pathetic humans apparently without personal ambition or desire for reward, indeed at great consequence to himself. Or perhaps, with the power of foresight, he knows Zeus will be toppled by man one day and is shrewdly choosing sides, albeit painfully. In either case, Zeus retaliates  by putting Prometheus on a rock where his insides will be eaten daily by an eagle. While it appears Zeus’ underlings, Strength, Force and Hephaestus, are somewhat sympathetic to Prometheus, explaining, “No heart have I, to chain a god… Yet surely I must find the heart the heart to do it; My Sire’s behest not lightly is contemned” (15) they still recognize that they cannot betray the divine power of their master, without suffering a fate far worse than that of Prometheus.
Prometheus’ unique power of foresight gives the tale a twist. It is hard to imagine why he would choose such a fate. He declares that “all that shall be, I surely know” yet “how to speak my griefs, I know not.” (100, 110) This means that he knows not only of the existence of Zeus’ punishment, but also its extreme severity. He cannot have had any delusions about the potential for humans to rise up in rebellion to Zeus for his sake. While the humans certainly support Prometheus, declaring they would like to see him wield power equal to Zeus (520), they are little more than glorified cheerleaders for the destitute protagonist.
Looking specifically at their characters, it would not be wrong to say Prometheus and Yakov are completely inverse. Prometheus starts as an immortal, one of the most powerful titans in the world, gifted with foresight, and so strong that even Force and Strength are loath to bind him for fear of his eventual revenge. His transgression is a deliberate attempt to undermine Zeus and punished without mercy through divine power. Yakov begins with the naive belief that “with a bit of luck, I‘ll make my fortune in the outside world” (12). He quickly loses sight of this as he becomes essentially a political pawn, an individual imprisoned in order to accomplish certain political goals. Even fellow Jews use his eventual trial to undermine the prejudices that they have fought for so long. Yakov’s complete cluelessness is in direct contrast to Prometheus’ cognizant, planned delivery of fire and hope to the mortals of Greece.
Yakov begins The Fixer with nothing, gains a little through sickening means (the aid of a high ranking anti-Semitic alcoholic, Nikolai Maximovitch) only to have it sucked away by the power of massive political forces at work The opportunity Yakov had created by posing as a Christian freethinker pales in comparison to the massive effort mobilized to imprison and punish him. Yakov himself is dumbfounded, asking the prosecution, “Do you really believe those stories about magicians stealing the blood out of  a murdered Christian child to mix in with matzos?“ (142) Unlike Prometheus, who was a major player in the political battle that doomed him and who certainly knew the consequences of his action, Yakov had absolutely no foresight of his actions. He believed he was only pursuing “opportunity” in a bigger city. The difference is that while the two suffer from intangibly great forces, Prometheus was an active character while Yakov was merely a victim.
This is most apparent in the dialogues of each work. Prometheus Bound is dominated by the protagonist’s explanations of his unfortunate situation. Yakov’s thoughts are relegated to himself His contact with others such as the prosecution or his lawyer consists of the protagonist posing the questions. While his questions are fascinating, they also indicate his lack of control. But Prometheus also has no apparent power, he merely preaches to the choir (or in this case, the chorus.)
Both Prometheus and Yakov do have power, however. All Yakov has to do is admit guilt and confess to a crime he is innocent of. The thought of betraying a whole people to the corrupt authorities, is simply unstomachable for Yakov, even though he’s a self-proclaimed “free thinker.” Prometheus merely is asked to aid a tyrant in his ruthless attempts to retain power over the heavens. The refusal to submit to this opportunity commits Prometheus to eternal suffering.

All quotes from The Fixer by Bernard Malamud, Macmillan 2004 (page) or Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus translated by John Churtan Coidna (line)

Problems with Hamlet and His Problems

Paul Fischer
John Zimmerman
     Problems with Hamlet and His Problems

    Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, is among the greatest works of arts in the English language; for centuries the play has been rehearsed, performed and reviewed. The gloomy Prince of Denmark, Hamlet, is undoubtedly among Shakespeare’s greatest feats of characterization, appealing to audiences through his many human weaknesses, most notably his indecisiveness and inconsistency. At least this was the tragedy’s reputation for over three hundred years until a stinging critique by TS Eliot changed the way in which teachers and students looked at Hamlet forever.

    TS Eliot wrote the essay Hamlet and His Problems in 1920 as an attempt to redefine the manner in which critics looked at literary work. Right at the beginning of his essay, Eliot makes it clear that critics have failed in their attempts at critical insight, claiming they stretched their interpretation of the play “by the substitution—of their own Hamlet for Shakespeare’s.” (1) Rather than looking at Hamlet the play, former critics such as Coleridge and Goethe instead focused on Hamlet the character, who they easily identified with.
    The main argument is that, in fact, as a work of art, the play Hamlet fails completely. In order to prove this, Eliot invents a standard, the objective correlative, that never existed before. He defines the objective correlative as “a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked” (7). For example, a writer who presents the audience with a thump outside a house, a scratching at the door, and a hideous scream would expect the audience to feel fear when the main character felt fear.
    Where Hamlet fails, Eliot writes, is that “Hamlet (the man) is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear” (7). Eliot goes on to suppose that Shakespeare finds himself in a paradox, as Hamlet’s disgust for Gertrude (his mother) is occasioned “because her character is so negative and insignificant that she arouses in Hamlet the feeling which she is incapable of representing.” If Shakespeare changed Hamlet’s character, there would be no plot, but as he made the mother even more despicable the play is rapidly exposed as illogical.
    Perhaps the most illogical part of Hamlet, however, is Hamlet’s complete disregard for the throne. To a contemporary reader, it would seem that an even greater offense than the murder would be Claudius’ usurping the throne. Yet only one line in the last act is devoted to resolving why Hamlet did not simply inherit the throne himself. Hamlet tells us in the last act that Claudius has “Popp’d in between the election and my hopes.” In fact, in 1600 when Hamlet was written, Denmark did not have a hereditary monarchy but actually held elections among a council of nobles. Claudius was elected to be king following his brother’s death. Certainly this must have been an unforgivable affront to Hamlet and his supporters.
    The “madness” of Hamlet is not, as Eliot writes, “the buffoonery of an emotion which can find no outlet in action” (8) but instead is the legitimate anger and confusion conflicting within Hamlet because of the horrendous crimes his mother and uncle have committed. When Eliot writes his criticism a difference was drawn between biological and foster parents so he is unable to feel the rage that Hamlet feels. He writes that “we must simply admit that here Shakespeare tackled a problem which proved too much for him,” (8) that Shakespeare was unable to artistically portray, with objective correlative, the intense emotion that Hamlet felt.
    This is where Eliot’s own logic falls apart. The objective correlative is among his greatest contributions to the literary community; it remains a standard for determining the artistic validity of many works, but Eliot failed in his own application of the objective correlative to Hamlet. The audiences of Shakespeare in the early 1600’s  would be able to feel the anger that Hamlet felt, for at that time marriage was binding, and Claudius was, in Hamlet’s mind, marrying his own sister after killing his brother. Indeed, this would have been viewed as a crime against God and Christianity, justifying Hamlet’s need to seek not just Claudius’ death, but also his eternal damnation. Eliot writes that Hamlet’s emotions are in “excess of the facts as they appear” (7). In fact, Hamlet’s emotions are precisely in keeping with the complete revenge which he not only expects, but which the audience expects. An Elizabethan audience would have felt aghast, not out of mere “adolescence,” but out of genuine hatred for the villain Claudius and contempt for the fool mother Gertrude.
    The burning passion for justice to be served is not portrayed disproportionately, rather Shakespeare accurately reflects Hamlet’s emotions. Eliot writes that Shakespeare cannot handle the “guilt of a mother” as he “handled the suspicion of Othello, the infatuation of Antony, or the pride of Coriolanus” (7). Eliot attempts in this to erase the validity of Hamlet as an artistic work and a failure in its attempt to convey a concrete emotion. He even attacks the consistency of the play, writing the he found, “Shakespeare’s Hamlet not in the action, not in any quotations that we might select, so much as in an unmistakable tone which is unmistakably not in the earlier play” (6). What the reader would be well advised to keep in mind, however, is that in the beginning of the play Hamlet did not know for sure that Claudius had murdered Hamlet’s father. Indeed, a modern viewer would be justified to express some concern over how quickly and rashly Hamlet affirms the guilt of his uncle.
    Eliot’s does have a point in this, that to a modern reader or viewer, there are multiple discrepancies in the play. Where an Elizabethan viewer would have been horrified with the marriage of Claudius and Gertrude, a modern viewer cannot be expected to feel the same way. Today we have a concept of uncles, aunts, and “in-laws.” At a time before a family member could be just “in-law” but not related by blood, Gertrude and Claudius are committing a horrible act of incest and every action of theirs would be viewed with suspicion. Eliot claims “the ‘madness’ of Hamlet lay to Shakespeare’s hand; in the earlier play a simple ruse,” (8) that Hamlet’s madness is merely a play on the audience as Shakespeare attempts to stretch a character over a much larger emotion. This is completely logical and lucid with a modern viewer in mind, but an Elizabethan viewer would understand that Hamlet’s madness was not merely a literary device, but an actual emotional reaction to the incest that was surfacing around him.
  It is with this viewer in mind that Shakespeare writes Hamlet, and therefore the play is vindicated as a work of art. Assuming, then, that Hamlet’s “madness” is no blunder of Shakespeare’s writing, but actually an important theme in the play, Eliot’s problems with Hamlet begin to evaporate, as the rest of his arguments fall by the wayside. To an Elizabethan audience, Hamlet, the gloomy prince of Denmark, resolved the issue of confused revenge, feeling appropriate suspicion of the incestuous couple, finding them to be in murderous wedlock, and acting with decisive vengeance, standing up for the throne that was bought out of his grasp and the familial honor that was stained by the hateful sexual relationship of his own blood.

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