Siobhan Watters

Cambridge, Canada

About Siobhan

Areas of Expertise

Literary Analysis , Cultural Analysis

Talk to me about

Philosophy, literature, geopolitics, film, art

Comments & conversations

102904
Siobhan Watters
Posted over 3 years ago
We can learn by exchanging and discussing our own lists of "10 Things I Know to be True."
You could say so, yes! What is true about this world must be so with or without articulating it. It is the nature of art to make truth present. Newton did not invent gravity; he discovered it. There is also danger in articulation, a risk of covering the truth over. To put it somewhat poetically: all paths to knowledge started with a song (a cry, or a gasp), an articulation of the wonder around us, which we increasingly tried to make sense of through language and signs, and eventually the arts and sciences.
102904
Siobhan Watters
Posted over 3 years ago
We can learn by exchanging and discussing our own lists of "10 Things I Know to be True."
I agree with AJ that change is inevitable, even if stability is preferred and necessary to develop culture. Too strict a dependence on stability ignores the realities of motion and destruction, to which all species have undergone a series of adaptations (a natural response to change) in order to survive. The instinctual animal flees minutes before the first tremors of an earthquake are felt by most of us, while the permanent structures we created our sense of stability with shake and crumble.
102904
Siobhan Watters
Posted over 3 years ago
We can learn by exchanging and discussing our own lists of "10 Things I Know to be True."
Nicholas, Reading your responses I'm reminded of Heidegger; not sure if you are influenced by him. I understand completely the context in which you view need in relation to cultural constructions, which at their heart, I see as mechanisms developed to assuage both the realities and fears of survival. Love is one such development. Reason, another. But to acknowledge the needs of food, shelter, and warmth, and not the 'others' who fed you, sheltered you, and kept you warm while you were yet prone is a conclusion that many philosophers are too comfortable making. I welcome a response that can tell me how 'use' of these others, as you have characterized it, is not also a cultural construction that ignores a biological need of others. Words are always problematic when we want to discuss a non-verbal reality. Definitions of use and need are null. But I do know that you would not be here today to engage in this conversation had your mother and/or father left you exposed to the elements at birth; no amount of instinct could save you. So, yes, there is no "self" without relation; but there is also no body without nourishment.
102904
Siobhan Watters
Posted about 4 years ago
How can we turn our societies away from Government Welfare and move to a society that evaluates and revalues its citizens.
I will be writing a dissertation on this subject in a couple year's time but have a long way to go before having a definitive answer, if such a thing can exist. I think there are several ways to approach the question. I know my starting point is to look at the long history of governance and how welfare institutions have manifested over time. Some believe that there has and always will be segments of a population who are poor or require assistance. If this is the case, can we really reason away the system? Yes, the system is abused; yes, there are inefficiencies. But you will find that in every sector of government because nations are frankly too large and dispersed to manage efficiently. If not the government, then who? Can we rely on private philanthropy to fill the vacuum? I think the task once fell primarily to the church. Charity was part of church mandate, and at least the Christian system 'taxed' its followers, so to speak, through tithing. As a result, the church had community coffers that were used to support the poor, though I can't say to what standard. In a secular age, this maintenance passed into the hands of government, just as education and family services did. One thing is clear to me whatever the outcome: reform has to start with the education system before the welfare system. If I understand what I've read and seen, the education system in the U.S. is creating huge inequities in learning and empowerment among kids and adolescents (when their schools aren't being shut down). The purpose of any school system should be to make citizens of their students not just workers. This is coming from a Canadian who will vote for a Federal election in just a few weeks where a pitiful number of youth votes will be counted. I believe this too could be rectified within the school system, if it could be done without an agenda.
102904
Siobhan Watters
Posted about 4 years ago
There is no such thing as free will.
Free will is relative to the time and space you inhabit. As a construct, I don't think it could exist in the capacity we are discussing here until our needs for survival were first met on a consistent basis. The will to survive cannot be equated with free will. Freedom for some also meant enslavement for others, historically speaking. Even in the most democratic cultures on earth today, a negotiation of freedom is made between citizen and state so that pure freedom is never possible. I cannot be stateless; I must surrender certain liberties to attain security and to assure that my base needs are met before I can 'be free' in the context of my country.
102904
Siobhan Watters
Posted about 4 years ago
CULTURE: for better or worse?
In reality, I don't believe this will ever happen, unless/until we descend into anarchy. Without culture, there is only survival. Ask yourself if you truly know what that means. Culture, etymologically, is tied to nature. It means to grow and grow up out of something, as in the agricultural and biological senses. This definition allows for difference, in the sense of biodiversity--which is really about adaptation, and so cultural diversity springs from similar pressures. The second nature I think you are referring to--the 'superfluous' layers that are attached to natural forms of social organization--are thousands of years old, and on one hand, represent our coping and containment strategies when faced with brute survival, and on the other, have led to compounded developments that has given civilization its impetus to continue "growing" economically and politically. Culture is fossilized into our ways of life, part of our social biology. Perhaps you would like to skim the shallow surface of privileged culture off the face of the earth, but culture will still be there underneath, everywhere, giving humanity purpose. I find it very difficult to imagine an alternative landscape, especially since it would presume collective consent to essentially undermine every institution that facilitates daily life, whether for work or leisure. What you propose is also arrogant in its absence of consideration for cultures who had their life ways forcibly taken from them. A campaign to eradicate culture could only take a similarly violent turn. Without culture, would our energies go solely into turning a great machine, without an understanding of why? Who or what would we produce for? Or would cultural and community ties dissolve so that individuals would meet no obstacle in their thoughts and actions? Sounds like anarchy, again. Let's also not forget the importance of the collective record and speech, which allows us all to sit here and debate so eloquently.
102904
Siobhan Watters
Posted over 4 years ago
What is the next big essential service governments in the future will provide for their citizens?
That's a pleasantly simple definition for a complex system that is responsible for hundreds of years of uneven development between nations and cultures. The system of values is biased and tied to dominant powers; it is not a fair representation of universal value. Every reality resists a static definition, especially one as simple as that. In their infancy, libertarian ideals were just as misleading as they are now. How could one theorize about the rights of man and the free market system while millions of Africans comprised a stolen labour force for several imperial powers? I participate in the system, since it envelopes the world (what are my alternatives? if I am a citizen, I am enmeshed in it), but it doesn't mean I cannot see it for the reality that it is. Another disclosure: I don't consider the earth to be our personal playgrounds and Walmarts, so when I talk about the disparity between labour put in and wealth reaped, I refer to human arrogance about resources. It's all in the language: we DEMAND, which assumes we are entitled to everything we desire. Many people in this world will never have their demands met because of where economic history has left them.
102904
Siobhan Watters
Posted over 4 years ago
What is the next big essential service governments in the future will provide for their citizens?
Capitalism is impossibly skewed to favour novelty and frivolity over wisdom; unchecked, it is designed to fail. More is reaped than the labour put in (forget about giving back), and labour is grossly undervalued. Yes, some will remain wealthy and "happy" with all the meaningless stuff they amassed for posterity and to be perceived as larger than what their bodily frames allow. But the system is utterly unsustainable, built on the idea of continuous surplus of finite materials. THERE is your fantasy. But it doesn't matter, because the 70+ years you live on this planet are far more important than all the other lives being led, that have been, and will be. Because when you die, your name will live on forever, right? What is it that you're working so hard to safeguard? Calling it freedom is a joke. Maybe our feelings of self-entitlement and self-absorption are natural, but then how civilized or enlightened have we really become? Humility is an improvement on the human condition, and something we desperately need if we are going to address the future thoughtfully and realistically. Full disclosure: I am working class-born, raised on welfare, paid my way through university, and am a tax-paying home owner. I have a job. I believe in being critical of all levels of organization, right down to the organization of my own thoughts. I don't believe good fortune brought me to the time and place I was born and which allowed me to survive and strive for more, while my mother struggled; history and human choice are responsible for my presence here. While some allow fate or fortune to explain their prosperity, I will never let a mythical force, or a conception of historical events as natural or linear, take the place of my own will and accountability in this world.
102904
Siobhan Watters
Posted over 4 years ago
How will you take part in JR's TED Prize wish?
I also thought sharing images of Canada's First Nations is a wonderful idea, but I agree with you Dayle Ann that the resources for the art work should be the people themselves. I read recently about (but cannot track down) an initiative to get digital cameras into the hands of young First Nations people so that they can document their life way and use it as a medium of self-empowerment. Low self-esteem and suicide is a major concern within the community that the initiative hopes to counter in some measure. I feel these two projects could really come together.