There is a haunting paradox about human nature that I have often contemplated, and it became particularly pronounced tonight when I found myself confined to my bathroom. It is as though we, as human beings, are drawn to the very things that may harm us, even when we have the knowledge, tools, and foresight to avoid them. We walk the tightrope between our conscious desires to live and the inexplicable forces that seem to pull us towards self-destruction. Freud called this act the “death drive,” and I encountered it that night.
Sitting in my bathroom, regretting a meal chosen out of impulse rather than wisdom, I pondered how easily we are led astray. Why do we often allow ourselves to be swayed by fleeting desires, peer pressure, or even the sheer thrill of the unknown when our better judgment tells us otherwise? Was it merely hunger or perhaps a deeper yearning for connection and shared experiences with my friends that led me to that ill-advised choice?
There is a broader question here, beyond my food-related predicament: What do we, as humans, truly want? We chase after ephemeral pleasures, squandering our resources, time, and energy on things that often do not serve our higher purposes. We know the pitfalls, we are well aware of the risks, and yet, we dive headlong into them. It is as if there is a magnet inside us that attracts us to the very things we should evade.
There is an ancient saying, “There is nothing new under the sun.” How apt it feels as I reflect on how we, generation after generation, continue to replicate the mistakes of our fathers. Maybe it is a form of inherited memory, or perhaps it is a testament to the cyclical nature of human history. Whatever it is, the scale seems grander now, with our mistakes amplified and broadcasted for all to witness.
But hope isn’t entirely lost. For with every tug from the death drive, there is a counter pull, a life drive if you will, urging us to seek light, happiness, and fulfillment. This life drive reminds us of our inherent worth, pushing us to make choices that resonate with our soul’s true calling. It tells us to embrace those robes of dignity, to light our path with the flames we have access to, and to run from the shadows.
I yearn to align myself more with this life drive. It is a conscious choice I want to make, even as the death drive lurks in the background. For every moment I spend in darkness, I want countless others bathed in light. Every time I paint myself with the mud of poor decisions, I want to wash it off with the water of clarity and purpose.
In that quiet bathroom, in the middle of the night, I made a promise to myself: to strive, to seek happiness, and to run – not toward inevitable doom but toward life, light, and love. The battle between the death drive and the life drive will continue, but I am determined to tip the scales in favor of life.
perched high ‘ver moon
Twirled fingers eyes horizon
splashing shadows ‘ver cast.
Spectacle for our generation
Cast dream ‘ver yonder
Sun reach out yon
Make us nation and
out this long night
for knights mighty stand
wheedling future pasts.
T’s our testimony:
arrived too soon
bayed destiny ‘ver deaf pasts
hand me sun
future past ink must dry.
Breath t’s pages the wry
Testament—ancestors grey in wisdom
masters of temporality decry
mound ‘ternity chains,
our kins and the ring of fate
T’s circle must stand unto faith
seals future moments.
Miranda Fricker explores the concept of epistemic injustice in the context of testimonial practice and argues that the virtue of reflective critical openness can serve as an antidote to the prejudice inherent in epistemic injustice. She examines the concept of “testimonial sensibility,” which she elaborates as being an ethical virtue that shapes our responses to the speech acts of the other. She further describes “epistemology of testimony” as a broader framework for organizing her arguments about the phenomenon of epistemic injustice, which she interprets as pernicious conduct in testimonial practice.
Fricker problematizes the phenomenon of epistemic injustice by examining different propositions that seek to address or engage the concept of epistemic injustice. To begin with, she unpacks two models, the inferential model and the doxastic responsibility model, to reveal their shortcomings in addressing epistemic injustice. The inferential model advocates that in testimonial practice, the hearer’s receptiveness to the speaker is influenced by perceptual reasoning grounded in what is known about the speaker. This includes the speaker’s background and stereotypes that define the speaker’s social identity. Fricker shows how this model, which arrogates the notion of unreflective exchange to show its spontaneity in the exchange between the speaker and the hearer, fails to account for “justificational laxity.” This model is not grounded in the conventional experience of testimonial practice, which as Fricker explains, tends to follow the “everyday phenomenology of unreflective transparency” (157). She delves into research presented by McDowell and Coady to reveal gaps in the inferential model. She discloses how the model fails to address epistemic injustice because it lacks a critical openness to the speaker’s speech.
Doxastic responsibility advances the claim that the hearer is anti-referentiality and argumentation. In other words, the hearer is spontaneous in the manner of everyday speech. Fricker contests these claims by showing how doxastic responsibility is unreflective. She argues for the introduction of ethics into the epistemology of testimony. Here, she points out that ethics brings the “notion of sensibility” (159), which in turn leads to interpretive and practical judgments. Sensibility is historical, cultural, and learned. A person is socialized into a specific sensibility through a process that considers both the individual and the social as a collective. Acquiring sensibility brings one closer to rational-unreflective and critical non-inferential judgments, which leads us towards a critical openness to the words of the speaker.
As Fricker demonstrates, testimonial sensibility supports the notion that the hearer’s response to the speaker is anchored in what she refers to as “epistemic socialization,” which is a “social training of the interpretive and effective attitudes in play when we are told things by other” (161). She explains how people are socialized through passive social inheritance and active learning. Testimonial sensibility is the virtue that gives us spontaneity and reflectiveness. Fricker discusses how stereotypes damage testimonial sensibilities. She combines this notion with the concept of epistemic injustice in examples found within Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and the film The Talented Mr. Ripley. Lee’s novel describes a situation where a major court decision is made because of “corrupted testimonial sensibility” in which the jurors find a Negro man guilty solely because of their “immovably prejudiced social perception” of him (Fricker, 167). In The Talented Mr. Ripley Greenleaf is not able to recognize the prejudices of race and gender inequality. The worst individual in this film is Mr. Ripley, who is not only aware of reflective critical openness but also determined to create epistemic oppression. These materials consider the thematic issues of race and gender, and how insensibility to these issues leads to epistemic injustice. Fricker determines that hearers’ social identity often acts like a cloud that shoulders the hearers from moving beyond the social constraints that limit their ability to engage in reflective critical openness.
Even though Fricker flaunts reflective critical openness as an antidote to epistemic injustice, she is cognizant of the challenges of actualizing this virtue in societies with deeply ingrained ways of thinking that prejudice specific populations. The stories of Tom Robinson and Marge underscore the powerlessness of reflexive critical openness. These are an example of a framework that is captive to the very systems that it seeks to contest. In other words, this virtue is a product of influential powers in society. Its utility becomes more visible as society strives to address inequality, racism, and gender oppression.
In conclusion, Fricker states that human beings live in social spaces with relations that shape their sensibilities. A community can be both a space for evolving prejudice and inculcating the virtue of reflective critical openness. In this kind of community, people experience life differently. The current social structures have the ability to further support the alienation of individuals within this society from the “essential attributes of personhood” (Fricker, 172). It is important to recognize the current faults and issues within the modern epistemic climate and recognize it for the oppression and prejudice that it systematically encourages.
Fricker, Miranda. “Epistemic Injustice and A Role for Virtue in the Politics of Knowing”. Metaphilosophy, vol. 34, no. 1, Jan. 2003, pp. 154-173.
In this essay, I argue that pirates are space traitors who trespass legal and economic boundaries to achieve individual or collective gains and destabilize a society. The popularity of the concept of piracy in cultural representations such as films, fashion, comics, and literature highlights changes in society that mirror the legal-economic happenings during the Golden Age of Piracy. At the core of the pirate culture is the concept of neoliberalism, which is understood as the promotion of ideas of individual freedom that favor market-based initiatives and limited governmental role in social welfare. Neoliberalism removes business barriers and seeks to privatize and monetize sectors of the economy, such as education and healthcare, that are ordinarily the preserve of governments. Piracy is, “a form of morally ambiguous property seizure committed by an organized group which can include thievery, hijacking, smuggling, counterfeiting, or kidnapping.” Although the definitions of pirate culture and neoliberalism appear pejorative, these concepts have rekindled discourse on contemporary pirate culture in two ways: (1) They have created conditions that mirror the high seas, which was the primary arena of piracy, and (2) They have led to the emergence of a class of “traitors,” or people who are bent on undermining the neoliberal order. This essay examines some of the neoliberal practices that have sustained piracy in our contemporary culture.
Both piracy and neoliberalism occupy ambiguous positions within capitalism. David Harvey shows that from the late 1960s and through the 1970s, world economies stagnated, unemployment and inflation skyrocketed, and governments such as Britain borrowed from international bodies such as IMF to take care of rising welfare expenditures. The United States of America’s inability to control the flooding of the dollar led to the abandonment of fixed exchange rates. Moreover, the oil crisis of 1973 shattered many economies and marked the beginning of a rapid economic decline in both developed and developing countries. The welfare state that was the hallmark of European and African countries could no longer be sustained in a world that was shifting emphasis from Keynesian policies that privileged society, to neoliberal policies that put individuals at the center of economic planning.
People have adopted pirate culture as a response to nonemployment, low welfare, and high cost of living. It is arguable that the pirate culture inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was a movement attempting to destabilize capital while calling for an end to economic inequality. The pirates of the Caribbean directly opposed the violent control of labor and merchandise by nationalist mercantile companies and what they viewed as “tyrannical” inequalities. Thus, protests or initiatives such as Occupy Wall Street are organized around the idea of opposing monopolies, colossal capital, and corporate practices that have shrunk the labor market. Pirates reduced the profits of privateer companies, including slave ships. Similarly, in our contemporary world, pirates devastate governments and businesses through attacking websites, hacking banks, and calling for boycotts.
Interestingly, even though neoliberalism purports to lift trade barriers, the age of intellectual property protection has enacted many laws that punish people for attempting to access knowledge from an unauthorized avenue. Modern companies, similar to the privateer companies during the Golden Age of piracy, are increasingly becoming monopolies that control patents for innovations. Furthermore, corporations such as big pharmaceutical companies are involved in biopiracy, which is the act of extracting indigenous medical or science innovations without compensation. Piracy has become the contemporary moral response to these inequalities.
We can draw parallels between the internet and the high seas. The high seas were the arena for the Golden Age of piracy, but in our contemporary world the internet has created “nationless” pirates. Businesses are increasingly shifting their operations from brick-and-mortar buildings to virtual spaces. Some of these businesses have considerable advantages that have enabled them to create monopolies that offer commodities without competition. An example of this type of company is a record label. These businesses own all forms of artistic works and attempt to have exclusive rights to specific spaces of art performances to gain complete control of capital flow within the art industry. Additional examples include online retailers, movie streaming services, and book publishing industries. Pirate culture in these sectors has become a form of redistributing commodities that people can no longer afford. Scholars have pointed out that the core values of pirates were “collectivism, anti-authoritarianism, and egalitarianism.” It seems that the Golden Age of piracy was conceived as a socialist utopia where people distributed property equitably. Whether they achieved this goal is debatable. However, what is important is the notion that pirate culture in the contemporary world operates on the same principles.
Pirate culture in the contemporary world, like that of the Golden Age of piracy, is becoming more organized and highly coordinated. The internet allows pirates to create a sense of brotherhood. There are aspects of the pirate culture that are less known in scholarship communities because historians and cultural analysts are yet to reconcile their research with the idea that pirates create unique work culture, complete with language, music, rituals, and a sense of brotherhood. Pirate culture is organizing as a social order with rules of governance. The Disney World frenzy and the rise of the video games industry have broadened the platform for this culture to flourish.
 Harvey, “Neoliberalism as Creative Destruction.”
 Dawdy and Bonni, “Towards a General Theory of Piracy,” 675.
 Dawdy and Bonni, 667.
 Dawdy and Bonni, 680.
 Dawdy and Bonni, “Towards a General Theory of Piracy.”