I'm seeing my professor on Tuesday at 15 past 11 and I wish there were some way I could delay this meeting, because I fear that she'd laugh me out of her office if I told her the crap ideas that are swimming around in my head right now that are so vague as to be absolutely useless.
First, my Satanic Verses/free speech/Habermas thing - I've made no progress on this. I still don't know what the angle should be. I'm now a little bit hesitant to do a free speech essay because I think I might touch a bit on that for the virtual child pornography one I'm doing for Theory of Human Rights Law (though I doubt I would argue for it on the basis of marketplace of ideas; it isn't very convincing to me); but I really, really want to talk about the Satanic Verses. The problem is that I really don't want to deal with the Islam issue and neither do I want to delve into Islamic legal/otherwise philosophy, for the simple reason that it's way too complicated. The obvious problem with my reluctance to address the obvious elephant in the room - the politics of extreme Islamism - is that it forms a large part of the controversy, the most prominent being the ridiculous fatwa. The angle that I would take would focus on the tension inherent in a pluralistic society when a writer's exercise of his freedom of expression that led to a book like the Satanic Verses ends up causing serious offence to a sizeable portion of the said society's population, which even took violent forms (e.g. bombing of bookstores in London). The story makes sense so far; where it stops dead in its tracks is the part where it tries to weave the philosophy into the narrative. How does Habermas' discourse theory accommodate artistic speech and expression? How does it accommodate religious sensibilities, if at all? Kant did also say something about free speech - that it is the free use of reason that respects law and order, or something like that. What happens when the free use of reason creates chaos? Is the speaker then stripped of his right to speak even if his speech is reasoned and the opposing viewpoint isn't necessarily so? Anyway, I am still confused about this; hopefully my professor helps me out a bit here.
Second, an idea popped into my head during the seminar last Thursday. We were discussing Antonio Negri (read the chapter; didn't understand shit) and how he does not articulate a normative framework for his theory of constituent power (that it resists being formally institutionalised and constitutionalised; that constitutionalism is antithetical to constituent power because its restlessness is endless and therefore cannot be frozen into a specific moment in time; and, I don't know, something or other); rather, he asserts that constituent power, as he articulated it, is worth reaffirming because it's a force, not that it's morally right. Going by this interpretation, Negri would probably support Bane's revolution in The Dark Knight Rises because it was the "democratic force of revolutionary innovations" (no one said anything about democracy being immune to manipulations by people with hidden agendas) rising up against constituted power - the structural institutions in place (prisons being a good example of this) and symbols of entrenched political and economic models, such as the stock exchange; and Bane's speech - "We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you... the people. Gotham is yours!" In class, someone asked whether Negri would say that the riots in Britain were an example of constituent power in action, and the answer was yes, and that he would probably approve of it. Therein lies the absence of a normative foundation for his theory, which is reminiscent of Nietzsche's critique of Kantian morality - that morality is to be resisted because it is a structure that holds us down and prevents us from flourishing. The idea, then, is about the necessity of a normative framework in legal and political philosophy and, to a lesser extent, the necessary connection between law and morality. In other words, it's about why morality is important and why Nietzsche was wrong about how morality is an oppressive structure that holds us down; rather, I think it is an important element that allows human beings the opportunity to flourish because it guides behaviour and substantiates norms, and in so doing, gives rise to laws and rights that - to put it roughly and loosely - respect the autonomy of the person. I'm thinking of linking this to the prohibition on torture but I'm not sure it would work; I'm thinking that the prohibition necessarily has to be founded on some sort of normative framework (Kant's instruction to treat people as ends, not as means) but this seems to be pointing out the obvious, which is clearly banal.
Speaking of torture, third - the prohibition on torture, Kant's conception of human dignity, the fact that the right not to be tortured is one of the two absolute rights (the other being the right not to be subjected to slavery) and one of the two jus cogens norms of international law (slavery being the other), which means...dignity is the foundation of human rights? This was the question that Jeremy Waldron explored when he gave a lecture at UCL, which I didn't fully follow; but at least I will have some material to start with. It's probably too big a topic though.
I'm so tired from thinking about this that I don't want to talk about it anymore.
I had a really busy Thursday to Saturday. On Thursday, I went for a farewell dinner at a Thai restaurant for a Thai classmate who has to interrupt her studies halfway due to health reasons; she's going back to Thailand next week or so for medical treatment. I was quite shocked when I heard about it because I had no idea, and I was really sad to hear that she was leaving because she's one of the most fun people that I've met in London. I love bitching with her about one of our professors and the course that we have in common which I hate (won't say what it is) and partying with her last term was super fun too. I remember how, during one of the Friday socials at this crappy bar/club the Dolphin (which turned out to be fun but the place was still crappy), she commented to me that I was only Asian who attended such parties, which was so true.
There were about 35 people at the dinner - that's how well-liked she is. She ordered stuff for everyone to share (mostly meat so I didn't eat much, but I wasn't really bothered by it) and pretty much behaved like she owned the restaurant, which was great. I was at a table with Vlada, this German guy Julian, a couple of other classmates that I had classes with last term whom I didn't know very well, and later this Brazilian guy, who commented that I was quiet that day. And I was, because I got pretty tired after a while. It was after my longest day in school - 11 am Jurisprudence class (always mentally draining), followed by 2 pm Terrorism class, which ended at 4. I decided against going back to put my things because I was too lazy to figure out how to go to the restaurant so I waited around school till 6 when everyone gathered at the Ground floor of New Academic Building to go to the restaurant together.
It was a good night despite me having massive indigestion when I got back. Ah well.
I watched Cloud Atlas with Vlada, Julian and Sophia (Chinese Australian girl) on Friday. It was such a pretentious mess that I am quite annoyed that I paid £14.50 for it. I don't want to go into details because it's not worth the effort, but suffice it to say that I found the entire Somni~451 (omg, Ray Bradbury reference, how clever - not) storyline utterly trite and hackneyed. It didn't even make sense why Korea became like that. The whole thing was rather incoherent and it seemed to have made a mess of the original novel, which seemed to be way better structured when I read the synopsis on Wikipedia. The only good thing about the movie was finding out the outrageous roles that the actors took on which I didn't even realise until the credits, because the make-up was that good. Jim Sturgess played an American lawyer and the Korean insurgent in the dystopia segment, which blew my mind because I thought the Korean guy was a real Korean guy and not a white guy being made to look like a Korean (but that also explains why he looked so weird). That said, it was fucking hilarious when Jim's American lawyer's wife was revealed to be the Korean actress (real Korean) who played Somni~451, made up to look like a white woman, but failing so miserably because she looked so ridiculous. I would recommend this film just for the epicness of this make-up gimmick, but that's about it...oh, and the hotness that is Ben Whishaw, and Ben Whishaw in bed with another man. And Jim Sturgess is pretty hot, too.
I had dinner at Vlada's hall before that because I wanted to see what hall food tasted like. I was surprised that it didn't totally suck and that it was pretty good; definitely better than the shit that is served in school for sure. I was late to meet him after being delayed during my shopping expedition (mission was to buy shoes for Monday's LLM dinner; ended up buying two extra dresses and left myself no time to buy shoes), so we were late to go to the cinema. The worst part was, there was some road closure at Piccadilly Circus and therfore a massive traffic jam. As a result, he made me get off the bus just before Piccaddilly Circus and made me walk in my high heels to the theatre - in fucking MAYFAIR. It was 20 minutes to walk but I think we got there in 15 minutes; that was how fast I had to walk. I was dying when I got to the theatre - sweating like crazy (yes, the physical exertion actually produced perspiration despite the 5 degrees weather), half dead, feet hurting like hell. That was probably why I nearly fell asleep during the movie at one point; I was SO tired. It was also insane that there was traffic jam when I took the bus back - at 11.20 p.m. ELEVEN TWENTY PM. AT NIGHT. TRAFFIC JAM AT NIGHT. Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square area is just an utter disaster on Friday night.
On Saturday, I bought my shoes in the morning, then came back and did nothing until dinner at this Vietnamese restaurant near where I live at 6.15 with Heike, Cordelia, Cordelia's awesome friend from Switzerland, and Julian. Heike lives in the same place as me so we walked there together and ended up waiting for the rest of them for like, 45 minutes to an hour. They were severely delayed because some tube/train lines were closed and they had to take some replacement bus and the traffic was horrendous. London, oh London, sometimes you're such a pain in the ass; but I still love you anyway.
We wanted to go to this cocktail bar 2 minutes away from my hall called Nightjar, but it was bloody fully booked until 11.30 pm - and we were there at 7.50 or something like that. Julian then brought us to this other place nearby- Whistling Shop - which turned out to be SUPER awesome. The gimmick was that the cocktails were based on recipes from the Victorian era; no idea if that was actually the case, but I didn't really care because my drinks were great. The first one was a bit too alcoholic for me, but the subsequent one was delicious. It was really sweet with some honey and some sage and it was just fantastic. I had two of it. I had 3 cocktails in total and I felt completely fine, though I suspect it was because I had those three drinks over 6 hours (8-ish to about 2 am when the bar closed) with quite a bit of water in between. Imagine my surprise when Cordelia told me over Whatsapp a few hours ago that she was hungover from the cocktails and she only had a grand total of one and a half drinks! So cute.
Cordelia's friend was really cool. She was so bubbly and funny and outgoing and I really liked her. It's too bad she isn't in the course and that she was just visiting for the weekend. She bought me and Julian drinks for like, no reason, except that she's really nice, so that was nice too.
This entry has taken way longer than I had intended and it's late, so I'm going to stop writing now and go to bed.