Potential Tragedy

War will ensue in Manchester, England tomorrow night.

It’s a crusade more primitive than military battle. These men aren’t afforded the luxury of sophisticated firearms, technologically-advanced missles, nor tactile ground/air support. It’s even more primitive than sticks and stones (they aren’t afforded any of those either). The only weapons these men are afforded are the ones they are naturally endowed with, their fists and minds. And both men concentrate these natural endowments antithetically.

Eubank’s (darker-skin) approach to combat is quantitative punching; firing off as many shots as possible, as fast as possible, overwhelming his opponent as soon as possible.

The heavy-handed Groves (red-head) boxes with patience, capitalizing on openings, exposures, and missed shots with sniper-precision; largely courtesy of a heavy jab and devastating straight-right.

Beyond the stylistic contrast of this match, a central dynamic of it’s allure is an ugly one. These are dangerous men. Spanning throughout England, scattered throughout the sterile halls of hospitals and care-homes, are men with ventilation tubes affixed to their lungs, feeding tubes running down their throats. They communicate through a series of sighs and grunts, unable to visually nor cognitively perceive their loved ones ever again. These are the former adversaries of Chris Eubank Jr. and George Groves.

Groves understands the weight of this. Eubank doesn’t. Groves makes scarce mention of his incidences and when he does remorse sweeps across his face immediately. Eubank (and his dad) use Eubank’s previous discretions as fodder for promotion and fight advantage.

“The referee needs to protect Chris’ opponents!”‘, the father emphatically voices, hoping to cajole an early stoppage victory by burdening the referee with the fear of a late call compromising a fighter (and man) as a whole.

The blithe danger of these men creates a perverse narrative that shades the pageantry of the event. The spectacle less resembles competition more an ominous precursor of potential tragedy; an inevitable car accident or plane crash you wish you could tear your eyes away from but cannot bring yourself to do so.

I feared the comparison to war would be disrespectful to actual personnel, but upon further reflection the parallels are heightened, not diminished. Both men are entering a medium of legalized murder; not compelled by patriotism but bound by identity. Both men are wagering their health with the ominous fear of death, or worse, stirring in an eternal purgatory UNTIL death, for causes they both believe in. Adulation, immortality, and legacy. And with the same uncertainty, the same trepidation that I glance at a car-wreck with, I will also bare witness to a spectacle potentially as catastrophic.

Written February 16th, 2018.

Posted by dchappell, 0 comments

The Impoverished Prince

One of the most alluring aspects of boxing is it’s candid examination of humanity.

Seldom does life offer one a 36-minute window of opportunity to culminate their life’s work. But tomorrow Guillermo Rigondeaux receives that.

Born in Cuba, Rigondeaux learned boxing as a trade in a nation where the discipline is instructed under a severity comparable to their military. They train with specificity and strict regiment during the day and wander this streets as drunks by night. Contending this fate, Rigondeaux tried to defect while in Brazil competing in the 2007 Pan American games to seek refuge in America. Captured by Cuban officials, he was then deemed an enemy of Castro, deported back BY Castro, and locked in one of Castro’s mansions as punishment. Years later the Cuban cartel smuggled his from Havana to Miami.

Rigondeaux is an impoverished prince. He is a two-time Olympic gold-medalist, holds an amauter record of 463-12, and happens to be the most skilled boxer who has ever lived. Yet he’s treated as a disenfranchised immigrant who has been denied every opportunity at glory. Until tomorrow. Fate has afforded him a title-fight against one of the pound-for-pound champions of the world. With all the stipulations in place, if he loses he will essentially be blackballed from the sport.

Tomorrow Guillermo Rigondeaux will have the opportunity to manifest a lifetime’s worth of work into a win that will cement him as the best boxer in the world. Anything short will cost him his career. Boxing, the sport that takes just as much as it gives, will intimately capture the humanity of a man conditioned by trials and neglect as he attempts to achieve utter glory.

Written December 8th, 2017.

Posted by dchappell

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Canelo vs Khan; Reflections of Failure

Amir Khan’s arms flailed lifelessly as he collided into the canvas. The eyes of my friends darted to me, expecting another dramatized reaction that I was known for long ago. It was fitting that a response as animated as throwing a plate (my signature reaction) belonged to a spectacle as cartoonish as professional wrestling. But those days are retired far into my childhood, and a shallow sense of anger for my desired outcome not having been met was not what I experienced. My angst was real.

The idea of Khan’s defeat coming to him in such a graphic fashion was a fear that haunted me throughout the day. It intensified throughout the preliminary rounds of the match as I voiced my premonitions to the people surrounding me. “Danny, Khan is scoring more points.” “Canelo looks shaken.” “Khan’s speed is unmatched.” These were all phrases directed at me to ease some of the burdening anxiety that rested within. Such phrases felt like hollow attempts at trying to divert me from the hopeless situation that was going to follow. This offers insight as to why I was sent in a paroxysm of despair, grief, and fear at the sight of Khan’s demise. As his swollen eyes fixed directly above him while his trainers, promotors, and medical assistance crowded around, my eyes were also stared in a dazed state at something beyond me; the cruel nature of reality.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s chiseled body dwarfed the UK native’s physique of lean muscle. He resides two weight classes above the much smaller challenger, as the welterweight divisions limits had to be augmented for Khan to even be sanctioned to fight. Canelo’s technique is virtually flawless and his 46 win record holds only one blemish (and to the best boxer in the sport). Meanwhile Amir Khan has been clobbered into oblivion countless times, and by fighters a lot less gifted than his most recent opponent. The fighter infamous for his reckless style and venerability to knock-outs faced the fighter who best capitalizes of recklessness and is notorious for knocking opponents out. This was far from a mere bout of pugilism, but rather a meditation on life. Amir Khan symbolized a contention of circumstance and an appeal to fate.

I opened up a blank word document on a drizzly November night and began to pen my personal essay to one of the most prestigious of academic institutions in the world; the University of California, Berkeley. Throughout two years prior, friends and family would offer a slight cringe when I explained my plans of obtaining my undergraduate degree through them. “I mean, you’re a really good student, Daniel. But Berkeley? Are you sure? Do you have a backup plan?” “I mean, you’re my son. You’re incredibly intelligent. But they are really hard to get into. Really hard.” These responses were indicative of my chances of acceptance, however pessimism was never my strong suit. If anything, the mere discussion of my acceptance to Berkeley breathed hope into my mind and heart.

At an early juncture of my high-school career, I held a weighted GPA of 1.5. Although I was able to perform decently moving forward, my introduction into college was rough to say the least. I continued a streak of failing grades throughout my first Psychology class before the professor seated me in her office and explained to me just how one is supposed to study. The idea that test-taking was a product of understanding material and not measuring answers, negotiating truths, and comparing options was foreign to me. I was able to salvage not just the semester, but also my college career, by taking her teachings to heart moving forward. I performed incredibly throughout the next few years, obtaining perfect and near-perfect grades throughout each semester that followed.

In a 2012 match, Amir Khan faced Danny Garcia for the championship of the 147lb division. They began the opening round exchanging a flurry of punches before Khan was stunned by an uppercut; his lanky arms flailing around as he crumbled to the mat. The audience watched on in slack-jawed disbelief as he answered the referee’s ten count, only to begin the second round on wobbly legs. He stumbled away from his opponent, gaining all the awareness he could before squaring up once again. Khan stood there protecting himself from the onslaught of close-quarters exchanges until he was well enough to offer reciprocity. He was knocked out once again. Inexplicably, Khan made it to his knees before the ten count. He continued toward Garcia, clearly disoriented. He utilized the speed that he was known for as he rejecting the notion of an inevitable defeat. “THIS FIGHT IS OVER, KHAN DOESN’T SEEM TO HAVE THE LEGS!” An announcer screams. “But he’s got the heart. He’s got the heart,” another announcer quietly chimed in. Khan offered all that he physically could before he was slayed.

Both Amir Khan and I fall victim to the same tragic downfall. Our ability to achieve the excellence we strive to is a product of our relentless determination, however our actual achievability is hobbled by the shortcomings of our characters. As good of a student as I have become, I still do not operate on the level necessary for UC Berkeley. As motivated as Khan may be, his susceptibility to knock-outs is very much real. Year by year it proves to be central to his identity as a boxer and it is starting to seem as if it is a flaw of his inherent physiology as opposed to skill. It is the sole flaw that continues to compromise his career and threaten his legacy. As transformative as the previous years have been for the two of us, we did not grow enough in the time available to triumph over adversity and achieve our goals.

I sat in silence as I read the rejection letter. I was met with a slight sense of disappointment. The only reason this defeat was not half as crushing as I originally anticipated it would be was because life slowly eased me into the cruel nature of the situation. Month by month following the submission of my application, my hope waned in face of reality. The reality of acceptance statistics, transgressions in my transcripts, and the contrast in personality between current Berkeley students and myself. The most painful aspect of the situation occurred an hour after I read the letter. While at a family dinner for my sister’s birthday, my cousin turned to me in front of 12 other people, and muttered those six awful words, “Hey did you get into Berkeley?” I betrayed my virtue of honesty as I explained to him that I had yet to hear back. My girlfriend was one of the two people who knew the truth. Seated next to me, her hand slowly descended to my back for comfort as she offered a smile of sympathy. The very smile caused me more pain than the rejection letter itself. She was one of the many people who believed in me whom I had let down. I imagine this is how Khan felt as his trainer held him in his arms after Khan’s loss.

During those six months at which he started training and I awaited the acceptance decision, Khan offered me hope. And after I had lost my battle, I clung on to the hope that he would win his. I wanted him to win because it would have conveyed the idea that one can transcend circumstance and that reality is a mere illusion (and often times an uncompromising one). The implication of his defeat represented more than just another match in the loss column. It implies the notion that in some situations defeat is imminent. It implies that passion does not necessitate talent and desire does not necessitate obtainment. Among all else, it encourages my haunting fear that the girl my heart has swollen passionately for will most likely not be mine forever, and forces me to face the stark possibility that one day her embrace will belong to another man.

We are two dreamers; fantasists of out crafts. Our childhood whimsy afforded us the naïve hope that our passion was enough to manifest our ambitions into reality. But as Khan has his jaw realigned and I complete my transfer forms to UC Davis, we realize we were very, very wrong.

Written May 9th, 2016.

Posted by dchappell

Should We Kill The Rodef? A Logistical Examination

Unarguably the most controversial teaching of Judaism follows on page 73 of the Babylonian Talmud: “And these are the ones whom one must save even with their lives [i.e., killing the wrongdoer]: one who pursues his fellow to kill him [rodef achar chavero le-horgo], and after a male or a bethrothed maiden [to rape them]; but one who pursues an animal, or desecrates the Sabbath, or commits idolatry are not saved with their lives.” Originating from a text composed somewhere between the 3rd and 5th century, today the concept of the Rodef more simply explains that if a person is to pursue another with the intent of killing them, they are billed a Rodef. When one is aware of a Rodef, one bears the responsibility of killing this person if all other means of suppressing them prove ineffective. Because this concept is so abstract and deviates so greatly from the largely passive Jewish nature, many make the mistake of dismissing it as an idea that has no real world bearing. This is a terrible mistake since over the past two decades alone, the concept of the Rodef has resulted in various political and religious figures around the world being accused of blasphemous, treacherous, and homicidal behavior earning them this label. In a few publicized cases, contracted killings have taken place in order to exterminate the Rodef. In order to test the virtuousness of this concept, we must first examine the argument in logical form. First let us assume you recognize a Rodef. You decide to murder them (P). If you murder the Rodef, then you violate Utilitarian ethics (Q). You murdered the Rodef (P) therefore you violated Utilitarian ethics (Q).

In order to continue evaluating this concept to identify its ethical validity, it is imperative that we explain the terms germane to our argument. A conditional argument in Philosophy takes the form of an “if… then” statement. It is composed of two pieces, an antecedent and a consequent. The antecedent is generally followed by the “if” whereas the consequent is followed by the “then.” For example, “IF you murder the Rodef, THEN you violate Utilitarian ethics.” I must also explain the concept of the “negation.” Essentially, a negation falsifies a given proposal (which is symbolized using: ~). It is also of great value to the paper to understand what a disjunction is. A disjunction is determined by an “or” (‘V’ in logic). It is highly important to understand that a disjunction can solely be accepted as truthful only if one of the other parts of the disjunction is true as well. Lastly, the Principle of Sufficient Reason states that “In seeking to understand a point of view whereby we seek to understand the view in its strongest, most persuasive form before subjecting the view to evaluation.”

In order to maintain my integrity as a philosopher, I must effectively apply The Principle of Sufficient Reason to all aspects of the argument. In order to do that, I shall start by examining the negation of the consequent. If you murder the Rodef (P), then you do not violate Utilitarian ethics (~Q). And to further weigh out the ethical considerations of this concept, we must begin by understanding the ethical model that is being applied. Utilitarian ethics are largely regarded as a very stable and sufficient means of identifying the ethical considerations of any one act or multiple actions based off how much happiness or unhappiness it achieves. This is because Utilitarianism does not aim to dictate behavior through established dogmas or principles that are left unexplained or unjustified, but rather focuses on making ethical judgements based on the net result of any occurrence. When carefully examining the original text, one can come to the realization that the intended purpose of the passage was to prevent rape, murder, the slaughtering of animals and to maintain respect for both God and the Jewish tradition. Saving both innocent by-standards from murder and their families and friends from the agony and despair of losing a loved one would qualify as altruistic behavior, as well as attempting to prevent the murder of animals and the raping of women and children. And the aspect of the text that pertains to the Rodef applying to those who desecrate the Sabbath and commits idolatry could very well be in order to keep one skeptic from causing other believers a separation from God and the Jewish faith. In this instance, the concept of the Rodef would be justified under the Utilitarian ethical model.

Because Utilitarianism judges the ethics of an action based off the overall outcome, it makes it challenging to factor in the means of which the outcome was achieved. But one must also factor in the consequences of the means in spite of the overall outcome. If the original text was purposed at preventing murder (amongst other atrocities) and the modern interpretation largely focuses on a Rodef being someone who pursues another with the intent of murder (disregarding animal killing, rape, idolatry and disrespect of the Sabbath), then is it not hypocritical, contradictory, and counter-productive to prevent murder with murder? Somebody pursuing another with the intent of killing them would be a Rodef. But by definition, the person who pursues this person is too a Rodef. And so is the person who pursues him. A doctrine originally brought into creation to prevent killing is going to result in a much larger number of deaths solely because the concept self-perpetuates. In theory, this could take generally peaceful societies and devolve them into lands of savagery, barbarianism and violence. And if the net result is a largely maximized number of causalities and an endless cycle of murder, death, and lawlessness then the concept of the Rodef would fail to be supported by Utilitarian ethics.

Although the Rodef may have been an idea that was composed to prevent daily monstrosities, the true ethical judgement lies in whether or not the concept serves as something that prevents murders versus an idea that perpetuates them. If a society were to live under this concept, then the idea behind the Rodef could possibly be effective at preventing murders, but once one murder is committed then a cycle of murder is begun that very well could wipe out the population of that society. The resulting outcome is not one that maximizes happiness or well-being, but would rather be that of mass-murder. Therefore, the Rodef is unethical under Utilitarian ethics. In the words of Leon Trotsky, “The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.”

Posted by dchappell