Saturday, October 26, 2013

nominal religious affiliation is to warmaking as quarterback hair color is to quarterbacking

A Dawkins-loving atheist says this or that religion, or all religions, i.e., the other team, is responsible for warmaking and savagery. The same atheist supports atheist drone killers and the mechanisms that funnel wealth and prestige, always with force, always, to the ones with their hands on the levers. He makes fun of the pope's silly hat and the transparently pulled-out-of-human-asses transcendence-based magic rituals of organized religion, then with no sense of irony watches an academic receiving a prize on a stage or some silly hat wearing 22 year-olds getting their rolled-up papers formally granting them magic new powers in relation to other humans. And the dean, or the President, or the by-the-power-vested-in-me dude by whatever name, appears to them, amazingly, as something other than a priest.

A Christian responds that Hitler was unilaterally responsible for 20 million deaths, conveniently, you might say religiously, cleansing of all responsibility and freeing from attributions of causality those millions of nominally Christian Germans who held the rifles and ran the trains and supported the supposedly evilest guy ever as long as they could find employment and/or as long as the evil one gave them outlets for their hate and/or as long as they were winning on the battlefield. So chalk up 20 million murders to the atheist team. Those atheist bastards.

But Hitler was raised Christian, says the atheist team, getting sucked into gladly engaging in a stupid fucking discussion...

if I may interrupt, dammit, the humans have been organizedly killing each other for as long as they've deserved to be called human and they've been giving their reasons all sorts of names, fighting under all sorts of banners and flags, fighting for various tribes and ethnicities and nations, sacrificing to all sorts of gods, going to differently shaped churches and now I don't really think it matters what name you give your sociopathy, it's pretty clear that Christianity and Islam and Dawkinsian atheism and Obamaism and so on are mostly just along for the ride, like Peyton Manning's hair.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

the paradox of cool

Seth Stevenson at Slate says that tech geeks can't be cool because cool by definition can't include social media neediness, concern about image, and plugged-in-ness. Cool is not preening. Cool is indifference (says he):
When marketing company “coolhunters” go a-hunting for cool, are they in search of the kind of people who engage with popular culture and rave about new mass-market products? Of course not. They look for the truly cool kids with their own internal cool compasses—people wholly indifferent to what everyone else is doing.
There's something to that but he missed an extremely important element. Let me fix it: "They look for...people who give the appearance of being wholly indifferent to what everyone else is doing while actually being particularly well tuned-in to it."

Art and fashion (and less obviously and directly and to varyingly lesser extents, pretty much every intellectual endeavor) are driven by desired transcendence, often by fear of suffocating death by banality or the horror at one's similarity to the conformist dolts despised by the observer within and reactive attempts at escape. But not only that. They are driven in every case by a desire to, finally, present their work to someone for approval. You cannot have art without exhibition(s). (And even the most self-assured artist has an internalized other watching. If that other is not demanding, the art will suffer.)

The kid who is wholly indifferent doesn't exist but the closest thing is the one picking her nose in the corner. She's examining a dead butterfly, scratching her ass, wearing clothes that don't fit and clash badly.
Stevenson disapproves an understanding of cool that amounts to seeking and winning the approval of pop culture, but this is what it means. His version is a paradox.

Practically all teenagers are humiliated* ritually and daily by authoritarian figures and the appeal of cool is that it seems to offer an alternative. "You don't have to be what they want you to be!" The teenagers, on the other hand, who are routinely applauded by adults for their future human capital development, who are on the path to inner circle tribal membership, often come to peace with their humiliation, too doped up on the compensatory ego happy of back pats and straight As to ask "why the fuck has my entire life been arranged for me from the alarm bell to the opening bell to the closing bell to the dinner bell?" Cool, or pop culture approval, sets itself up against this conformity by offering a conformity presented as non-conformity. It's non-conformist by default in the way Democrats end up playing the pacifists, reality be damned. Cool is opium for the rejects.   

Not coincidentally for the sellers of cool, it can be bought. Being pounded on as future human capital takes its toll and the escape offers molded plastic hope. Schools mold perfect consumers (or herd them to the mall, you might say) as a side effect of their attempt to mold perfect human capital.

*if that's too strong for you, feel free to insert a watered down (and probably miguided!) version of same   

Saturday, October 12, 2013

distinctions, not dualism

I forget how it came up but we were talking about humans and animals. I said "you know humans are animals, right?" She said "yes." They almost always admit it.

"But I mean they're 100% animals. There's nothing non-animal about them at all."

"Hmmm." She wasn't quite buying it. She drew a Venn diagram with "animals" on one side and "humans" on the other, with the overlap of circles indicating commonality.

"So humans are part animal, part...what?," I pressed. "Do you eat, shit, piss? That came out wrong. But these things are not only what you have in common with animals. You are an animal. No offense."

"Some taken. Ummm, but humans use language, animals don't."

"But you said humans are animals and we're humans and we're talking right now. So some animals can talk."
Dualisms work by drawing a line around "this" by narrating "what this is not." "What this is not" is equivalent to "that" and "that" is what is outside. But it's also possible to see this and that alongside each other, incorporated in a greater THIS. THIS makes this and that, first and foremost, the same, and only secondarily, different. THIS is the frame, and without it there can only be incoherent dualism. A problem is that the new THIS (and yes, getting somewhat Hegelian here though I haven't read him) is itself sensible only if defined against another that. And so non-Being becomes the ultimate that but without a bigger THIS and we're left with dualism. I'd like to think this is a merely philosophical problem. Referring to Being as world, as opposed to "the world," is my attempt to bring us back inside as much as that's possible in this fantastical narrative world. Non-world? Absurd of course. Moving on.

My friend above was trying to extract humans from animalhood, to place humans outside that category. Humans as transcendent. Transcendent, shitting world, perhaps. She's working with an all-too convenient, self-flattering dualism. There is no THIS in her picture. It fades away as the transcendent inside makes its case for eternal repetition. This, right here, will repeat forever. Is it bad that the humans will some day die off? Only if you're a human, only if you're inside. Bad is non-repetition forever. It is the foundation of ethics. Good is me repeating, bad is the opposite. (God, how I hate my Prussian philosopher God tones. Reader, apologies. Philosophy is an ego/superego disease and I'm particularly bad at masking that.)
Japanese kids are racist by age 4 or 5. The operative dualism is nihonjin (Japan person; pronounced knee-hone-gene) versus gaijin (outside person; pronounced guy-gene). Any distinction between gaijin types (American versus Chinese) or particular gaijins (the tall skinny shy gaijin versus the short stocky gregarious one) are secondary to the nihonjin/gaijin distinction -- they take place within the category gaijin. There is an obvious bigger category, a THIS, but it's inoperative here. The category "human" does not frame the gaijin/nihonjin distinction at all. Its absence is required for the distinction to persist. A nihonjin may accept that Americans are humans, as my nihonjin friend above accepted that humans are animals, but they will not account for it, hold it up against older beliefs and let them go extinct. It's a concession on a par with an Obamaphile allowing for Obaman imperfection. It's apologetics. It's concession for the sake of repetition, concession as a defense. Nothing to see here. Moving along.
Above friend, who is also a student, client, and boss (insofaras she pays me directly), got in the last word. "You think you're right and everyone else is wrong." To have an opinion is to make oneself a this, i.e., the good side of the dualism. Yes, I too am human, among them I criticize so harshly, using the third person as if they're out there. 負けた! I lose! (You win.)      

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

always in the dark

I'm walking around in the dark bumping into things, some sharp, some feathery...bah, already off track. I? "I" is a label for a remarkably complex system of systems, and no one knows what it is. But in defense of not knowing what "I" is, no one knows what anything is. Freud caricatured these systems as id, ego, and superego. Moving beyond that to things Freud didn't say, only the first of those also applies to non-human animals or to anything that happened before the appearance of human language.

The ego and the superego -- again, not what Freud said about them, just using his outline -- co-evolved with language. You could call them products of language or, simply, perhaps, language.

The ego is the product of the superego. The superego is the parent, the ego the child. The ego is a product of manipulation. The superego is parasitical. The child does as commanded, by language, and the parent gets what it wants. Power gets what it wants, in this case, by placing itself inside the host. The child's body does as the superego says, hence the term parasite.

The one that obeys survives. Girls are better at language acquisition. Coincidence? Maybe. Just speculating, but it would make sense.

Back to the first sentence...

The system of systems I call "I" is randomly colliding into other systems in the dark, formulating narratives as to what is what and what have you. Science is a system of the type we call method that helps us recognize patterns of colliding systems to which we are proximate, of which we are one, without ever understanding anything more. Every time pattern X, Y happens, but what is Y? "I" will never know.