Sunday, December 03, 2017

Ideals In Difficult Times

"All these questions remain obscure and difficult and we must neither conceal them from ourselves nor, for a moment, imagine ourselves to have mastered them. It is a question of knowing how to transform and improve the law, and of knowing if this improvement is possible within an historical space which takes place between the Law of an unconditional hospitality, offered a priori to every other, to all newcomers, whoever they may be, and the conditional laws of a right to hospitality, without which The unconditional Law of hospitality would be in danger of remaining a pious and irresponsible desire, without form and without potency, and of even being perverted at any moment.
"Experience and experimentation thus." 
-- Jacques Derrida from On Cosmopolitanism
Derrida's deconstruction broke down the authority of ideas and tradition. The unconditional law, in this case the law of hospitality, can no longer be taken as unchallengeable and authoritative as if it were a transcendent Truth; it is simply something we have created. However, it is something that we have created and sustained. It is part of our tradition and is deeply rooted. It is a positive tradition that we see value in, believe in and wish to carry forward. This does not mean that it is practical or even sustainable in reality. Since it is our creation, we need to remember that their is no guarantee that it is practical, realistic or sustainable. We must 'experiment and experience thus' to see how practical, realistic and sustainable it is "within an historical space." All of our ideals, our core values, are traditions and ideas and could be put in the place that hospitality is put in here; they can be seen as unconditional laws.
I would add that it is reckless and foolish in difficult times to cling to and insists on the unconditional law, the ideal, as if it can save us and fix our problems. When the ideals are tested, it is time to-- among other things-- reassess how they have been implemented and how that contributed to creating the present situation that is testing them. This may change the ideal by reinterpreting it and strengthening or weakening it. It will definitely change how it is implemented. But these should happen through assessment of the historical situation, not through a bind and stubborn insistence on the absolute value and authority of the ideal. It must be practical but shaped by the ideal. For it to be radically idealistic in the face of practical and historical problems is dangerous and irresponsible. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Danger of Forgetting Context and History: The Polarizing Affect of Tweets and Memes

Memes and tweets are some of the worst when it comes to disregarding context and history. Without context and history there is no meaning and significance; even facts have no meaning without context and history. The more complex a problem, the more the context and the history need to be examined to find not only a solution but the meaning and significance of the problem itself.

But we address important issues in tweets and memes (and even sarcastic remarks made by comedians, which are often considered wisdom these days).

Memes and tweets by their nature avoid context and history. (Or they imply one that is unconsciously assumed by some but is not necessarily shared by others. The difference in they way that these different people understand the meme or tweet is never really examined seriously, and the difference goes unexplained aside from accusations of irrationality or lies which just deepen divisions amd differences.) Persuasion or debate by Tweet and Meme is by and large appealing to emotion and superficiality. They make us slaves to our emotions and knee-jerk reactions. As long as we try to carry out discussions in this environment, nothing will get done except maybe the further polarization of society.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Love Is the Origin of Hate, Not Hate

The idea that 'hate breeds hate' is a superficial meaningless slogan that covers up much more than it expresses. Hate comes not from hate but from love. We love something and want to be with it or near it, and we hate what keeps us from it. We love something, and we want others to love it as well; we hate when they deny it. We love something and fear for its safety, and we hate what threatens it.

An emotion as strong as hate, in my opinion, could only come from a stronger emotion: love. This may only make sense to me because I refuse to believe that we are so perverse that we hate with more intensity than we can love, or that we hate in order to love. But who dares to say that we can hate more than we love and that we hate for the sake of hate or that we hate in order to love? I guess those that see humanity as a vile at its core and a despicable thing, or those that choose to see only the negative in those that hate, would disagree. 

And if they hate people or hate people that hate, what do I propose that they love? What love is the origin of that hate? They love the abstract ideal of what people are supposed to be and not what they actually are. They love an abstract ideal that can never be realized, and they hate what falls short of their ideal or shows that it is unrealistic.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

From Blaming to Conspiracies

Blaming usually doesn't fix anything, well aside from making those laying blame feel better.

This is especially the case when the original problem is the result of an incongruence between ideas and things. In other words, when it is the result of the map not lining up well with the terrain when the map is mistaken for the terrain. Here blame uses individuals as a scapegoats while protecting a system of thought and ideals that needs to be revised.

When the need for the revision of a system is continuously ignored, the blind spots that come with the system get larger. Larger blind spots that go unexamined lead to the need for more unfounded blame to be assigned, more scapegoating.

At a certain point, conspiracy theories become very attractive and useful. They create a whole system of power and collusion that try to blame, explain and scapegoat. All of this just to avoid an honest evaluation and revision of a certain system of thought and ideals.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Last Ditch Positivity of Willing Nothingness

"man would much rather will nothingness than not will..."

Nietzsche from The Genealogy of Morals

When we feel we don't have the power to will anything positive; when we have no values or criteria with which to choose what to will; when we are overwhelmed by the weight of history; when we are over-burdened by flippant criticism; when our ideals and goals are empty and contextless abstractions (which threaten to empty each of us and strip each of us of our context, and thus of our own identity and meaning); when we see ourselves as mere cogs in a machine that in the end will just crush us one way or another, sooner or later; when we have nothing to will and no motivation will to it; when we have nothing to aspire to... we will nothingness.

But this is not done out of despair; it is done to escape despair. We will the mindless, superficial and easy because despite having no motivation to will and no reason to will and nothing to will for, we need to will to be. (I think therefore I am? No, I will, therefore I am.)

Much of what is seen as worthwhile is so big it is beyond our ability as individuals to will it in any meaningful way; it will be with or without us. Willing against it is futile; our will, will never win.

The way out is to find something positive to will, but everything is so divided and negative or ethereal... no worse yet: insubstantial. The positive is empty and impersonal; it is abstract and detached. It is out of context while we are still shaped by context. Ideals that are so vacuous, hollow, mist-ified (but not at all mystical), so detached from our everyday life and remote from our lived and felt tradition that thought we may find them attractive, we do not find them grounding or sustainable. We may like them, but we don’t feel secure living by them let alone suffering for them.

But we need to will… So, we will addiction; we will distraction; we will ourselves on to a treadmill and pretend we are moving; we will conflict without ends or a goal; we will self-defeat: we will nothingness. But most importantly, we will. And so we stay; we remain; we tarry on; we linger....

It is like the Nine Inch Nails song says, "I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel." If all else fails, through pain we might know we can still feel.

We will nothingness to keep from passively passing into nothingness. (What? ‘Do not go gently’?) Even if what we will is negative and destructive, at least we are willing. And when we will, we are, and we are struggling to remain at least a bit longer. And the struggle is worth the possibility of bringing on the inevitable end sooner. Why? Because it is better to will a struggle and hasten then end than to remain only passively and end anyway. It is better to will nothingness than to not will at all.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

From Valuing to Monetized (From Poets to the Sonnetized)

"... man designated himself as the being who measures values, who values and measures, as the ‘calculating animal as such’."
-- Nietzsche from Genealogy of Morals

If humans can be called the value creating animal, then we limit our humanity when we limit the ways by which we define and assign value. Limiting value to quantification limits our humanity to numbers. When those numbers become more and more often attached to money, we more and more become monetary animals. (Humanity is monetizing.)

It could be said of Heidegger's later philosophy that he sees man as the poetic animal. What happens when values become monetized is like what would happen if we said to a follower of Heidegger's later thought that poetry is limited to sonnet writing. Humans become the sonnet writing animal. (Humanity is sonnetizing.) It is an absurd limit.

Yet, we so often go along with the quantification and monetization of everything around us, and of ourselves, without taking more than a passing notice of it, and rarely ever do we deeply consider what it means or does to us. The less we think over this monetization of everything, the more we shift from being a monetary animal to a monetized animal.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The Only Way Forward May Be A Few Steps Back

Before the gun control debate goes any deeper into a Republican vs. Democrat hate-fest, let's not forget that the Democrats had control of the House, Senate and White House for the first two years of Obama's presidency. During that time they couldn't pass (and I don't think they even voted on) what many would call 'common sense' gun control like closing the gun show loophole and reinstating the assault weapon ban.

I say this not to defend Republicans or to attack Democrats but to point out the possibility that we can't even agree on what common sense means. Things keep on being called common sense (which is really just a way of saying that they are obvious or agreeable to most people), yet they can't be agreed upon or put into action. We have no common ground to start from, and therefore no common sense. There is no common sense that is common to the different sides. Most often, what we call 'common sense' is merely what the people who agree with us can agree on.

Yes, the NRA plays a role in things not getting passed, but at least part of the reason they have such power is that we don't go beyond our own groups 'common sense' which gives more power to sound bites, memes and emotional appeals. When facts are used, there is no common agreement on what makes up a valid fact, so it is easy to tear apart facts as nothing but propaganda or misinformation.

Instead of trying to find common ground, and through that a common sense that is shared, we argue with facts that are seen as valid by only one side; memes and sound bites that are based on assumptions and emotions that are not held in common; and blatant emotional appeals that lose their force as soon as the latest tragedy falls into the background. All of these things only work to divide. This division makes finding a common solution harder and leaves us more vulnerable to getting manipulated into being upset while we sit and get nothing substantial done.

Mass shootings are a real problem just like racism, police shootings, health care and other big issues that America is struggling with. Day after day, it seems less likely to me that these can be dealt directly because there is no common ground and therefore no common sense, on which to rely. In the absence of common ground and real common sense, we resort to methods that divide and push any solution further and further away.

It is way past time to step back from the superficiality of the current discourse (and the 'common sense' that is only shared by those that already agree with us) and dig into deep conversations that won't lead to action or even agreement on the issues, but could lead to understanding on where common ground can be found and how a real common sense can be roughly defined.