December 10, 2005
The truest and deepest cleft in our society must be between those who notice -- and smell something’s too convenient, too suspiciously tidy -- when we see only evidence that makes us feel superior... versus those who never catch or notice this irony. That the universe seems always to confirm just what we want it to. People on one side of this psychological divide are able to say the words that underlie all of science and democracy, as well as true-creativity. The words: I might be wrong. People on the other side -- even very learned and intelligent people -- could read this paragraph a hundred times, without ever truly grasping what it means.
Passages like that are why I've recently discovered David Brin's blog--said fellow being an author whose general output I can both take (Earth, Kiln People) and leave (the Uplift War stuff). The quote's from the latest entry on idealism and pragmatism as being a knowingly false dichotomy, that tend to actually work together for the benefit of those on either "side" to gain, maintain, and increase power. It's not so much a real polarity as it is a stalking horse, a handy package to distract the polis.
Now, of course that interests me because I largely agree with it--the unvierse tends to confirm what we want it to, natch--in that I've suspected for awhile that many of the pat dualities that are so very sound-bite-friendly are simply packaged that way. In holy SubGenius terms, it's part of the perpetuation of The Conspiracy; in a more serious misanthropic framing, the "boundless human stupidity" (a line which singlehandedly redeemed the otherwise simply enjoyably silly deathtrap-themed flick Cube--but unfortunately not its sequels); in Buddhist jargon its the ignorance and nescience, avidya, that drives the engine of suffering and troubles that is the world. (Whoa.)
It also makes skimming his comment sections interesting to me in a more meta sense. The blog obviously attracts a good chunk of those who identify on "the left" because superficially, he spends some sentences speaking badly of "the neocons". (Likewise, it automatically dives away a good chunk of those who identify on "the right" due to conditioned reflexes to roll eyes at every occurrence of the phrase. Echo chambers, like all fortresses, have lots of ways they reinforce themselves in little ways like this.) But once there, a lot of them are clearly baffled, which is already beginning int he first half-dozen or so comments that are there in that idealism-pragmatism entry--people who were right there with you, man...until he starts pointing out the left's got nothing to go on in pursuing its own (recently hilariously badly-managed) packaging of the false dilemma, at which point they're concerned and confused that someone so reasonable could just fly off on a tangent and talk such nonsense, oh my goodness!
I don't think it's a matter of "the" true cleft up yonder--it's a true divide, certainly, and I've yammered here and elsewhere to various degrees of (in)coherence about awareness-vs-nescience being a far more meaningful polarity in human affairs than good-vs-evil or right-vs-left ever shall. For that matter, I'd call it more meaningful than Brin's own past-vs-modernism/future focus--and of course, the universe seems to confirm that I'm right in that more often than not, so there you go.
posted by Gar @ 7:34 AM