an obession with first principles

Reflecting Lately

Posted: Friday Jan 28th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Anthropology, Philosophising, Sociology | View Comments

I have been doing a lot of reflection lately. And I am realizing just how destructive and poisonous our American culture has become. The culture has an expectation of never-ending positive returns, utopia. The refusal to be present in ugly times and ugly places. The refusal to cry that certain things labelled as beautiful are horrifically ugly.

There really doesn’t seem to be a single individual that I have seen who is capable of standing against with a vision and rhetoric to combat it. Because to do exactly that is not pragmatic. We believe in a fatalistic society. And there are dogmas which we will never cross. Never mind that those three combined traits exclude one another. Paradox exists. It is in people.

Let us all be entertained while the world burns. A grim note to be sure. But very few people I have actually met that want to change. They want to do things. They want to make things. They may even want to change the way things are done. But no one wants to change themselves. I hear they exist. I’d love to meet them.

It is a sad day in my mind. I don’t think what the people in Egypt did today could actually happen here. Walmart would have a sale and the mob would be pacified.


Rally to Restore Sanity

Posted: Monday Sep 20th | Author: JohnO | Filed under: Anthropology, In the News | View Comments

The idea is brilliant. Jon Stewart is brilliant and has been on his game for a long time. I realized two things while watching the show.

First, I am not surprised by the outrage on all sides of the political and moral spectrum. As I posted yesteday if we are paying attention to what is going on it makes sense. The “facts” are all the same. Unemployment is high, senators are doing an awful job, no one trusts the government, and Wall St just wants to make more money. Each of these fringe groups are giving their own interpretation – what these facts mean – thus creating a platform of belief. Even having a “scientific worldview” means nothing in this context. Because analytics (science) cannot offer interpretations it can only point out facts. The fact that unemployment is a certain number means nothing to analytics, to science. It means something to us as humans because people aren’t making money to feed themselves and their families and that will have larger repercussions.

The reason all these groups (Tea Party, Libertarian, etc) are popping up is because there is no meaning, no values in the current systems. And as the current systems and institutions are all guided by modernist objectivist thought – I have to agree with them. In the religious sphere this also applies. The same reason is Why younger evangelical Christians are moving to the Catholic Church. Their shallow evangelicalism is based on arbitrary values and methods which are unfounded with historic orthodox Christianity. So they’ve sought meaning elsewhere.

Once it is recognized that modern objectivist thought (the current of thought pushing science and analytics) offers no meaning, no interpretation, no values (nihilism) that current of thought will cease to drive our societies and institutions. This conclusion has already been reached in philosophy – hence the rise of post-modernism. Unfortunately for this movement it is largely a reaction which enables each and every individual to “discover” their own meaning and value largely untethered by any community or restraint. I see a decided lack of responsibility within post-modern strain of thought: as valuable as it is for showing the lack of modern thought. Post-modern thought is the necessary conclusion of modernism. Wall St’s actions of greed is entirely understandable, just as the Tea Party is in a post-modern construct. This is why it is important to know the history of thought, philosophy.

The retort to these groups is not: “But these are facts, just listen to the facts.” They are not operating in a scientific/modern/objectivist world devoid of meaning. You cannot assault a worldview from the outside. Very few people are capable of seeing the world they live in, let alone able to think from a different one to witness the differences. People choose a worldview because it makes the best sense of the evidence to them, it corresponds to their values. The way to retort is to see what they value and enter into a dialogue. Just being able to have the dialogue is a victory.

And the second thing I learned: Bill Clinton still has his mojo.