Mass mania versus the careful analysis

the_uniformity_of_fadSome of the most exciting parts of a discipline occur near the edges where, in intersecting with other modes of thought, it produces an interference pattern that shows its essence.

If you can imagine the collision of bodies of water, the scattering of light through a prism, or the small gusts of wind that whisk the dust across lonely porches, you can see what this is like.

Politics presents an interesting study because it is truly an all or nothing discipline.

It is “all” because it is the foundation of human interaction. Chinua Achebe defined politics as the science of getting other people to do things. Because on one level, politics is the manipulation of the emotions and/or logical thinking of others, there is politics in convincing a buddy to bring you a cup of tea or coffee.

It is “nothing” because many people do not want to import it into their lives. When a situation becomes politicized, the goal is no longer the goal. The new goal is getting along with the committee, and getting some kind of compromise that approximates the goal. Because it never quite works, no one really wants to identify with this process.

At the edge of politics however is a more interesting question which we might call “civilization design.” Every act we commit has a consequence; ideally, all of these consequences would like dots of paint splatter forming a silhouette gradually create a bigger plan. Once we see that, it’s impossible to divorce our actions from the fact that whether intentional or not, they produce a bigger plan.

Thus there is no escaping politics and, worse, there’s no dividing it into issues. There is only one issue: what type of civilization do you desire? And that question extends far beyond politics, to cultural values, to the composition of the society’s population, to even what sort of day-to-day activities we undertake.

While I’m very fond of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, my first love was of Immanuel Kant. Among many other useful ideas, he pulled an idea that was soft-shoed in Plato and brought it to the fore: there are no inconsequential acts. Every act has consequences, which have consequences, and so no act is separated from having a bigger purpose.

The simplest example of this to me is littering. The litterer would like us to think that littering is an act of convenience; they “just forgot” or found it easier to leave the garbage around or throw it out a window. In fact, littering is an act that tells a lot about the litterer; it says they’re not in love with their world, that they aren’t thinking beyond themselves, and that there’s probably a motive of revenge, hatred or a desire to scream dissatisfaction with the world in that act.

Vandalism is another. People who spraypaint their doodles on walls like to think they’re artists who are expressing themselves. And yet, they’re choosing to do it in a way that’s permanent, that causes other people trouble and turns society into a motley of conflicting scribbles, each shouting for attention. Their act says they feel powerless and want control over their lives, and also want to revenge themselves on those who own walls.

Casual sex is another daily act which has wide-ranging consequences. People are fond of the notion that it is simply a choice of convenience, and of a bodily need. In fact, there’s no such need; people survive not having sex, sometimes for their entire lives. What it says instead is that they see themselves as a means to an end of their own bodily pleasure, not a means to an end of something greater than the body. There’s a lack of hope in that, too, and a lack of faith in themselves.

None of these acts are inconsequential and each act reflects a vision of society. The vandalism, littering and rutting suggest a world where each person does what strikes them as important in the moment, following a whim, feeling or judgment. By definition, this excludes long-term thinking and its visions like realism, consequentialism and through those, the finding of timeless and enduring values.

When we look at society then it is impossible to see politics not only in politics, but in all that we do, or to see politics as the end result of our many acts gesturing at what type of civilization we want. At that point, we see the fundamental split that occurs in all dying cultures (and the West is a dying culture; our economic, political and social instability are symptoms of that, not causes).

On one side are the people who are dedicated to the individual, the here and now, and the individual’s feelings, judgments and desires. These people have no long-term plan and so move from mania, fad and craze to another, always having some current obsession that they believe will give meaning to their lives. Since they have discarded meaning outside the individual, they must find it in such crazes, which momentarily make them feel connected to life, and are always justified as “doing good” because that makes the people involved feel they are “good” and thus that their lives are important.

On the other side are the careful analysts. These are the people who built civilization, and the ones who save it periodically through self-sacrifice. They are inherently long-term thinkers and consequentialists, because in order to have values at all, one must measure those values by how to achieve them and how past acts have done that or fallen short. Careful analysts measure consequences to enact the timeless whenever possible.

There is no reconciling these two ways of life. They are more fundamental than politics, and yet must be the foundation of it. Right now the mass mania has won, but this is winding down as liberal democracies across the world sail into multiple problems whose origins were created centuries ago. It is time for a new age. It helps to discover which side you want to be on, the faddists or the thinkers.

17 Comments

  1. How do we fight back against the wave of selfishness? These people will all be dead long before their acts have final consequences. What do they care? Live it up for now.

  2. EvilBuzzard says:

    So every action has a consequence that has consequences. Take that too far and you have the Navier-Stokes Equations of Moral Culpability.

    1. RiverC says:

      “I am the chief of all sinners” – considered as not self-deprecation, but careful analysis.

  3. Owl says:

    “If there are thousand places in a town for people to live, each idiot is that is allowed to exist replaces a potential non-idiot. Further, each idiot will breed, and through the silly decisions of young people, some idiots will breed with non-idiots, producing half-idiots, who will possess the wisdom of an idiot but the ability of a non-idiot, and will thus be twice as destructive as an idiot. If a town of one thousand people, of which seven hundred were idiots, was to kill all of its idiots, it would be a smaller town, but only for the next two generations. The non-idiots would breed to fill the town and while through the random mutation factor of nature some non-idiots would breed an idiot or pervert among their brood, the removal of those in turn would assure a population of higher quality.

    If you like life, why not aim for its highest level? Select the best people and kill the rest – we won’t even remember them in a generation, and we certaintly won’t miss them. Through education and heroic acts and practical learning, the civilization can raise its own standards constantly, always getting better. That is a non-fearful attitude toward life, as it does not fear death or inadequacy, but focuses on what is best for the civilization as a whole even if individual lives are lost. In modern society, we live by guilt and pity, because we as individuals are divorced from any collective culture, and thus fear most for ourselves, because there is no plan in common and since we are surrounded by idiots, we are paranoiac regarding the judgment and will of others.

    I like life. I like it so much I’d have no problem murdering 86% of the planet so that its best could continue forward without committing ecocide or living in a plastic hell that most do not notice because they are idiots. This is a more loving action than preservation of useless life which clots our society, and a more farsighted one as well, because it provides that each future generation is better than the last and thus no longer has to fear inadequacy. Death to the idiots!”

    http://www.anus.com/zine/articles/evolution/

    1. No one wants to think about it because it’s sickening, but what do we do with all the idiots?

    2. RiverC says:

      The only issue with the process always is that the killing of the idiots is not a non-act in the chain of consequences. And also I guess there’s the perennial question of, “who gets to decide who is an idiot?” .. it’s the million-dollar question, am I right?

      The way we used to handle this was migration; you get rid of the 700 idiots by moving away from them, en mass. Admittedly, it does not eliminate the idiots, but perhaps you can return from time to time to poach off a non-idiot in exchange for an idiot you generated by accident.

      Another possibility is to let them build in space, orbiting cities of plastic and metal. Export all of the gnostics to their bloodless paradise, and let the rest of us alone. We hardly need do anything other than let them advertise; anyone who would view living in a plastic bubble in space over living amid man’s natural space because of a few slogans and videos has ‘self culled’.

      What I’m saying is there are cleverer ways to go about this, ones which both let the ‘idiots’ self-select and remove the ‘cycle of revenge’ created by killing people across the board. One obvious problem is the idea that a family might have a child who is an ‘idiot’ by this classification; so now the ‘idiot/non-idiot’ distinction coming down from above clashes with society’s basic unit, the family. The Amish are willing to accept when their kids decide to not follow the life they lead, but if someone outside made this decision for them, acceptance would not be forthcoming. If that ‘decision’ involved killing the kid, it would be tantamount to starting a blood feud.

      This is why, in my mind, efforts to ‘kill the undesirables’ very often have side effects worse than the perceived benefit.

      Basically we need an idiocracy somewhere, might as well put it somewhere where its pollution can’t damage really valuable things.

      1. RiverC says:

        For bonus points it can be called ‘Gehenna’. “Always unseasonably warm!”

        1. EvilBuzzard says:

          Gehenna – LA w/o the sea breeze.

          1. Wayne Earl says:

            The idiot removal plan will occur as it always has – mass disease or mass war. The granddaughters of the Sluts in the City generation will be cloaked in a burka. Nothing new under the sun, because as a collective of smart beasts, we still don’t seem to learn. Intelligence IS NOT wisdom.

            1. crow says:

              Intelligence is the antithesis of wisdom.
              One part intelligence mixed with one part common-sense = the raw ore from which wisdom may be refined.
              This process generally takes many years and there is no guarantee of success.
              Hence wisdom is so rare that very few even recognize it when it occurs.

            2. EvilBuzzard says:

              Analogous to fast-twitch muscles vs smooth ones. Intelligence is for brief bursts of intense mental effort, wisdom keeps you from having to rely too heavily on intelligence to get out of a mess.

    3. 1349 says:

      Is ahimsa a result of fear, guilt and pity?

      1. crow says:

        Ahimsa is the result of wisdom.
        It may be practiced without the wisdom, in the same way Christianity may be practiced without knowing dick-all about it.
        But wisdom is required to give rise to the original notion of it.

  4. crow says:

    In a world of crows, what would a crow eat?
    What would life be, without its carrion?
    Ill-equipped to kill the mouse, the crow befriends it, instead, and patiently waits until the mouse becomes carrion. Having done no harm, it settles down to dine.

  5. sageor says:

    Well put. I think most of our interactions are noise. But still one could even consider the “litter” that we spew out from our psyches online. And ponder the benefits to society or detriments there in.

  6. Joe says:

    Allow me to posit a scenario: a guy fantasizes about murdering his family, but never goes through with it. How can a consequentialist view this as immoral when the immoral man was able to keep his sickness to himself, thus having no consequences in reality? Or is it simply unrealistic to think such a man wouldn’t eventually ruin something good?

    1. RiverC says:

      I don’t understand morality/immorality so I wouldn’t call such a man immoral, but its quite certain that if such fantasies are common they’re having other effects on his person, too. So there would be ‘side effect’ consequences of his fantasy.

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