Furthest Right

Escaping Categories

Today a fellow planted himself at the intersection with a sign that read HOT AND HUNGRY. He was on the esplanade, beseeching passing cars with an imploring gaze, semi-distracted in the way that those who either are suffering or want to look like they are suffering tend to be.

It occurred to me that three responses echoed back the universe to this man:

  1. Condemnation: some would see him as a bad thing that should be removed.
  2. Affirmation: others would see him as a good thing that should be nurtured.
  3. Nihilism: a few see him as a risk that will manage himself and deserves nothing.

Your average conservative would condemn him; he wants the bum to get a job despite having mental health problems, crippling substance abuse, and some kind of life-path of wreckage that guarantees ineptitude with everything he touches. The conservative sees disgust and fear of other humans.

On the other hand, your basic liberal would affirm him; they project themselves onto him, and see themselves in him, therefore they want there to be free money in case they end up in this position as well. The liberal worldview is based around fear of the world itself.

Those of us from the nihilistic side recognize the obvious: poor people, dumb people, insane people, and people with mental health problems commit all but a handful of the crimes out there, and this guy ticks several of those boxes, so he is a risk.

At the same time, he has chosen his destiny and it does not concern us. Not only that, but we want no part of it, so our viewpoint is wary amoral disinterest. He is like the squirrels in the trees, maintaining himself and living or dying outside of our orbit or control.

Judeo-Christianity-Islam recognizes a binary morality of “good” and “bad,” but the ancients saw the world in terms of benefits, injuries, and the rest which is not immediately relevant and needs no categorization. Is a bum good or bad? Depends on the bum, and whether he is robbing you now or not.

Escaping those categories helps, but then we encounter sampling issues. We have two types of salt here, a flake kind and a pink kind. Many of our guests swear by the pink kind; my engineer friend says of course that NaCl is a chemical and does not change between brands, so buy the cheap stuff.

This leads us to wonder how one salt-blend can look different than another. Impurities matter, and with salt, the other minerals included impart some flavor, which is why some people swear by the pink salt. Is it still salt? It is a salt mixture for sure.

Similarly it becomes necessary sometimes to explain to normies the concept of percent error. For any task, a certain number of times it is tried, things go wrong. For each object, a certain number per thousand or million will be defective or weakened.

You can often measure percent error in terms of very small amounts. Driving to work as a good driver, you probably have a three in ten thousand chance of an accident. Over thirty years, you should be okay; do it for a million years, and you will have a number of crashes.

People are freaked out by the standard distribution or “bell curve” that manifests in all attributes. In any population of people, a small number will be short, a small number will be tall, and most will be in the middle; if you plot them, you will get a bell-shaped curve.

This puts the lie to the idea of the average or normal person. People vary greatly as individuals, just as groups vary greatly from one another. The largest variation is at the individual level, but this is built on the framework of variation between groups (classes, ethnic groups, races, sexes).

Categories mislead us because they are propelled by a human need to make the world tangible and manipulable by assigning one attribute of a collection of objects as the category, and assuming that this means the members of the category react linearly and predictably.

With bums, you can either view them as horrible, good, or indifferent but potentially dangerous; with salt, it is either a mineral preparation with the main ingredient salt, or a chemical that randomly shows up as pink and may have some additional flavor.

As we deconstruct the hangover of permanent civilization, categories become more flexible; they morph into lists of attributes and degrees per member, or perhaps chemical reactions over time with a certain percent error and statistical reality on a bell curve, more than linearity. There is wisdom there.

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