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Sunday, December 28, 2003

Colorado Post #3, 2 days until Maryland

Verbosity, unplugged

The ideas I have are mostly plagerism. Most ideas are. Filtered out from the background noise which composes society and culture and the collective unconscious we are all a flittering part of. But in this there's a misunderstanding, one which many people - respectable people - seem to take pretty much for granted, in this. It's just assumed that "society" is something out there, and that individuals are set, from birth to death, in some relation to it - adverserial or otherwise. It's seen as an imposing force just beyond the field of vision but which weilds tremendous subversive power, shaping our minds and our outlooks to the exclusion of all else - a virtual myopia we can't even begin to be aware of.

This view of the framework within which we think - the context so needed for our thoughts, and the hinges upon which they rely - is one which seems problematic to me. Correlation doesn't imply causation, and all that. Seeing the general as the absolute, as a sweeping river of assumed fact with only the transient eddies of countercultures to stem its inevitable force is one which only lends a flattering, though typically deceitful, light to the real source of all of this. It seems to derive from a longing for social fact to be objective. It seems to come from an assumption of certainty about those things upon which we cannot intelligently comment.

Take for granted, just for a moment, that these social forces exist external to chance. Outside of the simple fact that most people in a given situation just happen to believe them to be right. That there is some set of behaviors and thoughts which, by some significant group, is considered normal or necessary - a pathos imbued unto a people from upon high, these things inherited from their fathers and fathers before them. Where does this lead? Simply to statements about how there is a way to live within a situation - within a framework, or a snapshot of a people - and the implicit enforcement thereof. What difference, then, is there with the collusion withheld? The implicit acceptance of these social forces as constrictive assumes a few things. Primarily, a value judgement and the inkling that the mob could be wrong. If it's society shaping society, after all, according to some script handed down from the ether - sexism, racism, capitalism and so on as a result of the society - accepts immediately that there's a counter-standard, and some way to say, 'Look; there's a better way." In order to argue against the idea of social coercion as unacceptable, one first has to offer a worldview in which an alternate form of social coercion is okay. There's always the implication of a better way of life wrapped in the objections to the current hegemony.

There's a catch, though. In so taking that fork in the road, there's an acceptance that individuals are incapable of working outside the frame of reference, something which is clearly not true. Moreover, it undermines the detrimental effect of these ills within society. If it's society making people racist - and not individuals being racist within society, or perhaps influenced by a mentality of group action - it undermines to a large extent the guilt associated with these things. It allows the tragedy to be universal rather than specific, and it amounts to interposing mitigating circumstances where none are present. If people are a function of social circumstance, or their behaviors are simply a reaction therein, then most of our behaviors become capricious. At the end of the day, society isn't some huge force out there to blugeon people into line with some arbitrary set of parameters - it just happens to be a baseline for life. There are glitches in the methodology, a slowness of evolution, but overall a system which isn't malicious. People would like to believe that all ills are social, and that people aren't really that bad. They are. This set of ideas out there is just something each individual ends up as a piece of, a single star in a greater constellation. But the constellation does not determine the arrangement of the stars, and society does not command its shape from those minds and thoughts from which it is forged.

cranked out at 10:01 PM | |

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