I don’t believe that seeking truth is something that’s actually a goal. By definition, you are seeking something you do not yet understand or know, so the purpose is essentially nondirectional.
In Kendo, the best strike starts from a certain position, has an unwavering vertical cut, and ends at a particular height on a particular part of the shinai.
No such obvious end exists in truth.
A while back, I was reading through the archives of posts by John Titor, someone on the internet about 10 years ago who claimed he was a time traveler. He said some pretty interesting things. People were asking him the things you would expect people to ask a time traveller: who’s going to win the next football game, what’s going to happen to this and that person, what are the major events that will change the world. Among other things including that he did not particular care for events of football games, he said that giving out information about the future doesn’t mean the future will be better, or even stay the same.
If you could go back in time to 1941 and tell the radar operators to take a second look at the radar screen on December 7th, would you? Before you say yes and accept that parade in your honor down Main Street, perhaps you should go forward in time and see if the U.S still had the motivation to make the A-bomb before Hitler did.
To me, John Titor was saying that knowledge is a function of time and situation. Knowing more isn’t always better, just as having more of anything doesn’t necessarily mean anything except a use of space and not having more of something else. Just knowing things is pointless because knowledge doesn’t have a point; it needs to be made into a point. If it isn’t made into a point consciously, it will become useless or less than useless.
Before doing WordPress, I’ve never really cared about who read and who didn’t read my blog. I do mind to a certain extent, and do networking and whatever that stuff is called, but I didn’t mind the results either way. It has not been a skill for me to consistently improve. However, now that I have this thing on a Dashboard that tells me daily traffic, it’s suddenly kind of a big deal. “Less than useless” is what this WordPress Stats counter thing is to me. It’s useful for anyone who cares to track their improvement, but at this time, it’s just making me unnecessarily self-conscious.
It also seems, like most moderation concepts, to be completely forgotten about on larger scales of human interaction. I speak though not particularly of those who speak without moderation, but more about those listening. We’re pretty decent at it on the local scale – you don’t listen to every person who says things about you or every piece of gossip about everyone else – but for larger scales it’s like, to take a cliche’d phrase, “nothing is off the table”. It is relatively reasonable to assume that those who speak, on either scale, have their own purposes. Conspiracy theorists and news say things to scare people or to rile them up so they watch more news, and advertisements say things to make people want to buy products. I too am saying things in a certain way – though I am not qualified to tell you what my purpose is. Those listening, though, seem to have no defenses outside of their apathy to mostly everything and complete lack of a goal in life. Or that they disagree with what is being said to begin with. But I’ll go over it from the deliverer point first, just so I don’t need to talk about it again. When I posted that quote a few days ago about vigilantism, I got a bunch of spam comments from anarchist and extremist blogs. It was really quite funny, because everything else I’ve posted before and since then indicates quite clearly that I think politics is a joke.
I read a book a couple of weeks ago for a class (the same one I mentioned in an earlier post) called “A Dangerous Place” by Marc Reisner. It’s about the Hayward Fault in the San Francisco Bay Area and how it’s the most built-on fault on the face of the planet. It basically laid out a doomsday scenario (I kid you not, he even calls it a doomsday scenario) for how the river delta leading into the SF Bay would collapse and send saltwater upstream, leading to no water for Southern California.
I didn’t like it. At all.
There was this paragraph in the book where the author basically complains about how people don’t take him seriously because his claims are not legitimate, and how his claims actually are legitimate. For me it’s all wasted effort because I don’t care either way whether or not they’re legitimate. “A stopped clock is right twice a day, nobody pays attention to it anyways” – an ugly clock can be right all the time, but the amount of attention will be the same. The way he presents his information is fundamentally flawed. He talks about things like how this one earthquake had the energy of a hundred Hiroshima bombs. Why? Do we even know how much energy is in one Hiroshima bomb? Most people don’t even know what energy is (It is what is needed to accelerate mass some distance over some period of time). They know it powers stuff – but they don’t really know what power is either (It is energy over some period of time). And that’s okay. What’s not okay is all this pointless detail. Let’s say you can visualize the energy of a Hiroshima bomb. Can you visualize that times a hundred? I can’t even visualize 100 boxes of eggs, much less visualize all the eggs themselves and something like the destructive capability of an atomic bomb.
It is quite clear that this guy Reisner, regardless of what he believes about himself, is out to sell a book. It’s the same with all political types. Save the whales! Big Oil is screwing us over! The Bilderberg Group is controlling us all! Iran/q/r/s/t/u/v/w/x/y/z has weapons of mass destruction! (It’s even better than I write here, because most of them think I’m not talking about them if I didn’t mention their particular pet interest. ) They all tell us these bits of information we didn’t know – of course we didn’t, how could we possibly know every little thing every random person feels like testing us on? – and then wrap it all up with a THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE WORLD.
Well… yes. Welcome to reality, where for all of human history ancestors toil and die so that their descendants may have an easier life.
Technically I didn’t disagree with the politicals. I agreed. Their basic contention is the omega as fuck argument “does my motivation/the truth/this idea not matter?”, and if you have any sense of dignity, you will always end up agreeing with them. Not because you actually agree with them, but because the way the conversation is framed, that is the only correct course of action. If you are in a larger group there is a second correct course of action – ignorance – but the important thing is that what is said is not the same as what is “meant”. Quotes because I think it’s a dumb perspective but also because it’s common enough that I have to talk about it. It’s the same with most things. If a cop pulls you over for speeding, regardless of whether or not you were speeding, you talk to the cop with respect. Not only because it’s respect, but also because it follows the convential culture, and also because if you don’t you’ll get tazed. Nevermind whether or not tazing is something they should be able to do. That’s how it is. Same with all these political arguments. You don’t agree with every last thing necessarily because you believe in it.
As expected, the politicals take whatever form of admission you give them – if it’s agreement verbally, then they will quote you; if it’s silence, then either they continue pummeling you with facts until you do agree, or it’s “silence is consent” – as a sign that they won the argument.
What isn’t expected is that people start believing that they were convinced.
I really want to see political types as just “alarmists” and “conspiracy theorists” and “muckrakers”, but I can’t really do that. It doesn’t matter that I think they shouldn’t be effective, they are, and they’re really damn good at what they do. Just look at Operation Wall Street. They got a mother to divorce her husband and abandon her children for “the cause”. My philosophy is that if it works, I can’t complain that it shouldn’t. Political strategies like the ones I’ve described work.
It’s like people actually believe that every person they talk to who claims they are for a just or moral or whatever cause is actually what they claim to be. I said earlier that this works unless they disagree with what is being said to begin with. This is not contradictory. It just means someone else got to them first.
I don’t think that people are blank slates, I do think that people have certain things that take more than just all these zealots running around to convince them of something different. That’s part of why I think and talk about these things – I want to discuss perspectives on things with people who actually have interesting perspectives. It’s just that most people, as they are, are way too malleable to messages they perceive are on a nonpersonal level. Personal level, people are sharp. Nonpersonal level, examples become deep and meaningful and things of NYT bestsellers.
Plenty of examples, but let’s take one that’s relatively fresh. Pretty old, but if we take into account what should and shouldn’t be talked about in what ways (in the same sense I was talking about “agreement” earlier), it’s pretty fresh.
Imagine what the world would be like had that event not happened.
I’m sorry, let me rephrase that in a way so that it reflects my purpose and not the media’s or the government’s.
Imagine what the world would be like had the American populace had not responded the way that they did.
Now imagine that it was not I who said that, but someone more politically inclined who used that line and had a follow-up point to it. No longer is it a useless fact.
What would you end up believing? Why would you believe it? Why are you even listening?
Would you be listening?