Friday Night Fragments #13

Bryce put this up last Friday, but I’ll offer a quick commentary on it now. He slipped a sentence in there which I think deserves some attention:

Financial and monetary policies are chosen less because they will demonstrably be good for the economy, but because they appeal to the interests of the ruling class.

Who runs society? By definition, the elites. How do they run society? For the benefit of themselves. This is a dynamic that no political arrangement has ever quite eliminated.

The implication is obvious. Society should be set up so that the elites only benefit if they benefit the society at large. But is is this even possible? How could we completely eliminate any method by which the elite could benefit themselves without benefiting society writ large? Could we? Should we? Would we?

Tricky, tricky, tricky.

There’s something very strange about the world of critics. Art critics, film critics, food critics, they all seem to have the same problem.

How does you legitimize yourself as a critic? You have to portray yourself as discerning and full of taste. One would think that this would lead to holier-than-thou games as critics try to paint themselves as better than other critics and as newcomers try to gain a foothold in this world.

Does this actually happen? I must confess I have no idea. Could anyone with any knowledge of the field help me out here?

I’ve been trying to figure out which country is more likely to leave the EU: Greece or the United Kingdom. The UK wants to pulls out, but Cameron would never do it. Meanwhile, Greece looks like it’s hurtling toward some kind of exit, probably forced but possibly of its own free will. I’d be surprised if both of them were in the EU in two years, but I’ll admit this Euro-drama could play out for a very long time.

For what it’s worth, I’d bet on Greece leaving first (voluntarily or otherwise), with the Brits sticking around for at least the next several years and doing a lot of talking about how they would really like to leave while never actually doing so (mostly due to hemming and hawing and stalling by UK politicians).

Spirit animals. Not the Native American conception, the new age concept. It’s a pretty weird thing. I’m all on board with using symbolic conceptions to convey a dense packet of information, but outside of the general chick-bait factor of the spirit-animal concept, I’m skeptical of its utility. Maybe you’ll pick up some self-knowledge if you actually go on a vision quest or whatever, but mostly this sort of thing is just empty signalling.

Even if you actually rely on cultural symbolism and not just feelings to discuss the concept, it’s still pretty fuzzy (and when something is ambiguous and indefinite enough to make even me skeptical, then you know it’s pretty damn fuzzy).

What’s my spirit animal? The owl. The raven. The cobra. The dolphin. The ferret. The panther. The chameleon. All these and a hell of a lot more on top of them. I’ve got a little bit of everything inside of me.

Don’t aspire to be the type of person who is easily reducible. That’s just unbecoming.

Ever witnessed an argument about capitalism between two college students? It is a sight to behold. I got the chance to observe this the other day. One was arguing that capitalism as a moral ideology is bankrupt. The other was arguing that capitalism as a mechanism for distributing resources is superior to all other systems.

Not one of them realized that they were talking past each other because they weren’t even debating the same topic. Capitalism as a moral belief system versus capitalism as a societal mechanism isn’t a discussion. It’s two people talking about what they think is the same thing but really isn’t.

“I have a disagreement with the tenets of this particular religion.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Lots of people go to church on Sunday.”

Such an exchange would make just as much sense as the discussion these two young men were having.

I tried point this out to them. I don’t think either of them got it. Education really is wasted on the “educated”.

I ended up just sitting back and drinking my coffee instead of wasting words on minds that would not comprehend. Sometimes that’s all you can do.

Proper discourse can only take place between people who are in good faith. If one person has no intention of doing anything more than shouting, yelling, dropping ad hominems, and playing status games, that individual is not acting in good faith. Disagreement over the null hypothesis is not any of these things, but it does reflect a fundamental divide that can only be crossed if both sides are willing to work together.

If this gap cannot be crossed, this generally means that one side does not want it to be crossed. This is especially true if the two factions are highly alike in position, temperament, and belief.

It bears remembering that deepest feuds are not those between factions that are very different, but between those that are very similar. This dynamic has been known to lead to situations in which two factions will end up viciously fighting each other even as both believe wholeheartedly that they should be uniting together to fight a common foe.

If one side insists on fighting the other, it’s their fault if both sides are conquered by their mutual enemy. Great conquerors throughout history have often stirred up trouble between future conquests this way.

People who intentionally and knowingly put themselves in the position of the soon-to-be-conquered always end up with the yoke on their shoulders and the whip on their back, dragging their allies with them while blaming said allies the entire time.

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

There’s an old conception of genius not as something that comes from inside of you, but of something outside of you (usually considered to be God) that flows through you, using you as a conduit to manifest itself.

I’m not totally willing to throw out the modern conception (genius does tend to strike among high-IQ, highly creative people, and that’s not coincidence), but there is something to the traditional conception that doesn’t quite miss the mark.

This past week, I trashed two potential posts, both after having written more than half of them. Neither had quite the same magic that has animated the posts I’ve been writing recently. I’m not doing anything particularly different, but I’m not able to channel the same…whatever it was that was helping me put my thoughts together.

Oh well. C’est la vie. Good posts will resume…well, whenever the spirit moves me, I suppose.



3 thoughts on “Friday Night Fragments #13

  1. neovictorian23 01/30/2015 / 8:34 PM

    Critics need to write well. They don’t need to know a whole special lot about the subject at hand, just enough to sound plausible.

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