The Respect Demand, Or, How To Refute Yourself Without Realizing It For The Sake of Appearing Non-Partisan

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Consider this most common of political responses.

“I don’t agree with your argument, but I respect your opinion.”

Scarcely has there been a more popular and simultaneously ridiculous statement made in the whole history of modern American discourse than this one. Yet, it is one that you, whoever and wherever you are, have doubtless heard a thousand times over. It is a tempering tactic utilized primarily by political Centrists (or those who are aping as such), and may also be heard a great deal by the acolytes of individuals who proclaim themselves to be “Freethinkers,” or, “Rationalists” (which usually do not use the word to denote the philosophical school). But it is wholly wrongheaded, given some contingencies, for if the opinion which one respects is inexorably tied to the argument that one disagrees with, and one does not respect the argument then by parsimony, one cannot, also, respect the opinion. If, however, the opinion is suitably disconnected from the aforementioned argument than the equation swiftly changes.

That is to say, if [the argument] is not equal [congruent] to R [your respect/admiration] but IS equal to O [the opinion informing A] and A = O then so R MUST also = A. And yet it fundamentally cannot because, though A = O, R cannot equal A, and thus one reaches a inescapable logical impasse. The equation is self-refuting.

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There are also other linguistic formulations very similar to the aforementioned such as, “I respect your opinion but I disagree.” This presents a slightly different problem and thus a slightly different solution but the core of the issue is still quite the same which is that in the effort to appear polite, one dons a mask of fawning adoration and pretends of the man or woman who stands in starkest opposition before him as if they were some esteemed colleague when in reality nothing of the sort could possibly be any further from the truth. If one disagree wholeheartedly with a position then one clearly has no respect for it and if that same position informs a suitably portion of the personality of the person who is holding it then that same person is also, not worthy of respect. What people mean, if they were being truly honest with themselves, is that they do not respect opinions they disagree with but rather that they respect the rights of others to have them. This too is a vexed question, for “rights” in any objective sense do not exist. All rights are merely those with the ability to crush you restraining themselves and their like cohorts from doing so. Accepting this, one should have no respect for rights, either, but rather, one should have respect for the powerful whom are cognizantly self restrained.

 

 

Value Ordination: Political Paradigm as Argumentation

Innumerable are the number of political compass tests which one can take online, from Playbuzz to PoliticalCompass.org to the 8 Values Github Test, all of which are sifted through and poured over, studied and analyzed by the takers thereof as if in the action of so doing they will confer some hidden and eldritch wisdom unto the reader. The popularity of political compass tests however, does not lie in their viewing by the takers thereof but in their viewing by everyone else. People that are likely to take political compass tests are also likely to be highly engaged in politics and thus are already well aware of their own political views and where they are likely to lie on any given political compass test (unless the given test happens to be poorly constructed, and thus, woefully inaccurate). They are not really seeking out what their ideological positions are but are rather looking for a shared visual platform where their ideological uniqueness can be shown to others. A narcissist’s past-time.

The fixation here is more upon the position of the individual along the political compass than upon the ideas which place them there. This is reflective of American political discourse more generally, where discussions are generally started with the prompt, “Well The Left,” or, “You see this is just what The Right has been trying to do for years now-”

Right and Left are, of a certainly, highly useful linguistic tools but there is here a problem which manifests itself whenever a particular political moniker becomes more important that being correct, that is to say, logically parsimonious (utilizing economy of explanation to arrive at a conclusion).

That may sound like a obvious truism; certainly it is true but it is far less discernible that it is readily obvious. Such is evidenced by popular internetisms like, “There is nothing to the Right of me but the wall.” Meaning, of course, that there is no one more Right-wing than the person whom is spouting the aforementioned phrase. This is only a positive however if the Right-wing views which the speaker holds are actually correct. That is to say, Right and Left are not arguments in and of themselves, nor is a statement of any ideological inclination. To say, “That is a Communist position!” is only a sufficient position in as far as it is actually wrong/illogical; it is not wrong merely by dint of being associated with Communism (which, by and large should be suspect for its historical record of death and intense political instability). Thus, for the previous example, it should, make the argument more suspect but it should not incline one to dismiss it out of hand.

Such is also true with rebuttals like, “But that is Authoritarian!” Well… why is that a bad thing? One should really be asked to explain.

In short, in the American context, the political Left and Right are all too often interjected in place of argumentation. Whenever the words Left-wing and Right-wing are utilized as a argument unto themselves, rather than as placeholders for extremely wide-ranging idea-sets, one knows that one’s opponent has woefully lost the plot.

Sex, Violence, Death, Toil: A Brief Primer On Fiction Writing, Prt. 1

I like what I do. Some writers have said in print that they hated writing and it was just a chore and a burden. I certainly don’t feel that way about it. Sometimes it’s difficult. You know, you always have this image of the perfect thing which you can never achieve, but which you never stop trying to achieve. But I think … that’s your signpost and your guide. You’ll never get there, but without it you won’t get anywhere.

– Cormac McCarthy, Jun. 1, 2008

Fiction writing is often perceived, and subsequently spoken of, as if it were some magical art, some eldritch and impenetrable ability of numinous convocation which arrives and departs from the conscious mind like a furious blast of ball-lightening (which, interestingly enough, are theorized to be responsible for the numerous cases of real spontaneous combustion throughout history). Whilst reaching towards (and ultimately grasping) the numinous should be the end goal of all of the higher forms of fiction, it is a mistake to view the craft as solely the providence of arcane geniuses, as a venture which can only be undertook at the precise moment of inspiration.

Inspiration is all fine and dandy but it is wholly insufficient in and of itself to create a substantial work of art. A work of fiction which is nothing but inspirationally driven is one which is wholly impulsively driven; it is much the same as a grand and beautifully crafted ship without its rudder! It might well inspire a kind of awe but it won’t be able to move an inch and will invariably capsize in the coming storm, lost to all and every man beneath the thunderous swell of bio-hum. There is also the problem of time in relation to a work of fiction; whilst it is never wise to make haste when writing a novel or short story for the sake of speed itself there must also be reasonable timetables set forth for the writer if he or she is ever to finish the project upon which they are so arduously plying their talents. It is a highly romanticized conception of the writer as a powerfully minded yet tragically underappreciated soul which ultimately leads to nothing but stagnation. If you aren’t a genius or a consistent partaker in Ginsbergesque ritualism then it is highly unlikely that bold and evocative inspiration sufficient to carry the entirety of setting, plot, characters and theme will oft strike; this is, in no wise, a bad thing!

Contrary to the romanticized American conception of the fiction writer, he treats his work in much the same fashion as might a lumberjack or gas station clerk. He gets up early, takes notes, watches his time, writers consistently (preferably daily) and passionately and has a distinct objective in mind whilst he is doing so. That is, if he wishes to be a successful writer in the total sense of the term, meaning, successful both financially and, far more importantly, artistically. It is here I would offer some mild advice to those amongst you who aspire to write fiction in any wise (hopefully without being too boorish in so doing).

  • Purchase or borrow a note book or journal (I much prefer leather-bound journals for their superior aesthetic appeal and durability) and take notes whilst you are away from your computer (unless, that is, you still do the work on a typewriter!). This helps not only flesh out already established ideas, but also preserves new ideas that might otherwise perish in the bottomless marsh of forgetfulness
  • Don’t read whilst you write. Meaning: do not take up another work of fiction whilst you are engaging in your own work. The reason for this is simple; originality. Whilst one should most certainly shun originality for its own sake there is a tendency for the “voice” and style of more powerful and skilled writers to overtake the minds (and thus the page) of those, less versed in the craft. It is extremely important for the avid writer to read and read widely and deeply, but not at the same time he plies his trade as this threatens the authenticity of the piece.
  • Concentrate upon the theme of the story before everything else. A story, no matter how exciting the action, plot or characters will ultimately be nothing more than a mere confection of the intellect without philosophical grounding; without ideas which one wishes to build upon, expound, communicate and spread.
  • Don’t overly fret over grammar and instead focus on authenticity within the framework of the world which you are creating. That is to say, if you are writing a sentence and find it pleasing and perfectly suited to describing some situation crucial to the plot then do not there deviate to grammatical puritanism. After all, any true blunders you do make will be fixed by the editor upon the completion of the manuscript.
  • Most importantly, actually practice writing. Set a schedule and stick to it. The simplest, but hardest of “skills” for a writer to master (I include myself in this criticism!)

Now that we have that out of the way we shall turn our attention to the actual structure of a story and what it is that makes certain stories standout, that is, what makes them good. To speak not at all about any particular theme, a truly great work of art will always deal with three things: sex, violence and death. It is my opinion that any work of art which deals not at all with this omnipresent trio of human universals is not worthy of one’s time or, indeed, of really being called a work of art at all.

[to be continued in prt.2]

Fractal America, Kodokushi-6771, Prt.1

One of the most fundamental characteristics of the embedded American consciousness, is its rugged individualism, that is, the sovereign and heroic impulse to carve ones own path, to strike out on one’s own into the unknown darkness to there light a fire. Such is to be expected from a nation of wilderness conquering colonists, but sovereign individuality is, as many have rightly noted, a double edged blade which has contributed in no small part (though not in totality) to the scourge of societal atomization that now lies like a dunning pall over the star spangled banner. For most who speak of societal and political atomization, it is a apriori truth evidenced by lived experience, argued via anecdotal accounts of the particular social fabric (or lack thereof) of one’s known area. There are a lot of problems with these personal and locale-specific deductions; first and foremost, the alienated make-up of a particular town or city or even state does not necessarily hold true for any other states or towns within the (considerably expansive terrain) of the United States of America (though the title’s accuracy of late seems somewhat misplaced).

Anecdotes are useful, indeed, indispensable, but anecdotes alone lack scale and thus here it is extremely useful to turn to a more wide scale methodology – the opinion poll. One opinion, one tale or anecdote alone, even if from a trusted source, is unlikely to turn widespread popular opinion but if one sees that widespread popular opinion itself has turned against their conceptions then such conceptions begin readily falling to pieces. Societal atomization is, like most widespread social conundrums, largely, objectively traceable as is evidenced by the continuous results of the annual Harris Poll which finds that political alienation amongst Americans, nationwide, is at an all time high. The survey showed that US adults from the ages of 18 and up believe thus:

  • 82% of Americans do not believe that the people running the country care about them.
  • 78% of Americans believe that the wealth/class gap is growing and that this is bad.
  • 70% of Americans think that the majority of people in power are taking advantage of the poor/lower-class.
  • 68% of Americans believe that their voice doesn’t matter, politically speaking.
  • 40% of Americans feel as if they are “left out” of the major goings-on around them.
  • When broken up by political party, Republicans feel the most alienated, with Independents second-most alienated and Democrats, third. Individuals who obtained a college degree ranked less isolated than those with only high-school or college education, but no degrees (likely resulting from the increased social avenues afforded by good degrees).

When taken in tandem with the studies of the highly lauded and prize winning economists, Angus Deaton and Anne Case – whose worked showed the staggering amount of ever-rising American suicide, which they tied largely to both economic, social and political alienation – the collective data paints a profoundly grim picture of contemporary American life. A picture of disheveled living spaces polluted with the toxins of fast food and click-bait circle-jerking scream-sheets heralding unimaginable horrors, bottom of the barrel alcohol and mindless Hollywood entertainment surreptitiously pushing innumerable agendas which or orbitally drank in and processed without cognizance. A picture of the young moving out of the house to never speak to their parents again, or staying there and still not much talking. A picture of midlife crisis of gang violence and increasing political fragmentation along tribal lines. A picture of increasingly disenfranchised individuals, both young and old; the old, longing for a golden age that they envision incorrectly as the merry, halcyon days of their youth, whilst the young, looking for a tribe and a cause, are ceaselessly bombarded with the notion that the only cause is the eradication of cause and destruction of tribe and the ceaseless tremelling down of all variation. It is a picture of fear and trembling and, most pointedly, despair.

From the pre-abstract statement of Deaton and Case’s study:

Midlife increases in suicides and drug poisonings have been previously noted. However, that these upward trends were persistent and large enough to drive up all-cause midlife mortality has, to our knowledge, been overlooked. If the white mortality rate for ages 45−54 had held at their 1998 value, 96,000 deaths would have been avoided from 1999–2013, 7,000 in 2013 alone. If it had continued to decline at its previous (1979‒1998) rate, half a million deaths would have been avoided in the period 1999‒2013, comparable to lives lost in the US AIDS epidemic through mid-2015. Concurrent declines in self-reported health, mental health, and ability to work, increased reports of pain, and deteriorating measures of liver function all point to increasing midlife distress.

These are, of course, but paltry samples of the total academic corpus concerning this dire and fascinating question, but they show, quite convincingly, how well and reliably these questions’s roots can be traced objectively. Of course, discerning and convincing the American populace of this is but half the battle, the other half, the reformation of a healthy and unified social modality which does not lend itself to ever-increasing rates of suicide, depression and destruction of local customs and history and the bonds formed therefrom, is significantly harder. But there is one profoundly important first step: parallel institutions and a parallel culture(s). For it was, in large part, the institutions of political power (and thus the social groups who put them there), the NGOs and “our” government that are to blame for the current crisis and thus the idea of remaining complacent at their perpetuation is tantamount to insanity. No. They are rotten and when a plant is rotten to the core there is nothing to do but tear it up by the roots!

But parallel cultures and institutions require, axiomatically a very rare commodity – the parallel individual. The et ferro.


Sources:

Harris Poll: Americans’ Sense of Alienation Remains at Record High

Rising Morbidity & Morality in Midlife Among White, non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century.

Nautilus: Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese

Jisho