Wednesday, September 22, 2004

From I love me to I love you.

  Atum defined the aim of this weblog in his initial post as: "...to devise ways of encouraging people to live their lives in more fulfilling and less damaging ways."
  A key part of this, we seem to have discovered, lies in the possibility of 'responsibility' - is it possible? The major problem is "apathy," defined as "the wilful ignorance and denial of responsibility that encourage nothing to be done." Although I foresee that I might have some concerns with this formulation of 'apathy' by Atum if it gets taken in certain directions, for now I'm happy to rest the gaudy Playdoh of my further comments on it.
  We can put personal responsibility on those who are irresponsible about their dealing with the world first. We must find some error in those who are adequately surrounded by the ever-increasing counter-network of information that seeks to inculcate feelings of grief, anger, or shame in people with images or statistics of global turmoil, destruction, and unhappiness... which is sadly often manmade. However, to understand the problem more deeply, we must also hold those massive institutions who wield formative powers upon human society - through their political, economic, and sociological efforts to impart certain dispositions to prevalent ideologies on the public; and their increasing involvment in the psychological formation of individuals from an early age since the world wars, as discussed by the academically popular sociologist Nikolas Rose responsible - responsible for the virility of this mindset.
  One viewpoint without the counterbalance of the other is in, my mind, extremely lacking. To blame people and ignore the myriad forces that work on them makes one hateful and prejeudiced against the 'suckers', the 'losers', the 'unwashed'. 'Let the fuckers eat cake' is the sort of mindset that might develop (and I would know, I have a psychology degree and am an expert. Yes).   To hold up the 'common man' as intrinsically good, were it only not for those nasty politicians and the toady teachers who uphold their odious curricula of disempowerment, is bumwash. We are increasingly knowing in our world. Evidence of what is happening hits us all the time, a massive tide of faeces that we cannot block out completely without imposing a mental block. When people in America turn to Fox News, or their conservative newspapers, or Rush Limbaugh, they are aware that they are towing a certain ideological line. Instead of being simply un-burdened with the knowledge of their self-imposed stupidity, they are happy to be dumb.
 
  So how may we fix this?
 
  Let me please saunter into a mode of solution that might one day finalise itself in a best-selling self-help book, co-authored by all on this blog, entitled "How To Take Responsibility & Live a Better Life". It's lucrative stuff, people, get on the bandwagon immediately!
  Part of the general 'apathy' around us is, I must admit, caused by what Atum has called "the trivialising of argumentation entirely into perspectives and points of view". What happens here is that "Person ‘A’ has one view, person ‘B’ has a different view, yet this does not merit investigation, it is simply stated with a shrug," and this is a type of relativistic individualism, where the person can feel free that their way of life is theirs alone, their 'opinion', and henceforth unchallengeable. How many times in pseudo-intellectual debates have I heard the cry of "well, it's my opinion!", as if it in anyway makes it less objectionable? One occasion I remember was my continued efforts to show somebody that their reasons for wanting to vote Conservative ('they plan to do X, they did Y, they stand for Z') were contrary to certain facts. With a tone of 'facts are disgusting, like rotting pieces of a glamour model's fake breast' the person replied, yes, "Well, it's my opinion". How can opinion ever 'beat' fact?
  This deification of opinions adds up, I'd contend, to a permissive society, accepting of social libertarianism, but sadly without the possibility of questioning any of those liberties. We are free agents, and are free most of all to do obviously stupid things and support the stupid people above us who promise us more stupidity in return for our continued stupidity. We may pollute, destroy, and impoverish with practised ease.
  One sad example of 'my opinion is just doublesuperer than yours (or the facts of the situation - ha!)' is displayed in Gary Younge's article A hierarchy of suffering, where he notes that an increasing tactic on the political right is to, in effect, say that "in my opinion I, a rich white male with every possible advantage in this unfair world, am being victimised". This statement of persecution backs up, for example, the Iraq war, and the continuing (although ever more criticised) support of Israel.
  More pertinently, what leads on is an unwillingness to either give criticism of someone else's level of responsibility towards others, or worse, the unhappiness of being given it. We have all walked past the charity tin, but what if the tin holder had chased us? Instead of being shamed by our greedy neglect, and handing over a pocketfull of un-needed change, most people would instead feel violated, even assaulted. If we were to walk up to people in the street and ask them of their opinions on important issues, and what they intended to ever do about them, how many would be interested in responding and listening?
  We are overwhelmingly apathetic about important issues, in my opinion, because we feel absolutely right to hold our opinions, whatever they be.
  This is many ways laudable. Atum bought me Schlosser's Reefer Madness for my birthday over a year ago, which I am finally reading, which covers part of the battle against pornography. It is cheering to read of jurors who refuse to impose their own judgements of what is right or wrong on those convicted of selling porno, acquitting them of charges of obscenity because they believe in the individual's right to choose what they may or may not erotically enjoy. However, this belief in everyone's individual rights has been taken too far. We are all entitled to our opinions - but what of our responsibilities to other people? If our opinions lead us to believe we have no responsibilities to anyone other human but those of our family unit, we should be entitled to argue whether this is ethical. But ethics are not as important, it seems, as our rights to be apathetic, uncaring bastards.
  Perhaps we must reconfigure popular debate. We already feel able to question each other's moralities and viewpoints when it comes to how others deal with their families and close friends. It's seen as fair game, especially since shows such as Jerry Springer, to decry the wife-beater, the wife-cheater, the abusive parents, those who make quick cash by cheating friends on dodgy pyramid investment schemes. These are not matters of "This is my opinion on how to live, and it is sacred". We understand these are matters that negatively affect others, and that we should therefore be held responsible for what we are doing to them.
  And this is how we should feel, more and more, about our duties to the world in general. In America, as Schlosser points out, it would cost only 5 cents per person to provide decent wages for the many thousands of illegal workers on Californian strawberry fields, people who work in the hardest conditions for little and are bilked out of their money with share-cropping schemes. Those who protest against this tiny increase in their taxes should not be seen as protecting their interests, and valiantly expressing their opinons, but as unpleasant hateful little shites.
 
  How can we start to change our hidden system of ethics from staunchly pro-individual to pro-others? This is a political question at heart, and I don't hold out hope that it will be particularly simple. But, having watched three of my considerably younger siblings grow up and seen them interacting with their friends, I know that young children are easily moved by the suffering of others, and are more than anything motivated by what they see as 'unfairness'. Unfairness often seems to be the cornerstone of an infant's view of justice. Where does this go as they grow up?

3 Comments:

Blogger Claypot said...

Where are the fuckers eating cake? I want cake!

Are we not in fact going round in circles, agreeing with ourselves? Is there any way of moving forward? Anyone?

10:03 AM  
Blogger News is Good said...

Perhaps you are right. But perhaps, also, it is true that we have to chase ourselves to make ourselves fit to chase others, as it is only from common agreement that we can present a coherent argument. Think of it as gaining speed by circling a large stellar object until we are going sufficiently fast to escape its gravity and slingshot into some alternate dimension where cuddles smell of pine.

What I'm thinking about currently is PR, the sort bought by industry to make raping of earth and pillaging of 'human resources' seem innocent. Since the advent of this rather annoying technique for diverting the eyes of the masses, it has declined in power, as more and more people have come to distrust it. But it still has a tangible effect.
It's impossible to stop the money from rolling into it, but making it evermore inneffective is possible. Fostering a critical mindset is imperative. Courses in journalism and media often ask you to question the ideologies behind ad campaigns.

Perhaps a PR campaign about the bad naughty badness of PR campaigns is in order.

8:52 PM  
Blogger bhikka said...

I LOVE YOU TOO! : )

9:57 PM  

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