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Are You Flotsam & Jetsam on The Social Tides of a Confused and Lost Humanity?

book stack smallI’m not the first to be amused by the irony of human profession, being that everyone likes to believe that their opinions and rationalizations are based on facts, reality, and careful reason, while the truth for most is closer to assumptions, controlling visions unthinkingly absorbed from one’s society, and emotional whim.

Take the seemingly endless claim of American youth as they come of age, going back at least a century as far as I’m aware, that they want to express their individuality through their clothing, but, in doing so, end up dressed like the rest of their friends.

One might muse that what is really being said is that growing children wish to align themselves with friends rather than parents, so that “individuality” is really just groupthink with a different and preferred group… but that would only prove my point. Nobody says, “I want to use my power to choose my clothes so that I stamp out all individuality and meld into the Borg that is generational impulse.”

No, each one seems to honestly believe generation by generation that they are pioneers breaking free from the doldrums of the past to discover new country, new truth, and a better future… even if those new truths are merely rehashed and disastrous old truths from the uninvestigated past.

Nobody says, “I am a puppet for those forces known and unknown who feed me all my opinions about everything, so that in dedicating myself wholly and completely to the latest trends in thought and rhetoric, I prove to be little more than mental and emotional flotsam & jetsam on the unthinking waves of the ever changing, yet never truly improving, social tides of a confused and lost humanity.”

No, people tend to imagine themselves real thinkers, fully engaged in the “issues,” whether or not they are meaningfully plugged into the history of serious bodies of human inquiry or not.

I don’t just mean plugged into “science,” with all its techno-bobbles, but plugged into the history of science where lessons are learned about human nature and not just the mechanics of the observable, testable universe. I mean the real history of centuries of scientific hubris and its many ruinations, as each generation rises from the ashes of their predecessors with just as much hubris as those fools, never imagining that they themselves are the next generation’s fools. I mean the real history in which some built castles on clouds… i.e. questionable philosophical presuppositions… and others, rallying behind as gate-keepers of the guild, cut off all inquiry into the foundations of those castles… usually by chanting, “The science is settled,” no matter how many times they change their minds to keep with the latest powerplay, and by affecting a cocky sneer of dismissal of those with a memory and those who wish to open all avenues for investigation.

I don’t just mean the soft-sciences of the intellectuals and intelligentsia— Philosophy, Psychology, sociology, Political theory, Anthropology, Economics etc…—but the history of these pseudo-sciences where lay the myriad of skeletons buried by the self-congratulating hoards who make themselves immune to the masses’ blame before the ravages of reality with a constantly shifting magic show, replete with distractions, slight of hand, dazzling rhetoric, and pointing fingers.

I don’t just mean losing one’s self in the endless blogs, news reports, and talk show hosts. I don’t mean being well versed on the latest trends in politically correct “offense-proof” chatter, or the most up to date opinions about our brave new moral horizons, where the tyranny of traditional visions of family, culture, sexual restraint and both race and gender identity are “rightfully” vilified. These are merely sprinkles on the ice-cream cone of life. Being a truly informed soul, requires an understanding of the soil in which one grows the crops that fed the cows that produced the dairy used to make the ice-cream upon which our modern age dabbles its sprinkles.

Being a truly informed person means setting aside the gut reactions trained into us by our generation, looking beyond the rhetoric of our age, demanding more than publically sanctioned pre-suppositions about cause-effect realities at work in the world, analyzing the philosophical and theological realities behind the definition of popular phraseology. One needs to examine personal and societal presuppositions and try, as best as one can, to test them against reality, within the real cause-effect structures at work in the world.

Here are eleven starting points:

  1. The problem with the world is found in Human nature not human organizations. Man has something bent and broken inside that warps our desires and leaves us innately disposed to profound selfishness and foolish pursuits. There is no utopia waiting for us if we could only get our cultures, our laws, our institution right. Cultures have consequences and some are more productive and foster better things than others, but in the end our cultures are expressions of what ails people not the cause of their primary ailment.
  2. Human nature is fixed. People change but only within a narrow confine of human nature generally. Every child is born a barbarian in need of civilizing, and needing to assimilate to and into society. Those who don’t for one reason or another will have hard lives. The world is not made a better place by forcing society to assimilate to the marginalized, and the marginalized are not helped by excusing unproductive processes and patterns of life.
  3. The creation and preservation of an environment of opportunity through known and stable rules and principles does more to improve the human condition than allowing a minority of self-aggrandizing leaders to “tinker” with laws and rules in order to create equality of outcome artificially.
  4. The Government functions best that concentrates on the preservation of basic natural rights, protecting every citizen and his property from threats both domestic and foreign.
  5. Governments controlled by those who believe they are smart enough and wise enough and morally superior enough to use the force of government to engineer society toward some grand vision of human potential and dream of equality among the masses are the greatest threat to the citizen.
  6. You cannot preserve positive and negative rights together in society. Natural rights are negative rights, the right to be left to one’s own devices unmolested. The right to life, liberty & property. Positive rights are the right to receive from society, at society’s expense, certain goods and services. Services may be any number of things like food, clothing and shelter, or even things like the right of an individual to do business with people who don’t want to do business with that individual for any number of reasons, the right to an unoffended life, or even the right to acceptance by society. My freedom of religion cannot survive one citizen’s right to live a life free of religious exposure. My right to property cannot survive one citizen’s right to live for nothing on the taxes paid by working citizens. My right of association cannot survive another citizen’s right to force me to do business with him… no matter the reason for my resistance. My freedom of speech cannot survive another citizen’s right to be unoffended by what I might say, or what I might feel about him.
  7. Feeling bad, rejected, shunned, guilty, marginalized, unliked, disappointed, frustrated, offended, or any other variation of “negative” human emotion is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Avoiding these things should not become the controlling factor in the development of social patterns. Truth should not be measured by how it “makes people feel.”
  8. Equality of outcome is not a virtue to be achieved at any expense to society. Reality has decreed inequality as a starting point—i.e. there is no such thing as a level playing field—and we are not heroes of society when we prove willing to sacrifice social order in order to create one or in order to compensate individuals and select groups for its lack.
  9. Inequality is NOT, primarily, the product of prejudice and discrimination, but human choice, limitation, and natural & cultural inclination. Prejudice exists, as it must in order for people to survive, but it is not THE culprit in most unequal results.
  10. Personal responsibility IS an important part of one’s outcome. People make hundreds of choices each day every day of their lives in response to environment (good & bad) and opportunity (or the seeming lack there of). While many people are victimized by others on a regular basis, the product of one’s life is primarily constructed by the choices one makes in the face of these challenges.
  11. Victimhood is one of the most unproductive identifiers for members of society, be they individuals or groups. Nobody ever gets ahead by blaming their failure on others, even though everyone faces many and diverse hurdles  on the road to anywhere.

Indeed, these ideas—fly in the face of the prevailing winds as they may—are not the product of assumptions, controlling visions unthinkingly absorbed from my society, nor emotional whim. These ideas are the product of several decades of careful investigation, schooling, reading and debating. They are the product of long and careful contemplation of first thoughts—i.e. the soil that grew the crops that fed the cows that produced the dairy that became the ice-cream that receives daily doses of sprinkles from the media. It is the product of years of studying ancient literature, the origins of human civilization, and the histories of the sciences and soft-sciences mentioned above.

This does not make me right. For I, like the rest of humanity, am quite limited in my capacity to discover, memorize and assimilate knowledge. I am limited in my ability to observe and learn from all the cause-effect realities around me.

It does, however, make me, and those like me, one who is more than mental and emotional flotsam & jetsam on the unthinking waves of the ever changing, yet never truly improving, social tides of a confused and lost humanity.

It does make me a worthy dialogue partner on the affairs of the day.

It does make me a valuable asset to today’s youth who wish to be something more than puppets for manipulative forces that seek to feed them their opinions about everything… and I do birthday parties.

 

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