Saturday, September 3, 2022

Anger Management

Lots of times, in my mind alone, I do a kind of devil's advocate thing. Like I don't always like our demonizing our historical behavior out of its context. Sure, genocide and wanton slaughter should be universally detested, but I'm still not so sure we have any right to take these behaviors out of their proper context and judge people as though they lived in our time. 

Yes, I'm including those in the American Civil War on the side of the Confederacy, and those wanton murderers of native Americans who overran and populated the American West. Slave holders even, and especially when the original captors were black fellows of who would be the slaves.

This all feels dangerous, of course, and so I keep such thoughts to myself, as thought experiments of a sort. If I ever do dare to voice them, my daughters will immediately set me straight, and mostly I think they'll be right. 

My basic trouble is that I don't really buy any notions that history is progressive, as in ameliorative, as in we are getting better and better. Like, especially when Stephen Pinker, who's often associated himself with such notions, shows up with Jeffrey Epstein.

If I watch streaming services which serve up ads, like Hulu for instance, it's hard not to remark to myself that the ads target young self-branders. Sure, I suppose ads have always featured young beauties who exemplify what we're supposed to want for ourselves from the spoils of the marketplace, but I sense a kind of desperation now.

I'm certain that it's all projection on my part, but still, it all opens up fields for irony. We aspire to be people who look and behave the way they do because of luck, and the riches it brings of lifestyle and beauty. We somehow don't accept that those projections will never become us.

There is a neo-Marxist concept called accelerationism, and I'm glad to note that very few neo-Marxists take it up. It's a writ-large version of how we thought maybe Dubya would put the lie to the Republican brand so that we could move more quickly in a progressive direction. Nope!

Anyhow, accelerationism is fundamentally tied to a teleological meaning for history, of the sort that Marx professed. Now, accelerationism has been co-opted by the radical right, who deploy violence to accelerate the revolution they want. They seem to have some bizarre belief in the manifest destiny of the white man, meaning that they want to bring back a certain context from our past. 

While I might, in my mind, forgive the white supremacists of those days, since they had a whole Church behind them along with a pride in the European origins of what Karl Polanyi calls The Great Transformation; I certainly can't forgive the white supremacists of our times now. Any more than I can forgive the Republican Party for what it's become.

(I still can't understand why Polanyi's thesis hasn't supplanted Marx, among we progressives. Which is to say we liberals. By which I mean those who have deracinated mankind according to Polanyi. So I do have my answer, in a way.)

But on the other hand, the Republican Party may well be awaking more and more of us to the ugliness of rampant unregulated capitalism. Of literal readings of Bible or Constitution which are so blatantly mis-readings that more and more of us worry about the future prospects for our Union. This business of buying in wholesale to arguments that you might make with your beer buddies out of hearing from normal society, has gone over some edge hasn't it? Those readings of the Bible just don't feel like love. Those readings of the Constitution don't feel like democracy and freedom. 

It all feels like hate and anger.

But now, maybe, along with global warming, species death, and the evident psychosis in the notion that we are ever going to populate the universe off-earth, this kind of non-thinking might push us beyond the pale of a quasi-religious - which means quasi-fascist - belief in capitalism as any kind of end-game other than the sort which ends everything all at once.

Sure, capitalism unleashes creativity, but without effective governmental regulation, that creativity runs by itself amok, and cares not at all for the carrying capacity of our planet. Joe Biden may not be the best thing since sliced bread, and I certainly disagree with him powerfully about China, but at least he's not morally bankrupt in the totalizing way that, say, JD Vance went. Anyhow, China tries too hard to engineer their future and it looks like they're heading into really difficult times. Blame it on corruption, just as we do here, but I'm pretty sure I'll take our bumbling way forward over their more deliberate ways over there. 

Our quandary now - the Earth's quandary - is not economic, not technological, surely not religious, and only partly political. Our quandary is a moral quandary. We have to figure out - and quickly - how to be good human beings.

We might excuse ourselves by claiming that we can never find, and indeed should never try for, a universal definition of the good. I'll be generous here and suppose that Peter Thiel thinks he's a good person, and believes with some integrity that winners like him should rule the world. That's even while I can't think of a more morally bankrupt person, unless maybe it's Rudy Giuliani or his capo Donald Trump. We all know that Rudy did once believe he fought on the side of the angels. Now I suppose he fights on the side of the angles; validating every lawyer joke you've ever heard. 

The law can't touch morality, nor can science. All law can do is to collectivize our basic sense of right and wrong. It can help to provide us some measure of order in an otherwise messy world. Now we have a supreme court who is so wedded to a particular religious order that they are willing to accelerate the debasement of any kind of collective faith in the rule of law. Ditto science, when it subserves the military industrial complex, which it always has. That's where the money comes from, stupid.

Law and science both are things of beauty, so long as they don't totalize. Just as we can never populate Mars until we become good humans, we can never describe everything about existence by means of the scientific method until we recognize the morality uncertainty principle. Morality is relative, just like mass and energy are. Morality engages emotion, which is always context-dependent. If you are able, even in your mind, to shoot people that you don't understand, then you are certainly immoral. Today, if not yesterday.

Our context now is the Whole Earth, and it has been for a while. Science and technology got us this far, but they won't do a thing to get us beyond. The law worked for so long as we all believed that it could work. Believing in the law is a moral agreement with our fellow humans. It's nothing greater than fair-play on a field as grand as the earth. That's the limit for law.

Sure, it's fair that a competent and clever industrialist should enjoy the outsized fruits of our labor. But he crosses a line when his workers can't afford his products, just as surely as wealthy footballers cross a line when ordinary working fans can't afford to attend the games in person. We have gone all out of proportion, and we've done it very recently.

By now I'm old and it hurts so much to follow them that I've lost most of my enthusiasms. I certainly no longer think that I'm going to convince anyone that emotion is part of any valid definition for bedrock reality. I won't convince you that evolution moves in the direction of what - and under the direction of what - many people still call God's Love. 

It does so in ways not so difficult to imagine, thanks to atheist Richard Dawkins and others of his ilk. But those atheists aren't prepared at all to leave go of the scientific definition for random, which is that random is meaningless, which is just plain wrong. Just because something isn't directed either by God or by man doesn't mean it's meaningless. It can only mean that its meaning exceeds, and will fundamentally always exceed, our comprehension. Unlimited intelligence has no context ever at all. Even God requires context to exist, stupid.

So, while I don't believe in progress, I do believe in growth. Humans qua humanity remain immature and we therefore destroy our any context. Our elders have forsaken us. Maybe it has to be this way, because maybe we have to make way for a consciousness which is not amoral. Or in other words, our consciousness is at least as artificial as what we dream of creating by way of logic circuits. What comes next will be as a god to what and who we are now. It just won't be our God. 

When the planet is bereft of humans, that won't be God's doing. It will be ours. But hey, no species is forever. Life is, by definition, what persists in realization of God's love. Life is the realization of God's love. We are fallen and bereft, and about to enter eternity as a species. We have forsaken God. Not He us. Peace be with you. Not you, Alito, I'm talking to the good guys.

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