Friday, September 07, 2018

Socialism vs. the Extra-Cranial World

The World Beyond Your Head. First of all, what a great title, even though the book itself is a bit diffuse and half-digested. Like a ruminant, the author should have chewed the material a bit longer before asking us to swallow it. Problem is, now it's up to me to digest it all, and I'm not feeling especially focussed myself this morning.

Still, the theme of the book is sound -- that, largely because of technology, human beings are increasingly exiled from the real world and trapped inside their own heads. And "unexpectedly," the more they pursue this faux-individuality, the more they end up the same, only worse. It's why the left can un-ironically celebrate "diversity" while manifesting such a distinct lack thereof: the proverbial herd of independent minds.

You'd think a situation in which everyone is living inside abstractions within their own heads would lead to mass eccentricity -- a herd of cats -- but instead, we have a compliant and predictable sheepocracy of tenured, media, and entertainment drones. The key, it seems to me, is that ignoring feedback from the actual world is what allows everyone on the left to be the same.

Consider how, for example, since 2016, the left has been unified in their obsessional loathing of Trump. It's all they talk or think about. And yet, the world -- the one outside their heads -- not only keeps turning, but is thriving in every measurable way.

This morning, for example, the headlines on Drudge include


--GREAT AGAIN: Construction Worker Wages Rise


--120 Utilities Have Lowered Rates Thanks to Tax Cuts.

It's like this every day: it must be exquisitely painful for the left to have to deal with a such a constant stream of good news.

Just below the good news is a link to an article on Michael Moore's new anti-Trump film. I wonder what he has to complain about? I mean, outside his own head? Okay, I'll bite. What's going on in there?

"Filmmaker Michael Moore compares U.S. President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler in his provocative new documentary, 'Fahrenheit 11/9.'" Yes, provocative. Not insane.

But what is insanity? It is loss of contact with the real world, precisely. I mean, if Hitler was Trump, then WWII was just a big misunderstanding.

"The documentary examines the forces Moore believes contributed to Trump’s election victory in November 2016, drawing parallels with the rise of Hitler in 1930s Germany."

Being that I am a strong supporter of Trump, I can only assume this means that I am a Nazi. Now, in reality, being that I exist outside Moore's head, only I am in a position to know whether I am in fact a Nazi or maybe even the opposite of a Nazi -- which is to say, a small government constitutional conservative, or classical liberal.

Turns out I am indeed the latter, so Moore has made a rather fundamental error, only multiplied times 50 or 60 million. As in: "I imagined you were Hitler, when you turned out to be James Madison. My bad."

Of course, Moore might have asked one of us how we feel about Nazism, but that would have required too much travel outside his head.

Anyway, since the book is so diffuse, maybe an amazon reviewer can boil it down for us. Let's see.

The overall theme of “The World Beyond Your Head” has to do with seeking out authentic individuality in a social context and culture that is awash in a flattened-out democratic autonomy.... the author sees that presently there “is a crisis of self-ownership: our attention isn’t simply ours to direct where we will...

The book explains

why the modern human is not progressing at all, but is actually regressing in many ways, because of technology. We are becoming dumber, more narcissistic..., and we are unaware that all of this is happening.... The lie that "individualism" and "freedom" is the great savior is the biggest con job ever perpetrated on a people.

Example: If you want to be good at Judo, you have to show up, humble yourself, and learn from the Sensei and from the tradition. This could be said for so many things in life.

Yes. The point is, genuine freedom and meaningful individuality require a long apprenticeship to reality, AKA the world outside your head.

In a note to myself, I wrote "Since few of us are intellectuals or scholars, academia had to invent whole disciplines for the stupid, the lazy, the shallow." Moreover, it has had to change the very nature of disciplines such as psychology, which is no longer tethered to objective reality -- say, the biological reality of two sexes -- but anchored in fantasies and preferences.

In this regard, the less you know, the more you think you know, until you attain a kind of cheap omniscience, whether it comes from scientism, feminism, deconstruction, whatever. Each of these exhaustively explains the world outside your head, without entailing the trouble of actually having to leave your head.

This also results in a pseudo-freedom, because now the person is enslaved in a false understanding, but confuses it with the real thing. Who understands less about women than feminists? Who understands less about economics than a socialist? For whom do black lives matter less than Black Lives Matter?

The author comes from a similar angle and argues that only by engaging with the real world can we truly become individuals. He also says that paradoxically we can only achieve true freedom by submitting to something external -- for example, by submitting to the rules of musicianship within a particular style, you gradually achieve freedom to improvise endlessly within that style.

Another reviewer says that the cogito of this book could be "I do, therefore I am." Or, you could say, "I screw up, therefore I am," for in order to screw up, you need a world outside your head. And now you know why the left is never wrong and can never learn. It is why socialism will always be with us.


Gagdad Bob said...

"This is reality. The Democrats’ clown show is fantasy. Fortunately, most people care more about reality than fantasy. Still, both confusing the facts and distracting people from them are tactics at which the Left excels."


"In other words, if they get their way, fantasy will triumph over reality.."

julie said...

the author sees that presently there “is a crisis of self-ownership: our attention isn’t simply ours to direct where we will...

I was skimming an article from Drudge this morning on how Netflix now "suggests" shows for you during the end credits of whatever you were watching, often followed by a trailer to helpfully entice the viewer into watching for just a little while longer...

"In this regard, the less you know, the more you think you know, until you attain a kind of cheap omniscience...

Teaching my kids, this attitude of omniscience - that having merely tried something or simply observed something once, one now has a complete understanding of the whole, with no need for anything so dull as practice, much less mastery, is perfectly natural - and they must be taught how wrong this attitude is. Daily.

julie said...

As to fantasy triumphing over reality, of course it only seems that way for a little while, until the high of victory wears off and the brutal reality asserts itself once more.


Going back to the crisis of attention, it's funny: Nature has its own way of grabbing our attention, if we simply take a few moments to look and see. In our front yard just now, we discovered a big green scarab-type beetle (a flower chafer beetle, apparently) busily doing something mysterious in the middle of a blooming rose. Also observed: a fly caught in a spider's web, with what appeared to be another, mite-sized spider, sitting on its wing. If we sat long enough, we would surely observe the bigger spider wrapping it up. And one more observation: in our aquarium, we have two mollies and a catfish. Both mollies were thought to be female, but after observing a surprising bit of activity, we realized one is now male.

There is drama everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Julie makes an excellent point. In the land of Reality, direct observation is King. Interviews, media and document review are lesser Princes.

Bob points out, things aren't all that bad based on news reports. How are things based on direct observation? That is the question. What are people doing? How are they dressed? Do they look well-nourished? What is available in stores? etc.

One has to sort of patrol one's precincts and make efforts to go to varied places in order to perform the necessary observations. At the same time interviews and document and media review can be done as adjuncts.

But to make assertions based solely on media or document review is not good Reality checking technique.

Gagdad Bob said...

I just want to say that the two Hayek books in the sidebar are among the most profound and consequential I've ever read. I have to put him up there with Schuon and Davila on the profundity scale, except that in his case it's a "minus profundity" revolving around the consequences of our irremediable ignorance.

It seems to me that the most important orthoparadox we must understand and tolerate is that of our deiformity, on the one hand, and incurable ignorance, on the other. Forget either, and catastrophes follow.

It's easy to forget what we do not and cannot know.

Gagdad Bob said...

And faith is a kind of "remembering" what we cannot know. Which, of course, Hayek doesn't get into...

Anonymous said...

We must remember that of all fact-checking methods, olfaction is best. One can immediately discern disorder via the nose. Strong ammonia or petroleum notes indicate an unhealthy environment. Impoverished areas will often reek of decay or sewerage. Areas where skunky, aromatic and floral scents abound indicate a population with good access to cannabis. Fresh breezes, salt air, or sagebrush/pine laden air are signs of a healthy environment.

People should have a certain musky funk when unwashed, indicating good health/diet. People under chronic stress will have a pungent, sharp cheese odor indicating high cortisol levels.
Bad smells are encountered in hospitals, where dangerous bacteria emit their disturbing and toxic eau, which mixes with scents of Hibiclens and Betadine.

And then there is the odor of perfectly roasted coffee beans, slow brewed using pure spring water...ahhhh.

So, don't forget to sniff your way through life. This will make you wise.