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“We Are Living in a Post-Truth Era” is a Naive Thing to Say

As long as there has been language there has been lying, perhaps longer.

  • Poisonless animals are able to mimic the behavior of other animals that are poisonous and others have fake eye spots on their wings.
  • “Don’t worry I’m not going to hurt you” has been spoken for milennia by the guy who in fact is going to hurt you.
  • “There is no such organization as the Mafia” has been announced by the Mafia in New York City for decades.
  • Tyrants have lied and said they were great, immortal, divine,ever-victorious as long as there have been tyrants.
  • In the United States academic racists said African-Americans were biologically fit for slavery.
  • Scientific misogynists said women were by nature hysterical and loony prudes in white robes have argued masturbation leads to insanity.

The power to tell the truth logically carries with it the power to lie.

To say otherwise is naive.

Worse, it is  disorienting, and therefore paralyzing.  If truth itself has now morphed into something weird and strange and incomprehensible then how on Earth would one go back to the days of truth?

Lying, as old as the hills, needs to be fought back with the same kind of weapons that have fought all the other kinds of malicious behavior that are equally sempiternal: violence, fraud, backstabbing.  Law, accountability, impartial questions, justice.  And so on.

Don’t freak out.

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NEW MENTAL DISORDERS: Cliche Panic, Faith Envy, Epiphany Addiction

CLICHE PANIC

Occurs when one is gripped by panic that one’s life is a cliche.  For example, sending an article to a grown child, the sufferer from cliche panic is gripped with the fear that this is cliched behavior.  Cliche Panic, like all panics includes a reflexive component.  The sufferer from ordinary panic disorder (PD) is panicked, among there things, by suffering from Panic Disorder.  The sufferer from Cliche Panic (CP) is panicked by the idea that cliche panic is itself a cliche, characterizing people like him or herself — the overly reflective.

FAITH ENVY

The envy of faith occurs in two forms: the envy of the follower and envy of the leader (faith guru or faith pontiff).   The faith envier wishes he had the burning faith to sacrifice his life, or the charisma to get his employees to sacrifice their lives.  As in all cases of envy it is not necessary for A to possess trait T for B to envy his possession of it, and in fact A can envy B’s trait and B can envy A for the same trait and neither may possess it.  This occured during the 21 c. confrontation between “The West” and “Islam”.  Neither team actually had faith but each sorely resented and envied what they perceived as the faith of the other side.

EPIPHANY ADDICTION

A syndrome that hovers on the boundary between good and bad thing.  Upon entirely re-evaluating one’s life one or two times the epiphany addict craves the feeling of epiphany.  The baleful side of this syndrome occurs when sufferers deliberately do stupid things in order to have the epiphany that they are stupid.  A rigorous meta-analysis has yet to be conducted to determine whether the incidence of deliberate stupidity on the part of EA’s is in fact higher than that of the general population.

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Hevel of Hevel — Does it Mean Everything is Vanity?

“Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas est.”

Vanity of vanities saith the Preacher — all is vanity.

What is vanity?  The Hebrew word is “hevel”.

It has been translated as futility.  Absurdity.  Emptiness.

The grandson of Rashi says “hevel” means something like incomprehensibility or ineffability.  Something we can engage with and care about but not encompass with the rational mind.

Very soon after telling us everything is “hevel” Koheleth tells us to every thing there is a season.  A time to live and a time to die.

He doesn’t say, but I believe he is thinking, a time to inhale and a time to exhale.

The rivers go into the sea but the sea is never full.  And that’s good.  Breath goes into the lungs but the lungs don’t get full.  The job of the lungs is to circulate the oxygen, not to hoard it.

Kohelet talks about the foolishness of the rich man who accumulates for himself.  And the futility of the wise man who learns for himself.  Because money and knowledge only work when circulating, like breath.  Knowledge is worth something if I communicate it, but if I keep it hoarded within me it is utterly useless.

Since Kohelet believes in God but doesn’t believe we understand him, I think he means by “hevel” the breath of God.

And by “God” he means that of which our brief lives are the breath, whatever that may be.  (Can your breath understand you?  Probably not.  But you sure need it!)

There is a time to exhale — when God breathes us into being — and a time to inhale — when we are drawn back into God.  “The life’s breath returns to God who gave it.”

 

 

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Steve Bannon and the Hobbits

I used to worry that my children would be raised by consumer capitalism and would never grow up with respect for beauty, mystery, awe, the soul, and G-d. This worry helps me understand I think the point of view of the supporters of Trump. Many of them are closer in their minds to hobbits than they are to Hitler.
 
Hobbits you probably know are the heroes of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
 
The furry-footed hobbits are gentle beings who love nature and eating, and small towns, and family and friendship. In Tolkien, the hobbits are the only ones who keep from being corrupted in a wold dominated by ugly technology and the selfish and the power-mad. Tolkien’s world is sad – what’s good and inconspicuous and hard to talk about is getting destroyed by what is powerful and unmysterious. The old magical creatures are disappearing and being replaced by man.
 
Tolkien’s view is not that far from Steve Bannon’s. Bannon worries that capitalism and secularism and Islam are destroying the old ways. It is not that far from Chesteron or Julius Evola or Heidegger or Vladimir Putin’s Heideggerian apologist Dugin.
 
If you feel like a hobbit you will be very angry if you are accused of being Hitler. In your mind you are defending inconspicuous, gentle, unassuming, comforting ways of life that are under attack. You don’t like being cast as the villain, especially if the ones casting you as the villain are themselves proud, uncompassionate, cruel people –to you.
 
Liberals calling people who think of themselves as hobbits are not going to convince the hobbits. They may feel good mocking them, but the hobbits are used to mockery. They are used to being small and inconspicuous and unglamorous.
 
A tragedy in the making though is that just because you view yourself as a gentle hobbit doesn’t mean your actions will feel like that to other people. For example, radical Muslims also feel like the heroes of a medieval romance – as beleaguered paladins threatened by the soulless demon robots of modernity. To the Muslims they are the hobbits and the Americans invading Iraq are Sauron’s forces. To the Americans they are the paladins and the Muslims are the Sauronites.
 
So the hobbit way of talking although it has charms can get us in some bad trouble. We can end up lacking any love or understanding for other people we share the globe with, which is a very unhobbit-like thing to lack.
 
How should we talk then?
 
One thing worth noting about tradition is that traditionally we did not appeal to tradition to justify it. In this tradition is like individualism — people who are individuals don’t become individuals by wanting to be individual. They become individuals by pursuing what they think is wonderful, or worthwhile, and sometimes they do it in an individual way.
 
The hobbits don’t hew to tradition because they are traditionalists. They live in burrows because it is cozy. They eat fresh bread because it tastes good. They play in meadows (or whatever) because it’s beautiful. They get married because they fall in love.
 
Tradition as an ideology — what is traditional is good and must be defended against its enemies — it becomes just another “smelly little orthodoxy contending for our souls”. The proposition “if it is old it must be good” is as far from the wisdom of hobbits as “if it is new it must be good.”
 
Traditionally we liked things that were beautiful, good, holy, cheerful, friendly, or pleasant. That’s something people who say hobbit-like, traditionalist things and people who say liberal things and people who say Islamic things ought to agree on. What helps us raise happy children, or heal diseases, or worship, or swim in rivers, or spend good time with beer and dogs and horses?
 
Those are things we all want. Not a political fight about tradition versus liberalism. That sort of thing is only enjoyed by Nazguls.

 

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“There is No Truth” and “Do Everything You Can To Give Power to the Powerless”

A well-meaning friend of mind studied philosophy and came to two conclusions.  The first one was “There is no truth.”

“What do you mean by that, Gami?” I asked him, because that was his name.

“I mean that truth is always just a function of interest. It is, as Nietzsche says, simply a metaphor on the move trying to conquer things.  Metaphysically it makes no sense — how could a sentence correspond to the world?  Politically, we have to question it.  Why do people believe in truth?  Because they are trying to protect their power and privilege from any criticism.”

“That’s a lot, Gami.   Is that all?”

“It isn’t.” Gami said.  “The other thing is to give power to the powerless.  The weak, the vulnerable, the poor.  Let them have power.  They deserve it.”

It came to pass that Gami’s father died and his mother grew ill and Gami found that his brother Haidook had moved into the house and was taking care of her with his girlfriend Dirdirella.  Haidook had taken his portion of their father’s inheritance and spent it foolishly investing in a fish restaurant in Des Moines where nobody likes fish (also it was a bad restaurant).  Then he had borrowed a lot of money and spent it going to a university that promised to teach its students to get rich quick investing in real estate, but in fact had the opposite or nearly opposite effect — he got poor quick!  He also got drunk a lot and ate poorly and had had a heart attack at the tender age of 42.   Gami came home one weekend and found the mother lying on the mattress without a sheet and she had two bed sores.  Dirdirella despite receiving money from the state for taking care of their mother was at a party.

“This is intolerable!” Gami said.

“Gami is just saying that because he tried to have sex with Dirdirella and he hired a guy to beat her up.” said Gami’s brother Haidook.

“That’s not true.” said Gami.

“In any case let me handle selling the house.  I have never had any power in this family.  I should now.” said Haidook.

“But why should you get power now?   What little power you have had in the past you have used poorly to disastrous effect!”

“Spoken like a full-on liar!” screamed Haidook and picked up a piano stool and hit poor Gami in the side of the head, necessitating seven stitches, although in the legal papers he filed Haidook maintained it never happened.

In the hospital I discussed philosophy with Gami.  “Look, Gami, I don’t think you should go around saying there is no truth.  It just lets your brother tell lies about you and you have no way to defend yourself.  If there is no truth there is no way to say that you didn’t hit on Dirdirella”

“I didn’t!” said Gami.  It was difficult for him to speak because his cheek had swollen to the size of a musk melon.

“And I don’t think you should necessarily go around giving power to the powerless, because some of the powerless have no power because if they had any they would be really bad at using it.”

“I guess.” said Gami.  “But metaphysically I still think there is no truth.”

“Metaphysically you can think that.” I said, and although I did not express it I inwardly reclassified Gami as a lunatic.

“And even though I don’t think the foolish, self-deceptive powerless should be given power now I think somehow someday they should.”

“Someday.”

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