04/27/2014 by syrbal-labrys
Immanuel Kant, one of my favorite and most intractably Prussian sort of philosophers, did not agree utterly with the materialist sorts of his time who thought we simply collected data and regurgitated it on command. Nor did he particularly agree with what would be called an idealist who thinks that all the material stuff simply reflects ideas made flesh. What he did insist upon was the liveliness of the human mind — he strongly felt that humans do take in all the sensory input the great wide world offers and then we DO stuff with it. We synthesize; we are not mere filing cabinets of rote information.
So, this is a good thing; we are active RE-formulators! Except when it isn’t. Because if one KNOWS that we take input and run it around the tracks in our head until we make something altered, how do we know if we are “keeping it real” as the saying once went? I ask, because I know when I run things through the “filter-shredder” of my own nigh constant low level depression (probably dysthymia?) I am not sure what comes out at the end is still accurate. And knowing this, I therefore do not act upon any of my possibly depression-tainted ideas until I have some outside source of verification that tells me what I am doing is a truly good idea. My general test is running my chosen response through Kant’s Categorical Imperative, John Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance, and topped off with a fast utilitarian equation just to sweep up logical crumbs and check for practicality.
And that makes me wonder about how other folks make decisions to act upon the input that flies in and out of THEIR heads. Especially those whose main brain-frame seems to be religious ideation. The religious loom weaves some ugly mental and physical fabric. I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week, in a fairly unpleasant state of grief over the shooting, in Kabul, Afghanistan…of three American doctors. They were shot and killed outside the doors of a hospital run by an American Christian charity — for the aid of Afghans, especially mothers and babies. Their killer was a man hired as a security guard for said hospital.
From a Western point of view, such killing is madness; is it not? Why kill people who are there to help little babies and their mamas? From an Afghan point of view? Well, that is debatable; but since there is plenty of history in Afghanistan of women dying “virtuously” because a male doctor could not be allowed to see another man’s wife…”there to help the women” may be a negligible ideal in Afghan life. And hey, babies die at the will of Allah; so someone could take that “data” of “Christian doctors from America saving babies” and spit back out “abomination deserving death for daring to question the will of God/Allah”. There is a mental spin, eh? A synthesis of ignorance and religious principle to make any possible angels weep.
I do get the need to soften the blows of life; I could almost hear the “comforting” things people would be saying about the shootings in Afghanistan. Two of the victims were family, a father and son (the son’s wife was also wounded). I could imagine religious folks saying things like “Well, they are together in heaven now.” Yes, I get the need to find some relief from the anger and pain of such a sucking societal flesh wound — but platitudes based on pies in skies do not satisfy me. They never really did.
And to all the happily god-bothered sorts saying that is my dysthymia talking? Well, the biggest message I’ve gotten in at least 50 years of dealing with depression is that if I don’t like something I should find a way to make it better! Promising myself vague theoretical heavens has never made anything feel better for me. I live in the here and now, and so does everyone else — so I need things better here. Heaven, if such exists, really can just fucking wait…and “Hell” can go to hell; because we make a passible imitation right here.
We judge other societies: Africa and tribal genocidal violence, Koreans committing suicide in response to a ship full of teens sinking, India having so many people and so many poor, Putin trying to amalgamate the old Soviet Russia back into being. But really, for me that only proves our old imperialistic, colonial age ways are calcified: the goods and privileges conferred upon us by our Euro-centric history puts all of OUR guilt at a deferred place. No, we don’t chop the opposite “tribe’s” people into brain salad surgery with machetes — we slice and dice our minorities economically. We don’t murder infants and children with guns; we “let” them die of poverty, and illness — yes, even here in the good old U.S.A. We sneer and pity portraits of Indian beggar children with flies buzzing round their eyes and suffering from water-borne disease — while drinking bottled water taken from Indian rivers and filtered and sold to enrich Nestle, or CocaCola and their stock-holders.
None of us have clean hands. We need to look in the mirror we use when judging others and we will not. And claiming whatever random deity of choice “wants it all that way” is some existentially unsteady damned quicksand. And no, it is not easy — if possible at all — to truly “walk away from Omelas“**. The trouble is, more and more, what it looks like to me is, most people don’t WANT to walk away. And some people would shove EVERY helpless suffering child into a cellar to keep their place in the penthouse. It is too easy to act from a position of privilege while whining about being called on it.
There is nothing I can say that I have not said a hundred times. I can’t force anyone wearing gilded platform heels into a pair of worn down moccasins. Things are going to fall down. It is going to be ugly. I doubt I will survive the “fall” that is almost certainly coming; because I fear to do so would require an ugliness that I will not embrace even to save my own life. So few Americans bother with true education and real critical thought nowadays that I don’t think we possess the wherewithal to stop the ride spinning out of control.
So this is my farewell post here. I am done. I suppose I will dither on a while at my more personal blog at EP, but who knows, I may lose heart even there in the shelter of whatever spiritual, philosophical comforts I can find for myself. There is no fixing stupid, and so much of America has decided to be proud of stupidity, equating it to some non-existent primal innocence. Frankly? If that primal innocence ever existed? It is fucking lucky the species survived THAT — we will not likely be so fortunate with WILLFUL ignorance.
**And yes, you DO need to go read that story if you are unfamiliar with it.