In a way, writing is an incredible act of individualism, producing your language, and yet to use it from the heart of a crowd as opposed to as an individual performance is a conflicting thing. I do stand alone, and yet it’s not about being an individual or being ambitious.Arundhati Roy
[p.12, The Modern Mind, Watson]
It seems that in the course of a century, in the West or the North Atlantic, this „therapeutic nihilism“ has transformed itself only slightly to become, instead and based on the self-same spiritual cluelessness, „palliative irony“. Whereas nihilism seems straightforward in its repudiation of any chance at making sense of human existence, „palliative irony“ makes a show of admitting the existence of different meaning-giving practices, ideologies, theories, etcetera. Only to, at the blink of an uncunning observer, disavow any sense of allegiance: whatever was said was not „really“ meant because, oh well, who would be so naive as to subscribe to one steadfast narrative? Who would dare to commit her- or himself to the reality of a standpoint? That would go against the casual, sophisticated, detached cosmopolitanism that allows one to crisscross continents as easily as ideologies.
Whereas maybe for „therapeutic nihilism“ the disease of society was the beastly human nature we fall back into despite all civilizational advances, the malady of society for „palliative irony“ is also its ineffectual cure: non-commitment. Under this paradigm, things run their course because even ideologies do not commit us to any particular course of action: we don‘t really mean it, we‘re nudging and winking like fools.
[p.13, The Modern Mind, Watson]
Interesting glimpses here.
First of all the saying „Meine Pappenheimer“ [my usual set of friends] might have its origins here and, much to my befuddlement, has nothing to do with any cardboard homes; which I always considered a nice image: the friends you grew up with were the same ones you shared your childhood carboard houses with. Secondly: the talking cure, a time-honored psychotherapeutic measure, was actually discovered/invented/stumbled-upon by a lay-woman who hardly ever is acknowledged. By way of the intermediary Breuer who does not ever get any props either.
New topic. Think of what/which culture archetypically represents the origins of the Western or North Atlantic cultural matrix. Got it? A good-willed guess on my part would be that you thought of either the Greeks [Aristoteles sitting in the sand in the long shade of the Agora] or the Romans [Caesar kicking everybody‘s behind] or maybe even along more adventurous lines: the cradle of humankind Darwin-only-knows-where in Eastern Africa. However, the world coughs up surprises to no end, thus one reads that scholars consider another people at the origin of our society. And I was quite happy to learn it, as the board-game by their very name is one of my favorites.
[p.17, The Modern Mind, Watson]
Could the egomania manifested in selfies, incessant status updates, instagramm self-promotion et al. be an irrational response to the inability to find a constructive, creative, possibly even spiritual way of deploying the new technologies at our disposal? That is to say: if the internet connects most of us in the North Atlantic world at a few clicks, makes vast quantities of our civilization‘s data available and affords the opportunity to instantaneously exchange our ideas and theories…then is the best use to fire off a showy witticism about where one went on vacation? Given the existence of such sites as GoodReads, The Atlantic, Dictionary.com and others more, this question seems polemical but considering the allocation of human time and energy across all of the net, I dare guess it is not.
In fact, it does not seem unreasonable that the mass media‘s unerring catastrophe-bias [which is peculiarly mirrored in many popular series‘ relentlessly cynical main characters] and the exceedingly bleak UN Climate Change Reports make the „after-me-the-deluge“-approach rational rather than pessimistic. Again, it is a very old phenomenon and what would be more interesting is to observe its fluctuations over time compared against the socio-economic and ecological long-term outlook of the society in question… the mention of which likely makes researchers such as Piketty slap their palm against their forehead concussively in ways that might in fact negatively impact his seriously above average cognitive faculties. And which having started in on his magnificient tome makes one hope he‘ll go in for the good ol‘ hair-tuft-plucking as comical-outrage routine.
[p.29, The Modern Mind, Watson]
One returns to this theme time and again, like a very played-out tune leaving grooves so deep a disc of vinyl would be all slashed to stripes. What it amounts to is one of the most widespread, outrageously wilful misunderstandings of the spirit of postmodernity. In its disheartening [and disbraining] abdication of thought it seems a natural collaborator of pop music. We are circling in here on a notion euphemistically encapuslated by the phrase „Well, that‘s all pretty subjective“. Often followed up by the dictum that no productive argument can be had. And thus shouldn‘t. This anti-democratic, anti-thinking, anti-human platitude is well-established in common parlance and, I am convinced, should be fought tooth and clause because it conjoins innumerable fallacies of the dark side of contemporary culture.
One of them being: the consumer is always right; I am a consumer [most of the time], ergo I am always right. How can one anchor such a non-sensical claim? Easy, just axiomatically state that any sort of difficult debate or theory or knowledge [whether one hasn‘t read a paragraph about it or is the world‘s foremost authority] ultimately comes down to how it is assessed by an individual, that is, a subject. One proclaims It is subjective, one means to say It is whatever the hell I think it is; as was mentioned somewhere earlier in this blog, many a present-day ego considers it an outrage that anybody should be informationally [or cognitively] more competent than him-/herself. Surely a quick Wiki-hit will bring one up to speed with the likes of Hawkins, the Dalai Lama or Edward Witten [one of the foremost phycisits/mathematicians]. Years of hard work, study, talent and genius are discounted to zero in the splendor of one‘s EGO. It‘s all in a subject‘s click!
This is a big bit of hyperbole, admitted, but I cannot remember how many times, in the past 18 months, one of my interlocutors cut short a debate by stating: „I disagree but let‘s see what Wiki has to say on the matter“ …and then blurted out excerpts of quotations from an unknown author in loco divine truth. The excerpts usually insert themselves in the flow of a diadic or triadic or polyadic conversation the way a razor blade fits in the juicy flesh of a Granny Smith: it cuts across all organic connections and makes it impalatable, it is a foreign body. You end the conversation because it‘s basically become useless, possibly dangerous to your health.
The second implicit claim of „it‘s all very subjective“ is that there is no need for an intersubjective consensus. If society is a socialist sugar-puff, say the accolytes of unfettered individualism then sticking our heads together to figure out a few things collectively [e.g. the political order, the meaning of human existence, the relevance of altruism, the value of endless consumption, the significance of eating meat, etc.]. These collective discourses are all hapless neo-romantic substitutes for the cold, modern fact of clicking your way to google‘s answer array or, if the subject decides it is not significant, ignore it all together.
A philosopher who once taught me called this atttiude „spineless relativism“ and it certainly goes by many names. Apart from the fallacies mentioned above there also seems to be some type of fundamental mix-up implied: the subjective is real AND the [feasible] intersubjective consensus is appearance, is maya. This basically crazy Thatcherite view of things can only hold true if you consider yourself the only relevant being on this world, it crumbles when you take even a single other person into account. Or another person takes you into account [e.g. let me give a helping hand / this is probably a good moment to grab his-her wallet / etc.]. As a collective one gets into the business of making things work plus getting ahead….some kind of progress. And this calls, most basically put ,for the answering of the question: how useful is it? More or less than the available alternatives? This be pragmatism, beloved comrade! What I have bumbingly, tangentially tried to convey here is beautifully encapsulated in the following quote.
[p. xxii, r. rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope]