April 30, 2005
How to be a Relativist
posted by Ken Taylor
Over at the blog Left2Right, the philosopher David Velleman has an interesting post about moral relativism. Prompted by recent news coverage of moral relativism and then Cardinal Ratzinger’s denunciation of modernity’s supposed move toward “the dictatorship of relativism,” Velleman argues that almost everyone who denounces relativism has it confused with some other doctrine. Relativism, Velleman claims, is an extremely implausible doctrine and has precious few serious adherents. Consequently, he claims, “There is little point in campaigning against relativism, because almost no one supports it. Those who issue denunciations of "moral relativism" are usually pursuing some other agenda.” Velleman does have a point – most people who attack relativism confuse it with something else. Moreover, I agree with him that there is little point in campaigning against relativism. But not for the reasons he articulates. Unlike Velleman, I think moral relativism is plausible in the extreme and is, indeed, tied to the deepest challenges of human social life. It isn’t worth campaigning against not because it has no advocates, but because to campaign against it is to deny certain very basic facts about the human situation. This will take some explaining so bear with me. By the way, in case you are interested, check out our own episode on Truth and Relativism. It was first broadcast last November.
Here’s how Velleman defines the doctrine that he thinks almost no one supports, “Relativism is the view that the correct standard of right and wrong depends on (or is relative to) either the person applying it or the person to whom it is applied.” Velleman alludes to without elaborating upon various “technical objections” to relativism, but in his post he mainly objects to relativism on the grounds that relativists deny the universality of morality. This seems to me partly right and partly wrong, but it's going to take some space to explain why.
First, notice Velleman’s phrase “the correct standard of right and wrong.” If you’re inclined toward relativism, you should wonder about this phrase from the very beginning. You should ask “correct for whom?” Velleman acknowledges this question with his distinction between “speaker relativism” and “agent relativism.” The former, according to Velleman, takes “the correct standard” to depend on who is speaking. The latter takes the correct standard to depend on who is being evaluated. Velleman thinks that neither any form of speaker relativism nor any form of agent relativism is plausible. He apparently thinks that neither version of relativism has the requisite universality to count as a theory of morality. As he puts it, “Standards that varied from one speaker or agent to another simply wouldn't be moral standards; they would be cultural norms or personal preferences, not standards of right and wrong.”
What’s wrong with this? Well for one thing I think it’s arguably correct that there’s a sense in which what we think of as moral standards have a certain universal purport. But relativism can give a quite satisfying explanation of the universal purport of putatively moral standards. I defended such a view at somewhat greater length elsewhere and a book I’m working on right now – Toward a Natural History of Normativity – will contain a very lengthy defense of this kind of view. Here I’m going to try to be brief. So I’ll have to skimp on some -- make that a lot -- of the details.
First, I need to talk about what it is for a norm (moral or otherwise) to be “binding” on an agent. When a norm is binding on an agent she has some sort of commitment/obligation to live up to that norm, to govern her life by that norm. Moreover, when a norm is binding on an agent appropriately situated others can be entitled, in various ways, to “hold” her to the norm, to rationally criticize her in light of any failures to live up to that norm, sometimes even to punish her for such failures or even to coerce her into acting in ways compatible with the norm. Saying just when any such thing is justifiable is a very delicate matter. And I won’t try to get into that in any detail here. But it will become clear that as a relativist I have a lot of work to do to explain how this all works. More on that in a bit.
So here’s the first thing I want to say about what it takes for an agent to be bound by a norm – really and truly bound. First, I claim that a norm N is binding on an agent only if the agent would upon what I’ve elsewhere called culminated competent reflection endorse N. "Culminated competent reflection" is a technical phrase of Taylorese that I won't bother to elaborate here. Very, very roughly, you can think of it as a kind of "ideal" reflection. But be careful because the use of “ideal” has certain connotations that I don’t endorse. For example, you might think that under “ideal” reflection all sufficiently reflective rational cognizers are guaranteed to converge on the same standards or norms. Nothing like that follows on my way of thinking about this. I’m also a relativist, by the way, about what kind of reflection counts as ideal reflection. In a pre-literate, pre-scientific society one kind of reflection may be “ideal.” In cultures in which intellectual progress has happened, another sort of reflection may be ideal. There's no saying, in advance, what brand of reflection counts as in the relevant sense ideal.
Maybe you can already begin to see where this is going. Suppose that nothing but our own “culminated competent reflective endorsements” (to repeat that so far unexplicated bit of Taylorese) can make a norm binding on us. And suppose that there are no a priori or logical or rational guarantees that all rational cognizers will or would converge on full reflective endorsement of the very same norms. It follows that the fact that you would endorse N upon culminated competent reflection suffices to make it binding on you -- really and truly binding -- but that doesn't suffice to make it binding on me. I’m bound only by the norms that I would endorse upon culminated competent reflection. You are bound only by the norms that you would endorse upon culminated competent reflection.
Notice that on my way of thinking statements like ‘Joe is bound by Norm N’ can be strictly literally true. What makes any such norm true are facts about Joe. But that doesn’t make them “relative” in any very interesting sense. If it’s true that Joe would endorse a norm upon a certain sort of ideal reflection, then it’s true that Joe is bound by that norm. Full stop. Still there’s a kind of relativism entailed by my view. I may be bound -- really and truly bound -- by norms by which you are not bound. You may be bound -- really and truly bound -- by norms to which I am not bound.
But what about Velleman’s claim that morality is "universal’ and my claim that relativism can account for the sense in which this is true – and the sense in which it is false. To see what I mean, go back to what I said earlier about being entitled to “hold” people to norms. Here’s where it’s gets just a little tricky. First, we need to distinguish between Joe’s being bound by a norm and Pam’s being entitled to hold Joe to a norm. Now comes the important claim. It is possible for Pam to be entitled, in virtue of the norms by which she is bound, to hold Joe to norms by which Joe is not bound. That is because some of the norms that we endorse and by which we are bound, are endorse by us as norms for the entire (rational) order. When one reflectively endorses a norm as a norm for the entire rational order, one, in effect, entitles oneself to hold the entire rational order to that norm. But the fact that I entitle myself to hold the entire rational order to a norm does not imply that the entire rational order is therefore bound by that norm.
This points to a deep problem of human life. When I entitle myself to hold others to norms by which they are not bound, they may entitle themselves to resist my so holding them. Some norms that I endorse as norms for all, may be deeply abhorrent to those whom I would hold to them. So, for example, I may endorse a norm that entails the prohibition of slavery, while you endorse a norm that permits slavery. I may thereby entitle myself to hold you to my abolitionist norm. You may entitle yourself to resist my so holding you. When that happens we have deep moral conflict.
Here's the really crucial point, often missed in easy dismissals of relativism. The relativist need not deny the reality of such conflict. There is a difference, in other words, in my entitling myself to hold another to a norm and the other entitling me to hold her to a norm. This leads me to distinguish two brands of relativism: Tolerant vs Intolerant relativism. Tolerant relativism maintains that there can be no self-generated entitlement to hold another to a norm to which she is not bound. Intolerant relativism allows that there can be self-generated entitlements to hold another to a norm to which she is not bound. It's the intolerant relativist who can most easily accommodate Velleman’s intuition that moral norms have a distinctive character -- they have a kind of universal purport. But the intolerant relativist will say that this comes to nothing more than the fact that one who binds herself to such a norm self-generates, in the very binding, entitlements to hold those who are not bound by them to the relevant norms. Of course, such self-generated entitlements are not necessarily binding on the other.
There’s a lot more to say about this all. For example, it's important to explain how systems of "mutual" norms can happen. By mutual norms, I mean systems of norms that are mutually endorsed by a community of agents. Mutual norms are the basis of what I call normative community among cognizing agents. Over the broad sweep of human history, human beings have arrayed themselves in normative communities of non-monotonically increasing scope and complexity. Some think that trend is somehow inevitable or rationally mandatory. But I tend to view such communities as rationally optional, historically contingent, culturally specific achievements. And one of the things my book in progress is about is explaining some of the factors governing the growth and decay of moral communities over the broad sweep of human hisory.
This post has already gotten rather long. Unfortuanately, I’m really just getting to the interesting part. The fact that we often feel a self-generated entitlement to hold others to norms by which they are not bound – and that they often feel the same with respect to us – plays, I think, a major and under-appreciated role in the growth and decay of human moral communities over historical time. If you want to know more about why I think that, look at the following forthcoming paper of mine: Providence.pdf (warning .pdf). The paper is mainly about what atheists should say about the meaning of life and things like that, but it also outlines some of my views about the subject matter of this post. It's intended for a general audience too, so it's not highly technical.
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You are violating some of the Cardinal Rules of Blogging (and those don't mean the Rules at Stanford--sorry--bad joke): your posts are thoughtful, well-crafted, and not inflammatory! Keep it up!
I thoroughly agree with you, and I've been defending the virtues of intolerant relativism for some time, especially to my various ethics classes. (Mark Ravizza and I defend this sort of approach, in a preliminary and sketchy way, in the introduction to our text, Ethics: Problems and Principles.) It is important to see that many of the "standard" worries about relativism do not apply to intolerant relativism: that it entails that "anything goes," that we must be pacificists, that we must allow other countries to do whatever they want (as long as they are consistent), and so forth. Also, absolutism will not be any better off with respect to the empirical inevitability of disagreements and conflicts: people will disagree about what the absolute ethical truths are. As should be obvious, many of the most intractable conflicts in the history of the world, and currently, are in places where the various parties are anything but "relativists" (of any sort)! (Fundamentalism in its various manifestations, or at least some, might be dubbed, "Intolerant Absolutism"!)
One issue that I think is troubling to the critics of intolerant relativism pertains to justification for our actions. That is, how exactly, they ask, can an intolerant absolutist be justified in imposing his or her values on someone who does not accept them? I believe that the answer has to do with the Rawlsian idea of wide reflective equilibrium; when one's views are in WRE, this gives us all the justification we can have (perhaps at least), and all we need. On the absolutist approach, justification comes from a connection with absolute values; but then how are we justified in exhibiting to others that we are so connected? (This pertains to Ken's previous post about legislating values and another Rawlsian idea of Public Reason...)
Mark Twain said about Wagner's music: it is not as bad as it sounds. So, also, with relativism: it is not as bad as it sounds...
Posted by: John Fischer | May 3, 2005 8:20:38 AM
You say that "nothing but our own culminated competent reflective endorsements...can make a norm binding on us." But can't we imagine a virulent anti-semite who would not (even under culminated competent reflection, however you spell this out) endorse a norm against murdering Jews? And wouldn't it then follow that this norm would not actually be binding on the anti-semite (even if we are entitled to hold him to this norm)? I must say that this conclusion still strikes me as pretty frightful. Whether X is actually bound by a norm against the murder of innocents does not depend on the vagaries of X's psychological constitution. Perhaps this is at least part of what David Velleman was getting at in saying that morality is universal.
Posted by: Sam Rickless | May 6, 2005 12:03:21 AM
It does follow that the virulent anti-semite would not be bound by a norm against the murder of innocents. It also follow, though, that those of us who are bound by such a norm do not stand in normative community or "ratioanl solidarity" with such a person.
We stand in rational solidiarity with another, roughly, when we are governed by a set of mutually endorsed norms. When we stand in rational solidarity we entitle each other, roughly, to hold one another to our mutually endorsed norms. We are bound together by a set of reciprocal and reciprocally binding obligations and commitments. Rational solidarity with others is something for which human beings seem to me to hunger.
It would be a very nice world if all rational beings really stood in thoroughgoing rational solidarity with one another. But we don't, I argue, live in such a world. We live in a world in which there is lots of what I call rational emnity -- the very opposite of rational solidarity. By rational emnity, I mean something complicated. Simplifying a bit, it has roughly to do with whether I take the norms that are binding on you as sources of reasons for me and whether you take the norms that are binding on me as sources of reasons for you. If the answer to both questions is no, then we stand in rational emnity. With the anti-semite, many of us are in a situation of rational emnity. That is, we do not take the fact that the anti-semite is bound by a norm that permits the killing of innocents to generate any reason whatsoever for us to cooperate with his attempts to kill innocents or to respect his right to kill innocents, etc. He may have his reasons, commitments and self-entitlements but his having his reasons does not directly generate any pressure on us to respect, coopearate, or share those reasons, entitlements, and commitments.
What I think many criticisms of relativism completely miss, including Velleman's, is that this situation is perfectly compatible with a kind of relativism -- what I call intolerant relativism.
Now many of us, including me, endore the project of builidng a universal normative community in which all stand equal before all, in which all are equally valued and respected. That's a grand project. But it is only a project, and a project for a particular historical epoch and a particular set of cultures. It is not yet achieved. What may be frightening to you is the absence of any a priori guarantee --and I do argue in my book that there is no such guarantee -- that we can actually achieve that project and build an all inclusive moral community. That means it is really possible that human history could end in thoroughgoing rational emnity rather than thoroughgoing rational solidarity and moral community.
That last possibility actually frightens me too. That is part of the reason that I do very much endorse the project of building an all inclusive moral community.
Still, I recognize that project as merely a project, but a deep and important project that largely defines the liberal secular modernity to which I owe a deep allegiance. But despite my deep allegiance to secular liberal modernity, I recognize its moral aspirations for universal community as merely the spirations of a particular historical epoch and a particular culture or set of cultures.
Bottom line. The reality of virulently anti-semitic people is of course very very frightening in the first place. But both the (intolerant) relativist who aspires to build a univeral moral community and the "universalist" who somehow thinks we've already got one should be frightend to the same degree by the reality of anti-semitism and its ugly effects as far as I can tell.
Well, maybe not. I guess there is this difference. Perhaps the universalist can take comfort in the belief that reasonable people reasoning rationally and competently will eventually converge on a shared moral outlook in the long run. Since my intolerant relativist thinks there is no guarantee of this (though she does grant the possibility of this) maybe the intolerant relativist should feel more discomfort than the universalist at our current moral fragmentation. But that belief in the rational inevitablity of moral convergence seems a pretty thin reed to hang hope on largley unsupported by an honest look at the history of normative community. Afterall, the universalist admits that moral matters are and have always been intensely and hotly disputed. So what would be the source of the confidence in long run rational convergence?
Posted by: Ken | May 6, 2005 4:59:45 AM
I can't accept a moral theory that entails that some people, merely because of how they happen to be psychologically constituted, are not bound by a norm prohibiting the murder of innocents. This just seems to me a reductio of the moral theory.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest convergence in the long run. Take the norms governing punishment, for example. We no longer accept public floggings, drawing and quartering, severing limbs, or various other medieval punishments I could (but won't) describe. We no longer accept torture as a means of extracting confessions. We have moved a long way from a society in which gathering firewood on the sabbath or masturbation is punishable by death.
We no longer hold that interracial or interfaith marriages are moral abominations. We do not deny the right to vote to the poor, to women, to immigrants, to blacks, and so on. And I could go on and on. One of the things I tell my relativist students is that there is far more agreement on moral issues than there is disagreement. It's just that the issues on which we disagree tend, for obvious reasons, to get a lot of press.
I believe in moral progress. I believe in the Enlightenment. I believe that there are moral truths to be discovered, and that the available evidence suggests that humanity has discovered, and continues to discover, many of them.
Posted by: Sam Rickless | May 6, 2005 9:53:54 AM
"I can't accept" "I can't believe" sound like professions of your own faith or psychological limitations to me.
There has indeed been a degree of moral convergence. Any theory, including my own, owes an explanation of why there has been as much convergence as there has been, the sources of convergences, the dynamics of moral change, etc. I have a theory of all that, too complicated to summarize here. All I was claiming here is that convergence is not rationally guaranteed. I wasn't claiming that it isn't possible. Nor was I claiming that fragmentation is guaranteed. But I don't deny the possibility of thoroughgoing fragmentation, either.
Nothing you say need be denied, if interpreted rightly, by my brand of relativism. But it does require right interpretation. I suspect, for example, you are putting too much weight on "bound by" and not appreciating the significance of "being entitled to hold to." But perhaps you simply don't buy the distinction between tolerant and intolerant relativism. But that's just a guess. Any way, I would think the real challenge is not say what the other is or is not bound by, but to say whether the relativist can have in rational grounds for holding the other to norms by which the other is not, by the relativist lights, bound. Only the failure to be able to justify holding to in the absence of being bound by would really amount to any kind of reductio, I would think. Do you disagree? Why?
By the way, if you substitute "moral truths to be constituted" for your phrase "morals truths to be discovered" I might even be able to accept that. So I guess I think you're making too much of what is a small -- but still important -- disagreement between the universalist and the intolerant relativist.
By the way, I actually believe deeply in the Enlightenment. But again, I interpret the Enlightenment differently from you, I think. I see the Enlightenment as a decisive moment in the history of moral community -- a moment when cultures emerged that set themselves the project of universal moral community. What exactly do you think is the harm in seeing the Enlightenment project as a project -- as one rationally contestible, hisorically contingent, culturally specific project among others? Perhaps you fear that conceived of this way, the project is not guaranteed of success, partly because it it is thereby represented as rationally optional. But of course we can all sometimes choose the same option from among many available. Sometimes options that seem like real alternatives, antecedent to our exploration of them, turn out to be dead ends.
Over historical time, humanity has explored many different possible configurations of moral community. Some have withered and died, because they have not proven to be life sustaining or enhancing. Others have proliferated and spread -- and they have spread in a variety of ways. In what configuration of the moral order will human history culminate? I don't claim to know the answer to that. I'm merely exploring the space of possibilities and trying to understand and re-problematize our actual historical walk through that space of possibilities.
Posted by: ken | May 6, 2005 10:41:41 AM
I certainly prefer intolerant relativism to tolerant relativism. But, as I see it, tolerant relativism doesn't go far enough. Suppose A is bound by norm N and (therefore?) also entitled to hold B to N. Suppose further that ~N is a norm opposite to N. As you see it, it is quite possible for B to be bound by ~N and (therefore?) also entitled to hold A to ~N. Where does that leave us? In a situation of moral conflict that has no solution. Suppose that you and I agree with A. All we can possibly hope for is that might is on our side. This is not, I think, consistent with the project of the Enlightenment, which included the aim of achieving consensus, not as a result of historical accident or at the point of a bayonet, but by means of rational argument.
Posted by: Sam Rickless | May 6, 2005 1:19:54 PM
not as a result of historical accident or at the point of a bayonet, but by means of rational argument.
Seems to me that if A wants an unwilling B to follow norm N, then A's choices are to convince or coerce regardless of whether A is an intolerant relativist, an absolutist, or what have you. How does A's believing that there are non-contingent moral truths provide any advantage in this task? Offhand I'd think that the intolerant relativist would be more inclined than the absolutist to convince rather than force, because she realizes that she can't claim that her norms are universal Truth.
Posted by: Ken Balakrishnan | May 6, 2005 1:55:19 PM
My point was that A has no hope of *convincing* B if intolerant relativism is true. The *only* alternative is brute force. If the absolutist is right, at least there's hope of coming to some consensus as the result of rational argument.
Posted by: Sam Rickless | May 6, 2005 9:56:41 PM
Not true. You assume that reflectively endorsed norms must be endorsed "once and for all." But that need not be true.
There's a complicated story to tell about the growth and decay of moral community over historical time. The dynamics are quite complex and quite interesting. Sometimes force and coerciion are, indeed, involved. The Civil War and World War II, for example, were instrumental in bringing about a moral reconfiguration that could not have been brought about in any other way. It is even possible that the most "rational" option for both sides to a moral conflict is war and force of arms. But force and coercion are not the only ways in which moral reconfiguration happens.
The intolerant relativist can allow that we are engaged in a constant struggle to constitute ourselves in moral community with others. She could even allow that its of the very nature of at least some distinctively moral norms not only that we endorse them as norms for the entire rational order but that we, in a sense, offer them up for ratification to the entire rational order. If that would true, distinctively moral normas would have another kind of universal purport. But if the universalist were to sieze on this point and say "see, I told you so," she would be missing the deep point that even if the norms that I offer up to others for their ratification are rejected, they may still stand as binding on me, and may still stand as entitling me to hold others to them, even when those others reject and so are not bound by those very norms.
Again, human beings often attempt to establish moral community with others, sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail. My intolerant relativism is not only consistent with all that, but seeks to explain the conditions under which we succeed, the conditions under which we fail, and the conditions governing the growth and decay of normative community over time.
People who think that relativism is some kind of boogie man that makes normative community impossible are simply confused.
Posted by: Ken | May 7, 2005 3:48:44 AM
Moral relativism is wrong. Either there are some moral absolute truths or there are none. I am of the opinion that there are moral absolute truths such as the right of a person to have freedom. What theologians and religious leaders are angry about is how the mass of human beings are led like sheep from one moral point of view to another. Skilled persuaders such as marketers, lawyers, politicians, and other types of sorcerers know how easy it is to persuade people; it is the skill they use to feed themselves and their intellectual pride/beauty. Priests, the best persuaders, also know how easy it is to lead people towards a lie. A person with the skill to persuade is not even required to believe in what they are saying in order to persuade another, they just need to possess the skill.
A persuader starts by building their skill in persuading, then he takes pride in persuading, then he figures out how easily people can be persuaded through real skill, he reaches a point where he wishes that people would think for themselves, but finally comes to the conclusion that people in general do not take the time to think and must be lead towards the truth/ideas that lead towards the well being of humanity. Persuaders such as Adolph Hitler mastered the persuasion of an entire nation.
There are certain moral truths that exist. The intellectual elites such as priests, philosophy teachers, and appellate judges should not let themselves be easily. No one expects that marketers, lawyers, and politicians in general will ever live or stand by absolute truths. But I think that the greatest philosophical minds, which will help carry the enduring morals of humanity toward the succeeding generations and centuries, should stand firm for posterity. What will be their reward? According to Boethius, “He who has calmly reconciled his life to fate, and set proud death beneath his feet, can look fortune in the face, unbending both to good and bad: his countenance unconquered he can shew. The rage and threatenings of the sea will not move him though they stir from its depths the upheaving swell: Vesuvius’s furnaces may never so often burst forth, and he may send rolling upwards smoke and fire; the lightning, whose wont it is to smite down lofty towers, may flash upon its way, but such men shall they never move (Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy).” He may also come to understand Immanuel Kant’s quote, “The starry heavens above me, and the moral law within me.”
Posted by: Homer | May 8, 2005 5:23:40 AM
Very interesting discussion, and my compliments.
"By the way, if you substitute "moral truths to be constituted" for your phrase "morals truths to be discovered" I might even be able to accept that."
This is the locus. Either a higher moral order exists or it does not.
The relativist will and must constitute them. The classical philosopher believed they already existed, discrete from man's invention or imagination, and could be derived by reason. It is possible to be agnostic about their origin, but not their existence.
The Enlightenment ("modern") project has run aground because it is founded on that First Principle, yet has rejected it.
All men are not created equal, and that's the empirical fact. Some are faster, stronger, smarter. That they are equal is either an unprovable philosophical assertion as First Principle, another noble lie if you will, or it is based on a higher moral order, the possible existence of which has long since been discarded.
Posted by: tvd | May 9, 2005 6:36:22 PM
(NOTE : Here below is a polemic essay …what some will call a rant, and many pomo relativists or those influenced by them, may very well call “crackpot” or “kook” stuff –because it insists on old “passe” ideals of integrity and other virtues –which the relativist opinion-respecting sell outs would be wont to reject as being “so yesterday”. Yes, it’s long-winded but makes sense –damn good sense ! ) .
Posted: Aug 25, 2006 1:36 PM
EVIL, THY NAME IS AMBIVALENCE
Evil –thy name is ambivalence , thy name is ambiguity . Evil thou refuses to qualifty arguments —thou seekes the middle ground/ the balance . Evil thou has REFUSED to overnalyze . Thou hatest extreme precision /hatest clear boundaries . Evil, thou are known by refusing to be single-minded !
The voice of evil has a message and if we care about what Plato called :THE GOOD (and we should care) and if we care about Beauty (and Beauty is NOT in the eye of the beholder) if the beholder does NOT gaze rightly --i.e. does NOT think rightly) , then we should reject the message that tells us to embrace double-think .
The voice of evil has a message and the message it tells us is : “Don’t be so single minded” and we should indeed always REJECT that message .
The voice of Good (if I may use that rhetorical phrase) has another message. The voice of Good tells us , ‘ DO be so single minded ! Always be single minded ‘ .
After all ambivalence–the tendency to balance what is intrinsically virtuous with that which is intrinsically crass –is the ESSENCE OF MEDIOCRITY . Intrinsic virtue we should always seek to take to extremes , ladies and gents !
And the worst sort of mediocrity —is respectible mediocrity !
Yet all such discussion ought to reflect on the particulars of what is happening in our neighborhoods –what is happening in particular to our civilization –lest it should seem like a mere “academic discussion “to be thought on found interesting for a while and then the same shuffle of people going back to their daily lives of day to day mendcaities where people ask , ‘what’s on t.v. ?’
WELL IT’S WHAT’S ON T.V. THAT’S THE PROBLEM FOLKS !
I .SOULLESS SPECTACLES AND TOLERANT SELL-OUTS
What’s on t.v ought to show everyone who hasn’t come around to insight just how ROTTEN the sensisbilty of that weird, mediocre , pusiilanimous , pansy-effeminate thinking called relativism (or postmodernism, anti-foundationalism–or what funky new name they are calling it lately) which is that “conflicted” tendency of thought to respect beliefs or so called “points of view” regardless how crass , unfounded or otherwise skewed such beliefs are (i.e. selling out) …how pathetic it is !
What’s ON T.V.IS THE APPARENT MURDER AND RAPE OF A LITTLE GIRL IN COLORADO TEN YEARS AGO BEING TREATED *AS IF * IT WERE SOME SORT OF ENTERTAINMENT !! !! Hello people if there is anything that ought to show those who still have some shred of caring for some semblance of wholesome sentiment towards how life should be lived it is that , and hence if there is anything that should show people that the whole ever so weird insipid tendency to respect opinions — (or even partially respect them) no matter how crass those opinions are –and this present weird decade of might-boggling crassness –is TOTALLY WRONGHEADED AND WORTHLESS it is the disgusting news and entertainment media circus that treats the rape and murder of a child as something to have fun gossip about .
If there is anything that show the stragglers that still want to be tolerant and respect points of view and “look at it from different perspectives”/ be conflicted –want a balance between the light and dark —and all similar insipid garbage ideology –who still have some portion of nurturing feeling towards other living beings left –to wise up and promote that nurturing feeling single-mindedly and with a robust intensity (and say politically correct tolerance be dammed ) then it should be that : seeing that so many have become tolerant of journalists gossiping about the rape and murder of a child like it were some entertaining thrilling spectacle to gossip about . These days the postmodernist/relativist crowd has tried to mislead us into thinking that we somehow shouldn’t have an us versus them approach. Well the us versus them approach is Good . The vindication of Truth, Beauty, Justice and all that is Good demands an us versus them approach !
Ladies and gents, news has become entertainment and entertainment has become news and that ugly sordid trend has been going on for 12 some years now and building and getting more and more sordid each month !
What we are seeing —and it is indeed totally contrary to the enterprise of philosophy and hence the concern of philosophy with the Good of civilizations is a trend that should be best called CULTURAL ENTROPY .
Before the phrase culture entropy is explained –it is best to turn attention to the four golden axioms which sooner or later we should always return in thought to and keep in mind . These glaringly obvious axioms should have been fessed up to by everyone long decades ago .
AXIOM 1 : *NOT* every belief –including not every belief regarding matters of morals and/or esthetics is mere opinion . There
AXIOM 2 : NOT every opinion deserves any respect .
(How unspeakably bizarre it is that so many people in this present era , speak AS IF the mere fact that some people –or even many people –express a belief is somehow grounds for giving a belief some ad hoc respect. Would you respect, say, the belief where someone expresses the notion that having an interest in sordid celebrity gossip is even partially okay ? IF SO that is pathetic !)
AXIOM 3. The beliefs that a person expresses are NOT at all part of the person. Such beliefs are NOT at all a part of their identity. Merely because they have some relation with the self doesn’t mean they are a part of the person’s self . (Though if a person supports ugly beliefs long enough , they can take on a rather ugly demeanor though) .
AXIOM 4 . Since beliefs are NOT part of a person –therefore, there is nothing at all un-compassionate or un-loving about telling someone that the belief they support is totally wrong, without a shred of merit , and worthless . One of the better acts you can do for a person is belittle the opinion they’ve expressed if that opinion is crass, lazy minded or otherwise murky . There is certainly nothing un-compassionate , nor rude (provided one avoids phrasing the terms in a personal manner) about doing that . If MTV told you otherwise then they told you wrong folks .
(Always keep in mind that judging a belief that someone has /condemning the belief is NOT necessarily the same as judging or condemning the person who supports it . It is good to always keep that in mind –lest some relativist should quote the adage, “judge not that ye be not judged” *out of context* as I’ve often seen them do . Furthermore, the part about , ‘he that is without sin let him cast the first stone’ –applies to real physical stones–it does NOT apply to verbal criticism . )
Us versus them is good . It is helpful even to the them, as well as to Truth, Beauty, ect .
II CULTURAL ENTROPY
With those four golden axioms in mind let us turn attention to the term cultural entropy . By entropy I am NOT specifically referring to the thermodyamic context of the word entropy –but I am referencing what Webster’s On-line Dictionary apparently lists as
3. CHAOS , DISORGANIZATION
Such chaos is NOT liberating . It is certainly not to be confused with the far separate creative ferment and unbouding energy of the freewheeling artist eccentric . Such chaos is NOT that –so its important that noone should equivocate , for such creative artistic ferment is NOT chaos –as some refer to it . By chaos I’m NOT referring to fractals so don’t equivocate off onto that tangent . By chaos , I’m NOT referring to the primordal stuff in ancient cosmoganies either–so don’t equivocate off into that separate topic .
The CHAOS of cultural entropy is a meta-theme that subtends the various interrelated themes of death –and the glamourization of death , breakdown, dysfunctionality, polymorphous perversity, hype , fractious modes of living and thinking . In this present yuppie influenced, media -saturated era (and the yuppie subculture , by the way, is pervaded by the characteristics I just previously described and it is they who provide much of the supply and demand , in this present news and entertainment saturated state of affairs )…morbidity coupled with crass and tacky, sex- laced kitch has become the dominant motif .
According to Erich Fromm , Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza once wrote of two contrasting/opposite dispositions (that a culture or a person could support). The good one to support was apparently called the biophillic . The biophillic disposition was life affirming it was enamored of living organic beings and was interested in the ferment of ideas –one would imagine vital ideas ones that were characterized by a mood of vigor of inclination .
The necrophillic disposition , in contrast, was enamored of death . It was morbid …death affirming rather than life affirming . If memory serves righly, it was also pervaded by a venal liking for monetary wealth (the mystification of wealth)
The collective pop culture mood fostered by the mass entertainment and news media–which has creeped into many households in this present weird yuppie decade and desensitized a lot of people into partially accepting vapid, unwholesome, dysfunctional modes of thinking and living)…is necrophiilic .
After all –WHY IS THE STORY OF JON BENET RAMSEY BEING RAPED AND MURDERED FEATURED ON A PROGRAM LIKE ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT ? Jon Benet Ramsey was NOT a Hollywood actress —and it’s bad enough they make sordid, weird unwholesome gossip about actual hollywood actresses that were killed or experienced tragedies –but she wasn’t even a hollywood actress nor was she a rock star ! Here is a social phenomenon so bizarre that so nmany treat AS IF it were some normal par for the course affair. Just 20 years ago , It’s a safe wager, that if Entertainment Tonight had aired a story about a little girl being raped and murdered — many of the media pundits would be dripping and spewing with shock and so would much of the general public ! 40 years ago if a t.v. entertainment show had tried to peddle lurid voyeuristic trash that gossiped about a little child being killed–it’s a safe wager that there would be so much outcry that it would be the last show such a program ever did –and the producers would have to look into chapter 11 pretty darn quick ! The proverbial frog in the kettle is already half cooked . Now creepy shows like that grotesque skanky yuppie-minded Nancy Grace Show on CNN go swimmingly in this present creepshow of a decade !
And don’t believe any postmodernist pip queak who even implies that that trend is some sort of progress it isn’t .
III .THE MOST DERISIVE ADJECTIVES SEEM AN UNDERSTATEMENT .
I could churn out derisive adjectives like , HIDEOUS , FIENDISHLY VAPID, SOULLESS, DEPRAVED, MEDIOCRE , SKANKY …and a host of other off the charts vehement adjectives enough to fill a giant almanaac and keep on deriding the worthless opinions of those that think it’s okay (or even almost partially okay) to bandie about sordid details of tragedies, like the Jon Benet Ramsey case, till what might seem like the 12th of never , and yet lately even the most vehement adjectives and descriptions at ther most caustic level seem like an understatement—even seem NOT nearly hard enough on these ugly worthless opinions of those that support the ugly society of the spectacle .
IV .WARNING SIGNS
No sooner than someone single-mindedly denounces the ugly opinions expressed by those that support the status quo of sordid sleaze and mediocrity of t.v. saturated suburbia –then all so often one or several people will play the pipsqueak and respond with these typical of this present era but no less weird, pod people responses , like saying …”well that’s just your opinion” or “don’t be so judgemental” or “look at it from another perspective” or “another side” —and similar limpwristed comments all of which are just euphemisms that try to get the person to sell out /to settle/ to accept/ to embrace the mediocrity by balancing light with a little darkness .
Here are some warning signs that the person who is responding has gone over to the dark side …some tell tale phrases that evince the ugly worthless ideology called relativism . Some phrases , statements , and questions that are indicative of relativism are : the use of the term “self-righteous” to lambast those that aspire to be single minded about principles and, hence, REFUSE to sell out . Someone asking a person “are you ever wrong?”, when that person they ask is making a single-minded claim as to some value , is another warning sign of the ugly ideology of relativism being near. Someone who speaks or posts AS IF “always being right or always “having to be right” were somehow bad, is another warning sign ! Someone speaks of “finding a balance” or any sort of balance–if they speak or post of such balance with approval– on some issue where there is some crass tendency happening . Someone who speaks or posts claiming “that there is another side” on some issue or claiming that allegedly there is somehow more than one side –to an issue . Someone referring to being “preachy” AS IF being preachy were somehow undesirable is another warning sign . Someone referring to so-called “shades of grey” and claiming an issue is not black or white is another warning sign . Someone claiming that someone else is allegedly “arrogant” or “pompous” because that other person that they (falsely) accuse of being “arrogant” REFUSES to sell out/REFUSES to respect opposite beliefs , is another warning sign that the person communicating that is a relativist .
Another warning sign is if a person uses the word “totalize” AS IF totalizing were something bad–which postmodernists often do . Describing people who are single-minded in outlook as “fanatics” or “fanatical” is another warning sign . Referring to being rigid AS IF it were somehow bad to be rigid (it’s NOT bad to be rigid) is another warning sign . Another warning sign is if the person accepts being conflicted as if somehow it were okay. “Learning to accept ” or “learning to adapt” or “adjust” –when people approve of such terms being applied to crass activities is another warning sign . Another warning sign is the weird tendency of some people, in recent decades, to claim “life is give and take” and apply that to even situations that are sordid, crass, or otherwise unjust.
Another warning sign is the unwholsome weird tendency to refer to someone living a “sheltered life” AS IF living a sheltered life were somehow bad .
Often the implicit message of speaking of the “sheltered life” AS IF it were somehow bad is to suggest that if a person hasn’t learned to accept and adapt sordid, weird thinking and ways of acting as “part of life” that there is allegedlyt something wrong with the person. The truth is those that have learned to accept sordid , arbitrary, coarse crass modes of acting –they are the one who has something wrong with them . The truth is: everybody ought to live a sheltered life. The sheltered life is good. It is weird that the sordid now has become treated as the yardstick for guaging what is tolerable .
V .PEOPLE WHO DEFEND WHAT THEY COMPLAIN ABOUT .
In this weird present era–there are a lot of people that don’t like superficiality , don’t like sordidness and want to foster a more nurturing , life -affirming culture , but weirdly enough among some of those people there are what might be called the ‘ambivalent progressives’ or ‘ambivalent humanitarians’ who have embraced the weird ambivalent “conflicted” outlook that is tolerant of ambiguity . Such an outlook doesn’t want to get rid of superficiality, sordidness in human affairs altogether but instead wants to settle for a sell out “balance” between what is noble/life-affirming ect, and the opposite: that which is sordid . They don’t want to get rid of the sordid altogether they just merely want to tone it down . Such a weird ambivalent ethos often wants to accept sordid modes of thinking and acting as “part of life too” . They want to ameliorate the intrinsically bad- but *not* try to get rid of it altogether . They want an ameliorated good and an ameliorated bad . They want a lukewarm , diluted middle ground between the inherently good and inherently bad .
That ever so weird an weirdly automatic tendency to ameliorate the good and ameliorate the bad instead of maximizing the intrinsically good and getting rid of the intrinsically bad–that ameliorating middle of the road tendency- characterizes the spirit of this present weird age .
Virtue requires that when it comes to intrinsic virtue WE SHOULD EITHER FISH OR CUT BAIT .
Aside from the ownership fallacy which is also equally depraved and ridiculous , the most ridiculous notion in human history is the ever so bizarre notion that seems to think as if somehow a virtue somehow becomes a vice when taken to extremes . It does NOT ! Intrinsic Virtue when taken to extremes does NOT become a vice .
Taking an intrinsic virtue to extremes means …MORE VIRTUE . It truly is that simple !
LET US THUS REFLECT ON TWO OTHER AXIOMS .
AXIOM 5 : An intrinsic virtue when taken to extremes does *NOT* in any case become a vice . When an intrinsic virtue is taken to extremes it results in ….MORE VIRTUE !
The notion that an intrinsic virtue (and that is different from a mere extrinsic sort of virtue) when taken to extremes becomes a vice is a false cockamamey notion people .
AXIOM 6 : Rigid consistency in mentally supporting intrinsic virtue in thought and belief is always right . That is concurrent with axiom number 5 .
Yet these present days there are the ambivalent humanitarians/ the ambivalent sorts of caring people who defend what they complain about ! These people often enough often express a lot of passion and outrage and campaign for good causes —but then they wax weirdly ambivalent in thought and say stuff “well there’s another side”, and “let’s have a balance” and speak of going beyond the us versus them and want to sell out by respecting or partially respecting the opinions that are CONTRARY to good causes /contrary to an edifying society .
Again an us versus them approach is GOOD –provided it is NOT based on illicit violence (and an us versus them approach does NOT always habe to lead to illicit physical violence ) Loving ones enemies does NOT to any extent involve respecting the wrong opinions they express ! i’m reminded of a young man I knew in the autum of 1997 who was a member of an animal rights group I was a member of –that in typical ambivalent MTV genration relativist fashion made the squishy namby-pamby statement to the effect of, ‘animal rights is right to us , (but for the person that supports killing animal for the sadistic fun of it ) that was somehow allegedly “right to them” ! IF SO then why bother .
It is not just important that we have the right actions that support the right cause. We should also NOT be *duplicious* in belief towards supporting inwardly the right ethical causes either . Duplicious thinking betrays good ethical causes in a way that is far more fundamental in terms of meaning –then actions that do not fit the cause .
Though hypocracy in terms of actions is bad–duplicity in belief is often ultimately worse –and a worse betrayal of the ethical or esthetic goal one is supposed to be striving for .
The problem, by the way –is not in the complaining–the problem, by the way, is in people defending what they complain about . Complaining can be good–but don’t defend what you complain about . Be consistent .
To respect the opinion of those that intentionally support that which is crass or murky , if one is disappointed by the situation supported by that opinion –is DEFENDING WHAT YOU COMPLAIN ABOUT !
(In deriding the ugly tendency of people to respect opinions they do not agree with , I am not by the way referring to the civil right of someone to express that opinion . There is a difference between respecting the civil right of someone to express an opinion no matter how worthless that opinion is –and the separate matter of respecting the opinion itself . respecting the right of somebody to express an opinion does NOT to any degree involve respecting the opinion itself . It is high time that the MTV Generation –by the way–stop glossing over that difference !)
IIV .NOT A MATTER OF GOING “OVERBOARD” .
Relativism is totally worthless and a culture that accepts the creepy portrayal of the rape and murder of a little girl as fodder for gossip and entertainment evinces that worthlessness . It is NOT a matter that relativism has gone overboard since relativism is intrinscally worthless and, hence, never had any good points to it to begin with . Another factor in this present era that is all so disgusting is even among some of the people that express some disapproval of relativism —there is an odd ambivalence where even some of these people want to find a middle ground between absolutism (with its high ethical and esthetic standards) and relativism.! Ladies and gentlemen, there is NO “too much ” absolutism . Such finding a middle ground between relativism and absolutism is selling out .
An all or nothing approach towards the evil of relativism (and the pop culture soulless kitch it tolerates and often subtly fosters ) is long overdue. We should not talk like relativist pod people once in a while, or for a few minutes on Thursdays, and then be resolute about values the rest of the week . We should go the distance on high standards all the time. The author of this present text often is quite disgusted with himself in the past for not being resolute at times in the past, so don’t presume (as relativists sometimes weirdly do presume) that he holds himself above reproach .
It is quite jarring to see even *some* people who are in the main absolutists weirdly enough make those weirdly automatic statements about so-called “different perspectives” and, occasionally (at odd intervals) get ambivalent and want to respect “points of view” …We should go all the way with absolutism go the distance .
Ugly sordid opinions that endorse crass activities like media gossip , racism , wife-beating , watching something on t.v. “because there’s nothing else on” , and other murky tendencies should NEVER be respected at any hour of the day .
All so many people these days have lowered standards /have “learned to accept” to be “realistic” in accepting sordid , crass situational reality .
Like the men in the Dylan Thomas poem (who the poet with apparent sarcasm says and one would most likely imagine uses the term wise men –sarcastically) “know dark is right because their words had forked no lightening” , they accept /resign themselves a little …to mediocrity .
We’ve got to ‘ RAGE , RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT .’
Piss on the tolerance and acceptance that allows tragedy as fodder for media gossip . Away with the respectible mainstream mediocrity of those who have learned to settle for the so called “different perspective” of duplicity .
Posted by: Jason Leary | Aug 25, 2006 10:09:27 PM
POMO KID AND THE MISADVENTURE THROUGH TIME
NOTE : The following is a fictitious (though it is an appropro portrayal of relativist/postmodernist thinking) story that depicts a young man (age 24) who supports postmodernist/relativist ideology . He is sent back in time from circa 2007 A.D. to 1855 Oneida, New York (by a University sociology department) to engage in discussion with an abolitionist orator. The young man is called in the story : Pomo kid ...'pomo' being an abbreviation for postmodernist . He is sent back into time with a special hidden video and audio device designed to record sound and image of the discussion that he will have with Benjamin Obadiah Whittaker --an abolitionist and former slave, who is scheduled on that June evening to give a speech on the evils of slavery at the Shaker meeting house during a meeting hosted by the Oneida abolitionist society .
The exchange between Pomo Kid and the abolitionist leader is a cautionary tale presented in a format similar to a one-act play designed to reveal the incongruity and general murkiness of postmodernist/relativist thinking .
PREFACE :Pomo kid has gotten in the time machine and the controls have been set for June 25, 1855 . Since the machine is the first of its kind and time travel with it expected to be slow going on what the scientists back at the lab call it's "maiden voyage" , Pomo Kid has taken some magazines: the UTNE reader (bought for him by his limosine- liberal parents who read it themselves ) and Relevant Magazine .
Pomo Kid --having a short attention span fostered by years of chronic MTV watching --has also taken a specially made CD player and some CDs to keep him amused. When he gets to 1855 Oneida , New York he discovers that miraculously the CD players and CD's work --though he has a hard time getting them to work while riding in the time machine. The CD 's he has taken are as follows : Jewel's Greatest Hits, a CD by the musical band Toad The Wet Sprocket, a CD by Jimmy Eat World, The Dawson's Creek t.v. show soundtrack, a CD from the band Barenaked Ladies, and Rumors by Fleetwood Mac (A CD that he borrowed from his parents) , and a CD from a singer named Dan Hasletine .
The time machine soon arrives in a dairy cattle field in 1855 Oneida,
New York . He steps out of the time machine with his CD head set over his ears --and hidden minature camera recording device cocked and disguised as one of his piercings . As he steps out on to the farm field of Ezra Howell Drummond --no person sees the machine land nor him emerge. The dairy cows give him monentary glances of dull suprise and then return to to crunching and grazing down the vast green verdure . He looks at a minature digital map device and proceeds to walk to the shaker meeting house to hear the speech by Obadiah Whittaker .
He arrives on time and sits down . Some of the abolitionists and interested town folks noticed Pomo kid as he arrives and are somewhat baffled by his odd appearance --as his clothes , hairstyle and general demeanor do not look period, but do not approach him . They are more interested in the speech by Mr. Benjamin Whittaker . Benjamin Whittaker presents a cogent and eloquent indictment of the evils of chattel slavery in the antebellum south. He especially highlights the treatment of slave women by slavemasters, overseers, and their cronies and acquaintances who from time to time rape the slave women on the plantations .
Pomo kid allows his CD headspeakers to droop a little so he can hear the speech ---and gives a skimming of the main elements . As the speech draws to its close Pomo kid hears the anti-slavery orator sum up the directive set before good citizens everywhere in a way that does NOT mince words .
' And so good citizens of Oneida , we can send forth the clear message ...both to posterity , to others who have shared and will share the North American continent, and to all nations and every town and village abroad , that we will no longer accept, nor even partially accept, a wicked commerce of bodies and souls that treats marriage and kinship as makeshift gambits in some sordid game , where transgression of the convenants between man and women is done with impunity . We will stand with the men , women, and children who long to have the stability accorded to man and wife by civilized society. We make no caveat to the forces of darkness and depravity that would settle for anything less! '
There is a roar of applause and even a few Amens from the audience .
Soon the speech is then over and there is time for handshakes and entreties from the audience .
Pomo Kid then approaches the abolitionist orator .
POMO KID : "Hey Mr.Whiitaker , dude . I, like, enjoyed your speech . I can see that feel quite passionate about racial oppression and all , but there's some stuff I'd like to discuss with you . I know that slavery is a bad scene and it's kinda bogus how slaves are treated , but you gotta learn to respect the opinion of those who want to rape their slave women and sell their kids to other plantations too and look at it from their perspective some too . You are like so judgemental, so preachy , dogmatic ...so one-sided towards the opinions of those who want to rape slave women, beat them some, and sell their children downriver . It's like you want to preach instead of discussing...you preach. You got to learn to look at it from other perspectives. What you are doing is the us versus them approach towards people who oppress and exploit slaves . The us versus them approach isn't good . It's fanatical to take the us versus them approach . The us versus them way is, like, so yesterday . Everything is connected . it's all connected. Really the slavowner and the oppressed slaves are really part of the same thing . Making distinctions is so passe /so yesterday . It's all one . It's all how you look at it .
You know there's many sides to every issue. Stuff like slavery is not all black and white there are shades of grey. It's not totally bad being oppressed as a slave . You got to look at it from other points of view . Learn to accept that problems are part of life...a growing experience . You know, getting raped and being sold away from your family just goes to show that life is give and take . If nobody ever got raped or exploited then you wouldn't have give and take ...and so you wouldn't have reality ; it would be all idealistic . We can't have stuff being idealistic all the time. Life is supposed to be a mixture of things . People are a mixture of things. It's all the duality of man . In the time period I come from, we study deconstructionism and post-structuralism at my college and I've been getting into Michel Foucault , and Lyotard, and Richard Rorty. They teach us not to totalize . What your are doing is totalizing ...making people out to be villans if they don't agree with rigid moral constructs . It's all just language games --the divisions of beleifs that people have . There aren't any absolute truths ...or if there are, there aren't very many...or we can't be sure what they are .
You got to learn something Mr.Whittaker: don't be so single-minded ....
(Pomo kid pauses for an extended period of time and fiddles with his CD player and changes the Jewel CD for a Dawson's Creek CD . He turns it down slighly so he can somewhat hear Mr . Benjamin Whittaker speak .)
Benjamin Whittaker stares at Pomo Kid with a look of utter credulity and disgust at the weirdly pusillanimous , and convoluted statements that have poured forth from the young man's mouth . He then speaks
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : Young man, I scarcely know where to begin to disabuse you of the false , and weirdly ludicrous statements you have put forth here. You claim I must respect the vile opinions of those who support the exploitation and tyrrany which oppresses persons of African descent--and , moreover, exploits women whose virginity has been taken from them by force! What on earth have such opinions done to merit such respect, or to even almost halfway earn such respect .? Young man I can scarcely help wondering if you have fallen in with revelling hooligans in Manhattan that smoke opium in houses of ill repute and, that such riotous living has altered your febrile brain to such an extent that you find it a habit to talk nonsense . Young man, I do not know where you are from ---
(Pomo Kid then interrupts Mr. Whittaker in mid sentence . Pomo kid is, after all, a postmodernist of the MTV generation and considers being fair and waiting till someone is finished talking to be passe and old fashioned communication practice, which he wants nothing to do with . Pomo kid favors a more edgy , open ended approach .)
POMO KID SPEAKS : (Decides to start out with circular thinking ) . Dude, the idea that it's wrong to rape slave women , or brutally beat and exploit slaves and sell their children away from them ...that's wrong to us , but not to the people who support exploiting and raping slaves... Doing that's right to them . Morals and truth are relative and subjective. What's true to you may not be true to them . It's all just different perspectives. If you go and say that its absolutely wrong for people to exploit and rape their slaves instead of saying that it's wrong to us, then ...you're like Hitler. Now you probably aren't familiar with who Hitler is ...but in the 20 Century there's gonna be this guy called Hitler, who takes over and takes away people's rights. And if you say that some belief is totally wrong and another belief is totally right then you're like Hitler . Just like these holocaust survivors that the nazis put into concentration camps and came out being all bitter and one sided and preachy and say what the nazis did was wrong and don't respect the nazi point of view a little---well they're like Hitler too ! Just like a person who always stops a bully from bullying people and won't look at it from a bully point of view a little...well that makes that kind of one-sided person who is against bullying, a bully too and just as bad as the real bully . Also, just by saying that some belief or practice is wrong--- just by verbally calling that belief wrong, you violate their right to free expression to say that opposite belief...even without any physical violence against them ...without a single shot being fired .
You got to understand also that if somebody says that some belief isn't absolute , then that right there prooves that it isn't . Take the proposition that says that 2+2=4 . Well as long as somebody disagrees with the idea that 2+2=4 then that automatically shows that the idea that 2+2=4 isn't absolute, otherwise every person would have to say they agreed with 2+2 being = 4, otherwise it's not absolute .
In the time period of history that I come from (which is the late 20 th and early 21 Centuries ) there's this show called the Real World . Now since television hasn't been invented yet in 1855, you probably aren't familar with that word. Television in the time I come from is a lot like what plays are on stages in the time you're in . Television is kind of like a play ---only more fun . So in the time I come from there is a show called 'The Real World' ...and people on that show sometimes have different beliefs and so they can come together and get real and talk about the issues that bother them . The show teaches people to come out of their comfort zone (Pomo Kid runs through memory banks to come up with more newspeak words and phrases and finds some) and therefore they can have an impactive, impactful affect on each others lives and give each other feedback about what they think. Now the people who are being raped , beaten , or exploited by masters and overseers down on those slave plantations they got to stop being so one-sided and look at from another perspective and come out of their comfort zone, and stop portraying rape and exploitation as something totally bad. They can then get together with the slave owners and overseers and tell them about the way they feel and then get the slave owners and overseers to come out of their comfort zone too , and maybe tone down the rape and exploitation a little . That way you don't have an us versus them .
Some people would say that what I'm saying doesn't make much sense ...that it's inconsistent /ambivalent thinking (which is another way of saying sell- out thinking ) but I don't call it selling out . I call it "looking at it from another perspective" . And about the people claiming that postmodernism like I've been trying to get you to support, doesn't make much sense, well it doesn't have to make sense. Making sense is so passe ...so yesterday . Distinctions are just so passe . I don't bother with rigid distinctions. I 've gotten into a sort of thinking called lateral thinking ...that doen't get all hung up on distinctions . Lateral thinking doesn't have to always make sense.
You Mr. Whittaker are a linear thinker ...that consistent thinking is so out of style....so outmoded . Lateral thinking, that postmodernists such as me go for doesn't bother with having to make sense ...it tolerates ambiguity . You mr. Whittaker are so rigidly consistent /so single-minded ...a fanatical ideologue that goes to extremes of consistent thinking. You aren't conflicted about anything !!!!
In the time period I came from, there was a singer called Moby---who used to be so dogmatic and one-sided about the animal rights cause, but lately he learned not to be so judgemental towards opinions of people who don't support animal rights . He respects the outlook of the people who are against animal rights now --even though he's for animal rights .The same flexibility applies to any social cause. After all, a professor I had once in a classroom, quoted the quote, "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds" .I've learned that selling-out is not so bad . '
(Pomo kid having temporarily dropped the Dawson's Creek soundtrack picks it up and puts in the Toad The Wet Sprocket CD . He changes CDs about as quickly as a chain smoker replaces cigarettes)
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER : (Still flabbergasted, begins to speak) 'Without consistency of thought human affairs descend into meaninglessness....
POMO KID SPEAKS : Not if you think they have meaning for you . You know, by the way, in 1855, the people who exploit and rape slaves are doing what was thought right at the time. We shouldn't be so chauvanistic as to try to harshly criticize people who own slaves by the morality of later periods. If you say that people who exploit slaves are doing something totally wrong then you're just as bad as they are . Morality is different from one period to another ...some people say that people in different periods might call different actions moral ...and it not be a case of inherently different morals ...but that's all the same anyway ...since I don't bother with hair-splitting distinctions like that .
(Pomo Kid's CD jams and stops playing temporarily. He pauses from speaking and, in so doing, ejects that CD and puts in the machine a CD of music by musician Dan Hasletine) .
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : How are you so sure that people who exploit slaves are unaware that what they are doing is fully wrong ? (The good abolitionist has managed to put aside being shocked by the weirdly insipid statements presented by Pomo Kid long enough to get the composure to ask him that question .)
POMO KID REPLIES : Well if they thought it was wrong to exploit and mistreat slaves then they wouldn't do it .
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : So let me get this straight, young man...you allege that the mere willingness of somebody to do some act is in of itself some ad hoc proof that in every such case they must be sincere in doing so.? Where do you arrive at such a facile conclusion-- if that is what you are alleging ?
(Pomo kid, who does not know a specific response to the question that can save face for how facile the previous statement he has just put forth has been...then searches his memory banks for the word he likes to bandie about whenever somebody presents an argument that is elaborate , doesn't have postmodern cliches, and one which , moreover, he doesn't want to slow down and bother to analyze . He finds that word .... the word "pseudo-intellectual" which he uses to lambast elaborate arguments from people who refuse to sell out and refuse to entertain his lazy mind . )
POMO KID SPEAKS : Dude, I realy don't have time for pseudo-intellectual questions and statements like you have been making. Mellow out, Dude . You are so single-minded . You just need to get laid .
(Pomo Kid pauses and then speaks again )
POMO KID SPEAKS : You want to know something ? If you judge a belief or lifestyle that somebody supports ...that's the same as judging them, because an emo-singer I like said so, in an interview I read about in Spin magazine . He later said the same stuff about that on a VH-1 documentary . He said that the beliefs a person supports are the person themself ---so by judging the belief your judging the person . Beliefs are people . (Pomo Kid gets oddly quiet all of a sudden )
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER THEN ASKS : So to take such preposterously silly statement to its conclusion , do you then allege that if someone no longer believes the beliefs they once supported ...they are no longer themselves .?
POMO KID ASKS : Yes , why not say that ?
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPEAKS : Well young man, I hope that you will reconsider those murky notions you have given a voice to . Slavery is quite ugly and the others here know that .
(Pomo Kid then takes out the Hasletine CD and puts in a CD of Rumors by Fleetwood Mac in his CD player and adjusts the headset .) .
POMO KID SPEAKS : (Takes on the weirdly petulant snippness that young postmodernists sometimes adopt) 'You know what dude, you just don't understand . I'm starting to think that it's just a waste of time explaining this to you ...since you have a closed mind. I can see you have a closed mind because you keep having to take everything apart and you keep insisting on consistent distinctions . That's very anal retentive of you Mr. Whittaker . That's also a power play on your part . It shows that you have control issues and will not look at anything a different way . You just don't understand. You got all that deductive reasoning ...but that's a defense mechanism . Since you refuse to come out of your comfort zone and become conflicted about anything there's probably no point in having a discussion .You just don't understand ...all you want to do is be a true believer and stereotype the lifestyle of other people . So, like WHATEVER , dude ...that's not my problem !
(Pomo Kid then speaks again )
You probably don't think I identify with oppressed people but I do . My girlfriend and life partner Jasmine and me have gone to a lot of take back the night rallies . We've protested date rape on campus. I've known oppression and been a victim of oppression myself . The year before last I went to go stay with my aunt Veronica because parents were using their house as a meditation center for married couples and me being kind of high maintence ...we figured I'd get in the way and so I went to go live with Veronica . But my aunt is an old school Mennonite --and so she's like real rigid , dogmatic , and puritanical and so she wouldn't let me and Jasmine's ex boyfriend (he's a real kewl guy who pierced my belly button when we went to Woodstock 94) and her ex boyfiriend 's cat all get together and have group sex games together in her house . She's real dogmatic against sex (if you ask me she has some real issues if she's against group sex games) . Sex is like my identity . Also i understand oppression because people sometimes look at me funny because I have a lot of piercings ...so I know what it's like to be oppressed too . '
BENJAMIN WHITTAKER SPOKE : 'Young man, I pity someone with such a murky , ridiculous attitude as you have . If you excuse me, now myself and the other people here are going to march to the town hall where we will make the protest of slavery public ... ' (He then turns away and walks toward the others who have gathered at the far door of the Shaker meeting house ) .
POMO KID SPEAKS (Runs up ahead to meet up with them): ' So you guys are going to a protest down town. Kewl ! For shizzle ...that's the shiznic ! I've been to protests with my girlfriend and our boyfriends ...we've been to take back the night ...and we've been to rallies at Lillith Fair too, so I know the routine . I once met Michael Stipe at a protest !
(Mr. Whitakker and the other abolitionists have begun already begun to file out signs en hand . They cast backwards glances of disgust and perplexity at Pomo Kid )
Pomo Kid then runs out after them , "Let's do it . End oppression now. Oppression is f--ked up . The people united will never be defeated ...the people united will never be defeated ! The people united will never be defeated ! '
(He then hearing the onset of a track on the CD playing the Fleetwood Mac song ' Don't stop thinking about tommorrow then begins to sing in echo to the song ---as if it were a marching chant ...As he runs out into the starlit roads of 1855 Oneida, New York he soon finds he wishes he had a latte to round out the day) .
Posted by: J.D. Leary | Aug 25, 2006 10:16:57 PM
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