Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
The Anchoress wants to know what’s wrong with the world? The challenge is that you have to limit it to a hundred words. I’ve skimmed through some of the other entries and this does not seem to be a hard-and-fast rule, but I thought out of respect I’d stick to it nevertheless.
For the preamble, anyway.
Since I have diarrhea of the pen, I’ll expound further below. Because that’s just how I am.
So here it is. Bear in mind the nature of problems — this one causes three others, and those three each cause a number of others, until eventually you have lots of problems that don’t seem to be related to each other even though they are. Somewhere, though, there is a “Papa Problem” responsible for all others, and this is how I’ve defined it.
We tend to see comfort in relative, rather than absolute, terms. We’ll sacrifice just as much for flavored syrup in our coffee as a colonial-era farmer might have sacrificed for his children to survive a smallpox epidemic. We care not how much comfort we already have, we always want a little more.
Comfort eventually grows into a new meaning. It becomes the absence of surprise or disruption; the absence of LIFE. And ultimately, we demand life itself be exchanged for the next shot of comfort. We think this hasn’t happened, because we see no fresh open grave. We think wrong.
See? I can follow instructions. A hundred words, no more, no less.
Unfortunately, our capitalist system has evolved to such a sophisticated extent that transactions can be closed in the blink of an eye, which means when a sufficient quantity of people all want the same thing, an industry is born. When industries demand common resources, the better-capitalized industry prevails and the others go without. In times past this worked to the advantage of the betterment of humanity, because the industries that were delivering staples prevailed in the battle for common resources against other industries that delivered luxuries (unless the consumers of those luxuries saw fit to personally subsidize this).
Now, we’ve hit a remarkable impasse in which so many people enjoy so much comfort, that the industries producing disposable luxury items possess enormous maturity and vitality in competing for limited resources against other industries that produce staples. To cite just one example, the cost of food has been getting more expensive for some time now, and economists generally cite the energy needed to bring it to market as a factor in this, over the materials and labor needed to grow it or slaughter it. By & large, when we use up energy to bring food to the market, what we’re using is gasoline and diesel fuel. Gasoline and diesel fuels are also used up by individual consumers…often to get to work, which is a necessity…but often for other things as well.
People are much more concerned about the price of gasoline than they were before. Or they’re supposed to be…but their cars are much bigger, too. They don’t notice that driving is actually cheaper now for the individual consumer, once inflation is factored in. Or maybe they do, on a subconscious level — the cars stay big, because everyone likes to feel safe, everyone likes to sit up high.
So people burn and burn and burn away.
Now, there are serious proposals to use ethanol…and isn’t this my point? Destroying food to make fuel. So we can go to work…and on vacation…and to rock concerts to “raise awareness about global warming.” Nobody pretends to be ready to explain how new cars that get 22 miles a gallon, contribute in the fight against global climate change over cars from twenty years ago that sat low and got 35 to 40 miles a gallon. But that seems to be the case, based on our actions.
We are exchanging staples for the luxury of sitting way up high and feeling safe, and in so doing we have abused logic.
A hundred years ago, we had to worry about our children going to school. It got done, but it was a pain in the ass, so we installed a public system to get our children educated. It works pretty well…except…when it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, we throw more money at it. Since it’s a bureaucracy, when more money is thrown at it the money disappears. The good teachers don’t get paid more than the bad teachers do, so it’s an impossibility for education quality to significantly improve. A differential in pay would be a “surprise or disruption”; we long ago passed the point where today’s flavor of “comfort,” is the eradication of that. So no differentials are to be allowed. Which means, of course, we’ll be called-upon to throw even more money at it later on.
Our system of medical care in the United States is very much the same way; it has diminished into a sloppy hodge-podge between capitalism and socialism. This works out wonderfully for those who enjoy comfort, abuse logic, and demand more alms for government solutions and regularly heap castigation and derogation on our private-industry solutions. They tell us what to do and what to think, and for some reason we comply. We are to be thankful to our public-sector bureaucracy overlords when we look around and see people covered who otherwise might not be; but when we see some of them are not covered — through their own choice — we are to blame private industry, and we are also to blame private industry for increased costs involved in medical care. Even though the hard evidence says “corporate greed,” which has no definition and cannot have a definition, may not be to blame, quite so much as a tort system that has sprung out of control. And an ever-fattening layer of bureaucracy, as is the case with the education system. Again, compare it to a century ago. We had access to medical care. We had doctors making house calls. Making sure such a resource was always available, in case it was needed, was something of a pain in the ass…so we got rid of the pain in the ass.
Looking back on it, it seems we really hit the slippery slope when children got it in their heads that schoolyard bullying was to be set up based on who had stuff and who did not. In hindsight, it is clear that previously, when it was oriented according to who was big-n-strong and who was a weakling, that was far healthier. Having stuff is a symbol of heightened expectancies, and the ability to sell others — your parents — on the idea that you ought to have it. Materialism, self-aggrandizement, and salesmanship, the new coins of the realm. Who, then, can blame the children for thinking of the well-dressed classmate as a Darwinian victor, to be befriended, accepted, emulated? Who can blame them? Really? And so we grow up this way. There’s something rather icky about the fella driving a little black car. Or even worse, standing at the “DON’T WALK” sign waiting for it to change…in a hoity-toity district where walking around outside of a car simply isn’t done.
And so “comfort” has evolved to a state of being like some model…not achieving something, but resembling something. Being, not doing. Because if people accept you as a peer, you won’t be left to starve no matter what — but if they don’t, then who knows? More guarantees in life are always good. And so we try to be like everybody else.
And this leads to two other problems.
The first is that resembling an ideal is an endeavor contrary to the human spirit. The alternative that we have sacrificed for this, which is to reach vertically, toward a previously untouched record and then beyond it, would be much more in keeping with our design. But that calls for being different, so we get rid of that. Ultimately this causes injury to ourselves, because long term everybody knows what to do after they’ve succeeded in breaking a record. You set a new one. And then you break that. Contrary to that, when your life goal is to resemble an ideal rather than to reach for a zenith, you end up just like the dog that caught the car. Now what do you do?? Why, you have to re-inspect things, looking for residual nuggets of your individual identity that you might have left carelessly rattling around…and get rid of them.
This is bathosploration, the opposite of exploration. Exploration with the “ex” lopped off, and in its place the prefix bathos, Latin for “a ludicrous descent.” And it leads to frustration. I said it is contrary to the human spirit. That’s because the human spirit drives us to do more, more, more, more. And how do you do more-more-more of trying to be like something?
The second problem is that we are designed to find ways to contribute as individuals. It matters not if we’re told day after day, hour-to-hour, that we’re loved unconditionally even should we fail to do this. We want to succeed. We want to justify our individual existences.
Notice how every hot luxury item now, the thing you get your significant-other to show how much you love them, has a name that begins with a lowercase “i”. There is deep psychological symbolism involved in this. “i” is a pronoun we use to reference ourselves…as individuals…usually capitalized, but here, curiously, not. It’s as if we have been conditioned to think less of ourselves. Lowercase “i”…as in…”i’m so glad i have this personal music player because i wouldn’t be worth much without it.” Or, “i hope people will think better of me now that i have a phone that everybody else would like to have.”
These items represent the culmination of energetic research and development, and tend to be quite capable. But people don’t want these items for what they can do…people want the items for what they are.
Find a teenager or a preteen or a young adult who would love to have an “iPod.” Now, imagine an appliance that does everything the iPod does…better, even…but is a secret. Nobody’s seen it before, and nobody knows what it is. The subject of your experiment would not want this hypothetical gadget. You wouldn’t be able to give it to them.
Now, imagine it is a few years down the road and everybody has an iPod. Now, it is the iPod that has lost all value. Again…you wouldn’t be able to give it to them.
So what arouses this wonder about things that begin with “i”, is a curious brand of self-contradictory confusion. Everybody wants to be like everybody else…but not really. They want to be different, to have what nobody else has…but not really. All this passion is aroused from the fact that so many others want the item in question. Or to be more precise about it, so many others recognize the item in question. But not so many others have it just yet.
What we’re talking about is Haute Monde Hoi Polloi. The modern passion of wanting to be like everybody else, but just a little bit different. An inherent contradiction. A rather perverted and mutated quest for an identity. It is generated by the pressures in our post-modern age, in which identities have been repressed. The holy grail, now, is to be “the guy/gal with the iPod/Phone.”
Here is a bounty of irony, fit to slake the thirst of whoever has gone out in search of it, for whatever reason: We crave an identity for ourselves. An individual identity. We’re starved for it. That isn’t just any ol’ iPod…it is my iPod. To those who say we have just as much self-respect now, as we did in the days of yore when we might have denied ourselves these luxuries, if not moreso — behold, with your jaw agape in abject disgust if you have any decency at all, the Push Present…
The latest gift-giving occasion is just one more for men to add to their list — along with Valentine’s Day (search), birthdays, holidays and the all-important anniversary.
“My husband does not believe in jewelry, so I saw it as the perfect opportunity to cash in on the whole societal pressure thing,” laughed Seattle mom Julie Leitner, 32, who got a white gold and diamond bracelet in the $800-$1,500 price range when her daughter was born.
Push presents, which are usually jewelry but don’t have to be, have gained popularity in the last few years. Once one new mother gets such a gift, her friends embrace the trend and pass the word on to their hubbies.
For which, I’m sure the “hubbies” are so grateful.
Look what we have going on here: The baby itself…is not enough. The baby is incomplete without a bauble coming with it. But is the baby not an representative agent of all of humanity? And so humanity is now reduced to an incomplete thing. Humans are just bagel without the spread, car without the air conditioning, house without swimming pool. We’re incomplete by nature. How can it possibly be suggested otherwise? That’s exactly what our babies are, now…to their very own mothers.
And it’s worth mentioning one more time — this is a severe injury dealt to what, now, is supposed to be our primary achievement. We are failing to be, and to be is supposed to be our primary mission — doing is a trivial matter. You’re hired into a job, you are hired to be and not to do. If you’re fired, you’re fired for your failure to be and not to do. If not — when you get another executive in charge of the company, if you open your company’s web site and read his biography, you’ll probably read a great deal about what he is…not so much anymore about what he has done.
This subordination of doing-behind-being extends to all facets of human existence now. it has happened in a span of time so short as to be positively breathtaking. If I were to travel back in time to the late 1990′s and tell people we have a President who toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, and is now catching flak for it — nobody, Republican or democrat, would be able to envision it in that time. The mass-communication tasks that would have to be involved, would be just too daunting. But, we have George Soros. And now this is the predominant view. George Bush is reviled…and one can’t help but gather the impression, in spite of the “he lied about WMD” propaganda, that he is despised for what he is and not for what he has done. He has been superimposed, bathosplorifically, against some cookie-cutter ideal of harmlessness, and found not to fit the model shape. He smirks, he swaggers.
In a cool-headed, clear-thinking logical realm, presuming the man really is a “war criminal,” smirking and swaggering wouldn’t be worth mentioning. And yet it is. Abandon all hope, ye who labor under the delusion that Bush-bashing is associated with any form of rational logic…as if you didn’t know that already.
But the now-deceased Saddam is an even more curious construct. He, too, is known for what he was…and not for what he did…which is how people knew him in those relatively-recent late 1990′s. The Soros campaign managed to get rid of that, and fool people into thinking they formed thoughts in their heads for themselves. We can’t think too much about what Saddam Hussein actually did. Why, if we did, we might start to see it was good to get rid of him, WMD or no. And there are rich powerful people who don’t want the “hoi polloi” to think about that.
And this, and similar situations, cause yet another problem…
People do evil things, and we shrug.
Because, you see, confronting evil causes discomfort. Avoiding conflict is the new ideal of bravery and nobility. We have all these non-masculine people…children…women…effeminate, self-loathing men…beginning sentences with “a REAL man…” and what follows is a verb, and some supposedly-ironic stuff that is, by design, not masculine. A real man never wears stripes with plaid. A real man is in touch with his feelings and is not afraid to cry. A real man loves to shop, a real man leaves the seat down. A real man emerges from a fight, successful in preventing the fight from happening in the first place. Hmm. A fight against what? Depending on the antagonist in question, usually an accurate translation is: He ran away. He epitomized yesterday’s definition of cowardliness. He did this, and in so doing illustrated what we think manhood is now.
And so we see the snowball of masculinity has been tossed in the hot skillet of this logical absurdity and self-contradiction, and predictably, didn’t last too long. How in the world could it? There’s no use for it at all…people are expected to be, and not to do…there is no definition for good or evil, and even if there is one and it can’t be avoided, we are not to act upon it.
Masculinity, therefore, is regarded as a relic from a bygone era. And why shouldn’t it be. Well, we always have needed men…we need them to create our children and then provide for them, teach them right from wrong. But right and wrong are just good and evil, more relics from the past. You don’t need a stud for insemination, and as for providing — well — the law has ways, new and improved ways, to get the steak out of the bull after he’s been made a steer. He doesn’t have to be around at all. You can have all the benefits of keeping him while still kicking him to the curb. That’s been the goal for forty years now, and we’re there.
Oh, and if he does happen to hang around, woe be unto the poor bastard if he’s stupid enough to teach his son a few things about being a man. We’ll deal with that in short order.
Doing-over-being, figuring out for yourself how to do things, masculinity. A classical triumvirate of things that all must be attacked in unison…for reasons nobody is really ready to list. But they must be attacked.
We don’t think for ourselves anymore. Oh sure we have opinions about things…we are very opinionated about things…but show me a hundred opinions, I’ll show you ninety-nine, or more, borrowed things. We babble away these opinions in order to ingratiate ourselves with others. It’s an extreme rarity now for anybody to be able to explain the opinion or opinions they have, and so it’s also an extreme rarity for anyone to ask for such foundation. When we do form opinions for ourselves, it is now commonplace for us to take the path of least resistance — and then believe we’ve based the opinion on some sort of “evidence,” although deep down we know differently.
This is a renunciation of logic and common sense. A sickening one, because it renders us so incapable of doing things for ourselves, ever again. Once we do this, we have no choice but to make our choices in life by feeling instead of thinking. We haven’t retained the tools and resources required to engage the alternative.
In fact, what we have been doing as we open this century, is systematically dismantling all the things we used in order to acquire the measures of comfort we already have, so we can reposition ourselves for chasing that next little morsel we don’t yet have. Doing over being. It’s a fossil, we got rid of it…now we are all about being, not doing. Recognizing good and evil — why? If we do that, someday someone might call us evil. Engaging evil. Sorry, that generates discomfort, we can’t have it. Masculinity. Eh…too primitive. Besides, you know how those men are — they’re so hard to figure out. Logic. Common sense. If-this-then-that. Who needs it anymore? Everything that needs building has been built. Feel, feel, feel…that’s the way to go.
And then there’s God. We’re putting a lot of energy into getting rid of Him, too. Now in an age of logic and common sense, it seems unavoidable that if something is just a figment of imagination and doesn’t exist, the effort involved in expurgating it ought to be quite low. But behold. The attacking-God industry is exploding. That our relationship with The Almighty, should we choose to have one at all, is a purely private matter is the oldest American ideal. Yet here we are having an absurd national debate about it, surrendering our sacred right to keep this to ourselves.
This is patently silly. It’s like being granted a constitutional right to the privacy of your laundry, and going on Oprah to wave around your chocolate-streaky underwear.
If I was an atheist, I would feel terribly ashamed that this is the age in which my viewpoint is most prosperous. The conclusion is unmistakable: Atheism is prospering, now, because it can. Add God to the long list of things that have leveraged our ascent, in generations past, up this long ladder of acquiring-parcels-of-comfort. We want to chase that next little slice — those things, for reasons explained above, must be jettisoned. Out goes God.
And we’re left with what? Doing over being, recognizing evil, confronting evil, manhood, logic, God — we have now pitched so much ballast over the side, we should be able to take on any voyage at all. But regardless of how many people are bitterly opposed to admitting it, all this “ballast” we’ve dumped over the side is actually gear. Gear which was used to get us as far as we’ve gotten.
And we don’t really know for a fact that we’re done with it. Quite to the contrary, when did anyone step forward and diligently scrutinize the idea that these things were doing us any harm, or that there was a need to pitch any ballast overboard at all?
Yes, the need came from somewhere. But it seems to be based much more on passion than on reasoning. And the passion comes not from excitement, or fear, or revulsion. It comes from boredom.
That’s what’s wrong with the world.
Other than the foregoing, Anchoress, I really don’t have much of an opinion about it, sorry.
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