Overweening Generalist

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some Very Recent Forms of "The Dialectic" (?)

[I've still got a nasty cold/cough and I'm in a general(ist?) state of bile and snark, so please forgive the odd tones, I beseech thee! I'm experiencing full-on phlegmaticness! Not fun. This article is about some brief tiffs between late 2011 reality-based communitarians in Unistat vs. entrenched interests and what I might deem - in my current moment of snark-bile state - the "reality-impaired." Have fun! - the OG]

There are many definitions of "dialectic." Plato thought only educated men talking to each other about ideas can reach an ever-higher level of understanding of True Being. More specifically for Plato and his followers, it was the process of defining terms and ideas and how they interrelate and have to do with One ultimate idea, which emanates from an Ideal World of Perfect Forms. Dialectic was spotted being used in English in the 14th century, in a sense that we would now call "logic." It had migrated rather scholastically into the art of discussion and debate, or argument...among school-churchmen who assumed Aristotle and the Bible were the ultimate wellsprings of Truth. <cough>

                                        Plato, looking stoned, from file photos. This was obviously after a night on the town. The wine 
                                        those guys drank was ultra-strong, and who knows what drugs were used for 
                                        the Eleusinian Mysteries. Man, I've heard of bloodshot eyes, but whiteshot eyes?
Sometime around the early 18th century, in or near present-day Germany, the term dialectic began to be discussed in terms of contradictions and disputes not only in discussions but in "reality." I will not go into an excursion of the term in Kant, Hegel, and Marx. I am using the term in this particular blog post in a rather grandiose way that persnickety scholars might call debased, but aside from that I mean something like: clashes of political ideas in late 2011 Unistat between what I consider people in what one George W. Bush official told journalist Ronald Suskind was the "reality-based community,"(Suskind's) and...whatever the Birthers and right wing billionaires/Americans For Prosperity and Heritage Foundation and Tea Party rank-and-file and John Birch Society, et.al call their "reality."

(I'm guessing they'd call their "reality" the One True Reality, but that's only a guess, and I am being unfair in lumping all those people together, as no doubt we will find at times substantial differences among all those who'd self-identify with one of more of those groups. They all seem to hate Obama, though.)

First up: A wonderful post from earlier today by a Maryland-based blogger-colleague of mine, Annabel Lee, denizen of the reality-based community, who tells us of her surprising experience at a Tea Party rally in Durham, North Carolina very recently. There's also something not-very-surprising. In the context of dialectic this speaks to a down-and-dirty overall story about the current state of beastly mundane and debased political discourse in Unistat, late 2011:
When a Liberal Visits a Tea Party Rally,What Happens? from Annabel Lee's razor-sharp blog Double Dip Politics. Of all the dialectical clashes in this OG post, this one from DDP contains a kernel of hope for something truly revolutionary: Occupyers and Tea Partiers (and those cheering for either group, from the sidelines) making common cause. (Note I said a "kernel.")

                            Co-Founder of the Yippies, self-described Investigative Satirist Paul Krassner.
                                     He did LSD with, among others and at different times, Groucho Marx and 
                                     Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme. Read his books!

Next up: Somehow Playboy got Paul Krassner and Andrew Breitbart into a conversation. It seems to me the more one knows about Breitbart and Krassner the more fascinating this exchange seems, but all I'm perhaps biased because I know Krassner's books, his biography, his history so well, and I love him. Krassner's one of my favorite Unistatians of the 20th century, born in 1931, if memory serves, and the founder of The Realist, and by dint of that, often introduced as "The Father of the Counterculture,"or "Father of the Underground press," for which he'd always yell out, "I demand a paternity test!" All I know of Breitbart is his appearances on TV, and he just seems like another Angry White Male with deep emotional issues. There's my bias. At any rate: primo dialectico!...but are the two of them really trying to get to the truth? Or uncover a new layer of truth? Your call...

Third - these things come in threes, as Pythagoras and Plato and Jeanne Dixon always asserted - comes what appears to be an editorial by Keith Olbermann, heaping vitriol on Michael Bloomberg while interspersing the castigation with ironic gratitude. There is a basic strong rhetorical style - immanent critique, comparisons, use of a thesaurus, clipped rhythms, about Olbermann. He's witty and angry and righteous and seems a justified heir to his broadcasting hero Murrow. (And Olbermann has a voice and seasoned telegenic mannerisms that shapes his rhetoric in a way that shouldn't be underestimated.) But within the context of dialectic please take Olbermann here and consider almost everything you see and hear tonally from the mainstream corporate electronic media about WHO the Occupiers are and what they want, and how the laws and Constitution comes into play. I invite you to consider this special comment-rant as a dialectic with, say, what Fox News is saying about the same situation:

Sooooo...how is this all playing from the vantage point of dialectic? Where are the misunderstandings? How can we model these chasms of understandings about, oh...I don't know...."facts"? What's The Reader's favorite way to model this...errr..."problem"?

I'm sure everything will work its way onward and upward, towards some Golden Mean of grace and empathic understanding and then we will All realize our common humanity and there will be no hungry, no homeless, no jobless, no health-insurance-less and everyone has access to World of Warcraft. Just as Plato and his dialectic said it would.

 <bittersarcasm-mode OFF>


Oz Fritz said...

One model floating around predicts a Dark Ages period for the next 500-600 years. To that end, things could get much worse. The problem then becomes how to survive and keep the gnosis alive?

Some people's fundament works with healing modalities both for self and for Self. To that end, I advocate more good music, poetry, art, and creative, knowledgeable writing such as the OG blog. Clear aesthetic communication.

michael said...

One model about a coming Dark Ages that I'm familiar with is in the books of Morris Berman. Are there any others that seem independent of Berman but seem to be saying: "It's over. Prepare to retreat and keep the gnosis alive until the next sane era arrives for some future, many generations hence."? It's difficult work keeping up on this stuff.

I can't help but harmonize (in 6ths) with your second paragraph, Oz Fritz. And thanks.

Annabel Lee said...

There was an interesting debate that I had recently with a reader while I was down in North Carolina. We were talking about how the stagnant nature of the American society - politics, economy, social morass - was a sign that the age of American enlightenment was coming to an end. We've seen our innovation decline, as most of the new innovations are actually coming for American companies from researchers in China and India, a fact the media has neglected to properly report. We then tied this to the decline in oil production, and how, without significant change immediately, we will face a world without petroleum products.

We concluded that the age of oil will bring a world that will be lacking medical advances and treatments, plastics, chemicals, and other petrol-producs, primarily those that most individuals do not realize are made from oil. The future that we were able to paint, with the current mixed with future, was lacking in optimism and excitement. It was eerily similar to the period between the decline of Rome (America) and the Renaissance (unknown future).

Also, thanks for saying such wonderful things about my website. Always greatly appreciative when you mention me in your works. It makes me smile every time.

Oz Fritz said...

I first read about this Dark Ages p.o.v. in Crowley's "Book of Thoth" Crowley based his reasoning on historical patterns. Additional background on his thoughts on this gets revealed in the (very excellent) new Tobias Churton bio.

A SF classic with this theme of preserving/transmitting knowledge and technology for future generations is "A Canticle for Leibowitz" by Walter Miller.

By no means do I consider this dark scenario a fait accompli, nor do I think Crowley did. The premise of magick holds that change can occur in accordance with Will.

michael said...

@Annabel: I spent about three years reading on energy and trying to get a strong grasp of oil, dependence, resistance by oil interests, just how strong and promising solar/wind/biofuels/hydrogen and a whole lot of other potential ways to harness the sun (ultimately, all of our energy starts with the sun), and the more I learned the less I knew: there SEEMS to be all kinds of ways to get relatively clean energy but who knows when these modes will become viable and affordable for large-scale industrial uses, if not for personal use.

What I started to see was that fossil fuels will be needed for industrial uses for at least twenty years more. BUT: I think there's plenty of reasons to be excited about renewable energy used on a far more massive scale locally, and for consumers.

One thing that I couldn't avoid was thinking how much energy I waste, and I'm a tightwad about energy use compared to most of my fellow citizens.

I look forward to reading everything you write, Annabel.

michael said...

@Oz Fritz: How could I have forgotten Canticle For Leibowitz? That may be the ultimate depiction of the scenario about entering a new Dark Age, and preservation. I recall in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 the hordes of book lovers who took it upon themselves to remember entire works, so that when sanity arises the great works will not be lost totally.

I have not read the Churton yet and, like you, do not consider this Massively Dark Scenario a fait accompli either. I think RAW thought one may entertain dismal possible futures, but resigning to them may have something like a self-fulfilling prophecy writ large aspect to the resignation, so therefore he saw pessimism as immoral...particularly when one is a writer that younger readers look up to.

Something for many of us to think about?