The Stories We Tell

[W]ithin each of our individual introcosms we are always “seeing” ourselves as the central characters in the drama of our lives. However, a certain selectivity to this inner theater is apparent, since we choose those images of ourselves that fit into our favored scripts and ignore those that do not. This attribution of causes to behavior or “saying why we did a particular thing is all a part of narratization. Such causes, as reasons, may be true or false, neutral or ideal.” An interiorized self is “ever ready to explain anything we happen to find ourselves doing,” and a “stray fact is narratized to fit with some other stray fact.” We are not “consciously aware of all the information our mind processes or of the causes of all the behaviors we enact, or of the origin of all the feelings we experience. But the conscious self uses these as data points to construct and maintain a coherent story, our personal story, our subjective sense of self.”
~Brian J. McVeigh, A Psychohistory of Metaphors (Kindle Locations 2736-2743)

I’ve lost what little faith I have in rational public debate, democratic process, and the liberal dream. The stories we tell about ourselves and our society.

We don’t live in a free society. I’m not sure what a free society would look like in a country such as this. I simply know it would not be this way. In a free society, corrupt power-mongers would not become leading candidates in elections and certainly not elected into positions of power. A free people wouldn’t tolerate it. But we aren’t a free people in a free society.

Freedom is an odd notion. It is an ideal, a social construct that is reified through repetition. We talk about it so much that we take it for granted without understanding what we’re talking about. It relates to other notions, such as free will—the ability to act freely. The term ‘free’ etymologically goes back to a basic meaning of being among friends, which is to say being treated by others as they would treat themselves. As such, it actually has more of a connotation of mutual relationship than of independent individuality. To be free, in the oldest sense, is to belong among those one knows and trusts.

Our modern sense of freedom is rather abstract. It’s become entirely disconnected from the concrete reality of human bonds within a specific community. We know freedom from the stories we tell or rather from the media we consume, not so much from our lived experience. American communities aren’t locations of freedom, in any sense of the word. And we don’t have a culture of trust.

When I observe people in American society, I don’t see freedom of thought and action. What I notice most of all is how blindly and unconsciously people act, the dissociation and ignorance that rules their minds, how trapped people are in the life conditions that have shaped them, the persuasive rhetoric of media and politics, and the reactions to emotional manipulations. Even the ruling elite who love to play their games of power aren’t any more free than the rest of us, maybe even less so as they exist within the echo chambers of a self-enclosed establishment, based on the demented belief that they make their own reality.

The entire society forms a near hermetically-sealed reality tunnel. That is what it means to be in a society like this, to be a subject of the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. We can’t see out, much less see beyond to other possibilities.

I keep coming back to a basic insight. We humans are a mystery to ourselves. I mean that profoundly but also simply. We don’t know why we are the way we are or why we do what we do. We know so little about the very things that matter the most, specifically our own nature. The ideals of a liberal society are the light glinting off the surface of deep waters, indicating mere ripples while leaving the currents beneath unseen. That nice-sounding rhetoric does not make the world go round nor does it tell us where the world is heading.

It’s pointless to expect a functioning democracy under these conditions. We are like children at play, knowing not what any of it means. Asking for democracy from an American politician is like asking for healthcare form a child playing doctor. Games, endless games. We are better able at imagining than in acting, for our imaginings are but daydreams and fantasies. As for voters, they only demand one thing, to be told comforting lies and entertaining stories. Our political system is a spectacle of lights that blinds us to the darkness around us, as we stumble along, more likely over a cliff than out of Plato’s cave.

We are all stuck in this mire and sinking deeper, even those who claim to be outside of it. The critics, left and right, are simply hypnotized by other scripts. Genuinely original thought and deep insight is so rare as to be practically irrelevant. Nothing will change, until conditions force change, and when it happens no one will be able to predict where those changes will lead.

At some point, the stories we tell ourselves stop making sense, as the world refuses to conform. What then?

* * *

The Elephant That Wasn’t There

The Stories We Know

Imagined Worlds, Radical Visions

36 thoughts on “The Stories We Tell

  1. If it was just ignorance, apathy or pride, I might be able to live with it. But when it’s a combination of all three, prideful delusional ignorance without empathy, it is a destructive cancerous problem eating away at the foundations of civil society.

    The behavior you described, Ben, reminds me of the behavior of house slaves and field slaves. There are plenty of house slaves in America telling the field slaves they should be thankful for what they have and that their lives on the plantation are good and that they shouldn’t cause problems for the master.

    How truly blind and ignorant Americans have become to the point where their rights and freedoms are long dead and they will gladly walk into “showers” in concentration camps and will be long dead before they realize the truth of their situation. The Nazis told stories of resettlement, protection, work camps, better living conditions, These are the same stories being told by politicians and mainstream media about how great our economy, culture and governance are. Which globalized slaughterhouse/concentration camp/gulag do you think they’re leading the American sheeple while telling their stories and stealing/embezzling/re-appropriating/seizing our assets/livelihood/dignity!?!? WAKE THE FUCK UP!!!

    We are beyond the tipping point to recovery our democracy. It’s dead. You can stick a fork in it.

  2. You sound seriously depressed. I’m proud of my country’s freedom and it’s a great honour.

    America isn’t perfect, but writing the whole country off because life isn’t fair. Jesus man up and stop being a drama queen. Would you rather live in Iraq?

    • Well, I am depressed. But that is neither here nor there. I would note, though, that social science research has found that depressives have a more accurate assessment of present conditions, what is called depressive realism.

      I didn’t write the whole country off and it’s not drama. But I understand why you read my post that way. It’s just a single post. I’ve written much else.

      I’m fascinated by American history. And I’m fully a product of this society, in both good and bad ways. My criticisms are part of a long American tradition, without which the country we know wouldn’t exist. I’m offering a jeremiad. If you’re interested, read a book such as The American Jeremiad by Sacvan Bercovitch.

      Some of my favorite American visionaries and leaders regularly offered criticisms of this place that they loved. You have to love something deeply to be able and willing to criticize deeply. Thomas Paine is a great example, the pamphleteer many consider the main inspiration of the American Revolution.

      Having pride, if it is to be meaningful, must include being honest.

      It took a massively deadly civil war to end slavery here, long after it had been peacefully ended in many other countries. There are more blacks in prison now than were in American slavery at it’s height. The US has been involved in military conflicts, interventions, and meddlings (most of them by choice, many of them wars of aggression) every year of the existence of the country. The reason Iraq is so bad right now is because we helped make it that way.

      We have a violent society with a long history of oppression. That isn’t a good thing. Calling people drama queens who point out uncomfortable truths isn’t helpful. That isn’t pride. It’s willful ignorance. There is nothing more in the world I want than for we Americans, including you and I, to live up to our own ideals and values.

    • So tell me, how does it feel to be a house slave?

      This person’s comment is a butt-hurt response to being compared to a house slave. It’s a metaphor you twit! Grow a spine and project your insecurities elsewhere!

      What the fuck does depression have to do with the topic? Do you know what an ad hominem is? Obviously you do not or else you wouldn’t make a mockery of patriotism and shame yourself like a blithering idiot with your hypocrisy by questioning other people’s patriotism with your feeble mind.

      Have you even read any of Ben’s other blog entries? There are few in the U.S. who understand and care about our country more than he does!

      If you want to be a true patriot, start by realizing how easily you are being manipulated by your claims. Wake the fuck up and stop being a retarded parrot!

      “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
      -Winston Churchill

  3. The biologists may be the ones to give us a realistic sort of idea of what it is we’re supposed to be doing, what we really are. I’ve been reading Steven Pinker over the last few years, brain science, and the idea that all we have is our narratives is sort of religious/magical, an idea that requires we think that biology and evolution haven’t had any input into what goes on in our heads, or what we are made for or capable of. The Blank Slate sort of lays it all out, that we and our brains are evolved phenomena, not some all-purpose computing machine. We can’t just expect that we can apply our brains in ways that evolution didn’t design us for.

    I mean, their purpose for our existence is to breed, to propagate our genes. That’s not a purpose that satisfies humans, but we need to factor that in, that THAT is what we were “designed” for, and we need to find a direction we can move towards that isn’t just blind to our biology.

    • My mind has been going down a separate tradition of thought. There is increasing amount of research and analysis that indicates other viable interpretations and probable theories, although so much remains tentative as our knowledge remains limited.

      You are familiar with one of the authors that has been of interest to me, Judith Rich Harris such as in her book No Two Alike. She shows the power of peer influence. We are coming to realize, based on newer science, how powerful the physical and social environment shapes us. This isn’t to deny the brain and body, but it is to point out that these are part of larger systems, that we don’t exist in an isolated vacuum.

      An early explorer of this was Julian Jaynes. A more recent thinker is Iain McGilchrist. There are also the theorists of integralism, enactivism, embodied cognition, extended mind, etc. Plus, you can’t forget about the research on the powerful effects of social capital, environmental stress, culture (trust, honor, etc), nutrition, toxins, parasites, epigenetics, and much else.There is a lot more going on than the old blank slate debate. Epigenetics, in particular, shows how much more complicated is genetics than we previously assumed.

      I happened to be responding to someone else in another blog. I was listing some of the fascinating literature that is bringing forth new understandings about the human mind, both in terms of the ancient world and today.

      All of that is the background when I write posts like this. I wish there was an easy way to communicate this kind of thing. It’s taken me decades of reading to gain what little comprehension I have. The more I learn the more it becomes clear how little I know and how little anyone knows. We are barely scratching the surface. It’s an exciting time to be alive. Interesting times, both as an opportunity and a curse.

      • still kinda feel my comment underwrites yours, that nothing in your list changes that we can’t necessarily just decide what our narratives are, that what’s going on is indeed part of a larger world and larger systems. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t saying biology is determinism – but just because it’s not doesn’t mean that the opposite is true, that we’re “free” to be whatever we want. I’m on the Nurture side of the argument, but we Nurturists can’t just ignore science, I can’t accept two divergent ways to look at the world, cuz, Goddammit, there is only one world out there. I see it as my mission to bring social science back to reality, back to science.

        • When applicable, I prefer a both/and attitude. That is my starting point and then I see where it goes from there.

          My interests from when I was younger tended to focus what was built into the mind, such as Jungian archetypes. But even that left open to interpretation about what caused those things to get embedded within human nature, the traces of the past within the present.

          Some of that would be genetic, no doubt. Other parts of it might be epigenetic or something entirely else we haven’t yet guessed at. We still don’t know what purpose is served by the vast majority of human DNA, referred to as junk DNA, or what impact is had by the even vaster amounts of non-human DNA that humans carry around in their bodies.

          I don’t see many people, other than fundamentalists, denying that genetics plays a role. So, few people actually defend a blank slate view of human nature. The question is what role do genetics play and that is a complex question, as recent scientific research has shown.

          As for my post and comment, I never claimed we just decide anything. The very stories that exist within our mind shape and limit what we’re even able to see as choices and how we would go about making choices. A major focus Jaynes had was how our brains relate to metaphorical thought—specifically in terms of the individuation, interiorization, and narratization of consciousness. It wasn’t just stories we tell, but stories that we are or rather make us who we are. This is built on how the brain functions and inseparable from the larger society.

          Like you, I’m interested in the ‘science’ part of social science. That is part of what has been interesting me lately, how science is beginning to bring evidence supporting new understandings. Much new research has made Jaynes’ hypothesis of bicameralism a lot more plausible and he intentionally designed his model of the human mind so that it could be tested or even falsified. His interest wasn’t mere speculation.

          There is another post I’m working on right now. It is about color, culture, language, cognition, and perception. It relates to recent research as well. Some findings show that language can alter how we think and what we are able to think about. It’s only one factor among many, but it is a powerful factor.

          Anthropology is showing ever more clearly the immense diversity and plasticity of human nature and culture. One must assume that such diversity is an expression of an even more immense set of potentials within human biology as they inseparably operate within natural ecosystems.

          One of my main points remain. Our ignorance is so far beyond our knowledge. We are a mystery to ourselves. That isn’t to say we should embrace that ignorance. It’s simply our starting point and we should humbly acknowledge it, even though the stories our society tells us would instead point us toward more comfortable conclusions.

          • Hi Ben,

            I think you might appreciate the following:


            The Fritz Heider and Mary-Ann Simmel research study is fascinating.

            Unfortunately, our human minds are not tabula rasa. Whether it’s more nature or nurture, there are hard-wired and soft-wired bias that become part of our cognitive processes often to the detriment of reason, intelligence and enlightenment.

            Unless people are taught how to distinguish their own biased stories and narratives from empirical facts and reasoning, which is quickly becoming a lost education (I doubt it’s taught much in schools these days), humanity’s problems will continue and become worse.

          • “Some findings show that language can alter how we think and what we are able to think about.”

            Pinker’s pretty adamantly denying this stuff in “The Stuff of Thought” right now (I mean as I’m reading it). He says there may be a sort of a Mentalese, a “language” of the mind,” but that it’s neither English or any other Earthly language, and he’s debunking all these Whorfian ideas about language-before-thought. He’s hard to ignore. Deaf people do not lack reasoning ability and feral kids with no language do not lack concepts, only the words.

          • Jeff – “Pinker’s pretty adamantly denying this stuff”

            I would point out that his book was published about a decade and a half ago. That is a long time in terms of the progress of scientific research. I don’t know what were the research findings back then and what they seemed to indicate. I do know a lot of intriguing research has been done since then. From what I can tell, the debate has shifted a bit and I’m not sure if Pinker has written further about it.

            The books I’ve been looking at have been published these past few years, and some of them discuss Pinker’s book in relation to more recent research. Someone like Whorf was speculating at a time long before there was much research. We are long past that point now. There is enough research to show certain things with clarity, specifically about what effects language does and does not have in certain areas of human cognition and perception.

            As with blank slate, I don’t think too many people are arguing for the strong Whorfian interpretation these days. Whorf has been dead for three quarters of a century. I’m sure if he was still around, even he would have changed his views as new research was done.

            I don’t have any clear conclusions at present. It’s just some stuff I’ve been reading lately. I’m in the middle of a number of books. It’s interesting and that is the most I can say. Many things being discovered now are forcing us to rethink somewhat. I guess we’ll find out where further research will go.

          • The Stuff of Thought – 2007

            he’s talking about Stephen Levinson, Peter Gordon, Xu and Carey . . . his own former MIT colleague Jerry Fodor . . . I’m not finished the chapter, cbut almost. I don’t see any names past Levinson’s.

        • If you’re interested in the science of social science, that is precisely what Judith Rich Harris explores. The book I mentioned, No Two Alike, considers the research on genetics and environments. She analyzes what is going on that identical twins with the same parents and genetics so often turn out so different, even different personalities. That isn’t to argue that genetics plays no role, but obviously genetics has a much more complex relation to the environment than some earlier theorists proposed. We need new theories to explain this new evidence.

    • Yeah. That’s just the way the internet is. Everything becomes politics. For me, even when I mention politics, I’m not necessarily simply talking politics. In this post, I began with a quote that made clear my own way of thinking about such things. I was trying to point to a deeper view, beyond mere pessimism or cynicism in response to an idiotic campaign season.

    • BTW, I love the way your comments have a tendency to be patronizing and condescending. “Politics” is one of the most common ways humans filter reality. It’s not just about “politics” as you define it with your solipsism. It’s strange how you can talk about the social sciences and then make sarcastic comments about digression of a “political” nature.

      • Politics is important. I write about it all the time. But I tend to look at everything in a larger context.

        The issue is what we mean when talk about politics. And politics can mean many things. This leads to people so easily talking past one another. That is an aspect of my thoughts here.

        I want to get to a deeper level. That isn’t to say something like politics is a mere surface issue. Obviously, politics includes or touches upon so much, which is why it can be a powerful way of speaking about things, even as one of its most powerful results is how difficult it can make discussion.

        I suspect everyone in this comment section has different notions about politics. So how do we look for some kind of shared understanding that would allow useful discussion? Not that I have a good answer.

      • It’s strange. In principle I recognise a right of quality to take a superior tone to mediocrity. And Steele’s brilliance and vast learning are impressive enough. Few academics or professional journalists are as insightful.

        But there’s something fundamentally grotesque about a confessedly miserable person daring to talk down to people who show even average talent at living. Yes, people may be unhappy through no fault of their own, but Steele is living out a self-punishing life script which would inherently make anyone miserable. To my mind, anyone who speaks as a moralist offering guidance to others stands forth as an example of the lived consequences of their teachings. Labouring to influence others with ideas which bring torment in one’s own mind is philosophically incompetent, cruel, and toxic.

        • “But there’s something fundamentally grotesque about a confessedly miserable person daring to talk down to people who show even average talent at living.”

          But there’s something fundamentally grotesque about an obvious asshole who assumes they know me when they don’t. You apparently don’t know much about depression. It doesn’t necessarily keep a person from normal things.

          I hold down a job, pay bills, clean my apartment, take care of animals, spend time with and help out my parents, hang out with friends I’ve had for much of my life, enjoy reading books including fiction, watch tv shows and movies, laugh at humor, exercise and go for long walks often with friends and family, etc.

          I’m a normal human. Depression does suck, but it doesn’t turn me into a mutant.

          Maybe people like you perceive me as a failure for not meeting some standard of normalacy. The problem is a vast swath of the population gets dismissed by those living comfortable, easy lives. There are millions of Americans with mental illnesses, most of them living otherwise normal lives.

          Why judge those who are different as failures? According to the societies they lived,in, Jesus and Buddha were failures and were surely dismissed by those who conformed to the social norms of their time and place. The same thing could be said about many people who helped change the world, such as Thomas Paine. Anyone who challenges the status quo will be attacked, scapegoated, ostracized, or sometimes worse.

          Maybe we shouldn’t use ad hominem to attack the messenger. Instead, maybe we should listen to the message. It’s like dismissing Einstein’s scientific advances because he had serious problems with interpersonal skills and practical matters.

          If you want to embrace ignorance, then do so. I don’t care. But take it elsewhere. Your clueless rationalizations aren’t welcome here. That isn’t a script I’m interested in. Keep your toxicity to yourself. Don’t project it onto me.

        • We live in a severely dysfunctional society. Many of those who are the most successful in our society are narcissists, sociopaths, authoritarian followers, and such. There is more to life than successfully gaming the system and/or conforming to social norms.

          If you were wanting to gain moral insight about a dysfunctional society (be it corporatist US, communist Russia, fascist Italy, theocratic Saudi Arabia, or isolationist North Korea), would you listen to the opinion of those who are the most well functioning, most successful, and most normal people in those societies? Are the critics of a severely dysfunctional society themselves toxic or are they simply pointing out the toxicity all around them? Are those who do well in a severely dysfunctional society to be deemed non-toxic even as they promote a toxic system and atmosphere?

          These are serious questions. You’ve apparently never thought about them. Before you go around slinging your own shit like a caged monkey in a zoo, think about the cage you find yourself in. Maybe the cage isn’t such a good thing. Maybe your time and energy could be spent in finding a way out or at least in studying the cage to figure out how it works, the locks and levers. Whatever you do, please don’t attack the monkeys rattling the bars of the cage, just because they keep reminding you that you’re in a cage. They aren’t being grotesque or miserable for wanting to be on the other side of those bars.

          By the way, if you knew anything about anything, one thing you’d certainly know is that psychiatric conditions such as depression are highly dependent on social environment, economic conditions, and healthcare. Countries with high inequality like the US has tend to have high rates of mental illnesses. I’m begging you to stop blaming individuals for systemic problems. It isn’t just a script of individuals. It’s the script of our entire society.

          Wake the fuck up! For the love of God, wake the fuck up! We’re long past the point of making excuses.

        • Was that man who stood before a tank in Tiananmen Square being fundamentally grotesque and avowedly miserably? Did he have no right to challenge the system unless he could offer a detailed solution to all the problems of his society? Was he a failure for his refusal to conform?

          Was his simple protest futile and wrongheaded? What if that is all he felt able to do in that situation, stand before a tank? Why was he wrong for doing that, standing against oppression? Have you considered the possibility that the world might be a better place if more people were willing to take such simple moral stands, without knowing where it will lead?

        • Consider other examples.

          Was Socrates wrong for challenging rather than conforming to his society, for refusing to remain silent simply because those in power wanted him to remain silent? What about the Stoics, among the greatest and most influential thinkers in Western civilization, who challenged Roman authority and were sometimes tortured or even killed for their efforts?

          What about all the millions of people, known and unknown, who protested or participated in civil disobedience against what they considered wrong in their society? What about Harriet Tubman wrong for being a thorn in the side of slave masters? What about Henry David Thoreau whose civil disobedience and non-conformity inspired generations, including Ghandi?

          What about the religious and economic dissenters during the English Civil War, many of them landless peasants and the unemployed masses? The Quakers causing trouble in the Puritan New England colonies, those that refused to play by the rules and obey the laws? Or the the lower classes that rose up before and after the American Revolution, such as the Shaysites? Who did these losers of society think they were for challenging their betters?

          All of these people were seen as malcontents and rabble-rousers, the worst of the worse. For those who defended the status quo, these complainers were the problem that needed to be dismissed or eliminated. Now imagine what the world would be like without all these complainers throughout history.

          What right did they have to an opinion and to be heard? None. But that didn’t stop them, even when all they had was a clear vision of what was wrong.

        • Bitch-geek: now there’s a name that reeks of social justice warrior troll if I ever heard one. Why don’t you change your name to reek-geek since you stink to high heaven of bullshit. Or have one of your parents change your diaper because it doesn’t sound like you’ve grown up much. No one gives a damn about your demented feminist fascist agenda and what you think.

          Crawl back under the rock from which you came and stop giving women, liberals and progressives a bad name. In fact, your representation as a sample of humanity is abhorrent. Do humanity a favor and take your crap-slinging act to a zoo where it belongs.

          If you’re NOT going to respect this website, go elsewhere! It is a privilege, not an entitlement for you to shit all over like an animal.

          • I guess this demonstrates my mixed emotions about ‘politics’ as a way of framing every issue and problem. It seems to bring out the worst in a lot of people. I know it can bring out the worst in me.

            I just get tired of it all. I want the idiocy to end. There has to be a better or at least more interesting way of talking about things. I know of all the problems and I can complain with the best of them. But I just no desire at the moment to argue with people like Bitch-Geek Hybrid.

            It is pointless. It sure doesn’t make me happy and I doubt it makes her happy. I throw my hands up in exasperation.

            I mean, what the fuck is politics? I care about people. While politicians and activists have their debates, there are real people in the world struggling and suffering. Most people have no interest in politics. They just want the shit show to end, so that they can get on with their lives.

            I realize I can rub people the wrong way. Well, others can rub me the wrong way. That’s life. Not much to be done about it. For those people, all I can say is that maybe we should go our separate ways. It has nothing to do with needing to feel superior to anyone.

            There just comes a point when enough is enough. That is all there is to it. There is a whole big world out there. If someone doesn’t like me or my blog, I’m not forcing them to stick around to read my posts and comment on them. I am what I am, nothing more, nothing less.

            The whole issue of this post is to express my own desire to get past all the pointless conflict. If there must be conflict, I’d like for it to at least serve some useful purpose. Arguing with a stranger online is probably not the best use of anyone’s time.

            In this post, I wonder about the stories and scripts we all get caught up in. I don’t know. It seemed like something important, but I’m not going to try to change anyone’s mind. Bitch-Geek Hybrid or anyone else is free to disagree, just as they are free to go elsewhere.

            I don’t mind complaining. Anyone can complain all they want on my blog. Just at least make it interesting or something. Otherwise, I can’t take any of it seriously. It’s all a big sad joke…. and, yes, I know the joke is on people like me. That’s fine. I try not to take myself too seriously.

        • yeah, we all recognize that right in principle. The trick, of course is sticking to our principles. We’re all up against Trivers’ self deception principle, we all have to think we’re right, even somehow when faced with people who know far more than we do, but the extreme end of your sentiment is no-one’s perfect enough to tell us anything.

          But as to your second paragraph – as opposed to what? No-one should talk, we shouldn’t try to learn and teach? If your point is STFU, then I must say, back atcha.

          • I agree about Trivers’ self deception principle. Still, I maybe am coming at it from a slightly different perspective.

            It’s true that I’m depressed and dysfunctional in certain ways. I have no problem with admitting that, but I’d rather people like Bitch-Geek Hybrid not use that as ammunition to attack me in my own blog—my open honesty with others isn’t a point of weakness. This is how I see it. The United States is overflowing with depressed and dysfunctional people. That is because it is a depressing and dysfunctional society. I’m no one special in this regard. I’m maybe just ordinary American, on this level.

            There potentially can be an advantage to depression. I’m not seeing myself as being more right overall. In fact, I see myself as part of the problems I point to in the world. I don’t separate myself from them. Decades of severe depression has taught me great skills not just in being critical but also in being self-critical. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m right about most things. It simply creates a basic level of humility and wariness. I can promise that I’ll doubt myself more than anyone else will ever doubt me.

            Any criticisms I’ve had here toward others also apply to me. I’m not holding myself above others. There are some things I know, but my ignorance remains vast. I often just know enough to realize how ignorant I am. This bothers me. I don’t want to be ignorant and yet neither do I want to dismiss ignorance. If people had to be perfect before talking, then the world would fall into complete silence.

            I wish I was better at communicating. Obviously, in posts like this, I fail to communicate to certain people. Then again, I’m not always sure what I’m trying to communicate. If someone like Bitch-Geek Hybrid doesn’t understand where I’m coming from, then so be it. There is nothing to be done about it. My experience apparently doesn’t make any sense to her. And I guess her experience makes no sense to me. Whatever.

        • Here is something you might not have considered.

          You say that I have “brilliance and vast learning”. Yet you also make clear you don’t put much value on this. Those with “brilliance and vast learning” do likely have higher rates of depression. Actually knowing about and understanding the dysfunctional society we live in won’t necessarily improve one’s emotional health.

          That is part of the point of this post. I was wondering how do we find a different way of thinking about these problems. Those who are obsessed with ‘politics’ tend to be those who are most stuck within the status quo of the dominant paradigm. They end up promoting the problems of our society and then too often projecting it on those who point out the problems. I was suggesting that maybe there is a better way of framing issues. It could be helpful to look at politics and economics as not relevant on their own terms. The actual leverage point of change might be at a deeper level or even an entirely different location.

          My ideas don’t bring torment to my own mind. Posts like this actually express my curiosity, fascination, and wonder. The world is simply an interesting place and so are the people in it. We are strange creatures that are endlessly fascinating, even with all our problems… or maybe the problems are inseparable from the source of fascination, the common source being our own humanity. This sensibility is a vein running through my entire blog, often in the background but in this case in the foreground.

          This way of looking at the world requires a bit of toleration for ambiguity, the ability to simultaneously see things from multiple perspectives. It appears you don’t share this ability and there is nothing I can do about that. I could labor to influence people like you to have more curiosity about the world, but I have no desire to do so.

          I do stand as a lived consequence of being curious while surrounded by those lacking in curiosity. I never claimed that being curious was an easy fate. I don’t think anyone chooses to be curious. Most people seem to be born that way or not; or else to have the right kinds of experiences and examples early on in life. I’m not sure what is the advantage to being curious when the social norm is ignorant and obtuse groupthink. A person simply is curious because they don’t know how to be otherwise.

          Maybe the curious-minded have such a hard time in our society precisely because people like you. Maybe if the curious were less often attacked, criticized, and dismissed then they’d have lower rates of depression. Depression may be more of a result than a cause, more of a symptom than the disease.

          Did your comment make the world a better place? Clearly not. The source of the bad attitude you sense might be closer to home than you realize. I might suggest that you stop tormenting people with your mean-spirited comments and, by doing so, making their lives miserable (along with generally being part of the problem). You could, instead, add something of value to discussions such as this. Just something to keep in mind.

    • I’m familiar with that name. I thought I was reading some book by him a while back, but I can’t remember what the title was. As I recall, it was about the historical development of individuality or something like that. Maybe I’m mixing up his name with another author. About “After Virtue”, I have noticed it before when perusing books. Why do you recommend it?

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