Tuesday, October 19, 2010


No one has any idea what they’re doing. We’re all blind to the consequences of our actions. We make predictions, we make assumptions, but until the consequence has arrived, we have no true idea of what it will look like. Some people tell other people that they indeed do know what the future holds. Some people will tell you that they indeed do know better, that they are “experts” or that their advanced age or experience somehow qualifies them as being that much more aware of their universe. Some will say “I know more because I’m more mature/intelligent/capable/observant.”

It is, of course, a lie. It’s one of those lies that are repeated often enough that it’s taken for granted as truth. It’s codified, in fact. Codified in religion, codified in law, codified in society. The concept of authority lies on the concept of responsibility. The concept of responsibility relies on the concept of being aware of the consequences of one’s actions. The idea is self-sustaining through a system whereby it’s accepted that the passage of time confers a sort of prescience. There’s always a “wise old man;” never a “wise young man.”

I read quite a few articles on a fairly artificial controversy over Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign, hoping to lift the spirits of gay youth. I read a number of other articles espousing and promoting a polyamorous lifestyle. I read an entire webcomic espousing feminism and atheism as ideal examples of society. All of these things had a unifying theme, a sense of self-righteousness that pervaded their individual campaigns. This is what is moral and correct and good. That is what is immoral and incorrect and bad. This is an act of attaining freedom. That is restrictive and reduces freedom. All of these are based on basic assumptions of what is right and what is wrong. All of them are based on morals, essentially. The understanding, the buy-in, is that these morals are more beneficial to human society than the morals that disagree. That as much freedom for as many people possible is better than limiting freedom to certain people. That people really do have a fundamental and expected right to do what they want, so long as it hurts no one.

These ideas don’t have any particular logical grounding. Assuming that your logical goal is to simply promote and extend the human race, the status quo has proven to be fantastically successful. Radically altering the concepts of love, marriage, genders, or religion are simply solving a problem that doesn’t really exist. Assuming that the logical goal is to make everyone happy, you’re basically in the same boat. Happiness is subjective. Perhaps the majority of people are happy with monogamous relationships. Perhaps the majority are happy not to have the pressure and responsibility that a man might have. Perhaps the majority is fine with homophobia, and it makes them happy to restrict gender into easily comprehended boundaries. Perhaps they’re fine with believing in a friendly magic ghost in the sky. Certainly it can’t be the other way around, otherwise the majority would make a change and support these things.

“But Jake,” you say, “what if they simply aren’t aware of any alternatives? Society is simply an inertial engine that tries its best to maintain society exactly as it is, even if they did decide to change things, society would probably quash the change as quickly as it could.” Excellent point, however society is still made of people. Scapegoating it as a root of all malfeasance dehumanizes and removes the importance of the people in a society, and misunderstands what is actually being referred to as “society.” The vast majority of what people describe as “societal pressure” is actually internally generated anxieties attempting to predict the consequences of diverging from what everyone else does. Again, as we can see, faulty reasoning based on poor predictive ability. Let me give you an example: I have painted toenails, very nicely done by my girlfriend. They’re painted in that dark red color typically associated with striking dresses or very luscious lips(tick). I wore sandals today because all I have are sandals and dress shoes, and I don’t like having to wear dress shoes very much. The predicted response is that people would look down on me and instantly notice my nails and possibly remark on them or shun me. The problem would be compounded by me riding a “girls” model purple cruiser bicycle. “Ew,” the public would say, “I bet that guy is a transvestite.” This is the prediction, the assumption, the very concept of how reality will be in the near future. How wrong it is. I walked and biked and made it from here to there without a single comment, without a single shun. Hardly anyone gave me more than a second glance. The only time I heard anything concerning the nails was when my girlfriend, in an act of sheer malice, pointed them out to her co-workers. What did they do? Make the same general prediction of occurrences, while denying that they themselves would ever be so judgmental. Society is made of people who are too concerned with how they themselves appear to worry significantly about others. A lot of people, at least subconsciously, realize that, and that is why there are so many people with strange quirks out there. Everyone has some eccentricities. It is totally impossible for a person to completely tie themselves to the way they assume others want them to appear. They all have outlets and they all have comfort zones. Just as you claim that people may change their mind about what makes them happy if they step out of these zones and try new things, so do people have a complete inability to understand what lies beyond their perception. To you, perhaps, these comfort zones, the limits of eccentricity perceived to be allowed by society

My point is, no one really knows what they’re doing. Life isn’t as simple as all that. Life is a series of decisions made based on faulty data and irrational assumptions. Assuming that any one viewpoint has more inherent credence than any other is another of those irrational assumptions. I am not trying to make an argument here; I don’t necessarily disagree with any of these viewpoints. What I disagree with is the assumption of morality, that these arguments are somehow correct by the very virtue of their content.

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to post this. I have actually written a few things that I haven’t put up for one reason or another. I’ve been somewhat busy and I haven’t had the same sort of night of solitude that inspires me to write for a while.

No comments:

Post a Comment