Alternative Media and the Abuse of Rational Models
Montréal, May 5, 2001
The dominant use of alternative media seems to be more ‘rah, rah, rah, we are right, they are wrong’ commentary. But something is happening ‘on the way to the truth’ and that is that we are substituting our preferred rational model of ‘right and wrong’ for our overall experience and then the right/wrong model is made the new ‘reference ground’ for our discussions and our ‘control-based purification’ actions. It seems as if the ‘anarchists’ are the only ones avoiding this trap by avoiding central control committee doctrine on ‘what’s right’ and ‘what’s wrong’.
If one happened to come upon a group of Muslims, in the act of surgically removing a young girl’s clitoris and stitching closed her vagina so that there is only a pencil-sized opening remaining, … this being to ‘save her’ from falling victim to temptations which could destroy something much more important than her body, i.e. her ‘soul’, … we might feel compelled to ‘judge’ what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and to then ‘act’ in her defense on that basis.
If we got organized about it, we might be able to start a new religious war, … the dark and evil clitorectomists versus the saintly anti-clitorectomist white knights.
What’s wrong with this picture?
What’s wrong with it in the context of ‘reason’ is that we would be shifting our cognitive reference base from our fullblown and complex 'experience' to the judgment of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’; i.e. logical abstraction or a ‘rational model’ ‘generalized’ from the limited space-time ‘vignette’ (one of many possible space-time vignettes) tailored for a snug fit around the nasty goings on and in the process abandoned our natural referencing to fullblown experience. That is, we substituted the ‘right or wrong’ rational model as the cognitive referencing canvas, a decidedly ‘non-relativistic’ reference framing. From that point on, we put ourselves on the obsessive mission of ‘control-based purification’ to force those who are ‘not as gifted with spiritual goodness and strength’ as us, to ‘do things right’. Sound anything like the reasoning underpinning the clitorectomies in the first place?
The deeper problem, innate in the clitorectomy issue, is a problem which permeates the whole western world, including the doctrines of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions and it is what is bringing us our intensifying social dysfunction. The deeper problem is our increasing tendency to manage everything with the ‘rational model’ that ‘the world is causal’ (an over-simplified view of our evolving, inductive-assertive space-time container), … which leads directly to a philosophy of control-based management. In the west, our historic tradition, now being brought to fruition by technological amplification is that not only is it ‘ok’ to manage things by ‘control-based purification’, 'God wants us to do it that way'.
If the young woman were cutting out her own clitoris, we would be repulsed, assume she ‘was crazy’ and try to get her some psychiatric help, but we wouldn’t feel the same sort of anger, nor would we be energized to ‘go to war’ against the craziness of those practicing it.
What makes us angry at the same time as being repulsed is the control tactic being imposed upon the young and innocent who have no defense against it. What makes us angry is the arrogance of those who think they have more ‘spiritual strength and goodness’ than others, and using this arrogance to justify taking control over their fellows, to prevent their 'less gifted' fellows from ‘doing bad things’, … the arrogance of ‘managing’ by eliminating the opportunity to do bad things, … the arrogance of 'managing' by the process of ‘control-based purification’.
There is a subtle but fundamentally important difference here between whether the anti-clitorectomist ‘goes to war’ against the ‘control ethic’, the 'relational process', or whether he first substitutes a rational ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ model and ‘goes to war’ against ‘what is wrong’ (a rational system state). This ‘subtle difference’ differentiates between seeing the ‘health’ of society in the 'relational' terms of ‘harmonious relationships’ and the ‘health’ of society seen in the 'rational' terms of ‘a state of goodness’ and the control-based purging of ‘badness’. The 'relational' and the 'rational' are not the same thing. Far from it.
The ecological processes of nature (which some forms of anarchism seek to emulate) are first and foremost 'relational' ('beyond good and evil') and don’t get hung up on the ethic of ‘control-based purification’, … instead, they seek to cultivate community harmony, and ‘community harmony’ is all about dynamical relationships. In the relativistic containing space of nature, you can’t ‘get to’ harmony using an ethic of ‘control-based purification’, all you can get to is the 'absence of dissonance' in the degenerate case where ‘everything is under control’. The purificationist quest for the divine state of 'community goodness’, on the other hand, ignores the harmony or dissonance of relationships along its purificationist trail, and is instead all about ‘rationality’ and ‘things’, … rational judgments as to who is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and what transactions are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The problem in striving to achieve, in the future, by linear progression, the state of ‘community goodness’ through ‘control-based purification’ is that one man’s fight for imposing goodness can come into conflict with another’s and there is no method for arbitrating ‘logical truths’ because they are 'absolute in their own right'; i.e. ‘religious freedom is good’, … ‘not tampering with a young lady’s clitoris is good’. There is no problem in raising a ‘control-based purification army’ for either one of these 'rational truth based' ‘causes’, and there is nothing in logic and rationality that tells us where these two ‘goodnesses’ come in terms of priority, other than our fuzzy experience. The crispness of true/false logic is a cognitive illusion which works for the management of the absolute binary truths within a computer but not in the management of relativistic, self-referential, community-constituent-codynamics.
So, the ‘western way’, a 'rational-over-relational way', has been to organize ‘control-based purification’ armies to go to battle against those who lack the ‘spiritual strength and goodness’ that 'we' are gifted with (violins and sopranos, now, please).
This is not exactly the same as ‘jamming’ with one’s bros to cultivate community harmony. When we ‘jam’, the good stuff comes from within us, … it is not imposed on us by regulations and riot police administered by those 'closer to God' than us, nor by mob rule (those contending for 'closer to God' status on the next swing of the pendulum).
As a political movement, ‘jamming’ seems to be losing out to 'purificationist army raising’ and the latter now seems to be emerging on global as well as intra-global scales.
Philosophers and mathematicians have discussed the innate problems in substituting ‘rational models’ of ‘truth’ for the ‘truth’ that comes from experience. As Henri Poincaré says; “Experience is the sole source of truth. It alone can teach us something new ; it alone can give us certainty. These are two points that cannot be questioned. But then, if experience is everything, what place is left for [rational models]?”
There is a fly in the ointment here, and Henri puts his finger on it in the next couple of sentences (from ‘Science and Hypothesis’);
“It is not sufficient merely to observe ; we must use our observations, and for that purpose we must generalize. This is what has always been done, only as the recollection of past errors has made man more and more circumspect, he has observed more and more and generalized less and less. Every age has scoffed at its predecessor, accusing it of having generalized too boldly and too naively. Descartes used to commiserate with the Ionians. Descartes in his turn makes us smile, and no doubt some day our children will laugh at us.”
Unfortunately, ‘generalization’ and ‘judgment’ is undergoing a global upswing and the damage from it is getting less and less something we can laugh about.
When we generalize, we convert a ‘local truth’ from a selected space-time vignette into a universal truth; i.e. when we come upon the young girl being subjected to a clitorectomy, we say that ‘it is wrong’ and that ‘it must be stopped’. But of course, the control tactic we use to ‘stop it’ would be seen by those whose behaviour we are trying to control as ‘wrong’ since it is an invasion of their ‘religious freedom’ and they will avow that ‘it must be stopped’ (i.e. they will avow that our effort ‘to stop it’ must ‘be stopped’).
This breakdown in rational systems models has been formally proven and is known as Gödels Theorem. Logic is all about ‘absolute truth’ and ‘absolute falsehood’. You can pick and choose your favorite truth because logic is ‘absolute’ and there is nothing in it to mediate and thus no way to establish that one ‘absolute truth’ is ‘bigger’ than another ‘absolute truth’. The anti-clitorectomist can say ‘clitorectomy is wrong and it is always wrong’. The clitorectomist can say ‘oppressing the religious freedom of our community is wrong and it is always wrong’. Similarly with 'anti-abortionist' ('pro-life') and 'abortionist' (pro-choice) where the issues are 'taking a life is wrong and it is always wrong' and 'oppressing my personal freedom is wrong and always wrong'.
There is a 'logical way' but there is no ‘right way’. Nature, within which we, as constituents, are all ‘inclusions’, is innately ‘fuzzy’ and to try to make nature and natural phenomena such as 'community' as crisp as precision machinery with the tools of logic and mathematics is no more than ‘cognitive illusion’..
There is no logical path to a harmonious society, … harmonious society is the path.
The ‘ideal society’ cannot be depicted ‘out there’ in terms of rational models charted logically on a flat computer screen, this ‘faith in logic and rationality’ is the great aberration of our western society which ‘worships at the altar of science and rationality’.
Rationality has become an ‘obsession’ with us. We start by ‘zooming in’ on a particular nasty scene in a limited space-time reference window, … e.g. the beaning of an anti-summit demonstrator with a teargas cannister by a pro-summit Québec policeman, … or the beaning of a pro-summit Québec policeman with a piece of concrete by an anti-summit demonstrator. In the ‘rational approach’, the ‘right and wrong’ of this selected reference frame now becomes the substitute reference base for our arguments and our actions. The notion of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are generalizations of our experience (selected for generalization from our preferred space-time vignettes) which we have turned into ‘absolute truths’. The trouble is, depending on which limited reference frame we want to ‘select’ on the basis of our emotional or political bias, … we can (and do) come up with numerous competing ‘truths’.
As Poincaré says (above); “… This is what has always been done, only as the recollection of past errors has made man more and more circumspect, he has observed more and more and generalized less and less. Every age has scoffed at its predecessor, accusing it of having generalized too boldly and too naively. “
What reference frame do we want to look at to make our generalizations, so as to set up our rational models, … models which give us a simplified generalization of far more complex experience, … a simplification which makes these substitute models far easier to communicate and use as a basis for coordinated ‘control-based purification’ actions. Once we have the new substitute, simplified and generalized rational model, we tend to set aside our far more complex experience and start operating according to this new reference base. Trouble is, things can get sticky very quickly.
Protester: ‘You pushed me and hurt me! It was wrong for you to do that to me.’
Policeman: ‘It was not my aim to hurt you, … I am working with my team to try to prevent the crowd from hurting the others!’
Protester: ‘You liar, … I can tell by the way you pushed me that you were intending to hurt me. You are a nasty person. What you did was wrong and you deserve to be punished, … here, see how this piece of concrete feels when i bounce it off the side of your head.’
Policeman: ‘Just as I suspected, you have no respect for law or society, and now you are clearly in violation of the law and I am here to enforce the law in the name of the citizens of this community. Perhaps my baton coming down on your temple a time or two will dissuade you from continuing your violations of the law.’
It is good for the constituent of community to protect the freedom of the constituent',... 'it is good for the community to protect the constituent's freedom'.
Logic is incapable of dealing with 'relativistic' (inclusional) situations, the general case in nature, where 'A' is, at the same time 'NOT.A'; i.e. where the constituent is, at the same time, his containing community.
Working from rational models of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ can lead to dissonance when everyone selects different reference frames to make their generalizations and then gets ‘obsessive’ about it, using the simplified rational model as the new ‘reference base’ and steadfastly refusing to consider other reference frames and generalizations. It is as crisp and clear as logic in both cases that the ‘other person’ is ‘wrong’ relative to one’s preferred choice of reference framing. The bottom line is that there is a problem with the ‘reference framing’ that comes bundled with 'rationality'. Within a continuing space-time transformation such as all constituents of nature are 'inclusions' within, … the ‘mother of all reference frames’ is the ‘relativistic’, self-referentially updating reference frame of our continuously evolving ‘experience’. Stubbornly substituting a selection of one's preferred rational ‘good or bad’ reference frames (non-relativistic reference frames) is a recipe for social dysfunction.
‘Relationality’ rather than ‘rationality’ is ‘where its at’ in nature, and we all come into the world equipped with the sensory and cognitive equipment to put our ‘relational intelligence’ into its natural primacy over our ‘rational intelligence’. How and why do we get it upside-down?
Here on the city island of Montréal, thirty-one people out of more than 15,000 ‘obsessed with gambling’ (a number which is rapidly rising) have committed suicide because of their obsession with gambling, the last person to do it did it a few days ago in the parking lot of the Montréal Casino to make a point. Society is increasingly imposing controls upon people and the people are increasingly being made ‘impotent’ and are starving to get back what they have lost, … they are starving for the ‘feeling of winning’ without having to do obscene things to themselves and their fellows. This 'obsession with gambling' is one of the many shadowy ‘cancers’ of an intensifying ‘control ethic’ emanating from the government-business global economic hegemony. This global hegemony is cornering the market on ‘opportunity-to-win’, a finite legacy of the ‘global commons’, and becoming increasingly stingy and maliciously teasing in the way in which what is rightfully the common property of all constituents of the earth is being dished out. While our culture has long employed the control ethic of making their fellows ‘sing for their supper’, the average citizen is now having to submit to increasingly repulsive work practice in exchange for a shrinking access to his own and everyone’s legacy, the self-sustaining bounty of the global commons..
The ‘opportunity’ for opening ourselves up in embrace of the global commons of nature and becoming who we were meant to become, … to feel the pleasure of ‘winning’ in the sense of our authentic ‘becoming’, … our ‘natural blossoming’, … is what is being ‘bought up’ by the global economic hegemony and removed from our lives to be sold back to us in exchange for our doing obscene things to ourselves and our fellows. ‘The Thrill is Gone’ as B.B. King says, …. the pleasure is being taking out of living, … our lives, the channels of our dynamic relationships with the world are being given a ‘clitorectomy’ by the government-economic hegemony we have put in place, by those who feel they have to ‘impose controls’ on their brothers who have ‘not been gifted with as large a measure of strength and goodness of rational intelligence’ as ‘they’..
We are doing it to ourselves and it is called ‘the abuse of rational models’.
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