Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Segregating Outcome of Selective Attention

I've managed, finally (I'm slow!) to connect two insights familiar to Slog readers.

I've spent all these years trying to tie frizzy strands of comprehension - errant corn chunks studding my brain's excreta - into a coherent unifying conclusion. Perceptual framing (which I finally latched on to in January, 2018 after frustrating decades spent dancing with a conceptual ghost) appears to be it. As I note here, it explains disparate mysteries, finding a common basis for art, creativity, spirituality, hypnosis, insanity, depression, and self-destructive behavior; offers a fresh and credible theology and cosmology; and accounts for the most elusive phenomena in the human experience: inspiration. But glimpsing a unified end point doesn’t instantly resolve the myriad frazzled strands into coherence. One still needs to put in the work. So I'll get to work....

In "Giving Misanthropy Its Due", I wrote:
We study the Other...and we don't like what we see. Men rue the cruelty of women; women rue the cruelty of men. Both are quite correct, really.

Racism, sexism, classism, etc. are nothing more than the incomplete registration of a perfectly appropriate misanthropy.
We notice the flaws to which we're all heir much more precisely in The Other, whom we instinctively observe with great care. Me and my tribe receive a blurrier, more forgiving appraisal, due not to vanity but to familiarity. We're less instinctively alert to the familiar, because it's innately safer.

So let's make the easy connection to the observation that people who notice stupidity always think it makes them smart, and noticing craziness makes them sane. That’s wrong. It just means you're observant. You’d need to direct those observational skills back at yourself for the complete, and far less flattering, picture. Why do we decline to do so? Not so much vanity as familiarity. We are adapted to scan the unfamiliar. And nothing's more familiar than Me.

This also explains why our albatrosses are red herrings (which in turn explains lots of other things). There are profound discrepancies between our view of Me/Us and of You/Them, and the disjoint is (per above) perceptual - baked into our innate framing - not moral, as we've long imagined.

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