Friday, January 1, 2021

Logos and Eros

We live in the intersection of two waves, one viral and the other political (nationalist/populist). We are, per the apocryphal Chinese curse, "living in interesting times". And there's no greater sin than to live amid stress and challenge while failing to keep one's eyes wide open and soak in as much first-hand insight as one possibly can.

There's not much to learn amid boring tedium. So when it all starts roiling, we can emit a piercing infantile shriek until it all settles back down to tedium, or we can watch and learn. We could read about these patterns in books, but, to quote intellectual thought leader Marvin Pentz Gay Jr, "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing (Baby)".

Britain, no surprise (Boris and Donald being cut from the same cloth), is doing something monumentally stupid. Leaders there have convinced themselves that it would be fairer to delay the second vaccine dose for those already vaccinated, in order to allow a broader range of voters the population to receive a first dose sooner.

This is how politicians think. Unfortunately, it's not how scientists think, and vaccines are a scientific instrument. How will pushing the second dose forward a few weeks affect the immunization process? Forgive the technical jargon, but medical experts have responded with "Geez, who knows?"

This is what happens when government gets lopsided, and the right-brained "Let's seem be fair and good and just" dominates the left-brained "Let's smartly game this out."
One can easily empathize with the perspective (framing!): "We have 30 carrots and 60 hungry people. So we'll slice each carrot in half, and await fresh carrots! Voila! Solomonic wisdom!"

My empathy does not signify agreement (though cultural blocks against empathizing-while-disagreeing are so fundamental that the inhibition is even baked into our language. Never empathize with stupid! Never empathize with crazy! Doing so marks you as a facilitator/appeaser of stupid/craziness!). So while I can understand and empathize, my objection is easily stated: Vaccines aren't like carrots, you grotesque morons.
One of my friends is among the smarter people walking this Earth, and some time ago he arrived at a solution for the Middle East mess: nuke it. Nuke it all. Remove the people, remove the problem, as well as the ongoing spillover from the problem which has been the engine for such mayhem in this world.

You likely visualize a blood-thirsty, raging, racist psychopath. But no. He's one of the gentlest, kindest, most reasonable people I've ever met. I've never seen him lose his temper in 35 years. He is incapable of unkindness, and will make himself helpful to anyone in any way. He'd take an hour to explain a complex issue for someone he can't stand and who'd asked impolitely. He's way nicer than you are.

If you empathize with - or at least try to understand - his perspective (which most people would resist doing, because its monstrousness seemingly disqualifies it from such consideration), you'll recognize that, beyond the obvious, er, issues, it is not intellectually unreasonable.

It's the sort of solution a computer would come up with. Input this: "Hatred and vengeance extending back centuries. No clear path forward. An entire planet endangered by a toxic, entrenched conflict that won't cool for generations, if ever." An output of "Nuke it all" follows impeccable computer logic, if not human judgement.

And this is why we don't run countries by computer logic. We actually do need politicians.

The reason my friend is so smart is because his mind works like a computer. He doesn't get bogged down with emotional hoo-haw. Normally, this is very effective for him. But the problem with surgically excising emotional hoo-haw is that at some point you'll unwittingly propose a solution built upon the cool computer logic everyone normally appreciates, but which really really really conflicts with all things human and good. If you don't self-impose a "gut check", all bets are off.

Having painstakingly trained himself to excise gut from cognition (with normally beneficial results), monstrousness can emerge from this otherwise lovely and reasonable person, leaving him hopelessly confused by the extremely hostile reaction to his thoughtful proposal.

Some of his friends have parted ways with him over this, which mystifies him. Having appreciated his cold hard logic for years, why would they suddenly turn against him for more of the same? It's reminiscent of how we turned viciously against the sort of people who are our war heroes, who work our vital dirty jobs, and who dug bodies from the smoldering 9/11 WTC pile, when their characteristic hard-boiled scoff-at-danger toughness led them to poo-poo face masks. Societal feedback can be maddeningly inconsistent.

We need all types. Emotional and intellectual and every gradation in between. I take a hippy-dippy "it takes all kinds" attitude, and don't expect any person to contain all human chunks in optimal proportion. I'm anthill-minded, with faith that the big picture will naturally come to balance - more or less, and in lumpy fits and starts. It's okay if many of us are partial people. We partial people have depth, while "complete"-seeming people (CSP) are rarely more than a single atom deep in any portion of their broad silhouette. I don't trust CSPs. They're inevitably mere veneers. They work on the seeming, not the being or doing. Fine for them, maybe, but useless for the rest of us. I respect narrow specialists.

My friend is partial, but he's a hell of a terrific specialist. He delivers his chunks with fantastic consistency, reliability, and flair. That said, I absolutely wouldn't want him to ever become president. Pure logical intellectualism is not (sorry, Plato) an apt guiding principle. You need softer-headed, warmer-hearted emotionalism in the mix, as well. I shudder to imagine a society led by parties incapable of gut-checks. Never put pure intellectuals in unchecked control. Yikes.

But the soft-heads in UK have fallen into the opposite excess. All soft-headedness and emotion, without a speck of frickin' logic.

Watch carefully. We're experiencing foundational historical processes first-hand.

1 comment:

Midlife said...

For many years I’ve commented that the problem with Israel/Palestinians is that the British washed their hands and left an impossible situation with no workable plan. How anyone ever thought it would work out well has always been a mystery to be, so I’ve concluded that they didn’t. They just wanted out.

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