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Abstract class war

by Colman Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 10:53:31 AM EST

I've been becoming increasing uncomfortable with a lot of the classifications we reach for when discussing the world - "the West" is my current bugbear - that I feel are obscuring rather than illuminating the truth.

Humans tend to lump things together into classes because we're not smart enough to hold all the details in our heads. It's a useful approach, but extremely dangerous when done incorrectly.

From the diaries - whataboutbob


Examples:

  • "British Muslims" is a classification that lumps together a disparate collection of people by a very wide-ranging religion. How often do we speak of "British Christians" and what could we conclude if we were told someone was a "British Christian"? Would they even necessarily believe in a God? Which party would they support? Would they be pro- or anti-Choice? What would their economic circumstances be? "British Muslims" groups together people that are different in almost every possible way except that they profess to be Muslim, or come from a Muslim background.

  • "The West", as we have discussed, is a term that depends on who's speaking, when they're speaking and who they're speaking to. In the past it has excluded most of Europe. Yesterday it included Russia, and some would have it include all the rich countries or all the English speaking ones or all the vassals of the US. It hides as many differences as similarities in both interests and culture and it currently seems to be mainly used to conjure up a clash between "Western" and "Other" values.

  • "Unemployment" is a useful classification if you're tracking the labour market within an economy. It is not useful in comparing economies.

In fact, the idea of a national economy is an increasingly dangerous one: national borders are arbitrary geographical limits to the application of a set of laws and pose less and less of a barrier economic forces every year so that national economies are interlinked in ways that makes it hard to talk about them separately from each other. "National Economies" also hide great differences within them, especially when you're talking about the huge "economies" like the US, China or the EU. The US economy includes a multitude of regions and strata that are all affected differently by economic changes.

The problem is that we get used to a small set of default classifications and begin to believe that they're important. We then start lazily applying the classification outside the realm where it's useful. They're tools: cutting wood with a hammer is not very effective.

Display:
Belabouring the obvious.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 05:57:41 AM EST
"National Economies" also hide great differences within them, especially when you're talking about the huge "economies" like the US, China or the EU.

The idea of a "national economy" has long been relatively meaningless when it comes to especially impoverished countries, where the so-called "informal economy" accounts for the vast majority of true economic activity, and is generally entirely unmeasured, if not unmeasurable.

So anyway, we know what terms you don't like.  What would you suggest we use instead?

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 06:17:54 AM EST
Depends what you're talking about ... it's not about the terms, it's about the usage of terms.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 06:31:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"National Economy" is a term and has a meaning. Depending on what you think that meaning is, the usage of the term "National Economy" may in fact be nonsense in any usage.

This is beginning to sound Alice in Wonderlandish.

national borders are arbitrary geographical limits to the application of a set of laws Lets take this one step further and ask the question - What is an economic unit?

Traditionally, it has been defined as an arbitrary geographical limit. The economic EU shows this well by arbitrarily grouping a set of previous countries with their own currency together into one big country.

An economic unit does not have to be arbitrary. A kilogram exists, why not an economic unit? That it should conveniently be exactly what we want it to be - an arbitrary geographical limit would be surprising.

Consider - when Mexican wetbacks cross the Rio where do they go? One might be tempted to say the United States, but that is incorrect. They have particular destinations in mind - not the "economic unit" of the US. There is a reason that the beware of illegal alien crossing signs exist on the freeways up to LA, and not outside of Detroit.

If "ecotopia": were to exist tomorrow, LA would still need the beware of illegal aliens crossing signs on its freeways.

The brief statements above are provocative, and can not really be explained in a comment, or even a diary. They are pulled from the ideas of Jane Jacobs - author of several books. In particular, the book Cities and the Wealth of Nations.

The final point is about discarding the "Japan" mindset. Generally speaking, national borders are not defined naturally, except for in the case of an island country like Japan. The complementary concept to the idea of globalization is regionalism, in which a "nation" is a confrontational concept. If the natural economic unit is the city, as economist [Jane Jacobs is not an economist] Jane Jacobs claims, a metropolitan economy self-generates itself and, thus, economic policies within the framework of a nation - a unit defined by artificial boundaries - have little effect. Some floated ideas of dividing Japan into several regional blocs would not be an answer as boundaries would still be artificial. Rather, in recognizing a regional economy as a base for a natural economic unit, policies should be devised in a way to support the natural evolution of such economic zones across administrative boundaries by, for instance, facilitating local autonomy and cross border cooperation. There has been much criticism about the current excessive concentration in Tokyo, but it is necessary to more closely examine specifically what is wrong with such concentration. A more positive approach should be taken such as redesigning the urban structure to ensure the safety of the some 40 million people living in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/special/yokoyama-yosinori/systemdesign/index.html

A couple of links about Cities and the Wealth of Nations

http://www.portifex.com/BSPages/Cities&Wealth.htm
http://webseitz.fluxent.com/wiki/CitiesAndTheWealthOfNations

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 10:16:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
there can be little humour - except of the slapstick kind.

There is a very wide spread between the minimal soundbite and maximal philosophical discourse. Semiotically, we all mostly have to deal with the bottom 80%.

There can never be a fixed set of meanings in most of the word language we employ. It depends on subject, context, sender and receiver - and time. In language, the fixing of meaning is a death sentence, because language is constantly changing - not only the words and phrases themselves which usually tend to foreshorten (eg Tottenham Hotspur Football Club becomes Spurs), but also meanings are in constant flux.

Language is, in that sense, a self-organizing system. Each unit is constantly in a state of adjustment with its neighbours. A hammer can even miraculously turn into a saw.

But anyway - what was PNing invented for, if not for catching butterlies?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:24:09 AM EST
The problem is that the system sometimes takes an awfully long time to catch up reality, if it ever does. And the new classifications are immediately abused anyway.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:26:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What 'system'?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:45:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Language. Language usage.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:49:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the usage is the same as the '(multiple)-reality'. They are not separate things.

Language is not a science - though the study of languages is a science.

Or would you prefer a BBC unit devoted to nailing down meaning - which, for a living thing, is very painful?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:56:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
would you prefer a BBC unit devoted to nailing down meaning - which, for a living thing, is very painful?  

The skit should almost write itself.  

What noises does meaning make when it is nailed down?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:22:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gerrroink!

(Well, last time I nailed it down it did.  When I pulled the nail out it went  Peeeeeeeiuw!)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 11:40:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven it's like you're trying to deny that doublespeak is a problem.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:24:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not Sven - he's taken - but allow me to jump in.

Language doesn't have a Set of meanings because tokens, words, and (especially) phrases do not have rigorous definitions.  The token "is," word "To Be," has pages of definitions and sub-definitions in the OED.  Illustration:

x IS y ; Logical, where IS conveys "the same as"

The ball IS red  ; Phenomenological, where IS conveys "has the ontological accidental of"

In the Logical use the the use of the token within the term can be rigorously defined through axiomatics such that it can determined, necessarily, the relationship of x and y.

The the second use ... well, it gets complicated and the process gets more convoluted as one applies greater rigor.  Grossly, but accurately, simplified: the end point of analysis is ultimately achieved when the analyst declares, "Bugger this for a game of soldiers" and moves on.

Doublespeak happens when the communicator purposely manipulates the inherent ambiguity of Language for emotive (a la Logical Postivitism) persuasion with the intent to obfuscate, rather than illuminate.  


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 12:42:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not at all - it is a huge problem.

But what we are all coming to realise is that what people DO is more important than what they say.

That is why 'action' is a topic here at ET.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:40:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What you are basically saying or implying is that we should all write at greater length to remove doubts about meaning.

I'm sorry, but that can go an awful long way towards windbagginess (neologistics is the answer?) - the message gets buried in verbiage. It may be more correct, but tedious. Communication is always going to be a hit-and-miss process.

At its best - say Haiku - it is the hit-and-missness that reveals how the brain works.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:51:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No I'm not: I'm suggesting that we - in general - need to be rather more careful when using classificaitons in contexts where they have bugger all meaning.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:58:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And we need to be wary of words used for the positive associations they elicit, but for different purposes.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:30:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...and the negative...
by Sassafras on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 11:34:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like I said in Colman's previous thread on the topic... Repeat after me: I hereby vow not to be the first to introduce "The West", "Europe", or "The Left" into a discussion without an explanation of what I mean.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:00:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Add to that list "The International Community", please?  

In several recent instances, US/UK media and politicos have used the term "the International Community" as shorthand for US+UK+AUS+Israel+Guam+Marshall Islands.

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:24:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Add to that list "The International Community"

Oh, we have that too. It's "la communauté internationale". Never quite figure out what that was.

Apparently, it refers to those nations which take it upon themselves to police the world.

by balbuz on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 12:51:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There go my thursdays....

You scientists are all the same ;-)

Nailing things down and putting things in boxes is what got us into all these problems in the first place. It's the spaces between the boxes that are important. Read Stafford Beer's classic  'Decision and Control', and then blame it on the Greeks. They're the buggers I'm after...

For me the easiest thing to do is to avoid all diaries that require such definitions.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:29:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I'm telling you I refuse to use the boxes because they lend themselves to misunderstanding. What's your problem? You don't mind beiing misunderstood?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:32:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not mind being misunderstood - just as haiku does not require that you 'understand'. Poetry, painting, music and so on are not about facts, they are about experiences and sensations. I would certainly prefer to communicate with your subconsciousness than your consciousness.

ET however, favours PNers.

But anyway The Man from Lyons has just left in a taxi with his eyes closed, after we had enjoyed some most excellent wines from the region out here in the Finnish boondocks. I am now a confirmed Côte-Rötie fan. (N. Rhône)

I was supposed to post a photo of us together toasting ETers, but I am suffering image capture problems - or, possibly, Côte-Rötie problems. ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:14:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is PN?

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:36:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Stands for the Finnish word 'Pilkkunussija' which, politely translated means someone who has carnal relations with commas - in other words, too much arguing over insignificant detail :-)

There's a lot of it at ET. I am apparently the Grand Vizier of this ancient rite.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 11:30:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think calling someone a comma-fucker could get you in real trouble.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 02:07:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes, probably get your face punctuated, period.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 03:03:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it's putting things in arbitary boxes and then pretending that the boxes are a feature of the thing that's the problem: most things, and certainly all people, go into lots and lots of different overlapping and/or nested boxes.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:38:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For me the easiest thing to do is to avoid all diaries that require such definitions.

I don't think Colman is worried about diaries, I think he's worried about doublespeak in the press, and government and thonk-tink pronouncements.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:39:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It sneaks in here as well - I do it through laziness sometimes.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:42:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that part of what you object to is the habit of equating specific meaning with definitions, and equating definitions with hard-edged classifications. This is often either impossible or arbitrary and (at best) unilluminating.

If one points out a distinction, some will say that this means there must be a line between black and white. If one points out shades of grey, some will say that this means there is can be no distinction. The former use dawn and dusk to argue against day and night; the latter use day and night to argue against dawn and dusk.

This pattern, if named, could perhaps be dismissed more quickly an generate less noise that distracts from substantive discussion.
--------------

Where meaning is real, yet inherently fuzzy, I often think in terms of prototypes: a prototypical "day" is sunny, and a prototypical "night" is dark. However, another pair of prototypes would have the Sun well above or well below the horizon. Finns may find these exotic, and instead use clock time: Helsinki, land of he midnight dusk.

Note that part of the fuzz is that the prototypes themselves can differ -- but they, too, need not be precise. Meanings remain useful provided that what is similar to one prototypes is usually similar to the other.

A prototypical "European culture" is of course harder to describe than day or night, but disaggregating what one means into dimensions (religions, political structures...) works fairly well, and can be done with respect to the specific issues addressed in a discussion.

My position supports the use of labels, but opposes the idea that they must correspond to boxes. They have meaning, but not need not have that kind of meaning. In actual discourse, however, where a label is being abused, it may be best to avoid it. (Thus, I can concede the uselessness of any label, in a prototypically abusive context.)

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 02:34:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who said anything about definitions and hard-edges?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 02:52:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven ;-)

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 02:52:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Techno - this is another perceptive comment of yours!

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:16:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you! (Please excuse all the absurd and snarky ones.)

USER WARNING[#1]: HTML TAG ABUSE

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 12:12:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Enough said.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 12:12:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
we should all write at greater length  

or just more precisely

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:24:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Same thing

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:29:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not always.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:35:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 02:35:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But it is easier for me to write 'same thing' than to qualify the occasions when it would not apply, and bore myself stupid.

If a message does not get through, it is the fault of the sender, not the receiver. The sender may congratulate him/herself on having sent the perfect message, but it is what takes place in the mind of the recipient that is important. Monologue v dialogue.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:26:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point was that PRECISE language often IS concise.  

Long windedness tends to happen when one does not know what one is saying, and sort of chases it around.  

This is true for both emotional and intellectual modes.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:41:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The word flashing here is "propaganda"; the deliberate use of:

1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.  
  1. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.  
  2. the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.  
  3. Roman Catholic Church. a. a committee of cardinals, established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, having supervision over foreign missions and the training of priests for these missions.  
b. a school (College of Propaganda) established by Pope Urban VIII for the education of priests for foreign missions.

Esp. No.3  You can't defeat propaganda by deciding that a word can't mean X, Y, or Z.  In Orwell's 1984, doublespeak worked because words were removed from the language.  Without the word to think the thought, there was no thought.  But if we endlessly clarify a word, or change it subtly (all words change subtly over time; etymology is fascinating--to me), or just make some up for the hoil of oot, and laugh at those who use democracy when they mean no such thing...by using it against them...

The problem is the deliberate use of words to an end by Ze Purrs Dat Be, but it seems this power is on the wane as the word has left the presses and leapt into the internet...

Well, that's the hyperbole.  If the political discussion is formed by The Sun, The Mail and [add your local examples here], then "higher" words are irrelevant as "traitor", "scum", "coward", "cheat", "liar" etc. are used as...weapons?  I've lorst the plurt!  Eek!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 11:48:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the new classifications are immediately abused anyway  

Right.  To abuse deliberately is unethical.  

To do it unknowingly is a mistake.  

The Left, especially in the West, not to say Europe--irrespective of the opinion and practice of the international community--really must refrain from conducting discourse in such a dissociated and reified way  ;)  

Haiku version:  

Political thoughts  
sprinkle the screen like flowers
in yesterday's wind.  

The petals are gone.  
The thoughts remain in my head
like mental compost.

Words neatly nailed down
like signs of coming flowers.
Alas! Only weeds.


The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 10:20:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Without misconceptions there can be little humour - except of the slapstick kind.
There is a time for humour and a time for serious discussion.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 10:18:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I must disagree.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:37:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there a time for discussions where misconceptions are to be avoided?

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:45:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not unless you have a lifetime, and we can meet regularly in art galleries ;-)

We are born with mostly noise and very little signal. The most we can hope to achieve is the S-N performance of analogue soundmixers. Our 'circuitry' adds a hell of a lot of noise because it is a function of neural connections.

And don't go saying that digital systems can achieve greater S-N ratios, because they only do that by slicing up time into boxes and fooling the mind in the same way as the phenomenon of Persistence of Vision fools the relevant parts of the 36 (odd) visual projection systems in the brain that we know about.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:55:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've had a half-finished diary about this sitting on my Mac for around three months now.

Ignore Sven (sorry Sven :) ) - it's an exceptionally important issue. The first part of the problem is that the ruling class has become adept at using deliberate misdirections to confuse meanings.

The second part is that this works even on intellectuals, so you can see a lot of time on here and on Kos we devote a lot of effort to being outraged when the US, the WSJ, FT, the Economist and the rest, are clearly lying about (e.g.) 'democracy' and being sniffy about 'populism' - instead of focussing on the underlying dynamics of militaristic empire building and systematic financial and social pillage.

It's a lot to take on, because when you're brought up in a nominal democracy it's difficult to accept that in reality you're living in something that's becoming an economic and political war zone, but which is being covered up with a propaganda sugar-frosting of nice words that mean the opposite of what they seem to.

Debunking the propaganda is probably the most useful thing anyone can do at the moment. But really debunking it without looking whiny or being too intellectual to be easily understood is fantastically difficult. It works in a salon like ET, but creating narratives that have traction in the wider world is (as the understatement goes...) an interesting challenge.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 11:02:43 AM EST
This diary is not mislabeled; it is not just a pun.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 11:12:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]


The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:04:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know this has been discussed in different terms, but I simply cannot write a 300 word comment without using generalizations like "the west." I can understand why it bothers you - saying something along the lines of "Americans are X" is the best way to get me riled up.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 01:32:59 PM EST
I simply cannot write a 300 word comment without using generalizations like "the west."

Sorry but I don't see where the problem lies?  Only case I can see ... apart from giving someone directions for a journey...is if you're talking about the Western states of the USA and their history - and/or cowboy movies.

I myself never-ever use "the West" in political discourse because it's far too imprecise - it veils what I find most interesting: shifting alliances and political dynamics.  So I always state exactly which countries/cultures or groups of them I mean in each case. In current US political usage, AFAIK the term "west" sometimes means "the USA" alone, more often "US+UK+Poland", far more rarely US+EU... sometimes "the USA, Israel, the UK, Canada and Australia", in other cases it can mean "the USA, the UK, the Netherlands and Denmark" etc etc.

In cultural terms... dunno? Empiricism+ Positivism + Behaviourism+Corporate Capitalism??? = Anglosphere zone of European culture and recent derivates??

"East vs West" discourse =  nasty-nasty and highly geopolitical: here"west" is often used as a historical/cultural term for Christendom but means essentially post-Reformation i.e. Protestant churches in particular, sometimes + Roman Catholics if in an inclusive mood sometimes not and practically NEVER including the Orthodox churches and traditions so as to exclude Russia... only form of Greece desired to be "inclusivized" in the "West" is of course selected Readers' Digest editions of Great-Works-of-Classical-Thought, NOT including - Heaven forbid!" - anything even remotely Hellenistic, NeoPlatonic or Byzantine -- (yech, Asianism!!)

and the "East" = Islam?  Hinduism? Buddhism? Shintoism...All alike? Defined as "whatever isn't part of "the West"??

etc etc grrrrrr

"Ignoring moralities is always undesirable, but doing so systematically is really worrisome." Mohammed Khatami

by eternalcityblues (parvati_roma aaaat libero.it) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:54:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
practically NEVER including the Orthodox churches and traditions  

I mean, I suppose you think the sacking of Constantinople by the 4th Crusade was a MISTAKE . . . ;)

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:02:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
i remember in the 60's first coming across talk about the E-W duality (polarisation).

it was always in a philosophical context, referring to an intellectualisation of reality into a rational/materialist construct/frame, and this conceptualisation excelling in a vertical way but, just as from the top of a tall tower it's harder to see what's at your feet than when you're standing on the ground, our 'paradigm' (although that didn't become a buzzword till 20 years later) while admirable as an engineering feat perhaps, was paying a huge spiritual price for its specialised, fragmented, blinkered, tunnel vision of the world (as macromanaged everlasting resource pile).

.....because it had to excise huge chunks of ourselves that did not fit on the procrustian bed of newtonian/cartesian thought, and were unmeasurable by any consistently quantifiable yardstick.

....and these chunks (memory, intuition, emotion, dreams, trance, hypnotic states, premonition, autistic memory-bank access, to name the first obvious ones that spring to mind) were dismissed and swept under the rug as we oohed and aahed at moonshots and the soviet dog in space, roomfuls of computers and food that was a travesty of nature.

and disassociated....throwing away the key to the freezer our little inklings something might be seriously awry were casually tossed in

however a few jungians, and similarly aware types like gurdjieffians, theosophists and orientalists had already preceded and preseeded the collective 'western' unconscious with the ideas that were invited into the moral vacuum created by the decline of european church attendance, nihilisme, and the 'god is dead' memes that were the fruit and aftermath of the new depths of inhumanity the second world war had induced.

... along with ravi on the new-fangled stereo, the maharishi hamming it up with the beatles, pot replacing alcohol as drug-of-choice for many, and the rising growth of kebab and curry, the vedas, alan watts...

...we were awash with a 'mystic orient' wave that tsunami'd across the acid-bleached group consciousness of the biggest boom of educated (but terribly ignorant nonetheless) adolescents the newly wired-up planet had ever mediated, deconstructing many an ivory tower built on the shifting sands of 'absolute' anything.

of course einstein et al were busy mining the first floor too, an inside job.

 a lot of us omnisciently launched ouselves into taking on the void mano a mano, doubtless sacrificing swathes of brain cells in the process, but also starting to get a clue what all the fuss was about, under the blather and froth.

and it was about the schism that rational materialism had slashed in our souls, and how awakening the heart was the way to heal that split.

we learned what was wrong and condescending about pity, and right and noble about compassion, and we became aware of how the blind, greedy grabbing of more stuff had a sinister side, how it wasn't all about having fun and not giving a shit who paid, but about interdependance, give-and-take, taking joy in responsibility, connecting dots and learning to pay attention to consequences, looking for patterns, seeing the other sides...horizontal, multi-axial.

critical mass was attained when a guru headcount showed more indian swamis (including the notoriously smarmy swindleyamunya) were living between la jolla and escondido than in the whole of rajasthan, the mao john lennon was howling about was a mass murderer, and that no-one in china was allowed the i ching, though they were still allowed acupuncture, thank the most venerable ancestors, and on nixon's trip to primitive china we all saw on our tv's the chinese lady eating an apple while having brain surgery, with no other anesthesia.

a lot of cognitive wobble as folks took that image on board!

so back then it had meaning, this duality... it was a yang meeting yin, and is still happening, though the exotic novelty factor is diminishing, and we have regurgitated 'eastern' wisdom into global 'new age' belief systems...and now sybarite hedonism finds itself in the new 6-star hotels of dubai.

it's become so actual, that the duality has become a monity, (as in monity python!) oops i mean an unity, and now indeed only useful historically, even misleadingly distracting as a modern epithet.

as many of you know here by now, my beef is with the word 'neoliberal' which is triplespeak quadruple-minus ungood, and as far as i'm concerned as pure a trojan worm that's ever malwared its meaning-sucking way acrost our linguistic desktop-landscape, tunneling and trolling far and wide, deep into our hard drives in its efforts to etymologically demoralise neophyte puzzlers and de-re-coders of this truman show we all quantum leapt into.

even 'neocon' makes me splutter, but it's less subversive...

i guess 'landshark' or 'flesh-chomping destroyer of worlds' ain't pc enough for the noughties!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 10:34:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the problems, with which I am much exercised, is the disjunction between the referent and the referenced.

If I deploy 1010 - define a semiotic - to be "the knowledge contained in the British Museum" and write:

1010

Have I communicated the knowledge contained in the British Museum?  Of course not.  I've communicated the text string "the knowledge contained in the British Museum."  But ...

Marx used 1010 to write Das Kapital.

And, since 1010 is the same as, can be equated to, the hexidecimal numeral A:

Marx used A to write Das Kapital.

NASA, we've achieved communication.

We do this sort of thing all the time.  In fact this is an example of how our brains physically work.

There is a problem.

Symbols do not reside in splendiferous isolation but are associated, in the Mind, with other referents, references, and emotive tags.  If you're terrified of the People's Commissary Number 12 nationalizing your toaster then "Marx used A to write Das Kapital." is a Bad Thing.  Should you have the psycho-epistemology of a retard ligonberry this will lead you to arm yourself to protect your specific right to individually sorch bread slices.  A man's toaster is his castle - by God! - and the rights and privileges thereof shall not be abridged.

In this situation a modus tollens can be constructed:

If someone wants to take my toaster then I will shoot them.

Someone is trying to take my toaster.

Bang

Logically, this argument is True and Valid.  The American Psychological Association, the spoilsports, defines this as "Straight from La-La Land," the diagnosis as "Crazy as a Fruit Bat," with a suggested course of action of "Throw this Whacko in the Nut-Hatch."

While an extreme example, this is how it all works.  As the symbol moves deeper into abstraction the emotive tags tend to become more basic: fear, anger, sexual, etc.  "British Muslims" are no longer "Muslims living in Britian" but 'a bunch of wogs screaming There is No God but Al-lah ... who to nationalize my toaster.'  Or blow me up with a bomb.  Or make me wear a veil.  Or.  Or.  Or.  Someone coming along and pointing out, quite rightly, the chances of any of this happening to the average Brit is much smaller than them being hit by a metorite is simply ignored.  Unfortunately, there is a real-induced feedback loop from the fact there are some, small, sub-group of British Muslims who have blown people up with a bomb, want all women to wear veils, or whatever particular Or is the hysteria du jour.

Is "The West" the West of the Renaissance or the Crusades?  The answer, of course, is Yes.  The choice, and it is a choice, of which to focus upon is not only the thing itself but also the sum total of a person's experience, education, psycho-epistemology.  And the person's qualia of and on all of these.

What to do about all of this?

Epistemologists (Yeah us!), among others, have tried for millenia to get people to arrange the festing pile of goo inside their minds.  In that effort tools and techniques have been painstakingly developed.  It hasn't worked.  It hasn't even worked among Epistemologists as anyone who has attended an All University All-Comers Inter-Mural Multi-Disciplinary Sneer Fest & Faction Fight can attest.  

<Insert snappy conclusion here.>


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 03:15:29 PM EST
Beautiful!

The snappy conclusion would be 'Define Architecture' à la Colman

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:31:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Requesting definitions of what you are interested in, while ignoring sloppiness in what you are uninterested in, is a problem we all face.

It is the essence of communications.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:34:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As in 'Camp Coffee' AKA chicory essence

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:35:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 04:41:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
have tried for millenia to get people to arrange the festing pile of goo inside their minds

"Clean up your room!  It's a mess!"  

"NO!"  

And there goes 3000 years of philosophy . . .

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:55:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminded of that famous (apocryphal?) Philosophy exam conundrum:

"Is this a question?"

and of course the even more apocryphal riposte (to which I would have given a First)

"If that is a question, this is the answer".

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 08:24:15 PM EST


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 09:22:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Always reward creativity, even when absurd.  

Then correct your own mistake.  "Find the value of x,"  would patch that hole, I would think.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Nov 22nd, 2006 at 10:11:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ROFLOL!!!!

Getting the suspicion I'm just sensitive to funny math, but that's to howl so funny. I fear math teachers are a bit too sour to grade this positive but I wouldn't...

by Nomad on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 09:32:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I really don't know what I would have done, but a good laugh is worth something.

Next time, of course, you write "solve for x".

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 09:40:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Forex are having problems?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 11:33:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think the "Abstract Class" exists at all.

It was never mentioned in Veblen's opus.

Nor in Hanna's voluminous commentaries on Veblen.

Don't mean to be agnostically abstract here.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 12:06:25 PM EST
I have to say that I am in disagreement with you over what seems to be an opposition to classification and collectivist thinking.  

If it hadn't been for collectivist thinking we wouldn't have had a labour opposition against abusive factory owners at the turn of the 20th century, we wouldn't have had revolts by an organized underclass (We) against oppressive regimes (Them) in the past, (and hopefully in the future), and we wouldn't have been able to organize an opposition against countries that attack other countries in the past, in the present and hopefully in the future.  

Yes, everything can of course be abused, also a collectivist thinking, but there is no need, in my opinion, to oppose to the idea of a collectivist thinking, a prerequisite for organizing opposition and a powerful political tool, just because it can be abused.  


Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 01:09:00 PM EST
It's an objection to inappropriate use of classifications.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 01:23:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True enough, but the gist (or one of them anyway) from this comment thread seems that collective terms are practically a standard product of box-thinking, a useful concept during human history, yet if you'd start to look at classifications critically, far too many are essentially inadequate. Wrong usage becomes practically a given and abuse becomes an easy side-effect by the phenomeneon. I'm reminded of kcurie and the need for a narrative - it's part of the package. You can fight it, I doubt you can change it.
by Nomad on Fri Nov 24th, 2006 at 06:30:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who are these British Christians you speak of?  I've yet to run into one.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 02:03:07 PM EST
... competent than the US in seeing to it that its population has health care coverage.

Usage note: for use inside the US only.

Other than that, I'm down with abandoning the term.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 23rd, 2006 at 09:07:49 PM EST


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