Shoot. All my stories start out the same. Today, I was having an argument type of discussion with a friend who I mostly agree with and it occurred to me that… Yep, it’s the same kind of story I always tell.
Anyway, I let my girlfriend in on the conversation and she said she pretty much sided with my friend. I’m an engineer of course I’m all into defining things and counting things and believing that there is some sort of right answer to any question. My friend who will remain blameless had no idea I would be inspired to blog about this or maybe she did… sometimes women are crafty.
Mostly, I never liked James Joyce or Emerson. I liked Thoreau better because he put his thoughts into actions but he wasn’t smarter. Thoreau is like an applied-Emerson. The Heart of Darkness escaped me. Lord of the Flies was tragic but it’s neither sickening nor informative to learn that people are animals. The Chocolate Wars and Alas, Babylon left a mark. Hamlet brought me back out of a serious depression like funk I was experiencing during my senior year.
I’m not into love as an end all. I don’t think there’s a creator behind life mostly because of the lack of evidence. I could care less about what idea of pre-life and afterlife appeals to me because that’s fiction. I don’t need epistemological answers. I don’t need to spy on my friends’ poker hands to play poker. I believe that there is a right way to view a poker hand and a wrong way and sometimes the right way forces you to lose because it’s right to call and the other player has the unlikely nuts or something.
To sum up, being right as judged by an omnipotent being and being right in my sense are two different but not unrelated things. The essential difference is that my viewpoint is necessarily limited and the limits aren’t entirely transparent. Society, parents, and education are some of the bigger systems that are there to guide me in the right direction or put people on the same playing field with somewhat equivalent merit based opportunities mixed with some serendipity. Those things are limited and evolving as well. It’s all a sort of arms race. You still have to act and you still need to determine your rules of acting.
Secondly, I don’t see aesthetics as undefinable qualities. I think humor, love, beauty, inspiration, and so forth can be decomposed and their composition exposed.
That sounds thinky. How can someone think about every action? You can’t but that’s no reason not to try. I think people are always simultaneously discovering how they actually act and considering how they ought to act to some extent. Also, not every rule is explicit. Many rules are implicit. There are things you cannot do that we don’t enumerate because we don’t think about it or we don’t care or we haven’t noticed. For example, there’s no point thinking about whether it should be legal to breathe water. Legality is hardly the issue. But for a wide variety of subjects such as what to eat, what to purchase, how to vote, and how to define crimes both on a legal level and at a personal level there is a wide range of perspectives to check out. The individual should have as many options available to them as possible but they should choose the most productive options when it matters. Individuals should eat right based on their education and finances. Individuals should act right based on some empathy based greater good perspective. Societies should provide ways of promoting, archiving, reviewing and directing human achievement. Those aren’t easy.
And there’s lots to do because I think there are a lot of disenfranchised categories of people where the disenfranchisement doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense to categorically reduce the status of women unless you’ve got an ethos based on male privilege or social mandated breeding. The first case is interesting because men seem to have done a good job of progressing a bit out of male privilege when they clearly had male privilege and still do in many ways. The second case would be a society that says one of the virtues of the society is to produce X amount of healthy babies. I’m not advocating that, but those are the two cases where the status of women comes into play. Otherwise, they are just people. Individuals should have the greatest freedom to exercise their own judgments unless society has an active relevant agenda. And then it’s possible that both the individual and society have two different but legitimate viewpoints.Some empowerment agendas have built in limitations. People without legs can’t go skiing to put it simply. There are people with handicaps and those handicaps put limitations on what they can accomplish on a handicap by handicap basis. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. It doesn’t mean that society should ignore them. But it does mean there will come a time where society is not prepared to meet the needs or wants of a particular disability. There are economic reasons why we can’t give every non-paying citizen their necessary surgeries. Simultaneously, there is room to improve the system so that those economic reasons apply to fewer cases.
You want to feel good about love and prose? You want foreshadowing to nicely prepare the story so that the wrap up fits? You want me to extrapolate on the beauty of the chosen partner who I chose out of a random to me pool of contestants? Fine. But I’m not going to vote on it. I’m not going to fight in defense of pretty lovable healthy smart people. I’m going to fight for principles because the disenfranchised are calculated and that calculation is too much. I’m going to test the guesses that supporting 80% or so of people is all we can do and see if we can get that number to 81% or higher. And what about sexism?
Sexism is weird because normally when sexism exists the power balance is shifted in my direction. I need a way to listen to the viewpoints of others but then I need a way to come to an agreement with other people on what constitutes sexism. When is it right to grab a girl’s ass and when is it wrong? There is a right answer. Do movies in general become an input into our psyche’s such that women are being conditioned to act a way that is not satisfactory to them? There is a right answer. What movies are pro lady? There’s a right answer. There’s a way to investigate that question so that we illuminate what it is we are looking at clearly. This is important because I don’t want to perpetuate systems that disenfranchise other people. I’m not disenfranchised and I don’t want you to be either. But I’ve still got to perpetuate my interests when I have no better information (not all of my interests are selfish, but they are mine).
And I’m not stupid. I know those answers are going to be based on an interpretation of the question. That interpretation needs to be written literally as well so that people who view the question to mean one thing can see what the answer is. Each interpretation is essentially its own question even if it shares a resemblance to another interpretation.
And if that ruins the snow that falls on the sinners and the saints alike, so be it. We’ve had the snow forever, we need to be able to measure which way we need to change and how far we can go. And for that we need to reduce the ambiguity of our data set while we use our creativity to increase the utility of our definitions.