Through a Glass, Darkly

The Problem of Personal Experience

When you stare into the Space Bunny, the Space Bunny stares into you

When you stare into the Space Bunny, the Space Bunny stares into you

Most educated people like to think that their beliefs are borne out of careful consideration, and their positions rationally upheld by objective evidence and moral clarity.  It is not inaccurate to say that generally, this is how I feel.  How else could I argue my positions, and participate in the cultural debate, and attempt to sway my colleagues and friends to my perspective?  It’s one thing to subscribe to the Platonic ideal of questioning everything and never taking what you think you know for granted.  More often than not, this approach results in academic dithering, the occasional bout of self-doubt, some drunken introspection, and maybe you finally change your feelings on a subject that is no more pressing than the lightshow’s projected up on Plato’s cave.

Woah, I think that enlightenment is starting to kick in

Woah, I think that enlightenment is starting to kick in

Personal involvement in an issue tends to scatter the academic detritus, and can have a profound impact on the way in which one perceives an issue.  The intellectual demands of being immediately involved in an otherwise hypothetical question can very quickly demolish your entire carefully constructed argumentations.  Activism and advocacy can only really be explained by the personal experience of engagement, and yet activists and advocates are easily dismissed from consideration as ‘being too close to the issue.’  Does this speak to a weakness in any person’s carefully constructed belief system?  Or does becoming personally involved in an issue really sap one’s objective clarity of thought?

These are questions that I have struggled with recently, after finding my house-of-cards thinking woefully inadequate for dealing with reality.  The implication I take from this, and it’s not a pleasant one, is that people are 95% full of shit.

The first count is gay marriage.  Sure, why not? I thought.  Equal rights, let em be as miserable as the rest of us.  Truthfully, I thought the gay community had other, more pressing issues to bring to the national debate.  Marriage seemed fairly low in the struggle for equality.  But then the country voted for change, and an ugly reality spoiled the mood.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/06/AR2008110603880.html

California voters went to the polls, and an increased number of black voters showed up to vote for our first black President.  These same voters overwhelmingly supported the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

Would Somebody Think of the Children?

Would Somebody Think of the Children?

What should have been an unvarnished, unequivocated vote for progress instead became, in the California vote, an ugly reminder that all Americans, regardless of race, are assuredly capable of hate.  Now, I should mention that one of my younger sisters is gay.  This turn of events made me angry.  Under the cloak of a national reconciliation, agents of ignorance decided to play to a populations prejudice, and explicitly deny a right to my sister that we usually take for granted.  My thinking on this has changed, now.  I feel this is a civil right’s issue, and the refined air of academic detachment is no longer relevant.  It’s personal now.

The second count is America’s involvement in Afghanistan: in the war of necessity.  In the moral war against jihadists.  It has been plain for a very long time that the Afghan operation has been poorly executed.  It has been clear that the resources diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq were critical, and the diversion itself a towering mistake.  But hey, we voted for change. Obviously we cannot allow insurgents to overrun that ravaged country yet again; we cannot allow al-Qaeda an unmolested operating space; we cannot abandon our national commitment there while extremists still wage guerrilla war across the Pakistani border.  I supposed that if the generals on the ground said we needed more troops, who was I to argue?  After all, I seem to have been proven largely wrong about the Surge in Iraq.  It’s half a world away!

Of course, all of this wasn’t quite so near the surface; my arguments were sincere, my thinking thorough.  There were grave misgivings, to be sure, but the level of personal engagement simply wasn’t there.  And now a very good friend of mine, who wanted to fly but got knocked down on a bullshit technicality, is being shipped out to Afghanistan in the infantry.  My thinking is now very confused, my positions not nearly so neat.  I looked in the mirror, and saw something different.  Something I didn’t like.  What else do I hold in near-certainty that will just as easily away at the first engagement with the real-world?  The experience to be had in this world is so vast, and our understanding of it so infinitely limited, is it no wonder the cultural debate devolves rapidly into caricature and gibberish?  Attempting to be open-minded as new information emerges is of little use in the data-spiraled maelstrom of the 21st century.  Question Everything! is a trendy cliche; Question Yourself! can only go so far.  Question what you know?  I am deeply unsure as to how effective that can be, when what you know is so easily changed.  Knowledge is the distorted reflections of our lives, through a darkened glass . . . and what we come to know can be as terrifying as what we thought we didn’t know.

A Long Way from Home, A Long Way to Go

A Long Way from Home, A Long Way to Go


3 Responses to “Through a Glass, Darkly”

  • citizenchris Says:

    it is absolutely a civil rights issue. What I will never understand is why anyone gives a shit who or more importantly what gender I’m fucking. As long as its legal ..who gives a shit? At the end of the day homophobes say more about themselves than they do about anything else. Also remember if you’re not in the cream of the top two % in this country…you’re getting fucked in one way or another. some just more than others.

  • Randizzl Says:

    I’ll just choose to believe in nothing. …… But wait … that’s believing in something still right? Damn, I just can’t win.

  • citizenchris Says:

    we believes in nothings Lebowski.

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