Oct 9, 2011

October 9, 2011: Judgment of Mere Mortals, Will to Ignorance, In Service of Villians

“It is in the nature of things that the relative fitness for any claim to deity is left to the considered judgment of mere mortals.” –From the “Quotations of Chairman Joe”

And so it has been throughout history, this relationship between governors and the governed; for the power of the elected has always been determined by the acquiescence of the electors.  This was the truth revealed by Thomas Hobbes who was forced into exile because he chose to defend the crown for all the wrong reasons.  Reasoning that the “state of nature” was, in his words, “mean, brutish and short”, he concluded that order was restored not by divine decree but by what could be called “gang rule.”  The King, therefore, received his legitimacy from the “gang”.  The “Leviathan”, as Hobbes called the emerging modern state, simply was another form of gang rule.  Notice, however, the emergence of the concept of “popular sovereignty” in it’s however convoluted form.  For rule by consent of the “gang” instead of “divine right” not only earned him an exile to the Netherlands but a place among the philosophes along with John Locke, Rousseau and Voltaire as leading advocates  of the emerging divinity of the popular will. 

The “people” have always had the power over the anointed, it is simply a question of whether they choose to exercise it and, if so, how.  As it is with any of the gods, so it is with kings, that when they no longer serve useful they are summarily called before the assembled and dismissed.  And so Zeus and Zoroaster, Aphrodite and Thor have gone the way of Louis XVI and Louis Napoleon; except in Britain, of course.

Electors have, as it were, vast power and in the modern democratic state these powers are duly extended into every facet of life: consumer choices, career opportunities, political preferences, and educational investments, choices over everything from presidents to toilet paper.  These choices offer a vast array of possibilities not the least of which is to give freedom to the headlong urge to ignorance.  A “will to ignorance” to paraphrase Nietzsche.

I first discovered this phenomenon shortly after graduating from college.  I was talking with my sister about some subject and brought up Mark Twain.  “Who,” she asked? 
“Mark Twain”, I replied.  “Who’s that” she responded.  “Didn’t you read him in American Literature Class” I asked?  After all we graduated from the same High School only a few years apart.  “We didn’t have to take American Literature” she said.  Upon close examination many of the old requirements had gone by the boards in favor of “feel good” classes like “Home and Family living”. 

What the preceding posts indicate is a growing structural ignorance based upon the fragmentation of the marketplace (especially the media), and the specializations of knowledge as a function of modern science.  This has been exasperated by the growing exercise of power by the electors to not only voice their will through increasing use of recall and referendum balloting but to intentionally and purposefully exercise their ‘god-given’ right to be ignorant.

It begins in school which now gives the emerging citizen the ‘right’ to opt-out of an education.  It continues into adulthood by exercising one’s “right” to opinion based on skewed empirical evidence, or no evidence at all.  One can now choose to opt-out of the requirements of informed citizenship as one can now choose “news” based on one’s existing prejudices, or ideological leanings.  The result of all this fragmentation is a pervasive alienation expressing itself in raging impotence as the great unwashed struggle unsuccessfully to get their collective arms around what it is that is being done to them. Self-interest has, in due course been separated from “enlightened” self-interest, for “enlightened” we are no more.  The result has been the folly of the brown-shirt “ teabag” movement spouting “populist” rhetoric in the service of villians.

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