Politics and the English Language (p. 954)
I have not quoted Orwell in awhile because the main purpose of reading his Essays book is to springboard off it into my own thinking. Many times I write about things that are not directly related to the selection I read because I expound upon his content thematically, rather than substantively. Like an ember that causes a new fire to burst out, Orwell provokes new, explosive thoughts, doesn't just inform me into mid-20th century life.
Some passages I read are just too significant to use as springboards. I say this because despite my purpose being intellectual and artistic growth, sometimes Orwell's work needs to be exactly transmitted because it is so applicable to current culture. I will still bring something of my own to to table, but in situations like this the main focus are his words, not mine.
This selection involves euphemisms, or inflated, bloated devices used to convey less socially agreeable truths in a more palatable way. I have identified three significant problems with euphemisms: One, they alter the original meaning, two, they become socially addictive, and three, they become invisible.
Euphemisms alter meaning because subjective comfort is chosen over the harshness of raw truth. It is convenient to believe comfort and truth can co-exist, but this issue brings up an issue my teacher has critiqued of me many times. He accuses me of "going to Pluto and back" in my rhetorically-saturated arguments. What happens when one goes to Pluto is they lose their audience, because it is all about the self's feelings toward the material, rather than objective conveyance of the actual material. The audience thus hears diluted noise, all because the speaker spoke euphemistically, or subjectively-inflated. Keep in mind euphemisms may seem innocuous and polite, but when you involve another thinking, feeling human being (the audience), conveying meaning and understanding clearly and effectively becomes strained, if not impossible. Thus, the original meaning is lost, replaced with subjective comfort.
The second reason euphemisms are problematic is they become socially addictive. Playing politics and saying the socially comfortable thing is so supported in our society that it creates a druggish temptation to do it whether or not we are even attempting to convey meaningful things. Even self-reflection becomes infiltrated by comfort-based euphemism, which encourages and endorses self-deception, or flights from inner reality. Believe me, as both a fiction and non-fiction writer, I use and rely on multiple tools to transmit what I want to say, so I am not going to claim those who want to use euphemisms are inherently defective wordslingers. Their desire to communicate more creatively to their audience is admirable, however relying on this mechanism is misguided and self-limited. Euphemisms want us to subjectively feel accepted, rather than more effectively communicative. Once we clear up that distinction, we can move stave off the nasty addiction and choose, rather than react.
The third reason euphemisms are problematic actually piggybacks the second reason, yet its significance warrants individual emphasis. Our escapes from the ugliness and harshness of reality via euphemisms becomes a habit after we practice it long enough, thus becoming invisible and second nature. Avoidance of confronting uncomfortable truths, or non-socially palatable statements, thus becomes a goal as much as a process, and we end up surrounding ourselves with others who do the same. We avoid those bold enough to care harshly; aka, call us on the carpet. Euphemisms thus create alternate realities endorsing an unwillingness to correct our mistakes, judge ourselves, and affect change. Playing with words and constructing creative ways of reaching audiences is one thing, but playing with words to deflect the harshness of the meaning is counter-intuitive to our literary and intellectual task.
Orwell provides six tips for maintaining concise language, to the end of conveying meaning clearly. In other words, these are anti-euphemism devices, or devices designed to help curb the drive for politicking in favor of the medicinal factor of bare truth.
"1. Never use a metaphor, similar, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of the rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous."
Now it may seem that these are not directly related to social comfort, but that is only because social comfort is a sidle-mechanism. It creeps up on you, little by little, corrupting your very ability and will to quell your politicking and rhetoric and just look at your naked self. Mechanisms that endorse social comfort over the ugly truth always break some of these rules, because our vices just love to hear themselves speak, lavishing themselves in self-righteous rhetoric. Avoiding euphemisms fosters creativity without mutating meaning.
The Case for the Open Fire (p.951)
Fire-building used to be necessary knowledge for survival because when our distant ancestors lived in nature, they needed fire to stay warm, and to cook food. Staying warm may seem more intuitively necessary than cooking food because they were constantly foraging for food, however, as bipeds we have a significantly shorter lower intestinal tract than quadrupeds, which means we can't ingest and break down the wide range of food they can without the help of fire.
The progress of our ability to manipulate heat has turned changed from necessary knowledge (warmth and cooking), to luxury, due to a myriad innovations and social institutions. I am not complaining about the steam engine, nuclear power, or burning oil, or calling for a return to primitivism. However our civilization's technological progress involves an amnesia to the progression, which seems very imprudent because it facilitates incompetency of the basics.
Say you want to join the NBA, and have the right build and mindset to get there. You start from the basics--the rules, common plays, effective patterns--then move to more advanced techniques to give you an edge over your competition. You practice, practice, practice, do all the right things, and eventually make it to the NBA, where you have an opportunity to compete with other high-level players. Do you discard the basics? No, that would be asinine, because without the basics the more complex techniques take no shape; they'd be mistimed, misdirected and overall chaotic. This is similar to our culture's general knowledge of fabricating heat though. We practiced all the basics, developed patterns, worked with others, but when we progressed we chose on a general level to leave behind the basics. Despite mastering fire, we chose the darkness over the light. Why?
I speculate that one of the reasons we have a general ignorance to the basics of heat fabrication--among other things--is due to the development of urban specialists. As civilization progressed, people began centralizing into cities because it facilitated commerce, reproduction, and power mechanisms like law. Cities were more productively efficient than rural communities because people could focus their abilities on certain tasks, relying on others to specify in different tasks. So if you are a chimney-builder, you just do that. If I am a blacksmith, I just do that. You get the benefit of my stove and I get the benefit of your chimney. Knowledge of both tasks is indeed unnecessary for survival because someone else has complementary knowledge that helps everyone in the collective.
Is reliance on a system of complementary knowledge therefore a system that breeds ignorance and incompetence? Only if we choose not to learn the other knowledge, regardless if we are not going to perform it every day. I think this is one of the main differences between an agrarian community and urbanized civilization. Agrarian communities were fiercely loyal to helping one another (just think of how the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims who aptly destroyed them), so cities were not unique in the development of complementary tasking, however since agrarian communities lived alongside nature and not away from it via productive and consumptive mechanisms, each person had more of a general knowledge of fundamental mechanisms of survival. They appreciated nature. Building fires, skinning animals and tanning hides, and identifying food vs toxin were thus basic tools non-urbanized peoples had, which urbanites saw no use for once they moved out of the country and into the city. Production-based systems are inherently opposed to primitive agrarian systems, because the more independent and competent you are toward your survival, the less you need to rely on production. Hence, an amnesia toward the progression of heat-fabrication is natural. Our general ignorance of basic tools of survival is one of the basic institutions of power, not an accidental development.
Bare Christmas for Children (p. 948)
Associations impact our lives on very primal levels. Think of the word "toy," and you'll most likely think "child." But if children are not the only ones to use objects solely for enjoyment, why does the word association exist? Because toys generally occupy such a large proportion of their lives, the two concepts associate. However, when concepts associate, they also dissociate from other concepts, so if the association is not precise and founded, we create a slippery slope.
Associations are a part of our natural pattern-seeking skill set, because they are an attempt to categorize the world based on likeness. Likeness is a qualifier which pertains to both subjects and objects, but that does not mean when dealing with object-likenesses, the endeavor is cut-and-dry. Object-associations can be very socially entailed, thus bleeding into the subject category. This does not make object likenesses subjective in the sense that their associations are only understandable to the person doing the object association, but that the association has effects that transcend the physical association. We see this all the time. Buy a lot of workout equipment and put it in a designed area for working out, not only are those objects categorically associated, but they infer a mentality of physical health.
Practicing associations helps clean up and distinguish the boundaries of the category, not to insulate from variation and adaption, but to be clear what actually belongs. In terms of associating "toy" with "child," we can tell there is an established basis for the association because children indeed use toys, however the category is not exclusive to children because adults also use toys. The associative process was not practiced enough to become clear and precise with what actually belonged inside the category, thus adults were kept out of the association even though they fit the criteria as well as children. Thus, poorly practiced associations become fallacious dissociations.
Being fallaciously dissociative with objects has effects in the subject-world, however those effects are generally centered on the object. So if I install a home gym for some kind of fuel-saving tax credit and not to work out, the equipment is still properly associated with each other, however my financial ulterior motives sever the connection to actual physical health, essentially misusing the equipment. I correctly associated the equipment with each other, though fallaciously dissociated myself from the purpose of the equipment.
In the subject-world, associations are paramount. We are who we associate with, and develop more meaning and understanding the clearer we are with our associations. As I stated before, in order to associate we need to acknowledge a category to associate the criteria within. In the subject-world, we interact across a myriad categories every day. As a concrete example, when we stop for gas, we fill up and leave, we don't hang around and play board games. Our likeness is not merely an empty tank, but a desire to refill that tank because we value transportation. Each time we stop to fill up, we become briefly a part of an in-group, sharing a subject-likeness.
Our purely relational lives have no concrete points of reference like gyms or gas stations, though are no less associative. Because they lack concrete markers, establishing clear categories of association are much more difficult. We err frequently, producing disproportionate associations like "toys" and "children." Establishing our associations in our relational lives entails identifying likenesses for what they are, not what we want them to be or merely the most convenient classification. If we choose the latter, we become fallaciously dissociative because we sacrifice reality for the ideal, putting people into a category as we deem fit, rather than in accordance with their terms, or actual reality. Our subject associations not only represent our mentality and how we think, but also what we value, because establishing associations, or categorical likenesses, is such a primal function of action and interaction. Albeit associations can indeed be misled and perverted, our associative facult both subjects and objects--aka categorizing--is directly tied to the way we think and interact with reality, and cannot be treated as an independent thought-function. It literally determines who we are because it guides how we think, so if we find ourselves dissociating or not allowing new stimuli into our criteria for likeness-development, we have more than a thinking problem. We have a being problem.
The Prevention of Literature (p. 931)
A friend of mine pointed something out to me regarding freedom of speech that has been tugging at me for a short while. It involved the drama surrounding the Duck Dynasty quote that jarred America. He pointed out that the social upheaval over suspending him from the show was misguided since freedom of speech applies to the government's inability to restrict speech-expressions, not a private company's. A & E is a private company. My friend was right; freedom of speech was not even an applicable argument. The complaints against A & E were widespread, though pretty much revolved around the "network not believing in freedom of speech." It is here that I began to see the tapestry of the Religion of Freedom of Speech.
Since Robertson's a Christian, of course he is going to think homosexuality and beastiality are similar; they are both acts that waste the seeds of creation because they cannot cause reproduction. But that is not what drew my attention. Freedom of speech has become a lightning rod, used in almost any situation when someone even remotely detects another's judgment. However, freedom of speech strictly applies to the government's restriction to suppress individual expression. Our hypersensitivity has bred hyper-application, allowing a legally-nuanced term to become conceptually attached to any self-expression.
The freedom of speech defense is so prevalent in our vernacular that it has progressed past habit, past addiction, and into entitlement. Although I appreciate the ability to write knowing that the government won't come knocking on my door to arrest me, the American population's knee-jerk response to infractions of freedom-of-speech has created an invertebrate relativism that insulates us from seeing and eradicating potentially lethal destructive mechanisms in our personal lives. Thus, the prevalence of the smug, ignorance-advocating statement, "I have a right to my opinion." Big red flag. Since our speech is protected by law from government intervention, we've developed a collective belief that our statements and customs are equally valid, worthy, and reasonable. But just because we can legally speak our minds does not mean we have something substantive to say. Nor does it mean it will not hurt ourselves, or others. For some reason relativism is popularly viewed as peaceful.
Modern philosopher Parker Kristhoffer cuts through the opinion-based destructive mechanisms through what I think of as capture-of-self. Whoever you are in the present time frame is isolated, investigated, and judged as your chosen orientation. Your words represent who you are as much as your actions. Open, unfettered objective evaluation inverts and exposes the flaws of relativism. Having an opinion does not entitle one of express that opinion, however the existence of that opinion is an open invitation for judgment since opinions are perspectives (though subjective) of how we see the world. If someone would have exposed and evaluated our over-application of freedom of speech through this method, the whole Duck Dynasty mess would have been avoided. Yet, this Kristhofferian practice is not advocated by our modern culture, because the culture has practiced adopting others' premises rather than reflecting upon and determining our own, seeding relativism.
Freedom of speech itself is not destructive, however our knee-jerk response in our personal lives is. When my friend pointed out that the freedom of speech critique levied upon Phil Robertson was not applicable, he implicitly initiated the argument directly pointing toward our modern relativism. If Robertson was not believed to have the relativistic "right to his opinion," based on freedom of speech, the focus would have properly been on A & E's right to suspend. Our economy is capitalistic and they are a private company; how again, did the leader of the capitalistic world miss a direct application of capitalism? Because our capitalism is deteriorating at the hands of America's new religion; the Religion of Freedom of Speech. We believe our opinions and assertions all have value because the government is not allowed to intervene. This argument is so far from the truth, it is nearly a joke.
Any scholar of collective mentality--Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, and Kristhoffer has much to say about it as well--sees that in order to be free though, you must free yourself, which entails using reason rather than dissociative relativism. Avoiding judgment is not an exercise of freedom, yet is a form of war, because communication and resolution are avoided. Sure, laws maintain order amongst people, but only because they tell you what you cannot do. And freedom of speech has become just like every other modern religion in that it tells us how we are so special and entitled that no one can so much as whisper a critique of what we say. It is in the Constitution, after all...
If open judgment becomes a common practice, it will no doubt reveal the destructive destiny of relativism and the catch-phrase "I have a right to my opinion." This religion of Freedom of Speech is so expansive that relativism has begun to feel so natural that it is retro-infiltrating our very own laws, and may soon become a formal, legal right. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but when Phil Robertson's freedom of speech was more hotly debated than A & E's right as a private company to suspend him, relativism was strengthened.
Good Bad Books (p. 927)
Fiction and non-fiction literature are different only in substance, because when our minds read them, it filters them according to similar criteria. We don't have completely separate minds that engage with each piece of literature. We do, however, have different proportions of our mind that engages according to the type of stimulation, yet we still process information and knowledge according to established filters of understanding and emotion.
Say you buy a sports car to drive on the long, straight highways where you live, then experience a life-changing event and need to relocate to a more rugged landscape before you can sell it. Is the sports car completely incapable of being driven on narrow dirt roads? No, it just struggles a lot more than an all-wheel drive vehicle would. It doesn't stop being a car; it's still propelled by a combustion engine, wearing rubber tires. Some environments will be more difficult than others (I'm thinking inclement weather), but that doesn't change the fact that at base, it's an automobile.
Our minds are no different. We each go through life building our own car--developing habits, traditions, values, relationships, vocations, making mistakes--so some mental applications become more comfortable to engage than others. However, we all still have minds, which is easy to forget because once we're in our comfort zone we tell our selves that our minds only work in some ways. In reality though, our minds are more inclined to work in certain ways due to how they've been practiced, not due to restrictive programming. Our mind's basic ability to imagine and feel is thus a natural inclination each of us have, which is really a resource constantly ready to be tapped.
Whether we read fiction or nonfiction--or write it--our mental fabric thus remain the same. We apply the basic filters: Who?, What?, When?, Where?, Why? and How?; or more complex filters: What is the network of causes and effects?, What is in our (their) control / out of our (their) control?, and Do the perceptions reflect reality, or what we (they) want to see? There's many filters we mentally apply, so many that we aren't even conscious when we apply them. These filters are basic agents of categorizing our reality. It doesn't matter if a book plot is located on Mars or at the Watergate Hotel, or whether the writing is autobiographical. Conveying meaning requires us to present or expose things, associate or dissociate things, show a progression or regression, reveal hidden truths or hide damaging truths, etc. If it's non-fiction, we need to conform ourselves to existent reality, and if it's fiction we need to conform ourselves to a fabricated reality.
The literary universe has developed a chasm between fiction and non-fiction because of the content, not because they entail distinct tools and techniques. The entailed tools and techniques are so similar that I suspect we're missing more than we may want. We're being too comfortable with our segregation. If it's one thing I've learned from my literary and intellectual influences--Kristhoffer, Orwell, King, Vachhs, Gardner--it's that if you approach both fiction and non-fiction with the same mental orientation, not only will you understand more meaning, but you'll develop a practiced, learned type of empathy that allows you to identify with other beings.
Our minds are always ready to work, we just need to get out of the way and let them. Our mind is a bone--the frame of our consciousness--but also a muscle, something that can be strengthened with practice.
Catastrophic Gradualism (p. 923)
Power constantly ebbs and flows in civilized society that it can be an overwhelming topic to address. Positing that we're not experts in the topic like Foucault or Nietzsche, how do we legitimately approach power? Legitimately is the operative word, considering anyone with a brain can have an opinion about it, but as it goes with any subject or discipline, certain approaches will lead to understanding better than others. Foucault argues that power doesn't live in effects or manifestations, but in some kind of primacy. I'll rely on him and start there.
Does power cause and direct everything we do? Books have been written on this question; it's indeed complex. Questions and concerns involving power have put civilized man into an almost checkmated position, convincing himself that he is by default subject to the forces of power just as he is subject to the forces of nature. The difference is that the enlightened proportion of our civilization has become comfortable with the fact that we are a part of nature, and thus are subject to laws of nature. (The un-enlightened proportion of our civilization are thus uncomfortable or in denial to the fact that nature doesn't care about us specifically.) In terms of power though, despite the extensive work philosophers and ruthless intellects have done to study the phenomena, we are not quite at a point of general comfort in our relationship with it as we are with natural laws (despite our continual revisions).
This is evidenced by all the literature involving experiments and observations of both natural hard and soft sciences, and the developments we'd created from them. Yes, technology is one form of development, but not the only one. Agrarian cultures have developed ways to live in balance with nature without agriculture, as well as creating mythos to further immerse themselves in reality, oddly. We've moved forward with our understanding of basic premises of nature, whether or not we all agree on the origin of nature. But our relationship with the origin of power is by comparison stuck rubbing two sticks together. Our domestic perspective about power is simply whichever direction the body with the most resources and executable laws looks. Again, fundamental Foucault. But the literature Foucault wrote about the matter, illuminating some of the bases of power, isn't in alignment with or capitulating to the bases of civilization, thus isn't condoned for assimilation/education by the collective. Our study and understanding of nature can be exploited by civilization's drive for progress, therefore an understanding of nature can (and does) facilitate civilization. It's ironic. From this point, I've come to understand that since Foucault's understandings about the primacy of power isn't widely accepted by the majority of our civilization because they weren't exploitable by the industrial civilization. One of his findings was that power exists as a current that runs through people, and is amplified by law and war. That certainly sounds like something our industrial civilization does not want to admit has any fault, or is willing to revise, because if you do, the social compulsion that drives people to produce and consume goods withers. In studying power, he thus gave us a golden truth about our civilization; that it believes it cannot exist without laws or war, and utilizes the conductive phenomena of power which flows between and through individuals in a collective.
It's easy to point the finger at civilization and blame it for our faults, but the ugly truth is that we are civilization. I as much as anyone would love to isolate and excise these tumors of understanding, but just as some cancerous tumors intertwine with vital organs and are independently irretrievable, our social and personal paradigms have become effected. This addresses the age-old question of whether we throw out the baby with the bathwater: In order for the non-expert to get a true, operative handle on power devoid of exploitative compulsions, we need to deal with civilization in its barest sense, and ask ourselves whether we want this civilization around. Power has become such an integral part of our lives that it's the tumor that not only intertwines other organs, but modifies those very organs to its own end. Like a virus.
There's no reason to complicate this, just look at the largest institutions of power in history; essentially they overtook the previous one via force, assimilated their non-resisting members, and created terms of order (laws) and functions of domination (war) to create self-preserving mechanisms. This is power on a macro level, which is why it's easier to see than on a micro-level, or a level revealing consistent patterns of compulsions within the infrastructure, or collectives. Many professional scholars have studied these micro-levels--sociology, cultural studies, psychology, the creation of ethnicity and race, the list goes on--but we haven't quite gotten to a point of understanding the ichor, the DNA of power. I'm sure the experts like Foucault have, but the problem is that when civilization is exposed to the knowledge they produce, civilization has a way of not making it very appealing, popular or even accessible. And you think books are burned only because they mention sex or blasphemy? We're in a dangerous spot when conversations relating to power--or any other concept exposing some of civilization's guts--are addressed with a question of how you're professionally qualified in that field to even ask a question.
Don't get me wrong, education is a virtue. However, so are investigation and conversation, and I think that since our level of awareness of power is so discrepant to our level of awareness of natural laws, we may want to reorient our attitude and re-approach to the topic, because civilization isn't going to facilitate the understanding for us. The Enlightenment wasn't accidental. The first step may involve referring back to the historical experts and geniuses--Foucault, Nietzsche--to de-modernize and detox our thinking. We may not be interested in bringing civilization down, but that doesn't mean we can't locate the treasures it has hidden from us. But again, I'm not an expert, I just detect some foul play, and you may as well.
Review of Drums under the Windows by Sean O'Casey
Why do you read fiction? How do you read fiction? Not people in general, but you specifically? I've come across so many reasons why and how people read fiction that it's an understatement to say that fiction is simply for enjoyment. That's like saying automobiles were invented for enjoyment; there's just so much to do with them for so many different reasons.
I've come across people who read fiction for the escape; upon a friend recommendation; they love the author; for historical research; to become a better writer; and even those who just need to read to stay sane. Each of these functions differently. Reading a story about how a family-operated farm resists the mechanization of their traditions is an escape for someone who rides the train into the smoggy city every day. It allows them to see and smell a little bit of country before immersing in noise and grime. Reading because a friend recommends a book is a leap of faith not just into the book, but into the relationship. It chooses to read a certain material because a trusted and respected person in their life thought for some reason that they'd like it. Reading because one loves an author is pretty obligatory; the plot could be something the reader is normally disinterested in, but since their favorite author wrote it, they'll jump right in. In terms of researching history through fiction, there's two avenues; you either read historical fiction, which is written about one time frame from a later time frame, or you read something from the original time frame to get a sense of what life was like for those people. Reading to become a better writer is an intellectual practice, because although one immerses both mind and feelings into the book, their primary concern is to learn techniques of the craft in itself. And those who need to read to stay sane integrate it into their lives and values.
These are only six reasons among many, however you can see how differently they are from what they entail of our perspective. Each one entails a different ratio of intellect-to-emotion, and being exposed to the multitude of reasons for reading fiction, I've come to conclude that there's always some intellect and some emotion. Some novels are much more intelligent than others, giving the reader more to think about. But no novel is ever completely without thinking of some type, as the very process of reading entails one to identify and follow plot, subplot, inner character conflict, outer character conflict, and problem resolution in a way that emotions simply aren't made to do. And when a novel is extremely transparent, it takes very little intellect to follow along, allowing one's emotions to primarily construct the story. However, each of the six reasons above pertain to some type of balance between thinking and feeling.
The topic of enjoyment brings surrogate activities to the forefront, and the topic of thinking and feeling our way through fiction brings the mental orientations of subjectivity and objectivity to the forefront. I'll address surrogate activities first.
Imagine you're a chef in a restaurant that features cuisine you've always wanted to cook. You experiment with recipes, you taste your way to a finely tuned palate, and run a kitchen like a well-tuned machine. Everything works. Why wouldn't it, though? Not only have you dreamed of this, but you've put in the effort to attain and maintain that dream. According to Ted Kaczynski in the Unabomber Manifesto, this would not qualify as a surrogate activity. But why, isn't a surrogate activity something that doesn't necessary lead to your survival? No, that's too stark of a definition. A surrogate activity is anything would leave you seriously unfulfilled should you not perform it, after cutting your life down to fulfilling only biological needs. Thus, as the previously described chef (they're not all like that), cooking is a nexus of primal fulfillment. They need to do it; it's compulsive. Is it enjoyable? Yes. Does this mean that a non-chef who cooks doesn't enjoy cooking? No. They enjoy it as well. Thus, enjoyment isn't the best qualifier for why or how people read fiction (among other things) because not only is it an affect, but it doesn't account for natural compulsions. Yes, compulsive readers enjoy reading--just like the chef enjoys cooking and managing palates--but they read for much more than the affect of enjoyment; they need to. It's such a strong source of primal fulfillment that if they trimmed their life down to performing only biological needs, then they would definitely feel unfulfilled with reading fiction being absent from their life.
Now onto subjective and objective. As my teacher has pointed out a hundred times, thinking and feeling are different than subjective and objective. As I stated before, every piece of fiction entails some ratio of thought and emotion, because emotion can't do the thinking of connecting plot and solving mysteries, and mere thought can't identify with characters--should you identify with them at all--without some emotion. At base, the combination of thought and emotion makes us sentient beings, and is thus nothing particular to the practice of reading. We combine thought and emotion every day, even those who do it on a very basic and unskilled level. It's so banal that it requires the involvement of the topic of subjective and objective orientation to really delineate how some people get more from fiction, and other activities, than others.
A subjective perspective is all about the self. Subjectivity approaches the world from the inside out, projecting terms, standards, and preconceptions onto the outside world with the intention of conforming existent reality to the self. The world is thereby filtered through the screen of tautology: Something is good when it either affirms me or is useful to me, because if it were good or useful than it would affirm me. A subjective perspective operates cyclically, though never allows untainted reality in the cycle for fear that it will bind the me-mechanism. So, when it comes to reading fiction, if one operates with a subjective perspective, all their thoughts and emotions will be restricted to this paradigm. Very subjective individuals thus seek out primarily emotive fiction--rather than literary fiction--because it by design has a higher emotion-to-thought ratio. It's got non-stop action, has a lot of sex scenes, has unnecessary violence, etc. Emotive and thinking aspects still exist in the subjective cycle, however on a much thinner and more superficial level.
The objective perspective, since is also operated by sentient beings, you guessed it, involves both thought and emotion. However, since objectivity welcomes non-me-affirmative reality, the thoughts and emotions that occur are unconstrained by biased standards. Objectivity is also ironic; it allows emotion (and thought, of course) to occur because the self operates from the orient that they can develop tools and abilities to regulate them. They're not afraid of them. In other words, they allow their thoughts and emotions to occur so they can understand and judge them and eventually have control over them, not the other way around. This is what I mean by objectivity allowing emotion; the self views the emotion for what it is, where it derived and what it effects, proactively categorizing it rather than merely responding to it. So the objective cycle is unlike the me-mechanism of subjectivity in that it develops a constant inward stream of reality, allowing the self to be put into check by reality, rather than the other way around, which is how subjectivity operates.
So back to fiction. Both subjective and objective people, based on the criteria of their perspectives, can enjoy fiction, per se. But as we see with differences in these two perspectives, since objective individuals allow more criteria into their mechanism, they can experience fiction on a much deeper level than mere enjoyment. Both subjective and objective people can also have literary compulsions, and their subjective or objective orientation determines how they individually go about fulfilling it.
What is Science? (p.907)
Neil Degrasse Tyson has an excellent quote about science. He says that all kids are scientists, it's the parents who slap on the restrictions to prevent them from hurting themselves or damaging property. I've never heard anyone speak of parenting scientifically, because science is always so stuffy, rigid and formal. It's always so bound up in the scientific method, where we move from a well thought-out hypothesis to a process of evidence, proving the truth or non truth of our hypothesis.
With Tyson in mind; does science have to be stuffy, or have the intelligentsia decided that for us? I'm aware that science is a discipline focused on understanding via reason and demonstration, but when science gets so formal and results-driven that it prevents itself from separating itself from the process, inhibiting self-judgment. What's happening when Tyson allows his kids free reign is an allowance of disorder because it will probably find order. He urges them to be little scientists, not superimposing many rules because their experiences develop their mental capacity. He accepts the outcome of a dirty house because it's means to an end which he will not control but anticipates will be favorable.
That type of paradigm is unconventional because it breeds disorder with no promise of order, which is specifically what science does not intend to do. It's purpose is to order larger portions of reality starting with only a few observations and suppositions about it.
It seems unscientific, until I began thinking about Nazi science, and science's glimmering formality began to tarnish.
See, the Nazi doctors didn't start out as Nazi doctors, they started as Austrian doctors and German doctors. They converted to preserve their lives. They were urged to continue being scientists, however given a fresh direction: Medical experimentation on Jews and Gypsies. I'm unaware of the exact number that complied, but I do know that experimentation on the living was quite prevalent. They never judged the nature of the experiments, they just stuck to formal science. They had a specific directive, which, as long as their experiments didn't upset it, provided them safety. Order brought order.
It comes down to being ends-driven or being means-driven. Both were scientific, per se. Both had a long-term goal of understanding. But how much is science worth to the world if it progressively asks we shut off our self-reflection and judgment? The Nazis were so doggedly ends-driven that the doctors eagerly operated on other humans for the purpose of determining better ways of taking life. Tyson's end was so general--a greater ability to think--that his means became admittedly chaotic. The limitless environment he allowed fostered their creativity. I can't speak for him, but I speculate he'd say that the more creative one is allowed to be, the greater their capacity to shift their gaze back onto the themselves. Now there's no guarantees, as spoiled rotten children demonstrate, however if children are exposed to science not as a formal scientific method, but as an informal holistic experience, we may not produce so many scientists that will willingly participate in reprehensible things because they'll think wider than the rigid method. We may produce more scientists that welcome the application of soft sciences within the hard sciences, as Tyson does.
You and the Atom Bomb (p.903)
The 1950's were an active decade for America, both internationally and domestically. To highlight some of the most significant developments: Television broadcasts stretched to all corners of America, as well as made its transcontinental debut in 1952; the Korean War began and ended; Senator Joseph McCarthy created the Red Scare; Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat; the polio vaccine was created; and Alaska and Hawaii become the 49th and 50th states. That's a pretty active decade by any stretch of the imagination, one filled with a myriad events that were very influential in defining what American means both in the short-term and the long-term.
Before the 50's, American public relations were limited to radio, Communism was spreading and America didn't have an effective way of inhibiting it, the words "Under God" were not in the Pledge of Allegiance or on any money, blacks were expected to defer to whites due to a sub-racial status, infectious polio had been spreading for nearly a century, and America didn't necessarily have a solid relationship with Hawaii or Alaska, despite using them as access hubs and military bases to reach the East. These developments spanned multiple categories; from economics to civil rights to marketing. America was substantially changing.
That may seem like such a banal observation, but think of how automatic these things were to them, and how permanent they must've felt. I realize asking others to feel is the lowest form of emotive-elicitation, however, thinking about our current social and economic status, does it not seem like they've been like this forever? And do you think the pre-50's America felt any differently about the status of their economic and civil world?
For the majority, cultural awareness is innately egotistical, because unless actively intervened upon, our perspective is framed by current state of affairs. This doesn't make us automatons, is simply means we don't create our awareness our of thin air. There is a small minority of individuals who are impervious to the social states of affair by nature, however, the majority of us--whom are not naturally knowledge-seeking or creative--adopt the current and historical paradigms of understanding knowledge and affairs. This means that it's more difficult for us--though not impossible--to override our compulsions and latent paradigms and treat our affairs 1) Like they haven't always been this way, and 2)Like they shouldn't necessarily stay this way.
The more time that passes, the more egotistical cultural transmissions compound because more generations are born. Whereas in the late sixties the compulsion of the "new America" was probably widespread but still developing, in the 21st century there is a shrinking number of people born in the time when it didn't even exist, making our compulsions so cemented that argumentation over these things can be met with blasphemic responses. As if no other way ever existed.
It's here I'm thinking of the addition of "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. Americans who protest this as unconstitutional are struck down not just by legislation, but by public ridicule as well. And it happened only 60 years ago! Nearly all non-seculars are offended when a secular points out that the new wording endorses religion, and how the original document made no mention to a religion. Further, the asinine McCarthy panic is never brought up in conversation, which is odd, because that's what precipitated the added wording in the first place. Before his American-witch hunt, the Pledge of Allegiance was fine the way it was, however the sheer thought of Commies lurking in our midst gave non-seculars the clout to inch back into government via the national Pledge. In current day, kids, teens and adults are programmed to feel shame when critiquing any popular American document. It's very Nationalistic.
That's the power of the 50's; in some instances--like Rosa Parks and the addition of Hawaii and Alaska--rights were provided; and in other instances--like the McCarthy Red Scare--behaviors were unknowingly primitivized in the long-term. Both feel natural due to our perspective on cultural states of affairs, but both also display why it's important to look at our history as distinct eras of compulsions and relationships of power, rather than events leading up to our present.
Revenge is Sour (p. 899)
I wish I could say definitively that I'm not a vengeful person. However, nothing bad has really happened to me, so I can only speculate and learn from others. There are many interpretations about the nature of vengeance; Orwell says that vengeance only exists in the event of cruel treatment. An ancient proverb says, "He who goes searching for vengeance needs to dig two graves." In more recent history, it's said that "Revenge is a dish best served cold." And the modern philosopher Kristhoffer says it can be plotted over long periods of time.
These all point toward the same thing; how vengeance is specific. Orwell approaches vengeance through the immediate reward of a counter-strike. He highlights Jews who had gotten a hold of SS soldiers and beaten them brutally, arguing though that they struck out of obligation rather than a genuine feeling of retaliation. Now I don't know if vengeance can be reduced solely to an immediate emotional reaction, considering events that people are vengeful of are characteristically lucid and ordered in their recollection. That's mental. A large part of vengeance is anchored in memory, where specific things are acknowledged, not disconnected, whimsical ideals. These memories are unreconciled, causing the self to revisit them and order them as well as they can, which often leads to a plotted retribution. There was an excellent scene in the movie The Specialist depicting this, where Sharon Stone's character under an alias dated the man who killed her family, only to reveal her family name seconds before he picked up a bomb-rigged coffee cup. She went to great lengths to establish a relationship with him to create the perfect opportunity for vengeance.
Well-played, right? Maybe not. The grave-proverb would suggest that she lost herself in the process, and could've even been killed if he foiled her plot. I can't argue against that. However, once he was dead, what direction did her life have? Her whole purpose up to that point was to kill him. She gave him a lot of power. For this reason vengeance is a primal feeling, yet a cold, distant feeling. It can be equally cold to the self as it is to others.
Kristhoffer's approach is no less cold, however is more objective, allowing one to live a life outside of the vengeful thoughts. It's more realistic in that the emotion of the implicating event is left in the past since you can't repeat it. The edge of retribution is calmly honed over time. So it's not at all about changing the past or about exerting power to reclaim power, but about precisely and nefariously changing the future course of another's life. That could entail a range of things, from one subtle change causing a ripple effect, or one large thing that will be present in their minds each time they open their eyes.
Going back to Orwell, his view of revenge was informed by the brutality levied upon the SS by the recently freed Jews. One small event changed the way he saw vengeance. As he and a young soldier crossed a footbridge into a rubbled city, the corpse of an SS soldier laid supine, equally peaceful and gruesome. Someone laid lilac across it. The young soldier averted his eyes, as apparently many do when seeing their first dead body. Upon leaving the village, which included seeing Jews beat imprisoned SS soldiers, the young man voiced a better understanding of war, with no vengeful thoughts of the SS. Hence, Orwell's interpretation that the rush of emotion felt by immediately brutal events fuels actual vengeance, however the separation from the event allows reflection, which may still carry retributive actions, however to him they're not vengeful.
Since vengeance is a targeted response, vengeance via stereotype can't exist, whether or not fueled by emotion or calm, cold reason.
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