Tuesday, January 04, 2005
tender tootsie comfort
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.
As I suggested in my last post, vis a vis so-called 'Intelligent Design', human life is a continual struggle to balance between instinct/fear/rationalization and Reason. I call it a tension. We would never survive or DO anything without instinct/fear/rationalization (eg walking is literally falling forward). Not admitting that a deeper rationality can sometimes be found in this realm - one we don't yet understand 'scientifically' - is, well, irrational (or, how about 'silly'?). But to maintain a tension, the Rational mind must always be probing, revising, learning.
Another manifestation of our partially reptilian (?) brains - which I propose we simply accept, and even use and enjoy - is our two conceptions of history and time, linear and circular. Humans need cycles. We need to presume a certain amount of 'always was, always will be'. We may know intellectually that empires, even worlds, come and go; but we still need the 'working illusion' that ours is forever. If continuity didn't exist, we would have to invent it - and we do. The challenge is to have a sense of humor enough about our own species to be able to recognize and act against a wrong instinct rather than enshrine it, but to do it without foolishly discounting instinct/et. al. altogether; to distinguish between one's own personal cosmic struggle, and politics and the world. Because history is really more linear than circular. I think dealing with our human dichotomy about this can be easier or harder.
History does repeat itself, but more/less metaphorically than really. In a vital sense, history doesn't repeat itself at all. It is a line. You can probably analogize nanotechnology or modern genetics to something ancient or old, but the analogy is going to be very strained, and probably counterproductive. We, as a species, are going somewhere, and we can definitely fuck it up or not. Nothing is inevitable.
I would draw (or ask someone else to help me draw) a distinction between classic conservatives and our modern day crop - who call themselves conservative, but are really reactionary. I've mentioned elsewhere that I'm not so sure Burke would be a 'Burkeian' today (I'm not a Burke scholar, but he sounds to me like a very conservative liberal in his famous 'letter' about the French Revolution). Skepticism and cynicism about the 'perfectibility of man' are not the same things. Classical conservatives and liberals are both interested in progress - both think in linear terms, but favor different rates. Reactionaries, on the other hand, enshrine the circular, comfy way of thinking as doctrine.
The cry from post-communism progressives, and liberal conservatives, is not for the 'perfectibility of man', (a straw-man anyway) but for 'perfect enough' - evolved enough to handle the wonders which lie ahead. Despite the best efforts of reactionary spirits from Washington DC to Kandahar, science is not stopping. Reactionary politics doesn't really have a 'plan B' (other than Armageddon). It is reactionary politics - rather than the generally liberal kind - which has the touching, naive conception of human nature. Reactionary thinking and politics are the cozy footies of the mind.
For progressives to regain political power, we need to think like the majority we probably are. That partialy means dealing with the ins and outs of the human need for cozy footies of some kind - and not in a contemptuous way, because we ALL long for them. So, 1.) Remove stick from ass. 2.) Laugh. 3.) Move forward (as the dynamic Scott McClellan would say).