Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Civilization, or what passes for it these days

From Owls Aren't Wise:

There was a time when civilisation was recognised as an enormous benefit, an unquestionable 'good', something that could never be doubted.

Anyway, thirty or so years ago there was a bit of a mess, a bit of a scandal, and our good friend 'civilisation' disappeared into obscurity and retirement, presummably leading a quiet life of pained silence and genteel poverty.

What was the essence of the scandal?

Well, after the second Great War, when we were finally sold via state penury into slavery, civilisation was reduced from the state of 'being civilised', ie describing a society worldwide that respected its constituent individuals, to merely being a referent to a degree of non-murderousness that distinguished us from Pol Pot or Ho Chi Min or Mao Tse Tung or Stalin or Hitler.
… and more, the two types of people in charge of postmodern civilization, and the people who choose between them.

11 comments:

bonnie abzug said...

Earth to Mapmaster! Earth to Mapmaster! This isn't "beautiful" prose even if we agree to separate the content from the form, and disregard the former. One example will have to suffice (you're paying for the bandwidth, after all): "The first regards the constraints of this forfeit to embarrassment as a resented obligation that yet enables them to compare favourably to monsters of actual murder." Can anyone even tell me what this means? Does it mean anything? Of course, I mean anything other than the "possibility that must not be mentioned?"

I'm all for taking the occasional sojourn into Cloud Cuckooland. But to make it one's permanent address can't be healthy. Can it?

MapMaster said...

As far as aesthetics go, I offer in my defence should one be required that I have an anglophilic taste for almost comically absurd convolutions of language for the purpose of arriving at acute observation, like Spike Milligan. Heck, I'm not even sure what I just said! Admittedly, understanding soreheaduk is sometimes an acquired facility. For myself, the form and content of the post conspired to achieve beauty.

As far as the sentence you quoted, I had to read it a couple of times myself, but it could be rewritten (apologies to soreheaduk — correct me if I'm wrong) as:

The first type of person in power is too embarrassed to admit that his or her ambitions are morally equivalent to those of the "plain butchers" but will comply with the popular sentiment against outrageous crimes to commit less overt or demonstrable crimes wielding all the time the defence that at least they haven't outright and directly murdered millions of people. Hence, the qualifier "democratic" in "democratic socialist."

But there's no accounting for tastes, and I periodically link to pieces that I especially enjoy for no other reason that I enjoy them. If others gain anything from them, I am pleased, but, really, it's just a blog.

Pietr said...

For the benefit of the 'linguistically challenged', it means that they resent having to pay lip service to civilisation while accepting the image benefits of conforming.

Of course, Bonnie, the sixty six year old grandma of socialist thought-crime is 'fighting for Mapmasters soul';she thinks his convictions can be reversed by a few sneers.
By the way, the essence of my writing style(when it is good, and that was good)is prose poetry.Poetry is like a brain surgeons scalpel;it goes around and around and you don't even know it's healed your brain until the big, fat tumour falls out your ear.
Bonnie-Narf!

bonnie abzug said...

Sorehead, I most certainly am not "fighting for Mapmaster's soul" - that was lost long before my time here in that miasma of narcissism and misanthropism in which you all like to spend at least some portion of your days. Presumably, at least some other portion of your days are spent in the real world, where we all have to live after all, "...resenting having to pay lip service to civilisation while accepting the image benefits of conforming."

Having said that, I'd like to say also that I do read the various posts here in good faith, so to speak. While the underlying political philosophy that informs you all here does not resonate with me, there is often good writing in play and every once in a while there is something to pique my interest. The consideration of these nuggets that I am able to mine from time to time tend to make me a more thoughtful "pragmatic socialist", and for that I am most appreciative.

I apologize if you thought I was sneering at your "prose poetry". I simply found it to be particularly frenetic and impossible to process- not your best work, in my opinion.

Pietr said...

You are quite entitled to your opinion Bonnie.
Glad to hear from you, but hey!
What a revelation there is in personal taste,eh?
Obviously there is a difference in the Canadian prototype;good faith as opposed to what I would inevitably encounter here in England.
I would like to suggest that the extremities of style I like to use are a quite natural retaliation against the filthy climate here.
If ever you have a doubt about where your ideals lead, take a look at this country, and do some Blue Sky thinking.

Pietr said...

Oh yes.
Narf.

MapMaster said...

I shouldn't be surprised to find out one day that Sorehead and Bonnie are an old married couple!

I appreciate the concern for my soul, Sorehead, but I think it extremely unlikely that it will ever be reclaimed from the Jedi forces of individualism, anarcho-capitalism, libertarianism, right-wing extremism, or whatever… That said, I'm glad Bonnie does come around here and even happier that on occasion a tidbit can be found to inform her pragmatic socialism. Speaking of which, I was taken aback at first by the mention of pragmatic socialism — obviously I do not consider socialism pragmatic at all. Upon consideration, however, I realize that most of my posts deal with pragmatism of a political sort, which may be what Bonnie finds appealing. Given that both socialism and libertarianism are premised on philosophies that will never appear in perfect manifest form, many of us are interested in the devices that may realize some advancement. In fact, that is my greatest interest, although it is perverse in a way. The political libertarian has the added burden that his philosophy can and does appear in perfect form at the individual level yet never at a collective level, which means that any political device he may suggest necessarily negates the premises of his philosophy. For example, I may argue that the inclusion of property rights in a written constitution brings benefits, yet at the same I do not support contracts that are binding on individuals who did not personally agree to them and that are meant to be binding in perpetuity — as with Lysander Spooner. Both the pragmatic socialist and the pragmatic libertarian seek to discover that line between implementation of what they actually desire and what is politically possible or popularly acceptable — by doing so, however, the pragmatic libertarian employs calculations of what are for him impossibly collective measures.

Anyway, happy times. By the way, what does "narf" mean?

Pietr said...

Ask GM about 'Narf'.
Libertarianism?
Not fully realised?
Poetry strikes again!
They Might Be Giants-"You're not the boss of me now!"

MapMaster said...

I might add that I admire those individuals, like Sorehead and the other London Foggers, who stick to principles and observations and don't wallow in politics as much as I do. Such as my own failings go, to those ends my schtick is to try to support arguments, none of them original of course, in favour of those policies that are as the least arbitrary possible. Failure to observe that political objectives are by nature arbitrary has, I think, brought about a general acquiesence to the idea that problems have political solutions, and that for them to work force is reasonable and desireable. Failure to observe the arbitrariness of political solutions is a good sign that one is not living in the real world.

It may be observed that I am a hypocrite by endorsing political solutions or preferences for certain political outcomes at all. Fair enough, I can only say that I didn't start the "ends justify the means" game, I just joined in.

bonnie abzug said...

Heaven forbid, Mapmaster, that anyone might want to engage in a little applied politics; much easier, and undoubtedly much safer, to stick to theoretical politics; to stay firmly in Cloud Cuckooland and out of the real world, where the actual outcomes of one's fantasies might be measured. And where one's prescriptions might be found wanting.

On to other things, though. I'm trying to process your last post. To what sense of the word 'arbitrary' are you referring, my good man? That "political objectives are by nature arbitrary" makes some limited sense if one means that they are generally subjective (one sense), but makes less sense if one means that they are not determined by reason or principle(another sense), and no sense if one means they operate outside the rule of law (a third sense).

Would it be presumptuous of me to suggest that there is a good reason why there is "general acquiescence to the idea that [political] problems have political solutions". It's called common sense and life experience. And I daresay that for some political problems, force in support of a political solution might very well be deemed reasonable.

Your observation that "[f]ailure to observe the arbitrariness of political solutions is a good sign that one is not living in the real world", though, is spot on - if by "arbitrariness" you mean "subjectivity". Of course, the failure to observe that the red rose is actually red would also be a good sign that one is not living in the real world.

bonnie abzug said...

By the way, in an attempt to forestall the easy objection to at least part of my last post, I am willing to stipulate agreement to the notion that some political problems do not have political solutions, and that some political solutions should not be enforced by instruments of state coercion.