Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Burnt Thoughts

For a long time I've been investigating various topics around the central interest in my life, "what is the nature of man?" (yes yes, I hate that the term there overlays a gendered one but I can't figure another word with the same gist). From neuropsych to philosophy, history to sociology, most of my interests are different angles to try to get that big picture - all these disciplines are relevant to each other, to the extent that I don't think the central question can be approached without adequate understanding of each - the physical limits of the brain, the just-in-time nature of memory, the ugly and complex ideas that make us different from the simple and clean way we'd otherwise see ourselves.

Yet another, possibly already said, question - interesting on surface and meta levels (example is particularly relevant to the practice of this essentially philosophical question) - given a highly unusual perspective, how might one build the necessary amount of similar views in others to form a subculture. Potentially, those with strong natural charisma can use that to draw people around them and, provided they have a coherent-enough perspective, spread it that way.

Let's imagine someone with a perspective that's unusual in American society, but is just as coherent as the stereotypical city-living Liberal-secular Democrat and the small-town Conservative-religious Republican. I've met a few people with perspectives similar to these, I'll raise their intuitions to the level of being thought-out.

Let's imagine a gal by the name of Prajna. Her parents are Christian, from India. Roman Catholic, she's fervently devout, mistrustful of democracy (accepting either a sufficiently religious and christian elite-driven republic or a straight theocracy), and doesn't have a strong opinion on economics - she'd accept either a centrally managed or a mixed-market capitalist system. She strongly opposes secularism - she feels that the will of god is obligatory on all humanity, and that governments that do not acknowledge god or base their structures on what is righteous are sinful. As part of her Christianity, she believe that the welfare of man is a duty of man, second to their duty towards god. She regards greed as a great sin, and public programmes, organised both through the church (for those who are willing to get involved) and through the state (for those not willing or able to combat their tendency towards greed, particularly so that righteous christians would not entirely handle the obligation towards those poorly off that rightly belongs to all of society, even those that don't recognise god or deliberately misunderstand the ten commandments to abrogate their duty to love their neighbour. Having Mughal cousins, she considers their faith false but their commitment to it kind of admirable, and finds the notion of Jizya/Zakah to be a worthy idea to adopt into Christian practice. Prajna finds feminism a mix of good and bad ideas - to the extent that it's about gender-equality, she thinks its a good thing, feeling that the Bible says very little about roles for women and men that are meant to be obligatory on all nations. To the extent that it takes positions on abortion and that it strikes her as hedonist, she disagrees with it. Prajna is semi-modern on dating topics - she doesn't believe in casual sex, but she feels that sex has a very strong social meaning and that it should be shared only between people who are in a long-term relationship with potential. She believes in contraception, but were it to fail, she would consider it to be god's will and have the child. She considers patriotism as being a distraction from god's plan, which does not involve nations or races, but is instead meant for all of humanity.

I am making an assumption that this combination of values is fairly rare here, particularly because she'd have a tough time choosing between her values in voting, she'd likely offend anyone who's traditionally liberal or conservative in the US (industrialist republicans are probably opposite her on most issues, being largely secular, lassiez-faire, lightly-pro-civil liberties and against notions of social solidarity, very pro-business and greed).

Note as well that, given a good understanding of such an imaginary person, it's easy to imagine their arguments, and with enough such arguments, it becomes a trivial conclusion that given sufficiently intelligent and philosophical people, a stalemate is almost certain when they talk about value systems. It may be possible to give people a hard time about certain areas of their worldview, but it's hard to strike general blows that hit home.

As an aside, it would be very easy to imagine radically different alignments of positions in American politics - secular social darwinists intent on destruction of all societal interests and for lassiez-faire economics versus deeply religious pro-welfare capitalism-skeptics. It's only accidents of history that gave us the current alignments, which makes it very easy to throw most people off-guard by talking about the different alignments in our history and in other countries.

I believe that people don't necessarily need very close political convergence to be friends, but fundamental disagreements tends to create large numbers of "things we don't talk about much". This is itself not always a huge deal when there are practical interests in common, but it constrains the style of friendship, and is harder yet when it comes to dating.

Philosophically styled friendships are unusual beasts - instead of being hampered by difference and having the need to dodge it, they instead focus on that difference, deriving much of their primary content from it. These friendships are very nuanced things, and I suspect most people are not capable of them. One aspect of them, I suspect, is that the tensions that develop as the result of disagreement never have the chance to build, first because so-capable people tend to be fascinated by discussion (it would be a mistake to say they must be non-judgemental, but rather that their judgementalism takes a certain form that permits the relationship), and second because the tensions being significant content to the interaction means that one doesn't do the "I will swallow our disagreement" thing that one does with most people. A lesser form of these are "friendships across the aisles", whereby people job-committed to a particular position become friendly after enough argument - they do not necessarily have the disagreement as a primary content of the relationship so much as a thing they visibly put down (apart from quips) when around each other.

I do not think these styles of friendships are enough to make an emotionally functional social circle. I think that while some people need some of these styles of relations, the majority of their social circle is usually composed of people with whom they significantly agree on things that they care about.

I recently reread the Bhagavad Gita - just like the Christian Bible and the Quran, I find many of the values expressed actively repugnant. It is, nontheless, an interesting read - not as fun as the Ramayana though.

Head: has been full of stories and the like that beg to be drawn or written, some of which actually make it to paper. Occasionally I've passed some of these on to more art-capable people..

Semi-recently got some tea that is quite good, unfortunately so good that the flies like it. Whenever I brew it, tiny flies appear from parts unknown in my apartment and buzz all around. I'm not sure what to think about this.


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