Saturday, August 5, 2006
I’m very aware that the deaths and suffering of war turn commentary into intellectualism. To the suffering, commentary is wasted time, “academic” in the pejorative sense. “If you really care about all this, do something practical,” the voice says.
My response has to be: I am. I’ve worked for educational organizations that are dedicated to progressive practice my entire adult life. A devotion to progressive practice has to be oriented to the life that one can lead in the place that one can affect. It must (it will, with experience) grow to include a pragmatism about the actualization of ideals. In pursuit of that, and in the meantime of that pursuit, commentary is a kind of self-directed learning, an activist respite from the pursuit. So, one activism complements another.
It’s a great accomplishment for a society when there is an increase in time spent actively reading (not to mention mastering intractable issues). Passive reading placates; active reading nourishesincluding reading that’s therapeutic, that “medicates.” One should feel proud of a life spent advancing basic literacy or causing one’s extended neighborhood to more highly value informed opinion. Multiplication of that modest venture universally would lead to fundamental transforms in humanity, as Truth always wins eventually, and human potential always flourishes (given fair chance), and humanity evolves in the Open, in the freedom, created by literacy. Needless to sayand far it is from there to philosophical investigations. Just the distance of that from the economic bases of decent education systems through the politics of access to higher education to the interdisciplinarity of inquiry that constructively warrants theoretical workall that is more than most lives can be expected to comprehend, let alone specifically-philosophical endeavors that should not be ignorant of a history of discursive inquiry.
So, relative to that, humanistic higher education battles the budgetary process with engineering, etc.
A philosophical investigation is a point in a tapestry of thousands of endeavors, most maybe frivolous (e.g., most Yahoo! groups). If the topography of Internet social networking could be securely captured by theory (analogizing the topography of discretionary communication throughout modern society), what difference would that make to the network (the society), let alone to the suffering subjects of inquiry? Why do we bother? I suppose that most people reading this take for granted a vague background sociology of value, projects, endeavors, careers, and organized life that most of the world wouldn’t understand as more than the signs of the vanity fair of wealthy societiesleisure culture’s rationalization of the imperialism that protects and feeds the leisure.
The fact isthe fact must bethat we do this, I do this, because I must. Reflecting on that might be useful to others (certainly, it has been to me), but the overriding reality of the matter is exemplified bybelieve it or notthe issue of global warming: It’s been the aggregate effect of countless, undocumented conversations over decades that now an array of local environmental issues (e.g., metropolitan pollution, heat waves) imply a singularity of concern that has become truly planetary, as was expressed by “Multipolitan environmental engineering” Tuesday.
That’s not only the result of the growing consensus of the scientific community (which, by the way, is singular; it’s accurate to refer to “the” scientific community, as planetary organon); it’s more the result of countless conversations (born from reading!) about the issue which, in the shadow of scientific consensus, has forced political corporatism to act, at least in terms of fabricating new market mechanisms that serve that public interest. The Conversation creates a market for alternative technologies that politics, in turn, serves, but largely doesn’t lead. Leadership in social evolution belongs to no identifiable constellation. It’s the emergent ethos of the human interest, and it always wins (albeit one step back for every two-or-so forward).
If my conversation can do some part to remind non-academic others of the importance of academic workor remind people in academia of the virtue of philosophy beyond the general (well-rounding) curriculum, beyond filling out that portfolio taken into the budgetary process (“Can’t we justify cutting back faculty in the humanities?”)or remind academics slumming in philosophy that public policy can be both multidisciplinary and effective in real institutions....If “Habermas” only stands for the potential importance of philosophy in understanding a world that would never have time for it, is that not reason enough to be here? Of course, notwithstandingexcuse methe apparent attention-deficited and disssociative self-interestedness of the mall that Internet communications must live in.
Fact is, one person, a few, likely contribute very little directly. But it’s like voting. The upshot of history’s pointillism only happens by making points. Your point is the background topography of communications you exemplify, not basically the overt promotion of issues (though that too), but the way you live, the way you remember. Let us not forget.... Let us not lose sight....
I live far, far from Middle East crises. I live where Christian, Muslim, and Jew live well together, trulywhich extremists (those diseases of modernization who confuse pathological crime with “resistance”) would like to see destroyed, in “light” of imputed imperialism (the disowned face of rage against their own incapability?). I live in knowledge that, no matter how well a society manages to be democratic, there is no escaping new generations of well-heeled “citizens” who would undermine the legacy of the generations that made such undermining possible. So, democracy is an endless project, just as education faces new generations endlessly, living with the power of those who love their own leisure luxuries more than their children (which is what spiraling national debts exhibit).
Meanwhile, as one commentator put it this week, the Middle East is plagued by “extremists who hate their enemies more than they love their children.” Connect the dots: So many marginalized children in the anthropology of self-interest: accidents of passion, cheap labor, orphans of disease, and heirs of debt and war.
What motivates a prevalence of decency in lives? What really redeems the decency of mentally diseased lives? What creates the “motivation,” the volition to live or to sustain living really honorably?