Sunday, December 4, 2016

What if Facts were True?

So, it happens that a Trump surrogate made an interesting statement regarding "facts"--they don't matter anymore. Things are true if people believe in them. So, maybe Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim--who knows? Maybe aspirin is a good birth control pill. Maybe climate change can be dumb because your dumb face, right?

Of course this is an appalling thing to say. There needs to be common ground for people to be able to get together and discuss their wants and needs. If facts--the concrete understandings that are the underpinning for our shared reality--don't matter, then how can we ever deal with the subjective responses people have in reaction to those facts? It seems like a casual way of dismissing groups one doesn't want to listen to--"I reject your reality and replace it with my own."

It seems to me that the problem is one of "epistemic closure"--a fraught subject in right/left relations in these here United States. The mainstream media makes a game of false equivalence regarding traditional conservative and liberal discourse, but there does seem to be a higher propensity amongst conservatives for believing sheer bullshit. That's not to say liberals don't ever believe in bullshit--it's just that your bullshit has to be pretty immaculate to get us to the table.

I've considered "epistemic closure" to be part of the right/left communications failure for a while, starting with the rise of the Tea Parties, and noted it as being a particular reason why "outsider" candidates were winning the 2016 primaries. But the electoral wave that made Trump possible has lead to disturbing notions like a "post truth world".

That should not be a thing. Facts have to matter. Things like how climate change happens and how other countries feel about their borders and their economies matter. A leader has to be aware of facts because those are your handles, the grips, the ways of understanding what needs to get done.

This post is, in part, a riff on Big Bad Bald Bastard's post, about which I'm copacetic. Where two separate and barely overlapping cultural, mental, emotional, realities occur, it is hard to find common ground. We don't share the same folklore or necessarily appreciate the same ideas about what constitutes "values".

But if I have to find a place to plant my spear and stand like Horatius Cocles, and admit facts matter? Ok. Here goes--facts matter. Reality and government need facts. No matter what corner tells me different. I will stand on the facts.


9 comments:

Nasreen Iqbal said...

I don't know, some of those exist olls that were taken during the Republican primaries this year should concern us all.

You might belong to a scientific tradition that has held up for hundreds of years, but if a 140-character tweet can say "Nuh uh" about it, then both sides have valid arguments.

Formely Amherst said...

Apparently the Left views as a fact the idea that conservatives are all white supremacists. This is a conclusion that is apparently arrived at by a profound form of mental telepathy that allows an upstanding leftist to penetrate into the mind and heart of individuals whom they have never met, whom they have never seen, whom they have never heard of, whom they have never shared a reference to. But despite this, it is a fact to leftists that conservatives are white supremacists.

Naturally, this is not a fact; this is madness.

Hi Vixen. The gracious and lovely Alicia and I are very pleased with the outcome of the election. We have a bottle of Remy Martin VSOP that we'll use to toast the inauguration. We like the Cabinet appointments, and we approve of the agenda that has been publicly stated. We look forward to increasing prosperity and increasing security, especially from Islamic radicals and Hispanic gangs and Mexican drug cartels.

Actually the right and left have had discussions and they were resolved by the fact that conservatives won the election. I realize that people who find ruminating and denouncing political initiatives fun will continue to have fun. However, the election has been decided, and therefore thankfully most of us can turn our attention to other things.

Right now I am reading Sylvia Plath's journal. So far she is still at Smith College, and I have not detected a clue that would explain her eventual suicide. I am also reading The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham, who is one of my favorite authors. In the lodge we have some members who re-read The Razor's Edge every year. I like The Painted Veil, and The Narrow Corner is one of my favorites. I recommend that liberals read Up at the Villa which is only about 100 pages long.

I do not believe there is any “we.” This is part of the problem. When one decides that a class of people is “we,” often they begin to disparage seeing human beings with their own unique value. While there are people so identified with their political party that they define themselves in this manner, the vast majority do not. Although things crystallize around election time, most of the population see conservatives and liberals sort of like people with a preference for country-western on the one hand or rock on the other. They don't identify themselves by someone else's “brand label.” People who identify themselves this way are not much different from the “person who uses Tide detergent” or is “an Apple user.”

The great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr would regard this identification as a sin. The idea that individuals with vast spiritual reality would confine themselves to such narrow prisons, whether it's dope, alcohol, perversion, or thinking that conservative or liberal is not a preference but who and what you actually are. (It's also a vice of Kether.)

You like a political position, and you like your car and you like roses. But you are an intrinsically valuable spiritual being whose importance ultimately lies in who and what is your most essential beingness. Jung would call this the imago Dei.

Well, I've wandered away in my rumination, haven't I? I will be pleased if the country becomes more prosperous for all its citizens, and if we will get rid of some of the criminal elements and increase our safety. And I would also be pleased if it should come to pass that at election time people actually had to struggle with which good choice they will make.

Right now things are copacetic.

Perception is reality if you believe it. Until you get run over by the truck.

Vixen Strangely said...

Formerly Amherst--sometimes I make an effort to reply with a well-reasoned defense of liberalism or whatever, but you know what? The whole damn left doesn't think the whole damn right is a bunch of white supremacists. Some are. Some aren't. The ones who are have gotten really open about it. The crimes have gone up. KKK had a victory parade to celebrate Trump--they probably will toast the inauguration with beer, I suspect. You might feel like you are somehow being tainted by the association. I'm not the person tainting you or your side though. Maybe the problem it isn't the taint, it's the association.

I fought the lawn. And the lawn won. said...

Apparently the Left views as a fact the idea that conservatives are all white supremacists.

No. But we do notice a few odd little quirks about conservatives.

-They never use the words "black lives matter" except in denouncing the group with that name.

-Although they claim to be big Bible fans, they never use the words "Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you."

-Although they claim to be big Original Intent of the Constitution fans, they never use the words "Well Regulated Militia".

Anonymous said...

God told me facts don't matter

Linus Bern said...

“Apparently the Left views as a fact the idea that conservatives are all white supremacists.“

You make this statement and then follow it by proclaiming the left seems to think it can perform mental telepathy and see into the minds of others.

I guess it never occurred to you that that is exactly what you are doing when you tell us what the left thinks. The right continues to show no understanding of the concept of irony.

For the record, not all on the right are white supremacists, in fact probably most aren't, unfortunately too many who aren't, are quite comfortable climbing into bed with those who are if it helps them win elections. Trump may not be a white supremacist, but he repeatedly wrapped his arms around them warmly. Any denunciations he made of them were generally a week late and feeble at best, which is striking, because he was quite capable of calling out any other group or individual personally, and in the harshest of terms, but somehow he tapdanced around white supremacists, barely shaking a finger at them. His statement after the Nazi rally in DC following the election came across more as telling them to stop because they are going to give the game away than to stop because their views are abhorent.


A very uplifting Niebuhr sermon, but your messianic candidate made an entire campaign of pointing at groups of people and calling them the other. The only way you can praise Niebuhr's philosophy, and support Trump is by being a hypocritical sack of $h!t.

Formerly Amherst said...

Apparently I inadvertently swerved into a nerve.

For the record, Vixen, Reinhold Niebuhr is not my favorite theologian; he is President Obama's favorite theologian. My favorite theologian is Paul Tillich. However, I do believe Niebuhr has an interesting perspective on the idea of “sin”. President Obama named him as his theologian of choice very early on, I believe in some interview during the first campaign. Actually he is often appreciated by people on the left because of his social gospel, but personally I find Tillich to be more compatible with my own perspective. Furthermore, Tillich is also compatible with the Qaballah, which lends an interesting synergy and counterpoint and conceivably a bridge between occultism and Christian theology.

There also seems to be a delusion that all conservatives are Christians. This is simply untrue. There are a lot of Christian conservatives, but by no means are all conservatives Christians. My ire is not against Christianity; it is against fundamentalism, whether that fundamentalism is in Islam or Christianity or Judaism. I think fundamentalism contains a lot of reasons for justifiable antagonism against it. And it is the failure of critics to make a distinction between fundamentalism and profound insights that suggests a lack of judgment.

I favor Maurice Eliade and his origination of the history of religions, a discipline that is often in universities' Humanities department. People who are foreign to this discipline often think it must be a straight study of history as it pertains to the Church. This is not true.

The operative word in the history of religion is “religion”. That's the denominator. In other words, because the word “religion” automatically is an ontological assertion, the “religion” part is irreducible. And therefore the discipline is trying to understand how this irreducible, ontological position asserts itself throughout history.

My view is that you cannot say that the left is communistic even though you can find a number of communists attracted to it. You cannot assert that conservatism has association with white supremacy even though you can find a handful of white supremacists attracted to the philosophy. Some communists who have affection for Hillary Clinton do not make Hillary Clinton a communist.

“The only way you can praise Niebuhr's philosophy, and support Trump is by being a hypocritical sack of $h!t.”

Well as you can see, I am praising Obama's favorite theologian, and there is something that I can do despite being a “hypocrite”. I voted for Trump, and conservatives won the election. So it appears that there was something else to do.

In terms of the civil rights struggle (Vixen knows I was a part of it) it is hard to approve of an organization whose most salient point is that people should murder police officers.

Linus Bern said...

Equating white supremacists on the right with communists on the left is ridiculous. One is a political theory that carries a wide range of meaning depending who you ask, the other is pure evil. If there was a group of Stalinists in America that embraced the Democrats and that the Democrats refused to denounce and instead pandered to for electoral gain, you might have a point, but there isnt and so your attempt to draw an equivalence between them is absurd.

In America, the word communist gets applied to people who simply think some form of social safety net should exist, so it is hard to know what you mean by the word, but I know a number of pretty humorless, hardcore Marxists, none of them have what could be characterized as ”affection for Hillary” so unless you have some evidence of some who do, you are just making stuff up to bolster your argument.

There is a reason that Trump is the most popular candidate among white supremacists and neo nazis in the past half century. They recognize him for what he is, why dont you?

Linus Bern said...

PS. The most salient point that Black Live Matters makes is that Police should not be killing black people so frequently, and with so little justification. I have never heard them saying that people should kill police. (Perhaps you are thinking of the patriot movements on the right).