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uninspiration #15

Better to embrace one’s ignorance than to mystify it into false wisdom.

Oops. Is that what I just did?


… for riding my righteousness over your rights; whether I was right or not.

The nature of the disease

Drinking is the excuse for everything.

Everything is the excuse for drinking.

The wisdom of not knowing

The lady next door says she’s descended from David Hume. Sadly she didn’t inherit any of his philosophies, so my hopes of spending lazy afternoons chewing ye olde Scottish Empiricism with her have been dashed.

I’m a fan of Hume; which is to say I like what I think he was trying to say. It’s probably really Hume-ish sounding versions of what I think projected onto my own incomprehension. Us philosophy groupies are like that. What I reckon he was saying most of the time was “We may think we know shit, but we don’t”. If that sounds a bit like my own epistemological nihilism it must be because I’m clever like David Hume, right?

So you think the sun will rise tomorrow, eh? What a chump. That’s just induction. You only think that because you’ve got a bad thought habit along the lines of “always was, always will be”. For all you know right now the sun is being swallowed by a giant, cosmic black swan and once the eight minutes or so of light-in-transit has gone by you’ll never see it again. One day that’s gonna be true and all you “the sun will rise tomorrow” know it alls won’t even have time to say “… until it doesn’t”. And I won’t have time to say “I told you so”. That’s why I’m doing it now.

The only stuff you can know logically comes from deduction and that can’t tell you anything you don’t already know. Only whether you’ll be scorned by logicians for saying it. OTOH, a logician can say “people with degrees are intelligent; I am a person with degrees; therefore I am intelligent” and you’re not supposed to laugh.

I think it’s good for us nerdy intellectual types to be reminded that thinking about something isn’t the same as knowing about it. If only Rene Descartes had read Hume …

I particularly like what Hume says about my morality. I don’t have one. Or if I do, it lives well south of my cerebrum. It took me a while to get that. Decades really. I’m a bit slow when it comes to myself. Probably not enough fibre. But when I finally got it I was so enthusiastic I immediately attributed the same thing to David Hume. So I knew it was wise. I may not have noticed he said it until after I’d said it. I was distracted by other interesting insights emanating from my orifices. But agreeing with me gets my attention.

Contrary to my almost judicial conceit, I don’t decide whether something’s right or wrong from principles such as ‘Do unto others …’ or ‘Never give a sucker an even break’. I don’t imagine my actions have predictable consequences with quantifiable moral values then act in accordance with the appropriate algorithm, no matter how many hostages utilitarians have tied to the tracks. I don’t do things because God will reward me or so karma won’t punish me or because otherwise someone might tell my mum. Well, not so much these days.

My moral feelings come from my guts. My instinct, my intuition, my ‘yuk factor’, my sentiment is how I tell right from wrong. I don’t think through the moral implications of my decisions, I feel through them. Then I start thinking about how the fuck I’m gonna justify this to my partner and my neighbours and my boss and my mother and the panopticon and myself. So I come up with reasons and doctrines and rationalisations and evasions and proximate examples and abstractions and slogans and aphorisms and a good head of righteousness until moral ambiguity and ignorance have been completely obscured and I know I’ve done the right thing. It’s easy with enough practice.

That’s why you should carefully study moral philosophers. There’s a heck of a lot of them and they’ve churned out enough carefully reasoned arguments and divinely inspired compassion and unintelligibly gabbled gibberish to talk over anyone’s objections to anything, including your own. Then when someone wants to know why you’re doing what you do you can come out with something rational, virtuous, sophisticated, objective, ethical and pseudo-relevant to what you were asked. But if you were being honest you’d fart.

Does Nataraja dance on mushroom clouds?

“Now I am become Death, Destroyer of worlds.”the Bhagavad Gita and Robert Oppenheimer

Logic and language have their limits. For one, they seem inherently linear and dualistic. They imply that ‘things’ are separate entities that can be placed in categories and described in a one-dimensional process with a beginning, middle and end. That can lead to reductionism.

Some things seem to defy that descriptive framework; certain altered states, conceptions of non-dualism, infinity or the Void, feelings of aesthetic transcendence, models of consciousness, interpretations of quantum theory … When people run into similar limitations of their language and symbology they’re prone to reach for similar metaphors to try to overcome those limitations. Oceans, webs, dissolution, fractal unfolding, theologies and ontologies of negation … Others reify the metaphors and imagine that they’re all referring to the same thing. Or they discover words they’ve been looking for to allude to their own insights or experiences and assume the writer must be struggling to articulate similar thoughts.

So we get Fritjof Capra, Gary Zukav and Deepak Chopra concluding that quantum science was prefigured by Vedic philosophies, Perrenialists believing all religions and spiritual traditions flow from a single font, psychologists explaining all breakdowns of the ‘self’ with one regressional theory …

I reckon all these things do have something in common. What it is I can’t say. But there’s lots of things I can’t say. That doesn’t make them all the same thing.

The best laid plans …

I don’t really know why I lived. Oh, I can think of hundreds, thousands, of reasons I stayed alive when I might have died, but I don’t know how many other reasons may have been out there, ready to save me. Humans are durable. But if I’d died there would have been thousands of reasons for that too. I just wouldn’t be thinking about them all the time.

So I don’t think the causes and karma and influences and destiny of it are worth talking about really. All I know is that I was sure I would kill myself. And I didn’t. All I learned is that I can be very wrong about myself in a fundamental way for a long time.

The plan probably helped. I knew having a plan was a Very Bad Sign. That’s why I never spoke of it. With a plan I was only an hour or two from escape. I could handle an hour or two. It meant I didn’t have to act on impulse when a train was thundering towards the platform or a cliff edge looming ahead. I could keep it over sixty minutes away. Far enough for safety. Close enough for comfort.

Having a plan meant I was ‘an imminent danger to myself’. It must stay secret. If people found out I’d have to act quickly, before they could put me somewhere I couldn’t act. I might mess up. Severely disabled but still conscious. Trapped in a hell beyond hopelessness. Frozen in the amber of my despair. Suicidality is a loneliness that dares not cry for help.

When the end came it was as quick as I’d hoped and not at all what I’d expected. A near decade of darkness lifted in an instant. I don’t know how I lived through it. I don’t know why it stopped. Things didn’t go according to plan.

I think planning to die meant I didn’t have to.

Another bad habit

The search for meaning and purpose. It’s a mug’s game really, isn’t it? What are you supposed to do with it if you find it?

But asking questions of yourself and the universe until you gradually come to realise they were the wrong questions. That’s the only game in town.

What have the Indians ever taught us?

Nothing is a thing.

Taking the ‘A’ out of SAS

They handed down the Brereton report today. It’s grim. Dozens of civilians and prisoners murdered. New unit members ‘blooded’ by being ordered to execute a prisoner. Slitting the throats of fourteen year old farm boys for suspected ‘Taliban sympathies’, putting their bodies in bags and dumping them in a river.

The report places nearly all the blame at NCO level or lower. The officers had no idea apparently. I guess military officers really are as stupid as everyone says. So multiply three wise monkeys by the number of soldiers in the Special Air Service hierarchy and you get the sort of command and control being exercised over Australia’s elite military units. The same ones that train the other elite forces in the region that keep featuring in war crimes allegations.

But I guess we have to draw the line somewhere, right? If we start implicating those who knew or should have known who can say where we should stop? The lieutenants? The majors? The major generals? What about the entire culture of the Australian Army that glorifies the SAS because it ‘has what it takes and does what it takes’? What about our national leaders? What about the broader Australian economy and culture that feeds off and feeds war, its glorification and its excuses?

What about us?

It’s a good thing the military is so good at whitewashing. Gotta get that responsibility under control before it spreads all over.

Don’t go anywhere nasty

Today our intrepid Guardian reporters look down into the sordid world of saying nice things about places they don’t like.

It seems some people have been promoting Pakistan as a tourist destination despite the facts that the government and military suck and there’s loads of social problems. After all, who could possibly want to know the land and people if there’s terrorists and poverty and oppression by those in power?

A complete scandal, worthy of all the Guardian’s investigative talents and prurient, pro-imperialist posturing.

I look forward to the next exclusive, exposing the useful idiots and corrupt stooges who continue to promote the US as a tourist destination despite its murderous racism, militia violence, poor public health, massive rate of imprisonment, despotic plutocracy and status as the world’s foremost promoter of terrorism and war.

Or should I soon expect to see the US fomenting a coup in Pakistan by a group trying to sabotage the Pakistan tourist industry who have been put in touch with helpful Guardian journalists?

At least Australian tourism promoters adhere to strict truth in advertising guidelines.

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