Just an Abstraction

Well, the liberal squishy-Gumby universe has made it into the Urban Dictionary. You’ve heard it before: Morality depends on your worldview, rich/poor is relative, culture, tastes, religion, American exceptionalism, these and many other things are determined by where the observer happens to stand, therefore they aren’t really determined at all.

Well, I’m of the view that they happen to be right on this. I’ve often made the observation that with computer software, the products that are most useful and take on a life of their own, have a few things in common: An input, an output, and most importantly a difference in those two perspectives — the output has to capture the object that was input, verbatim (and some validation might be helpful too), then it has to present it by way of a perspective that, with the product no longer accessible, would be difficult to achieve. Think of CAD, think of spreadsheets making pie charts out of data, think of databases sorting things. One object; a plurality of views of the object, that is the common theme to it all.

So this is an entirely valid, and I would even say commercially useful, point. Nevertheless, the transgression being committed by our friends the libs, is that they make way too much of it. They envision these alternate perspectives to be adding something, when they aren’t designing software or doing anything else that might make use of it. They see the multi-point perspective as an asset, even in situations wherein it is a demonstrable liability. One of the best examples of this is spoken and written language. This is where they pick up the support from those who are not liberals. Who can argue with the benefits of a French, a Spanish, or even a Latin curriculum being added to a high school? These are skills, perhaps marketable skills, and they stimulate thinking. They teach the students to excel. You can learn French in a utilitarian way, so that you can go to France and ask “where is the nearest restroom” with confidence and competence, although the natives will still peg you as an American — and then you can push yourself to go beyond the basics, achieving fluency so you can fool people into thinking le Langue d’Amour is your mother tongue. The teenage years are a good time to be making these decisions, and learning these things.

How about, the details that emerge after the low-information voters have tuned out and gone on to other things? How about a school district with seventy languages in it? The libs still think that’s a swell idea and won’t allow you to say otherwise. But it is, provably, a lousy idea and this is where liberals start to live in a world of their own. Oh yes, the centrists may follow them there, but only under duress, conscious of the possibility of a righteous beat-down should they dare to question the virtues of diversity anywhere & everywhere. But most strong-thinking individuals, in their hearts of hearts, understand the obvious: Language is for communication. Like computer software, to offer us any practical use it must adhere to the formula of one common object, many viewpoints. Communication is an event, before which you and I have different ideas, after which you and I have arrived at a common understanding. If the situation is not being transformed that way then the activity isn’t achieving its purpose.

Centrists and self-identifying conservatives agree with the point made in the paragraph above. Liberals never will. Oh sure they certainly see value in this ritual of synchronizing the viewpoint of the recipient with the viewpoint of the sender; a lot of their so-called “arguments” are that & nothing more. But they’d never in a million years agree that the virtues of communication are limited to that. There is all this diversity to be celebrated. Seventy languages! How wonderful!

I’ve gradually formed an idea about this: There is a detectable pattern in which, if the presentation of an object makes it more difficult and awkward for us to determine any absolutes about the object, liberals are going to not only love that presentation all to pieces, but spend massive amounts of energy pushing for a requirement that everyone perceive the object in that fuzzy, cloudy, definition-less way. I would include gay marriage in this. Sure, it makes it much easier for liberals to win elections, and feel smug about their own ideas about things. Those are the two most popular stimulants to slam into the vein: whipping some Republican ass, and feeling superior to others who have different ideas. But it also effectively diminishes definition. Opposition to gay marriage is a definition, isn’t it? “Marriage is the union between a man and a woman.” Support for gay marriage, on the other hand, is tellingly limited to “not necessarily” — it has no contrary definition to offer by way of rebuttal. As we reach the end of 2012, the gay marriage crusade is essentially a campaign to define marriage as “a union between two humans, never fewer than two and never greater”; but that is for the now, and nobody anywhere is going to describe it that way because it isn’t a goal that has any political value to it, nor is it imbued with any permanence. Two humans? Once all fifty states say okay, is that the end of the tussle? Who thinks so, seriously?

But this is not an anti-gay-marriage post, this is a Rotten Chestnuts post. The rotten chestnut here is “Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” There is some legitimacy to this. The error of the liberal mind is in perceiving reality to be wrapped up in the multitude of views rather than in the singular object being so represented.

This is deep and heady stuff, although once the framework is laid down the idea is not really that complicated. Our disagreement here is inextricably intertwined with the very concept of truth: What is it? After we pay just a bit more attention than the low-information “centrist” voter can be bothered to invest, we see once again, frustratingly, the low-information centrists are on the side of the self-identifying conservatives, opposed to the self-identifying liberals, and they just don’t know it. You have this one object and these many views of it; only in the squishy liberal universe is truth defined by the multiple perspectives of viewing, such that there become multiple truths. Centrists are actually on the side of conservatives, in their entirely accurate understanding that there is one truth, and the many perspectives of viewing, while they are different from one another, are merely reflections.

This changes everything. Because there is one and only one absolute truth in the conservative universe, and many reflections of that truth that are different from one another, it becomes possible to infer. This becomes a complex task, a task in which a practitioner can cumulatively build up talent and skill. Contrasted with the liberal/relativist universe, in which talent and skill are built up communicating the perspectives to make them seem compelling and persuasive. Since that is where the esteem is directed in the universe of the dogmatic relativist, liberals are actually correct in their inferences less often than a Magic Eight ball or any other instrument of random chance selection: They are repulsed from the prospect of arriving at sensible solutions, like “Sarah Palin was right when she talked about the Death Panels” or “it is wrong for our government to borrow money in any given fiscal year without some solid and workable plans for paying it back.” So they don’t put much value on quality inferences, their value is placed on quality communication. In the absolutist universe, which is the one in which we’re really living, the inference is everything. It becomes a necessary and important task, just like laundering your clothes or brushing your teeth. No check that, it’s more like getting up out of bed. You cannot competently meet life’s challenges without doing it. You cannot establish and maintain a sustainable and independent lifestyle without doing it. You must infer, properly and constantly. Which bus do I catch to get to work on time. Where do I go shopping for a car. Who do I marry. Would I be a good fit for this job.

It is on this point of “how important is it to competently infer?” that liberals insist on living in a world of their own, away from the self-identifying conservatives and the centrists who unfortunately are duped into voting for them. Since truth is wrapped up in the multiple different views and not in the object itself being represented by these views, absolutely everything is negotiable. They are forever contradicting themselves because of this. It happens anytime an obligation arises, usually of their own invention, for everyone else to “get with the program.” Like for example, the case linked above in which Mayor Heather Fargo’s office tried to get the Armstrong & Getty program regulated out of existence. From all my years of studying liberals, it seems this contradiction is reconciled through time: They are going through a cycle in which all these viewpoints are legitimate, and then there comes some voting/legislating/adjudication event, during which time tyranny-of-majority becomes the order of the day, and all the viewpoints but one become invalidated. That event would be an actual election, unless the most progressive viewpoint fails to carry the day, in which case the election is a travesty that has to be resolved by way of the next election. So they’re forever storming the Bastille. This is their way of acknowledging the Higgs Ratchet effect and exploiting it as fully as they can.

All this is prelude to an encounter my lady-love and I had this weekend as we went shopping for our Christmas tree. We picked a nice petite five-footer out of our local hardware store, and took the tag in to ring it up. The cashier noticed my anti-Obama tee shirt, which is not a terribly good one…it shows a bunch of stick figures chanting “Obama, Obama” as they march off a cliff. I thought it was apropos for what’s going on right now. Well she brought it up because she thought it was a supportive image, so there we were, both caught in this bit of awkwardness because she started a conversation with someone she thought was a fellow Obama-slobbering compatriot.

Then she went into this weird “Well then I won’t get into politics”…and proceeded to do precisely that, essentially just monologuing nervously about her worldview, which is that the corporations are greedy and have all the money they need, and shouldn’t be trying so hard to get more. Money, she said repeatedly more than a couple times, was just pieces of paper…just an abstraction. See, there it is again. It’s like living life in a zombie movie where the zombies can act like real people until it’s time to take a bite out of you — they’re everywhere, you can’t get away from it. As my fiancee pointed out later, that’s a weird thing for a cashier to say, isn’t it? What do cashiers do, they take your money, right?

So here we are, stopping an echo. The pressing question that arises is: How? Cashiers are pretty easy to fire, last I checked. And conservatives, in my world, are conservatives first-and-foremost because they are creative forces, whereas liberals are the destructive and vengeful ones. As easy a comeback as it is to offer “If money is just an abstraction, why do I have to give it to you?” this could easily have led to some unpleasantness that might have been very satisfying for us, but could have been damaging to her. You could make an argument that this would have been her fault, stupid-should-hurt, and all that. Eh. You go down that road without me. Christmas comes first. Everyone who can have a Merry Christmas, as far as I’m concerned, should. Being sent to the unemployment line because you picked political fights with the wrong customer, that wouldn’t go well with the egg nog and the tinsel, right?

As she looked to us to help her reinforce her silly point-of-view, and we struggled for a way to counter her nonsense in some open and welcoming way, wishing the setting was a bit different so we’d have a few more tools at our disposal, I managed to offer this much: Money becomes pretty darn real when you don’t have it and can’t get it. Merry Christmas!

That is not my standard approach, and leaves much unsaid. However, it does follow Phil’s advice about planting the seed, and leaving it to the opposition to do a bit more thinking after you’ve walked out the door. That’s about the best I could do. I was a little bit like a Tyrannosaurus Rex tasked with doing push-ups. Anyway, I don’t like screwing with someone’s livelihood. My standard modus operandi would have been to more directly challenge things, ask some if/then questions that point out that the rickety bad logic of liberalism demands a universe more pliable and compromising than the one in which we really live. Like: If money is meaningless, then how are those among us who have more, deserving of any anger or resentment at all just because they have it? And, from whence arises any imperative to relieve them of it, and get it spread around?

It’s all just an abstraction, right?

What makes liberalism so harmful, is exactly what makes it so hard to engage, to defeat. The predicament that arose when it was easy to stop the ignorant young lady’s echo, but hard to do it without damaging her prospects for hanging on to her job, was not unusual at all. Like a poisonous viper or arachnid making its home under a big rock, it would be easy pickin’s if the big rock wasn’t there. But, then again, if the rock wasn’t there the creature wouldn’t be there either. Today’s liberalism is made possible by these big sheltering dark spaces. It thrives in settings and situations in which a quality disciplined thought process is either impossible or implausible, because it relies on a cosmic order of things that does not and cannot exist in nature.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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2 thoughts on “Just an Abstraction

  1. Pingback: House of Eratosthenes

  2. Severian

    Well said. Liberalism thrives on propositions that are philosophically true, but practically irrelevant. Or, as Theodore Dalrymple once put it more mathematically, they fail to recognize the existence of continua — just because “short” and “tall” are both relative adjectives doesn’t mean that there are no short people, or that some people aren’t taller than others. There’s no universally valid way of determining how many languages should be offered in schools, or of picking which languages to “privilege,” in their terminology. It’s inherently arbitrary.

    Conservatives read this situation as a cost-benefit problem — we can afford five languages if they’re Spanish, German, French, Latin, and Italian, but if we go with Chinese, Urdu, and Tagalog, we’re only going to be able to afford three. So let’s total up the immediate cost of finding an Urdu speaker with education credentials who’s willing to work for the salary we can offer, compare that to a Spanish-speaker with same, and compare both to the long-term benefits, career- and otherwise to the students, and go from there.

    Liberals, by contrast, see it as a philosophical problem. Since there’s no metaphysical reason why we shouldn’t offer every human language to anyone who wants it — since the very idea of limits presupposes that “minorities” will be “underprivileged” — we have to find some other philosophical principle that trumps it. Which is, of course, the principle of the law, the election, the tyranny of the majority or the judge’s ruling.

    In other words: They escape the fact of necessarily arbitrary limits to their plans by resorting to the most arbitrary devices of them all — the mood of the voters on a certain day; the direction the judge rolled out of bed this morning.

    Liberals and conservatives can never see eye to eye on this point. Indeed, I’d say the (largely congenital) way one responds emotionally to these issues more or less determines which style of politics you prefer. A conservative, acknowledging the imperfection of the world and the real constraints of real choices, might bemoan the fact that we can’t offer Swahili in rural Nebraska, but won’t lose a moment’s sleep over voting to pay a Spanish teacher instead. Liberals, by contrast, with their fetish for hierarchy and their neurotic obsession with the appearance of intellectual consistency, will allow the grossest miscarriages of justice — if we can’t have Swahili, then no languages for anyone! — so long as there’s some overarching “principle” they can cite to back it up…..

    ….[and, of course, to use as proof that they’re ever so much more intelligent and broad-minded than you].

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