In the last quarter of my life, I just hope the world is really changing. The promises of childhood seem largely broken, and the world run by criminal bankers and some ‘mechanism’ like Michael Betancourt‘s ‘agnotologic capitalism and the aura of the digital’. This latter phrase means something like ‘lying spin and insider trading’ to me. Steve Bennett at thinblueline is on thew case to some fair degree in his book ‘Crime of the Century’. Terms like ‘agnotologic’ pass most of us by and even as an academic I’m tired of such ways of speaking. Honesty has rarely (if ever) been the real best policy; yet over my lifetime we have moved further and further away from any possibility of trying to live with the truth, or at least what we might call a ‘communicative’ rather than ‘systemic’ rationality (terms from Jurgen Habermas). We might be able to live very different lives if we could recognize and speak with honesty, rather than function through ‘manners’ (I have Norbert Elias in mind here).
One doesn’t have to read Betancourt, Habermas and Elias, or use the kind of language in the paragraph above to understand something is very rotten in the State of Denmark. Indeed, the academic codes involved in citation do more harm than good these days. Often, the real code is merely a statement that the writer is educated enough to be harmless, that she has read learned tosh and discovered how to reformulate it in the farcical text engine of small-world academic thieving. I’m all for a better read world, but we have to shape up and remember a quarter of our people (in countries where education is free and compulsory) can’t read and write well enough to fill in forms. Insisting on high, unachievable literacy and numeracy as a democratic solution to anything is fatuous, as is dropping standards to pretend we have a properly educated population. Most people are not fitted to do well in the schooling we provide and pretty much insist on.
I wonder whether schooling could be redefined to ensure a greater recognition that human life is essentially repetitive, and that most of what we think has been thought before, recorded and yet remains well hidden to most individuals undergoing schooling. Most of us will only learn in the very limited and selfish sense , and only a tiny part of this will be connected with what might be available to us all if education was not so entangled with the freakish madness of our lack of grip on human nature and our enslavement in pretension. Greek and other traditions of thinking discovered ages back that argument does not produce answers, but rather lots of arguments that need to be worked on. Pyrrho was a key figure in this kind of skepticism. I can safely ask most audiences if they have heard of him, safe in the knowledge I could tell them anything I don’t know about him as though expert in the field!
To understand what I’m trying to put forward, I wouldn’t ask people to read up on ancient philosophers. We have to move away from idiot notions of the philosophers’ stone, or stuff Indiana Jones might unearth. The place to start is probably with arguments that clash with cosy common sense in our culture. The Keiser Report is an example I use. All episodes can be found at – http://rt.com/programs/keiser-report/ – and it is weird enough to generate other issues about argument that need to be closer to the fore. One might say the broad message, often shouted by Keiser as though he is mad, is that terrorist bankers have taken over the world and are ass big a threat to us now as when they were funding Nazi Germany to force war upon us for their profit. These days, they destabilize and manipulate markets through war and super-algorithms. Goldman-Sachs and JP Thompson replace the term ‘global Jewish finance’. The big question that should develop in watching alternative propaganda like Max Keiser, or any deep academic reading concerns why we have so little of any of the alternatives in our mainstream. I wonder, as an academic taken to the road, why I find almost no argument in our mainstream media at all, let alone anything of interest.