Thursday, August 30, 2007

I don't like talking about my flair

Well, the really big news since my last post has been all very personal stuff. So call this self-absorbed if you will, but I've very little of general interest or significance to report.

Of course, the most significant event in the last week has been meeting back up with my closest friend from way back when. That is, my closest friend in high school and most of college. At some point 12 years ago or so, we ended up losing touch with one another, and Google was of no help reuniting us. Facebook to the rescue: we're suddenly back in contact and finding that our friendship appears to be quite strong enough to overcome little things like more than a decade of neglect.

All this reuniting with people has gotten me thinking. I mentioned this earlier, but it's striking how easy it is to neglect people. I never do so maliciously, but I frequently get caught up in day-to-day life and reponsibility, and then suddenly it's been several years since I spoke to someone.

Part of that is just my personality. Like my father or my uncles, I am quite willing for someone I haven't spoken to for years to just appear, and I will drop what I'm doing to help them out or whatever. Well, I suppose there are limits on that sort of thing; but I'm quite willing to welcome a friend back in (so to speak) to whatever place they once held, with no hard feelings about the years of silence. I don't assume that a lack of contact is indicative of offense given.

But to look at it from anyone else's point of view, that's exactly how it's interpreted. So I'm now endeavouring to maintain what long-distance relationships are still active.

The fact is, I have been very priviledged to meet a great many interesting friends in my short life; and frankly, I've been blessed to have made several friends that become fast and intimate friends very quickly. Trev is no doubt the foremost of these, but there have been four or five people like that over the last twenty years. And that sort of friendship is worth a lot more than a curmudgeon like myself is prone to think.

But enough introspection!

I honestly wonder whether that sort of friendship is precisely what's missing in this degenerate society. Why are close friends always assumed to be lovers? It's exactly the same problem with people who like kids: society assumes they're paedophiles, just because the vast majority of the culture are philistines who can't comprehend a genuine interest in another person's well-being without some sort of self-interest. Sadly, the North American culture in which I live is aggressively, almost offensively individualistic. Self-centeredness is a virtue; genuine concern for other people is a flaw.

Oh sure, you can have the politically-correct general philanthropy of the political left wing. But that's not genuine concern: those same bleeding-heart liberals are generally unable to actually quote the names or personal details of the victims they so vigilantly advocate. I am positive that's because they're not interested in the person, but in some sort of abstract ideal the person represents. A real person who has real problems is not the concern of the political activist: he or she is interested in the Single Mother or the Iliterate Man or the Native American as an ideal, not as a real person. They ignore the fact that people are individuals, and see them as statistics.

Well, that turned into a rant.


Shan said...

All hail Facebook, the great equalizer, the tenuous brilliant thread that connects us with our blissful, transcendent past.

And I'm totally kicking some serious ass on the trivia challenge. Naturally.

Interesting last paragraph. As a bleeding heart liberal, I can honestly say I do care about people, but you're also right in assuming they represent an idea - are part of a cause. Sure, that's true. But it doesn't necessarily follow that liberals are hypocrites or insincere or whatever, just because they are concerned with social issues as a whole. Just to pick an example at random, I don't have to know the names or details of every little African girl to know that female genital mutilation is wrong, and take a stand against it.

clumsy ox said...

Shan, the problem I have with liberalism in America as a whole (don't even get me started on conservatism in America: they're every bit as bad) is, the most fundamental desire people seem to have is to be understood as an individual. Liberalism strips people of this, making them essentially disinteresting instances of some demographic or another. So to the liberal mind, I am entirely defined my race, age, education, and income level. And so are you.

This dehumanizing results in a very clinical, destructive worldview. It is philosophically the same worldview that has resulted in eugenics or genocide in the past.

Of course it's all bollocks: people are fundamentally individuals. Yes, there are influences on behaviour, yada yada. But in the end, people are individuals who make choices, etc.

Now, conservatism (at least in America) takes the opposite error, assuming people get what they deserve. This is fundamentally untrue, but it is a comfortable belief. Every well-off person I've ever met would protest loudly they worked hard for what they had... And it's a lot easier to ignore the single young mother in the ghetto when one has convinced oneself that she got exactly what she deserved.

But my point is simply that society as a whole seems to grant the status of "Person" only to themselves. So people act like no one else is actually a person. This is almost pure egotism, as David Eddings would say. But I am convinced it is the driving force behind the almost pathological discourtesy and self-centeredness that is so prevalent.

clumsy ox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
clumsy ox said...

Actually, that came out a little wrong. I didn't mean to say liberalism per se was behind eugenics and genocide (although I am not convinced it wasn't). I was trying to say that the same purely mechanical view of people that was the basis of such abominations is what underlies liberalism.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule.

And I'm generally considered a liberal...

Shan said...

My theory is that with the number of people there are in the world, some kind of classification system is bound to emerge. After all, it's easier to deal with millions if you break them down into their component parts.

And of course the bottom line is money, as ever: a skeptic would argue we are more easily marketable in categories.

Not that I think there is a workable alternative - I think what you are describing is just the way of the world. Deplorable, or not. And I'd be interested to hear more on your apparent theorem that conservativism is any different. As far as I can see, the 'got what they deserved' thing and the demographic compartmentalizing aren't mutually exclusive.

What a strange discussion we are having.

clumsy ox said...


I'm not sure about the term "discussion". It started as "pontification" and progressed to "rant".

I've been neither rigourous nor very careful, which means my contributions, at least, aren't worthy of such an exalted title.

clumsy ox said...

Well, in case I didn't make it clear, I consider the problems we have ("we" being somewhat loosely defined) are politically intractable. That is, both conservatives and liberals are trying to solve problems that are way out of their league.

And while the Religious Right would be horrified to hear me say it, invading every other country in the world won't solve them either :)

The fact is, the world is following the course that was set when Adam turned his back on God. There have been other events in the intervening history, many of them significant, but the course has been set and we've deviated very little from it.

I don't expect to see real, workable solutions until Jesus Christ comes and sets up a literal kingdom (not that there isn't a kingdom now, it's just not come into full fruition). And the interesting thing about that is---as far as I can tell from the Scripture---the people of that time (who could actually be alive today) won't like the perfect government. But I digress.