16 August 2006

Meaning + Torture + Talking Points Memo

A few points. I'm totally sick of writing anything here. But this here is something like a refrigerator on which I can make magnetic poetry. Except instead of magnets, there's hyperlinks and stupid pictures parlayed from Google Images. And less imagery. Well, and when I'm done making magnetic poetry, I can't open up the computer monitor and get a beer and make a sandwich. Actualy, the two--blog and refrigeratormagnet poetry--are quite diff. Well.

A data dump. A thought landfill. Refuse and rubbish. I use the word rubbish, e.g., "Please show me the rubbish bin." What a fag. No one ever knows what I mean when I ask this. Fuck them. My point: I like to just dump things on here; the dumping gets me thinking. Veeeery similar to another great thought callisthenic.

I was reading the excellent Talking Points Memo, well, just a moment ago, and I meeting me was this.

Living in a major American city, I take it for granted that my wife and I live under a certain general threat of major terrorist attacks. In that sense I'm not really different from everyone else in the country to this or that degree. Back in late 2001, when I was living in DC and we were in the midst of the Anthrax scare and various reports of sleeper cells in the United States, I remember having moments where I hoped the FBI and CIA were doing everything imaginable to shut these guys down, whatever the constitution might say.

Now, here's the point I want to focus in on. I want to make a basic distinction between the things we might think or feel impulsively when in the grip of fear and things we really think ought to be done. I never thought we should be torturing people or rounding people up. What I am saying is that I remember the atmosphere of those days just after 9/11 and the primal gut instincts that made part of me wish those things were happening.

All of which I agree with. This post reminded me of Wittgenstein's muttering about games and intention in the little footnote-ish thing at the bottom of a page of the PI towards the beginning. I'm not going to look it up on Amazon's booksearch (a great tool for paper writing), but it says roughly,

--Teach my kid a game.


--WTF!?! You taught him dice! I didn't mean for you to teach him dice! Jesus Christ..

--But did you have before your mind as you said, 'Teach my kid a game' that you didn't want me to teach him dice?

The answer, which is suppressed, is no. You did not have before your mind the prohibition against teaching the kid dice as you told me to teach him a game. You just didn't. But you meant for me not to teach him. Those are two different processes. The clash of forms of life that result from these misunderstandings ground many a shitty Hollywood film. E.g., culture-clash buddy cop films.

--Let's listen to some tunes.


[Radio blares hip-hop.]

--What is this?!? I said music! That's not music, that's just... noise!

The meaning of "music", like "game" is in a sense predetermined. But the words are not determined by a mental image. They're determined by form of life, perhaps. (Among other things, granted.)

So when I say,

--Stop terrorism!

and then someone, i.e., Bush, goes on to, like, hook up electrodes to prisoners' balls and put feeding tubes down hunger-strikers' throats and all sorts of dumbshit shit, well, I want to say,

--But I didn't mean for you to do all that! I just want to be able to get out of bed and go to work in the morning without being so scared shitless that I have to down a fifth of Scotch and smoke a fucking pack of cigarettes. I just don't want to be scared!! But I didn't want you to, like, kill people... Sheesh.

But the liberal response versus the fascist response versus the conservative response, well, all the responses, they show a certain difference in form of life. OK. But how is this interesting? I don't know. This blog is my pot, and this post is my dump and I'm just trying to think.

I was talking to my thesis advisor on Monday, and I was pretty concerned with relativism/nihilism being the natural outcome of my project. From this thought I got to thinking maybe Wittgenstein was in a Heideggerian anti-rationalist. Wasn't he just saying that actions speak and words obfuscate? But people all act in different ways. I'd never pull a Joe Stalin and throw people in the gulags. Etc., etc. But my advisor made a good point: The Big Three totalitarian dictators of the 20c., Stalin, Mao and Hitler, offered reason and reason and reason. They were reason givers. Maybe their reason prodded them into doing unethical things. That is, maybe instead of being unethical people, they could have been ethical actors, in fact, they were ethical actors, until their policy decisions forced their hands into acting unethically. Or something like that. Normal people merely act, and those actions are surrounded by a moral context against which we rarely struggle. We know right from wrong, but this knowledge is not manifested in Hamlet-lite inner monologues treating of delight and deception; our ethical knowledge is manifest in our actions.

If we obviate reasons, then all we're left with are unjustified actions. And this is the fertile crescent of human life, the dirty gaping maw from which all significance springs. Words just try to tidy up things. I'm exhausted. But, as you can see, this all was going to be pulled together. Right.

Conclussion: Roughly speaking, people who were trained within the generally accepted parameters of a given society will be possessed of an indubitable ethical framework that they generally won't question and from which they won't stray. But, when this framework is transgressed, the first sign will be some sort of reason-giving maneuvre.