last wednesday i was finishing up acting class at Macalester when my tummy began to rumble. time to stuff some food into my abdomen! despite receiving some 200 hours of acting training from professor Harry Waters Jr since last year he and I had not yet grabbed lunch together – big mistake. we walked down to the St. Clair broiler & sat down in a booth next to the uncomfortably large fish mounted upon the wall.
mr marvin berry & i discussed some of the more topical/superfluous/symptomatic elements of our conscious experience: how things are going lately, a few stories about youth & a bit of personal background, etc. it was the typical type of conversation that most humans have. amidst our conversation about parenting, teaching, and life there was an older gentleman sitting one booth over reading a book. when we finished our dessert & got up to leave the fellow, wearing a red sweater and a friendly smile, got our attention.
“Sorry to interrupt you two, but did I hear you talking about teaching a few times?”
“Well, yes, you did!”
“Are you a teacher? Or, I mean, do you teach? I teach. I used to be a professor over here at St. Thomas, which is why I ask.”
& so the conversation began. Harry had to leave after a brief period of time but professor Tom Sullivan and I went on to chat for over an hour. he’s a philosopher who is extremely well respected and well versed in the areas of philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and theology. it was quite enjoyable to have an extended conversation about consciousness with someone who is equally (or more) informed, intrigued, and stumped by the hard problem of consciousness. we discussed the merits of nagel and chalmers (duh) and the shortcomings of koch and crick (sorry, boys). Tom was nice enough to offer an extended explanation of what he finds to be the problem with creating a theory of consciousness. In a later blog post I will lay that out (or perhaps just upload my notes from the conversation).
Politics. At 23 years old I don’t even know what that refers to…here are my thoughts on what the word denotes.
It has been my experience since birth that human beings participate in various behaviors – stuff like talking, assembling, organizing, making group decisions, and establishing power over one another. In the United States, these behaviors may be seen to fit into a kind of system. The “politics” to which I am referring in this tiny little note, then, is perhaps a system of behaviors related to modern democratic structures: delegation of absolute power to a small minority, the frequent trespasses and problems in the ruling minority, municipal/state/federal elections of the ruling class, consumption of political material from the mainstream media by the voting class, etc. Whether or not these are actual behaviors, or an actual system, is TBD later — and to satisfy the biologically-oriented, the specific bodily processes that may be involved in political behavior will be enumerated later as well. But the biology of voting behavior is quite obviously a dead end — Mostly, I want to voice an uncanny feeling that strikes me whenever over-zealous constituents scream at the televised debates. I want to talk briefly about the creepiest part of politics by far.
I am talking about the fervent participation in politics. This is the nightly argument over candidates and policy for the duration of a 24-month election season. This is the individual who has a preference in “elected official.” This is the “I Voted” sticker, the quotation of politicians during significant events or memorials, the act of campaigning and canvassing, and the overwhelming acceptance of this system on the part of the individual. Some people choose to “not see politics” – and some see political forces, and the influence of political forces, at play beyond the specific “political behaviors” aforementioned.These are the individuals who might explain to you that federal government controls everything, and subsequently stress to you the importance of being very involved in the voting process. The following is an observation of mine about those faithful to the modern political infrastructure: as the perceived size, influence, and permanence of the US Government increases so does the perceived need to participate. Conversely, in areas of the United States where Government is smaller or less involved it seems that individuals feel less obligated to adhere to that system. Furthermore, it seems clear that in 2016 the majority of white Americans have no expectation that the Gov’t will go anywhere, change significantly, or disappear.
Is this strange? In 2016 it might be considered common sense that American citizens are involved in the political process. It might be considered common sense that the Government is there to make the rules, and no one would reasonably deny that the modern Political Machine does have tremendous power over the personal lives of most people. But the idea that ALL people participate in politics in one way or another, or that all humans bounded by the geographical regions of the United States have fair political standing or influence, is wrong. It is quite obviously the case that the current circumstance of politics are not a de facto state of being, and that not all individual humans personally affected by it are willing participants. So what are we working with? What is a system that claims absolute authority, ownership, and control of its parts? What is a system that is governed by theocrats, controlled by scripture, and judged by Puritan Ministers? It’s a religion. Our infrastructure, our laws, our legislative bodies, our voting system, and our law enforcement – and the faithful, unquestioning constituents therein — certainly comprise a kind of Church.
Each and every person in the United States, and many people outside of it, are locked in this Church. Being sequestered in this way means simply that decisions, living circumstances, and interactions, laws, social expectations, and most aspects of human life are at least somewhat affected the pews, the altar, and the available resources. This does not mean to imply that the Church has complete authority – Did I not just say in the previous paragraph that there are many people, and behaviors, that have absolutely no intention to participate? All I mean to suggest is that in the same way a Church might limit your range of motion, how much light you are exposed to, what type of music you hear, what you read, who you speak to, and how many experiences you might have, so too our political system inhibits and specifies what experiences you are allowed to have.
The Red vs Blue, conservative vs liberal, Bernie vs Hilary vs Trump vs Carson game is simply a war of faith systems. The most unfortunate repercussion of this is the incredibly narrow range of opinion between people. A quick and honest glance at the state of politics suggests to anyone with a clear head that all of our extremely lively, passionate, and “varied” opinions fall into a pathetically narrow spectrum – within the confines of the Church. The greatest scheme of all time may be this consistent ability of leaders & aristocrats to limit or channel the thinking of the less able. And even though the citizens of the United States (especially minorities) are brutalized by an ancient way of decision making, I would guess most are under the impression that the political machine is advanced and effective. But we are, in the context of any society of the future, perhaps more stone-aged than we would like to admit. Why are our standards for ethical political behavior so low? Why is it that after being trapped in the Church, people begin to believe the Church is the world?
Maybe it’s our toys. The glittering and gleaming advance of technology, particularly electronics, has given most wide-eyed believers the impression that we are leaps and bounds ahead of our biological cousins. Even within the scientific community there are those who firmly segregate humans from the rest of the animal kingdom on account of our spoken and written language abilities. Humans are so enthralled with the advent of the iPhone that most of them don’t seem to notice that homelessness, hunger, violence, war, and corruption aren’t going anywhere. We are even in a position where our one and only planet is being damaged on account of the rules of the Church. Off in the future our great-great-great grandchildren, if they get a chance to inherit this planet,are certainly looking back on our stone-aged morals, our brutish criminalization of behavior, expression, self, and race with disgust. Our most idealized version of fair rule and control is Democracy, which can be better described as “Majority rules.” There are other ways of doing things.
With the premise held in mind that our society’s political system is existent but not necessary, nor an expression of any natural or native human state, it becomes abundantly clear that this system is open for criticism. It’s a religion, and not merely in the theocratic sense. Even if Church and State (or, Church and Church) were separated we would still be living in a religious system. The Christian flavor of our country may eventually be replaced with better tastes, but the bureaucracy itself is also a faith system.
Are not polling booths like pews? Political rallies like sermons? Leaders, idols? etc etc etc
(It doesn’t help that half of the individuals in office wipe their butts and live their lives with scripture, either)
I’m done thinking about this. Hopefully at least some of this will make sense tomorrow.