Monday, March 07, 2005


Posted by goatchurch at 6:56 AM
I was on the laptop phone to a good friend the other day. If there is there a malaise in society it affects all of us. And there is. You'd have to be a fool, or possibly paid to [be a] fool, to deny it. Never in my lifetime (and quite a few others') has our political class been so demonstrably disconnected from reality. They have not even been able to concoct a tenable Official Narrative that doesn't contradict the feelings and immediate memory of the majority of the people.

What is the Official Narrative? The Official Narrative is the current explanation of history in the present day, as stood up by the powerful: the TV presenters, newspaper reporters, the town mayor, your teachers, your boss. The Official Narrative is sometimes called "Common Knowledge". Anyone who denies it is made to feel an outcast, a fool, a bloody-minded ideologue, someone who can't be trusted to report what they see with their own senses. We are social animals. Our ability to live together comes from the fact that we can all arrive at the same reality, and go to the water hole to drink at the same time in safety.

Who controls the Official Narrative? This is a distracting question. We can be sure that technology, money, and the business of managing the vast population that we have become, has contaminated it in the same way as it has contaminated the food we eat. There is no reason to suppose that FoxNuisance TV (and all the other colourful channels) has not damaged our mass psychology as much as McDonalds has damaged our physiology. The latter pushes food that tastes great, is addictive, and kills. The former has found a way to impose an Official Narrative -- a mistaken Common Knowledge -- onto you and your neighbours so effectively you can't turn it off and discover your own collective opinion among your group of peers. There is no room for an opinion based on your own experiences, your own individual Private Narratives, that comes together into a consistent whole.

When your Private Narrative is divorced from the Official Narrative of your Human Herd, you will be sick. You will either feel that there's something wrong with you, or you will feel that there's something wrong with the whole rest of the world. Neither is true. Your mistake is in believing that what you experience as the Official Narrative is worthy of respect.

Once you have made this mistake, two things follow: you feel a malaise with all things in contact with the narrative, and you feel contempt for any alternative to the Official Narrative because it's mad, bad, radical, deranged, and sick -- as the Official Narrative and all you have invested in it has taught you.

The cure, you feel, is for the Official Narrative you believe in to be repaired back into a state which you can live with. But that's like trying to fix the whole world. You can't fix your own psychological problems by fixing the world first, obviously. In the meantime, you can get into all these imaginary narratives in SF that have no connection with reality and do not in any way challenge the contradictions in the Official Narrative. It's okay to have escapism. There's nothing wrong with escapism. But there's no progress with it either.

There is a reality out there. There is a science. There is mundane fiction based on science. This science includes the science of sociology. Science exists wherever there are propositions open to testing and refutation.

You can and should apply the experimental method to small parts of the Official Narrative, as it impinges on your life. This will make you iller at ease at first, because it proves you cannot trust it. If you are lucky it may create an openning to one of the alternative narratives to the Official Narrative. Like any scientific revolution, people had to know about the alternative theories so they could seize them when experiments finally proved the current theory false.

Maybe fixing the world is not the solution. Fixing the perception of the world is. The world remains the same throughout, even though it feels like it's shifting.

Sources: The Bounds of the Expressible, chapter 3 from Necessary Illusions.


Blogger S.M. Stirling said...

"If there is there a malaise in society it affects all of us."

-- in the immortal words of Tonto, 'What you mean _we_, white man?"

I don't feel any particular malaise, myself.

The world is far from perfect, but so what? It never was and never will be, and gruesome experience has shown us that utopianism merely paves the way to hell.

As one V. Havel said some time ago, "Ours is a revolution against Utopia."

On the whole, I'm fairly satisfied with things as they are. More people than ever before, both relatively and absolutely, enjoy freedom and prosperity, and there's every propsect that this trend will continue.

In point of fact, malaise is what's usually felt by those with a sense of frustrated entitlement -- those who aren't on top and take it as a monstrous existential wound in the nature of things that people in general reject their ineffably superior wisdom and enlightenment.

Chill, dude.

5/31/2005 10:05:00 PM  
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