Postmodern classic?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Simplicity versus Analysis

Man, I guess I've been in a creative mood recently- or perhaps I'm just getting into a better blog rhythm where I can be more prolific. But as we all know, quantity is not quality....

Professor Norm Geras of Normblog has been an amazingly articulate writer, and coming to prominence most recently in the aftermath of London's 7/7. His recent series started with an article in the Guardian (based on this post) and focuses on the logical reasoning of apologia, part 1 and part 2.

It's funny how you read these logical formulas, how so-called 'progressives' seem more comfortable blaming Bush and Blair for the Muslim anger. Professor Geras breaks it down simply as 'root causes are important', but no excuse for targeting innocents. His most striking point to my mind was when he discusses the excuses we make for these bombers-

"Second, most of those who opposed the Afghan and/or Iraq wars, though some amongst them did let us know how very angry they were, have not resorted to the bomb and the wrecking of other lives. The vast majority of them, in truth, haven't even engaged in civil disobedience over it. They have remained within the framework of standard democratic procedure: of protest, argument, use of their votes, and so on. Since these people do not invoke anger on their own behalf towards explaining why they might (one day) violate the usual democratic norms as well as other human beings, why are they so ready to indulge others with this type of understanding? If anger is not a sufficient cause in the way they themselves react, how do they judge it such a mammoth cause of what the bombers do?"

This is intriguing and important for trying to analyze the political climate we are living in. Yet this alone is not the reason of my interest in his semantic investigation.

For me, I wonder how we came to this point where you have to get into sophisticated (or perhaps not so) reasoning models to understand why people do awful things. Yet there are assumptions inherent to this, looking more like 'subtextual, psychological' justifications lurking below the surface. Radical politics, to me, seems a most amazing method to mask our tribal belonging and will to dominate seething under the veneer of our civilization. I remember reading 'Adbusters' and thinking 'Yeah! Those F***ing corporations, man!' Then 9/11 happened and these people started saying some whacky stuff that I couldn't stomach- I remember subscribing to The Nation when they offered 6 free issues, but after the 2nd one I canceled. I can get into that more another day.

Analysis is important to uncover these assumptions. One must constantly assess, evaluate and reorganize. But action is simple- going forth without reserve, entirely responsible for your actions along with your failures. Which is why I'm so attracted to Stoic, silent tradition- also present in Zen and certain Asian warrior philosophies that certainly helped me during difficult times.

I'm conflicted- thankful that I'm ending this introverted academic process to return to a world of action, although grateful for the tools and resources I've become acquainted with. In the 'Academy' it's safe to live a sterile and isolated 'life of the mind', and easy to criticize those who are making solutions and problems. It becomes aggravating as they try to suck you in, leading you to conclude that all people are like that. But they're not. So if I reject analysis for passion, I'm rejecting the work of people like Nietzsche coutering Hegel, or Friedman countering Marx. It's not so easy to leave a simple life.

Just as the Greeks and Romans did many years before, I believe Americans are rediscovering the value of the individual. Have we been in a soporific haze under the utopian visions of Marx and his followers this past 100 years, or has it always been this way? A general conflict between those who want the state to absolve them of their moral obligation, or those who bristle under the restrictions of the state? Certainly, one does become immune to this rhetoric after a while. And then are we to inevitably forget and rediscover? I suppose this is the historians dilemma.

It seems that is life: you can't live without either the insight of analysis or the simplistic power of action, but must wrestle with it always.


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