Non Participation

One of the biggest criticisms I’d field against my generation, one that certainly applies to myself, is that we have a tendency to refuse participation in imperfection. We notice the problems in political parties, in trades unions, in management, in organised religion even in voluntary organisations and civic societies and as a result we just don’t participate. We have political opinions, labour market interests, managerial philosophies, religious ideals and moral and social goals that cannot be achieved on individual scales, but we are terrified to be part of something bigger than ourselves (though we crave it more than anything) because we can see all to clearly, especially with the viewfinder of the internet, the myriad imperfections we’d be throwing our lot in with.

We are unable to commit to affiliation because it means picking in many cases a “lesser evil” and we cannot stain our philosophical purity with the messy substance of reality. Thus our existence is diminished. Without his co-operative nature man is little better off than an orangutang in the face of a palm oil plantation. Opting out of everything because it’s corrupted leaves everything as ripe pickings for the corrupt.

We try and overcome our lack of real connections by creating artificial connections, mediated connections, by linking up in networks which demand (seemingly, initially) little of us, that require no commitment and come with little to no risk, but these networks cannot substitute for formal organised groups. The modes of social control within them are sorely lacking, they are easily gamed and usually necessarily monetised. More importantly mediated networks ultimately belong to the mediator, whether the technologist (in the case of distributed “p2p” systems) or the owner of the machine. It demands little of us because  we’re just end consumers, not stakeholders, even when we create for the machine we are consuming the “opportunity” to be creative, to be seen, that little dopamine rush when someone clicks the “like” button. The machine expects nothing of us and we owe it nothing – no real bonds are forged.

It is a lack of humility, we see the motes in everyone’s eyes very clearly, and the log in ours? Well we had a tough time of it! Our home life was difficult and the teachers at school bullied us! Who wouldn’t have a log in a situation like that? It’s a distraction though because if we don’t work together there will be no-one to help us remove the motes in either of our eyes.

Quid est veritas

Apologies that if this post is a little choppy I’m writing on my mobile.

Amongst human beings there are many different methods for classifying information as true or perhaps valid versus not-true or invalid (which depending on your schema may not be untrue). One that is of enduring interest to me is the evaluation of truth or validity claims according to how much status belief or agreement will impart.

I’m not saying it’s a “good” way to make the distinction, but we have to admit it is probably the most popular. Nor is it simply a matter of believing whatever the ingroup you want to improve status with believes. That would be far too easy and easy things lead to status inflation.

Instead a set of rules are created for making validity evaluations, those who simply agree with the judgement of the group are in the lowest tier of status within the group. At higher levels it depends on ability to navigate the complex rules and making determinations of validity for the group.

At the very highest level of status people can actually change the rules by which truth is defined within the group, but if this is attempted without enough status it can lead to a loss of status or worse even splitting or disintegration of the group itself.

I am quite convinced that this status based method of evaluating ideas is the most important for most people. It’s a bit more complex than that, because we’re rarely only navigating our position in one group, we have to position ourselves in many different communities and identities. What strikes me about it though is how actually useless it is on the face of it for determining truth combined with how useful it has proven to be on a whole species level. Which is something I’d like to talk about more when I’m at a real keyboard.