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Monday, February 27, 2006

Flagellants and modern discourse

Earlier today, I remembered European history from the days when the bubonic plague ran unchecked across Europe, cutting huge swathes of death across the continent. Specifically, I remembered the Flagellants. I'm sure you may be asking yourself what a bunch of crazed religious zealots have to do with modern American political discourse, since the former were people who flogged themselves in penance, and the most prominent voices in American politics on both sides of the aisle can barely spell the word. The parallels become obvious, however, when you realize that they both, either figuratively or literally, have a fondness for beating themselves up over things that they could either resolve in a better manner or are not responsible for. Knowing what I know now, I would be extremely annoyed with the Flagellants, especially since their spirit lives on today. I've about had enough of people whining about how we're a plague on the earth, or how we've allowed are kids to become a bunch of degenerates, or how life isn't fair because they didn't get the Playstation 2 game, two big fucking SUVs, a $500,000 house with a three-car garage and a bathroom for each bedroom and a home theatre that belongs at a cinema, and their kids are running all over them and are in the local "youth center" or whatever the local euphemism for the juvenile detention facility for the third time in six months. Get the fuck over it!!! Support companies that are doing the vital basic research into alternative fuels, support the makers of the alternative fuels and greener technologies, be glad you're alive and that you don't have to pay as much in taxes as the rich, and DISCIPLINE YOUR GODDAMNED KIDS BEFORE THEY BECOME DELINQUENTS!!! Jesus H. Christ. And above all, remember that shit happens, and if people seem to be teaming up against you, the reason may be that you have something they want, but the reality is you're probably being an asshole. Jesus H. Christ!

Who gives a flying fuck why problems took place, or at least, who should give a good goddamn until the problem is resolved? The best advice is to sit the fuck down, shut the fuck up, and then start working on a solution to the problem, whatever the problem is. Leave history for the historians. Look to see what solutions may have worked in the past, and if they don't work today, toss them out and come up with something new. Analysis can always wait. The same is not always true of problemsolving.


Sheryl said...

The reason it is important who caused the problems is that they still control our public resources. If the people who have being squandering those resources were retired, then I would be far less likely to continue pointing the finger at them.

But I do agree that we all have a responsibility in changing things and that a lot of people have skewed priorities these days.

1138 said...

Problemsolving without Analysis is simply running in the dark with scissors.
You don't solve the problem, you create more- and worse problems.
Recrimination is a part of analysis, it isn't pleasant and seems to only inflame but what it is, is an attempt to get to root cause and actually solve the problem.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

And sometimes, recriminations are an end unto themselves, or at least, that's what I've learned from paying attention to politics for roughly the last 20 years. As always, the questions are ones of defining the problem, defining the solution, and defining what constitutes each. That's a tricky enough question in the real world at times, but in politics, is often nigh unto impossible because in politics, perception truly is reality, often with little or no regard for what the facts actually reflect.

My main complaint is one about the American society and our penchant for beating ourselves up, largely over things we have either little or no control over, or over things which we have chosen to abdicate our ability to control. No wonder the rest of the world, those that don't hate us at least, think we're crazy.

Sheryl said...

I think recrimination is bad if you would have made the same choices and would continue to make the same choices. In that case it is hypocrisy to point the finger.

If, however, you would have made different choices and would likely continue to make different choices if you were given control of the resources, then I think it is perfectly fair to point out when bad policy leads to bad circumstances.

I don't see a reason to let the kid who plays with matches continue to lead the pack.

Snave said...

MC, you do make a pretty decent point if what you're suggesting we do is live in the "here and now" and make the best of it. That's all a person can do, really, at least on an individual basis.

I do like to try and make opinions based on what has happened in the past, i.e. I like to try and learn from history, and I also tend to worry about the future based on what I know of the past and present. While I may not be around to see what things are like 20 or 30 years into the future, I would nonetheless like it to be a future that is hospitable to my children, to the children of others, and to their kids as well. By analyzing problems we face today based on the past and present, I think we can all do things that will make for a better future. You mention a few of those things in your post.

I think the key may well be in knowing how much to beat oneself up, or whether to beat oneself up at all. It may well rest in doing just what we CAN do to make things better. A leftist approach is to realize we have a good world and a great country, and that things can be made better for everyone. America is a great nation, but not perfect... there will always be room for improvement in anything. We don't "hate America", there are just some things currently going on in America that we don't feel optimize the future for everybody. Maybe things are optimized for a select few, but not for enough of us. As I see it, the problem lies in how to make things better not just now, but also in the years to come, for all of us.

Whining ISN'T going to make things better. Constructive criticism and subsequent constructive action probably has a better chance.

But then there is the concept of "whining", and how to define that. I don't think that repeatedly pointing out the faults of the Bush administration and the neoconservatives necessarily constitutes "whining", because I believe that by the repeated pointing out of such things, even if I'm a feeble drop in the bucket, I'm helping people to hear a message I believe should make thinking folks stop and consider the question of "How can we make things better?" Again, you mention some of those things in your post.

Having solutions is something the left needs to work on. If the left's tack is only to point out the horrific deficiences of Bush et al, then that tends to at least appear as "whining" if it doesn't constitute "whining" outright.

If "whining" constitutes repeatedly complaining about something but not offering solutions to the problem, the right is just as bad as the left. A great example is their whining about the lack of moral values in association with how Hollywood is so awful. As J. Marquis suggested, why don't they use some of their own vast monies to make films based on their "causes"? How about some blockbusters about Roe v. Wade, Terri Schiavo or tax cuts? How about an anti-homosexual epic? They can put their money where their mouth is, and do something about it! Heh...

You are cute when you're angry, BTW. 8-)> But seriously, I can see where you're coming from.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

Thanks, Snave, and that was pretty much my point. Though truth be told, I was being far more general than even politics and expressing a small part of my philosophical beliefs. I figure the question of "How do we prevent this in the future?" is of secondary importance to the question of "How do we fix this now?" For that, looking to history is all well, good, and necessary, and may provide valuable insights, but we shouldn't be afraid to chart a new course when necessary.

Assign blame as the evidence supports, give credit to those as the evidence supports, but we are wrong to beat ourselves up over stupid things. Self-pity and self-loathing are indulgences we all take from time to time, and I claim the opposite of innocence in that, but it's ultimately useless and counterproductive.