Normalizing the Absurd

Posted: June 11, 2022 in Conspiracy, Culture, Ethics, Mental Health, Politics
Tags: , , , , ,

Most poets in the West believe that some sort of democracy is preferable to any sort of totalitarian state and accept certain political obligations … but I cannot think of a single poet of consequence whose work does not, either directly or by implication, condemn modern civilisation as an irremediable mistake, a bad world which we have to endure because it is there and no one knows how it could be made into a better one, but in which we can only retain our humanity in the degree to which we resist its pressures. — W.H. Auden

A while back, I made an oblique reference (a comment elsewhere, no link) to a famous Krishnamurti quote: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Taken on its face, who would agree to be swept up in the madness and absurdity of any given historical moment? Turns out, almost everyone — even if that means self-destruction. The brief reply to my comment was along the lines of “Why shouldn’t you or I also make mental adjustments to prevailing sickness to obtain peace of mind and tranquility amidst the tumult?” Such an inversion of what seems to me right, proper, and acceptable caused me to reflect and recall the satirical movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The full title is not often given, but the forgotten second part is what’s instructive (e.g., mutually assured destruction: MAD). Events spinning out of control? Nothing any individual can do to restore sanity? Stop squirming and embrace it.

That’s one option when faced with the prospect of futile resistance, I suppose. Give in, succumb, and join the party (more like a rager since the beginning of the Cold War). I also recognize that I’m not special enough to warrant any particular consideration for my intransigence. Yet it feels like self-betrayal to abandon the good character I’ve struggled (with mixed success) to build and maintain over the course of a lifetime. Why chuck all that now? Distinguishing character growth from decay it not always so simple. In addition, given my openness to new ideas and interpretations, established bodies of thought (often cultural consensus) are sometimes upended and destabilized by someone arguing cogently for or against something settled and unexamined for a long time. And then there is the epistemological crisis that has rendered sense-making nearly impossible. That crisis is intensified by a variety of character types acting in bad faith to pollute the public sphere and drive false narratives.

For instance, the show trial public hearings just begun regarding the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol (or whatever it’s being called, I prefer “Storming of the Capitol”) are commonly understood, at least from one side of the political spectrum, as a deliberate and brazen attempt to brainwash the public. I decline to tune in. But that doesn’t mean my opinions on that topic are secure any more than I know how true and accurate was the 2020 election that preceded and sparked the Jan. 6 attack. Multiple accounts of the election and subsequent attack aim to convert me (opinion-wise) to one exclusive narrative or another, but I have no way to evaluate narrative claims beyond whatever noise reaches me through the mainstream media I try to ignore. Indeed, those in the streets and Capitol building on Jan. 6 were arguably swept into a narrative maelstrom that provoked a fairly radical if ultimately harmless event. No one knew at the time, of course, exactly how it would play out.

So that’s the current state of play. Ridiculous, absurd events, each with competing narratives, have become the new normal. Yours facts and beliefs do daily battle with my facts and beliefs in an ideological battle of all against all — at least until individuals form into tribes declare their political identity and join that absurdity.

  1. The great acceleration is underway. And not in a good way.

  2. wjastore says:

    I’ve also declined to tune into the Capitol “storming” hearings. It’s obvious political theater.

    Trump was wrong on January 6th. He exposed himself as a petulant sore loser who only cares about his own self-image. He threw his own VP under the bus. What more do I need to know?

    • Brutus says:

      Trump exposed himself as a self-interested, petulant, sore loser in the 1980s. Somebody’s awful parody of a successful businessman, long string of bankruptcies and abandoned products and projects notwithstanding.

  3. Stephen L says:

    “… but I have no way to evaluate narrative claims …”. Hmmm. May I propose critical thinking and deductive reasoning as in —

    Corrupt politicians should not hold office.
    Trump is a corrupt politician.
    Trump should not hold office.

    What is there to evaluate? No rational argument gets by this reasoning.

    Jan 6 was “ultimately harmless event”? Did you just flush ‘peaceful and orderly transition of power’ down the toilet and wipe your derrière with the American Constitution?

    I wonder what happens to bloggers under totalitarian state censorship? Asking for a friend.

    • Brutus says:

      Your comment is about issues, not ad hominem attacks, so I’ll indulge you. However, your sarcasm is definitely in the bait and troll territory. If you want to interact with me, you will need to restrain yourself. Otherwise, I will ignore or block you.

      Narratives surrounding the Storming of the Capitol are what I cannot evaluate. They largely originate from bogus consensus legacy media and online wackaloons. I have no direct knowledge of what occurred. (Anything where I dohave direct knowledge is typically at wide variance from what gets reported.) Evaluating individual politicians (or newscasters) for fitness to hold office is a tangential issue.

      The harmlessness of the event is only in comparison to its potential to have cost many more lives and undermined the legitimacy of government in its entirety. Everyone recognized that potential, but I downgrade the event to a stunt because once the building was breached and occupied, it appears to have been mostly shenanigans (selfies and whatnot) before vacating the premises. Had insurrectionists stayed on site for a few days and had to be dislodged, a massacre was likely. None of that happened.

      • Stephen L says:

        Yes my comments are about the issues. My sarcasm mocks what you are saying, and the flippant and dismissive attitude you take to what you are saying. You may not agree with this but it is there in your language:

        You characterize the hearings as a ‘show trial’ (why the strikeout if that is what you think? And if it’s not what you think, why leave it in?) How can you arrive at this opinion if you haven’t ‘tuned in’?

        You characterize the narratives in your response to me as ‘bogus’ coming from the media or ‘wackaloons’. Did the Jan 6 riot not leave 5 dead? Was it not an attempted insurrection? How is any of this a harmless ‘stunt’ and ‘shenanigans’? I criticize your characterization as a whitewash of what happened.

        I would disagree that ‘who should hold political office?’ is beside the point. It is the point. You may be fatigued by the right-left struggle for power but the murderous extremes and divisions that have been reached are real. As I write, Texas Republicans have declared Biden illegitimate and are talking about seceding from the Union (Of course we all know that would be illegal, but, then again they have guns).

        What is absurd is not that people are taking sides (that’s how democracy works) but that people who aspire to virtue think they can somehow stay above the fray and opt out. Wilful blindness is ignoring that something bad is happening.

        I truly hope that you won’t have to experience direct knowledge of what might very well be tragically inevitable.

        PS I am indeed criticizing your position on the issues. Your blog is about criticism. I believe it’s important to hear all sides of it.

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