Future, Present, & Past:

~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.

Oυδεὶς άμουσος εἰσίτω

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

(False) trichotomy

There are three classes of people who are facing the upcoming national bout of Delirium Tremens with something like equanimity. First --

The Very, Very Rich -- those who never, ever fretted "will it go our way?" because there was never a question. "Their way" is simply, and by definition, the way it goes.

This is worth dwelling upon, briefly. Think about the .001%; not even the Buffetts and Soroses, those who "make money," but those create it when it suits them. (D.T. is not and never has been in their league). Do you really think there was a time last year when they were gripping their armrests worrying lest something as trivial as an election tip in the direction of one major party or the other?

Now, chances are, you are either irritated by the question, or you find its premise at least prima facie plausible and are already nodding along. In both cases, you are recognizing, either with distaste or with kinship, the bottom line of the second group --

Cynics. Those whose assumption is more or less the argument outlined above. For them, the outcome of an election is a foregone conclusion, and anyone who gets worked up about foregone conclusions is a fool.

Cynicism is the protective buffer secreted by alienation. It is effective from the inside, but imperfectly so, because cynicism is self-conscious and, after all, defined by its differentiation of itself from the fools. I.e., cynicism sees itself as the non-duped. But we know what Lacan said about the non-duped, and eventually, the cynic -- being smart, after all -- figures it out too. The only way out of alienation is through. That means via the dark and scary and nonetheless possible way towards the third group --


Don't mistake the saint for the "beautiful soul" that some Marxists like to mock. The BS is just a less sneering form of cynic. Of course the saint may be useless, politically; or on the other hand, she may be intensely committed and ingeniously effective. But either way, their heart is not set upon that treasure. They may care deeply, but at a certain point, they know that the matter is out of their hands -- and they welcome this.

For the record, I do not face the oncoming prospects with equanimity. I too am mired in samsara; I too think that the bad it may get before it gets better (if it gets better) may be very, very bad; and it's hard for me to keep this in perspective. But I believe there is a perspective to be had. The useful thing about coming to such a pass as we're at, is that it makes certain things very clear. I'm very tired of being cynical, and tempting as that solution looks, I don't want to return to it like a dog to its vomit. As for being among the Very Very Rich -- well, let's just say it isn't in the offing. (Dunno what I'd do if it were, but I can't say I'm sorry to have skirted that temptation.) That leaves only one way forward. And really, it was always the only way.


  1. I'm not sure whether I'm a saint or a cynic. I wouldn't be surprised if, in aspiring to be the former, I wind up as the latter.

    I may have used up my capacity for regular outrage in 2004, and perhaps before. After having seen GWB get elected by a substantial margin then, I think shit doesn't really surprise me anymore. I don't know whether this is a good thing.

    1. No doubt cynicism in the sense I employ the word here (not the ancient sense) is a genuine risk that cannot be set aside once and for all -- at least, I don't know how to do that. In any case, outrage is a is only a first step, like many first steps a perilous one, and what Robert Shea called the "tar baby principle" -- "you are attached to what you attack" -- snares many. On the other hand, there is distance and distance; there's being aloof, too cool or faux-wise to concern yourself with the little things like politics; but there's also the [possible] wisdom of knowing that these things come and go, that Boethius or Han Fei or etc. have struggled to maintain equanimity while seeing their nations ruined, and we do not get to choose the times we live in.

      I am unsurprised as well -- and sad, and scared, and angry too. What I don't believe is that the alternative we were "offered" in November 2016 would have been ever so much better -- though it would surely have been a different sort of bad. I expect this to be an increasingly unpopular stance over the next four-to-sixteen years.