Two Tuesday Paradoxes from the old NPR: Pastism and the Dignity of Intolerance

[Contact Me] | [FAQ]

[Some "Dougisms" Defined]

[About Dickens of a Blog]

[Jump to Site Links]

Summary: There are a lot of weird paradoxes that mark our existence, and two of them are addressed in articles I read this morning. Let's see if I can talk about them without going all Philosophy 101.

BLOT: (26 Jul 2011 - 12:43:45 PM)

Two Tuesday Paradoxes from the old NPR: Pastism and the Dignity of Intolerance

Things I should be doing today: researching a poster session, working on developing a libguide for a class, brainstorming a group project session, and writing up an Information Literacy worksheet. Things I am likely to do: bits of all of those but with lots more reading, horror movie watching, and relaxing overall. Sigh. The problem with this semester is that there is only one week left after tomorrow. One week. Four projects to go and only one week and one day to do all of them. One of them is 8 pages long and involves group work. Oh well, let's hop to it, eh?

In the interim, I'll bring up a few fun posts (one of which is from the backlog) and we'll sit around and hang out like old friends without a bit of artifice, right? How about this for starters: two basic paradoxes that are all around us...both of which showed up in the NPR news that I read this morning?

The first is the paradox of tolerance. While tolerance is a cornerstone of proper, civilized democracy [insert debate about whether it balances things out so a society can function smoother, or causes instabilities that lead to impetus to change, or both at the same time], there is the obvious issue that tolerance is a bounded concept; because some people are intolerant and some ideologies are incompatible. Does a civilized democracy have a place for a group like the KKK? How about if a college with a religious institution tie-in says it does not want outspoken atheists on any of its management boards or in prominent positions? How many rights should a rapist have? A serial killer?1

The good thing about this paradox is that, generally speaking, it is a driving force of civilization as a whole. New blood is important for growth, creativity, development, and many other things. All things that self-identity and cultural heritage help to maintain. The new blood makes a society more agile, but old-blood—and all it implies—makes it more stable. Too much of either and you end up with a broken empire.

The second paradox of the day is something you might call the paradox of Presentism. Namely, our sensory world is made up a series of past experiences but our concept of the world is heavily drenched in the concept of "Now". Not only is every sense experience we ever have based on previous events—the example of the stars and their light in the article is a good one, but even things like smelling the fumes of an old car after it has passed by is an example of this—but so much of our cultural markers are tied into past events. We read books previously written. Our zeitgeist is drenched in movies, music, and TV shows that took months or years to prepare and have distributed. We predict the future based on what we have seen. We navigate the present based on learned responses. Our decades old homes are filled with photographs of people who no longer resemble their image—if they are still living—and our favorite things are things that once made us a happy at some time in the past. And yet, all of this great big flotsam of memory is our now.

Kind of cool, huh?

1: There is, by the way, an increasing tendency for the more histrionic and logically challenged blogger sorts to engage a fallacy of unstated equivalence for the purposes of summary dismissal of an argument2. To wit, if someone in their many clauses, sub-clauses, and anecdotes brings up a rapist [or Nazi, or whichever] then this imbecilic but zealous moron will start going on and on about "DID THEY JUST SAY A SCHOOL TEACHER IS THE EXACT SAME AS A RAPIST?!?/??? LOL!!1!" No. No more than when you say "I have to go the store today, to pick up eggs so that I can bake a cake for my daughter's graduation party," you are not claiming the act of buying eggs or baking the cake is as important an element as your daughter or her graduation [well, some people are claiming that, but we don't like those people do we, Mom?]. Only stupid people would think such a claim was being made. Don't be stupid.

2: Another oldie-but-goodie that is resurfacing is the fallacy of arguing old meaning with present circumstances. Because some word once meant something, there are those who think its use nowadays implies a similar structure. Because some symbol used to embrace some ideology, or in some cases has been used by an extremist group to imply some ideology, then its meaning automatically indicates a connection with said ideology. My favorite two examples of this are Neil Gaiman being attacked for promoting rape lingo because he said "George R.R. Martin is not your bitch," and "bitch" is a term used by rapists and one pamphlet I once read long ago that warned Christians against roses because "some Satanists [who?] use roses in their ceremonies." Don't get me wrong, this is really useful in a sort of semiotics of the past and anthropology way; but generally is less than useless when actually arguing anything outside of those fields.



Written by Doug Bolden

For those wishing to get in touch, you can contact me in a number of ways

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".

"The hidden is greater than the seen."