Strange Loops - Blog Archive: August 2005
Strange Loops Journal Archive: August 2005

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August 09, 2005
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The science section has been updated, starting a new section on comparative cognition. Included is an article on chimpanzee gaze following and the effects of experimental design.
Politics in Theory vs. Politics in Action
August 09, 2005
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The politics section of the site has not been updated in quite a while now and I got to thinking about why. Honestly, I have been too wrapped up in my day-to-day life to pay close attention to the news, or to trawl blogs for current issues, or to browse the net for provoking essays.

I got to thinking about how small a role my political beliefs seem to play in my life when I am not writing about them, when I am not exploring and debating them with others. I do not vote; I do not attend rallies or protests; I do not run for office or campaign for politicians; I do not play vigilante or anti-corporate saboteur. Does this mean that my political beliefs are not really there in the first place, or not very strong anyway? How else could I explain the discrepancy between my intellectual beliefs and their apparent non-application in the way I live my life?

To some extent I will admit I am just an armchair theorist. I just do not have faith in the efficacy of most forms of political action, so it is hard to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. I do think that the most effective way to deep and significant change in the way humans live our lives as a group will have to come from the bottom up rather than the top down (emergent trends rather than imposed structure), so I suppose I could spend time running around trying to convince everyone of what seems to me the 'better way' for humanity and how to get there. But then even if I thought I could be effective, and even if I thought my version of things was right (and I am not so cocky as to think I know the solution to human nature), even then I doubt I would dedicate huge portions of my life to the task.

Why? Because I doubt that the world will ever be perfect. There will always be suffering, corruption, unfairness, frustration and death. Things will always be worse than they could be in our minds, no matter how much work I put into improving things. We humans have evolved to the point where to some extent we define ourselves by our discontentment with the way things are and our desire to always improve, always grow and make better - to the point where we can probably never find real contentment. So no matter how hard we work, we will never reach the vague utopian goal that drives us.

At some point you have to remember what it is you are fighting for in the first place - the things that make up a free, happy life - and spend time living them how you can while you can. Otherwise you will become so engrossed in the idealistic fight to make the world perfect that you will miss out on the only chance to experience what is important in the first place. Even the imperfect experiences can be sublime.

So on reflection I do not think that there is a genuine gulf between my political theorizing and my life. Rather, my political theory incorporates a certain realism and philosophy of life to seize the day even if modern society and politics are not ideal. At some point, no matter what your political beliefs, you have to be willing to accept this imperfect world, relax and make the best of the situation.

Let your politics come out in your day-to-day life in more subtle ways. Be the ideal you wish to see when you can. Let your beliefs slip silently into your local space-time through your actions, even if you are not spending every waking moment out rallying and campaigning, trying to change the world. Because frankly I do not think that at an individual level we can consciously control where society goes; but nor can we impose it from above. At best we can only make ripples in our immediate surroundings and hope for the best as those ripples spread and collide with other ripples, eventually forming into the chaotic waves of change that the future is made up of.