Sunday, February 5, 2012

So; the problem is...

   That, actually, is what I spend most of my time trying to see.  Exactly what is - the problem?

   I can tell you this; 9 times out of 10, in our world, "the problem" is misidentified or unrecognized.  Or even more frequently, denied.  What problem?

   There is an excellent bit of investigative reporting in the New York Times today (alas, not all that common).  It details how one determined man uncovered virtually all the abuses in the mortgage industry, years ago- reported it to all the various relevant authorities - and was ignored completely.

   It's an excellent study in the powerlessness of the individual, these days.  And to my mind- the reporter, well buried in the story, entirely misses her own point.

   She thinks this is a story about corruption in the mortgage and financial industries.  But it isn't.

   It's a wonderful, excellent, exhaustively documented story about how "truth", clearly and authoritatively presented, fails to penetrate our cultural apparatus to bring about corrections and change.  Systemically.

   This is "the problem" I'm talking about in the blog title.  Here on this blog, and on the various companions we all tend to peruse, we have an unusual collection of highly intelligent folks, able to see through the various cultural smoke screens, and see, really, truly, how this or that societal practice is inadequate to our needs, and we can recommend excellent possibilities for how it could, really, be made to work better.  We do it all the time.

  But The Truth -whichever one we're talking about at the moment - has no traction.  Systemically.

  The problem about this problem is- we believe otherwise.  The true religion of Academia, in particular, is the belief that discovering truth will bring change, progress, justice - good.  You just have to discover it.  Then, magically, Truth brings good.

  Manifestly- this is not so.  The present article in the Times documents that, in detail- and yet, still ends on the hopeful note that now, at last, these truths will bring change for the better.  100% of experience to the contrary notwithstanding.  Faith - not reason - claiming that reason will prevail.

  Personally- my own religion is - action.

   Now that I know The Truth Has No Traction - what do I do about that?

   First, tell you.

   Second - ask you: ok, so- from the cultural standpoint- how can we systemically give tank treads to Truth?


Nemo said...

There is an additional problem :) Truth, is not black and white, but all the shades of grey in between.. Each person has their own truth, and usually is only willing to see that version.

Greenpa said...

Well; sure- but that aspect can obscure this situation. I was (of course!) talking about "hard" truth; the kind of things scientists spend their lives digging out and doing 96% probability studies on. You know- The Truth. :-)

Gray areas are a different warehouse full of cans of worms.

Greenpa said...

But- Nemo; you're right- the fact that gray areas are real is one reason for the lack of traction; those opposed to change can claim their right to grayness for very long periods of time- like, very specifically, "Evolution". Boy, is it ever the Truth- provably by all the most rigorous scientific tests- but societally we're stuck with allowing all kinds of waffling.

Unknown said...

I think, Greenpa, that the way to get truth some traction is for individuals to find the courage to act as though they believe said truth.

So, if Peak Oil is true ('course it is) then we act as though that is true, by reducing our footprint, preparing for a different future, quietly going about our business in light of this knowledge.

If banks are corrupt, we avoid using them when we can, and reduce the risk when we are forced to participate in a corrupt system. If governments are systemically broken, we don't try to protest or lobby our way into some kind of 'change' (people with Truth on their side aren't rich enough to affect that kind of change) - we just ... go around as much as we can, stay below the radar where necessary, work for local changes where our voice might be heard - and participate in ways that can have an actual effect.

Anything else is just handwaving.

When enough people act on something, folks around them start to notice. More gardens show up after the first one on the block is put in ... more people buy local after you your friends about the great stuff you got at the market last week ...

Only real action taken by real people (preferably with as little shouting and fuss as possible - a quiet witness seems most effective) is likely to work, IMHO. It is the Quaker idea that we need to 'let our lives speak'.

(And BTW, I'm glad you're writing again. I suspect it's good for you - and I know for sure it's good for us!)

Greenpa said...

Applejack - sure. Confucius and I both agree with that; personal lives speak what we believe.

The thing is, I guess I'm getting impatient. I'm looking for larger tools; some way to get proven veracity inserted right into the heart of the Machine. Or as I more truthfully believe, The Great Amoeba Of Man.

My commitment - refusing to use nuclear power - outlined long ago here:

did little to prevent Fukushima- or the other nuclear plant disasters that will happen in the future (guaranteed).

We have invented machinery to run the Amoeba (e.g. the Constitution of the United States) which was actually designed to accept new Truth and use it to Improve Everything. (I love capitals). It cost a lot of people a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get that machinery installed. But it's not working.

And a big part of the reason is - Truth gets no traction. I want Tank Treads For Truth!

Hey, there's a T-shirt there. :-)

gaias daughter said...

Greenpa, I guess I'm a real cynic where 'Truth' is concerned. I don't think it's going to be accepted until there are no other alternatives. People for the most part are not really rational beings -- we tend to believe what is comfortable and convenient and ignore all evidence to the contrary.

Ran Prieur ( something the other day that struck me as true: "No fossil fuels will be left in the ground until they are outcompeted by other energy sources, and your personal conservation has negligible effect on when this will happen. More generally, I disagree with the moral system in which you imagine your actions being magically multiplied. The test of an action is not what would hypothetically happen if everyone did it, but what will actually happen if you do it." He goes on to say, "Of course, I'm totally in favor of shifting out of the industrial consumption economy, but for a different reason than ecopuritanism. If you learn to live on less energy and less money, then you become stronger. You have more unstructured time to learn internal motivation, more mental space to think independently, and more skills that everyone will need as the industrial economy continues its decline. You're not "saving the world", but becoming a seed of a better world to come."

That's what we can do (and you do it better than anyone else I know of) -- we can be the seeds of a better world to come and hope that our seeds will be received by fertile ground.

Not the answer you wanted, I'm afraid, but the best that I can do!

gaias daughter said...

Okay, my last comment was really depressing so I thought I might amend it a bit. I do think that circumstances may force Truth upon us sooner rather than later . . . the day of 'no other alternatives' may be closer than we think. I also believe that there are a lot of exceptional people out there planting those seeds for a better future -- a future that may surprise us.

Nick Palmer said...

I think "Truth" has less traction these days because of the decades long activities of the marketing and advertising folks, and the teams of psychologists and behavioural analysts who enabled their truth distorting fantasies. Similarly, the yuppie generation who too eagerly accepted what they were told - that if they just believed enough they could have it all.

Anonymous said...

+1 to what Nick wrote- Edward Bernays had a lot to answer for.