Monday, May 01, 2006

Sapere Aude and Oedipal Constipation

I think what's happening in the US is a gigantic social-wide oedipalconstipation and freezing of action based on everyone's deeplyengrained attitude to our forms of abstract social authority whichmakes it impossible for anyone to " dare to use their own reason," (sapere aude,) and in daring to do so, acting accordingly.Right now, 7 out of 10 people do not approve of the way that theBush administration has been handling the country.I don't think many people see that turning around and headingupward; the real question now is just how low it will go, andwhat'll happen when approval ratings sink to historically low levels.The major political problem of the last six years has been thatpeople are unable to believe just how venal, ugly, and criminal theBush administration has really been. The evidence is in front ofus, but we can't deal with it. We don't want to believe that whatis so is so, because if we do believe it, we'll have to act, andit'll be ugly and disruptive. " Disruptive." Disturbing,unsettling, negative. We may have reached a point now where we are willing to disapprove,but I think we are still far, far away from taking any disapprovingaction.The Bush administration just lies about what's going on, and thatlying has succeeded in stopping people in their tracks. It is as ifpeople think, " well, who am I ( ie what epistemological authoritydo I have?) to say, 'whew, these guys are liars?' " We sit there andlisten to them lie, and it is as if we won't take action until theystop lying, because it will only be if they stop lying that we willunderstand that they are indeed doing horrendous, evil wrong. Ofcourse, they will never stop lying. Lying is no big whiff to them,and they are in it so deep now that that whatever weak knees anyonein the administration might have about lies,lies,lies , is justgoing to seem very minor to the weak knees they have about otherthings they are doing, and - what'll happen to them if they startedbeing honest...We want to apply Kant's motto , "dare to use your own reason," butdo not want to impose, even in so much as to look a liar in the faceand demand that the lying stop. Is there any reason in the world tobelieve that "dare to use your own reason," will never beimpositional, will never be firm? That's psychotic to think that,isn't it? Where is the dare in someone who never holds firm?Hopefully, could find a way to negotiate what form "holding firm"would take, and that this form will be far removed from violence andharmful disruption. It very well may not, however, and I do quiver,waffle, and shirk in this knowledge.I have to get over that. We have to get over that. Otherwise,there will be no advantage for us, no matter how sizable our numbers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect - and I mean that, Yusef! - this is a RANT. And more than that: it's an all too predictable one.

I actually supported Bush's decision to rid Iraq of a dictator and give the people the right to choose their leader.

In fact it can be argued that Bush is a true Kantian, believing (naively and optimistically, just like Immanuel himself) that when presented with the opportunity people WILL wish to live in freedom and yes SAPERE AUDE. But as Kant wrote in his lovely essay "What Is Enlightenment" 1783 (an inspiration to both of us, I know) we have to be realistic:

"Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large proportion of men, even
when nature has long emancipated them from alien guidance (naturaliter
maiorennes), nevertheless gladly remain immature for life. For the same
reasons, it is all too easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians.
It is so convenient to be immature! If I have a book to have understanding in
place of me, a spiritual adviser to have a conscience for me, a doctor to judge
my diet for me, and so on, I need not make any efforts at all. I need not think,
so long as I can pay; others will soon enough take the tiresome job over for me."

Even so, mankind HAS progressed. Europe in Kant's time or in the few states on the American eastern shore a few years after Jefferson's ringing words in 1776 is like a completely different solar system when compared to the western world today, 223 years later.

In practically all areas of human life (except the atavistic religious dark caves) we have achieved enormous progress.

Yes, Bush is bad. But he was elected democratically. And yes, people are lazy, immature, and unthinking. But at least nothing prevents them from SAPERE AUDE. Everything prevented millions of illiterate peasants in despotic regimes in Kant's time from becoming enlightened. Yet, they rose in protest.

Your faithful (and occasionally idealistic) reader,

Orla Schantz

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...


Thanks again for your comments. I wouldn't want to be doing the blog if it was not possible to get this kind of feedback.

In the post, I'm responding to a feeling of disconnect between what's happening in the USA and the way people are reacting passively to it.

The changes have been so extensive and so rapid since 2000 and so poorly discussed in public fora that there is a feeling of irreality about it all.

There is also a feeling ( but maybe this is a misperception,) that we are drifting into a form of fascism here.

I am trying to get to something which helps me to bridge from being an onlooker at the American weimar to being able to make some form of resistance, ( but I agree with you - a RANT is not the form I am looking for.)


10:21 AM  

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