Monday, July 21, 2008

Universality and PDA

Outside of linguistics, most would know Chomsky as a ferocious critic of US foreign policy, and with good reason. What I find is highlighted most in his criticisms is the matter of the singularly astounding hypocrisy of which various US administrations have been guilty, of which I personally think the most dire effect is the complete disintegration of US credibility in the eyes of the international community.

In passing moral judgements, though morality itself is nebulous and debatable*, the bare minimum standard required should be that of universality, i.e. One should never impose moral standards upon others that you wouldn't adhere to yourself. In this respect, at least, the gang of inbred delusional psychotics known as the Westboro Baptist Church have something over the US government.

So what I was thinking about, with respect to universality, was this silly little comic by Scott Adams, from Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless:

Going by Chomsky's view on universality, everyone, even the mingers, should have the right to PDA to the same level of intimacy without fear of reprisals from little old ladies with big sticks. But Adams does make a very pertinent observation here: Our morality is skewed somewhat by our aesthetic sense.

We gravitate towards things that are pleasing to the eye and ear. Natural enough, I suppose, but this also creates a habit of ignoring or stifling things that aren't quite so pleasant. I have only to walk in one of the countless gargantuan shopping malls that dominate the KL landscape to observe this utterly deplorable side of human nature.

"The beautiful people" strutting about in fine clothes, planning the next party, gossiping over the latest celebrity wedding/divorce. People who travel all around the world but whose minds remain trapped on the barren little island of their prejudices. "Living for the moment" they call it, without the slightest inkling of a thought for what it takes for society to sustain this hedonistic lifestyle. Being beautiful is everything, because when you're beautiful, you're right. That's the message the idiot box and the mass media sends us. Well, at least until someone like Miss South Carolina** shows up to give us a sharp dose of reality.

Of course, those of you who've been following the movements of the WWF would know this. It's MUCH easier to champion the cause of an endangered species if it's cute and furry. Endangered warthogs? Molluscs? Insects? Fuck 'em, not interested.

The fact of the matter is that aesthetics should not be a basis for making moral/ethical judgements of any kind. Aesthetics, like intuition, can still have a place in the empirical sciences as a source of inspiration, but should never be considered a criterion of truth. Any scientist worth a damn knows this.

But alas, consumerist society is not particularly known for it's intellectual rigour. And so the hordes of the gullible shape the world with their unbridled whims and fancies, sacrificing their mental potential in favour of the pretty lights and worthless baubles the market economy promises. The masses, trapped in a mental prison of their own making, are kept shallow and stupid, and intellectuals the world over lament for the fate of Man.

Well, if nothing else, it will be interesting to see how exactly we get out of this hole we're digging for ourselves...

* At least among those of us who actually think...

** Honestly, I really feel for her. It can't be nice knowing you turn up as a result when you search for "stupid" on Youtube.

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