Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Voodoo Trifecta of Nonsense- - - Memetics, Hermeneutics & Semiotics !!!

Many years ago, I issued a fatwa on Umberto Eco for his intellectual depravity in The Name of the Rose and in Foucault’s Pendulum. Umberto Baby is a professor of semiotics. Those books looked at history and speculated exquisitely on what events might mean without ever providing a definitive insight or resolution. It was the intellectual equivalent of sexual awakening without sexual satisfaction. The fatwa remains outstanding.

In the exquisite debris about “structures of knowledge,” there ineluctably stands the principle known as The Fallacy of the Stolen Principle. When someone uses a principle to deny that same principle, a swindle is afoot. Specifically, when someone says, “There’s no such thing as truth,” it is reasonable to note that if the statement is true – or could be true – then the statement is false. The statement is “stealing” the concept of truth in order to deny that truth exists. Similarly, when someone (my favorite villain is the relatively-dead post-modernist Jacques Derrida) says that all meaning is relative to culture (or cuisine or couture), he/she/it is stealing the concept of an absolute in order to assert that everything is relative.

However, assaults on meaning and drastic surgery in education have resulted in a general public that does not learn primarily through the Aristotelian/Thomistic system of logic – through principle, induction and deduction. The general means of learning in western culture have become simple, inane repetition by electronic media. This is actually a degeneration of western culture into the older tribal habits of other parts of the world and of pre-Enlightenment Europe. The scarcity of American math and science students is partially accounted for by this re-primitivization of American education and culture.

The Voodoo Trifecta of Non-sense actually has something to contribute to this re-primitivized, media-saturated cultural phenomenon because the question remains how to educate – or, at least, motivate – people who are inured of reason?

The answer is, obviously, voodoo! You get witch-doctors to conjure the images and associations that will motivate the enormous numbers of people who do not know how to think analytically or synthetically.

How else do you account for the election on a platform of hope and change with no specifics? How else do you account for the legislature passing precedent-shattering laws while admitting that no one has read them? How else do you account for the White House spending $500,000/week on media management?

If the Republicans think they have a prayer to win in 2010 or 2012, they better begin with understanding this process. See a prior blog entry entitled “Defining Failure Before the Next Election.”

I can even recommend a witchdoctor: me.

Robert McNamara (1916-2009) A lifetime of failure – his and ours.

Robert McNamara failed at Ford, failed at Defense and failed at the World Bank. Such a life of consistent, high-profile failure says a lot about the world in which he failed. His credentials and intellect were universally respected in his day, but were inadequate. Why were they – and he – so universally acclaimed in the midst of manifest failure? Who was kidding whom?

In a few paragraphs, one cannot do comprehensive justice to the compelling failings of Robert McNamara. He “rationalized” Ford, leaving it rigid and unprepared for changes in labor, technology, consumer taste and competition. He “rationalized” as Secretary of Defense, using a Wagnerian hellish brew of ignorance and power to kill millions and accomplish nothing. He rationalized the lending program at the World Bank, supporting old political structures and creating destructive economic structures to the extent that the World Bank – 30 years later – still privately regrets what was done and still acts to atone for the misery inflicted on hundreds of millions.

Robert McNamara was a failure as a man mostly because he either ignored or could not see the futility of his ideas and actions. Robert McNamara was also a failure of his time – that his approach was lauded and his failures unseen or ignored for nearly his entire lifetime by the politicians and press. The fruit of his life was extraordinary evil.

My opinion is that McNamara was granted exceptional trust and power precisely because the world was changing rapidly. Neither politicians nor press could get a firm intellectual grasp on what was happening. They gave the whole over to Robert McNamara – “the numbers man” - in blind, primitive hope that he understood what they could not. The political, intellectual and moral failings of everyone involved were immense.

None of the above addresses the irony that the political left now blames McNamara when he was of the left, promoted and supported by the left. The political left now makes mighty noises about McNamara so that no one looks behind the curtain – at the responsibility and guilt that the left desperately hopes to deflect and avoid.