Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Dealing with Activism's Affect of the Week

So this week the "Affect of the Week" is the separation of migrant children from their parents at the Mexican border. And the mainstream media  unison chorus is all singing the same tune about the cruel Trump. Auschwitz! Nazis!

Will this be the issue that determines the midterms? Will it be a one-week wonder? Or is this just a cynical effort of the deep state to take the news off the IG report on the Clinton email "matter?"

I return as always to the century-old words of German sociologist Georg Simmel who observed that, with women coming into the public sphere, things were going to change.
Obviously, Simmel wrote, the public sphere, the world outside the home, in the short term would still be defined by men for men, but in the long term women would transform the public square to suit "a more feminine sensibility."
But what would that mean? I think it is pretty obvious. But let us get our facts straight.

First of all, the way the world works is by "affect." This, we might define as the eruption into "consciousness" of subconscious instincts. It is the way that mammals live, responding to danger and threat through the emotions of fear and anger. We notice that our domestic pets, particularly dogs, are clearly driven by this "affect." So it ain't just us humans.

However, humans also do a bang-up job of filling out our knowledge of the world with magnificent theories of everything. Right now we have fun theories about evolution and the Big Bang that take our rational knowledge and extend it "all the way down."

Just now I am reading a book The Elizabethan World Picture by E.M.W. Tillyard that I picked up at the HalfPrice Books warehouse sale. Yep, in that Elizabethan world there are nine spheres of heaven, populated by Forms, Seraphims, Angels, Archangels etc. And also, for balance, nine spheres of Hell, with Satan, Mammon and the like. But why not? The Elizabethans didn't have all our science to make sense of sun, moons, fixed stars and all. Newton hadn't shown up yet. To say nothing of Einstein and Heisenberg. So they made it up. Just like we make up the Big Bang by extending our theories to the limit and beyond. It's great fun on winter evenings.

Notice how the Elizabethans smuggled in Good and Evil into their picture of the world, what you might call, if you were the local deep-state Pooh Bah, merely "corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative." Without corroborative detail, what's the point of narrative?

Of course it is not just the priestly and philosophic class that spin pretty stories for our amusement with lots of "affect" thrown in for corroborative detail. Politicians and activists do it too.

Want to see a real master at that? Just watch President Trump's Down the Escalator speech of three years ago.

Want to know what the Parkland thing was all about? And now the Kids in Cages thing? It is liberal political activists ginning up events full of affect, complete with "orroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative."

When you want to grab men by the guts you need to stage an event showing existential danger that will prompt them to rush to get their weapons (or their boats in the case of the Cajun Navy).

But when you want to grab women by the guts you stage a show with crying children. It triggers the fundamental instinct of women, which is to keep their kids alive and care for them.

This is why I profoundly disagree with all conservatives and deplorables that write about how "we" are rational and "they" are emotional.

OK, we all have rational knowledge, science, systems of ethics, etc. But when we live moment to moment we are flying along as unconcerned as a seagull until something brings us up short and triggers an "affective" response.

What do you think President Trump is doing when he ventures forth on Twitter? He is trying to tug the affect of his deplorable supporters in the ordinary middle class. But Democrats are playing a different game. They are appealing to the women and minorities hardest hit, of which we've heard tell.

When you hear your liberal woman friend saying that she had always wanted to "get into activism" you are touching the edge of the culture that produces the Kids in Cages affective moments. These nice young urban hipsters know that you don't win in politics by a rational discussion of the issues. You win by winning the game of affect, and that game requires a narrative with heart-tugging affect.

Conservatives and Republicans, up to now, were not very good at this. Because we think of politics as a necessary evil. Here is a chap attacking Jordan Peterson for saying that "thinking is overrated." Says Peterson:
When existence reveals itself as existentially intolerable, thinking collapses in on itself…it’s noticing, not thinking, that does the trick.
And that, says the critic, is all wrong.

But Peterson is right. It is indeed noticing that rules the world. You are on a walk in the woods and you want your wife to see a bird sitting in a tree. She won't see anything until the bird moves. It is the bird's movement that allows her to notice it. That is how the world works. Nothing exists for us until it moves. Then we notice it, and then our affect chimes in to prompt us to react to it.

Nobody paid a blind bit of attention to Kids in Cages until the activists brought it up on the TV news. Then everyone "noticed."

Of course, the question for us deplorables is whether the politics of "Affect of the Week" is a winning strategy. Parkland last month, Kids in Cages this week. Something Else next month. And the purpose is the same as the car crashes and disasters shown every night on local news. To get the eyeballs of women.

It seems to me that the name of the game is to get our theory of everything to be the normal World Picture for people in our society, including, especially, women. Then the affective response to the Affect of the Week will be more in tune with what we believe than the current situation where every child is taught liberal the World Picture in government child-custodial facilities from K thru graduate school.

It is important to get into the minds of women, partly because of Georg Simmel above, and partly because there are more Good Little Girls in the world than Good Little Boys. Which is to say that women are more easily manipulated by the culture than men: sugar and spice rather than snips and snails and puppy-dog tails.

But you can see that the only way we get our theory of everything a chance is to nuke the current school system, K thru graduate school. And that is a tall order.

Hey, I know. Let's publicize the notion, with sobbing girls every week on TV, that no kid is safe in a government school. Because bullying.

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