A French court on Thursday ordered an investigation into new IMF chief Christine Lagarde’s role in a much-criticized $400 million arbitration deal in favor of a controversial tycoon from a state-owned bank in 2008.” Looks like the Ice Princess is following in the steps of another famous French lady. Having made off with money from the people’s bank for her wealthy client, she must have thought, “well, gee, if the people have to go without bread, let them eat cake.”
“Stocks closed out their worst week in more than two years on Friday in a volatile session that saw the major indexes whip back and forth…” Looks like the boyz on the street are getting nervous!!
“The United States lost its sterling credit rating. Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s on Friday lowered the nation’s AAA rating for the first time since granting it in 1917…” So the financial meltdown of the empire continues apace.
That which seems to be newsworthy is not worth discussing. That which is worth discussing seems not to be newsworthy.
It is broadly believed there is an inherent structure to the universe. We take for granted that it is simply a matter for scientists and other experts to discover this structure and thereby understand the laws that govern both the natural and human worlds. However, it has become increasingly evident that no such structure exists; that there is no fixed design simply given independent of our perception.
Even those regularities that we might assign as demonstrating some inherent pattern may themselves only be a function of the screens we have chosen to cast over the world in order to fit it into a specific framework, usually in order to manipulate things according to the ends we wish to achieve. Moreover, such “ends” are customarily prefigured in the very frameworks chosen. Even cosmic regularities – those periodicities we might identify as naturally occurring – are, in this light, only contingent patterns, resulting from the unique lens we have chosen to look through.
The structures thereby established are not discovered, so much as they are created; and they are variable, changing with the conceptual screen one chooses or the lens one unwittingly looks through. This has happened throughout the history of philosophy and science. In fact, the so-called “laws of nature” that our various sciences have “discovered” have been overturned and revised one century (or generation) after another by means of applying yet a new set of screens. From the early pre-Socratics to Neils Bohr, through Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Einstein and beyond, initial hypotheses about the nature of the physical world have led to new conclusions, abstraction to further experimentation to new abstraction, itself leading to further hypothesis formation, only to be turned into another law and then overturned upon yet further experimentation.
Obviously, there are culturally variable screens influencing the specific views of diverse nations, peoples, and societies as well. And certainly a religious screen may provide quite a different worldview than a quantum physics screen, for example. There are any numbers of lenses that have developed over the history of human culture. One might even surmise that our primitive forebears, our pre-civilized ancestors, also perceived the world through a unique set of lenses as well. And certainly we have what we might call evidence of specific screens regarding kinship, cosmology, and man’s relation to the “natural world” from that long forgotten past. But we cannot really reconstitute or re-inhabit that world quite as the pre-civilized mind did (see Owen Barfield, Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry).
In short, we are born into a world of screens that from early childhood we learn to accept as givens. These screens themselves become the Idols of our belief. There are certain Idols that are foundational to the way most modern peoples thus see the world. And if we refuse to grant them legitimacy, then we wind up in the rather unenviable position of the designated village idiot, outcast, madman, witch, or if lucky, genius.
Owen Barfield asks: What was this view of reality, “the phenomena of nature at the Darwinian moment in the middle of the nineteenth century.” They were objects. They took their place in a “mechanical model” of the universe created by a collective representation over which “literalness reigned supreme.” Dead nature, mindless matter remains the dominant idol in our collective representations to this very day.
Stepping back momentarily, there emerged in the thinking of some of the earliest civilizations a new screening tool, early on perfected by the Greeks, and recast by legislators, scientists, and other specialists down through the ages – syllogistic reasoning. It was through the syllogism that “social laws were made and natural laws were made or ‘discovered'” (Bram, The Recovery of the West). This signaled the rise of historical consciousness, (future ‘effects’ invariably following after prior ’causes’ sequentially on a unilinear timeline); and this logic became embedded as a lynchpin of the experimental method in modern scientific research, laying the foundation for the ideal (Idol) of objective empirical knowledge as our only source of truth. Describing the impact of this new Idol of modern scientific progress – objective empirical knowledge – molecular biologist and Nobel Prize winner Jacques Monod wrote in the 1970’s:
By a single stroke it claimed to sweep away the tradition of a hundred thousand years which had become one with human nature itself. It wrote an end to the animist covenant between man and nature, leaving nothing in place of that precious bond but an anxious quest in a frozen universe of solitude (Paul Feyerabend, Conquest Of Abundance, pp 5-6).
In truth, this new screen did not reveal the phenomena themselves, but rather changed them through abstraction and experimentation, imposing structure on the given (whatever that is); such abstraction and experimentation (manipulation) has further been destructive of the world as given. “The questions are thus to what extent this destruction helped humanity (or a privileged part of it), how much damage was done, and what is the balance” (Feyerabend, 6). And yet, even now modern physics continues to overturn its own most sacred Idols, those “laws of nature” that we take for granted even today (see Julian Barbour, The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Physics).
But then the practical question arises, how do we raise and educate our children when collectively we have forgotten that we believe in Idols? Do we simply present the product of our screens as absolute truth, and then send our youth off to war (or on peacekeeping missions) to enforce our views on non-believers globally? Or do we acknowledge that the Idols we have created and cling to (whether ontological, religious, scientific, or political) are not necessarily the only way of inhabiting a world, and that we may learn from others what has been buried beneath our own taken-for-granted assumptions, including our own hidden agendas? It is a personal, political, and philosophical question. And as the perfect storm of global collapse continues apace, today it may be the most urgent question of all.