News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Tail end of a letter to Dr. D. (more practice at essay styling...)
The letter in brackets is someone hassling Dr. D.
 > > ...if not, then perhaps another system will be invented to do the > > job better. in my understanding, this is how science works. > > In my understanding, this is how science consistently obscures and perverts > the discpline of observation and self-cultivation: insteading of *looking*, > and *learning*, scientism puts us in the position of reducing everything to > a preconceived framework of values ("a system"), then trying to compensate > for that system's deficiencies, by re-evaluating what we've observed in its > terms, and redefining categories to achieve a better fit.  Does that sound > like a good way to translate poetry to you?  It isn't.  Guess what learning > Pali is all about?  Learning to understand philosophical poetry.

Science perverts, for the most part, only those who are educated above their intelligence. And who, with an inquisitive discerning mind would accept a preconceived framework (whether of values, or anything else) when the systems designed or at least those applied to almost all fields of human endeavor have proven so frequently to be less than optimum, with many clearly half-baked. Look at the disasters which we call public education, socialism, the drug war, AIDS science, the professional media, the various cosmologies.
I'm reading several books on the Nanjing Massacre and yet again, I'm amazed at the naive, name-dropping, indecisive, parroting crap that emanates from academia in a foul flood of publish or perish publications, year in and year out. As usual, the last person to know what's happening at ground zero is the sequestered iron-rice bowl academic. The problem isn't science; it's bogus scientists.  Academia, with its tenure (i.e. socialist) system, ensures that universities are, by and large, safe-houses for the ignorant and incompetent ladder-climber who wouldn't cut the mustard in the private sector. For-profit works published for general or niche consumption, as a rule, tend to be of higher caliber scholarship and much abler thinking. Most people can't think for themselves to save their lives, but at least in the private sector you can't trot out dismal unappetizing products and expect to survive. In the private sector, the widget has to be new and improved, fresh and exciting. Count out 99% of academia then.
I grew up in a family of overeducated mediocrities.  When I got to grad school in Canada it was clear that I just wasn't dumb enough: I wasn't ignorant, fawning, and credulous enough. My fellow students, on the other hand, were as insincere and career-oriented as the educated children of prosperous farmers and small-business folk, yearning now for something more than green acres and one-horse towns, could be expected to be. Not to mention they had no distinguishing talents or aptitudes. How can people, implanted with ambitions than cannot be realized via creative ingenuity, avoid the temptation of giving in to the safe, peer-approved mediocrity of scientism? They can't. No more than a cat can be trained to bark.
The problem isn't even scientism, the problem is graduated half-wits, proud and smug stuffed shirts, hollow men mouthing the phrases of talented pioneers.  I saw plenty of that. That's one reason I got the fuck out.
I don't know your interlocutor and I shouldn't be presumptuous perhaps, but he sounds like another excitable industrious half-wit without two clues as to human nature. Ian is one of these people. The first day we met, he tried to demonstrate a math proof to me and when I began to question it and attempt to unwind the way his evidence was presented, he got really upset and started shouting in the office, as if that's going to stop or persuade me. He also visited me in my pad during the early days of our brief acquaintance, when my place had the esthetic appeal of a jail cell.  I quickly discovered that he expected it to be something like his place, outfitted with tony rugs, choice cultural icons from the home-country (preferably to do with pop music), and anthropologically significant baubles to impress the ladies and gents.  Bozos like Ian think of themselves as promising intellectuals, as thinkers, but have very little mental life beyond the sort of narrow calculus that a professional accountant or actuary engages in (i.e. investment and career-based) , when not giving into boyish fantasies of gallant or heroic achievement. Thus the prettified pad; his mental life is primarily external and he needs a daily ration of reassuring, peer-sanctified icons.
My advice, as you know, is don't take shit from anybody. You can't operate effectively from a position of weakness and intimidation. Whether this guy is right or wrong in his arguments and theses, he's incompetent at the fundamentals of social interaction.  That's a big problem and unfortunately very common with ambitious types. Lacking talent, they try intimidation. Most of them, given the credulity of the public, friends and family, go for the rewards of dishonesty too.
He needs you confident and in good spirits. For otherwise, you can't be all that you can be. Demand an apology from him for his "grow up" remark. If he he's too proud (i.e. if he's too weak) to give you an apology, then cut him loose. Don't deal with him. Find inquisitive supportive people who are honest but know the harm that comes from intimidation, which is, after all, inevitably a sword that cuts both ways. By intimidating others, he's cutting himself off from reality and from the checks and balances he needs to filter his good ideas from the bad. At the end of the day, no matter how good with generating new ideas one is, one has to have feedback. Writers need editors, husbands need wives, friends need each other. He ain't nobody's friend. Fuck him. 

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