Sunday, December 9, 2007

72; Sociopaths Part 2

Act 2 of 2

Where were we? Adbusters, Diogenes the cynic, and sociopaths, yes?

Last time was Diogenes, so let's move up the timescale to the French court of Louis XIV, within which dwelled La Rochefoucauld, who describes himself thusly:

"I am melancholy, and I have hardly been seen for the last three or four years to laugh above three or four times. It seems to me that my melancholy would be even endurable and pleasant if I had none but what be- longed to me constitutionally; but it arises from so many other causes, fills my imagination in such a way, and possesses my mind so strongly that for the greater part of my time I remain without speaking a word, or give no meaning to what I say. I am ex- tremely reserved to those I do not know, and I am not very open with the greater part of those I do."

His epitaph to his work 'The Maxims' is : 'Our virtues are most frequently but vices disguised.' This is followed by the first two maxims: 'What we term virtue is often but a mass of various actions and divers interests, which fortune, or our own industry, manage to arrange; and it is not always from valour or from chastity that men are brave, and women chaste.' And secondly, 'Self-love is the greatest of flatterers.'

Pleasant character. Sociopath? Probably. He, and Diogenes, Dostoevsky's Underground Man, Shakespeare's Jaques in 'As You Like It' ("All the world's a stage...") and so many other people and characters who resist society. Who care neither for the rights nor trappings of society, and seem to have some desire to remove themselves from the whole nasty business. Or make a point of showing the flaws. Or ridiculing them.

Are these excercises useful? Do these people do anything useful? Social commentary is fine, no doubt. It is needed for liberal democracies, sure. But to what extent do we wish Diogenes or La Rochefoucauld to exist in our society? Is it not that they point out the flaws in our socieities, (and all socieities must admit to their share) but rather they point out the flaw of society at all?

Why do we put up with society? Often society is not in our favor, and this is the argument we've come to hear, that while it may not be individually rewarding it is for the collective. The collective, the crowd, comes first, and by extension so do you, as a member of said crowd. Yet our relation as a member of the crowd is not the same as our agency.

I've brought up Adbusters, with some humorous intent, to highlight that this sort of commentary still exists. It is within the framework of the society, of course. Diogenes could only have been Athenian and La Rochefoucauld got on well in the salons. Adbusters is a magazine, which requires subscription, and also advertises a number of other products, such as $100 shoes made of hemp and old tires. They also feature a 'Media Empowerment Kit' described as such:

'Teachers - Adbusters Media Empowerment Kit will inspire your students to break out of the media consumer trance! Designed as a flexible teacher's aid, the kit features 43 lesson ideas, including personal challenges, group activities, discussion starters and eye-opening readings. Lessons are divided into three areas: Explore Your Mental Environment, Explore Your Physical Environment, and Create Your Own Meaning.

'Each kit includes: a lesson binder with photocopy-friendly removable sleeves, a DVD chock full of images and video clips, five full-color posters, Adbusters special media literacy issue: "The Game of Life". USD: $125.00'

Should I buy it? When I become a teacher is it my duty to have students question their society? Will I be fired if I do? Should that matter to me?

Empowerment is a funny concept. Should we empower people to resist the negative emlements of our society? Seems like a good idea. How about empowering them to rethink the usefulness of society as a whole? That's a horse of a different color.

No answers here. Oh! But yes I do! Last time I left a riddle to be pondered that revolved on sociopathic logic. The answer: The woman killed her sister because it would mean another family funeral, and so the man would show up again.

Hopefully there were no cheaters. How quickly did it come to you?

No comments: