One of the biggest problems with politics nowadays, is that it is largely created using debates made out of words. At the best of times, individual perceptions of events, which words best described those perceptions, and the exact meanings of those words, have all varied considerably.

This isn’t because we’re stupid, or deliberately untruthful, but rather because we are very well-practised at telling ourselves we know what’s going on, even though that’s impossible. This is an important distinction. Humans are finite – the complexity of what’s happening around us is not – we absolutely MUST simplify our picture of reality and go on that rounded-off guesstimate, or else we would never ever stop considering everything.  Strange as it sounds, action demands (a certain amount of) ignorance!

But consciousness is not modest. It does not spend it’s time looking around to see where it’s own limitations are, but rather subtly suggests to us continuously (rather like the internet) that those things which it best illuminates, are the only things that count at all!

So – we are all telling ourselves a simplified story (or we’d never get anything done) and then pretending that our story is complete (which means other people’s differently-perceived versions, must therefore be wrong).

Yup – right off the bat, we begin almost every argument like a dumb surly kid. Certain in our ignorance, and hostile to the additional perspective we need.  Not because we’re icky – but because we are domesticated primates, and that’s simply what our sort of critter is like (as distinct from what it thinks it’s like). ;o)  And all of this difficulty of perception-variance is created not, let’s remember, by the imperfection of our senses and reason (which are absolutely universal) but rather by our habitual lack of modesty, which pretends these things away, for the sake of giving us a (completely false) sense of knowing what’s going on.

Now – how much weirder still does it get, when we start tossing around words which are not specific descriptions of physical reality, but include multiple levels of emotion, history, cultural inertia, secrets, vendettas, special qualities, unique glories and long-hidden crimes?

A college, a town, a church, a country, the people of a neighbourhood, the thinking of a profession, the attitude of a culture under threat – when you think about it only a little, it’s actually astonishing that we even attempt to describe these vaguely-defined aggregates using words, let alone one single proper name – but we do this all the time, very casually, and then we pretend to each other that we have made a meaningful statement.

Still think I’m being a bit dramatic? Okay, let me add one more word to the thing and then see if you can spot the lit-fuse in the stick of dynamite, the way I do.  “My neighbourhood” “My college.” “My faith” “My country.”

What’s the really important part of this form of statement? The possessive, of course – and in our adversarial culture, we almost always follow with a boast or put-down.

In a way, we’re playing a word game that we might dramatize thusly. “I am going to lay down a big abstract symbol on the table, cast a spell of identification and lay my hand on it, then I’ll turn my head away for a minute. Anyone who wants to thump my fingers while I do that, can have a big punch in the face.”  Not only is a statement made about something so general as the name of a country almost always absolutely meaningless – but such a meaningless (and very common) useless statement can have very few other purposes (or at least functions) other than to start a fight.

A friend of mine recently pointed out that many young right-wing partisans seem to enjoy branding themselves as “Templars” lately, which got me thinking (and laughing) about just how ignorance works in the world.  What were the Templars? There’s the point exactly – to describe them even cursorily would take far more content than I’ve posted in the last couple of years. Among a huge number of other things, they were, variously – warrior-priests, cultural ambassadors, scholars, diplomats, traders, capitalists and even monopolists, kidnappers, mass-murderers, military extortionists, and (should one accept the stated immaculacy of the great and venerable church of the time) devoted ceremonial (anilungual) molesters of cats.

I have no idea which part of that mess anyone would want to brand themselves with (one hopes not the last, at least), but there is certainly no coherent meaning or glory to be had from the word itself – unless you discard all of it’s actual recorded history completely, and look only at propagandistic (ab)uses of it, which came along many hundreds of years later, and have nevertheless become far more precious to our culture than any tired old crap like truth.

Finally, there’s this. “My country” would sure as hell be run better and fairer.
Wouldn’t yours, if that’s what it really was?

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