RE: MD junk or politics on this list

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Apr 04 2004 - 23:31:31 BST

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    Platt said:
    I see what you mean, I think Pirsig's 'war' between the social and
    intellectual levels is less between conservatives and liberals than
    between the state (the collective or group) and the individual.

    dmb says:
    There is certainly a historical relationship between the rise of modernity
    and individuality, but I think you're fundamentally confused about how this
    relates to the conflict between the two top levels in Pirsig's MOQ. Social
    values are exhibited in both individuals and in the larger collective
    society. Intellectual values are exhibited by individuals and social groups
    too. That kind of distinction has little to do with what distinquishes the
    rival forces. In fact, in describing the clash between these value systems,
    Pirsig uses the New Deal, a collective government program, as a prime
    example of the emergence of a new intellecual culture in America. He even
    speaks here of "castes" and "classes" of intellectuals. From chapter 22...

    "In the U.S. the economic and social upheavel was not so great as in Europe,
    but Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, nevertheless, became the center of
    a lesser storm between social and intellectual forces. The New Deal was many
    things, but at the center of it all was the belief that intellectual
    planning by the government was necessary for society to regain its health.
    The New Deal was described as a program for farmers, laborers and poor
    people everywhere, but it was also a new deal for the intellectuals of
    America. Suddenly, for the first time, they were at the center of the
    planning process - these were people from a class that in the past could
    normally be hired for little more than laborers' wages. Now intellectuals
    were in a position to give order to America's finest and oldest and
    wealthiest social groups. 'That man', as the old aristocrats sometimes
    called Roosevelt, was turning the whole USA over to foriegn radicals,
    'eggheads', 'Commies' and the like. He was a 'traitor to his class'.
    Suddenly, before the old Victorians' eyes, a whole new social caste, a caste
    of intellectual Brahmins, was being created ABOVE their own military and
    economic castes."

    Platt said:
    The state wants its citizens to behave in certain, predictable ways by
    following its rituals, laws and mores. For the state to survive (or any
    group for that matter) it must lay down rules and practices governing
    relations among individuals in the group. Thus, the social level's highest
    morality is static conformity.

    dmb says:
    Here you equate the state with the social level, but as the "New Deal" quote
    shows this ain't necessarily so. It depends on what state one is talking
    about and when one is talking about it. But I agree that conformity is a
    social value.

    Platt said:
    The individual by contrast, while recognizing the necessary role of the
    state, wants to be recognized as unique human being and not just another
    cog in a machine. She wants to be the means to her own ends, not the ends
    of others. Most of of all, she wants to be free to act and speak according
    to dictates of her own intellect,..

    dmb says:
    Yes. Right. I'm with you so far...

    Platt continued:
    ...not the dictates of politically correct thought imposed by the state.
    That's why she gets upset when individual opinions are stifled such as when
    someone stands up to defend fundamental Christianity, or the superiority of
    Western culture, or the existence of racial differences in intelligence, or
    that America is a force for good in a corrupt world and gets (at best)
    shouted down or (at worst) punished. The highest morality for the individual
    is dynamic freedom from state (group) conformity, or as Pirsig might put it,
    freedom to be degenerate..

    dmb says:
    Ooooh. You spoiled a perfectly good thing. Thought imposed by the state?
    Like what? Unless you can refer me to something in the real world, I'm going
    to take that comment as a paranoid fantasy. And the rest of it is even more
    disturbing. Look at the list of issues that Platt has attempted to frame as
    a free speech crisis. He is, in effect, defending fundamentalism, jingoism,
    racism and nationalism. This is a recipie for fascism if ever I saw one.

    Platt said:
    Our constitutional Bill of Rights guaranteeing freedom of speech,
    religion, trial by jury, etc., cited by Pirsig as intellectual values,
    are specifically designed to protect the individual from the coercive
    power of the state.

    dmb says:
    They are designed to protect the individual. Period. It makes no logical
    sense to set up the state as the boogey man if "governments are instituted
    among men in order to secure these rights", as Jefferson wrote. Its so
    ironic. Conservatives think freedom is served by weakening and starving the
    public institutions that are charged with protecting that freedom.

    But at least we both want freedom. That's a start. Now if conservatives
    could grasp what rights and freedom really mean....


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