Mistaking bricks for dirt
Posted by aogTuesday, 27 November 2007 at 21:30 TrackBack Ping URL

Instapundit wrote

HOMEOWNER VS. BURGLARS: “When you hear a pump shotgun click, it makes everyone think twice.”

and I found it an excellent example of culture differences. When I was in Japan for a summer job in my youth, I found myself indicating displeasure with another person by grabbing an air gun and making the shotgun loading sound while simulating pumping another round in to the chamber. Not one other person there had the vaguest idea of what I meant. On the other hand, my 3 year old daughter understands the basic concept of loading shells in to a double barreled shotgun (trained in large part by Boy Two). It’s just another example in a theme I’m working on about how much what we think are basic facets of reality are just local epiphenomenon.

We can see the same thing in this discussion over at the Daily Duck about mathematics and its relationship to reality. Many people think that certain aspects of mathematics are intrinsically “true” or “real”, but that’s not at all the case. All of mathematics is simply made up, but the parts that are useful are so useful that they (like any other truly excellent technology) become second nature and people stop thinking of them as separate from the underlying physical reality.

Which brings me around to this post which is concerned about how “the younger set think that peace and prosperity are the norm”. It’s the same thing again, except this time with much less excuse as even a casual perusal of history demonstrates the rarety and fragility of domestic order. While I am sure some of the nihilists really are nihilists, my view is that they are a tiny but dominant minority in a sea of “never thought about it much” types who presume that our domestic order is the natural state of things, divided in to two main types.

The first don’t believe they can really bring down Western civilization and are just acting out with emphasis on the acting. This is the type that has been discussed here and elsewhere extensively, who acts to accomplish purely internal psychological goals. Because they can’t imagine anything different, they can’t imagine that their activities could have any sort of deleterious effect.

The other type has an understanding of culture is so shallow that they view it as equivalent to fashion. They think we’ve already reached the End of History (not that they would see it that way) and the only real differences between cultures are style and the ickiness of Western civilization. And I have to admit, Western civilization looks bad if you presume all of its benefits are automatic and universal and its flaws are purely local.

I don’t know what can be done about any of these types, other than to soldier on and hope the Clue-by-Four of Reality lays down an enlightening rhythm on their noggins before too much more damage is done.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
cjm Wednesday, 28 November 2007 at 12:19

it’s the old bell curve thing again. committed activists on either end, and the great herd in the middle. absent any outside threats it seems that the herd swings back and forth, between the two poles, trying to alleviate the tedium of everyday life. and that explains all the social posturing we see these days. not everyone is fortunate enough (nee, blessed) to find sanctuary in s/w development.

with regards to your shotgun story, if a japanese person had made a sword like motion, you most likely would have recognized it, which says a lot.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 28 November 2007 at 12:48

Yes. I forgot to mention that in Japan, the subways have pictures of swords with the red circle and slash on the entrances, which is not something you’d see in the USA.

cjm Wednesday, 28 November 2007 at 15:42

i went to japan once, on business, and found it fascinating bordering on exotic. tokyo was straight out of a gibson novel and kind of threatening (to me at least). the minibar in my room had (what i thought was) orange soda in it, which later i discovered (whilst in a classroom) was actually some kind of fiber laden laxative drink. whereas the british are reserved — but eventually show you their rich personalities — the japanese i met seemed genuinely not to have any personality or individuality at all. glad i went, gladder still i didn’t have to stay.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 28 November 2007 at 16:07

Tokyo? It was the cleanest, nicest big city I have ever been too. I have to do deep breathing exercises to avoid panic attacks when I am in New York City. Chicago makes me nervous as well. But Tokyo was wonderful. Perhaps it’s that my anal-retentive personality fit in. Not to mention that rigid formality is a feature when you’re an introverted sociopath like me. I don’t like to drive, either, and had the perfect excuse while there because only crazy Japanese let gaijin drive in Tokyo.

cjm Wednesday, 28 November 2007 at 17:14

maybe it was all the movies where bad things happen in tokyo (to westerners), orthe Akida anime :) mostly it was a fear of getting lost and not being able to get back to my hotel. i went straight from the airport to my hotel (18km in only 3 hours!) and didn’t leave my room until it was time to catch a train out to atsugi. buying my ticket was daunting enough, but matching the little symbols on the ticket to the platform signs was really a struggle. are you really a socio-path or just socio-phobic ?

Tracked from Thorny Path of A History Of Western Society: Mistaking bricks for dirt on 29 November 2007 at 23:06

Great, This is now on my Thorny Path.

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