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[i]The only way that society can work is for there to be some common experience. This typically starts with language but it does not end there. Every culture has a bundle of accepted truths and by virtue of the common understanding that is implied, members of the culture and their actions appear reasonable to one another and equilibrium is reached.

Cultures are dynamic, in constant turmoil. At any point in time, a given member of a culture can be said to accept the prevailing myths thus be on the "inside" or to believe that, on the average, the culture has veered away from that which is true and be on the "outside".

What can be said of the processes and forces by which nations, cultures, or societies evolve and maintain some sustainable equilibrium? How do cultural sub-groups integrate and are there any insights that can be gained from observation of cycles of equilibrium and disequilibrium?[/i]

I once jokingly asked a friend to give me the entire truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to which he replied “Which version of the truth do you want?” So this got me thinking. I hear you, “Uh-oh, not again, that could be dangerous.” While I’ll readily admit that I have really stepped in it on a number of occasions, warnings like these never stopped me before.

Harold Pinter British playwright and Nobel laureate said noted in his Nobel acceptance lecture that:

“Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.”

This is not by chance for art, and consequently drama, do truly mimic life.

Consider American culture for a moment. As with any culture we learn certain things in school, starting at an early age, about our founding fathers and the principles on which America was founded. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways a variety of formative “truths” work their way into our collective myth, constituting a bundle of fact and assumption under which we all operate and appear reasonable to one another.

For example, we know that George Washington was a general in our war of independence and that he chopped down his father’s cherry tree but later confessed this mischief to his father. Or do we? As it turns out Washington never chopped down a cherry tree. This story was a fable supplied generations after the act was supposed to have occurred.

There is a seemingly endless list of facts, stories, anecdotes, fables, characterizations of the virtuous, justifications for war and campaign slogans that have more or less come to be regarded as truth. It is not always important whether they really are true as much as that they are internalized by all and facilitate easy communication. Someone from another country might know our language but stumble badly as they try to follow conversation as they encounter references to these implicit “truths”.

The Austin Powers movies, despite including British actors and being filmed largely in the UK, was not well received in the UK precisely due to the American colloquial aspects of humor and language.

According to Eugene Garver:

“Most of the time communities get along by looking for agreement and consensus instead of truth. They reasonably assume that ‘what everybody knows’ is true, and to take agreement as a sure sign of truth.”

We don’t have to reach far back in history for examples which, despite being beyond debate today, show prevailing of the period to be “false”. Women were incapable of voting and blacks were inferior in almost every way. We have come a long way and in the next century we probably have a long way to go.

Philosopher Richard Rorty characterizes the search for truth as “a search for the widest possible intersubjective agreement." The idea of community in agreement is warm and palatable but occurs to the extent that there can be trusting relationships between cultural sub-groups with one another and with government institutions.

But sometimes truth can represent a shock to the political system and it is not the same as agreement at all. Just think of how many times there is a status quo holding a set of common beliefs that subjugate those in another group. This can be all-at-once stealthy, clever, and self-serving. We are all familiar enough with the histories of sufferance and civil rights to conjure up our own examples.

Garver characterizes truth and agreement as often being at odds with one another adding that “Truth is disruptive”. He explains that:

“Periodically, however, there are “revolutionary movements”, in which disruptive truths destroy the existing community. Since normal communities define what counts as rational, these injections of truth cannot be rational....After the revolution these new truths are assimilated. They become domesticated, civilized, and rationalized. Truth becomes commonplace. There is a new consensus. The community returns to a new stable existence founded in a new set of agreements. On this account, revolution is the antithesis of community. There are no communities of truth, only of agreement.”

Typically this sort of truth is introduced by an outsider who is stepped upon or offended by the prevailing community agreement. History shows that this can be tumultuous.

What does this say about the present time? Are we in a state of relative equilibrium or one of disequilibrium? What are the specific truths in question and which proponent groups are involved?







------
Best,
Pat Pattillo


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Comments

The following comments are for "Agreement or Truth?"
by ppatt

agreement or truth?
Text perfect writing at college level. You send me back there to class and I'm loving every moment as I read. Very intelligent and concise.

( Posted by: unseenwriterx [Member] On: May 7, 2006 )

Interesting Analogy
and it expresses my sentiments exactly. Some part of our brains close

off after college and that is sad. I've by no means sustained any

momentum since college except in my chosen field and quite frankly, that

part of my brain has grown weary.

9-11 and our governments reaction to it triggererd a renaissance of

sorts in my thinking. For me, it posed compelling questions that our

media did not seem to answer. Consequently, public discourse has seemed

to flounder, not so much from lack of information but of knowledge.

I found myself surrounded on all sides by questions and our governments

prescriptions have not passed my personal ethical "smell test". I have

plenty of conservative friends who think they are right and this

concerns me as well, since I care for them as people. It would be kind

of hard to do right by them if the dialogue remained at the level that

we see in the MSM (mainstream media).

For me the most vexing questions were:

- Extremists on each side of the political spectrum believe they are

moral, so which values are most important to them and why do they

differ?

- How could so many people be persuaded to vote against their own

economic self-interests

- What possible explanation could their be for what I perceived to be

denial regarding the ethical/moral inconsistencies in government policy

Early on I became fully aware that this would be a journey of sorts and

the destination was unknown. Neither did I know what I was going to

think once I arrived at the destination which would only be yet another

pit stop on the road to life.

Mind you, I was not trying to find a satisfactory or palatable political

orientation but rather the reasons behind individuals choice of

political orientation. Recognizing certain things my gut told me, I also

wanted to gain a greater understanding of my own inclinations.

I try to be objective by seeking heavyweight thinkers next to who, in

comparison, I am but a lowly grasshopper, so to speak. I listened to

FOX, becoming familiar with all the talking points. I listened to Air

America hosts, both the shrill and the sober. I read a book called

"Warrior Politics" which touted itself as "Seeing the world as it is not

as we want it to be." Wow, that sounds really good doesn't it? Until one

considers that it can be leveraged in favor of any ideology and

therefore says very little. So many of these avenues and opporunities

for observation contributed very little towards the answers I was

seeking.

Whenever possible, I tried to understand who the major players in

government and proponents of one ideology or another were and what were

their formative influences. Ideological spokespersons like to cite

compelling philosophy and a lot of this is total BS but it takes

patience and the exploration of so many side-roads to know for sure. I

think it is really important to understand the people in government who

would lead us down one path or another and their justifications for

doing so. It was important for me to get past the icons they sometimes

hid behind in order to know whether they were real. If they professed to

be Christian was this just lip service, "faith without works" or did

they adhere to the most fundamental precepts of charity and love that I

had learned as a child in Sunday School. If they wrapped themselves in

the flag, had they ever sacrificed anything for it? Exactly what do they

mean by "our way of life"? After all, there are many ""ways of life"

here in America much different than mine or what I'd like mine to be.

I have traveled...to places where there is superstitious belief in

spirits, polytheism, and gods of just about everything in man and

nature. I've come to recognize religion as an expression and not a fact

and have seen how those in cultures with belief systems much different

than our own work things out, often in beautiful ways.

I know it comes mostly from the heart but it is hard to believe that the

same range of goodness does not exist culture to culture. Perhaps this

is a misplaced faith in humanity but my heart tells me otherwise and

other attempts at intellectual persuasion have not disuaded me from

these inclinations.

Given this setting, as you might imagine or possibly even resonate, the

prospects of wholesale slaughter of those in another culture are

distressing. Even if a case is made there being some segment of that

culture so deserving (that case had better be a good one and be tried

with great openness, care, and caution), even if we promise to be doing

it for their own good, even if we can convince the majority of other

nations of the imminent threat, even if we had been defied, even if we

had been recently wronged, even if there are promises of swift and easy

victory and ultimate gratitude I want to be convinced beyond a shadow of

a doubt. It is just too serious a thing not to be absolutely sure about.



How gray our own cultural landscape seemed after 9-11. Survivor,

American Idol, and Paris Hilton all seemed to embarassingly trivial as

did Bush's exhortations to "just go out and shop." Being in high school

during the Viet Nam war with all the accompanying indelible memories of

a war that was not sanitized I was overhwelmed by the cultural drought

represented by the relative absence of art reflecting life in

literature, movies, and music.

I was leftwith simultaenous feelings of hollowness and anger, thinking

to myself "Not so fast, I didn't sign off on this."

I also remember two particularly pivotal events that affected my

thinking. I was trading emails and phone calls with a

friend, much more liberal than I, at a time during which both Bush and Cheney were actively promulgating the ideas that Sadaam Hussein was assembling the materials and equipment for construction of a nuclear bomb and there was a definitive link between Iraq and 9-11.

My friend, characteristically cynical told me "Don't believe a word of it."

To which I replied "He is our President and must have intelligence the backs this up beyond a shadow of a doubt."

With time the bomb, wait...let's call it the other shoe, out of respect to real victims, was dropped. My friend had been right. Yet another drop in the rapidly accumulating bucket of motivations to get my questions answered.

I'm stricken with doubt about ideas that sometimes seem so real that I can taste them but which pass right on by eluding my best attempts to recapture them later. I have to seek validation not just from others but from myself as well.

So I began writing, a travelogue of sorts.

( Posted by: ppatt [Member] On: May 7, 2006 )

excuse...
...the formatting above. I don't know what happened. The pasted source from notepad had not been doublespaced like that.

Sorry to make anyone interested enough to read it suffer so.

I will ask someone on the site if it cannot be replaced without replacing the entire thread. I'd hate to eliminate a thread and reconstitute it if reviews and feedback would be lost.

I am so grateful for feedback I would hate to lose the thought provoking and interest comments that others have made. It is really a dialogue that I would like to keep intact.

( Posted by: ppatt [Member] On: May 7, 2006 )

Interesting Analogy Reformatted
Interesting analogy. It expressed exactly what had occurred to me as I was reading and writing.

Some part of our brains close off after college and that is sad. I've by no means sustained any momentum since college except in my chosen field and quite frankly, that part of my brain has grown weary.

9-11 and our government’s reaction to it triggered a renaissance in my thinking. For me, it posed compelling questions that our media did not seem to answer. Consequently, public discourse has seemed to flounder, not so much from lack of information but of knowledge.

I found myself surrounded on all sides by questions and our government’s prescriptions have not passed my personal ethical "smell test". I have plenty of conservative friends who think they are right and this concerns me as well, since I care for them as people. It would be kind of hard to do right by them if the dialogue remained at the level that we see in the MSM (mainstream media).

For me the most vexing questions were:

- Extremists on each side of the political spectrum believe they are moral, so which values are most important to them and why do they differ?

- How could so many people be persuaded to vote against their own economic self-interests

- What possible explanation could their be for what I perceived to be denial regarding the ethical/moral inconsistencies in government policy

Early on I became fully aware that this would be a journey of sorts and the destination was unknown. Neither did I know what I was going to
think once I arrived at the destination which would only be yet another pit stop on the road to life.

Mind you, I was not trying to find a satisfactory or palatable political orientation but rather the reasons behind individual’s choice of political orientation. Recognizing certain things my gut told me, I also wanted to gain a greater understanding of my own inclinations.

I try to be objective by seeking heavyweight thinkers next to who, in comparison, I am but a lowly grasshopper, so to speak. I listened to
FOX, becoming familiar with all the talking points. I listened to Air America hosts, both the shrill and the sober. I read a book called
"Warrior Politics" which touted itself as "Seeing the world as it is not as we want it to be." Wow, that sounds really good doesn't it? Until one considers that it can be leveraged in favor of any ideology and therefore says very little. So many of these avenues and opporunities for observation contributed very little towards the answers I was seeking.

Whenever possible, I tried to understand who the major players in government and proponents of one ideology or another were as well as their formative influences. Ideological spokespersons like to cite compelling philosophy and a lot of this is total BS but it takes patience and the exploration of so many side-roads to know for sure. I think it is really important to understand the people in government who would lead us down one path or another and their justifications for doing so. It was important for me to get past the icons they sometimes hid behind in order to know whether they were real. If they professed to be Christian was this just lip service, "faith without works" or did they adhere to the most fundamental precepts of charity and love that I had learned as a child in Sunday School. If they wrapped themselves in the flag, had they ever sacrificed anything for it? Exactly what do they mean by "our way of life"? After all, there are many ""ways of life" here in America much different than mine or what I'd like mine to be.

I have traveled...to places where there is superstitious belief in spirits, polytheism, and gods of just about everything in man and nature. I've come to recognize religion as an expression and not a fact and have seen how those in cultures with belief systems much different than our own work things out, often in beautiful ways.

I know it comes mostly from the heart but it is hard to believe that the same range of goodness does not exist culture to culture. Perhaps this
is a misplaced faith in humanity but my heart tells me otherwise and other attempts at intellectual persuasion have not dissuaded me from these inclinations.

Given this setting, as you might imagine or possibly even resonate, the prospects of wholesale slaughter of those in another culture are distressing. Even if a case is made there being some segment of that culture so deserving (that case had better be a good one and be tried
with great openness, care, and caution), even if we promise to be doing it for their own good, even if we can convince the majority of other nations of the imminent threat, even if we had been defied, even if we had been recently wronged, even if there are promises of swift and easy victory and ultimate gratitude I want to be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt. It is just too serious a thing not to be absolutely sure about.

How gray our own cultural landscape seemed after 9-11. Survivor, American Idol, and Paris Hilton all seemed to embarrassingly trivial as did Bush's exhortations to "just go out and shop." Being in high school during the Viet Nam war with all the accompanying indelible memories of a war that was not sanitized I was overwhelmed by the cultural drought represented by the relative absence of art reflecting life in
literature, movies, and music.

I was left with simultaneous feelings of hollowness and anger, thinking to myself "Not so fast, I didn't sign off on this."

I also remember two particularly pivotal events that affected my thinking. I was trading emails and phone calls with a friend, an avowed liberal, at a time during which both Bush and Cheney were actively promulgating the ideas that Sadaam Hussein was assembling the materials and equipment for construction of a nuclear bomb and there was a definitive link between Iraq and 9-11.

My friend, characteristically cynical told me "Don't believe a word of it."

To which I replied "He is our President and must have intelligence the backs this up beyond a shadow of a doubt."

With time the bomb, wait...let's call it the other shoe, out of respect to real victims, was dropped. My friend had been right. Yet another drop in the rapidly accumulating bucket of motivations to get my questions answered.

I'm stricken with doubt about ideas that sometimes seem so real that I can taste them but which pass right on by, eluding my best attempts to recapture them later. I have to seek validation not just from others but from myself as well.

So I began writing, a travelogue of sorts.

( Posted by: ppatt [Member] On: May 7, 2006 )

hello
Hello. I have writen a short essay spawning off of your post here. I will give your post credit for beeing the origanal source of my inperation, and if you find this insulting, I will gladly remove my post from the site. Yours was very good, and mine shall pale in comparison. Thank you for that bit of insite.
-John

( Posted by: crackpotpoet [Member] On: May 10, 2006 )

honored...
Our ideas all come from somewhere else. Notice that many of my posts are like reviews with a few twists and comparisons added here and there. I think the way I feel about that sort of thing comes out in a verse of my poem, the shortening days:

"Convinced I know that which I know
Pride in ideas conceived
Is no more significant a show
Than recycling what I read"

What is the purpose of ideas except to be passed along like waves of thought...and to rebound with changes and evolve.

I am not the least bit insulted. To the contrary, I am flattered. I will read what you wrote and continue to write with anticipation.

Thank you ever so much. :-) Keep thinking!

( Posted by: ppatt [Member] On: May 10, 2006 )

waves of thought
Speaking of waves of though that might bounce back, slightly permuted by the beholder, here is a link that I got in response to this essay which was also posted elsewhere. Maybe you will like it. I walked away with one point standing out head and shoulders among the rest. It is how important it is to take great care with ideas.

So many people are all so serious about things without having taken much care at all. I've always believed humans, in general, to be fluffy creatures who primarily seek to reduce their own cognitive dissonance, but maybe I am just cynical.

Here is the link:

http://web.archive.org/web/20040212054855/http://www.jelks.nu/misc/articles/bs.html

Best!

( Posted by: ppatt [Member] On: May 10, 2006 )

which post John?
Maybe it has not appeared. Please let me know when it does. I'm excited. Thanks!

( Posted by: ppatt [Member] On: May 10, 2006 )

thank you
I rather thought that you would not mind. You seem to be an inteligent, level headed person. My submitance is now online, and is intitled "response". I am glad that I flattered you, but I fear I will disapoint. So let me add this disclaimer, I am still a very new writer and am just recently brave enough to venture into the world of abstract thought and philosophy. Speaking of which, I havae a philosophical paper I will submit as soon as I get of (or more likely out off) restriction. It is called "the truth of pain and joy". I would be greatly honored if you would tell me what you think of it, once it is on that is. I will send you a PM to tell you when it is online. Thank you for alowing my post to stand.
-John

( Posted by: crackpotpoet [Member] On: May 11, 2006 )





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