The Rectifications…of names and things (4) – ‘Wake up call…’
March 20, 2009
Following the suggestion of Confucius, I continue some rectification of names for our times. Elsewhere I offer some ‘solutions’ to some problems of linguistic degradation. Relevant observations appear towards the end of my most recent Dances with Difference (4) post.
“Wake up call...” We have them just about everywhere, yet few who are not awake seem to be getting more awake. So, why keep using this useless phrase. It is not influential, but once again, like other expressions I’ve rectified, saying it seems to be doing it (waking others up) for the unrepentant users. I keep thinking they’ll wake up to themselves, but they don’t. That’s a kind of sleepiness on my part, isn’t it.
Wherein lies the story of keeping asleep while appearing awake. The core point here is that most of us go about most of our lives asleep waking – that is, on autopilot much of the day, with occasional spurts of focussed consciousness when autopilot ploughs us into an unseen hill of reality. They needn’t be big but they must be sharp enough to permeate our sleepy hides. See David Brooks' effort to do this here http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/opinion/20brooks.html?_r=1&ref=opinion.
It is no bad thing to be on autopilot, as long as the DEW line of our awareness is sufficiently powered to sense the impending. The older we are the more likely we are to be on autopilot. It is our gathered history of proven effectiveness expressing itself in workable solutions to most of living. The younger we are the more attention we have to pay, so young people must be more energetic than the old, and nature made such. This is because they are ignorant and incompetent in many ways, so much so that they prefer the discovery of that ignorance and its associated joys and pains to benefitting from our experience.
Many of our important habits, those of thought the most so, depend on human history for their foundations, core structures and images. We mostly, young and old, think through the past. Watch current reflections by quite smart people on the GFC, among other wake up calls not well answered. For example, there you will find arguments mostly couched in Adam Smith’s 250 year old theses selectively recalled to fill gaps in understanding with apparent authority. See Amartya Sen’s recent view of Smith for a counterpoint.
Like all habits, their serviceability is confirmed by their resistance to change, especially big changes. They have seen it all before. To be experienced, what’s new has to be very brightly lit and sound-staged to get through the perceptual filters of habits. And in our times more than some, we have had a constant assault on the competence of socially constructed reason – the sciences and technologies founding our world now.
This assault ranges from the struggle to make Darwin god or God darwin, to the rapid changes of ‘the research shows’ about diet, hearts, reading scores, the weather, …nearly ad infinitum. Counter evidence to the goodness of our economy also appears persistently – the fat epidemics, the greed epidemics, the extreme everything compulsions of the young, the increasing speeds of everything and the underlying denial of accountability for all these things by those who are supposed to protect and support us.
The effect of the destruction of scientific credibility for the public is to reduce the range and substance of the experiential ‘hills’ our auto-pilot missteps encounter. So the wake ups get louder, raucous, cacophonous … turning into noise which is uninterpretable. We know this produces its own defense by turning off the reception machinery and demonising the callers.
This is not a dream we can wake up to. It’s time for those in power of all sorts to start truth-telling and stop inviting others to wake up by calling from a distance and sending messages to anyones.