1. My cold of two weeks ago came back with a vengeance this week. Never quite bad enough to keep me away from work (certainly not while I’m still on probation time before my PTO becomes available), but more than bad enough to make the experience quite miserable. Hence why this is a non-specific Flotsam. So, for today I’m just going to toss off some miscellaneous thoughts that I’m too tired to flesh out much.
2. It is sometimes said that you shouldn’t trust primary sources in historical inquiry since they will be biased. Instead, you should trust the professional historian, who is trained to sift through these biases. Indeed, the primary sources are biased. So is the professional historian.
The difference is that the historical bias of the primary source is itself a part of that same history. The bias of the historian is not.
3. Do you notice that there is what you might call an ‘assumed culture’ at work in today’s world? Anything made for general public consumption that doesn’t originate from a source with an otherwise strongly marked character makes the same references and presumes the same values: you’ve seen Star Wars and Game of Thrones. You vote democrat. You’re non-religious. You’re into, or at least familiar with certain pop stars, and so on. It’s like there’s a giant mutual-aid society, in which a web of entertainers, politicians, businessmen, and so on give each other shout-outs and kudos.
I find this kind of boring, even when they reference things I like. It also begins to give that kind of ‘unman’ feel, like there’s no actual personality behind the references, but something trying to ape a personality.
(See, that’s an example: when was the last time you heard a Space Trilogy reference in anything made for the general public?)
4. There’s also the thing where people will cheer when someone mentions an officially protected demographic. Basically a way of signalling “I’m a good person!” or “I am offering the right obeisance!”
5. Oh, speaking of which, I remember during the (mercifully brief) ‘Diversity, Inclusion, Equity’ portion of the onboarding process, they talked about how ‘we’ve found that diversity isn’t just race, religion, sex, and so on, but things like what school you went to, what neighborhood you grew up it, what your experiences are.’
In other words, diversity is supposedly the startling insight that companies employ individuals. This amazing fact requires an entire department and continual training to understand, and we presume that you, the employees, will need to be constantly reminded of this.
I also love that ‘we’ve found’ (or it might have even been ‘experts have discovered’, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt): apparently, the idea that people can be distinguished by things apart from officially designated categories came as a blinding insight.
6. I notice that a lot of moderns have an idea about nature that goes something like this: that the ideal of nature is balance, of all things working together in harmony to allow all to thrive.
If you want to see how much nature values ‘balance’, try introducing a species into a new environment and see how nature deals with it. Nine times out of ten, what happens is either a). the new species gets quickly wiped out by the existing species or b). the new species utterly dominates the ecosystem and wipes out many of the existing species (rats are especially gifted at doing this).
See, nature isn’t about balance: nature is about every species and almost every individual trying to get as much as it possibly can. In other words, nature isn’t harmony: it’s warfare. The ‘balance’ is an illusion created by the fact that the species withing a given ecosystem have all reached a point of more or less stalemate. The moment any species has a real advantage, it rides it as far as it can, happily wiping out everything else around it even if this means dooming itself in the long term.
(Someone might say that introducing rats to isolated islands isn’t natural because humans do it. Well, one, that doesn’t change the fact that rats still act according to nature, and two, the result would be the same whether the rats got there on ships or floating on driftwood).
Nature doesn’t care about balance: nature cares about survival, and not even long-term survival.
7. “Your counterexamples don’t really prove your point so much as they prove you don’t understand mine.”
One of those things that passes through the mind a lot, but which takes a while to catch and articulate.