A Mouthful Of Pebbles And The Roar Of The Ocean

Someone asked me (again) today, why I waste my time on some silly online political debate group. And that’s a good question. But I know the answer. It’s a choice.

First, it’s not really very useful to argue with people who agree with you. I spent a good half hour last night at a dinner table overlooking the Aegean, arguing core libertarian ethical theory with Stephan Kinsella, who relies on preference and moral argument for his theories. If I agreed with him, what would I learn?

You know, it’s like this: The Athenian orator Demosthenes, who had a soft and stammering voice, said that he filled his mouth with pebbles and practiced over the roar of he waves until his speech was perfect.

I have a tendency to speak in high abstraction, making leaps between concepts that are too far apart in causal relation for most people to follow. About a decade ago, two friends, Ali from Iran, and Frank from the USA, abused me daily for this kind of lazy communication. I began to view this tendency as ‘my problem’. A form of impediment. And so for ten years I have worked, as Spinoza suggested, to “speak in a manner comprehensible to the common people”. Unfortunately, the common people will not debate, and are happy in their ignorance. But motivated ideological opponents, regardless of their motives, mental ability or character defect, are convenient foils for the improvement of one’s arguments.

So, this group, like most online forums, is my mouthful of pebbles.

I don’t seek to convert anyone. Although I do find friends occasionally. I simply seek to improve my argument. If others learn in the process than that is find with me. But my purpose is to improve my ability to express ideas.

2 responses to “A Mouthful Of Pebbles And The Roar Of The Ocean”

  1. Hi Curt,
    If the end game is the cohesiveness of the argument as well as the sharpening of the discourse, then are you not empowering those who hold to the lesser view as yours. Philosophically speaking?
    Not trying to be cute here, just wondering about the reality of the process.
    Will the “other side” ever be converted so to speak, or is the unseen future just an exercise in endless sophistry? Is there another way to exact change from the process itself and move the culture in the forward way? It would seem to my pragmatic way of thinking that opposing philosophical paradigms might possibly be the proverbial wrench in the works? They compete for time, money and energy ad infinitum without seeming to produce any measurable results. I wrestle with this at the level of daily expression in the church life. I can be a great theologian, but if it has no lasting impact on the culture and the world that i serve – then it seems pointless to me.

  2. Dave,

    It just turns out that the ‘scribblers’ who write books, have a dramatic affect on current and long term policy and in turn society.

    In every society there are people looking for ideas. They take these ideas and make use of them in their own ways. Over time these ideas end up in policy.

    So, the question then becomes, who do you wish to influence?

    Common people are eminently pragmatic. Like policy makers and intellectuals, they too search for ideas that they can use to solve practical problems.

    So, the question for common people is, whether the messages we present them suit their current problems. I suspect that the messages we present them with do not solve their current problems. (For a variety of complex reasons.) And in fact, I suspect that we are solving a past problem ourselves, not the current one. (As generals who always seem to fight the current war with the strategy and technology of the previous one.) That is likely because WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONTENT OF THE WESTERN CANNON OURSELVES. It is taught as an assumed good, rather than understood as a technology that either succeeds or fails in accomplishing the goals.

    I am not sure much can be salvaged. A people who lose their cult, soon lose their society. A people without warriors become the victims of other warriors from other societies. Other intellectuals from other societies. Other prophets from other societies.

    Excessive Christian empathy has been a failure. In the face of secularism, leaders abandoned the philosophy of europa, and failed to modernize christianity. As such, the once-unifying value system that Christianity and aristocracy together created is now eroding. People do not attend the churches, they openly rebel against the liturgy, and the mythology itself is viewed as irrelevant and absurd even by those who still support it’s ethic.

    There are no templars to call to rescue the church.

    Fundamentally, the women’s movement allied with the anti-slavery movemnet during the civil war, against white men, and then women merged with first communism and then anti-male feminism, followed by the suicide of europe during the world wars. This period was then fallowed by the excess immigration at the turn of the last century.

    Farmers are small business men. They live in the market. Once people stopped being farmers, the commercial sentiments, built up over five hundred years, declined, as peopole joined bureaucracies, government agencies, to the point where today, very few people actually participate in the market.

    Even the catholic church has abandoned european christendom and is largely funded and driven by the developing non-european world.

    LIke most religion’s faced with change, the christian leadership became fundamentalist instead of modernizing the teachings, into rational prose.

    The immigrant catholics and jews were precisely as damaging to the Protestant system as the protestants suggested. Our supreme court is now dominated by sects who have ethical systems entirely opposite to that which made our civilization great in the first place.

    By 1980, momentum against christendom was too large to stop without halting immigration.

    Small things in large numbers have vast consequences, and the west has created the modern world, but the aristocratic commercial society that was the source of that modern world is being abandoned for ideas that are marketed as ‘progressive’ but which are in reality, simply luddite tribal sentiments that are little more than a code of rebellion against the previous western male aristocratic commercial social order.

    So, if christianity got us here, and has no solution for us, then of what use is teaching it? If our western aristocratic philosophy has not solution for us, what use is teaching it? If our commercial sentiments are abandoned because they create inequality, then what use is teaching it?

    Or is it that we teach it using the wrong language?

    So I agree with you. 🙂 But it also means I am trying to articulate that ancient philosophical framework in modern terms, rather than mystical and moral terms.


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