Friday, June 02, 2006

Ever get this feeling...?

Usually it involves a new word or phrase. You learn the word--say, "shibboleth" for instance--and all of the sudden it's everywhere. Now, it's possible that you just never noticed it before, although you heard or read it many times, so it's impossible to know whether you're really seeing the word more now than before. But there are other interesting instances of this phenomenon, two of which happened to me personally very recently.

First, I picked up the excellent album And Don't the Kids Just Love It by the Television Personalities before embarking on a long road trip. Just two nights later, I'm sitting in a bar in Denton, TX, and lo and proverbially behold, the DJ plays "The World of Pauline Lewis" from that same record.

Then, just today, I was reading "A Capitalist Road to Communism" by Robert van der Veen and Philippe van Parijs, an article I printed from JStor before we left school because I'm a huge nerdpants. (And doesn't the University's free printing policy come in so handy for our intellectual stimulation, Austin-5000?) The authors basically introduce the idea of a Basic Income Grant (BIG) policy as a non-socialistic way to achieve communism. In the middle of reading this article, I took a break to check my email and the ol' internets in general. Over at Crooked Timber one of the commentators reviews Charles Murray's new book, In Our Hands, which leads to an excellent discussion in which selfsame commentator mentions BIGs and van Parijs himself, whom I had never heard of before today! All I'm sayin' is that coincidence is a mad weird thing, broheim.


Blogger d'Mardree said...

Coincidence is just a blasphemous way of saying "the hand of God."

10:11 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Does that mean God wants me to spend my money on records and turn to Communism? Sweet deal, Almighty!

2:30 AM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Just to get the ball rolling on this a little more, since I might have been a bit vague in the original post, I'm not just talking about coincidence, which can be about anything. What I mean is the feeling of having knowledge where you previously had none, and being coincidentally reminded of that knowledge. It is a good feeling, no? Think about times when you went to a Speaker Series, say, and you knew what the speaker was talking about, whereas two weeks earlier or even sooner you would have had no idea. Similarly, I find I have a better time at bars when I know what the DJs playing--I not only feel "in" on the action, since DJs can be a selective and elitist bunch, but I also just get to hear more songs that I like and don't usually hear on classic rock radio, party mixes, etc.

The bigger picture is that I think there is a very simple psychological mechanism at work in most human beings that makes them want to be "in" on the conversation. To take a pop culture example, if you didn't know what the words "Knights Templar" or "sacred feminine" meant in the wake of the Da Vinci Code, you'd feel pretty left out. Hypothetically, you could also get people interested in political decisions and current events, if those subjects can somehow be made to be interesting and relevant.

This probably all sounds rather pedestrian, but think about the constant griping about Americans knowing more Simpsons characters than first amendment guarantees, giving more votes to American Idol than to the American President. Some chalk this up to Americans wanting the lowest common denominator--being attracted to sex, violence, celebrity, pizazz and what not. But I don't think people are "naturally" attracted to the basest elements of culture. The basic human drive to feel connected, to feel a part of the conversation, can be harnessed to get citizens to take their democratic roles seriously. How one goes about shifting society's emphasis from entertainment to politics is what has to be investigated. It's not even a matter of turning people away from material objects towards the sublime "Truth" of higher intellectual ideas, either, because politics can be just as exciting, entertaining, fulfilling, communal, and relevant as seeing a blockbuster movie. Unfortunately there are many, many entrenched, wealthy interests who would fight for maintaining the status quo.

2:48 AM  
Blogger Austin 5-000 said...

If, by "entrenched, wealthy interests" you mean fat people sitting in front of their HDTV then I know exactly what you're talking about. Cable is not forced upon the masses; they pay a huge amount for it.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

I think perhaps you are noting an effect of what I am talking about rather than a cause. No doubt millions of Americans have chosen cable TV entertainment, but did they have all the available options, evenly balanced, ceteris paribus, before they did so? And isn't it a slight against the rational choice free market that it makes its consumers fat and sedentary? Or perhaps one day they will become so fat and unhealthy that they will naturally decrease demand for TV and increase it for exercise. Or perhaps it is better that we preserve the "negative liberty" of allowing people to get fat and unhealthy (its really more encouragement than neutrality) rather than interfere in the market. Have I forgotten any other classical liberal defenses? Seriously, they're fun.

2:33 PM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

That the moment you don't 'allow' people the 'right' to get fat and lazy on television, you're condemning them to a life of servitude and death in a concentration camp

10:30 PM  
Blogger Austin 5-000 said...

Sheriff and Scantron-
Your anti-liberal statements are sufficiently vague that I'm not really worried about them, but, out of curiosity, what are you talking about?

4:57 PM  

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