You know that when a field of academic has to call itself science — like computer science or political science — then it isn’t going to be very scientific. Physics, chemistry, and engineering don’t need the word “science” because it’s just so darn obvious. However, the reason why the term in inapplicable doesn’t mean it’s not important, and the reason why it’s both inapplicable and important — that is, complexity — isn’t obvious. We think we can deal with complexity, but we can’t, and we’re just now waking up to that fact after being lied to by deceptive political entrepreneurs for many decades.
I’m going to talk about complexity in terms of my experience at MIT Course 17, Political Science, were I studied international relations and political philosophy before getting kicked out. It was pretty exciting because the socialist who kicked me out called me “repugnant” and a “coward” on my way out. This was before I learned about 0bama’s mentor, Chicago “community organizer” Saul Alinsky, who advises socialists to accuse others of the activities that they themselves are performing on a regular basis. I then finished up at a less-prestigious university in flyover country, Kansas Polytechnic near Lebanon (KPL), where I studied, graduated, and experienced no problems whatsoever.
In writing about this, I don’t intend to be maudlin and self-pitying because I worked through those emotions years ago. I do however intend to tease apart and articulate a number of political themes that at the time didn’t make sense but have revealed themselves to be increasingly relevant and potent over the years. Discussing them in terms of a constrained and confined academic department helps to place limits on the discussion an place these larger themes into sharper relief and contrast.
In so doing, I’m thinking about Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZAMM, 1974) in which a philosophy student goes a little too deep, comes out on the other side, and writes about it. ZAMM is described as a work of “fictionalized autobiography,” which is what I’m about to undertake. That is, people may ask, “Did that actually happen?” in which I will reply, “maybe.” I readily admit that I use the tools of fiction — per Tom Wolfe’s “New Journalism” — so the names, places, and temporal ordering may be changed to make the story more engaging and comprehensible, like the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
Additionally, like ZAMM, there will be philosophy interspersed with events in a way that is helpful to understand both. That is, we live in a media age in which too often fiction is reduced to a screenplay. Here though, I intend to reveal the underlying detail, the hidden complexity that underlies reality that is not only not talked about, it isn’t even acknowledged. This reality goes back to Plato’s cave but also was talked about by William Blake who said,
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern..” — William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
While complexity itself isn’t immediately visible, is consequences in the form of “policy resistance” make themselves felt in every government. The basic problem is that political “leaders” today aren’t leaders in the traditional sense of the word. Today’s politicians are instead salespeople for corporate conglomerates who extract resources from governments, which is really messed up, but that’s they way modern economics works though you won’t learn about it in school.
Part of the root of this lies in the genesis of international relations. Until World War I (WWI), warfare was seen as an almost noble enterprise. However the horrors of WWI were so terrible that war was something to be avoided at almost any cost. This utopian birth led to a number of problematic consequences because “reality” was associated with the failed balance of power politics that lead to WWI as well as the technologies that made WWI so horrible. But the problem is, isn’t an understanding of reality necessary to formulate the effective policy to avoid war? Moreover, isn’t acknowledging reality necessary to support claims to science? Richard Feynman defined science as: 1) guessing the answer; 2) testing the answer; and 3) if the guess doesn’t square with the test, then you’re wrong. This is not the current understanding of political science in the academy or policy in the world’s governments, which will be, of course, the subject of my upcoming posts.