It has been decided that a discussion of whether or not the Holocaust took place has been deemed not appropriate for this forum.
The problem with being the web's number one location for discussing doping in cycling is that along the way you do attract some absolute ****ing lunatics.Susan Westemeyer said:It has been decided that a discussion of whether or not the Holocaust took place has been deemed not appropriate for this forum.
Duunnnnoooooooo maaaan I am no not lunaatic and thiss post seems quitee offeencive. Better report iT.Waterloo Sunrise said:The problem with being the web's number one location for discussing doping in cycling is that along the way you do attract some absolute ****ing lunatics.
.Thus, in Vico’s scheme, each civilization passes through three broad and loosely defined ages in the course of its history. He borrowed a scheme from classical literature, and called these the Age of Gods, the Age of Heroes, and the Age of Men: gods, because religion is the dominant social force in the first age; heroes, because aristocracies that claim descent from heroic forebears are the dominant social force in the second age; men, because humanity in the mass becomes the dominant social force in the third age. The first age begins in what Vico calls “the barbarism of sense,” a state of cultural and mental chaos in which the concrete sensory images that fill consciousness haven’t yet been brought into a meaningful relationship to one another; the third age ends in what he calls “the barbarism of reflection,” a state of cultural and mental chaos in which the abstract intellectual concepts that fill consciousness are no longer brought into a meaningful relationship with one another. Put another way, the cycle of history as Vico understands it begins in brutality and ends in madness.
As noted above, though, the barbarism of reflection, the madness at the cycle’s end, has an ironic similarity to Barfield’s final participation. In the twilight of what Vico calls the Age of Men, the rising flood of abstraction makes it harder and harder for people to recognize that the world and its contents might have any meaning or value other than what certain human beings, on the basis of one abstract consideration or another, happen to want to assign them. This has certain predictably horrific results. When the barbarism of sense reigns, a band of warriors can slaughter the inhabitants of a village out of sheer raw bloodlust; when the cycle swings around to the barbarism of reflection, a village, an ethnic group, or the population of an entire country can be exterminated because a midlevel bureaucrat somewhere, without the least trace of passion or any sense that moral issues might be involved in the process, signs a directive that renders their continued existence null and void
You might think that even an elite gone senile would have enough basic common sense left to notice that losing the loyalty of the people who keep the elite in power is a fatal error. In practice, though, the disconnection between the world of the dominant elite and the world of the internal proletariat quickly becomes total, and the former can be completely convinced that everything is fine when the latter know otherwise. As I write this, there’s a timely example unfolding at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where hospital administrators have been insisting at the top of their lungs that every possible precaution was taken when the late Thomas Duncan was being treated there for Ebola. According to the nursing staff—two of whom have now come down with the disease—“every possible precaution” amounted to no training, inadequate protective gear, and work schedules that had nurses who treated Duncan go on to tend other patients immediately thereafter.
Every human society has its own collective image of what human beings are like, which serves more or less the same role in that society as the ego or self-image does in the psychology of the individual. That image is always a polymorphous thing, subject to constant redefinition in the competing interests of subgroups within the society, and it’s also subject to changes driven by historical cycles as well as to something not far removed from genetic drift. Still, variants of the collective human image in any human society always have a close family resemblance with one another, and very often a set of common features that aren’t subject to change, no matter how much debate piles up around other aspects of the image.
The imaginary figure of Man, conqueror of Nature, parodied in last week’s post is exactly such an image. For the last few centuries, that has been the dominant image of humanity in Western industrial societies. As mentioned in an earlier post in this sequence, Man isn’t you, or me, or anyone else who ever lived or ever will live. He’s a fictional character who plays the central role in the grand mythological narrative at the core of the civil religion of progress, the mythic hero whose destiny it is to conquer Nature and march gloriously onward and upward to the stars.
To refer to the abstraction Man as the protagonist of a hero myth is not merely a figure of speech, by the way. In a brilliant book, Narratives of Human Evolution, paleoanthropologist Misia Landau showed that the stories that have been spun around “the ascent of Man”—think about that phrase for a bit—are in fact classic hero tales embracing all the conventions of that very distinctive genre, complete with all the standard motifs that are traced out in studies of the subject by Joseph Campbell and other scholars of mythology. She examines the classic nineteenth- and twentieth-century accounts of human evolution in detail, and shows how in every case, the facts unearthed by scientific research were hammered into shape to fit a far from scientific narrative.
It probably needs repeating that the narrative in question is not evolution. The evolution of species is one of the facts unearthed by scientific research; in the case of the hominids, in particular, the rambling family tree that led from East African forest apes to the author and readers of this blog has been worked out in ample detail, backed up by an assortment of fossils and artifacts impressive enough that the term “missing link” dropped out of use a long time ago. No, what’s happened is that the normal process by which a successful species adapted to challenging conditions and spread beyond its original ecosystem has been rewritten as the central myth of a civil religion and used to redefine the entire two million years or so of hominid existence in the image of the last three centuries of western history.