Maintaining our Maps
Narrative Resonance Part 2
"Show me the proof...no the REAL proof!"
How many times have we heard things like these, regardless of the topic? Sometimes the "proof" produced is legitimately ridiculous, yes, but sometimes it is opposed simply because it challenges the worldview of the listener. I want to analyze this phenomenon to better illuminate the concept of oversocialization and extend the concept of narrative resonance I discussed in my last piece. Think of this as a continuation of the arguments in there. A Part 2, you could say. So first, a recap.
Why we pick this Map over that one
The World is a profoundly complex place: endless interlinked webs, a rhizome so complicated it cannot possibly be untangled, least of all by our reductionist theories.
It seems somewhat odd to say The World is overdetermined. Instead, I will say that our knowledge of the world is insufficient to grasp at the Truth. In other words, our Maps are underdetermined.
Endless debates, and only partially can they be “resolved” by data. Often the data supports a variety of interpretations.
A combination of inborn tendencies and socialization generate our earliest Maps, from which each of us head down our individual paths. A combination of Habit/Pragmatism and Sentiment drive us.
A significant part of our existence is being faced with problems that we are expected to solve. Questions that we are expected to acquire an answer to. Our Maps guide our action, and it is reasonable to believe that if Map A does a “better” job of guiding my action than Map B, I should run with Map A.
At the core of our Maps, the core of what makes any particular narrative resonate with us, is sentiment. We adopt a narrative because, at its core, it feels right.
All of these tendencies we start off with, however small they may be, naturally predispose us to certain ways of knowing. They set us down the pathways that lead us to considering other ways of knowing “unthinkable.”
And our conceptualization of the world is intrinsically tied with our values, what we identify as Goods to be pursued, model lives to be desired, etc.
I will repeat the Charles Taylor quote from above:
“To know who I am is to know where I stand. My identity is defined by the commitments and identifications which provide the frame or horizon within which I can try to determine from case to case what is good, or valuable, or what ought to be done, or what I endorse or oppose.”
While we each exist in a wide variety of objective relationships, spanning from very general to quite particular, our sentiments about these relationships and our decision to identify with (or not to identify with) particular relations is tied up in our value positions. Being a “class reductionist” or “identitarian” says far more about the individual identifying with said label than it says about the world.
Sentiment, Values, and being a Good Person
If the world doesnt work the way I think it works, that implies that my values, the things I think are Good, may not actually be Good.
This is, of course, a pretty solid grounds for an existential crisis.
Because if I am pursuing "not-Good" things, that implies I may not be a Good person. Perhaps I have been duped or misled. Perhaps I am too stupid to have recognized this before. Perhaps my inborn tendencies, my very nature, is somehow corrupt. It has led me to be attracted to not-Good things. What if I am, by my own nature, a bad person?
And so you can understand the visceral reaction when someone is presented with information that challenges their views. The more closely any aspect of our Map is tied to our Values, the more ferociously we defend it. The more viciously we fight back against any accusation that this part of the Map is wrong.
The malleable nature of "proof"
And so here we see why people add qualifiers to "proof" (or "news" or "information"). "Real" Science/Proof/News/etc. is that which confirms my worldview. Democracy, Science, Information, News. These are all utilized not as purely rhetorical bludgeons, but as symbols to add legitimacy to particular worldviews/Maps.
Blue Empire is so adamant about defending "democracy" and "science" and delineating "true" information and news from supposed imposters because these terms refer to processes that, in some way, transcend the personal/individual/subjective and are therefore more legitimate. Democracy is (supposedly) a deliberative, inter-subjective process. Science is supposedly a set of disciplines which determines findings through a method that is held by society to be as close to "objective" as possible. Information is, well, information. Data. And news is similar.
Being able to claim that you are the authoritative source of the Truth is an immensely powerful weapon. When we are socialized, we are told that there are certain authorities, and only some of us upon growing older determine that not only are authorities in general fallible (as all humans are), but also that the authorities that tell me I am right are also fallible. The independence (or lack thereof) from the socialization process varies from person to person. The oversocialized have almost no ability to perform this. Their side, their sources, the voices that affirm their Map; that is always correct. Because to think otherwise is to invite existential terror.
Alex Jones and the Conspiracy Theory Problem
I find Alex Jones entertaining, but I also find that the reaction against Alex Jones is…disappointing to say the least. “Conspiracy Theory” plays a similar role to “misinformation”, “fake news”, “anti-Science”, etc: it defines a position or idea that is not supported by the current regime and therefore must be labeled as false.
The regime’s hope is that individuals, drawn to truth, will view these positions as objectively wrong. The alternative is a “he said, she said” battle, which undermines the regime’s legitimacy. No longer is the regime objectively legitimate. The brute power structures come into focus for the people.
And so this jar keeps filling up while so many continue to stick their heads in the sand.
How Ideology Blinds Us
How we think the world is is colored by how we think the world should be. Our identities and our Maps are tied up with our values.
I believe that we have conceptualized society in ways that prevent us from truly grasping the wide array of options that exist. Ideology has led us astray.
It is true, as this piece explains, that some kind of "blinders" must exist. We are incapable of wholly grasping the intricacies of the World. The problem, of course, is that when we develop an Ideology, a narrative that fully explains the World according to our values, we become exceptionally reluctant to take off the blinders.
The Mantra Maintains the Map
A rather interesting phenomenon in this vein is how ideological statements sound and act more like mantras than explanations (or even proclamations). They appear oriented towards the speaker, not towards others. Mantras tend to rely on emotionally potent rhetoric (think "empowerment" or "freedom" or "equality"). But more importantly, they make us feel good. We identify with these things because they provide an image of a personal future Self (or a future World) that we find desirable. "That is who I want to be" or "That is how things should be." What the Mantra does is cover for insecurity in the case of self-doubt. When propagated by an institution, we internalize the mantra (and the feelings we associate with it) in such a way that we end up self-regulating into the behavior the institution desires. We hold on to these entirely abstract, vague principles or words or symbols so strongly because they sit at the core of who we are. They are nourishment for the soul, as necessary and vital to life as nourishment for our flesh.
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