Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Evil Days

Perhaps like many people I have struggled with ethics, the questions of right and wrong.  Unfortunately, this debate has been dominated by religions and idealistic political groups.  All that has been accomplished is a muddying of the waters.
Two concepts cleared the waters for me.  One is that ethics is simply a question of right action.  What actions will lead to a prosperous and happy life?  Good actions bring benefit and wrong actions bring destruction.  Admittedly, this is a simplistic version, but it captures the basic idea.  Good intentions can bring bad results and bad intentions can sometimes bring positive unintended consequences.
The second concept was recognising a connection between Natural Rights, Life, Liberty, Property, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and traditional moral teachings from many different cultures.  For example, when the 10 Commandments says, “Thou Shalt Not Steal” or “Thou Shalt Not Covet” what it is saying is that we must respect the property rights of others.  Likewise, “Thou Shalt Not Murder” is saying to respect your fellow man’s right to life.
If we respect the Natural Rights of others, then we find that we are on a pretty solid moral path.  I will add to this the implied right to protect your rights.  This keeps the villains at bay and the tyrants in check.
In philosophy, the branches of Ethics and Politics interconnect to form a cluster.  Ethics concerns itself with the actions of the individual and politics with the actions of the group, and more precisely the actions of those who presume to lead the group.
I am inspired to write this because I see the rise of evil.  This is the worst kind of evil.  It is not the Disney villain wringing his hands at his glorious evil.  It is the idealistic do-gooders with the best intentions at heart embarked on activities that violate the Natural Rights of others and is therefore evil.  For them the ends justify the means, so they will engage in evil actions with good intentions in hopes of a positive outcome. 
When the Socialists demand government money to help the poor, it sounds so noble.  When they speak out against the wealthy, it sounds so revolutionary.  It is the voice of the common man against the exploitation by the rich.
Let’s take this apart.  Where does government get this money?  It comes from taxation.  If you choose not to pay your taxes, then you go to jail.  This practice is commonly called theft, the taking of another person’s property by force or the threat of force.  So what the Socialists are calling for is for the government to steal more money. 
Of course they claim that they only want the money to be stolen from the rich, because they can afford it.  Who determines what constitutes rich?  At present, the average Briton works nearly four months of the year solely for the government.  There is a word for this too.  It called indentured servitude and it is a form of slavery.  So it is not just the rich who are being taxed.
They demand that we tax businesses.  When a business is taxed it figures the loss into its operating costs.  This is then passed onto the consumer of whatever goods or services the company provides.  Larger companies and corporations are able to spread the costs, but small businesses go under.
The Socialists demand an increase of the minimum wage.  This too is born by the businesses.  Again the large companies spread the cost and the small ones hire less people.  The unemployed who are willing to work for less than minimum wage cannot be hired and remain wards of the state.
Society can be divided into two factions.  There are the private employees who work to provide goods and services and thus increase the nation’s wealth.  Then there are those who produce nothing, but survive only by the production of the private workers.  This groups ranges from politicians, to bureaucrats, to public service providers, to welfare recipients, and to some students.  These are the groups with vested interests in socialist policies because this is where they get their money.  One group funds the other.
The relationship between the socialist and capitalist aspects of a mixed economy is like the blood farms in vampire films, like Blade 2.  If the humans become too conscious they might rebel, but if they are not conscious enough they are dead and therefore of no use. 
Many of these public employees may work very hard in difficult and demanding jobs.  Some have very important jobs, such as the police or teachers.  However, ultimately they do not contribute anything to the wealth and prosperity of the nation.  When their pay is taxed it is merely going back into the same pool from which it came.  Likewise, when they spend their earnings it is simply returning money into the private pool that it was taken from initially by the State.  In a socialist state, money is not made; it is simply moved around.
This is a medieval worldview that money is finite dating back to the false notion that wealth and political power was based on land ownership.  If someone has a lot of money, then someone else must be poorer for it.  This is a completely false notion.  It’s the economic equivalent of believing that the sun revolves around the earth.  Money is a symbolic representation of human production and trade and can therefore be increased and created.  The answer to poverty is not the redistribution of wealth (theft) but an increase in production and trade.  This is accomplished through less socialist policies and programs and not more.
There are many individuals dependent upon socialist policies, however when we look at the big picture we see that socialism makes people poorer.  Look at the socialist nations in Africa.  Over 500 billion US dollars have been given to African states to alleviate poverty, but they are poorer now than before.  On a more local level, it is estimated that one in five Scots are deemed unemployable due to lacking the most basic skills sets, such as literacy, numeracy, and social skills.  This is the result of three generations of government dependency.
For a libertarian, this state of affairs is evil enough.  However, it is not enough for the Socialist protestors.  They want more power to be given to the State.  Make no mistake.  These people are not revolutionaries fighting for the oppressed people.  They want the government to have more power and all the money.  Their only complaints are that the government is not authoritarian enough and that they want to control that power as they see fit.
Socialists have always targeted the underdogs as allies.  This is for the simple reason that there are a large number of them and they are easily seduced into biting the hand that feeds them in the name of a free hand out gathered and distributed by the government at the taxpayer’s expense.
So let’s talk about exploitation for a moment.  How is the worker exploited?  He sells his time, energy, and skill to an employer for an agreed upon price.  It is a voluntary trade for mutual benefit.  And yet, the socialists claim that he is exploited.  For me exploitation is being forced to surrender a percentage of my income in order to avoid incarceration.   For me exploitation is government regulation over every aspect of my life.  You smoke, so we’ll tax that.  You drive too much, so we’ll tax that.  You drink too much, so we’ll tax that.  You’re fat, so we’ll tax that.  Feeling exploited yet?
People tolerate the present state exploitation because the current level is within their comfort zone.  But with each passing generation people become more and more acclimatised to even greater levels of government control.  This they accept as just the way the world is.  But it wasn’t always like this.  Of course people learn that in school.  They are taught how bad things were before the State took control of their lives.  This they learn courtesy of the free education from state schools and the state approved curriculum.
And what are they learning in schools?  For one there is multiculturalism which is the idea that there is no Truth, only perspectives.  It’s an aspect of “post-modernity”.  So you may choose to believe in evolution or creation.  It does not matter.  If there is no Truth, then there is no morality.  Truth is the measurement by which we choose a course of action towards positive results, which is morality.  But without Truth, then there is no guiding star.  So how do we determine morality?  It is not determined by Truth, but by authority.  This is right and this is wrong because the State says so, because my religion says so, because the mass media says so, because the pop-majority says so, because my favourite musician or actor says so.
There was a spirit of a different age that faced the challenges of life as a matter of personal responsibility.   If you saw something that bothered you then you took responsibility and did something.  You donated time or money to a charity or in cases of foreign affairs some people formed militias and literally went to fight for the cause that they believed in.  Concerning social ills people sought to educate each other.  Check out this list of London charities in 1917,
Today, everything is done through the government.  Yes, there are charities but not at the same level as in the above list.  Taking action these days means utilizing the force of government.  Demand taxes on fatty foods, demand smoking bans, demand more money to welfare programs, force people by law to behave a certain way towards each other, demand your government act a certain way in foreign policy or in foreign wars.
There have always been people who wanted to shape the world in their image.  This can be modest, such as commanding a household, or megalomaniacal, such as controlling a country.  Traditionally, this was accomplished by creating mass influence.  Today, all you need is government on your side.  The force inherent in government allows you to make others act as you and your allies see fit.  This avenue is pursued by business, special interest groups, and political organisation.  They by-pass public debate and go straight to making orders which are justified later.
There was a time when giving a man a hand-out was considered to be an insult.  It implied that he was incapable of personal responsibility.  It was a mark against his dignity. Today, the hand-out is considered by many to be a right.  The technical definition of the word “pauper” is someone who exists by the charity of others.
Beneath the rhetoric and handy slogans of the socialist activists is a dark heart advocating slavery and paupery for all.  They make promises of a better life for the people against the rich, but all that they accomplish in the long run is destruction.  What good can be achieved by preaching covetousness, theft, and the instigation or threat of government force?  I have not even touched on the promotion of discord turning class against class, race against race, and gender against gender all in the name of equality of outcome rather than the more proper equality of opportunity.
There is another evil in the world and I will admit that I am not as outspoken about it as perhaps I should be.  I am of the belief that for the Romantic the purpose of life is to enjoy it.  Happiness and pleasure are worthwhile pursuits.  However, I advocate what I call Rational Hedonism. 
This model is taken from the writings of Epicurus, the first philosopher to seriously look at the idea of happiness.  He wrote that pleasure that brings pleasure is to be embraced.  Pleasure that brings pain is to be avoided.  Pleasure that defers a greater pleasure is to be avoided.  Any finally, pain that brings a greater pleasure is to be embraced.  He also wrote that the three ingredients of happiness are friends, freedom, and contemplation.
Adam Smith wrote, “A person who can acquire no property, can have no other interest but to eat as much, and to labour as little as possible.”  If a person feels that the path to independence and a greater pleasure is blocked to him, then he will only due what is necessary to service his immediate desires.  Today, we call this consumerism.
"The nation that has no higher god than pleasure, or even dollars or calico, must needs be in a poor way. It were better to revert to Homer's gods than be devoted to these; for the heathen deities at least imaged human virtues, and were something to look up to." --Samuel Smiles
The idea of consumerism ties into my ideas earlier on socialism.  Remember the vampire keeping the human barely alive?  The trick is keeping the human occupied with bread and circuses.  As long as the majority of people retain enough of their wealth to consume then they will not questions their state.
I have written in the past of my frustration in discussing political philosophy and ethics with people whose primary goals are consumption.  They could care less, but by God they have an opinion.  They proceed to defend the status quo and regurgitate the party line like automatons.  The end result is usually irreparable damage to any relationship that there may have been.
I often sound off against the government, but the fact is I do not blame politicians, for me to do so would be as foolish as criticising a lion for eating meat or a businessman for trying to make a profit.  Historically and presently, politicians enjoy the pretence of virtue and affect a caring image, but the truth is that he is an opportunist.  He will move with popular opinion.  We all get the government that we deserve.
The evil days can be blamed on social conditioning from schools and mass media, but at the end of the day it is a pill we have chosen to swallow.  The evil is not in some distant capital.  It is in your community, in your neighbour, and quite possibly in you.
I’ll finish with this.  I was always of the belief that what made man unique among the creatures of the Earth was his faculty of reason.  I have written on the subject in the past arguing that man is first an animal that reason over the notion that man is a creature that feels.  I have since learned of another faculty, perhaps the faculty that ties both reason and feeling together.
According to Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiment what makes humans unique is our imagination.  We use imagination in conjunction with reason to create invention and we use imagination in conjunction with emotion to produce sympathy.
Through imagination we hypothesize how the world works.  Through imagination we can walk in another man’s shoes.  We use our imagination to share the pains, joys, and victories of our fellow humans, be they real, distant, or fictional.   I have been convinced that all that makes mankind special and unique is this faculty of imagination.  It makes us human.
Bearing this in mind, Smith had a few things to say about true believers – the ideologues.  These are the people who believe in the ideal system.  Today we call them the social planners or central planners.  They are also the supposed revolutionaries who belief that if only society would accept the tenets of their belief system the world would be an ideal place.  I simply call them socialists, but that phrase is limiting.  It equally applies to those who place their ideology before the people they purport to care about.
From a certain spirit of system, however, from a certain love of art and contrivance, we sometimes seem to value the means more than the end, and to be eager to promote the happiness of our fellow-creatures, rather from a view to perfect and improve a certain beautiful and orderly system, than from any immediate sense or feeling of what they either suffer or enjoy.
The man of system…is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it… He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it.
intoxicated with the imaginary beauty of the ideal system, of which they have no experience, but which has been represented to them in all the most dazzling colours in which the eloquence of their leaders could paint it. Those leaders themselves, though they originally may have meant nothing but their own aggrandizement, become, many of them, in time the dupes of their own sophistry.
The beauty of Adam Smith’s works, to which I will add the Romantic philosophy of Classical Liberal thought, is that it is not based on ideology but on principles.  The difference between the two is that an ideology provides one with a cold and unimaginative blueprint very specific in its structure.  Principles are not so much an elaborate painting, but rather a connect the dots leaving each of us to paint our own picture through our imagination, reason, and emotion.  This allows the people to fit the structure and not impose the structure on the people.   For me, this is the moral path and not the vain preachings of a religious or political ideologue.

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Great Disconnect

The word philosophy means “love of wisdom”.  In other words, it expresses itself as a desire to understand how the world works.  People tend to forget that the purpose of this study is so that we can apply our conclusions towards leading happy and fulfilled lives.

The first two branches of philosophy establish the groundwork.  Metaphysics describes the nature of reality and Epistemology demonstrates how we know this to be true.  These two branches are interconnected to form a cluster.

The second two branches apply those conclusions.  Ethics tells us the best way to live happy and productive lives and Politics tells us the best way to manage the group towards that same purpose.  Since the group is a collection of individuals, then both Ethics and Politics are also connected to each other to form a second cluster that is completely dependent on the first.

Therefore the first four branches of philosophy must be consistent with each other with no contradiction.  It is like a clockwork machine with all the individual cogs and springs working together to make the whole work.

So the first four branches all fit together into a neat, interconnected package and can be tested against reality by being put into practice.  But what about the fifth and final branch of philosophy?  This is Aesthetics, the realm of human creation and feeling.

On the surface, the question of Aesthetics is “What is Beauty?” but on a deeper level it concerns itself with all human creation.  Here’s a small list to name just a few: art, architecture, drama, dance, painting, sculpture, design, ornamentation, writing, music, film, fashion, home décor, cosmetology, and computer graphics.

I once sat in a room with two PhD students doing papers in philosophy.  I asked them a question that had been bugging me for years.  “Why do people like what they like?”  I thought the question was fairly straightforward.  But they did not understand it, no matter how much I elaborated or rephrased.  It was years later that I discovered that there was an entire branch of philosophy concerned with this question – Aesthetics.

The ignorance of these philosophy students regarding Aesthetics illustrates what I call The Great Disconnect, the separation of Aesthetics from the other branches of philosophy and therefore from Reality itself.  What you believe philosophically is seen to have no connection to your tastes and your preferences in the art you choose to consume.  This also demonstrates a disconnect from the mind and the heart, as the first four branches are primary rational while Aesthetics is primarily emotional.

Once the philosophy is taken from the art, the art loses its meaning.  If the primary cluster of Metaphysics and Epistemology defines reality, and the secondary cluster of Ethics and Politics defines Action in that Reality, then the role of Aesthetics is to give meaning, heart, soul, or whatever words you choose, to the philosophy.  When people claim a life without meaning, it is because of The Great Disconnect.

I was recently re-watching the film Equilibrium which takes place in a post-war Orwellian society in which feeling emotion is illegal and by extension so are all forms of art because they evoke feeling.  What this film is saying is that art is about feeling.  Now we may feel passionate about wisdom and be lovers of it, but philosophy is not inherently emotional.  Rather, emotion can serve to cloud rational judgement with preferences and prejudices.

Where Aesthetic fits into with the other four branches of philosophy is that it communicates a sort of summary of the conclusions but with an added emotional element.  A belief is a thought imbued with emotion, so in this sense Aesthetics is the injection of emotion into the thoughts presented by the other branches.

This may not be readily apparent when looking at the Mona Lisa or listening to Wagner.  This is because artists do not usually create with a conscious message in mind, unless he or she is preaching.  The artist usually begins with an idea ultimately derived from their personal worldview, or philosophy, which is then manifested in their art.

Once upon a time there were a group of people known as critics and what they did was examine a piece of art to unfold its hidden meanings and messages and thus add an extra dimension to it.  Since the artist may not have been unaware of any deeper unconscious influences, he might be pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised by what the critic discovered.

Unfortunately, the role of critic has devolved into two groups.  There is the academic prone to all sorts of fanciful nonsense derived from what he wants to find in the art and uses the art to justify his own philosophy.  Then there is the pop-critic with his thumbs up or down. Even the word “critic” now has a negative connotation as one who demeans rather than as one who enlightens.

The demise of the traditional critic essentially severed the first four branches from the fifth thus taking any meaning from the art.  Today art interpretation is seen as highly subjective and any attempt to impose meaning is viewed as rude. 

Art is now whatever you want it to mean.  This is an entirely false premise since if something can mean anything then it means nothing.  Meaning enriches definition, so there can be no meaning without definition.

All art has two key aspects; the style which has to do with execution (call this the emotional aspect) and theme, this is the philosophy or message being conveyed by the art.  The critic would be able to discuss both the message and the execution of the art and reveal it to the public who may or may not perceive it readily.

An excellent example of this is the film Avatar.  It is a spectacular film.  The imagery, effects, and execution are stunning.  Thus it excels in terms of style.  But few critics stood-up against the theme of the film.  What Cameron created was an allegorical denunciation of capitalism through a misrepresentation of it and the history the film presumes to parallel.  One might go so far as to call the theme hateful.

And yet the real life equivalents to the villains portrayed in the film (or at least their inheritors) stood in the aisles applauding it.  After all, it’s just a film.  Art means nothing apart from how it makes you feel.  This is another symptom of the disconnection of Aesthetics from the other branches.

The problem here is that Aesthetics is part of philosophy and ignoring that connection does not alter the axiom.  It does not change reality.

Consider the costume designer working on a film.  Their job is to convey through the art of fashion the character of the character that they are dressing. The set designer plays a similar role by dressing a character’s space to tell the audience something about the character.  Both the costume designer and the film goer send and receive these communications.  They can read the art and get the meaning conveyed.

However, if I were to judge someone in real life according to the messages transmitted by their personal aesthetics, I would be seen as being presumptive. How dare I assume that the person wearing the cross is a Christian or that the boy in the Che Guevara shirt is a Communist? If I expected someone to behave according to the philosophy inherent in their aesthetic choices, or image, I might be seen as being dictatorial.  Who am I to confer my assumed meaning to their personal choices?

And yet, advertisers look to attach philosophical meanings to their products.  I remember as a boy seeing an ad for Levi’s 501 jeans that promoted individuality.  Even then it struck me foolish to brand the ubiquitous denim as a sign of individuality.  Or running shoes can be associated with freedom.  The list can go on and on.  Advertisers are not merely selling a product; they are selling a concept that they associate with their products through the art forms utilized in their advertisements.  Strange that people accept that connection between Aesthetics and the other branches when spoon fed to them by advertisers or in the context of art, but not when they are held accountable for their aesthetic choices in their daily lives.

In Aesthetics, there is the concept of the idiom, a particular style of expression.  These idioms can be derived from a particular culture, for example the Japanese style, or a particular time period, like Victoriana or 1960’s style, or genre fiction, like Goth or Steampunk.  Some styles have become so entrenched in the popular imagination as to become idioms, like the English Chap or the 80’s businessman in the Patrick Bateman/Gordon Gecko mode.

Idioms communicate a universally agreed upon meaning.  The Sixties was seen as a turbulent period of social change, and yet the Sixties idiom convey fun and freedom.  The English Chap conveys propriety, the Eighties businessman represents greed (for right or wrong), and Goth is associated with melancholy, for a few more examples.

Sometimes people choose to live a particularly idiomatic lifestyle, such as Goths for example.  The ideal is a thoroughly saturated existence.  Goth clothes, Goth decor, Goth music, Goth books, and Goth partners.  Feel free to replace the word Goth with any number of other idioms.

One the one hand such an idiomatic lifestyle is to be applauded for its purity, but on the other hand it may be condemned for its purity.  In art we look for saturation, but in life saturation demonstrates a single faceted existence.  It is this saturation that leads to accusations of pretentiousness because it is so unnatural.

Modern existence presents us with a vast array of cultural expressions and to discount all of them save one seems abnormal.  That said; my particular Romantic idiom would look bizarre dancing to House Music.  It’s disjointed and out of place.  So people tend to pick and choose depending on the situation.  They may dress mainstream or fashionable in some contexts and idiomatic in others.  This is deemed normal.  And yet to me this self-diversification always felt lacking integrity – integration.  The true force of integration is the philosophy of the person employing the signs that constitute the expression.

When artists, costumers, decorators, advertisers, and even window dressers employ Aesthetics they are very aware of what they wish to communicate.  The study of this is called Semiotics – the study of signs.  A sign has a distinctive history and cultural meaning.  An idiom is essentially a set of signs. 

The Nineteenth century American essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, “Fashion is only the attempt to realise art in living forms and social intercourse.”  He identified fashion as the link between art and life.

By this statement, Oliver Wendell Holmes sees fashion is the bridge linking art and life.  This suggests a logical connection between philosophy (in the form of the artist’s worldview), to Art (as an expression of this worldview), and then to fashion (as the means of expressing this worldview).  Collectively these expressions signify an individual’s particular style of living – that is his life-style.  Just as the artist’s style is born of his worldview, so too is the individual’s lifestyle born of his worldview, which brings the model full circle back to the philosophy.

However, to what extent can we say that people employ Aesthetics in their daily life?  I’m writing not simply of Aesthetics as it pertains within itself, but also Aesthetics as an expression of the other four branches of philosophy.  I would say by and large it would be little to not at all – at least not on a conscious level.  This is where the connection between idioms and reality falls on its face.  When aesthetics ceases to be a conscious act and becomes a mass consumption habit. 

The contribution of the Romantic as a movement or school of art was the introduction of individual emotion and this was most apparent in the concept of the sublime.  The goal of the artist became to evoke powerful emotions, sometimes conflicting extreme emotions, in the viewer or reader.

On the surface this seems to contradict the idea of having a philosophical core.  It seems to suggest that how you feel is more important that what you think.  However, emotions are a response to values and values are born of philosophy.

For example, Gothic literature sought to elicit the emotion of fear as an extreme emotion.  Fear is the imagined loss of a value.  In the stories, the greatest threats to the protagonists were the loss of life followed by the loss of sanity, the capacity to reason.  Therefore we might argue that Goth promotes the value of reason, for it is through reason that the supernatural evil is defeated or the mystery solved.  Thus the emotional aesthetics and the philosophy are connected.

Fear is one of the four cardinal emotions and is sister to Sorrow – the actual loss of a value.  Fear is an imagined loss and sorrow is an actual loss.  For most of its history, the Gothic idiom was dominated by the Byronic type in that is emphasised what Nietzsche might call “the will to power”.  Although Gothic imagery evoked fear, there was an elemental desire to ascend to that power we feared.

Over the past thirty years the focus of the Gothic idiom has shifted from the Byronic will to power to a form typified by Edgar Allan Poe depicted as fear and sorrow.  Poe suffered traumatic losses in his life and this actual loss of a value was expressed in his works.  Modern Goth cannot begin to understand that level of loss, but it can imagine it, hence the emphasis on fear, an imagined loss.  There is not the Byronic will to overcome and be one with that which we fear, but to succumb and revel in it.  Goth is the oldest idiomatic subculture in the world, and yet it is the least influential and most misunderstood, despite the fact that the philosophical message inherent in the idiom is the will the power.

The stereotypical Goth girl is quiet, shy, and introverted.  This is not to say that all Goths are.  Over the past fifteen years we have seen the Goth scene mutate due to cross-pollination with heavy metal, punk, and fetish and a healthy dose of mainstream media attention.  The result is a gothic variation of those other idioms, but lacking the philosophical foundation of either the Byronic or the Poeic variety inherent in Goth.

All art is communication and all communication starts with something to communicate.  This is an idea, a philosophy, a worldview.  The art is a natural manifestation of the philosophy.  It is philosophy brought to life.

I remember reading that people asked David Hodges to explain his song My Immortal (performed by Evanescence).  They wanted to know the actual story behind the song.  He answered that there was none.  He just made it up.   It is the stock and trade of artists to write love songs and poems for nonexistent people or even for people that they do not even know because they are paid to create.

This story illustrates how Aesthetics operates today.  Just as you can have a great love song without love, so too can people partake of wonderful art and modes of expression without it being rooted in the inherent philosophy, without it being that natural manifestation.  Non-Christians can wear crosses because they like it and people can wear Ché Guevara t-shirts just because they are popular.  You can have art without meaning just as you can have non-dairy ice cream.

A popular insult when I was growing-up in Los Angeles was to call someone a poseur, non-dairy ice cream pretending to be ice cream.  It is the assumption of an image, style, or idiom but lacking the philosophical foundations.  We also had what we called “Betties in Black”.  These were the weekend Goths who gothed-up to go clubbing but they were mainstream during the week.  At the club, all these poseurs would gather together in their clique and be Goths without the slightest inkling that there was more to it.  They were all happy in their ignorance and there was no Idiom Standards Division there to hand out citations.

Imagine if the most important thing a new Christian did was buy their cross.  Silly notion isn’t it.  No, to be a Christians you must study the Bible, pray, and be in communion with other Christians.  You have to learn the philosophy first and the Aesthetics comes later.

I first became aware of Congressman Ron Paul about five years ago.  His name kept popping-up on forums and I decided to investigate.  I found a lengthy speech he gave in Congress against Neo-Conservatives.  The focus of the speech was refuting the philosophical foundations of the ideology.  I later saw something similar in his speech against the Iraq War.  His approach was a breath of fresh air.

Why is philosophy important?  Because it is the foundation of all human existence.  Just as Ron Paul recognised the need to look at the philosophical foundations of the Neo-Cons, so too do we as a society need to stop looking at the surface.  Be that the surface of our own characters, the surface of others, the surface of our societies, our civilizations, and our art.

What is the meaning of Life?  It is the meaning you give it.  Life can be as vain or as profound as you choose to make it.  You can choose to be a poseur if you like and suck all the meaning from the world leaving it devoid of colour.  Or you can deny the Great Disconnect and reunite the broken shards of philosophy.  The result may not be a happy life, but it will be fuller, richer, and well...meaningful.