determination of what should or should not make sense

Daniel A. Foss (U17043@UICVM.BITNET)
Tue, 7 May 1996 02:58:54 CDT

response, make excessive sense, and get home, nearly two hours at this
time on the Chicago El, but nothing to do about it. You do, I should hope,
Mr Joanis, suspect that altogether too many presentations, exhibits,
arguments, appeals, theories of the utmost respectability, folk-accounts
and popular wisdom regarding Human Fate and the effect of Moral Virtue
upon differential life-chances, and incessant disputations wherein one
position always taken is that things-in-general are the way they should
be except in that they should be a little more so (lately, a lot more so,
if by "more so" inegalitarianism is meant); the other side, heavily on the
defensive and backed into a corner, would prefer to mitigate things-in-
general a bit: it's all got a bit too harsh. Knowing, in a few instances,
the entire history of the origins and development of a specific conflictual
social or intellectual situation which has for generations, even centuries,
reproduced itself as it's found, possibly stupidly, possibly validly, there
remain vast areas of uncertainty where much sense is made, but none perhaps

If I have some inkling as to what you are like, and what makes sense to
you, I may validly say, "I have been following the sense-making of a Thingie
now making sense to you, as it has made initially-deplorable sense, then
over several decades of the development of public relations, radio networks,
and a new generation of brilliant newspaper columnists, the sense that was
made had become utterly *revolutionized* in character, though the sense
going around is somewhat misleading as to how and on which specific grounds
the disputation should be conducted.

At a further stage, say that University graduate course have been developed
and offered on the Meaning Of Life, which have the virtue of requiring the
enrolees to collect their three credits prior to committing suicide, this
having all too frequently occurred in the recent past without enforced
commitments to staying alive until the report card gets signed by the
responsible parenting specialist. This paragraph came up, you see, because
inane e-mail came in on a certain list, where a perfectly pointless, to
me, discussion transpired over "why don't you kill yourself," and "what
does life really mean, anyway." There is no doubt that finding something
about Life which is a matter of life or death, so meanignful is it, is an
emotionally compelling preoccupation. There is a strong suspicion, where
proof is difficult to come by, that the sense made by each side in the
argument, unless there are more than two, need not and almost certainly
doesn't exist.

I'd honestly thought I'd gone out of my way to oversimplify, to the point
of childishness, what that post, the one you object to, is "about," though
I *abhor* posts which are *about* something or other, which posits that a
post *should* be *about* something where this has yet to be proven.

Now, let us consider your friends Mr Beavis and Mr Butthead. I have not
been privileged to see this show or segment or whatever it is. I suspect
very strongly that the central characters are represented as uttering nothing
but gibberish and garble. This is said, quite validly, to mean nothing. Yet,
someone's cheated. It's been pre-planned that the discourse of Messrs Beavis
and Butthead have been targeted for the exeplification of the [deplorable]
state or condition of having no meaning, or at least none which is accepted
as a quality product in the meaning-market.

Suppose, again, that a newly-meaningful meaning has been introduced, and
is gaining rapidly in market share. The newly-popular meaning is "signification
fatigue," whereby, if Things should Mean Other Things too much, there'll be
an urge to coercively compel Things to Not Mean Other Things, associated with
rage fits, the nicest whereof is reportedly, "Hey, gimme a BREAK!" There may,
it transpires, say, that no such Thingies have been reported; empirical
evidence is wholly lacking. The popularity of "signification fatigue,"
inhering in its "emotionally compelling" character, will not be at all
affected, pending the filling of the faddishness niche by some equally
"emotionally compelling" media-fostered eminently-sensible plague which
is so fabricatedly sensible that it should never have passed inspection
by the Department of Agriculture.

Now, quite obviously, I've been procrastinating whilst trying to come
up with more cogently terrifying specimens of spurious sense, assuming the
spuriousness hasn't become undifferentiatedly global and pervasive, stuffed
into a media envelope, and mailed, first-, second-, third-class mail, or
e-. I did indeed approach the situation conservatively, berating an obvious
target, the Black Athena volumes of Martin Bernal, for making wonderful sense
to certain types of readers, notwithstanding the case made by the author is
pure garbage, and where any validity is adduced, it's appropriate for armed
militias marching up and down in uniforms assuming as core components of
subjective Realities the sort of spurious sense not shared by the Classics-
Ancient History-Archeology-Physical Anthro communities; despite the latter,
Bernal accuses them of what they can prove innocence, which he ignores, so
I called the post "when refutation fails." Which, of course, hardly scratched
the surface of ideologically determined fake sense. Fighting the good fight
against quackery is never-ending; yet suppose, we're confronted by a Rising
Toad of it.

Mr Joanis would presumably prefer "rising tide," Else is revolted by
Rising Toad; so it's necessary, if our point be the generalization of
spurious sense, that we avail of every chance to shake up sense-addicts.
The post which disgusts Mr Joanis, then, resorts to exaggeratedly comic-
book-like colloqualisms and mispronunciation in confronting why we crave
the screwing around to the point of the counterempirical, that is,
falsity generated via wrongness in social conventions and wrongly
enforced at the expense of what's true, if anything, with the past.
As I said, we need to be assured that the past, which we'd prefer to
have wuz, wuz actually the way it wuz supposed to have wuz. Without
a sense of time-immemoriality, your inclination to perseverate in
the Decent way of doing things will lack the legitimacy of long practice
or, in our freshly scented newness of contemporaneality, will eventuate
in some practice which wasn't ever done in the past, or wuz, that wuz
supposed to have wuz, yet got socially constructed as having wuz as part
of the armenian tradition, recent fabrication notwithstanding.

The Stupid sound of the word "wuz" is my deliberate choice. It's the
level of sophistication wherein location of the existing society in history
takes place; and given such lowgrade primitivity, it removes from the prospect
of exposure to thinking the imperatives which Mummy and Daddy have forced
upon us. How we are unthinking itself remains unthunk. (The latter being
another favourite word.) The solidity of the apparent wuzness of the Past
is utterly critical to our continuing exibiting of Appropriate Behaviour
and, more important even than that, Functioning, in everyday life, which
is a redundancy, actually. Suppose we know what historians know from their
lifetimes of study, specifically, that the Past attained its current state
of illusory wuzness as culmination of prolonged messiness in the course of
which much that's now incontrovertibly Inevitable, such as the emergence
of a form of society where Functioning, that is, getting through the day
as a Moving Part in someone else's machine, is destiny and duty. There's
no way our Commitment to the [idiotic] routine we're scheduled for on the
morrow can be sustained at the level we require to get it done. We might,
gasp, find ourselves doing Something Else, the identity whereof we at this
moment keep safely unthunk, Ending Up in Very Serious Trouble. We have a
powerful vested interest to sustain continuity with what never wuz, yet
which must have wuz as neatly as we would have it have wuz in our normative-
idealist consciousness, be Safe, and get Paid, as we hopefully regularly
are. This is as close an approach to the Sacred as our behavioural
constraints are allowed to approach:

a new day has dawned.
it is Tuesday.
we pray unto ye, o gods
to give us the strength
to get through it *at all costs*.
and if ye cannot give us the strength, o gods,
we pray unto ye, o gods,
give us the Drugs!

Massive vested interests build up behind the unthinkability of the unthunk
in our lives, given the industrialization of entertainment. The most
general feature shared by all entertainment is the creation or sustenance
of a mindset of spurious sense which at minimum must persist till the end
of the performance, the novel, the play, the weekly episode of the TV
series. It is not rare that the provisional sense generated within the
confines of the entertainment Thingie, such as the novel, film, TV show,
or staring at physically inaccessible naked people, outweighs in Meaning-
fulness the Functioning wherewith we accomplish that wherefor Them pays
us; we attain the exalted stature of Normal person, given the DSM's endless
reiteration of the typical case of this that and the other Mental Disorder's
"Interference with Normal Occupational Functioning," whereof the most
critical and difficult operation is arrival at the premises of the
enterprise at an inconveniently early hour of the morning at an hour
selected by Them; "tardiness" is the long-established principal reaon
for dismissal. In principle this is merely the private operation of
a Free Labour Market. In effect, Them is cognizant of our movements or
nonmovements during (1) Getting-Ready-For-Work; (2) Working Hours,
and, if we rent an apartment close to the Rapid Transt, also "after work."
(The latter also continget upon remuneration thought by The Enemy (in
sexual selection) to permit status display and extravagence.

The certainty that "the future lies ahead," not enormously
differentiable from the tedium we're used to, Suppose some calamitous, for
us, ruinous military event, technological [creative-]destruction, downsizing,
major ruin in industries or buisness anticipated to persist forever, the
Barbarians, Atilla the Hun, Bubonic Plague pandemic, occupation by a foreign
power, genocide [perpetrated upon people like us where, say, Pol Pot had
eyeglass-wearers shot; massive flooding and vulcanism, or (subtlest of all)
the etiolation and decomposition whatever this means of suppositiously, at
least, ancestral culture (see Roger S. Bagnall, Egypt In Late Antiquity,
1993: "The End Of The World came slowly, but it most assuredly arrived,
just the same."); then of course, there are the good old standbys, social
revolution and civil warfare. The worse the disaster, the worse we feel
like idiots. We have predicated our entire lives on Things remaining more
or less the same, and somebody lied or badly screwed up; Else, consummate
Evil conspired to Take Over, where it Had No Right To Do So. "This is a
fine how'd'y'do; we'd made Plans; we were Set. Now what! Refugees from
Israeli guns in our luxury cars, and we never even heard of these Hizbollahs.
We figured, the last time was Civil War enough, we'd had it up to here, time
to Settle Down and get Boring. Just look at this mess."
Or in an earlier Civil War, "How are supposed to eat; our cook's run off
with damnyankees."

Imagine a country with twin motors of economic accumulation. One of these
is the stockpiling of thermonuclear weapons. The other is the selling of
houses on thirty-year mortgages, in turn requiring massive highway construct-
ion, in further turn requiring the diffusion of places of employment where
undesirable elements cannot seek jobs there; with superadded consequences,
vast and diverse retail establishments, as well as houses of religious
worship architecturally indistinguishable from them, set down surrounded
by immense parking lots, and in the more grandiose locations, cruciform
shopping malls symbolizing the beneficence of the supreme being upon the
expenditure of funds in excess of income borrowed via credit cards at
ruinous rates of interest condemned as usury (when lent out as consumption
loans as these are) by every major faith on the planet! O beautiful for
spacious skies, if only we'd accurately predicted who'd be making the cars.

Consider the conditional probabilities, markov chains[?], calculated over
the duration of the cold war, to establish the chances that we, however it
looks, are all dead: Over 45 years of building up that thermonuclear
stockpile, replete with international crises giving occasion for one, better
both, superpowers threatening to use these weapons, and even ordinary news-
paper readers in the street spouting acronyms about how easily everyone could
get killed.
The model predicts that, as the thirty years wherefore the houses are sold,
which in other words is the presupposition or precondition of repayment by
the suppositious owners (as the bank controls the property more than those
owners, who are allowed to mow the lawn), is foreshortened by the Cuban
Missle Crisis, the worst of all crises in the Cold War era, the sale of
said houses will decline. The model further predicts that, with the sales
of houses, as well as housing starts, going down, the President of the United
States would launch a "Peace Offensive," at least a side effect whereof
would entail the stimulation of house sales and housing starts.

When you mess around with the simplistic solidity of the Past, as well
as the inexorability of arrival of the Future which lies ahead, you will
be kept going on nothing better than "the normative power of facticity."
A few large street demonstrations, as in Tehran, 1978, may well suffice
to blow that to hell.
The wonderful thing about any social revolution is the ease wherewith the
vast and sweeping changes toward the revolutionary order reveal how spurious
the sense was which had previously been made by Sensible People.

I've made far too much sense in this post. I'm too tired at this time,
4:30am, to do what I prefer to do, which is, avowedly, "seek out and destroy
spurious sense wherever found." Now, I'm not a visionary experimental
novelist, like David Foster Wallace (author of The Broom of the System, 1987,
which I read; also, Infinite Jest, 1996, whereof I've just bought a copy
today. Neither am I an avant-garde French social theorist, such as, notably,
Jean Baudrillard. I have upon occasion wondered what might have happened
had I "believed in myself," and so got to be emboldened to daring speculations
and wordplay of the old Frenchman. The belief would have been delusional; I
lack that magnitude of talent.

I happen to be no damn good at Sensible arguments, Sensibly set forth. For
this writer to compete even with a college undergraduate in this particular
athletic event is suicidal or masochistic. What I do well, compared to other
variants of prose writing, is *mudpies*. In graduate school, my advisor
encouraged my writing mudpies; "very creative," he said, which is the
appelation given a kid in the Old Neighbourhood, usually a widdle girl,
who was too stupid to have been good at anything; hence was allowed to

Now, I invite you to compare the relative prestige of Making Reasonable
Arguments (not merely in academia but diffused throughout the upper middle
class generally), by contrast with Making Mudpies. It would have been simply
insane to have deliberately chosen the latter over the former had such a
choice existed. As it happens, I write passable mudpies and execrable argu-
ments. As I said, provided the assumption holds that there is vastly greater
superfluous sense than there exists among social theorists any superrationality
serviceable for making sense out any candidate for sense-extraction.

On a small scale, the parallel was valid: We need spurious-fantasy pasts
and futures; perhaps the need is less intense in tiny organizational
entities than it is in much larger ones. We have, finally, the opportunity
to indulge in the *reductio ad absurdum*. Fully fledged societies and many
organizations have consciously fostered bodies of myth. Why not fabricte
some goddesses, "put on" some unwary newcomers having them memorize the
names and kin realtions of the imaginary beings we might plant on them,
and ascertain how emotially compelling the fake mythological concoction
was on us. It might be fun. I'm willing to believe damn near everything
for five minutes; but that's it. I shall disown the present post no later
than wakeup tomorrow, however ungodly late that might be. To violate the
five minute or the wake up rule is to invite accusations from, not only
the list, but Normals hanging around the Computing Center; an occasional
Solid Citizen who might have done me some good had the text of some silly
post not fallen the wrong way onto the table; and more than a few obnoxious
doctors who would like nothing better, should I for any reason Get Caught,
than to threaten to Slap Charges On Me, to the effect I actually Believed
it. That's Dangerous.

So, I hope you've taken what I've written tonight, and deleted it before
you read it.
I hope there's no one out there who's so heartless as to believe that I'd
*actually hope to accomplish anything* by writing these posts. They entertain,
basically, me, and if one or more of you is/are amused, I've overfulfilled my

Next time, *even worse* than Bevis and Butthead, whatever they are!!!!

Daniel A. Foss