October 2nd, 2002


It's all been done before.

I frequently state that I feel I would have been happier and better off if I had been born during some previous time period, and people frequently ask me why. They don't understand why someone who is so immersed in technology, so naturally rebellious and individualist, and so fascinated by the future and the direction of the world, would want to live in the past, a seeming rejection of all those values. The fact of the matter is that I understand full well that in many ways the present is superior to what came before it, and that life there would be harder and even more isolating than life in the good ol' 21st is.

The thing is that I feel a lot of my malaise is due to some of the ways in which society in the present functions. The biggest one is a lack of grounding. Postmodernism and all the ideas that have accompanied it have erroded ideology and even the belief that there SHOULD be some sort of ideology or even idealism in life. It is no longer a question of finding the interpretation of reality that is most useful or true but rather the strange game of throwing ones hands up and pretending that there is no true or best interpretation of reality.

This shouldn't really effect me, since I don't buy into it one bit, but it does in that it makes communication with other people incredibly difficult for me. I love ideas and ideology and argument and whatnot and I find it immensly frustrating dealing with people who not only don't agree with me but also see no reason to bother explaining why they don't agree since it is perfectly possible for there to be two contradictory but equally valid viewpoints. This is extremely isolating and irritating and almost universal among my contemporaries. Those who are not relativists are either idealogues (not really worth arguing with since they won't budge) or just plain disinterested.

It's not just that of course. There's also the matter of structure and logic. In the past there were always pretty clear social structures and whether you chose to participate in them or resist them you knew what they were. Now we're faced with a world where whatever structures and resistances there are tend to be amorphous and ill-defined. The 60's had institutionalized racism. We have corporate greed. One is fairly well centralized...the other is more of a personal attitude than anything else and to top it off is somewhat neccesary for the functioning of any society (Capitalism depends on a certain level of greed...and I do believe capitalism is good.) Vietnam and Iraq are fairly different situations for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that we haven't even gone to war yet. Etc etc etc...

This may seem like a rather strange complaint (Gee...there are no monolithic enemies to fight anymore...bring back Mussolini. He was both really mean and really incompetant.) but what it's really a complaint about is the biggest issue I have with the 21st. That's the fear of making judgements people have. The logic behind this fear is this "People judged other people before...and unfairly...therefore all judgements are unfair." It's obviously extremely stupid but it seems to convince a lot of people. I feel that this is behind my disatisfaction with just about everything. In school it (as well as what amounts to corruption) amounts to massive grade inflation and a ludicrous relaxation of standards to the point where if the entire class refuses to do the reading then doing the reading stops being a requirement for the class. Even in the science courses things are graded on a curve so theoretically if an entire class doesn't bother to learn a given concept then said concept is effectively removed from the test since when everybody gets something wrong it ends up not counting at all. It's extremely distressing to know that doing the work or not doing the work will net you essentially the same result. It makes school seem so...perfunctory and even silly at times. I know part of it is just that I have talents for certain things, because otherwise everyone would do as well as I do, but that doesn't really help. I still feel that standards need to be raised dramatically.

It goes further into social issues and ethics (It really irritates me when people flippantly say that the law isn't about justice, or that they want to go into some field in order to make money, consequences be damned. Society has come to accept these things and it's INCREDIBLY depressing.) which used to at least recieve lip service but no longer do. And to the strangeness of current gender roles which seem to be getting more and more hostile, at least in my opinion (this is especially true in the media but also plays into the whole equality of outcome idea which is just total bullshit). There's a lot of other stuff but it basically hinges around the concept that without judgement and idealism there can be very little meaning.

I don't know if any of this makes sense...it's pretty rambling and I don't actually agree with all of it but it's more the sort of thing that requires a Q&A format rather than a monologue to properly explain since I'm not sure what's not clear (although I know that a fair amount of it isn't.) I guess I should also admit that there's probably a fair amount of romanticism involved since I am well aware of the horrid inequity and just general unpleasantness that has always plagued mankind.

Maybe I'm just reaching for something...anything...to believe in and the past seems as good a place as any to look since it's less likely to disapoint (It's not like Abraham Lincoln is likely to fail in maintaining the Union).

Who knows?

Why am I still rambling?
  • Current Music
    Barenaked ladies - Stunt

I been here before and I deserve a little more

Okay...so I think I'm just going to let that last rather incoherent entry exist in its current screwed up form rather than trying to reform it, but I do want to expand on a particular issue...and that's undeserved praise. This is one of my biggest pet peeves and one that other people don't understand.

I hate it when I recieve any sort of praise for something that I did a half-assed job on. I know that a lot of people appreciate being appreciated no matter what but the thing about easily gained praise is that, in my opinion, easily gained praise dilutes accomplishment because it shows that people don't differentiate between something carefully and excellently done and something that's just done well. It crops up most often in school where you get weird things like a paper full of red marks and corrections that's an A...which makes you wonder why you would bother making the suggested corrections.

It also comes through in life though, like when someone says they really liked your speech even though you screwed it up or a cashier at a supermarket randomly compliments you on your weight loss even though you aren't close to finished.

It's very frustrating because you wonder "Okay...what's left for the REAL accomplishments?" Or at least I do. This happened recently even in LJ where someone commented in their journal that I was a good writer even though I have not written anything on LJ that could qualify as better than "sloppy." That undervalues what I could do if I really decided to make a concerted effort.

Yeah I shouldn't worry so much about what other people think and yes there are good reasons for self motivated achievement but it irks me to no end that standards are so relative and so...low. A speech isn't good just because it's better than the crap that most of the rest of the people spew out. A paper isn't good just because it makes more sense than the illogical rantings of a drunken student written 30 minutes before class.

I think in the past standards were more objective and much higher and I would really have liked a chance to prove myself by those standards. There's also the matter of standards now being low enough that everyone can achieve them so it's hard to seperate yourself from the pack. It isn't neccesary that everybody have the potential to recieve an A for a class to be fairly graded, just like it isn't neccesary for anyone to be able to defeat anyone else for a race to be fair.

I feel sometimes like I'm running a race where the final time is only recorded in hours...so if you finish 54 minutes before someone else you are considered tied. If that's the case what's the point in running your hardest?
  • Current Music
    Counting Crows - August and everything after