Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Mathematics Of Stupidity

(the last part of  Is Democracy Failing?)

- Times really have changed. The movie tonight was amazing. The President of the U.S. is held hostage, he says he'll never give up the code that will allow detonation of our entire arsenal of nuclear weapons in their launch sites across the country. Next thing we know the terrorists have the code and the President no worse for wear. We're not supposed to notice. The President doesn't seem to notice he just allowed his captives to kill a hundred million or so of the American people.
- There's a logic behind stupidity of this kind, a mathematics of stupidity you could call it.
- Explain.
- Let's say you are writing a book - we've had enough of movies for today. A good writer will write what he knows from his own experience.
- That would be non-fiction.
- Say that our writer adds to the description of what he's seen or done or thought something not from his personal history. Do you know what happens when he tries to go on with gathering up, adding together his experiences?
- What?
- The need to be consistent with what he made up reduces the available experiences he can recall and write down.
- You mean everything that really happened to us is consistent with what really happened.
- Right. The more you add fictional elements to your story, the less reality of experience you have to draw upon, and finally, at the end of the process there is no reality left to draw upon that is consistent and everything now added has to be imagined.
- Then how is it that fiction is good, has any sense of reality at all? Or are you going to say only inconsistent fiction like our movie can have any reality?
- Fiction can be consistent and real.
- How?
- By fitting reality to the frame of fiction, not fiction to the frame of reality.
- More formulas.
- Adding fiction upon fiction you press out reality. No reality means no criterion for judging consistency. If we are not in our world we are in another where a President is possible who doesn't mind killing hundreds of millions and is still a nice guy.
- Then how can good movies and novels be made if fiction drives out reality?
- By making the frame of fiction first, and fitting our real experience into it. The rules for making the frame are kept independent of our rule for sticking to personal experience.
- Are you speaking from personal experience here?
- You tell me: am I being consistent?
- Yes, but like the movie you're in another world.
- And you're there with me.
- I am, in way. I know where you are going.
- Where is that?
- You are going to argue that a movie like we saw, made by a group of people at great expense trying to follow their formulas and keep them all consistent with each other the best they can....
- Is like modern democrats trying to assemble a society out of moral principles drawn out of nowhere, certainly not from personal experience.
- And like the makers of the movie we don't object to inconsistency because we have lost sight of reality.*
* On the principle of beginning from fiction, see: Mystery Clear & Beautiful and My Wife Who Throws Me Out