Not Funny At All.

As the title would allude, this post is to be not funny…AT ALL. That is correct, ladies and gentlemen, I’m taking the liberty of writing words in such a way that they are to evoke no amusement or joy or anything closely related to the two.

But what to write about, if I am to be unfunny and serious. I suppose I could respond to someone else’s equally unfunny and equally serious post. I consider the post done by my friend and fellow blogger, Daniel Powell, whose blog is linked in my blogroll to right, on Honor, titled simply “Honor.”

My senior seminar class at CofC was on virtue ethics. Continuing in my latest vein of writing about philosophy (in as serious and unamusing a style as I can manage), the class was a study of the modern movement to apply classical ethical systems to a modern age. Virtue Ethics, simply defined, is basically, a system where you, being a rational entity, decide your own ethical system. This is done over a long period of time (Aristotle said you wouldn’t even be close until you were 30) by doing things and then thinking about them, re-evaluating what you did, and changing, or not changing, your response to whatever caused your action for future instances.  Over time, you would develop a set of virtues that would guide your actions. These virtues are normally just what you would think they would be (honesty, generosity, kindness, courage, etc.) but you can’t just take that list and say, “THESE ARE MY VIRTUES.” You can, but then it’s not too meaningful to YOU. This is why I really did love this class. It was the one philosophy that seemed to be completely personal AND useful. Existentialism was very personal and changed how I thought about a lot of things, but all in all, it wasn’t very useful.

The thing that I think goes along with Daniel’s latest post is that people simply do not THINK about what they do. People do things, and then give their actions no further thought. Now I’m not a situationist who thinks that we’re all influenced by our environment completely, but I do acknowledge, as most virtue ethicists do, that our surroundings do have a lot of influence on us.  Still, regardless of one’s upbringing, one is still a rational being. The problem is that there is no push in our society to cultivate that personal rationality, that much needed self reflection, and it begins at the very beginning. When I was a child, I watched TV, I played video games, but these did not consume all my time. I played an equal, if not greater, amount of time outside with my friends. We used our imagination to play the most basic of children’s games – which were sometimes influenced by the TV we watched, as evidenced by one of our favourite games, Power Rangers. But we still used our imaginations to create situations that had rules and consequences and we played in accordance with those rules and consequences that we set up. Of course you can’t expect a 6 year old to tell you that that is what he is doing, but it is, and that is the best way to develop abstract thought at an early age, in my opinion – I’m no psychologist. Legos were my favourite toy – just a big bucket of building blocks that had no instructions. I build houses, people, cars, things that had no earthly explanation or purpose, except to my young mind, and anything else you could think of.

Now I don’t get the impression from children of today that this is still something that kids do. Even my youngest cousins just want to play video games and watch TV all the time. I’m sure they’ll turn out all right, since they’re all very smart and bright. But what immeasurable qualities are they not developing by forming this dependence on others to do their imagining for them?

This brings me back to Virtue Ethics. Is it that people are not used to thinking about their actions, or is it that they simply lack the capacity to do so well, and as a result, choose not to? In our present age, I think it is primarily the former option. Our culture is not exactly one of virtues and personal responsibility, as Daniel said in his post. Rather the emphasis is on consumerism and what you have and how fast, big, sexy everything is. Virtue and honor prove to be a little inconvenient in that scheme. But as bad as it is now, I don’t want to think about what it will be like when all the youth of today that have been weened on video games and the imagined scenes on TV grow up. Will they even be ABLE to think about their actions in any context other than the immediacy of the present? I find it hard to think that they will be. This is all coupled with the focus being drawn away from the classics and the humanities and READING in general. But I’m not going to go into that today.

To finish up this post, what I see is a society forming that is ripe for the taking by someone or some group smart enough to see that the masses are simply UNABLE to resist oppression. What’s worse is that the masses will likely be unable to know that they are even being oppressed. This was my only complaint regarding the movie “Idiocracy.” If a society became stupider and stupider as a whole, there would always be at least a small minority that controlled everyone. But like in the movie, people are generally kept happy as long as their basest human desires are satisfied, until basics for human survival become scarce, and sadly, that is not funny at all.


~ by aeqvitas on December 7, 2007.

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