It’s time to shake up the category list. Social Practice becomes Zombies. In the next few weeks Culture will be folded into Zombies. Politics is Liege & Lief, which is obscure but accurate, with an arcane folk music reference. The old names were too formal, and I had too many subcategories. I will phase out some subcategories, add MT tags to my entries and let the tags lay the trail.
I thought of Naked Apes, because I favour an evolutionary, anthropological view of why people do what they do, and I think that humans have basically the same emotional impulses towards sociability and status, with a unique capability to use language and grammar to invent elaborately imagined rationalizations for what we say, what we want and what we do. But the Ape metaphor has been overdone.
I read John N. Gray’s Straw Dogs shortly after I arrived in Victoria. Straw Dogs would have been obscure. It would have reflected my sense that humanism is a religion or belief system, more of a posture than a system of thought, but it would have been close to a declaration of nihilism. I am just negative about bullshit. Most people seem to think that other people have to respect their bullshit. I don’t.
Daniel C. Dennett stated that “we are all zombies” in his book Consciousness Explained. This comment refuted the zombie thought experiment, and weighed in on epiphenomenalism and theories of consciousness. This reminded me of a short story by Heinlein, All You Zombies.
I got to Dennett on consciousness after reading Dennett’s recent book on religion and Steve’s post about Sue Blackmore’s book http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Meme_Machine. Dennett used memes as the theory for why religious stories spread and stick. He mentions Blackmore but gives Dawkins most of the credit for the meme of memetics. Blackmore paid a fair amount of attention to Dennett in her books on consciousness.
Heinlein’s Bartender used term zombies in a kind of demeaning way. Having unraveled his (or her) biological history, he reinforced his own alienation from the rest of humanity. The story deals with one of the main themes of 20th century American literature. Heinlein seems interested here, as in his hippy novels, with self-absorbed characters. The time traveler has sense of anger at his isolation, and in calling everyone else zombies, blames them for his anger. The zombies, ignorant of his fantastic story, are experiencing a form of false consciousness. The zombies are, of course, self-absorbed. Their own inner lives, so dear to themselves, are probably no more beautiful, vivid, and interesting than the inner lives of cats. Heinlein’s character is unhappy that no one seems to know his story or care about his pain, without understanding that they have no reason to be aware of his story, no means of understanding what it is like to be him, and no way of responding to his pain.
That makes him a perfect hero for the 60’s – time travelling Holden Caulfield, with a bug up his ass.
Like Holden Caulfield, the Bartender expects too much. People are zombies, with a false set of values, and an overly fond valuation of their capabilities and importance. So what? There’s nobody else around.