This morning I read the recent exchanges between Jasun Horsley and a man from his Dave Oshana circle called Paul, centering on differences of perspective regarding the psycho-socio-political landscape of our modern times [In itself, it is interesting that the same spiritual leader might attract Biden and Trump supporters, but that is something I may have to get into another time].
I would like to offer a few comments, but far more in the way of questions.
[EDIT: ‘Paul’ has now deleted his blog, so the links in this piece to it are now broken. I guess he didn’t feel sure enough about what he expressed to let it speak for itself 😦 ]
First, some historical background. [The relevance of these stories is left entirely up to the reader.]
In the Book of Acts, Paul (the de facto founder of the Christian tradition) takes refuge in the home of a man called Jason [Chap. 17, Vers. 5-9). We know almost nothing about Jason’s life at this time, except that he saved Paul’s life, since capture at this time would likely spell death. Jason must have known the risk he was taking by harboring an ‘enemy of the state’.
An angry mob then stormed into his house, dragged* him out into the street, took him before the PTB (powers that be, or as Mrs. Kephas terms them, TWWP, those who wield power), and his desperate, violent ordeal ends with him being forced to pay some of his own wealth as bail to be allowed to go back to his own life.
* = this is the verb used in the Bible. I want you to focus for as long as you possibly can on the reality of mob violence, which fits perfectly with the concept of democracy, as we are increasingly seeing, especially in the United States
Although his fate was not as severe as many Christians, this sacrifice of Jason’s is certainly noteworthy. One wonders about the connections between his acts, and the meaning of his name, which is ‘healer’.
Nevertheless, he is recognized as a Saint for his actions, and we know that he took it upon himself to spread the good word to Corfu.
While there, his message reached the daughter of the King of Corfu, and her belief became so strong that even when her father had her imprisoned, burned, tied to a tree and shot full of arrows, she did not renounce her faith.
As for Paul, well there is so much that could be said that might provide interesting parallels with the main topic I am going to be getting into in very short order, but I’d like to just put it out there that Paul was blind, but later cured. Amazing grace, indeed.
To summarize both these events, we could say that there has long been a pattern of people speaking their minds (free speech) and violent reactions against them. I would hope we can all, at this stage, agree that the ability to freely express oneself needs to be defended, morally, and the actions of those who use violence to silence others should be condemned? Perhaps this is a vain hope in 2021.
OK, into the main course.
I like to read in chronological order, so after reading the first few paragraphs of Jasun’s piece, which sets the scene for the exchanges, I went to Paul’s site to read what he was saying, in full.
The first thing I noticed is the overwhelming degree of automatic credulity for and parroting of mainstream institutions, which was especially shocking for someone who is being introduced to me as a kind of spiritual seeker.
Paul’s chief mistake, in my view, is in accepting the propaganda of scientific materialism wholesale. Once one has swallowed that Kool-Aid, one needs a very strong dose of a several different tonics to purge the bias and get back to something approaching healthy skepticism.
He asks whether there are things we can agree on, such as 2+2=4 or that the earth is round. The problem here is that it is assumed that there ought to be a consensus on epistemology (the branch of philosophy that tackles how we know what we think we know). I most definitely think there ought not to be.
[A quick but necessary aside on ‘ought’. This word itself, and the pragmatic/semantic minefield it encapsulates have been debated for thousands of years. My own view, gleaned from an almost-comprehensive scouring of those debates, is that we can only talk about ought when we pair it with an if – i.e. if we want to achieve X, then we ought to consider Y. To return to the current context, therefore, if we want to see something like an openness, a condition in which people are truly free to examine, explore, and try out different perspectives, then there ought not to be a consensus but actually something more like a market (before you jump down my neck about the use of that word, please understand I am an avowed anti-capitalist)]
The problem for Paul, therefore is that he is already inside the cave looking in rather than outside the cave looking everywhere he can – and by this I mean he wants to find a way for everyone to arrive at what R.A.W. would term ‘consensus reality’, rather than first question for himself whether scientific materialism (or at the least its application to information flows in the world) really has sound foundations.
Paul’s stated background is in History, therefore I wonder if he has encountered the growing body of evidence that almost everything we know about history is false (in the sense of being woefully incomplete, and even possibly in the sense of being utter bullshit)?
Which brings me onto:
Questions for Paul
- Your background is in history. What do you make of the work of people like Graham Hancock and Vine Deloria that question not only widespread historical ‘facts’ but also the mechanisms (such as carbon dating and circular citations) by which those facts were arrived at?
- You seem to most fear the idea that democracy be weakened by disinformation. What if democracy were weakened by (true) information? Follow-up question: what’s so good about democracy anyway?
- Same question but for the ‘hyper-interconnected society’ you mention.
- I note you are not a champion of free-speech. In fact, you defend its curtailment under a number of particular scenarios. Can you, though, point to a philosophical principle as to what or who should delimit it? Do you have a measured rebuttal to the points made by Mr. C. Hitchens in his famous public speech on this matter? Follow-up question/highlighting of most important part of said speech: do you realise that you are making a rod for your own back?
- It’s funny that you should mention the notion of believed-dead figures living in Argentina. Do you know, for example, that the US intelligence agencies were aware of – and kept files on – Hitler when he lived in South America?
- Most important question (please answer this if you choose only to answer one question): if big-tech has no obligation to publish truth and are free to censor whoever they want, and lie about whatever they want; and big-tech and big-media are both parts of the same octopus; and if you are so concerned with truth as a value, then ought you place any faith in them at all?
I am very interested in the (your?) idea of a discussion group where people with opposing views can have it out, provided that:
a) it is on a platform not controlled by any big-tech company
b) it operates on a policy of free-speech and prevents brigading
If those 2 conditions are met, I would be an active participant.
For their part, Jasun/Mrs. Kephas make excellent points (as always) in their piece, including the highlighting of the notion of scapegoating.
Politics, I would argue, only begins when the scapegoating of truth has been completed. To be on the side of truth (even a liminal truth) is to be religious, not political, and remember:
politics is downstream of culture and culture is downstream of religion.
To be on the side of the truth is to be hypercritical, not to be hypocritical, another prerequisite of politics.
Additional questions for the reader
- What kind of refuge would you give to those who are persecuted for their beliefs and their statements?
- What would you do if authorities and/or angry mobs came and dragged your neighbors out of their homes?
- How would this act, if you witnessed it, affect the faith you placed in your civil institutions?
- Is there anything you believe so strongly you would die for it?
- Is your mask beginning to irritate yet?