[OPE-L] President Bush and the fear of the vacuum

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Mon Feb 19 2007 - 14:05:01 EST

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for your comment. I didn't write up my full vacuum theory, because it
is very wideranging. Oil pipelines. Exploding bombs. Gas canisters. Palm
trees. Hurricanes. Human development... that's the thing with a metaphysical
theory, everything is interconnected with just one thing that you can apply
anywhere. If there doesn't seem to be a connection, you just think harder
and hey presto! you find yet another connection. But you would censor it
from OPE-L, I'm sure.

To tell you the truth, these days when I am reading neo-conservative
discussions about the Middle East, often I think I am reading the Brothers
Grimm, and I am not so far off, as the Washington Post today headlined an
opinion article "Can a Saudi Prince rescue Bush?". Well okay, it's more like
1001 Arabian nights. We're getting into feudalistic folklore here.

Anyway, to respond to your post: "The message that is meant to be conveyed
is the belief that with the state you have stability (including "law and
but  without the state there is the unknown." That's quite apt, in more ways
than one, among other things, it implies that (the belief in) the capacity
of ordinary people to organise their own lives is nil.

Well, actually, I work for the state (local govt) so I am not an anarchist,
but actually isn't so much stability to be found in it, since everything is
changing, restructuring, some jobs disappearing and other jobs reappearing,
changes in the rules, etc. Drives you mad sometimes as you might like some
continuity, so that you can work steadily at something and improve it, and
insofar as there isn't necessarily a visible improvement in service quality
(the gains offset the losses in more or less equal measure), except that
some people get to earn more, some less, some get more or different
responsibility, some less.

As aside, sometimes I think it'd be fun to be a manager, insofar as you can
creatively restructure - if it works, you get more pay or promotion, and if
it doesn't you can go and restructure somewhere else, and you could always
say that you made a contribution to the restructuring, but that people and
things got in the way of what you really aimed to realise. If you are at the
top of the tree, then of course you can also get severance payments, i.e.
you get paid to leave. I imagine that will happen with some people as
regards the Iraq campaign.

Yes, the vacuum does certainly connote the void, the unknown (I won't use
the Thesaurus here). As you will remember, Mr Rumsfeld philosophized with
apparent humility: "As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we
know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know
there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns,
the ones we don't know we don't know."

Translating the last bit into vacuum theory, the suction could appear
anywhere, we simply do not know where it will appear. It could create
vacuum-paranoia. I've thought about paranoia a lot, since I've had problems
with it in the past myself, too many things coming at me at once, and so on,
just like Mr Rumsfeld (actually, my father told me about this quote once,
long before Rumsfeld was in the picture, I think Dad got it from one of
those self-help books that was simply called "Change" - I cannot trace the
ref just now, but anyway it wasn't a Rumsfeld original as far as I know). At
issue here though, is the slippage between known unknowns, and unknown

The known unknowns are unknowns for which we can extrapolate likely
scenarios. The unknown unknowns are the ones that are completely unexpected,
because we simply do not have a cognitive framework for anticipating or
understanding them. As I said before, I think the problem with a lot of
politics these days is that it is not about what actually happens or has
happened, but about what might/could/would happen "if" and so on, and that's
anybody's guess. What actually happens is just a sort of fuel for
speculating about what might happen. Point is, that there are ample
political uses for this device, as a source of ideological justification and
to cowe people into obedience.

Turning Rumsfeld's profundity upside down, it reads "we say that we know,
but we don't know. We say that we don't know, but we do know (=straight
lying). We say that we know that we don't know, but we don't know that we
don't know (=ignorance). We say that we don't know we don't know (=excusably
innocent) but we do know we don't know". In this way, we can very subtly
fudge the issue, not only about what we really know and don't know, but also
what we can find out and what is knowable. Straussian elite politics is of
course based on the idea that the ignorant masses don't know what's good for
them, and that there is no point in telling them the real reasons why you do
things, because it is beyond their ken. The corollary is the the masses
don't tell you anything anymore, and democracy goes bust.

You might well end up saying exasperatedly, "there is no such thing as an
honest politician, and my kingdom for a hardcore realist epistemologist who
can restore honesty to American politics". Point is, by fudging as described
above, we actually CREATE more unknowns, and therefore we actually CREATE
more uncertainty. We end up going round and round, in a maddening circle,
faster and faster.

A current example that comes to mind is that of the Quds Force. Initially,
Mahan Abedin, an Iran expert and the research director at the London-based
Center for the Study of Terrorism stated "At most, Iran's entire Quds Force
probably only numbers about 2,000 - only around 800 of them core
operatives", and according to former US army intelligence officer David
Dionisi, the Quds force is organized into eight different directorates based
on geographic location (in which case there would be only hundreds or so in
any particular area). Suddenly the Quds Force is in the news, but as it does
so, the numbers begin to rise, and the NYT states that scholars in the
United States "offered estimates of its size ranging from 3,000 to 50,000
men". Who knows, anytime now there could be a Quds force under the bed of
every American. Next,  Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert at the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, is quoted as saying "I just don't think we
have a very acute understanding of the internal workings of the regime in
Iran". In that case, they're actually attacking something they don't even
know the nature of (at least Quixote knew a windmill was a windmill). Well,
with this sort of information, we talk a long time, but meantime a new
threat has been created, it's been taken on board, and we're extrapolating
or speculating about the threat it "might" constitute. This is reactionary
stuff, it's just disorienting, I mean we haven't even talked yet about what
the Quds force does, has done or might do, we have just insinuated another
sinister force without detail.

I think this is precisely why many people end up turning off the news,
because there is not much news except stuff that "might become" news. Sort
of like, no news is good news, and if it is bad news, it is only news about
what bad things might happen. Personally I stopped watching television,
which I used to watch the news etc. Obviously I cannot deny the images and
sounds are real, but I don't know half the time what the real context is
anyway behind the images and sounds, thus I often end up feeling like Donald


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