I believe in the open society in much the way Enlightenment liberals have described it, and particularly in the way that Karl Popper has defended it. I like the Omni-American ideal as I understand it, but I am particularly attuned to matters of economic and functional class. This is one of the reasons I have very little patience with the fictions of race and ethnicity. I aim to be richly cultural and that means appreciative of culture in practice. I admire the disciplines of culture, almost to the point of a fetish on formality and tradition. I think however the thing that makes me stand apart in my Stoic filter is how I pay attention to the thermodynamics of culture and understanding - how putting work in is part of this social ecology and how change and liquidity is an essential activating component of the open society.
We can’t all be ecumenical sophisticates at the same time. We can’t all be simple yokels in appreciation of the basics at the same time. Despite the fact that we all operate in the same human substrate, we cannot align all at once. Humanity is broken into misunderstood pieces all over the planet and through history. There is not enough energy in the world to translate every understanding into every context and language. A thorough appreciation of the value of mankind might never be pressed into the praxis of any individual who must die before the age of 120 years. Yet, we can philosophically grok the meta, or touch upon its transcendence from time to time. Or we might just sample eclectically in circles our entire lives never able to reduce our wisdom to any tractable abstract. In other words, Socrates was right. We only know that we can’t know enough. It’s good to find a campfire or two (or 12) and have a seat.
However, we do have tools and machines that aid in our capabilities. Suffice it to say that for the moment we are in the midst of an information revolution that changes everything. In this we are no more wise with these tools of expanded civilization than were the apes wielding bones in the opening of Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. From the orbital view of mankind we must admit that we belong to tribes. As we adjust our very notions of ‘human scale’ these are the ways we must be organized or endure the risk of tyranny.
I have come to the conclusion through all of this consideration that for my safety and sanity, I must belong to many tribes. My membership in them is temporary and non-exclusive. Just over a year ago I put together my list in a semi-serious tone. They are as follows, and now it is time to review them.
Wry Stoics of the First Order
EDC Sheepdog Tribe
Merry Band of Blue Star Dads
Apple Fanboy Collective
Heralds of the AWS Galcatus
IDW Auxiliary - Los Angeles Charter Member
XBox Gamers Limited - PHGX Dead End
Kingsley Amis Drinking Club
Porsche Snobs of California (Zero Equity Squad)
Practically Excluded Political Middle
Merovingian Cabalists (Alpha Phi Alpha)
Silent Reserve Army of Christ
Dilettantes of the High Arts
Guild of Grunting Grown Ass Black Men
Empty Nesters Indefinitely Occupied
As I have enjoined the ranks of the Foundation for Free Black Thought, I have been less wry than usual. So in order to keep this membership up, I need to recover my irascible satire. I haven’t done nearly as much shooting this past year and only bought one new knife. My sheepdog game is pretty lame right now. That’s what I get for living in a gated community. My Blue Star status remains intact and I am even a bigger Apple fanboy than ever, having just purchased (and am writing on) an M1 Mac Mini. I feel like a Victorian Englishman regarding his collection of porcelain tea service. I simply cannot give it up. The IDW has collapsed to a Reddit Group. I don’t care much what they say any longer. My XBox clan dropped me for not doing anything collaborative. OK those two are out. I still drink to make people interesting, and I am still saving money for a Porsche while considering how both of these pastimes might affect my long-term health. I care slightly less about politics which was slight to begin with last year, so calling attention to my irrelevance is practically pointless, yet I remain meta-political. I resign from the Middle, and did nothing with the Alphas in 2021. I remain bothered by God and wonky about orchestral music and jazz, so those two aren’t threatened. I still grunt and my daughters still live here. So that’s that.
In the new year, I’m interested primarily in intimacy and trust and intend on working towards frameworks that engender such matters. That will involve cryptography and file sharing, dinners at restaurants and many more in-person gatherings. My profession will demand a certain kind of presentableness and focus, which I am looking forward to.
None of these entities are ‘communities’ and I continue to rant against such as they are blithely assumed in the conventional wisdom. I embrace the dynamism of society and am putting my energy in different places over time. The better part of wisdom is understanding what to discard in an environment of plenty.
My new favorite cartoon character is Steven Universe. Of all the pop I have managed to ingest this year, if only to be semi-hep, this has been the single most rewarding. Rebecca Sugar has created a marvel of a world, one that it civil in the absolute best way. It is deserving of an in-depth treatment which I promise. Know this, it is deftly moral without being heavy-handed and it precisely blends wide-eyed fascination with the feckless adolescent scrutiny of reality. Whereas last year’s treasure was The Good Place, this year belongs to the Crystal Gems of Beach City and the effervescent Steven. Sugar has interwoven gender bending into her story like no other since Iain M. Banks. It’s that good. This represents, in my world, a sea change. I have only had two previous favorite cartoon characters and they were Snagglepuss and Race Bannon.
It is useful to consider the energy put into tribal associations. If this all sounds a little smushy and personal, well then let it be. Several years ago I decided that all I care about is wisdom and that requires humility and the willingness to be as kind and helpful to people as you can be. That’s what grows society, stuff that matures from the bottom up, sometimes if necessary in defiance of the conventional wisdom. It’s the uncommon wisdom that has the integrity of running on energy that has been through the blues. If that sounds a bit abstract, think about it while watching this.
I’m reaching out to make new friends and it has been productive so far. I expect pleasant surprises this year. Society is where you make it.