Being neither Dead nor Alive
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 7 Apr 2014
But How to Know Now?
As the title implies, the question raised here is the extent to which one experiences oneself as more dead than alive — or is so considered by others. As the subtitle implies, the further question is how the current state of society enables one to make that distinction — given the questionable nature of “one” and the potential meaning to be associated with “now”.
How do such questions relate to the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as embodied in the United States Declaration of Independence? Does the sense of being alive relate to the experience of happiness or rather to some more profound and inexplicable engagement with life? What meaning will the future associate with “being alive”.
Consideration of such questions may be usefully framed by the argument of Barbara Ehrenreich (Smile Or Die: how positive thinking fooled America and the World, 2009). Has “being positive” become associated with “being alive”, and “being negative” with the contrary? Is this framing suggestive of the vulnerability of society to a cognitive analogue to diabetes as a consequence of the persistent quest for information “sweeties” as being unquestionably appropriate?
Such concerns raise questions regarding the art of governance in challenging times, given the widespread indications of social unrest — and more to come. With the current framing, is there a fundamental issue of ungovernability (Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? 2011). More provocatively, the only possibility for “governability” may be through the catastrophic reduction of complexity. In terms of the focus of this discussion, does this imply some combination of dumbing down, deadening, or treating as dead — effectively to minimize any sense of being alive as it may engender and sustain dissatisfaction and social unrest? Expressed otherwise this might be framed as cognitive “container management”. As pursued with respect to herds of wild animals, this has long taken the form of “taking out the stallions” as being a source of leadership threatening humans in nature’s wilderness.
More personally, the argument raises questions as to how dead one is, or how alive — and how to know? More generally the question is how to “enliven” what is dead under social conditions where every effort may be made to “deaden” what is alive.
The argument here develops some points partially made separately (Metaphors To Die By: correspondences between a collapsing civilization and a dying person, 2013) as a complement to the framing offered by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (Metaphors We Live By, 1980).
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 7 Apr 2014.
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