fri 22 aug 2008 03:33:50 witte de withstraat
justices as mad grammars
it's funny how in a few seconds sometimes i can have a thought sequence that provokes me.
this one happened during the first few seconds of the maintitle of a tv sitcom i hate watching, before i turned it off. the "sit" in that sitcom is that the main character is in lust with a hot woman and always trying to seduce her.
it occurred to me that i will probably never find out why the dutch straattaal verb "flowen" means to woo or try to entice. versieren. to me, etymology is desperation. i want to know all the words in all the languages, plus *why* they mean what they mean. and i am angry that i can never know all that. seriously. i find it frustrating. like as if there's something just not right about the fact that i'm not allowed to know the sum of all human knowledge going back to prehistory. it's a justice thing with me.
then i started thinking about how "the script", so to speak, affects our sense of what's right and wrong. by "the script" i mean not a dramatic script but the framework of consequent expectations that go with any common social situation. if we know "jim looked at the menu" and "jim paid the check" then we assume jim ate at the restaurant. that kind of thing.
then i thought: in the dream i had earlier, i wanted to find out who told my team to work on something unnecessary. but what upset me was that nobody would tell me the truth. so i had a justice thing. in that context, i was "entitled" to know why my crew is doing what they're doing. but why? only because of the shared social script that tells us the director gets to decide these things. what if that particular script didn't exist? the dream showed (among other things) what work would be like if it didn't.
then i was thinking: these scripts are only a kind of behavioral grammar. like most language, they are probably at best half code and half accident. so i can't take them for granted. despite my constant assertion that "rights" are an illusion, the fact is that i *want* to believe in absolutes of right and wrong.
so there's the inconsistency. santa claus. the rejection street argument all over again.
then i thought: maybe this is why some people get so upset about perceived wrongs that they think it's right to go blow themselves up and take out 50 innocent people around them. because they are wired to a certain script, which is being flouted by the society they find themselves in. and i am wired to a different set of scripts, which is why (among other things) i try not to hurt anyone.
so my sense of right and wrong, of what i am due and what i am forbidden, is written into a sort of behavioral grammar of my frameworks of expectation. as beast, of course i want my own framework to prevail. it becomes part of my memetic survival struggle. i roam among my peeps as if they were a landscape, and set about trying to conquer mental territory for my "code". a battle for their "hearts and minds", as the war strategists call it nowadays.
golly that doesn't make me sound like a very nice guy, does it.
and speaking of grammatical accidents:
where the hell did i come up with this emotional script where i am "entitled" to know all of etymology? that sounds fucking nutty, but it's a real feeling i have. honestly. i feel that it is truly unfair that i'm not allowed to know the semantic history of every word in every language. and unfair in *fact*, as if fairness could be somehow factual. that's how it feels, when you feel it. have you ever felt this? the overwhelming reality of it, the pure palpability of the right-n-wrong you crave?
actually i think a lot of people have felt it, which may be why we have so often acted nutty during the course of human history.
maybe our scripts are just as likely to be mad as sane.
maybe i think about these things because i want to *make* my scripts saner.
i do meanwhile take some consolation from the fact that so far bing crosby has shown me no ill intentions. (tee hee.)
the strange thing is that this whole argument, which has taken me more than an hour to describe in words, essentially occurred to me during the first ten seconds of the leader for "the jamie foxx show".