January 30, 2017 (Monday)

by Yule Heibel on January 29, 2018

There is sufficient variegated cloud cover high in the sky this morning to cushion the sun. Consequently, it’s comfortable to sit in this room and to look out the large windows, take in the distant strip of ocean, the tree- and rooftops, and the beautiful palette of colors daubed across the vast expanse of sky. With awnings, I suppose a big piece of that sky-view would be covered… Nothing’s perfect.

Yesterday I finally deleted the Facebook app from my phone (I had already deleted it months, if not at least a year, ago from my iPad) after reading (and posting to Facebook) an article about Cambridge Analytica. I knew about this company, and Steve Bannon’s association with it (old news), but didn’t know the backstory involving psychometric analysis, the Kosinski researcher / scientist, the slithy tove graduate student (who became “Dr. Spectre”), or the true extent of Cambridge Analytica’s ability not just to target, but to mobilize, audiences – both in the commercial and the political spheres.

I think these developments furthermore throw open huge philosophical issues, and issues that are downright ontological: who and what are we, as individuals? As social beings? As a society? What binds us when it’s in the interests of powerful forces seeking control – whether of legislatures or of pocketbooks – to split us into ever smaller special interest groups? Won’t that swing back, as a countervailing corollary, to some kind of binding movement, i.e., fascism? I don’t think we really like living as atoms, isolated. Yet all the market forces seem determined to atomize and “niche” us; and politics, the way it’s played out since probably the Enlightenment when “divine right” was exposed as a convenient myth for kings, is now “just” a market player. A huge one. (It might even be possible to say that Russians, as deeply religious and traditional people – perhaps a bit like Germans? – tried, with Sovietization, to retard the market plays of politics – modern politics – and return the demos to an iron-fisted rule of …well, magical thinking, 5-year plans, collectivism [enforced]…)

It’s a stupid cliché, but we live in very strange, weird times. The “niche-ification” of society has forced us to experience as dominant (when something like Trump’s election win happens) the sort of emotions and beliefs we were previously isolated from in our separate ways. We believed for too many decades that “our” views were correct and would always dominate, requiring merely the occasional tweaking to fix any aberrations, but that has all fallen to bits. And no one really knows where it’s all going from here…

Talked with A. for a bit. He doesn’t quite know what to think about this administration at this point. Lots of uncertainty – which is tough. I think young men like certainty, so they can measure themselves against it. (Young women, too.) Our times are hugely uncertain, probably will become more so.

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