Have you ever wondered why everything in the world is so damn ironic these days? Psy, Bieber, geo politics, consumerism. Everything today either comes with a self-referential set of ironic functions or starts off with the qualifying statements like “I am not an expert” or “I don’t really know first hand but.” It’s as if if it is not equipped with an ironic escape hatch or an intellectual qualifier no one is comfortable in creating, sharing or believing in anything. Belieber jokes aside there’s an interesting phenomenon happening in our society today that could quite possibly be one of the most devastating attacks on humanity we’ve ever seen. That phenomenon is the pathological attack on the psychology of what it means to believe. What we see, read, hear and experience have all been systematically striped of all faith-based belief, leaving us with emotional gap in what that belief is supposed to uphold. In fact, this non-belief we’re seeing emerge out of this shared cultural attack is so extreme that one could quite easily diagnose it with a clinical diagnosis of what it means to be experiencing psychosis. The internet, of all places, is where this issue starts and ends.
The internet, through its massive surplus of information and dogmatic pursuit of transparency, has unleashed our collective rationality on almost every domain of information there is. Whether its the fictions of advertising, the hypocrisy of charitable giving, the falsities of organized religion or the failings of science and economics there is hardly a place left that hasn’t been trashed by the overly-rational pursuit of truth. Like rationality locusts we swarm in, shred beliefs from every angle and fly away to the next unsuspecting domain. We are, as it turns out, in the midst of an exposé of dialectic paralysis where no fact is left unchallenged and no belief unbeaten. But the paradoxical truth, which is ironically ironic, is that we demand more meaning from our choices than we ever have before. From the food we eat to the clothes we wear each choice has a depth of belief requirements that force you to be able to defend each choice as if it were your last. It’s as if we embody the truth of our choices in everything we do. It is our burden of having everything from all perspectives at once instantly.
Navigating this shit storm of rationality is challenging. It seems that we, believers, are left with three choices once the locusts have come and gone. One, pick up the pieces of our beliefs and try and make choices that are stripped of any existential value (I.E. purely rational choices based on utility). Two, become even more dogmatic about our beliefs and find shelter in an extremist view that rebels against the attack on those said beliefs (I.E. The radicalization of belief). Or three, accept the falsity of a belief and incorporate it as an irrational factor and just do whatever you want as if you believed it (I.E. I know very well but … ). Each of these three options just doesn’t seem ideal given the natural externalities we can imagine from each. Can you imagine a world filled with rational choices of sex, entertainment and creative exploration? Radicalization needs no more advocates. And accepting false beliefs as if they were true is precisely the unholy compromise that has casualties like global warming, indentured work and massive unemployment. The voraciousness of dismantling what it means to believe has real consequences and there are few that would see those outcomes today as anything really positive.
There are surely rationalists out there that see the honest representation of the material world has its virtues. I’m also sure that there are those that see belief existing beyond the subjective-objective domain, not accessible by the human spirit, as a faith worth believing in. But to both of those extremes I would point to the gap that remains in the day-to-day? Without belief in our everyday we would cease to progress, explore, take leaps and care for a world that needs a future. We need heroes, fictions, stories and faith to sooth our minds to the harsh rationalities of our world. I just wish that the internets would change their locust-like behaviour into one that builds beliefs rather than consume them.
Image from: http://www.timesofisrael.com/large-locust-swarm-enters-israel-from-egypt/