Epistemology as Enemy

Epistemology of the past lead to guilt after a purchase was made. Contemporarily this buyers-remorse is subject to other standards. Rather than feeling we need to give back to community or do some other charitable act later, we now offset. We offset carbon in our purchases by buying from Apple who have an environmental program (though they are still guilty of stripping the earth of its natural resources), or buying from Starbucks or Nike who help to communities in various ways. We could even look to giving to Microsoft seeing that Bill Gates is giving his wealth to make a huge dent in malaria, even if now Microsoft and Gates are only abstractly connected.

In all of our purchases even before this greenwashing and consumer guilt-washing, we still failed to make a direct connection between the values of products and their actual credentials. We may consider the functional impact of purely functional objects, like if we dissociate from white goods. But even a completely functional object like a computer has been given lifestyle branding and marketing. The more typical examples are in consumables.

Coke has little to do with thirst: for that there's water. Coke represents enjoyment. Coke's advertising however is not so different from Apple’s or even Nike’s. We join abstract associations to the product.

Nike essentially make wearable goods, not so different from others. Their branding creates a connection to high performance, and inherently to a lifestyle that has been made desirable across not only the health, fitness and sport industries, but further into lifestyle, and entertainment.
These everyday examples can be fully explained in a jargonistic application by saying that; Objects have little physical impact but act as signs and signifiers. They translate from the actual to their metaphysical definitions and become other.

Perhaps an environmental conservative would like to return to primitive needs, like only drinking for thirst. We can certainly see this in Paul Goodman's desire to create more meaningful work by moving away from abstracted work. But we cannot disconnect what has already come to pass. This excess is with us forever. We are now obliged to enjoy.

To change tact and apply this to another idea; The notions of all political ideas are tied to the same epistemology of the time and we are not able to see beyond it. When we talk of extreme ends of politics, we invariably come back to economics and desire. Communism was never a revolt to such an extent that we would rid ourselves of abstract financial systems, nor are the contemporary socialist movements, or the conservative Occupy movement. They still want to create a better society based on economic understanding; the dispersion of wealth typically. Chomsky pragmatically would argue (although sceptically) we should work with  the current epistemology in mind. We can only make things better and progress from what we know. We cannot throw away the bath water when we throw away the baby. The underlying ideas are embedded in us.

It takes the more radical perspectives of Slavoj Zizek who believes now is not a time for action but a time for thinking. Or Foucault who desired greater meaning that cannot be brought about by the current epistemology which is so limiting.

Obviously there is arguments for both sides. We cannot simply allow our governments to kill the populations of other nations because of their confused ethnocentrism. At the same time we need to question whether the future will actually be better by overthrowing the state, or if we just end up in another class system that is equally negative and destructive.

Perhaps the greatest challenge would be; that by creating any anti-state notion, we simplify our problems to a common enemy. This is a risk because of how inaccurate and limited it is. This idea we can justify to ourselves in a war against Terror and an attack on ISIS. All the while though we are typically looking only to kill, rather than what would be Goodman's idea of actually engaging with disaffected people. The same arguments could obviously go on to racism, homophobia, ethnocentrism in forms like nationalism, dealing with "homelessness" rather than the underlying causes, the judicial system in dealing with drug crime rather than offering genuine treatment ...

These are our current situational problems. The link could additionally be made to back to WW2 though, where for the Germans all problems were linked to the Jewish population and the gypsies. We find this abhorrent now, but the idea of a simple enemy was enough to unite massive forces believing they would improve their situation in life. On the other hand, the enemy forces did the exact same campaign identifying the Nazi's as the overall enemy. The Nazi’s were a destructive force, but that force was still made up of human beings, politicians in command to workers making a living.

The enemy is in fact narrowness, lack of understanding, the underlying, adhering to and accepting prescriptive epistemology.


Chomsky and Foucault debate

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