Friday, May 8, 2009

Answering A Qualitative Question Is Impossible

I started writing this as a comment over at Free Man's, and decided to post it here, for several reasons. One, I believe this. Firmly. I would say that this is the truest thing for me, other than balance and free will, both of which are kind of umbrella-ed under it. Secondly, I am obsessed with motherfucking donkeyball, and was waiting for an excuse to tie it in to something.

Sweet Jesus, when will people realize that answering a qualitative question is impossible?

The concept of self-imposed entitlement, betterness, one-ness…it’s bullshit.

There is no right or wrong in the world, no one way to accomplish anything. Not anymore. Then again I’m not sure there ever was. I feel like in the past there was a moral code applied to people’s lives by the leaders of society, and without being exposed to another way of thought, how is it even possible to understand different practices and perceptions, or even know they existed? We now have variety in everything. Food. Fighting. Love. Religion. Socks. Cell phones. Maybe not cell phones. Fuckers trying to give me shit I don't need.

With the advancement of technology, so came the abolition of black and white. With access to options, so goes access to minds. Everything is graying, subjective, with exceptions to every rule. Because it's damn near impossible to define the concept of "best."

Let's take basketball, because it's the IT thing right now, even though I've never really been a fan:

Harlem Globetrotters (exhibitionism and fun? Give the video a chance, they play football on the court)

Candace Parker (bitch is effortless)

Michael Jordan (total smooth cocky-baller. Wait until the one-minute mark. I think I held my breath.)

Donkeyball (Fuck. Yes. One of my best friends is a die hard fan, and prides himself on supporting "the oldest donkey basketball club in the world." I like to think of it has an homage to Christ and his love for hoops.)

So which is best? Pick one.

I know, I know, it's Michael Jordan. Whatever.

I'm sure that some of you are going to offer up suggestions for me on other basketball videos, other players to check out that are even better, and that's cool. My exposure is basically limited to those four things. Whether I choose to educate myself on the pleasures of basketball is my choice. I could do it easily, too, I could be a fucking expert by Sunday if I wasn't already devoting Saturday to P4C7. Internet and all that.

With all that information just floating around in the ether, ready to be plucked by anyone with a keyboard, we choose what we learn and each subject heavily influences our outlook, our morals. I am not as resilient as I think. Choosing to ignore something is just as important of an identity choice as choosing to embrace it.

The permanence and prevalence of choice amidst such a swell of diversity is proof. Choice is individual. More options means more contrast. Communities consisting of strongly similar individuals have limited choices.

And that is not a bad thing, it's not morally wrong to limit choices if you believe it's necessary. Limited choices can mean more decisive action.

I mean, I want everyone to behave a certain way and have the freedom of choice, and more importantly, I want them to want it.

But it is far more important that people are allowed to choose if they want the exposure of choice. I can't make them be me, and I never should. Does that make sense?

Like I said, there are exceptions to every rule.

Then again, I could be horribly wrong about all of this. There could just be a right and a wrong, and that's the way it is. It's all up in the air, like the internet. Damned elusive Answers. I like it that way, though.



Blues said...

I have a really hard time dealing with people that don't understand or believe in moral ambiguity. These are the same kinds of people that are uncomfortable watching movies like American Beauty or Happiness or reading Crime and Punishment because they are uncomfortable with artists that portray objectionable characters as protagonists, they can't take the message of the universality of moral questionability.

I have a hard time dealing with my family for this very reason; they have it all figured out, right from wrong. It's so easy to find the answer, just open up the New American Standard Bible and pray really hard and the black and white will be revealed to you.
That shit is so dangerous.

I don't know, did I just totally miss the point of your post?

The Ambiguous Blob said...

In the words of the great GP Parker: "If it's not right, it's wrong."
In response to this, I ask- what IS right? How can you tell if it's right? Is it math or science-based, with data points proving its rightness?
If not, then you cannot find the right, which means that you cannot find the wrong.

Rassles said...

Blues: No, you didn't. I mean, everyone's got their ways of thinking and living. The fact that so many people live different ways is good, in my mind, regardless of what those ways are.

Ambiblob: Exactly. There is no right or wrong. Or I'm wrong, and there is...

wolf said...

Nope, I think the world is nothing but varying shades of gray, and I agree that free access to incredible amounts of information has helped make that so.

On a personal side, with so much info out there, I've been trying recently to look at all of the different sides of stories (political, etc.) before I make any decisions. It's more time-consuming, but I'm learning a lot. Of course, most of the time I just learn that nothing's changed, and that I still believe most of the human race are imbeciles, but at least I'm trying.

Erin said...

I think there are some absolutes. Not many. The tuba in Blood, Sweat and Tears is absolutely awesome.

Other than that, it's hard to whittle down rules to where they have no exceptions. Take pain. This is about as relaxed a rule as I can think of: People should have some recourse to protect themselves from or seek restitution for physical pain that is deliberately inflicted on them by other people against the victim's wishes, unless the pain is inflicted in self-defense or defense of others against said victim.

Even that insanely caveat-ed and unreadable sentence has grey area where the threshold for pain is concerned. Do spankings count? A firmly-grabbed wrist, to stop someone from jumping off a bridge? Different people have different standards for what counts as painful. And what level of force can be used to stop someone from willfully hurting themselves?

My brother is a big-time libertarian. He'd be with you on this. I'm always on the fence.

Anonymous said...

"...we choose what we learn and each subject heavily influences our outlook, our morals."

That's what I choose as the crux of this post. "...we choose what we learn..." Just like we choose what we learn from--and that's what we watch, listen to and read. If all the information you take in is from the same point of view, then you're living in a one dimensional world.

Oh, and by the way, I cheered on Candace Parker for three years when she played for the Lady Vols. We could've used her this year.

Anonymous said...

ten years ago, i saw the world as "256 shades of gray". now? about a billion... if i stumble into a situation that truly IS black and white (ie: step on the puppy's head, or not?), then i celebrate it with a happy dance...

what you're articulating is important - and helps me understand why my 20 year old son is so overwhelmed, and lost, as he tries to figure out what to do, where to go, what to major in for his studies... we've told him "you can do anything you want" all his life... how unfair was that?

renalfailure said...

I see you in the near future changing your blog title to "Sometimes I Make Postmodernist Lists."

OneZenMom said...

"The opposite of a fact is falsehood, but the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth." - Niels Bohr

There are very few - if any - moral or ethical absolutes in this world. Very few "truths".

Which is why my personal philosophy is borrowed from Pagan tradition: An' it harm none, do what you will."

In other words: Whatever floats your boat.

So many troubles begin with one person or group trying to impose their "right" onto another.

Gwen said...

I agree with you. I think. I do believe that there are some moral absolutes. Not many. I think we all know what behaviors are repugnant. It's not hard to determine what is morally wrong behavior because those behaviors have actual victims.

I grew up in a fundie religion and the narrow view of the world really messed me up for a long time and it continues to fuck with my mind to this day, years after I escaped. So I am very careful about judging other people's choices, even if they would not be my own choices. A good example is abortion. Touchy topic, I know. I don't think I personally could have one, but I respect the right of others to make that choice. I would NEVER look at a person who made that choice in a negative way even though I might look at myself in a negative way I made that choice. The standards I hold myself to are my own. I don't have the right or the inclination to tell other people what to believe or feel about issues.

I know that none of what I'm writing here is coming out right. You have such a good way with expressing your thoughts. You make all kinds of sense. I envy you that :) Great, thought-provoking post, as usual.

Blues said...

One of my favorite quotes from a lecture that Max Weber gave called Science as a Vocation:

"Today one usually speaks of science as 'free from presuppositions.' Is there such a thing? It depends upon what one understands thereby. All scientific work presupposes that the rules of logic and method are valid; these are the general foundations of our orientation in the world; and, at least for our special question, these presuppositions are the least problematic aspect of science. Science further presupposes that what is yielded by scientific work is important in the sense that it is 'worth being known.' In this, obviously, are contained all our problems. For this presupposition cannot be proved by scientific means. It can only be interpreted with reference to its ultimate meaning, which we must reject or accept according to our ultimate position towards life"

There is no getting away from value statements - not even if we reject morality and just embrace science.

Again, I don't know if this has anything to do with your post or with the discussion but this has been on my mind and I'm getting it out in your comments section, hope you don't mind.

Normally, people need to let people the fuck alone to live. Unless they are doing fucked up shit, in which case they should be stopped.

Nevermind, I don't know.

Mongolian Girl said...

The only thing I've ever been right about is admitting my version of right may be completely wrong.
Other than that, I've been wrong about pretty much everything.
Which feels extremely right on.

A Free Man said...

There is a right and wrong. I am right and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong.

OK, maybe not, but I do know that there are some crazy ass nasty fuckers on the internet.

What are we actually talking about? Basketball? Moral ambiguity? Jesus?

Rassles said...

Wolf: Ideally, that's the best way to educate yourself. I try to do the same thing, but the fact of the matter is if I don't like the writing style, I'm not gonna fucking read it.

Erin: In regards to being libertarian, I agree with a lot of those views, specifically the philosophy behind it...but I also believe rules are necessary. It's up to us if we want to break them.

Franklin: Parker is one of my sister's high school friends. Her success like, astounds me.

Daisy: The thing that kills me about the whole "follow your own path" thing is that if there weren't so many goddamn movies about it I don't think we would care as much.

RF: I know, right? I'm a total douchebag.

ZenMom: That quote is fantastic, first of all. You're exactly right, too: all that conflict begins when people assume their way is best. But there is no best, sooooo...shut the fuck up, right?

Gwen: There are things that I believe are wrong, from a personal standpoint. Definitely. I have my own moral absolutes for sure. But what's wrong for me could be right for you...and that's okay. I like it that way. I guess that's the whole point.

Blues: It has a lot to do with it, actually, you're awesome for putting that up. You're right, values will always play a part. But values are personal, not universal.

Mongo: I dig that about you.

Freeman: You're correct. I am too. I'm always right. Ya'll bitches can suck it.

Le Meems said...

I relate this back to Candy Ravers.

What is right about being a candy raver?

Sure, there may be just a few things wrong with it, but whats right about it?

Le Meems said...


Rights and Wrongs.

Right: Asking your mother to come to your cheese class and for dinner.

Wrong: telling her to fuck off during hour 8 and then continuing like nothing happened.

Because it might be wrong to others to tell your mother to fuck off.

But jesus, she was being mean and annoying. So in our world its right. To say, Mo--om! Fuck off.

You know.

Right to you, wrong to me and all that jazz ;)

Gypsy said...

I think there are three absolutes: Sarah Palin is an idiot, Sean Connery is the best Bond, and people who cut in line should be shot.

Other than that? Fair game.

Rassles said...

Good call, Gypsy.

I just can't believe no one gives a shit about Donkeyball except for me.

Dean said...

Good and bad, right and wrong, truth and lies... They're all indistinguishable from each other because they are all grounded in perception. Even time is just a concept.

If you ask me, people have it all wrong. We don't live in a digital word at all. We live in an analog world full of almost, not quite and never enough.

I say that the absolute truth is that there really isn't one. Now if that's not hypocrisy, I don't know what is. But I'm fine with that becuase I live in an analog world where nothing makes sense, let alone the logic of a wise fool like me!

Rassles said...

Dean: Exactly.