A MEDITATION ON COMPLEASANCE

The majority view is that global warming is real. The minority view is that it’s not. The majority view is that masks save lives. The minority view is that they don’t. Since nothing in my own behaviour hangs on who’s right, it’s not that I’m agnostic. It’s that I don’t give a shit. And not giving a shit is very different from giving a shit but not knowing where to put it.

That Jesus saves is the majority view. The minority view is that he doesn’t. In this case who’s right matters a great deal. The view that he saves is that he saves if but only if one believes he does. So if I do I’ll be saved, and if I don’t I won’t be. I’d rather be saved than not be. So this is a case where I do give a shit who’s right. As it happens I think the minority is. If I’m wrong, well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

People want me to give a shit about what they want me to give a shit about, whether anything in my behaviour hangs on it or not. I used to find this odd. But then I realized we all do this. I have a list of movies – movies having nothing to do with what the course is about – that I want my students to see. Why? I suppose it’s because I think there are certain mental states, be they doxastic or aesthetic, and however epiphenomenal they might be, that are just intrinsically better having than not. And, of course, that I wish these states on others. I guess that means I’m a good person, or at least a better person than I’d be if I didn’t give a shit about other people having mental states that are intrinsically better having than not. 

So what I’ve learned from this meditation is to be less irritated, and more appreciative, of people who want me to believe that global warming is real, or that masks save lives, or that Jesus does. They want me to believe these things because they care about me. And in some cases – cases where it’s no skin off my ass – maybe I should repay their kindness by believing what they want me to. 

I say in some cases because you can’t always please everyone. If I believe that global warming is real to gladden the hearts of most of the people I know, I’m going to sadden the hearts of the fewer people I know who want me to believe it’s not. I could do my best to only seem to believe, but people see through this kind of pretence. So in those cases – where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t – it’s probably better to pretend you’re agnostic rather than that you just don’t give a shit. True believers find agnosticism about their Precious disappointing, but they find our not giving a shit about it downright offensive.

Therefore let this be our resolution. And let’s see if it can survive until tomorrow morning.  



Categories: Angst

Tags: , , , , , , ,

1 reply

  1. Viminitz says, “True believers find agnosticism about their Precious disappointing, but they find our not giving a shit about it downright offensive.”

    Having done extensive work on the rhetoric of AGW and on “denialism”, I disagree. True believers (TBs) tend to find agnosticism about AGW not only offensive but sometimes downright criminal.

    Read a book, Viminitz, they say, educate yourself. One from my book shelf. You have a moral duty.

    “Those who claim to be “agnostic” on climate change are rejecting the scientific consensus no less than outright climate-change deniers.” John Hewson, No Agnostics in the Climate Foxhole, Project Syndicate, Jul 29, 2015.

    AGW TBs tend to the George Bush line, “You are either with us or against us.”

    “There is no room for neutrality in the war against terrorism, and the international coalition against terror will “fight this evil and fight until we are rid of it,” President Bush said Tuesday.”

    “”A coalition partner must do more than just express sympathy; a coalition partner must perform,” Bush said. “That means different things for different nations. Some nations don’t want to contribute troops and we understand that. Other nations can contribute intelligence sharing. … But all nations, if they want to fight terror, must do something.”

    Bush said he would not point out any specific countries when he speaks to the UN.

    “Over time it’s going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity,” he said. “You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.””

    Bush says it is time for action,CNN, November 6, 2001, https://edition.cnn.com/2001/US/11/06/ret.bush.coalition/index.html

    Compare with the UN Secretary-General’s Statement Aug. 9/21,

    “The viability of our societies depends on leaders from government, business and civil society uniting behind policies, actions and investments that will limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We owe this to the entire human family, especially the poorest and most vulnerable communities and nations that are the hardest hit despite being least responsible for today’s climate emergency.

    The solutions are clear. Inclusive and green economies, prosperity, cleaner air and better health are possible for all if we respond to this crisis with solidarity and courage. All nations, especially the G20 and other major emitters, need to join the net zero emissions coalition and reinforce their commitments with credible, concrete and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and policies before COP26 in Glasgow.

    …There is a clear moral and economic imperative to protect the lives and livelihoods of those on the front lines of the climate crisis.

    …If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success.”

    Secretary-General’s statement on the IPCC Working Group 1 Report on the Physical Science Basis of the Sixth Assessment, UN Secretary General,New York
    09 August 2021,https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/secretary-generals-statement-the-ipcc-working-group-1-report-the-physical-science-basis-of-the-sixth-assessment

    “They say in Harlan County
    There are no neutrals there.
    You’ll either be a union man
    Or a thug for J. H. Blair.”

    Like

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