Friday, October 29, 2010

The Fringe, Part I - The General Whereabouts

Howdy, stranger!  What brings you out to these parts?

I see!  So, you've come to doubt the 'experts,' have you?  The economy's got you stressed, and the nice government men, the egghead academics, the politicians, journalists, and the other know-it-alls on the TV set say they understand the situation, everything's under control, and there's nothing to worry about.  Nevertheless you do.  After all, they were saying that before IT happened, so why should anybody believe them now?  And weren't they all operating on the same theories that you were taught in school?  That everybody knows to be true?  Is it possible that *gulp* everybody is wrong?

Congratulations!  In that little thought, you've just taken a very big step -- right outside the mainstream and into the fringe, if only for a moment or so.  Might I invite you to stay awhile and chat, before you come to your senses and step back into that humdrum world you came from?  You see, you've gone and done a very dangerous thing -- very dangerous, and very good, mind you -- and so long as you're out of your right mind, you might as well hear a word or two from a professional lunatic if you're going to be about these things.

The danger is, you've really upped the ante in life. You've doubled down, though you may not have realized it, and it really could go either way for you.  Before, you were safe and snug in what THEY tell you.  You operated in THEIR system, according to THEIR rules and theories, right along with most everybody else, and you could really only go as wrong as the rest of the herd.  Now, out here, you could go much more wrong...but you might just get a thing or two fantastically right.

The Structure of Knowledge

It all has to do with how you behave yourself out here on the fringe...and how successful you are at seeing through some of the illusions of human awareness.  Strange as it sounds, out here on the fringe where we actually bother to deal with all the peculiarities of human behavior, actual human knowledge takes on some unexpected structures.  Well, at least compared to what they teach you back where you came from.  Back in the mainstream, mass human rationality is taken for granted.  Here, we aren't always so sure.

Here's the thing -- if you open your history book, a reasonably good and honest one, you'll find that it's chock full of all kinds of kooky and strange ideas that practically everybody believed at one time or another.  Then, they magically disappear, usually after causing a whole lot of trouble. 

Eugenics, for one.  Not all that long ago, practically every enlightened person thought that if inferior specimens of the human race were allowed to procreate, the whole world would go to the dogs within a generation or two.  People were forcibly sterilized, forbidden from marrying, all sorts of silly things just for being the kind of person that certain other people didn't like having around.  Then, a certain political party in a certain eastern European nation (that also had some other ideas a lot more popular at the time than some people seem to want to admit today) went and tried to exterminate a whole race of people from the face of the earth, just because they didn't like 'em.

All of a sudden, nobody wanted to remember that they had believed those same ideas, and supported those people back before they went and took things to their logical conclusion, which as it turns out is usually a good cutoff point for such supposedly sensible people to define as 'too far.'  The whole philosophy became the object of ridicule overnight.  Called it 'racist,' they did.  People sneered where they had cheered before, at how backward and ignorant the old days and the old ways were.  Smart, cultured people knew to move on to newer stupid ideas, and eugenics was banished back out to the fringe, where the mainstreamers send everything they want to ridicule.  Everyobody conveniently forgot, and if they were reminded they blamed it on the other guy, especially the one minding the oven door.  Who deserved it, don't get me wrong.  But so did an awful lot of others.

The 'inferiors' were left to breed or not as they would, and guess what?  We're all still here.  History's positively littered with this kind of thing, if you know where to look.  Over and over you see it, but somehow at any given time, questioning the conventional view draws titters, if not ridicule.  Arguing from the fringe, well, it's best not done in public.

The First Danger

Here's the point:  in the structure of human knowledge as it actually operates in the real world, you've really got two realms of thought -- over there in the conventional mainstream, and out here on the fringe.  The mainstream ridicules the fringe for being the fringe, and presumably a pack of lies that almost nobody believes, but if you'll only take two seconds to think about it, you'll realize that the mainstream opinion itself must also be full of lies.  It's the set of beliefs that we humans operate under every day, and if humans are as fond of believing inane things that justify the whatever it is they would like to do but probably shouldn't as history suggests, well certainly at least some of the things that pass for common knowledge are idiotic fancies at best. Some may have even been deliberately concocted to stir up just the right sentiments for the benefit of certain interested parties.  Nobody who takes an honest look at history could say otherwise. 

Every now and then, it becomes obvious that some idea isn't working out the way it's supposed to, and people finally start asking questions.  That's the first danger, the one you've apparently stumbled onto.  Wrong ideas are everywhere, and eventually don't work.  Conventional wisdom often isn't, and half the time is a convenient lie for somebody or another's agenda.  Some people call it conspiracy, some mass delusion, but whatever it is it is real and you've found it.  You can't trust the textbooks on everything, that's just a fact of life.  Most people blow off this thought, if it ever occurs to them.  They trust in the enlightenment of modern ideas and thinking and shun whatever 'barbaric' ideas came before.  Which is to say, they place their trust in ideological fashions, or at least wish to identify with one of the fashions that happens to be 'in' at the moment, rather than possibly wind up the butt end of a joke today.  Instead, they wind up the butt end of tomorrow's joke, just like those enlightened barbarians who came before when they screwed everything up.  Hopefully, you are now a bit less inclined to that type of behavior.

The Second Danger

But the realization of that first danger immediately leads to an uncomfortable conclusion.  If the mainstream opinion on any particular topic happens to be a lie, well then, the truth must either be unknown, or more likely, merely outside the mainstream -- out here somewhere on the fringe.  Mutual exclusivity, oil and water, you know. Which means that if you're going to go looking for the way things really are on some issue of controversy, you're probably going to have to head out into the fringe, where you find yourself today.  And it can be a scary place out here, no question.

The big danger of being out here is that what the mainstreamers say about us is half true -- most ideas on the fringe really are a pack of lies, and dangerous to boot.  If you're not especially careful out here, you'll find yourself in a whole mess of 'em, and worse off than if you'd never left the comfy bliss of mainstream ignorance.  If you'd messed youself up doing what everybody else was doing, well, you'd only wind up in the same boat as everybody else.  You might be dead or broke, but no deader or broker than anybody else.  What could anybody say?  But just by making a habit of being out here you'll be considered a flake.  If you mess up and latch on to the wrong idea out on the fringe, and it comes back to bite you in the rear, just forget about it.  You'll never live it down.

But -- what if you're right?  Boy, oh boy it'll be something, won't it!?  But best be careful who you let know about it.  That green-eyed monster Jealousy is a nasty beast, and nothing stinks worse to a lot of losers than foresight and success.  Better not let anybody get a whiff of ye'.   You could wind up being resented for the rest of your days.

And once your idea catches on, don't expect anybody to recognize your precociousness, either.  What was once a fruitcake 'conspiracy theory' held only by nutjobs like you and me will magically turn into something sensible that everybody knew all along anyway, just as soon as it gets annexed to the mainstream.  Don't ask me how that works.  I'm only passing the facts along, just so you'll know.

Life Out On the Fringe

There's perks out here, aside from all the two-stepping out of range of all the danger.  Out here, we harbor these things unknown in the mainstream.  They're called 'doubts.'  Maybe you've caught wind of them mainstream-side?

Mainstream thought is intollerable to the little buggers.  Won't support them -- say its something to do with 'progress,' or modern science, or something like that.  Anyway, the eggheads won't put up with 'em.  Stirs up the natives, you see.  Gets 'em thinkin'.  Can't have that.  Bad habit to let 'em get into 'cause it messes up all the mainstreamers' plans, you know.  With doubts running around all over the place, you can never have it All Figured Out.  The eggheads don't like that.

Life's a little more magical out here.  Thanks to those little doubts, you never really know what's going to happen next.  You just can't be sure.  No room for faith back there in the mainstream, either.  Air's too stale, not enough oxygen to really breathe free.  And it really needs the little doubts to be itself.  Just not the same without 'em.

Questions?  Oh my, have we got 'em!  Answers too, but the one's you'll find out here are a little different.  They've got more life to 'em, somehow.  I think it's the doubts, and maybe the faith, a little.  The answers back where you come from just aren't the same.  No vitality, all authority.  And forget about mainstreamer questions.  Ain't worth askin'.

Lies, well yes, we've been over that.  Pretend to be answers, just like out there.  They're everywhere you go, but at least out here they can be themselves.  No eggheads to soften 'em up and dilute 'em down into mish-mash.  Dangerous?  Oh you bet!  But whether or not they're really more so without the eggheads workin' on 'em, well, that's hard to say.  Is it more dangerous for a lie to be hard to spot, or quicker to land you in a mess of trouble?  On the other hand, is there really such a thing as deader than dead, or broker than broke?  If you ask me, the difference probably has less to do with real danger, and more with pride.

At least out here they can walk upright out in the light of day, and you can mostly see 'em for what they are -- bold, uncompromising and all that.  And really, in a way, don't they add a little to the place?  How much excitement can you have without a little real danger, plain as day for everyone to see?  In a way, they spice the place up in a way they just can't out there in mainstream-land.  I mean, out there, they're so mundane.  Maybe it's because they're accepted, or maybe it's the eggheads.  They seem to make everything boring.

Homesteading or Heading Home

Maybe it's the life for you?  Danger, excitement, all of that?  I don't know, you're looking a little pale.  Well, if you're gonna get back, better make it quick.  Stay out here too long, you might actually start believing this crap.  That'll ruin you for sure if you don't plan on staying.  It changes you.  I mean, its not a healthy thing to breathe free out here if you've gotta go back.  It'll leave a taste in your mouth you'll never really be able to forget.  You'll never feel really at home there again.

Go on, don't worry about finding actual truth.  I mean, really, how important is that?  You've got your reputation, your career to think of, you know.  Important stuff.  I mean, what would the neighbors think?  Truth, that's for the eggheads, and the dreamers, not sensible people like you.  And that's really what the whole scariness and danger of the fringe is for -- to keep sensible people from going astray, and worrying about things they probably shouldn't.  Keeps 'em safely in line.  Mainstream -- that's good enough.  It'll do.  It's safe, you know?

No, no, I understand.  Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.  Your secret's safe with me...

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