In any case, you're back and, as promised, today we're going to take on a website that has been begging for a brusing for some time. I recently happened across the site while skimming through Blogspot's own blogs. Yes, folks, that's right: today I'm going to try and take some of the self-importance out of one of our fellow bloggers. Who is this fine young sitting duck? Well, he's an anonymous blogger that goes by the handle "Drek." His blog, "Total Drek," is subtitled: "...the thoughts of a frustrated intellectual on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes his fancy." As we will see, that fancy may range across a wide variety of topics, but only rarely comes within shouting distance of some grasp of reality.
Now, this blog is rather extensive so we can't address all of it. Hell, this joker has been publishing since June, which isn't that long, but has managed to accumulate a staggering quantity of material. And when I say, "staggering," what I mean is, "In excess of 128,000 words according to blogspot." Since blogspot indicates that he's written 143 posts, that puts the average post length at about 895 words. Yes, folks, this is a guy who does not know when to shut up. This also gives lie to his suggestion that, "There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say I didn't warn you." Yes, Drek, sure, we all believe that you don't want people to read your blog. That is, after all, why you post multi-page missives on such fascinating topics as your dog. Okay, seriously, it's a dog. I'm sure it's a good dog, and I understand that the whole "getting hit by a car" thing was very traumatic, but for crying out loud, who gives a shit? But I digress. In any case, there's a shitload of utter drivel in this blog, and I can't hope to dissect everything that this Drek posts. So, since I can't mock everything, I'll just pick one post to mock. Specifically, I'll use this one, titled Utility.
Ooooh, "Utility," such a simple name, such a meaningful concept, clearly this post must be just chock full of philosophical goodness, right? Right? Oh, fuck no. No, this post is chock full of meaningful content the way a Jackson Pollock painting is full of intelligible themes. This post is so full of meaninful content, as it happens, that Drek uses up the first half dozen or so paragraphs bragging about a compliment he received. Wanna know what this compliment was? That people find him to be "useful." That's a compliment? "You have a use," is being nice? Fuck, Drek, lots of things have uses. Hell, at hospitals there are probably tools whose sole purpose is to lance rectal boils. Them things are useful, but would you be flattered if someone said, "Drek, you're useful like a rectal boil lance?" I sure hope not, although given your, "strange obsession with ass-jokes," who knows?
In any case, once this gibbering idiot staggers a little further on he argues that he's not talking about this compliment to brag (Riiiiight, just like how you're trying to discourage readership by writing lots? Good thinking there, genius.) but because he wants to say that one of his main life goals is to be useful to others. Okay, first off, did we really need six goddamn tangential paragraphs to lead us into that earth-shattering revelation? I'm going to answer, "no." Fuck, you could have just titled the post, "I want to be useful to others," and saved us all a lot of time. Seond, that isn't much of a goal, Drek. I mean, the aforementioned rectal lance is useful to people. So, basically, you just aspire to be as worthy as a rectal lance? That's some dream there, buddy!
After some self-affirming claptrap about how readers of his blog might not be surprised to know he likes to be useful (Much, I'm sure, as they wouldn't be surprised to know that it's virtually impossible to shut this asshole up) he asserts that he involved himself in sociology because he's so idealistic, he won't participate in idealistic causes. Yep, you heard that right: he wants so much to do good, he won't lift a finger to actually DO GOOD. Well ain't that just generous as hell? Specifically, he argues that:
I got involved in sociology because I think that our organization as a society is important to our survival, and our growth as a species. In my view it is increasingly apparent that the problems of the world stem not from a technical inability to satisfy material want, but from an inability to organize ourselves in such a way as to make the global satisfaction of that want possible. In short: our material technology has advanced more rapidly than our social technology, and we are now suffering from that imbalance. In this, I probably don't differ much from most of the activists. The place where I DO differ is in my belief that we don't know how to solve those social problems yet. Perhaps strengthening social movements would be good, perhaps not. Perhaps policy work would help, then again, maybe it wouldn't. I don't believe we have the answers yet and, while I don't think we have to wait to dot every I and cross every T before we do anything, I do think we need people looking for those answers.
What a sterling example of philosophical hoo-haa. So, our social technology is too primitive, eh? Nice revelation there, buddy, especially considering that the reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said essentially the same thing decades ago. Specifically, he said, "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." Way to steal a point and not credit it, Drek. And what about that last bit about i-crossing and looking for answers? Is he saying that we should look for ways to correct social problems, but we shouldn't necessarily wait until those answers are in before we start acting? Way to take a stand there- looks like John Kerry isn't the only one the Republicans could accuse of flip-flopping.
What follows, however, is an argument about the role of science, and society, in people's lives. Drek essentially argues that knowledge is almost always good, though it may be turned to unpleasant applications or be acquired in immoral ways. It is, thus, the role of society to decide how to use scientific knowledge, but science itself is without such moral responsibility. I won't address whether or not this is correct, there are certainly arguments either way, but isn't it convenient for Drek and his fellow scientists? A scientist who is absolved of responsibility by virtue of the pursuit for knowledge is not completely unlike the war criminal who cries that he was merely following orders. For such a criminal, it was up to his superiors to decide how to use him, his role was merely that of an instrument without will of its own. Similarly, the scientist who pursues knowledge without thought of the consequences is hiding behind a shield of displaced responsibility. Again, perhaps it is necessary for scientists to be so shielded, since so much of what science has learned has so altered our ways of life, but such a total distinction between science and morality presents its own problems in terms of our "social technology."
Yet, in arguing that scientists are morality-free discoverers-of-knowledge, Drek ignores something else. He says he doesn't mind the debate about stem cell research, and that:
If we truly desire to make knowledge more democratic... we need to stop pretending that we are qualified to decide how the world should be for other people. We can tell the world how things work, and how we may change that, but we cannot tell the world whether or not such change should happen.
Yet, he doesn't deal fundamentally with the freedom of scientific research. Science is a discipline, Drek argues, that can tell us how the world actually is, but the methods it uses to do this may be morally repugnant to us. The Nazis certainly provided much information on the limits of human endurance, but are such experiments justified by the cargo of knowledge they will provide? In his view are scientists not merely beyond responsibility for morality, but beyond responsibility to morality as well? Drek is obviously aware of this issue given his own comments about Nazi experiments ("I deplore what was done and could not, and would not, condone experiments such as those performed by the Nazis in the name of science...") but this muddies the argumentative waters: science is beyond morality, yet it is subject to it. Science informs ethics, yet it must respond to ethics in its investigations. Unlike quantum particles, Drek, you cannot have this one both ways.
Our esteemed author does recognize that his faith in the transformative power of knowledge, or information, or wisdom, or whatever the fuck it is that science produces, may seem naive, but argues in turn that:
...my belief in the power of science to allow us to make informed decisions is no more or less silly than your belief that you, as an individual, can make a difference by not eating meat, or watching what pronouns you use.
This is not, however, much of a response. To say that the belief that pushing pins into an anthropomorphic doll will do damage to one's enemies is no more silly than the belief that a small wafer and a swallow of wine will magically transform into human flesh and blood (Ewwwww!) during a ritual is not to say their either belief isn't silly. The degree of silliness in relative terms has nothing to do with the degree of silliness in absolute terms. I think I might find myself comfortable in arguing that Drek, with his belief in the transformative power of science, is just as much of a no-talent ass-clown as the proponents of political correctness who seem to think that changing pronouns will alter the structural dynamics of power. To Drek and the PC-Pros: lemme know how that works out for you!
Finally, mercifully, this post stumbles into its conclusion. And what a conclusion it is, too! We have crappy metaphors ("...a collective effort to push back the cloak of ignorance" eh, Drek? How about a collective effort to pull your head out of your ass?), we have a claim on the identity of idealistic activist without actually claiming the identity of idealistic activist ("I am as idealistic as any of you, I am as activist as any of you, I simply have a different foe." Sort of like, "Great taste, less filling."), we have a priviledging of the grand crusade of science over the crusades of lesser entities ("...science labors to bring us one step closer to the end of ignorance." Just so long as you bring us closer to the end of this post.), and we have a really unnecessary use of the word, "nemeses." Yes, folks, this conclusion has everything it needs to be labeled, "Craptacular." Even a concluding line that misses inspiring or provocative and goes right into trite and awful. What more could we ask for?
Well, quite a lot, really. I won't go into the self-indulgent whining that passes as a disclaimer at the end of this post, but there's really very little to recommend this post or this blog. It is full of poorly considered, badly argued rhetoric that seems to have been constructed by a high schooler who wants to be taken for an educated adult. God help us if this author is, as he claims, an actual graduate student. Unless the grad program in question prominently features "finger painting," I fear we may be witnessing the ultimate disintegration of education in the United States. Then again, if any grad program features "finger painting," I think we're in trouble, whether this Drek is enrolled in it or not.
And so, dear readers, we come to the end of our post, in which we offered a little merciful help to one of the internet's many self-important assholes. Hopefully this will enable him to be a little less serious in the future, and a little more humble. I really don't care, though, since mocking the bastard was at least fun for me. That's all that counts, right?
Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go lie down. For some reason, after writing this post, I feel like I jumped through my own ass backwards.