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Narrative Nets

March 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Given unknown circumstances there is often a need to create details. Observe an individual standing by the side of the road with a sign requesting help. What are the details of this person’s story? Why are we not in this sad position, asking the anonymous public for assistance. One might wonder why its this person and not himself in this position? What actions or factors of my existence have delivered me to a place where such humiliations are avoidable?

To fill in missing details strings both from curiosity and panic. Charged with the countless questions born from these observations, one must wonder both why it exists and what protects himself from this existence. We are fearful of such calamities and seek out reasons to justify our sense of security. How close are we to such a life? Are we so secure that begging for money by the side of the road is above us? Who am I to feel its tragic? Could I handle such a deed if my children were in need?

One calming source of answers is delusion. Create the details for the person: make a back story and justify the differences. Did the person commit a crime? Is it a scam that they are playing? Creating these lies is less about the individual observed and more about us as the observer. A certain sense of safety comes from thinking their plight comes from action. If they’ve done something wrong we can feel that by acting correctly and protecting ourselves we’ll never live their life. Of course these are just lies and we cannot know what protects us from the tragedy. From what source do our privileges stem? Mere resources that can disappear by whims. Nothing is for certain and the resources from which we build a life are profoundly vulnerable. Are we merely our paycheck? Does our life come less from who we are and more from what our income does allow? Are our dreams framed in income brackets? For many the difference between luxury and destitution are but weeks without a paycheck.

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Charity and Credit: Phantom Fantasies

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

In “The Soul of Man Under Socialism,” Oscar Wilde writes that “charity creates a multitude of sins” and urges the reader to recognize the hazards of distorting reality. Wilde cautions us about our altruistic notions, reminding us that life is difficult and that pain is an important force in human progress. We forget this though, and despite the endless list of clich├ęs, fail to remember that it is pain that makes us move and inversely all human development comes from the need to respond. Who would ever move when one is happy? There is no progress in contentment.

Wilde’s essay has an important connection to the now global economic crisis. As we transition into a system of “austerity” Wilde’s essay can be utilized as an excellent rhetorical frame for our leaders. We live in a system where the narrative used to present material is in fact the most important decision a speaker makes and Wilde’s essay lays out the perfect frame for use.

When we reduce our public assistance we are not adopting a level of humility or cruelty. We are not disregarding the needs of the less fortunate. Instead, our work to eliminate debt and additional over-spending is simply a return to sanity. Credit is absurdity; it is the publicly accepted delusion that distorts the reality of capital and instills a system of phantom dollars and fuzzy feeling. A system using credit immediately injects emotion into the transaction and subjective emotions prove dangerous comrades in such waters. We cannot remove credit, but a significant reduction in its use will serve as an excellent tool to return to more realistic perspectives.

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