Embracing Your Inner Insteadavist
It’s probably not what you think, but it’s similar, sort of…
I don’t read a lot of “patriotic” stuff. None really. But I needed something from Audible, and I didn’t want to use my credits, so I perused the free items. I ran across The Federalist Papers, which would be around sixteen hours — perfect. Unfortunately, the odds are slim that my talking about The Federalist Papers, no matter what I say next, would compel anyone to consider a second or third look at our current state of affairs or their own conclusions.
That’s partly because the Left(s) seem to think we’re in some kind of culture war of attrition, and the Right(s) seem to think…well I don’t really know. The tragicomedy of Trumpism is overshadowing any impression I can muster succinctly, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because that’s not what this is about really.
The first rule of Insteadavism…is that there’s no such thing as Insteadavism, and it’s also hard to talk about. I mean, we can’t really have any sort of political or philosophical movement just based on doing or thinking “something else instead,” which is where the idea comes from, and any -ism sounds like a movement. It’s not.
But we can develop the thought practice of imagining how and why we could be wrong about something(s), pretty big and important somethings, with ripple effects, perhaps toxic, toxic little ripples of willful delusion, which sounds weird I know, simply because we didn’t bother to grasp (for) alternative interpretations of our philosophic-socio-economic inheritance(s), Left or Right, Romanticist or Rationalist, Pleasure Pig or Proper Prig. All claim it’s all about Love. Well, okay, but that’s complex too.
Anyway, one of the first things we can start understanding differently is how and why we understand things the way we do, which is much more complicated/complex than any of us learned in high school or college, and it’s still emerging now, of course.
Unfortunately the much-kicked-down-the-road can of “values” is mostly a distraction, but a lot of us really seem to love that can. Political parties tend to make us much dumber about this stuff, exploiting our social instinct and rhetorical games, not that we shouldn’t have political and other kinds of parties and games.
Without getting too geeky with all the new (and some old) cognitive science stuff, and that’s a ton, we already know in our other gut that we could be wrong. We suspect that the processed, or reconstituted, or whatever, “values” in our respective cans are not near all there is to consider.
Sure, it can seem to be reduced to that can, just like we can get all passionate about anything, skate or die, even as total grown-ups, but it’s always good to look back at the French Revolution, Napoleon, WWI, etc., oh and the news, and really try to grok those passionate positions and decisions, and wonder if Oprah and the rest have really really changed us all that much. And if not…
If not, if we’re the same despite all the self-help and professional help of the last several decades, and even TED Talks, then we should probably consider a more complex view of our own understanding of our understandings and passions — without expecting or fearing an inconvenient conclusion or conclusion of any kind at first. It’s not at all straightforward, for better or worse.
So, Insteadavism* isn’t really a thing, but if it were a thing it wouldn’t be about being a contrarian like it might sound. It would be about questioning, qualifying, our own general understandings and considering the basic costs and opportunity costs of our being wrong because we didn’t bother to wonder (because most of us were only taught to wonder What If in regard to the world outside us, for a plaque or maybe paid time at a podium, not inside our own heads).
WTF (Fraggle Rock) Could That Have To Do With The Federalist Papers?!
It’s a couple of things at least. The three writers, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, didn’t rely much on lofty rhetoric and idealism to make their case for next steps in “going where no man has gone before — exactly, on this scale, quite this way.” It was much more about “what do we know about mankind?” than “how things should be and why,” the latter of which would seem to dominate much of European thinking at the time and shortly after. (I say that was an indirect reaction to the Industrial Revolution and helpful-but-reductionist Enlightenment thinking, although it doesn’t matter really).
To contrast their writings with the rhetoric of the horrific French Revolution just two years later, and with the German proto-Romanticist movement starting around the same time…you’d think these three guys were British or something. That is, pragmatic and circumspect — but not so British as to want another Great Britain. Practical, and not all that speculative, but hopeful, and learned.
And being learned meant knowing what had gone before them instead of grandly deciding how we are or could be and with, please maybe, just the right je ne sais quoi, or something. (You 19th century dead guys know who I’m talking about, I realize. You still have fans here. You don’t need for me to be one.)
The honest and unblinkered look inside ourselves, our stew of motivations and more complex calculations for the long term and the legacy, and maybe every book ever written about psychological games, influence, mechanisms behind mass movements, and they are legion, read by influencers not the influenced, naturally, unfortunately — it all says to pay more attention to how thinking and deciding works, because some surprisingly maleficent someone always will be, and even they may not realize the mistakes they’ve decided to make.
Actually, this is not as dark and cynical as that last pretty long sentence sounds. Wow, I see that sentence was a paragraph long. Anyway, if Insteadavism were a thing, it could be pretty fun and practical — like back in 1787 — just with way better cognitive science under our belts, not that the basics hadn’t been intuited by a few people then.
This might seem random here, but I think this all would involve a lot of star gazing. And that’s why I think we need a different story, which is what Stu and Allie up there at the top are all about. They’re working on it. More soon.
*Insteadavism: It’s only an actual thing in the imaginary Bug Stuian world. As with a lot of introspective stewing, it causes some squirming inside the shell, so to speak. That’s okay, and it’s probably a natural part of life, so that what comes out is pretty good, even if it’s not exactly what was expected.
Thanks for reading : ).