The fungible symbol and incoherence.

There are things that resonate and have emotional significance and then there are things you have that you have very little emotional input into that bind you. One hopes that marriage is the former, while your insurance contract or employment contract probably is the other.

But both used to be the same thing legally. Binding contracts. Break the contract, you pay. The law does not really care about your emotions but the contract and the legislated law, which trumps contracts[1].

Not to long ago, emotions of love were not considered a good foundation for raising a family. A contract, a covenant, before God and man was. You indicated by oath to each other that you would keep a contract. They considered those who were ruled by their sensibility as fools. You were supposed to go into these things clear headed, and you were supposed to only do it once.

But then we decided feelings mattered. Not merely for covenants, but for contracts. The judge would interpret them in a manner that was deemed progressive, or felt right. But with that you lose the surety of the contract.

If I hire a plumber to fix the drains he expects that he will be paid. If someone hires me, I have a longer list of expectations, but in the end I don't care about excuses. Kea needs grocery money, so you better fulfil your contract.

The trouble is that this common sense approach to words, symbols and agreements has now gone post modern. We approve of oath-breakers. We have institutionalized dishonesty.

In the past, symbols - such as words, images, rituals - had an objective power that did not depend upon the mental state of the individual - in effect the symbol caused the mental state (an reality generally) in a reliable and irresistible fashion.

This was especially seen in religion - where the effects of - for instance - Baptism or The Mass, did not depend on the individual subjectivity of the participants. The 'procedure' had an objective effect on reality, changed the world; whatever individuals may think about it.

Later, as marked by the work of Jung; there was an era in which objective symbols produced fairly specific effects - but only with the subjective participation of persons. The cross had a specific meaning, as did other 'archetypal' symbols; but only when the individual had faith or consented to participate. The combination of objective and subjective produced a specific effect.

But now, symbolism has become so weak as to be ineffectual and ineffective. People regard - for example - visual symbols such as the Rainbow, as arbitrary signifiers whose meaning can be defined and redefined at will (by the usual methods of mass persuasion - via public relations, advertising, 'education', and propaganda). Thus the rainbow went from a symbol of Christian hope, to pro-QWERY, to 'support the NHS' within a decade - and next week it may be reallocated meaning again.

In other words, symbolism is now wholly determined by power: specifically the power to affect psychology - which includes coercive power (police, military, mobs), 'education', law, advertising, mass media, the arts and the (so-called) sciences.

In the sciences, your word is no longer your bond. You now have to get things signed off by multiple agencies. The number of forms we have are multiplying, as are the penalties, and so no one does anything interesting, and many people subvert not only the regulations but correct and careful use of data to get the acceptable results which will get your paper published. The more such cases of distortion, or outright fraud, the more regulations proliferate.

This will not end well. It breaks the foundation of how the Western, Educated, Industralized, Rich and Democratic. It destroys the west.

Over many centuries, these factors appear to have weakened familial and tribal loyalties and allowed a broader, more egalitarian circle of empathy to develop. The WEIRD countries began their journey to weirdness – they nurtured an unusual focus on the individual, respect for the rule of law, guilt morality, high rates of volunteer participation and so on.

They became the high trust societies.

Social capital is an example of game theory where everyone chooses to cooperate and everyone wins. In Third World countries too many people defect, leading to poorer outcomes for most.

This social capital improved incentives for labour, commerce, industry and scientific progress. Personal connections were less essential to advancement than they had once been – talent and motivation alone would get you much further than in tribal societies or Asiatic despotisms. Over time, these societies became richer, freer, more democratic and perhaps safer than any other societies in history.

WEIRD people think differently. The see universal rules where others see relationships (guanxi). Their moral feelings are based on fairness, not on communal roles. In other words, who/whom is normal. Selfishness, nepotism, tribalism and corruption are normal. The blindfolded Lady Justice is WEIRD.

Which, is of course, the aim of the Progressive. Chulthu and its child despair always swim left. Which is another reason not to be like them.

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1. Which anyone who has had a house sold underwater or gone through a divorce knows in their bones.