Archive for August, 2007

A Personal Idealization

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

I don’t like to write in a personal style on my blogs. I particularly don’t like to write with a personal style on this blog. I would prefer to keep my ideas separate from my person. Plus, to write in personal style means to write in a way that reveals your humanity. And to be human is to be ridiculous which is why all wise men desire to conceal or eliminate their humanity.

Those who follow this blog should understand the irony implicit in the above words. One of my controlling ideas is that it is impossible to separate ideas from the personal. That is to say, existential experiences are at the foundation of all thought. This is why you cannot use reason to argue an insane man out of his insanity. My attempt to make the thing impersonal only makes the whole thing more ridiculous.

This paradox between my wish to keep everything impersonal and my belief that everything important is personal causes me no end of problems when it comes to writing. This paradox was major part of what has brought my last blog to a standstill. It threatens to do the same with this one.

I understand this, but I don’t know how to deal with it. I come up with a number of ideas to overcome this problem, but they all seem to fail when they come into contact with reality.

I sometime think that like O. Henry, I need alcohol to write. The buzz would remove my excessive self criticism. The only problem is that I don’t drink. I suspect that if I did, I would do it to excess. It is in my temperament.

But sometime I do more or less fall victim to some kind of buzz and actually write something personal. I thought that for those diehards who still read my blog, I would reproduce one such instance below (with a few tweaks to grammar and the removal of the name of the other party).

Before you read it, I should give you some background for the piece.

I was working on the essay that was to become Spinoza, Einstein, and the Failure of Reason. Or at least, I was trying to work on it. I was not having much luck. To take a break I started reading some post on Spengler’s Forum. At that time it was not the cess pit that it is now. Anyway, some of the posters that I respected were making the biggest mistake that you can make on a forum. They were taking a troll seriously.

Now this particular troll’s posts were not particularly objectionable as far troll post goes. But the person writing them was obviously not the southern rural living gun loving hillbilly white male that he was trying to pass himself off as. In fact, his attempts to pass himself off as such a person were pretty amateurish in my opinion. I would have just ignored him, but for the fact that other more urbane and highly educated posters were taking him at face value. For some reason, this bugged me more than usual so I wrote a quick post pointing out that the troll was a troll.

Now the troll responded to this with a private message as well as a post on the board in response to my accusation that he was a troll. This did not surprise me. But what did surprise me was that his reply was defensive in tone as opposed to hostile. His private reply to me was all about how he raised goats and bees and did other such rural things so he was too a hillbilly. It seemed to me that he really wanted people to believe that he was a hillbilly because they represented some kind of ideal to him.

For some reason, his response touched a cord in me so I wrote the response below. In my response I did not seek to prove that he was troll. We both knew the truth, so why bother? But I did seek to contrast his ideal with mine. That is important to keep in mind when you read it. Even though all the facts as I lay them out in my response are true, the overall picture is so idealized as to be false. This was self conscious on my part. I was not laying out what was, but what I wanted, as a contrast to the ideals that he seemed to have.

Dear Mr ****,

I am Hillbilly Bob.

Did you think I was lying when I said that I was a barefooted hillbilly?

I use to raise goats myself, but I had to get rid of them because my barn was falling down and I did not have the money to fix it. I hope to get back to raising them again sometime in the near future. I still raise chickens (well, mostly I pay for their feed, my siblings do most of the work) and I have already put 25 meat chickens in the freezer and I plan on putting in another 25 in the freezer in October.

Hopefully the freezer will be empty enough by October to fit in another 25 meat chickens. The two freezers are currently full of ground beef that was bought in bulk, blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, and the meat chickens from the first batch, and other assorted edible items.

I use to help a neighbor with his bees and I intend to get some myself. Though I am kind of scared of doing so as everyone wants to tell me that veroa (sp?) mites make it almost impossible to do so around here (that is why my neighbor stopped). But I am arrogant enough to believe that if I set my mind to it, I can find a way to lick them mites.

I was born a hillbilly and if I have my way I will die one.

On my father’s side the hillbilly tradition goes back to some Irish who came over to dig the canals. Owing to the fact that they hated people, they soon made for the hills. My father was dragged off to the Vietnam War and afterwards got a masters degree himself. But he came back to the hills owing to the fact that he could not stand people (runs in the blood).

The folks on my mother’s side are your typical middle class boring people. They have never forgiven my dad for dragging her off to hills and making her live in a rundown house. They have never forgiven me, either. I was supposed to go off to college and become rich and famous. Well, at least rich…

But I choose to stay in the hills.

I read Gene Logsdon’s book the Contrary Farmer when I was in my teens. In that book he talked about the fact that he knew what he wanted to do when he was 12, but that he gave up his dream to go off and do sensible things. But later on in life he woke up and decided that he should have stuck with the dream he had when he was 12. I resolved not to make a similar mistake.

I have never stopped pursuing my dream even though I know it is not attainable. I make my living as a laborer. I read to educate myself and I write a blog to keep my self-education from driving me crazy. And I dream crazy dreams…

But enough about me.

You, sir, are a troll. A troll is that species that takes on a false persona for the purposes of causing trouble. Now, normally I ignore trolls. Sometimes I even admire a particularly skillful troll. But you, sir, I could not let go unchallenged. You have dishonored the name of the hillbillies that you claim to speak for and thus dishonored me.

For one thing, sir, true hillbillies take pride in being polite and well mannered when talking to outsiders. They might talk trash amongst themselves, but they will not talk so to outsiders. Hillbillies know that they are looked down on by urban folk. Therefore they use the fact that they are better mannered than those who look down on them to assert their dignity in the face of that scorn.

You, sir, seem to be looking to stir up scorn so that you can wallow in your sense of injured pride and moral superiority.

But sir, your greatest sin is to misrepresent the virtues of the hillbillies.

I have one neighbor who is short and built like a tank. He is covered with blotches caused by Agent Orange and with scars from years of hard work. He raises cattle, horses, and racing pigeons. He has two rules for anyone who wants to talk to him. “Don’t talk to me about religion and don’t talk to me about the service (military).” If anyone breaks those rules he will turn right around and walk away from them. He is an atheist and he did not support the war in Afghanistan, much less the one in Iraq.

I have another neighbor. He is tall and gangly like a scarecrow. He works hard for what money he gets and thus he cannot support any extra fat. He keeps goats and honey bees and he is proud of them both. He loves his family and he is always willing to lend a helping hand. Aside from his family, the two things that he likes most to talk about is his service in the Marines and his Christian faith. Because of his particular understanding of what it means to be Christian, he will support Israel to his dying day. And more than likely, he will never see a war to overthrow an Arab régime that he will not support.

Now, sir, will you look down on one of my neighbors and honor the other? If you do, you are no better than Spengler and the rest. You see, Spengler and the rest judge people on the basis of whether they have the correct ideology or not. That is why they spend so much time debating the correct solution to all the world’s problems and trying to convince others to adopt their views. For them, intellectual ideas are of paramount importance.

But sir, a true hillbilly judges people on the strength of their moral character. The most important thing for them is that someone is honest, hardworking, willing to lend a hand, etc. For the hillbilly, it is how you live your life and how you treat others that is of paramount importance. For hillbillies, it is moral character, not ideology, that will determine the fate of the world.

Sir, in your post on Spengler’s forum you tried to represent it as if hillbillies in general had an ideology that was opposed to Spengler’s.

Sir, as you well know that is false. You can find hillbillies that will argue for all sorts of ideologies. If there is any general idea amongst hillbillies that is opposed to Spengler’s worldview, it is the idea that America will live or die by the strength of the moral character of her people. Not on whether correct ideology or the correct policy is followed.

If you had criticized Spengler for valuing the intellectual over the moral, I would have supported you. But instead you chose to complain about those big bad elites and to talk of stringing people up. At the heart of the matter, you have the same idea as to how to fix the world as Spengler. You two just have different ideas on who to string up.

Wishing you the best,

The Chieftain of Seir

Upon receipt of this response, the troll wrote back and confessed that he was a troll. He explained who he really was and why he adopted the persona of a troll. The truth was far more interesting then the false persona that he adopted, but I was able to understand why he passed himself off as a troll. After that I paid a little more attention to what his troll persona was saying and I stopped trying to rain on his parade. But that is all another story.