Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Shot By Both Sides

Abstinence makes the heart grow weaker. A Speculation.

It has got quite a lot of good press for the drinks industry, the study that shows that heavy drinkers live longer than non-drinkers. The number of factors that could be influencing this are myriad, including probable funding bias. The most likely reason is, however the relationship between the size of peoples network of friends and their health. We need to have positive interaction with others to help keep our brains in healthy working order, apparently. We need to feel a sense of belonging. Try feeling that when you’re out with a group of drinkers in a pub on a Friday and you’re the only one not drinking.
When someone stands up to the society around them, their personal dissolution is used to ‘prove’ how their stance was ‘misguided’. The fate of the pariah is usually tragic. Religious people tend to live longer than atheists. This is hardly surprising when you consider how much of our social capital is vested in religions – rites of passage; education; community meeting spaces; wedding venues, graveyards etc. The idea of a ‘sacramental’ celebration of our lives is not necessarily religious after all. But finding non-religious ways of marking events is likely to involve personal investment and creativity and may not be shared by the wider community.

I am currently reading 9/11, a collection of interviews with Noam Chomsky carried out in the immediate aftermath of the Twin Towers inferno. He talks convincingly and with plenty of clear examples of the different worldviews held by people that are largely based on their geographic location. The sins of our own fathers and ourselves can be forgotten very quickly while sins against us are remembered forever.

We have a similar myopia / hyperopia when it comes to judging our own actions. What we can’t see we ignore and what we can see we interpret to our own benefit. This is probably a form of self-preservation. Who wants to know the sort of pain and suffering we sponsor through our own consumption and the policies and actions of the state we belong to.

The power wielded by the gatekeepers of society can be seen as truly awful when viewed through these eyepieces. The church, the kids at school, the sporting organization, the drinkers in the pub – all have the power to damage simply by not including whoever they see as the other. And for those who do not see themselves reflected back in the world around them the world can be a very bleak place.

That is why we are told to just accept things and ‘not be so negative’ when we challenge the truisms of any society. People are aware that accepting lies is easier that facing up to uncomfortable truths.

It is also why groups who challenge the status quo will often cling tenaciously to systems of belief just as wrongheaded as the systems they challenge. That’s why those who worm into the heart of the crowd and believe in neither side are Shot by Both Sides.

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