Saturday, December 4, 2010

Some things, logically, we can foresee in the future

Some things, logically, we can foresee in the future. Calendar dates, for example. No one would call you a mystical prophet if you said, "This year, Christmas will be on Dec 25." But it is a kind of seeing the future. It is also a tautology, if you define Christmas as "Dec 25".

A little less abstract is the idea that all sorts of Christmas-related celebrations will be taking place between now and then. What is the nature of something that is planned - is the plan existing now, or is the event existing in the future?

It may seem trivially obvious to you that the plan is what exists in the here-and-now. And the actual event that is planned does not yet exist. But, of what is the plan? What is it a plan of? You can't say, "it is a plan of an event." unless you are comfortable with talking about something that doesn't exist. You might say, well, it doesn't exist now, it only will be, in the future. So, either it exists now, or it exists in the future. This paragraph  is genuinely a discussion of what "is" is, which is what you do in philosophy courses (or did around 1978). Since I was in those courses, I had trouble understanding why, a few years later, people were so dismissive of Bill Clinton's defense of fellatio.

a blind actor playing a sighted person.
Kinda interesting social commentary.
unblip ( we now return you to the previous commentary)

Roger Cohen praises "...the men and women of the U.S. Foreign Service! They are, to judge from the WikiLeaks dump of a quarter-million of their private or secret cables, thoughtful, well-informed and dedicated servants of the American interest who write clear, declarative English sentences."

I recall my DCM at the embassy carefully checking the grammar, punctuation and word usage of every cable that was composed, usually making changes like an editor or an Writing teacher. One of the lower-middle-ranked foreign service officers compared it to a dog, piddling on a post, to mark it. To make his existence meaningful.

But, he frequently caught punctuation, and occasionally even grammatical errors in other officers' drafts. It seemed at the time punctilious and overly-scrupulous. And way out of proportion to the attention given to the content. It was as if he knew in 1984 that these cables could/would be published decades later, and he wanted them to look good.

Now it seems to me I had no way of knowing how he viewed the content. To me at the time, most of it seemed perfunctory information gathering and analysis. We did it because we did it, not because anybody cared. I guess that actually was the status of the reporting of a junior officer, or practically anybody who was assigned to the country I was.

I also got the feeling that, in whatever discussions we might be involved in that did have real significance, the need was to represent the interests of some American company, or to show the locals who is boss, or give them some crumb that would get them to sign up to whatever today's vote in the UN was about, or occasionally to support humane treatment for some prisoner of the government.(The latter was one of my favorite parts of this occupation (foreign service officer). But I was later dismayed to learn that such "humanitarian" support is often denied to those of opposing political opinions, which makes it just another tool of oppression. How naive I was!)

No comments:

Post a Comment