virus: Socrates

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 4 May 1999 13:38:36 -0400

>Date: Mon, 03 May 1999 10:35:02 -0700
>From: KMO <>
>Subject: Re: virus: Socrates
>> I think everyone is frustrated with the constraints
>> of society. We need rules to feel safe and yet we
>> would rather be free of them when it's convenient.
>Another way of looking at the role that rules and rule makers play in our
>lives is that we have been collectively frightened into accepting a
>largely arbitrary set of constraints and the capricious exercise of power
>by the "legitimate authorities" as the only workable defense against the
>rapacious and amoral appetites of our neighbors.

You make it sound so negative.

My belief is that personal freedom cannot grow beyond personal responsibility. The more people that learn to be fully accountable for their lives, the more freedom each of us can enjoy and the more fulfilling all of our lives will be. It's unfortunate that we live under a system of laws targeted towards the median, or perhaps even the lowest common denominator, of personal accountability.

On the other hand, how many of us really have the courage to stand by our convictions when the authorities come knocking on our door? Not many. Foucault, I think, made it very clear that there is not enough true physical force available to "legitimate authorities" to oppress the citizenry. Instead, the law relies upon each citizen being infected with the rules. We have been so well indocrinated that we watch ourselves and each other. It is that social pressure, and not real physical oppression, that keeps us in line.

>> Most of the rules we live by aren't of our own
>> design, and few are ever explained to us.
>Many of them could not withstand informed scrutiny and have no convincing
>explanation. Many rules long outlast the set of conditions that made them
>seem useful or even necessary in the first place. All too frequently, the
>supposed conditions that necessitated a new restriction on our freedom
>never actually obtained but were enacted for the benefit of a privileged
>few and sold to the many with horror stories that exploited pre-existing
>prejudices and insecurities.

I agree with that, except that I think the "privileged few" sounds a little too conspiratorial. From a memetic perspective, the rules and laws persist becuase they complement common fears and prejudices. Certianly some were "engineered" for machivellian ends. But I think the majority of laws and social mores have been enacted by well meaning people. That doesn't mean I like the rules or think they are the best we could have. But everyone has fears, prejudices, and principles and everyone uses the best logic and rhetoric they can to convey their message.


  Reed Konsler