Epistemic Closure and the Republican Party
I had my weekly cup of coffee with God earlier this morning. As we sipped our celestial Starbucks, he pointed to an open-air classroom nearby where young gods were studying, preparing for their future rule of various worlds. “Let’s listen in,” he suggested to me. I obliged readily, knowing of course who I was dealing with.
The “young gods” were being lectured to about epistemic closure, the notion of living in a bubble and assuming that one knows about everything when in reality he/she “knows” only through a small prism. The teacher then ran a video that I have shared here before from Saturday Night Life, illustrating the phenomena vividly. (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x9yn49_mr-belvedere_shortfilms#.UUWfUDctU9U)
Then the teacher continued, “Now for a couple of days we are conducting a laboratory experiment in epistemic closure on an obscure little planet called Earth. We are very concerned about this cosmic poison for wherever it gains a foothold, it is almost impossible to eradicate; and it is the one thing that prevents us from accomplishing our Purpose. It is Satan’s favorite weapon.” He then pointed to the screen and zoomed in to a place called “The United States” and suddenly the din of the Republican Party’s internecine squabbling filled the room
Now laying aside my reverie…
Those of you who look on from other countries must be appalled at what you are seeing in the current performance of my country’s political circus. But, please note that the gods are giving you a lesson about what can happen in your own country if it, or any faction within it, draws its boundaries too narrowly and refuses to broaden them. Now I am wont to note at this point of this argument that this tendency is present with all groups, liberal and conservative. HOWEVER, let me note this time that the “open-mindedness” I advocate will never be found on the extreme right fringe of any group as people of that sort desperately hate open-mindedness and desperately cling to “truth” as seen through the narrow prism of their hate-filled heart. It is amusing on one hand to watch the ultra-conservative’s quest for “purity” in their own rank as it creates frustration and consternation within their own ranks. But on the other hand it is not amusing at all, but very sad, as we see in the Taliban what would happen if our culture did not have sophisticated structural limits.
But this boundary dilemma is part of the human experience and reflects a tendency that we have to watch for even in our own heart. With my government’s current impasse…and specifically the Republican imbroglio…we have an object lesson in the lunacy of the human heart, individually and collectively. We are our own worst enemy; as Pogo once noted, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The human temptation to create a cocoon…an Eden on earth…can be so compelling that it is counter-productive and can even lead to our own demise. As W. H. Auden feared, “We have made for ourselves a life safer than we can bear.”
The answer is “self” awareness or “consciousness” which we can never acquire unless we first recognize that we don’t have it in the first place. In other words, the first step in seeing the light is realizing that we live in darkness just as Plato told us in the 5th Century BC and Jesus told us a few centuries later. And that is to name only two who have offered light in our darkness. Others certainly preceded them and many have come since and are even present today. “But Truth met him and held out her hand. And he clung in panic to his tall belief and shrank away like an ill-treated child.” (W. H. Auden)