January 11, 2011

The Philosophy [or disease] of Jared Lee Loughner

There area at least three currents to Loughnerism – a form of postmodern malaise - that pick up on various Internet memes, conspiracy theories, and popular philosophy.

Anti Fiat Currency/Anti-Federalism
Loughner seems to have felt animosity towards the US Federal Government and lashed out at its nearest representative. In particular he did not like the federal fiat currency. That is to say the US dollar, and other promissory notes issued by governments, that are not based on a gold standard (or other precious metal, commodity).

A large minority of observers object to the state of the US and other major world currencies. These include economists, and Ron Paulists to more fringe, conspiracy theorists. The idea is, I believe, that once currencies are no longer backed up by the issuing government's ability to exchange them for a certain amount of gold or silver, and are just backed up by a promise, based in the power of government to level taxes, this allows governments and those that control them the ability to "monetize debt" and print money, (as the Obama administration is now doing). Those that control the currency can control its value and charge what is effectively a money tax. By printing more money those that control money, can take part of value of everyone who has some money. The more fringe theorists assert that it is not the federal government but rather (more often than not) Jews and particular families of Jews that are controlling the currency. One of the more, from my point of view, fringe expositions of this theory is that exposed by the documentary The Money Masters.

Linguistic Constructivism
I am not sure what name to give this element of Loughnerism but it is a focus on the extent thought, belief, behaviour and even reality is effected by the language and grammar used to describe it. Loughner seemed to believe that reality is very much dependent upon the language and grammar that we use to describe it.

There are all sorts of sides to this argument. Nietzsche may have argued that our tendency to believe in grammar encouraged us to continue to believe in an objective world and a creator God. Buddhism tends to encourage its adherents to free their minds of language in order that they can realize the ineffable, chaotic, nature of the world as they see it. If natives of Alaska have a many words for varieties of snow, does that mean that in their reality there are more different types of snow, compared to the reality of a person with fewer words (Sapir-Worph, or misrepresentations of their theory)? If a language does not have a word for a certain emotion (e.g. Takeo Doi's "Amae") does this imply that there will be less recognition of that emotion, or even an ontological absense of that emotion, within the culture that speaks the amae-word-lacking-language. And particularly to what extent does the use of a grammar that demands the use of a subject, encourage us to believe in a independent subject (Kashima & Kashima, 1998)? On the other hand there are those like Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker that argue that language is to a large extent universal in its grammar, or that grammar is to a large extent hardwired, a result of structures in the brain.

Loughner, as mentioned previously, believed that language has a considerable controlling emphasis upon thought and reality.

The weird, or original, part of Loughnerism is that he equates, or conflates, his mistrust of fiat currencies (not based on the gold standard) with his mistrust of language, and sees the US federal government as responsible for both circulating a untrust-worthy medium of exchange (the dollar) and for encouraging and educating US citizens in the use of an  un-objectively founded, correspondence-theory-lacking, language and grammar.

Matrixism: Belief in the possibility of personal manipulation of "The Matrix"
The Science Fiction film series The Matrix Trilogy mashes a lot of constructivist thinking (that the world is a result of an arbitrary construction), with a conspiracy theory (that the construction is perpetuated to serve the ends of an evil elite), and with the belief that those who are aware of this state of affairs can bend the Matrix, and create their own reality.

These three strands of thought, result in Loughner's proposition that it is possible to mint ones own currency, ones own language and free oneself from the constraints of the Federally mandated grammar with its (arguably?) fictional subject.

Lougner claimed to have achieved his private exchequer, a God-Like (or Keanu Reeves-Like) ability to bend ethe Matrixf in his ability to lucid dream. In lucid dreaming he claimed he was able to create a world where in he could fly and -w hether he used a novel grammar remains unclear - bend the rules of reality at first to his own satisfaction. He seems to have become dissatisfied with this dream world perhaps due to its isolation, and the impossibility he faced in making his dream world anywhere near objective enough for anyone else to share it.

The most dangerous part of Loughner's philosophy or disease, seems to have been a sort of ambivalence towards standards, towards objectively verifiable meaning and value. He needed them, he wanted them, but he felt unable to believe in their existence. It was perhaps this ambivalence, this love lost/love betrayed, that eventually resulted in his tragic explosion into violence.

Loughner blogs about the possibility of creating his own grammar, or gcurrencyh. He is then faced with a problem of how he might found it upon, taking the metaphor of currency, a gold standard. He suggests that it is not possible to specify a date to put on his new currency, since time has no beginning. At another point he seems to suggest that it is not possible to specify a place from which his currency is minted lacking a place in the universe that might be referenced objectively. He seems to reach an awareness, presumably rejecting Platonism, that it is not possible for him to mint his own currency or language based upon a gold-standard-like 'philosophers stone'. Perhaps he bumpted into some realization of the private language argument.

Had he read more (?) Wittgenstein, or been able to accept a view of language based in use, a 'fiat language' in a sense, he might not have become violent. But, hankering as he was for a firm basis for a new grammar, the gold standard that he felt he deserved, and realizing the lack of such a basis, he took steps to destroy the status quo without any clear vision of any promised land. Calling himself a dreamer, he decided to lash out at the Federal government for encouraging the use of a fiat-language, a fiat world view, based upon merely upon confidence, promises, and social agreement, for which he could find no gold-standard replacement.

Congresswoman Giffords was unable to answer Loughnerfs question, gWhat is Government if language has no meaning?h Loughner found her lack of an answer, or lack of an interest in the question, incompatible with her authority. Loughnerfs disease seems to be that of someone raised to believe in God, the Bible, the US constitution or some "gold-standard" to anchor their world view, who finding (rightly or wrongly) that no such basis exists, lashes out at an institution that he saw as responsible for perpetrating the efraudf that he had formerly believed in. 

Posted by timtak at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)