Monthly Archives: June 2019

Walking Clockre-7-20-11: Too Brief!

The Fourteenth Meeting of the Mariposa UROSJ League, or MUROSJL, devoted to the capture, taming, and putting to work of the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, recorded this 25th day of June, 2019, ended quickly, due to the brevity of the walk. Ring 7-20 is the shortest in the labyrinth, walked countre as the fifth ring and clockre as the eleventh this week, with four to go, all of them longer and thus better suited to the weight of issues raised in last week’s six questions.

In case you are just joining the Walking Saga of the MUROSJLists, to save you reading back, and because this is a short walk, the group decided to repeat them with brief, tentative answers rendered without explanation:

Question One: Stephen Leacock’s Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice centred around poverty in the midst of plenty. One hundred years later, do we still have poverty in the midst of plenty, and if so, is it the same kind of poverty? We do, and it both is and is not.

Question Two: If we smooth out grotesque inequalities in wealth, purchasing power, and economic security, do we thus automatically achieve an adequate equality of Opportunity, or even fairness in that realm? We do not. Inequality of opportunity has cultural, demographic and geographic dimensions that transcend economics.

Question Three: What social injustices can we see nowadays, of which even Stephen Leacock, who was well ahead of his time, could not see? Would it be appropriate, and sufficient, to focus on two, one having to do with our Environments, both natural and created, and one having to do with Culture? Yes, it would, and we will.

Question Four: If we decide that now, one hundred years after Stephen Leacock, Social Justice requires constant attention to Economic Justice (wealth, purchasing power, and security), Opportunity Justice, Environmental Justice (natural and built), and Cultural Justice, then what kind of a policy monster have we created? Is it possible that each of these realms is an Unsolved Riddle in its own right? We have created the policy monster that is contemporary social-economic-environmental-cultural-political life. We should add Constitutional Justice and Rights Justice as parts of Social Justice, all with their own Unsolved Riddles, thereby complicating matters still further.

Question Five: It is difficult enough to think clearly and positively about one Unsolved Riddle at a time, each requiring its own kinds of Creative Doublethink and Bi- or Multi-Polar Action. Do we have the tools to think about, let alone deal with a compound Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, compounded of Unsolved Riddles of Prosperity, Security, Opportunity, Stewardship (including Preservation, Cultivation, and what do do with the garbage), Pluralism, and all the rest? Considering the present situation, we either do not have the tools, or we have but don’t know how to use them, or we do know how but don’t trust them.

Question Six: Are the ideas previously articulated of any use? These being:

DAUNTLESSLY, STEP-BY-STEP, BOTH ONE AT A TIME AND ALL TOGETHER!

with

KNOWLEDGE! IMAGINATION! COMPASSION! HUMOUR!

What are these slogans saying? They are suggesting, first of all, that we must act with courage, incrementally, both individually and collectively. Stephen Leacock, at the end of his life, wanted to turn the job over to people “of good will whose hearts are in the cause.” That’s a pretty good slogan in its own right, The Four Fields are derived from his ideas about Education, which is surely crucial. As William Blake said, “Man (meaning human kind) has no notion of moral fitness but from Education. Naturally he is only a natural organ subject to sense.” He goes on to say that we are not bounded by our organs of perception, that we perceive “more than sense (tho’ ever so acute) can discover.”

So yes, they are useful, but need elaboration.

At this point someone pointed out the parallel between the word “slogan” and the “slug-horn” which Childe Roland blew at the Dark Tower.

Deanna Drone, that mighty reader, then reminded the group of two ideas that might well have something useful to say, unusual though they may seem in this context:

William Blake: “The Poetic Genius is the true Human.” That is, the Spirit of Poetry, which is “every where call’d the Spirit of Prophecy” in the Biblical sense. Also: “What we have already known is not the same that it shall be when we know more.” A useful reminder, that.

Northrop Frye: The poet’s “job is not to describe nature, but to show you a world completely absorbed and possessed by the human mind.”

That, offered Deanna, is the kind of world we are talking about when we talk about Social Justice: a poet’s world, understood from poetry’s kind of Knowledge, Imagination, Compassion, and Humour. This is not to exclude other kinds, many or most of which we may need, but which by themselves remain fragmented, incomplete and inconclusive, as Mariposa itself was once described. Through faith in the Poetic Genius we can at least form a coherent, complete, and conclusive vision.

This triggered a lively conversation that spilled over into the pub and continued until it closed without becoming anything more than fragmented, incomplete, and inconclusive. Much walking remains, however, so there is hope.

 

Walking Countre-6-40-10: Labyrinthine Frustration!

The Thirteenth Meeting of the Mariposa UROSJ League, or MUROSJL, devoted to the capture, taming, and putting to work of the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, recorded this 18th day of June, 2019, was not in fact the Thirteenth, but the Twelfth, last week being the occasion for a break. The Meeting took place, however, in the Thirteenth Week of the Leacock Anniversaries, and therefore could be designated either way.

It began, continued, and eventually adjourned in some frustration, because from its new vantage point floating above the Sagacities of the Plain, whose activities are documented in the Monday Stalking Blog, the MUROSJLists could see that the folks there had stalked to such good effect as to identify the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and begin to explore its properties. In order to keep up with and thus support them the MUROSJLists in this, the Walking Blog, believed they needed to discuss The Economy without delay, because of the close relationship they intuited between that phenomenon, the Yottapede, and the Charged Ooze. Yet the discipline of the Labyrinth dictated that this week they would walk Countre-6-40-10 this week, the second-shortest ring, followed by Clockre-7-20-11, the shortest, then Countre-4-80-12, of middling length, before they reached the appropriately lengthy trio of  Clockre-1-140-13, Countre-2-120-14, and Clockre-3-100-15 before they could re-enter the Great Wide World beyond. They could not really tackle The Economy for another three weeks.

Perhaps however a little brief preparatory work would be feasible, they suggested. For example, what about the question: Are Economic Justice and Social Justice the same? And if not, what is the relationship between them? Perhaps in Stephen Leacock’s day they were, such that attention to both the quantity and distribution of wealth and purchasing power were not only necessary to the pursuit of Social Justice, but even sufficient. In the primitive policies and practices of his day both were perpetually at risk, but one hundred years have made a big difference to knowledge, although not necessarily to political resolve. Economic justice thus remains an essential, necessary part of Social Justice. It is no longer even remotely sufficient, however.

Because this week’s walk is a short one, and next week’s even shorter, they decided simply to formulate some questions, perhaps crudely at first. Next week they would refine them, and then set about answering during the longer rings to come.

Question One: Stephen Leacock’s Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice centred around poverty in the midst of plenty. One hundred years later, do we still have poverty in the midst of plenty, and if so, is it the same kind of poverty?

Question Two: If we smooth out grotesque inequalities in wealth, purchasing power, and economic security, do we thus automatically achieve an adequate equality of Opportunity, or even fairness in that realm?

Question Three: What social injustices can we see nowadays, of which even Stephen Leacock, who was well ahead of his time, could not see? Would it be appropriate, and sufficient, to focus on two, one having to do with our Environments, both natural and created, and one having to do with Culture?

Question Four: If we decide that now, one hundred years after Stephen Leacock, Social Justice requires constant attention to Economic Justice (wealth, purchasing power, and security), Opportunity Justice, Environmental Justice (natural and built), and Cultural Justice, then what kind of a policy monster have we created? Is it possible that each of these realms is an Unsolved Riddle in its own right?

Question Five: It is difficult enough to think clearly and positively about one Unsolved Riddle at a time, each requiring its own kinds of Creative Doublethink and Bi- or Multi-Polar Action. Do we have the tools to think about, let alone deal with a compound Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, compounded of Unsolved Riddles of Prosperity, Security, Opportunity, Stewardship (including Preservation, Cultivation, and what do do with the garbage), and Pluralism?

Question Six: Are the ideas previously articulated of any use? These being:

DAUNTLESSLY, STEP-BY-STEP, BOTH ONE AT A TIME AND ALL TOGETHER!

with

KNOWLEDGE! IMAGINATION! COMPASSION! HUMOUR!

By the time they had articulated these questions the MUROSJLists had reached the end of this week’s ring and had turned into the next one. It’s for next week. They will need that long to think about the six questions, and much longer to answer them. We have to believe that they can be answered, however, at least for practical purposes. As we learn to accommodate creative doublethink and bi-polar beliefs, we must not define one of them as a hard choice between a perfect world and no world at all. Part of the art of taming the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice and putting it to work may well lie in avoiding self-set traps for our minds, in the formulation of conflicting polarities so that they can be mutually accommodated.

 

Walking from Centre to Clockre-5-60-9: Education and Learning

The Eleventh Meeting of the Mariposa Hunt Club (hunting the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice), recorded this 4th day of June, 2019, took place in blissful oblivion to the fact that since the previous meeting Mariposa has been elevated from a city of conventional location to an aerial floating island somewhat similar to Jonathan Swift’s Laputa. Similar, that is, in geography, not in culture. From the point of view of the inhabitants, Mariposa remains the middling, muddling city it was before. Only from the outside does it appear as an aerial floating island.

It floats above the land of the Sagacities whose dire streets run with Charged Ooze, or “Chooze”, an organic amalgam of the Charged-Charmed Global-Perceptual Membrane-Medium-MemBrain, where a star-nosed mole and a feminequine centaur are busily engaged in stalking the Yottapede of the wild Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice while blowing their version of the Slug-Horn,—see the Stalking (Monday) Blog for clarification, or obfuscation, or whatever lurks there. Right along the edge of the floating island of Mariposa winds a trail wide enough for three to walk abreast, from which can be observed both the Labyrinth being walked by the Mariposan Hunt Club and the Sagacities below. Along this trail Olde Stephen (Stephen Leacock’s ghost), you, and I, are making our slow conversational way. Our progress and findings will from now on be described in the Talking (Wednesday) Blog. This one is the Walking (Tuesday) Blog and so it will remain for quite some time.

The Mariposans have tuned their walking to their own version of the Slug-Horn, which is their Slogan, which came to them when they arrived at the Centre of their Labyrinth:

“DAUNTLESSLY, STEP-BY-STEP, BOTH ONE AT A TIME AND ALL TOGETHER!”

In order to help us understand what it means and how it works, the walkers have condescended to apply it this week to Education, a phenomenon relevant the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, well established, well known, and well respected even in the midst of its controversies. In my role as minute-taker I will summarize the conversation as best I can.

First question: Of what importance is Education to the pursuit of Social Justice? Our Answer: Of crucial importance, as being essential to the fundamental goal of Equality of Opportunity. Elaboration unnecessary.

Second question: What does our Slogan mean, when applied to Education. Our Answer: It means exactly what it says, that in order for Education to serve Social Justice it must be conducted dauntlessly, step by step, both one at a time and all together. In other words, it must be led by courageous people, prepared to learn and experiment as they go along and whose judgement is not perverted by ideology into untried, revolutionary, and hence inevitably destructive upheavals, relying both on individual and collective effort. The former is multifarious, the latter embodied in our public institutions of learning, our schools, colleges, universities, and the rest.

Let us assume, for the moment, that it is reasonable to apply the Leacock Tetrad of Knowledge, Imagination, Compassion, and Humour to our analysis of the current state of Education, as seen through a Social Justice lens. All answers are tentative, because we are lay people observing through our own experience, not professional investigators backed by all resources necessary for definitive answers. This begs the question of whether anyone can validly claim the latter kind of authority, valuable as may be their informed contributions to the conversation.

Third Question: Are our students, young or old, being exposed to the kinds of Knowledge they will need to become intelligently aware of the Social Justice realm and all its needs? Our Answer: We sense a great deal of confusion about the kinds of kinds of Knowledge that our institutions ought to teach. How much of the learning we gain from experience as adults can we effectively encapsulate and inject into the minds of the young? Do we want students to emerge from their Education with skills for livelihoods, or with tools that will enable them to become wise with age and experience? Undoubtedly both, but the superficial attractions and short-term benefits of livelihood skills may push the other aside. If our educational tool is the classroom and its teachers, then we ought to use it appropriately, and not in the effort to teach things better learned in other environments with other kinds of people. The best kind of knowledge we can pass on to the young is the knowledge of how to learn.

Fourth Question: Are the minds of our students being developed so that they can imagine a world more socially just than the one we have now, and are encouraged to do so? Our Answer: That kind of mind is bicameral. It must have a “scientific” chamber cultivated to see things as they are and to understand how they work, and a “poetic” chamber cultivated to imagine beyond there into realms of better. These are essential “Both-Ands”, not “Either-Ors”. We fear that “Either-Or” has become entrenched in favour of the “scientific” chamber, not ideologically perhaps, but simply because it is easier both to teach and to explain. Efforts to cultivate the “poetic” chamber by “scientific” methods are fundamentally misguided.

Fifth Question: Are the spirits of our students being developed so that they can feel Compassion for the people around them who are in distress? That’s a tall order these days, because “around” is a big place, and distress takes a bewildering plethora of forms. Our Answer: Compassion is a “Both-And” power of Intellect and Sympathy. It is not merely a feeling. The Intellect required relies heavily on the “poetic” chamber of the bicameral mind. Sympathy of the necessary kind comes from real experience of diverse people, or from indirect experience acquired through the works of inspired artists. Indirect experience acquired from people who are uninspired non-artists may be perverse, almost as bad as what comes from perverts. The rest is clutter.

Sixth Question: When “Humour” shows up in our schools, does it take a form that will balance young minds and enable the kind of perspective that will serve Social Justice? Our Answer: No. From our vantage point, much of what goes on in formal Education at all levels seems singularly humourless. Occasionally teachers may be “funny”, but that is not the same thing. Making Education “fun” is not the same thing. Both these temptations may distract from the real need.

Next week’s walk has been postponed for certain lack of a quorum. The next one will take place on Tuesday, June 18th.