Re: Are Beliefs Like Clothes?

Mark Grant (
Sat, 19 Jul 1997 11:22:42 +0000

On Thu, 17 Jul 1997, Steve Witham wrote:

> The social vs. practical comparison answers a question about politics:
> Why so much hoopla about such a pointless process? Because the pointlessness
> makes it safe. In fact it's in the interest of both voters and
> representitives to make government good at producing annoyance (stuff
> to get angry and argue about) and bad at changing things (practical).

>From Celia Green, "The Human Evasion":

"Society begins to appear much less unreasonable when one realizes its true
function. It is there to help everyone to keep their minds off reality. This
follows automatically from the fact that it is an association of sane people,
and it has already been shown that sanity arises from the continual insertion
of `other people' into any space into which a metaphysical problem might

"It is therefore quite irrelevant to criticize society as though it were
there for some other purpsoe - to keep everyone alive and well-fed in an
efficient manner, say. Some degree of inefficiency is essential to create
interesting opportunities for emotional reaction. (Of course, criticizing
society, though irrelevant, is undeniably of value as an emotional
distraction for sane people.)"


"To the sane mind, even aggression against people is infinitely better than
aggression against infinity. And it is the chief defect of sane society that
it is boring. It is so boring that even sane people notice it. And so, from
time to time, there is a war. This is intended to divert people's minds before
they become so bored that they take to some impersonal kind of aggressive
activity - such as rseearch, or asceticism, or inspiration, or something
discreditable of that kind."

"In wartime, rather more purposeful activity than usual is permissible. Even
sane people relax their normal beliefs that nothing matters very much, and
some time next week is soon enough for anything. This is regarded as justified
because the war is always about something connected with *other people*, and
may be regarded as an assertion of the belief that *the thing that matters
most is politics*."


"Society, they say, exists to safeguard the rights of the individual. If this
is so, the primary right of a human being is evidently to live


"Sane people regard an apparently purposeful activity as disinfected by
numbers - i.e. if a sufficiently large number of people is involved, they feel
sure that they outcome will be harmless to sanity, no matter how frenzied the
labours may seem to be. The most large-scale examples are war and politics.
Into these activities, people allow themselves to enter with almost single-
minded devotion."

"Both war and politics have played a particularly helpful part in retarding
the march of progress. In fact, the history of the human race is only
comprehensible as the record of a species trying ont to gain control of its

It's an amusing book, though it seems to be out of print. The full text
is on the Web somewhere (try a search engine).


|Mark Grant M.A., U.L.C. EMAIL: |