George Walford: The Rational Effort

For people who claim to be rational, or trying to become so, one task overrides all others: to understand the society we both inhabit and constitute. Only by doing this can we hope to understand ourselves, our gods or our environment, for all of these are largely produced by our ideology-governed society. People display different features according to the conditions under which they live, the landscape we think of as natural was largely created by early farmers, conceptions of divinity change with the requirements of the worshippers, and even the physical scientists do not study a non-social world, for the fundamental particles are not simply ‘out there’; they cannot be observed without affecting them. What the scientists study has largely been created by previous observers, and in fact their attention focuses on computer simulations, readings on dials, movements of balances and similar events, all of them the results of social activity.

EMPTINESS: ‘The greatest happiness of the greatest number’ stands as probably the most unhelpful alleged principle that has ever won respect. It contains two superlatives and does not tell us which has priority, a smaller happiness for a greater number, or a greater one for a smaller number.

RECENT Anglican Church history provides a neat illustration of s.i. As the institution has moved to take in more liberal attitudes, even acquiring a tinge of socialism, so it has grown smaller and less influential. In moving up the pyramid it has incurred the consequences of doing so.

CHINA holds some 20 million in its version of the Gulag Archipelago, of whom some 8 million have completed their sentences but are still held to forced labour. Between 20 and 30 million died of famine in 1959-61. J. Mirsky.

ARGUING for the decriminalisation of psychoactive drugs, Terence McKenna maintains that a society able to tolerate alcohol can cope with almost anything.

from Ideological Commentary Number 60, May 1993.