FalseEquivalence

FalseEquivalence
Gino Severini, aged 30, at the opening of his solo exhibition, Marlborough Gallery, London, 1913
"Wallowing in FalseEquivalence demonstrates an ignorance unbecoming anyone."


One of these things is not like the other. This one statement might properly summarize human existence, for we seem to (or, at least I seem to) constantly make distinctions. When my kids were small, we parsed the entire universe into two broad categories, Yum and Yuck. With these broad two generalizations, infinite variations might exist, but no Yums ever became Yucks, and vice versa. Once initially classified, little risk of mistaking one for the other existed. One was definitely not like the other. This universe, though, cannot be parsed so conveniently. We encounter many borderline cases, greyscale experiences which might seem indistinguishably similar, though actually different. Multiple classifications are also common, such that similarly-colored objects might also be more finely graded by size or shape. As the Ancient Chinese used to insist, ten thousand differences might exist between any apparently similar objects or events, but we've evolved into ever less discerning generalists, it seems, satisfied to call both apples and oranges 'fruit,' and leaving further distinctions pat, and we're fine with that other than the occasional disagreement over classifying tomatoes. Fruit or vegetable? A fruit that tastes like a vegetable or a vegetable crudely misclassified as a fruit? Wars have started for less.

All this distinction-making might serve to help us make sense of the world, but a tremendous amount of skill seems necessary to make proper distinctions, to avoid misclassifying one thing as another when it really isn't.
For me, all snakes might as well be poisonous because, once I spot one, I assume and run the other direction even though most of them might harm a fly, but can't harm me. This is a distinction of little interest to me, so snakes just prompt me to flee. I make a FalseEquivalence without consequence, but not all of them are so inconsequential. The political realm seems to encourage broad generalizations. Politicians have grown notorious for transforming FalseEquivalence into a particularly annoying art form, generalizing with all the subtlety and skill of my old Yum and Yuck distinctions. Taxes? Bad. Liberals? As easily classified as evil as are Conservatives, depending. Greyscales hardly exist in this realm, lest a candidate be perceived as waffling or weak. The insistence upon firm stands flattens conversations. Few distinctions seem dependent upon particular conditions. Everything seems all or nothing at all, only the very crudest characterizations allowed, so seemingly everything becomes a battle against good and evil, with the opposition apparently incapable of doing any good at all.

Somebody commented to me last night that "all politicians lie." This conclusion struck me as more crude than Yum and Yuck, and a sort of anti-distinction rather than a useful classification. Any blanket characterization smacks of a certain intellectual laziness, indicative of a wish to not have to deal with mustering any finer difference. Even if this statement were universally true, it leaves her with nothing to do, no way to choose one from the other, and we live in a representative democracy utterly dependent upon choosing. If I characterize my choice as exclusively being between two candidates, both of whom are liars, I double bind my choice into selecting between six of one and a half dozen of the other, not conditioned upon any clear distinction. It doesn't matter which I choose. Heads they win and tails I lose. I'm cursed with poor candidates because all candidates are politicians and all politicians are liars, or so I seem to insist.

One of any pair of things is not like the other. The trick lies in finding some way to make a finer distinction, otherwise, a FalseEquivalence emerges from the analysis. Identical twins are never identical, though distinguishing one from the other might prove tricky. Self portraits never accurately portray the artist's self, though they might well reveal much about how the artist views their own self. The viewer stands within a different perspective. I believe that one key to a good life lies in learning how to make fine distinctions. Life seems, from one perspective, exclusively comprised of one damned thing after another or the same damned things over and over again, but these seem disablingly superficial distinctions. From a slightly different perspective, overwhelming variety seems to emerge. I'm learning that whenever one thing looks like another, I should properly consider making some finer distinction. What was once a Yuk might well prove to be Yum when tasted at a different table.

Our current President seems to confirm the point that all politicians are liars, but no politician in our time has proven to be such a profligate liar. He lies like he breathes, and just about as frequently. It's his way of life. He rarely lets any truth slip across his lips and then, only apparently inadvertently. His opponent can't even dream of playing in that league. He's a relatively rank amateur when even distantly compared. Those who cannot see this difference seem willfully ignorant, and damned proud of it. Any inability to muster a meaningful distinction might indicate a little white flag flapping inside, as if they've surrendered something of themselves. Declaring that all politicians are liars produces a distinction without distinction and seems to ignore the responsibility we each carry to make distinctions. If it's true that one of any pair is not like the other, one must, as an ethical responsibility, find some defining distinction in order to exercise the responsibility to make well-informed choices. Tossing a coin absolves nobody and resolves nothing. Wallowing in FalseEquivalence demonstrates an ignorance unbecoming anyone.

Look, it's Friday again already! This passing week was unlike any other. I some mornings struggled to make any distinctions at all, but somehow conquered my ambivalence to find something decent to comment on.

I began my writing week with a plea for
deCENTcy, noting that it costs essentially nothing, about a penny, but always makes a huge difference; real leverage.

I then went all disturbing, channeling one of the more prominent deplorable operations around these days in
Q, wherein I attempted to describe an orthogonal world view from mine.

I wrote a heart-felt homage to The Muse with
MuseDay, a replacement for my usual birthday poem or song. This piece proved by far the most popular posting of the week.

I took a nap in a puddle of dust to discuss deadening late August heat in
HownDogAfternoon. I was nuthin' but a howndog that afternoon.

I brought you into our annual ritual in '
Vesting, a small portrait of The Muse and I putting aside some seasonal providence for an uncertain future.

I attempted to cross the same river twice and predictable failed in
Heraclitus'Insight. I, like you, continue to make all this up as I go along.

Finally, I finished my writing week expressing considerable frustration with a piece of the human condition in
SmolderingPants. I might have been prefacing this morning's writing when I declared myself weary of the lies.

I pray that I somehow avoided making too many FalseEquivalences through the week. Everything is not okay, and never was and never will be, but quite a bit seems to be going my way right now. Not everything, but plenty. I ascribe my sense of well-being to your presence here. I deeply appreciate your presence, and while some have been denied access to the rest of some of the stories due to a continuing undiagnosed technical difficulty, I praise your persistence. None of any of this could exist had you not been present to hear my trees fall within this forest. Thank you!

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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