Monday, 17 September 2012


We need some kind of order and classification to hold civilisation together. Without some form of systematisation, society would fall apart and would degenerate into a state of anarchy (in the non-political sense). But are human conceptions of order mere artifice? Do they reflect our own innate sense of right and wrong, or are they more to do with a tangible objective reality? What happens when human order is challenged?

Any adherent of any political ideology would tell you that their political ideology is the most effective. A socialist would say (rather erroneously) that state communism is a way of attaining true equity. A fiscal conservative would say that the better a nation's GDP performs, the better the state of being (again, rather erroneously). Likewise, adherents of different religion would argue that their moral code is the ultimate compass to control human existence.

These are systems of thought promulgated to establish either a more equal, or moral, society. From a personal standpoint, all the examples offered above do not strike me as politically or ethically viable. A socialist society more often than not results in social repression and sectarian division and fiscal conservatism leads to massive disparities in wealth. As for religion being the only moral compass, this is hugely contestable. One does not need to adhere to any thought system or sense of spirituality to have an understanding of morality. There's actually a lot of scientific research proving that religious believers actually have a greater propensity for committing crimes and misdemeanours.

We need a kind of classification in day-to-day life. A library I walk into must have its books organised alphabetically, otherwise I would spend two hours there in search of a book instead of five minutes. Supermarkets are carefully classified and organised to help customers select their product.

On a more intellectual level, we have developed a writing system and mathematical symbols for our needs in literacy and numeracy. Archaeologists looking through relics of the Mayan civilisation have discovered that, although they obviously used a different set of symbols for mathematical equations, the language is essentially the same as those used in Western and Eastern civilisations.

But whatever system we are talking about, these are all man-made. They reflect human issues or have come about as a result of some kind of social malaise that has afflicted humanity through the ages. (For example, the ardent need for a radical overhaul for many Russians came about after years of monarchic rule.)

But what happens when we challenge these systems? This often jostles and disorientates us. We have been brought up in an environment where our minds are centred around this particular type of thinking. There are some languages where, when one does not follow the rules of the game, the whole frame falls apart. This is true of mathematics - if one does not use the correct calculations, the answer will be wrong. The same is true for architecture (where a building would fall apart) and chemistry (where substances might blow the fuck up!). But this isn't true for music. Although strict rules have been laid out with regard to keys, chords, scales etc., one can quite easily ignore classicist rules and end up producing a valuable piece of music. So, do thought systems necessarily predetermine function and order?

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