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The False Dualism of Observers and Participants October 20, 2009

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Morality, Politics.
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While driving to work today I pondered over being a Thinker versus being a Doer. It just popped into my head. Obviously I’m more of a thinker. People like me tend to go through life as observers rather than participants. Sometimes that makes me sad because I feel like I’m missing out. I don’t think I’m alone in that and that is the reason for this post. Blogging has a way of clarifying thought and that’s what I expect to happen with this post.

Now, this isn’t the first time this has come up. Part of me is a writer and so I was trying to organize this concept into a formal philosophy for a set of characters – like Gene Roddenberry did with Star Trek:

  • Spock represents thought.
  • McCoy represents emotion.
  • Kirk expresses qualities of both to represent and demonstrate a complete person.

So I had two groups: observers and participants. Then I subdivided participants into two groups in my mind:

  • Those that know what they want and so manipulate and change their circumstances to achieve it.
  • Those that live within their circumstances.

And something was wrong. There is certainly overlap between the latter group and my observer group, but that’s not what caught my attention. After a moment I realized my mistake.

After paying attention to the news lately and hearing about all the problems going on in the country, I had inadvertently given in to believing that the former position was somehow wrong and that the latter was somehow right. I mentally qualified the former situation with “This is done without allegiance to any authority or moral code” which makes it wrong on moral grounds.

This is a false dualism. It is a devastating mental position to be in if you think through the consequences. Certainly there are people out there who practice the former position without thought to any moral code of conduct. However, there are also plenty of individuals who have a moral sense but who also work to make changes in their circumstances. It occurred to me that the latter is a defeated position and I do not want to be such a person.

So, when is holding the former OK? When you have a moral compass to prevent excess. Without that, it is very easy to fall into error. Consider the greed on Wall Street. Certainly it is there, but not everyone who happens to work in real estate, finance, insurance, or the stock market is a crook. It’s dangerous to blame them all for the corruption and behavior of a few individuals.

Thus I have a new, proper understanding which can and should be applied to every day circumstances. This is a warning to not merely be content with my circumstances as our ancestors were, but to strike out in new directions, to take some chances, and to break new ground. Our nation was founded on these principles and we must not lose them or we risk losing ourselves. Sir James Dyson of Great Britain embodies this spirit as do most inventors. His revolutionary designs are quite amazing yet practical and thoughtful. Have you seen his new blade-less fan?

There will be time to rest and be content with my lot in life after I am dead. (Ironic wording, I know.) Now is not that time. To act as if dead when one is still alive is not a good thing.

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