“The Dude” on Trump’s “Unpredictability”

I hope we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater here. But I’m rooting for the guy, Mr. Trump. One of the things that’s most appealing about him is his unpredictability. — Jeff Bridges, a.k.a. “The Dude

I imagine Trump’s “unpredictability” attracted a lot of people who were simply bored with existence. I have, on occasion, read similar sentiments expressed as reasons for supporting Trump — his unpredictability. But I find this statement by Mr. Bridges very peculiar indeed. If the touring schedule for his band became unpredictable, or whether or not his band would be paid became uncertain and unpredictable, how would Mr. Bridges feel about “unpredictability” then? Presumably, he would call it “chaos”. Isn’t this an example of a restriction of foresight, of insight, and of a myopia that has become far too widespread?

Let’s point out a few contradictions in Mr. Bridge’s statement and their wider implications.

Constitutional states, and those governed by the rule of law, seek to inject a fairly high degree of predictability and reliability into social relations. That’s what constitutions do. That’s what the law of contracts does also. Even monasteries, Buddhist or Christian or otherwise, are governed by a “Rule”. It’s precisely authoritarian and totalitarian regimes that are least predictable because the power of law is invested in the mere arbitrary whims and will of the leader or autocrat. This will and whim may change constantly and unpredictably. So autocratic states, although ostensibly about “law & order” are actually implicitly chaotic, for which reason they eventually self-destruct.

Too much unpredictability leads to the same place as too little predictability. A certain degree of predictability, or what we call “stability”, is necessary to even take a walk, drive a car, meet other people, do your shopping, or work together, or to cooperate on some social task, or even speak, while too much unpredictability, uncertainty, and insecurity would truly be chaos at every level. Everything and everyone would become unreliable, untrustworthy, suspect, and so on. This is always what happens in autocratic states, and definitely in “post-truth society”.

It’s a bizarre situation, indeed, when conservatives applaud “unpredictability” isn’t it? It’s self-contradiction. Predictability is closely related to intelligibility, and in “post-truth” or “post-rational” society we are witnessing a lot less of both. This is self-negation. At least Mr. Bridges is aware of his self-contradictions.

Spontaneity itself requires an intelligible and predictable framework for its manifestation. It’s the function of the enlightened ego-consciousness to provide that pattern of intelligibility. Unpredictability brings disorientation of the ego-identity — the loss of horizons until such time as new horizons are constituted and established, and a new centre therefore is established. Much of what is wearisomely dismissed as mere “political correctness” is indeed throwing the baby out with the bathwater because the antipathy to “political correctness” is coming to embrace everything that was indeed predictable about social relations  — what we call “common decency” or the rituals of civility. An insistence upon sincerity or truthfulness has, it seems, also become dismissed as mere “political correctness”.

Mr. Bridges is at least aware of the duplicity and hypocrisy (and nihilism) as elements of this “unpredictablity”, but seems resigned to it. He’s become an exemplar of the “New Normal” and of “post-truth” in that respect also.  That’s what makes his statement kind of interesting. While he seems conscious of the double-dealing, the double-talk, the double-standards and the double-think, he otherwise shows very little insight into it, or foresight as to the implications of it. “Unpredictability” as Mr. Bridges thinks of it, is just another term for cynicism and nihilism in this context.

But then, on the other hand, Mr. Bridges may know exactly what he is doing — celebrating the post-modern deconstruction as chaotic transition. But I doubt it, even if he works to effect it in other ways. As Milton once put it: “they also serve who only stand and wait”.

It would be interesting to know why Mr Bridges values unpredictability, especially when it comes to truthfulness or keeping promises and pledges.

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37 responses to ““The Dude” on Trump’s “Unpredictability””

  1. Dwig says :

    May I propose that we declare at least a temporary moratorium on the subject of the president-elect? Maybe until he’s been in office long enough for us to get a sense of what direction he might actually take? You’ve raised a number of larger themes that have been and can still be fruitfully be explored here– let others indulge the fascination with the ephemeral.

    That said, it’s your blog; do with it as you will. I continue to receive good value from it, and I hope to continue to contribute what I can.

    • Scott Preston says :

      It’s necessary at this time in order to prepare for future posts on the paradoxical. This was one of the paradoxes of Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism” and there’s no way to avoid it — that the triumph of liberal institutions would simultaneously be their downfall. How and why can only be answered by understanding the paradox as coincidence of opposites and how this is expressed in contemporary life and society, and why it manifests in this particular way.

      As Rumi put it (and as I just replied to IW in a comment to the last post) “Darkness is your candle”, which is paradoxical and also literally “unnerving”.

  2. donsalmon says :

    When I first began studying composing, one of the best early lessons I received was that music composition is essentially the art of balancing the predictable with the unpredictable. You can hear much of Beethoven’s genius just by paying particular attention to how he does this (very easy to hear in his 5th symphony). I love the way Prokofiev did this as well.

    You slowly shift from listening to music to listening to life and find the same thing. Zen teacher/science/math research Steve Hagen plays with this, including remarkable insights on chaos and fractals, in his “How the World Can be The Way It Is.”

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes. I suppose you could describe that play of the predictable with the unpredictable the “yin” and “yang” of things. The terms “predictable” and “unpredictable” are usually stand-ins for other terms, like closed and open, past and future, the certain and the uncertain, the safe or the unsafe, the orderly or the disorderly, the deterministic and the indeterministic, the monster and the saint, the reliable or the unreliable, the trustworthy or the untrustworthy, faithful or the faithless, etc, etc, Lots of connotations, and so we can’t always be sure in what sense people use the term “predictable” or “unpredictable” in terms of expectations or anticipations of something or another. But it’s a good way to frame the meanings of order and chaos.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    Nietzsche thought that the basis of any kind of civilised life lay in teaching the animal in us to “keep its promises” — vows of marriage, pledges of allegiance, word of honour, dealing in “good faith”, etc, etc. So “unpredictability” in the respect of backpedalling on one’s pledges has certain consequences for the coherence of society — a war of all against all.

    Mr. Bridges is happy that Trump is “unpredictable” in that, while the alt-right is furious, reportedly, because “our civilisation is doomed” if Trump doesn’t fulfill his promises, however wicked or ignoble we might find them. Ironically, they have a point, but it’s not what they think it is. So, although we all have the sense that “our civilisation is doomed”, it’s for very different and contradictory reasons.

    So, “post-truth society” is not just a society of lies. Much of the meaning of “Empire of Chaos” lies in failure to keep one’s promises or pledges. Then, indeed, social life becomes quite unpredictable. “A rising tide lifts all boats” was one such pledge that was broken. Corruption is really about that — bad faith.

    • donsalmon says :

      Nietzsche thought that the basis of any kind of civilised life lay in teaching the animal in us to “keep its promises” — vows of marriage, pledges of allegiance, word of honour, dealing in “good faith”, etc, etc. So “unpredictability” in the respect of backpedalling on one’s pledges has certain consequences for the coherence of society — a war of all against all.

      Neurobiologist Robert Zapolsky once defined the role of the prefrontal cortex (which could be said to be the part of the brain that is the basis for any kind of civilized life) as this: when faced with a choice and one knows which is the better but resists doing it, the PFC is that which helps us make the harder choice.

      The Katha Upanishad, nearly 3000 years ago, stated the same thing with regard to the “pleasant” and the “good.” Krishna Prem noted that really, if we WANTED to, it’s not really that hard to tell the difference. The main thing is, much of the time, many of us don’t really want to. We’d rather go with our “gut” (Hitler often noted that the Nazis think with their “blood”). George W. Bush also spoke of thinking with his gut (no I’m not saying he’s necessarily the same as Hitler).

      Does Trump think with any part of his body? Does he think at all or are the various subroutines of the unconscious mind running the show?

      • Scott Preston says :

        Yes. My impression is that he is operating on what you descirbe as “subroutines” or “habit”. Not sure that the man has what we call “conscience” in that respect.

      • Scott Preston says :

        There’s a good example today of that, too: Trump’s suppression of climate science at NASA as “politicized science”

        Translated, that actually means no science is acceptable that has political consequences, or that contradicts the ideological biases and the economic orthodoxy. Only that science is valid and acceptable which does not contradict, undermine, or challenge thought at all. One great big bubble.

        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/22/nasa-earth-donald-trump-eliminate-climate-change-research

      • Scott Preston says :

        I think, in that sense, I would describe Trump as the President of “Irrational Exuberance”. Seems to fit.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Leaving aside Trump, hypocrisy, perfidy, subroutine and gut-thinking for the moment…. <.<

        Carl Sagan (whom I miss, dearly) also famously wrote, "I try not to think with my gut." Well, meet your “second brain” or, the more appropriately termed, “gut-brain axis”.

        Although gut-brain interactions have been studied for decades, providing a wealth of information about the close interactions between the gut-associated immune system, enteric nervous system, and gut-based endocrine system, these findings have largely been ignored by the psychiatric and neurological research community. The discovery of the gut microbiome has added a long overlooked component to the complex bidirectional signaling between mind, brain, gut, and its microbiome and surprisingly has triggered a tremendous interest by the professional and lay media, as well as by national funding agencies, including the National Institute of Mental Health. – The Journal of Neuroscience

        Most of that interest lies in the research and treatment of existing disorders, but the significance of the “dantian” and its impact on mental and physical well-being long has been known…in the East.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Ironically, I can sympathise with the “basket of deplorables” called the alt-right (I know, very politically incorrect of me to refer to them as “basket of deplorables”). They think they’ve been played for chumps, bamboozled, and that Trump is perfidious. All of which is true, ironically.

      Some are expressing relief now that Trump is backpedalling or realising the constraints on executive rule — (even the Dalai Lama today, which I find quite odd). But that’s perfidy, and in those terms the good and the evil become one and the same — being “realistic” and being “perfidious” become one and the same (and that’s not supposed to happen, according to the logic).

      coincidence of opposites.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Read this this morning. Might be connected with what I’m referring to as post-truth as being also a reconstruction of truth (or the facts of the matter actually). Electro-magnetic Drive for propulsion systems that is supposed to be “impossible” according to Newton’s laws of motion

    http://www.techtimes.com/articles/186568/20161121/nasa-s-impossible-propulsion-engine-emdrive-passes-peer-review.htm

    • cmwtest says :

      I was looking at this story recently. Actually the paper proposes that the reason the EM drive works points towards the De-Broglie / Bohmian version of quantum mechanics -pilot wave theory – which was largely ignored in favour of Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation, largely for ideological rather than scientific reasons it seems. One of the interesting things about this is that pilot wave theory reinstates the ‘real’ – in it the electron has both definite position and momentum, however it’s determined by a hidden variable – the pilot wave, which is effectively the effect of the rest of the universe. The philosophical implications of this led Bohm to postulate the nature of the universe as an unbroken flowing whole, or the Holomovement, which he later developed into his theory of the implicate and explicate order. I’ll write more on this when I’m not in a smartphone!

      • Scott Preston says :

        Yeah. Bohm’s “pilot wave” came to mind when I read the article, but I’m not entirely sure how it fits in here. Look forward to your elaboration on this.

        • Steve Lavendusky says :

          ” Reading Mr. Malcolm Muggerridge’s brilliant and depressing book, The Thirties, I thought of a rather cruel trick I once played on a wasp. He was sucking jam on my plate, and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him. It is the same with modern man. The thing that has been cut away is his soul, and there was a period–twenty years, perhaps–during which he did not notice it.”

          George Orwell

        • mikemackd says :

          I am looking forward to it as well. I read his book “Wholeness and the Implicate Order ” decades ago. Bohm once said that quantum mechanics could just as readily be termed quantum organics, but that book did not come across like that to me.

        • cmwtest says :

          This article is reasonably comprehensive with regards to the recent EM drive test and its relation to pilot wave theory, which is identified as the theoretical physical model on which it is based. Essentially because in pilot wave theory the quantum vacuum has structure it can act as a medium that can be ‘pushed against’ thereby extracting work from it. http://www.sciencealert.com/it-s-official-nasa-s-peer-reviewed-em-drive-paper-has-finally-been-published

          • cmwtest says :

            DavidM might also find the following quote from the discussion section of the paper interesting given his recent interest in The Jazz of Physics:

            Modelling showed that “energy levels of the hydrogen atom could be viewed as longitudinal resonant acoustic wave modes in the quantum vacuum. This suggests that the idea of treating the quantum vacuum as a dynamic medium capable of supporting oscillations might be valid. If a medium is capable of supporting acoustic oscillations, this means that the internal constituents were capable of interacting and exchanging momentum.”

            http://arc.aiaa.org/doi/10.2514/1.B36120

          • Scott Preston says :

            Very curious indeed, although apparently it doesn’t generate enough thrust to overcome gravity’s resistance. We’ll see how the real-world tests go. Will have strange implications if it does work as predicted.

            “Pilot wave” theory always struck me as a Ptolemaic kludge for an otherwise beautiful “grand theory” in Wholeness and the Implicate Order. But maybe there’s something to it after all.

            • abdulmonem says :

              I am busy with my own thrust and how I propelled it and what energy I use in the process and how to utilise my thrust in serving my community and if there is another hidden force propels my propeller in the context of the unbroken flowing of the whole which is motivated by a hidden force. The hidden force for me, is the unseen one,the prime motivator of everything the first cause that has no beginning and no end. The one whose code of values must be respected, must be used as a guide for fixing our priority and addressing first our needs at hand without wasting our resources on fancy errands. It is sad that we are living under a tyrant culture that has no respect for life purpose or priority, a culture whose main concerns are power and consumption and more power and more consumption, despite the high waste associated with such conduct. A culture that considers earth for exploitation and sky for invasion, a culture that spends billions to go to mars while his schools and infrastructure are in shambles.( I am not against exploring the above provided I finished with the needs of the below). A culture who is seeking for meaning while the simplest meanings of life, are under daily attacks. A culture that denies a prior meaning to the cosmos and with all arrogance want to assign meaning to it. Our world is filled with all meanings for those who have awareness to grasp. It is our mistakes that we blame the world for them and here I remember the immigration problem which has been ignited by the aggression of the west and now the people of the west instead of directing their blame to their governments wrong policies they spell their anger on the poor immigrants who were forced to leave their countries. It is a soul problem a soul that has lost its divine guidance.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Come to think if it, a lot of contemporary popular and conventional thinking does remind me of Ptolemaic kludges — the epicycles. I’ll have to try and pursue that analogy further.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Could be that the psychological correlate (in terms of psychic energy) to the “pilot wave” is McGilchrist’s “Emissary” mode of consciousness. I’ll have to see how far that might hold. The ego-consciousness has often been described in those terms — as a “pilot” or scout, or interface.

            • cmwtest says :

              I think it’s probably the other way around. The electron is the superficially ‘separate’ particle, which is in a deeper way only a localisation of the entire universe, and the path taken by the electron is informed by that wholeness / context. For Bohm, the pilot wave was a manifestation of ‘active information’ in the universe. There’s a specific quote from one of Bohm’s books I’m thinking of here but I’m still away from home at the moment so can’t post it yet, however a cursory search on the net for Bohm and active information brought up this paper. I’ve only scanned it briefly but hopefully it may shed further light on your question. http://www.implicity.org/Downloads/Bohm_meaning+information.pdf

            • Scott Preston says :

              Thanks. About halfway through it, but I’ll need to examine Bohm’s essay here more carefully.

  5. mikemackd says :

    Scott, as you have asked me to continue posting Mumford when apropos, I will quote this extract from “The Culture of Cities’, written before World War 2. It is from an essay therein he wrote in the mid-1930’s, called “A Brief Outline of Hell.”

    Before I do so, however, I will give you the backstory of why I extracted it in the first place. The Australian government is in the process of cutting the Australian Broadcasting Corporation off at the knees.The Sydney Morning Herald recently announced that Radio National (RN) will become podcast-led programs by 2020. RN is the cultural and current affairs flagship of the ABC. Someone wrote in reply to an objection to this cutback, “are you kidding you pinhead. tell me please where there is any balance in the abc. ah you lefties. fight for everybodies rights, as long as its yours. gee. now how did that trump masn get in……oh thats right. because the silent majority think your ilk are bags of hot air. please somebody CLOSE the abc.” To which I replied with the following extract.

  6. mikemackd says :

    QUOTE
    This is the crowd whose simple hates, fueled by propaganda, transfers to foreign devils the unconscious hatred it dare not express for the classes that exploit it, or the unconscious contempt each member feels for his own thwarted self. Essential to this metropolitan regime are these passive atoms: metropolitan barbarians: a million cowards upon whose blank minds the leader writes: Bravery. A million scattered, bewildered individuals whom the rulers cajole, bully, and terrorize into a state of unity.

    … Concentrated upon war, the metropolitan regime opposes these domestic and civic functions: it subordinates life to organized destruction, and it must therefore regiment, limit, and constrict every exhibition of real life and culture. Result: the paralysis of all the higher activities of society: truth shorn or defaced to fit the needs of propaganda: the organs of co-operation stiffened into a reflex system of obedience: the order of the drill sergeant and the bureaucrat. Such a regime may reach unheard-of heights in external coordination and discipline, and those who endure it may make superb soldiers and juicy cannonfodder; but it is for the same reason deeply antagonistic to every valuable manifestation of life.

    Plainly, a civilization that terminates in a cult of barbarism has disintegrated as civilization; and the war-metropolis, as an expression of these institutions, is an anti-civilizing agent: a non-city. To assume that this process can go on indefinitely is to betray an ignorance of social facts: decay at last halts itself. While the tasks of building, co-operation, and integration are never finished, unbuilding may be completed in a few generations. The chief question now before the Western World today is whether disintegration must be complete before a fresh start is made.
    UNQUOTE

    When I went back later to check what response the quote may have elicited from the gentleman concerned, I discovered that the page was not available. http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/radio/abc-staff-told-radio-national-will-become-a-series-of-podcasts-by-2020-20161122-gsv8ka.html

    Things are becoming curiouser and curiouser … Fortunately though, I can rest assured that it was but a technical error, because the newspaper concerned’s motto is “Independent. Always.”

    • Scott Preston says :

      Curiouser and curiouser indeed. I tried that page and got a “404 error. Page not found”. To be sure, that has also happened on occasion when I’ve posted something on a news site that embarrasses the editors, the writers, or the proprietors. It’s all made to disappear.

      That quote from Mumford seems quite fitting, but I suspect it goes over most people’s heads or rolls off their back. “That’s not ME. That’s THEM!” The ego consciousness — the “Emissary” — is very devious in that respect. I’m sure we’ve all noticed it, and that it is a lot more devious these days. It simply refuses to recognise or acknowledge any truth about itself. Pretty much the falcon in Yeats’ “Second Coming”. That quote from Mumford also reflects very much Walter Benjamin’s remarks about self-alienation become self-annihilation in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”.

      It’s chilling. It’s very chilling. And, unfortunately, I believe Mr. Mumford (and Gebser) is right that only complete disintegration is needed before making a “fresh start”. But at the same time, on what basis? What fresh horizons? How to avoid just following Blake’s “same dull round” over again — the “dark Satanic mill”.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Mumford’s “fresh start” following complete disintegration also brought to mind something Rosenstock-Huessy said in one of his essays, that it was the task of the revolutionary to build a new boat in an emergency, when the old boat no longer can keep afloat or has shattered on the rocks. Probably he had in mind the legend of Noah and his ark in that, but it is a fitting metaphor for “restructuration”.

      Of course, today, conservatives — especially the “alt-right” — think of themselves as these “revolutionaries”, not as reactionaries. Language is all ajumble, and practically now useless. The reactionaries have appropriated the language of the revolutionaries, and spun it, for so long (since Burke, in fact, recommended the practice) that everything has become topsy-turveydom. So, in that sense Rosenstock is quite correct. Revolution is a “speech event” — a new language needs to be born (or what we are calling “the new story” or the new “universe story”). That’s what he means by building a new ship.

  7. abdulmonem says :

    The gravest mistake a human can commit is detaching his/her knowledge from god,that is cutting his/her soul from its source. it seems we shape our lives according to our experience of god or anything that functions as god in our lives. In another words our soul can not remembers itself without remembering god that is why we see that those who forget god forget themselves,oblivious of the harms they inflect on themseves and others through all types of excessive, arrogant behavour. We are living in a mental water-boarding world where the torturer and the tortured have lost the humane capacity to dialogue and resort to violence as the only tool to address problems. In time like this the divine correction becomes a must in line with the historical destructive force that overtook all those who violate the divine code.

  8. Scott Preston says :

    Peter Thiel has a soulmate in Patrick Schumacher, techno-fascism disguised as free market libertarianism. Would be laughable if it wasn’t for the fact that the formerly laughable has become New Normal

    https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/24/zaha-hadid-successor-patrik-schumacher-art-schools-social-housing

    There is something in this of Rolf Jenzen’s The Dream Society, which I critiqued earlier this year in The Chrysalis. I think these opinions are fairly wide-spread, and not those of just a few eccentrics.

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