Wednesday, September 21, 2016

DoD Accused of Mission Creep

The DoD has as its mission to know more things and recently encountered worries that it is trying to know ALL the things.  Don't you think, our critics charged, that if you try to know all the things, you’ll end up knowing some things that really aren’t properly deviant?  And, what about standards?  Shouldn’t there be standards regarding what’s worth knowing within the reasonable boundaries of a discipline like deviance? 

These are hard charges.  To the basic question of whether we are tempted to try to know ALL the things, we must fess up and say, yeah, we’d really like that.  Even the idea of it is more than a little intoxicating.  We feel a tad drunk just thinking about it.  But however much we love the idea, we also recognize it is but a dream.  For we here in the DoD are mortal and expect no life, however curiously lived, will let you know more than a few things.  Still, we have tried to solve this problem – not the problem of our mortality since we think that largely a good thing – but the problem of how to know things when time is short.  We call our solution Other People.  Other people are mortal too, but maybe if we get together enough of them that know enough different things then we at least get to peek in on all the things we can’t know under our own finite powers. 

With respect to whether this wanton listening to other people will fundamentally corrupt our purposes and dilute the discipline of deviance, we confess to having other priorities.  Rather than corruption and dilution, we're a lot more worried about missing out on things.  Because it seems to us that the arc of human inquiry can also be seen as the arc of missing out on things.  Historically, it often seems as if people listened most to the people who knew the same things they did or looked the most like them or sounded the most like them or...  Consequently, we don’t trust ourselves to decide before listening whether we should listen.  We also think that self-distrust is one of our finer qualities, right up there with thinking expertise and experience mean something.  The world is full of people expert in things we can never hope to know well, so rather than go with what our ratty conjectures or half-formed impressions might be, we look for those people.  Then when they say stuff we’ve not heard before, we listen.  

Ultimately, we figure, any need to sort out when and whether some thing or other belongs in deviance will only come much, much later.  Honestly, it’s a problem we’re happy to leave to our great-grandchildren, or even their great-grandchildren.  We expect that any robust airing of all the things long ignored is going to take time and lots of people tarrying together in the heady newness and happy confusion of it all.  Maybe someday someone will need to sort it all out, but hey, erring on the side not listening can give way for a while to listening.

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