Thursday, February 05, 2009

Ruminations 5: False Inferences in Shoes

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer)

This is another in what I hope to be a month long series of quasi-aphoristic (ἀφορισμός) essays, meant to provoke thought rather than explain it. The hope is that, built up on each other, the series will provide a matrix of thoughts that together might lead the reader in new directions.

Nietzsche once noted

The art of drawing inferences. The greatest progress men have made lies in their learning how to draw correct inferences. That is by no means something natural, as Schopenhauer assumes when he says: 'Of inference, all are capable; of judgment, only a few.' It has been learned only late, and it still has not gained dominance. False inferences are the rule in earlier times; and the mythology of all peoples, their magic and their superstition, their religious cults, their laws, are inexhaustible mines of proof for this proposition.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Human All Too Human, in The Portable Nietzsche (Walter Kaufmann, trans., New York: Viking Press, 1968) (Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, 1878).) at Para. 271.  But inference, even false inference, is usually not effected in isolation. Nor is it necessarily a passive event. 

 Inference suggests gesture, and is nourished by the endless recording of events that now passes for truth. Indeed, one can, with confidence, now suggest that it is the great panoptic eye, the man-made aggregation of memory recorded provides the contemporary proof of the proposition Nietzsche propounded. False inferences are inseparable now from false memory that is itself a product of gesture that is meant to serve as a proxy symbol for the symbolic element of any of a number of "Truth" that can be falsely inferred from a selective invocation of memory. But worse, false inference substitutes itself for the Truth for which it is means to provide symbolic expression. Inference shorthanded as gesture draws from and substitutes itself for the even on which it is based. And thus people arrive at that place of great comfort--a space in which reality is invoked but never seen.

And so one can understand better the global transformation of the flying shoe.
Israel's ambassador to Sweden was hit when a shoe and books were thrown at him as he was giving a lecture at Stockholm University, reports said on Thursday. Benny Dagan was talking about upcoming elections in his country on Wednesday night when the objects were hurled at him from the audience of 50 people. Police at the event took two people into custody. The motive was believed to be a protest against Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. A tossed shoe is considered a grave insult in the Arab world, and the incident involving Dagan followed another in December in which an Iraqi journalist threw shoe at US president George W Bush. The incident occurred at a press conference during Bush’s farewell visit to Iraq before he left office last month. Bush ducked and was not hit. A protester shouting “Dictator” also tossed a shoe on Monday at Chinese PM Wen Jiabao while he was visiting Cambridge University in Britain. The shoe missed the premier.
Now, Shoe Hits Israeli Envoy, The Times of India, Feb. 6, 2009.

Thus the gesture of the shoe. has been transformed. An insult to Arabs is hurled at Israeli and Chinese officials. has acquired a universal character. The false inference, though, is insult; the gesture is true enough. The shoe is thrown to acknowledge the subordination of the person hurling the shoe in relation to the target, the emasculation that this position of subordination produces (the shoe is not a lethal weapon and has value only to the thrower and not the target), and the irrationality of the act. The thrown shoe suggests an insult to the target and an act of aggression against the political community the target represents. A better inference might be that the thrown shoe is an act of self-loathing by a representative of an impotent community whose quest is irrational. When one's enemy self-characterizes as a clown, that exposure could be better evidence of ultimate self destruction. It was not the silly Iraqi journalist but the Premier of the Soviet Union who first resorted to the use of the shoe. See Shoe Banging Incident.

No comments: