PUSHING THE BRICK FROM THE WALL: EDUCATION IN THE PRAGMATIC DREAM

another_brick_in_the_wall

Pragmatism stands opposed to all Utopias. In place of aspirations for something better and other dreams of human progress, it offers and breeds its own Pragmatic Dream. A fabricated fantasy that is accepted by individuals in the System even though this pragmatism itself does nothing to provide substantial advantages for the majority of the individuals dreaming it, or even protect them. Inculcated with a fear of Utopias, the hopeful individual must depend on the Pragmatic Dream to drive them forward. Even when, in the case of excluded sectors of society like the unemployed or the homeless, where that dream is obviously restricted or even prohibited, the pragmatic ideal will create a self-flagellating tolerance of the oppressors.

Our tolerance of it is needed by the System in order to hold it up. Without it, the Pragmatic Dream System would be unable to maintain its so-called democratic veil. Once it loses the tacit support of any sector, the democratic mask of the system quickly peels away as draconian measures are implemented. Once support wanes, freedoms are reduced and the Pragmatic Dream devolves away from its only good argument into an obviously bad argument, trying to sustain itself through pragmatic acceptance and a fear of bad alternatives.

However, for pragmatism, essentially, all real alternatives are necessarily bad. According to pragmatic ideology, the alternative to the system is the anti-system: chaos and anarchy. Utopias are impossible things from the pragmatic point-of-view, and any alternative to the Pragmatic Dream is a castle in the air. Of course, what this kind of thinking does is stifle political creativity. “The least worse of all systems is the only possible system,” says pragmatism. There is only one possible narrative: our dictatorship.

Underlying the Pragmatic Dream’s power is an unquestioning belief in its legitimacy, what it calls “democracy” – the legitimacy won through the ballot box. However, in actual fact, it is this tacit acceptance of the Pragmatic Dream that sustains not a democracy but a dictatorial system. Bipartisanism seeps through the system’s pragmatism to create a single idea working in favour of power, rendering the democracies of pragmatism to something that is hardly democratic at all. Politics succumbs to economics and the influence of corporations makes the Pragmatic Dream a plutocratic paradise.

When we look beyond the paradigm what we must be focussed on is what can be gained by doing so, and also what will be lost. This double-pronged question must be asked by anyone who wants to achieve something. Through each acquisition and ascension, there must be a sacrifice, and perhaps there can be no greater fear in humanity than throwing it all away for a futile dream.

However, it is precisely this paradox, that is both intellectual and sentimental, that sustains the Pragmatic Dream system. Pragmatism means the end will justify the means. What this really means in the context of the Pragmatic Dream is that that which will be acquired by my efforts will surpass what has been sacrificed to achieve it. Of course, in reality, most of the time one does not realise what one is losing until it has all gone – this is the moral message in Citizen Kane and his infatuation with Rosebud.

At the same time, however, the potential dissident who has very little or nothing to lose will be more likely to become an activist than the one who has plenty to lose. This is true even though the one who has possessions may be more conscious of the corruption and anti-democratic oppression perpetrated by the system. Nevertheless, the nothing-to-lose dissident has no resources to operate effectively and in order to find those means, he or she will have to let themselves be recruited into a group of activists led by an ideology which may well merely be looking for cannon-fodder in their own violent struggle.

In this sense, the victims remain victims no matter which side they join. They are the result of several millennia of violent hiccups that have exploited the needy with the same hypocrisy as the Pragmatic Dream has. This hypocrisy encourages most of the hopeless class to shun the intellectuals and their politics and reject any other dissidence other than the public display of their own wretchedness. The intellectual paradox that the system is favoured by rests in the fact that those who think about and denounce its evil are not the victims of that evil, and those who are its victims very rarely get a chance to think and talk about it. If the Pragmatic Dream is to be exposed and superseded by a more consciously necessary system (or non-system) then the victims must be given more cultural baggage or capital in order to visualise an escape for themselves. But, of course, that would be impossible within the Pragmatic Dream itself. That Dream depends on the existence of an apathetic class that is devoid of intellectual-culture baggage.

Neo-liberalism reacted against that kind of intellectual dissemination that was prevalent in schools and universities in the late 60s and 1970s and there has been a subtle undermining of the culturally creative and intellectually dynamic learning programmes since the 1980s. Now, we can most assuredly claim that universal education in the Western World is in a reactionary process of controlled segregation, anti-humanitarian specialisation and creative-thinking decline. It is this kind of education system that makes the Pragmatic Dream possible even though it offers no real progress for the masses that bolster it up. Pink Floyd summed it up perfectly: “All in all, we’re just another brick in the wall.” The only way to get us out of the wall is through self-education and through teaching what is learned by that autonomous learning independently, outside of the Pragmatic Dream itself. Such spaces beyond the wall exist and can be found. We are in such a space right now.

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4 thoughts on “PUSHING THE BRICK FROM THE WALL: EDUCATION IN THE PRAGMATIC DREAM

  1. I agree with much – I tend to be an idealist dreamer without much innate pragmatism, and I prefer visionary idealism to the kind of pragmatism that can point toward plutocracy. But is there any wiggle room? Can there be a kind of half-pragmatism that rejects “instant utopia” but seeks to move incrementally toward utopia? Might the half-pragmatist have a point that without compromise you end up with dictatorship, however idealistic the plan? I’m undecided but appreciate your thoughts.

    • For me Utopia is being on the road to Utopia. Utopia is a horizon. We walk towards it but we’ll never reach it. The problem with pragmatism and its fear of Utopias is that we forget the horizon is even there.

      • Fair enough. As I said, I’m by nature more of a naive idealist than a pragmatist myself. Part of my naive idealism might be my view of pragmatists as a diverse bunch, often with varied portions of pragmatism and idealism mixed in … which leaves me willing to form alliances with some (but not all) pragmatists. So I guess in the abstract, I think like you do; in the concrete, I find it messier. I always feel smarter after reading your blog though 🙂

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