Wreckers (2011) – Mondus Vult Decipi

Before Laertes returns to France, his father Polonius sits him down and offers these immortal words of advice:

 This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst then not be false to any man.

These words still resonate today but it is interesting to note that the context of that first line has changed since Shakespeare’s day. When Polonius advised his son to remain frank with himself, it was not because he saw self-deception as inherently wrong but rather because if you bullshit yourself it is difficult not to wind up bullshitting other people. Thus, honesty with one-self was simply a means to the end of greater honesty with other people. However, since Shakespeare’s day, self-deception has moved from tactical error to absolute moral failing. Some even say that the hardest thing in the world is to remain honest with oneself, but what drives the morality of this injunction? Why should we remain honest with ourselves at all times?

Setting aside the somewhat nebulous and melodramatic idea that some truths are simply too hard to bear, self-deception has value in so far as it makes it less likely that people will catch us in a lie. Indeed, if we are trying to convince someone of something we know to be false then our capacity to mislead them is largely a question of skill; we need to be able to minimalise physical tells, keep stories straight in our heads and know when to play down certain elements of the story lest our interlocutor realise that we are trying too hard to convince them. However, if we internalise the fiction then our skill at lying simply ceases to factor into the equation. There are no physical tells to detect because we ourselves believe the story that we are pushing. Based on this analysis, the evolutionary psychologist Robert Trivers has argued that a capacity for self-deception can be a real evolutionary advantage.

The problem with Trivers analysis is that, like many evolutionary psychologists, he not only reduces human nature to a series of tactical cost-benefit analyses, he also assumes that these cost-benefit analyses are made in good faith and with reasonable access to the facts. In other words, when explaining how self-deception works, Trivers assumes that there is such a thing as the self and that the boundary between honesty and deception is both clear and distinct. However, when you remove self-deception from the idealised realm of Homo Economicus and place it in the context of an actual human life, the boundaries around both the self and the truth become a good deal more fluid. D.R. Hood’s first film Wreckers suggests that truth counts for very little when weighed against the many other things that make up a life and that self-deception is really just another term for living a tolerable life.

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You and Your Entire Family Are Full of Shit. You’re Welcome.

Things are a little slow at the moment.  One reason for this is that I’ve decided to work on a slightly longer project that really can’t be placed online until it’s properly finished.  Another reason is that my last review to be published is currently sitting on a hacked website, so I won’t link to it until the thing gets fixed.

In the mean time, I thought I would share a moment of insight that occurred to me courtesy of my daily blog shower.  I use an RSS reader to follow quite a large number of blogs. In fact, up until recently, the number of blogs I followed was downright alarming as I was trying to keep an eye on the ruins of what was once the culturally vibrant literary SF blogosphere. Since giving up on doing the links roundup for Strange Horizons (long story but camels and backs may have been involved) I have replaced my SF feeds with feeds devoted to politics, games, comics and film. A rush of enthusiasm brings RSS subscriptions, the chilly comedown of boredom and practicality brings purges that are positively Stalinist in their brutal efficiency. Anyway, shaped by recurrent waves of expansion and contraction, my collection of RSS feeds is now something of a motley array of disconnected minds. A lot of the blogs I follow are followed for reasons that are no longer quite clear to me. In fact, my RSS feed aggregator tends to blur one RSS feed into another meaning that I simply do not have a handle on many of the individual blogs that I do follow.  One instance of this process of informational alienation is my following of the BBlog.

I suspect that I first started following the BBlog because it contained thoughtful pieces about video games. X months down the line and the site has morphed away from games and towards a form of techy intellectualism that I find particularly compelling. In fact, I currently provide cheap accommodation to a purveyor of precisely that style of writing. Anyway, the reason why I decided to bring up the BBlog is because a recent post genuinely caused me to stop and think about how I relate to the internet.


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