Journalism, as a tradition, has never been married to wisdom. Journalism may flirt with the playful Lady Sophia once in a while, even offer a respectable proposal in earnest moments. However, it tends to follow home the next it girl or some sophisticated seductress - whoever happens to be wearing the perfume of the day.
Sophistry is a game where the objective is to prevail against the other, to make the soul of the other change while the sophist’s soul remains unchanged. The assumption is antagonism, competition, winning. Journalists, scrambling for bait-and-click content, can never find satisfaction or resolution in an environment based on this relationship with the other. The girls all end up kind of the same - notches on the bed post, conquests while climbing some hill.
There was a time when going “viral” would have meant bad news - if a strutting young cock spent too much time chasing a tall tale, something viral or venereal would take him out of the game. Getting some tail out of the girls working the streets can sometimes take you out of the game, permanently. When chickens come home to roost you can lose your skin in that game. It’s no fun when a virus ends up using you, having its way with you, leaving feel ashamed and dirt and powerless.
Relationships can really test you. Maybe that’s why serious relationships like marriage often come with long-term vows and advice from the wise. And the foundation for things like marriage is not antagonism. Instead, attraction, union, and friendship - finding meaning together rather than against one another.
According to so many memes circulating around social media groups, the real measure of a marriage is whether or not you marry your best friend. We still admire those rare couples that stay together, don’t we? That’s something we still value, something we want for ourselves and our children?
Is the aim of Journalism “to win!”?
Has journalism taught us anything about how to look for and marry and value our best friends?
Or instead, is the role of journalism now to uncover what couples are on the rocks?
When some public figure asks for help, is that a time to contend for victory? What if instead of seeing a competitor in that circumstance, you suddenly realized it was your spouse going through such a test?
Part of an audience may delight in the idea of a human, all too human, media idol looking like a lost puppy while checking in to rehab. Where do you go to overcome prescribed anti-anxiety? Is it any wonder the neurotics fall into neuroticism when public audiences have the hunting senses and feeding frenzies of sharks. Sharks turn on their own in the glee of fresh blood. What are we to think of those who take pleasure in watching things fall apart, get ripped part?
Often enough, new couples get a dog in order to play pretend family a little bit - let’s see if the tests and hardships of responsibility are games they want to play together. The public and the media are kind of like a new couple right now, parading through a shelter, looking for love while gawking at lost souls that are struggling with every kind of suffering imaginable. Do you want a brown one? Maybe a spotted one? Old ones are not cute, so maybe a puppy instead?
Imagine a couple going through a shelter to laugh at those dogs, to feel better only about themselves for not being on this side of the cage, for now, until they decide to break up.
A lost puppy can be an incredibly symbolic illustration of the times. A puppy can test your patience. But a lost puppy is almost always understood as seeking relationship. I’d imagine people working in a rehab clinic would rejoice when someone checks in like a lost puppy. Not antagonistic or blaming or violent. Not trying to score triumphs against the staff. Vulnerable. Seeking a best friend after suffering a hardship.
Jordan Peterson encouraged people with a challenge - What kind of person do you want to be at your parent's funeral? Will you be a burden to others, unable to handle things? Or will you be made of stronger stuff?
It's a good question to keep in mind, because life and death can really test you.
When Peterson checked himself into rehab to manage an addiction to a doctor-prescribed anti-anxiety medication, he gave people a new challenge - What kind of person do you want to be when you check in? When you are exhausted, lost and you submit to your own human limitations, what kind of person will you be when you ask for help?
A lost puppy may illustrate the plain, courageous truth of our times - every dog has a place in the family. Every dog was a puppy once. And more than likely, the suffering of life will make us all puppies again soon enough, in these dark days.
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"Plato insists on differentiating philosophy from sophistry because the former renounces the agonistic relationship between souls characteristic of rhetoric (in which each seeks to prevail over the other) in favour of a relationship in which one soul tests another and itself at the same time. This “test relationship” established by parrhesia, by plain and courageous speech, replaces aristocratic competition (a competition that had to lead, by contrast, to rhetoric) with the natural affinity of friendship. The aim of the true discourse is no longer to win but, through love, to establish a homology between two souls such that both can accede to the same truth: “to agree, to say the same as the other, to mean the same as the other.” The identity of the logos between friends’ souls is here the measure of truth, not the identity of a divine or natural logos. In establishing friendship as the ground of truth and truth as constitutive of friendship, Foucault introduces a division between the will to truth and the will to power that goes much further than his earlier work, where truth-power had seemed inseparable, if not indistinguishable for all that.
"In philosophical friendship the parrhesiast relates to the other not in the political sense of seeking supremacy, but in the ethical sense of the test. By way of the test, namely telling the truth to the other, but also accepting the challenge of truth for oneself, the parrhesiastical pact establishes a measure of equality between the parties in which the will to truth remains irreducible to the will to power. Though there is still struggle, it is struggle for the truth, not by the truth, and it is a struggle that unites, rather than dividing. The parrhesiastic relationship is one in which the truth is put to work not over against the other but for him, and for oneself too. This is the dual structure of care for self, which is also care for others. The test of truth with the other is a collaborative rather than a competitive endeavour because establishing a relationship to the truth is not something that one can do alone. Just as the other requires my challenge, so also I need his. While in rhetoric I seek only to modify the soul of the other (through flattery), philosophical discourse modifies my soul too."
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Special Thanks to these sources. I read them as a cluster together and they inspired me to think through these words and give my dog Millie an extra hug today.
BJ Campbell - Things Jordan Peterson's Rehab Taught me https://medium.com/handwaving-freakoutery/things-jordan-petersons-rehab-taught-me-387376b3fb84
Gideon Baker - Logocentrism? Foucault's late response to Derrida
Newsweek - Tareq Haddad - JORDAN PETERSON CHECKS INTO REHAB FOLLOWING WIFE'S CANCER SCARE: 'HE LOOKS LIKE A LOST PUPPY'
Tom sent me this link and got me thinking. The repetition of the quote from Peterson's daughter, Mikhaila, about "looking like a lost puppy" began the meditation for me.