The Myth of the Given

by Vladimir Golstein

Mikhail Lermontov

One of the problems of dealing with establishment, politicians, mass media and their pundits, is that they start with some phony certainties:

  • Serbs committed genocide;
  • Russians grabbed Crimea
  • Putin interfered in US election;
  • He is a killer, who runs autocratic hell.
  • Russian economy is collapsing.
  • US is the most progressive, democratic and fair country on earth.
  • It always has good intentions.
  • People who support Trump are deplorable racists.

And things of that nature. The list can obviously go on.
Paradoxically, the enemies of the hegemonic discourse, have their own certainties. Well, it is given that the world is controlled by Rothschilds, zionists, capitalists, bankers, white men, sexy women and so on.
Why? How? Well, it is given.
Well, for anyone who cared to think about matters of this world, nothing is given. Mass media does not always lie. Russians are not angels, nor are they devils. Same about Americans, Israelis or Ukrainians.
One character in Lermontov claims that the only given thing is that one day he’ll have misfortune of dying. To which another replies:

Well, I am more rich than you are in certainties. I know that one day, I had the misfortune of being born. A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov

These are the only two given facts. The rest is not given. It is a verbal construction based on approximation or induction.
Consequently, people like Dostoevsky, would proclaim mysteries and enigmas on every corner:

Man is a mystery. I want to solve this mystery, even if I have to spend my whole life doing it. Because I want to become a man.

That’s what nineteen-year old Dostoevsky wrote, and he remained true to this goal. Because he wanted to become human. And we become so when trying to solve mysteries, not when we proclaim banalities.
Indeed, there are so many mysteries paradoxes and uncertainties: capitalism or socialism; globalism or localism; the balance of rights and duties, man’s duty to others and to mother earth. Yet, the fools continue to rush where angels fear to tread.
Because it is given.
Obama has lost all credibility when he declared casually:

Well, Russia does not make anything.

Why? Well, everyone in Washington knows it. It is given!
Honestly, Trump will never say anything even approximately that stupid and that insulting.
And that’s given. At least in my world.


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Apr 29, 2018 7:59 PM

The myth of a given is not that one does not exist. The myth is that it can be anything you want it to be.

Dec 18, 2017 2:20 PM

Perhaps what Obama meant was Russia produced nothing anyone else desired to want enough to buy. Except her enormous natural resources. To which the West waits ravenously to feed upon were it not for that pesky gatekeeper, Putin.
The “given” that exists with all Western politicians is that mirage of “materialism” that they paint to lure voters from one party to another each election cycle. “In my presidency, you’ll all have Dyson’s, made in [insert country ]. And free this-n-that ! Support freedom !” etc…..
As others have encouraged you to understand, nothing of any meaningful consequence has changed from the O to the T regimes. The system they both defer to is the capitalist global order. Funnily enough, Putin seeks admission into this club, as a “given”, since Russia is a global power. On his terms. That’s where the beef really is.

Dec 17, 2017 2:10 PM

From Sarte and Buddha, Dostoevsky through to Trump. Such pondering on “givens” is a waste of timè. Trump is a distractor actor for the same power block that has driven the US foreign policy for decades. I know everybody who is salient enough to be reading anything on this site knows every POTUS is a puppet and will have argued that fact at some point. What confounds me is how quickly it is forgotten from issue to issue.

Dec 17, 2017 5:17 PM

candideschmyles, What you choose to give time to, is your choice. But you are not the judge of another’s choice – excepting you project your own rules onto them. So feel free to think you rule the world 😉
Your suggestion of replies here as being in terms of Trump, is a curious conclusion. I thought that the main respondents here were looking at the notion of a ‘given’ as a false basis from which to think or act.
The use of time is perhaps a way in to the choices as to whether to waste and be wasted in diversionary conflicts that ‘carrot and stick’ the mind to persist in, or to uncover what lies beneath – that the diversionary mind is made to keep hidden.
No need to wait for anyone else to get it, to open into the true of what is here.

Dec 19, 2017 4:57 PM

Right on. The power block in which you write of is just a kakistocracy.

Harry Stotle
Harry Stotle
Dec 17, 2017 11:44 AM

What is the take-home message in the OP?
Is ‘given’ meant to signifiy the fact that too many people simply lack political curiosity so take various stories at face value?
I mean it goes without saying various narratives are manipulated in various ways to serve the interests of opposing factions – this came to mind after reading the article

Dec 17, 2017 11:09 AM

This article raises a very valuable point. Very good!
I may add, that this question of “given” had been discussed before and was there discussed – somewhat more focussed – under the following keywords:
1) “The collective denial of the obvious“. On a page that discussed the JFK murder case I found this excellent definition to that: “This “unspeakable,” this hypnotic “collective denial of the obvious,” is sustained by a mass-media whose repeated message is that the truth about such significant events is beyond our grasp, that we will have to drink the waters of uncertainty forever. As for those who don’t, they are relegated to the status of conspiracy nuts“.
2) “A collective unconscious
To that see: https://books.google.at/books?id=GKWvX0baI_cC&pg=PA43&lpg=PA43&dq=%E2%80%9Cunspeakable%E2%80%9D+collective&source=bl&ots=gHoMr5J6Of&sig=ohhqbhBORhOd_qZijkaEBZGQ4iQ&hl=de&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi7gZr26czXAhVM1BoKHYf_AZI4ChDoAQgjMAM#v=onepage&q=%E2%80%9Cunspeakable%E2%80%9D%20collective&f=false

Dec 17, 2017 9:34 AM

Along with the “given” manoeuvre there is the “either/or” manoeuvre which compliments it and which you mentioned i.e. if you don’t subscribe to the first set of givens (Serbs committed genocide, Russians grabbed Crimea etc.) then you MUST subscribe to the second (the world is controlled by Rothschilds, zionists, etc.). There is no other option.

Dec 19, 2017 5:00 PM
Reply to  George

I like your assessment.

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum
Dec 17, 2017 8:33 AM

The only thing ‘given’ is Life.
The only thing worth giving is Love.

Eric Blair
Eric Blair
Dec 17, 2017 6:52 AM

The piece generally is a bit muddled but the forceful Obama vs. Trump conclusion is out of place and downright bizarre. Why is a Russian passionately defending Trump by arguing “He would never use such mean words as Obama!” If we’re talking about, say, Dostoyevsky’s legacy, yes, his words matter. But two American presidents of the early 21st century? Their words mean absolutely NOTHING. Who cares what they SAY…it’s what they do that counts. And as we have seen neither Obama or Trump have the courage to risk going against the establishment. The whole media Trump circus is a diversion, pay no attention to it. As a Russian you ought to be very concerned about the future of your country, which has been marked by the Empire for assimilation (or destruction) regardless of which huckster sits in the Oval Office. Embarrassing supplications to an uncouth and venal capitalist showman/POTUS will… Read more »

James Graham
James Graham
Dec 17, 2017 2:32 AM

To give is a verb. Existential facts, universals or nouns are not verbs (although “exists” denotes a noun and a verb…they do exist). So, when I give you this information the given has to do with what I did…not what the information is in terms of facts, universals or nouns. THEY can’t be verbs or given but that doesn’t stop me doing what I Just did. People often make that mistake. Valid, sufficient or adequate knowledge means you have to make allowances for the agent that produced it, what they did…and their freedom. All words are in order, given or taken….except the word freedom. That said, things take on a very different complexion in the legal context. What do you say to the Sheriff who gives you a sentence of 10 years in jail for a crime you say you did not commit? It’s a myth?

Dec 16, 2017 8:54 PM

People come to some conclusions about certain individuals or entities based on evidence of their prior actions. If they misread the evidence then they will come to the wrong conclusions!

Dec 16, 2017 9:53 PM
Reply to  archie1954

And we interpret every thing through the filter of our mind. So then we ‘hate ourself’ in others. Or idolize others while they serve our agenda. I feel that the wrong conclusion is a ‘given’ or inevitable outcome when the wrong predicate or starting point is acted from as if a given or de facto true.
So while we may find all kinds of judgements and meanings and feelings coming up – they may be a more rich source of feedback to our own otherwise unconscious mind-mapping.
Staying open in the willingness for true may stand in an integrity – but doesn’t need to hate or attack another to seem to have any.

Big B
Big B
Dec 16, 2017 7:16 PM

The myth of the given: is that there is nothing that is given …and therefore nothing to be taken away. The lived experience is not reducible or definable in relation to its so-called ‘birth’: or its so-called ‘death’. In the Buddhist tradition: that which is subject to birth – is also subject to sickness, old age, and decay (death). This is the ultimate commonality of the human condition – which Freud termed “common unhappiness”; or Sartre may have termed “existential angst” – which Buddhists refer to as dukkha. It’s not really a translatable or definable term: to say that all life is suffering is to deny that there is much joy to be had, and much to celebrate. Suffice to say: that because dukkha is caused, and subject to conditions – there is a possible cessation; and a path to that cessation …nothing is ‘given’ …not even the two irreducible… Read more »

Dec 16, 2017 9:46 PM
Reply to  Big B

Giving and receiving are one. But getting and getting rid of – is the self-illusion. Because there is nothing outside You and the wish to get it is the willingness to lose Everything for a ‘world’ in which you lose power by seeking it. So indeed no thing is given, for you are no ‘thing’ and so everything is given to all. This makes no sense in the frame of thinking – but in Theistic terms is the idea that in your (timeless) Creation, is nothing withheld you. Withholding is an action in relation to our brother, our world and our Source-Nature. What we give is our abundance, but abundance of lack is the misery of the getter or hungry ghost. Mind that can weave deceit is also mind that can serve awakening – but the two are mutually exclusive. What we give one we take from the other and… Read more »

Dec 16, 2017 4:05 PM

Existence is the Only given. You can call existence life and say life is the only given. How you define and relate to life and existence is your current experience of perspective. You can define it in the framing of an idea of non-existence or death – but you cannot make a fact of death as your own existence – excepting by identifying in image and form and thus protecting and defending and grieving over loss of what you never really had because you never are the image or form of existence but are the field-awareness in which and of which imaged forms, relationships and resonances arise. If something is ‘too big to fail’ in your invested narrative definition, you will be unwilling to re-negotiate its status or true worth to you – and in that sense will be possessed by that which you would clench upon as your own… Read more »

Dec 16, 2017 3:31 PM

‘Honestly, Trump will never say anything even approximately that stupid and that insulting.’
really? i thought he already had. even so, dont give up on trump. he has shown every indication of being as stupid as obama. i believe in him.

Dec 16, 2017 5:09 PM
Reply to  nomad

“Johnson at once felt himself rouzed; and answered, “Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea …”

Dec 16, 2017 3:01 PM

See also:
„Media, Independent and Mainstream: Fake News and Fake Narratives“: https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/media-independent-and-mainstream-fake-news-and-fake-narratives/