I have earlier made note of what are called plausibility structures. They explain why it is easy to be a Mormon in Salt Lake City, a Muslim in Mecca, and a secularist in an MSNBC newsroom. But let us refrain from applying it to first order beliefs, like religion, and fifth order beliefs, like the notions that those eyewear fashions you wear are even remotely okay, and turn to apply it to second order beliefs, like politics.
Yesterday, I was looking over a magazine rack at a bookstore in Spokane that I like to haunt (Aunties), and happened to thumb through a copy of Adbusters which, shall we say, is off my beaten path. Page after page was gritty rage-against-the-machine stuff, and it was uber-hip, and I felt my consciousness being raised just standing there. Nothing was more apparent than the fact that these guys thought they were being Authentic. They embraced that risible proposition because the editors and readers of this thing inhabit the same plausibility structure. What they all take for granted can be done in a spirit of serenity because nobody who shares their particular cocoon will ever call them on it. Very few people who flip through it will think it as funny as I did.
In the blog world, and sometimes in the comments section of this blog, different plausibility structures collide. This results in what some people call debate, but which is very rarely a real debate. People resort to their plausibility structures for ammo (what they call facts), get up a head of steam, and ram into somebody else with another set of facts. Nobody sinks, usually, but rather they just bob on over to another blog. Sometimes they float back on over. And thus it is that we have the death of argument.
I am not conveniently exempting myself from this understanding of the world. I believe that this reality, if you understand it and trust God in the midst of it, is actually a feature, not a bug. But if you don’t understand what is happening, and you hold to your plausibility structure tenaciously, then that’s what makes you a bigot. If you don’t get what’s happening, but are easy going and all, then that makes you a Styrofoam cup floating down the Grand Ronde.
Trusting God in the midst of it means trusting His Word. And that means that all your fundamental plausibility reinforcements come from His revelation and not from some web site full of damning facts about Israel, US bombing runs, the nefariousness of certain senatorial candidates, and so on. Rather, you build on certain verities — like the fact that lying is bad, and that you can’t accuse somebody else of lying without two or three witnesses.
Recognizing the force and reality of plausibility structures is only relativism if you live in the plausibility structure of a sociology department somewhere. Truth is always worth fighting for, and plausibility structures make the fight necessary.