An Essay Featured in The Map Is Indestructible by O.G. Rose


O.G. Rose
19 min readJul 30, 2023

Collective Consciousness, Shared Intelligibility, and Living Together

Photo by Patrick Tomasso

If we watch a television program about a person who visits Uganda to start an orphanage, when we encounter someone in real life doing the same, we might wonder if the person is going because the person believes it’s the right thing to do, or if the person is going because he or she saw a television program about other people taking the trip. Furthermore, it’s clear by the television program that the person who went to Uganda was honored and respected for “being a good person,” and in order to “be a good person” ourselves, we too may visit Uganda. The television program has “given us a script” which we can follow to “be a good person,” and not only does this help us deal with the existential anxiety wondering if we are in fact a good person, it also gives us a sense of what we can do and accomplish with our life (that will be respected, admired, help make the world a better place, etc.)

“Education is important” — we’ve easily heard this mantra since we were a child in political speeches, round-table discussions, and the like. It’s part of the “social script”: to disagree would be to disagree with a “truth” that carries almost divine authority. From our politicians, news programs, communities, etc., we all learn “education is important,” and, following the “script,” live out, repeat, and defend this belief, perhaps for all our lives (even though we may have hated our school experience). Please note that I don’t mean to imply that education isn’t important: my point is only that, whether it’s true or not, the idea comes to form a “script” which all of us can mysteriously become “actors” reciting. If we miss our line, we do something wrong. Again, this doesn’t mean education is irrelevant: the point is that we mainly come to relate to this idea through a “script,” impeding critical thinking, creativity, and innovation when it comes to education.

We all learn, “You have to eat,” meaning “You have to get a real job,” and following the ‘”script” we plan on attending college and then seeking a job. We learn a “script,” learn to think, plan, and act according to that “script,” and also learn to think disapprovingly of those who don’t follow the “script”: in coming to think of it as “the right thing to do,” those who don’t follow it are “doing something wrong.” And so we disprove of those who don’t follow the “script” not so much because we think we are better than them, but because we care about them and want them to do “what’s right.” And so we venture out to save “the lost sheep” (perhaps helping cement the omnipresence and omnipotence of the “script”), a point which suggests a connection between “scripts” and what Belonging Again referred to as “givens.” That book warned that a loss of “givens” lead to incredible existential anxiety for the majority, but we also see that “givens” generate “scripts” that cause conformity, “thoughtlessness,” and oppression. To “address” the problems of Belonging Again, we shouldn’t simply try to return to the past: we must learn about it to help us negated/sublate “givens” into something like “gifts” — but that is another topic for another time.

The “script” has no direct, material existence: if we don’t attend college and fail to follow the societal “script,” a loud buzzer doesn’t go off and we receive an electric shock until we “get back in line.” However, we do experience indirect social pressures (a pointed question here, a disapproving glance there), all implying that we “did something wrong.” Because according to the “script” (the social standard of right and wrong), we did in fact “do something wrong,” and for us not to try to set the person straight would be arguably “unloving” (for it is unloving not to set a person right). And so the “script,” a metaphysical dimension created dynamically and organically through time, traps citizens in moral quandaries and furthermore restricts thought. To think outside the “script” (to think “education is bad” or “I don’t want to go to college”) is to think “wrongly” (and even “immorally”). This isn’t to say a person shouldn’t attend college or that a person should think education is wrong, but rather that it is problematic when the mere thought of such is met with heavy social resistance, for if we are going to learn how to improve college, education, etc., we must be able to think about its problems and short-comings without such thoughts being labeled “immoral” and met with social resistance. There is a role for ethics, but not in this way.

“Scripts” threaten “thinking outside the box,” for they can be “boxes” in which thought is trapped. If creativity is necessary for a thriving economy (for example), as argued in “The Creative Concord” by O.G. Rose, “scripts” are a threat to our socioeconomic order, even if those “scripts” were dynamically and organically created for the sake of preserving and growing our economy. Furthermore, they are threats to “critical thinking,” democracy, and the capacity of the society to problem-solve, for if problems arise that’s solutions are outside the scope of the “scripts” we create, we will be unable to solve those problems without acting “immorally.” A society that makes problem-solving “immoral” is a society that, if full of “moral people,” will likely collapse. And yet an “immoral society” won’t fare much better — risk and tension lurk.¹


We naturally live our lives learning, speaking, and writing “scripts.” They don’t really exist on pieces of paper, given physical manifestation, so much as they are the “spirits of the ages” ( zeitgeists”) by, in, and through which we live. The “scripts” are immaterial: they exist all around us, and yet they don’t exist at all. They are Foucauldian “high order complexities” which arise without direct intentionality (to allude to “Experience Thinking” by O.G. Rose). They are centerless, uncoordinated, and emergent events that arise from out of the collective without anyone being able to say exactly how. And once “scripts” arise, they are very difficult to remove, for better or for worse.

We read online about how Socialism destroys individual liberty, about how Corporatism is destroying the environment, about how America is in danger…We learn phrases — “Obamacare,” “Occupy Wall Street” — and these phrases entail “scripts” that the citizens learn and then, based on whether they agree with Obamacare, they choose their lines. Those in favor of Universal Healthcare learn to make examples of the Scandinavian nations; those against it learn to reference the long waits in the Soviet Union. Are these arguments valid? Perhaps, but my concern is that, when we debate, we usually debate along the lines of “scripts” we rarely innovate and move beyond (a problem perhaps only worsened by access to the internet and infinite information).

In his talk “How Words Frame Arguments,” Bernard Hankins points out how when people start discussions or debates, there is often already a framework in place into which people are locked. Conversations usually entail a “pre-ground” from out of which the whole discussion “unrolls.” Everyone often knows the “script” which “unrolls,” and if we don’t follow it, we are violating the rules. Hankins argues that “words themselves” entail these frameworks, hence claiming the language and ideas are often one and the same (there isn’t “ideas and language” so much as there is “ideas/language”). Thinking is linguistic as language is thoughtful, and it is the very language of a discussion that orientates thinking about it in such a way that traps the thinking that the discussion is supposed to evolve and inform. Discussions are meant to educate, but because of “scripts,” education is often only repetition.

“Abortion” as a topic (for example) indirectly entails rules and lines that debaters are supposed to (know they should) use and follow. When we hear the word “‘abortion,” we nod (“I know this game and the rules, and I’m in”), as if agreeing to chess. If someone says, “Abortion is wrong,” we are supposed to say, “What about rape and incest?” If someone says, “Abortion is murder,” we are supposed to reply, “It’s a woman’s body.” Whose right and whose wrong is another matter: the point is that the topic entails a “script” we are supposed to follow (without ever making this expectation explicit, please note). We are to be “Pro-Life” or “Pro-Choice,” not “Pro-Life Choice” or “Pro-Choice Life” or something — the discussion entails a preset “grounding” we are supposed to stay on, and consequently the discussion rarely advances.

Wittgenstein coined the notion of “language games,” which is helpful for making our point. Hankins points out that we know the rules of volleyball, and if someone steps out of bounds, everyone sees it. Likewise, there is a box around topics created by language, and if out of bounds, people look at the referee and shout “foul!” At a political rally, if education isn’t mentioned, a person will walk up to the mike and tell the candidate, like a referee, and everyone will nod (perhaps irritated), and the candidate will probably apologize. Because the person at the mike said a buzz word, the person is basically a hero, and everyone feels good about “calling the play” right. Everyone wants to protect “the game” and its framework: if it falls apart, who knows what we’ll do?

Hankins warns that in much of language, there is embedded a “versus” that makes unification and agreement difficult to achieve. Abortion contains a “Pro-Life versus Pro-Choice” dichotomy in the topic itself, and if this “versus” was removed, the entire framework of the discussion could collapse (which many “referees” would be quick to step in and stop). We naturally want to protect “the game” of abortion, Capitalism, free trade, etc., or otherwise everything we believe might be challenged (for if “the game” can be overturned in one area, where else might it be “flipped?”). “The game” saves us from being exposed to possibility and anxiety: the “script” hides what we don’t want to see. Consequently, the “versus” is preserved, which means resolution is likely unachievable (as perhaps we subconsciously want to avoid boredom).

Words frame: they aren’t simply what compose a discussion, but what organize it. They can be the blueprints and the bricks. Words are the aesthetics of ideas, and words structure them. And too often, we don’t even realize it: we’re unaware of what we’re contained within. Consequently, issues aren’t resolved and problems persist (debates can prove more about validating people for knowing “the rules of the game” and saying their lines right). Discussions play within boundaries versus “with” boundaries, and so boundaries are not pushed, let alone crossed — for good and for bad. We would perhaps lose our minds if we had to think everything, but perhaps we need to “lose our minds” every now and then to make sure we keep thinking…

In both senses of the term, words “contain” both meaning and expansion. Before the computer was invented, we couldn’t ask people about Facebook, because they lacked a framework or reference point to grasp what we were saying (we would have basically spoken in a different language). Likewise, words “contain” people within sets of ideas that keep them from even knowing what a computer is, per se, let alone Facebook. Even if we thought about Facebook before the computer, we would have likely never spoken about the topic, recognizing that we wouldn’t be understood. Likewise, even if we thought of ways to “push the boundaries” of the abortion debate, we still likely keep quiet, realizing that others will easily just view us as “violating the rules of the game” — misunderstanding, furious…

We can let our language think for us: it’s safer, in that we don’t risk so much having to reexamine everything we believe. Words contain us, but we can seem gladly contained. Eventually, our language becomes our truth, even if not true or completely true, because if we abandon it, we have to admit we were wrong to “play” within the framework the whole time, and that can make us feels foolish. So we might accept a “(false) truth” rather than start all over again. In a way, to embrace a truth is dangerous, because we can hold onto something that is false even after we know it’s false, just so we don’t have to redo all our work or admit we were fooled. Hence, we can all become locked into “the games” and “scripts” embedded in our language.

Problems are hard to solve when our language about those problems prevents resolution (a new language is needed, and how do we discuss “a new language?”). When we dialogue, we might win or lose, but we won’t evolve, and on that point, we might never converse, only debate. Language fights. We debate so as not to talk, for wandering can occur is talking, and what if we wander outside our “scripts?” Who might we upset? People we love? Being sucked into and stuck in ideology and/or “a language game” then becomes an act of “laying down our life,” of love. Won’t the least be first? Won’t the foolish prove wise?


As there are Pro-Obamacare and Anti-Obamacare “scripts,” Pro-Abortion and Anti-Abortion “scripts,” etc., so there are “scripts” we create for being (or sounding) “bipartisan,” “understanding,” “considerate,” and so on. Conversation can be a process of “social contract” writing and signing. If I say, “Let’s meet at the diner at three” and you agree, we have created and signed a “social contract”: it would now be wrong for you or me to not be at the diner at three except under unlikely, intense, and/or unfortunate circumstances. Thanks to conversation, we have established an ethic. Similarly, if I ask, “How are you?” and you look away without saying a word, you act rudely (even though you perhaps didn’t ask to engage in conversation, there are certain responses that are not right). Conversation is surrounded by rules on how to speak, what constitutes being polite, what would be an appropriate response, and so on. Considering this, it is the nature of language to give rise to “scripts” and/or “board games,” per se, and if thinking itself is like a language (as argued by those like Hankins and Lacan), than it is only natural for us to create “scripts” all around us in countless shapes and forms.

As there are social contracts I create in the act of speaking, there are also larger social contracts that hover over all conversations which arise emergently. I indirectly signify that I am bipartisan if I say, “I know Obama is responsible; however, I think…,” for we agree that a statement that starts with a clause acknowledging something positive about a person the speaker overall disagrees with signifies that the speaker isn’t ideologue. No one sat down and wrote this “social rule” out, but it is one we have emergently created and agreed on (perhaps without evening realizing it). A certain sentence structure comes to signify a willingness to “work across the aisle” (a certain sentence structure comes to be “the right” sentence for politicians to use), and if this structure isn’t used in the context which calls for it, the speaker “loses the game,” per se. But perhaps the politician is only using this structure to make people think he or she is bipartisan? Indeed — that is where the problems begin in our “Age of Cynicism.”

Certain phrases, structures of sentences, and forms of paragraphs come to signify “I’m reasonable,” “I care about you,” “I’m a monster,” “I hate you,” “I feel your pain,” etc. without anyone saying a word to directly establish such. We all come to know that saying, “This isn’t just a debate tactic,” signifies that a person is engaged in a debate tactic; we all come to know, “I’m not just saying this,” means the person might just being saying something that he or she really doesn’t want you to think is meaningless; and so on.² “Scripts” and metaphysical dimensions emergently arise around and under our sentences, statements, and actions without any direct or intentional coordination. We come to accept and embrace them, because frankly we have no choice: they’re like a cage that unstoppably arises around us that we seemingly cannot escape, and the only way to live with our condition seems to be to embrace the cage. Prison is paradise to the lover of prison, at least — should we all be actors now?


Do we privilege cynicism today? If I am cynical, my view can be seen as more reliable, for I face “the real world” on its own terms. The world is dark, and while others look away, I, the cynic, accept reality (my eyes are unclouded by hope). Cynicism has often come to be seen as truth, and in cynicism being privileged, cynicism has been incentivized to grow. Certainly, there is a necessary place for skepticism, but where “skepticism” becomes a simile for “disbelief” and “cynicism” (as described in “The Death of Skepticism”), we have lost the capacity to tell what can help from what can ruin. Furthermore, the cynic can always seem right simply because there is always some degree of inauthenticity somewhere, but actually spotting a “script” alone doesn’t prove inauthenticity, because it is possible for someone to “authentically follow a script.” Yet as “scripts” spread (perhaps in hopes of “filling the hole” left by “givens”), it will be ever-easier for the cynic to point out a “script” which can seem to prove inauthenticity, thus seemingly confirming the insight of the cynic, when really the presence of a “script” doesn’t necessitate this conclusion (but the ease by which many will think it does perhaps will make cynicism alluring for most).

In an “Age of Cynicism” where we are aware of “scripts,” we can come to distrust all “scripts” we encounter, and yet a person who doesn’t follow “scripts” is also rejected (a strange, paradoxical, and pathological state). When we hear a politician talking about “reaching across the aisle,” we might believe “he is just saying that,” yet if he or she didn’t utter that phrase, we would easily accuse the politician of being partisan. If a politician uses a sentence structure that signifies bipartisanship, we tend to believe “the politician is just trying to make us think that he or she isn’t ideologue,” and so the politician is rejected as theatre. We contradict ourselves, which causes a tension and anxiety that we might only escape through totalitarianism and force — as warned about int Belonging Again.

When we hear “scripts”, we easily decide the speaker is inauthentic, and indeed, perhaps the individual is such. But at the same time, the person seemingly has no choice but to speak in line with the “rules” and “games” we have emergently created (otherwise, we call “foul!”). We come to see certain lines as hiding bigotry even though a line may directly state the speaker isn’t a bigot (“I’m not against same-sex marriage, I just think the State should decide”); we come to see certain claims of appreciation as hiding an agenda; and so on. Yet if we didn’t speak these lines that cynicism undermines — if we didn’t follow “scripts” — we’d also face trouble. As discussed by David Foster Wallace in his incredible essay “Up, Simba”, a “black box” encloses all of us, as it encloses me, the writer of this essay: including the example in parenthesis about same-sex marriage could strike the reader as proof that I have sympathies with Conservative views. I too am trapped, for even drawing attention to this dilemma is easily seen as a “trick” to try to hide Conservative sympathies — on and on.


Are all “scripts” bad? It’s not so simple: manners could be called a “script,” as could be “loving your neighbor.” In a sense, all ethics are “scripts,” and certainly many “scripts” help make the world sensible and a better place. “Ethical scripts” for example can help us organize and live our lives in a complex world where it’s often hard to know what to do. “Social scripts” can give us direction: after high school, we know to go to college, then to the workforce, and so on. We often live by learning “scripts” of what we are supposed to do and say, and this is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. We know we are supposed to say, “Education is important” even if we don’t like it, and that could positively help us rethink our relation to learning, but it could also make us think about learning as simply a game to master for the sake of garnering elite credentials. We all know smart people garner credentials to prove it; we all know we’re supposed to get a job, go to college, get married, and so on. These are “scripts” we can live by, possibly for good, but probably not if we eye suspiciously those who don’t live by such “scripts” (for according to the “script,” there is something wrong with them). This is because such judgment would suggest we are not critical of our “scripts,” which means we likely absorb them “thoughtlessly” (in the Hannah Ardent sense of the word). This is to prime ourselves for great error, which is to suggest that the likelihood we use “scripts” well is relative to the degree we are aware of their existence. Doesn’t that threaten to make them ineffective (like “givens”)? Yes, but that risk might be necessary.

Similarly, is it the case that a person who follows a “script” is necessarily inauthentic? Not necessarily, and this brings us to an important point and modern tension: “scripts” make discerning “the real” and “the fake” very difficult, and the more “scripts” there are, the harder discernment becomes. A person who recites what a teacher taught isn’t someone who can necessarily be called “inauthentic”: the person is just putting what he or she learned to good use (and in fact, the person may have been taught to believe that not repeating the lessons would be “wrong”). If we were taught that “x = x,” then to say “x = y” would be “wrong” — lessons become the standard by which the true and the false can be identified. Speaking and acting in line with those lessons might be a sign that a person can’t think for his or her self, or a sign that the person is well-educated — it can rarely be said for sure either way.

Likewise, when a person speaks and acts according to a “script,” it can rarely be said for sure if the person is authentic or inauthentic, critically thinking or “thoughtless.” Within a “script,” a person can be “both” (a Schrödinger’s Cat) — “(in)authentic.” Is there a way to tell? Perhaps if we could inhabit the consciousness of another, but the other themselves might not even know if he or she is authentic, being “thoughtless,” for the genuine and the “scripted” person can sound and act exactly the same, and the more “scripts” spread and become prevalent, the more we realize this even if we can’t put it into words. We are all at least subconsciously aware of “scripts” — it’s a reason why we are in an Age of Cynicism — and though “scripts” have always existed in every society to some degree (with “givens”), the advent of social media has caused an explosive creation and spreading of them (similar to “metamentality,” as discussed in “Metamentality and the Dismodern Age” by O.G. Rose). Now it isn’t just the politician who exists in a paradoxical state of “(in)authenticity,” but all of us (we are all politicians now).


“Scripts” emerge organically and dynamically from the activities of people via trial and error and the seeing of what “sounds right” and works, and once results are in, people gradually organize themselves around these “scripts,” often without any direct coordination. Social media makes the emergence of these dialectical patterns faster, and so accelerates the rate of “script” writing, creation, and signing (in fact, it’s hard to image a “scripted” world like ours emerging where our present technologies are lacking). Ever-faster, ‘we [make] our [scripts], and then our [scripts make] us.’³

What happens when “good” and “right” things are mixed with “scripts?” When say empathy (necessary for “critical thinking”), entrepreneurship (necessary for keeping the economy from collapsing), marriage (pivotal for reducing poverty), and creativity (vital for humanity), all become “scripted?” Well, that is when we would have to believe in one another, and yet we would have every reason not to given the very presence of “scripts.” Could we choose to believe in one another despite “scripts?” Yes, but not without risk (and we are naturally risk-averse). Discernment seems necessary, a kind of critical thinking that can identify when a person is within or outside of a “script” — assuming this is still possible.

According to Baudrillard, “the real is dead,” and where “the real is dead,” the “black box” described by Wallace in “Up, Simba” is present and spreading. Social media and technology, in increasing the rate of creation and spread of “scripts,” devours the spaces in which “the real” can be determined, and the rate at which these spaces are disappearing is much faster than perhaps even our cultivation of the recognition that “the real” is fading away. ‘[I]t is now impossible to isolate the process of the real, or to prove the real.’⁴ According to Baudrillard, our “hyperreal world” is “a copy without an original,” but we need the original to know “the real x” from “the unreal x”; if that standard is gone, “the real” and “the unreal” are mixed like milk and dye. Baudrillard argues that if you were trying to organize a fake holdup in a bank, you’d find yourself unable to succeed: ‘the network of artificial signs will become inextricably mixed up with real element (a policeman will really fire on sight; a client of the bank will faint and die of a heart attack…), in short, you will immediately find yourself once again, without wishing it, in the real, one of whose functions is precisely to devour any attempt at simulation’.⁵ The simulated and the unreal are inextricably mixed: there is no hope to divide them.

A “script” is in what “the real” and “the unreal” lose distinguishability (and even a standard against which it can be said that such distinguishability is even needed), and every day the world arguably becomes more “scripted.” We seemingly need a thinking that can divide the “(in)authentic” back into the “authentic and inauthentic,” but is this kind of thinking possible? Perhaps — The True Isn’t the Rational by O.G. Rose contains a number of essays on thinking and speaking in hopes of at least approaching the kind of thought we need in our “(in)authentic world.” If this kind of thinking is impossible though, we might not be able to tell the bigot from the non-bigot, the friend from the fake, the lover from the manipulator, the authentic from the inauthentic, the meaningful from the meaningless — all will be two-sides of the same coin. We will all be (“blurred”) like Schrödinger’s Cat, as perhaps we already are, stuck in a “black box.” The brain is also a “black box,” containing what we are (always) yet to access, and so “scripts” perhaps make us more like brains, rendering everything understandable and “mapped.” Thinking. Always thinking. “The dream of the enlightenment.” Rational in every possible way. — a head on a pedestal, (un)clearly human.





¹This suggests A need for “Nietzschean Children” who can make “Absolute Choices,” as discussed throughout O.G. Rose.

²All of which might align with a Metamodern take on Postmodernism, please note.

³Allusion to the McLuhan-esq thought of John Culkin.

⁴Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Translated by Sheila Faria Glaser. The University of Michigan Press, 1994: 21.

⁵Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Translated by Sheila Faria Glaser. The University of Michigan Press, 1994: 20.




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O.G. Rose

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