Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My method

A word might be in order on what these musings are. What I like to do is the thought equivalent of experimental sketches. I like to build small parts of large ideas, and see how they fit, and what happens when I move them. As in drawing, sometimes if you move something just a little, one way or the other, the whole form changes.

And as in drawing, I am creating forms--rather, symbolic representations of what I believe to be external realities--which in general I try to formulate in such a way that predictions are possible. This roughly, if not exactly, hews to the scientific method, but as applied to the qualitative dimension of human experience (often, depending on the topic; sometimes things ARE directly measurable).

I do sketch after sketch after sketch, and periodically I "paint" something, which is a distilled argument on some topic or other which aims at both concision and thoroughness, which are two traits that are hard to combine.

The Future

In studying the issue, one hears often how Conservatives look to the past for inspiration, and "Progressives" to the future. On the one hand, on this stereotype, we hear the demand that everything should remain the way it was, or as close to it as possible. We see sentimental evocations of past eras that we have likely not understood at all.

On the other, we hear strident calls for the new and better; for the eliminations of the hatreds and prejudices that informed the past, and the implementation of a new and better human civilization, unchecked by the ignorance of the past.

To me, Liberalism--true Liberalism--is about the freedom to do what you want. In my own case, I recognize the need for shared cultural themes, understandings of what is Good, and symbols we can rally around. At the same time, I recognize that Fundamentalism--of which one could argue many Conservatisms represent types--usually creates a NEW myth, based simply on the structure of a time we have misremembered.

We remember our Founding Fathers as idealists and revolutionaries. They were that. They were also racists, on our own terms, sexists, and elitists.

To me, though, the point is to look at what they were trying to do, what the ideals were upon which they were acting. One can look, too, at their historical context, one in which slavery had until then been a universally accepted phenomenon--Polybius, a Greek slave in Rome, is one of our best resources on the structure of the Roman Republic, upon which our own Constitution is modelled--and in which most ignorant people were in fact deeply and profoundly ignorant.

There is nothing in Liberalism which rejects idealism. Quite the contrary. Conservatism, though, wedded to Liberalism--my own political position, if forced to choose one--is the idea that we need to proceed with caution. That we want to be careful to keep what needs keeping, and that as we move forward some things we have cherished, will be seen to have been actually detrimental.

The role of Goodness, as a concept, is what ties all of this together. I personally like the vision of moving "forward" to something like the Shire or Rivendell in Tolkien's novels. I would like to see the best parts of living in harmony with nature, combined with the best parts of modern technology. I see all of us breaking apart the monolithic media outlets, and an ubiquitous Federal Government. I would like to see this basic model spread over the Earth, with technology used to raise everyone to safety, and the level of wealth they want, consistent with sustainability (which is clearly a propaganda theme, often, but hardly to be faulted in principle).

I do believe global peace is possible without global governance. For the time being, though, we need most to be sheltered from those who claim they can do us the greatest good.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Meaning as primary

It is impossible to set a political philosophy on a firm foundation without deciding first what the point of living is. If you don't know, then you are worse than useless: you are dangerous. To be clear, politics is the art of government. How we are ruled can vary from one extreme--that of a single man or woman who holds us all in his or her power--to another, that of radical anarchy, where everyone governs themselves, which practically is only possible in conditions of very low population density or--theoretically--extremely developed moral sensibilities.

As I have set the problem down, the first existential problem is why you should continue living in the face of difficulty. It is possible to continue living out of habit, but I feel it is very difficult to live HAPPILY without an answer or answers to this that you find congenial. The second problem is, having determined to live, what you should do.

This first set of questions constitute what I call the Meaning system. Every culture has to have one, and for the culture to be coherent as such, the answers need to be shared generally, as interpreted in mildly different ways by different people. Religion, of course, is the paradigmatic Meaning system.

The second set of questions deals with what I call the Truth system. One need not have reasons for doing what one does--indeed, I would argue that virtually every way of living is largely contingent, and that the decision to assume an identity of any sort is more important than the reasoning--but it does help in social settings. How do we agree on what is worth doing, as a group? How do we agree on what is True? Science, of course, is the default answer in our modern world, where Religion was in the past.

Only then do we get to Politics, which deals with the acquisition and disposition of power. I perhaps need a better word than politics, since it comes to us from the Greek polis, and presumes relatively liberal conditions, which of course were not present in the time of the Pharoahs, nor in Maoist China.

Leftism, in many respects, is an answer to Atheism. Leftists seek to find in the collective what they find difficult or impossible to achieve on their own: shared meaning, purpose, shared truth. And it is in the SEEKING of a better world that they find these desirable shelters from what we might term the "Existential Wind". This is important, since for them the Messianic zeal which their committment to a better world provides for them is soteriological: it constitutes their salvation, as good as they expect to get.

For this reason, the idea that other people--the workers, minorities, the environment, colonized nations--might not need them is too horrific to contemplate. They sense that some struggle is needed for happiness in this world, but they have rejected the notions of moral improvement, since all morality resides in biology, not spirit. There is no spirit. Therefore, "improvement" as an individual is impossible; one must look to the species, implicitly, although many would not take the metaphor this far, consciously.

Thus what one gets is the strenuous advocacy of abstractions that impinge on real human lives. From moral and emotional necessity, action is separated from effect.

This is how totalitarianism is built. I want to be clear: Lenin was an actual human being. He got tired, he crapped, he collected mushrooms, he liked to play chess. His words, and the actions of others that flowed from his words, had very real effects on 100's of millions of people, in his own time, and indirectly down to our own time.

We find it difficult to grasp the scope of the suffering that he wrought, but we need to be clear it is what he intended, and he personally oversaw much of it. When the farmers were hiding food, he authorized torture to find it. When they were purging rural communities, he told his Cheka thugs to "get tougher men".

From small ideas are large ideas built. In the case of Leftism, the rejection of standing moral virtue entailed in the rejection of "bourgeois" tradition and morality means, practically, that you do what you are told, and it is right because you were told to do it. It is the logic of the "Vernichtungslagern".

This bon mot is actually stolen from Catholicism, which as Dostoevsky saw did share at times much in common with the darkness of Communism: "error has no rights".

Leftists never evolve their own beliefs systematically, but let me do it for them.

First, life has no inherent meaning. You are born as a biological being whose consciousness is an artifact of biochemical processes whose antecendants stretch back virtually to the beginning of the world. What you think, believe, do: all of these things are determined by your genetics. In large measure, you are a biological robot, programmed for procreation and survival.

You notice, though, as an individual, that the idea of helping others makes you feel good. In one moment you are depressed and listless, then you are on fire with enthusiasm to increase that feeling of being compassionate, and eager to join the fight.

You also feel good being surrounded by likeminded men and women, who are also fighting the good fight. All of you accept the primacy of science as the arbiter of truth, which means that you regard each and every reading of the oracle to be truth incarnate. If the truths vary, you hew to whichever one is most popular.

Politically, you see the power of numbers. You see the power of organization. You recognize, as an Initiate in the Cult of Science, that morality has no higher purpose than the preservation of the species, so morality can be adapted as needed to serve whatever purpose you have in mind.

Practically, as a part of a political group, you are told what to do, and the truths you are given are invariably offered by recognized Initiates, who are either popular experts, or Scientists.

And so you are set in motion. In the past, many such people were claimed as victims of various revolutions. Many rose high in the Parties, and won for themselves little feudal fiefdoms somewhere, complete with serfs and the ability to tax their crops.

But all of this is of a piece. It is a qualitative Gestalt, reached through a process of conscious or unconscious logic, operating on assumptions which for many are too painful to contemplate for too long.

Conservatism is simple. It looks to the past, and uses solutions of proven worth, such as Christianity. Individuals may want to improve the world, but they are not driven by any compulsive need to run from ideas they cannot abide, and cannot escape. Conservatism is stable for this reason. The individuals are stable, and conservative societies are stable.

Liberalism--true Liberalism--is based on the idea that since no final answer to the problems of meaning and truth can be found in this world, that all answers that do not trample on the rights of others are acceptable. It is a logical extension of the doctrine of Christian charity, and our success, as Liberals, has been in large measure due to the sincerity of our religiosity.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Leftist is descriptive; Conservatism/Liberalism is prescriptive

Leftists can tell you about every human tribe and race on the planet. They can describe to you all the marvellous and strange things they do. They can, in a situation requiring choice, describe to you with equinimity all the things you COULD do.

What they don't have the capacity for, though, is moral DECISION. If all moral codes are right, how does one go about picking one? Simple: you don't. You just try to be nice to everyone all the time and hope for the best.

This is yet another place where I really think the atheistic mindset--very prevalent on the Left--shortens perceptual phases, and prevents the emergence of perceptions that are very readily at hand for Conservatives, who in this country can generally be considered as Liberals, where Liberalism is the doctrine that "my business is my business and your business is your business; and the role of the State is to make sure it stays that way."

Leftist are not Liberals because they want to use coercive power to remake society in the image of their personal biases, rather than let people be. Their own myths notwithstanding, most leftists support attacks on religion, absolutely refuse to negotiate on important issues to conservatives like abortion, and in general are only tolerant to the members of their own tribe, which has very uniform ideological beliefs, external, superficial differences notwithstanding.

The movement of people like Jonathan Haidt is that of adding butterflies to a box, without grasping them in any of the human ways which would otherwise be possible.

I myself am a Conservative Liberal. I don't fit into his neat little typology. I address individual problems as they arise, on their merits.

Darwinism and Legos

I actually saw a writer on "evolution" use this analogy, that since the DNA of fruit flies and humans is so similar, that the proteins really did act like virtual Legos, so that the end results of their actions only differ so much in appearance because different things have been built from them.

If we take the logic of Darwinism, you literally could build life from Legos. You would just have to add motion. They have to move, or no one formation could be more adaptive than another, but over some billions of years in a wind chamber--or water--of some sort not only would static structures be built, but living, moving ones.

To be clear, there is no more or less life in Legos than any other form of matter without spirit. You are, on their rendering, literally just the sum--the pile--of your molecules, none of which possess intelligence, or unique specialness individually or as systems.

I don't think I have misrepresented this. I think this is literally and accurately the correct idea, applied to an unfamiliar context. I further think it shows, through exaggeration, the improbability that the DNA sequence is both necessary (clearly it is) and sufficient (which I do not believe).

The loner

The credo of the loner is "I would rather be alone by myself, than alone with others". Now, this is not my motto, personally, but I am close enough to this to see it.

How often in our modern world do we feel alone in a crowd? Was it not to describe this that Riesman (if I'm not mistaken) came up with the phrase "The Lonely Crowd" some fifty years ago?

An acceptable psychotherapy

would involve optimization of nervous system activity, coupled with simple ideas which work to facilitate goal directed motion.

I will expand on this before long. It's a work in progress.

Calm

It seems to me one of our biggest cultural problems is that our "media-industrial complex" conspires to prevent calm. Somewhere, a radio, TV or computer is always on, and always speaking, morning, noon, and night.

Economics

Economies have both qualitative and quantitative aspects. Socialists focus solely the latter. They focus on the reallocation of resources, while ignoring the creativeness that led to the existence of such resources in the first place.

This was Marx's error. Like the Mercantilists he posited finite resources, which meant that as competition led to increasing concentrations of wealth, the number of people with money would constantly decrease until almost all resources were held by almost no one, at which point revolution was "inevitable".

Practically, though--and to the frank disappointment of many intellectuals who derived the meaning in their lives from the contemplation of participating in mass violence--Capitalism does NOT lead to anything but increasing wealth across the board.

This wealth is made possible by the non-material, qualitative factors of creativity, and industriousness in the pursuit of new creation.

I will add that socialism is to society what Marx claimed Capitalism was with respect to the environment: a coercive, abusive force backed ideologically by a narrative justifying such hegemonic pretensions.

I say this often, but one paradigmatic difference between Fascism and Communism is that the former looks out for worlds to conquer, whereas the latter looks first INSIDE, making the civil war the paradigmatic Communist war, only followed upon completion by what we would normally view as Imperialism.

Communist Socialism

For me, this is nothing less than the rejection of any and all human culture that is unmodified by mutable propaganda. I have defined this elsewhere as Cultural Sadeism.

Roles

I think one reason many people seek distractions is that we are conditioned, indirectly, to avoid fully adopting roles: the role of father, of employee, of husband/wife. The basic training is that your goal in life is to fulfill yourself, and since you can never know what lies over the next hill you never commit fully to any understanding of yourself--particularly one which connects in a lasting way with others--you expect to remain fixed.

Yet, this is somewhat maddening, never resting in fixed self conceptions. We need something fixed. I think that is the role of the media: it changes constantly, but it never REALLY changes, qualitatively. You can watch TV your whole life, and never really be altered by it.

You can chase "experience" your whole life--hang gliding, skydiving, travel, sexual conquests--and grow little. I would argue, in fact, that picking a slot for yourself--virtually any slot will do--is THE best path forward, when coupled with awareness.

The Japanese consider an old stone that has gathered moss to be attractive. I tend to agree with them.

I am speaking off the cuff here, but hopefully that makes some sense.

Cultural therapy versus Psychotherapy

I feel many of the psychological problems--so-called ADHD, depression, anxiety--which produce so many pill-popping Americans are best understood as cultural problems. Specifically, how do we interface with one another? How do we support one another?

To use a computer analogy it's like we don't "synch" properly, lacking, as we do, shared understandings of life.

Obviously, any number of sub-communities exist which perform this function in part. If you dress as a Goth, or obsess over NASCAR, or collect butterflies, or whatever, other people do it too.

Churches obviously serve as one source of community. So do the unexamined political habits of Leftism.

Quite often, I think people just need to feel valued, and understood. When men don't get this, they get angry. When women don't get this, they get sad. (in general).

But what you often get is the presenting complaint, which is of course related to how that person interacts with others, but also, I would argue, to the fundamental atomization of our modern society.

I will have more to say on this, but wanted to make a quick note.

The fundamental Conservative question

After all the rain is done falling, after all the wrongs of the world have been righted, after everyone has healthcare funded by someone else, the right to never be offended, the right to force others into silence, and after all the money is gone: what then?

What is left? What will be retained of our social institutions after the radical programs of the Socialists have been implemented? What do they have in Cuba? Their religion is largely gone. Their cultural traditions have been assaulted--likely effectively--for 50 years, and they have learned to live in fear, and alone, not knowing who they can trust in a police state with informers everywhere.

What is left in Britain? The shell of habit, the outer dress of a once important nation, reduced to shambling mediocrity because they know longer know what they believe and why?

Conservatism is based upon the idea of evolution, of taking existing practices and improving them. Leftism is based upon destruction: kill them all (figuratively, as institutions, and literally in the case of complete socialism), and let the State sort them out. If the State doesn't approve--say, of the Russian Orthodox Church, or the Catholic Church--then it will not be replaced. What remnants remain have to be furtive and cautious.

And even in purportedly moderate socialists, one sees this impatience, as with religion in particular. They simply want to do away with it. There is no hint in them of a genuine desire for co-existence. They view themselves as right, and want to wage their wars of cultural imperialism for the purported good of mankind.

Yet, again, what in the end is left? Empty shells. That's what I see.

Wisdom

Henry Hazlitt, in his excellent book "Economics in one lesson", says that the two principle economic errors from which all other derive is failing to take the long term into account, and failing to account for the effects of a given policy on all groups. For example, you can spread the wealth in the short term, and go bankrupt in the long term. You can help one group, but hurt another.

Generalized, these two traits constitute wisdom, or foresight. These words seem antique, because we are surrounded by fools who think only in the short term, and only of themselves.

And many of these fools think anyone who doesn't think like them is foolish. The way you sort this out is by asking them to articulate for you what the effects of their ideas and policies will be on all people, over the long haul. The genuine fools will think you impudent for asking the question, try to change the subject, insult you, then finally lapse into petulant silence.

Silence

As much as I hate to admit it, quite often the most lucid, compelling case you can make for your positions is silence. The simple fact is, many people have NO intention of changing their views, and anything you say can and will be construed in a negative way.

Some of these people will never wake up, ever, in their entire lives. This happens often, although it takes a great deal of determination to keep out all contrary inputs when you are defending the indefensible.

Others, it takes time and events that are unforeseeable, and certainly uncontrollable. There may, some day, come a time when they will listen.

When you become a leftist

You become a leftist when you mistake the words you and your leaders are using for reality. When you believe wholeheartedly that to talk about improving the world necessarily means that the policies you implement will in fact achieve that end.

I would compare it to the scene in "The Nuremburg Trials" when Spencer Tracy's character is speaking with an old judge, who had been complicit in the Nazi regime, and long supported them in the abuse of the judicial system for the eradication of political opponents.

The judge, played by Gregory Peck, if memory serves, asks Tracy: "How could I have known it would lead to this? To all this slaughter and destruction?" To which Tracy replies: "you knew the first time you sentenced an innocent man".

Likewise, the first time you fail to consider the effects of your policy on all people, and across time--the first time you fail to learn from the mistakes of the past--you show your LACK of genuine humanity and compassion, and your consuming desire to surrender your freedom to the automatism of a cult.

That is when liberals become leftists; and most self declared "liberals" are in fact leftists. That is my default presumption, and most of the time prolonged dialogues prove me right. They can't defend themselves, which means they rejected the need for understanding long ago.

The childlike mind

One feature of thought I encounter everywhere on the internet is the childlike mind. This is the mind that is incapable of wrestling with serious problems seriously. What I have found is it is quite literally impossible to communicate with such minds until they are ready. You can't say "you have a childlike mind", since they literally have no means by which to understand that statement. You have used words which they literally don't understand.

The pervasive point and result of the social propaganda within which are children are immersed from very young ages in this country is to reject traditional social norms of God, family and country. It is to reject, a priori, any suffering which you do not choose, which is not furthering your pleasure and sense of well-being, and particularly which appeals to tradition. It is to cultivate narcissists, while inculcating within them the firm conceit that they are idealists. All you have to, really, to be a narcissistic idealist is talk big ideas, and let other people handle the details; people like those who originated the propaganda in the first place.

To be serious, to be an adult, you have not just to look to your personal pleasure: you have to commit yourself to the well-being of all, and do so in such a way that you are not being led by the nose to the "slaughter" of uniform mediocrity, comfort in a cage, and passive acquiesence in the oppression of others, provided that the pro forma ritual is done of condemning them as "haters" first.

True Liberalism is based upon the concept of personal responsibility, which means response-ability not just for your own interests, but for those of your family, community, and nation.

Atheism v. Agnosticism

I have argued often that scepticism is equidistance both from belief and disbelief. It is, in my view, the optimal "setting" by means of which to learn.

Vis a vis the question of the existence of God, I believe Agnosticism--literally, "I don't know"--to be the most reasonable stance. To be an A-theist, one must be a positive believer in the doctrine of "No God". The claim that, if there is no evidence for something, that it doesn't exist, is simply intellectual incompetence. We had no evidence for quarks, prior to what I assume we can accurately label their "discovery". (I have never seen one, so I have to take other peoples word for it, as is the case with most science). Yet, they existed.

The primary problem with the stance, the position of atheism is that it limits your perceptual horizons. It tends to limit you qualitatively, in my experience, in terms of your capacity to imbibe deeper qualitatively realities. I have said this often, but the hard edges of its knife seem often to sever the ties of poetry and the myths that bind us; both, after all, are on their rendering evolutionary artifacts whose only real "value" is that they facilitated survial and reproduction at some point in the distant past.

Reality is what we perceive, and what we perceive is seen through ideational filters. If our goal truly is to understand "reality", then we would logically want filters as wide as we can make them. We would want to EXPERIENCE first, the EXPLAIN second. The alternative is to only experience what you already know you can explain, which is something very like a negative hallucination, which is where you DON'T see things that, by consensus among others, actually is there.

And of course when we speak of God, we mean many things. We mean some sort of non-physical connection between ourselves and the rest of the univese. We mean that our acts in this life matter in some way in a future life. We mean that there is some right way to live, and by contrast, ways in which we were not meant to live. It is forgotten now, but even the concept of natural "laws" partakes of a sort of assumption we get from the concept of God: that of an ordered and knowable universe.

And practically, when you look at the actual evidence in favor of things like the survival of death, or the existence of perceptual capacities beyond materialistic explanation, there are signs and hints of something larger.

Let me be clear: the Zeus knock-off we see so often mocked by dogmatic atheists is not the same as a belief in God. To the extent, actually, that the God concept has merit, it is beyond description. It is the field within which all matter and life exists, and which harmonizes and connects it; this is God's intelligence--our forms, our consciousness.

A principle value of mine is perception, and it is, on my rendering and in my personal view, a sin to do less than we are able to understand the universe in which we live.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Basics

It seems to me good thoughts are simple, and relaxed. They are things like "I should go help Bill take in that crop, since his wife is sick".

Evil thoughts are always filled with tension--latent or overt--and fear. Doing evil--inflicting pain--is the only real release from them, and is always temporary and short in extent.

In the first case, your actions start from a place of peace, and grow from there. In the second, your actions start from a place of fear, which you are trying to escape. But you never can, since the means used make you even more afraid and alone.

Goodness is what remains when everything else is taken from you. To return to an example from a few posts ago, if you wake up somewhere, with no memory, not knowing where you are, what will remain is what is important in you. And as I have argued, the Rejection of Self Pity, Perseverence, and the sincere desire to understand are the three values which always lead, over time, to Goodness.

Existential philosphers start from the same point I do: radical freedom. Verworfenheit. Either the absence or unknowability of God.

Where they err, though, is in not positing what the most basic, helpful decisions are that you can make. If you are free, then logically why not act in such a way as to maximize the BENEFITS of that freedom? Why dilate on the freedom itself, while rejecting all common sense solutions to the anxiety that freedom engenders? Why focus on problems and not solutions?

The obvious answer is that most "professional" thinkers were never engaged in trying to DO anything. Sartre made his peace quickly and effortlessly with the Nazis (after being interned for a time not for doing anything daring, but for getting drafted), then forever after criticized others for not doing more. He was a little shit in every possible way.

Most Existentialists wound up as political radicals, typically (and hypocritically) as Communists. Communism gave them a cult to belong to that did not require God. They were able to subordinate their freedom, while claiming to be authentic. This is A solution, just not a good solution. Quite the contrary. I have in mind in particular Sartre and de Beauvoir (who subordinated herself to Sartre as well), who did so much to advance the cause of Communist Imperialism.

I am a fan of Albert Camus for the simple reason that he outgrew this, since in my view he genuinely wanted to be a good person. Over time, my strong feeling is that his politics would have moved in a genuinely liberal direction, had he had not died prematurely.

Political Psychology

It seems to me a fundamental aspect of the conditioning that surrounds school-grown leftists is teaching that the world is a dangerous place, and that Democrats or Socialists have the solutions. You cultivate generalized anxiety, first, then say you have the solution.

Now this anxiety is first about the idea that someone, somewhere, may be imperfectly clothed or fed. This is, of course, always the case. You talk about nuclear weapons in ways which ignore their role in preventing war, and only discuss the fact that if they were used, terrible things would happen. You talk about how some people are rich, and others are poor. You ignore how this comes to be, or what the historical consequences of trying to change this have been, or what the process has been by which they won the time to worry about things like that.

You have Pollution, of which the Global Warming fraud is just the most obvious example. You can even add the idea that other countries don't like us. We aren't hip.

Through pervasive generalities like this, you cultivate a climate of dissatisfaction, of discontentment, that you are careful never to counter-balance with positive narratives about the accomplishments of America, our history of at least trying to guide our behavior with principles, and of course proposed, concrete solutions to the problems.

Solutions, that is to say, which are not implemented by the government. What you will be taught is that those who say they want to solve these problems are to be trusted; and those who say they will resolve themselves, don't exist in the first place (global warming), or can best be solved at the State and local level, are not to be trusted.

Democrats, then, are the ones who are trying to fix the world. Anyone who opposes them (Republicans) is of course evil for that reason. This is the propaganda meme in place.

That this argument is fallacious would only become obvious to someone who evolved past being a generic person, which in our Nanny State is decreasingly common.

Risk

I was watching a little kid at the playground yesterday. His dad was smoking and reading quite a ways away, and he was climbing a sort of enclosed tube of plastic sleeve covered chains. He was only about 3 or so.

He slipped and fell some 4', landing flat on his back on the wood chip playground floor. I thought he would cry, but he got right back up, mumbling to himself something that no doubt would been something like "THAT wasn't what I was trying to do" if I could have understood him, and went right back up, very slowly since he was barely able to walk.

Now, my first impulse was to run over there and see if he was OK. But I wasn't his parent, and he got right back up in any event. HAD I run over there, I wonder if he would have started crying. I have noticed that when they get hurt, little kids often only start crying in earnest when they see the reactions of the parents around them. It is the social context that tells them what to do.

Moving forward in time, two kids got into a fight today at my kids school. One of them, still in primary school, has already learned that he has "Anger Management Issues", which we will label the disease of AMI. His parents, apparently, are getting divorced--so he has more excuses than some kids--but he has apparently always had this problem. He sees the school social worker regularly for talks. If he isn't already, he will no doubt be on meds of some sort soon.

I think it is worth comparing what seems to have been the mindset 100 years ago, with now. With the moralistic culture, and the psychotherapeutic culture.

100 years ago, you had a soul. You had a destiny as a Christian. When you encountered trouble, you were expected to deal with it. You had, in most cases, a stronger supportive culture, both in terms of regularly receiving moral advice, and in terms of supportive people, particularly in the church and local family; but combined with those were clear expectations that as both a man and a woman that you live with courage, loyalty, and persistence.

Manifestly, organic brain disturbances do happen. Back then, people no doubt sometimes broke and lost their sanity, or capacity to cope. Apparently locking the proverbial crazy uncle in the basement did happen. No doubt things like child molestation, wife beating, and simple cruelty were more common as well, simply because they had nothing like the social system we have now, in which many more options exist for escape than existed then.

The default, though, was a hard life, and the expectation you grow a thick enough skin to deal with it.

Today, the default is mothering. When something bad happens to you, half a dozen people will ask you if you are alright. We have made a thing out of difficulty by psychologizing it. Facing and overcoming pain has become not a necessary and inevitable part of life, but an aberration, a mistake somehow in what is trying to be an all-encompassing system of safety, and nurturing.

I don't think it is possible to become a complete human being without difficulty. Many people see this, and that is the motivation of things like Adventure Racing, sky-diving, rock climbing, motocross, and even snowboarding. Pain is what makes you grow. A child that is nursed perfectly by those around it all its life will never become an adult. You need pain.

Thus, while not romantizing the past, I would say that my grandparents were better positioned to live happily than we are, despite the manifestly much larger physical and financial struggles which they regularly faced. Empirically, rates of clinical depression have risen steadily AS WE BECOME SAFER AND MORE PROSPEROUS. This would be the opposite of what we would expect, if Nanny States generated happier people.

Clearly, I don't want to go back to the past. What I want to do is think about how we make more demands on our kids, such that they react in creative and personally fulfilling ways.

This little kids next trick, by the way, was to climb a much more difficult, open structure. I stood close to him, in case he fell, but he didn't. He made it to the top.

Healthcare Reform?

What has actually been passed is a Health Insurance Mandate, not healthcare reform.

What we have now is a system in which care is provided for which the patient often can't pay.

What we are moving towards is the system in use in many other nations, in which you can afford to pay for care which frequently isn't available. To the extent this is reform, it is re-forming in a retrogressive way, away from optimal health practices, and towards healthcare rationing. If you add to this the fact that it will increase costs, and increase the size and power of the government, you have a monumentally stupid policy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Identity

This is a very interesting topic, since a moral sense and identity are indistinguishable, practically. You are what you choose to do, and why you choose to do it.

Most modern students have undergone the basic indoctrination process whereby you are taught that we are a seething vat of negative emotions--all tinged with sexuality and aggression--and that civilization is at best a facade, and that "honesty" consists in the frank expression of more primitive impulses. Sexual activity becomes almost a sort of ersatz morality.

Typically, what is tied to this--in the ideationally amorphous blob that is modern Political Correctness--is a sort of Romantic understanding of the state of nature, before the sorts of values that Conservatives like to talk about were in play. Surely, the argument goes, only social dysfunctions like Capitalism and Christianity prevent all of us from getting along and spending all our time humping and dancing around fires.

Thus, we can see easily how being a hippie, free love pot smoker dovetails nicely into an anti-Conservative outlook, in a cultural way. What I want to emphasize here, though, is that Freudian notions of the Unconscious enable a pseudoscientific patina to be laid over this, so that Conservatism becomes not just a different viewpoint, but definitionally stupid and anti-scientific.

Added to this periodically are "findings" by evolutionary biologists that we are in fact "adapted" for compassion, or altruism, or religious sentiment. None of these "findings', of course, do more than restate that our internal experiences of altruism, compassion, and religious sentiment are now scientifically acceptable, as if men and women of courage needed to be told any of those things.

Freud, it should be remembered, was simply taking the logic of Darwinian natural selection to its logical conclusion, in positing our fundamental drive as sex--which is the procreative drive--and a fundamental amorality as our nature, outside of the imperative of generating offspring to perpetuate our genetic material, which is who "we" really are.

Thus, the contents of consciousness, for practitioners of the intellectually very wrong, very dull doctrine of Scientism, are irrelevant until they can "derive" them biologically. Yet, our best minds in Physics--which has become owner of the domain of what is really real for us advanced moderns--believe that what we see in front of us, the universe and everything in it, cannot be understood without Consciousness, making consciousness the CAUSE of what the evolutionary biologists find, rather than consciousness being an artifact solely of material processes.

They ignore this finding not just consistently, but apparently intentionally. This is a travesty, since their doctrine is a lens through which life is viewed, and it is a doctrine that rejects free will and the possibility of surviving death. Thus we get unpleasant ideas, sold by huxters, and received by those who have been initiated into the Cult of the Expert, guiding all too many of our policies and social institutions.

In my own view, what most characterizes us as both individuals and cultures is not the universality of bestial desires, but rather the restraints we choose with respect to our most primitive impulses. This is your actual identity. You are not a beast that speaks and plans, but a human individual who has moved past being a slave to instincts not foreign to the lowest creatures on earth.

This is a very old idea: that who you are is best shown in the moral choices you make. Now, we are fed a steady diet of the outlying cases, and demonstrable failures of moral codes shown in hypocrisy and mental illness. The simple fact is, though, that a very great many people have done decent jobs at being decent people, following simple moral codes, and THAT IS WHAT WAS REAL ABOUT THEM.

I am a dinosaur, I know, but I choose to believe others are feeling the same way.

Truth

A primary facet of a genuinely liberal society is that Truth, per se, is negotiable. In fact, negotiation is the primary tool for reaching consensus on what is true in any given context. Obviously, science--as a means for sharing objective truths--is a powerful tool for reaching agreement, but the fact of the matter is it can't speak to our internal lives. The sense of self is not an object. Awareness is not an object. Science can't speak to what constitutes a life well lived, except perhaps by figuring out who lives happily, and copying them. But this is what computers do.

The alternative to negotiated agreement is imposition. I distinguish four cultural orders. In Liberalism, as stated, truth is approximated in dialogue. In Sacrificial orders, it is inherited and imposed. Heretics are burnt or exiled. In Sybaritic Leftism, theoretically you negotiate, but the process is easily abused: since they believe that all people are fundamentally good, they have no means by which to block people who do not compromise. All you need to do to get your way is insist on it, and call anyone who objects hateful. This is the problem the Scandinavians, Dutch, and others are having with Islamists. Nothing in their make-up disposes them to fight for principles.

In Cultural Sadeism, of course, there is no truth. Your relative truth will always be what you are told, but it is subject to change. The only objective truth is the relation you have with the State, that of object being acted upon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why do the right thing?

The following is pretty basic to my philosophy--which if it isn't obvious is my own creative reaction to challenges in my own life--but I wanted to make it clear.

One of the principle challenges we face in life is the formation of an identity. This is made harder in conditions of constant flux, which reject the past, don't plan the future, and whose constant noise and distortions make clear thinking and feeling of ANY sort difficult. Our TV's and computers are our shrines; we talk to others through them, and are talked to; and everyone lives in a cave in isolation from their neighbors. This is all too often the case, in any event.

You "form" yourself by choosing principles: things you believe in. By establishing what you will and will not do, you create a shelter from constant change and the anxiety of never knowing who you are. It is a form of protection. Now, the exact content matters much less than the fact that you CHOSE them. They may be the same as what your parents chose, but you own them when you consciously recognize them as claim them.

What this shelter allows is greater clarity with respect to the world, and greater capacity for enjoying the countless small moments in life when calm emerges, and you can breathe easily.

I choose to believe in an after-life--nothing in modern conceptions of reality precludes it, and careful examination of the large quantity of actual evidence permits an intelligent person to conclude in favor of its likelihood--but what I believe applies equally to someone who does not. I have tried hard to scale my ideas in this way.

"Sin" is the process by which you renounce parts of yourself, in exchange for some momentary convenience or pleasure. You renounce yourself when you violate your own core principles. Even if you have never made them explicitly clear to yourself, you have them (unless you are a sociopath), and you KNOW when you violate them. You can choose to ignore the promptings of your better angels, but the system will always have been disturbed.

If you do anything but mourn your sin, and atone for it, you have altered yourself qualitatively. You have renounced a part of the identity and following simplicity that formed who you were. This increases your confusion, and makes telling the truth more difficult, until you confront the reality of your own sin.

This has nothing at all to do with Heaven and Hell, or external moral codes: the codes that interest me, and which matter, are the codes all of us AS INDIVIDUALS have adopted.

My personal belief is that there is no real difference between this life and the next, EXCEPT that you can no longer lie to yourself in the next. All your shortcomings, and self acknowledged failings will fill you, and you will no longer be able to push them away, or disown them. This is a type of hell, because when you internalize a sin, you cut some part of yourself off from humanity, and are correspondingly isolated not just from others, but from Beauty.

This may sound like so much BS, but I'm quite sincere in this. I choose to carry on in the face of difficulty not because I am particularly strong, but because my perception is keen that to do otherwise is to create MORE suffering for myself than whatever momentary challenge is facing me every could, no matter how bad it is.

Hopefully that is clear. If not, I will do better the next time.

Panic?

I keep getting emails about the "end of America". Philosophically, I am in full agreement that we have become something less than the responsible, virtuous human beings which the Liberal doctrine that informed the creation of our Republic anticipated. We are clearly degraded, having surrendered large parts of our freedom at regular intervals since at least the 1930's. We fail to see this, since our schools teach our children there is no right and wrong, and virtue something war-mongers and hypocrites talk about. All our kids need to do, they are told, is never render an opinion that offends ANYONE, and that is all the virtue they need.

Clearly, these are real problems. At the same time, none of these disasters will happen in the next year or two. To some extent, I support the rhetoric, because to spur action you need to spur a sense of urgency. At the same time, we need to remain calm, and THINK.

Who DO we want to be? What is our goal? How do we overcome the complacency and incompetence of our formerly Mainstream Media?

This battle has been a long time coming, and will be a long time in winning. This is not a time for running around shooting our guns in the air. It is a time for planning, then patiently and consistently acting, and not stopping until we win, or can no longer move.

Brain Programming

The logic of the thought of men like Ray Kurzweil is that, since the brain is a computer, that the contents of our minds can be decoded, copied, and reinstalled into a more durable structure than the organic one within which we evolved.

If we move on to the "Matrix", new skills can be downloaded, and any experience you can imagine is possible, in utter and complete safety. You need never fear death, and your power for experience is unlimited. Many people, including--if I'm not mistaken--Bill Gates, admire Ray for the daring of his ideas, and are of course cautiously sanguine that they can live long enough to see what I believe he calls the Singularity, when man the biological machine becomes man the durable machine.

This is the optimistic side of things. The shadow side of this is asking the simple question: if skills can be downloaded, why not ideas? Why could some person or group not take control of the process and make of all of us their playthings? Let us posit, for the sake of argument, that the intent was outwardly and rhetorically benign, as in Mao's China, where brainwashing (food deprivation; carefully directed peer pressure; exhausting work; and constant slogan chanting) was purportedly for the "liberation" of the person under the thrall of Capitalistic and Imperialistic ideas.

Upon what basis would ANYONE decide who other people should be? When you look at the field of evolutionary biology, what one sees is a reckless disregard for the consequences of and direction of their work. Their basic position seems to be that morality is a product of evolution, even though phenomenologically it is quite clearly presented as moral postulates, which are discussed in groups. If we are discussing ourselves, there is no "out there". What we are doing, even if their ideas are correct, IS the product of evolution, and they are doing it incompetently.

There is, moreover, this subtle and barely detectable sadism latent in their proclaiming from the tops of the University buildings the LABORATORY death of God. They know these ideas are unpleasant to most people, but they don't care. For THEM, for the scientists, these ideas animate and drive them. They can act on them. They can grow through them, intellectually. It is a fascinating puzzle, to be solved.

For everyone else, though, it is an ontological, existential problem, dumped without further ado in their laps, on the way to the next conference or book signing.

Structurally, this is comparable to the obvious point that Socialism is a solution to the problem of Meaning FOR INTELLECTUALS. They are the revolutionaries--the professionals that Lenin insisted must lead all revolutions--but they are never the workers. And they don't actually solve problems for anyone but THEMSELVES. They acquire, through their cultish political devotion, a reason for living, but are unable to offer it to anyone else. This point escapes them, though, in their narcissistic Abstractionism.

The Buddhists, who arguably put together the most clever philosophy in the public history of humankind, considered time, space, and Self to all be discontinuous. Take time and self: what if you woke up somewhere you had never been, and forgot who you were? Who are you then? Simple: you are who you decide to become. This is the real "you".

I offer up three core principles: the Rejection of Self Pity, Persistence, and the systematic and principled quest for understanding. These things can be transported to all places and all circumstances. You need have no name for God--in my view, God is everywhere, and everywhere knowable.

We need to understand that the inner and outer life of man both matter. The doctrine of Scientism rejects the former, while its adherents short-sightedly claim they are Humanists of one sort another. At a minimum, that they are NOT engaged in something that will damage humanity, and which will probably help it, somewhere down the road.

As our problems become larger and larger, we seem to be getting dumber and less wise. This need not continue, but one must first recognize the pattern to be able to fight it. We live in a world of fog and zombies right now.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Integration

I played Ultimate (frisbee) tonight. Our team had white shirts, and the other black shirts. Ultimate is a pretty loose sport, where there are no ref's (calls are made by players, and negotiated), and tonight they forgot to even time the first half. We took our best guess.

When it came time to choose our team names for the evening, the one black player on our team suggested "the KKK". The captain chimed in and decided on White Power. The black team (who won, by the way, by 1 point) was the MLK, Jr.s, which they changed to Team X, after Malcolm.

Now, had he had the slightest sense that any of us was racist, this name would have bothered him, but he didn't (I presume). It seems to me that individuals, interacting with one another, tend over time, out of common decency, to reach accomodations with one another. It is possible to demonize people you don't know, but quite hard to hate people you do know.

Social change of this sort is gradual, as people feel one another out, slowly realize that the other group is not evil incarnate, then realize they have all the same fears, problems, and hopes that everyone else does. This is the attribute of social movement that I consider to be a type of "self organizing system".

There is no way to rush this process. It seems to me that the Civil War and Reconstruction set the cause of black equality back several generations. Clearly, EVERYONE, pretty much, in the nation was racist back then. Lincoln was racist. Many abolitionists were racist. Northerners and Southerners were both racist.

For their part, Southerners looked (in theory, which of course did not apply when horny slave owners were sneaking into slave quarters, as Jefferson apparently did; or when cruel men used their power to inflict pain on their slaves simply because they could) to their slaves as parents do their children. They feared their slaves--likely for good reason--but also did often express, in apparently sincere terms, affection for them. It seems to me that--given ideological and economic justification--they could have found their way to integrating their blacks much sooner than the 1960's.

It is of course impossible to say what would have happened had, say, the Crittendon Compromise been adopted--or the conflict confined to the secession of South Carolina--and the Civil War averted, but it is quite clear that--in losing--the honor of Southern men was deeply offended. Since they were raised from birth to value honor above all else, this created a culture of resentment, anger, and vindictiveness. I was not alive back then, and have not read extensively in the literature, so this is based solely on psychology, but it seems not unlikely that the KKK was born of something like the impulse men at the bottom of a social hierarchy feel when they come home and kick their dogs, or beat their wives. Shit flows downhill, as the saying goes. They lost their honor--they were overrun by carpetbaggers and Yankees--but since they were at least still superior to the blacks, the maintenance of that hierarchy became for them something like a religious and sacred act. Outwardly, it was justified as such, but I think hatred and anger were the real motivations, which I do not think they always were.

You cannot mandate feelings. You can enact psychologically inept laws, which are then resented; conversely, you can create situations in which the natural tendency of human beings to recognize our collective plight--as perishable beings struggling for survival here, and salvation in the hereafter--is fostered and supported.

Affirmative Action is based on the idea that since we can't know when racism affected a hiring or promotion decision, that we will discriminate proactively. The effect of it is to create a system which can be gamed, which is understood by everyone. It does nothing to further racial harmony, and no doubt quite often sparks latent hostility and lingering racism which is unnecessary.

There is nothing positive about racism. As Jefferson (admittedly hypocritically; he was apparently making a confession of some sort) argued, slavery is not just unfair to the slaves, but morally corrupting to the slave-holders. In precisely the same way, the systematic assignment of a uniform group of negative traits to a heterogeneous group of people is a type of violence not just to Truth, but to your capacity for common decency. As such, it is awful, and to be shunned.

Always, always, always, though, the question is: how can we reach our goals most quickly and most harmoniously? Slow tactics, that don't work well are not to be favored over slow tactics that DO work well, or fast tactics that make things worse, even if our emotions demand it. Improving the world requires wisdom, and the capacity for patience, when that is the trait that will best help you achieve your long term aim.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Obama as actor

I was standing in the liquor store the other day, and heard a very dramatic monologue on the TV, and turned to see what was on. A handsome actor, with a masculine deep voice, was delivering some sort of ultimatum to someone. He sounded sincere, gruff, no nonsense. His facial expressions were appropriate to the part, and he had considerable gravitas.

Yet, he was an actor. That part may have been written five minutes before filming started. He may have been making it up as he went along, since he had no doubt been filming soaps for quite some time. He knew how he was supposed to look. He knew how he was supposed to sound. And yet, he may have been flamboyantly gay, like Rock Hudson, and had frequent tickle parties at his Malibu home, like that ridiculous Representative from New York, whatever his name was.

Obama, it seems to me, is like this. He is an actor. He is acting the role of President of the United States. He know how he is supposed to sound. He knows the demeanor that is suitable, and how to frame his words. He knows he is supposed to use soaring but generic rhetoric; and of course the overwhelming bulk of the time--if his handlers have any say at all--everything he says is scripted, just as was the case with this soap opera star.

It is a virtual certainty that he had help with his first book "Dreams from my father". According to a source which is likely Michelle Obama, Bill Ayers was his ghost writer. Leaving aside the significance of that name (the claim, by the way, was made in an authorized biography, by a reputable biographer), let us simply combine that with the clear fact that he was an academic from 1992 to 2004 at the University of Chicago, and never published ONE scholarly paper. The record is quite literally spotless. He left no marks, other than his two books.

He was elected President of the Harvard Law Review, but, again, no records of his writing exist.

Is not the most reasonable supposition that we have elected a soap opera star, smart enough to play the role, but not smart enough to actually be who he pretends to be?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bits and pieces on Propaganda--1

The method of propaganda is to feed your existing biases, then redirect them in the desired direction. Pace, then lead, as the Neurolinguistic Programming folks put it. Propagandists appeal to the affective element of your personality, while convincing you--the target-- that the cognitive, rational element is irrelevant, and unimportant.

When you see the claim that "liberals" are governed by emotion, this is the actual reason. They are dupes of effective propaganda. This happens everywhere of course, but is more common on the Left for the simple reason that their policies don't work, so they need to be sold on levels other than the rational.

This does not make Conservatives rational per se, but what I have found is that I can defend conservative ideas, and cannot begin to defend Leftist ideas. There is a middle, but that middle ends when rational dialogue ends.

Socialism and Imperialism

Socialism and Imperialism are the same thing. In the latter, you take over countries and impose your will. The Romans mostly left people alone; the British wanted to make them over to Christianity. In the former, you in effect "invade" your own nation, seeking accomodations by force.

The difference is this: in Socialism, you commoditize human beings. They must do what you as the owner of the State say. In Imperialism, people are free to do what they want, provided only that they pay your taxes and don't object publicly to your rule. There is no overweaning concern with the views of individuals, as such, like there is in Socialism.

The logic of Socialism is the logic of the worst type of Capitalism, in which you just want people to be drones. The Chinese, currently, use actual slaves, almost certainly. You just condemn people as "enemies of the State", then put them in a prison, where they now work for free. There is no Bill of Rights, or other legal document, which would slow in the slightest anyone who wanted to do that. You could even simply arrest people to increase your head count, then count on them as slaves, being--as they would be--custodians of the State.

Marxism

Marxism is based on a purportedly scientific narrative that describes the relationship of capital with labor, that says nothing about agrarian economies. Since all his city dwelling corevolutionaries were killed, Mao had to change the doctrine. In so doing, he negated the whole of actual Marxism. This demonstrates that he was not fulfiling a historical necessity, so much as using History as a rhetorical rationalization to implement his OWN policies.

Skillful propaganda, of the sort both Lenin and Mao used--when you get people hooked--is like a drug, where people want to be told what to do. Once this is in place, if your story--say class warfare--doesn't work out, you change the story, so that people can be led in circles for lifetimes. For the people following, you can consistently generate feelings of usefulness and goodness, since they are doing what they are told, and part of the story they are told is that your doctrine partakes in some essential way in "goodness".

Leftism really does have many of the structural attributes of a cult, in which people are turned into simulacra of human beings. Whatever you say, they do, without question.

Marxist have this idea of History. They say "History dictates that we do x, y, and z". This occupied the place in a propagandized populace of God. What History says, is like what God says. You can neither deny it, nor oppose it. It is, you are told, a factual reality, denying which makes you a lunatic.

Once you do this you can rationalize anything. History dictated our own Manifest Destiny. The real, actual process is simple: decide what you want to do, then base it on some non-material, unaccountable force.

Conservatism

The interesting thing about Conservatism is that both the Federalists AND the Democratic-Republicans can be viewed, from different angles, as having represented conservatism.

In some respects, Conservatism bears a resemblance to religious fundamentalism. You look back to the supposed "good old days", and reject proposed innovations on that basis. The Federalists were looking back to their heritage as Englishmen, and a strong executive was simply an analogue of a King and Parliament (that consisted solely of aristocrats).

The Democratic-Republicans (called simply "Republicans" most of the time back then; this was the Party Jefferson founded) were looking back to an age before strong kings, when feudal lords and farmers ruled the countryside without interference from outside their small realms. One could even take this back, perhaps, to the Germans (Goths, if you will). The less government, the better. One later Republican--John Randolph--went as far as to say that the best legislature is that one which spends all their time sleeping, and that government best that governs not at all.

The interesting thing about Fundamentalism, is that they are almost invariably looking back to an era that never actually existed. They are looking back to a period when people articulated principles which they held, in theory, but which--being human--they frequently failed to actually follow. Jefferson's anti-slavery rhetoric is so compelling one could easily forget he owned slaves his whole life.

Fundamentalism, then, is actually a sort of cultural creativity which capitalizes its legitimacy by appealing to a mythical past, which can consist of whatever most suits the case you are trying to make.

I find this unsatisfying. Can we not look back, see what SHOULD have been the case--understand what we would want, today, to be the case--and pursue it, without lying to ourselves? Can we not take the PRINCIPLES they articulated, and define them anew, in our current context, knowing we are equally likely to fail, but in new and better ways?

This is what I like to call Liberalism. I see nothing at all with trying to improve the world. In fact, I view that as our job. We simply have to be smart about it, and this includes circumspection, study, and gradualism. These, themselves, are conservative values, but the intent, I would argue, is what the Liberals (when I say this I mean Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others of their temperament) had in mind.

Slavery

Well, as I suspected might happen, I have now run into another version of events than that described by Bevin Alexander, a few posts earlier.

Listening to The Teaching Company's History of Conservatism, he points out that while the profitability of slavery was declining, that a doctrine of the inherent MORALITY of slavery had come into being. On this account, slave-holders were not just people living off the forced labor of others, but rather agents of moral elevation, and paternalistic guardianship.

Remember, now, that the absolutely overwhelming majority of Southerners held no slaves at all. Those who did were the equivalent to the Captains of Industry in our own time. Figure out what the nicest, priciest part of your city is, and that is where they lived. Quite literally, they believed themselves to be aristocrats of the British variety, and held not just black people, but most white people around them in contempt.

This contempt was expressed in a fundamental conceit that their role in life was to take care of their "inferiors". In the British formulation this was the "White Man's Burden".

Here is the interesting part: they argued that because people are not born equal, that some are meant to rule. Now, socialists reject this, of course. They hold, rather, that all people are born equal and--here is the kicker--it is the role of the STATE to MAKE them equal, by "hatchet, ax, and saw", as that Canadian philosopher Neil Peart put it.

You have, on the one side, the People. These are the ones you are trying to help. You help them by making them equal. You make sure no awful nasty rich people live off the backs of others.

On the other side, you have the State. The State doesn't really "exist", per se. It is sort of like God; it guides through an innate wisdom, that far surpasses that of "the people", and thus SAVES them from all the terrible things that would happen but for the guidance of the State.

And who runs the State? The intellectuals, the modern slave-holding aristocrats. Socialism, pushed to the limit, is the political process of turning the world into plantation owners and slaves--literally, in the case of Cuba.

When you reject Reason, you reject peace, and you reject justice. If you watch carefully, this is the invariant pattern.

Few Bon Mots

When people no longer have prices, they are assigned numbers.

When the right to private property is lost, people become property.

The Leftist creed is actually "Speak power to truth".

When you do something you don't want to do, because it needs to be done, you are practicing courage. Running into a burning building or field of fire is but a short step away. Daily habits matter.

The price of success is failure.

Action precedes affect.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Units of Morality, Consumption, and Perception.

Religious people view the person as a unit of morality--specifically moral conformity; socialists view the individual as a unit of consumption and work. I want to make the individual a unit of perception. There is nothing lasting in what you do, other than the qualitative Gestalt it impels. If you sin--however you define it for yourself--then you have to atone it through correcting the problem or mourning your loss of your past innocence, and trying to recreate it through resurrecting yourself back up to the type of person you were before you "fell" or better. The alternative is to suppress it through self deception, which in turn decreases your ability to understand the world as it is. The rejection of morality, itself, is a type of self deception, in that I don't think any of us can simultaneously live as social beings, and reject morality (except sociopaths, who are arguably not truly social beings at all). You have to play games and tell lies to yourself. This creates internal emotional and intellectual barriers that conflict with the free play of emotion, and all the spontaneous joy and creativity that go with it.

For the same reason Socialists reject formal morality, they also fail perceptually, in that the whole project arises from perceptual errors, that are followed by self deceptive rationalizations. It is simply not possible to create a just society, that is not comprised of just individuals, and to the extent you make individual virtue tangential to the project (remember, the intent is to remedy differences, many of which arise as a direct result of the fact that some people are smarter, more industrious, luckier, or more honest than others), you will fail to create a social order whose units are moral.

Take the example of formal Communism. You implement it, and people resist it. They see no reason to share the fruit of their hard work with others without adequate recompense. They see no reason to work hard in factories without adequate food or pay. So you use force--mass arrests, deportations, and executions--to change society, then rationalize it as having been necessary. Then it still doesn't work because people still don't believe in it, so you use brainwashing and other forms of psychological manipulation. Maoism--built on the practical experiences of the Soviets--is in large measure a study of the careful use of propaganda and horizontal peer-to-peer social coercion.

The more force you use--which includes violence to the truth--the more you crush the possibility of individual perception and goodness, and the less likely you are to build a dynamically just society: a good society. What you get is an atomized mess that only operates when the Commissars are out with whips, and then only temporarily. This is the "we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us" phenomena.

These things have formal, cognitive roots which can be traced.

Grab bag

Dogmatic, proselytizing atheists want to focus on the negatives of religion, because why would you think about the positive aspects of something you've rejected? Their task, as they see it, is not a balanced assessment, but destruction.

Any group of people that will abuse language for the sake of power, or will suffer violence to language and truth, are capable of actual violence. This is the significance of the AGW phenomena, in that it is not just a perversion of science, but of principle, and once you've lost your compass, anything is possible. If you will lie once, you will lie twice. If you will accept power you have not earned once, you will do it twice.

All perception should be understood as a sort of momentary art, that has to be destroyed almost immediately. I like the analogy of the Tibetan's use of butter and sand for art that is created, displayed, and then ceremonially destroyed. No static formulation of Truth can ever reach, in the abstract, the full demands of practical necessity. Logically, this rule itself would admit of exceptions, but in so doing validate itself. Think that three times fast.

It is interesting to note that Social Darwinism was apparently a key component in later British Imperialism, although it was cloaked in the outwardly benign doctrine of the paternalistic "White Man's Burden". We forget, now, but Britain as a matter of historical record once presided over the largest empire ever created in human history. They had Canada, Australia, much of Africa, India (now, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh), possessions in the Caribbean, and de facto control of much of China. That list is no doubt less than complete.

One part of that imperialism whose history I found particularly interesting was that, having conquered Bengal in eastern India, they used that land to grow opium, which they then sold to the Chinese. When the Chinese banned opium sales, and started confiscating their crops, the British invaded China, and quickly forced her to terms. This invasion was by regular British Army and Navy forces, who were acting for the explicit benefit of official drug dealers. History is an interesting thing.

I'm reading a book which makes the following arguments. I have not fully validated them, but the premises are interesting. According to the author (whose name I forget), the primary reason that the Civil War moved forward was that Lincoln, first, ordered Virginia and North Carolina to invade South Carolina, and secondly refused to adopt the Crittendon Compromise, which would have allowed slavery in New Mexico, but otherwise prohibited it anywhere it didn't already exist.

In considering slavery, it needs to be noted that for most Southerners slavery wasn't profitable, and would likely have passed away due to economic factors alone. It is cold-hearted to put it this bluntly, but you can't lay off slaves when economic conditions decline. All moral issues aside, most plantations--despite the fact that they "owned" their laborers--did not do well financially. Jefferson, a tobacco farmer, never seems to have had a profitable year in his entire life.

Arguably, the Civil War set back the process of racial equality, in that the sheer destruction of the war hardened existing prejudices into the active hatreds we saw in the formation of the KKK. Lincoln was a master orator and man of principle, but the question can be asked: did he, in the end, accomplish the greatest good with the resources he had? He did preserve the Union, but there may well have been other methods that would have done the same. You have to be judged by what you actually did, not what you were trying to do. The question is not saying whether Lincoln was good or not, but to understand what happened, so we can learn and make better decisions now.

I looked it up (I actually made these notes a month or so ago). The book was "How America got it right", by Bevin Alexander. He proposed we would have been much more intelligent had we recognized the market forces pointing to an end of slavery, and simply used U.S. Treasury funds to buy the freedom of the slaves at a suitable point. Since they were defined as property, and property rights were protected under the Constitution, that would been simultaneosly the most prudential and most Constitutional remedy. This could have been done very early in our history.

He makes this interesting point: "In 1860 just 10 percent of white southerners owned any slaves, and only 4% owned ten or more." In effect, the main opposition to the emancipation of the slaves arose from a small group of aristocrats. The rest of the South fought, in the end, because their homes had been invaded.

He also said this: "In 1830. . .a Southern planter had to invest $750 to produce the same revenue that a factory owner gained by investing a dollar. This disparity became all the greater with the extension of the railroads in the 1840's. If slavery had been voted out, plantation owners would have diverted their resources from agriculture to industry, the South would have industrialized at the same pace as the North, and the Southern aristocracy would have disappeared in short order."

There is a point between war and appeasement where principled self assertive patience pays dividends. The roots of the "War between the States" went back at least to the Revolutionary War. I do not feel the end outcome warranted the deaths of 650,000 men, and the destruction of American cities and countrysides, and the generalized poverty and associated crime that follow all wars. This will always remain a complex topic, and it is of course never possible to state with certainty what the outcome would in the end have been, had other paths been chosen.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Habits

Thinking about the idea of building space within a habit. All of us have certain things we need to do. All of us have the daily task of organizing our activity. How does one integrate spontaneity within a recurring activity?

It seems to me this is, first of all, the task of a sacral order. The Catholic Church, for example, recognizes different types of time. There is Ordinary Time, and what I think they call Holy Time; certainly there are Holy Days (whence holiday).

On some level there is an element of sacrifice in a formal order. If I have a role--as a husband, or father, or son--then my time is not fully my own. Ritual and socially assigned responsibility is itself is a sort of trap. But is it not possible to free yourself?

Habit, it seems to me, need not be habit. Every day is different. Every moment of time in every day has the potential to open up to unique and wonderful perceptions and insights. It is quite possible to be spontaneously happy mopping the floor, or picking up dog poop.

To simply go through the motions is to be dead, but there are still some things you have to do. The simple fact is that if you are alive, you are not in a rut; you can't be, since every day is new.

It does seem to me, though, that few people do this, and quite often I think people perceive anyone who doesn't follow a fixed path--the joker chasing the butterfly--to be a dunce.

These are not original ideas--Buddhism, for example, includes mindfulness as a basic part of its program--but the word I want to emphasize is SPACE. How do you create space within a confined place? That is the question I want to answer.

It has to do with what you do with your perception. For me, it seems to help to physically relax, slow down, and breathe, all of which are very old ideas.

Why, I wonder, aren't we taught them in our schools?

Since this is my blog, I am going to think out loud for a moment, too: why are our young people not taught to expect to inhabit a role--a space--as adults? Since this is a liberal society, they can choose that role, but in our larger social order, they need to take a place, for our society as a whole to continue thriving (if it is thriving, culturally, which is another question).

It seems to me what our young are implicitly taught is that adult responsibilities can be postponed at least into their late 20 or even 30's; and some postpone them indefinitely. Should colleges not be much more serious places?

Why are fun and responsibility necessarily construed as opposites? It is the result of the doctrine that roles are NECESSARILY confining, which makes adopting the mantle of responsibility something that is done reluctantly, and in the spirit of a dog having to come inside, after having had its run outside. This is stupid. It is unwise. And it leads almost inevitably to unnecessary sadness and resentment.

Can philosophers do research?

It seems to me that the model of the German research university--that you have to do original research on some topic to earn your Ph.D--is not applicable, and often harmful, when it comes to the Humanities. What we see so often is silly ideas like postmodernism applied to old texts, just so that someone can study Mark Twain and still get their degree.

It seems to me that liberal arts, broadly construed, ought to foster coherent thinking, broad knowledge, and common sense morality. To the extent that people are applying some sort of Positivistic understanding to our culture, they are CREATING culture, and not doing a good job of it, if we measure it by the caliber of thinking being fostered in our graduates.

Far more helpful would be simply maintaining existing knowledge--for example, reading Shakespeare as human beings living in a world that is often strange--rather than trying to apply the same sorts of analytical methods that scientists use.

To be clear, progress itself is virtually impossible to define for most academics, outside of the drumbeats signalling their desire for all of us to abolish our individual differences in favor of a content free tolerance and political submission into a collectivist ideology.

Where, in our modern world, can one find something comparable to the Lincoln-Douglas debates? You are either in or out, and the two never meet. This is anti-liberal education.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The effects of intellectual relativism

I go out of my way to find places where contentious topics are being discussed, and there to stake out a clear position, which I then defend. This makes me stronger as a thinker, and VERY often leads me in new directions in my thinking. I highly encourage it, and anyone who isn't doing this often is not reaching their potential; not even close.

A common pattern I see is the argument that I am wrong because I am not in the middle. This is offered with no substantive comment on my own views, or a demonstrated understanding of the opposing position. One can offer this comment without even reading or understanding anything of the issues involved.

This argument itself--the fabled "the truth lies somewhere in the middle"--is an argument that can be used on itself. Upon what basis can I not argue that the middle of THAT argument would necessarily lead us to conclude that sometimes the truth does NOT lie in the middle?

Or take this statement: "All valid truths admit exceptions." If this is true, then sometimes there ARE truths which do NOT admit exceptions.

The point of discourse is to examine individual, discrete situations and problems. Always, always, always philosophy has to have to do with solving concrete problems. That is how I define it, so that truth--my truth, obviously--admits of no exceptions; it is tautological.

But this claim can, itself, be criticized, do you see? So often, I see the argument that my opponents do not need to take a position, since the position "the truth lies in the middle" is sufficient. But that, itself, is a position, which they DON'T defend. If you are talking, you can't not take a position. You can say "I have no position", which is fine and honest, and if that is true, genuine learning, communication, and progress can happen. That is still a position, though.

What is taught in our supposedly higher centers of education is that tolerance is a universal necessity--it is the only virtue beyond question--and the "truth in the middle" position is integral to that. Yet, if you are merely parroting it, you are not thinking.

The essence of a genuinely liberal society, one in which both ideological and cultural diversity are valued, is negotiation. It is where the parties themselves come into a parley, each with a position, and each of whom walks away having offered up some compromise, but without giving up who they are and what they value completely. Practically, the truth DOES often lie in the middle, but to reject a priori the possibility of truths which are absolute in their context--given the evaluational criteria in place--is to reject rationality altogether.

I will add that there is a reductio ad absurdum here. If I sit at a table--say in Petrograd in 1919 or so--and argue that 10 million class criminals should be murdered, and someone else says that none should die, the truth is not that 5 million should die. And in point of fact, setting out radical positions is a common negotiating technique among people whose chief aim is getting as much of their way as possible, while pretending to be reasonable. You simply ask for 2-3 times whatever it is you want, then settle for what you want, and maybe a bit more.

People without moral compass, or organizing principles are virtually defenseless against this tactic. Indeed, if your only belief is that the truth is in the middle, you will get screwed every time.