Friday, April 30, 2010

Definition of Propaganda

I may have already said this, but I think the simplest, most useful definition of propaganda is the substitution of labels for dialogue. If you call someone stupid, or a right winger (or left winger), and think that constitutes a full argument, then you are engaging in polemical rhetoric, which for my purposes is a type of propaganda.

The intent is to create two groups: one which is "in", and by extension one which includes everyone who does not assent to the labels. Political correctness, as an example, is not a doctrine which permits argument. You either accept the "facts" that judging others is always wrong, that minorities cannot ever be disparaged, and that whatever your friends are angry about is something you MUST be angry about too. If you don't do this, you are one of "them".

The purpose of integration propaganda is to make you smug, and the purpose of agitation propaganda is to make you angry and/or resentful.

In the former case, you are told that within your group resides all the goodwill, generosity, intelligence, and every other desirable trait imaginable. Those outside your group are therefore the converse of all of this: they are hateful, selfish, stupid and all the bad stuff.

In the latter case (and obviously the two are connected, but sometimes you want people to sit down and shut up, and sometimes you want them terrorizing people in the street), your task is to portray the "good people" as under attack by the hated others, and to use the energies of anger, self defense, and resentment at the UNFAIRNESS of it all to mobilize people into whatever pathway best suits you politically.

Hoarding

Thinking out loud again. It seems to me the only way you can get deflation is through hoarding. Even money kept in banks is invested, since they have to invest to stay in business. Of course, if they loan the money, and it is lost, then it is gone, too. You have, say, a house that has been built, and the workers and suppliers paid. You lose, there, the excess the bank expected to make, resulting in the loss of the bank. Yet, the excess was retained by those who were paid, so the money is still there.

But if you put money in a mattress, it is out of circulation. This causes a decrease in money, which causes a decrease in prices, which over time causes a decrease in inventories, and an eventual loss of jobs.

In trying to figure out the Depression, you have to figure out where the money went. There may be a simple answer to this. One obvious answer is that the high tax rates Roosevelt charged on investment income, and on income for the rich in general, caused them to in effect put the money in mattresses.

If you have money, though, you also get good deals in deflationary times, so it would be worth finding out who, if anyone, benefited from the Depression, other than the Statist Democrats. What wealth transfer happened, if it did? Perhaps one could argue that wealth was transferred, permanently, from the private sector to the government.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Continuing

Imagine a table. I put something--say a Chinese teacup--on one side. On the other I put a dollar bill. Now, I have five possible operations: I can add a teacup, I can add a dollar, I can add a teacup AND a dollar, I can take the dollar off the table, and I can take the teacup off the table.

The first case is deflation. I can now buy MORE with the same money. Provided everyone has money, this is a good thing. [Edit: actually, increases in productivity through innovation enable the same thing. This is how wealth is actually generated. You buy more with the same amount of money. This is a work in progress, where I am thinking out loud, and I don't always think out loud "smartly", but over time I calibrate]

The second case is inflation. I can now buy the same thing, but at higher cost, than I could before. This is bad.

The third case is called "growth", so that we carry on as before, but at higher prices. Practically, this never happens in conditions of technical innovation, making scenario one slightly more relevant.

The fourth and fifth cases are related. In Communism, of course, profit is banned. Soviet Russia, for example, made selling things for any amount of money beyond what it cost to produce them illegal.

[Edit: This is perhaps where deflation goes, too, in that if there is no money to chase existing goods, the goods also disappear; this is the problem of liquidity that did so much to cause the Great Depression].

Thus, we now produce, without selling. The correllary is number five, in which we stop producing, and the table is now empty. This is, in effect, how the famines that beset substantially all Communist regimes happened.

(edit: could one call Communism "deflationary"? Money, obviously, is out of circulation. Is it the role of money to foster liquidity? Is the primary value of money over direct barter not the speed and ease of movement? I think this is getting close to the case)

This is, in my view, not a bad heuristic. Still, maybe I will improve on it tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Money

Is money not worth what the market says it is, in a free market? If so, when money is "created" by a governnment, can this be anything but inflationary? Money was already there. It had a value, which meant that you could buy x, y and z with some quantity of it.

Bundles of freshly minted bills arrive in a bank. They are now more eager to make loans, since they now have more money. Since they are more willing to make loans, they offer discounts, which puts more money in circulation. Since people can get money more easily, they are willing to pay more for what they want, which in turn causes merchants to raise their prices.

How could this happen if money were never created? I don't think it could.

I don't think there is ever any advantage to the expansion of money supply. What we want to grow are goods and services, at the same prices. This is true wealth.

Who benefits from inflation? Bankers? If the economy is growing--which is normally, effectively, to say inflation is growing at x rate--if you can loan money at x+20%, then even though the value of the dollar is decreasing, your actual purchasing power is increasing faster than that.

The foregoing may or may not be right. I need to read more, and ponder more. This is at least a two cigar problem, once I have more data.

TV and Self

William James, in his excellent "Principles of Psychology", discusses the work of Janet and others in hypnosis. A very interesting finding is that we seem to have multiple "selves". For example, someone may have lost all feeling in their hands, and consciously feel nothing. Yet, you can touch the hand, and get it to write "I felt that."

As James puts it: "It is . . . to no 'automatism' in the mechanical sense that such acts are due: a self presides over them, a split-off, limited,and buried, but yet a fully conscious self."

We have, empirically--at least some of us--multiple, aware selves. I wonder, in this regard, if we have a TV self, and a normal self. Certainly, there is ample evidence for something called "state dependent learning", in which, for example, a drunk can do things drunk they can't when sober. One example I saw was of an alcoholic helicopter pilot who had, in effect, to relearn to fly when he gave up drinking.

If you look at the prominence of the TV in most homes, it is the altar. It is where we direct our attention, for hours of every day. How does it affect us? Do we acquire one type of sense of self while watching TV, which then disconnects when we move on?

How is it that pscyhologically normal people CHOOSE to watch the most grisly, macabre scenes for hours every day? Is it perhaps not the case that some part of them is NOT psychologically normal, and that this is not obvious since that deficiency is in some respect state dependent?

I think that is an interesting question.

Creation

I typed a long post this morning, and Microsoft, apparently, did a forced reboot without warning to process some updates, so I lost it all. I wasn't upset, though. From past experiences of that sort, I know that whatever I follow up with will be better, or at least different, taking me into new territory.

And so it has happened. I locked down an idea that was inchoate, which will be in the following post.

Never copy yourself. Never look to what you have done and thought as a guide to what you should do and think in the future. If the principles guiding you then were solid, then moving forward you will recreate something very similar, but also in the process incorporate the possibility of unexpected innovation.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wealth

This is just me thinking out loud, but could we think of money, per se, as limited, but the potential wealth it can buy as unlimited, with "wealth" proper being necessarily the result of innovation? It is industrialization--mechanization and specialization of labor--that has brought us such an increase in our standard of living. Through inflation, clearly, the cost of a ham sandwich has gone from, say, a nickel 80 years ago to $2.50 or more (depending on where you eat). We say that wealth has been created in that period, but have we really done anything but revalue our money? Would we not be just as wealthy paying a nickel for that sandwich and feeling rich on $20,000 a year? Is our real wealth not due to more efficient allocation of labor and resources made possible by better technologies?

The truest measure of economic growth--and this is the point made by Henry Hazlitt, in his book "Economics in one lesson"--is how much we can buy with our money, not how much money we can make. We see Unions whining that wages are stagnant. This is a stupid complaint, since it is not wages but purchasing power that matters; and clearly, cheap labor in China and Mexico and elsewhere has enabled us to own much more than we otherwise would have been able to. They enable cheap TV's, computers, digital appliances, and many other things. My cordless drill was made in China. Had it been made here, it would have likely cost twice as much. That money, once spent, would not then have been available for me to have several nice meals, and Home Depot would not have realized any profit had I not bought it at all.

On this reading Capitalism, per se, is not an engine for wealth creation, per se, but of innovation. Having innovated, it is merely the most efficient system for the translation of an idea into reality. It does not lay down unnecessary barriers, whereas all other systems do.

Actually, I looked up Gross Domestic Product, and it is just an aggregate of the prices charged for everything. Likewise, inflation is measured by the Consumer Price Index, which is just a list of items, where they look at changes in pricing.

How, I wonder, would you measure the rate of increase in CAPABILITIES? For example, there would be no way for the CPI to show that for the price of one type of old TV, you can now buy a flat screen TV. For the cost of one type of car, you can now get On-Star, or backing up cameras, and other features.

And how do you measure things that are NOT commodities? For example, cordless drills? What if one day you couldn't afford it, and now you can? Prices on those sorts of things are constantly dropping, but we don't see negative inflation.

I have my morning routine to take care of, but the larger point I am working towards is a more general examination of the Federal Reserve. Does it serve primarily as an agent of inflation? This is pretty out there speculation, and I may well back off that statement, but more research is needed on my part.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Illiberalism

I have been working on a piece on Socialism. If you study history, you have empires, where people physically take other peoples stuff by force. They are followed, in the West, by Mercantilism, which is basically economic extortion, backed by military force. Crown favorites are given monopolies; subject populations are told what they can buy and sell, and to whom.

Capitalism plainly favors those with money, but as a system which sponsors and rewards innovation, capital can take the form of ideas, that cost nothing.

In what we might term the Robber Capitalist period, the government was used to prohibit strikes and organization by workers. This is contrary to the doctrine of free trade, which permits workers to create what amounts to a counter-corporation to balance the possibilty of collusive practice on the part of business owners.

But plainly, the balance was in favor of those with money.

Socialism inverts this, by favoring workers, at the expense of Capital. Since those with money are those who create things, and workers those who consume them, this system is very poor at wealth creation.

In the middle is what I call Liberalism, which has as its goal the maximum amount of freedom possible. Practically, of course, this means that some liberties have to be curtailed--such as the freedom to murder or commit other crimes--because their use constitutes an abuse of others.

In the realm of economic activity, it means contracts are enforced, violence is banned between all economic entities--especially between labor and capital, broadly understood--and trusts both of Capital and Labor are prohibited. Trusts are de facto power accumulation, and are thus anti-competitive, even though individual companies like AT&T might be innovative. Had AT&T not been broken up, one wonders if the internet would have evolved as it has. I don't see how it could have. Much of what drove our bandwidth explosion was competition.

Always, the fear is that of accumulated power. In our Constitution, the Federal Goverment is balanced by the States. The executive is balanced by Congress and the Supreme Court. No one balances the Supreme Court, which is a problem. The right to gun ownership balances the prospective abuse of police power (only criminals have guns in Mexico, and many of the criminals are cops).

Any straying from this basic idea is Illiberal. Fascism is illiberal. Communism is illiberal. Mercantilism is Illiberal.

I wanted to find a word that encompassed all these realities. This might be it, and I might change my mind.

Names

It is my increasing sense that as you get older, your name matters less. I don't mean that identity ceases to be important, but that it is less necessary to view the world through a prism; rather, you can see it as it is, without comment.

Clearly, doing evil is bad, and being the victim of evil is often bad, but not necessarily. It can facilitate growth. Yet, in both cases, what is seen is motion, in a direction. If you can move in one direction, you can equally choose to move in another. Nothing is fixed.

So much of life is beyond our control. We can tell people the truth, and be ignored, or misunderstood. We can be ignorant, and think we are wise. The extent of what one can do, really do, is really quite small, which is why care should be taken in such areas--I have in mind here families and work--above all others.

Who are you, in the end, when a fall day transfixes you, and you disappear for a moment? I read an author once I respected greatly who set it as his goal to "die" daily--to lose his old name--and be reborn every morning. I've always liked that, even if I have fallen far, far short of practicing it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Identifying Propaganda

The simplest means by which to differentiate propaganda and dialogue is to ask this question: are you discussing ideas? This is dialogue.

Propaganda is the process by which all purported interactions take the form of discussing people, or the discussion itself. For example, reducing debate to labelling (You are a right-winger, therefore I have nothing left to say to you). This is absolutely the rejection of debate and dialogue. It is proclaiming a unbridgeable chasm between that person and someone else thereby identified as an ideological "Other", and hence eligible for hatred and derision, regardless of the content of their speech.

Alternatively, you often see the discussion of the discussion. Can you make general claims about black people? Mexicans? Leftists? Can you say "leftists usually are. . ."?

Self evidently, in their concern about "essentializing the Other", Leftists will fall all over themselves to reject such discussion. Except when the topic is right wingers or Christians. Then it's all good.

These sorts of blatant, repeated, Grand Canyon-esque (all intellectuals need to work -esque into things; I'm told it makes you look smart) gaps of logic characterize propaganda, which is really nothing but the substitution of mutable emotion for mutable reason.

Go to any message board and watch the discussion. You will see conservative propaganda, too, but in general most of the name-calling and "discussion of the discussion" (DoD) will come from one side of the aisle, and one side only.

Psychotherapists

I commented to someone the other day, jokingly, that maybe we need to start a movement for normal people to go see psychotherapists to help the THERAPISTS become normal. As things stand, they seem to derive enormous satisfaction from relationships in which they are the parent, and the clients children.

In this context, a great many of them offer up ideas which are as farcial as they are damaging: for example, that benefit attends a thorough investigation of the past. As we have all likely personally experienced, this leads in many if not most cases to grown men and women blaming their current behavior on things that happened decades ago. Of course, indulging peoples innate capacity for playing the role of victim will always be profitable in such a context. Business success, in this field, often implies professional incompetence.

One could easily, of course, draw an analogue with Leftists, who likewise cherish the role--typically unearned and for which they are fully unsuited--of playing the role both of mother and father for whomever is foolish enough to entrust them with their upkeep.

And in the same spirit, they like to bring up crimes from the past--such as slavery--for which NOT ONE person alive today bears any responsibility.

Perennial childishness is the seeming objective for both therapists and Leftists. One would assume, if this formulation were logical, that they would at least be qualified to play the role of adults, but regrettably their own ideology creates the spirit of childishness in them, too.

We have learned in history, though, that you are never too young to be ruthless. Many of Pol Pot's most prolific murderers were in their teens, and the spectacle of the maniacal, sadistic children torturing and killing their teachers in Mao's Cultural Revolution should be burned on everyone's mind. Should be.

Most Americans would have no idea what I am talking about, though. We really are that stupid, and stupid by design.

Reality?

I was looking out the window of building in Phoenix a couple months ago. It was rainy, and you could see the mountains in the distance, alternately shaded and "sunned" as wandering clouds passed over them. It was very pretty. We even had goats on the other side of the street, spread quite incongruously in front of a sport stadium.

It got me to thinking: if the windows were actually high definition TV's, that were so good you couldn't tell the difference, how would that affect your perception? If you didn't know it, it wouldn't matter, would it? If you did know it, though, to what extent would that matter? What if you "knew" (because you were told) that they reflected some reality on the other side of the planet, or some past reality of that spot? Or some projected reality, generated by a computer?

Extending this: what if we created animatronic robots, that responded through virtual reality with someone on the other side of the planet? For example, what if your wife was on the other side of the planet in some sort of virtually reality suit, and you were too, and the two of you made love? How would that effect things?

What if the other person were deleted, and you were ONLY interacting with a robot programmed to act like your lover?

In my viewl, TV as we use it today has an effect of creating a perceptual distance between the viewer and the world. It tends to create a spirit of detachment. It seems to me we are all becoming more mechanical, less engaged in our actual emotions and whatever that gestalt is we call our selves, that can reach out and touch other realities.

At the same time if we accept Hindu ideas of Maya, the "real world" was ALREADY TV, it was already a projection, as Plato argued, on the backs of our minds. TV, then becomes one more delusion in a world of delusions.

When I first saw "The Matrix" I told my friends that maybe it was actually a signal intended to release us; maybe it was a sign. I was being facetious, of course, but they didn't get it.

Spectator Sports

This is a note to myself. It would be interesting to learn something about the modern history of spectator sports. When was the first stadium erected? Was it in Britain? You would need leisure; or would you? It likely would have been America that led the way.

Does bullfighting have a continuous link back to the Roman Coliseum? I think so, but it would be interesting to find out.

My thesis is that some types of sports--most obviously bullfighting, but to a lesser extent things like boxing, wrestling, and even football--are sacrificial. We want to share, as a group, in someone else's suffering. It is a sort of minimized martial impulse.

There is also a tribal element, an element of identity. If you are a Red Sox, or Yankees fan, it is an important part of your self understanding; yet, you control and influence nothing.

The role of sports in our culture is quite obvious, and in my view important from a mythical perspective.

Bon mot: you only get to keep the myths you cannot recognize as such. (is that true? Not true? Partly true in some times and places? Indeterminate since poorly defined?)

Party of the Plantation

Since Leftist efforts to breed stupidity in the tax-payer funded political incubators we call "Public Schools" have been largely successful, it has been forgotten by most that the Democrats were the party that supported slavery from their founding under Thomas Jefferson, all the way up to where they had to be strongarmed by one of their own--LBJ--in the 1960's into supporting the Civil Rights Act. McClellan, a Democrat, was accused by some of intentional incompetence in the Civil War, since he sided with the South.

For the record, according to this website, in the House 61% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans voted for the bill; in the Senate 69% of the Democrats, and 82% of the Republicans voted for the bill. And to the extent of my understanding, even the ardent Democratic segregationists like Strom Thurmond never left the party. It took the ludicrous ruling in Roe v. Wade to begin to coalesce the social conservatism that converted most of the South to being Republican.

To the point, though, I would argue that what we have in the ghettoes today--to be clear, what 30-40 years of Democratic policies have wrought in places like Detroit and South Chicago--is STILL a plantation, in which many, many people RELY on the Democrats to pay their bills, and keep getting them "stuff" ("cargo", as I have called it elsewhere, in a reference that will be familiar to some).

AND THIS IS HOW THE DEMOCRATS WANT IT. They want to be the party that gets poor people stuff (not opportunities, note, but stuff), and they want to be able to portray the Republicans in perpetuity as racist since they don't agree with the idea that you can help people permanently by doing for them what they can and should be doing for themselves.

It is not at all a difficult case to make that this is itself a racist position, since it aims not at actually materially and morally improving people's lives, but rather in permanently denigrating the capacities of African American communities for self improvement, so that their votes can be depended upon.

I won't dispute many ghettoes are hell. Yet, if they are so, they have become such under the eye and control of generations of Democrats. Incompetent or cynical and powermongering: these are the choices. Well intentioned and competent--MANIFESTLY--is not.

Light and darkness

I have a vivid dream life. Long ago, I taught myself to fly, so I never fall anywhere. I often jump off of buildings because I can. Sometimes I jump UP on them. Not infrequently, I find myself fighting dark creatures. Often, I win; sometimes I am forced to retreat and regroup. Always, though, I fight. I never have the dream of running slowly while something pursues me, any more. They always meet my face.

Several nights ago, I had an interesting dream I will pass along in support of a larger point. I was fighting Lord Voldemort, from the Harry Potter books (I own all the movies, and probably watch one of them at least once a month). I was "winning", but suddenly realized I was being stupid. I came down (I was floating), and hugged him, and told him "I love you, Tom", and felt energy from my heart pouring into him.

(If I have any readers (an open question), some will part company here. So be it. It will likely be political again soon.)

I felt it. It was sincere. I looked at this spirit of darkness, and realized how hellish it was to be him. I was not so naive that I thought that he would suddenly change his ways, but the effort had to be made. I was not afraid of him. I knew I could defeat him. I was in no danger. (and in the event, he ran, and regrouped with another "Deatheater", and tried again to attack, with no success).

Love is more powerful than anger, and you cannot permanently defeat the spirit of darkness with violence. Love, in this sense, is a type of aggression: you are sending out an energy that they cannot combat. This is, of course, the mythical symbolism that Joanne Rowling employed in her books.

Now, obviously, there are times when we need to treat other human beings, in effect, as objects to be disposed of. There are evil people who simply need to be ushered to the next world with as little delay as possible. There is no do-gooder idealism here.

At the same time, if the task is building a peaceful--yet energized, interesting--world, then we cannot meet hate with hate. [I will note, that this is different from claiming that you should not meet violence with violence. That claim is stupid. War solves many things; you simply don't have to hate your enemy.]

As I thought about this more deeply, I got to thinking about the relative powers of light and darkness, understood as on some level empirical energies. We tend to think of the universe as mostly dark, since that is what appears to our eyes to fill the spaces between stars. The universe, in this imaginary picture, is a vast--infinite, possibly--space, filled here and there with motes of light. Much like an atom, actually.

Yet, it is a FACT that much of space is filled with all sorts of energies our eyes simply can't process: gamma rays, x-rays, etc.

More importantly, it is a premise of Quantum physics that, as Richard Feynman put it, "one square meter of empty space has enough energy in it to boil all the oceans on Earth". This is a postulate of one of the most successful scientific theories of all time.

Needless to say, this is counterintuitive. Yet, can we not hypothesize with some justification that LIGHT--energy--is the dominant presence in the universe, and darkness merely a misperception of reality?

Certainly, this is a claim that has been made by many.

Can we not view all the evils of the world merely as temporary errors, that will sort themselves out in time? This is a conjecture not readily amenable to proof--although I suppose we could falsify it in the near term by blowing substantial parts of ourselves up, or falling into the darkness of totalitariansim--but is it not on some level comforting? And to the extent it facilitates a mental state compatible with achieving that aim, is it not "true", in the sense that it supports its own end?

Atheistic mysticism

Contradiction in terms, no? I was wondering about this, though: say an atheist has a vision or dream experience in which they meet God, or angels, or transcend somehow the physical world, what "truth" content can that have for them?

If one follows the doctrine of Scientism--which in broad stroke reduces all possible experiences to material conditions which have been in theory determined since the beginning of time--then one must step back from such experiences, process them "rationally", and then reject them. You must kill the idea they might have actual validity, and erase the positive emotions associated with them.

As I have long said, though, true skepticism is equidistance from both belief and and disbelief. You neither take peoples word for it, nor reject anything out of hand as impossible. You investigate. That is what scientists--real scientists, who are a subset of that class we call "scientists"--do.

And in the case, say, of a dream, let us say it leaves a lingering positive effect. It makes you feel better, in ways which are hard or impossible to articulate. From the perspective of Pragmatism--understood here formally both as a philosophically method, and in the broader sense of something that is simply useful--such as experience is true, because it yielded a desirable result. Empirically, you feel better. This cannot be disputed. The MEANING and ORIGIN can be disputed, but not the actual feelings.

Let us further posit that, in the end, our atheist determines--in perfect congruence with his philosophy--that some biochemical event has happened, which in its wake left a series of positive neurotransmitters or chemicals that enabled this experience.

Even so, does that eradicate the value of such an experience? Even if, ex post facto, it is determined not to be "really real", is such a thing not desirable? And what if you pursued religious faith, not out of conviction, but because it often engendered such neurochemical responses? Would that be wrong?

Plainly, many hippies have used LSD, mushrooms, mescalin and other such drugs to the effect of facilitating mystical experiences. There is, I am told, even now research going on as to the use of such drugs to treat things like chronic depression, alcoholism, and even a sense of meaninglessness. We know they hit certain parts of the brain, objectively, and subjectively that when used in the proper conditions they are life altering events.

Is this wrong?

What I am always at pains to do is build pathways for qualitative improvement. I personally believe that such experiences ARE real, in some sense, but I don't want to part company with people who are unable to share that belief.

We need, I think, always to be keeping what is useful, and trying--within the flexibility integrity permits--to improve on it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Communication

In my own terms, there is both qualitative and quantitative knowledge. The former would relate, most importently, to knowledge about how to live and why. The latter would be things like State Capitals, and the use of algorithyms.

I think one could posit a best practice for the communication of the latter, although even there some variation would be needed, but with respect to the former, literally an infinite repertoire of tactics of communication might be needed.

Ultimately, happiness and contentment are immanent: they are the emergent properties of a system in motion--an individual personality--that has reached a qualitative state in which those outcomes are common and even perennial. Since they are not tangible, since can't touch them, it is difficult to communicate how those states were reached. You can say "I think this way", and "I act this way", but as religious teachers throughout the ages have found, that is often not enough, and quite often words have a way of causing people to be ignorant with confidence. Wars have often been fought between religions of "peace". This is the result not of religion, per se, but of human stupidity.

Hindus have this concept of "darshana", Sufis of Barakah, Jews of Berakhah, and Christians of grace, where simply being in the presence of someone who is spiritually advanced helps one advance. I have never met anyone I can recall who I really feel helped me (nor have I spent much time pursuing them, although I would really enjoy meeting Doris Lessing), but--and if this sounds like wishy-washy pseudo-mystical California bullshit, so be it--I have seen such people in my dreams. I have SEEN Windhorse, felt it. I have met angels, and however people want to psychoanalyze it, the experiences were life-changing. Not life-shaking, but they have had a subtle salutary effect on me.

It is a truism that children tend to become how you are, not how you talk, and that is an excellent example of the verity of the principle of qualitative communication.

Zen, by the way, is an explicit philosophy based on the idea that there are some things worthy knowing, that cannot be said.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another architectural idea

When my children skin their knees, I congratulate them for doing their job as children, which is taking mild risks, and playing spontaneously. I don't offer sympathy, since after all they heal quickly. And they accept this. They don't suffer for want of affection.

I would like our nation to be like that. Skinning your knee should be a source of pride, not whining.

This morning I saw a building shaped something like a large hill, where you had to climb up the outside to get in. It was literally like climbing a rocky hill, and mildly, but not excessively dangerous. In such architecture you would set up a powerful archetype that you need to pay attention, and that life is not risk-free.

In other ages, the dangers of life were quite obvious, since death from famine and disease was everywhere. In our modern world, people need to be reminded.

Actually, you could add a rivulet to the building too, as a sort of integral fountain. That would be fun.

Windhorse

The Tibetans have this nice idea of "Windhorse" as standing for Goodness. Iconographically, it is a horse with a bright diamond on the back of it. It is intended simultaneously the connote light shining, and the power of the wind as the horse runs through it.

Goodness, then, is something that is shining moving pushing out flowing like water all the time. It is a quality of being. Now, having felt it, I think you can expand it, but until you hit that particular groove, morality is what guides you.

As I see it, morality is not so much intended to put you on the right path, but to keep you from error. Once you can feel or see how to live with purpose, how to move forward in a positive way, you are confined to not moving AWAY from light, from Goodness.

All the days of our lives we are moving, here, there everywhere. Constantly, we are making decisions. Life is a chaotic system, in which we as individuals, and of course our social system, and even the physical conditions surrounding us like the weather are in constant chaos, held back from complete randomness by principles, which in the physical arena would be called "Strange Attractors", which represent immanent order of a sort in what is outwardly fully random.

As you bounce about like a pingpong ball, if you don't fall in the wrong slot, eventually you will find your way. You are helped tremendously if you know in advance all the wrong ways to do things. This, again, was the point of Buddha's quite exhaustive 8-fold path. He wanted to give you a LOT of ways not to do things. But as he recognized, even if you give this to people, there is always the risk that you will stop moving, and when you do that, you can never find your way forward.

The way forward, to be clear, is not an idea, but a quality of perception, that cannot be gifted.

In my own conceptions, I think the essentials of my ideas of Goodness can be integrated into all religious--and even irreligious--traditions, with benefit. Let Muslims reject self pity, persevere in understanding their God, and accept that mercy and generosity are the important parts of their faith. Submission, then, means accepting these virtues without complaint. And to complete faithfulness to their Five Pillars could one not add a desire to want for others what is best for them? How could a doctrine of death and destruction be in conformity with the will of a benign deity? Surely if they want to spread their faith, they can do it by showing the superiority of their results in living in happiness and peace? Is peace--Salaam--not the goal?

This basic pattern of thought can be added to all religious traditions of which I'm aware, with the obvious exception of Satanism, which is the conscious pursuit of evil, and attractive to some because it is cloaked in novelty and deceit. Not until much too late will anyone foolish enough to follow this path realize what it is they have done. Nothing but pain and death lies there.

Love

Love is a word I don't use very often. I don't like it. Overuse has turned it into something like being nice, generally coupled with softheaded sentimentalism. You can do anything in the name of love and people will accept it. This needs to change.

Goodness is a doctrine of love, where love is defined as wanting for others what is best for them. And what is best for them is always defined qualitatively, as working to help them foster the capacity to be happy on their own, and to take pleasure in the happiness of others; in other words, to want to help other people become good. Love is wanting to help others exist as morally sovereign human beings. It is not being nice, and it is certainly not doing for others what they can and should be doing for themselves.

So often, those who speak of love are talking either of emotional neediness temporarily being satisfied with someone elses generosity (in the case of men), or effective self deception (in the case of women). This, or one is speaking of imposing ones will and power over others, by speaking for them, when they should be speaking for themselves. This, in my view, has been the tragedy of African-Americans in this nation, after losing the genuinely Good leader Martin Luther King, Jr. All that have followed him have been de facto racists, who kept people down for their own selfish political purposes.

Love is not tolerance. Tolerance is merely not antagonizing people. It is not helping them. It is a strictly negative virtue, in which you forego a crime, rather than "perpetrate" a positive act, that of positive connection.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Speaking of Nihilism

http://www.uoregon.edu/~kimball/Nqv.catechism.thm.htm

Check out this link. If anyone doubts that Communism (which I have defined in a prior post as different from both Socialism and Marxism) is a cult, read this.

I will add that we get the word Nihilist from the word used by the OPPONENTS of revolutionists in the latter half of 19th century Russia. (Side note: Both Tory and Whig, in the British tradition, were also terms used by their opponents, if memory serves).

The prototype of the brooding young man or women with tinted John Lennon glasses, long, unkempt hair and beard, and a complete disregard for fashion and cleanliness comes from this period.

What is most interesting about that period of history--at its height from very roughly 1850-1880--is that Nihilists succeeded in assassinating one of the most liberal Czars they had ever had. He either had or was on the verge of granting major concessions in terms of representative government. All of that was rolled back when he was blown up.

Violence never furthers social advancement. It is the outlet for the emotionally shallow, and morally weak.

Reflections on Alinsky 4

4. "Make the enemy live up to his own rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity."

First off, note the definition of political "others" as "the enemy". By definition, an enemy of a Communist is anyone who is not already a Communist. In this sense "revolution" is not all that different than jihad, which is perhaps why some Leftists see some commonalities with Islamic radicals. Both of them, in any event, are cultural outsiders.

The point I wanted to make, though, was this: Saul Alinksy was a nihilist. He did not believe in any immutable moral laws, and the only salvation he recognized was that of "revolution", by which he knew in his heart he meant global tyranny. Psychologically, it is very easy to see why he saw Lucifer in such a sympathetic light, even though of course he was almost certainly an atheist.

Given that he was a nihilist--as are all committed Communists--what he was drawing tension not between what someone was doing, and what he believe to be right, but between what that person was doing, and what THAT PERSON believed to be right.

This means that the critique was solely rhetorical, not moral. Communists do not make moral critiques, since they don't believe in morality. People miss this point.

You could add that they are trying to point to the crime of hypocrisy, which, one would think, even Communists could agree is wrong. Of course, that is not the case. Without blushing all Communist regimes have consistently accused the United States of crimes of inhumanity that were not with 3 orders of magnitude of what they practiced constantly.

At one time, there were more slaves in China at one time than were held in the United States in the whole history of slavery. One could, in any event, make that case. At the time of the Civil War there were roughly 3 million slaves. Let us say there were five generations of slaves, which is almost certainly excessive, since much of the slave growth happened after the cotton gin was invented somewhere in the first half of the 19th century. That's 15 million. I would hazard a guess without looking it up that for substantial parts of the period 1948 (was it 49?) to roughly 1975 some 100 million Chinese were in reeducation camps of one sort or another. Many millions, of course were simply killed. Some 3,000 slaves were lynched in the entire history of slavery. The crimes simply aren't comparable.

But unlike the Chinese Communists, we feel a sense of decency, and desire to do the right thing, so this rhetorical trick--and any time a Communist is talking about improving the world in any way it is a trick to get your support, or at least reduce you to silence and non-participation--works on us constantly. We are told we must sympathize with the "plight" of coddled mass murderers in Gitmo, but hear nothing at all about the system of political oppression that has characterized Cuba ever since the lies Castro told the New York Times enabled people like Saul Alinsky to seize power.

Push this further: how should one interpret the taunts of someone who believes nothing, directed to someone trying sincerely to do the right thing, and doing it imperfectly, since all of us are imperfect? In my view the word is sadism.

Go to a website patronized by committed leftists. Read the posts. Look at the schadenfreude, the incoherence, the hate, and the distance between their rhetoric and any possible notion of shared community norms.

The doctrine of Alinsky is evil. It is explicitly intended to subvert the moral basis of our civilization, and replace it with universal autocracy.

My definition of Cultural Sadeism is relevant: http://www.goodnessmovement.com/files/Download/Definitions.pdfhttp://www.goodnessmovement.com/files/Download/Definitions.pdf

Anger

It seems to me anger is only useful when you lack power. Phrased another way, it is the response that makes sense only when all other possibilities have been exhausted, or--more likely--overlooked.

In social situations, is anger superior to carefully thought out, strategic behavior? In a fight, is anger superior to a well honed, calm tactical system?

No doubt anger gives you energy. It gives you courage. These are good things. But it is hard to find any situations in life when you would not be able to respond more effectively without it, making it in most cases de facto incompetence.

This is why it is a "sin" in many cultures. It also, of course, leads frequently to violence.

Techne

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of morality as a sort of technology. That is in perfect congruence of the Greek understanding of techne as knowledge about how to do something. Morality is the technology by which we can live happily as individuals and in groups. As technology, if it doesn't work, then it isn't true.

In my view, the hedonistic mindset, which rejects the necessity of pain, has done more to FACILIATE pain than the most severe Puritanisms did. One could, as a de facto ascetic, at least take pride in being self possessed, and in adhering to a coherent moral code.

The person who lives for themselves--picture here a stereotypical Californian in a Hawaiian shirt--is someone who doesn't stand for anything. They are not willing to take a position that involves difficulty. The only value they hold is that no one should ever expect anything from them. They will go to protests to protect that right. No one should ever make them go to war. No one should demand that everyone pay their own way, if possible. No one should demand life-long fidelity, unless it met the whims of both people. No one should demand hard thought on complex issues.

And since it feels good feeling generous, no one should interfere with the process of taking money from people who have it, and giving to people who have less.

Seemingly benign, this mindset leads quickly to a loss of self respect, and constant frustration. You always seem to be on the verge of self discovery. You "fall in love", and it feels forever, but then one or both of you flake out. You take your nice drives along the coast, and wonder what it's all about, but it eludes you. You attend meditation conferences, and do yoga, and become a vegetarian, and it all seems like it should work. Everyone smiles and talks about how happy they are, but late at night something still doesn't feel right.

You go to a therapist, and say you are depressed. Maybe you get meds, maybe she says it isn't your fault, that your parents or ex-wife or ex-husband or someone did something that you haven't processed yet.

Everywhere, there is this idea that happiness is simply an absence of pain. If you just do what you like, you will be fulfilled.

That simply isn't how life works. It is unwise.

Meaning is a function of doing DIFFICULT things, of persevering across harrowing fields of battle, because it is the RIGHT THING TO DO.

It is a little reported fact, but the men and women who served in our military in Vietnam are actually much better adjusted and successful, on average, than those who didn't go. This makes perfect sense.

Techne, then, consists in correct understandings of how life does and does not work. Buddha had his eightfold path http://buddhism.about.com/od/theeightfoldpath/a/eightfoldpath.htm

Christians have service. Muslims have their 5 Pillars. Hindus have dharma. All of these make a happy life possible. None of them, pursued correctly, are wrong in their practical effects.

The task I have set myself is to figure out what is common to them all. What I have come up with is that the absolute minimal requirements to live happily are to reject self pity, persevere through trouble, and treat each day as a new miracle. The last one I frame very broadly as perception, of which the key element is to not get stuck. Obviously, every religious order tends to foster dogmatism. Dogmatism is the death of the spontaneous order of genuine goodness.

In my own view, modern psychology does what traditional moral orders did, but far less well, and quite frequently--by fostering self pity--it actually makes people weaker and less able to persevere happily through lifes challenges.

The only exception to this is that modern anti-psychotic drugs are useful.

I have mixed feelings about anti-depressants. I do agree some types of depression reach the level of an organic disease. Yet, I feel most of the time that point is reached as a result of poorly structured cognition, and would thus be preventable if we were wiser as a culture. The rates of monopolar depression in pre-industrial civilizations is measurably something very close to zero, and when it happens, it is typically in response to a tragedy, which makes it closer to mourning than a disease.

Objects

I was looking at the mess in my kitchen this morning, and thinking "well, it will be gone in 20 minutes". The battle for order is a daily one.

Then it popped in my head that we interact with our objects with pride and anger, and I got thinking about it. Do we not all have things we own we are proud of? I really like my gun. I don't obsess about it, but it is a well engineered tool, and I'm glad I own it.

And when you look at, say, your car, you might be proud of it, or mad at it for being so old, or small, or whatever.

This, in turn, got me to thinking about what a PROPER relationship might be. I don't think pride is necessarily a useful emotion, except to the extent it keeps you on the straight and narrow, and I think that would be better defined as self respect. Nor is anger, in general, a useful emotion, especially at objects which you control, and which have done nothing to you. They are just there. Any emotive content is a projection from you.

It seems to me a proper relationship is pleasure in presence. If you live a dirt-floored hut, you can still sweep the floor and keep it neat, and you can be happy in that. You can interact with all you own with contentment and enjoyment. You can enjoy cleaning.

This led to the thought that that is not a bad way to think of interacting with people. Pleasure in presence. Finding what is worthwhile and enjoyable in them, and directing your attention to that. Most everyone has something worthwhile.

The Hindus use as their greeting Namaste, which literally means "I bow to you". You are not bowing to the person, per se, but rather to the spirit of God which is in every person. This is, I think, a worthy idea.

Musings for the AM.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Philosophy

William James has a nice quote in his introductory lecture on Pragmatism, again from Chesterton, in this case his work "Heretics": "There are some people--and I am one of them--who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy it is important to know the enemy's numbers, but still more important to know the enemy's philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether in the long run anything else affects them."

One has to ask: how did the horrors of the 20th century happen, and why are there hordes of seemingly intelligent people who have still not learned the lesson that Statism is tyranny, and that "social justice" in almost all forms is the precise opposite: INjustice by any rational criteria.

We had so many smart people at the end of the 19th century, and beginning of the 20th, especially in England and America, such as John Stuart Mill, Charles Sumner, William James, G.K. Chesterton.

How do such basic philosophical errors as holding to Statist ideologies, and rejecting all the evidence that favors an anti-materialist bias persist in our academic world?

I was watching a waterboarding video last night. The guy thought he could go 15 seconds, but he only lasted 5-6. What this technique does is induce panic that cannot be calmed with reason. It is absolutely primal. It has nothing to do with how you think.

In my view, if one follows the ideational train of modern Communists, what you see is something like this: God does not exist; death is final; morality is an artifact of evolutionary necessity; free will is an illusion; personal autonomy is an illusion; and everything we do and build and think will in the end perish without a trace. This is, in my view, a depressing worldview. Many people, I think, react with the same primal fear and anxiety that our waterboarding victim did.

I myself found it exceedingly depressing, and remember getting dizzy thinking about a world without meaning, where death was final. Darwin started it, by removing God as a necessary "hypothesis", and of course much of "modern"--by which I would intend to connote Regressive--philosophy is oriented around the creation of meaning in a world denuded of permanent immanent order. That was the work, among others, of Nietzche, Sartre, Foucault, Camus, Heidegger (approximately), and their countless descendents and fellow travellers.

None of these "philosophers" (if you define Truth as what is useful, in the spirit of philosophical Pragmatism, none of these people offered it--with the partial exception in my view of Camus, who did seem to me in the end to be a decent human being--so they were not truly "lovers of wisdom") really succeeded in creating actionable systems.

Ayn Rand did, and is for that reason still widely read.

Yet, I have issues with all thinkers who begin with the proposition that the world is composed of matter which is necessarily separated from us; really, of which we are composed. It is not necessary to link what I term Physical Materialism with Moral Materialism, but it is a tendency of the system.

What I mean by this is that if you understand the universe as basically a complicated machine, and human beings as small complicated machines, it tends to create a focus on those factors in human life which are material--which are visible. For those who accept the doctrine of Physical Materialism, science is the only means of making any useful truth claims. If everything is composed of matter that invariably obeys knowable laws, and which is separate from our consciousness, then only that is real that can be measured, and measuring is what scientists and scientists alone do. Morality, then, belongs to scientists.

And you see this history over the last several centuries of psychologists trying to decide just who they are, and what they should be doing. Are they scientists? How can you empirically measure the contents of a person's consciousness? And if you can't measure it, how can you claim you are a scientists? B.F Skinner, of course, tried to solve this problem by ignoring consciousness altogether, and focusing ONLY on what could be directly measured. This was a logical extrapolation from the basic problem.

Yet, manifestly, each and every one of us thinks. We feel. We make decisions using some combination of thought and gut instinct.

William James, in his excellent book "Principles of Psychology", delineates three basic approaches to psychology: introspection, empirical measurement, and a combination of the two. In the first case, the psychologist can simply write about the contents of his own consciousness. He can compare his impressions with those of others, to see to what extent there is congruence, which is moving to a blended psychology.

As far as pure empiricism, you can test people's perception, for example their ability to detect slight changes in weight, or light, or sound. You can measure how they process different stimuli. You can give people drugs, and measure the physiological results. Yet, the subjective results remain instrospective, and only approach empiricism across wide samples, which is an approximation of science, but not yet "hard" in the way measurements of accelleration are in physics.

Getting back to my main point, though, it seems to me that Moral Materialism leads to the rejection of softer notions such as beauty, love, kindness, refinement, and the like. You can't measure them, so they are not suitable to be relied on in any kind of moral system. What you CAN measure is difference; and you can likewise formulate a "scientific" plan for the eradication of that difference.

The question, really, is "given presuppositions of meaninglessness, what can you hang your hat on"? For people who go through what I term (possibly following someone, I don't know) "ontological shock" and react by becoming political Leftists, the answer is that you can rely on a visible system that creates visible results, that you define to yourself as beneficial.

The problem, though, is they now NEED this system. They NEED these beliefs. They can't not have them. They can't interact with them reflectively and with nuance. They can't elevate them to some sort of qualitatively higher level, since they have already rejected notions of human perfectibility. We are all animals, after all, living for no purpose, and destined to die and be forgotten.

Yet, the question of how our universe is put together remains an empirical question. It is far from settled, and to the extent we can tell, our best guess is that the universe cannot be understood as existing apart from consciousness. It is NOT out there. It is connected with us.

This is not mumbo-jumbo New Age mysticism, but the reasoned conclusion of one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, John von Neumann, who literally wrote the book on quantum physics, and played a significant role in the development of usable computers.

We know, experimentally, that faster than light communication is possible across, in theory, infinite differences. Since this violates a principle theorem of General Relativity, it falsifies that theory. No one wants to admit this, since Relativity is such a great theory otherwise, that has worked empirically every time is has been put to the test. Yet, the fact remains that we only have two proven models of the universe: General Relativity, and quantum physics. Both work in their domains--big, and small, respectively. But General Relativity is not right about light being a univeral constant, and there are no experimental objections to quantum theory, which to my mind means of the two it should be regarded as the more correct one, pending some third theory that outdoes both (which will NOT be String theory, which to me appears to be a sort temper tantrum in reaction to Bell's Theorem, which was the mathematical proof of non-locality).

Likewise, I think that Darwinian notions of Natural Selection will in the end need to be supplemented by appeal to some sort of biological field theory, where we posit some sort of information-containing aspect of the universe, which enables functional adaptations to be retained at much higher than random rates.

With respect to the survival of death there always has been and continues to be substantial evidence. We have apparent recording from people who have passed on. We have countless stories of apparitions. We have cases where mediums obtained information that they could not have known any other way.

One good example of this is an English medium who was imprisoned for divulging State secrets in WW2 for revealing the sinking of a British Navy ship before the Admiralty itself knew about it. All the details she provided turned out to be correct. This is one example of many 100's of recorded examples of people possessing information no cold reader or skillful fraud could have possessed.

I always hear this seemingly logical comment "the plural of anecdote is not data", but of course it is. When X number of scientist claim to have achieved a certain result, when X claim is made Y number of times in "respectable" journals, then that claim is considered a fact, even if none of the believers in this fact have done the experiment themselves.

Then the objection is raised about repeatability. Scientific results can be repeated. The people who make this claim do not typically follow the logical path of trying to repeat the results themselves, for example by consulting a medium, or experimenting in EVP (trying to capture voices on tape), or "ghost hunting". Rather, they simply make the claim that it is not proven--meaing, to THEM--and dismissing the whole thing.

Yet, there are a number of cases of deeply commited skeptics doing the honest thing and investigating the evidence themselves, and becoming in the process converted.

I won't dilate on this further. My core point, here, is that stupid ideas get people killed, and make them unhappy, and that if we are going to use science as the entirety of our truth system, let us at least do that honestly.

The chain of logic that led to so much horror in the 20th century was based, in my view, on erroneous postulates. The sooner that fact is acknowleged, the better off we will all be.

It is not too late to create a good world, one where we can live happily, and in peace.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another Quote

John Stuart Mill, one of the greatest Liberal [which is to say generous but not insane] minds ever:

"I confess I am not charmed with an ideal of life held out by those who think the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that the trampling, crushing, elbowing and treading on each others heels, which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of humankind, or anything but one of the disagreeable symptoms of one of the phases of industrial progress. . .[But] that the energies of mankind should be kept in employment by the struggle for riches as they were formerly by the struggle for war, until the better minds succeed in educating the others into better things, is undoubtedly better than that they should rust and stagnate. While minds are coarse, they require coarse stimuli, and let them have them."

There is no doubt in my mind that Mill would today be a frustrated Republican, a frustrated Libertarian, or an ex-Democrat.

Quotes from History of Conservatism

Allitt: "One of the most intriguing contributions to the debate as to whether Britain should become a democracy [note: as was the case in America, the British system explicitly excluded many citizens from participation it the political process, perhaps most obviously by denying them the vote] and what the relationship is between democracy and tradition was made by the journalist and controversialist G.K. Chesterton. I'd like to read you a passage from his book Orthodoxy, written in 1908, in which he makes the claim that you might think democracy is one option, and tradition another, but actually that's not true. They really go together beautifully. Chesterton knew how to manipulate paradox in a beautiful way, and he never did it better than here. Here's what he says:

"Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democracies object to men being disqualified by accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father. I at any rate cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition."

I like that. What tradition provides is a keel in the churning tides of change. It keeps us on track, even if we have the option of altering course. Cultural habits that are retained have, in general value, or at least did have value. What is new is untried, and science is unequal to the task of testing ideas for 100 years prior to granting them to us. What they do is think they have found something, then use us as lab rats. 100 years of Freud is too much. 2,000 years of Christianity was not too much.

Pat Buchanon and the Neocons

When I first learned the details of Chamberlain's Munich agreement, and started talking about appeasement, I somewhat stupidly thought I was advancing a novel argument. The reality is that the idea "let us not appease, or it will be just like 1938 again" has been in circulation since somewhere just after WW2, when the memory was fresh, and children were still taught history.

In particular, the Neocons used it often. Now, this is a word that gets used constantly. I just finished a course on the history of Conservatism, and the term used properly refers to a group of mostly Jewish former leftists--in the 30's many of them were Trotskyists, and Communists of other stripes--who retained some affinity for social welfare sorts of programs, but were rabid anti-Communists, and consistently hawkish on almost every issue of foreign policy. Irving Krystal (sp?), David Novak, and Norman Podhoretz are the names I remember. They had a magazine back in the 50's, whose name I've forgotten. Currently, the main magazine is Commentary, if I'm not losing my marbles.

In any event, the lecturer, Patrick Allitt, labelled Buchanon a "paleoconservative", as someone who continues the long standing tradition in Conservatism of isolationism. Now, Buchanon has been in the game a long time--at least 40 years by my reckoning, and likely longer--and he has heard this theme of "the Germans are coming" many times.

As a matter of historical fact, it was FDR and the Democrats who did the most to get us in WW2. FDR started the rearmament process, the Lend-Lease program, and arguably exceeded his Constitutional authority by, if memory serves, offering up Navy escorts to transports crossing the Atlantic. Since they became thereby subject to U-boat attack, this was tantamount to getting us in the war, without Congressional authorization.

In any event, it is hard to argue that we did not have a vital national interest in helping defeat the Axis powers, particularly Germany. Thus, what Buchanon is doing in his book "Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War" the same thing leftist Nicholas Baker does in Human Smoke: deny that Hitler needed to be fought at all.

This is not just an argument about WW2, but serves as a proxy argument for all American interventions overseas period, including most recently of course our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, which I assume Buchanan opposed.

Now, I could know one hell of a lot more about this than I do. I have read reviews of both books, but have not read the books. I could be wrong, but this feels right to me, based on the not inconsiderable number of facts I do possess.

Social Charity vs. Socialism

A great many people are attracted to "socialism", very loosely defined, since they see in it simple responsibility to our fellow human beings; they want to be nice, and socialists are nice.

This is not a fully incorrect view. One could certainly argue that some sort of basic "safety net" is not unreasonable, particularly in a wealthy nation.

The problem is that such people don't understand the full logic of socialism, which is the logic of the eradication of difference. In homogeneous nations like Sweden, there is really no need for violence, since everyone basically belongs to the same group. In a strongly heterogeneous nation like the US, though, this is a problem, in that it necessarily leads to conflict between those who want to do the leveling, and those who are being confined to a smaller box, not of their choosing.

A paradigmatic example of this is the abortion issue. We have at least two strongly delineated lines of thought on this, but only one was victorious, and it achieved victory not through legislative action, but through the manifest abuse of the court system. The long term goal of all Socialists is the eradication of religion. In their own terms, the only reasonable system of knowledge is science, and anything not demonstrable is not scientific, and therefore doesn't exist. This is the consequence of the abuse of the basic Vienna Circle protocol, which I won't get into here.

Thus, the overarching goals are secularism, the eradication of historical cultural difference, and the leveling of incomes and social hierarchies. Now, even if these goals seem reasonable, the means are that of a hegemonic government, that can impose uniformity where difference is strenuously defended. This means that a system is necessarily put in place which can be abused, and abused thoroughly, as in the National Socialist regime.

In my own view, our Federalist system can tolerate the strains of localized tribalisms, but not the imposition of centralized cultural uniformity, which--the romantic dreams of silly people notwithstanding--is manifestly the aim of Socialism. If you understand Political Correctness, you have a passkey to an open cultural world anywhere in America, and damn near anywhere in the world, because they all think the same.

Our system, though, is broken into pieces. There was intended a very strong bias in favor of the States for EVERYTHING to do with day to day life. The Federal Government was for negotiating treaties with other nations, brokering disputes between States, and for providing for the national defense. Many considered even highway building to be beyond its proper reach, and if memory serves Andrew Jackson vetoed a plan to provide Federal funds for a road in Kentucky, to Maysville, if I am not mistaken.

Thus the proper place for the expression of what we might term Scandinavian sentiments is at the State level. I do not think that represents an overarching abuse of the system, even though I personally would not want to live in one of those States. Who knows, though, maybe it could work? Every State could adopt something similar.

But what we have today, with Social Security, Medicare, and the federal component of Medicaid (which, by the way, increased considerably, since much of the "Stimulus" money went to bail out bankrupt programs, such as that in California, and the Stimulus runs through 2014) are programs that we can't opt out of, that provide money to the goverment that is promptly spent on many other things, and for which money is being borrowed on our behalf. It would be far, far better just to put the money in a bank than to trust the clowns in Washington with it.

Thus, if you want to be nice, and want to vote for nice people, make it at the State level, and let us get the Federal government out of the "nice" business, which it was never intended to take part in anyway.

Moral technology

If we posit that some sort of what I am terming moral technology is necessary for happiness, what are the essential elements? Is compassion? Is non-violence? Or is it sufficient that you accept your lot, no matter what it is, and move forward directly with pleasure in your work, and what companionship you have?

Famously, the Bhagavad Gita is presented to a soldier in the heat of a battle in which he is killing kinsmen. He is told that doing his duty is what is necessary, not feeling sympathy for those he is killing, who, after all, can't be killed.

Let us further posit that the Hindus were wrong in their belief in the after-life (I would disagree with this position, but let's extend this idea to its logical end): would the argument change? Would the reasons offered lose their validity? What is being offered is a means of living congruently IN THIS LIFE. Would it lose its actual value, that of fostering goal directed activity, and "meaning context"? I don't think it would.

Response to comment on previous post

Comment:
"It begs a point of view question. Would a person rather live in a society where someone made $500K a year where they only made $100K or where someone makes $70K but they make $50K. The people who argue for "fairness" chose the second. Of course I think they are misguided."


Let me think out loud a bit. None of us are as happy as we can imagine. What keeps us from happiness? Is it pain? Is pain an absence of happiness, and happiness an absence of pain? I don't think so.

We often remember with the most fondness times when objectively we are challenged--for example, sports competitions--or pleasant days following difficulty. You can't say a pleasant day exists on its own. It is in a context, where normally it is embedded in hard work. You work hard, you enjoy your vacation. The thrill of victory only follows great strain.

The starting point for happiness, it seems to me, is a life that is neither too hard nor too easy. That is the material requirement.

The moral requirement is relative tranquility. This means freedom from abusive emotions like chronic anger and jealousy, which themselves begin with casting ourselves as a victim of something.

Ultimately, you are happy as an individual. You can't be happy as a "society", unless the members of that society are happy. This means that happiness is an internal state, local to each individual.

Given this, the starting place for happiness is in the individual too. An individual can work to make his life physically easier. He can also toughen himself, such that he needs less, and the same amount of difficulty creates less strain on him.

On the one path, of physical ease, there is no logical end point until he is doing nothing all day. This is the dream of some people, until they achieve it, and realize doing nothing is overrated. And the prospect of achieving it is an uncertain one. You may fail, since you are trying to control things external to you. And until you achieve it, you are not satisfied, since you have not met your own requirement of happiness, that of ease.

Obviously, there is always potentially a stopping point, where you say "this is good enough". This is the point of contentment. Yet, since this is an internal state--one with no external requirement--why not shorten the period, and alter your opinion earlier? This is the logic of the the wandering beggar, in the other extreme, who tries to live happily with nothing.

Socialism, in the event, is not a system for building ease and wealth, but rather for pulling people down who have been successful. It is not intended so much to raise the low, but to lower the high. The only places something like Socialism works is when you have very high degrees of cultural homogeneity, and where people tend to be like one another anyway.

In our own country, it is always expressed in terms of resentment and anger and hatred. No one is dying of hunger or thirst. The pain they feel is the outcome of agitation, which is the intentional cultivation of a sense of grievance on the part of professional activists, who use their clients as a means to their own power.

One could look at agitators like Saul Alinsky and Barack Obama as professional extortionists, who can be employed to get money and concessions out of monied elites, where the "interest" or fee they charge is power. You put them in power, they give you stuff. All they want is the land underneath you. You keep the house.

Now, I am not opposed to charity. If people are weak and hungry, or sick, and suffering in other ways, it is the decent thing to do to help them. This is not Socialism. This is not what I am opposing. Nor am I fully opposed to using even the Federal Government in this service, although I think it much better Constitutionally to limit those projects to the sundry States.

What I am opposed to is the belief that wealth, per se, is a crime. When the Russian Communists murdered the kulaks, or when Mao held his show trials by "The People" where so many "bourgeois capitalists" were killed, this was the crime that was alleged, and we see it in muted form every time somebody says "soak the rich". The top 10% of income earners pay some 71% of the taxes in this country, and the bottom 47% pay nothing. Economically, asking them to pay 100% is stupid. History is clear: when you punish achievement, you get much less achievement, and correspondingly less money.

The "soak the rich" people are just jealous. They want to punish the successful for being successful, and to steal everything they own. This was done literally in all Communist nations, and is the idea behind most of the policies we see today on the Left.

Envy

It is interesting that we are all most sensitive to the flaws in others we can readily recognize in ourselves. A person incapable of sin, would be incapable of grasping on a human level how most people think. All of us are in constant flux, and what order we contain relates to the decisions we make, which themselves are invariably based on principles. If you act on impulse, the principle is that that is acceptable. If you act based on greed, it is based on the idea that having things is far better than not having things, and that the pleasures to be had from having things outweigh the pains of avariciousness, such as the objectification of experiences and people.

As I have often argued, morality is simply a technology for optimal fulfillment in life, when it is understood properly. There is no need to reject in advance and in principle ANY human emotion: greed, hate, anger all have their places. To not feel them is to so curtail your possibility of emotional movement that you likewise curtail your innate capacity for fulfillment and joy. The grim sobriety of the stereotypical Puritan (who may in fact not have been so grim, but that's another discussion) is not Goodness at all, in my view.

Where negative emotions become malignant is when they become permanent parts of your personality. If you are always angry, or always jealous, that is a manifest sign of a character flaw, something in you which holds on to things, and which in so doing lessens your ability to generate emotional satisfaction. This is the grasping--tanha, if I'm not mistaken--of the Buddhists.

In my own view, evil begins with self pity, and self pity cannot be understood except in a social context. Animals do not feel self pity. They feel pain, which something completely different.

It is for this reason that I view the moral basis of Socialism as evil. It is a doctrine of envy. It is a doctrine of resentment.

There was a time when large numbers of people were going hungry, and lived in cold, leaky homes, where they often died before their time of preventable illnesses. The claim made by Marx was that this would get worse and worse, until such time as they rebelled. The claim made by the followers of Adam Smith was that increasing quantities of wealth would be generated, such that over time all such suffering would be alleviated.

Self evidently, the Capitalist school of thought was right. Our poor live better than most kings did 200 years ago. They have heated homes, shelter from the elements, more than enough food, access to medical care (Medicaid goes back to the 60's), and quite frequently cell phones, TV's, and even cars.

Thus, the Socialists are not critiquing a system which is causing unnecessary suffering. They are invoking ENVY--the idea that we should be angry that results are not spread evenly--to criticize the system. Socialism is a solution, then, to an emotional dysfunction. It is rotten in its core claim to relevance.

It is not an economic doctrine. Marxism was an economic doctrine, and it was wrong. Marx failed to account for the unlimited human capacity for creativity. Every year, we do more with less. Garbage, nuclear waste, pollution: these are technical problems, not philosophical problems.

As I have said a number of times now, it was the MERCANTILISTS who invented the idea that wealth was limited, and that one man's gain was NECESSARILY another man's loss. This idea was WRONG. I don't know how else to put it. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

Adam Smith, a radical liberal in his day, offered up the only theory proven to make EVERYONE richer. The only alternative is theft, and that is the solution of empire, and Socialism, which do diminish others in the process of enriching the few.

Haste

It's strange to think about, but so much of the quality of our lives depends on how we approach our work. Do we do it with violence, or care? Are our days characterized by haste, followed by indolence, or by persistently taking that extra second or minute needed to actually interact fully with a task? When doing pullups--to take an example from my morning--you can just struggle through them, then move on; or you can feel them all the way through, and watch and feel yourself moving. You can even detach emotionally from struggle, and achieve aesthetic pleasure in ANYTHING.

When I deadlift I always relax completely before doing the movement. I don't tighten up until the moment I apply pressure. And even though it IS a struggle, I don't process it that way. My BODY is struggling. I'm just the one who gave the orders.

Surely living well is some combination of detaching from unpleasantness, and giving in fully to the pleasureable? And would not, then, work well done be full engagement with the task, focusing both on the abstraction of work well done, and the present reality of details which can be unfolded in infinite and pleasingly unexpected ways, in even the most mundane of chores?

These are, at least, Buddhist ideas. The more I grow as a person, the more I realize the Buddha did nothing more or less than state the obvious. That it wasn't obvious to people then, or people now, is simply due to Mara, the demon of stupidity, who you can believe in, since he has got you too. Yes, you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Perceptions

One other thing: William James made the point that no two perceptions can ever be precisely the same, since our brain is in constant flux, and collecting countless (i.e. we can't count them, even now) impressions, so that the brain which sees someone or something one day, is not the same brain that saw them yesterday, or will see them tomorrow.

Why should we be humble? Let me continue to count the ways.

Qualitative paradigms

Our existence is our perception. Who we are, ultimately, is defined by how we choose to process the world: what we pay attention to, in particular. I don't believe in "will", per se. What there is is focus. You can be said to have "will"--and manifestly many people do--when you focus on one course of action, and are able to discard all other courses of action, as for example quitting.

I wonder, though, about everyday perception. When you are with your lover, is that different than when you are standing next to the coffeepot, talking about the last American Idol? If you an ambulance driver, is your experience picking up victims of fatal car crashes necessarily different than the experience of a clerk processing, say, accident claims?

If we posit that the brain is some sort of wondrous machine (it is, clearly: the open question is in how much more "Mind" may consist, if anything), then all emotions are open to you all the time. They are just neurochemical transactions.

On the level of pure awareness, can it not be that jaded ambulance drivers lose any qualitative reaction to dead bodies? Can it not be that some clerks find filing exciting? Why is that impossible, other than that most people resent it?

I'm listening to Enigma's 1990 (if my Roman numeral translation is right) cd. Tape, actually. I'm always a bit behind the times. This RECORD--can I say that?--has long seemed to me to stand well for what I have termed Sybaritic Leftism, and even Cultural Sadeism. They start with monastic hymns, which are rendered quickly ironic by modernistic beats, and hedonistic (onanistic, as Bloom would likely view it) beats, which quickly explicitly acknowledge Sade, as the Godfather of the loss of self restraint. Then you get the end of the world, then a desire to return to belief.

Anyway, that is what got me thinking about qualitative gestalts/paradigms. They tried to create something DIFFERENT than what everyone else was making. Not just new lyrics, or rhthyms, but a blending of mythic themes, with modernism. Of the sacred, with confusion.

And I heard something like that on the radio yesterday, while traveling. They included the gongs of a church, an Islamic muezzin, and several other types of music from around the world, with what were actually very banal lyrics, repeated over and over. Something like "love is deeper than death; jealousy comes from the grave". Not quite right, but close. It felt like poetry, but it wasn't. It was a riff.

How do we return to the "rivers of belief"? These musicians seem to sense a loss, while they are speeding it along.

Life is interesting. I never get bored with the irony in which we bathe daily.

I should add I've answered that question often, so I'll leave it be for now.

Work

Where did this idea come from that a good life is one in which you spend 8-10 hours a day half-assing something, then the rest of your waking moments drinking and/or watching TV? It may be that few would consciously argue that is a good life, but people complain about work, and when they are done, they vegetate, all too often for 3-4 hours, in front of inane programming. This is, I think, reasonably typical.

I don't get TV in any form. I have an antenna, but never bought the converter box. And I forget that I don't have it. Sometimes when I am travelling and stuck in a hotel room I will watch it, and there is no doubt some programs are worth watching. I saw an excellent one on Buddhism a couple weeks ago.

But what is wrong with not only accepting but being happy in the idea that you can spend 8-10 hours doing good, useful work somewhere, then another 4-6 developing your body, mind and spirit? People used to work 12-16 hour days all the time. Were they less happy than us? Research seems to be clear that most people are actually happier at work than they are at home, even though the crappy ideas about work most of us have been fed frequently blind people to that fact.

Work is dignified. It is honorable. It is creative. Ultimately, the type and quality of work you do is illustrative of who you are choosing to become. It shows your character, or lack thereof.

I don't doubt that when we die, some of our lazy days come to mind, but I don't think you can ever fully appreciate a lazy day without earning it with a lot of hard days.

And as far as that goes, work need not be unpleasant. If you take an approach to it of walking steadily, rather than running in bursts, then pausing to catch your breath, you can cover many, many enjoyable miles.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Intelligence

It seems to me that intelligence is best defined by your capacity to efficiently obtain the results you desire. In school, of course, this is a high test score. In life, it varies widely.

If two people desire love, that person who seeks and maintains it best, is smartest. If you are building a shed, that person is smartest who does it best and quickest. If you want a beautiful painting, that person who produces the best one is smartest. If we are dealing with music, it is the person most capable of playing it well, writing it well, or even appreciating it, if that is the task.

Clearly, IQ matters. You can't be a doctor with a low IQ. (although that may change, with smart people choosing to pursue other careers). At the same time, there are so many realms of human endeavor where factors along the lines of "emotional intelligence" make the difference that it is foolish for ANYONE to grant themselves the "ontological status" of smart.

In fact, I reject the term genius for anyone. Perhaps genius at times, or genius in a subject at their best, but no one is smart in everything all the time, and to the extent we believe this myth, we reject the scepticism which should attend what I term the "Cult of the Expert".

Marxism, Communism, and Socialism

I think it might be useful to differentiate these three terms. Marxism was an economic theory. I saw WAS, since Marx offered a scientifically formated prediction--a hypothesis--which was falsified by history. He was wrong.

Specifically, he predicted that wealth, being finite, would continue to concentrate in the hands of a few, impoverishing thereby the many, who of course could not be expected to put up with it forever. Revolution, according to this hypothesis, would NECESSARILY occur in the nations where this wide gap first emerged, namely the already industrialized nations.

Yet, in Russia, 85% of the population lived on farms. Only perhaps 10% of the population, on the high side, was even remotely in the "proletariat". Everyone else fed themselves and their families--and feudal lords--with no interference from anyone. Lenin tricked them into supporting him by promising them land. Mao did the same thing, while contradicting Marxist ideas even more dramatically by STARTING in the countryside. He was helped greatly by leading an effective anti-Japanese guerilla war, and, again, by promising the peasants the sun, moon, and stars.

What needs, therefore, to be added to this mix is Lenin's notion of the "professional" revolutionary. Marxist doctrine held that the revolution was inevitable, and could not be hastened or forced. Lenin taught that a small cadre of people dedicated to cynical deceptiveness, ruthlessness, and above all a PLAN, could take power, in the NAME--not the reality--of Marxism. Hence the frequent use of Marxist-Leninism, which is an oxymoron.

Leninism=Communism, which is a POLITICAL form, not an economic one. It is one which uses POWER backed by and often signified by intentional terror to cow the masses into silent compliance.

Socialism is a CULTURAL form. It is a moral claim that inequality is wrong, and that the MEANS of centralized power--there is a continuum here, but the intent remains the same--is how you fix it. It deduces from the Mercantilist fantasy that wealth is limited, that wealth concentrated is necessarily wealth stolen, from which it rationalizes the theft of property by the State. It provides the rhetorical cover for totalitarianism, which is why socialists are utterly unable to condemn the abuses of Cuba, China, and North Korea. As long as the only crime is inequality, then anything that addresses it is moral.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Consumerism vs. Capitalism

It seems to me important to distinguish these two terms. The first is a description of a CULTURAL phenomenon, and the second of an ECONOMIC system. Consumerism is effectively a doctrine of Physical Hedonism, in which happiness is the goal of life, and is to be found in the acquisition of external objects, where human beings, more or less, are to be understood as well as objects, with prices.

Me, I will never have a trophy bride, since I can't foot the bill. Nor will my own self esteem climb as a result of driving to work in an expensive car, and driving home to a "castle" situated with other "persons of quality". I refuse to put a value on myself, based on my material success. I'm not opposed to money--I would like a lot of it--but if I were rich, it would simply enable me to pursue more aggressively the projects I pursue now part-time, and some of which--like some experiments in biology I have in mind--that I simply can't afford the parts and pieces for.

I went to see "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" yesterday. It was morally appalling, and I found myself in vague discomfort start to finish--with only a few laughs to punctuate it--but found myself pondering one of the characters, a 7th grade girl we first see reading Ginsberg's Howl. She was the prototypical outsider. You see them in every school. They are of above average intelligence, and when they reach a certain age, they realize our world is in large measure mad. We have rejected the sacred demands of traditional culture, and worked feverishly to insulate ourselves from all material discomforts, and have in general seemingly chosen willful superficiality over the dignified struggles of yesteryear: in war; in fighting for your family; in sincere and deep religious devotion; in dedication to your community.

Those who notice this almost invariably gravitate to the counter-culture, and leftist politics. Why? Socialists claim they oppose the vapidity of Consumerism. And people like Ginsberg are qualitatively different. They seem deep. Suffering seems deep.

Yet, this is only partially true. Suffering in the pursuit of a difficult end, based on self chosen principles, creates depth. Pain, by itself, does nothing. It breaks you down into a nullity, then you do drugs, and lose your mind, as did the "best minds" of Ginsbergs generation.

Once you accept the basic notion of Quality--which I define as richly textured latent information--then you can accept the idea of movement towards or away from quality. To this, though, I would add that you can have qualitatively positive movement, and negative movement. Your personality, in my own terms, is an emergent property of the self organizing nature of human consciousness, oriented around principles you choose.

You can move towards Evil, which is to say, towards self pity, resentment, anger, hate, pleasure in causing others pain; and you can move towards Goodness, which is to say towards the rejection of self pity, persistence in the face of difficulty, and growing awareness of light and the possibility of joy, which leads to love, and a genuine desire to alleviate the pain of others, and to take pleasure in so doing.

Ginsburg moves you towards self pity, and the rejection of transcendance, and he is the rough direction most people go who want to reject Consumerism. This is unnecessary.

Capitalism is simply a method. Its means are defined by what people want. If people want local businesses, and genuinely rich diversity of options, they will get them. Capitalism will FOLLOW wherever the people lead. If you reject a life based on consumption, then Capitalism will adapt.

To claim that the homogenizing, maternalistic Nanny State will correct the maladjustments of suburbia is stupid. It is a fundamental misundertanding of what is being proposed.

I am a conservative Liberal. This is absolutely different from social conservatism. I want for all people the capacity for them to lead the lives they want to lead. I think the evidence is clear that most groups are happiest living with their own kind. Black people are happier living with other black people. They understand one another. They know what to expect. Mexicans are happiest living with other Mexicans. White Lutherans are happier with white Lutherans. Etc.

I see a future in which we accept gay cities--where everyone is gay. And Christian cities, where everyone walks to the same church. We have room for Muslim towns, with prayer towers, and a Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. They simply need to accept, in writing, word and deed, the primacy of our Constitution and laws. They cannot exact "cruel and unusual punishments"; they cannot ban "blasphemy". If they want to priviledge Allah above our national government, they join in that most Christians. As long as they follow our laws, and do not encourage anyone to break them, this is acceptable to me.

This pattern can be continued. My own vision for a post-consumeristic future is one in which we decouple the currently overweaning Federal Government from the States to a great extent, and sort of atomize into countless groups, living in small communities, how they want to live. Drugs should be able to be legalized; and prostitution; and abortion should be able to be banned: all in some places, not others, depending on local tastes and mores.

What ties us together? Goodness, as I have defined it, and as someone smarter than me may redefine it in the future.

Currently, we suffer so much from loneliness and social isolation. This is the clear, empirically verifiable result of multiculturalism, which aims not to protect and reconcile difference, but to eradicate it outright, regardless of what the fools pushing this agenda claim.

None of this pain is necessary. None of it.

Art

In my own terms, the proper purposes of art are to help foster the rejection of self pity, to sponsor and model persistence, and to cultivate perception, particularly the ever present possibility of joy and trascendance. The materials that interest me personally most are light, color, and movement, particularly the movement of water.

Many different visions came to me this morning. For example, you could have a clear walled building situated in an advantageous position relative to the sun, filled with glass tubes, through which water is running. What makes water interesting when it moves is not smooth motion, but interrupted motion. This creates all sorts of interesting patterns and shadows, which could be emphasized with the proper type of floor, and perhaps strategically placed walls. You could introduce, in an elaborate cascade of sequenced pipes, different colors. Suddenly the water could turn purple, in a wave; later, yellow; then 5 colors could be introduced in different parts of the room, perhaps coupled with lights at the bottom or tops of the tubes.

I like days when the weather is "moody", when the clouds are on the move, and the sun is popping in and out. To this arrangement you could add, in addition to natural wind--I see this being open to the elements--bursts of artificial wind, perhaps filled with alternating, interesting odors, like vanilla. In the spirit of Harry Potter, perhaps every so often you could have an unpleasant smell, like cow manure, which would disappear soon enough. Learning to accept the occasional unpleasantness is an essential element in living well. After warning people, you could make the floor purposely uneven, so that some care must be paid to your footing.

I also saw a pyramid of bottles, with water being sprayed on them from above, in which various rainbows would appear often. Perhaps you could have hoses for attendees, so they could spray one another. You could have bright full spectrum lights shining from the floor, so they could create their own rainbows. People could purchase colored waters, and you could have smaller fountains, with narrow tops, on an angle, so they run downhill at say 45 degrees, with many interruptions, and you could pour the colored water on it, and watch it flow. You could make the fountain surface clear, with light underneath, to enhance the effect. Again, the water could have an odor. Every so often it could simply rain, so that everyone got soaked. You would of course warn them of this first.

Mild risk and mild invasions of "abnormality" into your space are cathartic. Consider the act of Gallagher, who would always smash a bunch of watermelons in his act, such that the first few rows got wet. Or the Blue Man group, which as I understand it, has the audience pull a fabric over their heads.

We see often in museums the self destructive rage of the "epater la bourgeoisie"--the desire to "shock the middle class"--that acts out of nothing more creative than self loathing, which leads to resentment of others who are content, anger at them, and ultimately hatred. This is counterproductive. This sort of thing is NOT generative of anything but decline, even if the decline often cloaks itself in the mantle of outwardly progressive rhetoric. The real intent of Communists, always, is to destroy what exists, in favor of something they cannot create. This makes it a nihilistic doctrine, from which no beauty can be expected.

Yet, I do see value in disrupting complacency. In fact, no complacent person can be fully Good, in my own terms. If they are not engaging creatively with life, then they are decaying. The value of art is in supporting this intelligently, and purposefully.