Abuse, Bad Ideas, Competence, Cultural Change, Cultural Traits, Culture, Equality, Equality of Opportunity, Ethics, Fairness, Fantasy Based Community, Freedom and Liberty, Guilt, Honesty, Human Nature, Idealism, Ideas, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, Justice, Liars Lies and Lying, Morality, Morals, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Oppression, Political Ideologies, Political Issues, Politics, Privilege, Quality of Life, Racism, Reality Based Community, Reason, Shame, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking, Truth, Values, Village Idiots, Work

Who is Privileged and Who Is Not?

(About  5 minute read)

Growing up, I had a keen sense that I could get away with a good amount of rule-breaking.  Not just little things, but some fairly sizeable offenses too.  I didn’t usually push things as far as I sensed I could, but I did have the perception I could get away with a whole lot of things — if only I wanted to.

The sense stayed with me when I got older, although it became a little vaguer.  When I was in my late teens, early twenties, majoring in philosophy I was aware that I wouldn’t have much trouble getting a good job upon graduation — despite some warnings that my major was impractical.

Continue reading “Who is Privileged and Who Is Not?”

Cultural Traits, Culture, Human Nature, Idealism, John McCain, Life, Memes, News and Current Events, People, Politician, Society, Values

On Heroes and the Death of John McCain

(About a 2 minute read)

To many people John McCain, who died yesterday, was a hero best remembered for his refusal when a POW to accept the offer of his captors for his personal freedom because it meant leaving his brothers behind.

To many others, McCain was the best of a bad lot — a politician who at least somewhat rose above the norm for politicians to show some political integrity and courage. I myself will always remember him as the man who rightfully stood up for the humanity of Barack Obama, his political opponent when he was running for the presidency.

Continue reading “On Heroes and the Death of John McCain”

Evolution, Freedom and Liberty, Fundamentalism, Human Nature, Idealism, Ideas, Ideologies, Libertarianism, Political Ideologies, Political Issues, Politics

A Critique of Libertarianism

(About a 4 minute read)

It it is a peculiar fact that America stands entirely alone in the world as the only nation in which the ideology of Ayn Rand is not laughed away as immature rubbish.  Yet, I myself can almost see the attraction of her ideology.

I was briefly attracted to it myself when, at age 15, I read Atlas Shrugged.  Back then, as today, I was willing to force myself to adopt views if they seemed to make sense, and if I could not find sound reasons to oppose them.  At 15, Rand’s views satisfied both requirements, and though I was upset to discard my former views, I conscientiously adopted hers.

Continue reading “A Critique of Libertarianism”

Alex Jones, Authoritarianism, Bad Ideas, Censorship, Citizenship, Community, Conservative, Cultural Traits, Culture, Democracy, Ethics, Fairness, Fantasy Based Community, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Idealism, Ideologies, Intellectual Honesty, Intelligentsia, Internet, Justice, Law, Liars Lies and Lying, Liberal, Libertarianism, Logic, Morality, News and Current Events, Obligations to Society, Oppression, People, Political Issues, Politicians and Scoundrels, Politics, Reason, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking, Truth

Alex Jones and the “Paradox of Tolerance”

(About a 7 minute read)

I think it can be said of Alex Jones that he is the poster-child for the “American disease” of tolerating the intolerable.  Perhaps out of all major democracies, America’s democracy is the most susceptible to the disease.  That’s because we tend to be extremists when it comes to protecting freedom of speech.

To be sure, America does limit free speech somewhat, but the limits are absolutely minimal.  You cannot advocate physical violence against someone and/or their property, nor can you “yell fire in a crowded theater” for the mere sport of it, since that might lead to physical injuries.

Continue reading “Alex Jones and the “Paradox of Tolerance””

Against the Next War, Allies, Authoritarianism, Bad Ideas, Brotherly Love, Capitalism, Class War, Community, Compassion, Culture, Democracy, Free Market Capitalism, Free Spirit, Freedom, Freedom and Liberty, Friends, Giving, Human Nature, Humanism, Idealism, Ideologies, International Relations, Internet, Liars Lies and Lying, Life, Love, Obligations to Society, Peace, Philos, Political Ideologies, Violence, Wisdom

Against the Next War

(About a 3 minute read)

The internet has made it now
Bound to happen
Tomorrow or the year after.
Bound to happen.

Maybe.
Up to you.

The politicians and the preachers,
The two dogs of the capitalist class,
Will once again want a war,
Just as they always do.

War to them is a gift, you see,
It’s not personal, it’s not their blood.
But war makes some folks rich
And you will never change that,
You will never change that,
Though the dogs will bark it’s not so.

A war of aggression
Against some people somewhere,

Most likely brown,
Most likely poor,
Most likely weak,
Most likely no real threat.

War for the sake of the banks
And for the merchants of death.
War for the sake of the pulpit,
And for the corridors of power.

But not a war for the sake
Of you and of me. We don’t count.
Our side is the one side
That has never counted.
Never.

That’s how war goes, it’s always been so
And it’s bound to happen again,
Soon happen again.

This is your world,
How it really is —
The world you think,
The world you were taught,
The gods want you to live in and love
Them more than you love each other.

In your world are great nations:
Nations the greatest in history,
Nations with the power of suns,
A thousands suns,
To do good, make truths come true
For even the poor man, the poor woman,
The poor child. Make truths come true.

But these nations,
Nations great and greatest,
Act only like whores,
Filthy whores,
Fucking folks raw,
Spreading their diseases,
Recruiting new girls,
Ever younger girls
To fuck you, to fuck all of you,
To fuck everyone.

This is your world
Your world without end.

But now someday you see

Someday now for once it will happen
For once it will stop
Stop the day they give a war
And you
You rise up, join hands
By the millions, possibly billions,
Linked together by the net
And by love, and by common sense.

At last,
At last you will rise, singing
“At last my spirit shall have water!
At last my cries shall be heard!
At last my thirst shall be slaked!”

Yes, you will rise up and you will say
In a voice thunderous and magnified
By the whole world joining in,

Say, “Those people are our friends,
We chat with them by day and by night.
We know their hopes, we know their dreams,
We know their troubles, we know their fears.
We know them, we know their names.

“Jane and Matthias. Terese and Sindhuja.
Mark, Parikhitdutta, and Min.

We even marry them now and then —
They shall not this time be murdered.

“You will not touch them,
Our brothers, our friends;
This once the bombs won’t fall.
This once the bombs won’t fall.
You politicians and preachers,
You capitalists and bankers all —
This once the bombs won’t fall.”

Yet you know it will ever be a dream
Just a dream, just a mere dream.
It will ever be a dream
If you, if we, keep on dividing,
Never uniting, never joining,
But instead just staying, just keeping,
To my echo chamber or to yours.

So let’s come together
Let’s come together,
Let’s come together.

So let’s come together
Before the nukes fall,
Before the demons fall.
Before we die in the winter,
And we come together
Never once come together at all.

 


Please seriously consider spreading this poem — spreading it to your site, to the social media sites — in an effort to make it go viral. We need it viral well before the next war, we need folks mulling over the idea of rebelling against the violence. Spread this poem and then you too write — write about the ideas presented in the poem. For you, for your brothers and for your sisters, for your children after you — stop the wars of aggression!

Please Note: Matthias has responded by dedicating his poem, Pooling Strength, to this cause.

Bruce has reposted the poem on “The Life and Times of Bruce Genencser“.

Kat has responded by posting this article: I Don’t Know Anything About War.

Bad Ideas, Belief, Creative Thinking, Culture, Fantasy Based Community, Fundamentalism, Idealism, Ideologies, Memes, Political Ideologies, Politics, Reason, Religious Ideologies, Skeptical Thinking, Thinking, Truth

Why I Always Need a Shower Whenever I Study an Ideology

(About a 4 minute read)

“Since opposed principles, or ideologies, are irreconcilable, wars fought over principle will be wars of mutual annihilation. But wars fought for simple greed will be far less destructive, because the aggressor will be careful not to destroy what he is fighting to capture. Reasonable – that is, human – men will always be capable of compromise, but men who have dehumanized themselves by becoming the blind worshipers of an idea or an ideal are fanatics whose devotion to abstractions makes them the enemies of life.” ― Alan W. Watts

 

It is a tragedy of human nature that it is more than fair to describe all ideologies — even the most accurate and most decently motivated — as inimical to the very best efforts of humans to think.

Of course, that raises the question of what it means to  “think”, and I certainly do not mean in this context to define “thinking” in any way a psychologist would recognize the term.  That’s too narrow here.

Instead, perhaps the minimum standard — in this context — for ‘thinking” is open-minded skepticism.  And perhaps the highest standard is creative, but truthful and accurate, out-of-the box thinking.  If so, it should be fully appreciated by all of us that ideologies invariably fear and fight against such thinking in the same way snakes fear and fight pigs, their natural and inevitable predators.

People who say an ideology “got them thinking” are flattering themselves in the same manner as anyone using a map would be flattering themselves if they claimed they were — not a mere map user — but a cartographer.  Ideologies are not intended to get you thinking, they are intended to get you motivated.  They are the philosophical equivalent of a sales pitch.

One thing any successful salesperson knows is, speak all you want about how much your product or service will do for the world.  Speak to both individuals and crowds. Even shout the news from a mountain that yours will save all of humanity, and lead to much whiter teeth, too.  But whatever you do, don’t forget to close the sale on narrow self-interest, because it is narrow self-interest that does the real selling — that is always and ever the real motivation for adopting an ideology.

People like to confuse themselves about that.  But while people can at least now and then do things for selfless reasons, they simply do not adopt an ideology to help their brother or sister more than themselves.  Ideologies are just as opposed to selfless motives for believing in them as they are to genuine thinking.

Although most of us don’t hang around our hammocks all day long thinking about such things,  to act without any selfish motive at all is to act spontaneously without thinking about it.   That’s because the psychological self or “ego” crucially rests for its very existence on thinking, on symbolic thought.  Hence, there is a profound sense in which it can be said that you cannot think about saving the girl without in some significant sense thinking about what saving the girl would mean to you personally.  In other words, self-interest will factor into every calculation you can make of the value of saving the girl.

But to me, the biggest objection to ideologies is that they are so full of themselves.  Basically, they are “systems of thinking that explain to their deserving adherents why they themselves are clearly right and why everyone else is clearly wrong, yet systems which are always significantly wrong about always being right., and everyone else wrong.’

Arrogance is a form of blindness to one’s blindness to nearly everything.   As opposed to true humility (which is claiming what one deserves — no more, no less),  arrogance lacks sufficient realism to either understand itself or others.  It’s like living in a fantasy world.

Beyond that, ideologies, when approached carefully and cautiously can help make sense of the word.  But damn, there are just too many ideologically-deranged people willing to do the equivalent of bomb an abortion clinic in the name of Jesus.

Bad Ideas, Freedom, Idealism, Ideologies, Libertarianism, Oppression, Political Ideologies, Politics, Society

On the Astonishing Resemblance Between the Old Pigs and the New Pigs

(About a 7 minute read)

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” — Carl Sagan

It seems so strange how reliably we humans can be duped again and again and again by the same ancient tricks. I think it’s especially true that each generation in turn falls for the same cons as its parents once fell for. But I notice so many individuals never learn much either, but over and over become marks for, at most, marginally different scams.

Maybe more so than most things, it’s so true of politics. I’m sure you will agree with me that easily up to three-quarters and probably more political promises are broken. And, beyond promises, it’s so simple to dupe the people into supporting things that are not in their own best interests to support.

Want to start a war — even an unjust war of aggression? It’s not hard. Label some group or nation an enemy, an existential threat, tell the people they are in imminent danger of attack, and denounce any domestic opposition as fools and traitors. Nothing more is needed, but it works, and it’s so frequently used again and again almost without fail.

In Animal Farm, George Orwell warned of the one of the oldest, most dangerous, yet effective, tricks in anyone’s political playbook. It’s as simple as going to war, and it’s basically a bait and switch con. Portray yourself as a common person, an ally of the people, and viciously denounce the current ruling elite as oppressors. Then foment a revolution promising freedom and liberty from their oppression. When the people succeed in overthrowing the old oppressors, pull the “switch” and become the new oppressor.

Which brings us to the actual focus of what I wish to discuss: I believe a rock solid argument can be made for asserting that extreme right libertarianism easily lends itself to being used as a mask for the sort of bait and switch con George Orwell described in Animal Farm, and is therefore an inherently risky political ideology — in much the same way that Marxism is in practice

In my opinion, it’s the perfect tool for the job. And I think that’s despite — or more likely, even in part because of — the great attractiveness of the libertarian principle, “maximize individual human freedoms and liberties for everyone as much as practically possible.”

Superficially, it would seem obvious that the libertarian principle does not allow for either an oligarchy or a tyranny of one. After all, how can you possibly have either an oligarchy or a tyranny and still maximize human liberties for everyone? It just can’t be done.

But as Animal Farm teaches us, it can indeed be done if the “for everyone” becomes merely a ploy, merely smoke and mirrors, in some group’s or person’s political tool kit. And I submit, there is nothing intrinsic about extreme right libertarianism that would serve with much effect as checks on any group or individual wishing to use the ideology as a ploy to gain dominance over all.

Surely you are now thinking, “But what about other groups or individuals? Wouldn’t they be natural checks on the ambitions of other groups or individuals?” Up to a point, I agree with you. But only up to a point. So long as folks remain more or less equal in wealth and power, they can — and probably would in actual practice — serve effectively to check each other’s ambitions to dominate everyone.

Yet how often can you honestly say such a state of affairs has ever been long maintained by any society in human history — apart from small bands of egalitarian hunter/gathers? Even a fairly shallow study of history quickly reveals the trend is almost invariably towards increasing disparities of wealth and power until at some point a ruling elite emerges that — over time — becomes smaller and smaller in number until only a few or one remain who then dominate everyone. Over and over that’s been the story of humanity.

Of course, you might now think, “All of that’s nice, but it’s also beside the point, because all one really needs is a constitution full up with strong checks on balances on political power. Hah! You fool, Sunstone! Got you there for sure!”

Upon due reflection, I am sadly forced to reply, “You’re absolutely right. I cannot for the life of me think of any answer that defeats you’re point. Gods, but how I hate you and will now live out the remainder of my days bitterly wishing the hamster you kept as a kid had died even sooner!”

Just teasing! The truth is I believe it simply naive to imagine a constitution — any constitution — could long withstand being subverted if and when there arose such a great disparity of wealth that one person or a group of people could buy the government despite any attempts by much poorer people to stop them. “Well, what if the government is so weak, so powerless, that even if some person or group controlled all of it, they’d never be powerful enough to truly dominate the nation?

As an aside, you so often hear surprisingly earnest variations of that sentiment these days! “Let’s keep the government weak in order to make it powerless to enslave us.” I say “surprisingly” because it is astonishing how very little people think through to see weakness of that idea these days. I have no explanation for that. Even perfectly intelligent people do it.

Of course, the obvious thing is that if the government is truly weak, then it becomes easy to over match it, and then either with or without its apparatus go on to take the whole country — assuming only you have a great enough advantage over others in wealth and power. But even if the government has, say, a strong military and is therefore not truly weak, you are at most only set back until you can marshal enough resources to seize it one way or another, along with control of its military.

The point of all this has been to first present the notion that extreme right libertarianism is a risky investment if you are genuinely interested in both yours and others freedoms and liberties, and a ready and handy mask to hide behind if you are truly only interested in maximizing your own. Second, that it provides no effective guarantees against either tyranny or oligarchy, ultimately because it provides no checks on the historical tendency in any given society towards increasingly vast disparities in wealth and power.

Somewhat in the imagery of Animal Farm, extreme right libertarinanism is the perfect tool for the new pigs to rise up, overthrow the old pigs, only to then become just like the old pigs.

Comments? Questions? Cake recipes? Descriptions of new and exciting depravities? Invitations to listen to you play Bohemian Rhapsody using only a tuba?