Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page
Take a look at this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCagnR2z0R4&feature=channel_page
For those of you without audio or who hate YouTube in blogs like I do, I will briefly summarize:
The concept of a top-down ordering of human society (topped by some form of government) is based on a flawed assumption that life itself is ordered in a top-down fashion. It is flawed because life simply emerged out of chaos, just as human societies have.
There are a number of problems with these assertions. The first is where the video starts. The narrator starts talking about protons, neutrons, and electrons “emerging” to form atoms. He then moves up from there: atoms, molecules, amino acids, proteins, cells, tissues, organisms, herds, humans.
This presents an overly simplified view of the nature of matter. It is critical to note that we have no idea where matter came from. Even the big bang theory suggests that the matter already existed and was merely packed infinitely densely to the point of a large explosion to spread it out, and stellar action has modified it into a variety of denser forms (up from hydrogen to iron, for example).
This is important because the implication here, of course, is that everything, down to the very nature of the physical universe, was somehow emergent, without ever touching upon where that matter came from.
If we are going to buy into the notion that everything is emergent and nothing is top down, we have to ignore this question because it doesn’t have any scientific answer, and qualifying that assertion with “yet” is not quid pro quo for a broader answer to that question.
So you more or less have to rule out the concept that some force – whether it was an intelligent creator deity or something else – ordered the universe into matter and do a bit of hand waving to assume, well, it’s just there.
Even if we buy that much, we come into a problem with the rejection that human society is not ordered in a top-down fashion because a computer programmer wrote a bird simulation that showed flock behavior.
Is he serious?
When you boil down his argument, that’s essentially what you get. The narrator of this video is asserting that all social organsisms order their societies in the same way – as suggested, without order.
His evidence? A clip showing human beings filing into lines on a crosswalk.
Is he serious?
This is simply dishonest. Even if you accept the emergent life principle, for which we have a great deal of evidence, the assertion that animal society is emergent and not ordered in some top-down fashion is absurd. Anyone who passes a basic biological anthropology course would reject this claim as I have, because it’s patently absurd.
Animal societies are nearly always ordered. Ants, bees, birds, wildebeast, lions, wolves, gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans.
I shouldn’t even have to explain how they’re ordered because everyone knows instantly what I’m talking about. A folicary is rulled by a queen. A hive is ruled by a queen. Canadian geese head south in a chevron headed by a single bird. Male wildebeasts compete for mating privileges. Lion and gorillas order themselves into harems presided over by a single male. Wolf packs are headed by a single mating alpha pair. Chimpanzee troops are led by an alpha male. Human tribes are nearly always ruled by a chief or a council of elders. Human societies are nearly all governed.
The notion that anarchy is somehow more natural than top-down, government-run human civilization totally belies the biology of the human species. Our societies are manufactured in the pattern dictated to us by our genetic heritage – our genes – the same way our bodies’ cells manufacture proteins through RNA transcription.
Every aspect of human nature proves this point. Why are humans competitive? And why are men and women competitive about different things in different ways? Why do human beings have a simultaneous desire to be monogamous and polygamous? Why do human beings fight with each other as easily as they help each other? Why do humans beings have a desire to hoard material goods?
All of these natures attribute to the formation of a top-down hierarchy. Government is as natural as it is inevitable. Someone has to be in charge. Even in democratic systems this is true. Humans want leadership. How else can we explain how rabidly dedicated people can be even to democratically elected leaders? Teenagers were voluntarily marching in the streets pledging themselves to Barack Obama’s will. Why? Because we’re naturally anarchists? Please.
I can tell that the narrator of this video is either young or blind. After watching people for long enough, any astute observer will invariably come to the conclusion that the world we live in is populated by a lot of very weak people and not as many strong people. I understand how cliche it is to say “the strong rule the weak,” yet unpalatable as it is, it’s the truth. Many people want to be led, and for good reason.
Actually being in charge is a mighty and terrifying thing. I won’t speak for the female psychology of the situation because I am just a man and I am unqualified to do so, but I suspect their experience is similiar. One of the turning points in every person’s life occurs when they are in charge of not only themselves, but of their families. The charge of the safety and well being of a family is one of the most profoundly altering adjustments to a person’s attitude that we can ever hope to experience. This is why, at least for men, becoming a father is an important step in life. Before that, the best he can do is speculate. I claim that most anarchists are childless men.
I believe a lot of the people who fantasize about anarchy are in a situation where they are led, willingly or not, and tend to disagree with a lot of decisions their leaders make. Their leaders may be their parents, their church, their government, or even one of their friends. But I’ll tell you what so-called anarchists have never really been – and that is leaders themselves. They probably want to be leaders, but don’t know how, or are afraid, to actually get there. One psychological escape hatch is to adopt anarchism. If I can’t be a leader, then no one will!
As Marcus Aurelius writes: of everything, ask what is it in and of itself? What is its nature? Anthropology is the study of that question, and it should be manadatory course study in high school. So few people are able to understand anything about humanity because they’ve never bothered to study it the same way they study biology: as a science. What’s more important? Understanding how your body’s cells reproduce, or how human nature influences human culture? You decide.
Anthropology is underrated.
After a hundred or so posts I’ve decided to rename this blog to give it a more fitting title.
I understand why so many people write blogs on subject matter that I would deem immaterial in every way, the so-called “story of my life” blogs that I hate to read.
They write them because writing a blog like mine is extremely frustrating.
It’s extremely frustrating because most of the people who read it and take the time to comment are idiots. Yes, they are idiots because they disagree with me.
See, here’s the problem with blogs, bloggers, and blogging: most people who read blogs invariably end up starting one themselves. How can we not, after witnessing the widespread internet pollution of total nonsense? And by nonsense, I of course mean any opinions on relevant, close-to-home or otherwise controversial subjects which differ from our own.
And once we do start our own blogs, as I have, we find that no matter how persuasive we may be, people still miss the point. Again, and again. Mostly because the readers of our own blogs are the very people with whose opinions we started our blogs to disagreein the first place.
But unfortunately it’s a broader problem. Most of the subjects I write about could be considered political-religious – in that weird, nebulous space between emotion and intellect where we form opinions first and form rationalizations later – and no amount of proselytzing on the internet is going to change the opinions of the people who read my posts, because everyone comes to them with prejudice already.
The issues themselves are loaded and come with prejudice, so everything I write is a waste of time. I can scream as loud as text can scream about the giant freaking elephant right here in the room with us and still people will come by and tell me that it isn’t there.
It’s because we see different things. I see an elephant, you see thin air. As long as this is true, any time I spend writing about the properties of this elephant, such as how large it is, how bad it smells, and arguing how it is really better suited for a zoo than this room we’re here together in, is an exercise in futility.
I could simply give up as I promised I would when Barack Obama was elected, but unfortunately these are the topics I like to write about. I don’t get inspired to write a blog post about the great deal I got on Christmas gifts for my family, my pets, or why I prefer one Starbucks location to the next. You know, subjects that the majority of bloggers live for.
I think they live for them because they either don’t care about issues like these or have already reached the conclusion that it’s a waste of time. I suspect it’s more often than not the former, but I feel rather sheepish when it’s the latter.
And it took me this long to figure it out? How many posts have I written?
To illustrate my point, if you happen to be one of the people who come to my blog to disagree with it and have read this post this far, I bet you’ve already concluded that the true motive of this post must be an admission that my positions are either in fact wrong or I’m merely acknowledging my inability to be persuasive. If that’s the case, my point is already proved: this is an exercise in futility.
Even knowing this, I’m going to continue to write anyway. Some of the best things in life are really nothing more than exercises in futility.
Oh, Obama. You clever fox.
Rick Warren? Seriously?
I gotta give this guy credit. He isn’t even in the White House and he’s already thinking about 2012. I wonder what he’ll do in 2013.
Obama has moved to the center even faster than Slick Willy Clinton.
The best part of all is how angry his own constituents are. Turns out Obama pulled a fast one on everyone. I am now beginning to believe that my fears in Barack Obama may have been unfounded because it looks like every single thing he said to get elected was just that – things he said to get elected.
I remember saying to my fiancee during the primaries that I would rather have Barack Obama be elected without an election than risk Hillary Clinton. My reasoning was specific. Even then, I got the impression that Obama, who is clearly a very intelligent guy, couldn’t possibly believe the crap he was spitting on the campaign trail. I got the reverse from Hillary. I felt that she truly believed the crap she was spitting.
I would like to remind you that if what we’re seeing in this transition period is a forecast for the next 4 years and Obama completely forgets everything he talked about on the campaign trail, then it only confirms everything I’ve said about liberals: in general, they’re fools. They elected a man based on outrageous lies. At least as outrageous as that old WMD story they refuse to forget.
And as much as it makes my stomach churn that someone as fake as Barack Obama has been elected, I’d rather that his campaign promises be one big pack of lies than that he actually intended on fulfilling any of them. Since I hated every promise he made, this is turning out to be better for me.
I am actually delighted in all of the centrist choices Barack Obama is making because they are infuriating all of the retards who drank his koolaid and slapped on the Change bumper stickers faster than the Flash on a good day.
Your Change man is going to be sworn in by a man who is openly anti-gay. Congratulations, California!
I’m sure his voters aren’t ready to give up on B. Hussein (now back in style) quite yet. According to them, he is still better than McCain. If Obama’s campaign turns out to be all bullshit and he governs from the center like Clinton started to in 1994, I might actually come around to agreeing with them as long Obama can keep his dick in his pants and not embarass the entire country.
And you people thought Bush was devious?
Christ, I am sick of hearing this phrase.
I can’t tell you how many people actually believe that this principal not only makes sense but should dictate all legislation in the civilized world.
There is so much wrong with this frame of mind that I barely know where to begin, but here goes anyway.
I’ll start with an abstract, highly intellectualized, philosophical angle. A good portion of the subscribers to this belief like to play on this field. Of them I ask a simple question: who defines hurt, exactly? Let me give you an example that I think will illustrate the obvious answer to this question.
Drugs. Take your pick. Weed, crack, heroin, meth, you name it. Every single time I’ve ever had this discussion, either in person or online, at least one person drops the subject line. “It doesn’t hurt you if I chase the dragon all day every day, man. Live your own life.” Right. He’s absolutey right. It doesn’t hurt me. The reason it doesn’t hurt me is simple: I hold the speaker in no regard higher than an acquaintance. But what about his mother?
Mmhmm. I thought so. Nobody ever bothers to think about the fact that the majority of drug abusers in the world have mothers who love them, and if those mothers are not themselves also on smack, they no doubt die a little each day their progeny wastes addicted to slow acting, poisonous drugs.
What about their rights?
Do you see what I’m saying? The only way that such a position could ever stand against its own weight is if the concept of “hurt” – as it applies to the same action as the phrase applies – were somehow conclusive and universal. It isn’t.
Gay marriage, for example, may not hurt you, but it may hurt other people. How would you know, and who are you to decide? Why does your evaluation of an action, as its observer, trump everyone else’s? What does your assessment of an action as painless have to do with mine?
It physically pains me to merely witness a junkie sprawled out on a pissragged mattress high as a kite. The pain is alleviated knowing that it is only a matter of time before said junkie is arrested for possession and forced into state-funded rehab, or dies from an overdose. Both outcomes are merciful.
The only dodge the utterer of this ridiculous phrase can attempt here is to ask me how many of the thousands of junkies do I witness on a daily basis. This engages us to answer the thrilling, timless question: if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? There may be some legitimacy to that line of reasoning except that never once have I heard someone whose “guiding political position” is dictated by “as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else…” ever append the catch phrase: “and they do it in secret so nobody knows about it.” Naturally, since doing so would be self defeating because it’s ludicrous and absurd, and would throw a hitch in its application to something unfortunately very public, like gay marriage.
Essentially, at an intellectual level, this philosophy falls completely short of the mark and as I’ve just demonstrated can be derailed with a few simple thought questions. And you call yourself a thinker? Come on.
I promised more angles, so here’s another one. Even if pretend that the action to which we’re applying this ridiculous principle is in fact completely benign to anyone who would observe it – in other words, for example, that heroin use could be conclusively shown to not hurt any third party – it could still be illegal because it hurts you.
That’s right. We, the vast, sane, majority should be granted the authority to make illegal actions that are benign to everyone except the actor if the action is in fact harmful to the actor. What is hard about that to understand?
Think about all of the warnings we put all over the place on everything. Caution: Wet Floor. In two languages. Caution: deer crossing. Phenylketonurics: contains pheylalanine. We look out for each other. Even if you want to be reckless with your own body and life, we believe that we have the right to stop you because your life is precious regardless of whether or not you realize it yourself. This is the guiding principle behind the illegality of suicide and by extension other harmful behaviors that we make illegal for this exact reason.
It’s hard for me to even fathom the kind of person who believes that our society should let average, reckless people loose on themselves. In fact, I’ve never met one. The same people who tout this ideology are the same ones who sit around and whine because they got themselves into some fantastic mess and nobody rescued them in time. They seem to rather believe that we should leave them alone until they decide they need some kind of assistance, and then we’re at fault for not preventing this situation in the first place. What?
I’ve listened to fools piss and moan about Hurricane Katrina victims while simultaneously telling me that as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else, society shouldn’t give a shit. Well guess what, guys? We applied your idea to New Orleans and look what happened! People died. What a grave tragedy, right? We knew that the levy wasn’t going to hold and that New Orleans was about to be flooded. We issued an evacuation order. Some people ignored it.
If we had a law in this country that when a city is evacuated it is illegal to stay and rescue workers had the authority to forcibly drag people out of danger, and we properly enforced this law, no one would have died in New Orleans. Instead, we said, c’est le vie, good luck, it’s your choice.
Please, please, please… if you have ever uttered this phrase, reconsider your attitude. It is wrong on every level.
I’m sure you know the type. “I love to travel!!!1111″
“Oh, I’m in it for the unique experiences.”
“I want to see the world!”
“I want to meet exotic people in exotic places!”
“I want more from life than my cubicle!”
You don’t want to travel. You want to not work. Period.
Traveling is a socially acceptable, expensive way of not working for however long you can afford to travel. Think about it. When you’re traveling, you spend all day every day doing whatever the hell you want. You’re on vacation. You have the same responsibilities and pressing demands of anyone else who isn’t at work for whatever reason – they can’t, they won’t, or it’s a mental health day.
If you go “traveling” for 6 months, or “backpacking through Europe for a summer” nobody asks why you didn’t have a job. If you sit on your ass for 6 months on your couch watching TV and scratching your balls, everybody asks why you don’t have a job. Equally importantly, you can easily vanquish that nagging voice that compels most reasonable people to do something other than totally relax all day for weeks at a time because, after all, you’re traveling. Nobody asks you any questions, and you don’t ask yourself any questions either. It’s guilt-free slacking with a steep price tag.
In a way it makes sense. You can’t travel for free, so obviously if you can afford to travel for 6 months you must have had a job at some point to finance your little expedition, or you’re independently wealthy in which case it doesn’t matter if you work or not.
Nevertheless, I think the “travel” excuse is a crock of shit. The appeal of travel is merely that it is not working, and you can do that without blowing thousands of dollars overseas. The only catch is that traveling quiets that sense of failure you’d get if you simply sat around for 6 months whereas simply sitting around for 6 months does not.
But like I always say: mind over matter. If you understand your own mind it’s much easier to compel.
What a crock.
Apparently after their iconic defeat in California the gays are stepping up their “in your face” efforts by staging a “call out” – in other words, suggesting all homosexuals in the United States inform their bosses they won’t be coming in to work for a single day to prove a point. The point being that gays are important to the economy.
This idea might garnish more respect if it weren’t directly plagiarised from the latino immigrant community a few years ago.
This idea might garnish more respect if it didn’t completely miss the fucking point of the latino immigrant demonstration.
First, gays are not going to go away, regardless of whether or not we let them marry each other. The entire point of latino immigrant demonstration was, “you need our contribution to the economy, don’t deport us.” That was the issue. Their goal was not to remind their employers that they are latino. Their goal was to remind their employers that we shouldn’t boot them out of the country.
Second, the illegal immigrants would be forced to leave the country. The corrolary for the gay community, if we were to return to the pre-gay-liberation era when gays stayed in the closet, is exactly that – they would be forced to stay in the closet. That has nothing to do with whether or not they show up to work every day, now does it? The latinos would show up to work if they could – they were fighting for their continued right to choose to show up to work. Gays are legal citizens regardless of who they screw, so as you can see, there is no relationship at all.
Third, speaking of closets, many gay people are closeted or follow the don’t ask don’t tell policy at their places of employment as a matter of convenience. Homophobia still exists in this country. If I were gay, I’d stay closted simply so I didn’t have to deal with base judgments by everyone I ever meet. This fact puts a damper on the “gay call out”. Latinos can’t hide the fact that they’re latino, and they can’t hide the fact that they are illegal immigrants (to their employers).
Lastly, this is actually a step backward for the gay movement. Since most thinking people can conclude the three facts that I just pointed out on their own, they, like me, have to wonder: why can’t you come to work, exactly? If being gay makes you more likely to arbitrarily skip a day of work to shove your victim mentality down my throat, why should I want to hire you at all? This kind of behavior makes employers more likely to discriminate against gays because heterosexuals don’t stage protests that involve calling in sick.
I’m glad the majority of gays in this country came to the same conclusions that I did and chose not to participate. Even if they can’t marry, at least they can think.
Today I read an article about a Michigan teacher who actually let students on a class trip observe an autopsy of a 14 year-old girl from their area who had recently killed herself.
A few years ago, I would have thought, “okay, what’s the big deal?”
But then again, a few years ago, I also scoffed at the idea of parents “protecting” their children from exposure to the kinds of things parents “protect” their children from, like R rated movies.
These days, I just shake my head. I wouldn’t necessarily want my children - even my 17 year-old child – to be witness to an autopsy unless they had a specific interest in it. But I would actively forbid such an exposure if I knew the autopsy subject was a schoolmate.
It’s hard to explain why this sentiment in me has changed and although I don’t have children yet, I understand why parents do what they do. Since I am still a young man, I actively remember my exact rationale for thinking this was retarded, overbearing, and stupid when I was a teenager.
Here’s the thing: not all experiences are good. Not all experiences are worth having. Even if it imparts some special knowledge unto you that you would otherwise never have, such as that gained by witnessing an autopsy. When you’re young, it’s very easy to scoff at such a notion. That’s because young people – at least young people who were anything like me - always want to see for themselves. They always want to learn the hard way.
Over time, I’ve seen enough things that I’d rather not have seen – and know enough things that I would rather not know – that I will surely do everything I can to prevent my children from suffering as I now suffer. You can’t unsee movies like Hostel. You can’t unsee goatse. You can’t unsee the autopsy of a girl you might have seen wandering the halls just a few months ago. You can’t unsee the infinite ocean of pornography on the internet. You can’t un-know the story of Sylvia Likens.
And as much as I would like to say that such things have no effect on a tough guy like me and that it rolls off me like water on a duck’s back (as I would have surely said to you even as recently as a few years ago), as the years go by, I am more and more haunted rather than enlightened when I think back upon stories I’ve read, or images I’ve seen, or clips I’ve watched. There are things I simply wish I hadn’t seen.
My dad tried to explain this to me once when I was a teenager and it fell completely on deaf ears. I suppose if I had listened to him I wouldn’t have understood what he meant. Maybe everyone has to learn the hard way. But there are some lessons better left unlearned.
A big part of my 9-5 involves coming up with creative solutions to complex, systemic problems. This leaves me inclined to view much of the world as a problem (to which I am the solution_. I believe in psychological circles they identify this is the generic male disposition, so I am certainly not unique or alone.
This year, I have been grappling with a question that I haven’t yet answered sufficiently. How can two thinking people of comparable intelligence reach such wildly opposing view points on political issues? And by correlation, if logic, reason, and thinking is always the answer, why does it never work on politics?
The first ground I claimed on this front was to identify what makes an issue political, and the answer is given by the question I’ve just asked. An issue is deemed political when logic and reason are ineffective tools of debate. An issue is deemed religious when the farse of logic and reason isn’t even wasted in discussing it.
The next movement in the direction general to at least settling this question if not conquering it came when I conceded, again, that my very question is the answer. Logic and reason are ineffective tools of debate on all issues political. But this leaves me with another question: if rational discourse serves no purpose in politics, why is it all that we hear?
I have concluded that all of us have been led down a primrose path of misunderstanding and misapplication. The garbage that we hear, and the garbage we in turn spew forth ad naseum about our so-called political worldviews is not reason. It is an opinion. We might as well discuss our favorite colors.
This may seem surprising coming from a blogger who has made a career out of proselytizing on the internet for causes in vernacular “conservative”. This evidence would suggest that I am not being altogether forthcoming or even intellectually honest. But there’s a spin.
Logic and reason – the nature of truth – is lost on human beings because we are all imperfect barometers of it. We are a million scales each calibrated apart from every other. The chance of finding another scale in the room that weighs your kilogram at a thousand grams is less than sharing fingerprints. Objective truth is spoiled upon us all because we are incapable of measuring it. Even when in its presence, we none of us know it.
I might be inclined to use my university statistics credentials to go on about how objective truth is very closely approximated by an unweighted average. In political terms, the majority is right. But unfortunately the laws of reality say that law of averages doesn’t produce objective truth. It just shows in which direction more of the scales are biased.
So, it is a waste of time to use logic and reason on political issues. If I give you a kilogram and ask you to make a decision based on its weight, your decision is worthless unless you give me back a kilogram. I have accepted that I am no different than you. My political measuring apparatus was calibrated a long time ago by forces men smarter than myself have yet to show or prove, as was yours. No statement of fact, no voice divine, no secret wisdom will ever pass between my ears and my brain without my political attunement taking its share.
So this poses a problem. How will I ever be able to convince anyone of anything, unless I can get at the root of it all? I find that every passing year it becomes easier to tell how someone will react to any stimulus. Perhaps this is the best place to start.
I have been turning my attention to identifying & codifying that which makes a liberal and that which makes a conservative. Like most of you I have seen all kinds of political quizzes and surveys, but they all leave me wanting because their questions are all too specific. Of course an anti-abortion answer is going to pull the results right. That doesn’t answer anything. Listening to an hour of talking points from either side accomplishes the same goal. You either agree with them or you don’t. But why?
That question has occupied me. What root causes – what root psychological dispositions, what thought mannerisms, what outlook, what anything is a predictor of how a scale is calibrated? Perhaps if I knew these I could devise methods of persuasion.
And this finally brings me to the topic of this post. In this effort, I am now exploring one candidate for base level political alignment, and that is this: do you live by rules?
Pardon me to elaborate. I find in my own experience that I am naturally inclined to lay out rules for myself in virtually every arena, from morality, to work, to my relationships with my family, to sex, to life. Some of these are personal rules that I will adamantly refuse to break even when it would be objectively advantageous to myself and simultaneously benign to everyone else of whom I am aware.
But how do I pick these rules?
This is another tricky question. To wit: if everyone picks their own rules, then…
You can easily fill in the rest.
Some rules are prescribed. I won’t kill people. I won’t rob them. I won’t even be rude to them most of the time. A large part of the rules that most of us agree with out-of-the-box have been codified into law. Even more rules have been codified by our religious traditions, if we choose to adhere to any. But what about others?
For example: it isn’t illegal to hold everyone around me to standards to which I would not hold myself. I have personally chosen that this rule, above all others, is my guiding life principle. It’s nothing special. It’s not original. It’s just the golden rule. How did I pick it?
I find that other people in my life act as a mirror for myself. I have no way of knowing which behaviors are good, which are bad, which are neutral – I know only which behaviors I may observe that I like or I dislike. It is the only scale I know. When others displease me, I remember it. One behavior that displeases me greatly in others is hypocrisy. Thus, I find hypocrisy to be bad, and thus, I must not be hypocritical or I am a bad person.
This all seems very simple & straightforward. But as I watch people in action and learn more about them, I find to my surprise that not everyone practices this habit. Many people drift through life guided on no principles at all. They follow only the rules given to them on risk of imprisonment, and even then, only when they think they’ll get caught. Or they have principles but they don’t value them. They are equally willing to live by any principle because they perceive their own inner compass to be inferior to that prescribed by whoever happens to be the loudest. Or they have principles but they change them or ignore them whenever they become too inconvenient, which to me is the same as not having them at all.
So, I ask: do you live by rules?
If you do, I would recommend spending some time thinking about the rules you live by. I have found that understanding the principles that guide my life has made it easier for me to analyze the world in way that is truthful to myself.