Archive for March, 2010
Saturday, March 27th, 2010
Passive aggression in politics involves accusing your opponents of racism, and using that moral high ground to create an entitlement society. The only problem is that entitlement societies destroy the productive middle class and doom the entire society to poverty.
Since 1789, when leftists overthrew the aristocracy and murdered them at the guillotine, the left has engaged in a policy of passive aggression.
What is passive aggression? It’s two things:
- The passive: you backward-rationalize what you want to do by claiming it’s right. For this purpose, it is best to pick a meek and helpless target of pity to claim to be helping. That way, if someone points out that you’ve double-parked your SUV, you can say “I’m here to help the children. Why are you against helping the children?”
- The aggressive: by adopting this attitude, you can act as if those who oppose you have no moral leg to stand on. If they oppose you on practical grounds, claim they’re selfish rich jerks who don’t care about moral action. If they oppose you on moral grounds, claim their morality is elitist, racist or sexist. Even better, combine the two approaches.
For the past sixty years, the left has had one sure-fire charge to level at the right: “You’re racist/sexist/homophobic/classist/elitist.”
No one wants to sound like they judge people based on the category of their origins, so this insult is eternally popular because the mentality it describes is eternally unpopular. Of course, fast food and heroin are also eternally popular, so that might not be the best yardstick.
This is backward rationalization at its worst. Instead of acting like sane people, where we formulate a goal, study what is required to do it and then pick the best option, we think backward. We pick an option we like, and then invent reasons why it “should” happen — completely ignoring practicality and other moral viewpoints.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen the left accuse white men who don’t support Democrats of being racist and accuse accuse anyone who doesn’t support Obamacare of being racist.
They also claim that Tea Partiers are racist because someone in the crowd, who may or may not have been a Tea Partier, may or may not have screamed a racist epithet. Never mind that agitprop — sending someone to pretend to be your enemy, and then do something obnoxious — is as old as politics and more common than people think. Just trot out that magic accusation!
It’s no different than 1789 in France where if your neighbor had some cows you wanted, you could call him a “monarchist sympathizer” and take his cows while he went to the guillotine. Or the oddity in the Salem Witch trials where many of the “witches” had desirable land that their accusers bought for pennies on the dollar… after the trial and punishment, of course.
If your kid is failing in school, backward rationalize and call the teacher a racist for grading him down for not attending and not doing the work.
Never mind that calling Republicans racists is a decades-old liberal strategy and that Obamacare does, indeed, contain racial preferences — for everyone but whites. Keep using that insult. They’re elitists of some kind: monarchists, classists, racists or maybe even they believe intelligence has a biological origin.
Even more, ignore the left’s own racist policy of importing voters so that their low approval ratings with domestic voters can be statistically obliterated?
The grim truth of it is that Tea Partiers and others are rebelling against entitlement programs because they see them as siphoning cash from the most productive, and handing it to the least productive. While this buys votes, it makes a civilization disintegrate, as we saw in Russia, and France, East Germany and anywhere else this was adopted.
This is entirely separate from race as the historical examples show. Where race comes into the picture is when the left brought it into the picture. They noted that in the USA, our underclasses tend to be African-American, non-white Hispanic and South Asian, while our upperclasses tend to be North European, North Asian and Jewish. There’s a sense of revenge against those who are living the good life by others. And if they have to suspend reality to do it, and kill the goose that laid the golden eggs so they can have gold paté tonight, heck, that’s the ticket to more votes!
While the left likes to be passive-aggressive, and pretend they’re oppressed by the right, the real truth is that socialist-style entitlement programs have been steadily growing since 1950 and now are the biggest part of our national budget, where during the years when this country was strongest, they were smaller.
When you say that to a leftist, they trot out the same tired graphs showing that nations with more social spending have more income equality, which we’re supposed to guess is better. What they don’t tell you is that it takes time for policies to show effect, so that more equal income distribution is probably not a result of social spending, but other factors that predated these mostly-1960s programs by decades.
If you look at actual results, outside of figures about what money goes where, you’ll see that social spending has failed to curb poverty and in fact in many countries, as in Sweden, has contributed to devaluation of the economy, which shrunk from being Europe’s largest to ranking tenth in per-capita GDP.
Nevermind that in the USA, which leads the world economically, the rich pay the most taxes and use the least amount of government services of any group. Wealth redistribution will be catatstrophic.
Naturally, we don’t want to rank everything by wealth — but if we’re going to be scientific about our politics, we should pick strategies that work. Economics measures how well we are remaining productive and thus, how much our currency is worth. If our currency is devalued, we all suffer. We need to not backward rationalize, but think forward, and by that like a scientist or historian pick strategies that work, regardless of our emotional judgments about them (“not fair”,”elitist”).
The left is going to keep being passive aggressive and crying racism, but they’ve unleashed a torrent of resentment. Our middle classes — who are mostly white, but also contain members of other ethnic groups in their ranks — know what passive aggression is: it’s people who have nothing using that dispossession as a claim to the wealth of others. If we’re all equal, they say, the only reason we don’t have the wealth is chance, so you owe us some. But as anyone who has managed a mid-size business knows, if you don’t reward people for above-average behavior, expect only average behavior — with a lowest common denominator standard causing the definition of “average” to plunge.
That’s what happened to the Soviet Union, in post-revolutionary France and East Germany, as well as many other places. Plato in The Republic identifies a rebellion of drones and artisans as the trigger to a Libertarian-style revolt of the middle classes.
Luckily, the right is resisting:
Obama will go down in history as the face of unchecked liberalism. The cancer metastasized to the point where it could no longer be ignored.
Average Americans who have quietly gone about their lives, earning a paycheck, contributing to their favorite charities, going to high school football games on Friday night, spending their weekends at the beach or on hunting trips — they’ve gotten off the fence. They’ve woken up. There is a level of political activism in this country that we haven’t seen since the American Revolution, and Barack Obama has been the catalyst that has sparked a restructuring of the American political and social consciousness.
Think of the crap we’ve slowly learned to tolerate over the past 50 years as liberalism sought to re-structure the America that was the symbol of freedom and liberty to all the people of the world. Immigration laws were ignored on the basis of compassion. Welfare policies encouraged irresponsibility, the fracturing of families, and a cycle of generations of dependency. Debt was regarded as a tonic to lubricate the economy. Our children left school having been taught that they are exceptional and special, while great numbers of them cannot perform basic functions of mathematics and literacy. Legislators decided that people could not be trusted to defend their own homes, and stripped citizens of their rights to own firearms. Productive members of society have been penalized with a heavy burden of taxes in order to support legions of do-nothings who loll around, reveling in their addictions, obesity, indolence, ignorance and “disabilities.” Criminals have been arrested and re-arrested, coddled and set free to pillage the citizenry yet again. Lawyers routinely extort fortunes from doctors, contractors and business people with dubious torts.
We slowly learned to tolerate these outrages, shaking our heads in disbelief, and we went on with our lives.
But Barack Obama has ripped the lid off a seething cauldron of dissatisfaction and unrest. Aspen Times
We have been busy, the middle classes, for the past sixty years. We have believed that if we take care of ourselves and our families, and contribute productivity and responsible behavior to our local communities, everything will turn out OK. But now we’re seeing that while we were busy, other people were busy too — agitating for a perceived moral superiority so they could effect a wealth transfer from the middle classes to the urban “artists” and urban poor.
That will be a disaster that kills the goose that laid the golden eggs — the US economy and its primary driver, the middle-class family. And whether or not people call us racist for resisting it, resisting is the right thing. The charge of racism isn’t an honest thought; it’s a backward-rationalization by those who want entitlements and are going to claim moral superiority in order to get them, claiming they’re protecting those who face discrimination.
While the Republicans need to find more of a strategy than just saying NO, meaning they also need a positive goal they want us all to achieve, the socialist crusade in America has triggered a wonderful backlash. People are thinking about these issues again. They’re looking at history, looking at the results of the socialist experiment elsewhere, and despite its popularity with the young, the poor and the artistic, are asking themselves if it’s a good practical idea.
The answer is obviously NO, and so we’re laying the groundwork for the next generation of American politics: the middle classes versus the entitlements crowd. It’s going to be exciting to watch.
Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
The future of the Republican party lies not in trying to emulate Democrats, but appealing to the anti-entitlement middle classes.
Obamacare passes, and the wires burn up with directionless bloviation about how this is the end for Republicans and the Republican party must change.
While it’d be nice to think we’re cheering for one of two football teams, and thus everything they do is fair play, that’s not reality. What’s true is that Republicans must change, but not in a way any of the blowhards have suggested.
This country is divided between city folk who make their money shuffling papers, designing web sites and writing press releases, and the urban and suburban people who work more directly with industry, agriculture and the military. Urban folk often look down on these people, but not all of them. Just what we might call the “artisan” class of people who get paid middle-class wages to move symbols around on computers.
The artisans want us to go closer to a European socialist system, even as Europe is finding out that it cannot subsidize its lower performers, and that its imported labor force remains impoverished, alienated and violently opposed to the mainstream. So instead of thinking backward, and surmising that Europe’s success is due to its socialized medicine, liberal immigration policies and state-subsidized living, we should think critically and realize that Europe was always wealthy, and it’s even more possible that European socialism is busy burning off that wealth.
But even more than economics, this is a values split. The right is in favor of Social Darwinism that rewards the competent, because they see incompetence and individual immorality as the biggest threats to humanity. The left is in favor of Socialism and tolerance that includes everyone, because they see unsociable, misanthropic and elitist thoughts as the biggest threat to humanity. We can tell which group transcended getting bullied in grade school, and which group is still stuck in that moment.
The right recognizes that without this foundation in values, our productive middle class disappears. It disappears into moral relativism, where people start doing what is convenient and therefore wreck their families through drug use, casual sex, lack of moral center and unwillingness to strive for a higher quality of individual. It also disappears economically, because socialism will effect a “wealth transfer” from the middle class to the urban poor. (The ultra-rich will ride this out as they always do: most of their money is on paper because it is holdings of companies and futures.)
At this point, we’re at a quandary. The left has made itself quite an electorate, first by importing voters and next by implementing disastrous social policies that have produced an army of over-educated, under-employed, mentally dysfunctional people who are looking for someone to blame — as a justification for getting a handout. These people live by pity. They pity themselves, and feel they deserve more than they have, and they pity others like in Haiti and during Katrina, and think all of us should drop what we’re doing to help them.
In the meantime, back in realityland, biology marches on. The intelligent and motivated rise and the self-pitying and less intelligent fall into poverty. It has been this way since the dawn of time. The right supports evolution, or not-pitying, but the left wants to turn back the clock and stop evolution — probably because they feel personally threatened by it.
So how should the Republicans remake themselves? Most people, because they have short attention spans, are clamoring for Republicans to become more like the Democrats. More tolerance! More metrosexuality! More entitlements! Less war and moral judgment. But then that makes for us two identical parties, one of which (the Ds) will always promise more entitlements than the other. Guess which is going to win with that large, disenfranchised, self-pitying audience?
As the Tea Party shows us, Middle America has awakened emotionally — the political theory lags behind, but they’re getting there, having been busy with jobs, family, hobbies and churches to study the reams of deliberately baffling and arbitrary political theory our species has generated. They know they don’t like socialism. What they’re really saying is they don’t like entitlements, and they don’t like relativistic moral standards, because these two related concepts are death to the productive, constructive and morally-minded middle class which has always been the source of America’s wealth.
Republicans need to return to conservative values, not become Democrats. Here’s a brief summary for you:
- Meritocratic elitism. Set up a level playing field, make it hard, and reward the best. Remove the worst to prison or exile. Leave those in the middle alone.
- A hard moral standard. Our society needs to decide which behaviors are acceptable, and which are not. Let these be known, but don’t get government involved in preaching them. Get government involved in removing transgressors.
- No entitlements. We support job insurance, and might even support government setting up a buying pool to purchase healthcare so we could then access it at discounted cost. But we don’t like permanent welfare, handouts to “oppressed groups” (ACORN), and so on.
- Accept our superpower status. We cannot become pacifists. We rule the world and we’ve kept it from harm for the past 60 years. We should expand this role as WMD proliferation and instability become more common.
- No preferred political elites. Middle America likes Harvard, but doesn’t like it when Harvard people hire only other Harvard people who know the spacy arbitrary theories they only teach at Harvard. No affirmative action, no retribution for perceived lower-class or discriminated-against status. Government should not support political correctness, or preach against it. Let culture decide.
- Fix our schools. Get the focus away from mainstreaming the mentally-challenged and dumbing schools down to the lowest common denominator. Let’s go back to the 1980s when we were trying to beat the hardest schools in Europe and Japan. Let’s produce some great students, not lots of tolerant dummies.
- Ditch the green for conservation. Greenism will be a huge issue. But Environmentalists have non-workable solutions. Instead, get the federal government involved in mass purchases of land to be kept in its natural state, as a natural carbon sink and oxygen generator.
Republicans need to become the party of the middle classes here in America. These are the people who have always supported the Right not because they’re ideologues, but because they’re self-sufficient. They don’t need handouts. They’re busy and want to get rid of threats to stable communities and family-oriented, morally-centered living. They know that agriculture, business and the military are honorable and necessary careers. They would do just fine if their TVs and video games went away.
The Libertarian revolution and the Tea Party movement are America’s middle classes saying they are tired of being parasitized by anyone who claims to be oppressed, poor, misunderstood or left out. Set up a level playing field and let us live as we please. And instead of inventing new make-work programs for bureaucrats, based on political correctness, don’t forget who is the goose you’ll kill to get the golden eggs — the productive, independent, hard-working American middle classes.
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
Nihilism confuses people. “How can you care about anything, or strive for anything, if you believe nothing means anything?” they ask.
In return, nihilists point to the assumption of inherent meaning and question that assumption. Do we need existence to mean anything? After all, existence stays out there no matter what we think of it. We can do with it what we will. Some of us will desire more beauty, more efficiency, more function or more truth — and others will not. Conflict results.
Nihilists who aren’t of the kiddie anarchist variety tend to draw a distinction between nihilism and fatalism. Nihilism says that nothing has meaning. Fatalists say that nothing has meaning, so nothing will have meaning for them personally. It’s the difference between having no authority figure to tell you what’s right, and giving up on the idea of doing anything since no one will affirm that what you’ve done is right.
What is nihilism?
As a nihilist, I recognize that meaning does not exist. If we exterminate ourselves as a species, and vaporize our beautiful world, the universe will not cry with us (a condition called the pathetic fallacy). No gods will intervene. It will just happen and then — and then the universe will go on. We will not be remembered. We will simply not be.
In the same way, I accept that when I die, the most likely outcome will be a cessation of being. I will at that moment cease to be the source of my thoughts and feelings. Those feelings having only existed inside of me, never did “exist” except as electro-chemical impulses, and will no longer be found when I am gone.
Even further, I recognize that there is no golden standard for life. If I note that living in a polluted wasteland is stupid and pointless, others may not see this. They may kill me when I mention it. And then they will go on, and I will not. Insensitive to their polluted wasteworld, they will keep living in it and suffering under it, oblivious to the existence of an option.
A tree falling in a forest unobserved makes a sound. The forest may not recognize this as a sound because a forest is many life forms interacting, not organized by some central principle or consciousness. They just do what they do. In the same way, playing Beethoven’s Ninth to a bowl of yeast will not elicit a response. The insensate remain unobservant, much like the universe itself.
Many people “feel” marginalized when they think of this. Where is the Great Father who will hear their thoughts, validate their emotions, and tell them with certainty what is true and what is not? Where is the writing on the wall, the final proof, the word of God? How do we know for certain that anything is true, and if it is true, that it’s important?
Meaning is the human attempt to mold the world in our own image. We need some meaning to our existence, but feel doubt when we try to proclaim it as a creation of ourselves. So we look for some external meaning that we can show others and have them agree that it exists. This forces us to start judging every idea we encounter as threatening or affirming of our projected external meaning.
This distanced mentality further affirms our tendency to find the world alienating to our consciousness. In our minds, cause and effect are the same; we use our will to formulate an idea and it is there, in symbolic form. When we take that idea to the world and try to implement it, however, we can estimate how the world will react but we are frequently wrong, and this causes us doubt.
As a result, we like to separate the world from our minds and live in a world created by our minds. In this humanist view, every human is important. Every human emotion is sacred. Every human preference needs to be respected. It is us against the world, trying to assert our projected reality where we can because we fear the lack of human-ness in the world at large.
Nihilism reverses this process. It replaces externalized meaning with two important viewpoints. The first is pragmatism; what matters are the consequences in physical reality, and if there is a spiritual realm, it must operate in parallel with physical reality. The second is preferentialism; instead of trying to “prove” meaning, we pick what appeals to us — and acknowledge that who we are biologically determines what we seek.
In rejecting anthropomorphic pathetic fallacies such as inherent “meaning,” nihilism allows us to toss out anthropomorphism. The idea of an absolute morality, or any value to human life, is discarded. What matters are consequences. Consequences are not measured by their impact on humans, but by their impact on reality as a whole. If a tree falls in a forest, it makes a sound; if I exterminate a species and no human sees it, it happened anyway.
Your dictionary will tell you that nihilism is “a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths.” It’s not a doctrine; it’s a method, like the scientific method, which starts by crawling out of the ghetto of our own minds. It is a quieting of the parts of our minds that want to insist that our human perspective is the only real one, and the universe must adapt to us, instead of the sane alternative of adapting to our universe.
In this view, nihilism is a gateway and an underpinning to philosophy, not a philosophy in itself. It is an end to anthropomorphism, narcissism and solipsism. It is humans finally fully evolving and getting control of their own minds. As such, it is a starting point from which we can return to philosophy and re-analyze it all, knowing that our perspective is closer to that of the reality outside our minds.
Although many interpret nihilism to negate spirituality, the only coherent statement of nihilism is that there is a lack of inherent meaning. This does not preclude spirituality, only a sense of calling it inherent. This means that nihilist spirituality is exclusively transcendentalist, meaning that by observing the world and finding beauty in it, we discover a spirituality emerging from it; we don’t require a separate spiritual authority or lack thereof.
It is incorrect to say that nihilism is atheistic or agnostic. Atheism is incoherent: claiming an inherent meaning to the negation of God is a false objectivity just like claiming we can prove there is a God. Agnosticism makes spirituality revolve around the concept of uncertainty over the idea of God. Secular humanism replaces God with an idealized individual. These are all pointless to a nihilist.
In the nihilist view, any divine beings would exist like the wind — a force of nature, without moral balance, without any inherent meaning to its existence. A nihilist could note the existence of a god, and then shrug and move on. Many things exist, after all. What is more important to a nihilist is not inherent meaning, but the design, patterns and interconnected elements of the universe. By observing these, we find a way to discover meaning through our interpretation.
This in turn enables us to make unforced moral choices. If we are relying on another world to reward us where we don’t get rewarded here, we are not making a sacrifice. If we believe that a God outside of the world must exist in order for it to be good, we are slandering the world. Even if we think there is an inherent right way of doing things, and that we may get rewarded for it, we are not making moral choices.
Moral choices occur when we realize there is no compelling force on us to make that decision except our inclination to care about the consequences. That in turn is contingent upon us being hardwired with enough intelligence to revere nature, the cosmos and all that has brought us consciousness. Indeed, the only way we will have such respect for the world is if we view consciousness and life as a gift, and therefore choose to enhance and complement the order of nature.
In a nihilist worldview, whether we live or die as a species has no inherent value. We could stay, or blow away like a dead leaf, and the universe doesn’t care a bit. Here we must separate judgment, or caring about consequences, from the consequences themselves. If I fire a gun at someone and he dies, the consequence is his death. If I have no judgment of it, that means nothing more than his permanent absence.
If the universe has the same absence of judgment, there is nothing more than his absence. No cosmic conclusions, no judging by gods (even if we choose to believe they exist), and no emotion shared by everyone. It is the event and nothing more, like a tree falling in a forest when no one is around to hear its crash.
Since there are no inherent judgments in our universe, and no absolute and objective sense of judgment, what matters is our preference regarding consequences. We may choose not to survive as a species, in which case insanity and sanity have the same value level, since survival no longer has a position of value for us. Our survival is not inherently judged to be good; it’s up to us to do that.
In nihilism, as in every sufficiently advanced philosophy, the ultimate goal is to make “everything just what it is,” or to decipher enough of our consciousness that we do not confuse the instrument (our minds) with its object (our world). To a nihilist, the greatest human problem is solipsism, or a confusion of the mind with the world; our solution is to point out that the human values we consider “objective” and “inherent” are only pretense.
Nihilism conditions us instead to actualize ourselves. It denies nothing of the lack of inherent meaning to existence, and does not create a false “objective” reality based on our perceptions of what we wish did exist. Instead, it charges us to choose what we wish existed, and to work toward making it occur in reality.
The fully actualized human is able to say: I studied how the world works; I know how to predict its responses with resonable success; I know what cause will create what effect. As a result, we can say, I am going to pick a certain effect I desire that is coherent with the organization of our world, so it will succeed.
This returns us to the question of whether beauty is discovered, or invented; some suggest that beauty is inherent to certain approaches to organization of form, while others think we can invent it of our own accord. A nihilist would say that the patterns that define beauty are not arbitrary, therefore have a precedent in the extra-human cosmos, and that our artists create beauty by perceiving the organization of our world and then transposing it to a new, human form.
Through the embrace of “ultimate reality” — or physical reality and the abstractions that directly describe its organization, in contrast to opinions and judgments — as the only inherent constant to life, nihilism forces humans to make the ultimate moral decision. In a world that requires both good and bad for survival, do we choose to strive for what’s good, even knowing that it may require us to use bad methods and face bad consequences?
The ultimate test of spirituality in nature is not whether we can proclaim universal love for all human beings, or declare ourselves pacifists. It is whether we can do what is necessary for survival and improvement of ourselves, as this is the only way to approach our world with a truly reverent attitude: to adopt its methods, and through an unforced moral preference, choose to rise and not descend.
We must make the leap of faith and choose to believe not in the existence of the divine, but in its possibility through the merging of our imagination with our knowledge of reality. Finding divinity in the venal and material world requires an epic transcendental viewpoint that finds in the working of an order a holiness, because that order provides the grounding that grants us our own consciousness. If we love life, we find it to be holy and become reverent to it, and thus as nihilists can rapidly discover transcendental mysticism and transcendental idealism.
From this viewpoint, it’s easy to see how nihilism can be compatible with any faith, including Christianity. As long as we do not confuse our interpretation of reality (“God”) with reality itself, we are transcendentalists who find our source of spiritualism in the organization of the physical world around us and our mental state, which we can see as having parallel and similar function. When people talk about God, a nihilist thinks of the patterns of trees.
How does a nihilist, or one who is beyond morality and the sanctity of human life and illusions, apply these principles in everyday life? The short answer is “very carefully.” Human history provides one story after another of how a few smart people started something good, then parasites encrusted it, and eventually formed a political movement to murder those who knew better, thus plunging that something good into disrepair.
The essence of nihilism is transcendence through eliminating a false “inherent” meaning that is a projection of our minds. When we have cleared away the illusion, and can look at reality as a continuum of cause and effect relationships, we can know how to adapt to that reality. This gets us over the fear of reality that causes us to retreat into our own minds, a condition known as solipsism.
This in turn leads to a kind of primal realism that rejects everything but the methods of nature. These are inherent to not only biology, but physics and the patterns of our own thoughts. We need no inherent meaning; we need only to adapt to our world and, from the palette of options offered, choose what we desire. Do we want to live in mud huts, or like the ancient Greeks and Romans strive for a society of advanced learning?
Most people confuse fatalism with nihilism. Fatalism, or the idea that things are as they are and will not change, relies on an inherent “meaning” being denied for its emotional power. Fatalism is a shrug and a wish that things could be different, but since they are not, we will ignore them. Nihilism is the opposite principle: a reverent acceptance of nature as functional and in fact genius, and a determination to master it.
This is not a philosophy for the weak of heart, mind or body. It demands that we look clear-eyed at truths that most find upsetting, and then force ourselves past them as a means of disciplining ourselves toward self-actualization. Much as nihilism removes false inherent meaning, self-actualization removes the drama of the externalized self and replaces it with a sense of purpose: what quest makes meaning out of my life?
Unlike Christianity and Buddhism which seek to destroy the ego, nihilism seeks to remove the groundwork that makes the ego seem like all we have. It negates both materialism, or living for physical comfort, and dualism, or living for a moral god in another world that does not parallel our own in function. Any spiritual realm will parallel this one, because since matter, energy and thoughts show parallel mechanisms in their patterning, any other force would do the same.
Further, ego-negation is a false form of inherent meaning. A meaning defined in negative terms flatters the object as much as its positive counterpart; to say I’m anti-vole is to affirm the need for voles. The only true freedom from the ego consists in finding a replacement object, or ur-consciousnessness to reality, to replace the voice of personality which we often mistake for the world.
Our human problems on earth do not distill to simplifications like the narratives offered by the press because they are popular: we the people are exceptional, except when oppressed by kings, government, corporations or the beautiful people. Our human problems begin and end in our inability to recognize reality and enforce it upon ourselves; we instead opt for pleasant illusions, and generate the negative consequences one might expect.
If we do not get rid of our fears, they rule us. If we have created a false antidote to our fears, like a false sense of inherent meaning, we have doubly enslaved ourselves to those fears: first, the fears persist because we have no logical answer to them, and second, we are now indebted to the dogma that supposedly dispels them. This is why human problems have remained relatively unchanged for centuries.
As a philosophical groundwork, nihilism gives us a tool with which to approach all parts of life and make sense of them. Unlike merely political or religious solutions, it underlies all of our thinking, and by removing false hope, gives us a hope in the work of our own two hands. Where others rage against the world, we rage for it — and in doing so, provide a saner future.
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
Yesterday, American politics got interesting again.
Obamacare passed, and we’ve seen the country split into rural/suburban middle classes versus the urban artisans and poor. This division of the country finally formalizes all of our post-WWII politics into one handy split.
As far as I can tell, most conservatives and liberals have no actual idea why they are politically oriented as they are. That’s because it’s a product of their traits. Our personalities, abilities and social position determine how we’re going to vote.
If you’ll notice in this country, outside of media figures we have a red state grouping of people in the 110+ region of IQ, then a blue state grouping in the 115-120 range, but then above that, people tend toward conservatism. At the lower two levels, people are heavily socialized by those around them: at the job, on the bus, at the store. At the highest level, we have actual thinkers.
When I was suffering through academia, I recognized a division into two groups as well. The really smart professors tended not to talk about their politics, ever. They would periodically express sentiments we could recognize as liberal, but in general they were realists of a hardline nature, which will always be more compatible with conservatism. Then there were all the other professors. They tended to be not as intelligent, but very good at commanding attention — and much more in need of their power and prestige to feel good about themselves.
I didn’t worry about classes from the former group. They graded hard but cut you some slack if you were attempting something beyond the convenient. I worried about the second group. These were the ones who wielded PC as a weapon, made bizarre demands to make sure your papers looked officially academic(tm), and pursued the really tangential courses of study that give people ammunition to mock academia. They tended toward groupthink because they were covering up a rather significant deficit: they wanted to be seen as smarter than they were. The first group didn’t worry about such things because they knew they would stand out for their abilities.
It’s the same way out there in the real world. Urban artisans — meaning people with glorified clerk jobs, including making web sites and designing advertising, who have artistic and social pretensions to be above that status — are the lower group. They would like to be seen as smarter and more important than they are. In fact, much of what they do in life is geared toward appearing to be important. The second group care less about whether they’re important, but are focused more on honest productivity: how will I use my abilities to stand out, and rise above the herd that way?
The blue states, for all of their bragging about how progressive they are, barely qualify as progressive. If you look at the policies in these states, they tend toward government intervention and thus bureaucracy on all fronts; since these states are heavily populated, that means lots of waiting in line. They have big entitlement programs, but as a result, they’ve even further expanded the bureaucracy and have made it harder for small business. As the number of rules and laws expands, they also become more litigious. People in blue states tend to look down on the lower echelon red staters as being hicks, morons, racists, inbreds, etc. but they also long for a way out of their cramped, squabbling, bureaucratic states.
Simpler folk in the country vote Republican because they trust what has worked in the past, and they know the city folk look down and them, and they don’t trust city values. You’ll hear this expressed a few million times in country music lyrics. We just don’t understand each other, they say, and that city while it seems to be slick on the outside is rotted inside. These country folk must know a thing or two, because Romantic literature has expressed the same theme for the past few hundred years without anyone calling it inbred.
The smallest voting population, and it’s fortunate for those who want to stay in power despite incompetence that this is so, are the intelligent and strong-willed. Many of these are rich; many more are not; the majority are middle-class, suburban or semi-rural, and they have both intelligence and a personality type that makes them conservative. For intelligence, they’re the ones who are confident in their level of brainpower; they don’t need constant affirmation of how smart they are, or a position at a university to tell them that, because they just know. In personality, they are the civilization-oriented. They are capable of leadership, but equally capable of pitching in. They make problems go away, are good listeners, and often can reconcile people. You’ll find them as business leaders, clergymen, volunteers, teachers, police, firefighters and community leaders. They may do that in addition to an unglamorous day job that isn’t the kind of power sought by artisans, media workers and the urban cutting edge.
I trust these people. They are the ones who make civilization actually continue working. They’re also capable of, like a good chess player, looking five or six moves ahead of their next move and weighing the consequences. They have always been the backbone of the right in America because to be a thoughtful conservative, you have to be thinking of the consequences that other people don’t see because they’re distracted by making you think they’re smart, or trivial city pursuits, or normal living far from the social epicenters of the cities.
Looking a few moves ahead, Obamacare is a terrible idea for the following reasons:
- Any time you involve insurance, costs and bureaucracy go up. It’s going to make medical care far more expensive, and it’s needlessly expensive now because we’ve inserted fifteen layers of bureaucracy between doctor and patient.
- It will introduce an adversarial relationship between doctor and patient, and further fragment any system in place that keeps doctors in local communities where they can keep mental track of their patients and local trends.
- It will make a stronger government bureaucracy that will manage us by denying or admitting us to healthcare, and give government another way to enforce itself upon dissidents.
- Because spending other people’s money is always easier than spending your own, it will increase unnecessary costs and procedures in healthcare.
Fundamentally however what makes Obamacare a disaster and a victory is that it splits the country between those who want paternalism, and those who do not, and illustrates the problem of paternalism.
A paternalistic government, like a benevolent father or big brother, tells you what you need to do to succeed. In the process, it becomes self-referential. Productivity is secondary to the appearance of productivity. This enhances a known weakness of civilization in which short-term appearance trumps long-term reality. People prefer to believe the illusion, because it’s easier, and they can easily convince others that they wield “truth” by getting a group of people to repeat after them that that “truth” is indeed the truth. Yep, it’s back to schoolyard dynamics, but that should surprise no one.
On the right, we have a desire to avoid a system that can be gamed. All the hullabaloo about “freedom” and “liberty” is hogwash. Civilization by its very nature means you don’t have freedom or liberty — you’re part of a team. But a successful civilization rewards its best, and then does nothing for its least productive. Wow, that’s terribly un-PC. Is this man proposing eliminating the poor, insane, obese, drug-addicted, sexually rampaging and criminal? No… but he’s suggesting that we let nature fix what nature made, which is inequality. It sounds so inhumane and terrible until we stop and think, and realize that such natural selection got us where we are. Otherwise, we’d still be as dumb as chimps.
We need a society that produces brighter, healthier and morally stronger people. Paternalism does the exact opposite, because the dark side of paternalism is that the citizens game the system and government gets stronger, and starts managing its citizens for its own purposes instead of the best interests of society. It’s like in prison: you can whore yourself out to a big boss, and you’ll be protected, but you’re also going to get raped twice a day. Hope that’s OK.
With Obamacare, we see our society fragment in two: those who want paternalism, and those who want natural selection. The natural selection types are the confident ones who want a meritocratic system of success, a community which filters out threats like pedophiles and criminals so they can safely raise kids, and to be away from the hive-mind. The paternalistic types want government to guarantee them protection on their streets populated with threats, want a safety net in case they don’t succeed, and want to be in the hive-mind so other people can affirm that they’re smart or worthy.
This split will never be reconciled. The first group, who tend toward the right, are the civilizations builders. They make successful places from nothing. The second group are the parasites and the predators who make huge profits by manipulating them, and they come after a civilization has been successful and help leech away its wealth and intelligence. It’s no different than how, in a forest, if you lie down in the open you will soon be consumed by blood-sucking parasites of all types. This is how nature exerts an equal and opposite reaction on anything that wishes to survive. In the case of our society, this equal and opposite reaction threatens to sink us.
Saturday, March 20th, 2010
The dominant struggle in the 20th century was to find a way to integrate command economies and decentralized ones, like free markets.
After the aristocracy was gradually deposed, leading up to near-complete irrelevance after WWI, society faced a difficult question: its mercantilism and colonialism had brought it vast wealth, but its societies were becoming increasingly corrupted. This was because commerce puts the individual in command of choices that affect others because the individual is the purchasing agent.
One side suggested that, as under aristocracy, individuals needed a guiding hand or their demands would re-shape society in a corrupt manner. The other side suggested that any form of rule would be oppressive, and therefore that the free market was a better ruler than any leader. This latter view spawned modern neoconservatism, liberalism and anarchism.
As time went on, liberalism however was forced to acknowledge that free markets do not reward equality. As a result, liberalism allied itself with the idea of a command economy under control of a strong centralized government. This tendency peaked in Stalinism, which remained the Soviet system until their economy collapsed in 1991.
Now we have a long list of deposed forms of government:
- Military juntas
- National Socialism
Some are telling us that this recent recession heralds the end of the free market. Like many other conservatives, I find that unlikely. First, the free market is the default of human activities. Without government, people tend to cluster into small communities and interact through commerce. Second, I find it to be a highly useful system if applied in the right context; just as most governments now adopt some methods of socialism, where resources or control is centralized to make it more efficient, governments of the future will always incorporate some large aspect of free market design. The end of the Soviet Union showed us that command economies find it difficult to compete with free markets, in part because command economies can be derailed by dogma and are not able to react as quickly as more granular, responsive free markets.
Two decades past the fall of the Soviet Union, and six decades past the fall of National Socialism, we are still struggling to find the idea method of governing our countries — the 20th century question persists, with a 21st century pessimism about capitalism.
Yet as we’re finding out, there are limited variations on the idea of government (and non-government). Whether we make the church, a bureaucracy, aristocrats or a lawless mob our masters, we will need leadership and hierarchy to be able to sustain the needs of permanent civilization. Backing down the history tree, and trying to become hunter-gatherers or divide into small autonomous states, is no longer possible or even likely.
What is likely is that we’ll see a variation on the past that incorporates more of a command economy into its mixed free market and socialist system. But this may take the form of a values consensus, or leaders less timid than our democratic societies with their encrustations of checks and balances will permit. And this will be a delicate task: just like the extreme of socialism is Stalinist Russia, the extreme of free market systems is McDonald’s and anal midget porn in the 7-11.
In the meantime, we’re also seeing a problem here in the West: as we have further liberated ourselves from the past, we have started to focus on anything but reality. Morality, social thinking, and aesthetics have all become disconnected from an idea of cause and effect, where effect is important. Now we just focus on mental cause, and try to be friends with everyone and not tell anything what not to do, so that way we’re popular and no one rocks the boat.
This detachment from reality has brought huge social decline, but since it coincided with our great wealth, we also have bred up a bumper crop of homegrown lazy and confused, and now are importing people to replace our declining native people. It’s unlikely that importation will work, as whatever laid the original group out will deck the newcomers too.
Because this large group of homegrown and lazy likes to agitate for political change, we are seeing a case that Plato predicted: the productive middle class is rebelling against the drones (unskilled laborers and chronically unemployed) and the artisans (hip, urban, educated people who work in media). They’re doing that because the productive middle class recognizes that turning our government into an entitlement engine will sap enough middle class wealth that re-investment in the future will not be possible for middle class families.
David Brooks as always has a lucid view:
Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.
Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.
The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage. – NYT
Any revolution based on the individual always creates a stronger centralized state, because the more different directions we have going on in our population, the more we need a guardian figure to keep them in line. Organic consensus like culture and heritage is the exception. Most unity comes through forced dogma.
Like dogma, excessive socialization causes a problem in that people start gaming the system, instead of using it for rational ends, because they have deferred the costs they incur. It’s like free money, right? And so then the socialist system becomes a centralized control authority, trying to guard the giving away of a supposedly “free” resource:
Once the health-care markets are put through Mr. Obama’s de facto nationalization, costs will further explode. The Congressional Budget Office estimates ObamaCare will cost taxpayers $200 billion per year when fully implemented and grow annually at 8%, even under low-ball assumptions. Soon the public will reach its taxing limit, and then something will have to give on the care side. In short, medicine will be rationed by politics, no doubt with the same subtlety and wisdom as Congress’s final madcap dash toward 216 votes.
As in the Western European and Canadian welfare states, doctors, hospitals and insurance companies will over time become public utilities. Government will set the cost-minded priorities and determine what kinds of treatment options patients are allowed to receive. Medicare’s price controls will be exported to the remnants of the private sector.
All bureaucratized systems also restrict access to specialists and surgeries, leading to shortages and delays of months or years. This will be especially the case for the elderly and grievously ill, and for innovation in procedures, technologies and pharmaceuticals.
Eventually, quality and choice—the best attributes of American medicine in spite of its dysfunctions—will severely decline. – WSJ
We run the risk of assuming the healthcare debate is about healthcare. It’s not; it’s about type of government, and the underlying attitude of our country. The old American attitude was closer to natural selection, in that good people always found a way to make it work; the new way is a cross between gift-giver and babysitter. It’s no wonder this has been such a divisive issue in American politics.
Tuesday, March 16th, 2010
I’m liking much of what Obama has done lately. At least, his willingness to tackle issues like overfishing and some pollution is commendable. But on education, he really screws the pooch.
Speaking as someone with no shortage of experience in education, there’s only one rough way to do it correctly. As in writing, where what you write depends on your audience, in education what you teach depends on your students — except that they come in strata. You either teach to the top or to the bottom. All subvariants of a plan distill or decay down to one of these two: teach to top, or teach to bottom.
Teaching to the bottom is the “inclusive” and politically correct method. In this view, all your students and the teacher are so damn smart that a new idea will be introduced, they’ll get it, and then wait patiently for Joe Slow and Callie Clueless to catch up. In reality, while we’re waiting, everyone zones out including the teacher. This produces school that bores its students, causing more discipline problems, which ends up becoming a jail (to handle the discipline problems) in which boredom is the norm (because everyone is zoned out or waiting for the slow). In Texas schools, they’re even “mainstreaming” retarded (sorry: “mentally challenged” and “learning disabled”) students so that the whole class gets to wait for the 70 IQ point kids in the back to grasp what a concept is, or even remember the name of the subject.
Teaching to the top is how we used to do it in this country and Europe. In this view, education is like a speed train or a hose you drink from in the summer. It constantly generates high-intensity material so that smart kids are not bored, and lets everyone grasp what they can. A student who is both intelligent and organized will capture the 90% of this material necessary to perform quite well. Dumb students are just screwed, but they end up getting mercy Cs and getting passed along to next year.
Obama’s plan combines teaching to the bottom with penalties for those who do not make bricks out of mud alone, e.g. somehow motivate those politically equal but mentally unequal slow kids to perform as well as the smart ones:
In interviews, they said the administration’s proposal for rewriting the main law outlining federal policies on public schooling, No Child Left Behind, would continue what they called an overemphasis on standardized tests, impose federal mandates on issues traditionally handled in collective bargaining, and probably lead to mass firings of teachers in low-performing schools.
The proposals, Mr. Duncan said, would encourage states and school districts to develop better teacher evaluation systems, better teacher education programs, and more effective career advancement systems.
The administration’s plan for the No Child revision would, if enacted by Congress, replace the law’s accountability system, based around the goal of bringing all students to proficiency in reading and math by 2014, with another intended to help all students graduate from high school ready for college and career by 2020. The current system has labeled one in three of the nation’s 98,000 schools as failing, far more than any level of government can help, and the process has left many teachers demoralized.
The administration’s proposal would instead focus the most intense school turnaround efforts on about 5,000 of the most chronically failing schools. – NYT
So Obama’s plan is to penalize teachers for lagging behind, and throw our money into the chronically failing schools. This not only neglects our best hope, which is the smart/motivated/organized kids, but also will penalize teachers for not being able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. If a student has an IQ of 90, they’re not fodder for high school or college. They will never be in an advanced class. They will only fail.
Even worse, by continuing our deflation of the value of an American high school education, we’ve forced colleges to take over the tasks of remedial education, which wastes half of a college degree on menial stuff. That means in turn that a college degree is not worth much, and so we all must rush out for graduate education. In turn, that isn’t worth that much, since a lot of it gets dedicated to filtering and re-reducating undereducated college students.
By teaching to the bottom, we’ve reduced our education system to three tiers of high school.
As a result, every single person out there wants a college degree and thanks to the dumbing-down, they can get one — but this in turn dumbs down college further and makes each college degree that much less valuable. If every job candidate went to college, and even elite colleges accept relatively unstellar students for political or financial reasons, the college degree becomes the new high school diploma.
Two articles in the last year have attacked this idea. In the first, Charles Murray points out that college for people under 115 IQ points is a total waste of time. In the second, Thomas Reeves shows how many students do better by not going to college, which in turn prevents the dilution of the value of a degree.
America stumbles downward toward third-world status not because we’re importing third world workers, but because we’ve dumbed ourselves down to the point where we’re useless and expect a gold ribbon for showing up and writing our name on the page. The rest of the world doesn’t work that way, and we can’t afford to keep working that way as we get more dysfunctional. We need to reverse dumbing down, but Obama’s combination of focusing on the negative low performers, and penalizing teachers for not making them high performers, only worsens the situation.