Archive for September, 2010

A curveball in the recycling debate

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

In many towns, recycling is not only encouraged, it’s enforced. Some communities use a limited “toter” system where one has to pay more for additional bags if the toter is filled up each week. The flip side is, things like plastic bottles, metal cans, glass jars, and just about any paper product including junk mail can be tossed into recycling bins.

This is wonderful in a way – why let any idiot throw away however much trash he/she wants to each week when it’s clear there are reasonable limits a town can and should impose? But it also begs the question: what happens to all that paper, but moreso all those other products like glass, plastic, and metal once another truck using more gas and more manpower picks it up during a separate trip?

Recycling makes many people feel good, but feelings are not the best test of environmental soundness. When it makes more sense to recycle than to throw something away; government compulsion isn’t needed. And when recycling is a profligate use of natural and human resources, government mandates can’t change the fact. Big Brother can force you to recycle your garbage, but that doesn’t make garbage-recycling green.

[+] | Editorial

Good point. If recycling really answered any tough questions, it wouldn’t be as easy as throwing would-be trash in a different bucket.

It’s nice and easy – and it massages the ol’ ego – to sort your garbage and feel good about how much stuff is in the recycle bin this week that could have gone to the trash instead. We just assume that since recycling is a feel-good activity and approved by just about everyone, that we should feel much better when we see the second truck pull up every week and collect a different set of trash from the one that came an hour before. We feel productive; the trash is still taken to a far-off site; everyone wins.

Unfortunately, the writer had the opportunity to take the point further and talk about the real problem – humanity itself – but opted not to:

Popular impressions to the contrary notwithstanding, we are not running out of places to dispose of garbage. Not only is US landfill capacity at an all-time high, but all of the country’s rubbish for the next 100 years could comfortably fit into a landfill measuring 10 miles square. Benjamin puts that in perspective: “Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch outside Bozeman, Mont., could handle all of America’s trash for the next century — with 50,000 acres left over for his bison.”

[+] | Editorial

Let’s assume those facts are correct. What happens in a century? Does that calculation take into account population growth, and if so, how much?

Jacoby falls victim to the very thought process he’s calling out: he notes in the article that landfills are great because we get methane gas out of them and we frequently turn them into golf courses and parks, so everyone wins. Let’s just make tons of landfills since we have the space – out of sight, out of mind.

There’s no thought to why we need to recycle in the first place. Recycling came about as a solution to all the trash we produce in society. We produce lots of trash due to two factors: the number of people we have, and the amount of disposable stuff we consume, including McDonalds’ burger wrappings, disposable diapers, and styrofoam coffee cups.

So why no talk of solving the root problems? We can break them down pretty easily:

1. Amount of trash produced: we live in a throwaway culture, where tons of plastic is used to package products, where it’s encouraged to throw things away after only a few uses, and where people upgrade even laptops and cars every other year. As a result of insatiable consumer demand, many products are made to be disposable. Why would you build a car to last twenty years when people won’t keep it after ten, or even five?

Let’s also not forget that infrastructure has been set up to haul away garbage with minimal effort on the part of the consumer – whenever it’s easier to throw something away than keep it and fix it, that’s what people will do.

2. Number of people producing trash: Animals don’t produce non-biodegradable trash, unless you count housepets and their dog poop bags, toys, etc. So the amount of trash out there is mostly due to human activity.

How do we reduce the amount of trash a society produces? In part, by moving away from a consumer-driven culture, and in part by reducing the number of people who live within its borders.

You won’t see many newspapers – even editorials in newspapers – tackling those problems, because as daring as Jacoby seems to be when saying that greenism feels good but may not accomplish much, he’s only willing to touch the tip of the iceberg. The real problems remain buried, sort of like a golf course over a landfill.


Friday, September 24th, 2010

One thing which is had in mind when many think about the West is the principle of freedom of discussion. The idea behind this is that by having all options out in the open, the truth can be found. This may be on scientific questions, or it may be on political issues, so that we might discuss who we think the best rulers could be, without having to worry about the current ruler forcing everybody to support him or her.

Yet even if there is no legal proscription of certain ideas, at any time some are more fashionable than others. Everybody wants to be liked and to fit in with the people around them, so just as they are influenced by how others dress, by how they have their hair cut, by how they speak and by what music they listen to, so indeed are people influenced by the political and social beliefs of their peers.

Therefore, how can we identify those ideas which may not be right, in spite of their widespread acceptance? One way is suggested by the following illustration. You are walking with someone you know along a road, when they casually drop some litter. How do you feel about telling them not to be so selfish? Perhaps you think to yourself, “I will just let this go because I don’t want to upset this person or to fall out with them.” And so in general, ideas which criticize people will fade into the background, and ideas which make people look better will come to the fore.

In addition to ordinary interactions among people, there are two large influences on popular narrative: politicians, and companies trying to sell their product. Both reinforce the tendency to have a distorted image of reality. Both want to make themselves look compassionate and non-threatening. Entertainment is designed to make people feel good about themselves; the importance of spectator sports is blown up out of all proportion, and popular discussion is turned towards soap operas and talent shows, glorifying popular heroes who have achieved nothing, but with whom many people can self-identify.

In a world where everybody is a victim or a hero, and nobody is an oppressor or a criminal, nobody is held responsible for anything – not for their own behaviour, nor for curtailing the destructive behaviour of others. Voters are not responsible for who gets into office – in fact voting is called a “civic duty.” Special attention is paid by the media to the so-called “floating voters,” lukewarm idiots who, while admitting they do not understand much of what is at stake, still feel the need to make their voice heard. Democratic elections are like executions by firing squad where one of the executioners is given a blank in their rifle, but no-one knows which one it is. Later one of them may come to believe that it was they who had the blank, because they do not wish to take the responsibility for having killed someone.

This may not be the best outcome, because it is a sense of responsibility that motivates paying attention to problems rather than leaving them to others. On the other hand, inattention gives us a filthy and dangerous world.

The results of class war

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Victor Davis Hanson shows us an insightful division between leftist and rightist beliefs:

Traditional peasant societies believe in only a limited amount of good. The more your neighbor earns, the less someone else gets. Profits are seen as a sort of theft; they must be either hidden or redistributed. Envy, rather than admiration of success, reigns.

In contrast, Western civilization began with a very different, ancient Greek idea of an autonomous citizen, not an indentured serf or subsistence peasant. The small, independent landowner — if he was left to his own talents, and if his success was protected by, and from, government — would create new sources of wealth for everyone. The resulting greater bounty for the poor soon trumped their old jealousy of the better-off…. – HNN

For those of you who are new to the party, “conservative” means you uphold the traditions of the past, which in the European-American realm means the ways of old Europe. Today, we’d call them fascist, Nazi or worse, but all of what we have today came from these ways.

They in turn carried an essential ideal, which VDH expresses above, which was most like natural selection: let individuals be productive, and some rise above the rest, and put those in charge.

The left had another idea, which we could call anti-natural-selection: make sure everyone earns the same to keep the peace among the peasants. Since The Enlightenment, this has been the dominant idea in Europe and the USA, but it has only gradually picked up speed to where we can see what it really is.

The peasant ethic is not to strive for anything, but to ensure we divide up whatever we have, equally. That way, the logic goes, no one can be mad at anyone else for having more. What they don’t mention is that it also creates zero incentive to rise above doing the minimum, which is why peasant societies always collapse and they end up demanding leaders so they don’t destroy themselves. How else would a Napoleon rise out of Revolutionary France? A Stalin out of Revolutionary Russia?

In the peasant ethic, there is no such thing as proving oneself. If one is human, and there standing among the others, it is assumed that one is equal, or equal enough. Performance is irrelevant. Reward comes before labor. And if you’re a laborer who has spent most of your life complaining about work, that’s a tempting idea. It’s the root of all leftism, from progressivism to socialism.

The right on the other hand says we work for our labor, and those who are most together internally — most clear mentally, most self-disciplined, hardest and smartest working, least inclined to temporary pleasures — are the ones who rise and by the nature of their performance, we want them in charge.

The left tells us that this way is awful and unfair, and we’ll create a Utopian paradise if we just spread the wealth. But what’s the result of spreading the wealth? Let’s look at another metaphor, this one also created by liberalism:

As a university student between 1966 and 1969, I experienced first-hand the impact of the sexual revolution, and the sweeping changes it wrought between men and women.

To suggest any individual was immune from that tidal wave of change, or from the pressures that came with it, for women in particular, is frankly wrong.

I’m always amazed at the way the liberal Left (a broad church, with which I’d have once identified) is eager to make excuses for any dubious results of their progressive ideas.

Yet the damaging consequences of that Sixties revolution are obvious in the society we now live in – ranging from the utter mess made of education in this country (directly attributable to the overturning of traditional ideas in the Seventies, an orthodoxy which still prevails), to the dangerous ‘anything goes’ attitude which challenges any idea of restraint in speech or behaviour.

Nevertheless it’s absurd to suggest that we exist in isolation, that we are not shaped by the culture we inhabit.

The zeitgeist is the defining mood or spirit of a particular period in history and shaped by the ideas and beliefs of the time. Nobody can escape it.

Most of us embraced the hippie-esque idea that sexual freedom was a beautiful thing to be celebrated. ‘Seize the day,’ we shouted, and threw old notions like fidelity out of the window.

But beneath all those naive and high-sounding ideals, the sexism of supposedly radical and free-thinking men on the left could be summed up with: ‘A woman’s place is underneath.’

As the writer and feminist pioneer Rosie Boycott has said: ‘What was insidious about the underground was that it pretended to be alternative. But it wasn’t providing an alternative for women. It was providing an alternative for men in that there were no problems about screwing around.’

But this is what the distinguished historian Eric Hobsbawm writes about the shift in standards in his authoritative book, Age Of Extremes: ‘The crisis of the family was linked with quite dramatic changes in public standards governing sexual behaviour, partnership and procreation… and the major change is datable and coincides with the Sixties and Seventies.’

To be a ‘nice girl’ was to be looked on as a freak. The truth was, however, the new permissiveness gave men permission to exploit you. These are the pressures which, according to Martin Amis, contributed to his sister’s ruin.

It may be cruel to say it, but today’s young girls primping and un-dressing for Saturday night, when they will get drunk and get laid (and feel doubly bad in the morning) are the inheritors of her destiny. – Signs of the Times

The peasant mentality is that no one can say NO: if you have something that not everyone else has, give it away. Whether it’s your money, your time (imaging being forced to wait for the slowest person in the room to understand a concept… oh wait, that’s our education system), your job (how much of our days is spent in activities that are dumbed down so the clueless can participate?), or even your body. Give it up. We the crowd demand it, because we the individuals in the crowd think it’s unfair if anyone has more than us.

The sea change that’s rippling through the West right now is the final, slow, unsettling revelation that The Enlightenment is the foundation of modern liberalism, and that its consequence is the destruction of any exceptionalism. You can’t be better than any average one of us, the crowd says. Or we’ll — well, at first they just complain. Then at some point they revolt and kill you, leaving behind a dysfunctional society.

Join us in pushing out the old, calcified, mindless, corrupt, controlling, boring and pointless endeavor of leftism. We have seen its results, and they are a society of great permissiveness that discriminates against anyone with a brain. As a result, it falls apart from within. We can fix this, but only by escaping the bad logic that got us here: leftism.

An epic paradigm shift from the left

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

There’s that purported Chinese proverb that says “May you live in an interesting age,” spoken as if it were a curse. For as others have observed, it may be better to be a dog in a peaceful age than a human in an interesting — by definition not peaceful, not stable, not secure and confident — age.

As the industrial revolution winds down its first home run, the internal combustion engine, we’re seeing a shift in paradigm that is unprecedented because it rolls back four centuries to before the roots of The Enlightenment. The Enlightenment brought us reliance on the individual, not God or nature, and with that we must insist we’re all equal — or our basic idea looks really dumb.

A modern source summarizes The Enlightenment “in effect,” or its philosophy as it becomes in application and verbal transmission:

Put simply, if Europe stands for something, it is decent treatment for all. – The Economist

Here’s what is happening — people are realizing that any form of that statement, as our first and biggest goal, becomes something like socialism: we reward people for existing, not for performance, so performance declines.

Here’s the new/old European motto:

Put simply, if Europe stands for something, it is that those who perform be rewarded. – Amerika

This is how things used to be. If you want a culture that invents not just a few key objects, but the foundation of modern science, and you want that culture to make great architecture, art and accumulated wisdom, then you need this basis.

“Treat everyone decently” is not a bad idea. It’s only bad if it becomes your goal. Your goal can be “Let’s get to the top, and treat everyone decently,” but there’s an implied but to that second phrase, which makes that motto translate into Get to the top, and treat everyone decently, but not if it gets in the way of getting to the top.

  1. Government, education and laws can’t help us; it’s a question of the moral, intellectual and physical qualities of individuals.
  2. Who watches the watchers is an endless loop; we need people we can trust in power, and that’s a product of the abovementioned moral, intellectual and physical qualities.
  3. “Progress” and “Utopia” are dirty words for a power grab. There is no perfect system, only less flawed ones.
  4. The lowest common denominator of a society is disgusting, stupid and crass and forms a lynch mob.
  5. When we allow that lowest echelon to (a) buy whatever it wants (b) believe whatever it wants and (c) vote for leaders, disaster strikes.

Since 1789, we’ve turned toward a modernist society, which is a utilitarian/secular fulfillment of the vision of Christianity: moral judgment surpassing practical adaptation to reality. Christianity is tempting because it’s a way out of competition, natural selection and personal insufficiency. Instead of changing the reality, you change the way you measure it.

Europeans thought they were progressing towards an ideal civilisation. Now time is up, and it hurts

The construction of the welfare state is part of a European narrative that conjures civilisation from chaos. Take France, a country that, in welfare matters, more resembles Mediterranean Europe than its more rigorous northern neighbours. The incremental entrenchment of new rights in law, as a mark of progress towards a better society, dates back to just after the first world war. In 1919 the Senate limited the working day to eight hours. Léon Blum introduced the two-week paid holiday for all workers in 1936. François Mitterrand extended this to five weeks in the early 1980s. He also brought in retirement at 60, and the 39-hour working week. Ms Aubry, only ten years ago, reduced that to 35. By progressively shrinking the number of hours worked a week, or years worked over a lifetime, society seemed to be rolling towards some sort of ideal, with vin rosé and deckchairs on the beach for all. This fits France’s sense of secular, revolutionary History, carrying the country forward, however fitfully, like an “endless cortege proceeding towards the light”, in the words of Jules Ferry, a 19th-century educationalist. Even President Nicolas Sarkozy, usually averse to abstract nouns, has spoken of “the politics of civilisation” and asked economists to measure output in terms of happiness, not just growth.

Put simply, if Europe stands for something, it is decent treatment for all. To this way of thinking, to guarantee a comfortable retirement is akin to banning child labour or giving women the vote: not optional perks, but badges of a civilised society. Such social preferences are what Europe is for, and what makes it different from America. Europe may no longer be a global power, or have much military muscle. Its churches may be empty, its spiritual fibre weak. It may not boast much cutting-edge innovation or economic growth. But it knows how to look after its sick and elderly, take a long lunch break and abandon the office in August. The cold realisation that time is up, and that such progress is over, prompts anger, denial and shock. – The Economist

This is not exclusive to Europe — in the USA, similar discontent is raging. We’re realizing that (a) our politicians are corrupt and (b) that they are that way because so many people are easy to fool and (c) the solution isn’t personal, but in a motivation of groups of people to seize power:

WOULD ANY SANE PERSON think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal “solutions”?

Part of the problem is that we’ve been victims of a campaign of systematic misdirection. Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. – Orion Magazine

The more extreme elements have realized this first, and as a result gone undercover as moderates who will say whatever is necessary to get elected, then seize power and not relinquish it.

They recognize that most people are oblivious to the problem, and have chosen “not to play the game” because of personal fear:

If human life is (as secular modernity asserts) ultimately about gratification (about maximizing happiness and minimizing suffering) then it will always seem tempting to take the short-term choice leading to immediate and certain happiness and avoid immediate and certain suffering; and to ignore the long-term consequences of these choices on the basis that the future cannot be known with certainty, and we might be dead anyway before the future arrives.

The resulting mentality is characteristic of the modern secular elite, but has spread to encompass much of contemporary life. Charles Murray has encapsulated this modern ‘sophisticated’ attitude very well: “Human beings are a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time as pleasantly as possible.”

My point is that a society which regards the purpose of life as being to while away the time between birth and death as pleasantly as possible is a society which cannot make tough decisions. – Bruce Charlton

Maybe we needs the gods back, so we have a reason to feel good about self-sacrifice… and to stop worrying about death so much. boring!

And while we’re on this delusional tear, in the words of one wise sage, “Problems remain!”

On our current path, more and more U.S. workers are likely to be turned into knowledge workers, meme generators, hype merchants, identity mongers — making “cool” while transforming their social life into a stream of branded idea-products.

Increases in the standard of living may thereby have the paradoxical effect of turning “living” itself into a ceaseless work process. The more leisure eliminates work in the traditional sense, the more it becomes work itself in the immaterial sense. By making traditional types of skills irrelevant, productivity innovations are making us reconceive our leisure time activities as a skill set.

The nature of the “skills” being reproduced in U.S., the ones that we can still incorporate into production, are oriented more and more toward lifestyle making. The sector of “productive jobs” in the U.S. seems to be in those areas sometimes decried as inessential if not corrosive to the human spirit—cultural meanings, identity tokens, marketing, etc. Given the proclivities of our workforce, the U.S.‘s comparative advantage is in manufacturing desires and refining them in the realm of language and feeling, as opposed to making things. – PopMatters

We’re not going to be taken in by callow Utopians who want us to invent “new ways” of dealing with a bad situation (it’s a misdirection: they don’t think we can solve the situation, but want to promise us these “new ways” like a snake oil salesman, so we don’t stop their decay). Even more, Europeans and Americans are seeing that increasingly racial favoritism goes both (or more) ways; as long as we have diversity, we have conflict, just like as long as we have equality, we have class warfare as people scrabble to be more equal than their equals.

Hard stuff. We’ve grown up being told 180 degrees opposites of what reality is. But now the awakening is slow, and when it hits a crucial 2-5% of the population, the overthrow will commence.

Even more, we’re seeing that some of our greatest taboos — like censorship, for example — are misplaced:

There may be a literal truth underlying the common-sense intuition that happiness and sadness are contagious.

A new study on the spread of emotions through social networks shows that these feelings circulate in patterns analogous to what’s seen from epidemiological models of disease. – Wired

You want to talk about The Selfish Gene or The Broken Windows theory? Screw that, there’s a new game in town: the memetic spread of behavior. When one person starts doing something, and there are not bad responses from the world and other people, then other people start to imitate that person.

The learning we can take from that: tolerating insane behavior makes more of it, and behaviors that start out in a context that’s not harmful will then spread to other contexts where they are. It’s not harmful when kids dance at random in their bedrooms; when groups of them do it at school all day, the educational system collapses.

Even more, these memes have secondary effects, meaning that if we replace an existing behavior, other behaviors collapse because of what takes over the space/energy previously devoted to the replaced behavior:

A new study has come up with a possible explanation, suggesting that the break-up of relationships within groups of friends is contagious – one couple within a social group divorces and their friends’ relationships collapse around them like ninepins.

The researchers have called it “divorce clustering” and say that a split up between immediate friends increases your own chances of getting divorced by 75%. – The Guardian

Displacement of existing institutions causes shockwaves of harm and confusion. You want to crush the system, do you? Well, what do you envision in its place? Unless you have a really clear idea of what daily life will look like, stop: you have no idea. You’re going to destroy and not create.

The ancien regime of today is European liberalism, which basically took over the known world starting in 1789. In the European liberal view, every person is a sacred object and we must take care of all of them, competent or not. This encourages tolerance of crazy behavior, and a lowering of standards.

In the view that will replace it, life itself is sacred — and we, who briefly hold life in ourselves, are merely means to that end. Our individual lives are not sacred. What is sacred is what we can contribute to the sacredness of life, and what “meaning” we can give to life by overcoming pains and creating positive responses instead.

People are starting to realize that 1789 was a mistake, and that it occurred only because of several centuries of bad thought before it. History takes decades or centuries to manifest its responses to the things we do — we won’t know, for example, if Barack Obama was a good president until 2210 or 2410. That’s way beyond what most can understand.

And now that we’re seeing an end to what we thought was a good path — the make sure everyone is fed before we know if we have enough grain approach — we’re altering our thinking. Our morality is no longer about the individual, but the health of the group, and even more, the achievement of the group. Just being there isn’t enough anymore, and that’s a positive evolution of humankind.

Criticism of Obama is misplaced

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

The first person to speak gave the president a somewhat larger jolt than if the world’s heaviest man was in bed and gave his wife a Dutch oven. This first questioner, who the New York Times felt it necessary to point out is African-American ahead of the fact that she is a mother, military veteran, and chief financial officer, very bluntly said, “I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for.” She went on to state that “I’ve been told that I voted for a man who was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class and I’m waiting sir, I’m waiting. I still don’t feel it yet.”

In a way, this lady was expressing frustration that many who voted for Obama in 2008, and millions who did not, are feeling these days. Change was expected of this vibrant, young politician, and in a way, change was delivered in a fashion well below the expectations of many. – Technorati

While we at this blog are totally opposed to leftist politics in all forms, and recognize that Obama is the least-experienced candidate to ever be elected to the presidency, we’re also realists.

Realists recognize that Obama does not deserve the current wave of critique coming his way because he has made significant steps toward realizing the platform he espoused. Here are his real problems:

  • His platform was vague and broad. People remember “hope” and “change” and quietly projected into those whatever they wanted. They did not remember specifics, in part because if you run on a vague campaign like “hope” and “change,” you try to avoid them, and Obama’s team prudently did. Now the price must be paid for that evasion.
  • The nature of liberals. Liberals are those who are convinced something is wrong with the world that must be fixed by human interaction. This is a never-ending quest; in a perfect world, liberals would invent reasons to be appalled and go on a jihad against these things. Obama cannot ever satisfy his audience because by definition they cannot be satisfied.

When you think about it, the limits to Obama’s success are the limits of liberalism itself. For him to go further than adopting socialized health care, he’d have to do things that would really let the cat out of the bag and show him to be even farther left than European socialism — at a time when European socialism is crumbling.

We’ve seen this pattern before. Both Clinton and Carter did their best to get big ideological progress accomplished early on, and then spent the latter halves of their presidencies hanging out and doing damage control. Liberal reform is never enough for its audience, and the audience will never be satisfied until it really goes over the top, which will have consequences in politics that the audience cannot understand.

Good luck, Barack Obama. We disagree with almost everything you’ve done, but here we say that plainly. We don’t snipe (as some on the right have done) and we don’t play victim (as some on the left are doing). We say plainly what we feel because anything else is disrespectful. Of all things, we believe politics must be founded in sane, respectful, reverent activity and not neurotic chatter, and for that reason this is how we articulate our minority views.

Dissensus of the greens

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

We’ve mentioned the fragmentation of consent about as much favorably as unfavorably here at the blog, which depends on context. Having all the eggs in one basket, so to speak, is a way to point out that through total centralization of a thing, we have created potential catastrophic liability that could ruin the whole.

The system, especially if it is a globalist collectivist one, requires that the masses rely on it. It requires that people NEED the system in order to survive. If people no longer rely on the system for their survival, the system becomes useless, and fades away. This can be done on an individual basis, and requires no traditional and structured organization.

transitionThe splintering of a healthy composite does not always benefit each separated part. It also permanently eliminates everything significant about the intact composite.

Yet, departure of the healthy remainder from the spread of the sickly is probably for the best so that the entirety of the composite does not fall ill.

America itself, for better or worse, was born in the fire, tar, feathers, and blood of enterprising pioneer independence from aloof tyrants and their docile drones.

The point is to separate oneself from the diseased system and start a healthy one, one community at a time.

But for this post, we’ll take a short detour into the ongoing gentle separation from mainstream modern progressive society undertaken by the nature people. With but one exception, there is little politically charged or sensationalist to be found here. Instead, we’ll take a brief survey of some of the green independence groups involved and highlight their distinctions.

The beauty of Non-Participation is that it is a revolutionary act that only makes us less threatening in the eyes of the uninformed, which is not what the establishment wants.


Since industrialization, the perceptive and honest in our midst have gradually developed what amounts to the following revelation: the utilitarian and convenient is of higher value to degenerate modern man than life itself.

This often unarticulated, if morally taboo (to Enlightened Western minds) concept has helped encourage a type of separatist movement that differs from all the others in the past. These active nature people, our alternative separatists, presently fit into three broad categories:

Deep Ecology
Highly localized and detailed organizers, these people tend to think in terms of homestead to township scale for practical implementation. Backyard gardening and neighboring cooperative farmer’s markets are some of its cultural manifestations.

For them, technologies utilized are the minimum necessary to get the job done, which in some ways may translate into increased labor hours and sheer muscle power. Think pre-industrial to limited modern industrial applications.

The Greens are an applied understanding group. For best results, get to know the local ecology and climate in great detail, then take action from the perspective and needs of nature itself which may inconvenience, even bewilder those who are yet uninitiated.

Transition Technocracy
Fairly localized at the township to city scale, these people take an environmentally aware community design approach to civil engineering and public services. Seeking to reduce or eliminate our dependency on fossil fuels in particular, they will prefer a limited industrial approach to implementation whenever possible.

Essentially, the Yellows are an applied technologies movement, using detailed technical proficiency and increasingly, firm authority, to minimize our ecological footprint while seeking to maintain about the same yield for our standard of living. Accessibility and convenience to such transition for humans is about as important as sustained conservation.

Explicit Humanism
World scale organizers, a limited to maximum industrial implementation is within the goal set of the Reds. This often translates into using ecological alarmism like the man-caused global warming contention to implement a wealth transfer from the industrialized nations to the poorer nations in order to help all into an acceptable standard of living.

The Reds are an applied politics category, which is to say, the application of enforced regulations in order to achieve desired results. Overthrowing capitalism in favor of totalitarian utilitarianism or anarchy are openly declared aims for this group.

Typically, the only relationship or apparent interest the human social justice environmentalist bears toward the natural world is in the accusations levied against the capitalist system for its systematic destruction of species and ecosystems.

Hence, one of the most significant principles among the Reds is ending capitalism to take the extreme pressure off the environment if that appeals to you instead of or in addition to the social justice and world equality flavor of appeal.

Zero History by William Gibson

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

William Gibson burst onto the fiction scene in 1986 with his cyberpunk thriller Neuromancer, and since then has been trying to become more like his heroes and influences, Thomas Pynchon and William S. Burroughs.

The literary leanings of his works since 1995 have brought us a new Gibson: a more refined writer, a keener observer of current trends instead of a projector of distant futures, a more savvy designer of tales. The only caveat with his later work is that these books are not about anything.

A book about something has a central topic and a clear idea. It then develops a story to explain that idea, translating abstract knowledge into concrete examples through the experience of characters. Gibson works backward on books like Pattern Recognition, All Tomorrow’s Parties and Zero History: having no dominant idea, he throws in a laundry list of interesting stuff and ties it together with whatever topic he can use to connect the parts. The tail wags the dog, in other words.

Zero History mimicks the action layout of Neuromancer. A lonely hacker pairs up with an assertive female under the guidance of a mysterious thought-leader, then they embark on pursuit of a sacred symbol, at which point they must give up on their social conditioning and become feral hackers who break some rules to get to the truth. It’s a good formula.

Gibson must be like a Zen monk wandering the streets of our modern societies in a state of mindfulness. He picks up on every developing trend, from military couture to Norwegian black metal, and fits it into a developing story and tries to layer a “meaning” over that with a vague, semi-spicy narrative about the imposition of memetic “truth” or holy grails upon the rest of us media sheep.

We like his characters, but don’t believe them. They are almost entirely without past, not scarred by their experiences despite those being traumatic as the book hints, and do not develop as people so much as adapt to their situation without changing their constant forces of personality. At best, they are Jungian symbols for parts of our consciousness we wish we knew better; at worst, they are carboard front window displays from video stores, waving cardboard arms to the pulse of an electric motor stapled to their manila backsides.

Because it lacks any real central theme, and as a result is a collection of almost-related ideas stuck together with the sticky glue of “meaning” in the vaguest sense, the book holds together aesthetically but falls apart under the skin. That is to say you read until page 160, and then you skim to the end. There are few if any surprises. As with Pattern Recognition, the rich montage of interlocked concepts that sparks the text fades so that by the second half, the writing is nearly uniform, functionalist. (Incidentally, this problem is shared by most artists with a great idea after which they must support a career, including Pynchon and Metallica, whose later works are also salads of random bits held together by the slick but hollow implication of a greater meaning or if not that, at least a lifestyle.)

Like Pattern Recognition, this latest book is Gibson at his post-scifi best. There’s a lot to admire in here, even if the book as a whole takes a “short cut” that leads it on a wandering path over the earth with no clear purpose in sight. In fact, this book re-uses characters, settings and germinal ideas from Pattern Recognition, just jazzed up a smidgen with the Neuromancer-style more action-oriented format. It’s far better than the paranoiac and confused (but not collapse-aware, like Neuromancer was) Spook Country, which truly was a muddle. This is clearer, with more to think about, but it cannot offer us any true guidance.

Dignity of life includes dignity of death

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Looks like the Swiss are under fire for their support of assisted suicide:

The Swiss government has rejected calls to ban assisted suicide groups such as Dignitas but will propose new rules to restrict their work.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said last year the government wants to cut down on “suicide tourism,” where scores of foreigners travel to Switzerland every year to end their lives with the help of Dignitas and other groups. – AP

As a conservative, I support the sanctity of life. That means I don’t think we should take it, or let it exist, on a casual basis. We need to treat it with reverence; I don’t think you have to be religious, or not religious, to see this. The two positions are the same.

And here I differ from many conservatives, but interestingly, not the majority of voters:

  • Abortion. Keep it legal and make the record of abortions public. If your daughter goes off and gets knocked up by the football team, it’s slamming the bar door after the horse is long gone to forbid her from aborting that child. In the meantime, most abortions go to impoverished women or women under bad circumstances. Fight sexual liberation because it’s a disaster, but doing that indirectly through abortion is a cretinous idea. In the meantime, aborting babies destined to impoverished and unstable lives has reduced crime. Let’s keep working with Darwin here, and let natural selection — which is God’s plan, if you’re religious — do its lovely work.
  • Assisted suicide. When you have a terminal illness, and the path downward is nothing but misery, it’s time to check out with grace — as was common only fifty years ago, when the family doctor would hook you up with a one-time overdose of morphine and out you’d go. In the same way, people who are habitually depressed and upset about life should be able to exit it. There’s no sanctity of life in prolonging failed life or a slow dying process.
  • Death penalty. So Jim Bob done went off and made a rape or armed robbery? Send him away — by ensuring that he dies quickly. Don’t let him breed, and don’t let him languish in a prison that costs more each year than sending a kid to Harvard. Don’t let him have a lengthy appeals process. If you feel the justice system is evil and unfair, fix it. Don’t try to indirectly influence it by banning the death penalty or the passive aggressive method of that, making the cost of executions too high through prolonged appeals.

Conservatism shoots itself in the foot when it conjures up a liberal interpretation of the sanctity of life. A liberal would say that every life is sacred; a conservative would say that life itself is sacred, and that means that sometimes one must kill or die. Somehow modern neoliberal conservatism has gotten muddled.

In the meantime, I have to congratulate the Swiss on continuing to hold firm. We have seven billion people; our problem is not that we may lose a few and somehow collapse. Our problem may be that we cannot say yes to death at any time, and as a result, may drown in our own excess of good intentions.

Why “don’t ask, don’t tell” is a good idea

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I have shocking news for the American people: categories, while convenient, aren’t the whole story.

For starters, any single object (a toad, a car, you, or I) can belong to multiple categories.

As an example, there’s my neighbor Bill. He is:

  • White
  • Male
  • Gay
  • Republican
  • Cancer survivor
  • BASE jumper

Which category do we use that’s important? We use whatever’s convenient for us, I guess. If someone wants to say something as silly as “All the BASE jumpers go to the left, and all Republicans to the right” there’s going to be a conflict.

It’s the same way in the military.

The military needs to be a hierarchy which aggressively promotes people based on one category: competence.

That is to say that the military, and I if I’m a soldier, want the guy who’s got my back to be there because he passed his qualifying tests with flying colors.

I don’t want him there for any other reason because that could get my precious posteriousTM shot full of holes, or worse.

But when we introduce categories like gay, minority, women and others we create a dual category problem, or conflict:

  • Bill didn’t pass his qualifying exam because he doesn’t have what it takes.
  • Or maybe, Bill didn’t pass because the exam instructor hates homosexuals.

So do we promote him? He’ll sue us if we don’t. And although it is controversial, we know that not every gay person is competent for all roles and duties, so we’ll be potentially promoting people who are incompetent.

Militaries like most highly competitive organizations thrive on a charged atmosphere. You have to be driven to succeed, to exceed yourself (and your fears, although I’m still not jumping out of a plane) and go further.

This only happens when there’s one and only one reason you can get a reward, and one and only one reason you do not get that reward.

While fighting discrimination — assuming we pretend diversity of various forms is going to work — is important because it stops good people from not getting promoted, we’re now seeing the flip side.

Anti-discrimination rules can be used to promote the incompetent, because people who are incompetent can also be minorities, gay, women and so on.

That not only hurts the incompetent who got promoted, but it wrecks the entire system. Now others doubt the value of their qualifications, and don’t trust those around them. Your fighting machine falls apart.

Let’s flip it around a minute and pretend that “don’t ask, don’t tell” applies to Elysians, who are a rare ethnic group who look just like you and me, but can sense magnetic fields.

Under DADT, they can continue to be Elysian, and if they do get promoted, they know it is on their own merit. If DADT is suspended, they are suddenly thrust into these roles:

  • Targets: everyone hates the kid the teacher protects.
  • Doubted: did they get promoted because they were Elysian alone, or are they actually competent?
  • Politicized: now they are expected to stand up for Elysian rights and take on the role of being the informal spokespeople for Elysians, sort of like the way white people ask African-Americans about the general properties of their role as African-Americans.

Gays in the military thrive under DADT. Their identities and sexual orientations remain their own. While we can’t prosecute people for discriminating against them if they find out they’re gay, there’s also no public record that they’re gay for others to use against them. They do not have to represent a gay population. They can be individuals again! And most of all, they know all their victories are their own.

DADT is one of those military policies that our population is keyed off to freak out about because it allows us to see differences between individuals. Yes, children, in the world of science and common sense, people aren’t equal and we have differences. You can’t make conflict go away by ignoring those differences, and by forcing us to ignore them through propaganda/dogma, you’re making the situation worse. But the voters don’t think that deeply, or even deeply enough to see why DADT evolved as a mature although “unofficial” response to a complex situation.

The voters just want easy, pre-chewed, sugar-added answers and they want them right now. Injustice might be occurring, and that thought turns the sofa-bound into a lynch mob in an instant, because they know that they can make angry phone calls for a few days and then it’ll blow over, and they can feel better about themselves because instead of being obese slobs, they’re crusaders for justice!

But if we’re serious about actually helping the situation, and the people within it, the real way to do this is to avoid making them political objects. Stop applying categories to them which complicate their lives; make them, instead, individuals who rise or fall on their own merits. That is the only true justice we find in this world.


Saturday, September 18th, 2010

russian_revolutionThe world socialist movement provides us with an interesting narrative. They tell us the capitalist system enjoys free movement abroad to harness the cheapest available labor.

Globalized capitalism is free to seek out choice locations with the most lax environmental regulations to keep its profit margins maximized by dropping the operating costs side.

Endless growth can pressure external ecosystems, cultures, and economies. These are variously enumerated as problems by many world socialist sources and others.

But, they tell us the labor side of production is impeded from relocating to where the best wages are found. According to world socialism, restricting the movement of random people into the society you have invested in is an injustice you are doing to others.

In response, world socialism proposes creating internal problems for you:

It is very interesting that after I spoke publicly about the racist “segregation” laws which existed in the South before the coming of the American civil rights movement in the late 1950’s and 60’s, they compared the European immigration statutes to it and saw they could build a mass movement and win. But they also talked about transforming Europen society itself as well as dismantling the laws. They stated that they did not want to just win a few reforms and empower a black middle class, while so many remained in poverty. They had the radical goal of overthrowing capitalism itself.


As a shared world socialism and globalist capital goal, mass labor migration creates about the same results everywhere.

It increases social upheaval and depletes the social safety net without showing improvement for the great expense incurred.

The results show no closing of any wealth gap between classes. Instead, we witness increased ethnic rivalries jockeying for the status and trinkets to be had in capitalist Western societies:

Almost all the attackers were black — but few observers believe the violence was due to racial hatred. Instead, they cite isolation of different groups within the school, certain students’ warped “gangster” values, and for some, simmering resentments over perceived benefits for Asian students.


The proclaimed public goal of equitable fairness no longer conceals the quiet goal of destroying the present order through overburdening us with endless demands for appeasement:

Not a few people see value in Daley’s “strong leadership,” for bringing the city together, for ending (or at least submerging) the racial and ethnic hostilities that have historically divided this city. It has almost become a cliche in recent days: Daley held the city together by bringing everyone “in.”

Uh-huh. If he is to receive credit for the sea change, it wasn’t that he just opened up his City Hall office for every faction and said, “Take a seat at the table.” He did it by giving them stuff. You know, stuff like senior centers, street sweepers, after-school programs, block parties, career academies, school buildings, neighborhood parks, job training, cultural events, flowers and fences, consumer protection, ex-offenders rehab, health and wellness initiatives, home modification programs for the disabled, arts grants, lead abatement assistance, summer jobs programs, and so forth. Ribbon-cutting stuff.

Stuff that, when you add it all up, costs money, lots of it. To the tune of an estimated budget deficit of $655 million next year.


If the Soviet Union or Khmer Rouge are any example of the eventual outcome, we should understand that the installment of totalitarian dictatorship or a brutal junta is the default outcome of radical leftist socialism.

With history as our guide, such radicals, given power, are capable of handing out generous rewards to their own fanatics while murdering or enslaving unsupportive bystanders and the overt opposition alike.

Their claims to humanitarian morality and environmental conservation, two ideals often at odds with one another, are no more than spurious popular appeal of the same sort found with global capitalism.

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