Archive for December, 2012
Sunday, December 30th, 2012
When a Russian general wanted to fool an Empress, he constructed fake villages that showcased an idyllic life for their inhabitants and concealed the less pleasant actuality. Culturally, the world has accepted a Potemkin village as the concept that those in power can craft a fake reality in order to dissuade oversight.
However, we live in a postmodern age. Starting with Nietzsche’s critique of language in On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense, and accelerating through French interpretations of that idea, postmodernism is defined by the lack of a narrative. There is no one truth. There is no king. There is no culture. There is only personal whim and group need.
What makes this fascinating is that it induces us to create our own Potemkin villages. Like a good salesperson, the postmodern state tells us all about our “freedom.” This fills our heads with visions of joys, pleasures and distractions. We then do what we are told is necessary in order to achieve that end.
As time goes on, we realize this world is a Potemkin village in that it is false functionality that isn’t even needed. To include everyone at the office, we have divided jobs into tiny roles. Because we have made tons of regulations, so that anyone can just follow the instructions and do almost any job, it is a mind-numbing maze of the stuff that makes life least fun: paperwork, explaining difficult concepts to disinterested people, confrontation, waiting. How many of these jobs are necessary? How many could we combine into one, and send everyone else home? And yet money is freedom, so we all want them, which makes them pay less and thus, makes each one require less engagement from us.
What about our great society? Its art is a wasteland. Its culture is products for the distracted. While there are many good people out there, they appear as a minority while we circumnavigate the selfish, distracted, delusional, resentful and hopeless cases who wander around like ghosts. Where are the great joys of this life? Were all of those good things part of the Potemkin village?
Yes: they got us to look in the wrong places. Joy does not come from social interaction, nor from owning things. Work is not what other people tell you to do, but what you notice needs doing. Public behavior is not about what you can get, or get away with, but how to make sure you get what you give, and thus that you give enough to have goodwill wherever you go.
Once upon a time, we had a single society. Appearance fit reality because the purpose of that society was to tie parts of reality together using concepts of divinity and natural order. Then our egos rose up, and we decided that we wanted no order to rule over us, even a natural and detached one, and so we came up with a civilization based on every person doing what they want. We sold it to each other with Potemkin images, symbols, language and concepts.
It ended up being fake like all other such illusions. We believed because we wanted to, and now in the span of only two centuries we have seen our societies go from elegant to crass, our people from stout-hearted to craven and resentful, and our daily experience of life from real to a fake and meaningless repetition. Clearly, we outsmarted ourselves.
Sunday, December 23rd, 2012
The grim truth about politics is that it’s a translation of a translation. People set out ideas about how we should rule ourselves, and then to make them palatable to the masses, we dumb them down and turn them into the mechanics of a football game.
Conservatives are at the disadvantage here because conservatism is not political, but a choice of way of life. It is not something you can write down as an ideology, rage about at the polls, vote and then consider yourself done. It is a way of looking at life that pervades everything you do, and it’s organic because it is based on your inner moral compass.
Politics obscures this truth. It does so because in order to mobilize a mass to do anything, you need to provoke them with fears and pander to them with promises not about what will happen, but about what they want to happen. The disconnect between cause and effect is complete because cause/effect is more complex than symbol and group.
The result is that our politics neatly hides complex truths under simple cheerleading:
- Individual moral decisions are more important than state policy. The liberal wants you to believe that every person is equal, thus we are all blank slates, and we only act in certain ways because we are “forced” to by our circumstances. This is self-serving apologism that seeks to let liberals off the hook for their own bad behavior. The truth is that a society is defined by the behavior of its individuals. If they are all oriented toward healthy and constructive behavior, society thrives. The more of them aren’t, the less it thrives. Social institutions have almost nothing to do with this, except that by making excuses for people, they encourage them to not struggle to make moral decisions.
- Individual incompetence is the enemy of human civilization. We are taught by media to blame government, bankers, kings, popes, etc. but the main enemy of humankind is its own bungling. Most people get most things wrong most of the time. When put in committees or worse, companies or social organizations, the bungling is hidden by the group and it intensifies. The reason we have strong governments or corrupt bankers is that most people, being incompetent, create a need for strong and deceptive leadership to ensure society’s basic functions continue.
- There is no conflict between religious and secular thinking. All thinking is done by individuals. A smart individual will come up with a reality-based interpretation of religion or non-religion. A dumb individual will turn anything, even the most sciency science, into a type of primitive mysticism based on superstition. Religion and secularism describe the same world, which if it is the work of an omnipotent God, reflects His order. Thus we’re running in circles describing the same thing using slightly different language, where if we apply intelligence to the situation, we arrive at the same answers regardless of which road we take.
- Evil is not a demon below, but commonplace narcissism and refusal to think about the consequences of our errors in reality. Evil is in fact the most common and least interesting thing in the human world. It occurs when we deny reality in favor of our own wishful thinking. In doing so, we create consequences that are destructive for others, either as individuals or as a group. Most evil is accepted as “normal” and so people give it a pass and grow increasingly resentful for reasons they cannot articulate. Very rarely is evil deliberate, meaning aware that it is evil. It is usually people being opportunistic and taking what they want, in denial of any consequences, because this is the easiest path for them at the time.
- Most people can be wrong and in fact, most people are wrong at any given point in history. We are told there is strength in numbers and wisdom in crowds. The truth is that crowds follow trends because when a new idea comes about, every person in the herd is afraid of being left behind in case this new idea really is powerful, so without proof of its veracity they adopt it and use their new-found status to beat up anyone who hasn’t adopted it. Thus ideas spread like diseases, and usually they are wrong, because in all but a few cases the people dreaming them up aren’t thinking about reality, but how they want to see themselves. These ideas are thus limited to the short-term human individual viewpoint in terms of feelings, judgments and desires.
In the translation into politics, these truths got lost. It then became profitable for them to stay lost, and so we got liberalism. The more we orient politics toward simple and clear truths like these, the quicker we can do away with the pretense and pandering that makes modern politics turn away from any real issue as soon as it is stated.
Friday, December 21st, 2012
When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius; lift up thy head! – William Blake
Like black clouds of war, our fears of the unknown perpetually haunt us as if they are looming in the sky. Terrorism, death, accidents –- how does one combat such things? Men on the ground? Education? Awareness campaigns? Preemptive strikes?
Forget about whether or not there is more terrorism or less terrorism than there was a month ago or a year ago. The question is not even can we get rid of it or not, the real question is: how would we know? A sign in the sky? Every man woman and child on the planet checking in at the World Bureau for their official statement and brain scan?
Much like a desire for quintessential knowledge, we desire a definitive and absolute answer that we can understand in human terms. We desire it because we fear the unknown. The unknown must be exterminated. Nothing can be left to chance. We must have a final solution.
Just like terrorism, the question is not whether we have more knowledge or less knowledge, or even if we can acquire a sort of perfect knowledge. The question is how we would know when we have perfect knowledge. Knowing about knowing is something altogether different than knowing. Socrates did not say that he knows that he knows. He said that he knows that he does not know.
Strictly speaking there is no sign of a sign. That would just be a sign. There is a sign and there is not-a-sign, but there is no ultimate sign of signs. Knowledge is always one category removed from manifest reality. If there is anything we should be superstitious about, it is knowledge!
This is not to imply that “conquering” the unknown with knowledge is bad. Solving problems is what we do, but there is no way, under the sign of knowledge, to know when enough is enough or even what problems do not need “solving.” Everything begins to look like a problem. Preferences and values become arbitrary and irrational under the assumption that there is an explanation for everything. Even if we do not know it now, eventually we will, we assume. We must continue to wage war against the unknown!
Once again, the problem is knowing definitively. If a person says they voted for Mitt Romney, does that prove they voted for Mitt Romney? No, they could be lying. If a person says they are not a terrorist, does that mean they are not a terrorist? How does one definitively prove one is not something? What evil lurks in the heart of man? One thinks of Looney Tunes when the bad guy is thwarted by Bugs Bunny and he says, “I don’t know how you’s done it! But I know you’s done it!”
Similarly, what we fear about death is not so much death, itself. Death is probably very peaceful in fact. What we fear is that we do not know when it will come. It is unknown. Death is not so much an objective destiny as it is a rendezvous. As we run away from our fears, we actually run toward our fate.
We all ask ourselves big questions. “What is the meaning of life?” “How do I become happy?” One might suggest that the closest we can come to putting this into words is: to be comfortable with the unknown.
If you saw an eagle flying in the sky, high above you, what would you say to yourself? “Why is he flying?” “How does he fly?” “Where is he going?” But now he is gone. Why would you even want to explain it? The eagle in the sky is manifest reality and the “knowledge” of it pales in comparison.
So, the ultimate battle is a cataclysm between Knowledge versus The Unknown. Ask yourself a question: if we were somehow granted perfect knowledge and if all the world’s “problems” were solved tomorrow, would you still have a purpose?
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
The collapse of a civilization is a big deal. Carry off everything you can, or form small secessionist retreats, but you face the problem of what the rest of the people escaping the failure will do. Most likely, they charge en masse and then kill you and take your stuff.
There’s also the lost learning. We won’t cry over the past fifty years of non-literature, non-art and non-learning, but there are a few exceptions, and the greatness of the past. Nothing stops this from being lost, especially if people need toilet paper or some tinder for a fire.
Always there is the possibility of escape. But to where? We’ve covered the world in civilization, and even moving into the dense dark jungle just means that someone will construct a freeway toward you, probably just to kill you and take your stuff.
Re-civilizing an area seems like the best course of action, but this will be a frail and delicate civilization for its early years. This includes both internal factors and external: internally, you need to find a culture or vision that binds you together; externally, the formerly-urban zombies will attack, and there’s no guarantee the crops will survive.
Many of the people who are not served well by the current system want to burn it down, tear it down, and destroy it. Like the liberals they apparently are emulating, they see destruction as a form of renewal and cleansing. In symbolism and emotion, this sounds good. In reality? It brings on a mess.
The industrialized world, and especially the West, has divided itself into two incompatible camps. The first wants realism and a functional unified culture as is needed for civilization, but the second wants a social subsidy and pluralistic non-values, to the point where reconstruction is impossible:
The social, cultural, moral and political revolutions of the 1960s, against which Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan inveighed to win their 49-state triumphs, have now captured half of the country.
The 1960s were the era of the left’s great gambit. The children of the people of the 1930s, who were trendily rebellious in flirting with Communism, took up the cries of the French revolution — equality, internationalism, socialism and inversion of social roles — and made them a mass-media social product that spread like wildfire among the Baby Boomers who were desperate for a way to not only fit in but be important.
Fifty years later, this virus has sickened the host and accomplished its goal. Both the EU (sorry… Europe) and the USA are split by this divide. There is a huge liberal population that is generally young, foreign or dependent on the state, and then an indigenous substrate that wants to be reasonable but is basically pulling in the other way.
This indigenous substrate exists without a media blitz because it doesn’t need one. It is generally composed of people with more experience than the other half, both in years and responsibility. These people want conservative values because they know from experience that conservative values work and make healthy families, cheerful communities and thriving nations, where liberal ideas slowly drain all resources.
Resource drains of this nature transfer money, energy and social focus from constructive use into subsidy for those who will not replace those resources with more. Unlike the wealthier-than-average, who if allowed to keep their resources will make more of them because that’s how they got to above average wealth in the first place, this group represents the end of the line.
The result of this split is massive social alienation, dysfunction and paranoia:
And Americans are already seceding from one another—ethnically, culturally, politically. Middle-class folks flee high-tax California, as Third World immigrants, legal and illegal, pour in to partake of the cornucopia of social welfare benefits the Golden Land dispenses…People gravitate toward their own kind. Call it divorce, American-style.
The 1960s, like the 1789 revolution in France, ripped the heart out of the West. They replaced culture and nationality with pluralism and diversity, using relativism as a way to justify the absurd contortions of social Marxist thought used to keep the dysfunction afloat. Those who wanted to succeed within the system had to choke it down and regurgitate this dogma in order to be accepted.
What’s most interesting about this is that, like all revolutions for people power, it was a solution in search of a problem. It never had any legitimacy because it was a power seizure, not a righting of wrongs:
Louis XVI, too, was a basically decent and capable individual – believe it or not. France could have thrived under him and his heirs to the present time. Indeed France without the Revolution – any European nation without the Revolution – would be the greatest nation on earth today. America not excepted.
Think about the modern West. We have followed egalitarianism into the grave. Since the 1960s, our social programs have expended vital resources on eliminating poverty, with zero success. In fact, there’s more poverty now than there was then, and our wealth wave while strong in some areas has diminished.
Even worse, our societies are divided and cannot function as a unified whole. The first strong external threat, and we will have trouble bribing all of the different groups and lifestyles to work together to fight it. Even a strong internal threat sends us into a tailspin, as this most recent recession shows.
What we are seeing here is the failure of the liberal democracy model. As time shows us, with universal voting, the voters form self-interest cliques including the most destructive clique of all, which is the no-existential-challenges clique who want cradle to grave support from a government. This is the same impulse as socialism, and it kills nations by ensuring that people don’t work together, but work against each other.
In every human group ever created, abilities fit on a standard distribution with most of us in the middle, and lower numbers of outliers on the positive and negative extremes. When the left side of the chart (below average) declares war on the right side of the chart (above average), what results is a destruction of the productive means of society itself. What follows is a tumble right back down the evolutionary ladder into the early days of primitive human group living.
The West as a whole has been trying to buy off the takers by taking from the makers, and the result only delays the inevitable clash:
This allows us to see exactly what we get in return for national income distribution. It provides a tenuous and temporary cease-fire. Otto Von Bismark described his contributions to Germany’s social welfare state as an act of “stealing the Socialists’ thunder.” While most of what he enacted is standard fare in the modern employee’s benefit package, meeting the mob half-way only made them clamor for more.
The West as a whole is in mortal decline. As the first article quoted in this post says, perhaps a Republican win would have delayed the abyss, not stopped it. And as we see above, buying off the liberals with taker-entitlements will only delay things as well.
What is needed is first and foremost for us to face this problem and admit that secession is but one symptom of a larger underlying problem. Liberalism has split the West in two. Once we face that, we can start looking at practical solutions to this separation, so that in the process of our little spat we do not level our civilization which took so many centuries to build and will take even more to re-create.
Saturday, December 15th, 2012
The right has always tried to be a big tent because we acknowledge that within a certain range of reality-based behaviors, there’s more than one way to do it.
For example, you do not have to be religious to be a conservative or even a traditionalist. This upsets a lot of people who tend to repeat the idea that without religion, we are moral-less wanderers without purpose.
This quest for an inherent truth negates the fact that even a truth written in stone is interpreted differently by different people, and the only way to find out the actual truth is to test their “truths” against reality itself. It’s natural selection, filtered through language.
As a realist, I recognize that both religious and secular people have a home on the right. To many religious people, that makes me “secular,” where a better term might be “neither” or “both.” In fact, I’m gunning for the latter: I acknowledge the utility and beauty of religion and metaphysics, but don’t think it should be mandatory.
I am not alone in this. Others have found themselves wanting to divorce conservatism from a necessary religiosity, and some have wanted to dispense with religion entirely. For example, there’s the powerhouse blog Secular Right:
We believe that conservative principles and policies need not be grounded in a specific set of supernatural claims. Rather, conservatism serves the ends of “Human Flourishing,” what the Greeks termed Eudaimonia. Secular conservatism takes the empirical world for what it is, and accepts that the making of it the best that it can be is only possible through our faculties of reason.
Part of the reason that people want to swing the pendulum away from liturgical topics entirely is to escape the public perception of the right-wing, as grimly illustrated by Charles Murray:
Republicans are seen by Asians—as they are by Latinos, blacks, and some large proportion of whites—as the party of Bible-thumping, anti-gay, anti-abortion creationists. Factually, that’s ludicrously inaccurate. In the public mind, except among Republicans, that image is taken for reality.
However, it’s probably unrealistic to consider that anything other than a public image problem of the sort that comes about when 90% of your media slants leftist to the point where “truthfulness” is an afterthought to dogma.
One way to fight back against that is to try to drop the offending parties. However, that brings you closer to being like a clone of your opposition. It might be strategically more sensible to instead choose to emphasize the big tent nature of conservatism, which is that it’s where religion and agnosticism can co-exist peacefully.
That leaves our other option, which is “both.” How can you be both secular and religious? Some secular people will scream out that you are religious, and some religious people will scream out that you’re secular. But therein is the value of this approach. It unites all people who can think pragmatically and tolerate both secular and religious, and filters out the fanatics of all stripes.
For example, it would be highly offensive to liberals, which immediately makes it interesting.
From the “both” category, an interesting explanation of selective secularity from a gifted theologian:
I believe that it is entirely possible to live a moral life without Christianity as the guide. The belief that a person cannot reach the conclusion that certain things are bad for them (e.g. sexual liberation) without the context of God is absurd. I am above all a consequentialist. That some actions had negative consequences and should therefore not be engaged in is a logical conclusion. That most of the world seems to continue to engage in behaviors that lead them to ruin is a function of human denial, not a lack of God.
This point is worth repeating: morality is not defined by the inherent truth of the universe. It’s defined by us looking at how the universe operates, and realizing we can (roughly) predict the outcome of our actions based on past results. This means we can act in a way to achieve results that we want.
At this point, we only have to compare the different possible results and see which ones turn out well. We can’t make someone want a good outcome, just like we can’t convince heroin addicts to quit shooting up and can’t convince the average person to bypass the junk food for a solid but less-exciting meal. But we can unite all of us who want a good outcome on the logical, scientific and historically-accurate method of comparing outcomes.
From the same post:
This is why I believe that the only way to change the world is through a logical approach. It worked with cigarette smoking. We all know the consequences of smoking on health. The same is true for a number of sacred cows in the world: premarital sex, cohabitation, gender and race equality, world peace. These holy icons of the modern age need to be slain and they can be so destroyed through the employment of logical thought.
This is what New Right thinkers refer to as a “metapolitical” view: a wave of cultural change alters attitudes, and through those attitudes we filter our political vision, such that we don’t try to shift society politically, but shift the ground on which politics and social institutions stand.
It is this type of view that can benefit from a “both” approach to secularism. We don’t need another generation of fanatics dividing lines between our people. We need a common sense approach, and common sense is what unites the secular conservatives with the religious ones.
Friday, December 14th, 2012
I’m told there was another lugubrious school shooting. I refuse to read about it, because there’s nothing I can do except make myself miserable.
Even more, I’m ignoring the political blather. Gun control couldn’t have stopped this, because if we can’t stop marijuana from invading the country in giant bales, making guns illegal will ensure that any kid can buy one for $60 in the hallway of his high school.
Instead, I’d like to make a point here: the people who do these things have made bad moral choices, but they’re crests of the wave which is the ongoing degradation of our values, morals and conscience in this society.
In order to tolerate everyone equally, we threw away the idea of reality itself and replaced it with pluralism, or, “whatever you want to think is good, we’ll endorse as good because it supports freedom,” which as you know is what terrorists, Nazis, kings, and those who smoke menthylated cigarettes hate.
Let us explore why school shootings happen:
1. I am talking and no one is listening.
It is easier (always) to go into denial. That lets you keep doing what you wanted to do, instead of forcing you to wake up and pay attention. This applies to personal problems as well, or even tasks we’d rather procrastinate (yes, I’m thinking of my own lawn mowing denialism here).
Not everyone who claims the end of the world is near is right. In fact, most are wrong. What matters is that any of them can be right, and so we have to compare that assertion to what we know. Who among us actually feels like the West (EU, UK, US) is headed in a positive direction?
We know that’s not the case because we’ve seen the degeneration, but even more, we daily see the total lack of purpose. There is no goal here. We’re all materialistic, but that’s not the cause. We’re materialistic because we want money to buy our way out of dystopia that results from purposelessness.
It’s easy enough for adults to do that. The choice is upon them. For kids, it’s a horrible thought: the future just gets worse and you get forced into a meaningless world that does exactly what all the literature you’ve read in school says not to do, which is living for convenience and wealth at the expense of the soul.
Kids are under more stress than an adult ever could be. Imagine your parents pushing you slowly into a wood chipper. That’s what it feels like, and the more they get to know adults, see what denial they’re in, read the news, etc. the more kids just want to die.
Might as well take a few out with you while you go.
2. Society is incompetent and we’re cruising on the past.
It doesn’t take a sensitive nose to realize that this society is decaying from within. In addition to the aforementioned lack of goal, there’s an ongoing process of losing cultural memory, losing competence in social institutions, and losing standards of behavior.
People can’t even socialize, drive, communicate or be considerate. They are so fixated on their own desires that they have shut out the world. Most of them are oblivious and/or stupid and take great joy in obstructing others. This means that our society systematically discriminates against the intelligent, who might want to shut such people out.
When I go to the grocery store, every single process takes longer because people have nothing in common. They treat each other as impediments to their own good time, and take revenge by being deliberately slow, obtuse, incompetent, etc. It only gets worse when you give them power at a job, a car, a computer or a phone.
Even more, almost nothing works. We are told the opposite is true, but go ahead and try to get something important done in a hurry. Most machines are semi-functional if not non-functional at any given time. Traffic jams clog the city at random. Often whole fields are inaccessible for bureaucracy or dysfunctional reasons.
3. People will pay to make these unsettling truths go away.
The simplest example of this is people rushing to the store to buy a book about a mythical reality in which everything is simple and clear.
You think this is about religion? I’m talking about Twilight, or any of 11 billion self-help books, or all the “academic” books that good middle class intellectuals read to convince them that our problem in society is foot odor, not collapse from within because we have nothing in common.
Any time a problem is mentioned honestly, the ostrich crowd comes out to sell us sand beds for comfortable head resting.
To a child, this says that problems exist, they’re so huge that no one can deal with them, and adults are using their freedom to ensure they never have to deal with them. The name of the game is to die before the results of these lies come crashing down.
In fact, modern people behave like other people are a form of hatred to them. There’s what I want to do, and then everyone else, who’s in the way. The best revenge? Destroy society, but in a passive-aggressive way like saying I’m “doing it for the children,” so I get a nice life and everyone else gets the shaft.
That’s basically the mentality of the Baby Boomer generation right there.
School shootings happen because people are deranged, make morally bad choices, and probably should have been shot dead by their own families, but only sometimes. Sometimes it’s desperate kids. Something the shooter is only the vehicle of the desperation, like an inverse scapegoat who picks up on the misery of it all and is too broken not to act.
Among the school shooters in the past have been many intelligent, sensitive kids who had a lot to offer.
Society is failing, we’re refusing to face it, which just grinds us more into the stress of denial, and means the tragedies will come more frequently from here until the end.