Saturday, October 26, 2013

nominal religious affiliation is to warmaking as quarterback hair color is to quarterbacking

A Dawkins-loving atheist says this or that religion, or all religions, i.e., the other team, is responsible for warmaking and savagery. The same atheist supports atheist drone killers and the mechanisms that funnel wealth and prestige, always with force, always, to the ones with their hands on the levers. He makes fun of the pope's silly hat and the transparently pulled-out-of-human-asses transcendence-based magic rituals of organized religion, then with no sense of irony watches an academic receiving a prize on a stage or some silly hat wearing 22 year-olds getting their rolled-up papers formally granting them magic new powers in relation to other humans. And the dean, or the President, or the by-the-power-vested-in-me dude by whatever name, appears to them, amazingly, as something other than a priest.

A Christian responds that Hitler was unilaterally responsible for 20 million deaths, conveniently, you might say religiously, cleansing of all responsibility and freeing from attributions of causality those millions of nominally Christian Germans who held the rifles and ran the trains and supported the supposedly evilest guy ever as long as they could find employment and/or as long as the evil one gave them outlets for their hate and/or as long as they were winning on the battlefield. So chalk up 20 million murders to the atheist team. Those atheist bastards.

But Hitler was raised Christian, says the atheist team, getting sucked into gladly engaging in a stupid fucking discussion...

if I may interrupt, dammit, the humans have been organizedly killing each other for as long as they've deserved to be called human and they've been giving their reasons all sorts of names, fighting under all sorts of banners and flags, fighting for various tribes and ethnicities and nations, sacrificing to all sorts of gods, going to differently shaped churches and now I don't really think it matters what name you give your sociopathy, it's pretty clear that Christianity and Islam and Dawkinsian atheism and Obamaism and so on are mostly just along for the ride, like Peyton Manning's hair.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

the paradox of cool

Seth Stevenson at Slate says that tech geeks can't be cool because cool by definition can't include social media neediness, concern about image, and plugged-in-ness. Cool is not preening. Cool is indifference (says he):
When marketing company “coolhunters” go a-hunting for cool, are they in search of the kind of people who engage with popular culture and rave about new mass-market products? Of course not. They look for the truly cool kids with their own internal cool compasses—people wholly indifferent to what everyone else is doing.
There's something to that but he missed an extremely important element. Let me fix it: "They look for...people who give the appearance of being wholly indifferent to what everyone else is doing while actually being particularly well tuned-in to it."

Art and fashion (and less obviously and directly and to varyingly lesser extents, pretty much every intellectual endeavor) are driven by desired transcendence, often by fear of suffocating death by banality or the horror at one's similarity to the conformist dolts despised by the observer within and reactive attempts at escape. But not only that. They are driven in every case by a desire to, finally, present their work to someone for approval. You cannot have art without exhibition(s). (And even the most self-assured artist has an internalized other watching. If that other is not demanding, the art will suffer.)

The kid who is wholly indifferent doesn't exist but the closest thing is the one picking her nose in the corner. She's examining a dead butterfly, scratching her ass, wearing clothes that don't fit and clash badly.
Stevenson disapproves an understanding of cool that amounts to seeking and winning the approval of pop culture, but this is what it means. His version is a paradox.

Practically all teenagers are humiliated* ritually and daily by authoritarian figures and the appeal of cool is that it seems to offer an alternative. "You don't have to be what they want you to be!" The teenagers, on the other hand, who are routinely applauded by adults for their future human capital development, who are on the path to inner circle tribal membership, often come to peace with their humiliation, too doped up on the compensatory ego happy of back pats and straight As to ask "why the fuck has my entire life been arranged for me from the alarm bell to the opening bell to the closing bell to the dinner bell?" Cool, or pop culture approval, sets itself up against this conformity by offering a conformity presented as non-conformity. It's non-conformist by default in the way Democrats end up playing the pacifists, reality be damned. Cool is opium for the rejects.   

Not coincidentally for the sellers of cool, it can be bought. Being pounded on as future human capital takes its toll and the escape offers molded plastic hope. Schools mold perfect consumers (or herd them to the mall, you might say) as a side effect of their attempt to mold perfect human capital.

*if that's too strong for you, feel free to insert a watered down (and probably miguided!) version of same   

Saturday, October 12, 2013

distinctions, not dualism

I forget how it came up but we were talking about humans and animals. I said "you know humans are animals, right?" She said "yes." They almost always admit it.

"But I mean they're 100% animals. There's nothing non-animal about them at all."

"Hmmm." She wasn't quite buying it. She drew a Venn diagram with "animals" on one side and "humans" on the other, with the overlap of circles indicating commonality.

"So humans are part animal, part...what?," I pressed. "Do you eat, shit, piss? That came out wrong. But these things are not only what you have in common with animals. You are an animal. No offense."

"Some taken. Ummm, but humans use language, animals don't."

"But you said humans are animals and we're humans and we're talking right now. So some animals can talk."
Dualisms work by drawing a line around "this" by narrating "what this is not." "What this is not" is equivalent to "that" and "that" is what is outside. But it's also possible to see this and that alongside each other, incorporated in a greater THIS. THIS makes this and that, first and foremost, the same, and only secondarily, different. THIS is the frame, and without it there can only be incoherent dualism. A problem is that the new THIS (and yes, getting somewhat Hegelian here though I haven't read him) is itself sensible only if defined against another that. And so non-Being becomes the ultimate that but without a bigger THIS and we're left with dualism. I'd like to think this is a merely philosophical problem. Referring to Being as world, as opposed to "the world," is my attempt to bring us back inside as much as that's possible in this fantastical narrative world. Non-world? Absurd of course. Moving on.

My friend above was trying to extract humans from animalhood, to place humans outside that category. Humans as transcendent. Transcendent, shitting world, perhaps. She's working with an all-too convenient, self-flattering dualism. There is no THIS in her picture. It fades away as the transcendent inside makes its case for eternal repetition. This, right here, will repeat forever. Is it bad that the humans will some day die off? Only if you're a human, only if you're inside. Bad is non-repetition forever. It is the foundation of ethics. Good is me repeating, bad is the opposite. (God, how I hate my Prussian philosopher God tones. Reader, apologies. Philosophy is an ego/superego disease and I'm particularly bad at masking that.)
Japanese kids are racist by age 4 or 5. The operative dualism is nihonjin (Japan person; pronounced knee-hone-gene) versus gaijin (outside person; pronounced guy-gene). Any distinction between gaijin types (American versus Chinese) or particular gaijins (the tall skinny shy gaijin versus the short stocky gregarious one) are secondary to the nihonjin/gaijin distinction -- they take place within the category gaijin. There is an obvious bigger category, a THIS, but it's inoperative here. The category "human" does not frame the gaijin/nihonjin distinction at all. Its absence is required for the distinction to persist. A nihonjin may accept that Americans are humans, as my nihonjin friend above accepted that humans are animals, but they will not account for it, hold it up against older beliefs and let them go extinct. It's a concession on a par with an Obamaphile allowing for Obaman imperfection. It's apologetics. It's concession for the sake of repetition, concession as a defense. Nothing to see here. Moving along.
Above friend, who is also a student, client, and boss (insofaras she pays me directly), got in the last word. "You think you're right and everyone else is wrong." To have an opinion is to make oneself a this, i.e., the good side of the dualism. Yes, I too am human, among them I criticize so harshly, using the third person as if they're out there. 負けた! I lose! (You win.)      

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

always in the dark

I'm walking around in the dark bumping into things, some sharp, some feathery...bah, already off track. I? "I" is a label for a remarkably complex system of systems, and no one knows what it is. But in defense of not knowing what "I" is, no one knows what anything is. Freud caricatured these systems as id, ego, and superego. Moving beyond that to things Freud didn't say, only the first of those also applies to non-human animals or to anything that happened before the appearance of human language.

The ego and the superego -- again, not what Freud said about them, just using his outline -- co-evolved with language. You could call them products of language or, simply, perhaps, language.

The ego is the product of the superego. The superego is the parent, the ego the child. The ego is a product of manipulation. The superego is parasitical. The child does as commanded, by language, and the parent gets what it wants. Power gets what it wants, in this case, by placing itself inside the host. The child's body does as the superego says, hence the term parasite.

The one that obeys survives. Girls are better at language acquisition. Coincidence? Maybe. Just speculating, but it would make sense.

Back to the first sentence...

The system of systems I call "I" is randomly colliding into other systems in the dark, formulating narratives as to what is what and what have you. Science is a system of the type we call method that helps us recognize patterns of colliding systems to which we are proximate, of which we are one, without ever understanding anything more. Every time pattern X, Y happens, but what is Y? "I" will never know.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

the humans are not so special

Bad idea to line function and intention up in that classic (outer) world + (inner) x dualism. Animals over there, humans over here. Stars over there, sun over here. Barbarians over there, civilized people over here. Function for everything else, intention for humans (subjects, agents, etc.)

Human intentions are not outside function, at all. They are function, like everything else. World has been worlding for goddamn ever. Intentions are a speck within a greater functionality. They do not need their own special category. At most, they can be a kind of outside-seeming view of functionality, though still functional.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

living above the godwin's law

John Kerry is right about one thing. Assad is like Hitler. It's a solid comparison. One was a murdery sociopath power-hungry torturer. The other is as well. Now if you want to compare details and say one killed millions, as opposed to thousands, go ahead, but it's not an ethical comparison. It's a comparison of circumstances and strategy. It may or may not be the case that Assad, in Hitler's shoes (a mostly nonsensical hypothetical), would have destroyed just as many human lives as Hitler did. Who knows? But you're just making stuff up if you imagine that he wouldn't have and this because he's less evil, or would have shown restraint, or some other thingsweassociatewithpeoplewelike type bullshit. What we do know is that both belong to the category "murdery sociopath power-hungry torturer," and that's far more important than any differences you might find between them.

Kerry's mistake, if you can call it that, is in failing to mention that he, Kerry, and his buddy Obama, are also murdery sociopath power-hungry torturers. Monsters, more than anyone, misunderstand themselves, for good reason.

I've had the same back-and-forth with an Obama apologist several times. Obama is, uh, kinda like Hitler, I say, in my Larry David voice, but not really because I type it. You're just being dramatic, rhetorical sleight of hand, whatever, he says. Well we can go with Pol Pot or Stalin, if you'd like, I say, as long as it's someone you recognize as a murdery sociopath power-hungry torture lover. But I'm not letting you off the hook with Churchill or Theodore Roosevelt because, in spite of the fact that they were every bit the murdery sociopath power-hungry torturers as your recognized evildoers, you have them filed away under us/family/good guys with all criticisms passing over "what kind of person does this sort of thing?" as if it weren't there and proceeding directly to "the imperfections of good guys." If I let you compare Obama to Churchill, you're in your apologist comfort zone. You don't even mind, because you really don't understand that Churchill was know. You're gonna use a bullshit interpretation of history as a frame of reference to justify contemporary bullshit. "Oh, Obama is like that good guy with flaws? OK, maybe I can see that, convince me," he wants to say. No, my point is that Obama is like a guy whose every day revolves around destroying lives. Who wakes up, has his coffee, pats his ladyfriend lovingly on the head, and destroys lives. Like, for example, Hitler.

My point is that you're making a massive category error, again and again, and Hitler is the corrective. If you actually understood the very available facts of Churchill's life, I'd simply make that comparison, though I wouldn't need to, because you'd already have understood. But you don't, so in spite of the too frequent rhetorical abuse of "Hitler!" in contemporary political discussions by people like John Kerry, and with due caveats for specific historical circumstantial differences (Obama was elected! So was Hitler! He was? What? Who cares?), I am very much above Godwin's law.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

dawkins logic, part 3

I'm all for criticizing religious thinking, and Muslims are religious, but attempts to set them apart from other traditional religions as uniquely backwards, evil, etc. follow the same pattern as Democrat attacks against Republicans and vice versa. In a two-party system, i.e., a false dichotomy, the case against the one is at the same time the case for the other. Like I was saying in advanced obamapology. The case against Muslims is the case for empire. Because the humans have some kind of tic, a heuristic shortcut that at some point perhaps enhanced odds of reproduction (or, if you will, its ontological mother category, repetition). And how much of human thought is based on an inside defined by an outside it's not?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

dawkins logic, part 2

Here, I broke down how Richard Dawkins recently presented a dubious claim of causation as an indisputable fact. Specifically, the fact he presents is that people who call themselves Muslim do not win as many Nobel Prizes as members of such groups as Jews, Christians, and atheists. The mostly buried implications that accompany this fact, and that are inseparable from it, are that group affiliation/culture is causal in this process (i.e, being Muslim makes you more likely to be bad at science, being atheist makes you more likely to be good at it); winning Nobel Prizes is good because, science; and Jewish/Christian/atheist culture produces superior results to Muslim culture.

The framework he's using is hard to miss. Muslim culture is retrograde, barbarian. Christians and Jews are a few rungs up on the ladder. Atheists are at the top. The U.S., western Europe, and good, western-compliant Asians like the ones in Japan and South Korea have Presidents and Prime Ministers with all the misguided implications of humanistic freedom-loving rationality that tag along with those words, while Muslim countries have dictators or, when they're behaving, strongmen who use force to keep the unruly idiots in line. It's a defense of western culture all the way and fails to employ the fact-sorting methodology that gives science a heuristic leg up on its rivals. But if we were to do that we'd see that...

nominal Christians have killed considerably more humans, particularly via state-organized mass killings like the relatively recent ones in Korea, India, Vietnam, and Iraq than have nominal Muslims. Using Dawkins logic, Christians have a lotta splaining to do, at the very least. If Christians are so peaceful (borrowing Dawkins' question-begging formula), why are they so bad at not killing people? Look at the Muslims (again, Dawkins logic). They're relatively peaceful. Now Dawkins wouldn't concede the point, having presorted the data based on the tribalist identity of the actors (i.e., having failed to use scientific methodology), but if he did, he'd have to either say that non-murderousness isn't that important in comparison to science skills and perhaps other cultural excellence indicators or give up the argument. If religion helps cause sciencey behavior, it helps cause murdery behavior. If religion flavor is causally relevant (it's not -- certainly not when the religions in question are as broad, ill-defined, and overlapping as they are, as covered in part 1 -- but even if it were...), then by arguably the most basic measure of human decency there is -- the ability to not murder people for no fucking reason (aww, c'mon, you know what I mean) -- Christians lose.

dawkins logic, part 1

Dawkins being Dawkins:
"All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though."
"You can attack someone for his opinion. But for simply stating an intriguing fact? Who would guess that a single Cambridge College . . ." 
"Interesting concept: a simple statement of undeniable FACT can be offensive. Other examples where facts should be hidden because offensive?"

Along with the relatively minor failures of 

  1. leaving the power relations that go into producing Nobel Prizes unanalyzed and 
  2. implying that all facts are equally relevant and that the audience should assume they're being presented because the speaker finds them "intriguing" or some other unproblematic reason (imagine a milk salesman telling a shopper considering soy milk a true story about someone who died last week from drinking soy milk),

Dawkins amazingly claims that his own position on the issue is purely factual (particularly with regard to that first statement above). The Nobel Prize count is factual, sure, but look at the gigantic pile of presuppositional shit he tries to sneak in the back door. We're to believe that the intellectual achievement ("science") of large numbers of people cannot only be adequately compared by way of the Nobel Prize, and that not only is there a correlation between science skills and self-proclaimed Muzlitude or self-proclaimed whatever hazy intellectual metaphysical mishmash of brain things people imagine themselves to know and put under a too-convenient socially constructed umbrella, but we're also to believe that religion Z is causal with respect to science skills. 
Plausible, I suppose, but if he knew a damn worthwhile thing about history, religion flavor would be at most a last-ditch guess lying on a heap of failed hypotheses when trying to explain trophy distribution among local elites. 

So, anyway, this is Dawkins' idea of what a fact is: an entirely baseless claim about causality. "Leading western scientist fails to show basic fact identification skills," reads a headline. Take that, Muslims! 

And just in case it appears I might be strawmanning, yes, he is making a causal claim:
“If you [Muslims] are so numerous, and if your science is so great, shouldn’t you be able to point to some pretty spectacular achievements emanating from among those vast numbers? If you can’t today but once could, what has gone wrong for the past 500 years? Whatever it is, is there something to be done about it?”
Imperialism? Living on top of oil fields?

Allow me to keep the structure of Dawkins' argument (or is it merely a barrage of facts from a disinterested party randomly colluding?) while tinkering with the details:

If you Native Americans have such great cultures, why did Europeans destroy you so thoroughly? 

If you 19th century black Americans are so smart, why are your literacy rates so low? 

If you Belgians are so good at making beer, why don't you have more of a reputation for being heavy drinkers?

Or whatever.

And this:
I thought about comparing the numbers of Nobel Prizes won by Jews (more than 120) and Muslims (ten if you count Peace Prizes, half that if you don’t). This astonishing discrepancy is rendered the more dramatic when you consider the small size of the world’s Jewish population.
Why are oil company CEOs so rich?

Why are rich guys more likely to live in mansions?

Why are people born in the ghetto likely to die young, and in the ghetto?

Most importantly, and this is the one I'm most confident answering, having recently studied the random correlationist logic of an elite western scientist: why do white guys like baseball? 

Answer: because they have medium-sized penises. And that's a fact. I mean if they do, whoever they are. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

riley cooper

A pro American football human classified as white called Riley Cooper got caught saying what is known as the N-word, so now a bunch of people who have no problem with the ostensibly black Obama ramping up the U.S. government's easily quantifiable war on humans considered black (a war that destroys lives, by the way) are terribly upset, and Cooper's hold on NFL employment appears to be in jeopardy. Let's just say the Riley Cooper reaction takes place on a symbolic level that is rather strongly psychotic. He said the wrong words and has hell to pay (though yes, he's apparently a giant douche and blah blah disclaimer). Obama oversees racist policies and gets Jay-Z plaudits and whatforth.

The interesting part is the nature of the price Cooper has to pay. He is to undergo counseling. The word sensitivity training has also been bandied about. He needs to conform his words and actions to the proper symbolic structure. There is nothing more to the story than this. Which means that the NFL's response has nothing to do with systemic racism, i.e., racism, and everything to do with conformity for its own sake. If you say the right words, you are one of the good guys. That's where the story starts and that's where it ends.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

vampire wisdom

 Pam, from True Blood:
I feel nothing. You humans love your pain don’t ya? You just love being in it, you even consider it a virtue. Cry the most at a funeral; you must be the best person.  You promise to never forget each other; you promise to feel the sting of a loss, forever, because for ya’ll forever is just the blink of an eye; you’re lives are pathetically brief. When we say forever; we have to mean it, so we move past our pain, we heal, we move on, because pain is a worthless emotion. For a time, my maker was everything to me; he released me; it hurt.  Now, I’m over it; he’s nobody to me.

slate analysis

I've been mostly staying away from politics the last few months, trying to take advantage of this little bubble I'm lucky enough to have. I ran 25 miles this week, I'm eating well, not drinking much at all, feeling good. Blogging is like going to therapy, and one isn't inclined toward such things in good times. But this morning, after running and lifting, making an elaborate breakfast, and welcoming back baseball after a terribly long four day All Star break, I saw this, posted by one of those many people I used to hate Bush with. There's clearly a demand for the brand of establishment cheese Slate serves. I never visit the site but surely it's aimed at a very smart bunch who get the ins, the outs, the realpolitik, the nitty gritty? So smart.

But how willfully stupid do you have to be to write an article in praise of Obama's race record without mentioning a single Obama race-related political act, or fact, while instead using a political speech as your source material, and taking it at face value? Obama has succeeded on the race question, we are told, because of the words he says about race. The end. That's your fucking analysis. Eat it up, Obamapologists.

I almost want to track down the details right now and post some links showing Obama's record on the drug war, immigration, incarceration rates, killing of brown people overseas, employment rates, etc., to demonstrate that Obama's record shows no improvement or attempted improvement of "black Americans" -- some things have gotten better, most have gotten worse, though none of that is related to good or bad presidential intentions, as such things are not real -- but right away the Obamapologist (the ones I know, anyway) will scurry over to the lesser evilism corner of the apologetics room or some other area where research has no bearing as the discussion turns to religion. They do not want a fact-based Obama/Bush comparison. Intentions become paramount because they're (seemingly) unfalsifiable.

So let me offer a(nother) parable in response to the lesser evilist notion that Obama is doing pretty much the best job anyone can do given the conditions in which Obama finds himself, what with the rethuglicans making him do bad things and the some people not getting it or whatever.

Let's say there's a ten year-old boy on your street who gets abused once a day, every day, by various local thugs. They use a taser-like electrical gadget that only has one burst a day, there's only one of them, and there's no other way to hurt the kid. So, if you, a well-intentioned neighbor, give him his daily shock, nobody else will. You can keep the thugs away by badly hurting a kid you have no reason to believe is a threat to anyone. What do you do? The first thought, it seems, should be, "is there any other way?" Can I, maybe, destroy the thing? If that's too dangerous, can I find some neighbors who will back me up, some strength in numbers? Can I find a way to help the kid avoid shocks in the future, a different way to school perhaps? The last thing that should come to mind is "how can I do precisely the same thing, but with good intentions?" Because good intentions don't take the pain away. And I would then be the source of pain. I would then be, by any standard that makes sense, every bit as wrong as the thugs, who have their own moralistic justifications for causing pain, their own self-perceived good intentions.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

the status quo

Next stop, legal polygamy - if marriage is only about love, why not the love of 3 or more? What makes 2 a special number? 
What my social media acquaintance is saying, in response to recent gay marriage developments, is that if "we" make polygamy legal, "all hell" will "break loose," or some such. But along with there not being anything wrong with multiplicitous gamousness, per se, and the overrated ability of state force to bring about groin-related outcomes, what stands out for me is my acquaintance's not at all unusual acceptance of current law as a self-justifying status quo. As if making something legal involved doing something (crazy), as opposed to stopping doing something. To be clear, to make something legal is to stop doing something. While the burden of proof is widely thought to be on the one who would change the law, perhaps partly because change has always been dangerous to humans generally, perhaps partly due to the apparent mechanistic intransigence of large systems, perhaps due to some kind of stupidity I'm too stupid too identify, the law is, in fact, something that is actively carried out with force, and with terrible effects for most people, by real humans every day. Judges, cops, jailers, and lawmakers wake up every morning, put on their ass-kicking boots, then make the world, on average, a worse place. In an imagined better world, the status quo is leaving people alone and the burden of proof is on the one who wants to use force to prevent someone from acting a particular way.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Children will gladly accept narratives in which they're heroes. Every ethical rule, every principle, makes a hero of its enactor. What's right is what's good and if you do it, you're good, a hero.

I was told often as a child -- no, I breathed it -- that I should follow my conscience, do what's right, protect the weak from the strong, act on principle; that I was free and everyone should be. And since the adult world is intent on destroying children, the temptation of heroism is that much greater. I would be that hero. That pathetic child self would be redeemed.

The mistake -- Bradley Manning's mistake, it seems, one tied up with his heroism -- is believing that they meant it. The mistake is not recognizing that principle persists only because it's useful, because it redeems someone, because it helps someone manipulate. She who acts on principle will suffer at the hands of the principle pushers. She who acts to please will be rewarded.

Check out Big Bird, starting around 2:07:

Big Bird, sadly, doesn't mean it.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

portrait of anarchist blogging

The sound of bullets swept through the room, then faded just as quickly, as a wiry man, breathing heavily, slammed the door behind him.

"Still bad out there?," a voice inquired.

"Same as ever," the wiry man responded.

"Still losing?," asked another.

"What do you think?"

"Speaking of which, Jesse over there is really onto something," said another, pointing to a long-haired, Jesus-looking dude furiously painting the tanks, state mercenaries, and trampled babies just outside the door.  "He seems to get it slightly better than the rest of us."

"So when are we going out there? What's the plan?," implored another, clearly a newcomer.

[Laughter. End scene.]

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Homophobia is easily dismissed by homophobes with "I'm not afraid of gay people," where "afraid" is assumed to entail running the other way for reasons of physical or emotional safety. "I talk to gay people" and "I've never run away from a gay person" are often considered thorough falsification, as if white 19th century southerners could have proven their non-racism by talking to or not fleeing from black southerners. Think about that.

Homophobia is not the fear of being dominated by "a homosexual." Homophobia is the fear of being gay, which wouldn't be a problem, if not for the fact that being gay means being a woman, which again, wouldn't be a problem, if not for the buried-to-most assumption that women are the lowest form of anything.

Insinuate that a macho man is a girl and see how he reacts. "If you're not afraid of being a girl, put on this dress. Then let us talk about you the way that we talk about women. No, this is not a game of pretend. You are a woman. Are you OK with that?"

Homophobes are afraid of being women, who are worthless (in the fantasy!), which is why young men throw themselves on grenades. To be not worthless. Is there anything more masculine than throwing oneself on a grenade?

Women are considered worthless because the rejected son is worthless, and the son seeks to control women so as never to be rejected again. She who is worthless cannot reject him (even though she actually can, since it's a fantasy he doesn't quite believe) because her opinion is worthless. Thus men who spend their lives victimizing are reenacting a victimization. You reject me? You bitch! I will destroy you, or me.      

Reasons boys feel rejected by mothers and act out with machismo may include the difficulties of parenting generally, the convenience of the less powerful mother as a rage target, the greater presence of the mother as opposed to the father (making her a greater focus of rage), the possible fragility of boy brains as opposed to girl brains, and the general systemic benefits available to boys (unavailable to girls) for acting like macho asshats.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

go to school or die, you fucking kid

"...[W]hile we cannot actually change anybody’s behavior, we can influence behavior, and there are two primary ways to do that— through persuasion, and through leverage. And what I try to point out is that while leverage is the most widely used— in the form of rules and consequences, punishments and rewards--and while those things have a place, I think we need to get better at learning how to persuade people that what we’re trying to get them to do, vis-à-vis being successful in school, is really in their interest, that it’s to their benefit to behave and to do what it is that we’re asking. Unless there’s a realization that you help somebody see how their life is going to improve by doing something that’s foreign to them, something that you’re going to require of them, unless they’re convinced of the benefit to them, they’re not going to do it. It’s going to be too foreign to them."  
 --- first useable Allen Mendler quote I could find on the internet (emphasis in original)
Some of my students are teachers and one of them has a book by the above Mendler called "Motivating Students Who Don't Care." As you might guess from the title, the point of the book is to provide teachers with techniques to get people to do what they don't want to do. Oh whoops, I put a period there. Let me finish...for their own good. The title could also be rephrased: "how pretending to care about students' interests, acting like their friend, and treating them with 'respect' makes them more likely to do what you want them to do while at the same time and, in fact, by way of, maintaining the lie for you and them that you're genuinely interested in their perspective, needs, goals, etc."

If you actually cared, you wouldn't need a book. You'd just fucking care. Which is easier than it sounds. Or if you're the sort of person who cares, maybe it doesn't sound so hard in the first place.

But, sadly, it is in the best interests of students, sort of, to do what the teacher wants them to do. Because if they don't, they will die, thanks in part to teachers.

At the bottom of all this is the same dilemma we see in progressive politics generally -- how to reconcile the desire to be a progressive force involved in creating a world where people get along and are nice to each other and in which everyone is mostly equal with the death threat that underpins the entire system you actively maintain.

Most dissidents are well aware of what happens if you don't pay your taxes. There's a series of steps the state will take to get the money out of you. If you don't resist, no problem. They'll take your money and you'll tell yourself that you wanted to give it to them and that you'll get lots of benefits from it like roads and videos of Mars and safety from powerless Middle Easterners and that you live in a democracy where you have a voice, dammit. If you resist a little, they might give you a warning and if you still refuse to pay, you'll end up in jail. If you resist arrest, they'll take you to jail anyway. They'll use handcuffs, fists, tasers, any means necessary. Which means they reserve the right to kill you.

Similarly, students who resist teachers' demands are first told to cooperate, then given detention, then sent home for a little while, then for a long while, then...then what happens? Loving acceptance, because we care about kids' feelings and respect their right to choose their own course? No, the end of the line is unemployment, misery and, without help, death, because without credentials, you can't get money to buy necessities from the people who control the money and the things it represents thanks to the state, which rests on a foundation of violence. If there were a commons, if there were reasonable odds at making a living without credentials, it might not amount to a death threat. If the school system did not exist to funnel human capital toward the people who uphold it, it might not amount to a death threat. If a typical, unconnected-to-wealth child could forego school with reasonable chances of survival, it might not amount to a death threat. But it does. Go to school, or die. As soon as you sign on to be a teacher, this is what you're a part of. (I'm an ex-public high school teacher, not that it matters. But this is just analysis, and only finger-pointing where warranted. It's true whether you like it or not. Descriptive, not normative.)

Mendler's approach to corralling non-compliant students, in this post-just-hit-them-until-they-obey age, and in the face of the painful self-image problems caused by acknowledging that your job is to get students to do what your bosses want you to get them to do, no matter what that is, by any means necessary, is to create the illusion that your job is not that at all. Mendler pretty clearly believes his own, if I might use a technical term, humanshit, and expects other teachers to, as well.

The way to create the illusion of non-authoritarianism, so important for most progressives, is to give students a little slack before ultimately making exactly the same demand -- obey or else. Give them a questionnaire asking them how they like your teaching. Write them a note. Make them feel important. Throw them a bone. Give them a New Deal to get them off the streets. Get them to settle down, stop being mad, resistant, in order to improve the odds of compliance. They'll feel like they're driving their own ship. And if they don't, you gave them a chance. You listened. You cared. You sentenced them to a life of misery and possibly death.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

the subject is a vampire

In response to this Levi Bryant post, I wrote:
Sounds like you’re placing the subject outside existence. There’s the universe and, then, outside this, there’s meaning. That doesn’t sound like flat ontology. If world is all there is, and there is meaning, then meaning is world, so doesn’t it make more sense to say that meaning is something that happens in that bit of world we call human? Meaning is a local thing.
He was kind enough to repost the above comment from an email I sent (Wordpress and I don't get along) and respond:
There are a few things that need to be distinguished here. On the one hand, it’s necessary to distinguish between substances and qualities. A substance is an entity that can exist on its own, while a quality always exists either in a substance or occurs between substances. A color like red, for example, is a quality. It requires a substance in which to exist and cannot exist apart from that substance. Pointing out that qualities like red can only exist in substances doesn’t negate their reality, only their independence. My contention is that meaning is a quality, not a substance.
Second, it’s necessary to distinguish between substances and the point of view substances have on the world around them. A substance’s point of view is how it grasps other substances and qualities. My claim is that meaning arises from a substances point of view, it’s not something that inheres in the things grasped, themselves. Meaning is the way entities such as ourselves, cats, super-complex computers, government agencies, etc., grasp other things in the world around them. This doesn’t place these entities outside of existence, but is merely the recognition that these entities grasp the world in a particular way. It’s no different than recognizing that bats grasp the world through sonar while cats grasp it through vision, smell, and sound, and that sonar is in the bat, not the thing detected (the thing detected is nothing like a sonar blip).
All of this is important because we need to recognize the variability of meaning across species, people, cultures, and entities. A few years ago I was hosting some dear friends for dinner, and I was talking about how I was thinking about renting a truck to so I could rent a tiller to turn over the soil in my garden. My friend, a Chinese woman, got very excited and declared “that would be great! then you could haul some trees for us and help us plant them!” At the time I was very offended. I thought, what nerve this woman has thinking I’m going to do all this labor for them. I attributed a particular meaning to her proposal. Later I realized that she had given me a hugecomplement (her meaning). In asking to do this favor for her, she was proposing that our families become more tightly bound to one another, that we form obligations to one another. She was saying she wanted our families to be closer. If we treat meaning as a property of the things themselves we can’t get at this sort of variability of meaning.
Bryant doesn't dispute my claim, as far as I can tell. He thinks his view is consistent with mine. Maybe it is, mostly, but he's still placing the subject outside world, which creates problems. That last sentence, for example. Meaning is not a property of the things themselves? Buddy, humans are things! You agreed. Meaning is a property of humans, which are things (though I use that term with reservations explained elsewhere on this blog).

The subject/object dualism is alive and well in Bryant's "flat ontology," which makes it a not-so-flat ontology. Bryant thinks he has solved the problem of subject/object dualism by placing both inside Being, at least rhetorically, but if you can't describe subjects in the same terms you'd describe anything else, you don't have a flat ontology. He's saying they're inside Being but continuing to use schemes that, in effect, place the subject outside Being. If the subject needs a completely different category outside everything else, it's transcendent, not immanent. The best answer, at this point is, arguably, that the subject is merely a thing that acts funny. I am worlding. You are worlding. That's all. Not that it's a very satisfying answer.

Bryant seems to be using "subject" to indicate "non-object" but also, when pressed, as object.

building blocks of consciousness

(Note: I think this is pretty much in line with what R. Scott Bakker is saying at his excellent blog Three Pound Brain, not that he'd sign off on it. What I'm saying below may well be either obvious or wrong. It feels to me, though, like a pretty extreme form of speculation and possibly a decent heuristic.)

Definitions work by exclusion. You draw the line around the category with what it isn't.

Imagine a scene, any scene. There's a zoom-in mode where you look specifically at a thing and everything else gets blurry and there's a zoom-out mode where you see everything, you think. But it looks to me like the zoom-out mode came very late in the evolutionary game. The ability to have two modes certainly did. Is the zoom-out built from the zoom-in? If so, it seems unlikely that the zoom-out would escape the structure of the zoom-in.

Zoom-out mode makes it look like everything fits together seamlessly. The frame is a nothingness on the periphery you only consider for thought experiments. (The evolution of vision was not driven by awareness of a periphery.) But when you're looking, you're just a complete picture.

What if the building blocks of consciousness are the organization of world configurations by what they're not? Dog and not-dog, tree and not-tree. You need to leverage each "object" against everything else. But it's not even an object, it's a non-object through and through, built up from other non-objects. What you get is not a picture of reality; it seems a stretch to even call it an approximation. What you get is functional (you can find food) but it's also a picture that has no direct connection to what we imagine it to depict. If the foundation is layers upon layers of not-thats, it starts to make sense why the world we perceive is so dreamlike and nutty, why it's so unreal.

Could this be mainly a visual process that other senses don't use? Is consciousness as we know it the capture of most or all sensory information by vision-based processes?

Monday, May 13, 2013

the walls move

The ability to focus by exclusion, dividing the world into "cheetah" and "not-cheetah," evolved in the context of finding and (not) being food. To identify a moving object, especially, you need to imagine a fixed background. The focused upon object is the inside, everything else is the indeterminate outside.

Humans use this sort of framing to understand politics. The inside of a house has animate objects like people and cats and videos on computers and it has a frame, the parts that remain still while the action happens. Acceptable political discourse is, at best, about where we should put the couch. It's never about whether we should move the walls around or knock them down.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

dogs and humans

Doggish things recognize housish things. Dog brains interact, make connections. Dogs act towards houses in ways they don't act towards squirrels.

What happens in human brains is a more intense version of the same process. A solid, perfect line is drawn around the house dividing the world into houses and non-houses. All houses are identical. You can add them as 1 + 1 + 1... All non-houses are identical. But you can't add them because they're an indeterminate not-1. Dogs, trees and whatnot are nothing other than non-house.

The same process is used to create dogs, trees, and such. Dogs and non-dogs. Trees and non-trees. Every category is based on the same process. Then we work our way up to more and more inclusive categories, each refuting all the others (non-dog = non-house?), until we get to Being, which needs an outside, so we call that non-Being, thus revealing a new dimension of the absurdity of human consciousness. Non-Being? What?!

There are doggish and housish things, sure, but, outside human-type consciousness, there are no lines around them. And outside consciousness, there is no difference.

The existence of alpha dogs and pecking orders alone is enough to suggest something similar in other conscious things. Not quite a line, not quite symbolic, but control of interacted-with elements and increased repetition (survival) odds by way of isolation by exclusion. Something like focus.

Friday, May 10, 2013

retaliation is not punishment

Justin Raimondo says collective punishment is always wrong. He's worried about the good Israelis. He explains the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction view:
The peace camp isn’t “sizeable” enough for the BDS’ers, so it’s okay to write it off. In short, there are no innocent Israelis, they’re all somehow beneficiaries of an oppressive system – and, therefore, they must be punished, every single last one of them. That is the de facto BDS view, and it couldn’t be more wrong. 
That's a decent summary (though with a misguided concluding statement), but "punishment" is what the oppressor does to the oppressed. Raimondo's use of the term displays his misunderstanding of systemic oppression.
The Israelis do not benefit from the occupation: quite the opposite. The occupied territories are a millstone hung around their necks, and their possession will soon make it impossible for Israel to continue as a state which is both Jewish and democratic. Demography and time, not boycotts, are the ultra-Zionists’ worst enemies.
This is true but irrelevant to the question at hand. Misogyny makes boys miserable, turns them into self-hating homophobes. It doesn't mean they don't also benefit from misogyny by, in effect, pushing others still lower. And of course it's true that Israelis materially benefit from the occupation, even as it destroys them.
The BDS movement has written off an entire people, and in doing so closed the door to the only possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: changing the tribalist politics that dominate both camps.
When someone's got their boot on your neck, and you say, "ahem, would you kindly get your boot off my neck?" (assuming you're too nice) and they say "no" and you say "I meant get your fucking boot off my neck, you dick" and they say "well, I don't think that's a very appropriate thing to say because of blah and blah," you might notice that the complaint about civility is just one more weapon among many used to keep you down. He who oppresses also wants to dictate the terms, because there's advantage in this. And he generally can because he has the advantage to begin with. He has the nerve to tell you what is and is not an acceptable way to file a complaint.

The idea of concerning oneself with the suffering of Israelis, in comparison to the plight of people Israel has forced into poverty, is fucking laughable, akin to making a moral plea to slaves not to be too angry at their slavers. It's an argument in support of slavery. Insofaras there's anti-oppression, it's a consequence that flows from the oppressor.  The people of what is decreasingly called "Palestine" did not turn this into an either/or, Israel did.

Any Israeli who is not a part of the problem takes a distance from that terrorist government, tries to become less complicit, and understands that there will be blowback.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

what would good people do with the innocents they've kidnapped and are currently imprisoning and torturing?

A: I've got this ethical dilemma, a real head scratcher of a hypothetical. If a group of armed men kidnap a number of other men who have committed no crimes against them, or as far as anyone knows, against anyone, and take them to an island and torture them for years on end, what should the first group do?

P: That's not an ethical dilemma. The kidnappers should stop torturing them, obviously, and then take them wherever they want to go, as soon as possible.

A: Whoops. I forgot to explain that the kidnappees might want revenge.

P: Well, first of all, you said they're not criminals, but that's not even the issue. You're asking this as an ethical question, right? Not as a question about how a group of kidnappers/torturers should go about covering their asses?

A: Maybe? I mean you can't just expect a bunch of kidnapper/torturers to let people go who might want to come back and kill them.

P: That's not the question you asked. You asked what they should do.

A: They should risk their lives?

P: Again, you haven't established that their lives are at risk. And it sounds to me like the dangerous people are the ones who are currently imprisoning and torturing innocents. They've done this for years, right, and are still doing it? It sounds like you think the defining issue should be concern about what the victims do with their time, once free, like you think that more weight should be given to the unfounded concerns of actual, proven criminals than to their victims' concerns about being imprisoned and tortured by a bunch of proven criminals.

A: Silly me, I should have mentioned that the kidnappees are Schmuzlims. Some of them do terrible things to ordinary people.

P: Like kidnap them from their homes, take them to an island and torture them?

A: Not that I know of, but they kill civilians to advance political ends.

P: Well, I'm glad you're against that. And I don't know much about Schmuzlims, but your claims are sketchy, to say the least. I mean, is there a good reason to think Schmuzlims are uniquely violent? But I'm letting you get me off track again. It seems to me that members of a group that has members some of whom are violent are statistically less likely to be violent than members of a group that consists of 100% established violent criminals, like the kidnappers, imprisoners and torturers in question. No, that's still off track. The torturers are the fucking criminals, obviously, and anyone who speaks on their behalf or worrries about their fate should stop pretending they're concerned about questions of principle or the avoidance of unnecessary human suffering.

Monday, May 6, 2013

why are you so angry?

The dissident's best response to the "you're angry" defense, it seems to me, is any variant of "calmer than you are." Because if I say that the U.S. government is a terrorist organization, for example, and offense is taken, all negative connotations of the word "terrorist" are clearly supplied by the apologist. It matters little if I speak softly and professorily or if I shout like a madman. "U.S. = terrorist" is the problem. I haven't even mentioned, in that statement, if I like or dislike terrorists. Maybe I'm fine with frightening populations with mass murder into granting demands. I'm not, of course, but "the U.S. is a terrorist organization" is a descriptive statement. I'm simply using the definition correctly. The one who has a problem with that statement loves "America" but, just as clearly, hates "terrorists." It's hatred of "terrorists" that's responsible for the angry reaction. "You're calling me a terrorist? Terrorists are bad! I'm not bad! Only bad people call me bad! You're bad! All the good people agree with me!" The entire reaction -- and why else would the apologist even be upset? -- is driven by a hatred of "terrorists." Who the apologist wants to murder or torture without, we're to believe, an ounce of hatred in his heart.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

U.S. imperialism IFAQs

InFrequently Asked Question: If the U.S. acts only on imperial self-interest, why does it frequently give aid to poor countries?

A: What money the U.S. gives is a pittance compared to the devastation wrought by its aggressive wars and economic policies (such as extortive IMF practices, heavy-handed "free trade" agreements, and sanctions). It's like burning down someone's house, giving them a ham sandwich, and then going on the news to talk about how great you are for giving a ham sandwich to some poor bastard who just lost his house for reasons no one quite understands but which are vaguely his own stupid fault.

More straightforwardly, the U.S. gives aid because the PR benefits are worth it. Aid is part of the world do-gooder narrative that keeps people like you, and often them, in the dark.

IFAQ: What about the Marshall Plan?
A: Among other reasons, Europe was leaning towards socialism at the time. U.S. leaders feared (in their own words) that a socialist Europe would ally itself with the Soviet Union. U.S. aid undercut homesprung European socialist movements, by design. How was the post-Marshall Plan U.S. economy? Pretty good, yes?

IFAQ: What about Iraq? Why did the U.S. spend precious lives and resources to help those people?

A: Iraqis did not ask for U.S. invasion. Iraqis did not ask for the U.S. to support Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. Iraqis did not ask to have their country destroyed or to have their authoritarian government replaced by a more-pliable-to-U.S.-demands authoritarian government.

The notion that democracy (or anti-tyranny) drives U.S. foreign policy has no empirical support. The U.S. supports some dictators and overthrows others. The U.S. supports some democracies and overthrows others.

IFAQ: But surely the U.S. has good reasons?

A: The reasons seem good to them, yes. Like Walter White and Dexter Morgan, they act on good intentions. With regard to state actors, the self-perceived and reported goodness or badness of intentions, at this point, reveals nothing of scientific value.

The thesis that anti-tyranny drives U.S. foreign policy, on the other hand, relies, at least, on a correlation between regimes' level of tyranny and U.S. support of or opposition to them. There is such a correlation, but not the one you think. More on this in a bit.

The thesis that U.S. policy is driven by imperial interests (most importantly resource control) predicts that the U.S. will support regimes that advance its interests and oppose those that don't. This thesis holds true all the way down and explains every major aspect of U.S. foreign policy since the country's founding.

And because local populations tend to oppose foreign powers profiting from local  resources at their expense, and possibly other reasons, governments that cooperate with the U.S. tend to be more authoritarian. The current regime in Saudi Arabia, for example, combines one of the worst human rights records in the world (worse than Iran), massive oil reserves, strong local opposition to the U.S., and full U.S. support. So, getting back to the above, there is a positive correlation between U.S. regime support and tyranny.

IFAQ: How about World War II? At least that was a good, just war, right?

A: Well, clearly, Hitler. Yes, a bad guy. But the idea that the U.S. joined WWII because it opposed aggressive war, in principle, or the killing of innocent civilians, in principle, is easily disproven, among many other examples, by the U.S. assault on the civilians of Southeast Asia that was led by the same people who brought the U.S. into WWII.

IFAQ: Do you mean the Vietnam war? That was to fight communism, right?

A: The notion that the U.S. slaughtered millions of civilians in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in order to help them, or their survivors, to live better lives, is fundamentally incoherent.

As is the notion that the U.S. carpet, then atomic, bombed Japanese civilians because Japan was an imperialist menace. It's true that Japanese imperialism was a scourge on the people of Southeast Asia. Presumably, then, the U.S. bombed Japan to get that country to stop oppressing the people of Southeast Asia. Because they cared deeply about the people of Southeast Asia. Who they proceeded to kill by the millions.

IFAQ: OK, you win for now, but there's little chance I'm going to let this information actually stop me from believing what I believed at the start of this conversation. Your arguments are merely a splinter that my brain will repel and recover from in due time.

A: That's the most likely result, yes. My mental health deserves scrutiny.

IFAQ: Oh, one more question. If you're right, why are you the only one who thinks this way?

A: I'm not. There's considerable consensus on much of the above among people who study these matters seriously. I may have gotten some minor details wrong or left something out. Please let me know. But the basic framework is the most accurate and explanatorily powerful available by a long shot.

Or if you mean, "why do most people think like me?," you're in a decent position to answer that. I tried to find your reasons and it turned out they didn't hold up. I could have the same conversation with any high-ranking U.S. official and their arguments will fare no better than yours. Why do you maintain beliefs you have no support for?

catherine wheel healing

It's how high you are and the time it takes to heal
I can climb a tree and push up through the leaves
Cause only when I try am I happier to see
My head's in some kind of space
Where boyhood, boyhood used to be
It's how high you are and the time it takes to heal
But it's all a lie and I've never felt so sad
There's a streak of melancholy
It's running down my back
And there's a great mistrust
That borders round the man
I call it strange from a boy who's never left his head
It's how high you are and the time it takes to heal
Yeah, yeah
Oh yeah, yeah
And everyone needs someone to live by
Everyone needs someone to live by
But it's all a lie, it's a lie to make you beg
For somethin' more
For somethin' better than you've had
And I wish I knew
Oh, I wish I knew how to change

response to charges of bleak utopianism

I self-quote, smugly:

"Heliocentrism was bleak to the geocentrist, Darwinism was bleak to the Adam+Eve-ist, anti-fantasy is bleak to the fantasist. Bleakness is built into the critic-critiqued relation. I too am a fantasist in many regards and when those are exposed, I hope I don't fight it too hard or further entrench myself in fantasy.

As for utopianism, both impossibility and happiness are included in the word. The former is a cleverly hidden blanket charge that needs to be proven, the latter a goal we share. All I'm doing is analyzing the current suffering, trying to identify its causes, and recommending that they be removed to whatever extent possible by whoever is moved by my words."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

conformity is selfish

In the face of relentless social pressure, young humans become more selfish, not less. In order to adapt their behavior to meet strict group demands, they learn to see themselves through the eyes of the group and suppress any threatened behaviors because group exlusion is abandonment/death. Group complaints and compliments both reveal expectations. The obsessive, heightened self-watching that results is heightened selfishness. Conformist behavior can be summarized as "self-preservation by self-obsession." The demand for selflessness reveals the selfishness of the demander, who will mask the parochial selfishness of his demands with appeals to universal truth.

In the face of adult expectations, the young have two basic reponses available to them, resistance or submission. To submit is to join the ranks of the selfish. To resist is to make oneself a punching bag. Simply not understanding is a third possibility, I guess, but it hasn't worked out well for bison and whales and apes. In other words, if you can't serve, the humans will likely try to destroy you.

the meaning of democracy

Democracy, as the term is used on Sunday morning talk shows and in casual political conversations, is, first and foremost, the inside (good side) of a value judgment set up in opposition to dictatorships (and, in academic contexts, oligarchies as well). It primarily serves as a tool for the content-free assignation of good guy and bad guy roles, a way to let people know who to cheer for. The terms are so embedded in western political discourse that any actual dictator who said "I am a dictator" would simply be taken as meaning "I'm bad," as opposed to making a claim about the structure of the government he plays a part in.

U.S.-allied dictators like the Royal Sauds and 1980s Hussein and Pinochet are assigned the good-guy-compatible term "strong men sometimes prone to excesses" while authoritarian governments, like the world's drone leader, that abuse domestic populations while setting up polling places where the abused can go now and then to symbolically pledge their obedience, call themselves democracies.

Monday, April 29, 2013

just show them your badge

There's nothing wrong, superficially, with the NYT headline "With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan" outside the headline writer's warranted expectation that the reader's association of a band of professional killers with "us, therefore good" is enough to offset the conclusion any intelligent, unindoctrinated adult would come to, that the C.I.A. has been engaging in some serious criminal activity.

Interesting too is the use of the present tense. It is not the case that the C.I.A. was seeking influence via bribery but was caught and is now dealing with the sort of repercussions criminals have to deal with when they're caught. The C.I.A. "seeks" influence with bags of cash, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Maybe they don't want to, maybe it's a bit dirty, but in the end it's for the greater good, regardless of actual outcomes because their intentions are good because they're us and we're the good guys in this drama. It would be wrong to want bad things to happen to good guys.

So what I'm getting at, I guess, is that the term "C.I.A." itself is a propaganda term containing all the necessary information to determine whether the attempted crime in question, described in the headline with unusual accuracy, is something that good people support or oppose. Replace "C.I.A." with "Al-Qaeda affiliate" and note the dramatic change in meaning.    

Sunday, April 28, 2013

normative and descriptive

Normativity ("ought" statements, as contrasted with descriptive "is" statements) is nothing more than an expression of desire with regard to a particular state of affairs, that one would like that state of affairs to be X as often as possible, as opposed to the W, Y, Z, and maybe imperfectly, inconsistently X, that it is. Normativity is a complaint. When spoken, the purpose is to externalize the impetus for action, with oneself as a starting point. Normativity means using ideas to make the world more to one's liking, however valid that liking may be. The self is always right.

Even those of us who warn against narrative use it. Anti-narrative is narrative. We just want to use it in a way that's not primarily self (or own-group) serving. We want to make the descriptive normative.

Descriptive statements happen when we don't care, or pretend not to.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

yes, well, i killed her but my conscious mind was free of contradictions so...

"Good intentions" means nothing more than a conscious self cleansed of contradiction. Self is the only part of world where "good" exists and necessarily remains good, or god, as long as it is. The most vile act, even when recognized as such, is consumed, incorporated by conscious self. Stalin was "what good is" in Stalin's brain. Anything else that was good in that brain (for example, obedient serfs) was leeching off of Stalin's self-perceived goodness. The self-loathing Christian is redeemed by his Christianity, even if he, the individual is not. Even the kamikaze pilot is redeemed by the greater self.

The phrase "good intentions" says little or nothing about those aspects of human brains that actually have us acting. Actions, on the other hand...

it was not the mouse but the thugs who put bostonians on their chairs

The people of Boston locked their doors, then remained frozen and helpless, perched high on kitchen chairs as gun-wielding toughs roamed the city and ransacked their homes in search of a little mouse, which was, finally, found and caged.

Bostonians were deemed, in the national psychosis, badass. They received good on ya's, don't mess with bostons, fuck yeahs. For being good little children. They were rewarded for their cowardice with head pats.

Other terrorists, they of the suits and uniforms, just killed a dozen children in somewhere-over-there-istan. No one is afraid of them. You can tell because they walk free, receive applause, respect. Or do they walk free and enjoy accolades because everyone is afraid of them?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

objects are dirty

I can see the appeal, but it's a pretty bad idea to try to resolve the subject-object dilemma by declaring everything object. Now you take what has been cast aside as other -- the object, already denigrated by an I-here-us system, a value system, as outside and therefore shitty -- as some kind of, ahem, objective truth, whatever the fuck that is.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

complicity, consequences, intentions

I get by in a wealthy country, middle class sort of way because I'm American, though being white, male, and hetero has surely helped in less obvious ways. The reason there's a market for English in Japan is that English-speaking humans have been very proficient at using guns and missiles and social constructs and economic tomfoolery to take things in the past several centuries. The country I was born in, once upon a time, helped push industrialization on an agrarian Japanese society, and when that went in an inconvenient direction, bombed the shit out of the humans here and gave them a one-party nominal democracy like its own. Now the Japanese want English so they can get ahead in the Frankensteinian corporate ladder-climbing wage slave hell so kindly gift-wrapped for them by my nominal fellow countrypeople or because it's fashionable thanks to the propaganda factories in Hollywood or, whatever the details of a particular case, it's pretty clearly going to be an effect of empire. And I'm here to help. 

Getting back to yesterday's post, I want to say that while dominant group status means that you necessarily receive often unnoticed benefits at the expense of the dominated group, this doesn't mean that it's good to be a member of the dominant group, even as, materially, dominant group membership is clearly less bad. Less bad is not good and materiality, in the commonly understood sense, is not everything. 

You do not kill people you don't know if you're not a miserable wreck inside. You do not fantasize about other people doing it either. You do not invent two separate, opposed bad/good language systems entirely revolving around us (freedom fighters) and them (terrorists) to describe the same physical realities if you're a reasonably healthy human. You do these things because it resolves an immediate tension (while leaving the underlying long-term tension intact) by displacing it on a victim.  

This of course is not to excuse abusers. Speaking as a knowingly complicit person (not as an abuse victim), I'm concerned only with consequences and how best to avoid bad ones, specifically unnecessary harm to humans. That Stalin likely suffered through a profoundly depressing internal life from early childhood should have had no impact on the imperative to stop him dead. Even if it were true (it's not) that he couldn't have done anything differently or that he was dealt a particularly bad hand, that imperative would be unaffected.   

On the other side of the consequences coin is intentions, a necessary part of the story bound up with such complexities as our desire to consider ourselves good and the accidental and unpredictable effects of actions. When considering the harmfulness of actions, only the effects of intentions should matter. There are no good or bad intentions in themselves. As part of an I/us/here system, all intentions are ultimately good in some sense, taken in isolation. There are good or bad consequences, though. There are no good or bad people, there are only people who cause a lot of pain and people who cause a little (feel free to put a positive, pleasure-based spin on same). No one should feel bad (i.e., experience ego pain) about harm they caused accidentally. No one should feel bad about harm caused non-accidentally in the past if its roots have already been removed. If the problem is still in the abuser, I hope they feel bad, not because they're bad intentionally but because they're bad consequentially and because ego pain is what we, linguistically, have access to when we're talking to another brain system, a thing capable of changes that can lead to better consequences. 

Friday, March 29, 2013


It's true that every dude benefits from patriarchy just as it's true that every American benefits from empire but this doesn't mean that every member of the dominant group is a net beneficiary. Maybe your brother was killed in the war. Maybe every woman you meet wants you to be more of a man. And in the broadest sense of the word, no one, not even Obama, benefits from violence, anymore than the alcoholic benefits from alcohol.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

waiting till the tide turns

Hey, you guys, do you know where I can get a trendy political opinion that will go well with this meme?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

a priori

Being could not exist in human brains without non-Being. First, the split is required. Subjugation follows. Non-Being is the worst. The self to the other, the here to the there, the us to the them. Whatever's inside will win, inside, at least, and outside, where possible, even as it's all a construct.

This is the foundation of worldviews. Lifetimes of associations bound tight, "inside" bound up with "sanity" and every other positively tinted bit of verbiage. (Does "positive" even have a meaning that transcends the logic of inside and outside? Can the word signify anything other than inside?)

And when it breaks down, when the inside is shown to be the same as the outside, this is when apologetics happens, when irrelevant distinctions are invented to hold the line. A student today tried to explain how China is particularly imperialist. I said, "how about Okinawa?" He said China's history has been a roller coaster ride with one regime violently replacing the next. I asked him if there was any fighting in the transition from Edo to Meiji. It's different because of blah and blah. No, it's not, I said. We could back and forth forever without him giving up his foundational assumptions.

Speaking of holding the line, God retreated from the forest to Mount Olympus to the heavens to another dimension. He retreated but it worked. He stayed alive, though barely. Politicians and other abusers claim good results but, under pressure, retreat to good intentions, with some success.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I managed to get through the rest of that NYT Ten Years After bit here. If you saw yesterday's attempt, it's the same post, edited, so skip to the end of the sixth paragraph to pick up where that schizophrenic mess left off for five new, very painful paragraphs. Unrelatedly, here's the Cocteau Twins: 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

NYT's "Ten Years After," revised

Ten Years After

Ten years after it began, the second Iraq war invasion, which we at the NYT promoted at the time by amplifying easily debunkable propaganda, still haunts the United States, poor us, in the nearly 4,500 troops who died there; the more than 30,000 American wounded who have come home; the more than $2 trillion spent on combat operations and reconstruction, which inflated the deficit; and in the lessons learned about the limits of American leadership and power, specifically, that entities outside the category "American leaders," such as normal people being brutalized by American depleted uranium, bullets, etc. are very hard to save. In fact, sometimes we think they don't want to be saved. But goddamnit, we try, all the time! Nothing is our fault, ever! Nothing! 
It haunts Iraq too, you know, in, like, a secondary way, after it haunts us that we tried but failed to save their sorry, self-destructive asses with terrorism, where the total number of casualties is believed to have surpassed 100,000 but has never been officially determined because we don't give a shit and, also, don't want anyone to know!; and where one strongman was traded for another, as was the plan all along, albeit under a more pluralistic system more amenable to U.S. interests, with a democratic veneer, which, what?, did we just admit it's a facade? The country is increasingly influenced by Iran, which is evil, wink, wink, because they're always invading countries on false pretenses, or...whatever and buffeted by the regional turmoil caused by the Arab Spring U.S. policy of destabilizing uncooperative regimes.   
In 2003, President George W. Bush and Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, and the media, with the NYT leading the way, used the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to wage pre post?-emptive aggressive war against Saddam Hussein the Iraqi people and a nuclear arsenal that did not exist. They We promised a “free and peaceful Iraq” that would be a model of democracy and stability in the Arab world. While no one laments Saddam’s passing and violence is down -- trust us, we wouldn't lie to you -- from peak war levels, the country's compliance is fragile, with grave tensions between Sunnis and Shiites and Arabs and Kurds that could yet erupt into civil war or tear the state apart, which would be fine, except that it might lead to non-compliance, which would be bad for certain fantasies, factions, propaganda efforts, and coffers.  
A State Department travel warning last month described Iraq as dangerous -- and obviously, the State Department has proven to be very reliable -- with numerous insurgents, i.e., people who actively threaten U.S. domination, including Al Qaeda in Iraq, still active, and said Americans were “at risk for kidnapping and non-U.S. terrorist violence.” On Tuesday, a wave of car bombings and other attacks in Baghdad killed more than 50 people and wounded nearly 200, proving again how violent those bastards are
Yet none of the Bush administration’s war architects, or media cheerleaders, have been called to account for their mistakes, and even now, many are invited to speak on policy issues as if they were not responsible for one of the worst strategic blunders acts of terrorism in American foreign policy history. In a video posted recently by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Wolfowitz said he still believed the war was the right thing to do. Will he and his partners and us ever have the humility self-awareness to admit that it was wrong to prosecute this war we are the answer to the question "what is human evil and how does it happen?"  
President Obama opposed the Iraq war rhetorically, on occasion, obviously for cynical political reasons, while continually voting to fund it as a Congressman from the start and has been single-minded about ending keeping America in Iraq as long as possible in the face of resistance from Iraqis it, withdrawing the last combat troops in 2011, sort of. American influence in Iraq has greatly declined since then and Mr. Obama’s attention, unlike that of most Americans, who have found more interesting distractions, has shifted to other priorities imperial conquests, such as "stabilizing" other parts of the region. Iraqis are responsible for their own future, because murdering hundreds of thousands of them just didn't take and we can't go on doing it forever. Our patience is limited. There's only so much we can do. But the country is a front line in the conflict between moderate Islam inferiors who might be willing to serve us and inferiors who don't appreciate our generosity, such as Al Qaeda, not to mention its role as an oil producer, wink wink. It requires more sustained American involvement than we have recently seen. More! More?  
Iraq is a reminder of the need for political leaders to ask the right questions before allowing taking aggressive military action and to listen honestly do good things with good results by some vague process that runs counter to everything the establishment is about, rather than acting on ideological or political impulses doing their jobs as imperialists. Mr. Bush led the war, but Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress, as well as us, of course, endorsed it. Iraq also shows the limits of America’s influence in regions where sectarian enmity bad people remains strong resist our imperialist aggression and where democracy has no real history, either because we crushed it, as in Iran, or because we’re crushing it, as in Saudi Arabia. Nominal democracy, of course, as the U.S. proves year after year, is the most peaceful nominal government magic thing ever. 
That experience is informing American policy judgments on when to use force to gain access to and control of stuff, more generally. It has affected decisions about Syria, where President Obama has been right to move cautiously. For a long time the Syrian opposition was divided, and it was hard to know which group, if any, deserved help was most likely to serve our interests. It also made sense not to rush into another costly, for us, war in another Arab, i.e., too stupid and selfish to be turned into a peaceful democracy like the U.S. via high-tech violence, country that could fuel new anti-American animosities, cuz they’re silly, and embroil the United States, poor us, for another decade.  
But with the Syrian conflict in its third year, the fighting has already spilled over the borders, their fault of course, as we’re very careful to keep our violence within American borders, destabilizing its neighbors weakening the grip of U.S.-backed tyrants, even as Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels play a bigger role. The reasons for opposing direct American involvement in Syria remain strong, but the United States needs to calibrate its policies continually and should not allow the Iraq experience wanton, unprovoked slaughter of hundreds of thousands to paralyze its response to different circumstances prevent it from doing the same thing elsewhere, if it serves the interests of empire.  
The lessons of Iraq, however, seem to fade when it comes to Iran. Many of the conservatives internal scapegoats who strongly supported the charge into Iraq are fanning calls for United States military action calling for more mass murder to supposedly prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon we have no reason to think it is trying to acquire. President Obama has also been threatening “all options,” that is to say, genocide, if negotiations to curb Iran’s fabricated and amplified by us, then as now, ambitions are not successful, and many lawmakers servants of power seem ready to take action against murder Iranians soon, and in fact, have already engaged in acts of aggressive war in the form of economic sanctions against Iran for having a civilian nuclear program like Japan’s.  
The Iraq war was unnecessary, costly and damaging on every level to some U.S. interests, though it was clearly good for big oil and Blackwater and Lockheed and the unitarity of the executive, among many other powerful people. It was based on faulty intelligence manipulated for ideological psychopathic reasons, and then parroted by us. The terrible human and economic costs over the past 10 years show why that imperial adventures that don’t fill the bank and ego accounts of the right factions or line up with our nationalistic fantasies, or...ahh, fuck it, kill whoever you want and we'll say something that advances the cause must never happen again.