i'm gearing up to teach the writings of the amazing quaker saint john woolman, who in the mid-1700s was arguing for indian rights and the immediate abolition of slavery, and traveling around trying to convince masters to free their slaves, etc. in his rather remarkable essay "a plea for the poor", he argues as clearly as can be for peter singer's 'effective altruism': the idea that we have a moral obligation to devote most of our resources above subsistence to helping those in need. really, quite the same argument as singer.
more surprising, perhaps, is that in 1763, for god's sake, he's arguing straight up for reparations to the descendants of slaves, and calculating what they should be.
Having thus far spoken of the Negroes as equally entitled to the benefit of their labour with us, I feel it on my mind to mention that debt which is due to many Negroes of the present age. Where men within certain limits are so formed into a society as to become like a large body consisting of many members, here whatever injuries are done to others not of this society by members of this society, if the society in whose power it is doth not use all reasonable endeavours to execute justice and judgment, nor publicly disown those unrighteous proceedings, the iniquities of individuals become chargeable on such civil society to which they remain united. And where persons have been injured as to their outward substance and died without having recompense, so that their children are kept out of that which was equitably due to their parents, here such children appear to be justly entitled to receive recompense from that civil society under which their parents suffered. . . .
Suppose an inoffensive youth, forty years ago, was violently taken from Guinea, sold here as a slave, laboured hard till old age, and hath children who are now living. Though no sum of money may properly be mentioned as an equal regard for the total deprivation of liberty, yet if the sufferings of this man be computed at no more than fifty pounds, I expect candid men will suppose it within bounds, and that his children have an equitable right to it. Fifty pounds at three percent, adding the interest to the principal once in ten years appears in forty years to make upwards of one hundred and forty pounds.
i wonder whether anyone else was making arguments like that in the 18th century.
I sense that like me, Crispin has been taking a vacation from giving a damn about US presidential politics, but occasionally feels pulled back into it. Certainly, in the progression of American culture, presidential politics, choices and elections have been used to make transitions. Kennedy replaced tired, worn out old Eisenhower with vigah! and such -- in reality, drugged to the gills for back pain, suffering from Addisons and various iterations of venereal disease. Ronald Reagan was going to reform everything after the weakness of Jimmy Carter and then should have been impeached for the Iran Contra deal. And so on -- Barrack Obama was supposed to mark out transition to being a post racial nation, and since then we have gotten to continually play out our dark night of the soul in communities all over the country.
Crispin's more populist work, like cheese it, tend toward an ironic approach which was my first reason for reading his stuff. This piece, which comes at least in part from his piece on the Philosophy of Edgar Allan Poe, contains more than a little of it. Basically, one could contend that Crispin examines the idea of human self-improvement as moral and ethical and compassionate human beings.
It's safe to say he approves that outcome, he just doesn't think it's very likely. I suspect most of us will probably agree, at least in part. As I tell the conspiracy freaks who normally read my stuff, if I'm looking for a reason why somebody did something stupid, I opt first for stupidity and then for the seven deadly sins. Dr, King was hopefully correct about the arc of human history being toward justice, but I'd hedge those bets with one's on sloth, gluttony, greed, lust, hatred, anger and pride.
people act like they are literally forced to vote for, say hillary clinton. when push comes to shove, are you going to vote for hillary or jeb? lesser of two evils, etc. no one else can win. but in this and in some other cases, you really are voting for exactly what purport most to repudiate, for exactly the hierarchy you say is the problem, with a slightly different rhetorical patina that somehow engages your social identity, though with no sincerity.
another thing that's supposedly forced in this system is that candidates - and again hillary is and will be an extremely clear case - have to, really have to, float with the polls, or the polling of the party base in the primary process. i am telling you, none of this is forced at all. or: hillary has no choice but to raise billions; she needs to do whatever she needs to do to accomplish that. people who suddenly found gay marriage when it hit 52% in the polls - oh, barack and hillary, for example - will then pay tribute to the memory of martin luther king, an example of moral courage for us all, etc. but you did not have to be a king to endorse gay marriage in 2008, you just had to not be a complete moral coward. they're ready to march over the edmund pettus bridge now that there's absolutely no risk involved. back then, they'd have been telling you that king was too extreme. they try to put passion in their voices so as to inspire you with the fierce urgency of let me focus-group that.
i think people want to feel forced in order not to make even a mildly hard decision. voting third party is not an excruciating choice with terrifying consequences. really it's not. it obviously is not if you live in a state that is clearly going one way or the other, which is most states. and of course it's a self-fulfilling prophecy that just makes it impossible to effect any significant change through the electoral process at all: it makes democracy nothing, really. and then, the idea that obviously a candidate can't possibly honestly represent their real beliefs places extraordinarily low moral standards on politicians. no, guess what: they can say whatever they like. i think in some cases they might be surprised by a good response to that. but if not, then the worst that happens is you lose the election. that is not an unfaceable personal calamity. it's not like a choice where you're picking who has to die or something. anyone can decide to do that anytime they like, and i hope that you expect better than that from any neighbor, colleague, spouse, etc.
also don't let anyone tell you that a vote for a third party is a vote for the republican (or the democrat). i really did prove that false mathematically long ago. and any way you look at it, a vote for, say, bernie sanders in the democratic primary cannot be a 'wasted vote' any more than a vote for hillary clinton, no matter who wins. indeed, if she's going to win no matter who you vote for, a vote for her is certainly wasted. and really, if you vote for a person whose real positions or whose persona you don't believe or believe in, or in the worst case whose positions or persona you on reflection repudiate, you are certainly wasting your vote.
The news that the United Auto Workers lost a union election at a Nashville VW plant has sent the labor movement into something of a what the hell just happened spin. Unfortunately, I think that the results were preordained, back in about 1863. We have an interesting history in this country of well meaning northerners going into the backward and dirty south to enlighten these poor sons and daughters of Dixie, and it just doesn't work because the Northerners aren't trusted and the track record hasn't been all that great.
Hell, the post-union industrialization of the South wasn't by VW but it was by Northern Manufacturers who realized that they could make a lot more money moving steel from Pittsburgh to Birmingham and screw the workers in Birmingham a lot less than they were being screwed by their own boss class, but screw them a lot more than they were screwing over their own workers in the North. One might write an interesting history of American Expansion and Exception as a race to exploit the more easily exploited at cost to the somewhat less exploited. Now, the industrialization of the South screwed over a lot of people, and the big companies took the blame; it was possible to find Southern bosses and they did. Reconstruction ultimately turned out OK for the Southerners although not ideal from their point of view; hence the 100 year affiliation to the Democratic party although not necessarily the party of Roosevelt and Johnson but something else entirely.
Corn in the fields. Listen to the rice when the wind blows 'cross the water, King Harvest has surely come I work for the union 'cause she's so good to me; And I'm bound to come out on top, That's where she said I should be I will hear every word the boss may say, For he's the one who hands me down my pay Looks like this time I'm gonna get to stay, I'm a union man, now, all the way The smell of the leaves, From the magnolia trees in the meadow, King Harvest has surely come -- Robbie Robertson, the Band
Billy Yank and Johnny Reb compare resumes There's a wonderful moment in Gettysburg when an Officer of the 2oth Maine is talking with some Southern prisoners, primarily with a private. It's pretty interesting in that I think it's incredibly real and captures something that we miss at times. They ask each other where they're from, and the Rebel says, "Tennessee. How about you?" The Yank says, "Maine. I've never been to Tennessee." The Reb says, "Don't reckon I've ever been to Tennesse either."
I really don't like that bloody thing. Upworthy -- what the hell does it even mean? It's kind like RL Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verse which some people find poetic but I always found it to be saccharine, maudlin "why the hell did they give me this instead of the book about Vikings I wanted" even when I was a kid. But, in the words of the old Russian proverb, Даже слепая свинья находит желудь иногда,oras we say in Dusquesne, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THIS SCREWY INTERFACE?
Ok, it's ok now. Actually, it translates like this...
Charlie: You're getting on. You're pushing 30. You know, it's time to think about getting some ambition. Terry: I always figured I'd live a bit longer without it. --
And if you're taking a course in Aesthetics and Politics with Herr Professor Doktor Sartwell, compare and contrast values based on this contrasting versions of the Clash piece by Mr. Yoakum and Ms. McColl with extra credit if you can describe the similarity in the personal sitations of Ms. McColl and Mr. Strummer in 2012. Guaranteed C-, I tell you. Trust me. I used to be in govenment...
one thing that is typical of our scientistic moment, as in the late nineteenth century, is the idea that we can derive morality or moral values from evolution. now, i am afraid not, and i will briefly state the overwhelming problems.
(1) the classical is/ought problem: evolution cannot account for normative force or moral claims. so let's say it was counter-evolutionary to take your stuff. is that a reason not to take your stuff? you might have many good arguments that it's wrong to take your stuff, but the idea that i am swimming against the tide of evolution might be met with a mere shrug. what if it turned out that some forms of violence or crime were adaptive? would that show that they were right? also evolution makes use of counter-adaptive behavior as much as adaptive behavior. acting counter-adaptationally is necessary to the progress of the species, and i and my offspring will pay the price if in fact i am so acting.
(2) the basic inference has to be from actuality to etiology: arguments from evolution start by presuming that we are what evolution made us. so look: staring squarely at the data, we ought to speculate that both what we would think of as good behavior and bad have been selected for, insofar as we so stubbornly display both. insofar as evolution has selected us, it has, obvioously, selected both cooperation and competition, good and evil, happiness and pain, and so on. it appears, like the rest of nature, to be morally indifferent. if it was really selecting against theft or individualist philosophy or something it should have done better than it has so far in weeding out thieves and individualists.
in short if you want ethics without god you are going to have to find it elsewhere.
one thing i'm puzzled about: the ethical stance, associated with the left at the moment, where the question is 'what if everyone did that?' what if no one recycled? what if everyone had five kids or drove a car that got 20 mpg? sometimes i share the intuition. sometimes i doubt the effects would be as described. you can get some pretty draconian stuff out of this, like it makes an argument that everyone should live urban, for example, which reduces your carbon footprint but might tend to delete in important respects everyone's relations to non-human nature, with incalculable long-range effects. in some ways it's a sort of an extension of the golden rule or the categorical imperative: live as you could want everyone to live. it sounds sensible.
on the other hand it sounds crazy. what if everyone was a philosophy professor? imagine the social costs! what if no one read novels? the publishing industry would collapse! what if everyone raised tomatoes? too many tomatoes! what if, at 3pm, everyone in the whole world stopped what they were doing and watched general hospital? it would be incumbent on someone who was trying to tease this into an ethical theory to distinguish cases where one ought to from cases where one needn't or ought not calculate the effects of everyone doing 'that'; possibly some thinkers have had a go.
now, when i choose to live rural, should i ask myself what would happen if everyone lived rural? why, exactly, when it's so obvious that not everyone will? many of my own beliefs and even actions are, i admit, taken precisely because in fact most people don't do 'that.' so how would we work in that sort of impulse? now, i guess it's ok until you get the point of using it as a taser: like, requiring people to live as would be best if everyone lived like that (note, with the effects anticipated this week by experts or faddists or scientists or or bureaucrats or whatever).
i do think it's kind of an interesting way to generate ethical intuitions: something you should ask yourself. however, when you get right down to it, i am not going to take responsibility for a kind of sci-fi hypothetical counter-factual scenario. i have enough trouble trying to take responsibility plainly for what i actually do and the effects what i actually do has on what actually happens (including what happens to other people, of course).
the intuition engine turns us into a vague collective cloud, but not even that: it asks you to operate morally in a world that does not or cannot exist, and as a person who cannot exist: a general person. honestly, whatever the truth about climate change, i'm only taking responsibility for my own emissions, which are infinitesimal. but then again, is it even possible for me to take responsibility for my own emissions? like with offsets or something?) probably i am not even paying the costs of my own emissions, and then how could we, or could we, hold individuals responsible in cases like this at all? but what if everyone thought like that?
in some ways the thought-experiement makes everyone responsible for what we do to the world, which sounds good. be the change you want to see etc. but on the other hand, living generally like this might be a way of evading the real effects of what you actually do: what if everyone tried to require everyone else to live as they thought everyone ought to live? possibly a war of each against each.
one thing to note: utilitarianism famously faces the problem that it insists that you judge the moral quality of an action by its effects, but the effects of any given action are very difficult or indeed impossible to foresee. now bloat up this standard to a possible (?) world in which 7 billion people act or believe like you do and try calculating the effects.
but ask yourself this: what would the world be like if everyone lived the same way, had the same values, anticipated the same effects, and so on? maybe we'd merge ecstatically into a very big single thing. we'd be boring until we went extinct, though, which would not take long. so in application to itself, the principle is wacky, or self-consuming. strange, though, but the question also seems unavoidable and important. obviously, i am hostile a bit, because the thing would mess up my indivisualism etc. i started out tio slam but ended up worried.
Highjacking Crispin's site again with JJ Cale and Chuck Prophet, Thomas More and Thomas Hobbes, the Navajo, the Army, Paul Ryan and Tora Bora...it just doesn't get better than this. I think at times there's a better class of reader here than at the other places I babble...certainly the comments I get over at Veteran's Today give me a lot of pause. Anyway, this has been a complex piece to get my teeth into...for a variety of reasons. So, here we go...
Civilized costs more than hard, brutish and short...
The number of broken promises and bad judgments made over the last 30 years is incredible. Each bad judgment ends up causing more broken promises. However, the majority of the problems I see – crumbling infrastructure, lousy schools, increased long-term unemployment, mounting debt, lagging modernization, lack of a coherent energy plan and so on and on and on as well as what has happened to Native Americans, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsman, Civil Servants, Labor Unions, and on and on comes from the idea that we don’t have the wherewithal to pay for what we need to do. That is bullshit.
To be educated, a person doesn't have to know much or be informed, but he or she does have to have been exposed vulnerably to the transformative events of an engaged human life. Thomas More
Can you say AN/PDR-27R? ALPHA-NOVEMBER-PAPA-DELTA-ROMEO-TWO-SEVEN-ROMEO?
One of the things that binds Crispin and me and my loose collective of malcontented malevolent dissidents, anarchists and engineers is our general aversion to the impact of the totalitarian mind on life, language and discourse. Particularly when afraid -- when they're afraid, they come unglued with weird explanations of events...Orwell could have had fun with that realization because it is when under pressure from the unknown that the basic spiritual bankruptcy and ontological void that is the totalitarian way becomes most obvious. Case in point, China.
Now, China has the potential to explode at any time. It's fairly obvious to anyone with a basic knowledge of Marxist thought that the victory of the Communist Party in 1948 preceded the rise of the industrial proletariat. Pretty much the way that Communism has spread everywhere, by the way, except for the countries in eastern Europe that were conquered by the Soviet Union. So, since the Party still rules the country as a vicious oligarchy, it should not be surprising that the government is terrified of anything that might blow it all up. Tibet, Western China, displaced living lives of misery in Guangzhou and Shanghai...labor unrest, the incredible imbalance between rich and middle class and middle class and poor...disease, famine, water impossible to drink, etc. etc. The place is an economic dynamo sputtering away on top of a volcano.
Which presents a fair amount of hilarity masquerading as WTF? Not unlike Rush Limbaugh confusing contraception with the adult film industry and Israeli fellow-travellers eagerly sounding the drums for a war with Iran because our last religio-WMD-"Make the world safe"-enterprises have gone so well, the Chinese government is definitely after the root cause of problems at all levels. Jezebel picked up a story from The People's Daily that really makes it obvious that fantastic explanations for things is not just a Republican plutocratic art but one shared by totalitarians univerally.
Ok, girl one loses a "remote control" to a rolling door for her home. Girl one is obviously fairly rich for China since this looks like a really bad translation of "Garage Door Opener..." although I suppose it could have been a rolling steel shutter door to a patio or perhaps a French Door with a remote to the patio but, WHAT THE HELL? The silly damn Khardasians don't have remote controlled French doors; Trump doesn't have remote controlled French doors. That makes no sense...even in China, which at some levels, times and places is really like Batman's Gotham City, on meth...So, the kid lost a garage door opener. She decides to kill herself, so she hides in a closet -- another sign that we're dealing with some level of wealth here, there's actually a closet that is not so much in use that hiding in it is possible -- until her little friend comes over. She says she's going to commit suicide, the little friend says, OK, me too and Girl 1 writes down a note saying that she's killing herself over the garage door opener and Girl 2 is doing it because, well, they're friends and it's Tuesday and there's nothing on TV and...they are planning on visiting the Qing dynansty to make a movie of the emperor -- any emperor -- and then going to outer space. Girl 1 tells her sister to "Take Care of the Parents" because it's all about the parents, and they jump in a pool and drown.
Sister? The Chinese still have their one child rule. Only the very well to do and party elites get to have multiple children. WHAT THE HELL? This passes no reality test...but, the inspiration for the suicide is ...TV shows about people travelling in time and marrying royalty.
Yeah, and comic books caused juvenile delinquency and rock and roll and teenage pregnancy and communism. Ask your great, great senile grandmother!
Imagine the dialogue in the TV movie...if you've ever listened to the dialogue in a Chinese TV show, as I did by reading subtitles while there -- you'll recognize it.
Chechette: I lost the garage door remote and have brought dishonor on myself and my family. I must kill myself!
Chongette: I am your best friend. I will also kill myself.
Cheechette:Well, if we kill ourselves, we can go back in time and make a movie of the emperor in the Qing dynasty!
Chongette:Oh, good. Then we can travel in space.
Cheechette: My parents will be so proud...let's go drown ourselves in the pool!
Both: All hail the Glorious People's Liberation Army and Chairman Mao!"
Yeah. Now, they could have blamed this on Falung Gong because everybody knows that weird calestenics and such make you crazy. They could have blamed this on the influences of capitalism. They could have blamed it on a lot of things. Hell, blame it on Guy Clark ...Time travel on the Chinese equivalent to The Gilmore Girls? Jezebel has an excellent point, by the way.
This sounds like a cautionary tale about parenting — if your kid thinks killing herself is a good response to losing the remote control, you might not be sending the right message about the value of everyday objects. But Sun Yunxiao, deputy director of China Youth and Children Research Center, has a different moral in mind:
Schoolchildren are rich in curiosity but poor in judgment, so this kind of tragedy happens in every era. I have heard of children jumping from high buildings after watching an actor flying in a magic show. This kind of imitative behavior is in the nature of young children, but it's very dangerous. So we should give some sort of warning for children on TV programs.
I'm actually not sure that killing yourself so you can travel back in time and film an emperor (where do you get the camera?) is a tragedy that "happens in every era."...
Being not so sure about the impact of TV on suicides -- childish deaths from imitating superheroes, pro- wrestlers and such in the west aside -- and being slightly alert to conspiracies and coverups, I gotta say, this looks more like a cover-up of something else. There are lots of possibilities -- a spree of mass murder of children with or without child rape, a problem with some powerful "Big Bucks" in the local or regional Party-Wealthy Complex, drug-crazed People's Liberation Army veterans of the unpleasantness in Western China which dwarfs what we are seeing in Afghanistan or saw in Iraq -- but TV is a convenient scapegoat. Always has been and always will be...Dr. Who, in Mandarin drag, seducing the young with opium and time travel.
My money is probably on some sort of Child 44 coverup but who the hell knows about these things? Totalitarian countries are weirder than weird and China's internal dissension, cultural dissonance, and Commie-Confucian-Oligarchic messiness kind of makes it all seem possible, and that's funny in a weird way...and sad.
Another possibility is that this is just some Politboro thug having a shit fit at time travel TV. Again, the oddities of totalitarianism...
Ok. Crusader AXE here. I guess the incredible, inscrutable, incomparable one either wanted me to occasionally put something here for the erudite masses, or he just forgot he gave me permission many years ago. Regardless, I'm glad he did. He gets a better class of reader here than we do at the Defeatists, most of whom appear to be robots.
Today's topic is love and Valentine's Day. I speak as a bloodied veteran here on several fronts.
So, in the proper spirit of the thing. Ok. Yesterday was our 36th anniversary. We are very fond of each other and have a reasonably complex financial life that would make disengaging difficult. We don't want to cause the other pain or even inconvenience. I rate this as a successful marriage. We don't hate each other, wish the other grevious harm, and try not to act contrary to our mutual best interests.
That said, we got married on Friday the 13th. My thought, being a strategic thinker, was that this way I would not forget both Valentine's day or the Anniversary and hopefully, one would key my brain as to the other. Generally has worked...I see the Valentine's bullshit in the stores, and it triggers the response that I need to do something to commemorate the day so as not to violate the "first, do no harm or cause unnecessary pain" part of my ethic. It does not make me happy. This makes me happy...
I hate Valentine's Day. It is part of the conspiracy of the consumer society that begins in pre-school to make us all ready for a life of disappointment and conspicuous consumption.
obviously, an anarchist can't really endorse the legislative approach. but it would be interesting to think about more and more creatures and things as stuff that cannot be bought and sold. if a cultural consensus started moving that way, it would be an immensely dramatic change: you'd get to 'post-capitalism.' we're a long long way from treating animals that way, of course, and people have been buying and selling animals since the hebrew bible, or long before. it more or less seems to go with the concept of domestication, i suppose, or comes soon thereafter. it seems pretty central to the practice of having pets. but it could be and perhaps should be re-thought.
one would like to think of the national park system, for example, as taking some land out of the possibility of ownership, or moving it into collective ownership. and to some extent these are not mere ideologies, even if in other respects state ownership is anything but collective ownership. but the national park system is actually a reasonably good anti-anti-statist example (something which, in my own head, i've found a little difficult to square with my position), and it comes at least with the notion that some plants (redwoods) or inanimate/animate ecosystems (the grand canyon, say, or the tetons) are beyond ownership. if we could cultivate this attitude, it would change our relation to the world.