Friday, May 8, 2015

The ultimate fate of racist statements

In more peaceful times to come, the remaining purpose of the concept of race will be for jokes. 

With the lack of anything substantial or relevant to criticize about another person, one resorts to ridicule of surface differences and general features, clearly illustrating the lack of conflict and the good will between the two parties. 

The ‘insulted’ group, unable to identify with such a caricature, and knowing the spirit in which such a jest was made, could only laugh.


This dynamic is, I believe, already present among close friends of differing races.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The right to be stupidly insulting (or insultingly stupid)

Imagine a guy who loves insulting people who believe in a round earth. He calls them ‘pigounds’ or ‘roundearthfuckers’ (My creativity is slowly ebbing in my 30s, pardon me). Any chance he gets, he says things like, “May I have a medical checkup with any doctors who don’t think the world is round?” And all the while, he lives on our round Earth. The nerve!

Do we deport him into space? Send over a mob to ‘defend our kind’?

Or do we allow him his ‘truths,’ and let him face the consequences of his small-mindedness among the people he tries to insult? I say ‘tries to,’ because, you can’t even begin to take him seriously, right?

Ultimately, violence does not equate to accountability, no matter what ‘the law’ says.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Is political debate pointless?

Maybe I’m gonna give up trying to convince other people of their mistaken politics. This would include not phrasing something in my head, hoping to pwn them in imagined conversation. This debating, much of it merely thought up, is a lot of work, with little results, and the underlying ill-equipped psychology of others (and myself, too, I suppose) remains to be addressed.

If I went back in time trying to convince people that their kings were not divinely appointed, they’d think me daft. Perhaps the only ones who’d listen to me are the ones who want to take the kingdom for themselves. Which is kind of against the point I’m making.

If I try arguing the case against slavery, or for free speech, free banking, free population growth, etc. in a time when people need to believe their state-engineered remedies, harboring them as some kind of security blanket in their naïveté, I would be wasting my time. Instead, I could look forward centuries from then, or from now for that matter, trusting that the arrangement of societal elements would be more complementary to my views.

So this might be a goodbye for now from this blog designed to refute ignorance. Not that I haven’t hinted at an end to such discussions before.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Disillusion and hope

A couple of months ago, I attended a reunion in my former university. I got to talking to one of my professors about my experience as a journalist. I mentioned about becoming “disillusioned” 10 years ago, and this was said with some humor, but thinking about it later, it occurred to me that hearing something like that from a former student may be sad for a teacher.

My professor reacted to my ‘disillusioned’ statement by saying that he’s stayed in the Philippines amid the troubles the country faces, because he still has hope. To this, I mentioned vaguely that if I’m to make a difference, it won’t be as a part of the establishment, which to me means the electoral process (‘politics’) and the disseminating of information (‘media’).

De-illusionized?

I think that the word ‘disillusion,’ although normally connoting despair, should be understood in its literal sense. What is ‘disillusion’ anyway? It’s a removal of illusion – a gaining of awareness by knowing what something is not. By such realization of how things actually are, one becomes more capable of thinking and acting accordingly.

Since my time in the media and politics, I could no longer claim ignorance as to their role in maintaining the status quo*. And this is not just a Philippine problem. Society and its systems remain a great deal centralized, and to expect this to change from established institutions, which benefit from the way things are, is the great naïveté.

Look elsewhere

Politics isn’t a matter of ‘voting for the right people,’ but rather a lack of choice in choosing representatives of what are basically monopoly service providers. And the quality of journalism is only as good as the quality of thought of their consumers, who shouldn’t be satisfied with the present choices of what constitutes ‘mainstream’ media.

Why hope?

Disillusion and hope do go together. Humanity, in learning how the way the world works, is constantly accumulating mental capital, and interactions become less and less top-down and more horizontal, all of which portend peace in the future. The slowness of social evolution may seem to belie this; we can only pray we live long enough to savor it together.
______________________
* My personal studies and not so much my ‘on the field’ experiences are responsible for my increased understanding.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Things I learned from ‘Atlas shrugged III: Who is John Galt?’

No spoilers here. That would suggest there was something to spoil.

1.       All egoists are skilled entrepreneurs, while everyone else is a no-talent, stupid, altruistic, leeching state worshipper.
2.       Not only do the greatest minds hate the state and have great entrepreneurial ability, they all get along well, and with dialogue interchangeable among one another.
3.       In a movie, you only need two types of music. For narrating about unrealistic plots, play stale patriotic music. For romance, slow piano.
4.       Even after reciting stilted dialogue against altruism a couple of movies and actresses ago, you still need generic, simplistic, grade-school level speeches preached over and over to you about the wrongness of altruism and state intervention.
5.       Politicians actually believe their bullshit.
6.       Better to waste resources making a point than have them available at all, just because the state has no right to your property.
  7.       The perfect human being is… Joey Lawrence.
  8.       Capitalism merely requires smart management. Not significant amounts of labor, nor capital­-intensive processes.
9.       Not only is homeschooling ideal, but removing your kids from contact with the rest of civilization is awesome for their guitar (and social) skills. Critical thinking does not and could not start at home.
10.   The best way to kill off a character is to show a newspaper article announcing their death (“Taggart’s wife dies”).
11.   When a man’s wife dies, you say: “Hey, Jimmy. Yeah, I just read the article on Cherryl… Say, your sister’s gonna help Thompson, right?”

 12.   Social change has to do with a five-minute televised speech getting a rise out of the people, the same people who had consented to the existing power structures all their lives, unwittingly enslaving themselves and others, but wait, here’s John Galt to flip their brains with insightless generalities and bad lighting.
13.   If someone couldn’t articulate their moral convictions, or is just unopinionated, you can shoot them with no qualms.
As long as you give them a chance to explicitly state their values (which may diverge from their actual actions), right? At gunpoint, sure, but that shouldn’t matter. Not even to their families.
 14.   Wearing pink makeup can endanger your life.

The ‘Atlas shrugged’ trilogy just got progressively worse, and I’m sorry to see the likes of Stephen Tobolowsky, Duck from ‘Mad men,’ and Ally McBeal’s boss scraping whatever part of the barrel this is.


Strike three!

***

Related articles:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Water, licenses, same banana

Few would connect the water shortage in California with the stickers/plates/cards problem of the Philippine Land Transportation Office. But they both illustrate the inescapable consequences of price control.

By favoring government use or dictation of resources, a subsidy is in effect created. This constitutes price control because the concerned resources are made available to the coercing/monopolizing body at less cost/effort/competing demand than if these were obtained through bidding among free entities.

Step by step, ooh baby

Ludwig von Mises explained the stages of price control. At first comes the shortage of goods. What is obtained cheaper, is used up faster. What’s more, the artificially low price serves as a signal to investors and producers not to divert resources to the sector. So no, high prices are not the devil, they are the best incentive for people to supply the desired good. It is by this principle that yesterday’s luxury product, whose broad appeal is yet uncertain, becomes available to the masses to the point of being taken for granted.

The next stage of price control is the attempts at rationing. Which does nothing to sustain supply, since no prices are involved. After rationing comes outright state takeover to replace those greedy capitalists who are said to have caused the shortage in the first place. Again, without prices as guide, much is wasted, not just in the particular controlled sector but in other sectors which otherwise would have been patronized by consumers had a market been present.

What if?

It’s left for us to imagine how private driver certifiers would fare. Maybe they would have done away with rectangular pieces of plastic altogether, who knows.

And where would Californians have lived had there not been such a huge water subsidy to draw people to arid lands? Such alternate realities might seem unpleasant in their unfamiliarity, but this is no reason to maintain policies contributing to economic disasters. We can trust people will get by, if not thrive, without them.

Libertarians make the best friends. Really.

Get away from him!
He asked wholl build the roads!
Because you expect higher standards for them, libertarian fluff pieces are the worst. Case in point, this one claiming libertarians make the “most awesome” friends. Can we really expect people, just because they say they advocate free markets and all, to treat people better, have a sharper sense of fairness, etc.?

Truth is, the scope of ‘libertarian’ would not exclude those with a ‘fuck the world’ attitude as long as they’re left alone, or those who condone anything as long as it has the semblance of legality in the libertarian sense (e.g. racism).

Those of erroneous ideologies can very well be the kindest, most decent people you know, but for one reason or another, fail to extend their personal attitudes to society as a whole. This points to intellectual error with no implications as to what kind of a friend they are.

Humans are complex beings. They can truly believe and understand the implications of freedom and the state, but still act in repulsive ways, such as nagging, talking down at the help, compulsive correcting (e.g. this article, this blog even!), Facebook stalking, etc. You name it.

A generalizing of even libertarians is a mistake. A potentially harmful one, in fact. Consider your career (“Oh, he understands entrepreneurship. He must be a brilliant worker! I’ll hire him!), finances (“He hates central banking, so he must know where to put my life savings!”), and of course your social life. Because if you are going to decide on your social circle based on each person’s understanding of political matters, you are by the nature of scarcity going to exclude people whom you’d otherwise recognize as your truest of friends.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

When is Cheryl’s birthday? Or, we’re all dumbasses

I’ve never been good with solving puzzles like the Cheryl birthday one from Singapore. When I first read it, I was even doubtful that there existed a logical solution to it, what with the bad grammar. But there is a method to solving it involving merely a step-by-step elimination process (first discover what Albert could know for certain; next, Bernard, then again Albert). So simple in hindsight!

To me, this is a reminder to stay humble. I may think I know my shit, including when it comes to political philosophy, but what seems sensible and clear-cut may from a higher point of view appear insufficient if not erroneous.

Having said that, I doubt supporters of the state are of this higher point of view. That’s kind of the point; this lesson in humility applies to everyone, including those who think they know what’s better for others and would support violence as a means of achieving it. You may have solved Cheryl’s birthday, but valuation processes spanning a community remain beyond your capacity for knowledge.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Christianity as power

From nilesfiles.wordpress.com
In a recent speech, Doug Casey shows that he does not comprehend Christianity apart from the general dictum of being kind to others. And taken at face value, without first-hand inspiration itself, one is likely to be misled by the Gospel into self-abasement and world shunning, as Casey suggests and abhors.

Slave* origins

One must first realize that the virtue of meekness, as mentioned in the beatitudes, developed among humans as a necessary, desperate means of coping with what one could not control or change. For instance, death, or some other transition of states, is inevitable. Christianity compensates for such mortality by a not illogical association with qualities of eternity, as humanly knowable.

Let it go

Instead of attaching to the fleeting, one lets go, with good humor**, of moments as they pass. Instead of approaching things with fragile presumptions, one grasps their ‘is-ness,’ and is content. Instead of burying one’s scarce resources in the ground, one puts them into productive endeavors or loans them for interest***. Instead of striking back when harmed, one learns something of themselves and can only give back gratitude. One seems to assume the properties of light, by applying their will to a longer timeframe.  

Inherit the earth

Humility is an admission of our finite power, which itself is an indication of, and means of, empowerment. If you read Mario Puzo’s ‘The godfather,’ you can observe this principle in practice in the character of Vito Corleone (who as a mobster is no less a part of the same hypocrisy as politicians, but that’s beside the point).

Contrary to what intelligent critics of Christianity such as Doug Casey may say, mystical insight could be considered an extension of principles readily observable in the world, rather than their negation. Superlatives such as ‘oneness with God’ or ‘eternal truth’ are understandable when taking into account the supra-cognitive (yet all-too-human) faculty everyone possesses, but such words often mislead those who remain seekers of external (‘objective’ or literal) ‘Truth’ rather than internal (‘subjective’ or figurative) truth.

* By ‘slave,’ I mean in a position of weakness or lack of control, not necessarily from oppression by other humans, although Nietzsche explains the historical origin of Christianity this way. It’s the psychological aspect, and not the specific situation, that is our present focus.
** The ability to laugh goes hand in hand with one’s recognition of the transience and insufficiency of consciousness, preconceptions, words, etc.
*** Interest itself illustrates the worldly application of the beatitudes. Rather than consuming for the now, one inhibits one’s self for future satisfaction, and thus derives profit. It could even be said that one’s capacity for self-inhibition (lowness of time preference) is commensurate with their foresight.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Conductors and central planning

She was the greatest piece of ass
I’ve ever had, and I’ve had ’em
all over the world!
Am I right?
Picture from Wikipedia.
Butler Shaffer has a point with regards to conductors being “useless” in an orchestra. They don’t actually emit sounds, right? And apparently they can play the keyboard while supposedly leading the orchestra. So why not get rid of them?

But a piece of music remains a conductor’s vision, or of whoever is entrusted to bring their understanding of a piece to the performance.

Shaffer is not a music guy, which is apparent not so much in his dismissive attitude to conductors, but in his reference to “reading the notes” as basis for playing a work, the interpretation of which actually could or would vary or clash to a great degree, among players in the same orchestra.

Apart from rehearsals in which players are instructed about tempo, modulation, etc., a conductor maintains the pace during a performance in a way that gives the right tightness to specific sections. Their success can be somewhat gauged by a consistency in the running time of takes of individual movements.

If one were to dismiss the role of a conductor during a performance on account of the principle of a central dictator not being effective at allocating resources, why not get rid of the composer and sheet music as well? Then the question becomes, will the product, however improvised and guided it may be, be preferred to another product more or less improvised and/or guided?

The individual listener may be the judge, but for specific masterpieces, some trained individuals are more capable of bringing out the spirit of the work in a particular fashion, for which the listener may choose to trust them.

We can liken a conductor to a judge, who not only presides over a dispute, but also after a resolution, oversees the carrying out of his judgment.

***



See what a difference the ‘useless’ conductor makes, in these two interpretations of the opening movement of Bach’s Saint Matthew passion.

Conducted by Philippe Herreweghe

Conducted by Karl Richter

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

100% proof that Jesus rose from the dead!

“Couldn't evolution be the answer to how and not the answer to why?” – Stan Marsh, ‘South Park

This past Easter I saw, through related links on Facebook, several articles in the vein of ‘Evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.’ I was curious enough to give in to the clickbait, and sure enough, found such ‘evidence’ wanting by any half-decent standards, e.g. use of Bible citations, which is no different than claiming King Arthur existed on the basis of the Camelot legend.

The pitiful thing isn’t so much the attempts at convincing one’s self that what one wants or what one is susceptible to believe is true. It’s that, the use of some kind of historical or observable ‘proof’ as basis of faith or even just as added support, goes completely against the whole point or meaning of faith (as I understand it, at least).

Such an argument is just the other side of the coin of atheists who use evolution and the Big Bang to ‘disprove’ God. Reducing things to material explanations is no explanation at all, but neither is reducing the supposed almighty to a performer of ‘miraculous’ tricks.

For those who believe, it is enough that they themselves vouch for their belief. But I pose a question: If you are given incontrovertible evidence that what you believe to have happened in history, actually never happened, what becomes of your faith? Your life?

This ‘falsifiability’ test creates a distinction between static (falsifiable/facts-dependent/positivist), and dynamic (non-falsifiable/facts-independent/theoretical) beliefs. And what varies among individuals is what idols they settle for, most of which are derived from mere historical hearsay*.


* “Many a statement made by the founder of a religion was originally meant by him merely as a conscious fiction. But the poverty of language in primitive times, the pleasure derived from short, pregnant, rhetorically effective sentences, and consideration for the less educated, childlike minds of his hearers, led, or rather misled, the founders of religions into expressing in the linguistic form of a dogma what they themselves took only in the sense of a conscious fiction.” – Hans Vaihinger, from ‘The philosophy of ‘as if’’

Friday, March 27, 2015

Why do we need government? To protect us from government of course!

Study central banking, and this caricature ceases to be clever.
From moneycrux.com
Listening to this Peter Joseph critique of Stefan Molyneux helps me understand the problem I have of conveying ideas about the market. The desire for justice, fairness, order, etc. is projected onto the state by default. 

A mythological ‘They’ as savior

Not really the state, but some ‘They’ should be there to fix things, and this privilege goes to those with the illusion of being officially representative of people, and this is perceived as more legitimate than the manner in which non-crony market leaders represent consumer wants.

Politicians as higher species?

All people are flawed, and having a flawed minority elected by flawed voters could not solve the perceived flaws of markets. In fact, political mandate enables the monopoly behavior responsible for such shoddy services perpetuated by the state and carelessly associated with the market.

Mentalities

An overnight abolition of the state without a corresponding better understanding of the implications of coercion on human interactions would just lead to a new replacement state. However, such a hypothetical situation is unhelpful, as in reality, the obsolescence of the state would occur gradually, so much so that government offices won’t suddenly disappear, they would just be too incapacitated to require people to pay for services under pain of imprisonment , and when competitors pop up who can provide such services more satisfactorily, these competitors won’t be shut down. 

In that way, no mass unemployment will occur, services won’t be interrupted by complete industry newbies, and for a long time thereafter people will call ‘the state’ as such even without its primary characteristic of coercive monopoly.