Sunday, February 8, 2015

Child abuse and political obedience

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now believe that might makes right.
I’ve occasionally seen the meme that goes: 
“My parents spanked me as a child. As a result I now suffer from a psychological condition known as ‘respect for others’.” 

As undoubtedly disagreeable this would be to most people, I’ve not seen it criticized or commented on much. I’m guessing this has to do with, apart from not wanting to confront friends on Facebook, an inability of people to elaborate their opposition, which they nonetheless feel to be justified. Plus, the mocking irony of the meme might even elicit agreement in those who never thought much about it.

So I came up with the following alternate memes:

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now get what I want 
by imposing my will on the helpless.

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now take my revenge 
on my parents, or failing that, 
on those physically weaker. 
Failing even that, I take it out on myself.

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now submit mindlessly to authority.

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now question no wrong.

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now am politically ignorant.

My parents spanked me as a child.
As a result I now would rather fear, than be free.

***

Just because fostering discipline in non-adults is difficult, does not mean force is ever an option. Education by putting someone in a position of less power, creates bullies, tyrants and an unthinking herd.

Related article:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The problem in Mindanao, among other places

From abs-cbnnews.com
There are plenty being blamed for the botched arrest of the Marwan dude that resulted in 44 policemen being killed. The president. The police chief. Cabinet members. And of course, the MILF. But there is a more fundamental problem which is, incidentally, related to other social ills.

I am referring to a system that allows a small minority, in the name of ‘the people,’ to acquire and divide spoils. This is a system most tempting and beneficial to those inclined to impose their wills on others.

We grieve for those who, in dealing with threats to society, pay most dearly. In a sense, they die for their country, a country captured by monopoly interests, to be sure, but their country nonetheless. However, the existing monopolization itself creates threats, whether from within, or from those most capable of challenging – and negotiating with – such a monopoly. The people lose out either way.

Mindanao will achieve peace to the degree that this is realized.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Christ, Resurrection necessarily true

From http://rsc.byu.edu/
I hadn’t seen my Facebook news feed dominated by anything as much as Pope Francis, since the typhoon that wiped out Tacloban late 2013. During the pope’s visit, we witnessed both the bad – herd hysterics – and the good – individuals’ renewal of devotion to that which makes their lives meaningful, whatever that may be.

The pope’s visit basically left no impression on me, but apart from that, in the last few months, I’ve been experiencing a revival of faith of sorts. There have been two primary catalysts for this: Immanuel Kant, and Johann Sebastian Bach.

I have been approaching Bach’s greatest work, his B minor mass, from a Kantian perspective, wherein the significance of the mass’ creed is elevated by not being a mere profession based on what I want to be true, but rather a necessary aspect of my consciousness.

I once said in this blog, that faith has nothing to do with reason. I’d like to amend that, in that faith is a distinct matter from practical reason (what we perceive). That is, phenomena that we perceive could not be understood in terms of faith, a believing for its sake.


However, we could not help but believe the inescapably human, individual conditions that determine our sensibility, our conception, our understanding of the world. Faith is in fact a matter of pure reason (how we perceive). And Christ, depicted as eternal yet of flesh, is the a priori.

How is this assuring?

Why should anyone care about this ‘Christ as a priori,’ depicted in such cold, nitpicky language? What relevance does it have to how we go about life?

As I see it, it strikes at the very heart of the Christian creed, as exemplified by the ultimate lines, “We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins, and await the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”

Christ makes possible all of human existence, makes possible that which we value either as good or bad. Christ precedes experience, yet remains amid all change. The Resurrection, in this sense of ever-new becoming, determines all that we can know. Without the Resurrection, not only is all in vain, as Paul says, but all is not possible.

So this is actually what underlies the feeling of empowerment, when contemplating Christ. Reality is no less real, yet transfigured. As Krishna says, the infinite spirit, that which neither is born nor dies, pervades all experience. Of course it does. The infinite spirit is itself a necessity of being. Space and time do not exist in themselves, but exist only as they precede that which occurs in space and time.

Again, how is this assuring?

By recognizing existence as both fleeting and eternal, we are more capable of letting things go. We can better forget pain, forgive perceived trespasses. But resignation is not the whole story. When we let go, we also let in, on which we can then discharge our energies, before replenishing ourselves once more with the forgiveness of sins. It is no wonder forgiveness and the Resurrection are so entwined in Christianity, even without most people dissecting such principles.

Failure and death are less formidable subjects of our fears when we realize that all that is good, all that we love, all that makes sense to our physical existence, could never leave us, just as there will always be stars born to replace supernovae. And knowing this, we are less inclined to impose our wills for the assumed good of others. Political freedom, of purely voluntary interactions, is just one aspect of freeing others from emotional debt*.

Human evolution has been a matter of much trial and overcoming failure, of expanding time frames wherein the enhancing of our health is a matter of mastering time. Increased foresight also means greater longevity. Cosmically speaking, we may be a backwards species, our consciousnesses still trapped in these biological vessels, our fingers still picking our entry points of oxygen. But realizing our a priori, Christ-like nature is the right step in our cognitive development.

Final words… Or are they?

Kantian Christianity is just the beginning in a reevaluation of my understanding of spiritual matters, and how they connect to my life.

There is also the matter of music and humor being celebrations of subjectivity, allowing us to recognize our ‘obvious’ means of cognition as inescapable, yet absurd. I leave it to you to experience them for yourself as such.

__________________

* Holding another to economic obligations, as in a loan, is not cast aside completely, but rather emotionally detached from. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Is Islam a religion of violence?

If judgment is to be made, it should be of individuals, based on their actions. Ancient texts, particularly religious ones, can be interpreted in so many ways. 

No one is ever able to follow the bible, ethnocentric verses and all, literally and to the letter. Attempts at such would leave one insane, if not murderous. Islam does not hold a monopoly on crimes committed in its name.


What does the Koran say?

The Koran verses on which prohibitions of visual Muhammad depictions are based go like:

[Allah is] the originator of the heavens and the earth... [there is] nothing like a likeness of Him.
and
[Abraham] said to his father and his people: 'What are these images to whose worship you cleave?' They said: 'We found our fathers worshipping them.' He said: 'Certainly you have been, you and your fathers, in manifest error.'” 
None of us take Exodus’ “No other gods besides me” as forbidding under pain of death depictions of the Judeo-Christian God, right?

Acts, not words of violence, beget violence

And as Ron Paul says repeatedly, much of Muslim vengeance has to do with politics, whether among Muslims or including interventionists. Including the recent Paris incidents.

Bottom line is, if you try to impose your beliefs on others, whether about politics, religion, music, etc., you’re a dick.
_____________________

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

‘South Park’ is the most important show of this age

Over the past two weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘South Park’ is the most intelligent show in history, or at least, the most intelligent show I’ve ever seen. For the longest time, I thought of the show as one of shock humor, with the occasional social commentary and controversy.

Now I get it. The crudeness of the cartoon itself is a mask for its message, that of the beauty of free, aware, human life (Not that Trey Parker or Matt Stone would ever phrase it that way).

No other show extols reason like ‘South Park’ does. When Stan, or Kyle, or whoever, gives an intentionally trite speech with piano music in the background, he/she speaks truth that goes above the heads of those without ears to hear. 

And of all the shows in this era of humankind, I think it is ‘South Park’ that will remain relevant in a more civilized age. This is in spite of the show tackling very contemporary issues such as the Muhammad drawings (so courageous, so courageous), evolution/creationism in schools (‘Go God go’ is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen), protectionism, copyright, and even more recently the fucking Uber app (Timmah!).

What shines forth, beyond these inevitably-to-be-dated references, beyond the literal shit-spewing, talking vaginas, and sadomasochistic catchphrases (Oh Jesus… Jesus Christ!), is a beacon of critical thinking.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Is Uber's fee hike during the Sydney cafe hostage-taking exploitative price gouging?

Higher prices reflect greater urgency of a service for some people; the ones who will pay the higher fare are also the ones who need it the most. This is a problem if such a sum could not be afforded by those in need, but the fact that drivers respond to higher salary bids for their services, is simply reality. 

Ignoring the supply/demand dynamic just because of something like the Sydney hostage-taking emergency would make for more wanton rides at the expense of those who really do need the ride on that occasion.

Outrage and incomprehension over (non-inflationary) price increases also discourage other entrepreneurs from entering the market to serve as alternative competition, which is essential to bringing down prices without running into a supply problem.

But we can learn from this situation that customers via financial institutions, and/or Uber itself can pool an emergency fund by which passengers with little means to pay are helped during emergencies. But as any fund costs something, this will be reflected in higher prices during normal times.

Sans curtailment of freedoms, high profitability equals high value/satisfaction of wants. And this principle helps us see a form of regulation more effective than what is legislated by supposed people’s representatives.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The OECD, against inequality, wants more of the same

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently came out with a paper showing that inequality leads to weaker economic growth. Most people, including the OECD itself, take this to mean a failure of ‘trickle-down’ policies of which the Reagan and Thatcher administrations of the 1980s are supposed to represent. Governments must then step in to redistribute wealth, which the OECD asserts does not hinder growth,
provided these policies are well designed and implemented.

Redistribute how?

The OECD does not provide guidance as to whatever that means. It really does seem that the OECD merely presumes state redistribution to be more effective in growing an economy.

Why the inequality? 

The paper casually brushes off the cause of inequality as the natural outcome of free exchange. It is as though we have to take for granted that all this time, the market, in its leaving by the wayside those with less means, created this growing disparity in incomes. Only now is the state going to come in to save the day.

The state all along

What would the OECD make of the then-record federal spending during the ‘trickle-down’ Reagan years, a record long and far surpassed by succeeding presidents? Or Reagan’s appointment of Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan who took the ongoing policy of inflation to new heights? The fact that the established corporate interests (the ‘1%’) are the primary recipients of this expanding liquidity could be argued to be the single largest contributor to inequality.

The state is the opposite of the solution

Before increasing taxes on the cronies who feed off the middle class and poor, how about first get rid of the (legislated) cronyism itself? Less sources of corruption that way. But then, what is to fund the OECD?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Foreign workers don't steal jobs

Foreign workers don’t ‘steal jobs.’ The current employment level is not an impassable barrier where one’s employment means another’s dismissal.

Immigrants in developed countries get jobs because they often don’t bid as high for salaries*. This allows employers to hire more, and the added employment makes for greater productivity. This in turn results in higher real incomes for wage earners and greater capital to invest for employers, some of whom will happen to be foreign.


Open borders is a two-way thing!

Just as one community is open to jobs for foreigners, another community is open, or should be open. Funny how one could lament foreigners job theft in one instance and in the next bemoan ‘brain drain.’ Opportunity does not stay put.

Protectionism as a way to ‘get even’ for the protectionism of another country only doubles the harm. 

Imagine if you were limited to employment/purchases in your street. Would it make you feel richer to “keep the money locally?” 

There’s a reason why people acquire services from other streets, other cities, other countries. It’s because it maximizes the division of labor.


The real problem (not those foreigners)

What you should look at are real barriers to employment, including minimum wages, union abuse of state privileges, and all taxes and regulations, including misguided anti-foreigner protectionism. Basically everything you’ve been conditioned by the politically privileged to believe was good for society. 

These all inhibit capital accumulation and make for less specialization, and we see an endless cycle involving poorer-quality products/lower real incomes/less profits/less capital/less
  jobs/cries for state protection.

_______________

*But salaries in one community don’t go so high or so low that employers, whether locally or abroad, don’t take advantage. This process of evening out is as natural as osmosis.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Why Taylor Swift is wrong about Spotify

From theguardian.com
There is something very wrong with an industry that seeks to curtail access to its purported product rather than ease it.

Cutie Taylor Swift recently removed her songs from Spotify, in the belief that such a music streaming service does not compensate fairly.

Swift’s error comes down to two false premises:
1.       Music has some definite value independent of context; and
2.       Copyright is the basis of remuneration in the music industry.

Swift’s ignorance is all too apparent in this paragraph from her Wall Street Journal op-ed (if it weren’t already apparent by being published by WSJ, haha):
Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It's my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album's price point is. I hope they don't underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.
Even though Swift claims to be open about finding out “what an album’s price point is,” she is already presuming it to be much higher than what she’s being paid through streaming sevices. Moreover, a ‘free’ (she actually means affordable) service does not automatically mean the absence of entrepreneurial opportunities. What if Google charged for their service, arguing that internet searches are “valuable”?

As for deciding some “price point,” how does she know that current prices – including the availability of music through Spotify – are not precisely such a deciding of said price point?

(Actually I’d contend that prices are highly distorted. But do read on.)

And it is not Swift, nor her label, that ultimately decides prices. It is the consumer.

How to compensate, and how much?

Copyright is a logically flawed concept*. Music piracy is not so much the cause of music sales dropping, as it is an indication that the ‘official’ music industry, focused on protecting intellectual monopolies in a more and more decentralized world, has yet to adjust its business model.

Perhaps the real thing to fear for Swift isn’t accessible, free music – there’s that hot new technology called radio after all – but of sales depending much less on pubescent girls.

With music production and distribution becoming more affordable than ever, opportunities abound for a larger number of talented individuals than ever before. What the music industry loses in superstars as dictated by record executives pandering to common denominators, it will more than gain in addressing niche markets.

And the price of music could never be too low that musicians, unsatisfied with listeners’ bids, will all quit the biz. The number of musicians, and the prices paid for their services, will always be reflective of music’s marginal utility to people. The prevailing prices are neither just nor unjust, they are merely indicative of preferences.


Related article: Copyright and record companies: Living in the past
Kinda ironic how I used Taylor Swift as an example in this much earlier article (June 2012), when discussing possible avenues of profit for musicians in a copyright-less world.

______________

*Copyright presumes that third parties can be held liable for an agreement between two parties as to the use of properties through which the copyrighted material is accessed and distributed. There is an inherent conflict between supposed ‘intellectual property’ and physical property, in that the former involves control over the latter, even when no physical property is taken from or manipulated of the supposed copyright holder.
When people say such piracy is theft, ask them: Where’s the theft? Could ideas be stolen at all? Is there a fundamental difference between ideas and opinions you tell people, and ideas as stored in digital form by which music is disseminated? Perhaps copyright violations are a kind of thoughtcrime?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Let people choose their verdicts

This Ferguson trial where the cop who killed black dude Michael Brown has really provoked outrage, primarily because people feel the issue of race was ignored, or that there was no due process, or that the killing was not about mere self-defense. Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it just be great for a real ‘people’s court’ where EVERYBODY’S opinion counts?

Choose and act accordingly

That’s how it would be in a competitive court system. People would be free to accept or reject any court’s decision, and act accordingly. That is, everyone would be free to outcast/boycott those found guilty of actions they find offensive. This isn’t quite possible at the present, what with much of land, particularly roads, being ‘public property.’

And if you and your neighbor disagree on a particular case, you can either agree to disagree or avoid each other, but most likely, you’ll find a middle-ground compromise association with them.

But people are stupid!

But if people, even stupid people, can choose their verdicts, and thereby shun innocent convicts and condone sociopaths, won’t that make for a really divisive society? I’d argue, not any more divisive than present society.

In the first place, most people have similar moral sensibilities. There are some controversial issues, such as at what point during or after conception ‘life’ begins, or whether kids should be spanked. But generally, people like peace, and avoid violence. Such an agreement on what constitutes ‘moral,’ even a very broad-strokes agreement, would make for a broad-strokes agreement in legal matters as well.

Competition versus monopoly

More importantly, judgments in a competitive environment would entail both complainant and defendant, as consumers, choosing a private court with a reputation for fairness, whose decisions would be respected by both parties and the public. In short, standards for judging a case would be raised, and transparency a selling point. It won’t matter how rich a defendant is by which he wishes to bribe a judge, if Court A stands to lose profits to a more transparent and reputable Court B.

And instead of being pissed off about this or that court for a blatantly unfair decision, people would simply cite a more reasoned-out decision by another court’s legal luminaries. Of course, the quality of the reasoning would have to depend on the intelligence of the people, who may not be very intelligent, but this is no less a problem in today’s monopolized court system, albeit the latter having less accountability.

I think with the dawn of social media, the possibility of competitive courts, that is, competitive opinion givers, is becoming greater.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Do not watch ‘The hunger games: Mockingjay’

I just watched ‘Mockingjay: Part I.’ Nothing happens. I had read the book, but I still don’t’ know what happened in the movie.

But really, it was careless of me to bother watching it without reading a review or thinking it through more thoroughly. This borefest is what you get when you divide a final book installment into two, as has been the trend since ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Twilight.’

I think this gimmick for the sake of suckering suckers like me into paying for two movies instead of one, is in its dying days. Never before has it been done so blatantly and unconvincingly, with scenes stretched out and otherwise-outtakes making it to the final cut. It couldn’t be just me that watched this first part of ‘Mockingjay’ and thought, “That’s it?” And I swear it will be my last time to patronize such a lame practice.

Is that my only complaint about the movie? Not really. All the drama seems artificial. Jennifer Lawrence’s hysterics appear an attempt for another Oscar. And when the music swells during a ‘moving’ scene, it does not impress. Of course how could it? Nothing happens after all. The only value this and the ‘final-talaga-pramees’ movie will have is from Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last role.

Whether or not the (actual) finale is an improvement, I won’t even bother watching, which is in protest not of the movie producers but of author Suzanne Collins herself, whose attempt to shock or make profound was badly done even in the book.


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Monday, November 17, 2014

Against net neutrality, just because of my stupid market ideology

“What? You’re against even net neutrality?! You really are ideologically blind.”

I can imagine someone saying this about my stance on the issue, where proponents of net neutrality see the current ISP oligopolies as enemies of freedom.

Of course I’d like my provider to give me access to as much internet content as possible, and as fast and affordable as possible. But net neutrality legislation is barking up the wrong tree (free markets).


WHAT IS WRONG?

The right tree is existing anti-competitive telco regulations that maintain the status quo and prevent more relevant businesses from coming in to respond to what consumers want (cheaper and better services). What’s more, the lobby industry favors established players, at the expense of newer and less politically connected entrepreneurs. The current system is hardly a free market.

State regulations and an overly powerful legislature perpetuate oligopolies as we see them today. The problem is not that businesses are motivated by ‘profit.’ Because, all people are driven precisely by the desire for more value for their money, whether as consumers or investors (why else are advocates of net neutrality calling for it?). Hell, even the satisfaction of helping another person through charity is profit.

We should ask instead: How do we make both parties in ISP-consumer transactions profit as much as possible?

And thus, we grasp the real solution: break existing legislative barriers to competition.


THE EASY WAY

But why not just adopt standards for ISPs? That shouldn’t cost anything extra, right?

Actually, the cost of legislated regulation is not immediately apparent. We have to ask why existing ISPs would find it more profitable to block or slow down certain internet content, and find it more costly to satisfy the consumer best.

Take away ISPs’ existing means of profit without addressing the main problem of oligopoly and this just raises costs without making competitive alternatives available.

Bad internet service is not a violation of anybody’s rights. If so, everyone before 1994 was a victim. No, it just means that cronies are abusing the political privileges granted them by a na├»ve populace.


IDEOLOGY

So my anti-net neutrality stance is not just a matter of trying to be ideologically consistent, or anti-government for being anti-government’s sake. In fact, reliance on the state, which plainly put is the belief that the threat of violence fosters community, is itself a false ideology to be cast off. But I don’t shove that in an opponent’s face, in ad hominem fashion, to dismiss their argument.

If I oppose nagging as a way to interact with family and friends, is this a ‘mere ideology’ that ‘doesn’t work in the real world’? So it is with my ideology opposed to both:
election and legislation – the presumption that a policy, as long as it is thought to be a good idea by a majority supposedly represented by legislators, is justification enough to violate other people’s freedoms.

In the words of Dwight Schrute, False.


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