Monday, June 30, 2008

What Is Not The Problem

Television is not the problem. Every so often, in any amateur discussion of social ills or national afflictions, a person will witness a vehement denunciation of all televised programs. It is true that television may inspire sloth, for the fact that it normally demands long periods of bodily inactivity. And it is just as pertinently true that television may inspire violence and disregard for moral standards, as most plot lines in any good thought-provoking stories do. But one cannot attempt to smear television with both of these brushes at once. Television cannot simultaneously be to blame for active violence and contagious passivity. But even if by some miracle of psychology it could, television would not be to blame for anyone’s actions in particular. People are responsible for their own actions, so if television is influencing them to an undue degree, talk with them about it. After all, any activity can be dangerous or unhealthy if pursued to excess – everything in moderation, like they say. But we know then that it is not the television or the televised to blame, rather the excess.

Money is not the problem. It is easy for someone to hear that anonymous parable about the poisoning of the rivers and the leveling of the forests and conclude that since money is inedible, it must be worthless. And to that degree, they are correct. Money has no practical utility besides it’s rare employment as insulation or tinder, as can be observed in cases of sudden hyperinflation. However, since money is intrinsically doing no harm to anyone, you cannot claim it it is anything less than worthless. An arguably too-strict adherence to the labor theory of value will lead one to conclude that all money is justly possessed by whomever prints it (money doesn’t grow on trees, after all), but even this can be considered a temporary loan from the printer to the traders for purposes of a trusted socioeconomic organization, and therefore is not intrinsically evil or detrimental.

Money, at it’s best, is an IOU, but when presumed as an “objective standard” of value, invites dishonesty in the forms of identity theft and counterfeiting. There are problems with it, especially in it’s flat form, but these are problems of technicality, not principality.

Logo, or signature, is not the problem. Many see symbols like the “golden arches” as symptoms of some dreaded capitalistic disease, and prefer to homogenize production of like wares so that no one body of persons may profit from personalizing the fruits of their labor. This is the stance of the “market abolitionist”. Most see the idiocy in such a stance, but we can understand the justice of decentralized logos by contrasting their purpose to the purpose of a signature. When a painter finishes painting a picture, they sign their name in the bottom right corner, so that other people know who painted it. Either for interests of posterity or profitability, it is of use to link a product to the identity of it’s producer. If that was not permitted to occur, you would never know just who to consult to reciprocate a service you preferred from them, by virtue of their talent. It is in this light, notice, that we ascertain a distinction between the market and capitalism. Keep this distinction in mind for later discussions on the subject in order that nobody conflates the two in some “package deal”.

Conformity is not the problem, despite drawing the short straw from the hand of preferred human tendencies. Most “evil empires” throughout history have been evidenced by their rigid adherence to codes of their invention, codes pertaining to behavior and uniform. This sort of conformity may be lamented for what edicts it is conforming to – for example, ethnic genocide or blitzkrieg. But the evil does not lie within the existence of conformity, rather the essence. If every human being conformed to the edict “never murder”, for example, there would be no murder. So it is misleading to assert the inferiority of conformity in contrast to absolute liberty. Conformity is natural, if anything can claim to be “natural(see next paragraph). Monkey see, monkey do.

Human nature (ie. popular tendency) is not the problem. Often, in an argument, a person will desperately attempt to supplant prescription with description. This is a fallacy of relevance, known as the naturalistic fallacy. Much the same disastrous course is pursued when a prediction is offered up in place of a prescription. This is usually diagnosable as some version of the slippery slope fallacy, but only time and testing will tell. For example, if I were to assert that coercive government should be eliminated, my opponent might respond with: “without government, there will be mass murder!”. This is akin to saying: “without color, there will be mass blue!”. But besides that much, is not an argument, rather a vague forecast of some sort, whose veracity is indiscernible in the absence of legitimate attempt of experiment. Human nature is a favorite rallying point for social conservatives, who believe the current status quo is the best one by virtue of the fact that they were born within the temporal extent of it’s domain. The social conservative was pro-slavery during slavery’s time, anti-suffrage during the time that males exclusively monopolized democratic participation, and the epitome of the epithet reactionary during the French revolution, despite the injustices committed in it’s name.

Technology is not the problem. Currently. In the event a technological singularity arises and attempts to destroy, enslave, or deceive the human race, that may change. But technology (derived from the Greek, “the study of skill”) as a whole is no threat to anyone. It has become minorly popular to preach primitivism, which rejects all technology and advocates a regression from all civilization. If you ever see this preaching upon a computer screen, or even a piece of paper, know that the preacher (like most religious preachers) is a hypocrite. They are not practicing what they preach. In the words of a less hypocritical primitivist, the Cynic Diogenes, “Those who have virtue always in their mouths, and neglect it in practice, are like a harp, which emits a sound pleasing to others, while itself is insensible of the music.” The only technologies that bear beratement are those that threaten to be employed as coercive governance.

H-bombs, for example. You can’t have everyone walking around with a button that, if pressed, launches a nuke into some inhabited country. While the preservation of such a world, for as long as it exists, may be the defining evidence of Utopia, Utopia is impossible and largely undesirable. Technology must be handled intelligently, so that a person is at liberty to reduce the burden of their efforts however they can to achieve whatever goal they wish, as long as that goal is not coercive.

Logic, reason, and rationality are not the problem. Occasionally, you will run across a surrealist, or perhaps a Dadaist, who bloviates in opposition to these saviors of good sense and sense itself. A rejection of logic is also a rejection of language, because language is predicated upon conception in coordination with the law of identity. Therefore, surrealism cannot in any way, shape, or form, be refuted by dialogue. Thus, I possess no duty to explain any statement of truth I ever make. Because I’m not bound by the obligation to prove what I say, Reason is good, because reason is bad. I win.

God, or the belief that a God exists, is not the problem. Personally, I do not believe in God, and I would not believe anything a God told me if I ever met one. God knows Gods have enough incentive to lie, God forbid we ever believe them. God is not to ever be confused with religion. That is what Einstein did, describing his spiritual inclination as a “religious feeling”. He denied he possessed a personal God, yet denied that he was an atheist. I have bad news for Einstein, he’s either one of the above, or a surrealist. The lack of a personal God (he believed in Spinoza’s God) is pantheism, which like it or not, is ATHEISM. Naturalistic pantheism is atheism in the same way that a picture of a cup is at once a picture of a cup and two faces at the same time. It depends upon what you want to label “God”, the black (nothing), or the white (everything). So the verdict is still out on Einstein’s theology, but either way he claimed a position of agnosticism, so he gets off easy no matter which theological truth turns out to be correct. Anyway, God is not the problem because he flat out doesn’t affect anything. Belief in God is not the problem because a belief doesn’t affect anyone but the believer, at least intrinsically. Sure, plenty of religious idiots have oppressed and killed nonbelievers. But that is not the result of their theism, it is a result of the religion their theism justifies. In the same way that we would not punish a schizophrenic for his schizophrenia, we should not punish a theist for their theism. And to those that think it impolite to draw a comparison of the two – when you talk to God, it’s prayer. When God talks to you, it’s schizophrenia. Regardless, belief in God hurts nobody, so stop being anti-theist and become anti-religion instead.

Cultural nationalism is not the problem. Nations are not the same thing as States, so there is no coercion implied in the idea of separate nations. The vast majority of nationalists, unfortunately, support some form of statism, when it is in fact anarchism they should be turning to. Anarchists support the liberty of anyone to disassociate themselves from anyone else, for any reason whatsoever. If the certain members of the white race want to live only with other white people, that’s perfectly fine. That’s why anarchists support the elimination of borders, so that people can travel where and when they want without fear of restriction or retribution. Other strains of nationalism (political nationalism, or state nationalism) must be opposed, but only insofar as they are Statist and coercive.

The market is not the problem. Defined broadly, (and accurately) a market is any location where goods or services are traded on trust of reciprocity. This is NOT capitalism. It is the market. There is a huge difference. To oppose markets is to either oppose locations (a kind of surrealism), or to oppose trade (a kind of stupidity). Trade, being consensual in all cases, but the case of accepting contractual obligations beyond your preference by necessity of acquiring food to avoid starvation, is not wrong. So I believe it is exceedingly obvious that markets are, by and large, a good thing.

Violence is not the problem. Most people, who lack a clarity of language demanded by the shrewd and deliberate, use the word violence to additionally denote coercion. This is perhaps the most widely accepted “package deal” in existence. For example, when Steven Pinker describes the “decline of violence” to coincide with the formation of nation-states, the example he provides is not violent, it is coercive. Cat-burning is not anymore violent than skipping down the sidewalk, but it’s a great deal more coercive. Obviously if a cat doesn’t want to be burned, it would be coercive to burn it. That’s the definition of coercion! Violence on the other hand, occurs anywhere and everywhere. Just consider the egregious amount of violence occurring elsewhere in the universe, like on Venus, where lightning arcs through the sky constantly and volcanoes erupt on a regular basis. Once we understand the distinction between violence and coercion, we can realize that while a professional wrestling match might be violent, it isn’t coercive.

Discrimination is not the problem. Discrimination is a synonym for “personal judgement”. When I say prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla ice cream, I am discriminating. The words “sexual discrimination” entail a bit of a social stigma, but the fact remains that almost every person sexually discriminates. Are you heterosexual, but not homosexual? Are you homosexual, but not heterosexual? Then you sexually discriminate! Discrimination is a liberty that nobody can deny, as long as it does not entail coercion. For example, lynching a black person because you take offense at the color of their skin is coercive and wrong. But telling a black person not to talk to you because you take offense at the color of their skin is not coercive, and not wrong.

It doesn’t matter which race, gender, hair color, eye color, or shirt color you base your judgements on, the justice (or lack thereof) is the same.

Affluence is not the problem. Excessive affluence may be a symptom of the problem, but it is not the problem. For example, Bill Gates popularized the personal computer and is now filthy rich thanks to his efforts. He, at least arguably, has earned his affluence justly. However, his daughter, who did not do anything, shares in his excessive affluence. Is this wrong? No. But it sure looks wrong if we look around and see other sons and daughters starving to death every single day because of their brutal poverty. It sure looks wrong in comparison, does it not? Why should one person inherit the liberty to live healthily, and not another, who just happened (by pure chance) to be born somewhere else? The demand for equality of affluence at the outset of a person’s life is called the demand for equality of opportunity. But it should instead be called the demand for affluence of opportunity, because that better embodies the motivation behind it’s adoption. Obviously two starving people possess equal oppurtunity, but they are in no way affluent, the true end-goal of any theory devised to better the lives of it’s adherants.

Altruism is not the problem. Altruism, as a tendency, is a concern for the welfare of others. This is far from problematic, as long as the golden rule is rejected. The golden rule is “treat others as you would like to be treated”. This sounds foolproof, but how would a masochist get along in such an ethic? He might end up whipping people for the fact that he likes to be whipped, or any other perverse thing. To quote George Bernard Shaw: “Do not do unto others as you expect they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.” So it is not altruism that is the problem, rather the assumption that a person prefers what they do not in fact prefer – which is stubborn stupidity at best, imposed governance at worst.

Egoism is not the problem. While there are many forms of egoism, all egoism boils down to the importance of the self. It can be simplified, in contrast to altruism, that you should “treat yourself as you would like to be treated”. So the immediate question must be raised, again - how does a masochist like to be treated? It depends upon what you mean by “like”. Bodily likes, like the like of being free of pain, would deny the masochist their liberty to do to themselves what they wish. A masochist’s body likes health and pleasure, but a masochist’s mind likes depriving their body of that enjoyment. So egoism is not the problem, as long as every person’s mind is at liberty to decide what it is they like, even if it is in opposition to what most people like.

Evolution, it’s existance or it’s failure, is not the problem. Generally, the only people you will hear bitching about evolution are the people who think that it doesn’t happen – the ignorant – and the people who think that it has stopped happening – the idiotic.

Evolution happens. Everything from the hip bones on a whale to the coloring of a person’s skin to the arisal of a new virus proves this. There are more transitional fossils available than you can shake a stick at, some of which are walking around on Earth as we speak (yes, you are a transtional fossil). I’m not going to go into a professional dissertation on the subject, but the fact that humans are apes does not in any way invalidate morality. It doesn’t lower humans to the standards of chimps. On the contrary, it raises chimps to the standards of humans, in that any valid moral theory must not be “speciesist” – applying to one species only. On the other side of the fence, there are social Darwnists clamoring on about how letting evolution go unregulated is the same as “devolution”. “Devolution” is as invented and arbitrary a concept as “deceleration”, but no social Darwinist seems to recognize this. Evolution means “change”, as long as things are still changing, they’re still evolving. So even if things are changing for the worse, it’s not a liscense for you to advocate genocide or negative eugenics because you think people are too stupid to take responsibility for themselves. Some of us can take responsibility for ourselves, and we’re damn sick of you shifting the blame for those who won’t onto biological theories you have nothing to do with.

Sexuality is not the problem. Despite Christianity’s best aspirations, people are still having unregulated sex, and even worse, enjoying it. You have to stop and really wonder about a society that gets all up in arms, ready to prosecute someone, over this:

(boobies during the superbowl)

But doesn’t blink twice at this:

(David, the famous sculpture)

So what if one happens in a fancy museum and the other during the halftime show of some football game? It’s not like something gets more acceptable as it gets less exposure (and David, to his credit, has had some exposure). Religion has been the driving force behind conflating body parts with sex, and sex with immorality, neither of which is true. And once the vast majority of religions have been refuted and disestablished, it is likely their restrictive non-morality will die with them. If people do not possess sexual liberty (or even non-sexual liberties like the ability to walk around topless), they are being oppressed. So, it is an understatement to say that sexuality isn’t the problem. The belief that sexuality is a problem, is the problem.

Obscenity is not the problem. In much the same way that sexuality is not the problem, since obscene things are mostly sexual things. However, death and extremely gory violence is also considered obscene. In most cases, the “gory violence” is only detestable because gory violence so rarely occurs with the unbridled consent of all participants. But if it were to, who could object? Obscenity also applies to words. I present the famous Milwaukee seven, out of respect for the recently deceased comedic genius George Carlin, and to make a point: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. See? Nobody got hurt. Nobody died. And at the end of the day, nobody cares. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is obscenity, so fuck you.

Rational authority, or consensual government, is not the problem. Rational authority is the authority of an expert on some subject. For example, if the experts on climate change warn us to beware of our carbon emmisions, we would do well for the longevity of ourselves and our children to listen to them. Similarly, if we have no idea how to rock climb, it’s in our conditional interest to obey what the veteran climber has to say about keeping our footing – at least as long as we don’t want to fall to our deaths. Obeying the rock climber when he or she tells you to reposition your feet against the cliff face, and obeying the rock climber when he or she tells you not to curse, is the difference between rational and irrational authority. It is rational to obey the rock climber in regards to rock climbing, but it is not rational to obey them in regard to what language you employ to communicate (as long as you are communicating). The inability to distinguish between these two forms of authority is a defining trait of an authoritarian – someone who obeys any given authority at their discretion and expects others to obey them, categorically.

Civilization is not the problem. Aspects of civilization may be, but not civilization itself. For example, States only occur within civilization, and as coercive entities in conflict with on another, they enact arbitrary laws restricting actions which should not be restricted just for the fact that they occur. For example, many States punish homosexuality with death. This is disgusting, so States should be abandoned for the imaginary bullshit they are. But that does not mean all civilization has to be abandoned. Roads and medicine and libraries are all functionally good things, they aren’t hurting anyone by themselves. So society can keep them, and if we personally don’t like them, we have a wonderful option at our disposal – don’t use them.

Hatred (or lack of love) is not the problem. If somebody deliberately murders one of your family members, it would make sense to hate that person. That is not to say that it would make sense to murder them in return – that would just create a neverending cycle of familial strife. But it would make enough sense to justify removing them from society and attempting to rehabilitate them. Hatred is the necessary antagonist of love, without one we would never really know the other. So to go on endlessly about the power of love and peace and flowers is a bunch of hippie bullshit. Sure, you think it’s great. But I’ve got a right to hate whoever I want because I want and there’s not a thing you can do about it. Until my hate manifests in a coercive action, I am guiltless, goddamn it.

Greed (or lack of generosity) is not the problem. Greed is always bandied about like either a sin or a sacrament, it has a polarizing effect. Either it is wonderful and perfect and improves society, or is a detriment to the whole Earth. Neither of these denigrations of the phenomenon are correct. Greed is personal. If my aim in life is to live in a huge mansion with personal servants, it says nothing about my respect for justice if I accomplish this feat. As long as my servants aren’t being forced by hunger or human hand to serve me, they serve me voluntarily. As long as I harm nobody and earned my mansion through my own labor and it’s product that I peaceably traded for the product of someone else’s, my greed for that mansion has hurt nobody. So greed – the emotion, the impulse, or the desire – is not wrong or flawed. It just raises the stakes, so to speak.

Chaos or rage is not the problem. Many “doves” who desire peace apparantly haven’t given much thought to the word. For them, peace is “package deal” that includes liberty and tranquility. But if liberty allows violence, how can peace be the solution by ruling it out? Chaos is not a requirement in anarchy, contrary to what most politicians would have you believe, but it certainly remains an option. Daredevils and bohemians, who refuse to submit to an ethic of “tranquility” reject peace as a virtue. Peace is just passivity in purple robes, and if peace comes at the end of a stick, I’d be enraged. Most people refer to any period between wars as peace, but how can that be peace when it’s so rarely peaceful? Lots of good things aren’t peaceful. Sex isn’t peaceful, sport isn’t peaceful, space travel isn’t peaceful, and heated debate isn’t peaceful. These things are loud, competitive, active, and energetic. In a word, chaotic. So while the word peace retains a definition of passivity and the connotation of liberty, we must explicitly identify which we merely permit and which we unabashedly demand.

Illicit substance is not the problem. In the USA, a person can be drafted to fight and die in war, but be punished for lifting a bottle of beer to their lips. It is oppression whose method of operation goes by the name of ageist prohibition. Sure, it’s wrong to force-feed alcohol to a toddler, because it’s equivalent to poisoning a person. But after the mind has developed into the teen years, why does prohibition still exist? You might argue it has to do with the number of deaths every year that occur as a result of motor vehicles and alcohol. Well, if 1/3 of car accidents involve alcohol, wouldn’t it mean 2/3 DON’T involve alcohol, and wouldn’t in then mean that the majority of car accidents have nothing to do with alcohol? Yes, it would, at least if logic means anything. So why do groups like MADD go on and on about alcohol when they should be going on and on about good old fashioned bad driving? Because they’re a bunch of prohibitionists! That’s why. If we started removing bad drivers from the road at the rate we removed people whose BAC was .01 over the legal limit, there would probably be a lot fewer accidents. But we don’t do that. This argument applies to any other substance you can name. Cocaine, marijuanna, all of them. If a person is allowed to lift weights, but must have a “spotter” nearby to make sure the weights don’t fall onto their neck and choke them to death (it happens), why don’t we legalize all the rest of the drugs and require spotters for drug users? Because that might put some reputability back into the profession, people would have to start accepting the consequences of their actions, the economy might start moving a little faster, and it would overall be the more intelligent decision. That’s why we don’t do it.

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