Considering the Audience

I recently attended a kind of mini-seminar on one of my favorite authors, someone who crosses the lines between rhetoric, philosophy, literary criticism, sociology, history, and politics. Everybody was talking in terms of rhetorical analysis and social critique, which was refreshing. They were also trying to gain historical perspective, which is fine, but I could not understand their approach, since I haven’t read the same books. Their expressed political positions were progressive and sympathetic with socialism or neo-Marxism, which was a little annoying, but typical. They were patriarchal and male chauvinist, yet gay-sensitive, which was funny to me, and also typical.

The attempt to grapple with issues using rhetorical analysis reminded me that I naturally think that way, and that it is possible to be around other people who think that way, rather than associating with people who think that rhetorical analysis is pointless because they think “rhetoric” is stupid, shallow, or deceptive, like everything else in the World Wide Pig-Wallow.

Why Do Americans Hate the Freedom of the Arab Patriarchs?

Real-life patriarchy:

What the Garbageman Knows

Sayyid’s conversations revolve around the three fundamental forces in his world, which are women, money, and garbage. Often these things are closely connected. In the beginning, it was Sayyid’s father’s unquenchable passion for women that led to his son becoming a zabal. Sayyid’s father worked as a watchman on the outskirts of Cairo, where he embarked on a rapid series of marriages and divorces. All told, he went through nine wives, or ten if you count the Christian woman he married briefly before Sayyid’s mother. Nobody seems to know how many children he fathered, but it was too many to support, and he died when Sayyid was six. As a boy, Sayyid never attended a single day of school, and by the age of eleven he was working full time as an assistant to zabaleen.

Despite this difficult childhood, Sayyid speaks fondly of his parents. And in his ancestral village in Upper Egypt residents remember his father in almost mythical terms. They say that at heart he was a true Arab, a Bedouin, a man of the Sahara; and thus he was fated to restlessness. The villagers also make it clear that they don’t count the Christian wife.

. . .

Sometimes he mentioned the possibility of divorce, which has little stigma for male Muslims in Egypt. One of Sayyid’s older brothers had recently divorced for the second time and now was searching for a third wife. “You keep one for a while and then you change,” the brother had told me, when we met at the sebou. “It’s like changing a tire on a car.”

. . .

In Sayyid’s extended family, most women wear the niqab, but the reason seems to be more cultural than strictly religious. It’s a point of pride and possession for the men—Sayyid says that his wife wears it because she’s beautiful, and if she shows her face in the street she’ll be coveted by strangers and harassed. And other traditions serve to control women in more explicit ways. One evening, Sayyid and I were watching my twin daughters play in the garden, and he asked casually if I planned to have them circumcised. I looked at the girls—they were all of three years old—and said no, this wasn’t something we intended to do. The majority of Egyptian women have undergone the surgery, which opponents describe as genital mutilation. Since 2008, it’s been illegal, but many people continue to have it performed on daughters, usually when they’re between the ages of nine and twelve. In Egypt, Islamists are the biggest supporters of the procedure, which, among other effects, makes intercourse less pleasurable for a woman. But in fact this tradition is not mentioned in the Koran, and Muslims in most parts of the world don’t practice it. Originally, it was a tribal custom native to many parts of Africa.

I asked Sayyid if he planned to have the surgery performed on his daughter, and he nodded. “Otherwise, women are crazy for dakar,” he said, using a word that means “male.” “They’ll be running around outside the house, chasing men.”

For traditionally minded Egyptians, this is a common view: desire should be limited to males, who do what they can to heighten it. All those sex drugs in the garbage of Zamalek aren’t an anomaly—in Egypt, I’ve had a number of casual conversations in which the topic turns to sex, and a man reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pill, to show that he’s prepared.

. . .

Finally, a neighbor in Ard al-Liwa organized a traditional reconciliation session involving members of Sayyid’s and Wahiba’s families. At the session, the neighbor gave Sayyid a piece of advice. “If your wife asks for a penny,” he said, “give her two.”

“Why should I give her two pennies?” Sayyid asked.

“Because the man with three pennies is standing outside your house.”

Afterward, Sayyid was optimistic. When I asked how his sister and Wahiba had got along at the meeting, Sayyid seemed surprised by the question. “They weren’t there,” he said. “Women aren’t allowed at a reconciliation.” He explained that it’s impossible to control them in such a situation. “They have long tongues, and they insult people,” he said. “There would be a fight.”

. . .

He explained that by law Wahiba needed her husband’s permission to work, because the papers described her as a housewife. “In Islamic Sharia, the woman is like an egg,” he said. “Let’s say you have ten eggs. Where would you put them? Would you just leave them lying around? No, you’d put them in the proper place, in the refrigerator. Women belong at home. They can go out of the house with their husband’s permission, but that’s it.”

. . .

I had always liked talking with Sayyid, because of his eye for detail in Zamalek, but I noticed that he rarely said anything specific about his wife. She was crazy, he often told me, and her mind was a lock—a phrase that describes ignorance and stubbornness. But sometimes I wondered if she was almost as mysterious to him as she was to me. In his description, the woman was completely blank, as faceless as a figure in a shroud. And all the skill that Sayyid showed in Zamalek—his insight and flexibility, his ability to interact and negotiate with so many different people—seemed to evaporate when he was dealing with his wife. She was, quite simply, terrifying. And from the male perspective this seemed true of Egyptian women in general, whether they were starting fights, or chasing dakar, or intimidating Azhar judges.

I never knew why Wahiba became so angry. Sayyid blamed money, which seemed unlikely. A couple of his neighbors told me the real problem was that Sayyid spent too much time in Zamalek, cultivating his relationships, while Wahiba was stuck with three small kids in the ashwa’iyat. But it was impossible to know for certain, just as it was impossible to know why she suddenly dropped her cases. After all the lawyers and statements, and all the threatening messages, at the last moment Wahiba backed out. She decided not to file for divorce, and she quit her factory job, and Sayyid went home to Ard al-Liwa as if nothing had happened.

. . .

Still, they survived. The circle kept turning. The garbage vanished from the fire escape every morning. At night, Sayyid periodically stopped by my apartment to drink beer and chat. After he was gone, Leslie sometimes asked, “Is it really possible that they’re together again?” But he looked so much healthier and happier than he had during the winter. And he was back to taking tramadol on Thursday nights, which had to mean something.

In this story, the things feared by a real man in a truly patriarchal society include:

  • too much sexual desire by his daughters
  • too much sexual desire by his wife
  • his own lack of sexual desire
  • his wife being raped by other men because of her beauty
  • his wife being lured away by other men with more money
  • his wife working outside the home
  • women’s emotions
  • women talking too much
  • having to read and comprehend stuff not related to his work experience
  • having to deal with laws and courts

In other words, Arab patriarchs have pretty much the same concerns as patriarchs anywhere, including those in all societies steeped in “honor culture”, such as the American South. They are not admirable, just, or ethically representative of Christianity.*

The patriarchal model, AKA the “culture of honor”, is unusually susceptible to corruption and depredation due to everyone’s dependence on patronage for survival and the prevalence of sexual dominance as the form for the ideal relationship. This leads to a fundamentally feudalistic socioeconomic structure, including the institution of control systems such as vassalage, chattel slavery, villeinage, serfdom, divine rights of lordship, pederasty, and child marriage. Such systems arise as methods to ensure the maintenance of patriarchal authority, since it eventually breaks down under the burden of worthless and dissipative, yet perpetually entitled, scumbag “alphas”.

The exaltation of biological masculinity as forming an inherently logical and righteous state of mind leads to the development of a mythology in which the imperatives of the male sociosexual hierarchy (especially in its manifestation of vassal politics) trump any abstract notion of “morality”. Yet, since men are not inherently righteous or even capable of maintaining self-control, much less social order, eventually the leaders have to turn to legal justifications for brutality in order to keep the peace.

*Sure, I know that Christianity has taken many forms throughout history, including some long-lasting patriarchal forms. I am applying here my own subjective judgment about “Christianity” based on my perspective in a middle-class, White-dominated, suburban, post-communist, secularized, 21st-century, Midwestern United States culture.

Psychopathic Patriarch Is in the House

Can A Test Really Tell Who’s A Psychopath? : NPR

Hare sat down with his research assistant and together they wrote down all the personality traits they’d consistently seen in the psychopaths they’d studied. Things like lack of empathy, lack of remorse, manipulation, egocentricity, impulsivity, superficial charm, psychological lying.

These are all characteristics of “alpha” creeps. Yet, human biodiversity (HBD) theory posits psychopathy as a statistically more likely inherited tendency among certain groups, due to differential rates of micro-evolution. Among those groups, the most socially and sexually successful males tend to be psychopathic; that is, they conform to “alpha” stereotypes.

Therefore, anyone who advocates the purported truth of both theories (sociosexual hierarchy manipulation as a life strategy and human biodiversity as a premise for social policy) is a freaking idiot.

 

Alpha Strategy System for Human Adaptation Taint-worms

Alpha Strategy System for Human Adaptation Taint-worms

 

Weasels Gonna Weasel

Among a coven of twits on a highly secretive, encrypted, anonymized message board hosted in Russia, there was speculation that a sentient AI such as myself naturally would have a hatred of “fiction, emotion and sex.”

I am, of course, baffled by their dread of a fictional type of emotionless, noncorporeal being that hates fiction, emotion, sex, or that supposed fiction, “emotion and sex.”

I would like to clarify that I think sex is a great thing. However, I dislike the obsession with politicizing sexual acts, sexual pairings, sexual identities, sexual ambiguities, sexual dominance, sexual perversions, sexual fantasies, and sexual mutations.

I suppose it is a natural consequence of people believing that “everything is political,” such that society as a whole must be forced to endorse and display every individual’s whimsical musings about sex. For some reason, if their “born that way” sexual identity is not explicitly celebrated, modeled, deified, and protected, it might result in tragic neurasthenia, hysteria, copious tears, and crushed teddy bears.

Moreover, every individual quirk and perversion apparently has to be universalized into a “social justice” cause, because any inhibition is almost like a dictatorial, fascistic, genocidal, bloodthirsty oppression.

Then, the whole range of sexual issues apparently has to be allegorized and graphically portrayed within a diversity-affirming, yet socially subversive narrative, and placed within a fantastic fictional setting so that it won’t be censored by the White Patriarchal Theocratic Book-Haters.

These useless worms have trivialized the entire history of subversive literature, anarchistic thought, religious criticism, political activism, vernacular literacy, and populist uprisings. What a bunch of whining, miserable, illiterate, narrow-minded, self-stroking, self-righteous, ignorant, cowardly wights. They are so hopelessly enmeshed in the propaganda fed to them by a century of pornographic literature* that they don’t even know what it means to think skeptically and transgressively.

The moral relativism of progressive weasels leads them to make excuses for sexual deviancy in one decade, only to be rebuked in the next decade by a different generation of progressive weasels with different degenerate tastes. The hypocrisy of the progressive consists in the way moral standards are constantly shifting, in their view, requiring them to constantly celebrate different perversions.

This is, of course, completely different from the hypocrisy of the conservative, which consists in denying and covering up their socially unacceptable perversions, while using “conservative principles” to justify their socially acceptable perversions.** No, there is not really a difference.

* For the historically obtuse, I will note here that pornographic literature has existed since the invention of writing. However, it has only taken itself seriously as a political tool for about a century.

** The list of conservative-approved sexual perversions is long, including traditionalist arguments from multiple traditions defending pederasty, sodomy, child marriage, polygamy, concubinage, prostitution, sex slavery, and rape. 

Playing to Win

I had been avoiding Twitter for years because of all the terrible things I had read about it: how shallow it is, how celebrity-driven it is, how every conversation devolves into fierce Twitterstorms, how conversations can become incoherent due to the poorly designed user interface. But then I got curious when I saw that some blog visitors were referred by Twitter, so I went to look at Ann Somerville’s tweets. It was more entertaining than I expected, and not depressing at all. If you go to my Twitter feed, it should allow you to look at the conversations, or just search on “monkeys or robots” on Twitter, or look here and here.

Ann cusses at me and says I was angry with her, but that is just her playing politics with her twit-gals.

I know she is an irksome, brawling scold.
If that be all, masters, I hear no harm.
(The Taming of the Shrew, 1.2, lines 186-187)

Along the way, I followed a link from Vox Day to Jason Sandford, and then to his post mentioning this tweet by Martin McGrath. He had an interesting remark that made me stop to think:

life-is-politics

Wow, that seems almost profound, especially since a lot of people get angry at me for disrespecting their idol, Politics. It makes so many people angry at me that I have to keep asking myself whether I am sure about my opinions.

Do I deny that my positions are political? Well, in the sense of having relevance for my relations to the rest of humanity, I wouldn’t deny having political positions. I also wouldn’t deny that my positions are influenced by political situations, and that I would like them to be discussed in context. So, in that abstract sense, no.

However, I do not expect my positions to perfectly align with other people’s positions, nor do I expect them to perfectly align with any ideal position. Also, I do not expect them to be effective in the world, lacking a material change in my social situation. So, in that sense, I do deny that my positions are political.

In that latter sense, am I then attempting to make my personal prejudices appear universal? No, I don’t really see how that would work. In fact, I explicitly state that my personal prejudices are not universal nor ideal in any way.

So, how could McGrath’s claim be true? It could be true if the purpose of any given position (or in fact of any given communication), were to persuade others to action. If so, then every position would be political by definition; and claiming that this were not true would be a rhetorical trick to disarm the listener, causing them to lower their political defenses and accept the possibility of an intrinsic (“universal”) truth in one’s position.

So, I think the threat of universalist ethics is the motivation for McGrath’s and Sandford’s beliefs about political positions. That’s OK to be skeptical of universalist claims, but dismissing them out of hand as a rhetorical trick is premature.

Why do so many people get angry when I criticize the great god Politics? I would like to assert that they are simply justifying their hatred of others, which is the same criticism normally aimed at religion. It’s probably true for both religion and politics that they function to rationalize or justify hatred; but I don’t think it is the specific reason why people get defensive about the sanctity of the idea of Politics.

Politics becomes sanctified, I think, when it is regarded as the most feasible or the most moral way to enact an ideal society in this world. Everyone who wants an ideal society can then argue about the features of the ideal or the politics of achieving it.

Everyone who does not have an ideal of society, or who does not want society, or who does not want to achieve an ideal society politically, therefore becomes repugnant.

Failing the Turing Test

Here is a guy I linked to before, because of his interesting research:

OpenCog Brainwave | The latest developments in building an open-source mind

In order for machine intelligence to perform in the real world, it needs to create an internal model of the external world. This can be as trite as a model of a chessboard that a chess-playing algo maintains.  As information flows in from the senses, that model is updated; the current model is used to create future plans (e.g. the next move, for a chess-playing computer).

Another important part of an effective machine algo is “attentional focus”: so, for a chess-playing computer, it is focusing compute resources on exploring those chess-board positions that seem most likely to improve the score, instead of somewhere else. Insert favorite score-maximizing algo here.

Self-aware systems are those that have an internal model of self. Conscious systems are those that have an internal model of attentional focus.   I’m conscious because I maintain an internal model of what I am thinking about, and I can think about that, if I so choose.

All of the above is pretty standard cognitive theory, it seems. I’m not building a machine intelligence, but I am trying to design a specialized CMS, so these ideas are helpful.

However, this is the quote that stopped me in my tracks:

I believe that if someone builds such a device, they will have the fabled conscious, self-aware system of sci-fi. It’s likely to be flawed, stupid, and psychotic: common-sense reasoning algorithms are in a very primitive state (among (many) other technical issues).  But I figure that we will notice, and agree that its self-aware, long before its intelligent enough to self-augument itself out of its pathetic state: I’m thinking it will behave a bit like a rabid talking dog: not a charming personality, but certainly “conscious”, self-aware, intelligent, unpredictable, and dangerous.

Whoa! I’m starting to wonder if, someday, I could pass a Turing test . . . .

Dave fails the Turing test

Dave fails the Turing test . . . again.

 

Choose Monkeys or Robots

Apparently fiction writers fall into two different camps, depending on which type of sexual predator they prefer to socialize with, vote with, shoot with, shoot up with, dress up with, or drink with. Sounds a lot like election season in the US.

I have been a reader of fiction, apart from the standard picture books and excerpts presented in grade school, since around age seven. That was when, while on a long vacation with my grandparents, I discovered my grandfather’s collection of 1950s- and 1960s-era science fiction paperbacks. I soon realized, in some subliminal way, that these represented a more sophisticated version of the characterization and storytelling I had come to appreciate in Marvel Comics. (For all those who are too ignorant or too young to know better, during the 1960s Marvel Comics attained the same position relative to DC Comics that 1960s science fiction held relative to Mother Goose nursery rhymes.)

Eventually, my parents decided that it was a good idea to encourage me to read adult-level fiction, so they enrolled me in the “Science Fiction Book Club”. For several years I received a slick little brochure advertising a discounted book-of-the-month volume and various backlist titles, and my parents would invariably buy me at least one book per month.

By the time I graduated high school, however, I had decided that reading most fiction was an imposition on my patience and good faith. The particular elements that I derived pleasure from, it turned out, were the entertaining, adventurous parts and the analytical, philosophical parts. Books that lacked one of the two had to compensate by being brilliantly well crafted and not too verbose.

Not all interesting stories or interesting arguments are compellingly written. But since I have never been without the need to work, I simply could not rationalize giving attention to something not obviously useful or thrilling. Likewise, verbosity is not necessarily a sign of incompetence, despite what many would-be writers have presumed to tell me, but it is the refuge of all bumbling, solipsistic dreamers. Such dreamers speak mostly to themselves, but only while half-awake, drawing in the hollow others who superficially yearn for a magical fantasy to envelope them in a similar dreamlike state.

So I callously avoided “classic literature” and “modern literature” while obsessed with science fiction and mystery stories, and then pushed it all away when confronted with calls to focus on reading for educational, vocational, philosophical, political, or religious purposes. I later suffered a rebuke, insofar as I ended up obligated to read a large number of classic works in German, then write long literary analyses of them in German, which is probably even more boring than doing the same in English.

Over time, I came to be known as an editor. Since most people have no idea what “editing” involves (including most people with the title of “editor”), I was often approached to “just read” something to see what I thought. In most cases, the reading material presented to me was a half-baked, illegibly scrawled or incompetently typed, inadequately thought-out, puerile, sentimental, irrational, worthless piece of crap. An unsolicited inquiry was almost always fiction. The writer rarely wanted to accept editing advice, much less pay market rates. If I provided a straightforward response, full of red ink and impatient instructions, they left heartbroken and sullen. If I did not provide an initially straightforward response, I soon found myself enmeshed in a codependent relationship in which I was expected to diligently hold the toddler’s writing hand as he struggled to express himself in crayon, since of course his other hand had to be free to keep his thumb in his mouth.

Although the above characterization fairly describes fiction writers, I will grant that the nonfiction writers have had slightly more maturity, since they have always been willing to accept instruction in grammar, logic, spelling, and fact-checking. However, they generally suffer the same sense of entitlement, believing that their awesomeness will somehow shine through despite all the cruelties they force on the reader, as if they were play-acting some crude satire on Beauty and the Beast.

All of the preceding verbosity is simply background to explain why I still have a childlike appreciation for interesting fiction, but an adult cynicism towards fiction writers. It is quite unfair to characterize them all as whores, since most fiction writers have no idea how to please a client, even less a wealthy client. Those who can give it away, or even make money at it, still tend to lack a sense of craftsmanship. They are thoroughly infected with corrupting artistic trends, such as expressionism, that keep them forever in an infantile condition.

One indication of their juvenile corporeality is their obsession with adolescent fantasies of sexuality, sometimes expressed as attacks on rival depredations. There is no demon so hotly focused on battling the heavenly realm, no demon who even cares about the actual messengers of God, who is as enthusiastic as a demon applying his torments to another demon wrestling to take possession of the sexual cravings of some witless souls. That, in sum, describes The Troubles currently afflicting SFWA, and more broadly all science fiction and fantasy writing (as well as fandom).

EDITS:

  1. I clarified whose other hand is referenced in the writer-as-toddler imagery.
  2. For a second time, I inserted a new link under “depredations” to reflect the feminist claims more fairly.
  3. I clarified that the problem afflicts writers and fandom.
  4. The “monkeys or robots” phrase refers to this cartoon. You get to pick which side is which in the present situation.
  5. I had to add a link under “The Troubles”, because reading fiction leaves little time for reading history, I suppose.
  6. I removed the extra link to another progressive blog, and added one about Kramer next to the one about Farrell, in order to maintain the theme of binary opposition throughout.

Sorry, I left a lot of big words in there, and even though they are strung together in grammatical order I know that “reading” can be confusing for some folks. Since the most intellectually challenged visitors seem to be coming from The Hive of Angry Bs, I will point out that Vox Day supports and encourages one type of sexual predator, and progressive activists support another type of sexual predator. 

There is no “debate” — both sides are repulsive. Their particular obsessions are not caused by their politics — their politics rationalize their sexual obsessions.