Possibly an Anarchist

Okay, Frankie T. has probably forgotten all about me after I got caught up with meatspace life and failed to deliver on my promise. Or maybe he’ll wander back over here to tell me how unsatisfactory and putrid I am no matter what I write.

I used to be very diligent about analyzing what people wrote, poring over every line like a tenth-grade English teacher and carefully responding to every point. I discovered that it is pointless to do that on other people’s blogs because either (a) they will treat me like a troll regardless, just because I am not stroking them hard enough and fast enough; or (b) they will complain that since I have not read all 10,000 posts they wrote over the last 15 years, I cannot possibly critique one particular post, and then they will treat me like a troll.

On this blog I tried to do the same careful analysis with a dimwit named Ed. He seemed so promising as a loyal adversary because he acted very sincere and knowledgeable, yet misguided. So I spent hours and weeks and months looking up all his citations, in print and on the web, through multiple library visits and Interlibrary Loan requests, only to discover that he was either brain-damaged or else alternately stupid and lying. I even boiled it down to a test case of a single claim from a single author, and he failed to pass The Atheist Test, that is, the standard test used by atheists to evaluate theists.

The Atheist Test is where I carefully consider your claim, and if I don’t think it is possible based on my personal gut feeling, I conclude that (a) whatever you claim to be true is false; (b) whatever you say is an attempt to manipulate and subjugate me; and (c) you are insane. So much for Ed.

I am not going to grant Frankie T. the free wash and wax like I implied, because I don’t actually care how misguided he is, or if he really is misguided at all. I’m just going to clarify what I wrote previously.

The main reason why I suspect that Frankie T. is wrong about Christian Anarchism is because he is in agreement with the majority of Christians. Any atheist who agrees with a majority of theists on a particular topic has some unexamined assumptions somewhere. It’s not my job to examine him if he can’t get his head out of his own assumptions.

On this page, I wrote an insufferably obsequious comment, which I will elaborate below.

Political hierarchy exists in this world to govern our behavior, perhaps even our thoughts, but it actually carries no metaphysical weight. It has no cosmic significance; it does not transcend human society in any way.

Therefore, all human political hierarchy is meaningless and will ultimately pass away; and I as a citizen of a transcendent kingdom am not subject to human political hierarchy at all.

The objection will be made by a Christian, although not by an atheist, that in fact God establishes authority on the earth to rule us, and we are to be subject to it so that we may enjoy peace and order while on earth.

I reply that I will suffer whatever consequences there may be for contravening authorities established on earth, since God has promised that I must.

However, I maintain that the law is for the lawless, whereas I have the law of Christ in my heart. I am not subject to the earthly principalities and powers; I am subject to the Lord alone. That, I maintain, is Christian Anarchism.

The Impossible Anarchist

Here is Tremblay thundering about the impossibility of Christian anarchism:

There is a system of thought called “Christian Anarchism,” which I have always tried to confront, despite a lot of reticence from other Anarchists to do so. It seems that they have some reverence for Christianity which prohibits them from realizing how absurd the idea of “Christian Anarchism” is. I put it in the same hole as “anarcho-capitalism”: just pure conceptual nonsense mascarading as a coherent ideology. . . .

It is impossible for the “Christian Anarchists” to come out of this dilemma without implicitly dropping either Christianity or Anarchism. Ideologically, it is a dead-end. It needs to be dropped and we must make clear that Anarchism is an ethical ideology with an ethical foundation which is diametrically opposite to that of Christianity.

Tremblay further clarifies the point here and here.

Of course, most Christians are in full agreement with Tremblay in saying that “Christian anarchism” is impossible. That is the main reason why I suspect the logic of his argument.

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

 

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.

Categorical Justice

MAD MEN: A diary about (and for) men who are mad about stuff

HOW MEN ARE (AND ARE NOT) OPPRESSED

For example, when some men angrily claim that, as a result of feminism, men are now being discriminated against, taken for granted, or otherwise victimized, those feelings are real but unjustified.  Simply put, women do not have the social power to oppress, subordinate, or discriminate against men.  Gender is a power relation.  Consult our nation’s history and see who has (and has had) the political, economic, legal, and cultural power.  And reflect on the following (from Politics of Reality, by Marilyn Frye):

Women are oppressed, as women.  Members of certain racial and/or economic groups and classes, both the males and females, are oppressed as members of those races and/or classes.  But men are not oppressed as men.

Think about that.  A radical feminist plainly acknowledges that men are oppressed.  Men can be oppressed because of economic class, race, sexual orientation, disability.  But men are not oppressed because they are men.  Being-a-man is not what causes anyone to be oppressed; a black man, a gay man, a poor man may be oppressed.  But they are not oppressed because they are men.

So, here the author is acknowledging an arbitrary definition of “social power” that includes baked-in oppression. The author carefully distinguishes individual and categorical oppression, implying a definition of social justice as a situation wherein someone may be oppressed for various reasons, but is not oppressed for being who she is categorically.

Analysis

The exact same circumstances of oppression could exist for the individual, or even for groups of individuals falling into certain categories, but if there is no universal experience of oppression within a given category (such as gender identity), then apparently there is “social justice” as relates to that category. The category itself is doubtless assumed to be mutable and dependent on the oppressed person’s identification.

It is all very much a game of social roles, subjective identification, feelings of oppression, ethical norms, etc. In other words, at base there is no regard for physical circumstance, physical characteristics, overt expressions, or codified law/policy. Even the perceptions of “oppressors” are not relevant, since they are presumed blind to their privilege.

The two criteria for social injustice are, apparently, (1) a feeling of being oppressed and (2) membership in a category defined as oppressed. Feeling oppressed without belonging to an oppressed category, although valid, is not considered to be socially unjust. Belonging to an oppressed category, yet not feeling oppressed, does not invalidate social injustice; rather, it calls for “consciousness raising” or an “awareness campaign” so that every member of the category will feel the oppression. So, really, the only necessary criteria is belonging to a category defined as oppressed.

Such categories are not permanent, as far as I have noticed. For example, around the turn of the 20th century Irish, Polish, Italian, and Spanish immigrants to the US would have been considered an oppressed category, because they were oppressed specifically due to their ethnic identity. Now that their ethnic identities have been mostly submerged into “Euro-American” identity, as long as their ethnic distinctions are not the subject of mass media scrutiny, the oppression meter reads pretty low for them in the US. They are the subject of jokes among themselves and other distinct ethnic groups, but hardly “oppressed” in any systematic way.

Jews, on the other hand, maintain some ethnic distinctions, and the mass media still scrutinizes them because of those distinctions. Therefore, the categorical distinction remains, along with debate over whether the particular distinctions confer advantages or disadvantages.

This post started out, however, with quotations about gender distinctions. The author of the quoted piece is absurdly naive. At least in the US, class distinctions supported by racial appearance overwhelmingly cancel out any kind of gender-based oppression. There is no poor black man in the US who will ever win out in a public dispute with a rich white woman.*

I have concluded that distinctions fluctuate and that everyone makes distinctions, and everyone will continue to make all kinds of distinctions, because it is the only way to survive in a society of more than a half dozen people. It is a kind of mental shorthand to deal with the vast amount of social knowledge involved with living in large groups. The distinctions vary in type, although as societies become more densely packed or more heavily trafficked, then the more obvious distinctions become more important, even if their superficiality makes them disconnected from proximate causes of behavior. Over time, “culture” comes to define most distinctions, although this term is not fixed in meaning.**

Oppression as a social justice issue concerns itself with distinctions that disadvantage entire categories. The task of social justice is to raise awareness about the categories and the oppression. Despite the way it is bolstered by stories of individual oppression, it is concerned mostly with the abstract process of defining categories, describing oppression, and publicizing the results of the inquiry.

Although policy objectives and individual remedies are sometimes pursued, they usually turn out to be inadequate, and the ultimate goal is widespread awareness.*** The awareness is supposed to lead to guilt in the oppressors and outrage in the oppressed.

Why am I concerned with these analytical definitions? Because I often feel sorry for people labeled as oppressed, and yet I am disgusted by the abstraction of the “social justice awareness” process. As it strays further and further from physical reality, or even genuine feelings, it becomes more remote from the actual human condition as well as the actual remedies for suffering. It becomes a cynical propaganda campaign; a salve for the wounded hearts of the “aware” members of the oppressor category; a false hope for members of the oppressed category; and a fake set of superficial stereotypes forced onto everyone.

In other words, social justice awareness becomes functionally indistinguishable from systematic oppression. The useless, empty-headed, self-righteous advocates for social justice eventually start to look just like the arrogant, reflexively self-righteous, angry jerks they are opposing. Because politics makes everyone dumber, and the crowd is always wrong.

* The man in such a case is not, I suppose, being “oppressed as a man.” He is being oppressed as poor; but being black and male accentuates the untrustworthiness of being poor, relative to a rich white woman. The feminist analysis would likely admit the power relation, but suggest that the poor black man is being oppressed by rich white men who infantilize and protect the rich white woman, thus oppressing her as well by depriving her of autonomy. The direction of this sort of inquiry always leads away from concrete reality in order to support presuppositions.

** The fact that the distinctions become progressively separated from physical causes (biological, geographical, etc.) means that new distinctions may form rather quickly and arbitrarily, based on transitory social factors and superficial cues. The constant fluctuations, however, mean that convergence would be dependent on the interplay of various factors tending toward social unity. There is no necessary “progress” toward convergence in any particular grouping, despite the bias favoring this belief throughout US history. Likewise, there is no necessary divergence based on supposedly fixed, insuperable distinctions (evolutionary, racial, religious, political, economic, etc.). Counter-arguments propose that either convergence or divergence are not inevitable, but might be preferable, and so must be imposed either by persuasion or by force. I say that either method, in pursuit of either objective, constitutes meddling; and then the ethical questions concern whether to meddle, not whether the supposed outcome would be preferable, since the outcome is uncertain.

*** Awareness of distinction, not unity; and so the moral hollowness of social justice becomes apparent, when it leads to perpetuation of the worst traits endemic to each class — arrogance in the upper middle classes, resentment in the lower middle classes, apathy in the highest class, and despair in the lowest class.

When the Walls Fell

Shaka, When the Walls Fell – Ian Bogost – The Atlantic

A logic is also a behavior, but it is a behavior unlike the behavior of the literary or theatrical character, for whom behaving involves producing an outward sign of some deeper but abstracted motivation, understanding, or desire. By contrast logics are pure behaviors. They are abstract and intangible and yet also real.

In this article, Ian Bogost carefully explicates what he calls a logic or strategy (as distinct from an allegory, a metaphor, an image, or a myth), to mean a way of thinking and communicating.

I often use rhetoric or discourse to mean the same thing. It is a mode of problem-solving that is particular to a certain worldview. It is what differentiates liberals and conservatives, liberal arts majors and engineering majors, words people and numbers people, text people and image people, analytic philosophers and Continental philosophers, atheists and theists, country people and city people, and so on. A more precise term might be algorithm or paradigm.

I have often felt like I straddled multiple worldviews: specifically, all of those I mentioned above. That in itself is a viewpoint that places me in opposition to people who don’t believe in plural worldviews; that is, they believe that a person can only accommodate a single worldview, or that the world can only accommodate a single worldview. So, by default my plural worldviews make me Continental, existentialist, pragmatic, and classically liberal. Yet, my practical choices tend toward analytical, conservative, principled models, while my imagination is drawn by anarchistic, paranoid, apocalyptic narratives.

A conflict would occur if a fellow conservative were to challenge whether I fundamentally believe in the comprehensive, absolute truth of an assertion. I might have to say no, lacking a Cartesian rationale for regarding it as a non-reductive certainty. That’s a big deal-breaker for many conservatives, who want to lay claim to absolute, positive knowledge. Most progressives also want to claim absolute, positive knowledge, but I have never been mistaken for a progressive by a progressive, due to the aforementioned practical choices. I can rarely maintain for long my identity as a conservative to a conservative, since I can never agree with their preposterous assertions of absolute, positive knowledge.

The only viable political position then becomes libertarianism, not as a viable principle of society, but merely as a defensive position against the absolutists. I would rather live in a conservative society with a hobbled government. Political conservatives tend to be arrogant, and so they deserve to cower before anarchistic populists. Political progressives tend to be stupid, so they deserve to be mocked for their impractical idealism.

Majority Wimp

Cantor primary loss shocks Capitol Hill, could put immigration debate on hold | Fox News

Regardless of the impact on the immigration debate, Cantor’s loss potentially opens up a leadership crisis.

The primary loss for a sitting majority leader is unprecedented. It’s unclear whether Cantor will even serve the remainder of his term.

The “term” referenced above is apparently Cantor’s term as House majority leader.

Cantor’s Loss a Bad Omen for Moderates – NYTimes.com

A chastened House leadership will struggle to do the most basic functions of governance — increasing the debt limit, funding the government and passing routine bills — further alienating Congress with the middle of the electorate, said Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York.

What Eric Cantor’s Loss Could Mean for the GOP – NBC News

How does any other legislation move in Congress the rest of the year? Remember, Cantor and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan have traded places over the last couple of years as the go-between with Tea Party Republicans to get them to move on legislation. With Cantor’s loss, who steps in to be this intermediary? The irony here, of course, is that this Tea Party victory over the establishment didn’t come with national Tea Party support — Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, and Club for Growth didn’t target Cantor (probably because he was one of their chief allies in leadership).

These stories demonstrate a couple of the reasons I despise politics. One reason is because the paid occupation of politics has little to do with effective governance, as evidenced by the fact that symbolic losses cripple a politician’s ability to work. They are not “leaders”, they are PR reps and fundraisers.

One could argue that the essence of leadership is symbolic and that its primary function is to marshal resources. To that extent, however, a leader is a dispensable abstraction, not “a great man” but rather a great puff of smoke or a cardboard cutout.

Another reason I despise politics is because the various identifications, coalitions, and oppositions are transitory and meaningless. The parties and other groupings are inherently unprincipled, being contingent on changing circumstances and changing desires.

Again, one could argue that this is what defines any organized society. I don’t want to denigrate organized society as such. It only becomes a problem when people internalize those identifications and create ideologies that lack substance.

Anyone who believes the free market should control all aspects of life will eventually sell his vote to the highest bidder.  [Weekly Sift]

Doug Muder points to the rest of Thomas Frank’s description of free-market ideology:

Why is it that Republicans are uniquely prone to this cycle of idealism and betrayal? I think the answer is simple: Because free-market idealism is a philosophy that automatically leads to betrayal—and also to misgovernment, and cronyism, and even corruption, as we saw in the DeLay era. The movement’s greatest idealists often turn out to be its greatest scoundrels—think of Jack Abramoff, or of Oliver North, or (as Rick Perlstein has pointed out) the gang of hard-right purists who signed up to do dirty tricks for Richard Nixon. In truth, there seems to be no real contradiction between conservative morality and following the money; to be a capitalist true-believer is to sell yourself.

Free-market idealism, after all, is about applying market forces to the state. This is what everything from Citizens United to toll-road privatization is all about. To be true to such a principle means respecting incentives, answering the call of money.

Yes, that is the basic problem with letting the financial free market dictate public policy. Only a vague patriotism supported by civic religion and rational idealism prevent US petty officials from being as corrupt as they are in most bureaucracies.

On the other hand, the news about Cantor’s primary loss demonstrates the actual value of a democratic political system, which is to keep politicians constantly in a state of fear. When politicians are not in a state of fear, it is because they are about kill or enslave some of the people under their control.

The other reason I despise politics, not necessarily shown directly by the above references, is that the popular, non-journalistic, unpaid occupation of politics is even less meaningful than discussions about spectator sports. It has no effect on actual policies or government actions. It’s only effect on ordinary people is to reinforce their little social groups and personal whims. That is what most people have in mind when they “talk politics” or say they are “interested in politics.”