13 August 2017

Hate leads to a whole bunch of things

One really unfortunate consequence of the way the Enlightenment happened is a whole bunch of creationist worldview hangovers.  If you, and everyone around you, just supposes that of course everything was created by a perfect divine being, you go all essentialist about types.  This is not a factually well-supported position, but the conceptual hangover goes on and on.  (In part because it's easy; in part because it tends to advantage the people making publication decisions.)

There's a similar problem with expectations arising from patriarchal white supremacy, where a whole bunch of fundamentally economic decisions ("I get to steal that") are justified by reference to a white guy's feelings.  This tends to make everybody being oppressed by the system insist their feelings are important out of an entirely reasonable desire to stop being oppressed.  That leads to a bunch of people going "hate doesn't excuse violence" and "hate leads to hate" and much other moral reasoning that's actively unhelpful.

Hate exists on a personal scale.  On a public scale, it doesn't have meaning.  (Same with moral reasoning; it's like trying to dig a house foundation with a teaspoon, the tool is on an inappropriate scale.)

So, really, if the policy problem is white supremacists or nazis or something distinguishable from those only under a microscope, hate (or not) doesn't matter. (Same with love.  Personal feelings don't scale to policy problems.)

First off, if you strip off the loud, loud feelings being used as deceptive camouflage, the nazis and the supremacists come down to "the story I tell myself about who I am and my place in society gives me much more status than I materially possess.  I think my disappointment is a good reason to hurt people until my status matches what I think it should be."  Which is bad enough; that's fundamentally an assertion that civilization is important, not in terms of what it does (general expansion of accessible choice through an increase in capability brought on by stable currency, wide trading relationships, fine divisions of labour, the rule of law, and broadening political enfranchisement) but in terms of how it makes nazis feel.  There's a lot of rationalization about this out there, but that's what it is.  Then  you can notice the "status" being used is not the status of skill or accomplishment; it's basic primate band status arising from being able to hit who you want and fuck who you want.  That's a level of social organization inconsistent with having roads or towns.  You certainly don't get a civilization using that as an organizing principle.

Massive insecurity management failure.  "I told myself a story and it isn't factual so I'm going to hurt people until it becomes factual" has several material problems.  First off, if you're not dealing with facts, your ability to win a large fight is doubtful.  Secondly, if the thing about the story that isn't factual is your own particular competence, you're not oppressed, you're inept.  Fixing inept requires you to work hard.   (Which is necessary but not sufficient.)  Thirdly, oppressive social hierarchies come into being as a means of apportioning the loot.  (That is, the kind of social hierarchy that has people getting really mad that someone who, to them, has no right to say anything because of their position in the hierarchy being lower expresses an opinion; you can see this all over politics in people having the vapours when non-whites or women say things.  Where you are in the hierarchy is supposed to determine the kind of loot you get.)  Once you're fighting over the basic right of the hierarchy to exist, absent loot, the associated economic system is collapsing and the social system -- as is always the case with social systems -- is trying to perpetuate itself at the cost of steadily increasing extremism.

So what we're seeing is a bunch of people who prefer a general collapse of civilization to admitting that they're not good for much.  (Various people get to nazi nihilism via moral routes but you really don't need to; there's an entirely material observation that, yeah, this does come down to "my feelings are hurt, let's destroy everything".)  From there, you get the cargo-cult "if we impose the hierarchy strongly, our portion of loot will show up as it used to do" without bothering to notice that the main, essential, inescapable thing about loot is that you can only steal it once.

Does it matter if you hate them?  Personally, to you, it probably does.  There's millennia of advice out there about that and I haven't got anything to add to it.

Policy needs to be pro-civilization -- that general expansion of realized choice -- because policy only exists when you've got a civilization.  (The word does arise from "polis", "city", if you wander back through a sufficient depth of time.)  A position that civilization itself is bad and that it is the faults brought by civilization which must be corrected by killing people until no fault can be found isn't inside any civilization; it's not part of the settled peace.  A nazi arguing for free speech and open debate is saying "let me win"; they haven't got an alternative civilization to argue for, they're still pushing for the death of all[1] because the death of all is better than admitting they can't cope with not being special.[2]

The appropriate policy response?  Somewhere between "SARS outbreak" and "voluntary zombie plague".  (Diseases don't have volition, so the analogy is weak.)  Certainly, policy should arise from a position that believes what the nazis say about their intentions.

As an individual, whether you're going to be killed for being a race-traitor, untermenschen, or refusing to volunteer for sex, punching is a mild response.


[1] civilization stops working, everybody dies.  And there's no more waste places to flee to, not in this time and with this population.

[2] "the accusations of what they themselves do" rule holds up very well here.[3]

[3] there's a fascinating lens to look at the Great Patriotic War through in this; the Soviet Union may well have been a civilization, as Nazi Germany was not.

26 July 2017

A pretense of healthcare

So various exhortations show up to the effect of "stop trying to kill people by taking away their healthcare" in reference to the current American political situation.  ("debate" would be going somewhat too far.)

This is a reasonable thing to complain of, but I think misses the point.

"To spend is to tax", to quote Milton Friedman.  What's going on is the continued assertion that the government has no right to tax.

It has no right to tax because it spends money for bad reasons (that is, to benefit those whom God has judged and found wanting; you can tell because they're poor, or not pale, or female) and because to remove the wealth of good people (to be rich is to be good, and let us pass lightly over those who aspire to goodness but have yet to achieve it) is itself a sin.

That's it.  That's the whole thing. It's internally consistent, and it's easy, and it copies itself into the future really well. It's a looters ethos, indifferent to the simple fact that looting is destructive.  (You might get the gold and the jewels out of Lindisfarne, but you still burnt it down in the process.  People died.  People will freeze and starve.)

This seems to be an inevitable response to wealth concentration; insecurity management by wanting more money is not effective in the long term, because it will eventually break the economy, and then the money can't buy anything.

So right now there's a view that "you know, decency and efficiency and an awareness that we can't predict the future all indicate we ought to have a carefully regulated single-payer health care system" and a view that health and wealth indicate virtue and if you haven't got those things God doesn't want you to have them.  (Yes, this has something to do with White Supremacy the economic system, but it's not quite that.  It's more about who is allowed to be holy (wealthy, same difference) than it is about the direction of resource flow.)  It's not about healthcare or decency or even the strange and terrible religion that money is proof of holiness; it's about the legitimacy of taxation, which must be strongly asserted.

There's a simple fix -- coming up with a better distributed rationing system than money isn't simple, though I'm sure we could and I'm sure we need as good a rationing system as we can possibly obtain because food security's going away at a great pace -- which is to re-monetize, but not at one to one.  If you're rich, you stop being rich.[1]  (If you're a Russian gangster with bales of US hundred dollar bills, well.  You're an idiot, and now you're an unhappy idiot, which might not be an argument against.)  (This is, after all, why FDR is hated with such a complete hate; FDR effectively did this, and made the money less holy thereby.)

Easy, no, not easy, but if any outcome involving a surviving civilization is going to take a certain vehement insistence that the very wealthy participate in the statistics of doleful outcomes anyway, might as well try for better long term stability.


[1] cap income at 10 times the lesser of the mean or the median income; cap assets at fifty times the income cap.  (That is, you worked from 20 to 70, maxed out every year, and kept all of it.)  With a median income around 50 k, that's 500k and 25 million, respectively.  Not a threshold of suffering.)



25 June 2017

"Change the system"

Ok, look.  I absolutely possess incompetence at humaning.  People who like me express non-rhetorical doubt about my material humanity.  Anything that involves being any good at politics is precisely what I can't do for half a distant squeaky noise at an antique hinge convention.

And I know that "change the system" is inherently nonsense; the point of a system is that you can't change it.  (If you can change it, it isn't a system; it hasn't got feedback that keeps it stable.)

What you can do is replace the system.  The way you replace the system is by finding the people who experience uselessness in the current system and convince them that your proposed change gives them use and significance.  People will do almost anything not to be useless.  (Most of the current anglosphere political struggle is over whether non-white, non-male people can have inherent utility, as distinct from the derivational utility of making white, male people happy.)

So, not only would Bernie not have won, arguing that Bernie would have won is a way to avoid acknowledging that the voting is not fair and open so it really doesn't matter who would have won a free vote; the core threat from Hillary is not personal incompetence but demonstrating non-white, non-male inherent utility in unequivocal ways.  (Guess why the votes are free and fair.  Go on, guess.)  Can't have that; there's a clear majority of folks who the current system insists are inherently useless, and they're way more numerous than the middle aged white males who figure their uselessness is someone else's fault and stop thinking there.  (It's not obviously a false conclusion, but stopping there and blaming who you're told to blame isn't especially clever.)

There's another bit about La Dauphine and whether it's real desire for post-patriarchal power structures or the cynical appearance of such a desire.  And still a third bit -- of course we want a different system.  The current system has failed utterly.  We're having a self-inflicted existential crisis for the next hundred years because that was apparently easier and better than not being quite as rich.

19 June 2017

The notion of privilege

Ok, first off -- the people complaining about privilege are (generally) complaining about a real thing.

They're not complaining about it effectively, in part because they're (generally) utter strangers to the exercise of actual power and in part because they're (at risk of being) violently suppressed if they speak frankly.  The whole notion of "privilege" is passive-voice and lacking actors.

(Rather like "Black Lives Matter"; absolutely about just complaints, but if you have to call it that it's not going to work.)

I'm going to ignore how the power structures got there.  I'm just going to talk about what they do.

There's two kinds of things that the power structures do.  One is not interfere; basic levels of participating in the power structure mean your daily business doesn't get interfered with.[1]

Two is suppress opposition to your preferences; on a big scale, this is something like who the Dakota Access Pipeline gets routed over (or how Roundup somehow doesn't have safety data filed with the government of Canada), and on a moderate scale this is how highways get more money than transit.

You need a lot of social standing to exercise Type Two power.  You don't need much at all to exercise Type One power.  (This is what members of the valorized category get for showing up.)

Thing is, this stuff isn't passive; this works by hurting people if they complain until they either die or stop complaining.

So the question is NOT "do I have privilege?" (a question that descends into moral taxonomy very rapidly, becoming entirely useless in the process), but "did I (or am I) trying to compel this person to change their behaviour?"


[1] the point of "driving while black" stops is to insist that nobody, no matter how nice their car or how stable their income, can participate in the power structure while black.  You will get your daily business interfered with.  There are a whole lot of other examples.  None of them are fixable without replacing the mechanism of categories.

17 June 2017

Beauty is a judgement, not a property

That's it.

Beauty isn't a property.  Nothing is beautiful.  Beauty exists as a thing is apprehended as beautiful.  Right then.  In the apprehending mind and not otherwise.  It's not some sort of quantum entanglement with God or Truth or any other delusion.  There is no beauty in the properties of matter.  Beauty doesn't apply outside the apprehending mind.  (At all.  Ever.  Any other apprehending mind may perceive some other beauty, but it isn't this one.  All apprehension is fleeting.)

The impossibility of self-knowledge if you're thinking of beauty as a property is one of the things that makes me sad, because the mistake is ubiquitous, profitable, and enforced.  (Profitable behaviours are enforced.  The folks arguing for the general utility of markets have some explaining to do.)

13 June 2017

Westward from the Davis Strait

Air temperature and wind intensity 2017-06-13 looking down on the North Spin Pole 
Ocean currents and Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly 2017-06-13 looking down on the North Spin Pole

earth.nullschool.net is an interesting and information display of global near-current conditions.  It won't cheer you up; note the plumes of cold water off Svalbard and down the Davis Strait.  That's glaciers bleeding to death.

Look at another time and you might see warmish air flowing between Fram Strait and the Beaufort Sea, clean over the Pole.

08 May 2017

And we shall know it is spring

Territorial, loud, and generally not so much tolerant of humans as regarding humans as incompetent interlopers.  (Well, either that or they want to steal your hat and think better of it at the last second, but "interlopers" seems a lot more likely.)
female red-winged blackbird on grass
male red-winged blackbird with reflection
female red-winged blackbird on rough concrete