Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Blind spots

As I sat at the glass table, five hours sleep, afternoon, my attention was divided between three strong currents:

(1) Are the odds of coming up with a 1 or a 5 when rolling two dice really so close to 50%? It seems like it should be more. I suck at math.

(2) Are lobsters sentient?

(3) God I love that dress.

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Abraham Maslow wanted to raze dichotomies. I'm reading a book right now. One of the dichotomies he didn't believe in was the one between self-interest and saintliness. Human nature isn't half bad. It makes us happy to make each other happy (in general; mutations are weird: some people are compelled to eat dirt). Bonobos are sluts, not sadists. Life is good. But stuff got awful. Once upon a time, somebody had a brain tumor and he started being mean to everyone. He rounded up slaves and told them lies about spirits in the woods who would eat them if they weren't his slaves. The selfish/selfless dichotomy was born. Ghost-fearing slaves are better soldiers than slutty bonobos. Village by village, the brain tumor took over the world. And now here we all are.

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Rosie is two feet tall and dainty, but fills up the room. Her husband is tall and handsome and talks quiet. They're both articulate, extremely intelligent, and saintly ethical. But they're also so sweet and polite that I'm afraid they might hate me and I'd never know, and that makes me nervous.

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The worst thing in the whole universe is when you're reading someone who's right about everything, saying stuff in the same words you've used, reading out your internal monologue like it was theirs, and then they slip in there parenthetically "and I hate niggers."

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Rosie and Megan are both wearing gorgeous dresses that are gorgeous in the way that a window is gorgeous looking out over some Ecuadorian valley. It's not about the glass.

Rosie is afraid hers will be too slutty, as she pulls it on over her jeans and t-shirt in the dimly lit main walk of the P. Faura wing at Robinson Mall. Everyone votes "no" on slutty, and she buys.

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Everyone forgets to question something, and carries on some holocaust or another because "it's just what people do." (When I want to distance myself from the racist dead who gave me their genes, my dad is always like "Come on, everyone was a racist back then." I don't know what that's supposed to mean.)

Jefferson is right about everything and then all of the sudden he wants women to never ever vote. Buddha empties the sky of gods, throws away the castes, and then takes reincarnation as a given. Maslow doubts the whole slave structure of society, flirts with anarchism, builds a (daring, impressive) empirical value philosophy that reads like a note from me to you, and then thinks being gay is a psychological disorder.

"But everyone thought that back then." 

Well they shouldn't have. Two plus two equals four and people are people. If you have a philosophy that couldn't be built from axioms in any time or place, you don't really have a philosophy, and you're talking spirits in the woods. 

I want to say I don't have blind spots. I want to think that people in 50,000 years will say "that Ken Myers, I've read his blog, and it's all exactly right if you don't count anything before September 2012. Yep, yes sir. Just like the sun is round, yep. Ever since everybody stopped being in denial, we all realized that Ken Myers is exactly right. And he never wrote anything about hating niggers."

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Rosie cries about things she's seen in Uganda and Ethiopia. Her and James support one orphan but don't feel like it's enough. James says they're vegetarians(+fish) because they want to reduce the amount of suffering in the world. Rosie's seen truckloads of dogs on their way to get tortured because torture increases the Happy Luck Magic of dog soup in Korea.

I does occur to me that I eat meat. I'm also wondering if fish have an "I." I'd think that'd be a cerebral cortex thing and that fish are really more like wind-up toys made out of meat, but I'm not sure. Also, what about cephalopods? Tools, communication, cooperative hunting strategies. So sophisticated! But so is the last boss on Doom II, and I didn't give the CD-ROM a proper burial. Confuse intelligence with sentience and you'll end up marrying a chess engine. Just like all those singularity institute guys who are afraid that if they make a calculator too powerful it'll launch armadas and have the pope crown it king.

But I am thinking I'd like to seriously reduce the amount of suffering in the universe. It seems like doing that stuff would drive the ladies wild. 

Thank you James, thank you Rosie, for making me think.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Time to Steal

Anarchism, in contrast to its caricature in the popular imagination, is a deeply moralistic philosophy.

Anarchist theory is also "chaotic" in the mathematical sense in which cellular automata are chaotic. A single principle, a single rule, is applied, and after a ton of extrapolating and reasoning, what results is a beautiful labyrinthine forest of principles. 


Our single starting point is this: "Thou shalt not use force."

That's it. "OH! No problem!" (People with PhDs tell me), "I'm an anarchist too, then! Anyways, we need to raise taxes on cigarettes and usher in the 30-hour work week!"

People are as oblivious to the fact that the enforcement of these mandates involves the use of costumed men, guns, and cages as they are to the fact that their bacon comes from something that screams while it dies. Cognitive dissonance is the foundation of our violent, smiling civilization.

But anyways, the other day I was reading something about John Maynard Keynes.

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Keynes is the father of the current globally dominant economic model, where people print a lot of money, halving the value of grandma's savings, so our central banks can loan out more and more money for as cheap as possible and prop up new businesses and more goods and services: AKA, economic growth.

Ron Paulians call modern economics "Keynesian Economics", but you'll never hear than phrase anywhere else. In the world of practice, there is nothing but Keynesian economics. It's like saying "water-breathing fish." Is there any other kind?

But Keynes is the devil in the Ron Paul world, and he should be. The Keynesian system steals. It takes someone's money and devalues it without their consent. If they want to use another currency, they face tasers and cages, because rival currencies are illegal. It's a coercive system. It uses force. It breaks the first and only commandment.

But last week, I came to see Keynes in a different light.

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What I discovered (reading some awful boring stuff) is that Keynes knew the perpetual growth system was bad, and didn't like it. He didn't like capitalism. He advocated it anyways.

The growth machine had losers, yes, but it also drove insane progress in technology and health and wealth. Keynes set his sights on a post-capitalist workless eschaton that justified all the bad parts of his economic scheme. This was like Mao's Great Leap Forward. A necessary brutality, with paradise as its end goal.

Keynes's utopia actually sounds like a weakly imagined version of the Kurzweilian technological singularity, and I wonder if he won't achieve his goal of getting us there faster and saving billions of lives.

Obviously, anarchists aren't keen on this kind of thinking.

. . . in theory.


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A thought occurred to me. Let us suppose, as a thought experiment, that you are twenty miles northwest of Zapata, Texas on highway  I-35. You are without a car, standing in the desert, and accompanying a child who has just been bitten by a rattlesnake.

There is (for reasons I know not), a 1980 blue El Camino with leather seats on the side of the road. It has the keys inside. It is not yours.

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People use coercion and theft to save lives. When governments try, they seem to usually kill more people than they save.

I find myself wanting to re-jig the whole ideational architecture of anarchism to accommodate for the situations where I have to steal a car because of a rattlesnake, but when I do I always come out with Stalin.

I don't know the answers. For now, I'll subvert the government, but steal cars.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Subconscious Atheism

I was at a funeral, in a charismatic church in North Texas, sitting beside a charismatic preacher from a different church.


The preacher giving eulogy did something ghastly. He commanded the corpse to get up and rise to life. It didn't. There were shocked sobs from the family, of course, but everything had gone according to plan. The eulogist continued with the message, pre-written with the assumption that the deceased was not to rise, and informed us all that the reason she stayed dead was that she liked it more in heaven.

The preacher I was sitting next to, mortified, turned to me and said "I wanted to say, 'DUDE, SHE'S EMBALMED.'"

I can't think of this without getting a weird sick, still feeling. I imagine this is the feeling of "stop" one would get when they realized mid-dinner that they had been dining on human flesh.

Consciously or unconsciously, people growing up in charismatic churches must learn the rules quickly if they are to survive. You do not pray for amputees to grow their limbs back. You do not pray for people to sprout wings. You *do* pray for cancer patients. Colds and headaches? Absolutely.

You pray for what is known to be possible without a miracle.

Raise the dead? Sure. Pray for some kid who just drowned, or something. But an embalmed person? That's just embarrassing.

The subconscious is an amazing thing.

The subconscious basically gets split from the conscious when we're beaten, shamed, or screamed at by our parents when we're kids. Part of us goes underground. We no longer hear its voices. We stumble upon its camp sites when we remember our dreams, but even those are extremely difficult to understand, since the meanings laid out for us are the very ones that our conscious personas developed to avoid.

There are things that you cannot say or ask about God, I can attest, without feeling that you've broken the whole world with your five-year-old hands. In other families, the recognition of sexual abuse or alcoholism gets buried in the same caverns.

What's interesting, though, is that these realizations and questions never die. The subconscious still makes moves for us, but the conscious mind rationalizes them and selects different motives. "No, I stopped wearing deodorant because--um--something about nature!" . . . not because I'm trying to deter someone's physical advances.

I don't have a smart conclusion. I do have a chilling question: What if everyone is subconsciously an atheist? Why else would we allow ourselves in prayers only that which is known to be naturally possible? How did the preacher know that the deceased would choose not to rise? Why was he obviously stupid for not accounting for the embalming fluid?

A hundred strange memories from church begin to make sense.

I need to turn this off and go hug my kids.