Friday, February 17, 2017

Justice (Kamran K): Comrade Consumers...

"Labor produces all other forms of wealth; that is to say, it produces wealth for all others but itself..."
Karl Marx. Das Kapital

"The driving motive and determining purpose of capitalist production is the self-valorization of capital to the greatest possible extent, the greatest possible production of surplus-value, hence the greatest possible exploitation of labour-power by the capitalist."
Karl Marx, Das Kapital

(1) Man's history has long involved a struggle between the forces of capital and those of labor. There have been ebbs and flows, with some periods a win for labor and others for capital. It is right and good and just for labor and capital to seek a dynamic homeostatic position that fairly compensates everyone involved for their respective time, efforts, and contributions, intellectual, physical, and otherwise: "each such function, whatever may be its nature or its form, is essentially the expenditure of human brain, nerves, muscles, and sense organs." (Marx, Das Kapital)

Over the past three or so decades, however, the homeostatic balance has been completely lost. The situation is not unique to the fortunes of capital and labor; a very similar loss of homeostasis can be seen in MAN VS. ENVIRONMENT wherein man's "need to survive" has generated the exploitation and wide-scale destruction of  Earth's biosphere. The wins have been so decisive for capital over labor that the mercy rule may need to be imposed and capital given the decisive victory for as far as the eye can see: (a) "heaped-up wealth confronting the worker grows apace and confronts him as capital, as wealth that controls him. The world of wealth expands and faces him as an alien world dominating him..." & (b) "having tired one set of hands by working them throughout the day, they had another set ready to go on working throughout the night..." (both from Marx, Kapital)

(2) From whatever perspective one considers the issue, capital has grown in strength and might and influence while labor has been absolutely pulverized. In the US, CEOs often make 300-400 TIMES what the average worker in the same company makes. Large shareholders of those same companies can and do earn many multiples of what the CEO makes through capital appreciation and dividends. Today, capital calls all the shots, makes all the rules, takes none of the physical or health risk, assumes almost no financial risk...AND MEANWHILE GETS ALMOST ALL OF THE REWARD when things turn out well.

This reality would be far less bad if the CAPITAL group of persons far exceeded the LABOR group of persons. Here, too, reality has been catastrophic. The situation today is that those with access to CAPITAL represent a very elite segment of the population while the ranks of LABOR teem with EVERYBODY. If one is in the LABOR group it is next to impossible- as in POWERBALL lottery winning impossible- to join the CAPITAL group. Facebook, Google, and Snapchat founders are token exceptions to the overwhelmingly dominant rule. Another exception exists for exceptionally attractive women in their 20s who have yet to marry. They can marry into CAPITAL but to do so they must usually be stunningly attractive, winning the genetic beauty lottery many times over.

(3) Examples of CAPITAL's domination are too numerous too list and need not delay our attention here. One statistic tells nearly the entire story: in 2014 the percentage of US GDP going to corporate profits hit an all-time high while simultaneously the percentage going to working men and women as wages hit an all-time low. What statistic captures the reality of capitalism better than this? None. What statistic better refutes Adam Smith's idea that capitalism- through an "invisible hand"- will deliver the most public good and benefit of all competing economic systems? Simply put, the reality of economic life on planet Earth is one in which CAPITAL has assumed a position of complete and total domination of LABOR.

(4) CAPITAL has been armed- all the way through- with every intellectual and legal advantage the system affords to those with the financial resources to pay the fees of lawyers, financial and business consultants, real estate agents, accountants and tax gurus, etc. Which means that CAPITAL has essentially FROZEN its dominant status into governing law in the form of all manner of complex and complicated contracts, statutes, treaties, laws, court decisions, property rights, and all the other legal infrastructure that modernity permits CAPITAL to enjoy. Even if it wanted to compete, LABOR hardly has a chance anymore.

Furthermore, CAPITAL has access to limitless advertising and has non-stop promoted its interests in this area too. By impressing upon youth and impressionable young adults over and over and over again- in arenas as diverse as TV, internet, billboards, radio, and celebrity advertising- that one's dignity and worth and value is tied to the nature and quality of material possessions one can purchase and maintain, capital has been able to keep LABOR addicted to status-driven consumption which keeps business profits booming year after year.

In sum, CAPITAL has looked after its interests and dominant position VERY very well. But it did overlook one BIG thing that could retilt the balance toward a just state of affairs, toward the interests of LABOR.

(5) Capital was never able to fully insulate itself from the power of the consumer. US GDP remains largely (estimates range as high as 70%) tied to the spending decisions of the consumer. Here, at last, one finds a crumb of freedom remaining in the hands of LABOR. And crumb it certainly is when considered on the individual level. No single consumer can do anything to CAPITAL even if he/she were to cut personal spending to zero overnight: "each puny, weak, and contemptible." (Marx) Indeed, even many hundreds- perhaps even many thousands- of consumers would do little to CAPITAL were they to drastically curtail their spending.

But what if 5% of LABOR did this? What if 10%? 25%? 50%? What if members of LABOR took turns doing this for months on end?

(6) The path to peaceful change of the System is now in view. CAPITAL has effectively taken control of politics, and- by extension- the military. CAPITAL is legally in possession of all of its property and so even the non-violent taking of this property would be criminal. BUT CAPITAL cannot force LABOR to spend its money in any particular way. Labor can make a true stand with how it allocates its money and, for example, withhold all business from those companies that have particularly egregious histories of poor worker compensation, consumer fraud and scams, outrageous income inequalities between management and workers, a history of violating various labor laws, and so on. LABOR still has freedom and with freedom comes power.

LABOR's power is, indeed, so potent in this regard that it could cause a total RESET of any industry any time it wishes. LABOR could, for example, cause the bankruptcy of nearly the entire restaurant industry by making the overnight decision to eat all meals at home for the next two months. These may seem like extreme measures, plagued by their own unique risks and discomforts. But LABOR may one day simply be "fed up" with the status quo and be more than willing to "have a go" at "roughing it out." Maybe, just maybe, LABOR will be able to rise above its habitual pedestrian comforts and likes for a brief period in the service of a grand old ideal known as JUSTICE.

(7) Comrade consumers...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Freedom (Kamran K): Yawn Away Baby!

"Here, however, are you at home and house with yourself; here can you utter everything, and unbosom all motives; nothing is here ashamed of concealed, congealed feelings."
Nietzsche, Zarathustra

"And all those are my equal who give to themselves their Will, and divest themselves of all submission."
Nietzsche, Zarathustran

(1) As discussed, the System is now totally dominating the people and their life destiny. As a frustration release sieve, the System does permit some very trivial ultimately meaningless freedoms to the people. These include such things as free pornography, endless physical exercise opportunities, cheap food (loaded with saturated fat and sugar) and alcohol, cable TV, endless social media use, and a culture of rampant sexual license and promiscuity. None of these freedoms does anything to facilitate a person altering the trajectory of their life toward the GOOD. Each of these freedoms does not alter (leaves totally intact) the fundamental dynamic we've discussed: the System dominating the People and paralyzing their collective life destiny.

(2)  To maintain human dignity and identity in an environment such as this is no small task. Freedoms must be located that are not of the type discussed above (the freedom to chase Facebook likes) AND which are strong enough to allow the exertion of some force back on the System and its total domination of the people. But given the System's TOTAL domination, these freedoms are exceedingly difficult to locate and articulate.

(3) We advance today one of the few such remaining freedoms: the freedom to YAWN. Although at first blush this may seem like a trivial comical freedom of the sort discussed in paragraph 1, it shows itself to be a power almost unrivaled in modern civil society.

(4) The freedom to YAWN is literally one of the last freedoms we lose as conscious human beings. So long as mind is conscious and more or less operating normally, we maintain the freedom to YAWN at literally anything that is happening around us.

(5) By yawning, we communicate- and communicate forcefully- that some purported reality or achievement is simply not that impressive to us. When we yawn, we are WITHOLDING our admiration and respect for some reality or experience. No matter what spin or advertising or force is exerted to transform this reality into something that would command our respect and admiration, we have the total right to say NO! I am not in the least impressed or amazed. And I will, accordingly, YAWN!

(6) Consider, for example, the opening of a series of new hotels in a busy downtown US city. We could, like the many, act impressed with the lights, 70-story height, 5 star rating, 12 restaurants and spas, 13 bars and nightclubs that such a hotel offers. Or we could simply YAWN. Seen this too many times before in 30+ cities of the world. The experiences offered in this place are all on a very low level of human consciousness (mainly food, physical comfort, and sex chasing). We see this place for what it is- simply a massive tonnage of steel and glass designed to extract as many dollars as humanly possible from anyone that steps foot inside its doors ($40 for a piece of chicken breast, some veggies, and a glass of wine. "And thatll be $25 for parking, sir!"). YAWN! Next experience, please!

Similarly, we hear of someone that has gained admission to some Ivy League school like Harvard or Yale. Rather than, like the many, expressing respect for the genius of such a person, we can simply YAWN. We know, more likely than not, the person will graduate from the school with an A-/B+ average (it is harder to do worse than this), pursue one of five career paths (law, business, medicine, academia, or I-banking) that dramatically limit his/her freedom, intellectual development, and quality of life. Ten or so years after graduation, the person will be, more likely than not, working round the clock making a high salary which is almost totally absorbed by the costs of marriage, KIDDIE (e.g. childcare), and housing in NYC or SF or LA or DC or Boston. Further, the person will be woefully unattractive/out of shape and STUPID liberal. Again, to all of this how should one react other than to simply...YAWN!

(7) Rather than continuing to list examples, let us articulate common characteristics of YAWNable realities and persons and their behaviors:
  • Their behaviors, both micro and macro, are repetitive and highly predictable. They follow a pattern of life that has already been done hundreds of thousands even millions of times by other persons on Earth. What is there admirable and worthy of esteem in this! YAWN!
  • Their behavioral motivational patterns are trite and banal. They don't seem to be motivated to do anything for reasons that are truly personal to them and are compelling in an inspirational sense. YAWN!
  • When they speak, these persons or organizations repeat trite cliches that reflect they don't have a mastery of the concepts they are discussing. They spew forth much bullshit and much vague platitudes that one has heard literally thousands of times before with no tangible effect on one's life or quality of mental consciousness.  YAWN!
  • They are motivated in their actions and speech by the goal of ordinary commercial gain to serve ordinary trite and banal purposes. Granted persons must engage in activities of ordinary commercial gain and so one is not saying this type of behavior is "bad." It simply is not worthy of respect or admiration just as one does need to hiccup a few times a day but no one could be impressed by THE BURP. YAWN!
(8) Yawn away baby! Yawn away!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Wisdom (Kamran K): Reflections on NEHS and SHS

"As a matter of fact, day after day, we live far beyond the bounds of our consciousness; without our knowledge the life of the unconscious is also going on within us. The more the critical reason dominates the more impoverished life becomes; but the more of the unconscious and the more of myth we are capable of making conscious the more of life we integrate. Overvalued reason has this in common with political absolutism: under its dominion the individual is pauperized."
Carl Jung, On Life after Death

"It consisted in a gradual but swiftly progressive obliteration of space, time, sensation, and the multitudinous factors of experience which seem to qualify what we are pleased to call our Self. In proportion as these conditions of ordinary consciousness were subtracted, the sense of an underlying or essential consciousness acquired intensity. At last nothing remained but a pure, absolute, abstract Self. The universe became without form and void of content. But Self persisted, formidable in its vivid keenness, feeling the most poignant doubt about reality, ready, as it seemed, to find existence break as breaks a bubble round about it. And what then? The apprehension of a coming dissolution, the grim conviction that this state was the last state of the conscious Self, the sense that I had followed the last thread of being to the verge of the abyss...The return to ordinary conditions of sentient existence began by my first recovering the power of touch, and then by the gradual though rapid influx of familiar impressions and diurnal interests. At last I felt myself once more a human being; and though the riddle of what is meant by life remained unsolved, I was thankful for this return from the abyss- this deliverance from so awful an initiation into the mysteries of skepticism." 
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

(1) Normal "everyday" human consciousness ("NEHS") is primarily geared toward bodily survival and the maintenance of human physical bodily integrity. Although it permits an occasional daydream here and there, it focuses almost entirely on matters that either directly affect bodily survival or those that provide the means to it (in modernity, this means work for $).

For these "everyday" tasks, NEHS is well suited and almost always does its job rather well. The resulting reward for NEHS is the body does make it another day, the human survives another day, week, month, or year.

(2) NEHS is not well suited for- and does not typically produce- states of feeling or experience that could best be characterized as "transcendental." These are states of feeling or experience that are so above the quality of everything experienced before that they do seem to belong to another level of experience, a different and better level of reality. They are so good that literally no human being has ever voluntarily left a transcendent experience; it has always been cut short against our wishes.

For access to transcendent realms of feeling or experience, consciousness must somehow exit NEHS and find its way to SHS ("super human consciousness"). There are only a few roads available from NEHS to SHS. Some (such as drugs and extreme physical activity such as skydiving) are fraught with health risks and dangers, including death. Others (such as music or meditation or philosophy or exceptionally gifted writing) are less risky but tend not to produce the same peak level of SHS nor produce any type of SHS most of the time for most people. Religion may offer the most SHS with the least risk, but requires a total lifestyle orientation and commitment for many decades of life. Increasingly, fewer people are willing to make this level of commitment to (literally) anything. For the very very lucky few, romantic love may also offer access to SHS but access through romantic love requires the most unbelievably perfected type of love that is almost "nowhere to be found" here on Earth.

There does not appear to be any other way for man to reach SHS. 

(3) A life that never reaches SHS and remains always on the level of NEHS is- no matter how traditionally successful- emotionally impoverished. A life that ever briefly enters SHS (even for a few hours every few years) MAY become an emotionally vibrant one if one is able to leverage the insights gained during the SHS experience into some sort of overall reorientation in mood and personality when one is back in NEHS. For this to happen, the experience one had in SHS must be very carefully recorded and analyzed to see what clue it offers for behavior on the level of NEHS.

(4) Even at its best, the life that NEHS permits to go forward becomes increasingly routine, habitual, formulaic, and UNmysterious with each successive year. Modern advances in technology and computing are accelerating this trend at a dizzying pace much to the disappointment of many who wish to view their life as something more than a challenge to see who can do the most banal mundane things in the best way in the least amount of time:  "He must sense that he lives in a world which in some respects is mysterious; that things happen and can be experienced which remain inexplicable; that not everything which happens can be anticipated." (Carl Jung) Science and technology continue to be celebrated as modernity's heroes despite a rather ambiguous OVERALL effect on human life and happiness and emotional/physical vitality: "Rationalism and doctrinairism are the disease of our time; they pretend to have all the answers." (Jung) 

NEHS gets increasing information about almost everything in one's environment, masters that information, and allows one to effortlessly "cruise control" through this environment for months, years, and decades. Nothing really surprises any longer, down to the last detail. Nothing is ever very challenging very longer, down to the last detail. Nothing ever emotionally moves one any longer, down to the last detail.

Suddenly, via access to SHS, all of this familiarity and comfort is temporarily exploded and one is literally delivered into realms of consciousness containing truths that one can and should anchor an entire life upon:

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love.
Walt Whitman

You must forgive yourself and love yourself...You must forgive yourself and love yourself...You must forgive yourself and love yourself...You must forgive yourself and love yourself...You must forgive yourself and love yourself
Madre Dos

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Politics (Kamran K):On the "System" and the "People"

"In imagination, individuals seem freer under the rule of the bourgeoisie than before because their conditions of life seem accidental to them. In reality they are less free, because they are more subjected to the domination of things." Karl Marx, The German Ideology

"Connected with this is a class which has to bear all the burdens of society without enjoying its advantages. It is excluded from society and forced into extreme oppositions to all other classes. It constitutes the majority of all members of society..." Karl Marx, The Germany Ideology

Humanity, the world, the "people" are now effectively under the total control and domination of "the system." By the system, we refer to (primarily) a global economic elite of some 100,000 persons with net worth in excess of $100 million (these persons represent 0.0001% of the world's population). Despite its anti-egalitarian nature, this domination of all by "the system" would actually be grand and good if "the system" was progressing, generating a positive sum balance life experience for the vast majority of humanity across many different arenas of life. Would that this were so!

After having had ample time to "stand and deliver," the system can now be evaluated to determine how it's doing. Is the system delivering? Is it succeeding? Is it at least progressing toward success? Has it avoided abject failure?  By most objective evaluations of the system's performance, it has been a huge failure, leading humanity very close to the abyss and to complete and total cataclysm and human extinction.  What is really striking today is that WHATEVER and WHICHEVER arena of life is considered- whether international relations or physical fitness and vitality of the people or the reduction of war or the environment or the news media or the economy or sexual relations or education or terrorism and crime prevention or the development and perfection of common sense and critical thinking or toleration and understanding between religious groups or access to quality and affordable health care or the promotion of "fellow man" citizens possessing integrity and displaying honesty and moral virtues or general business practices and advertising- the system's record of achievement is miserably poor. A few isolated achievements by the system (invention of smartphones and LCD TVs) cannot "white wash" this complete record of failure across generations in so many areas of life.

Understanding the need for proper optics and the nuisance of constant rioting and revolutions, the "system" has created many self-styled "democracies" which are purportedly "in place" to effectuate the "people's will." Consuming much of the people's time and attention, these democracies rarely deliver the people's will. For at least the past 50 years, the people in almost any democracy have been "for" good jobs, safe communities, quality affordable health care, quality affordable education, higher wages, less traffic, less scams and frauds perpetuated by businesses. affordable housing, and less racism. Few, if any democracies, have delivered ANY of these things to its people in any non-trivial no-BS stable way. Few, if any, democracies have even delivered any progress or progression on any of these things to its people, even despite "the bar" on these issues being so low to begin with!

Worse than this, what certainly does not happen through democratic politics is any attack or weakening of the elite power structures of the "system." These are understood by all to be the true "sacred cows." One could advance the thesis that the system intentionally creates the entire "bulky" political machinery and apparatus as a self-defense mechanism, understanding that the political apparatus is structured in such a way that it will never turn on it (the system) to bring it down while always acting as a frustration absorption sieve for "the people." As demonstrated by recent turn of events, the "system" does understand that the people are increasingly fed up with it and want politicians that will threaten to "dismantle the system." The system has begun to deliver politicians that promise to dismantle the system during campaigns but ultimately the system (as always) has the last laugh when it clamps down on these same "populist" politicians once in office, rendering them effectively powerless to do anything to weaken the system.

At this point, one could query what is the purpose and goal of the system? What do the system's elites actually want? Very simply stated, the system's elites most dominant goal and purpose is the maintenance of global HOMEOSTASIS. The system's elites have concluded that homeostasis of the world is in their long-term interests even if it involves widespread suffering and injustice inflicted upon "the people." The system's "moral compass" is simply too weak and atrophied to factor and weigh-in these variables appropriately. 

The system's elites want to preserve their wealth and privilege in its current form for at least the next few generations (beyond 300 years most people don't care one way or the other what becomes of anything). They want to keep all their material goodies (fancy car and boat, mansion, access to the finest restaurants and hotels, access to attractive sexual mates) and want to feel reasonably confident that their supply of such material goodies will not be interrupted for many many years to come.

To the extent that some very small trivial improvement for the "common man" will result in an outsized BOOST to the chances of achieving global homeostasis for many decades the system will of course favor MICROprogress of this sort. It will allow this sort of MICROprogression to flow through the political process  This is precisely why the system has been in support of sexual freedoms of various sorts, such as abortion and LGBT rights, the expansion of freedom of expression of various sorts, and, to a lesser degree, why it has favored policies ranging from animal rights to mini-tax refunds and breaks to small health subsidies (Obamacare), Microprogress of this sort can be achieved without any weakening of the system's privilege power and wealth position. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Moderation (Kamran K): Finding the GOLDEN MEAN in Speech

(1) Pessimistic evaluations of present day humanity (and its reasonably likely trajectory) find deep support in the swift, incredible, and now total "DULLING DOWN" of public speech.

(2) The blog author has noted this trend for years but has been reminded of it recently while watching commercials on TV. Increasingly, the most "polished" and expensive commercials are accompanied by music that has either (1) no lyrics whatsoever (indie or electronic music), (2) lyrics with words that make no sense (most modern music), or (3) lyrics with words that are exceedingly trivial and banal, the type of speech that would appeal to a child of about 5-7 years old.

(3) It is obvious why things are so. In an increasingly polarized society where everyone's identity or self-esteem is exceedingly fragile, speech must be carefully tailored to ensure no one is offended by the speech. For if someone is offended, sales could be lost, people responsible for the speech could be fired, lengthy social media hate campaigns could be launched, someone's reputation could be sullied as "bigoted," people could become depressed, and so on and so forth.

(4) Beginning in the corporate sphere, this trend has now accelerated and become the norm everywhere. What makes social media posts so trivial and banal today, so sleep inducing? They are completely permeated with dulled down speech, with cliches and other trivial and banal statements that an adult in their mid-40s has likely heard repeated some several thousand times over the years.

What explains the current national obsession with discussions of food, weather, the best places to get the best deals, home remodeling, and sports? What explains adults in their mid30s and mid40s engaging in constant witty banter where conversations (increasingly digitial) become one "LOL" exchange after another. These are basically areas where speech is extremely unlikely to offend anyone with a sane temperament.

(5) Here and there, people are rebelling against this trend but in a totally futile way. They are resorting to speech that is inflammatory to shock and grab attention. But, when stripped of its shock-value, the speech is often either totally false, illogical, incoherent, and still trivial and banal once the shock-value has been taken out.

(6) What is needed now is NEITHER more dulled down speech about food/weather/sports/sales NOR inflammatory language about other topics that readily reveal lack of fundamental insight, wisdom, consideration of alternative viewpoints and values, and so on. What is required is an exchange of frank truths about the current human condition and trajectory that reveal somewhat serious grappling with realities as they are in their non sugar coated, non "witty banter" condition.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Politics (Kamran K): Capitalism and Democracy? No Easy Marriage.

(1) Capitalism has transformed most everyone that lives within its borders. But, precisely, what are these transformations? And are these transformations destroying democracy and the minimum components of the "democratic spirit" at the same time?

(2) Worldwide, those adults 30 and older living within capitalist economies are capitalist consumers FIRST and above all. This does not mean these adults don't have other sentimental attachments, to perhaps a church, a football team they support, a pet they adore, a gym they frequent, a writer or thinker they respect, and a style of music they love. These all still exist, are all still fully "REAL." Yet these dalliances are also all still MINOR.

The DOMINANT daily thought patterns of capitalist adults- including their overall long term hopes and fears- center on their ability to (1) increase MONEY IN as much as they are able without unduly sacrificing quality of life and (2) reduce MONEY OUT as much as they are able without unduly sacrificing quality of life. As the days, weeks, and months "come and go" they repeatedly return AGAIN AND AGAIN to this dominant topic and seek AGAIN AND AGAIN new or better solutions to it. They spend tremendous amount of mental attention on this central topic and many of their behaviors fall in line with the various decisions they have (tenatively) reached on this topic.

The dominant daily thoughts patterns of most people in any capitalist economy ROUGHLY take these forms:
  • Can various fixed expenses (transportation, health insurance, clothes, food and drink, shelter, utilities, routine recreational pursuits, cable/internet/phone fees, membership in various preferred organizations, taxes) be somehow manipulated and reduced without undue sacrifice in quality to reduce the total expenditure out?
  • Can various income generation activities (job, investment in stocks, real estate assets, networking with friends, family, and alumni, training for new work) be somehow manipulated and increased without undue harm to one's quality of life?
(3) Nietzsche and other philosophers have made various negative evaluations of the "spirit and soul" of such a person. These are of no interest to us at this juncture. What is hardly subject to dispute is that SUCH a person simply spends too much of his time in mental thought patterns that are not conducive to his informed and quality particpation in the democratic process. Such persons are not bad or stupid on this account; they can live lives of total decency and virtue as they go about their lives. They may be wonderful- and even highly intelligent- persons; they simply are not ideal democrats.

Who would be the ideal democrat? Simply, the ideal democrat is able to do THREE things well (i.e. not perfectly): (a) identify the most important issues that deserve to be resolved via the democratic political process; (b) gather the most relevant and reliable information bearing on these issues; and (c) participate in a respectful, though still spirited dialogue, with other political actors with the sole aim of generating the BEST solution to the issue that appears reasonably likely to succeed based on all of the facts, information, and best reasoning available at the time.

(4) The habits of mind, traits of character, and critical and other mental abilities required to become an ideal democrat is within the reach of all persons if they are sufficiently motivated to become ideal democrats and their behavior and thoughts fall in line with this genuine motivation.

As discussed above, 99% of adults living within capitalist economies are dominantly preoccupied with the thoughts patterns identified in (2) above. To the extent they are so occupied- and to the extent they become increasingly so occupied as years pass- they become that much less capable of the kind of participation in the democratic process that one could- with confidence- label "worthwhile."

(5) We are not in a position to evaluate the relationship between capitalism and democracy. Capitalism's gains are obtained at the expense of gains in quality democratic participation.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Wisdom (Kamran K): Earning the Wisdom License

(1) What quality, above all, signals a human person's arrival into enlightened wisdom or even adult maturity? When does one earn one's WISDOM LICENSE?

(2) Among many plausible answers, we suggest one herein: the ability to intelligently articulate why one's fundamental passions are aligned as they are. A fully perfected person would be able to articulate a compelling statement- filled with compelling reasoning and information- as to why exactly he favors this or that in his life and to just this extent and no more. An imperfect person would be unable to offer any coherent statement on these points, beyond the perfunctory he or she "really likes" A, B, or C or believes that it improves their "spiritual well being" and "overall quality of life." These are not articulations of any deep reasonings but rather the mere repetition of tired cliches.

(3) By fundamental passions, we mean an adult's dominant preferences in terms of place of residence, cultural attachments, musical interests, sporting activities and other dominant hobbies, romantic and sexual inclinations, political leanings, attachment (or not) to money and what it can purchase, preferred vacation destinations, and things of such ilk.

(4) All adults receive a free pass on this test into their mid-30s. Up to that point, character is still forming and all sorts of lengthy, often dangerous trial and error experiments must be conducted to determine what one's dominant preferences actually are: "and I was now...beneath the point at which I had started. I was down in the cellar of society, down in the subterranean depths of misery . . . I was in the pit, the abyss, the human cesspool, the shambles and the charnel house of our civilization." (Jack London) It is impossible in advance of a trial and error experiment to have well reasoned ideas on what one's dominant preferences are and why they DESERVE to be dominant in one's life. It is acceptable to be a herd-like follower deep into one's 20s and even early 30's. It is no sin to be in the herd at some point in your life; the sin is being trapped in the herd all one's life.

(5) As the mid-30s and beyond are reached, a mature enlightened wise adult will begin to accumulate a whole host of well-settled well thought out dominant preferences for what he or she does and does not like to do, what types of persons he or she does and does not enjoy the company of, what sorts of intellectual subjects do and do not excite him or her, and so on.

(6) A whole series of further statements are appropriate as to this last point.

  • The more time and energy a person devotes in a sphere of life the more one would expect his or her reasoning for favoring that sphere so dominantly would be well thought through, able to survive various forms of objections and critiques. 
  • As life progresses and one's situation and environment in life also evolves, one would expect the reasoning to become more robust and supported by actual facts and developments of the person's own life. 
  • The articulation should be both subjectively and objectively compelling to intelligent decent persons of liberally oriented sensibility as to the human GOOD. An articulation that remained fully tied up in one's own subjectively formulated reasoning and information would be deficient. 
  • Negative dominant preferences- what one does NOT like to do or whom one does NOT like to associate with etc.- should also be well thought through and capable of a semi-intelligent articulation. For someone to say they "hate the rich because they are arrogant" or they hate "office work because it crushes the soul" is woefully insufficient. Dominant negative preferences often completely wipe out entire realms of life that one could otherwise explore and benefit from in myriad ways. One could argue that one's reasoning as to dominant negative preferences should be even more developed than dominant positive preferences.
(7) Persons able to pass these tests receive their wisdom license. Given the ways of the world and the present configuration of humanity, they will be EXTREMELY rare in having received this license at any point in their lives. Persons receiving the license will always remain perplexed as to the various behaviors, feelings, and habits of their fellow man. Even while remaining friendly and kind to such persons, they will see such persons as not fully free, not having fully chosen why their life is structured precisely as it is, why one's dominant habits and likes are X rather than Y or Z. They will wish that their own lives- so much as they are capable of preventing this from happening- will never proceed down the same random road.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Humility (Kamran K): Them "Idiots" Disagree with Me!

"We are led by very, very stupid people. very very stupid people." The Donald

(1) Current events are confirming- ON THE DAILY- the correctness of our pessimistic orientation on present generation humanity's "chances" of reaching the human GOOD.

(2) In particular, a pessimistic evaluation finds ample support in the worldwide tendency for persons to swiftly regard each other as stupid or idiotic or uncultured or simple-minded whenever they disagree on an issue or adopt different lifestyle behaviors. This phenomenon has been around for years but is now obvious for all to see in the political environment of the US 2016 presidential election.

(3) Let us take the proverbial Jack and Jill as an example here. Living in a US megacity like NY or LA, Jack supports gun control and abortion rights, favors drastic measures to limit environmental pollution, believes racism and sexism are still big problems and government should actively work to end these realities, and supports much higher minimum wages and greater redistribution of wealth. Jack is also secular, would never die for his country, and doesn't go to Church or otherwise demonstrate a relationship with God.

Living in a small rural town in Nebraska, Jill supports broad gun rights and is pro-life. She doesn't believe environmental pollution is so bad that drastic measures should be implemented in its name. While she occasionally witnesses racism and sexism, she doesn't think these are huge problems for the society and doesn't think government should do anything about it because -ultimately- the problem is a cultural one, not one rooted in politics. Jill thinks employers should set wages and employees should decide on their own whether to accept the wages being offered or refuse. Jill doesn't think the society should redistribute wealth and doesn't believe everyone should lead lives that match the comfort of the uber rich. Jill believes deeply in God, and would sacrifice her life for the good of her country.

(4) In this country and others, there is a very strong likelihood for Jack to view Jill as stupid or idiotic or uncultured or simple-minded. The Jills of the world also often take a rather unflattering view of Jack, although this seems to happen less. The Jills of the world prefer to see the Jacks as living in their own delusion rather than being outright stupid or simple minded.

(5) The problem here is neither Jack nor Jill are entitled to view the other as stupid or idiotic or uncultured or simple-minded or delusional SIMPLY from the fact that the other thinks, lives, and behaves differently than they do.  On each of these points, Jack and Jill are free to present arguments- ROOTED ONLY IN REASON AND INFORMATION- as to why they are on the right side of the issue or behavior. This is hard work, it takes time, and it requires both introspection of moral values as well as complicated information gathering and information evaluation. They are also free- and they often absolutely must- seek to understand how the other perspective could be rooted in reasons and perspectives that are rational, virtuous, compassionate, prudent, commendable, and many things other than abject stupidity: "Every explanation of the world presupposes a rich apprehension of the phenomena of the world..." (Bloom)

The easier/lazy route- and when has man done anything recently but take the easier/lazy route- is to dispense with this procedure and instead immediately resort to insult and categorization of the other as stupid or idiotic etc. With each repetitive iteration of this behavior, the belief in the stupidity of the other takes stronger hold, becomes, ultimately, all that one sees when one thinks or regards the other. One looks at the other and doesn't see humanity or rationality; indeed one sees nothing but stupidity and backwardness.

To think that such a society has any long term future is illusion of the highest degree.

Friendship (Kamran K): Reflections on the LOST art of conversation

(1) Worldwide, humanity is now experiencing an unprecedented explosion in the use of cellphones, computers, tablets, televisions, and all other electronic gadgets. What this means is an entire generation is now growing up and has "come of age" MORE comfortable, more habituated/addicted, and more prone to interacting THROUGH the intermediary of a digital electronic screen.

This astonishing revolution in human relations is now "in the cards" and there is no "easy way back." Already today, most persons mostly interact with each other most of the time through the intermediary of a digital electronic screen. Only very rarely do most people actually experience and enjoy significant face to face time.

(2) Theoretically, this entire revolution and shift to electronic screen mediated human communications could have progressed without a significant loss in humanity's ability to engage in decent human communication and conversation. Whatever it means to conversate and do so in a thoughtful humane manner, one could theoretically imagine this continuing to proceed in the electronic world as it did in the world of face to face.

This has NOT happened. Not even close.

(4) What has happened? What does conversation look like today in the world of text messages, emails, and social media comments? While of course there are variations in perhaps every corner of the globe, there are some alarming trends that one should be able to spot most of the time in most corners of the globe:
  • Conversations that begin and end RANDOMLY. Without any flow or apparent purpose, a conversation begins electronically with some random remark or question. IF- and this is a huge IF- there is a response to that random remark or question, there is just as likely to be no response to THIS next remark or question. And so on. Basically, any remark or question in one of these conversation is associated with a 60, perhaps 75%, likelihood of no response.
  • Little to no attempt to reason through arguments and reach reasoned conclusions as to some course of action. The brevity of most electronic communications does not permit reasoned examination of even basic issues, let alone complex life issues that require HOURS of conversation to get right. With reasoned argument and conclusions absent, electronic communications almost always remain at the level of both party's "feelings"- and the intensity of those feelings- as respects some proposed behavior or decision.
  • The overwhelming tendency to resort to "polite" generally positive generally rote gibberish speak. Almost entirely gone are any statements that would disturb the other person or indicate significant disagreement with their viewpoints.
  • A glacial pace of communication quite literally unseen and unimaginable in previous eras. One does well to receive responses in 10-15 minutes to even the most basic comments or questions. Conversations that in real time would take perhaps 3 minutes can and do span several hours and often several days in the electronic world.
  • No ability to convey ideas or emotions of any complexity. Lacking the ability to use voice volume touch eye contact and all the other complexities involved in human face to face communication, communications begin, stay, and end largely on the level of playful light-hearted banter, the type and level of conversation that kids enjoy in middle and high school during their lunch breaks.  
(5) At its best, human conversation does distinguish humanity from all other living species on Earth. Dogs and cats, bees and zebras engage in almost all of the same behaviors humanity engages in. They, too, eat food and drink water, have sex and raise children, die of disease or old age, engage in physical activities for diversion, sleep at night and rise in the morning, urinate and defecate, and all the rest. 

If human conversation is degenerating- and degenerating rapidly- as a result of the move over toward electronic communications, then humanity itself is degenerating IN ITS HUMANITY. 

Moderation (Kamran K): Feminism and the Wrong Turn.

(1) This recent generation is the first to grow up in an almost totally sexually liberated era. They came of age after the rise of the feminist movement and all manner of legal victories it secured. So, too, contemporary attitudes on women's career prospects, dating lives, premarital sex, and manner of dress have all eased from earlier highly conservative positions.

(2) One would thus have hoped that this recent generation of women and the ones to follow would have somehow USED/TAKEN ADVANTAGE of all of this newly found freedom to act in ways that would do honor to their HUMANITY and their multi-faceted personalities which would have nothing to do with the shape and contours of any of their body parts. Chiefly, one would have hoped that this generation of women would act in ways that made clear that they were not to  be evaluated mainly or even primarily based on their various bodily appearances.

For, after all, what are those various bodily appearances but simple DNA codes over which a woman has zero control or say? What makes a woman have a shapely butt or large breasts or beautiful eyes or lovely hair? 99% of the time it is the simple fact of her inherited DNA. Why should a woman root her identity so deeply in these aspects of her existence over which DNA- and not her actions or thoughts or development or self-fashioning or virtues- had any role.

(3) And, indeed, the situation is even worse than this.

With respect to their bodies, modern women (particularly modern single women) have RUSHED to banish any trace of natural womanhood encoded in their DNA, demonstrating an absolute disgust and hatred with the shape of their bodies as their DNA naturally would allow. Go to any large city in any area of the Western globe and what will you find: millions of single woman that literally look nothing like what their natural DNA-given womanhood would dictate. Modern single women have waged an all out war on natural DNA, seeking to banish any and all traces of it from their body.

From head to toe, these are the alterations being made by women to what their DNA naturally would provide and allow: (1) All manner of hair dyes and hair style changes, (2) all manner of makeup and creams applied to the face, including the lips, eyes, and skin, (3) plastic surgery of all sorts, including fat removal (4) shaving of hair all over the body, from armpits to legs to genital areas, (5) breast augmentations, (6) nail polish applied to all nails on the body, (7) all manner of perfumes applied to the body, and (8) all manner of creams applied to the skin.

Within the entire animal world, it is only female humans that do anything to alter their natural DNA provided look. All other animals reproduce, mate, and partner without any need to alter their appearance in the slightest degree.

As a result of these alterations, most modern women look NOTHING LIKE what they actually look like in their natural DNA provided womanhood. If one sees such a woman "outside" when she has applied the eight alterations described above and then later sees the woman in private lacking any of the alterations, one would literally be ASTONISHED at the difference. Outside of male bodybuilders that use anabolic steroids, modern single men have done nothing of the sort and appear publically in their natural DNA provided manhood, jiggling beer belly and all.

(4) Modern single women's war against their natural womanhood is a deeply disturbing phenomenon. It suggests most deeply that most women are deeply insecure and resentful of their bodies' appearance, and- further- their self-esteem is so weak that they can't fight this insecurity and resist the impulse to redo their bodies in such extreme fashions. Is this what feminism imagined as female liberation, a woman so at odds with her natural womanhood, so insecure of her appearance that she would ON THE DAILY subject it to such extreme cosmetic alterations, to a daily mix of chemicals that only seemed to increase as time passed.

How is a man to evaluate such a woman? What are the chances he will be moved to regard her as something other than a human body that he can use for random 10-20 minute intervals for his sexual pleasure and use for longer intervals for his overall aesthetic enjoyment of life? The woman herself through these various cosmetic alterations is signaling that the public presentation of her body is highly important to her and that she wants people to like and be impressed with her BECAUSE of the shape and appearance of her body: "the primary way of distinguishing among [people] is in what they pursue as worthwhile, their ends." (Bloom)