Knowledge kills perception. The ability to learn requires relative ignorance: that is, a constant real awareness that any knowledge, however great, can only ever represent a best fit empirical explanation of experience to date, and can only ever be an ever smaller fraction against what remains to be learned. Additionally, knowledge alters new perceptions to fit the existing working model: one can only ever perceive what one expects to find. Thus the more one knows, the less one is capable of learning.
Verbalisation kills spirit. Any attempt to reduce an ideal to writing destroys the ideal. Once the writing exists, a near-slavish reliance on the technicalities of the exact wording becomes a substitute for any attempt to appreciate its true spirit. This may also be part of why governments, however idealistically conceived, rarely if ever preserve the spirit in which they were founded even a single generation beyond their founders: for a governments continued functioning demands continual attempted translation to others, which in turn demands some degree of codefication, which in turn almost at once begins to substitute for the original spirit. As the spirit fades, that codified substitution must be made increasingly specific. Thus, once reduced to writing, both constitution and subsequent laws can only ever increase in number and complexity. This applies equally to any social structure, including those based upon spiritual revelation.
(This one can be filed under The Best Intentions, aka When Kyle Screws Up, Does Kyle Ever Screw Up!.)
It is at least as much sheer fun to give as to receive.
Nations react in precisely the same manner as individuals. Psychological models can be applied to international politics perhaps even in a predictive manner, since nations have a far greater force of inertia to overcome prior to any deliberate self-imposed change of perspective/personality than any single individual, making such deliberate self-imposed change far, far less likely. (Yet not impossible!)
No government can remain in power without the (explicit or tacit) consent of its citizenry. People will always end up with the system they themselves allow to drift into or remain in power, whatever the means of selection or government. Capitalism won over communism because people only ever see the good maybes, never the worse far-more-likelys. (The grass is always greener over the might-have-beens.) We chase dream rather than ground in reality, and in dreams we always deserve the big payoff. Some catch it. Most fall flat. Some never get up again.
I would wish the world and everyone in it happiness -- but increasingly it seems to me that what most people seek is not truly happiness but control over others, for the purpose of keeping others from gaining control over oneself. Such control is frequently insidious in the guises it takes: it might well be most frequently encountered as the desire to remain within comfortable and familiar environments -- and to continually attempt to mould ones surroundings and ones neighbours according to that familiar model. (After all, since we must imagine others in our own image, such imposed control over others only preempts their own determination to do the same to us.) Occasionally this drive to control others first so that they cannot control oneself has been termed freedom.
It is more important to us as human beings to hold power over another than to be co-equals with another. Yet conversely (and perversely), we tend to compare our current status always to those higher than us (what we dont have that they do) rather than to those of less (what we have that they do not). Thus those of us who are not near one of the extremes have an extremely difficult time estimating, for example, our real level of wealth. Ironically, some studies have suggested that degree of personal job satisfaction is highest where there is least variation between co-workers within the entire job field: ie. radical changes of skills and lifestyle and sideways transfer would be required to enter a job field within which there was a greater variation of relative status.
It is one of the wonderful irrationalities of the human being that so many of us are so determined to place another person in a position of authority over ourselves -- and at the same time resent that authority.
From my landlord superintendents door, this month:
Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they will never cease to be amused.
The multinational corporation was perhaps the inevitable product of capitalistic theory. I see no inherent moral issue with that in itself. However, the larger a company becomes: (1) the more it tends to separate its workers from the dividends of their labour; (2) the more it tends to separate the benefits of its actions from the costs associated with having taken that action. Neither of these, in themselves, are inherent to the nature of the multinational corporation, perhaps neither of these is innately socially harmful: yet neither of these, I think, can be infinitely self-sustaining. The second indeed draws on a fundamental paradoxical confusion concerning globalisation. Rather than creating truly open access to all manners of influence and goods globally (the ideal?), capitalistic globalisation requires the creation of global consumptive desires with the potential of fulfillment: but in fact requires inequality of access, means, and resources in order to cultivate and preserve both those desires and the relatively limited means of filling them. The only environment in which such required inequality can be preserved so as to maintain the system indefinitely is that of the never-ending frontier.
(Having re-read Heinleins Future History)
Heinleins ideal seems to be the fundamental principle of scientific management: (because nothing which cannot be measured can be other than self-referential, and thus can have no objective value) the only true value which can exist is what can be measured in some objective manner. Thus, for example, the only justice which is other than self-referential would be expressed as a function of physical or economic (measurable) damage, while freedom becomes simply the ability to do anything that does not cause such damage: the essence of Heinleins Covenant.
Two major weaknesses here however, both of which Heinlein does touch upon. Because it cannot be objectively assessed, neither emotional nor spiritual damage can be a valid criterion under this system -- and yet both nevertheless are real. (Heinlein attempts to measure emotional impact of specific choices of language through quantitative semantic theory which assigns an emotive index to each word. In contrast, many modern objectivists frequently deny that their own choice of word or syntax bears any relevance to the emotional reaction of the listener: that the reason for any such reaction must lie entirely within the listener themself and not the speakers own choice of word at all: an interesting and very complete denial of personal responsibility for the reactions of others.) Second and more direct is that such an ideal as the Covenant can only function as a societal imperative when every potential benefit is potentially obtainable by every individual. But Heinleins Howard Families had been genetically bred for longevity: a genetic longevity which could never be attained by anyone not sharing in those genes within their own lifetime. Human nature -- human cussedness, Heinlein might say -- cannot accept such a limitation, and so human irrationality must invent a transferable secret even in the absence of any evidence of such a secrets existence. That: or regain ultimate control by taking away the unattainable merit from those possessing it rather than allowing its continued and unattainable existence -- in others. It is nothing less than Ayn Rands envy of the good. But Heinlein does not even accept such destructive envy as a human limitation: rather, he sees the unattainable merit eliciting such a reaction as yet another frontier, to be explored and conquered and absorbed in its turn.
Heinleins expressed theories may be an exact opposing corollary to Frank Herberts -- for example, in contrasting perspectives on a parallel ultimatum: the basic functionalist irrationality of destroying the source of precisely what grants an individual power as the pathetic cry of the third-rater (Heinlein) vs. the willingness to destroy as expression of an individuals core strength and ultimate freedom (Herbert) -- but Herbert took it that one, crucial step further and showed us what becomes of a free people granted paradise as a result. I would have liked to have seen the same from Heinlein: but the closest he comes to it is a suggestion of an increasing decadent reluctance to go out and colonise a demanding environment -- only then he finds that frontier again, no longer within space, but within time. But I keep wondering, within the society of Heinleins Future History: what transpires of a frontier mentality deprived entirely of frontiers? Somehow I dont think it coincidental that while Heinlein embraced the objectivist, capitalistic libertarianism within a fundamentally military governmental structure which defines so much of the United States current identity, Herbert etched his portrait of the Fremen on a Shiite Islamic fundamentalist structure.
Incidentally, I suspect Joss Whedon (Firefly) may be one of the few N. American television writers writing today who truly appreciates the nature of freedom:
Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand.
I dont care, Im still free. You cant take the sky from me.
Take me out to the black. Tell them all I aint comin back.
Burn the land, boil the sea. You cant take the sky from me.
Theres no place I cant be, now that Ive found Serenity.
You cant take the sky from me ...
Where the lyrics of Enterprise postulate the optimistic climax of a long road of, well, enterprise, Whedons lyrics suggest precisely the opposite: chances lost, lives curtailed, beaten down but never, never surrendering. Borrowing again from Heinlein (with whose libertarianism, at least, Whedon seems to juxtapose although I suspect Whedon is borrowing more than a little of his universe from Dicksons Childe Cycle):
You cant enslave a free man, you can only kill him.
Sequelitis leeches meaning from single, complete mythic stories which had been complete in themselves. The quest of the Beast is to become Human. The spirit of the Gladiator preserves the dream of Rome even beyond the death of the individual. To continue into what comes after destroys the completion of myth and makes it merely story.
The single most common use of power is to preserve and/or increase that power. Occasionally such preservation/increase is accomplished through brute strength in the appropriate field; more common and more subtle is gradual selective disenfranchisement. The first is readily recognisable. The second can be nearly invisible. To begin to truly know a person, give them power. No individual can truly begin to understand themself until they have held power over others, and recognised the effects upon themself of their having wielded such power. No one can even begin to know another unless they have seen how that other holds power. Occasionally the exercise of power has been a freeing action. More often, it enslaves the person wielding it.
Power established on a foundation of fear demands preservation of fear -- or even re-creation of fear with or without concrete foundation.
What overtness is born of enlightenment cannot possibly carry with it the imperative to state all that one knows. Quite the contrary: if some piece of understanding only has value when personally earned, then simple statement by another destroys the ability for others to so earn; let alone to earn truly such that the understanding of knowledge has become a part of the whole to the point not only simply to withstand simple challenge or denial on the part of others, but to slough it off altogether.
Sensitivity and empathy are not at all the same thing. Rather, they are inversely correlated: the more empathic an individual, the less relative attention they will tend to pay to events and stimuli affecting them and only them; while the more sensitive an individual, the less they will be able to step into anothers shoes (in effect, any attempt to imagine what another might be experiencing is drowned out by personal sensation). Complete sensitivity denies empathy. Complete empathy denies sensitivity.
SENSITIVITY        =        C
Sensitivity and depression would then be positively correlated, empathy and depression inversely correlated. (This might also underlie part of why frequency of self-reference has been found to be positively correlated with serious depression: see Troubled and What is in a word?.) Many (perhaps most) artists thus be rather more sensitive than empathic: but because there is a relative universality to much of what is sensed individually, the artists ability to express personal sensation might well come across as a type of pseudo-empathy which can frequently have the result of evoking true empathy in others.
Words communicate only insofar as empathy exists. The lower the degree of empathy, the lower the transfer of understanding. Symbols can convey communication only insofar as we can share their interpretations -- and such sharing can exist only through empathy.
In the absence of perfect empathy, perfect communication first requires perfect miscommunication. The attempt to communicate creates a singularly persistent illusion of understanding: an illusion that is not shattered until perfect miscommunication occurs.
It is entirely possible to be convinced one is holding a true discussion with others without once straying from the imperative form.
Creative artists (writers, composers, painters) face an inherent hurdle performance artists (actors, directors, musicians) do not. Performance artists must select their material, or else it is selected for them. But creative artists must write something, show something. They cannot create without displaying, be it only to themselves. But what a creative artist displays is inextricably tied in that it is created at all.
There seems to be a growing confusion between the determination to control others and the determination not to be controlled by others, perhaps precisely as a result of the above-mentioned perception of an apparent need to control in order not to be controlled by others. Thus, as simple an action as saying No (thank you) to a demand (tacit or explicit) or a theory or a way of life is increasingly interpreted as a threat to or even a personal attack upon the proposer. Any such threat must at all costs be discredited or removed. Per Ruffled Puppy:
when you say I dont accept the theory they hear You are wrong.
which I would qualify as: the theory as it touches anyone other than the proposer. What touches the proposer only, be it a demand (tacit or explicit) or a theory or a way of life, is a pure extension of the proposer: as such, there can be no challenge to it which is not also an (implicit) attempt to control the proposer. Yet the moment its relevance or effects touch anyone other than the proposer, saying No (thank you) to that demand (tacit or explicit) or theory or way of life becomes a rejection of (implicit) control by the proposer. This applies equally on a national basis.
Responsibility implies neither blame nor credit. The first states only that some action or lack of action contributed to a specific event; the second and third give moral weight to that action or lack of action -- and morality, as a societal construct, cannot be absolute outside an all-encompassing society. Yet any cause-effect or even catalyst-effect association seems to evoke not only the question of responsibility but also, immediately, the question of blame and/or credit. Thus I find it personally more useful to think in terms of symptom (expression), syndrome, primal force: this combination of these trends within this environment following this series of events expressed itself through this persons actions, be those actions as common a thing as to use birth control or not, or as unique a thing as to clone a sheep. Choice? Influence? The person did personally take the action, and thus the person does bear responsibility for that action and its foreseeable consequences (and responsibility also for preempted foreseeable consequences as a result of that action, eg. not contributing to a possible undesired pregnancy by using a condom): but someone, somewhere, was going to take that action simply as an expression of the underlying syndrome. How, then, to assign a moral value to the isolated individual action? Would we not have to begin by assigning a moral value to the underlying syndrome first? And if to that, why not ultimately to the primal force of which all else is expression? The person took the action. They are responsible for its foreseeable consequences, both actual and preempted. Leave it there.
I hope -- oh, how I hope! -- if the child recently reported is in fact the first of the human clones: that they will never once be identified to the world at large, that they will live out their life in anonymity.
To firmly object to a system of which one is a part and not to act on that objection is to share responsibility for its perpetuation.
There exist two major philosophical cults which directly or indirectly hold the potential to devour every system that has ever been or has yet to be developed: the Cult of the Rational (objectivity), and the Cult of the Irrational (subjectivity). Both of these contain an inherent power possible only because each is a valid perspective in itself. Yet each, isolated, remains a limited perspective: to hold to either of these beyond a certain level of development creates an unnecessary crutch which becomes increasingly difficult to discard as personal investment in that crutch grows greater -- and anything made into a crutch begins to control the individual. For myself, I work within a structure within which rationality (mind), emotion, and spirituality are balanced, but have ceased to have isolated meaning. In interaction with others, the practical results seem to be that those who hold to the Rational find me to be irredeemably irrational, and those who hold to the Irrational find me to be irredeemably rational: which, however, seems not to have stopped different members belonging to each side from attempting precisely such redemption -- or, alternately, condemnation -- on a virtually continuous basis.
Who is ever quickest to identify the inhuman?
Proof denies faith: but what is proof? All observations must filter through human senses. If an observation is repeatable, are we not all human together? Will not what we see be shaped entirely by it being a member of the human race who has devised the method of seeing? Ultimate objectivity demands ultimate subjectivity -- or, more accurately, a state within which both objectivity and subjectivity become meaningless as isolated concepts.
All theories for explaining natural and social phenomena are fundamentally faith-based. This does not mean that they do not explain the observed phenomena: but adherents of a given theory may be reluctant to accept that a different theory explains the observed phenomena equally well. Economic theorists and party politicians are particularly vulnerable to confusing fundamentally faith-based policies with fact (although no one is completely immune). The conceit of scientific proof (which can only ever demonstrate subjective relationships within an ultimately self-referential framework) may accentuate this confusion.
Those who approach any pov-based methodology with a truly open mind often become its strongest converts.
Every one of the authors in the Library was right. They wrote what they did based on firm, fixed beliefs that were beyond question. Ayn Rand wrote based on absolute faith that rational individuality is the only valid criterion for a human social structure. Khrushchev wrote based on absolute faith that the tenets laid out by Marx and by Lenin described an ultimately desirable and thus inevitable social structure. All else followed.
Every one of the authors in the Library was wrong. We, the observers, rarely share another's firm, fixed beliefs in toto, and sometimes may hold the very opposite. Where the author's beliefs differ from ours, it is the author who is perceived as wrong, because we cannot be.
To attempt to understand how a view or a movement has come about, it is essential first to appreciate what absolutes have been taken as the initial premises, and why these were chosen and no others. Such understanding does not imply agreement with those premises.
Conclusions depend on the initial premises chosen. Those premises are only rarely, if ever, questioned. In fact, rather than question the premises upon which one's life has been grounded, experiences and observations will be rewritten to harmonise with those basic premises -- and sometimes that rewriting can seem painfully torturous to one observing who has not accepted those initial premises. To do otherwise is to allow consideration that the fundamentals upon which one's life has been grounded may not be solid and absolute after all -- which may in turn challenge the way one's life has been led. In sheer self-defense, therefore, it is frequently the other who must be found "wrong", in that they are not fully accepting The Unchallengeable Truth (of one's own premises). In this lies the difference between responsibility and blame.
The rightness or wrongness of the reasoning and/or conclusions will often depend on the observer's degree of agreement with the original premises. Since it is so very difficult to personally question the premises by which one lives one's life (and consequently both experience and environment tend to be interpreted and moulded accordingly), it often falls to the next generation to question those premises -- so that they can built their own absolutes in turn. But that new building frequently demands that everything previous be rejected. There is a sense that nothing new can stand on its own, so first the ground must be prepared for the new seedling by completely rejecting what has gone before. It cannot even be allowed the consideration of critical questioning, lest some parts of what has gone before be found acceptable and thus infect the new thing.
The Freudian killing of the father, then, would not be rooted in sexuality so much as in the drive to mould one's environment and experiences in one's own image.
To perceive a thing is to perceive it with a bias. All observers have a bias. I am no exception. How many perspectives do we need to encounter -- without automatically dismissing due to their source -- to achieve something of a wider view?
Yet to state bluntly that one has such-and-such blindness seems to carry with it an inherent perceived magnification of the stated bias by the listener: what is stated and recognised for what it is must obviously be more serious than what is left unstated -- even to the point of reinterpreting the perspectives of others who had not made such a statement as having relatively less or no bias. Even simply to listen to anothers accusations without immediately responding defensively or in kind seems to carry with it an inherent assumption on the part of that other that, precisely because one does not immediately react to defend, the accusations are in some manner justified: perhaps because of personal extrapolation from their own personality as to how that other believes they would have reacted in the circumstances. A curious catch-22, that, considering that a defensive reaction is also commonly considered something of an admission of guilt. I continue to wonder just what action would serve to establish simple statement, simple consideration of what is being said, without its being absorbed into interpretation of what a given listener might extrapolate from their own awareness of themself.
No theory can ever be generally valid if it does not apply to oneself first.
The human spirit is boundless, its only limitations such as we ourselves determine to place upon it. The human body -- well, that is another matter.
Few places (if any) have entrenched into their structure an inherent right to personal privacy. Indeed, in many places there is an inherent distrust of all that is not overt, not readily explicable to the increasingly casual observer: with the desire for privacy itself being held as evidence before judge, jury, and public opinion executioner. It is right up there with a persons capacity to make personal decisions being evaluated by their choices -- with relative rationality defined by the social acceptability and/or social comprehension of that decision. Because we might see one option as obvious: does it follow that all others, to be rational, must see as we do? Why do we carry such a xenophobic fear of what is not readily comprehensible?
The reason for cutting out Amidalas political speech before the Galactic Senate from the finished version of Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones (it can be seen in the DVD version) has rather less to do with the reasons given by George Lucas et al -- and everything to do with what changed in the United States between the time the dialogue was written and when it was released:
AMIDALA: Less than an hour ago, an assassination attempt was made against my life. One of my bodyguards and six others were ruthlessly and senselessly murdered. I was the target but, more importantly, I believe this security measure before you, was the target. I have led the opposition to build an army -- but there is someone in this body who will stop at nothing to assure its passage. I warn you, if you vote to create this army, war will follow. I have experienced the misery of war first hand; I do not wish to do it again.
Wake up, Senators -- you must wake up! If we offer the separatists violence, they can only show us violence in return! Many will lose their lives. All will lose their freedom. This decision could very well destroy the very foundation of our great Republic. I pray you, do not let fear push you into a disastrous decision. Vote down this security measure, which is nothing less than a declaration of war! Does anyone here want that? I cannot believe they do.
The moment the proponents of democracy lose faith in their fellow human beings, they themselves have killed democracy.
The United States has never truly recovered from the Great Depression. Ever since, the United States has been deeply involved in at least one declared or undeclared war (including the Cold War arms race and economic [trade] warfare) at all times. In a consumer-oriented society, the only criterion of success which matters is the degree of consumption. Wars increase consumption. The United States can no longer afford not to be at war; and this has been the case since at least Eisenhower. A parallel note: the debt loads of its states and cities (a tricky concept: federal law requires balanced budgets at these levels, so these are represented more by tax rises and service cuts) have remained proportional to gross domestic product since 1929 -- but federal debt has not.
What is the point of self-knitting needles?
Cutting taxes on stock dividends is not simply supply side economics. Oh, it will indeed serve to make the rich richer, with or without the theorised trickle-down effect. Perhaps more significantly, however, this specific action also serves to encourage and reinforce popular ego investment into a fundamentally faith-based system.
An alternate taxation proposal:
1. Begin by establishing which services are to be government-provided and which not.
2. Divide all government-provided services into those from which the rich derive proportionally more benefit, such as defense or sewage treatment (Group A), and those from which the poor derive proportionally more benefit, such as free education or old age allowances (Group B).
3. Set a flat tax on all individually earned income (Tax I). People earning less than the equivalent of full-time work at the local minimum wage are excused this tax. Rates of this and subsequent taxes would be set differently based upon services to be provided, but should not vary after being initially set: ie. expenses should not rise disproportionately to the societys earnings / disposable income.
4. Set a flat tax on all corporate earnings, dividends, and interest equal to double Tax I (Tax II).
5. Set a flat tax on all consumption (Tax III). Purchases of less monetary value than eight hours work at the local minimum wage are excused this tax.
6. Tax I and Tax II are exclusively used to pay for Group A services. Tax III is exclusively used to pay for Group B services.
The current United States military actions follow in a long tradition of American moral justification for American military action. Unlike its European predecessors, every battle the United States has ever engaged in has been interpreted, at the time or soon afterward, in a black-white moral light: beginning even with the pilgrims themselves, who belonged to the same Puritan sect which had shortly before overthrown and executed the English king Charles I during the English revolution in the name of religion, resulting in the Interregnum (this being one reason many Puritans were forced to relocate later to New England, seeking religious tolerance). The American revolution was the moral ultimatum rejecting taxation without representation, diplomatic channels having proved useless. The Whiskey Rebellion, the (American-British) War of 1812, the Civil War, the Mexican War (Remember the Alamo!), the Spanish-American War, right up to WW II and the various Cold War hot spots: all with the usual multiplicity of environmental and economic and even individual psychological factors contributing to their eruption, all reinterpreted in grade school history textbooks and in the United States mythos within the black-white moral imperative, first of a physically definable manifest destiny, later as the moral guardians of the globe. (It seems to have been largely ignored of late that the structure of the United States was itself a brave social experiment.) The current national morality combines near-fundamentalist Christianity with an evangelism of the capitalistic ideal of free sale of goods -- if not truly two-way free movement of goods (in the interest of protecting American jobs). Weber (who identified a likely relation between the Protestant work ethic and the rise of capitalism) would not have been surprised in the slightest.
To speak is to silence. No matter how much one might wish to hear what others might have to say, the very act of speaking will cause some to hesitate, and others to reconsider, and still others to revise entirely what they might have said. It might be that what goes unspoken may have more validity than what was said aloud -- but we can never know for sure.
I spoke, here. It is an arrogant thing in itself, to speak, to believe that one has something that is worth saying aloud -- but it is more arrogant by far not to speak something that may perhaps be worth sharing, even if it be shared solely in order for another to discover some crucial inaccuracy or flaw. I hope I have not silenced what might well have far more validity than anything I have said here.