Archives for category: Ethics

What is liberty?

as answered on Quora….

Liberty is the freedom that can be had by all, provided each reciprocally abandons predation and parasitism (initiated force) and does not arrogate self over others, or allow others to tyrannize self.

Liberty — depending, as it does, upon the civilized stance, which is the cautious attitude of curiosity and the reserved expectation of peacefulness on the part of individuals, and which moderates the polarizing natural instincts of fight or flight — is the ideal compromise between dominance and submission, between tyranny and servility.

Or, to switch to the group level:

Liberty is a regulatory solution to the problems caused by in-group/out-group (inclusionary/exclusionary) antagonisms. It does this by regulating the ill treatment of the outsider, requiring a public test for applying coercion, based on the notions of rights/obligations and the suppression of crime and trespass. It applies the same sort of basic rule to all people, as individuals — regardless of group affiliation or institutional alliance.

Further formulations from alternative contexts:

Liberty is the replacement of militant coöperation with voluntary coöperation, understanding that peaceful non-coöperation is not a threat.

Liberty is the honing of threat systems down to a bare minimum by

  1. focusing on the prohibition of the initiation of force as well as by
  2. regarding as bedrock to social order self-defense, and by
  3. regulating retaliation by a rule of law —

all of which allows the flourishing of “enticement systems” (and the spontaneous systemization of flourishing).

Liberty, wrote Voltaire, is “independence backed by force.” While freedom is the absence of initiated opposing force, liberty is that absence grounded throughout society upon the justice of limiting “opposing force” to the defensive.

Liberty is reciprocity universalized, the Silver Rule scaled to all levels of organized society.

Liberty is a limit to government — with government understood in the broadest of social terms.

Liberty is a widespread and baseline personal freedom understood in the context of a distributed division of responsibility.

Dennis Pratt broke down the key concepts, above, into a nifty bullet-point list:

  • universal (for all)
  • civility
  • voluntary cooperation
  • reduced threats
  • defensive force
  • reciprocity
  • limited government
  • distributed responsibility

Where do human rights come from?

…as answered on Quora….

Rights are human instruments, in law and ethics.

Where do they come from?

Well, they come from human beings’ need to control themselves and others, and from our expressions, judgments, claims, counter-claims, etc. But that isn’t the whole of the story, for just “being an instrument” of purpose and need does not mean that the instrument in question cannot be abandoned, or that all rights are created equal.

There is something about the inherent concept of a right that disallows many common conceptions. Philosophers and jurists and politicians have been working on the ideas for centuries or longer, but I am going to skip most of that. Suffice it to say that the rightness of a right, so to speak, is not its instrumentality alone.

But let us not forget what a right is, sans its utility, goodness, or justification — let us remember what even an unacceptable right would be.

right is a claim to obligatory treatment. For every right there is at least one obligation — so understanding a right requires understanding obligation, or duty.

Rights are a way of articulating duties.

In law, the obligation marshaled by a right amounts to a legally enforceable — by coercion, compulsion — performance. Or, outside of law, but in ethics, legitimately required and sanctionable. If I have a right to liberty, you have a duty not to initiate force upon me. If you have a right to health care, then I must supply you medical aid. When someone fails or refuses to perform the specified duty, at law a case will be somehow made, in criminal or civil court, or merchant law, or the like, to compel the performance of the duty, with penalties.

Now, I wrote above that it is coercion or compulsion that is threatened in the articulation of the right. Well, the threat can be something less than force, but in political philosophy we are usually talking about force, so let’s restrict ourselves to that.

Oh, and I just wrote that word “threat.” A right is a specific kind of articulation of a threat. Human social systems are dominated by two types of interaction, threats and enticements. Rights are civilized threats. Since we do not like to be threatened, there is a reason that rights that are promoted universally, that all may have, are commonly favored, and, indeed, narrow the field and winnow out many forms of posited duties. Rights that only some may have at the obligation of all are suspect.

So, we can expand our definition somewhat: a right is the positive, beneficiary focus of the articulation of a threat that has as its targeted focus an obligation.

Now we have to make some distinctions. For there are dimensions to rights and obligations: who has the right? who is obligated? what is obligated? To be brief and hastily move through an ideascape that Jeremy Bentham should have covered but did not quite, we have specific rights when the number of rights-bearers are few and the numbers of the duty-bound are few, or singular (I have a right to $100 from a client; the phone company has a right to $200 from me) and we have rights that all have and to which all are obliged. We have several names for these kinds of rights:

  • natural rights
  • universal rights
  • basic rights
  • human rights

There is something to be said for and against each of these. If one were of a certain type of mind (as I am, on Tuesdays) we could treat each as a distinct term of art. But suffice it, here, to say that these very elementary and foundational rights are what we are most interested in political philosophy, and which deserve all of our attention.

I believe that because of the very construction of this tool, “a right,” most propounded universal rights fail to pass muster.

A human right should make sense in most human societies, and should be performable without causing social chaos and conflict rather than social stability. I have argued, and will argue again, that many of the “rights” some people most desire are mere imposition farded up with the lipstick of effrontery. A right to “healthcare” for example. Folks who talk about these types of rights demand too much of others, literally. For every obligation there is coercion, and it is not reasonable to promote universal servitude. The more rights you propound, the more coercion you thrust into our social reality.

Which is why the right to liberty strikes me as the best contender for a universal, basic, fundamental right: all of us having it at baseline personhood means that all of us have a very simple obligation set, a sort of “do no harm” duty: to not initiate force. This is an easy burden, as obligations go. It requires mainly defensive force for their maintenance in society. Not offensive. It is not imperialistic. It rests upon a tolerant, undemanding, liberal stance.

So you can see where the “imperativeness” comes from, what makes this right a right indeed: universalizability, and a reasonable enticement to all not to promote violence. To reduce the degree of threats in society.

A right to liberty works better than all other contenders because the threat element in the substance of the right is reduced to a minimum for the benefit of all.

Yes. There you have it. Rights are threats, sure, but they must also offer an enticement to reasonable, peaceful people.

I avoid a number of issues of extreme interest to me, but they are not really germane to the question at hand — though they are not utterly tangential, either. These include, especially, what is so “natural” about a “natural right”? and how do we “have” rights?

One of the odd things about our time is how virtuous some folks feel doing things they themselves would regard as evil were it done to them.

At base, in this madness, is in-group/out-group antagonism, which one can read about in an early analysis in The Inductions of Ethics by Herbert Spencer (Principles of Ethics, Part Two). But if you are looking for examples, you can almost pick one at random. Here is an answer on Quora that Quora itself directed me to this morning:

Read Siddharth Paratkar‘s answer to What disgusts you? on Quora

I suppose I may have heard the sad story of Ms. Ames before, but I had forgotten, so this Quora answer was new to me. But it is an all-too-familiar tale. And it is bitterly “ironic,” in that she was hounded out of what was, to her, civil society . . . by people who thought of themselves as defending sexual choice — those of gay and bi- men — for her own sexual choices.

Principles got lost in the tribalism. That often happens.

But tribalism is primary among humans, and inter-tribal antagonisms are built into our way of thinking. This has always been confusing to earnest people who seek consistency, as Spencer notes:

As the ethics of enmity and the ethics of amity, thus arising in each society in response to external and internal conditions respectively, have to be simultaneously entertained, there is formed an assemblage of utterly inconsistent sentiments and ideas. Its components can by no possibility be harmonized, and yet they have to be all accepted and acted upon. Every day exemplifies the resulting contradictions, and also exemplifies men’s contentment under them.
When, after prayers asking for divine guidance, nearly all the bishops approve an unwarranted invasion, like that of Afghanistan, the incident passes without any expression of surprise; while, conversely, when the Bishop of Durham takes the chair at a peace meeting, his act is commented upon as remarkable. When, at a Diocesan Conference, a peer (Lord Cranbook), opposing international arbitration, says he is “not quite sure that a state of peace might not be a more dangerous thing for a nation than war,” the assembled priests of the religion of love make no protest; nor does any general reprobation, clerical or lay, arise when a ruler in the Church, Dr. Moorhouse, advocating a physical and moral discipline fitting the English for war, expresses the wish “to make them so that they would, in fact, like the fox when fastened by the dogs, die biting,” and says that “these were moral qualities to be encouraged and increased among our people, and he believed that nothing could suffice for this but the grace of God operating in their hearts.” How completely in harmony with the popular feeling in a land covered with Christian churches and chapels, is this exhortation of the Bishop of Manchester, we see in such facts as that people eagerly read accounts of football matches in which there is an average of a death per week; that they rush in crowds to buy newspapers which give detailed reports of a brutal prizefight, but which pass over in a few lines the proceedings of a peace congress; and that they are lavish patrons of illustrated papers, half the woodcuts in which have for their subjects the destruction of life or the agencies for its destruction.

Herbert Spencer, Inductions of Ethics, first chapter: “Confusion of Ethical Thought.”

People who think of themselves as just and kind often find themselves behaving unjustly and cruelly. But they do not notice it, are often oblivious to their contradictory thoughts and behavior. This ability to flip a switch and cease acting within the amity paradigm to going all in for enmity? Breathtaking, in its way. But a commonplace.

Against this understanding, though, are the pieties of our moral traditions; for many folks, even admitting that there are two orientations (at least) in ethics offends against heir self-image and their understanding of what they call “their values”:

A silent protest has been made by many readers, and probably by most, while reading that section of the foregoing chapter which describes the ethics of enmity. Governed by feelings and ideas which date from their earliest lessons, and have been constantly impressed on them at home and in church, they have formed an almost indissoluble association between a doctrine of right and wrong in general, and those particular commands and interdicts included in the decalogue, which, contemplating the actions of men to one another in the same society, takes no note of their combined actions against men of alien societies. The conception of ethics has, in this way, come to be limited to that which I have distinguished as the ethics of amity; and to speak of the ethics of enmity seems absurd.
Yet, beyond question, men associate ideas of right and wrong with the carrying on of intertribal and international conflicts; and this or that conduct in battle is applauded or condemned no less strongly than this or that conduct in ordinary social life. Are we then to say that there is one kind of right and wrong recognized by ethics and another kind of right and wrong not recognized by ethics? If so, under what title is this second kind of right and wrong to be dealt with? Evidently men’s ideas about conduct are in so unorganized a state, that while one large class of actions has an overtly recognized sanction, another large class of actions has a sanction, equally strong or stronger, which is not overtly recognized.

Herbert Spencer, Inductions of Ethics, second chapter: “What Ideas and Sentiments Are Ethical?”

Spencer was writing at a time when Christianity was still earnestly and reflexively held to by the majority. And with that majority understanding he had to contend. Nowadays, we live in a post-Christian context where the dominant religion is statism whose priests are journalists and whose divines are academics. So there are some new wrinkles to the cognitive dissonances in ethical thought and practice.

I would be remiss in this discussion of the ethics of enmity vs. the ethics of amity to cite Spencer for the basic concepts but not, at the same time, cite his discussion of sexual conduct in the same volume. His chapter on this in The Inductions of Ethics is called “Chastity.” How quaint:

Conduciveness to welfare, individual or social or both, being the ultimate criterion of evolutionary ethics, the demand for chastity has to be sought in its effects under given conditions.
Among men, as among inferior creatures, the needs of the species determine the rightness or wrongness of these or those sexual relations; for sexual relations unfavorable to the rearing of offspring, in respect either of number or quality must tend towards degradation and extinction. 

Nowadays, responsibility for the maintenance of he young has been increasingly shifted from individual onus and domestic arrangements to a state system that Spencer only had nightmares about. Perhaps not coincidentally there has arisen an anti-progenitive ideology on personal and social levels. So sexuality is now largely conceived almost wholly as a consumption, not a production, activity, leading to bizarre and quite decadent sense of virtue. In the story cited at top, a woman who engaged in sexual activity as an entertainment activity was morally disallowed from having say in her partners, on grounds of safety. Not even that tiniest bit of chastity — the merest quantum of the virtue — was allowed her by the mob.

We are close to Sodom’s rape mobs, here.

But Spencer is remarkably open-minded for a chaste Victorian bachelor. “Bad as were the gods of the Greeks, the gods of the ancient Indians were worse,” he writes, astounded over what he found in ancient Sanskrit literature. “In the Puranas as well as in the Mahabharata there are stories about the ‘adulterous amours’ of Indra, Varuna, and other gods; at the same time that the ‘celestial nymphs are expressly declared to be courtesans,’ and are ‘sent by the gods from time to time to seduce austere sages.’ A society having a theology of such a kind, cannot well have been other than licentious.”

But in our society, the somewhat hysterical drive to defend women as an oppressed class has been abandoned for the defense of non-heterosexual people — and, most bizarrely, those who pretend to be, or seek “to become,” members of their opposite sex. So women are now, increasingly, expected to accept as women who dress up as (or merely declare themselves to be) women, to compete against them in women’s sports, suffer them in women’s restrooms, and the like. The issue is forced inclusion. We are not allowed to exclude others from our company, at least when it comes to sex, for reasons that doing so is said to be oppressive.

This ethic of forced inclusion is one way of transcending the amity/enmity split. The other, the outsider, the excluded, must be let in.

And since monogamy is no longer required for the nurturing of the young — state programs of redistribution have seen to that — polyandry is the norm, utter licentiousness is the norm, and the control is that one may “not discriminate” against people identified as of oppressed groups.

This arose out of the racial divide in the United States over the Jim Crow era’s handling of the descendants of slaves. Many of the laws in the South segregated public accommodations, government and private. This was a bad thing, so the discriminatory laws were not merely repealed, but anti-discrimination laws were put in place, not for private people (you could eject anyone from your home) but for “public accommodations,” businesses that regularly dealt with the public. Forced inclusion. That became the rule. Anyone, regardless of race, was to be included as customers and employees.

In the case of Ms. Ames, her business activity of engaging in sexual intercourse disallowed her from discrimination on the grounds of sexual partners’ previous sexual behavior, even prudentially, for her own safety. By not fucking bi-sexual men, she was the oppressor.

The new gospel of inclusion thus reached its absurdity point: forcing women to accept into their bodies cocks they don’t want.

The Twitter mob was, by my lights, quite vile, even evil. But behind it all loomed the eminence gris of the welfare state, which has robbed couples of their senses of responsibility. It had made them mad.

Spencer’s linking of militancy with promiscuity is not wholly convincing to me — or even to himself, as he admits. But the general tenor of his discussion seems about right: “It remains only to emphasize the truth, discernible amid all complexities and varieties, that without a prevailing chastity we do not find a good social state.” Here is his summary:

There are three ways in which chastity furthers a superior social state. The first is that indicated at the outset–conduciveness to the nurture of offspring. Nearly everywhere, but especially where the stress of competition makes the rearing of children difficult, lack of help from the father must leave the mother overtaxed, and entail inadequate nutrition of progeny. Unchastity, therefore, tends towards production of inferior individuals, and if it prevails widely must cause decay of the society.
The second cause is that, conflicting as it does with the establishment of normal monogamic relations, unchastity is adverse to those higher sentiments which prompt such relations. In societies characterized by inferior forms of marriage, or by irregular connections, there cannot develop to any great extent that powerful combination of feelings–affection, admiration, sympathy–which in so marvelous a manner has grown out of the sexual instinct. And in the absence of this complex passion, which manifestly presupposes a relation between one man and one woman, the supreme interest in life disappears, and leaves behind relatively subordinate interests. Evidently a prevalent unchastity severs the higher from the lower components of the sexual relation: the root may produce a few leaves, but no true flower.
Sundry of the keenest aesthetic pleasures must at the same time be undermined. It needs but to call to mind what a predominant part in fiction, the drama, poetry, and music, is played by the romantic element in love, to see that anything which militates against it tends to diminish, if not to destroy the chief gratifications which should fill the leisure part of life.

Romance, now, plays second fiddle — or distant rebec — to inclusionary mobs seeking to promote the last underdog group they can find. Next stops: pedophiles and necrophiliacs.


A few days ago I heard but had not bothered to confirm that only Chinese people were being killed by the coronavirus. Being a science fiction reader living in our stefnal age, my first thought was pretty obvious — and straight out of Heinlein: biowarfare.

And it is not as if biowarfare had not been rumored, for weeks now.

Yesterday, Scott Adams (on his Periscope vlog) drew out this line of conjecture explicitly, speculating on who might wish to kill millions, perhaps billions, of Chinese people, using bioweaponry, and why:

Scott Adams’s talk is important for several reasons. . . .

First, he figures the probability on the bioweapon angle as very low. One reason that he gives for a low probability rests on the commonplace that is coincidence. He says it is likely “just a coincidence” that an outbreak would occur near a viral research/bioweapons research laboratory. I suspect it is not. Near a bio-research laboratory is where you would expect accidental leaks to happen. Where viruses are bred, studied and stored is where they might break out into the general population. Since in research even non-weaponized viruses are studied, any could break out of the confines.

We do not need to go to conspiracy, though conspiracy is also a possibility — we’ve all read Greg Bear’s Blood Music, right?

So I would not relegate a non-conspiratorial outbreak of a contagion near a research facility as being just an example of a conspiracy. I would not even say it is more likely to be mere coincidence.

But also, were I a murderous conspirator unleashing a weaponized virus, I would also likely wish to let it out near someone else’s biolab, merely to confuse the targeted population.

Second, Adams goes through a Likely Suspect list, and he does a pretty good job. Yet he gets one thing very wrong, I think. He dismisses the idea that the U.S. could be a likely bioweaponry/genocide suspect. I do not dismiss the idea. “Our” Deep State is extremely rogue, and would do anything to maintain its advantage. China is horning in on a very important space-oriented arms race, and the Deep State might stop at nothing to nip that in the bud. Killing thousands or millions? Well, sure: look up Operation Northwoods. Deeply embedded statists could probably cook up a plausible, half-earnest rationale to justify almost any enormity.

They have in the past.

Third, “goodness” — Scott runs through possible justifications of biowarfare to test the possibility of warfare, using the “Never Again” mantra as the hook upon which he hangs his hat. He says that many, many people — including himself — would, if given the opportunity, use genocide to retaliate for someone else’s program of genocide . . . as well as to prevent further genocide. Yikes. Does he not see the trap here?

This reasoning rests upon the idea of democracy — a very low-level democracy, admittedly, since China isn’t one. As both Étienne de La Boétie and David Hume observed, the number of people who actually govern are smaller than the ranks of the governed, so even tyrannical government rests upon a kind of consent of the governed — an accommodation to governance, let’s say. And since the masses let their governments do outrageous things, they are, themselves, morally responsible. And if the crimes committed by the governors are worthy of the death penalty, then the people themselves are worthy of same.

People should carefully contemplate this line of thought. Adams’s speculations in the moral realm do more than suggest a justification of all kinds of horror on the dubious basis of preventing other outrageous moral horrors. Further, Adams’s line of reasoning is the common line of reasoning on such matters, and it completely demolishes our umbrage taken at terrorists and mass murderers. It is a prescription for never-ending war, dominance, and mass slaughter.

Everyone should pull the strings on his speculation, here.

To unravel the argument.

Fourth, take a breath. What he is talking about is something he breezes right through: mass murder as an apt revenge for other mass murder. But it is indeed more than that. His logic could also “morally justify” preëmptive mass murder.

Now, I’m not saying that he is not ably reflecting common-sense statism. Indeed, that is the reason his speculations are important. They are how humans often think and judge. But I am saying he perhaps (and without intending it) provides an apocalypse of statism itself — a revelation of its core character, its quiddity.

A robust common sense would have to reject statism to remain sane.

Thankfully, the odds for the Coronavirus As Bioweapon are likely as Scott Adams puts them: very unlikely. But we should consider the outside chance. And, alas, he appears to be correct: no fact we now possess falsifies a bioweapon possibility.


Was Sax Rohmer racist?

That is the rap. His Fu-Manchu novels are said to be anti-Chinese. He certainly was a Yellow Peril pusher. But is the racist charge fully justified?

I do not know, and I do not really care to explore at length. Until yesterday, I had never read a word of the author. But yesterday I received a gift box of vintage American fiction — a good half being westerns, and many of the volumes from one popular publisher, Grosset & Dunlap — in which was included the first of Rohmer’s Fu-Manchu novels. I read the first page. I was not impressed.

So my interest then turned to finding a new home for the novel, someone who might appreciate it more than I do. In that cause, I snapped a photo of a broken binding spread of interior pages, and then looked at what was there.

An interesting passage, here highlighted:

My dubiety rises with my eyebrows.

This passage is about infanticide, which was once — and still is — practiced in China and elsewhere. It is also a gruesome, immoral practice . . . which is increasingly being defended in our abortion-loving West.

Rohmer may have been racist; I am no expert. But if you read this passage and take from it that this white male author was Racist and Therefore Evil, I suspect you yourself may have already embraced a different evil, the anti-human predilection for the destruction of one’s own (or others’) offspring.

Surely baby-killing, with or without a scorpions’ touch, is worse than “racism” unmodified.

If Rohmer seems racist to you for looking down upon a culture that practiced infanticide, maybe your own character needs some attending-to. On the face of it, the implicit defense of the lives of Chinese babies is not a likely case for anti-Chinese racism.

But, sure, something deeper may be involved. What if tolerant nods for infanticide and abortion — say, from a demagogic governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia — is at least sometimes an expression of racism? I bet some white westerners promote abortion and tolerate infanticide because . . . people of other colors engage in such horrors more often than whites.

If that is indeed your attitude, ask the next question: what evildoer “Fu-Manchu” does your attitude promote?

And is your “Fu-Manchu” white, and running for office in your favored political faction?


For your WTF Files, in case you had not seen this particular ‘Q&A’ segment from Down Under in other videos:

It features a grand and revelatory rant by Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American feminist lunatic with fake red hair. ‘How long must we wait for men and boys to stop murdering us, to stop beating us, and stop raping us? … How many rapists must we kill until men stop raping us?’

Note the follow-up questions that need answers. Unasked and unanswered.

Note especially that she does not inquire how many rapists were killed in the past by actually patriarchal society, not today’s fantasied one. Until the rise of liberal society in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, the death penalty for even small infractions was common. We live in the societies that grew out of those harsher times. By inadvertent breeding, there are almost certainly less rapists today than there would be otherwise had not those bloody-minded patriarchs killed all those stupid, criminal young men before they could sire children, by rape or by seduction or by whoring or by conjugal relations.

But she’s against that — well, at least the State’s death penalty — suggesting, instead, that women should directly kill their rapists, something I am OK with in self-defense but not as revenge. Women just need guns.

I expect she and I would get along swimmingly, heh. Maybe she will join the ranks of women with firearms.

Now, this video’s commentary is helpful and droll. But it is Eltahawy’s racist and sexist rantings that take center state here, and include a classic riff: decorum and manners were invented by white men, you see, only for the benefit of white men, no one else. ‘Marginal voices’ are further marginalized by manners . . . or so her argument appears to run.

An absurd idea, but it should be responded to rationally, as absurd as it is.

Which I will leave for another time.

But most absurd of all? Eltahawy’s advice to straight men: don’t seek just sexual intimacy with women. ‘Be queerer. Be more bisexual. Be less cis-gendered. . . . Just fuck it all up and be free!’

This reminds me of the Sixties, when hippies told us to take LSD: tune in, turn on, drop out. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

As an answer to problems of violence in society, it is ridiculous.

As, I am afraid, is Mona Eltahawy.

Mona Eltahawy, radical feminist.

By the way, it is not OK to be white — why, the Australian Parliament says so, and so, obviously, does the BBC! You see, it is racist to say “it is ‘OK’ to ‘be white.’”

And the bare majority that balked at affirming this merest ‘white race’ acceptability status does not mean it thinks it is GREAT to be white. Oh, no:

Australia’s Senate has narrowly defeated a motion condemning “anti-white racism,” by just three votes.

Pauline Hanson, the leader of Australia’s far-right One Nation party, wanted backing for her motion which stated “it is OK to be white.”

It also spoke of the “deplorable rise of anti-white racism and attacks on Western civilisation.”

Critics have dismissed it as another stunt by Ms Hanson, who last year hit the headlines for wearing a burka.

Yet a number of ruling party politicians backed the motion.

It’s OK to be white’ bill defeated in Australian Senate,” BBC News, October 15, 2018.

You see the BBC’s implicit bias. “Yet” — despite the fact that the measure came from someone on “the far right” (obviously evil!) and that some unnamed “critics” have “dismissed” the proposed motion — “a number of” mainstream pols “backed the motion”! Horrors.

So what is implied by being scandalized by the statement?

They, the scandalized, mean either (a) they think it is bad (somehow) to be white or (b) that they think people of darker hue are too weak, witless or ‘triggered’ to be able to handle white people affirming a basic level of human acceptability. In either case, either they are racists against whites and believe that whites must be put down, as a normative matter for reasons unspecified, or they are racists against non-whites by thinking that they are so inherently inferior that only by putting whites down can non-whites achieve their own ‘OK’-or-better status.

Another possibility? These white anti-white racists are just really, really stupid . . . so lacking in any philosophical understanding of the case against racism that they become racists themselves, adopting a witless knee-jerk hyper-piety about what one may say about race and racism. Yes. They are that idiotic. That ill-educated. They are intellectual simpletons who should not be anywhere near power.

I lean to this latter explanation.

A brindle (striped) Great Dane; it’s OK, rest assured.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Ms Hanson said “people have a right to be proud of their cultural background, whether they are black, white or brindle.”

“If we cannot agree on this, I think it’s safe to say anti-white racism is well and truly rife in our society,” she added.

’It’s OK to be white’ bill defeated in Australian Senate ,” BBC News, October 15, 2018.

Now, do we need to have pride in our racial or cultural backgrounds? I am dubious. But we should certainly be unashamed of what was not our responsibility and, further, that which we cannot change.

And anti-white racism is “rife.” It is understandable when coming from non-whites. Negative racism expressed outwards hardly requires much explanation. But anti-white racism by whites is exceptional. We used to resort to the ‘self-hating’ concept to explain such things, but I do not think hate is what we should focus upon. It’s about color, the color red. As in “a red” or “pinko.”

Yes, this is all about the confusions of leftists, of communists, of socialists.

These ideologues are confused. Their inherent collectivism makes them so. And their long-standing pretense of ‘being liberal’ is key to their befuddlement. You see, they think of their anti-racism as leftist. It isn’t. It hails from liberalism. And they aren’t liberals. They yearn for socialism of some sort. So they are utterly unable to articulate a case against racism that is not collectivist . . . and their collectivism inevitably reëmerges in another for, a topsy turvy racism.

And yes, it is OK to be any color or coloring of human — so long as we are talking skin color. The liberal-individualist case for human rights and ‘dignity’ [too often, admittedly, undefined in our discourse*] does not depend upon racial categories. The fact that this ‘it is OK to be white’ meme triggers anyone is a sign that liberal civilization has not passed on its basic ideas from one generation to the next.

* I have spent a lot of time thinking about rights. But dignity? Not so much.

…it’s not because of my virtue or my vice….

The conservative position on freedom is, as I have always understood it (listening to actual conservatives rather than “conservative intellectuals”), that we must defend the freedoms of the virtuous. I have heard this principle brilliantly defined as “liberty is the freedom to do what’s right.”

Vice may — or even must — be suppressed!

This derails any substantive commitment to freedom, I argue, or to civil liberty.

I mention this not to rag on conservatives, whom I often agree with on many things, and whose arguments become less opprobrious to me as I grow older and grumpier — as I prepare to drop off into the Abyss.

It is to note that modern progressivism is conservative, in that today’s progressives have redefined virtue and vice for their ideology, and defend the freedoms of those they consider virtuous (or “victims,” the other v-word in this scenario, since it often stands in for virtue) and aim to suppress the freedoms of those who engage in vice.

Vice being wrongthink, from this point of view, the wrongthink centering, at present, on racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.

When it comes to a listing of vices, I do think that most items on the progressives’ list have much to be said for them, as do most items on older lists of traditional Christian culture.

But I am largely uninterested in “values” politics, and the endless wrangling over whose vice we may suppress, via the State. Why? Well, because the rationality of these projects is so gossamer-thin, dependent always on which model of morality we are promoting this week.

I think freedom itself, as embodied in liberal notions of natural and civil liberty, provide a better guide to peace and justice than does any relentless virtue-mongering program.

Which is why I am not a conservative.

Which is also why I am not a progressive — they are basically just another form of conservative.


Should there be straight pride?

as answered by TWV on Quora:

Probably not. But there should be no “straight shame,” either.

And, more importantly, most people should practice a bit of modesty, as part of humility and decorum, rather than “pride.”

The point of “gay pride” was, as near as I could make out, a reasonable and necessary push back against the anti-homosexual shaming that was once the norm. That the “pride” movement went overboard, as can be seen in too many of the gay pride parades I have noticed, is sad. By putting aside the question of being unashamed of one’s orientation and instead publicly glorying in indecency and immodesty, “gay pride” paraders have promoted shamelessness when shame be more apt.

You see, the original idea of not feeling shame for one’s desires is good. But the shameless public promotion of private, even lewd activities strikes me as bad, immoral, inconsiderate — what amounts to grand effrontery.

Why would straight people wish to emulate all that?

But straight people do need to defend their desires against the onslaught of anti-straight social forces.

I believe heteronormativity also needs to be defended.

Why? Because the norming of the activities that lead to procreation, to the maintenance of the species, is pro-life, humanistic, civilized. To oppose heteronormativity is to promote decadence.

Quite literally.

Of course, the reader will gather that I think heteronormativity need not be oppressive to the small population of sexual outliers. A society can norm heterosexuality without pride and overbearing condescension and exclusion. Heteronormativity can be humble, not proud.

It is a worse than a shame when it is, instead, shameless and tyrannical.

I believe it is imperative that straight people resist cultural decadence and re-learn modesty, responsibility and the blessing of human reproduction. Also, it might be helpful to relearn that sexual activity can be pleasurable within a context centered around the production of offspring and the raising of same.

But “straight pride” won’t do that. “Straight virtue” might.

twv, September 19, 2019

Philosophy: the last thing Americans consider in public policy. Because it might be wisdom.

It was a joke when I was a child. It is an atrocity now.

The Army has carried the American ideal to its logical conclusion. Not only do they prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed and color, but also on ability.

Tom Lehrer, An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer (recorded at Harvard’s Sanders Theater on March 20–21, 1959)

Ah, discrimination. People forget that it is a good thing. It is what makes us human.

But let us admit it, the normal run of humanity rarely bothers to do much in the way of careful thinking. A word gets associated, in common speech, with another word — and then the concept of the word pair leads, as if by an invisible hand, to impute meaning back up the two words’ separate semantic lines. Well, up at least one of them. Racial discrimination being bad, at least when done by the state or when engaged in privately with malice, so careless, slovenly speakers come to think “all discrimination is wrong.”

And it was not just about race. Sexual discrimination was said to be wrong by liberal folks. And religious discrimination, too. These are the three mentioned by Lehrer in his joke.

In 1984, the two major party candidates for the United States Presidency, when asked about gay rights, admitted, humbly and righteously both, that “all discrimination is wrong.” Walter Mondale insisted that he learned that outstive truth “on his daddy’s knee.” His father had misinformed him. Ronald Reagan answered the question with another question, if memory serves: “isn’t all discrimination wrong?” The answer is definitely “no.”

What is going on here? Well, a puzzled person might consult a dictionary.

from Merriam-Webster’s iPad app.

The root meaning can be found in the second and third listed defnitions, not the first. This is made more clear by consulting an older dictionary.

My copy of The New Century Dictionary (1927), D. Appleton-Century Co. (1933)

Discrimination is the act of recognizing differences, making distinctions and apt judgments. This is what makes man a rational animal.

The error comes down to a category problem.

Racial discrimination is bad when one identifies race as a relevant characteristic upon which to make a judgment or decision when race is not, in fact or by custom or morality, relevant.

We who support the idea of basic human rights insist that it is a person’s status as a human being and not as a member of a particular race that matters in advancing and defending his or her rights.

In employing someone, productivity is what matters, not race as such, so one would be a fool to hire or fire mainly on the grounds of race.

But in other domains of life it may indeed make sense to discriminate to some extent by race. If you are putting on a play about Martin Luther King and the best actor you can find is some white guy, it would be ill-advised to hire him and paint his face darker — better, I think, t limit your search to a population of actors from black African stock. And of course the reverse is true: when casting for the part of George Washington, you can rule out of hand right from the start all black, Asian and even short actors, no matter how good Denzel Washington, Naveen Andrews, and Danny DeVito may be.

Similarly, when choosing a mate, it may be high-minded of you to be open to members of all races, but it would hardly be wrong to discriminate for members of your own race, or members of a race you find most attractive.

The upshot is: equality before the law and doing good business indicate reasons to set up a taboo on discrimination on the basis of race, but there may be a few or even many areas of life where where racial discrimination is not wrong.

And other forms of discrimination — on basis of talent, taste, concepts, efficacy, etc. — remain central to what it means to be human.

I shake my head at this now, and wonder how anyone could be so dunderheaded as to think otherwise. But I remember Reagan and Mondale, and I see why the error of believing that all discrimination is wrong could be made.

Especially by those who are over-vigilant, for whatever reason, in the fight against racism. Over-compensation is a strategy.

But it can lead to bizarre and horrific consequences, as seen in an article that was just published on Quillette, “Public Education’s Dirty Secret.” In this revelatory memoir, schoolteacher Mary Hudson describes why New York City’s schools are so bad. And “bad” is an understatement:

The school always teetered on the verge of chaos. The previous principal had just been dismissed and shunted to another school district. Although it was never stated, all that was expected of teachers was to keep students in their seats and the volume down. This was an enormous school on five floors, with students cordoned off into separate programs. There was even a short-lived International Baccalaureate Program, but it quickly failed. Whatever the program, however, the atmosphere of the school was one of danger and deceit. Guards patrolled the hallways, sometimes the police had to intervene. Even though the security guards carefully screened the students at the metal detectors posted at every entrance, occasionally arms crept in. Girls sometimes managed to get razors in, the weapon of choice against rivals for boys’ attention. Although I don’t know of other arms found in the school (teachers were kept in the dark as much as possible), one particularly disruptive and dangerous boy was stabbed one afternoon right outside school. It appears he came to a violent death a few years later. What a tragic waste of human potential.

As the weeks dragged painfully into months, it became apparent that the students wouldn’t learn anything. It was dumbfounding. It was all I could do to keep them quiet; that is, seated and talking among themselves. Sometimes I had to stop girls from grooming themselves or each other. A few brave souls tried to keep up with instruction. A particularly good history teacher once told me that she interrupted a conversation between two girls, asking them to pay attention to the lesson. One of them looked up at her scornfully and sneered, “I don’t talk to teachers,” turning her back to resume their chat. She told me that the best school she ever worked at was in Texas, where her principal managed not only to suspend the most disruptive students for long periods, he also made sure they were not admitted during that time to any other school in the district. It worked; they got good results.

But this was not done. Suspending the violent and the disruptive was considered by administrators to be . . . wait for it . . . “discriminatory.”

It would be “discriminatory” to keep the students at home. The appropriate paperwork being filed, the most outrageously disruptive students went for a day or two to a room with other serious offenders. The anti-discrimination laws under which we worked took all power away from the teachers and put it in the hands of the students.

This is of course a recipe for chaos. No learning can occur when violent students disrupt classrooms and receive protection from the authorities.

I tried everything imaginable to overcome student resistance. Nothing worked. At one point I rearranged the seating to enable the students who wanted to engage to come to the front of the classroom. The principal was informed and I was reprimanded. This was “discriminatory.” The students went back to their chosen seats near their friends. Aside from imposing order, the only thing I succeeded at was getting the students to stand silently during the Pledge of Allegiance and mumble a few songs in French. But it was a constant struggle as I tried to balance going through the motions of teaching with keeping them quiet.

The abuse from students never let up. We were trained to absorb it. By the time I left, however, I had a large folder full of the complaint forms I’d filled out documenting the most egregious insults and harassment. There was a long process to go through each time. The student had a parent or other representative to state their case at the eventual hearing and I had my union rep. I lost every case.

The sheer craziness of this policy is dystopian in its extremity. And note that excuse: being “against discrimination.”

And let us not fool ourselves. We know where the abuse of the word “discriminatory” comes from: progressivism.

And lawyers.

Over-vigilance against racial discrimination has led to the anathemization of all forms of discrimination, including those forms noticed by Tom Lehrer, discrimination on the grounds of ability. And it is white guilt that is the main trouble — coupled with the moral corruption of inner-city black parents and their lawyers and advocates. Progressive white folks have been so afraid to think carefully about — and criticize, judge — “the marginalized”* when they do wrong that they defend bad behavior and thereby nurture evil and self-destructive vice.

This is a grand example of moral and intellectual cowardice.

That it has led to a form of philosophical corruption, where a word central to the whole moral and intellectual project — discrimination — has become a word to defend bad behavior and the corruption of the young.

The story is not just horrific, though. It is also darkly comic:

Sometimes you just have had enough. One day a girl sitting towards the back of the classroom shouted at some boy up front, “Yo! Nigga! Stop that!” I stood up as tall as I could and said in my most supercilious voice, “I don’t know which particular nigga the young lady is referring to, but whoever it is, would you please stop it.” The kids couldn’t believe their ears:

“Yo, miss!  You can’t say that!”
“Why not? You say it all the time.”
“Uhh . . .  Because you’re old.”
“That’s not why. Come on, tell the truth.” 

This went on for a bit, until one brave lad piped up: “Because you’re white.” “Okay,” I said, “because I’m white. Well what if I said to you, ‘You’re not allowed to say some word because you’re black.’ Would that be okay?” They admitted that it wouldn’t. No one seemed to report it. To this day, it’s puzzling that I didn’t lose my job over that incident. I put it down to basic human decency.

Decency? Maybe. More likely it was a philosophical moment. For one instance the students learned something. What? That the normative order thst they relied upon was itself evil. One can hope that their momentary glimpse of the truth came to serve them later in life. And speaking of life — what kind did they have?

Students came to school for their social life. The system had to be resisted. It was never made explicit that it was a “white” system that was being rejected, but it was implicit in oft-made remarks. Youngsters would say things like, “You can’t say that word, that be a WHITE word!” It did no good to remind students that some of the finest oratory in America came from black leaders like Martin Luther King and some of the best writing from authors like James Baldwin. I would tell them that there was nothing wrong with speaking one’s own dialect; dialects in whatever language tend to be colorful and expressive, but it was important to learn standard English as well. It opens minds and doors. Every new word learned adds to one’s wealth, and there’s nothing like grammar for organizing one’s thoughts. 

It all fell on deaf ears. It was impossible to dispel the students’ delusions. Astonishingly, they believed that they would do just fine and have great futures once they got to college! They didn’t seem to know that they had very little chance of getting into anything but a community college, if that. Sadly, the kids were convinced of one thing: As one girl put it, “I don’t need an 85 average to get into Hunter; I’m black, I can get in with a 75.” They were actually encouraged to be intellectually lazy.

The adults responsible for this system, black and white, should be ashamed of themselves. And repent. Reform the schools. Get rid of the insane “anti-discrimination” rules — at the very least.

But how likely is that? To do that, after all, they would have to discriminate.


* This term of art, “the marginalized,” is especially inartful, hardly an accurate descriptor, since it misidentifies nearly all the problems noted in this memoir.