A few days ago, I heard that NTSB has recommended a further lowering of the allowable blood-alcohol concentration from 0.08 to 0.05. This proposed lowering of the legal limit is supposed to help ‘save more lives’ or something along those lines. In case you are wondering, the original alcohol limits (0.15-0.10) came into being after testing thousands of people in the late 1930s. Even subsequent research in that field as late as the 1960s found that BAC levels below 0.08-0.09 are not associated with any worthwhile impairment of driving skills or ability.
The current crop of laws surrounding drunk-driving started coming into existence around the 1980s and were largely driven by activist single-issue groups such as MADD and SADD. Coincidentally, some “objective” scientists who were able to create and present revised data to support such laws subsequently benefited from increased funding resulting from more public interest in that area- but that is the topic of another post. This one is my take on what really drives all the laws, rules and regulations surrounding drunk driving.
In my opinion- most legislation, regulation and activism surrounding the prosecution of drunk driving has little or nothing to do with ensuring public safety or preventing automobile accidents.
Let us face it, there are many other equally or more important factors that increase the risk of both impaired driving and accidents. What about fatigue, lack of sufficient sleep, medications and using your smartphone? What about hyperactive children or morons in the backseat? Does anybody really believe that moderate drinking (BAC between 0.08-0.10) and driving causes more accidents than being overworked and sleep deprived? What about people who are checking their smartphone or driving around with morons in the backseat?
Is a lost life or limb more tragic if the driver was moderately drunk than sleep deprived or borderline stupid?
So why is the ‘system’ so interested in prosecuting moderate drinking and driving? How many people die in automobile accidents nowadays? How many get injured? In what percentage of accidents is the more guilty part moderately drunk? What about all of the other causes? Do the agencies even release honest statistics about these things? Don’t more people kill themselves than die in car accidents? Could we not reduce deaths from suicide by making it illegal? What about medical mistakes- still the 2nd or 3rd most cause of death?
It is therefore clear that the system has no intrinsic interest in reducing the number of preventable deaths.
So what drives the desire to go after drunk driving? Why go after a small but visible factor for automobile accidents while ignoring larger but not so obvious ones. In my opinion, it really comes down to a show on control and relevance. Let me explain that idea with an example.
We, as a society, argue over whether gay marriage should be legalized and whether it is ‘natural’. But how many of us display the same energy or zeal and try to fix the dismal state of heterosexual marriage? Would you not agree that fixing heterosexual marriages (which are the majority anyway) is more important than worrying about the legality and ‘naturalness’ of gay marriage? So.. why is if far easier to find people opposed to gay marriage than fixing heterosexual marriage?
The answer to that question is both unpleasant and revealing. People have little interest in fixing big problems because that is often hard and complicated. Solutions to such problems often expose stupidity dressed up as tradition and wisdom. Fixing them also disrupts established parasitic institutions and hierarchies. In short, fixing real problems is hard, messy and humiliating.
Fixing non-problems or token ‘problems’ is relatively easy and allows most people to feel self-righteous, competent, smart and generally good about themselves. Fixing them also does not upset established parasitic institutions and hierarchies- indeed, it often gives them relevance and legitimacy. It is also far easier to maintain the delusion that societies and civilizations are functional, “right” and “natural” when the opposite is true.
Non-problems and token ‘problems’ provide focal points for developing religions, ideologies and other ponzi schemes to fleece the gullible. They provide decent self-employment opportunities for those who can preach and proselytize against them. It is also possible to make lots of money and employ many people to police and prosecute ‘violations’ of pseudo-solutions. Furthermore, some people seem to get a rush out of pissing on other people in the name of defending society from these ‘problems’. Did I mention that crusades and wars against ‘non-’ or marginal problems are an excellent way for an established hierarchy and system to maintain public legitimacy. In the end , it is about continuing a shitty scam which ‘benefits’ a few at the cost of everybody else.
What do you think? Comments?
One of the most common criticisms about ‘new’ media by the increasingly irrelevant ‘main stream’ media goes something like this-
‘New’ media is overrun with unprofessional amateurs, get-rich-quick types and corporation friendly scam artists who do not have the “expertise”, financial resources or willingness to perform “real” investigative journalism and speak truth to power. They also claim that ‘old media’ acted as an independent check on the power of government and corporations by trotting out a few famous examples of investigative journalism.
But is that really the case? Was ‘old media’ anything more than a butt-boy for the rich and powerful? Does an objective look at the success and failings of ‘old media’ support their claim to being defenders of truth and justice. Did they expose anything more than the bare minimum necessary to maintain a figment of credibility in the pre-internet era?
Let us first look at the infrastructure and business model of ‘old’ media. Traditional media, such as printing and broadcasting has always had a very high cost of entry due to technological and “regulatory” constraints. Then there was the issue of ensuring timely distribution of content via government supported physical networks or licensed bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. Therefore, only an extremely small percentage of the population ever had the means, inclinations and connections to start a newspaper, magazine, radio station or TV network. The ones who were able to do so were usually very affluent and connected to large corporations or existing political parties.
To put it another way, all significant players in the ‘old’ media scene were (and are) pimps, shills and sophists for whoever owned and supported them.
I am not denying that some journalists who worked for ‘old’ media might have possessed something approaching a conscience. However most of them quickly gave up on that in return for a regular paycheck, regular promotions and a corner office. Infact, some were even able to use their past notoriety to make themselves appear especially trustworthy to the public.
It is therefore no wonder that the “scandals” exposed by ‘old media’ have almost always been stale, past-due or a cover for even bigger ongoing scams and abuses.
How many papers actually made the case that treating blacks as second- or third- rate human beings was wrong? I am talking about the situation in both northern and southern states after the American Civil War. How many newspapers actually contradicted the official story surrounding the entry of USA into the Spanish-American war? Did they question any of the evidence used to justify the decision to join WW1 in 1917? Weren’t many of them cheerleaders for Eugenics prior to 1945? Did they ever try to think through the ethical implications of what they were supporting? How many were interested in the fate of people in concentration camps prior to 1945? Was the mass murder of millions based on religion, ethnicity and political affiliation not newsworthy?
Didn’t they keep on towing the official line on major post-WW2 policies and actions? Didn’t it take them decades to tell the partial truth about what caused the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962? Didn’t many of them oppose civil rights for non-whites before they supported them? What changed? What about the american involvement in Vietnam and Laos? How many questioned the official line that killing millions of poor people was necessary for spreading liberty and democracy? Why did they abruptly change their tune after 1967? How many questioned the rationale behind Nixon’s drug war? What about economic policies under the Reagan administration? What about Saddam Hussein and the first gulf war? Wasn’t the USA behind him before it was against him? What about justifying the second gulf war?
Does anyone not remember how the media was telling us about the immense WMD program of Iraq? Or how the USA would be able to leave Iraq within a few months? And what about that Osama? Wasn’t he helping build roads in Sudan before he became the bad guy who masterminded 9/11? What about the housing bubble? Why did the media see it only after it had burst? What about the financial crisis of 2008? Wasn’t the mainstream media trying to tell everybody that financial institutions were under the capable leadership of geniuses’ educated in Ivy League universities and Oxbridge? How did that work out? How is ‘austerity’ working out today?
What do you think? Comments?
One of the peculiarities of living in a secular era is that our conceptualization of “good” and “bad” is now almost exclusively based in the behaviors and actions of other human beings- rather than stories and myths about gods, spirits or demons. The flip side of this change is that our understanding of “good” and “evil” is now linked to the identities of other human beings- who are as mortal as you or me. Today the image of evil is associated with people like Hitler, Stalin, Mengele, Pol Pot, Slave Traders, white people with southern accents wearing white hoods.. actually pretty much every conservative white person with a southern accent. But some manifestations of secular “evil” are more interesting than others and one category in particular elicits far more interest and curiosity than the rest.
Genocidal tyrants or rulers such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao are the most well-known, interesting and studied forms of secular “evil”. They have reached that hallowed spot because of the sheer scale and number of deaths due to their actions and decisions. They are the secular equivalent of ‘The Devil’ or ‘Satan’. It also helps that we have a lot of archival film footage and photographs which document (often in great detail) their lives, speeches, public appearances and the effect of their decisions and actions. Compare that to the very inadequate and fragmentary description of ‘Satan’ in Judeo-Christian literature. It also does not help that religious literature documents that ‘God’ killed many more people than ‘Satan’.
As many of you know, I do not believe in any explanation of “evil” based on it being somehow beyond the range of normal human behavior. In my opinion, labeling anything as “good” or “evil” says more about your viewpoint than the action, event or behavior. For example: Would the Jewish holocaust have been seen as evil, or even criminal, if the Nazis had won WW2? And was it really more evil than the genocide of a million something Armenians by Turks prior to WW1, or the slightly earlier genocide of tens of millions of black people in Belgian Congo? Or what about the tens of millions of Chinese who died in Japanese-occupied parts of China in the 1930s and 1940s? Then there is the issue about what happened to millions of indigenous people in the Americas after 1492, or the fate of slaves imported from Africa.
It appears that popular definitions of “good” and “evil” are based on subjective criteria such as race, money, skin color of the victims and presence or lack of photographic evidence of the events.
While a certain percentage of the population can handle the idea that “good” and “evil” are subjective, almost nobody wants to talk, let alone think, about the next logical question. If “evil” is subjective, is it also possible to label “good” or “neutral” as “evil”? What if people who are widely seen as “evil” not really that “evil”? This question has a peculiar connection to the issue of whether genocidal tyrants are “evil” because you can classify them into two groups based on their motivations.
The first groups contains those who did it to make themselves richer, more powerful, improving the lives of their kids, relatives, clans etc. The vast majority of tyrants fall into this category and pretty much every Arab Dictator, Mongol Warlord, Spanish Ruler of some new world colony, South and Central American Despot and many of the “beloved” presidents in American history fall into that category- as do people like Winston Churchill. The common thread that runs through all these leaders is they used their position almost exclusively for personal profit.
In contrast to the first group, the second contains far fewer individuals. However these people had a far greater impact on history (both in absolute terms and number of people killed) than almost anyone from the first group. Let us start with Hitler.. Can you really say that his actions or decisions were predominantly driven by the personal profit motive? Did any members of his family make out like bandits under his leadership? Was the guy living in 5 different palaces and constructing 10 more like some Arab Despot? Was all the money and gold seized from the conquered people going towards his clothes, residences or lavish party budget? I am not saying that he did not live well, but it is very clear that he did not spend on himself at anywhere near the level he could have.
Or take Stalin.. Given the absolute degree of his power, isn’t it a little odd that he did not live like the Tsars before him? Pretty much every Russian sovereign before him had lived in an extremely ostentatious fashion and it is unlikely that people would have noticed or spoken up even if he done so. Also note that he grew up in poverty and had every reason to go bling-crazy after he consolidated his power. But he did not.. I am not implying that he did not live well, but they guy was clearly not after money, ‘bling’ or comfort. Even his kids did not get any plum posts nor did they become super rich- and the same goes for his relatives. The guy was far more interested in seeing which factory did not meet its production quota than an endless supply of hot hookers and booze? Why?
My explanation for the somewhat odd behavior of a few but important such as Hitler and Stalin goes something like this- They were in it for the power and fulfillment of their vision. Personal profit was probably an afterthought- at best. The genocides they perpetrated were driven by ideology rather than any personal profit motive. While that does not immediately make their actions acceptable- it puts them in a very different category from those perpetrated by typical Arab, Mongol, White Hispanic, Black or WASP despot.
It also explains why their genocides ended up with such high body counts. People who kill for personal profit typically kill the bare minimum necessary for obtaining whatever they want- respect, money, women etc. But those who do it for implementing their personal ideology or vision will not be content until they have removed every single person who stands in the way of their ideological utopia. You might have noticed that both Hitler and Stalin were into heavily invested in destroying the previous order because they hated it with a passion. They wanted to get rid of anyone who represented the old power structures and institutions. This is very different from your typical despot, populist or not, who merely seeks to install himself and his family/friends at the top of the old structures and institutions.
What I am trying to say is that ideologically driven tyrants are not doing it for financial gain or personal comfort. They are therefore not “evil” in the same way as the far more common type of tyrant. Infact it could be argued that their actions, whether they ultimately failed or not, did result in a better world. Let us face it, the 20th century was so productive largely because of the direct and indirect actions of people like Hitler and Stalin.
What do you think? Comments?
Many readers might have noticed that depictions of people and institutions in popular culture are often at odds with reality. In previous eras, the gap between fictional images and reality was less glaring, because people had access to only one or two sources of information, often under the control of elites. Furthermore the communitarian nature of living in those eras made it difficult to hold opinions and ideas that were at odds with the “majority” even if the consensus was stupid, irrational and suicidal. The spread of ubiquitous communication technologies, such as the internet, and very high levels of social atomization has irreversibly changed that situation. Hence the gap between fiction and reality is now wider and far more obvious.
For example- It is now common knowledge that both sides in the American Civil War were almost equally racist and believers in some kind of mythical white racial supremacy. Likewise, many now know that those who founded the American Republic did so to enrich themselves, rather than start some noble experiment in democracy. Another example is the now widespread understanding that the ‘New Deal’ and other populist sops from the FDR era were driven by political, rather than humanitarian, considerations. However these now common, if somewhat alternative views, are still rarely depicted in mass media which tries to unsuccessfully reinforce the old myths.
One of the widely promoted dissonance in popular culture and media concerns the large gap between the image of various institutions and measurable reality. TV shows are full of noble cops, smart detectives, thoughtful judges, competent and selfless physicians, teachers who care about their students when even a cursory observation of real life suggests that the converse is true. TV and Films (henceforth referred to as ‘Hollywood’) even promote the idea that intelligence agencies are full of competent, motivated and enthusiastic people possessing tons of ‘super-secret’ and useful technologies with an almost omnipotent control over events when events in real life have repeatedly shown that to be wishful thinking.
Let us now explore the dissonance between the media-driven image of large corporations and compare that to observable reality.
The story-lines of many popular films from the last 30-odd years such as Blade Runner, Alien and its sequels, Prometheus, Gattaca, Terminator and its sequels, Robocop and its sequels, Resident Evil and its sequels, Total Recall, Watchmen, The Island, V for Vendetta and many more revolve around or involve large corporations. These large corporations are depicted as being greedy, amoral, omnipotent, led by competent people and based on long-term plans and strategies. But how much of that is reflective of reality?
While there is no argument about corporations being supremely greedy and amoral; the remaining attributes are some combination of mythology, paid propaganda and wishful thinking.
Ask yourself.. Do you see much evidence that corporations led by competent, disciplined, creative and intelligent people? Do they act as if they are led by people with any of those qualities? Do their changing fortunes reflect that? Why do most large corporations cease to exist for a decade or two? Why is the downfall of large corporations usually due to obvious mistakes? Why are these deadly and obvious mistakes rarely fixed in a competent manner? Why do plans to fix obvious mistakes frequently cause larger mistakes? Does the observed behavior and life cycle of large corporations resemble an intelligent entity or a pretty stupid but greedy parasite?
Then there is the issue of large corporate projecting an image of omnipotence and efficiency. Is that really so? Are large corporations capable of anything approaching omnipotence? Are corporations capable of stable governance on the size- and time- scale associated with governments? Can they exist without a friendly government that will help them socialize losses and privatize profits? Do large corporations actually have realistic long-term plans or strategies? Do they have realistic ability to implement them on their own?
Large corporations talk a lot about meritocracy, but does the preponderance of evidence suggest that to be the case? Do you see evidence of corporations promoting competent or intelligent people? Why is promotion inside corporations so dependent on your social network and milieu than any demonstrated ability? Why are the upper ranks of corporations always made up of bullshitters, scammers, sociopaths and other assorted conmen who are good at networking, playing the system or just being lucky? Why are the top executives and decision-makers in corporations almost always clueless about the business models of the enterprises they run? Why do those in top corporate management positions jump ship so frequently, usually after collecting massive bonuses not linked to the long-term fate or outlook of the corporations they head? And why does paying these people tens to hundreds of millions in bonuses for their expertise in making corporations run better in the long-term always achieve the opposite?
Talking about innovation and incentives to innovate.. Why are large corporations so bad at innovating even though they spend so much money, manpower, time and powerpoint shows to make themselves more ‘innovative’? Corporations claim to have ‘superior’ leadership, corporate structure and in-house ‘geniuses’- yet they require so a lot of publicly funded assistance from governments. Why do large corporations require so many tax breaks, direct payouts, protectionist laws and tariffs and sweet-heart deals to even approach profitability? Why do the long-term plans and visions concocted by the best and brightest almost always fail? Can corporations actually put together, let alone implement, any long-term strategy? And yet after all this publicly funded assistance they still fail, implode, run aground, require government bailouts or help with remarkable frequency and regularity. How come?
Why do those who talk about rugged individualism, free enterprise, capitalism, personal responsibility and ‘going galt’ expect to be nursed, coddled and treated like severely sick, retarded or spastic kids? Why do the proud ‘producers’ behave like pathetic ‘moochers’ they claim to detest?
Which brings us back to the main question posed in this post- Why is the Hollywood image of large corporations so incongruous with reality? And why has the degree of dissonance increased over time? In my opinion, the mass media image of large corporations is based in a myth that those in power desperately want others to believe. The media image of corporations is best understood as propaganda and disinformation. It is an attempt to make the masses believe that the current system is “natural”, meritocratic, omnipotent and capable of defending itself. In a way, the media image of corporations is similar to the propaganda pumped out in totalitarian regimes which extols the virtues and greatly exaggerates the power of ruling party, coalition or oligarchic families.
The reality is rather different and rapidly becoming apparent. It is now obvious to a growing number of people that large corporations are pretty much the opposite of what they claim to be. Their apparent successes in the past are increasingly seen as some combination of scam, luck and parasitism. I however do not expect the Hollywood image of corporations to reflect this rapidly growing awareness. It is likely that they will, if anything, double down and amp up the propaganda- because dying parasites have no other option.
What do you think? Comments?
In the past, I have written about the arbitrariness of social definitions for what constitutes sane and insane behavior. I have also pointed out that behavior and attitudes considered insane today were once seen as hallmarks of sanity, and vice-versa.
To put it succinctly, definitions of sanity and insanity other than those associated with easily measurable physical or biochemical brain damage are almost entirely subjective.
But it gets worse.. Throughout human history, most so-called “normal” people have actually followed, revered and worshiped people who likely had measurable brain damage. Don’t believe me? OK, let us take a cynical and critical look at the founders, prophets and saints of almost all traditional religions. Have you ever noticed that a lot of their so-called revelations, visitations by non-human deities, mystical or cosmic experiences and voices in their heads have a lot more in common with the symptoms of serious brain disorders such as schizophrenia, temporal lobe seizure, assorted brain tumors, episodes of hypomania and even the effects of hallucinogenic drugs than anything remotely paranormal.
I would go so far as to say that all traditional religions are largely based on creative interpretations of the rantings and ravings of a few people, who were lucky to have the right amount and type of brain damage at the right time. A person who seriously believes in any religion, especially of the traditional ‘revealed’ variety, is therefore basing his or her life and worldview on the selectively edited experiences of a few brain-damaged people. Given the role and importance of traditional religions in shaping human history, customs and behavior- it is fair to say that the world we live in today was largely shaped by the minds of brain-damaged people. Maybe that is why all civilizations, past and present, are so bizarre, irrational, dystopic and generally fucked up.
But it does not end there.. In the last 200 years, we started replacing traditional religions with secular ones such as capitalism, communism, randism, consumerism, neo-liberalism etc. While these newer religions might appear to be different from each other, they do have a few peculiar common characteristics. One of them is their obsession with money.
All secular religions are really about the “right” way to create, distribute and circulate money.
While they all try to cloak the true nature of their obsession through the use of rhetoric, philosophy, logic and reason- it is easy to see through their smokescreen by posing one simple question.
Does the ideology in question mean anything in a world without money?
The idea of a world without money might seem odd, most transactions in human history and prehistory did not involve the exchange of money. Even after the concept of money was invented, most people did not use it as they had little or no money to exchange for goods or services. Yet for some peculiar reason, the world did not stop nor did humans go extinct. Money as we know and use it today came into being in the post-renaissance world, especially the last 200 years.
Now, some of can grasp the idea that all forms of money are notional and therefore not real. The ability to create, lend, spend and transfer money is therefore based on the ability of institutions to enforce rules and regulations which favor a few people over everyone else. Money appears to be real only because almost everybody is a willing participant in the mass delusion.
But what does all of this have to do with worshiping and revering brain-damaged people?
The answer lies in how we perceive, rate and treat other people. In most parts of the world, the behavior and attitudes of people towards others are largely based upon how much money one participant in the interaction estimates the other one has or can demonstrate possession of via some proxy display.
Therefore almost everyone wants to have as much money as they get their hands on, preferably by depriving everyone else of it.
This zero-sum behavior might sound irrational to some since the utility of money is directly proportional to the level of function (or dysfunction) in that society. That is why even a dollar millionaire in India has to put up with inconveniences which somebody with a decent job in a developed country would never have to. Similarly, rich people in many western countries can go about their lives without worrying about kidnappings and the level of violence routinely seen in South and Central American countries. But why is that so? Why are most developed countries reasonably safe, functional and relatively nice places to live in? and were they always like that?
The answers to these questions lie in numerous large changes to the social, economic and legal structures of these societies within the last 100-odd years. Prior to that, the quality of life in these countries was pretty low and comparable to what is seen in many parts of the ‘third world’. Most rivers and lakes in developed countries were once toxic open sewers, epidemics of infectious diseases were common, malnutrition was rife, high level of day-to-day violence and brutality were seen as normal and the rich also suffered the consequences of living in such dysfunctional societies. Then a lot of events (various labor movements, communist revolutions, WW1, WW2) happened and forced the rich in developed countries to accept a more equal distribution of wealth. This trend went on until the late 1970s when an extended period of peace let the old ways and ideas creep back into societies. Popularly called neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism, it is really a form of neo-feudalism.. one with far fewer downsides and many more upsides to an increasingly international class of moneyed people.
But what does any of this have to do with people still worshiping and revering brain-damaged morons?
The answer to that question requires us to understand an important but often ignored shift in the nature of religiosity in developed countries. Most of the populace no longer believes in traditional religions, especially the ones who claim to be pious. However the desire to believe in scams.. I mean religions has not changed and most people now believe in one or more of the many secular religions such as free-market capitalism, libertarianism, feminism etc. But as I said a few paragraphs ago, all secular religions are really about to who gets to control creation, distribution and circulation of money. It is therefore fair to say that most people are actually worshiping various socio-economic models, none of which have much to do with reality. And all this to get some sort of secular salvation.
Which finally brings us to what the past 1,100 words were leading up to..
Are the founders of secular religions any less brain-damaged than those who founded the older ones? Is somebody who claims to perceive the ‘invisible hand of free market’ any less delusional or sophistic than the guy who heard an ‘angel speaking from within a burning bush’? Is the concept of ‘homo economicus’ any more real than ‘original sin’? Is somebody who believes in making money at all costs that different from some guy who wants to save the souls of heathens or convert infidels at any cost? Is a priest who justified the rants of a greedy sociopath that different from an academic who shills for some ideology.. any ideology that will pay him enough to afford a comfortable life? Are people who are willing to destroy the lives of thousands and millions so that they can have a couple of billion dollar really alright in the head?
And what about all those morons who worship, revere, follow and obey banksters, managers, businessmen and other rich people who just got lucky? and why do these morons listen to the priests.. I mean academics who are slavish turd polishers? Believing in models of the world that clearly diverge from observable reality is always a bad idea and it never ends well, yet most people don’t seem to care. But why?
What do you think? Comments?
I was originally going to post this article a few days ago. However my desire to be reasonably sure about what I am about to say made me procrastinate till the general direction of information was more supportive of my hypothesis.
A lot of people are wondering if the Boston marathon bombers were driven by religious beliefs. While there is no doubt that their actions were influenced by a certain set and interpretation of religious beliefs, that angle does not explain how they became radicalized and extra-religious in the first place.
As we all know, both were Chechens who were born and partly grew up (especially the older brother) in an era when the outside world was especially unstable and hostile from their viewpoint. Having said that, they did not come from a family that was especially poor or religious nor had they lost any close relatives in the conflict. Their father and uncle appear to be reasonably well-educated and secular, if somewhat shady, people. If you look at older pictures of that family, they just don’t give off the ‘we are so religious’ aura.
So what happened? How does a guy who was into sports, clothes, cars, babes and making lots of money become a religious radical? Why does a guy who was looking forward to getting american citizenship and perhaps a spot on the american olympic boxing team as late as 2009 decide that bombing the Boston Marathon was his purpose in life? and what about his younger brother? How does a reasonably popular stoner who made extra cash by selling pot and involvement in car theft rackets decide that joining his older brother in waging “holy war” against the country he grew up in was a good idea?
The conventional explanations for this turn of events range from something about hot-blooded Chechens, some mysterious radicalizing preacher, the internet, a conspiracy to advance public acceptance for militarization of american police forces and a host of other explanations that you can find on the intertubes. But what if we are missing a far more obvious and straightforward explanation for their religious radicalization?
Is religious radicalization, especially of the Islamic variety, a consequence of systemic socio-economic dysfunction?
It is hard to ignore that the increasing religiosity and radicalization of the Tsarnaev brothers, and their mother, has a pretty strong correlation with their declining fortunes and hope for a better future in the USA. Tamerlan, the older of the two brothers, was not an especially religious Muslim or even a traditional Chechen in his late teens and early 20s. He moved out of his parents house, was chasing chicks in nightclubs, living with pretty attractive women, was perhaps involved in pot-grow operations and trained for MMA competitions. He did not exhibit any strong interest in spreading the word of Islam beyond trying to convert his pretty fit girlfriends.
The younger brother, Dzhokhar, was even less of a religious guy. The interviews of people who used to hang out with him suggest that he was pretty much your basic stoner who sold extra weed on the side. There is very little in his background or known tastes in lifestyle, music, media or women to suggest that he was a religiously observant person. If anything, he comes across as the small-time drug dealer/ entrepreneur type rather somebody who believed in 72 virgins.
I believe that the roots of their radicalization lie in the changing nature of american society. For many decades, but especially between the 1950s to mid-1990s, USA was the best place to immigrate- legally or “illegally”. There used to be lots of real opportunities for immigrants to make it big, or failing that- at least lead a pretty comfy and prosperous middle-class lifestyle. Even poor and ‘less-educated’ immigrants had a pretty decent chance of making it into the middle-class. However things started to change for the worse in the late 1990s. It became harder and harder for both “native-born” and immigrant americans to remain in the middle-class, let alone climb into it.
We can come up all sorts of explanations for what drove this change, but the net effect has been that a rapidly increasing number of americans (especially among younger age groups) do not believe that the system will treat them fairly. They routinely see connected ivy-league educated sociopaths make mistakes and still collect their millions and billions, while competent and loyal people like them get screwed over. While this double standard has always been a feature of american society, the system had kept it from becoming the dominating feature of american society for many decades. I believe that the collapse of the soviet union in the late 1980s-early 1990s unleashed the full greed of the ‘elites’ resulting in the openly and highly dysfunctional society we live in today.
While CONservative morons might not see anything wrong with this change, almost everyone with more than half a brain understands (at some level) that the current socio-economic system is highly dysfunctional. All stable and functional societies remain so only as long as most people living in them believe that the system is largely fair, reasonable and worth their while. People will either withdraw from or stop co-operating with systems that are seen as dishonest, abusive or non worth their while.
It is very likely that the Tsarnaev family immigrated to the USA in the early 2000s under the impression that they would be afforded the same opportunities as people like them used to as late as the early 1990s. But a lot changed between the early-1990s and the early-2000s. Many of the paths and opportunities that would have allowed them to move into the middle-class or beyond simply did not exist. The father was reduced from a stable legal job in a ministry to fixing cars as an unlicensed mechanic. The mother went from a homemaker to somebody hustling for small jobs. While these trials and tribulations might initially have been dismissed as temporary, they soon realized that was not the case.
It certainly did not help that Tamerlan’s promising boxing/MMA career started to unravel for reasons that were unfair and beyond his control. The younger brother, Dzhokhar, while clearly not stupid was just not an academic. He, like his older brother, preferred a life with booze, drugs and babes- and who can blame them. Which rational person would prefer to live like an under-sexed dweeb for the ‘chance’ of higher future earnings in a society with an obviously broken contract.
To make a long story short- the rather shitty experience of the Tsarnaev family in the USA, as individuals and as a group, was very likely what drove Tamerlan and Dzhokhar on a path of self-directed religious radicalization. In a way, they are far more like James Holmes (Aurora Theater Massacre)and Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook Shooter) than somebody who was indoctrinated from birth to fight some religious war. Also note that Holmes and Lanza came from highly secular backgrounds and therefore found secular justifications for their actions (mental illness, autism/nihilism). The Tsarnaev brothers justified their actions through religious beliefs mainly because they were more familiar with religion than fashionable psychiatric mumbo-jumbo.
What do you think? Comments?
I am sure that almost all of you saw, and sorta followed, events subsequent to the Boston Marathon bombings. You might have also read many posts, editorials and articles about the excessive show of largely ineffectual force and the passive acceptance of such displays by the citizenry. In the end, Bomber 1 was killed in an average police shootout and Bomber 2 was caught because some guy went to check on his boat. Many people have confounded by the thought process behind the decision to shut down a major US city for the purpose of locating a 19-year old stoner with a couple of guns and perhaps.. a pipe bomb or two. The show of force in Boston was in sharp contrast to what happened after an explosion at a Fertilizer Storage facility in West, Texas in the same week.
So what is going on? Why do actions which resulted in the death of 4 people in Boston consume infinitely more resources and attention than an almost simultaneous industrial disaster in Texas that has killed 3-10 times more people.
First let us be clear about one thing- the majority of people killed in both Boston, MA and West, TX were white.. so it was not about race. Nor were the events in Texas any less photogenic. The fertilizer storage facility explosion (100-300 tons of ammonium nitrate) in Texas was far more spectacular than the pathetically small pressure-cooker bombs in Boston. Heck even the aftermath of the Texas explosion was way more photogenic than the Boston blasts.
So why was the much bigger blast which killed many more people in West, TX not as worthy of media and government attention as the infinitesimally smaller ones in Boston, MA?
The answer to this question lies in the very nature of governance in hierarchical societies itself. Governance is not, and never has been, about providing public services, helping people or any of that ‘feel good’ BS which most people want to believe in. It is, and always has been, about the sole rights to kill people who live under that system. All forms of governance, “public” or “private”, are therefore about a collection of individuals who want to maintain their monopoly on lethal force. While natural disasters, infectious diseases and industrial disasters do kill far more people, they do not challenge the governmental monopoly on lethal force- at least in the mind of its subjects.. I mean ‘citizens’. Other people, groups or countries can however challenge the monopoly of any given government on lethal force- especially in the minds of its own subjects.. I mean ‘citizens’.
The actions of autonomous actors, such as “terrorists” and “criminals”, is a public demonstration of the fact that governmental power is not absolute.
The reaction of any government to such authority challenges is remarkably similar to how organized crime syndicates defend their territory or pimps hold onto their hoes. They go overboard with shows of violence and force designed to show the “protected” who is “really” in charge. It is about showing the “protected” that the ‘godfather’ or ‘pimp daddy’ cares about the “well-being” of those who live under his authority. Such shows have no correlation with the magnitude of the challenge and will always appear as overkill to the rational observer. But they are perfectly logical, if not rational, from the viewpoint of the ‘godfather’ or ‘pimp’ because power is really about maintaining monopoly over the use of lethal force at all costs.
So you see, shutting down a large city and using 10-20 thousand heavily armed men along with scores of APCs and Helicopters to find an injured 19-year old “terrorist” with a handgun or two makes a lot of sense if you want to show your subjects that you (and only you) are still in charge.
What do you think? Comments?
Some of you might be aware of a phenomena known as MGTOW in which men slowly disconnect from society and have no intention or desire to fulfill traditional social roles or expectations. While the initial reasons behind this shift in developed countries might have been the loss of manufacturing jobs during the late-1980s coupled with the social and legal effects of feminism- that is no longer the case. MGTOW has often been characterized as ‘losers’ trying to justify their relative poverty and social ostracism. While I am not denying that the initial wave of MGTOWs might have done so out of necessity, it is clear that the ones who are going in that general direction now are a rather different and far more numerous group.
But before we go there, lets us quickly talk about why the impact of MGTOW was rather limited through most of human history and pre-history. As I have said before, societies where the average woman could expect more than three of her kids to reach adulthood functioned under a very different dynamic from those where women has replacement to sub-replacement fertility. Under the zero-sum conditions and mentalities that have characterized humans throughout their history, extra kids were just more fodder for the machine. High fertility rates ensured an endless supply of morons to scam, abuse, work to death and generally try to cover systemic mistakes. In such societies, a man who went MGTOW was not particularly missed and often quickly forgotten as the other human apes went about living their sad, shitty and meaningless lives. That plus the low-level of social organisation and technology meant that going MGTOW had almost no deleterious effects on wider society.
Things fundamentally changed once the average number of kids per woman dropped first below three and then under two. But why? What does sub-replacement fertility do to a society as far as it ability to function under the old scheme is concerned? The answer lies in the rapidly growing divergence between old assumptions and reality. Under the old assumptions (also known as culture and tradition) young people were disposable widgets who could be used, abused, scammed and exploited to levels that are fundamentally incompatible with civil society. The so-called ‘losers’ could be rapidly replaced with fresh and naive morons so that the cycle could on and on- with periodic disruptions such as war and pandemics.
But as the industrial revolution spread and changed societies all over the world, the underlying assumptions started changing. Initially there was a population explosion as technology increased the number of kids who would survive to adulthood. However within a generation of two, most people caught on to the changes and started having fewer and fewer kids. This reduction in fertility is now global and even ‘extra-religious’ middle-eastern countries have rates below three- something that would be unthinkable even two decades ago.
But what does all of this have to do with MGTOW? How do men slowly dropping out of society and traditional expectations affect the system at large?
The answer lies in understanding the principal delusions and main belief under which all societies operate. All societies are based around the idea that world around them is in some sort of stable and ‘natural’ equilibrium that is very hard to disrupt. While most people can accept the idea that a comet hitting earth or something along those lines will change their ‘reality’ forever, they are largely and willfully blind to less dramatic and slower changes in the conditions which make their ‘reality’ appear stable. The vast majority of people, especially those who grew up in a previous era, believe that the world never really changed since their teens and twenties. In their mind the world of today is different from the one they grew up in largely because of better gadgets, pills, cars and some superficial social changes.
Consequently, patterns of social organization and functioning are still based on assumptions that may have been true 60 or even 40 years ago. But what did society look like four or six decades ago? The average fertility for one was still comfortably above replacement as were lifetime jobs and expectations of socio-economic progress for all. A lot of how society operates today is still based on the continued validity of these assumptions. The older morons still believe that most people will still marry, have kids, live in suburban houses and endure long commutes to their meaningless jobs by cars. While that assumption had some validity as long as the last surplus generation with some hope, aka Baby Boomers, were heavily represented in the working age group- that is no longer the case.
However a significant part of the economy is also dependent on these assumptions holding true- or at least not changing too quickly. Entire sectors of the economy such as the education, housing, financial planning etc are completely dependent on the status quo as are many not-so-obvious ones such as tax revenue estimates, electoral politics and many others that appear unconnected (physician remuneration) but are not. Even assumptions about how people will work or not work, behave or not behave, think or not think are based on the old models being true. Which brings us to one of main, if not the main, assumption underlying belief in continuity of the status quo.
All developed, and almost all developing, societies are grounded in the continuity of a very specific male mindset. It is best described as a scenario where the vast majority of guys will slave away, sacrifice and generally endure abuse for a reasonable chance at getting some mediocre pussy, some respect and children. While that scenario played out very well in the age before effective contraception, feminism, unstable jobs and social atomization- that is no longer the case. The average woman thinks she is too good for the average guy and can even profit from such behavior. While men from older generations still believe in the validity of the older ways, the younger ones clearly do not and hence are far less likely to be married or in LTRs. It is hard to believe something if you can see evidence to the contrary at every turn and almost none to support it.
Today the majority of men disengaging from society are young, well-educated and aware of their odds. They are not 50-something guys ruined by their divorce after decades of believing the lies that society told them. Nor are the younger bunch disengaging from society to live a hermit-like existence. They are still connected to society to some extent, but they are certainly not engaged with it. They are very distrustful of the system and don’t care about its future. They are best seen as cynical and informed opportunists who are acting in their own self-interest.
But how will this change affect society? Will women beg men to take them back to an earlier time? Will society recognize the folly of its ways? In my opinion neither women nor society will move in a direction as large groups of people are fundamentally incapable of non-viral behavior. They will always try to optimize for the short-term even if doing so was almost certain to cause long-term problems.
So how does widespread MGTOW among the younger generation enter into this equation? and how does it affect the possible outcomes?
To understand this, you have to look at how entities faced with declining long-term prospects shore up their short-term. The usual and almost certain response involves more extensive rent-seeking and exploitation in the short-term. It is therefore not surprising that school systems want more money, universities keep on raising their tution costs, cars and houses become more expensive, physicians and hospitals demand more money etc. They do so even when it is very obvious that those paying for it are increasingly unable to do so. But the belief in, and addiction to, growth is so entrenched that they would rather eat their seed corn than try to fix the problem.
There are, of course, longer-term limits to such behaviors based in reality rather than perception. Eating your seed corn, cannibalizing your future and crapping on your future supporters works only as there is an adequate supply of fresh suckers to replace the dead, burnt out and cynical ones. But is that a realistic option in a world with low-fertility rates? Modes of behavior that work when the average woman had over three kids who made it to adulthood just don’t work in a world where the average woman has less than two kids.. period. Even computerization and extensive automation do not solve the problems as machines do not consume or circulate money.
To summarize, MGTOW among the younger generation of men will destabilize the current system by inducing it to react in a way that increases its short-term gains while simultaneously destroying its longer-term viability.
What do you think? Comments?
As many of you know, I have always preferred women with shaved or otherwise depilated genitals. In my opinion, the scalp and eyebrows are the only areas on a woman’s body where hair looks good. While there are men who prefer some hair on the pussy or a full bush, most of them are old and increasingly in the minority. However many older women still express surprise, genuine or not, that most men prefer hairless pussies on women. They are even more shocked that younger women almost without exception are willing to comply. At the beginning of this change (mid-1990s) many old-school feminists tried to shame men who preferred hairless pussies as creepy men who secretly lusted for sexually immature girls; when it is well-known that the hairless genitals of a sexually mature girl look rather different from those of one who has not yet matured.
But have you ever wondered why this change in pubic grooming habits occurred so fast? And why does it show no sign of abating? What changed?
While other ‘pundits’ have offered many explanations for this change ranging from evolutionary psychobabble to herd behavior- I believe the explanation is a bit more mundane. It begins with a few technological changes that occurred in the mid-1990s to early 2000s.
The first change was linked to how people viewed pornography and who created it. Prior to the rise of the internet, most porn was created by corporations and sold in the form of magazines or VCR tapes. The high cost of producing and distributing porn in the pre-internet days meant that a few people could have a disproportionate influence on what was available and what was not. The internet changed not only the ease and cost of viewing porn but also who could publish it. The result was that the amount and variety of porn accessible to the average person increased very substantially. An increase in competition resulted in the content become progressively more enticing.
Which brings us the next change- the technology used to shoot pornographic images and videos. Prior to the late 1990s, most people used photographic film or magnetic tape to capture photographs or videos. These older methods of image capture put two very interesting constraints on how things were done.
Using film to take photos or videos costs a not-insignificant amount of money and affects your willingness to take lots of pictures to find the best ones. Consequently taking decent quality pictures of naked chicks and sharing them was somewhat expensive and usually done by the more ‘established’ (traditionally minded) photographers. It is therefore no surprise that the number of photographers (amateur and professional) who shot porn really took of with the advent of digital cameras and Photoshop. It also resulted in porn becoming even more explicit and better lit, and stuff that looked OK in artsy porn now increasingly appeared disgusting.
We also cannot forget that analog VCR tapes had pretty low resolution and image quality. In the late 1990s the media for distributing video porn rapidly transitioned from VCR tapes to DVD and other digital formats. Once again, stuff that looked OK in low resolution and poorly illuminated scenes was now unacceptable. In combination with easier access and the increasingly explicit nature of the scenes- pubic hair on women porn stars became a liability. Few men want to see a curly and often soggy mat of unruly hair obscuring their view of the real action.
But why did porn star style pubic grooming become the norm among almost young women?
The answer to that question is linked to the changing self-image of women. In previous generations, even as late as the middle of Gen-X, women were able to exploit older social expectations about what women should be like to get the best of both worlds with the minimum of effort. However those born towards the end of Gen-X or later grew up in a world where they could no longer play both on both sides. Most chose to become fully liberated and independent girls who chased higher status cock rather than become the more traditional duplicitous cunt who settled down rather quickly but hated the guy.
The ability to give a decent blowjob and look good with their ankles behind their heads became more important than pretending to enjoy housework and raising children. It was therefore natural that most younger women would begin to start comparing themselves to porn stars. The advent of ubiquitous and high-resolution pornography also meant that their preferred male partners demanded that depilated look. Given that there are basically no significant downsides to going hairless down there, most of them just went along. In any case the two most common modes of removing pubic hair, shaving and waxing, were already being used by women to get rid of leg and armpit hair.
At this point, some of you are probably wondering if female pubic hair will ever come back in style. After all, we have seen trend-setting hipsters make retro-styled clothing cool again. So why wouldn’t something similar happen with female pubic grooming? I believe that such a change is unlikely to happen for one simple and often overlooked reason. There is really no downside to having a hairless pussy. Everything being equal, most men will prefer a woman with negligible to no hair on her genitals. Moreover, we live in an age where shaving is very easy and waxing is widely available. Both common methods are also exceptionally safe and quite inexpensive. It simply does not make much sense to go for a choice that has a downside than one which has basically none.
What do you think? Comments?
One of the favorite recreational activities of human beings seems to involve labeling other people as ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ according to some external standards. While I have many theories about why people indulge in this particular zero-sum behavior and what it says about the human ‘mind’- those issues are best discussed in another post. In this one, I will look at another aspect of the ‘loser’ label.
Does the ‘loser’ label carry any weight or significance in mobile, highly atomized and technological societies- especially ones with a visibly crumbling social contract?
So let us first briefly talk about why people like to label some others as ‘losers’. The funny thing about such labels is that they have nothing to do with any objective reality. The reasons behind such labels have far more to do with attempts to dominate and destroy the lives of others. The next logical question is- does such labeling work? The answer is context sensitive and requires us to first consider the nature and technological level of the society as well as its degree of functionality. Societies that are tribal, inward looking and in which individuals have low geographical mobility are ideal settings for the ‘loser’ label. In such societies, there is a strong incentive to avoid the ‘loser’ label- even if the society is falling apart.
Now lets us turn our attention to societies with an industrial-revolution level of technology, decent but not great geographical mobility and some level of comprehension that their “reality” is not the only game in town. In such societies, the ‘loser’ label is significantly less effective at hurting a person as they can always move around and reinvent themselves or go to cities with a pre-existing population of similar minded people. As we move further up that road into societies as they exist in many, if not all, developed countries today- something even more peculiar occurs. The ‘loser’ label becomes close to worthless and may end up hurting the labeller than the labeled. But why? How does a strategy that was effective for tens of thousands of years suddenly become worthless? The answer lies in the changing nature of social interactions between an individual and the rest of society.
For most of human history- people lived, worked and interacted with others they had known for years or decades. They really did not have any other option. That is why things like reputation and perception by others around them mattered. This pattern of dependence on those in your physical vicinity and low geographical mobility started changing as the industrial revolution progressed. However most of your interactions were still with people in your immediate vicinity albeit in a place more to your liking.
A series of social changes within the last 30 years which created very high levels of social atomization and the spread of ubiquitous internet access have pushed things to another level.
Today trusting those who in previous eras could be expected to help you is a bad idea. The vast majority of people rightly don’t trust their parents, children, relatives, friends, employers, various social institutions and society itself to do anything close to the ‘right’ thing. Consequently, people prefer to spend a lot of time by themselves. It simply isn’t worth associating with people who are worse than useless in ‘real’ life. We also spend a lot of time online and can easily find people and communities of like-minded individuals who are far more entertaining to interact with- if still largely useless. But even that is changing and it now appears that online and often anonymous acquaintances are often more useful than those in your physical vicinity.
This ubiquitous communication-based mobility destroys the need for most personal interaction to a level that most people still cannot fathom. Today you can lead an OK life with very minimal inter-personal interactions. Apart from a few fake interactions for work-related purposes, getting some pussy and pretending to be “normal” etc- you can pretty much give up on ‘real’ life relationships without any adverse effects on your life. Indeed, the converse is true as it is no longer necessary to spend your waking hours thinking about what those useless morons around you are thinking, or not thinking. The best part is that you can often do that without having to move to your dream city or neighborhood.
It is now very easy to unplug from a dysfunctional society without any significant negative consequences.
The power of the ‘loser’ label was always directly proportional to how much you needed, or had to interact with, the people around you. A combination of social trends and technological possibilities have reduced the necessity to put oneself in that position. It follows that people will increasingly shun ‘real’ life interactions with useless morons in dysfunctional and deteriorating societies.
What do you think? Comments?
One of the most peculiar beliefs exhibited by human beings, especially when acting in large groups, goes something like this..
“Institutions that appear to be big, powerful or long-lived are especially competent and capable at what they claim to be doing.”
But is that true? Are such ‘successful and persistent’ institutions really competent and capable, or are other factors at work? What makes some institutions bigger, more powerful and long-lived than others? I am trying to compare and contrast what can be observed in the real world to what many people (even the ‘smart’ ones) apparently believe. So let us begin by asking a few simple and related questions- Do institutions, successful or unsuccessful, really give a shit about so-called ‘sacred’ concepts like meritocracy? Do they actually hire and promote the most competent and visionary? How do they become successful, bigger and long-lived?
I have noticed that most human beings desperately want to believe that we live in a ‘just world, because the alternative to that simple-minded belief is pretty depressing. But the universe we live in is not bounded by our models about its functioning. Therefore most people have to regularly perform extensive and often unconscious revisions to the narratives they want to believe. Almost nobody wants to admit that they made incorrect, hasty or bad decisions. Even fewer want to admit that they were short-sighted, greedy, stupid, cowardly, arrogant or driven by the decisions of people around them. It is psychologically much easier to be wrong like almost everybody else that right like the heretic who thinks differently.
Of course, being wrong like everybody else has never been particularly desirable or profitable. The quality of human existence throughout most of history and pre-history was so poor precisely because people preferred to be wrong and stupid like everybody else.However, people tend to have a short and selective memory about that sort of stuff. I would go so far as to say that we celebrate the bad decisions, simple mindedness, deprivations, stupidity and shortsightedness of yesteryears under the guise of tradition.
So what does all of this have to do with belief in institutional competence?
The answer lies in how people explain the surrounding world to themselves. If you believe in a ‘just world’ driven by meritocracy and existing for a higher purpose, you might also believe that apparent success in that world is due to real or intrinsic superiority and competence.
For example- The longevity of the Catholic or Orthodox Churches could then be interpreted as a sign of the intrinsic superiority, competence and timelessness rather than luck, chance and the result of human stupidity and credulousness. Similarly the dominance of Microsoft in certain sectors of the software market could pass as a sign of intrinsic competence and guile rather than a series of lucky breaks and mistakes by potential and often superior competitors.
Another example is the supposed superiority of the american socio-political system and ideologies. It is easier for most people to believe the ideologies and behaviors which supposedly make it so, are superior as long as the system can deliver some token and highly publicized signs of its ability. But as we have seen in the last decade, but especially in the last 5 years, it is increasingly obvious that the whole system and ideologies underlying the facade were rotten, defective and full of lies and fake promises.
Sooner or later, all human institutions run out of the ability to repair cracks in the facade and put on impressive-looking shows to distract the willingly gullible majority. However most people will never lose their belief in institutions till they literally collapse in front of their eyes, and even then a few will never accept that they were willing participants in their own deception. Why wake up from a dream that almost everybody around you also seems to enjoy? But a dream is just that- a dream.
What do you think? Comments?
Some of you might have recently heard that the Chinese government in considering changes to its one child policy. While many see this as a reasonable attempt to reverse the demographic decline, a few commentators have expressed doubts about whether such a change would have any effect on the willingness of the Chinese to have more children. They point out that ethnically and culturally similar neighboring countries have fertility very similar to those in China, even though they lack an official one-child policy. If anything, China has a slightly higher fertility rate (1.6) than more affluent east-asian countries such as South Korea (1.2), Japan (1.4) and Taiwan (1.1). Even many culturally similar but not that affluent countries in the region have pretty low fertility rates; Vietnam (1.8), Thailand (1.6). Only the war-ravaged, poor or extra-religious countries (Laos, Cambodia, Philippines and Malaysia) in East-Asia have fertility rates above 2.
So what is going on? Why do so many east-Asian countries have such low fertility-rates in the modern era? Was it always so? When did it start to change and why?
Conventional explanations for this phenomena have tried to spin this low fertility rate as evidence of East-Asian intelligence, thoughtfulness, conscientiousness or degree of investment in their offspring. There is however a very big problem with any such “positive” explanations for this precipitous drop in fertility in that region. For almost all of recorded history, fertility rates in East Asia were freakishly high. Furthermore the general living conditions, levels of over-crowding, frequency of food shortages and mortality from infectious diseases etc were much bigger problems in the past than they are today.
Any hypothesis based on the idea that East-Asians are devoted parents would have a hard time explaining why so many of them are having no children or just one token child. But aren’t we all told that East-Asian parents are very devoted to the welfare of their kids and deeply involved in the lives- maybe a bit too deeply? Why would a socio-cultural-ethnic grouping with such a strong tradition of having children and raising them “properly” stop having them at the very time in human history when doing so has become very easy and safe?
Even more curious than the low-fertility rates of East-Asians in modern times is a look at what factors are associated with having the least number of kids. Other than higher levels of education, it is wealth and status that are associated with few or no kids. While this correlation has been previously observed in other developed countries, it is especially striking in East-Asian countries where the combination of a first-world lifestyle and high levels of education almost always translate into one or no kids. So what else can explain the precipitous drop in fertility rates in East-Asia in the last 60-70 years? Why haven’t the rates stabilized or recovered to levels of around 2- even in countries which have enjoyed reasonable economic stability? Why are economic incentives so ineffective at getting them to have more kids?
There is another way to look at this issue. However taking that route involves killing many ideological ‘holy’ cows and beliefs about what human beings are and are not.
Most of us want to believe that human beings are fundamentally intelligent, thoughtful, reasonable, capable of objective thought and largely rational in their actions. However a brief reading of human history or even short interactions with a few people around you will show that it is not the case. I could write entire books on why the self-image of human beings is so at odds with reality, but that is something for another day. For the purpose of this post, let us concentrate on the effects of such self-delusion on humans and the societies they live in.
While most human beings want to have children of their own, the mix of reasons and beliefs that drive them to have kids is sensitive to their circumstances and true motivations. People who used to live as hunter-gatherers or in small agriculture-based communities wanted kids for company, help, status and future care. Since accumulation of money was either absent or irrelevant in such communities, their motivations for having and caring for kids were not tainted by such extraneous considerations.
“Civilization” changed that.. Large scale agriculture, even in the pre-industrial era, created highly hierarchical societies which depended on a constant supply of naive and disposable workers who could be conned into working hard with the promise of a better future. While slaves and indentured laborers were one option, having more children was a much better option. It is not an exaggeration to say that people who belong to long-lived civilizations are far more likely to see other humans, but especially their own kids, as the principal means of improve their monetary and social status regardless of the cost of such behavior on their kids.
A lot of the ‘peculiarities’ in East-Asian parenting styles make sense if you are willing to consider the possibility that the relationship between parents and their children in those cultures is far closer to an employer and their employees.
The ‘tough love’, striving for higher productivity and ‘quantifiable’ achievement at all costs, enforced conformity and obedience, unspoken rules and protocols in everyday behavior that seem to characterize relationships between East-Asian parents and their children are exactly the things you expect in work relationships. This commercialization of the parent-child relationship is however not without its drawbacks and problems. For one, it creates damaged and very unhappy human beings who require constant threats and external pressures to behave “properly”.
The system worked for as long as it did because of the lack of effective contraception. The introduction and spread of effective contraception made it easier for unhappy and dysfunctional people to avoid having children. Also women can now make decent money by working and can thus achieve all of their material goals without the inconvenience of having kids. Since East-Asians, more than any other group, have seen kids principally as a means to attain their own material goals- it stands to reason that they would have far fewer kids if other (and easier) avenues to reach those goals were available.
What do you think? Comments?
I recently saw a post by RooshV in which he wrote about how communication technology based surveillance, data mining etc would somehow create a revolution- and disintegration- proof conformist society, rather like a lite version of 1984. As it turns out, I had considered these issues and written about them in some of my older posts.
My overall conclusion was that attempting to pull of such a thing with any degree of sincerity would mark the end of viable society. Note my choice of words- ‘viable’ not ‘optimal’, ‘functional’ or ‘dysfunctional’.
Let us begin by looking at the topic through the prism of history. The idea of creating conformist societies in which everyone spied on each other and snitched for an extra helping of food or other favors has been tried since the beginning of ‘civilization’. So how have these past attempts fared? Have they delivered stability or have their leaders (or elites) been able to retain power over any significant length of time?
The simple answer to the above stated questions is that any serious attempt to pull of such things almost inevitably causes the destruction of that system- typically after 1 generation of economic stasis. If you could engineer social and regime stability through repression, snitching and surveillance- the USSR would still be a viable entity and East Germany with its extensive snitch-based spy apparatus would still be around. China would not have to spend all those resources trying to patrol the internet within its borders nor would North Korea be so concerned about keeping up its ‘image’ with the home audience.
But have you wondered why oppression-based societies wither, fail and come apart? They certainly do not have to worry about the opinions or ideas of heretics and they can use any combination of hard and soft force to put down internal dissent and rebellion. They can even control news about important event and restrict what people can say in the public and often in the private. So why do they progressively become more fragile and dysfunctional?
The answer to that question is not found in the goodness of the human soul (if something like that even exists) or the human need for freedom. The increasing levels of fragility, dysfunction and ultimate failure of all oppression-based regimes are largely due to a set of factors and dynamics that escapes paid ‘intellectual’ shills.. I mean ‘famous’ thinkers and ‘great’ philosophers.
Oppression-based societies fail because of the nature, staffing, growth and evolution of organisations which implement those policies. These issues (or systemic defects) are fundamentally uncorrectable because they are part and parcel of the structure, functioning and evolution of any hierarchical organisation. I should add that human attitudes and tendencies also contribute to the trajectory, stages and end results of societal failure in oppression-based societies.
The first clue to what can go wrong in oppression-based societies comes from understanding the actual working dynamics of mature information gathering and intelligence services. Irrespective of the degree of automation and computerization used for intelligence gathering or processing, these organisations are shaped by the limitations of those who work for them and fund them.
So what kind of person ends up working for such organisations?
Contrary to what most of you think- almost no person employed by these organisations is a genius, a creative thinker or even highly motivated. The stifling bureaucracy, political intrigue, pettiness and hierarchy inherent within such organisations does a very good of excluding the truly intelligent, competent and capable. The average ‘successful’ employee in these organisations is therefore almost always a moderately clever but supremely mediocre and risk-averse person whose sole purpose in life is to get a steady pay, obtain a few promotions and then retire with a nice pension. They have no real motivation to do, or even think about, anything beyond what is necessary to achieve their personal goals.
Even the adventurous and enthusiastic ones quickly realize that it is easier, safer and much more profitable to sit in an air-conditioned office in some government building than stick to their youthful dreams of adventure and fame.The upper levels are no better and usually staffed by people with considerable expertise in self-promotion, back-stabbing and saving their own asses. While they try to convey an image of competence, reach and omnipotence; it is rather clear that they are anything but what they claim to be.
It is also important to understand that large organisations are hostile and impersonal environments in which careers are linked to largely worthless and frequently counterproductive metrics of performance. The success or failure of people in organisations depends on their ability to game metrics or create new ones to justify their job or acquire more power and resources. Since we still pay people to be busy or at least appear so, the ‘successful’ ones try their best to do so- even if that causes more problems than it solves. It is therefore no wonder that people who are paid to solve problems create more of them and increase the cost of solving them. The people paid to suppress dissent and monitor others therefore have a lot of incentives to create or imagine more problems than try to do their job.
So what happens when deteriorating external conditions make those who fund such organisations put their foot down and make them actually do what they claim to be able to do?
The short answer is that it exposes their incompetence and inability to perform their jobs, but the longer answer is far more interesting and revealing. It begins with understanding why the rulers or elite in any society would want to increase oppression inspite of the well-known risks of doing that to their own futures. Elites demand more oppression at home when they sense that they cannot maintain their current or expected lifestyles and positions through ‘normal’ levels of exploitation. This usually occurs after the existing socio-economic paradigm has started to fail in a visible manner, often for reasons beyond human control. The first instinctive response to reductions in economic rent and wealth transfer is simply ramping up plain oppression and propaganda and try to make everybody else work harder for less. The ‘simple intensification’ approach will however quickly reach a plateau necessitating the next step- namely extensive and systemic repression. However doing so starts a chain of events which ultimately causes that society to come apart.
It starts with an expansion of intelligence gathering, interpretation and law enforcement capabilities which in turn requires the recruitment of more personnel to work in those organisations. While filling these positions is usually easy, especially in times of general economic stasis and decline, increased recruitment in these areas creates a few problems. Firstly, it is necessary to create a constant stream of more work to justify the continued existence of these new positions. Therefore these agencies become increasingly obsessed with seeing and creating problems where none exist. Secondly, the extra powers and perks given those who work in these organisations become addictive and often result in more power grabs and abuses. These changes are not ignored by the rest of society and the organisations which benefit from them are increasingly seen as vile, extortive, corrupt, incompetent and harmful- even by those who used to support them.
The rapid loss of public trust and respect is however not a concern for these organisations as they simply don’t care about the opinions of ‘other’ people. Moreover, there is no shortage of people who want to work for them, due in large part to the generally bleak prospects of employment outside the “spying-law-order” complex. The continued increase in employment in this sector does however worsen the general social dysfunction and loss of trust in the overall system mentioned in the previous paragraph. At this stage, the routine operations of these organisations starts to adversely affect the normal functioning of other institutions and organisations which are critical to the viability of that society.
Eventually this dysfunction results in an abrupt and unpredictable (but inevitable) cascading failure of the core networks, facilities and institutions which keep that society viable. It certainly does not help that almost none in such a society has any desire or interest in resurrecting the previous status quo. While large and hierarchical organisations are very capable of exploiting orderly societies, they are unable to do so once those societies lose order for more than a few months.
What do you think? Comments?
While writing a couple of longish posts, I took a break and completed one of my older short posts. This one is about a morbid but hilarious make work scheme that is very feasible.
What if we paid young people (especially non-whites) to dig up and destroy the graves of dead old white people?
Now some of you might see this as an attempt to desecrate the graves of dead old white people, but I don’t. Desecration involves damaging something to such an extent that it cannot serve its previous function, yet is still recognizable as such. So breaking gravestones, digging out corpses and piling them up in the center of the graveyard would be desecration. What I am proposing is however far more thorough.
The scheme starts with paying people to destroy gravestones and disposing them in a manner that no future archaeologist could piece back together. Then the workers will dig out the corpses of dead old white people and ‘process’ them such that they are unrecognizable at organic remains- perhaps with high temperature incineration. The next step involves digging and refilling the whole graveyard (disrupting the soil) to remove all tell-tale signs of its previous history. The area can then be planted with vegetation to make it contiguous with the surroundings. As you can see, the scheme involves much more than simple desecration which is fast and not that labor intensive. In contrast, the “grave annihilation” scheme is slow, methodical, thorough and labor intensive.
First you have to locate all of the graveyards and come up with the best plan of action for each class of graveyards. Some gravestones, mini-mausoleums and grave ornaments might be harder to destroy beyond recognition than others. Then there is the logistics of transporting the fragments for disposal.
While digging up corpses is easy, processing them requires transportation to sites with high temperature incinerators. Then there is the issue of quality control, as all of this effort would be for naught if the corpses cannot be reliably processed to a form unrecognizable as human remains. We also cannot ignore the logistics and planning involved in proper disposal of the residual solid end-products of the process.
Proper land reclamation requires a considerable amount of surveying, planning and execution. Removing all traces of its previous usage will involve a lot of digging of the whole area, removal and disposal of some soil that may contain identifying artifacts, transportation of equivalent soil from adjacent areas, putting back the soil layers such that they are contiguous with the adjacent areas and then planting vegetation that will blend with the surroundings.
Then there is the issue of removing all official records of the existence of these people from history. It will require a lot of manpower to go through all of the archives and records to ensure the removal of all official evidence of their existence from history. It will however not be necessary to rewrite history, as nobody will care about their existence (or non-existence) after a few years.
What do you think? Comments?
The human mind has a predilection for seeing patterns and connections in all sorts of phenomena and occurrences. Sometimes these hunches turn out to be true and are verifiable, but at other times these apparent connections are based in chance, luck and probabilities. However our ego wants to ignore the fact that we are not always correct or infallible. Therefore, rather than factor in our obvious limitations we do the opposite and build grand mental schemes or models of the universe based upon the absolute truth and certainty of our beliefs and insights. While this ego-based grandstanding might at first glance appear harmless, it has caused untold misery over the millenia.
Almost all of our bizzaro beliefs from religions with vengeful sky-dudes and dudettes, planning events based on astrology, belief in witchcraft or black magic are based on such worthless and harmful models of the universe. Even many apparently secular beliefs from various schools of economics, how we structure our societies, write and enforce our laws to belief in the desirability of eugenics.. I mean HBD.. are based in the absolute validity of some model of the universe.
Over the centuries, our mental models of the universe have become less bizarre, but the newer versions still have a lot of basic similarities with the older ones. As an example- one of the main, if not the most important, core belief in almost all secular models of the universe goes something like this-
Everything happens for a reason.
I consider this particular belief to be the secular version of belief in god. You might have noticed that religious people ascribe every occurrence in the universe to an all-powerful and omnipotent god. Frequently they also claim that the desires, wishes or plans of ‘god’ are mysterious or beyond human comprehension. The secular and ‘scientific’ minded types dismiss such religious beliefs as simple-minded and irrational, however they themselves believe in a similar fallacy- though they deny doing so when confronted about it. Let me explain that with a few examples.
If you have read any general biology textbooks, you might get the impression that things like viruses, parasites and diseases such as cancer or aging are ‘normal’, ‘inevitable’ or serve some important ‘purpose’. But do they? Does even the very presence of life on earth have any ‘purpose’ or ‘reason’? I don’t think that the other rocky planets in our solar system (or any other) which do not have any life-forms are worse off than earth. And what is ‘worse off’ anyway? It is not like these large spheres of rock are sentient- as we currently understand.
The reality is that different species of cell-based organisms have vastly varying loads of, and susceptibility to, viruses. Both are linked to the probability of successful transmission from one host to the other. Species with a small number of individuals who live in widely dispersed and small groups are far less likely to have viral infections and diseases than those that live in proximity to each other. It is therefore no accident that the rise of many viral diseases from smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chicken pox, influenza etc was linked to the rise of ‘civilization’ which led to poorly nourished people living in cramped quarters with domesticated animals. The same is true for many human specific bacterial diseases from syphilis and human tuberculosis to typhoid. But as our scientific knowledge and public health measures became more effective (especially over the last 100 years) these “common” and “inevitable” diseases became uncommon, rare or just plain extinct.
The same is true for parasites, be they protozoans like various versions of malaria and leishmaniasis or any species of round worms, flukes and tapeworms that can infect humans. They all have no intrinsic purpose or reason for existence- just like all the other infectious diseases that affect other animal and plant species. However evolutionary biologists frequently claim (often via non-obvious arguments) that such pathogenic microbes have a ‘function’ or ‘reason to exist’. I, for one, fail to see any intrinsic and necessary purpose inherent in the existence of pathogens or parasites in any species. Similarly cancer and aging are not ‘inevitable’, ‘necessary’ or part of some ‘grand plan’ or ‘scheme’. We know of more than a few animal species that do not age in any measurable way. We are also aware of animal species which do not develop cancers- even when we try to induce neoplastic processes in them.
Let us now turn to “macro” events such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, comet strikes and other disasters caused by large physical forces largely beyond human control. As most of you are well aware, people of a more religious mindset used to see such events as punishment for ‘sins’, ‘immorality’, ‘greed’ etc. We know better now, and modern technological developments offer many avenues for mitigating the material loss and casualties resulting from the rare but big events. While these events are caused by a chain of smaller and larger events occurring in certain sequences, they are by no means necessary, inevitable or part of the grand scheme of things.
Similarly socio-economic problems such as widespread poverty, material deprivation, tyrannical law enforcement, ineffective or corrupt legislative processes, incompetent administration, institutions that do the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing etc are neither ‘natural’, ‘inevitable’ or ‘part of the human condition’. There is nothing ‘natural’ about ‘the marketplace’, ‘capitalism’, perpetual growth based economic models or even people having ‘jobs’ to have a decent and largely fulfilling existence. These bizzaro concepts do not exist because they have any ‘cosmic role’,'purpose’ or place in the grand scheme of things. They need to be methodically destroyed in a manner that address the defects and shortcomings which allow them to exist in the first place. This is worthwhile even if doing so would cause very significant collateral casualties and damage.
What do you think? Comments?