First, a quick word about the title of this post. I am aware that it was not the best, most concise or most accurate description of what I am about to discuss. But it will have to do (for the time being) since the post is far more important than its title. So let us begin..
As many of you might know, “humorous” sitcoms with outrageous extrapolations of reality (other than sex, violence and grittiness) have been a staple of network TV since its inception. These shows can usually be identified by their tired laugh tracks (or forced live-audience laughs), almost exclusively indoor settings, supposedly “witty” dialogue and highly contrived situations. Shows on this genre were extremely popular from the beginning of broadcast TV to the early 2000s when they began to lose their prominent place in the public imagination to “reality” TV shows.
I can give you many reasons why sitcoms have always been worthless crap and why the successors aka “reality” shows are no better- but that is best discussed in another post. This particular post is about the accidental (and I suspect, unintentional) depictions of dystopic reality in one of the still successful holdouts of the “sitcom” age- The Big Bang Theory aka TBBT.
Sitcoms, by their very design, are not supposed to depict reality, or anything even approaching it, as there are the escapist entertainment of plebs in developed countries. Unfortunately, the real world has a tendency to bypass even the best attempts to stop it from making itself apparent. Sitcoms usually handle this by trying to sugarcoat some really obvious aspect of reality or just skip onto to the next zany contrived situation. Yet aspects of reality that are not specifically targeted for suppression often sneak into supposedly humorous and feel good crap.
Many premises of TBBT have been criticized for a few years now, as have the supposedly negative depictions of certain groups in it- Link 1, Link 2, Link 3. You can find more of such critical articles, as well as a few supportive ones, by using Google. Now, I largely agree with much of the criticism leveled at this show. However whatever little I have seen of this show (largely through channel surfing) also suggests that it, perhaps accidentally, depicts some pretty realistic and dystopic stuff.
One of the two major dystopic theme running through the general storyline of TBBT concerns how the characters (specifically ‘nerds’) treat each other. It seems that each of the supposedly high-IQ nerd characters are always just an opportunity away from betraying or murdering the others, even if the gains are very small or temporary. While this premise is used by the show to develop ever more convoluted and eyeball-grabbing storylines, it is far closer to the lives of the real-life counterparts of the characters than anybody would dare admit.
One of the main reason behind my contempt for most academics, scientists and pretty anyone who measures their self-worth by jumping artificial hoops is that such endeavors tend to concentrate the most pathetic, short-sighted, egoistic, backstabbing, backbiting and yet largely powerless pieces of shit I ever had the misfortune to encounter. Even worse, most STEMers are stupid and gullible enough to be enthusiastic tools for any sociopath who can flatter or tempt them with insultingly small rewards. STEMers love to denigrate, betray and abuse fellow STEMers- especially if they believe that such actions might win them some imaginary brownie points (and acceptance) by sociopaths.
Readers might have noticed that most episodes of that show center around somebody in the group trying to screw over, sabotage or berate, its other members. Such mindsets, attitudes and behaviors are far closer to reality than most people (including STEMers) would like to believe. Curiously, it also show the rather bizarre phenomena of STEMers hanging out and pretending to be friendly with the very people they want to denigrate, betray and abuse.
The second dystopic theme running through the show concerns the arrested development (personal and professional) of its main characters. If you have seen enough snippets of that show over the years, it is obvious that none of the main characters possess the ability to actually make some large or innovative contribution to their field of knowledge. This is so inspite of their supposed high-IQs, “ivy-league”/”top-15” educational pedigree or even access to enough resources.
Sadly, or not, their inability to achieve any of their personal intellectual milestones mirrors the real and accelerating decline in scientific productivity in developed countries- especially the USA. The real world drop in real innovation and progress started in the late 1970s- at almost the same time educational and research institutions started using proxies of ability such as metrics and pedigree to determine funding and promotion. The false scarcity of resources and reliance on proxy measurements of ability which characterize science and similar endeavors today favored their domination by pathetic, petty, aspy and uncreative but impressive sounding witty losers/tools.
Characters in that show also display signs of personal arrested development, which while often played for laughs does sadly (or not) mirror the very real trend of STEMers being increasingly obsessed with their “jobs”, “credentials”, “careers” and other imaginary bullshit. It is as if they (or even the non-STEMer characters on that show) are increasingly living in a make-believe world because they are terrified of what lies beyond the decaying prison of the status quo they so desperately want to hold on to. Perhaps, part of that show’s persistence and popularity are due to its dystopic undertones.
What do you think? Comments?
As I mentioned in my previous post of this series – an open license to rob, abuse, torture and murder all those “others” is an essential and integral part of all successful organized religions and ideologies. Let me explain that concept with a simple example.
Why does Islam, today, have more followers than Buddhism? Now this question assumes that you believe that Buddhism is a religion, which some of its believers might find objectionable. But the main question still stands- what makes a religion like Islam more attractive to average dumbfucks than any given school of Buddhism? In my opinion- it comes down to one particular promise that the former offers which the later does not. Well.. Islam officially, and functionally, sanctions the robbery, abuse, torture and murder of “unbelievers”. Buddhism merely sanctions looking down on those “unbelievers”.
One offers the promise of personal enrichment through the guiltless looting, abuse and murder of “others”- while the other merely allows its believers to point and snicker at those pesky “others”.
It is important to note that mainstream flavors of pre-enlightenment era Christianity were as covetous, regressive and brutal as Islam appears today. If you do not believe that statement, I suggest that you read up on the many and very bloody Catholic-Protestant wars waged in the 16th century Europe. I should also point out that Christian doctrine was used to support and justify the genocide of many millions in the Americas during the age of “discovery”. Even 20th century wars such as WW1 and WW2 used religion-based concepts (most notably nationalism) to motivate simpletons into sacrificing their lives by the millions for causes that had nothing to do with any improvement of their own lives.
Capitalism, Communism and other secular organized ideologies are no different. Do you really think that all those who imprisoned, tortured and killed millions of others on the “orders” Stalin and Mao did so because they believed in the principles of the Stalinist or Maoist flavor of Communism? No! They just did it because they wanted to! The belief systems, books and official orders were merely a guilt-absolving justification to do what they always wanted- but never had the balls to do on their own accord. Organized religion and ideologies are about providing a sophistic and plausible sounding justification for acting like a total sociopath but without having to accept any personal responsibility or culpability for their actions.
The guilt-transference mechanism of an organized religion or ideology allows its followers to kill in its name as their day job, then go home to their families in the evening and act as if they did nothing unusual or wrong.
Now imagine what would happen if you overwhelmed and subjugated a true believer and then asked them to account for their past actions. For starters, almost every single will claim innocence. Some will tell you that they were acting in accordance with the dictates of some god, prophet or leader who is almost always conveniently unavailable or dead. Others might claim that they were following the most recent edition of some ancient “holy” book of questionable authorship and full of editing and continuity errors. Now imagine how those very same people would react if a person robbed, abused, tortured and murdered scores of other people on the basis of voices in his head, third person accounts of hallucinations and the contents of old comic books. So, what is the real difference between a mentally ill murderer and a person who kills in the name of an organized religion and ideology.?
A mentally ill murderer who believes that he is god is far more honest and possess significantly larger balls than the pathetic piece of shit who has to hide in the shadow of a socially acceptable belief system and defend his actions through misdirection and sophistry.
I was initially going to devote this post to a discussion about the more insidious organized secular religions (nationalism, capitalism, feminism) of our era- but felt it was necessary to first shine some more light on the original dirty secret underlying all organized belief systems. You will therefore have to wait for the next post in this series to read about my thoughts on contemporary secular religions.
What do you think? Comments?
The name of a 16th century “philosopher” known as Thomas Hobbes frequently pops up in discussions on a range of topics ranging from the best type of governance to whether a state is necessary for reasonably stable societies to exist. He is best known for writing a book known as Leviathan in which he argues for of a system in which a very small group of “special” people have a monopoly on violence. In his opinion only such a system could guarantee social stability and economic prosperity.One of his most famous quotes is about the state of human society without a top-down repressive regime.
In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently, not culture of the earth, no navigation, nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
So why am I choosing him as the target of this post? Well.. there are two reasons. Firstly, he is a good example of the prototypical academic who will suck cock and write pretty lies for his paymasters. Secondly, his reputation needs to be demolished to the point where nobody wants to remember him, quote him or even try to recycle any of his ideas.
Many of you might wonder how something like this can be done. Wouldn’t irreversibly tarnishing the image of a long dead, semi-famous, white intellectual be hard. My answer is- not really. Think of all the famous white people who stood behind the idea of eugenics in the early 20th century. How many can you name or, more importantly even want to remember? Similarly the memories of even more famous people like Hitler, who was once widely admired in pre-WW2 UK and USA, are now irreversibly associated with evil. To put it another way, engineering large changes in the public images of famous (or semi-famous) people is actually quite easy.
Moving back to the topic at hand, let us start by looking at his early life and see if it provides any obvious clues as to why Hobbes became a servile cocksucker for the elites of his era.
Born prematurely when his mother heard of the coming invasion of the Spanish Armada, Hobbes later reported that “my mother gave birth to twins: myself and fear.” His childhood is almost a complete blank, and his mother’s name is unknown. His father, also named Thomas, was the vicar of Charlton and Westport. Thomas Hobbes Sr. had an older brother, Francis Hobbes, who was a wealthy merchant with no family of his own. Thomas Hobbes, the younger, had one brother Edmund who was about two years older than he. Thomas Sr. abandoned his wife, two sons and a daughter, leaving them in the care of his brother, Francis, when he was forced to flee to London after being involved in a fight with a clergyman outside his own church. Hobbes was educated at Westport church from the age of four, passed to the Malmesbury school and then to a private school kept by a young man named Robert Latimer, a graduate of the University of Oxford. Hobbes was a good pupil, and around 1603 he went up to Magdalen Hall, which is most closely related to Hertford College, Oxford.
Hobbes was not born into a rich family and his early life was somewhat precarious. However, like many of the middle and upper-middle class of today, he had access to centers of credentialism and sophistry aka universities. It is therefore very likely that Hobbes always saw the attainment of elite-approved credentials and subservience to their power as the only realistic way to maintain a somewhat nice and stable lifestyle.
Everything that Hobbes ever said, wrote or argued about must therefore be seen through the lens of his own timid, conformist and sophistic persona. To put it another way, he was an enthusiastic mercenary for anybody who held out the promise of a bit more money, social status and a nice sinecure.
Now let us move on to a critical analysis of the validity of his writings. But before we do that, let me quickly talk about why destroying his reputation is necessary- even 300 years after his death. The arguments put forth in the writings of Hobbes are one of the foundations of modern CONservativism and many other -isms. They, in both their original as well as recycled forms, have been used to justify a variety of socio-economic systems that have brought nothing but impoverishment, extreme misery, starvation and disease to the vast majority of people while greatly enriching a few lucky sociopaths.
One the central arguments in his writings is the idea that all people are highly immoral and only an absolute monopoly of violent force in the hands of a few chosen ones can keep society stable. In some respects his ideas are remarkably similar to those used to justify Chinese-style Legalism. But are most people highly immoral and does monopolizing violent force in the hands of a chosen few really improve the living standards of most people in that society?
While I am certainly not a believer in the myth of noble savages, there is a large body of evidence that hunter-gatherers living in non-precarious environments were not especially avaricious, inhospitable or murderous. Indeed, the lack of centralized authority in such systems makes peaceful inter-group cooperation, diplomacy and exchanges more necessary than it would otherwise be. So the idea that most people will trick, steal from and murder each other without someone in charge is a sophistic lie, projection of the thinker’s own mindset or likely both.
And this brings us to the second part of that particular argument- namely that giving the monopoly of violence to a few “especially suitable” people will make somehow society more stable and better. But how can we decide who is suitable to wield such power and how do we know they are competent? Is there any evidence that supposedly “legitimate” kings are any more competent that those who became kings through less “legitimate” means? How can we define the competence to “rule” when most societies with kings or their secular equivalents (dictators and leaders of one-party systems) are really bad places to be born, or live, in- at least for the vast majority of people?
I am sure that most of you are aware that the material living standards of “civilized” people have been consistently and significantly lower than their hunter-gatherer counterparts except for the last 100-odd years. Moreover the general rise of living standards over the last hundred years are linked to the rise of technology and simultaneous decline of outright autocracy.
The two central foundations of Hobbes worldview therefore have no basis in reality. They do however tell us a lot about his worldview and those of his paymasters.
But why would Hobbes spend so much time and effort on creating this myth? There are those who would like to believe that his worldview was simply a product of the environment he grew up in. I am not so sure and here is why. His early life history suggests that Hobbes had no useful skills beyond learning, conforming and pleasing his superiors. It is also obvious that he always wanted a comfortable and stable lifestyle. So how does a reasonably clever and timid man make a stable and comfortable living in the pre-industrial era?
Obtaining royal (or elite patronage) was the only realistic and feasible occupational choice for a person of Hobbes ability, temperament and desires. In other words, he had to choice to suck elite cock and live reasonably well or not do so and live like an average (poor) person.
Now.. I am not criticizing his decision to suck elite cock to make a stable, decent and trouble-free living. Pretty much anybody in his situation would have done the same. My real problem with Hobbes is that his works are still seen as serious and objective philosophical insights rather than as literary blowjobs to his masters. Doing so is the equivalent of using the collected reminiscences of a house slave as a defense and justification for the institution of slavery.
Hobbes was essentially a clever house slave who got better food, clothing and living quarters because of his ability to flatter his master, justify his brutality and constantly tell him how all those other “lazy and evil” slaves would be lost without the “benevolent guidance” of his master.
What do you think? Comments?
As some of you might have heard by now, an Indian diplomat was recently arrested on charges of visa fraud and lying about payments to her housekeeper. While there are many newsworthy aspects of this case including how it is being handled and reported in both countries, the current post will focus on something that is being ignored by the mainstream media in both countries.
The public response of many in the indian-american community (1st and 2nd generation) to this case has exposed their almost comic willingness to support and justify anything that comes out of the mouth of a white person in a suit. Who knew there were so many brown house n***ers, gungadins and sepoys?
Note: Gungadins and sepoys are similar but not identical to house slaves. A gungadin is somebody who is servile to anyone with a white skin under the expectation that doing so will somehow get him a vaguely promised reward or acceptance as an equal in the distant future. A sepoy on the other hand is just a mercenary who will abuse people who look like him to get paid by somebody with a white skin. The biggest gungadin (or more likely a sepoy) in this case might be the DA, Preet Bharara, himself. However we shall ignore him for the rest of this post and concentrate on some of the recent articles and opinion pieces posted by people of Indian descent in supposedly “respectable” western newspapers.
Exhibit # 1. Arresting the Indian diplomat was just. She isn’t the victim, her maid is by a bow-tie wearing coolie known as Ritwik Deo
Yet here’s the point most in India are missing: Khobragade isn’t the victim here, her maid is. Not one Indian politician, not one Indian media station highlighted the real story about paying your domestic help a mere $3.31 an hour (in a country where the minimum wage is $7.25 and the diplomat stated on official documents that she would pay the maid about $9.75 an hour).
What about the condition and pay of domestic help for consular staff of certain middle-eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia? Is he seriously trying to imply that the consulates and embassies of all other countries treat their domestic help any better? What about all those rich people in the UK or USA who routinely use illegal and underpaid nannies? Why are they not being prosecuted? What about all those upper middle-class professionals in California who employ “illegal” central american nannies and house help? Moving on..
Exhibit # 2. Having a Servant Is Not a Right by another coolie known as Ananya Bhattacharya.
Notwithstanding legitimate Indian concerns about whether American marshals used correct protocol in the way they treated a diplomat, the truth is that India is party to an exploitative system that needs to be scrutinized.
But what about scrutinizing all those white american families using “illegal” mexican labor and nannies? What about investigating the rich white people in NYC who do the same thing. Isn’t it odd that this coolie is also fixated on the behaviors of a visible minority while overlooking those very same behaviors in the majority. Is she seriously suggesting that the 10-20 million “illegal” mexican immigrants in the USA today are treated as well as whites? Is she suggesting that a country acquired by genocide and built upon the labor of slaves and exploited immigrants has any moral standing to lecture others about paying their maids?
Exhibit # 3. Why India is upset about Devyani Khobragade, and why it’s wrong by yet another coolie known as Swati Sharma.
India’s reaction is disappointing. The anti-corruption party in India is gaining incredible momentum — the party even unseated the ruling Congress party in the country’s capital, which was a huge victory. So why are Indians rallying for a privileged treatment of a diplomat? Why shouldn’t she be treated as a common criminal? In India, someone with power would rarely be apprehended for paying a servant a low wage. Actually, it’s laughable to think such a charge would even take place. But there was hope that a movement against corruption would change things.
Has even one major member of the Bush43 administration whose lie-based invasion of Iraq actions resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis been prosecuted? Why not? Have any of the major players responsible for the 2008 economic crisis been jailed? Why not? How many bigwigs at large pharma companies have been jailed for the sale of useless, toxic and or sub-standard drugs in the USA? Why not.. especially since many of these frauds caused a lot of unnecessary deaths? Vioxx anyone? Remember that fungus-tainted steroid injection scandal that killed over 50 people a year or two ago? A country that has no appetite to prosecute, let alone jail, its rich and powerful has no business telling others to do so.
Do these house slaves, gungadins and sepoys still live in a world where people in other countries are not aware of ground realities in the USA? I guess they either do believe that or are cynical enough to pretend that it is so for their older white employers.
What do you think? Comments?
More than a few of my previous posts have centered on, or around, an odd but rarely asked, question.
“What is the point of accumulating money beyond the ability to spend it?”
Now, stupid sophists defending the status quo might say that its is impossible to determine what is enough. Curiously these sophists are seldom well off, let alone truly rich, making their defense of the status quo a bit odd. Perhaps they believe that their incessant barking on behalf of the rich might get them get a few more table crumbs or leftovers. But who knows..
Anyway, back to the question at hand. I have previously written that the reasons for accumulating money beyond the point of usability cannot be rational. But what if they are still logical. Confused? Let me explain. An action can be simultaneously logical and irrational, because logic is a mechanistic process in which the inputs don’t have to be factual or real.
For example, burning women accused of having sex with the devil requires that particular entity to exist in the first place and is therefore irrational. However it can be perfectly logical if you were one of those perpetually fearful and greedy semi-retards who believed in the existence of the devil, especially one interested in having sex with human females.
Coming back to our era, a closer look at much of what we think is ‘normal’ and ‘right’ just does hold up to rational scrutiny. Many of my previous posts are about the sheer irrationality underlying a wide variety of systems- from the basic structure of “civilized” society, the bizarre illusion of money, the worthlessness of supposedly important inter-personal relationships to the futility of loyalty to institutions that demand it. To put it another way- most conventional expectations, norms, rules and behaviors are not rational. But what if they are still logical? and more importantly- what does that say about the real nature of the human mind?
One of the main feature of conventional models for the human mind, be they religious, secular or “scientific”, is the assumption that human beings are intrinsically good, rational, caring or at least capable of all those things. Even religious models that portray human as sinful and fallen, or whatever their secular equivalent are, allow for the possibility of being saved, lifted or “enlightened”.
But what if that is not the case? Could it be the vast majority of humans, including the supposedly smart ones, are fundamentally incapable of being rational.
This question is best answered by looking at the entirety of available evidence (aka historical evidence from multiple sources) factoring in the inevitable underlying contexts and biases. Throughout most of the last 5,000 odd years (aka the age of civilization) the general standard of human living was very low and even the very rich were an infection, poisoning or puncture wound away from death. To make things easy and clear, let us temporarily ignore the actions and behavior of insecure and desperate people under constant stress or duress.
We will therefore, for the time being, willingly ignore most of human history- even though it strongly suggests humans are highly irrational.
Let us focus on societies where a combination of resources and technology make it possible to deliver a very high quality of life to all their members. In case you are wondering, I am talking about the situation in developed countries after WW2- especially after the early 1960s. Studying such societies allows us to eliminate the role of scarcity on human behavior or the ability to reason.
Does the functioning of these societies suggest that humans are capable of rational behavior when not under any real resource constraints?
The answer to this question is complicated. From the end of WW2 to the late 1970s, the socioeconomic changes in these countries suggested that human beings might be capable of rationality- at least under certain conditions. Those times were characterized by very significant technological progress and considerable improvement in the living standards of the median person in those societies. This era was also characterized by fairly low income inequality and a realistic chance to improve ones position in society. It was as if after millennia of screwing around without anything to show for it, human societies had finally found the ability and institutional structures to provide a safe, stable and reasonably good existence for almost all of its members.
But there have been many changes since the late-1970s and almost all of them have taken those developed societies increasingly further away their early post-WW2 vision. But why? It is very clear that we do not lack the technology, resources, productivity or ability to extend the general socioeconomic improvements that occurred within the first three decades after WW2. But every single developed society has abandoned the path of improving the lives of its median, let alone its poorer, members.
How can we account for the rise of neo-liberalistive/neo-conservative (neo-feudal) ideologies throughout developed countries since the early 1980s?
There are those who see this is the result of clever propaganda, institutional capture or mass media-driven brainwashing. While this line of thought might sound appealing to those who see average humans as fundamentally good and therefore gullible victims, there are reasons to believe that it is not the case. You might have noticed that a lot of the ideas recycled by neo-conservatives or neo-liberals, from “personal responsibility” to “work ethic”, are actually old lies and fairy tales.
So what makes people want to believe in obvious lies such as “work ethic”, “meritocracy”, “invisible hand of market”, “creative destruction” and “personal discipline” while discarding other equally old and popular lies about the role of divine entities in human affairs.
Are people really that stupid, unobservant and innumerate? Then there is the troubling question of why the middle class is so eager to believe in the lies, scams and bait-and switches which trick, hurt and abuse them the most. Surely, they are not that retarded or unobservant. I also don’t believe that this behavior is due to learned helplessness. A rational person who understood his lack of control over events would not strive for the benefit of those who were abusing him.
Could it be that most people believe in or play along with norms, rules and paradigms that are against their rational interests because it provides surreptitious satisfaction of much deeper urges in their minds?
In a couple of my previous posts (Link 1 and Link 2) I had suggested that hoarding money beyond ones ability to spend it was irrational as it offered no real objective benefits to the hoarder. But what if hoarding money was about depriving others of resources, security and happiness rather than improving your own existence. Furthermore, what if the behavior of the rich is merely an exaggeration of how most humans relate to each other.
Have you considered the possibility that the primary intention behind almost all “normal” human interpersonal interaction is to somehow con, swindle, abuse, hurt, maim or kill the other party?
In upcoming parts of this series, of which there will be many, I shall demonstrate how my model of the human mind is a far better fit for available evidence on human behavior in a variety of situations.
What do you think? Comments?
The trial and conviction of Ariel Castro is the one of the more recent supposedly “shocking” crime stories to dominate american mass media. To summarize it in one sentence- the guy kidnapped, imprisoned and raped three young women for over a decade while simultaneously living an unremarkable and outwardly normal life.
As usual, talking heads in the mass media have come out with their own interpretations of what drove that guy to do what he did. There are those who see it as evidence for the existence of “true” evil, while others interpret it as the actions of a deranged and mentally ill man. Yet others see it evidence of a decline in neighborliness and social cohesion. However almost every single one of these talking heads and media pundits seem to agree that what Ariel Castro did was very abnormal, unusual and bizarre.
But were his actions abnormal, unusual or bizarre?
And this brings us to an important, though rarely asked, question- how do we determine whether any given behavior or action is normal or not? Are there any hard and fast rules for what is OK or not OK? Let us start by looking at human history over the last 100-150 years. During that period many behavior and actions most of us would today denounce as abhorrent, at least in social settings, were considered normal and socially acceptable.
Slavery and ‘Jim Crow’ was once totally acceptable and legal.. and some would say the later is still well and alive, if under a different name. Using child labor in hazardous industries was once very common and considered an integral part of capitalism. Killings millions of minorities, like the Jews and Armenians, was also totally legal and socially acceptable. Eugenics was once considered progressive social policy and sending millions of men to die for the sole purpose of lining the pockets (and fluffing the egos) of rich, old and decaying impotent white men was once considered normal. There are therefore no hard and clear boundaries to what is normal and what is not, regardless of what paid sophists (academics and intellectuals) say or write. And this brings us to the next important question that even fewer people want to ask..
Were the actions of Ariel Castro typical of American society in the 2000s or were they truly deviant?
Let us start with the part about kidnapping and imprisoning innocent people. As many of you know, extraordinary rendition of people suspected for “terrorism” is a routine and publicly accepted part of the war on “terror”. Almost nobody seems to care that most of the suspects apprehended under this extrajudicial way of doing things are either low-level members or innocent people who happen to have the same names as suspects. Then there is the whole business of secret prisons and torture facilities, often run in other countries by governments that are friendly or compliant with the USA. You might have also heard about Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp. The point is that kidnapping and imprisoning innocent people is totally normal and acceptable in the USA, as long as they are not white.
But what about all that torture, sexual and psychological abuse that those three girls were subjected to. Surely that has no equivalent in the contemporary american society, or does it? To answer that question we have to look at who is imprisoned in the USA, for what reasons and under what conditions. Once again, some of you might be aware that the USA leads the world in incarcerating its own people- both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the population. The rate of incarceration has also lost any linkage to the amount of violent crime committed. Moreover, a large and important sector of the american economy is now based upon arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people- all under the guise of ‘law and order’.
Then there is the question of who is incarcerated and who is not. The american system has no interest in prosecuting “white-collar” crime unless the suspects is non-white or a small time operator who made many powerful enemies. People who made billions by selling useless or harmful drugs that killed tens of thousands will never be jailed. Similarly, those who made billions and trillions by destroying the lives of millions through ‘legal’ financial engineering will never see the inside of a jail cell. Yet average or poor people who broke some inane and almost never enforced law are often dragged in court and sentenced to prison. Similarly low-level pot or crack dealers often end up in jail for years or decades even if they have not been violent. To put it another way, american “justice” is a bad joke that only a stupid, fat, impotent and decaying CONservative white moron can believe in.
The conditions in most american jails are also pretty grim. Most are overcrowded places with lots of internal violence, rape, drugs etc. Then there is the whole issue of solitary confinement, its effects and supermax prisons.
To put it another way, the american system pays millions of people to do far worse to millions others than what Ariel Castro did to those three women. It is too bad that Ariel Castro chose the occupation of a school bus driver and had to do those things “illegally” when he could done all that and more “legally” if he worked as a police or corrections “officer”. He could also have made much more money doing that than as a school bus driver.
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?