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?
I recently came across an article in ‘The Atlantic’ which tried to make an insipid case that people should not get outraged by the actions of morons who justify discrimination against other people based on their own interpretation of literary works of unclear authorship. The writer of that particular article was trying to make the case that many of those who discriminate against other groups are not “bad” people. According to him, they could even be family-minded Mormons, devout Hispanic women or Muslim immigrants.
While that line of reasoning might suffice for some idiots, it has a huge and fatal flaw. As many of you know, the vast majority of people who committed state-sanctioned genocides (including the ‘final solution’ under the Nazis) were also devout, hard-working and family-minded people who just wanted a well-paying job. It just happened to be the case that their jobs centered around systemic mass murder of people who had not personally wronged them.
The same is true of all those “good” Spanish who committed genocide in south and central america. Similarly all those whites who committed direct and indirect genocide in north america and then built their lifestyle on the backs and corpses of black slaves might also have been devout, family-minded people.
My point is that excusing the repeated intentional actions of people because they are “devout”, “hard-working” and “family-minded” displays a level of sophism and spinelessness that only a liberal could attain. This is especially so when those injured or killed by the actions of all those self-righteous people have not previously harmed them in any measurable manner. It is even more so when personal interpretations of books with unclear authorship are the justification for the such behavior and actions.
Here is another way to look at the issue..
How many of you would support the right of a person to discriminate against, or kill, other people based on the voices he heard in his (or her) head? Most religious traditions in existence today can trace their origin to some divine communication conveniently revealed only to the founder of that particular religion. So.. what is the real difference between people who hurt or kill others based on the voices in their heads and those who do so because they are allegedly following the unfaithfully transcribed beliefs of a long-dead person who supposedly heard voices in his head?
And this raises an even more troublesome question.. Why would anybody live their life according to the text of a book that makes clearly unfulfillable promises to its readers? Would you keep on voluntarily giving your time or money to any person or organisation that cannot deliver on even its most basic promises? So why is religion (traditional or secular) or an ideology any different? How many of the true believers in ideologies as diverse as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Capitalism or Communism have received any of the promised benefits of believing in them?
So why do people believe, and take pride, in advertising their strong belief in such obvious scams?
A couple of previous posts by me, Link 1 and Link 2, I have put forth the idea that belief in religion or ideology is about creating a justification for abusing, scamming, stealing, raping and murdering other people. Perhaps most humans have an insatiable need to hurt and kill other people but do not have the metaphorical balls to do so on their own account. They therefore require the external justification provided by any scrap of paper or the ravings of another person to hurt and kill other people.
Then there is the issue of reducing the chance of reprisal for carrying out such actions.
Cloaking sadistic and murderous desires in the name of religion and ideology allows it be legalized and reduces the chance of reprisal from those hurt by said actions. Killing people publicly labelled as “unbelievers”, “non-muricans”, “terrorists” makes it sound justifiable and “right”. Similarly stealing and abusing people because they are “non-whites”, “have low IQ” etc apparently sounds more reasonable than doing it because you are a piece of shit.
Nor is such solipsistic behavior restricted to whites, as it is trivial to find obvious examples of similar behavior in every group, society and race in the world. You can find desperately poor and sick people who want to hurt and kill others more vulnerable than them in the name of some leader , ideology or religion in every part of the world and at all times in human history.
That is why I do not care if the true believer of any ideology (or follower of any leader) is white, black, brown or blue. Nor do I care about the merits of their ideology, society and culture. Those who deliberately prey on more vulnerable people are extermination-worthy crap. They do not represent any hope, and are incapable of creating, a better future. Left to their own devices they will be never be able to transcend the human condition.
It is for this reason that pondering on the justness of the treatment received by those who discriminate against people who have not demonstrably injured them (be they devout mormons, catholic hispanics or muslims) is a worthless exercise. If anything, the continued existence and prosperity of eunuchoid assholes who require the cover of external ideology to justify their sadistic behavior is an indictment of humans as a species.
What do you think? Comments?
One of the more interesting and, in my opinion, innovative FPS being developed at this moment is a FPS video game known as “Hatred“. The overall story-line of this game can be best summarized as..
In Hatred, a shooter video game presented in isometric perspective, the player-character is a mass-killer who hates humanity and begins a “genocide crusade” to kill civilians and police officers. He can also use these individuals as human shields.
By now, most readers must have correctly guessed that development of this game has been more than a bit controversial. Media reactions to its development and imminent release have been rather.. diverse. Some presstitutes claim that this game showcases all that is wrong with the gaming industry. Other presstitutes claim that it has crossed a “moral boundary”. Yet others want to see it banned, something they nearly succeeded at before failing miserably.
But why are so many presstitutes getting their proverbial panties in a knot about a video game that is in many ways identical to other FPS games. I mean.. games where you can kill (usually shoot) other people have been one of the most popular and financially successful category of video games. So what makes a game like “Hatred” different from a game in the Wolfenstein, Doom, Half-Life, Call of Duty or Far Cry series? Nor is the trope of an amoral killer something new. The “Hitman” game series is centered around an amoral assassin killing people for money AND you can kill any character in that game series as long as your character can survive the consequences of his actions.
So why are all these presstitutes hating on “Hatred”? Also, more curiously, why do so many gamers find the central premise of this game somewhat disturbing?
As I will show you in the rest of this post, the public reactions to that game exposes one of the central cognitive dissonances characterizing human “civilization”. So let us start our analysis of public reactions to this game with a simple question. Why does this particular game elicit such a strong negative reaction from so many tools.. I mean.. people?
As I have mentioned before, many of later titles in the “Hitman” series are not that different from “Hatred”- in overall concept and style of gameplay. While titles in the “Hitman” series have been controversial in the past- they have never elicited the large-scale public reaction that “Hatred” has managed to elicit. But why? or to be more precise- why not?
What makes an open-ended game where an emotionally stunted guy kills for money significantly less controversial than one in which a guy kills for his own personal beliefs and views on humanity?
In a previous series of posts about what I really think about human beings as a species, I had made a number of points relevant to the current post. Two points especially relevant to this post goes something like this..
Human beings seem to be actively driven a unscratchable itch to hurt, abuse, enslave and kill others even if they stand to gain very little from it.
All religions and popular ideologies are about rationalizing and sanctifying the abuse, robbery, murder and coercion of those labelled as “others”.
Put together, they provide the first reasonable explanation as to why “Hatred” elicits so much more negative social reaction than something like “Hitman: Blood Money“. Endless acquisition of money and performing a job irrespective of the consequences of your actions are important sacraments of the secular religion of capitalism. Therefore killing other people for the sole purpose of making money, regardless of the rationale behind doing so, is perfectly acceptable to a believer in the secular religion of capitalism- especially its american variant.
A game like “Hatred” on the other hand has a protagonist who kills because he personally hates what those whom he kills represent. He is not doing it for money, love, fame, honor, fame, religion or any other stupid bullshit that most people want to believe in to justify their actions. Also, he is not taking orders from anyone else nor is he working to further the career or financial aspirations of somebody else.
His actions are an overt and obvious repudiation of the central sacraments and tenets of the dominant secular religion of our era, aka modern nation-state supported corporate capitalism.
But it gets better.. or worse, depending on how you look at it. By not invoking socially acceptable reasons for killing innocent people, such as nationalism or contrived explanations based around self-defense, the character of the protagonist exposes the emptiness of those beliefs and explanations. Take nationalism as an example. What kind of moron would go and kill people on the other side of the world when he has never met them in real life or has directly suffered because of their actions. But then again.. look at human history.
Almost every single war in history was fought by people who did not have personal enmities with those they fought against to benefit those who facilitated that confrontation. Yet, human “civilization” spends a lot of time trying to glorify the sacrifices of tools who die or get crippled to further enrich a few. Now, such glorifications and exhalations rarely include worthwhile financial compensation- but that is another story.
My point is, human “civilization” is totally OK with people killing other people in the name of personally useless concepts such religion, nation or race. It is also OK with committing genocide as long as it based on taking orders from others. It is also OK with slavery and mass incarceration of certain racial groups as long it is profitable for a few. But it is not OK with a person killing others just because he personally hates them.
So what does all of this say about the true nature of human “civilization”, “culture” or any of the other pretenses most human beings cling to? Think about it.. I have, and it is not flattering- to put it mildly. Such an analysis also exposes the complete moral relativism underlying belief systems that pretend (and advertise themselves) to be based in real or absolute truths.
What do you think? Comments?
An interesting YouTube clip describing the ideas of Karl Marx, with a special emphasis on his diagnosis of the structural problems inherent to capitalism.
One of my more important insights into systemic large-scale human stupidity is about what people are willing to believe in or, to be more precise, their persistence in belief about stuff that clearly do not exist. The vast majority of suffering throughout history (and the present) can almost always be traced back to belief in their own bullshit- whether it is about gods, prophets, religions, morals, social mores, authority, ideologies etc. One of the contemporary examples of this stupidity concerns people continuing to believe in the existence of nation-states that clearly do not exist. As I will show you, this particular thread of self-delusion is unusually dangerous not only to those affected by belief in it, but also those who act on that belief.
But before we go further, let us try to quickly define what a modern nation-state is and is not. A modern nation-state, such as those that came into being after the industrial revolution (especially after the late 1800s) are entities unlike any that preceded them. Their uniqueness is not a consequence of people being stupider in earlier eras, but rather a consequence of socio-economic and technological changes subsequent to industrialization. Modern nation-states are defined by the protean reach of the state machinery (or bureaucracy) into the day-to-day lives of their ordinary citizens or subjects. To put it another way, “sovereign” governments that cannot support an almost all-pervasive and moderately functional bureaucracy cannot function as modern nation-states.
But why is this definition important? Well.. it comes down to what socio-economic systems they can support and the consequences thereof. For example, the existence of capitalism in any form requires that most people are engaged in wage work. This is not possible unless an invasive and functional bureaucracy can systemically control, pauperize and immiserate the majority of the population. The same is true for state communism and is the reason why nation states such as the USSR were not fundamentally different from the USA. But this feature of the modern nation-state comes at a peculiar cost. People who rule and govern modern nation-states start believing in their own bullshit, especially the part about it being the “only way”. They so desperately want to see everyone else in the world doing things the “same way” that they often make, and act on, decisions that have no link to reality. As you will see in the rest of this post, such willful ignorance and stupidity comes at a huge human cost and is ultimately as dangerous to the believers as those initially screwed over by their stupidity.
Consider the following examples of modern nation states that do not really exist even though the rest of the world, especially the west, act as if they do.
Iraq: What can I say.. It began as a country carved out of post-WW1 ottoman concessions to the then victorious allies and suffered multiple rounds of uprisings and low-intensity civil wars even before WW2 started. After WW2, the broken european nations had to relinquish indirect control to local leaders sparking, you guessed it, another round of uprisings and coups which led to Saddam Hussein who was able to keep the lid on things for a couple of decades. After that we had the USA-initiated Gulf War 1 , then a Gulf War 2 which was followed by a decade-long and still running civil war. This part of the world has not experienced anything remotely approaching a semi-functional nation-state since 1991 and YET the most of the world pretends that this nation-state actually exists. They do so even when the “official” elected government has no authority even 30 km north of their capital city, Baghdad. The northern part of this supposedly modern nation-state has been an almost autonomous Kurdish proto-state for over a decade. Then there is the now hard-to-ignore fact that most of the middle of that country is run by an semi-centralized entity that calls itself ISIL or Da‘ish. Given that there is little possibility of this situation changing substantially in the near future, shouldn’t we just stop believing that Iraq exists. I mean.. what harm can come from acknowledging what has been obvious for the last three decades or more. Perhaps it will be easier to deal with three entities that have some control over the territory they claim than one entity that has no authority over most of the country?
Afghanistan: Seriously.. how can this place be even considered to be a nation-state? For starters- it was carved out by the British and other western powers in the 19th century out of parts of central Asia that were too hard to colonize. It also does not help that most of this place has, since time immemorial, been occupied by numerous related but largely independent tribes engaged in continuous low-intensity conflicts with each other. Sure.. there have had kings and even emperors- but those individuals had little real authority beyond their capital city. To put it another way, most of the people in that region have never experienced anything close to living under a nation-state. I would hasten to add that the boundaries of this nation-state are hard to define because they are arbitrary and often passes through inhospitable terrain. Then there is the issue of Pakistan, its eastern neighbor, who has a lot of socio-economic and military influence in the eastern part of this country. To make matters even more complicated, most of this influence is based on transient and often fragile working arrangements with local tribal leaders. So how is a “country” whose government’s writ does not run beyond its own capital city and whose borders are poorly defined and uncontrolled considered a nation-state? Iraq had two decades of despotic centralized rule under Saddam Hussein. I don’t believe the nation-state known as Afghanistan had even that..
Yemen: Yet another example of a place that has seen human occupation and civilizations for thousands of years, but which is not a nation-state. Sure.. it, like Iraq and Afghanistan, has nominally been the part of many old empires. But its peculiar geographical characteristics have made it hard to define and has also resulted in a history filled with many small and localized kingdoms and fiefdoms. It does not help that this place has always been politically highly decentralized and geographically rather vague. A look at satellite views of its official borders with neighboring countries is helpful for understanding the later part of the previous sentence. Then there is the whole issue of who has been ruling, or not ruling, that country since WW2. While it started as a nominal arab-style tribal monarchy in the 1920s after a complicated civil war, things went to hell by the 1960s resulting in another much larger civil war and re-partitioning of the country, followed by a reunification which led to a rekindling of the low-intensity civil war which led to another country where the governments writ does not run beyond the capital city. Yet this place is considered by the west to be a nation-state.
In the next part of this short series, I will try to write about similar “nation-states” such as Ukraine and Libya.
What do you think? Comments?
Have a look at this YouTube clip which pretty much summarizes what I, and many other, believe will be the future of work.. or the lack thereof.
What do you think? Comments?
One of the major beliefs necessary for the “normal” functioning of modern nation states (capitalist or otherwise) is that there is a direct linkage between a person’s pay and the important of their occupation. That is how, for example, people justify paying a surgeon more than a person who cleans sewers- though the later saves more lives than the former. Now some of you might say that it easier to clean and maintain sewers than perform neurosurgery, and that is partially true.
But not all hard to learn skills are paid well. For example, somebody who can juggle 6 knives or fart a musical tune (something that very few can do) will almost never make anywhere near the amount of money made by your average mid-level executive drone. Faced by the necessity to explain this problem, most people will quickly turn to a secondary explanation.
Most people want to believe that pay is correlated to the difficulty of an occupation AND its social necessity.
While this explanation might satisfy most people, it is also demonstrably false. Consider any number of recent cases where the CEOs or board members of large corporations receiving extremely generous severance packages while the majority of employees got pretty close to nothing. Or what about highly paid celebrities and entertainers? Are they really that much better than their peers who did not were less lucky? I could give you many more examples, but that will detract from the next point.
At the start of this post, I used the term “modern nation states”. Did you wonder why I used that term instead of others like “societies” or “countries”? Well.. that term is important because of the role played by that type of entity in this justification of income inequality. In previous eras income inequality was justified through the commission, or threat of, theft or murder.
The feudal knights, lords, vassals and kings of previous eras were not rich because they were “good”, “moral” or competent. They were rich because they could gather an entourage of followers large enough to terrorize and steal from people who could not do so. Sure.. some pretended that were of “noble birth” and “superior morals”- but collection of rents, taxes and tributes was always reliant on the threat of lethal force rather than their “noble birth” or “superior morals”.
The birth and evolution of the modern nation-state has certainly changed some of that. With a few exceptions, countries are no longer run by people who claim a special divine right to rule. Moreover, modern states do at least try to provide some basic level of legally guaranteed benefits and services to their general population. Yet in other respects, these entities are not that different from their pre-modern counterparts. Revenue collection is still done by the threat of force, torture or death and sovereignty is still defined by a monopoly on violence.
Then there is the issue of dressing older patterns of functioning in new explanations. As I mentioned previously, pre-modern societies were quite open about the fact that being rich (or well paid) was about being more lucky, violent or crooked than your peers. However this plain but depressing explanation is not compatible with societies of the complexity we live in today. Just think about how long modern societies would last if most people understood that the amount of money they received was proportional to their luck, ability to be violent or crookedness.
The necessity to cover up and justify income inequality has given rise to a new mythology- the lie of “meritocracy”. According to this new lie, the amount of money and power a person possess has a strong connection with their “IQ”, “competence” and “ability”. In other words, it claims that those with money are smart, competent and deserving and those without it are not. Of course there are obvious exceptions to this “rational” model of the world, but they are explained away as exceptions that prove the rule.
While this rational-sounding explanation might satisfy enough commoners, especially during times of economic growth, it carries within itself the seeds of its own demise. To understand what I am going to say next, you have to understand that not all lies are equally dangerous to the liar. For example- lies told to others are, usually, not especially harmful to the liar. In contrast to that, lies that people tell themselves can be extremely dangerous because people frequently believe their own lies.
In the next part of this series, I will use a few examples of illustrate why the “meritocracy” lie prevalent in modern nation states is significantly more dangerous than the pre-modern lies it replaced.
What do you think? Comments?