Category Archives: PHILOSOPHY

Response to Deceptive Leafleteers, and Christianity in General

Okay, forget what I previous wrote about Bertrand Russell. In fact, forget everything I’ve written here about religion. One of the best responses I’ve read to evangelicals and their tactics and arguments is this one I came across on Facebook today by a fellow named Conrad Hudson. Below is his post:

Deceptive Campus Leafleteers

Was feeling feisty today so stopped to reprimand some street preachers who were giving out information on Jesus under false pretenses. If your message is that good, you shouldn’t have to deceive to spread it. The first one took his tongue-lashing with dignity and silence. The second one to stop me only wishes he did. You asked for the story, here it is.

 

 

Guy A:  “Would you like a basketball schedule?”

When I turn this over, it looks like a religious document. Why did you offer me a basketball schedule and then give me a religious document?

 

“Because it’s important.”

If it’s so important, why didn’t you offer it to me directly? Why did you try and sneak your message in on the back of something else?

 

“Because then people wouldn’t take it.”

Yes exactly. And yet you have today decided that I don’t have the mental capacity to make my own decisions on what I do and don’t want. You’ve taken position of arrogance that you know so much better than I, what I need, that you’d rather trick me in to chancing upon your information than give me a chance to make my own decision. Can you see why I might find that disrespectful to me and my fellow students?

 

“Uh”

Further, if this message is so important, if it truly is backed up by evidence, if it bears fruit in the lives of those who embrace it, then it should be able to stand up on its own. The message of God shouldn’t need to trojan horse to be considered by his own creation.

 

“Silence”

You’re not here to help give me information about the basketball season, you’re taking advantage of my desire for that information to give me something else, something you want to give me, but haven’t given me an honest proposal which I can decide on. If you were a business that would be called bait-and-switch, and it would be illegal. But you’re not selling anything, so it’s not illegal, it’s just dishonest, and frankly hypocritical for a follower of a diety who commands truthfulness. I think these issues are important, and I like talking about them, but I’m not going to take your information because I don’t appreciate the way you’re approaching my campus.

 

“Ok”

Stay warm, and take care.

 

And I walked off.  Then, this other guy starts making eye contact with me at the other end of the block. I don’t cross the street on my own campus to avoid people, and they were over there anyway.

Guy B: “Hi there, would you like a basketball schedule?”

No, I wouldn’t, and as I explained to your friend, here’s why….lists off an abbreviated version of the above.

 

“Can I show you a scripture that explains why I’m doing this?”

Sure

 

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. – John 5:24 so it says here that God gave us the Bible so that we could have everlasting life.”

Ok, that’s very nice that he said that’s why he wrote the Bible, but if another book also says it was written so I could have everlasting life, how do I know which one is true? What evidence should I base that judgment  on? Isn’t it reasonable to expect evidence to be available in order to decide which book or claim to put faith in? You would probably say that God gave you the ability to reason, so would you agree with Thomas Jefferson who once said, “Question with boldness, “Question with boldness, even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the [the use of] of reason, than that of blind-folded fear” or faith?”

 

“Do you believe in God? How about Heaven or Hell?”

  No

 

“Can I ask how you came to not believe?”

Sure, I found a lot of things that made sense if God existed, it explained a lot of mysteries, but there were some things that didn’t quite fit with the real world too. So I started looking, not for things that I could fit in to the assumption of God’s existence, which there were plenty, but for evidence that implied God did actually exist, specifically and necessarily. I didn’t find any, so I decided that belief was unjustified.

 

“Can I share some more information with you?”

If it’s that evidence that God does exist that I mentioned earlier, I would be most excited to hear it, yes please!

 

Proceeds to try and claim the bible’s internal writing prove it’s divinity. 

Freshly armed with historical facts from Dave Muscato’s talk at SOMA, I proceed to rip each argument apart, and growing weary of countering each argument as it was brought up in response to the previous one’s failure, got him to admit that:

a) The fact that Darth Vader’s rise to power was prophesied by the Jedi does not mean the Star War’s canon is real

b) Harry Potter’s internal consistency and the accuracy of its manuscript to the author’s intent is not good evidence for its reality.

c) The age of the Iliad does not justify using it to create a belief system

d) His evidence was no better than theirs

 

Sooooo, let’s try and get back to the original question, do you have any evidence that I should accept the proposition of God, Heaven, and Hell?

 

Of course he wanted to try more and more approaches instead of admitting he didn’t have any evidence, so I took the opportunity to force him to admit the following, none of which he was happy about but was forced to concede because they were based on his own words and flowed naturally from his attempts to defend the Bible’s contents. 

 

a) God is really emotional sometimes, and his temper get’s away from him and needs to be talked down

 

b) We are more loving than God. The Bible says 1) God is love 2) love is not jealous 3)God is a jealous god. So we are expected to love our fellow human beings more deeply than God loves us, because he embodies only the agape form of love and does not hold the full range of positive feelings toward us that other forms of love require.

 

c) God’s patience with the men, women and children murdered and the virgins raped by the Israelites was slightly less than it currently is with us. A patience that apparently causes him to do absolutely nothing for more than 2000 years despite promising to be basically “right back” (Matthew 16:27-28)

 

d) Jesus was not that worried about keeping families together nor advocating peace. Having previously insisted that not a single thing in the bible was metaphor or figurative, he simply promised to look in to this passage in Mathew 10:

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father,  a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

 

e) He would never punish his child with fire, death, or permanent shunning, based on whether or not they choose to obey, even if he had provided a way to avoid it, he would not continue to stoke a fire in his house for the express purpose of irreversable punishment but God is just to do so.

 

f) God created hell, and continues to allow it’s existence for the express purpose of punishing people with it, even though he could create a less horrific option at any time, or simply let someone die and have the absence of heaven be the punishment.

 

g) God killed himself, to satisfy  a debt he owes to himself, because of a contract he made with himself, which being capable of all things he could change at any time since we already established he’s capable of being two contradictory things at the same time. Further unless God is subject to a universal morality outside himself, there is nothing compelling him to use blood in order to alleviate sin,  a crime, punishment, and recompense all defined by himself.

He tried to claim that because God set up this contract before mankind existed it wasn’t immoral. I pointed out that

1) he could have easily chose a less gruesome, more loving option, one that didn’t so coincidently line up with desert tribes animal sacrifice customs, and

2) making a decision before a circumstance presents itself does not alleviate one of moral responsibility, as he readily agreed that making a decision to punch all people wearing red shirts in the face before having noticed he was wearing a red shirt would not absolve me of punching him in the face now that he had violated my rule.

 

h) Jesus did not actually make the greatest sacrifice ever made, since he knew he was going to be resurrected. Even though he would only be resurrected if he was sinless, he was both incapable of sin and fully aware that he would not sin so his sacrifice was less than that of any human who’s ever given up their life for another with no promise of immediate resurrection. (he really didn’t like that one, but wasn’t willing to admit that Jesus could have sinned or been ignorant in order to get out of it)

 

i) That even though his opinion doesn’t matter, and it’s not his judgment  it’s God’s, he does have to agree that it’s justice for a human to suffer in hell for all eternity if they have sex out of wedlock, even if the rest of their life is completely virtuous. He has to hold that belief or contradict God.  (It would actually be more virtous if he was simply afraid of God’s wrath, avoiding a bully’s beatings, but he’d rather be a pious accomplice in this entirely unequitable sentence.)

 

j) He has no actual justification for preferring his translation of the Bible over all the others, besides that it better aligns with the teachings his church believes.

 

k) If his friend owed him a debt and he intended to forgive that debt out of love he would simply forgive it if it was in his power, without setting up a perpetual punishment for failure to comply. But God isn’t getting rid of the debt, namely the death that is the wages of sin and the damnation that follows, he’s demanding obedience in exchange for the debt, if you fail, you get put on a payment plan that never ends.

 

After each of these, I offered to return to my original question of what evidence existed that suggested God is real. Anything that we should look to that is not used by any number of other supernatural claims, that actually implies why his belief is true.

 

Finally he had had enough and I needed to get to class, so he offered to give me information to get in contact with his Pastor to hear more.

I kindly, but honestly explained that thus far he’d failed to offer even a single bit of evidence of what I originally requested, so considering that he represented his church and seemed well versed in it’s teachings, it didn’t suggest that my time would be well spent rehashing this conversation with his pastor. But I gave him a SOMA card and earnestly encouraged him to contact me if they did in fact have any evidence, as I would eagerly accept legitimate evidence for God and Jesus and humbly repent.

 

He didn’t want to do that, he wanted me to call  his pastor because he was a busy guy and it would be better if I called him.

I asked him, do you have any evidence on which to assume that I am in fact less busy than your pastor? He didn’t but wanted to insist that it was me who was ‘checking out’ so I took the opportunity to make him admit one more thing:

 

l) the fact that his pastor wouldn’t call me but would take my call meant that the decision was not in fact mine, but ours, meaning that if his pastor did have convincing evidence to share he was making the decision not to share it with me, and let me burn in hell, since I was most willing to listen.

 

With that he reluctantly took my card, and I encouraged him to call or email me should he come across that evidence we’d been searching for today.

 

Look I’ll give this guy credit, the conversation was incredibly civil and well-intentioned. He knew his pitch well, and knew scriptures by chapter and verse. He stood out in the cold and talked with me for some time, and I thanked him for his sincerity and care but also pointed out that despite all that love and concern he was showing by being out here, he was somehow able to simultaneously believe that I deserved to burn in hell forever if I didn’t sign the license agreement on the Yahweh/Jesus v2.0 software installation, and I found that a disturbing thing for him to think about another human being. Realizing he was simply outmatched today (it didn’t take much, I’m no theologian, these are glaring issues for someone with a critical eye), he agreed that it was simply his belief, he believed it on faith, and didn’t have an external reason for having faith in that instead of something else or nothing at all, he simply thought faith was a good thing to have, and this was the thing to have faith in.

 

We said cordial goodbyes and shook hands.

 

The lesson here is that you shouldn’t debate consumer feedback on your marketing tactics. 

 

*Update*

Here is the website of the church these gentlemen belong to.

http://heritagebaptistchurch.cc

They are building their own little empire right here in Kansas, with mass printing, for sale of course, based on the promise the secret to getting in to heaven. They are contructing a new 700 seat church building and have their own education system from elementry through university where “Degrees offered include pastoral theology, elementary and secondary education, missions, and church ministry.”

 

It looks like it was no fluke that the nice gentlemen I spoke with knew his stuff, Barnabas Smith is the Assistant to the Pastor at  Heritage Baptist Church.

http://heritagebaptistchurch.cc/barnabas-smith-assistant

The Platonic “Why I Am Not a Christian”

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Freethinking, and atheism itself, is as old as ancient Greece and Rome with Epicurus, Seneca, Emperor Marcus Aurelius. . . . But there are few comprehensive essays critiquing the idea of a creator omni-god, Yahweh and Jesus in particular, that’s as thorough and reasoned as Bertrand Russell’s 1927 essay, “Why I Am Not a Christian.”

What he wrote in that famous essay is nothing new, not today and not even in 1927 — but he examines the basic and common claims for God, the “first cause” claim, the moral argument, the justice argument, from design, etc., and dismantles each one. Then, goes on to touch on how the teachings of Jesus are not nearly as wise and good as people like to think.

While many writers since Russell have written exhaustively on these subjects (and more, such as the ontological argument for God and the Kalam first cause variant), Russell’s essay serves as a hallmark on the topic.

I imagine a theist reading this and quipping, “You’re treating Russell’s essay as dogmatically as you accuse believers and our Bible.” Big difference between what Russell wrote and the Bible: these standard arguments in favor of atheism, unlike revealed religious scripture, don’t have to be told to you or taught — anyone capable of reason and logic can come up with the exact same thoughts as Russell, independently and in solitude. In fact, a great many atheist, including myself, have done exactly that. Before I even heard the names Dawkins or Hitchens or Bertrand Russell, as a believer questioning all I’d been taught to believe, I’d come to all the same conclusions as Russell (and Epicurus and Seneca and Hitchens), and eventually discovering, “Hey! What I thought were great insights, are old hat! Millions of non-believers have arrived at the same conclusions I have — except some of them have written them into exquisite books.”

Everyone is born an atheist, with lack of belief in any gods. The luck of what culture you’re born in and what parents you’re born to, determine what revealed, unquestionable dogma you’re indoctrinated with. You’d never know anything about hell, Jesus, Yahweh (Kali, Allah, Buddha, Confucius, Krishna, Zeus, Pele, etc.) unless someone told about it and taught you to believe it as truth. But you can be born into any religion, any culture, with any background, and if you give it honest thought, you can come to the same realizations on your own as these great thinkers.

Be it resolved…

This has, without a doubt, been an absolutely terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. Probably the worst one, evah! (The only, and I mean only, bright spot was I finally got my Masters Degree in English . . . and even that’s pending until next year when I pay for and turn in super-expensive copies of my thesis and pay the rest of my school bill — not counting, of course, student loans I need to start paying on.) The badness is butting right up to the very end of the year in the last days. There’s been serious financial difficulties; there’s been a scary person, terrorizing my private and work life because they were offended by a political opinion I expresses online; there’s been legal scares; I’ve failed to make any progress on any of my writing career goals; our beloved family pet died; and the turmoil associated with completing my previously mentioned thesis. This year can’t end soon enough.

With the coming of this completely arbitrarily demarcated new year and new decade (contrary to popular opinion, decades begin on “1” years, e.g.: 2011, not “0,” e.g.: 2010), I need to make some serious changes; I need to refocus, re-prioritize, and start anew. As someone I don’t recall said, “If you want things to be different, you must do something different.”

Part of my problem is frakkin’ Facebook. It’s an evil, evil bane on productivity and a facilitator of my getting distracted and bent-out-of-shape about subjects that, while are important, serves only to make me upset and completely unproductive in regards to what’s even more important in my life: my nascent, budding writing career that I hope to make into a viable “second job,” with aspirations of it being my main job within a couple/few years.

In addition to the craptacular events that have sideswiped me and/or made me utter a general “WTF, world? W. T. F.?!” every other week, it seems, I recently read a blog post by writer/director Kevin Smith: “SMonologue #2.” The first half he discusses “Clerks 3” and the cost/process of investing in a movie idea and making it happen. But the important bit is the last half, in which he writes:

Continue reading Be it resolved…

Sending humans to do a deity’s job.

respect(This is the 9th edition of my Alpha Course reaction. For the first and all past posts, see the Alpha Page.)

After last week’s monster of a post, you’ll be glad to hear that this week’s will be shorter than usual. But first, a couple of semi-related things I’d meant to refer to in earlier posts but missed.

In the last post, I briefly discussed (due to the subject of “speaking in tongues,” or glossolalia), the concept of left and right brain hemispheres, and how one controls language and the other is the emotional center. Sometimes the emotion, to convey it to others or even to express it for one’s self, the language centers of one half of the brain need to be bypassed in order to “speak” directly to the emotional regions of the right-brain.

Well, here are a couple of absolutely fascinating videos which address this dual-brain dichotomy.

I Can Smell Your Spicy Brains!

The first is an excerpt from a show about the brain, and features Alan Alda interviewing a doctor and a patient who has had the connection allowing the two brains to communcate, severed. The results are fantastic:

There used to be a model of “understanding” the human, the personality, called dualism, that was the accepted and simply assumed model since Plato at least. Philosopher René Descartes did a lot of work on the subject, so we’ll often hear it refered to as “Cartesian dualism.” It’s basically this: The brain and the mind are two separate and distinct entities. The mind is a result of the spirit, or animae, and operates with the influence of, but apart from the physical brain. Of course, this belief, utterly philosophical (and religious) and not based on any hard evidence, makes sense to those who believe in the soul, spirits, ghosts, etc.

The problem is, we know without a doubt that everything about the person, behavior, personality, wants and desires, fears and memory, are all derived from the physicality of the brain. We know this because the brain can be manipulated, whether from internal damage (disease, stroke, etc.), by injury, and by experimentation (surgery, drugs, focused magnetic resonance), and any changes can create marked and stark changes in the “person.”

Continue reading Sending humans to do a deity’s job.

Does God guide us?

(This is part 6 of my, a non-believer’s, reaction to The Alpha Course, an introductory course into Christianity. The beginning is here, and the previous entry, part 5, is here.)

I’m going to try something new this time and write my reaction less than 5 days after the event. Like, the next day, maybe. Well, I’ve started it the day after session 6, but I have recordings of Stargate: Universe and Caprica calling me….

(Update: I failed. See mid-way for a bonus Interlude.)

How Does God Guide Us, Nicky attempts to explain in this session. In general, this was a session full of special pleading and bad rationalizations. Which is a shame, because Nicky seems like a real nice guy, but his logic and critical thinking skills are nearly non-existent.

He starts by telling us that the Bible is a clear-cut explanation of what God’s will is. Nevermind that the Bible is neither clear-cut nor direct, and is responsible for a great many bloody conflicts among Christians over how the Bible should be interpreted. The book has been translated and re-translated into English alone scores of times, each one with some significant differences in literal meanings let alone what someone can infer from them. And countless denominations of the one religion have branched off with different interpretations of key passages. Like I mentioned last essay, putting your instructions in the form of a book written by many authors is probably the least wise method of communicating to your loved children, that I can think of.

Continue reading Does God guide us?

“Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative”

Greta Christina has a fascinating article over on AlterNet:
Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative
(Liberals and conservatives don’t just disagree about specific issues — we disagree about core ethical values. Can a case be made that liberal values really are better?)”

“When asked a series of questions about different ethical situations, self-described liberals strongly tend to prioritize fairness and harm as the most important of these core values — while self-described conservatives are more likely to prioritize authority, loyalty and purity.”…

In the past (mostly on Facebook) I’ve proclaimed that the conservative value-system is inherently a selfish, xenophobic, authoritarian one that has tried to stop all historic efforts to better humanity with social justice and equality. Greta is a lot nicer than I am and makes a case for the necessity for standard conservative values.

However, I think her arguments that liberal (I prefer “progressive”) values (that’s values, not people) are inherently better to be the best argument I’ve heard made.

Morality without God?

I’m going to keep this short, because I want to mainly present this potentially interesting documentary in the works: “Skipping Sunday School“:

I’m amused and annoyed by the old and ridiculous canard of Pascal’s Wager used at the end of the clip. Spoken by the guy who throughly didn’t believe that a person could be good without the indoctrination of religion. The truth is, there are countless people throughout the world who are perfectly ethical and moral people without having been indoctrinated into religion. If, without religion people would go wild and be amoral, northern Europe should have self-destructed by now! The Scandinavian are majority atheist/agnostic, and yet they have far lower crime rates and a far better social structure than certainly the U.S.

I used to think myself that, even as an atheist, a religious upbringing was still important for the learning of social rules and guidance. I am now horrified I once thought that. Terribly embarrassed. The morality that religion instill is not a thoughtful, empathic, selfless morality. The basis of religious morality is carrot-and-stick: Do what God (who is so hidden as to be indistinguishable from invisible, so you need this book to know what God wants) and you’ll get rewarded. Don’t do what he wants, and you get eternal torment. What kind of basis for ethics is that?!

No, the ethical guidelines and morality a secular humanist upbringing can provide is, in my opinion, a “truer,” more sincere and responsible ethics.

Where to place the Haunted Mansion?

Haunted MansionCory Doctorow, (writer, electronic freedom activist, and Walt Disney World aficionado), Tweeted a message earlier today that I took great interest in: “This woman writes smarter, better stuff about #Disney parks than anyone I’ve ever read: http://passport2dreams.blogspot.com/“.

I read the latest post, History and the Haunted Mansion, and was blown away! It’s a perfect mix of serious and studious scholarly work worthy of any peer-reviewed journal of criticism (she quotes Frankfurt School cultural theorist Walther Benjamin for goodness’ sake!), and highly entertaining pop culture. Not that the two have to be mutually exclusive, but I’ve read articles in Science Fiction Studies that could turn fun incarnate into Sahara Desert dry.

Her analysis of the Disney Haunted Mansion attraction is absolutely fascinating in the way she explores its own history, and its pastiche of American history. Why it’s located in Liberty Square, and even its specific location in Liberty Square. She addresses a little known fact about the history of Disney’s Main Street, and discusses a fascinating take on the fluidity of time within the Haunted Mansion attraction.

Fantastic article! A must-read. I plan on devouring her previous articles.

Humanism: What both atheism and science are not.

ethics

“Can science provide a morality to change the world?

NO.”

This is from a recent blog post by biologist and outspoken atheist, PZ Myers in the posting: A priest, a scientist, and a Communist discuss morality. It’s a really interesting post about a talk he spoke at (with the aforementioned priest and Communist) on the topic of morality, at the University of Chicago. This position that Myers has, that science is not the provider of a system of morality, is actually a very common approach by most scientists and is probably a surprise to many religious people.

“As I’ve said repeatedly, science doesn’t provide a morality. What it does provide, and what I optimistically and subjectively think will motivate people, is that it provides rigor and a path to the truth of the world.”

I’ve encountered many people (often religious, but not always! Many are people who believe strongly in the supernatural like ghosts and ESP, and/or pseudoscience like homeopathy and vaccine denialism) who are of the opinion that science is just another religion, or at least a philosophy. This utter misunderstanding of what science is is quite frustrating — mainly because they will pound the table with absolute certainty decrying science as being something it’s absolutely not, due to their own complete misunderstanding of science.

Continue reading Humanism: What both atheism and science are not.

Remember, remember the 5th of November. Maybe.

In honor of Guy Fawkes Day this Nov. 5th (Wiki link)* are a couple of links for light reading:

A recent musing of mine on anarchy and democracy: link

An excellent (and scary-sad) collection from Classically Liberal of examples of police state abuse and misconduct.

* Like most things in postmodern culture, this topic is well filled with contradictions. Guy Fawkes, for example, was not truly an anarchist (as far as I can tell). He, along with his cohorts, were simply p.o.ed that Catholics were being descriminated by the Protestant British government and decided to get rid of it, hoping to establish a Catholic-friendly one. (*sigh* what, religious violence again!?)

Guy Fawkes ironically became a symbol of later anrchistic movements despite his basically being just a religious terrorist.

Guy Fawkes was also appropriated by the British cultural hegemony as a symbol of celebrating the God-protected and ordained rule of proper British royalty. (Much like how Hitler propagandized his surviving the Valkyrie assassination attempt as a sign that God protected his divinely ordained Third Reich. [I may have just Godwined myself, but it just goes to show that anyone and everyone can and does invoke God’s favor when things go well for them.])

And now there’s this Anonymous group appropriating Guy Fawkes to protest Scientology. Interestingly, as this is a quasi-religious fight, this may actually be a more “appropriate” use of Guy’s image… if not for the fact that what they’re really doing is using the image created by the film “V for Vendetta”. They’ve taken an image crafted for entertainment consumption, based on a hyperreality of an appropriated image, of a man whose purpose has been fictionalized by one group and celebrated for it’s failure by another group for ideological justification…

Ow. Jean Baudrillard is probably laughing in his grave over this a-historical postmodern pastiche! (I think I see a scholarly paper in this!)

Beyond Democracy. Thoughts on anarchy.

never

The Tyranny of the Majority:
If you ever found yourself in a vastly outnumbered minority, and the majority voted that you had to give up something as necessary to your life as water and air, would you comply? When it comes down to it, does anyone really believe it makes sense to accept the authority of a group simply on the grounds that they outnumber everyone else? We accept majority rule because we do not believe it will threaten us – and those it does threaten are already silenced before anyone can hear their misgivings.

[…]

Three wolves and six goats are discussing what to have for dinner. One courageous goat makes an impassioned case: “We should put it to a vote!” The other goats fear for his life, but surprisingly, the wolves acquiesce. But when everyone is preparing to vote, the wolves take three of the goats aside.
“Vote with us to make the other three goats dinner,” they threaten. “Otherwise, vote or no vote, we’ll eat you.”
The other three goats are shocked by the outcome of the election: a majority, including their comrades, has voted for them to be killed and eaten. They protest in outrage and terror, but the goat who first suggested the vote rebukes them: “Be thankful you live in a democracy! At least we got to have a say in this!”

–From THE PARTY’S OVER: BEYOND POLITICS, BEYOND DEMOCRACY
http://thecloud.crimethinc.com/pdfs/democracy_reading.pdf

So, I’ve discovered this Web site: CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective (http://www.crimethinc.com). They have some blog posts on the G-20 protests…and most interestingly, a non-protest that was treated as a violent protest by the police and resulted in more than a hundred arrests (including a great many who weren’t doing any protesting) and many injured. (State Repression at the G20 Protests) From this I started looking over the site. It’s an anarchists’ site, filled with info and publications geared toward helping people find the anarchist within and fight the system.

This is what’s struck me as interesting: Their reason for existing, their criticism of the system, their complaints of capitalism and democracy, I completely agree with–and I’ll explain why in a moment. But their explanation of their remedy, their idea of anarchy, I’m having trouble with. (Note, that anarchy does not mean violence or chaos in the sense of abuse of others, harming people. It simply means no government, no rule of imposed law, no masters.)

Ironically, these anarchists have, from what I can see, I great disdain for socialism, communism, any -ism apparently derived from Marxism. I say “ironic” because their entire criticism of the current state of capitalism and authoritarian democracy comes straight from Marxist criticism, 101. Take for example this page from the book Days of War, Night of Love:

daysgallery3(page image link: “How Does Capitalism Work“)

This is capitalist criticism straight from Marx’s Kapital (not verbatim, of course). Everything this anarchist site decries about the current state of capitalist economy, culture, and the police state used to protect the hegemony and the owners of capital, is Marxism stripped of the Marxist lingo (like “hegemony”). There’s nothing about their critique of capitalism I don’t agree with (my being a Marxist). However, and this is where things get uncomfortable, their ideas of overcoming the system I don’t know if I can support. Well, let me clarify…

At the core, I consider myself an anarcho-socialist. I too believe that the best path for humanity, for human advancement, equality, justice, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the complete lack of government and forced adherence to someone else’s majority rule. However, I also believe that married to that must be a social contract of mutual cooperation, shared resources, publicly owned and operated resources, manufacture, distribution…capital. This is different from anarcho-libertarianism, or Objectivism (vis-à-vis Ayn Rand) which believes that in addition to lack of any forced rules or regulations, private ownership is valued above all. That humans are selfish and greedy by nature, and that we should live to acquire as much for ourselves as we can and help others only so much as we can gain from it ourselves. Pretty much ethically and morally bankrupt, in my opinion.

As I read through the CrimethInc site, most of what they believe (and what they purport anarchists believe) matches up with my anarcho-socialism. They support cooperation, mutually beneficial action, gift economy. Hey, great! But they also support a sort of worship of anti-social behavior, crime, vandalism, activities that make me cringe (e.g.: shoplifting). Although, all the anti-social behavior they support, is all geared toward the state, corporate America, the power structure, and not against other individuals and their personal rights. OK…that sounds good… I guess.

So, I’m left to question: Is my cringing because I’ve lived my entire life controlled by the hegemony, brainwashed into subservience to conformity with passivity, being a good little worker bee who keeps his head down and continues to make profit for his capitalist lords without making any trouble for them? Well, yes I have. We all have. That’s the entire goal of hegemony, be it capitalist or feudal or slave economy. Those in control use whatever sociological means available to control the other 99% of the people for their own benefit. This requires blind obedience to their laws. It requires complete acquiescence to state-supporting meek mildness.

When I remember these things, which I’ve been studying and contemplating for some years now, it reinforces my belief in the anarcho-half of my anarcho-socialism. So, why does the action of subversiveness bug me?

Since President Dubbya started taking away civil liberties after 9/11, I started studying libertarianism and even anarchy–but always from a level of personal rights and liberties. It wasn’t until I started grad school and my first professor, Dr. Burling, introduced me to Marxism that I learned that Bush, civil liberty removal, the corporate ownership of the government, wars, all of it, are a result of the economic foundation: capitalism. It is essentially the base on which everything is a superstructure built extending from it. Everything is about the material question: Who uses it and what is it for? With that in mind it’s easy (easier) to understand power, wealth, who benefits from it most, and how they exploit those without it. Dr. Burling helped change my entire outlook on culture, laws, economy, politics, etc.

But when asked why doesn’t he live outside the corruption and control of capitalism, his response was, in essence: you can’t escape it, it affects everyone, might as well not make your own life unnecessarily difficult fighting it. And this is a guy who, in addition to being an unashamed Marxist, was also a musician with a focus on rock (meaning nothing exactly, except an implication that he has a rebellious spirit).

And it also makes me think of vaunted Marxist cultural critic and major figure of the Frankfurt School, Theodor Adorno, who it is said that during the Paris riots of 1968 when asked by his students why he didn’t participate or support the student protests, he replied “How can you actively fight for something before you fully understand it?”

There is “theory,” and there is “praxis.” Praxis is putting theory into action. Is it that these Marxist critics and theorists I look up to, who happen to be intellectuals and educators, don’t know how to put their words into action? Do they not have the courage of their convictions? Or are all they are about is understanding and criticizing the current system, but not about doing anything about it? When asked what good is knowing how culture develops, knowing how the hegemony controls and influences our decisions and our wants? They have replied that it helps you understand why you make the decisions that you do, why you choose what products or how you sell your labor. But is that enough?

Frederic Jameson (Marxist cultural critic) has developed a concept of applying “cognitive mapping” to cultural criticism, which is a theory of mapping the contradictions in capitalism, where it affects our lives, and finding and exploiting the holes in it. And it’s a step toward praxis, which gives people like me hope of doing something to make a difference. To help turn the tables on capitalist exploitation and help the “seeds of rebellion” grow. But…what is that rebellion? What are we Marxist intellectuals waiting for? We who study culture, and politics, and socio-economics? Dr. Burling had cryptically referred to the biopic about Che Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries, in which a young, pre-revolutionary Guevara is asked about how to spark the South American peoples into revolution against their oppressors, he responds that you can’t have a revolution without guns.

But then, Dr. Burling often referred to other ways to create such drastic upheaval as to eliminate capitalism, without revolution and war, and used as examples Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy and 40, 50, 60 trilogy. Stories in which the only way to evolve from capitalism to egalitarian socialism is either to colonize another planet, or deal with Earth-shaking environmental disaster. So, do we just wait for change?

Back to my point: Are these anarchists doing what we intellectuals fear to do, but are a natural and proper result of the same Marxist-rooted criticism of capitalism we both share? Am I a hypocrite for complaining about and railing about capitalism and its ills and evils, but I continue to lust after home ownership and getting a better job and obeying all the laws of the land so I don’t draw the attention of the state’s police apparatus?

Is it because I have a family to care for? I don’t risk rocking the boat, and so I participate, if grudgingly, in my own commodification and the orgy of consumerism? Of course, this is exactly what the hegemony counts on, this conservativism that we’re all supposed to grow into. We’re allowed to rebel a little as a youth, test the bounds of social acceptance, and then “settle down.” Grow a family, buy a home, get a job you can’t leave because you can’t live without the insurance benefits. You become a productive worker bee who has too much to lose by questioning authority, bucking the system, making waves. Be a quiet little worker bee, and you get to go (somewhat) unnoticed by the system that exploits you and uses you and extorts you, giving little in return except an addiction to mass consumption.

Are anarchists heroes I fear to admire? Or are they the hemp clothing wearing, organic food growing, dumpster diving neo-hippies that I can easily dismiss and marginalize, exactly as I’ve just done, because they threaten the social stability and conditioning I’ve internalized because I grew up brainwashed to become a quiet and non-trouble-making worker bee? Is that why when asked, I say I’m an anarcho-socialist “in theory” but “in practice” I’m a democratic-socialist? Isn’t that just a way for me to marginalize myself?

I don’t know. But this Fighting For Our Lives: An Anarchist Primer is at the very least thought-provoking reading.

Update; and Did Jesus Abolish the Old Law?

So my iPhone is in the process of updating to the latest software, 3.0. It failed the first time because I’m doing it through a Windows XP install within a Linux virtualbox, and I wasn’t paying attention to the USB status. 🙁 So it had to restore and now I’m anticipating my application data will be lost (like my budget record). Oh well, I’ll soon have copy-n-paste and that’s a good thing. 🙂

So, now that it’s summer, I’ve still almost completely ignored this blog. But, I spend most of my social e-media time on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/liamrw) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/mechphisto), I don’t feel compelled to write articles on here even though I have tons of saved links and news items and others’ blog content I want to comment on. Darn you short attention span time wasters!!

Anyway, so, the iPhone is updating, I just finished re-planting some cilantro and Greek oregano into a new window-box planter…thought I’d at least get one interesting item I’d like to share out of the way today.

“vjack” over at Atheist Revolution has a recent post entitled: “Did Jesus Abolish the Old Testiment.” It starts with a question he received from one of his readers, that goes in part like this:

…why Christians cherry pick from the bible. I brought up stuff from the old testament, like women not being allowed to dress fancy in church. His response was, “That’s mosaic law and we are under a new law now.” I didn’t know how to respond to this. What would you say?

vjack’s response I think is incredibly reasoned and thought-provoking. Well, OK, not to me at this moment, I have to be honest. Because his response, which I agree with 100%, is a response I came up with on my own (and so do many many many former Christians) while I (1.) first read the Bible in its entirety around age 17 or 18, and (2.) once again a few years ago when I was working through those questions and issues that actually reading the Bible sparked so many years earlier.

It’s not a bad thing, and I mean no negative intent, when I say vjack’s response is not interesting to me…in fact, I mean it as both matter of fact and a complement. See…I was reminded of something this week as my wife and I watched Richard Dawkins’ “The Root of All Evil?“, and part way through we started discussing liberal/non-fundamentalist Christianity and the atheist response. And I gave answers and opinions and analysis which were kernels of understanding I came to on my own a few to several years ago, wrapped with wording and terms and nuance gained from other freethinkers I’ve since read who also deal with the same issues and questions. Then, when we continued to watch the documentary, my words were virtually echoed back to me by Dawkins.

Agnosticism and atheism have been on an upswing lately, people have started coming out and talking about it, and not being ashamed or afraid of being non-believers. It’s almost like a fad in appearance. But it’s not new by a long shot. Ancient Greeks wrote about doubt regarding the gods their contemporaries worshiped, including questions like: “Does [god] command what is moral because [he] decides what it morality; or does [he] do so because morality is absolute and [he’s] simply relaying the message? If the former, then morality is still relative…believers have simply shifted the responsibility up one level. If the later, then what is the need for [god] as a middle-man if morality is absolute and universal?” For example.

Then there’s Lucretius and Marcus Aurelius. And after that slews of freethinkers (at least, those not murdered by Christians during the Dark Ages), to Spinoza and Bertrand Russell, and now Hitchens and Dennett and John W. Loftus, who basically have been saying the same things for centuries regarding God(s), belief without evidence, religion. Because let’s face it: atheism is the final point of critical thinking for any person of any culture, any background, former religion or belief system. Any individual, anyone, can come to atheism on their own through thinking through the questions and thinking critically about the supposed answers. The reasons for non-belief don”t change through the ages (like religions constantly do in order to survive in changing and evolving cultures). Atheism doesn’t require any books, tomes, scrolls, or prophets. No figures of authority, no priests or rabbis. No spiritual revelation from any of the over 2,000 gods humans have created.

Religious belief requires revelation. For example: it is impossible for a person to become a Christian without coming into contact with the Bible or another Christian (who uses the Bible). A book that requires stores and libraries full of books to try to interpret it, explain it, rationalize the contradictions and inherent issues in order to bolster a person’s belief in it. Atheism only requires one’s working brain to come to the same conclusions freethinkers have been coming to for millennia.

And so, some years ago I would have found vjack’s response thoroughly interesting and informative. Now, it’s old hat. But, that’s a good thing. It continues to show that for 2000 years the same arguments hold up and continue to be inadequately answered by the believer.

That said, seriously, read vjack’s response. 🙂 It may be old hat to me, but it’s a good read! And, he has some fantastic links toward the end of his post to some resources which pose issues that demand response from the believer.

Also, some of the comments on vjack’s post are great as well. Some annoying or just plain worthless. But some, like this one, poignant and well-said:

The question is, why do you follow a different law? And, if you are supposed to follow a law that contradicts what is in the old testament, why even have the old testament in the first place? It is obvious that it simply creates confusion, so why not simply publish a version of the bible that is only the new testament and use that at church?

The reality is that no believer knows exactly what they are supposed to believe or follow, which is why they pray for guidance. Given that, if one has that kind of access to a deity, why would they need the bible in the first place? Couldn’t you just ask for guidance and go from there? Or, does this deity only answer some of the time, and how do you know when your god or gods is/are answering? You see, there are endless questions, none of which have answers that are going to (1) satisfy the skeptic, and (2) convince a believer otherwise. I guess the best that I hope for is that they begin to try to actually answer these questions honestly with themselves, which is how I became a skeptic in the first place. That eventually led me to atheism, although I realize that doesn’t happen with everyone.
(TDG)

Marx was right.

(OK, only a couple more of blog posts in this surge.)

BoingBoing has an article: “Marx was right!” in which the author discusses his move from being a dot-com capitalist to a return to a respect for Marx’s criticism of capitalism. (His wife, who said of his return to Marxist studies that it’s “worse than your reggae phase!”, could commiserate with mine!)

[quote] The work of Karl Marx is ultra relevant to understanding the world’s current financial mess, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Marx has become intellectually indispensable to me again, as if there ever should have been any doubt. It’s fascinating to consider that during the time period when Marx was writing “Capital,” there were few factories in England –it was largely an agrarian society still– yet somehow Marx was able to see clearly the mess that we would be in today. He’s the most accurate prophet in all of history, there should be no doubt about this. Marx viewed history with a very, very long telescope. How he was able to see so far into the future is a mystery of his particular genius, but Marx accurately extrapolated how capitalism’s endgame would play itself out at the very birth of the system. Marx saw how utterly destructive this system would ultimately become. Look around you: Marx was right.[/quote]

(On a related note, Richard Metzger posted a followup: “Marx was… second???” about Thomas Jefferson’s essay on “fictitious capital” decades before Marx wrote about it.)

Well, I could write for a long time regarding my thoughts and history in Marxist studies, but you don’t care, do you? 🙂 Instead, let me link to this great page that helps explain both Marxist and anarchist theories in ordinary terms that speaks to the common person:

Questions about Capitalism and Class

Yes, it’s Chumbawamba’s Web site. They live the spirit of anarcho-socialism, and their answers to common questions about materialist criticism of capitalism is really fantastic! I really encourage you to read at least this one page I just linked top to bottom. That’s it, all I ask.

(For the Facebook users: This is a post from my blog getting auto-noted to Facebook, which cuts off any images or videos in the transfer.)
(Drawing of Marx and Engles stolen borrowed from http://www.hermes-press.com/distinctions.htm)

Seems kinda Tom Clancy-ish to me….

If you know me you know that I have a love/hate relationship with conspiracy theories. On the one hand, they’re really entertaining! They make for great “X-Files” plotlines, and extra bonus points if they can work in The Illuminati! (And keep a straight face.) fnord

But on the other hand, they’re almost always complete bunk. Not to say there haven’t been grand conspiracies in the past: Military radiation testing on civilians, CIA selling crack, Watergate. But here’s the thing about conspiracies: they never stay secret. I think it’s supposed to be an old Sicilian saying, something like: “Two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead.”

Someone talks. Someone always talks. Documents are kept. Conspiracies become known, the bigger they are the more certain they’ll be exposed. And, unlike most fringe and popular but unfounded conspiracies, it won’t be some outside group of amateur conspiracy hunters who have all the answers but are frustratingly ignored by so-called scientists and experts, who expose the cover-ups. And the more impossible and absurd the scope of the conspiracy, the more likely the conspiracy is BS. Like 9/11, “Loose Change” khrap. For 9/11 to have been a government planned event, it would have required the cooperation of literally thousands of people.

Occam’s Razor here: What’s more probable? That thousands of military, police, firefighters, and civilians were involved in setting up and carrying out an event so huge and devastating that it would have required unimaginable about of planning, organization, timing, cooperation, and yet no one involved has come forward to say they were a part of it and become the most famous person in the world for exposing the greatest and worst conspiracy ever in the history of human civilization…. or, that several fundamental religious zealots took advantage of holes in air transportation security to fly some planes into buildings?

Like I said, conspiracies are entertaining; reality is often banal in its horrific simplicity.

Anyway,to the point: Here’s a recent news item that goshdarnit, sounds a lot to me like it could be a valid conspiracy-murder:

A tipster close to the McCain campaign disclosed to VR in July that Mr. Connell’s life was in jeopardy and that Karl Rove had threatened him and his wife, Heather. VR’s attorney, Cliff Arnebeck, notified the United States Attorney General , Ohio law enforcement and the federal court about these threats and insisted that Mr. Connell be placed in protective custody. VR also told a close associate of Mr. Connell’s not to fly his plane because of another tip that the plane could be sabotaged. Mr. Connell, a very experienced pilot, has had to abandon at least two flights in the past two months because of suspicious problems with his plane. On December 18, 2008, Mr. Connell flew to a small airport outside of Washington DC to meet some people. It was on his return flight the next day that he crashed.

Now, here’s where critical thinking has to come in. For example, these tips…can they be independantly verified? More importantly, can they be proven to have come before the event? It’s simply amazing how much people just knew something, or state they predicted something, or had a clue to something…in hindsight after an event has happened. Cognitive bias is rife with this kind of post hoc misthinking.

And of course, there’s the reader’s own subjective bias. I, for example, would believe Rove, Cheney, many others in the Bush administration, would kill and eat babies if it meant massive quasi-fascist control of the free world. I don’t think much better of most politicians in general–the neo-cons just happen to be Hitlers in an ocean of SS. Am I more prone to confirmation bias and self-selecting evidence to fit my personal bias? Yep. Guilty as charged. We all are. It takes a lot of work to be fair and unbiased, and argueably, we never can be.

(Which, by the way, to go off on a tangent, the scientific method is vital to get at objective truths. Proper scientific methodology demands blind and double-blind testing to correct for bias, as well as repeated retesting and verification of results by other people. Science: it works, bitches.)

So, I’m going to watch this case of the killed Bush admin. I.T. guy and see what, if anything comes from it. But then, the co-called liberal media, the “4th Estate,” has been horrifically bad the last eight years at following up on and putting to task recent conspiracies, such as Valarie Plame and Scooter Libby/Cheney. And Congress has no interest in investigating Bush or Cheney for impeachable offenses nor is the media interested in investigating the possibility. Nor for the possible war crimes charges againast Rumsfield and Bush that were recently released. Nor for the countless open-for-all-to-see conspiracies of war profiteering (highly illegal by the way) committed by Cheney and Rumsfield and Bush with the help of Haliburton, KBR, BlackWater, and several other contractors in Iraq.

So, while it’s still true that conspiracies are exposed and are rarely huge and complicated, it doesn’t mean there’s always anyone paying attention.

I never get tired of being inspired. The debate is old, though.

I came upon the subject through a blog entry on Skepchick:

I started watching the video apology the creationist is “forced” to give for unethically and possibly illegally invoking DMCA to try to extort a critic of his to remove his critical videos. I got bored and stopped watching it. While I’m glad justice prevails and no slimy lawyers had to get involved (no offense to my friend* who’s a lawyer; he’s a public defender and not a civil suit lawyer anyway *grin*) I get no pleasure fr0m the schadenfreude inherent in celebrating his (just) public apology.

I watched a couple of the Thunderf00t YouTube videos in which he categorically refutes the creationist VFX’s video claims, and they’re extremely well-informed, researched, reasoned, evidenced-based, etc etc yadda yadda. I don’t mean to imply the videos refuting the creationist are boring or uninspired in any way–they’re quite good (if a bit rough in the audio quality) and I would absolutely recommend them to anyone interested in the debate between empirical reality and Biblical literalism…

Thing is, it’s getting tiring to me. I’ve spent nearly eight years now actively following and reading and watching all I could get my “hands” on regarding the fight between evolution and creationism, and I feel like, not that I’ve seen it all (although I am seeing the same old creationist misunderstandings/fallacies/mistakes/lies and the same old empirical evidence/logical reasoning/evidentiary refutation fr0m the evolutionist side over and over), it’s more like I’m tired of the existence of the debate itself. It’s become obvious this will never end. It’s like digging a hole in water.

No matter how much factual evidence is out there, completely open and available to anyone and everyone who wants to bother looking for it, there’s still armies of people who are quite happy living in worlds of cognitive dissonance (I used to freak out but now I just sigh when people, like this VFX does, decry science as all ideological and full of fantasy and imagination and lies, and then use (a misapplication of) whatever scientific laws and processes is convenient for them to try to prove their creationist argument) and mythological fantasy as far as the eye can see. Change needs to be made and humanity needs to finally enter the 21st century, but the fight is wearying.

In any case, I skipped to the most recent video by Thunderf00t, and the first two-thirds and a refutation of one of VFX’s latest videos using terrible reasoning to accept micro-evolution but claim macro-evolution is “evil.” And the last third of Thunderf00t’s video, though, becomes a philosophical criticism of the concept of “eternal life” as a creation of greedy humans, as the idea of eternal life is not only horrific to sentient beings, but removes all value fr0m life! The fact that we are finite sparks of life in a vast universe gives the ultimate meaning and the greatest importance possible to life. It was a very inspiring closing and for that reason alone I highly recommend viewing it!

*Update, 11 Nov, 08: I had written there all this time, until today, “non-friend”. I have no idea how that typo happened, and I do hope if the friend in question saw that, he realizes that was a mistake. I dunno, maybe I intended to type “non-slimy friend”. 🙂

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“Three Times is Enemy Action.”

“Devilstower” has a fantastically complete and detailed explanation of how three of the largest events/scandals to undermine the U.S. economy in the last 25 years have had the involvement of persons like, oh, John McCain, his financial adviser Phil Gramm, and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan:

Alan Greespan is often lauded, even by people skeptical of conservative administrations, as a champion who tried real hard, darn it. I’d known his policies helped accelerate the corporate owned government but I didn’t know to what extent–nor when it all began! I didn’t realize until I started to do some research that Greenspan was appointed by Reagan and was involved in the development of “trickle-down” Reaganomics which sought to tear down New Deal regulations and oversight and increase the flow of wealth toward the top of the social pyramid.

He was also the Fed Chairman under Clinton–but then, he had little to do with the Clinton admin’s balanced budgets and federal surplus. What he was involved with was the continued encouragement of government by the CEOs, (supported by Clinton as well, lest people forget that while he was a social progressive, Clinton was still a corporatist).

Here was the biggest kicker for me: Greenspan was a dyed-in-the-wool Objectivist and even a close friend of Objectivism’s matriarch, Ayn Rand, and a member of her “inner circle”. (Objectivists are anarcho-libertarians; I learned about them back when I was learning about libertarianism. They believe in no government (or at least no government involvement in economics) with a focus on selfishness and self-gratification (in an economic/business sense). They believe people are inherently self-serving and altruism is a “sin” which perverts the operations of a completely free market. This is in stark contrast to anarcho-socialists (like me) who believe in no government but with a focus on collectivism, altruism, trade and labor unions.)

To put someone like this in charge of the Fed is like putting a wolf in charge of the management of the hen house, or an atheist as a church’s preacher. Or a faith healer as Surgeon general.

Is it any wonder….

Free market education: the fail.

Yesterday I posted a super-bloated overlong post: The failure of conservatism. (That’s what happens when I allow myself to write unedited in stream-of-consciousness–which is every time, really.) I railed against the ideas of free market capitalism and libertarian, objectivist anarchy in the modern world. I briefly mentioned public education as part of “the commons,” a service that everyone in a society benefits from either directly or indirectly, and it gets privatized at the risk of harming society.

Well, today, “carr2d2” on the SkepChick blog posted an article that addresses that very topic:

She reasonably questions the libertarian belief that parents should totally determine the way, why, how, and when a child is educated. carr2d2 asks:

We were looking at the children’s education as a function of the parents’ freedom.  At what point does a parent’s right to raise their child as they see fit (or, as some argue, their freedom to not pay taxes) infringe upon that child’s right to live a healthy life, relatively untainted by abuse?  Don’t we owe it to all our kids to give them as equal a shot as is possible at success?

This topic spawned a great comment thread with wonderful observation like this snippet from AgnosticOracle:

If we look at periods and places where there was no public education the vast majority of working class people didn’t get educated. It isn’t merely a question of fairness to the child. There are externalities of education that benefit society as a whole. Carl Sagan’s father was a garment worker. Without public education there is a good chance the world would have lost out on his genius.
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It is a benefit not only to the child but to society at large to educate children well. This is especially true if you want a functioning democracy. While we may wish to give the parents the right to teach the child what they want, we shouldn’t give them the right to deny them education. For instance, a parent shouldn’t be able to choose not to teach their daughters math and science.

He, and most commentors, have it exactly right. A parent isn’t imbued with special wisdom simply because they can procreate. They certainly have a wide range of rights along with their responsibilities, but the minimal education of the people who are going to be participating in society is everyone’s concern–not just the parents. The libertarian mindset, like I implied in yesterday’s post, was perfectly reasonable when people can and did live in a such a way as to not have to interact or participate in society at large. but we, as Americans and a human race, have developed far beyond any reasonable concept of isolationism and selfish individualism.

The education of my children directly affects your and your childrens’ lives–you want to be assured that my kids have a certain basic level of education, no? In a libertarian paradise, there’s no guarantee that anyone you interact with doesn’t have a skewed and flawed education, if any. Would you want to live in that kind of wild west in an age in which our health and lives and lifestyle is so delicately balanced on a web of dynamic social interactivity?

Vacuum tube relativism and logic.

A quickie:

Here’s a great and even amusing post by Harry McCall in which he uses his experience with guitar salesmen, vacuum tubes, and personal biases to explain how people see “truth” as relative and its criticism often off-limits to those “not a part of it”

I’ve had some heated discussions in the past with a fervent Christian educated in apologetics, both on here and his site, regarding objectivity and relativism. The funny thing is while he and most religious people argue tooth and nail for the concept of objective moral truth, they themselves are some of the biggest practitioners of relativism. Logic tends to escape them in favor of cognitive biases and fallacies.

A great post by Steven Novella on understanding logic and whether the “universe is logical”:

It alternates between the heady and the easy to understand, but it’s a fantastic foundation in understanding the concept of logic as it exists outside the ideas of human perception and awareness–which should aid people in critically thinking about issues of supernatural belief.

Viva la hypocrisy!

Glenn Beck is a tool.

He recently wrote an op-ed printed on CNN.com:

He seems to find much humor in the idea that, supposedly, part of the reason the people who portrayed a terrorist group was able to deceive the FARC group that they were “bad guys” (and thus able to liberate the group’s hostages) is that one of them was wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. First of all, this is purely anecdotal from very biased source; and secondly, the successful deception probably had more to do with the fact the group in disguise was armed with AK-47’s, spoke the appropriate language, was able to talk and discuss key ideological points successfully, and had the general look and demeanor of a terrorist organization and was able to act the role. The Guevara shirt could have instead been an Old Navy American flag t-shirt and they would have been just as successful in the ruse. Likewise, the same group could have all been wearing Guevara shirts but if they lacked any of the other elements, would probably have been shot.

What the corporate news machine tool, Beck, is more riled up about is the idea that Americans wear the Guevara shirt because it offends his hegemonic capitalist sensibilities. So he sets about on a screed vilifying and smearing Guevara and in turn the people who appear to support Guevara’s struggle in the process. (For my own criticism of people wearing the shirt, see the end.)

By the way, he states: “So, what is the uniform of choice when fooling terrorists in Colombia?” Since when did every bad guy in the world suddenly become a “terrorist”? Now the FARC are not a friendly bunch. They use some despicable tactics in their battle for revolution, such as kidnapping innocent people, which is terrifying, no question! But should any tactic which causes pain and suffering and fear make a group a “terrorist group”? Here’s something terrifying: cluster bombing a town in order to take out a single target, occupying a city that had been sent from modernity back into the dark ages thanks to shock and awe missile attacks, using contract mercenaries to harass citizens and act as a foreign run police force. American forces and their proxies, like Blackwater, have killed thousands of civilians, devastated towns, destroyed civil infrastructure, and created millions of refugees, and have made people afraid to step outside for fear of being harassed and abused and afraid to stay inside lest their building gets hit by a rocket. If harming civilians and causing havoc is a sign of a terrorist, make no mistake: the U.S. military is the largest, most well armed terrorist group in the world.

The ones with the larger guns are military, the rest are terrorists.

Beck hates Che Guevara because he was an ideological revolutionary. Again the hypocrisy is wonderful. If the ideology is his and the revolution to spread is his ideology, it’s OK. History lesson: The U.S. has been invading countries and imposing its ideology on other countries (usually by force) since the 19th century. Since the Spanish-American war the industrial robber baron owned administrations have sought to spread empire to Central America, South America, the Philippines, by either funding and arming and training (gasp!) local rebel and revolutionary organizations, or by directly invading. Since WWII (the last “good” and legitimate war) the government through the CIA has been funding and training and arming revolutionary groups from Honduras to Argentina (not to mention throughout the Middle East) in order to craft and contrive puppet rulerships that support U.S. interests.

And you can’t even claim the ideology being encouraged is Freedom and Democracy. If the goal of spreading empire was to promote freedom and democracy, Saudi Arabia should be the first country to go down (forgetting for a second that all but a couple of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian and none of them were Iraqi). Saudi Arabia is one of the most oppressive, violent nations in the Middle East if not all Europe/Asia. They constantly behead people for violating Sharia and use what used to be a, go fig, actual terrorist organization as their police force. Yeah, Saddam Hussein was a cruel and murderous dictator, but Saudi Arabia makes Hussein’s Iraq look like Sweden by comparison. Hmm, I wonder why this administration would invade oil rich Iraq and depose the not-too-friendly-to-U.S. dictator, but actually improve cooperative relations with the oil rich but friendly-to-a-certain-oil-family theocracy of Saudi Arabia….

Spreading U.S. ideology has nothing to do with freedom and democracy or any of the ideals of the enlightened Founding fathers of the United States, let’s get this clear. It has everything to do with spreading global market capitalism that specifically benefits corporate owners. It has nothing to do with patriotism, nothing to do with the American way, nothing to do with liberty and freedom–unless it’s the way of profit and and liberty of corporate management. In fact, the more oppressed a people and culture are the more the corporations prefer them as quasi-slave workers. The less choice, the less freedom a society has, the more likely a company will move operations and manufacturing to that country for cheap labor. But funny when they do this, the savings don’t get passed on to the consumer–prices stay the same or even increase.

On the flip side, corporations also love for the consumer societies to also have as little freedom as possible. The ideology of capitalism is about a false sense of freedom in that the choices we have are over this shampoo brand or that identical one, between a Mercury Mystique or a Ford Taurus, between blue jeans or slacks. We believe we live in a “free country” because that’s what the country was originally based on, before industrialization, and it was possible to be truly free to make whatever choices you want regarding your own life, liberty, and happiness–and it wasn’t tied into what products you buy.

The immediate, and reasonable response, is to say “but compared to the aforementioned Saudi Arabia and Iraq, we have a lot of freedoms!” and indeed we do. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather live in America than Cuba. I like having the ability to buy an MP3 player and an iPhone. I like the fact technically, at least for the moment, I can say exactly what I’m saying right now without fear of arrest, unlike, say, North Korea. But it’s still the justification of the prisoner in the holding cell versus the one in solitary. “At least I only got punched in the jaw and not kicked in the ‘nads.” It’s the same rationalization the person who accepts mass surveillance by the state commits by saying “Well, if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide.” The hegemony gives us token freedom in order to keep us placid and thankful while exploiting us no less than they exploit the worker class in developing countries. They encourage us to believe in capitalist ideology, the myth of working hard and get rich, not because it serves us, but because it serves them. Ideology is the values of the ruling class, the masses are convinced it’s their own, and by following the ideology they’re convinced they’re following the “right” and “proper” and “natural” way to be and so they don’t revolt against the exploitation they are subjected to by the ruling class.

5% of this country control 95% of the wealth. Since, under capitalism, wealth equals power and control, 5% of the nation is the ruling class. And it’s not the government that are the rulers–government is part of the superstructure, an outgrowth of the material and economic foundation that generate an ideology to support it. The government is not the rulers, those with the power are the rulers and in our society it’s the 5% that own the capital–the government is in service to them both directly (by being bought by the capitalists and corporate owners) and indirectly (by supporting the capitalist ideology which serves the rulers and exploits the masses). So, the overt military invasions, the covert CIA infiltrations and instigation, that are the extension of government expansion of empire is not to serve the interests of “freedom” and “democracy,” but the interests of the ruling class which benefit from the empire of global market capitalism.

Better than feudalism by a far sight! Like having an eye plucked out instead your limbs hacked off. We’re convinced that capitalism is the best and only way to live, and we buy into that because, guess what, it serves the ruling class for us to believe that, as the alternatives may include an ideology which serves the 95% a whole lot better.

So, when Beck uses non sequitur and ad hominem attacks against Che Guevara because he took up arms to fight for an ideology he believed was better than the exploitation of capitalism and fascism, and Beck calls him a mass murderer, he fails to see that the Founding Fathers were exactly the same–rebels and criminals and traitors who took up arms to fight the legitimate ruling class and their ideology in favor of one they thought was better. When the U.S. overthrows a sovereign nation in order to force their own ideology upon the people, they’re doing the exact same thing he accuses Che Guevara of doing, except with trillions of dollars of equipment to do it with, and it’s his ideology that is being fought for. Whether the ideology is “right” or “wrong” is beside the point–the winner is always the one who gets to determine which is which. The one you believe in is always the right one, and the one the other person believes in is always the wrong one.

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Now, as for criticizing the wearers of the Che shirts, Beck misses the real issue: Most of the people wearing the Che shirt are not supporting the revolutionary leader–they have little idea who he is and a whole lot less of what he fought for. The irony that Beck misses and should actually be celebrating, being the tool he is, is that capitalism has won–Che has become a commodity. He is a product that one buys and consumes. When capitalism commodifies something it loses its ability to be subversive! Whether it’s Che’s image, protest music, or you as labor. Most people who buy and consume Che Guevara shirts think they’re making a statement of rebellion, fighting against The Man, but all they’re doing is putting more money in the pockets of the corporations while The Man smiles and pats the lil rebel’s head and says “Yes yes, you’re such the little revolutionary, my son. Now go run and play.”

We rebels buy Chumbawamba and Rage Against The Machine CD’s and we think we’re supporting the revolution or at least the idea of it, but what we’ve done is simply exercise our “freedom” (of choice) between one commodity over another. We paid Corporation A $15 for a rebel rocker’s CD instead of Corporation B for Brittney Spears. Our intent, as a consumer, may be one thing but our actions support the hegemony no matter what. “Heh, why aren’t you just the lil scrapper! Give me your allowance for Chumba’s Anarchy and go clean your room.” When Paltrow buys a $200 shopping bag (probably made using exploited workers) with a socialist slogan on it (see Beck’s article), who’s winning? Beck should actually be jumping for joy.

(It’s tough to speak the truth as I’m someone who loves Chumbawamba and would like to buy a Che shirt to state my message of support on my chest.)