Jan 23

The Daily Show took a look at racism recently in this sketch, and I continued to wonder if I were reasoning or rationalizing in my defense. And I realized I kinda had two defenses… and no real stance so much as a need to state both sides.

And I thought — totally disjointed — about privacy.

So — I guess, for a record in the “here and now” — with regard to “racism” (and you can probably insert “sexism” in there with minimal restructuring; maybe “tolerance”, ultimately, but let’s focus here) I have trouble understanding how to move forward in a way that both “honors” the truth of history (that horrible things have been done by horrible people for horrible reasons… and/or rationalizations™) — i.e., the facts and the narratives and their implications today — but still moves the fuck on. And I don’t know if that means “as fast as possible” or “as painless as possible” or… — I’m just certain it doesn’t mean in this chaotic “oh, it’s a thing but it’s not like there’s a definition that seems to fit” bullshit standoff we seem to be building toward. …Actually, yeah — that’s just “tolerance” in general.

I want to respect and commune with people. And that’s a pretty complicated word to define, but it doesn’t depend on “gender” or “sex” or “religion”. (Though, as an American, I feel obligated to apologize to French Canadians for the unfortunate double-whammy fate has dealt you.)

Er… as far as privacy — that I’ve always been pretty clear on (and by “always” I mean… I guess, since I really thought about it?). I don’t like it. Again, it’s lacking in definition — the above argument also applies here… —we’re getting there. I buy the argument that if you don’t have anything to hide then… can’t be fooled twice. Or something. But I also buy the arguments against it — that examining a person too closely is a process all too susceptible to confirmation bias… and/or some form of this. I don’t think that fully discredits the original concept, though — again, shitty definitions. Shitty boundaries. &c.

And then let’s go back — racism: shitty boundaries, arguments for both sides…

I think there’s a part of my… let’s go with “moral intuition” (which Haidt says is… irrational? not rational? pre-rational? …I forget) that advocates on behalf of “society”. And that’s that PC-ish side — it’s that side, but I’d like to think I’ve arrived here independently. Then there’s the adversarial side — I’m gonna go with that, because I’m not sure I have a “stance” so much as a “here’s what seems to be the Right Answer™” and a “ah, but what does that, like… even mean… man…?” sort of… naive skepticism. …Which certainly had roots in the communitarian underpinnings of my childhood. But it’s also what started questioning those things in the first place, it’s what led to the existence of that other sort of… system.

So there’s a real sense of “self” there.

Ultimately, it’s compromising with myself — I get that much. But how does that project into action? What’s the effect of this sort of reasoning? I understand the answer to that, oddly — I’m fascinated by the fact that I finally found the right question. It’s weird. The answer, though, is that I probe other people — if/when the opportunity arises, as “sensitively” as possible, &c. — to see if other people are even thinking about these things. To see if my reasoning isn’t so flawed. To see if people actually agree with one of my stances. To see if my perception of “society” is accurate. And it is… and it’s boring.

Fucking semantics.

Jan 07

It’s not that we’re giving privilege to money itself… well, not explicitly — we’re not giving privilege to “status”. We’re giving privilege — perhaps, as we ought; virtuous in part… — to order; the problem is facing up to what that says about the “order” we’re supporting. If we have this one concept of “justice” and we’re seeing it violated… in the name of order

Nothing earth-shattering — I’m just tired of seeing the concept of “wealth = privilege” thrown around as if it exists in a vacuum. It’s perpetuated, almost necessarily, by most of us to some degree [what an inane statement…]; it’s harder to stay interested in the big issue when it’s that uncomfortable [cliché]… but scapegoating a symptom so we can all join together in removed disgust is…

…I hate people.

Oct 21

precious lies
words that we say to ease our minds
hide our face behind a mask contrived
lose ourselves a thousand times inside
this is where we draw the line
there’s nothing else to give but what you see
only sacrifice
blood and tears

VNV Nation - “Off Screen”

Oct 05

Losing a belief in free will has not made me fatalistic—in fact, it has increased my feelings of freedom. My hopes, fears, and neuroses seem less personal and indelible. There is no telling how much I might change in the future. Just as on wouldn’t draw a lasting conclusion about oneself on the basis of a brief experience of indigestion, one needn’t do so on the basis of how one has thought or behaved for vast stretches of time in the past. A creative change of inputs to the system—learning new skills, forming new relationships, adopting new habits of attention—may radically transform one’s life.

Becoming sensitive to the background causes of one’s thoughts and feelings can—paradoxically—allow for greater creative control over one’s life. It is one thing to bicker with your wife because you are in a bad mood; it is another tot realize that your mood and behavior have been caused by low blood sugar. This understanding reveals you tot o be a biochemical puppet, of course, but it also allows you to grab hold of one of your strings: A bite of food may be all that your personality requires. Getting behind our conscious thoughts and feelings allow us to steer a more intelligent* course through our lives (while knowing, of course, that we are ultimately being steered).

- Free Will, Sam Harris

Morality, politics, awareness, etc.

*But note how Harris uses “intelligence” as a concept here — note the level of application.

Aug 17

The more I accept that we are different “people” moment to moment, the more greater the responsibility I take on.

It goes like this: “some people” are reasonable; people change moment to moment; ergo, there are “moments” when people are reasonable. Id est, there are moments when I can effectively communicate with them. And that means it’s up to me (and all rational beings, moment to moment… goddammit, Kant) to find a way to bide my time until that moment arrives. Or… worse yet, to find a way to evoke that moment.

I trust Haidt, but I… I haveto hope that I define rationality differently. I have to hope that reason — I have to hope that—… Fuck that — fuck “hope”.

Reason for me is a thing that implores us, as rational agents (hey there, Aristotle), to evoke reason in others. It’s a state of being that can be, must be shared. It’s anti-paradoxical (again, my definition) and it implores a long-term, well-defined view.

And its dictate is fucking infinite.

Jul 31

When it gets late… or eight, which rhymes with late… I (far too) often pour myself a glass of scotch to wind down my evening. Usually, that evening will be something prima facie vacuous: TV, films, video games — that sort of nonsense.

But I find myself inadvertently connecting with the situations at hand. Empathetic, almost. I find myself — as I remember having often done in years past — making up dialogues for the characters involved. He’s not going to get upset and storm out, no… no, he’s going to take a deep breath, try not to cry, and then he’s going to tell her why he’s mad, why he’s scared, why he cares so much. And then she’s going to apologize and they’re going to take care of that whole — let’s say — zombie apocalypse thing. Without the drama of things left unsaid. Because, goddamn, there are zombies and that should be enough to deal with.

It’s not so much that I get chatty as that I get overwhelmed with the urgency of communication. I don’t need to hear or say anything, but I do want to see everything played out at this sincere, authentic, check-your-character-at-the-door sort of fashion.

And, of course, on the other hand: it’s hard to tell the difference between articulating feelings and making them up. But I like to think I feel a bit more after a few drinks… Well enough, I suppose, as I continue to stamp emotion out of my normal life.


Jul 08

consensual dependence?

Every time I get an email from my father, I get angry/upset/disheartened. It’s not that he’s dumb, it’s that he’s not dumb. It’s that he’s spent his life working for this or that reason. And now he’s left to forward specious editorials, misattributed rants, and decontextualized quotes. He’s left to try to repeat soundbytes — phrases, initialisms, project code-names — that somehow support his belief that something is wrong. And there are so things to blame, let’s get started.

That’s where I lose him. Something is wrong, yes, but what? I wish I could talk to him instead of the pundits and “strategists” on the TV and radio.

He rants about freedom and liberty, the usual holy of holies. And I know we’re fundamentally separated from the start on this point. Freedom for him means freedom from dependance — or, at least, from acknowledging that dependence. For me, it’s about being educated and aware. About not being used.

Apr 18

There’s some connection between Dunning-Kruger and the oracle’s assertion on Socrates. And maybe that’s all I need to know; better to remain silent and be thought a fool…—all that.

I’m not sure if I’m suffering from a lack of useful insight, or just a lack of sharable insight… I’m still thinking, still organizing, still making predictions—everything just seems equal parts trite and useless. Knowing how the world is broken (whether “genuinely” or, more likely, from the ivory tower perspective) is almost useless without knowing how to fix it; worse, even, because there’s no less kidding yourself about things. And when you add “intelligence is making predictions”, you’re stuck with watching it break even more…

And conversations, with or without me, seem more like a circlejerk in seeing how objectively we can paint those cracks rather than anything that moves us forwards.

Then, there’s always Siddhārtha: getting to whatever degree of enlightenment (again, genuine or egotistical) and finding it unsharable and, thus, useless. Part of that, surely, is realizing how small one person is. Coupled with the certainty of death… Surely it’s apparent, the reason for my detest of the “individual”. Inefficient. Ineffectual. Illusory.


Mar 08

When they appeared he had to fight the tendency to slight them, shove them under the carpet, throw them out the window, belittle them, and forget them. These were the underdogs, the outsiders, the pariahs, the sinners of his system. But the reason he was so concerned about them was that he felt the quality and strength of his entire system of organization depended on how he treated them. If he treated the pariahs well he would have a good system. If he treated them badly he would have a weak one. They could not be allowed to destroy all efforts at organization but he couldn’t allow himself to forget them either. They just stood there, accusing, and he had to listen.


Pirsig is referring to note cards with random ideas scribbled on them, ideas that aren’t fitting into well-defined (or otherwise “useful”) categories.

Just prior to this, the narrator had pointed out the concept of a system of organizing data as a set of data in itself — rules, regulations, processes that were able to be defined and redefined as needed. The system had to evolve with its subject… or subjects.

Anyhow, the allegory is pretty apparent, right? Or maybe that I go with “allegory” instead of “similarity” is more telling than I yet realize.

Mar 02
The speaker feels it necessary to being by apologizing for his youth. The rule that young me should keep silence was a good one so long as the older generation were managing affairs competently, but those for whom the prosperity of the city is only hearsay and its disasters their own experience—disasters moreover which cannot be blamed on heaven or chance but only on the incompetence of those in charge—must speak out. He cannot submit to deliberate mismanagement or carry the blame for the unprincipled plotting of others. We have seen, he says, the city pass from peace to war and peril and from internal harmony to quarrelling and confusion. Elsewhere it is prosperity that leads to arrogance and faction, but we kept our heads in the good times and have lost them in adversity. The parties are simply fighting mindlessly for power. They may think their policies are opposed but in fact there is no real difference between them. What, if one goes back to first principles, are both sides looking for? In the first place it is the question of the ‘ancestral constitution’ which throws them into confusion, though it is the easiest thing to grasp and more than anything else the concern of the whole citizen body. Then in the last sentence of the extract, presumably with his own comparative youth still in mind, the speaker says that for matters going back beyond our experience we must rely on the accounts of former generations or when they are within the memory of older men, learn direct from them.
The Sophists

Guthrie is referring to a speech by Thrasymachus to the Athenian Assembly (not given by Thrasymachus, as he was not a citizen) on the civic failures in the later stages of the Peloponnesian war. It’s a plea for action, for reconciliation — for actual goddamn governance — that Guthrie found resonant with his own time (late 60s).

Other Sophists would say this is inevitable of any democracy. I would join them.