Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Republicans Vanish in Puffs of Smoke when called Evil

Dateline: WASHINGTON, D.C.Democrats are rejoicing after the Republican population has shrunk by nearly two thirds because its opponents have discovered a technique for making the conservatives literally disappear.

Hugh Bloomfeld, the technique’s originator, recalls his Eureka moment. “My right-wing sister dragged me to a Donald Trump speech,” he said, “and I remember hearing all this xenophobia and crass jingoism. Trump was demagoguing and pandering like a politician’s supposed to, but he was doing much worse than that.” 

After the event, Bloomfeld went home and pondered what Trump and his supporters were saying. “Trump was, like, calling himself the best and hating on everyone else: everyone who wasn’t like him. And he wasn’t just hating with words. He was promising to annihilate everyone else, to crush and ruin them. Then it dawned on me. I thought, ‘Isn’t that just plain…evil?’”

Over Christmas dinner, Bloomfeld sat across from his conservative sister who was doomed to be the first victim of this revolutionary new weapon in the American culture war. “She was spouting the most awful bigotry,” Bloomfeld recalled, though tears. “She was blind to America’s many faults, heaping demonizations onto everyone else. It was so childishly narrow-minded, so nakedly callous and coarse and maniacal and egotistical and greedy and boorish and unfair and malicious and troglodytic and repulsive and inveterate and deranged and bellicose and obscene and hateful and cold-blooded and arrogant and narcissistic and immoral—I just broke down and said, ‘Stop it, Sally! You’re being evil.’”

Instantly, Sally Bloomfeld disappeared in a puff of smoke. “I couldn’t believe it at first,” said Hugh. “I thought it was some kind of twisted magic trick. But she was gone—just gone, like Rumpelstiltskin.”

News spread of Bloomfeld’s accidental discovery. While Bloomfeld hadn’t intended to send his hapless sister to some netherworld by calling her by her true name, liberals were quick to apply the technique in earnest. Entire Trump, Cruz, and other Tea Party rallies disappeared in billowing clouds of smoke, having been surrounded by liberals shouting 'You’re evil!’ into megaphones.

Claire Feminista attended one such anti-Republican incursion. “Some libertarian crackpot was on the stage,” she reminisced. “Some social Darwinian who was saying the sick and the poor should be left to die because that’s what ‘The Market’ wants. And the Tea Partiers were cheering like they were drunk on rage. We closed in with our megaphones. One by one the offenders disappeared into thin air. You couldn’t see them through the fog. Some of the evil ones tried to flee, but we hunted them down with our megaphones and applied the bald truth to their faces. They vanished too. We left none unidentified.”

Mengyao Zyu, physicist at Caltech, led a team of researchers to study the phenomenon. Describing his experiment, Zyu said, “We wanted to see whether the Republicans are somehow transformed into smoke or the smoke merely signals that they’d been teleported somewhere by the utterance of the magic word.”

Zyu’s team lured Fox-watching Republicans to his laboratory by offering them memorabilia signed by their favourite right-wing demagogue. “They came in droves,” he said. “We called them evil and at first nothing happened. My colleague, Marcus Wannabanger, noticed that the Republicans were fixated on the memorabilia. He asked one of the test subjects, an old blue collar fellow, to look him in the eyes for a moment. ‘Did you know that you’re flat-out evil?’ he asked him. And the old man vanished on the spot. So we determined that if you want them to disappear, you have to look them in the eyes when you call them what they are. 

“The smoke itself is mysterious,” he continued. “It issues forth in prodigious quantities. We had to clear the building after a mass truth-telling. We had a hundred subjects in there clamoring for Fiorina T-shirts, Sean Hannity pens, and George W. Bush mugs. We asked them to look at us and then we pointed out that their beliefs make them crazy evil. We were choking in the fog left by their departure from this plane of existence.”

The researchers went on to discover that because the abundant smoke nevertheless possesses less mass than the Republicans, the law of the conservation of mass dictates that the individuals aren’t turned into the smoke. “We don’t know where they go,” Zyu concedes. “What we do know is that many people are just glad they’re no longer here.”

When Republicans first learned of their vulnerability, many refused to believe it. Conservative pundits continued to appear on CNN and Fox News, defying their liberal counterparts to call them evil and maintaining that the rumor of their liability to be whisked away in such a fashion is a socialist conspiracy. Each of the true believers was never seen again. Curiously, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck were impervious to the truth-telling. Eventually, they admitted they had been acting as performers all along and had been “in it just to sell books,” as OReilly put it.

Donald Trump’s departure was an epic event. “My polls are higher than ever before,” he boasted at his last rally. “I apologize for nothing!”

“Yeah, that’s because you’re a straight-up evil clown,” shouted Todd Donahue, a Democrat who had sneaked into the rally. Mr. Trump vanished in a puff of smoke, leaving behind his peculiar hair on the stage. Trump’s buildings themselves also disappeared, leaving gaping holes in the New York cityscape. One architect responded, “Glad they’re gone. They were monstrosities too.”

According to political scientists, the hardcore Republicans were incapable of surviving the intervention precisely because they were what people were finally saying they were. “They can’t apologize or change their ways,” said one. “They’re too macho and their pride’s on the line. They couldn’t see the truth for themselves because they lived in the Fox News bubble. They hated everyone but themselves, they couldn’t empathize, so they couldn’t even pick up a book written by someone with an opposite viewpoint.”

Bewildered by the loss of their conservative heroes, some Republicans went on rampages, shooting up liberal areas of the country before police could bring their new weapon to bear. The officers merely applied the E-word and saved their bullets as well as the city the cost of imprisoning those who were evidently evil.

Other Republicans opted for a more underhanded stratagem, pretending to have converted to the more modern, liberal perspective. Frank Tankman, a lifelong conservative, piled his collection of firearms onto his lawn and dynamited them. “See?” he shouted to liberal onlookers. “I don’t love guns anymore. I love people. Give me a baby to hold! Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. I love everyone equally. I’m one of you liberal do-gooders now.”

A child, Sarah Toddle, was the first to spy the machinegun tucked beneath his shirt. Sarah’s mother reported that her daughter tugged on her dress, pointed to the concealed gun and asked, “Is he still evil, Mommy?”

“Only one way to find out,” Mrs. Toddle answered.

Asked why he was still carrying the flashy, over-killing firearm, Mr. Tankman answered, “Just for squirrels and varmints and such.” The crowd challenged him, accusing him of belonging to the same sort of death cult as the jihadist terrorists. “I don’t love death and destruction,” he hollered. “Well, maybe when the End Times come it will be pretty sweet. I mean, it will be just like in the movies: cities on fire, the godless masses on their knees, ravaged by demons.”

When Mr. Tankman began drooling in anticipation, Mrs. Toddle nodded at Sarah and encouraged her to call the man by his true name. “You’re an evil scallywag,” said Sarah to his face, drawing the appellation from her favourite picture book. Frank Tankman dematerialized, the smoke settling like fog in the twilight.

Democrats now easily win their elections in what remains a two-party system, but there are indications that the millions of eligible Americans who don’t vote expect the unrivalled Democrats to succumb to the temptation of forming a tyranny. “When that happens,” says one who is religious in his nonvoting, “we’ll be ready with the truth-telling E-word.”

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sole Survivor of a Flurry of Mass Shootings Opposes Firearms Regulation

Even as the rate of all other gun-related crimes had been decreasing in the United States for decades, the rate of mass shootings had steadily increased as gun show loopholes were found to circumvent bans on assault rifles, mental health centers were defunded by the government, and the NRA captured both political parties. Experts on television declared that the solution to massacres in movie theaters was to add more guns to theaters; to slaughters in malls, it was to add more guns to malls; and to school shootings, it was to add more guns to schools. Soon enough, the United States was overflowing with guns.

And Americans were angry, very angry, because their political system was corrupt and unresponsive to the plight of the middle class and the poor. Both parties had catered to the wealthy business elites in exchange for their campaign contributions and for cushy jobs in the private sector. The combination of mass resentment and rage together with millions upon millions of state-of-the-art firearms boded ill for the nation’s survival.

In 2017, Texas alone sustained 362 mass shootings. The survivors fled the state, leaving it barren, but there was no escape. New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and all the other southern states erupted in gunfire as the mentally deranged, the marginalized, and the dispossessed as well as the jihadist terrorists vented their frustrations by spraying bullets in crowded places. Militarized police forces were deployed and demonized by fear-mongering right-wingers who awaited the prophesied End of Days. Militias went to war against the police, eventually leaving the southern states desolate and bereft of human inhabitants.

Liberal lawmakers took the loss of the southern half of their country as an opportunity to push for mild gun control laws, but they were ousted from office by NRA-backed candidates who merely had to call the liberals “communists” to win popular support even as the voters were cut down by hooligans’ gunfire soon after they left the U.S. Capitol.

Again, the survivors fled to the north, but the northerners found they had to arm themselves or be shot to pieces by the traumatized southerners. Through 2019 the mass shootings continued and looked increasingly like a civil war.

By 2020, the U.S. population dropped to around 100,000 proud, patriotic Americans.

Before the government fell, Congress again debated whether to regulate the shrunken gun industry that was still pumping out firearms and selling them to the beleaguered remnants of American civilization. Congress decided against halting the nation’s impending collapse, insisting that the Founders had been rabid anarchists who intended for the country to resemble not fattened, spoiled Middle America but something like the Wild West which had truly been the land of the free and the home of the brave.

As one Republican representative said, “The Founding Fathers upheld everyone’s right to bear arms for the purpose of stocking a militia. A militia has to be powerful enough to take down the government if the government should fail to uphold the law. Therefore, every American citizen has the right to carry even weapons of mass destruction to keep the government in check.”

Cosmopolitan Americans abroad rushed home to attempt to salvage their nation, but were picked off by gunfire soon after they stepped off the tarmac.

Canada and Mexico, too, moved into American territory and were promptly blasted en masse by Americans boasting the latest in military hardware. Thereafter, foreigners kept their distance.

When survivors in Montana realized that the government had neglected in their last firearms bill to allow for the sale of newly-designed magazines capable of carrying 400 rounds of ammunition, they nuked Washington D.C., rendering the country lawless.

In 2021, after a series of further mass shootings, there were only twelve Americans left alive. Six of the survivors engaged in a Mexican standoff over a dispute about who spilled beer on the shoe of whom. All six pulled their triggers and died in a hail of bullets.

The remaining five Americans deemed it wise to spread themselves out across the land to keep alive the American Dream. One, however, Howard Derringer, was mentally ill and hunted down the others, executing them with an assortment of submachine guns until only two Americans remained: Derringer and a former bus driver named Mark McEwan.

Before Derringer could locate and shoot McEwan, Derringer succumbed to an unknown ailment in 2023.

Mark McEwan was the sole survivor of American freedom. A peaceable man, McEwan allowed foreigners to observe his actions without launching a crazed assault on them.

He spent the bulk of his time agonizing over whether to impose restrictions on the use of firearms. One day, standing before a mirror, he gave a speech to himself.

“I speak to you today as president of this great nation,” he said, “having just voted for myself last week. I speak to you also as someone who is terribly thirsty. There’s no water for miles. Aside from that, I feel it’s incumbent on me to take up the issue of arms control. There’s no NRA anymore, so passing a ban on assault rifles would be feasible. I could throw all the long guns I see into a river. 

But as the last American, I also feel I have a duty to honour the American spirit. For that reason, I’ve decided not to control the use of firearms. Instead, I’ll shoot this sonuvabitch, blowing my brains out with a Colt M4 carbine. Let the blessed guns inherit the earth.”

With the loss of Mark McEwan and of the United States, China became the world’s largest gun manufacturer. In 2025, China annexed what had hitherto been the American heartland, honouring those previous generations of brave American souls who had eked out a living under the constant threat of being shot like a Third World dog in the streets, by turning that territory into a giant gun manufacturing facility.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Terrorism and the Metaphysical Innocence of Civilians

After the ISIL terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, liberals have been quick to push what they consider the adult interpretation, empathizing with the culprits, protecting them from “Islamophobia” and laying much of the blame with the American government’s military involvement in the Middle East. So-called conservatives in the U.S., Britain and elsewhere instead demonize Muslims, turning the attacks into a very different kind of teachable moment. Liberals have feminism-fuelled empathy as well as technocratic interest in the facts, and so they call upon the United States and its allies to stop meddling in other countries, whereas right-wingers seized the opportunity to further dumb-down Westerners, reducing the conflict to a religious war between Good and Evil; Americans, for example, must be blameless, whereas all Muslims are in league with the savage terrorists who serve the devil even as they consider themselves martyrs for the true God Allah.

Lost in these exchanges is a logically prior question, which is whether civilians in a modern democracy could even potentially deserve blame or punishment for the deeds of their government and military. Putting aside the question of whether in the case of the 911 attack or the Paris one, ordinary Americans or Parisians deserve blowback, we should consider whether modern democratic citizens in general could ever, under any circumstance be responsible for their nation’s actions. Given the political and economic structure of such a society, are such citizens necessarily innocent of whatever might be done in their name? Indeed, we should reflect on what’s actually meant by calling victims such as those in the ISIL attack “innocent civilians,” as in “The bloodthirsty barbarians targeted innocent civilians in their cowardly terrorist attack.”

The Corruption of Modern Democracies

Before we begin, note the difference between direct and indirect democracies. Modern democracies are almost all indirect, meaning that the citizens don’t directly select their nation’s policies. Instead, they elect representatives who then decide how their country should be governed and how their military should be used abroad. This means that the citizens in question are at least somewhat removed from the high-level decisions that could invite international praise or condemnation. Also, because the terrorist attacks are supposed to be about punishing Westerners, I’ll focus on this negative side of the issue, although the analysis will also apply to the positive side, to whether the citizens might ever deserve praise for decisions made at their governmental level.

It might still look as though the answer were obvious, especially when there’s a stark choice between candidates in an election. To the extent that voters marginalize extreme candidates, such as bigoted xenophobes or radical environmentalists, the voters could logically be held accountable for steering their country in a more moderate direction, if not for any specific policy fulfilled by the elected representative. But because public relations has become something of a science, this account of democracy which likely informs the terrorist’s rationalizations is woefully naïve. What we discover in elections in so-called advanced democracies like the U.S. is that the nominees for high office learn to hide their actual opinions, to campaign from the so-called center so that they all appear moderate. The result is that it’s hard to tell the candidates apart. Their political debates, for example, revolve around micro-issues because the candidates are smart enough not to inflame the electorate with divisive rhetoric on the big, controversial issues. Indeed, those candidates who differ from the mainstream consensus are precisely the ones who are marginalized by the mass media and by public prejudice. The candidates who attain their party’s nomination and are poised to run a powerful democratic nation are always groomed by political consultants, their appearances stage-managed, their speeches and talking points market-tested, and their policies themselves more and more dictated by large campaign contributors who typically dominate mainstream thinking so that both the liberal and the conservative politicians end up governing as neoliberals. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Causality: The Unhidden Face of God

While scientists study God, priests and theologians tell us flattering fictions. Theistic religions are about superpowerful people, but God isn’t personal. God is the supreme creator. God is obviously, then, nature which creates and develops itself before our eyes at every moment. God or Nature does so by means of causality. God has a vast, sprawling body but no mind. God is therefore monstrous. God is the natural universe, since natural forces and materials comprise methods for actualizing every possibility. We are therefore surrounded by an abomination that reaches out to distant galaxies and dimensions that we can never hope to reach, and our bodies are made of the same monstrous stuff. By a quirk of the monster’s evolution, however, our minds are free to impose a supernatural, which is to say artificial, order to replace the natural wilderness. God acts through causality, the satanic rebels like us through ideality, through purpose and intelligent design and existential resentment. To know God, we needn’t pray or read preposterous and outdated scriptures; instead, we must understand causality. What is it for one thing not just to come before another, but to cause it?

Three Approaches to Causal Knowledge

Aristotle famously answered that question by basing all causal explanations on the explanation of a sculpture. We can inquire, then, into material causes (how what something’s made of changes it), formal causes (how a thing’s structure or type changes it), efficient causes (how other things interact with it to change it), and final causes (how the thing’s end changes it, such as by drawing it towards that end). Only two of these causes turned out to be objectively natural, the material and the efficient. Formal causes depend on the concepts we bring to bear, and final causes apply only to artifacts, not to nature. To be sure, we can inquire into the purpose of rain or of sunshine, but in so far as we’re philosophical, we shouldn’t trust mass opinion since most people don’t love knowledge. Knowledge is a burden since most of what’s there to be known is horrific, and most people prefer to be happy than to be acquainted with the elementary facts. Artifacts are created by minds and natural creations are monstrous precisely because they’re produced by no mind at all.

We know now that matter as well as time and space themselves evolved, that most types of particles spread like seeds from exploding stars which in turn flicker into being from nebulas, the earliest of which emerged soon after the Big Bang. Prior to those “stellar nurseries,” the universe was practically immaterial. This is to say that material explanations aren’t essential to natural ones; nature isn’t necessarily material, just as it’s not necessarily made up of stars and planets and empty space. The universe evolves and there may even be a multiverse encompassing all quantum possibilities. So-called efficient causation is closer to the core of nature’s divine creativity—except that “efficient,” like finality (Aristotle’s final cause), is tainted with teleology. We speak of efficiency as a kind of best performance according to the criterion that time and effort shouldn’t be wasted. Applying that criterion to nature is ludicrous since the universe is maximally wasteful. In the fullness of time and in the evolution of universes, everything comes to be, so there’s obviously no effort taken in nature to discriminate, to discard possibilities, to favour one eventuality over another. If in one corner of the universe something rather than something else obtains, wait a while or travel elsewhere and you’ll find that very other thing which it looked like the universe was excluding because it could be produced only by an inefficient system that generates everything in the spectrum of possibilities. Efficiency is a luxury for living systems that can conceive of ends and can choose to work towards one rather than another, but it’s also a burden because to care about efficiency, your time and effort must be limited. The universe has neither that luxury (mentality) nor that burden (ephemerality). Its processes have no absolute beginnings or ends, they spread out over eons and intergalactic territories, and they unfold through every conceivable convolution and happenstance.

Nevertheless, for the most part, the basic idea of natural causality is that one thing interacts with another to change it. David HudasadsHume argued that that’s all we’re entitled to conclude is objectively part of causal connection, which is that Y has followed from X in certain observed cases. As soon as we add that there’s a necessary connection between two things, that X brings about Y because X is bound somehow to do so, we project our subjective expectation onto the evidence from our senses. Unfortunately for Hume’s self-refuting empiricism, as Kant pointed out, that’s just what knowledge is, a certain coming together of a mind with the rest of the world. Hume mocked so-called rationalist philosophers for positing “occult” powers and forces which are nowhere perceived. He thus failed to realize that all artificiality is bizarre, that the relative autonomy of minds in general is virtually supernatural. Knowledge is thus no mere additional physical mechanism, but a meeting of supernature with nature, a clash between satanic rebels and their hideous creator. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ninth PDF Installment of RWUG

Here's the ninth eBook installment of this blog. For the other installments, click the eBook label in the Labels section or the eBook tab at the top, between Satirical News and Videos (if you're reading this on a desktop computer). Otherwise, just click here for them.

Enjoy! Or rather be appalled by my insights into the universe's hideous impersonality and into the consequent grotesqueness of our delusional self-image!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Freedom and Equality: A Critique of Roosh V.’s Antifeminism

Roosh V. is a cosmopolitan pickup artist and an author and blogger of some renown. He was recently in the news in Canada because his scheduled talks in Montreal and Toronto were protested. 42,500 Canadians signed a petition to bar him from entering the country because his writings allegedly violate Canada’s hate speech laws. Protestors threw drinks at him at a bar and hounded him. The hotel where one of his talks was scheduled cancelled the event, due to the negative publicity, forcing him to change venues. One of his articles, in particular, became infamous for allegedly advocating rape.

I was intrigued by this controversy and decided to investigate further, reading ten or so of his articles. Much of what he says turns out to be plausible or compelling, but limited.

Roosh’s Case for “Game”

His detractors call him a misogynist, whereas he says he’s more specifically an antifeminist. Arguably, he’s both. Here’s a summary of his case for “game,” that is, for realistic techniques for seducing women, gleaned from the following of Roosh’s articles: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth.

Roosh is a traditionalist, at heart, who longs for the return of a more conservative era in which women accepted their natural roles as mothers, managers of the household, and supporters of men. He accuses feminism and Western culture in general of ruining Western women’s sex appeal. He went as far as to leave the United States, his home country, preferring places populated by more traditional women such as in South America, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. The problem with the West, he says, is that feminists demand equality whereas biology makes men and women unequal. This leads women who are infected with the feminist virus, as he puts it, to insist on beating men at their game, acting tough and manly instead of allowing alpha males to tame them.

In his words, the Western woman “has lost her reproductive imperative and sees men as nothing more than sources of entertainment to improve her soulless existence of having to attain a meaningless education to labor in an insignificant office job”; moreover, “because of her rejection of the feminine nature given to her at birth, you [the male reader] are even more qualified to take care of children than she is.” According to Roosh, “within every woman on this planet, regardless of her education or background, is a bitch, a cunt, a slut, a golddigger, a flake, a cheater, a backstabber, a narcissist, and an attention whore that is dying to get out…This is the true nature that will come forth if society doesn’t put constraints or limitations on a woman’s behavior and choice…Free from the shackles of acting within traditional sex roles, all women of the world would much rather act like a lazy sailor than a prim and proper lady as long as male attention continues to flow…As the women of this era find their basic needs being increasingly met, and the direction of societies moves towards one of automatic reverence to women instead of bemused skepticism of their childlike decision-making and behavior, reversions will occur across all economically rising countries of the world” as the virus of feminist culture spreads.

“Game,” then, is a man’s donning of a clown mask to entertain attractive women so that both parties get what they want. Women should want to succeed in their premodern, feminine roles, but in the West women want to be equal to men, so instead of tending to their traditional duties and relying on men for their welfare, women become financially and emotionally independent. Instead of looking for love and happiness with a man, the heterosexual woman seeks only to be entertained by him. Thus he must act like a sociopath, putting her “on a rollercoaster of abuse,” as opposed to boring her with beta-male meekness and effeminateness. He must roleplay as the aloof villain to arouse her fear, giving her respite from the tedium of her office life. Nature’s blessed her with one true asset, which is her physical appearance, but she squanders her window of opportunity when she’s youthful and at her prettiest and most beguiling, going on libertine binges with alpha males who are too discerning to be interested in a long-term relationship with a debased Western woman. Thus, she’s left to court beta-male suckers on dating websites when she’s older, used up and saddled with children, begging those second-class men for companionship if not also for shelter. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Avatars of Monstrous Nature and Estranged Creators of Unnatural Worlds

Introverted social outsiders fortify their inner selves with philosophical reflections. Alienated from the rest of the world by their self-absorption, they redeem themselves by rebelling against monstrous nature, whether through artistic expressions such as aesthetically meritorious acts of asceticism or through prophetic calls for cultural renewal that periodically awaken the masses who are held in thrall to the institutions dominated by predatorial, sociopathic alphas.

But do the tragically heroic omegas, those who are furthest from being happy and who occupy a sort of cosmic vanguard, since all wise primates are outsiders in their relation to the indifferent universe as a whole—I say, do those enlightened few likewise have an obligation to rebel against the alphas, to oppose theocracies, kleptocracies, or neoliberal plutocracies as so many glorified biologically-driven dominance hierarchies that betray our capacity for godlike creativity? If the diatribes of enlightened outsiders have historically emboldened the domesticated human herds to seek to be more spiritual than animalistic, even if those scraps of wisdom are then typically misinterpreted and quickly coopted by the jealous gods themselves, by what C. Wright Mills called the power elites, as in Catholicism and in all other major religions, is that opposition to our corrupt “leaders” as important as that to the undead wilderness? Moreover, is the latter rebellion, which consists of technological and cultural re-enchantments and vivifications of zombielike, robotic natural processes, displacing the wilderness with artificial worlds embodying our intentions, purposes, and ideals and ironically vindicating the ancient mythopoeic visions of a spirit world—I ask is that rebellion not identical to the surreal means by which the sociopathic alphas deify themselves? Specifically, isn’t technological creativity consistent with the cancerous economics of infinite civilizational growth? Isn’t hostility towards undead nature a premise in the satanic argument of modernity and thus just one more metanarrative rationalizing the gross power inequalities between those who control antinatural systems and those who are degraded in their servitude to those systems? How, then, should the enlightened few distinguish their doomed but honourable resistance from the alpha’s monuments to hubris? Are alphas and omegas perhaps equally unwitting pawns in the grip of monstrous nature so that true existential resistance is impossible?  

The Existential Context

To address these thorny questions, we must first consider what the alpha rulers are actually up to. We can do this by placing alpha behaviour in its existential context, that is, by determining how the power elites deal with the broader, existential problem of human freedom. Our defining feature as persons is our ability to control ourselves, which is to say that in contrast with other animal species, we build up selves in the first place, a self being a mind that can detach from biological and social regularities, thus acquiring the limited freedom to direct its individual course. We’re not entirely free from nature or from society, of course, although the effect of technology is indeed to render us supernatural, to replace the natural landscapes with artificial ones that facilitate our autonomy by allowing us more easily to carry out our will. We’re still physical objects and are thus subject to physical forces and norms, although we use airplanes and spaceships, for example, to overcome gravity. Likewise, we’re masters of our reproductive process and thus aren’t as constrained by natural selection as are the unknowing animals.

In any case, partial freedom from nature consists not of any mythical, metaphysical or theological property, but of the building of an ideological wall around ourselves which gives us the cognitive space to choose how we should act. The wall fortifies us against some environmental pressures, functioning like an event horizon, being the public form of ourselves which encloses our innermost character. That character isn’t an immaterial entelechy but a set of cherished ideas or sacred beliefs which are themselves remnants of our formative acts of faith. Who we really are is defined by what we genuinely, consciously or unconsciously believe. We are just such thoughts and convictions, nothing more, and so we’re liberated when our deepest thoughts are the primary or sole causes of our actions, when our worldview is reflected in what we do so that instead of being merely a chapter in a larger biological or sociological narrative, our life is self-scripted. Whereas the members of most species act out their life cycle as organic vessels for their genes, we’re persons in virtue of our having mental and thus more original, even idiosyncratic control over what we do. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Incoherence of Naturalism

In philosophical circles “naturalism” is a shibboleth. Just about all academic philosophers and most self-described intellectuals in the West are quick to reassure each other that however strange their pet philosophical beliefs might sound to the common folk, the thinkers would never even consider abandoning the ship of naturalism. “Naturalist” is an honourific term so that if you admit to being a supernaturalist, you’re revealing that you haven’t thought things through, that at best you’ve studied theology rather than philosophy. Modern philosophy has helped drive the Age of Reason, but the engine has been science, and by definition science’s subject matter is nature. Whatever scientists discover that they can explain becomes part of the natural world. Both American and French-dominated philosophies take scientific knowledge for granted, although the latter is more pessimistic about science’s social impact.

However, if naturalism is supposed to be the philosophical upshot of the scientific world picture, the standard presentation of this philosophy turns out to be a nonstarter. There’s a difference between exoteric and esoteric naturalism, and as in the case of any comparable distinction such as that between vulgar (literalistic) and enlightened (mystical or cosmicist) theism, the exoteric variety is half-baked and rife with delusions. Instead of invoking the pertinent technicalities such as “supervenience,” “physicalism,” or “nomic relation,” which function as mantras and memetic incantations that mesmerize and distract professional philosophers, we should consider a more grounded, intuitive interpretation of what’s at issue. Naturalism is set against the idea that there’s anything supernatural or unnatural. In particular, naturalism is taken to be well-established on at least three grounds. Metaphysically, science is supposed to have established that everything is part of the material world. Epistemically or methodologically, science is supposed to engage in unifying causal explanations, leaving no room for anything outside science’s purview. And institutionally or culturally, science impresses with its practitioners’ intellectual virtues which far outshine the faith-based drivel of religion, the latter being science’s arch rival. On each of these grounds, however, naturalism is incoherent. Indeed, the one ground leads to the other as a defense, so that with the collapse of cultural naturalism, that is, of rationalism or skepticism, we must look elsewhere if we wish to supply content to this shibboleth.

Miracles in the Mechanical Cosmos

The metaphysical point about nature is that nature is composed of stuff that scientists can understand. If we think in analytical terms, cognitively dividing and conquering systems, as it were, breaking them down into their constituent parts to see how the mechanisms interlock, the world is supposed to cooperate with this approach. Indeed, the Scientific Revolution was progressive in so far as these cognitive methods were applied in spite of defeatist religious traditions, and the universe turned out to be largely material and mechanical. The heavens were demystified and depersonalized, the divinities having been reduced to stars and planets. Organic design turned out not to be divinely intended, but the product of blind processes such as natural selection. And so naturalism entails, in short, that there are no miracles.

But having discovered discontinuities in the world, scientists themselves showed the limits of their analytical methods. Gödel’s Theorem showed that mathematical descriptions are necessarily incomplete, while Bell’s Theorem confirmed the direst suspicions of quantum physicists, that at the quantum level the world isn’t mechanical at all. At that level, one thing doesn’t impact another by locally pushing or pulling it, as it were. There is what Einstein mockingly called “spooky action at a distance,” when particles become entangled and affect each other irrespective of the distance between them. Moreover, singularities were discovered in black holes and at the universe’s point of origin, in which the natural laws break down. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Is Nature Beautiful or Monstrous?

Art by John Kenn
Who but a mad person would attempt to characterize the universe in its entirety? The ancient Greek conceit of all things forming a cosmos, a unified, ordered whole, seems quaint, notwithstanding the cosmologist’s persistent, utopian dream of a single Theory of Everything. Early maps of the lands and seas filled in unknown areas with pictures of monsters and captions like “Here be dragons,” and there are still voids in our knowledge of what’s out there. In addition to the singularities and thus baffling unknowns in black holes and in the Big Bang, there’s an alien weirdness to quantum, merely statistical or nonmechanical events; moreover, there’s dark matter as well as dark energy which comprise most of the universe and yet which are still enigmatic. 

Still, despite those areas of ignorance, there’s an intuitive way of summarizing not just the empirical knowledge we nevertheless have, but the limits on such knowledge to which we cynical hypermodernists are especially sensitive. This is to say that the universe, that is, all of natural reality, is monstrous. But what does it mean to blaspheme in this fashion, to tar the beautiful heavens with such an insult? Is this bit of cosmicism just a nihilistic projection of a wounded soul? No, nature is a monstrosity in every sense of the word, and seeing how this is so is vital to understanding our existential situation as metaphysically homeless individuals whose consciousness, reason, and freedom alienate us from the world. 

The Universe’s Immensity

One sense of “monstrous” is obviously fitting, this being the sense in which a monstrosity is extraordinarily great in physical size, meaning huge or immense. We take such knowledge for granted, but the ancients thought the universe is considerably smaller and indeed centered on our planet. The Age of Reason decentered us as a result of increased understanding of how life arises accidentally, without any personal creator’s plan or good intentions. This sense of never having been as important as the ancients intuited feeds into the experience of nature as horrific; at least, this experience is thrust upon those whose scientific and philosophical knowledge deprives them of the conventional feel-good delusions. So the universe is indeed monstrous in scope, not a mere terran neighbourhood but an inhuman, stupefyingly vast X in which living things aren’t even afterthoughts exactly but hapless drifters, vomited up by blind and dumb material exchanges and interlocking mathematical codes.

Even this most obvious kind of natural monstrosity is deleterious to our preferred way of life. We’re biologically driven to want to feel at home rather than lost, because we’re social mammals hormonally compelled, for the most part, to form families and thus preoccupied with the task of protecting our loved ones by laying claim to a plot of land and calling it home. Homelessness is thus a mark of evolutionary failure, since it implies either dereliction of duty towards your family members or a lack of such members to keep safe in the first place. A familiar place called home that keeps out the alien noise beyond is required to ensure the healthy upbringing of children and thus the passing on of genes to future generations. In a smaller, geocentric universe, our planet could serve as home for the extended human family because the ancients could trust in the landscape’s good intentions. In the decentered universe in which there are no such cosmic guarantees of our survival let alone our happiness, our planet begins to creek like a haunted house. How safe are we really on this rock which we’ve taken for taken for tens of thousands of years, but which must likewise be fundamentally as bizarre as the rest of the universe that pursues its strange business? With the world’s alien scope comes the high probability that our genetic code’s pointless trek through the ages will eventually cease; just as an earthquake or a tornado can rip apart a house, depriving the parents of the ability to safeguard their descendants, the universe will surge in our cozy corner of it and terminate our evolution. Along with the loss of faith in our home, there’s the growing postmodern distrust in all natural, commonsense intuitions since those too bear the world’s inhuman stamp. In short, our cosmological decentralization disaffected us with the world we’d once cheerfully interpreted as being run for some familiar, social purpose, such as its being a testing ground to prove our worth to the deities. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Beasts in Suits: The Regressive Impact of Scientific Management Theory

You wouldn’t know it from the appalling technocratic style of business speak, but business management theory has existential consequences, meaning that how we choose to organize labour affects the primary struggle we’re all engaged in as lone persons in the wilderness of nature. The scientistic flavour of modern business discourse conceals the fact that modern business doesn't advance a radically creative, progressive agenda, but models our social structures on the primitive pecking order. Humanists are incapable of stemming the tide of this antihuman conservatism, because they're not awed by their struggle's existential stakes.

Scientific Management Theory

Work was transformed from the medieval period to the modern one, as the guild’s form of craftsmanship was replaced by the scientific management of workforces. Some centuries ago in Europe and elsewhere, master craftsmen would practice and protect the secrets of their trade, whether it was carpentry, masonry, textiles or the like, hiring apprentices to keep those secrets alive in the next generation. These closely-guarded techniques were considered arts or mysteries, and so this division between insiders and outsiders took on religious significance. The insiders had esoteric knowledge of how to improve God’s earth, and in Europe, at least, craftsmanship was tolerated as something other than a blasphemous attempt to compete with God’s running of the natural order. The Church could tolerate the crafts, because of the ambiguity of the Christian myth of redemption after the Fall. We’re meant to be godlike, if not fully divine, and although the heavens were made perfect by God, freewheeling humans and the fallen angels ruined this particular planet, and so terrestrial conditions can be either further degraded or improved. Although Christian commonsense would dictate that craftsmanship (the attempt to excel at projects of intelligent design) is implicitly satanic in establishing so-called masters as rival creators and in challenging the natural order—even without any devilry inherited from the fallen angels themselves—the Church’s unmatched talent for compromise enabled the craftsmen to rationalize their business with a narrative of Christian enlightenment. According to this narrative, the kingdom of heaven won’t descend from above, but will be constructed from below by the faithful. Craftsmen restore a piece of Eden when they excel at their work, as long as they appreciate that their techniques must remain secret not only for the profane reason that workers inevitably compete to stay in business, but in view of their conviction that all human labour occurs in this mythical context of a spiritual war between good and evil.

Associations of craftsmen evolved into guilds which formalized the advancement from apprentice to journeyman to master and grandmaster, and which jealously guarded not only their trade secrets but the rights of their artisans, functioning thus as proto-unions in the absence of an all-powerful nation state. Eventually, medieval guilds suffered the fate of all large organizations, becoming corrupt in their rent-seeking, that is, in their unproductive extraction of wealth. Again, the rationale for the rigid and secretive standardization of techniques was that they were generally considered tactics in a spiritual war. Deviating from tradition could mean succumbing to demonic temptation and arrogance, in which case the cosmic scale would tip and instead of working on God’s behalf to restore the divine order, a craftsman would be undermining that order in service to the insane and evil forces of chaos. But the unearthing of ancient Greek works in the Renaissance led Europeans to recognize the depths of ignorance into which they’d fallen. The little bird of Renaissance scholarship of Greek literary texts had whispered into the ear of the Christian world that its myths were so many distractions from the horrific reality of its situation: there wasn’t progress towards a heavenly kingdom but a slump, from the collapse of the Roman Empire, which had carried on the excellence of Classical Greece, to the subsequent Christian theocracies. Humiliated by this discovery, the early modern power elites took up the challenge of rebuilding secular society, which required boundless skepticism about the Christian nursery rhymes that had allowed Europeans to slumber through what they came to call the Dark Age before the age of true enlightenment by Reason in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Secular enlightenment encompassed not just the familiar scientific process of understanding nature, but the quasi-prescriptive business of regulating social relations. Thus was born scientific management, the theory credited to Frederick Winslow Taylor in the late nineteenth century, whose mission is still pursued by the theorists that adapted his principles to the automated industries which made strict Taylorism obsolete. Taylor’s mission was to make business more efficient by maximizing workers’ productivity. This was achieved by a managerial class that functioned like a bureaucracy of social engineers whose expertise was in improving their business’s workflows. Instead of the craftsman’s secret tradition, there was an open, scientific sharing of universal (empirical, mathematical) knowledge among experts; instead of a religious context of work, there was a narrow, secular one of happiness through economic success; but most importantly, in place of an advancement of rank from apprentice to master, there was a reduction of all labourers to cogs in what Lewis Mumford called the megamachine. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Opposing Nature: Life's Meaning in the Monstrous Universe

While most people are blissfully ignorant of academic discussions of philosophy, at least one quintessential philosophical question has long been mainstream: Does life have a meaning, a point, a purpose? Because this question is philosophical, it’s obscure, which is what lends the question its mystique. Thus, there’s the preliminary matter of the meaning of the question of the meaning of life. Douglas Adams satirizes the need for such prior analysis in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, telling of a supercomputer that discovers that the answer to the question of “life, the universe, and everything” is 42, which bafflers the questioners because they haven’t figured out the true, ultimate question. What kind of answer, then, do we want and what exactly is at stake? Could life be the sort of thing that has a purpose or a goal such that it might have a specific, knowable one? And whose purpose would it be? Could life be meaningful without a personal creator of living things?

Biofunctions and Absurdity

The prescientific approach is to interpret the problem as teleological and thus to compare organisms to artifacts, which entails that organisms are intelligently created. By comparison, a shovel has meaning because we assign it a standard which determines when the shovel performs well or poorly. A broken shovel fails to work as planned so that it no longer approximates the ideal for shovels. For a person or even an animal to have meaning in this teleological sense would seem to require that we be artifacts designed by some foreign intelligence whose plan for us includes the ideal we’re meant to fulfill. (A natural, as opposed to supernatural, creator of terrestrial species would need a comparable creator in turn and that creator would likewise need one, in which case either the series of creations would be infinite, like a baton race that has no beginning, or else there would be an ultimate Creator who would be a deity, a miraculously self-creating or eternal person.)

The mystery of life’s meaning would amount to the mystery of the content of our creator’s mind: the answer would consist of a revelation of what that creator intended to do by creating us or of what the creator hoped to achieve. The movie Prometheus explores this scenario, depicting protagonists who discover both that powerful aliens created life on our planet and that the aliens might have had dubious rather than noble, let alone divine motives for doing so. Were our creator flawed or inhuman, our ultimate function might be horrific rather than anything we’d want to enshrine. We might have been created on a whim so that we’d be akin to an absentminded doodle, in which case our life would be fundamentally absurd. Alternatively, we might have been spawned by a malevolent or arrogant deity so that our highest purpose might be the moral one of opposing our original function, of malfunctioning, in our deity’s judgment.

The conventional secular wisdom is that this teleological interpretation of the ultimate question has been superseded by Darwinism, according to which life forms evolve from each other: each is created by an impersonal process of natural selection. This scientific explanation will be completed as soon as we come to understand how the simplest living things developed from nonliving things. Assuming that sort of final understanding is on the way and life does evolve to that extent, from nonlife, life’s origin isn’t planned. Thus the analogy between species and artifacts breaks down, and we have no nonhuman, pre-assigned purpose. (Even if there were intermediary intelligent designers, such as extraterrestrial but carbon-based seeders of our planet, the mechanistic, Darwinian view would be that the first organisms emerged from nonliving matter.) The process by which we deliberately devise technologies differs greatly from that by which natural forces, initial conditions and elements come together to produce organisms. In particular, personal traits like reason and desire have nothing to do with life’s origin, according to the Darwinian perspective. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Donald Trump vs The Comedians: The Farce's Existential Import

In the flood of images and stories purveyed by mass media, the spectacle of Donald Trump’s political campaign is trivialized just by being part of that flood, since each narrative is invariably replaced by another and soon forgotten. Comedians like Jon Stewart make a show of longing to keep the Trump spectacle alive forever, but along with most popular comedians, he serves the institutions that churn out infotainments so that he’s obliged to pounce on each new spectacle that captivates mass attention, without pausing to reflect much on the deeper meaning of any of these news items that he ridicules.

For just a moment, let’s think about what’s really happening in the confrontation between Trump and the comedians. First of all, who are these people? More specifically, what are their social functions? On paper, Trump is a wealthy and famous businessman, but as far as his character can be discerned from his public image in his television shows, interviews, and political speeches, Trump is also a buffoon and a troglodyte. The mystery is how someone whose many privileges afford him every opportunity to refine himself could exhibit such gross character flaws in public. How could anyone with his stratospheric wealth and fame appear to be so uncivilized?

That mystery is solved as soon as we consider two dynamics that are at play. First, power acquired through affluence and stardom tends to corrupt the character. In this respect, Trump indeed serves as the GOP’s id, as observed by comedian Bill Maher. Those drawn to business dealings that have notoriously outsized payoffs are already more likely to suffer from sociopathic tendencies, which the payoffs only exacerbate. Younger, idealistic people who wear their heart on their sleeve are thus more liberal than older individuals who have more to lose and are tempted to rationalize their possessions with conservative ideologies that warp their mindset. The deranged conservatism of a plutocrat like Trump is only a limit case that reflects this commonplace transition from youthful idealism to jaded, old-age realism. 

Mind you, the natural reality in question isn’t necessarily seen more clearly by older people so much as it captures them in the forms of their accumulated fears and hatreds which sustain their social and political prejudices. For example, political and economic power is reserved for adults who are afflicted with bodies that gradually fail them as they enter old age. As we approach death, our control over ourselves and our work and leisure activities is offset by nature’s grip on every cell of our body, and we mitigate that maddening tragedy in turn with self-serving delusions. If you invite any older person to attempt to express his or her innermost thoughts in a monologue, chances are what you hear will appall you.

Second, Trump likely plays a role or at least exaggerates his churlishness for the sake of certain business transactions. He only seems to be carefree and clueless, whereas he’s calculated that even if he can’t be president, he can appeal to aging, white, blue-collar Americans who, as Thomas Frank explains, resent being abused by the globalized free market and are primed to lash out. Trump can profit from being a right-wing demagogue in the infotainment sector. In this respect, Trump himself plays a role much like the average comedian, except that he laughs his way to the bank.     

Who, then, is the comedian? The comedian is a truth-teller but also a janitor. She sweeps horrors under the rug, calling attention to unpleasant facts with oblique references, only to comfort the audience with the opiate of laughter. Most comedians are able to uncover a subversive truth because they’re social outsiders and the silver lining of their alienation is heightened objectivity. In King Lear, this social role is famously formalized by the court jester whose silly hat and speech distance him from the audience members as well as encouraging them to laugh at his mock madness. The modern standup comedian is likewise distanced by the stage and the spotlight, but again those are formalizations of her underlying alienation. The comedian is typically bitter from being at least initially victimized and marginalized in life, and her isolation affords her the chance to scrutinize society and thus inadvertently to be sickened by what she finds. She then consoles herself with comedy. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

U.S. Steps Up Iraq’s Military Training by Attaching American Heads to Iraqi Bodies

Dateline: ARLINGTON COUNTY—American military officials order surgical attachment of American soldiers’ heads to the bodies of Iraqi soldiers to improve Iraq’s military training.

Prior efforts to train democratic Iraq’s military have been stymied. Instead of fighting Islamic State insurgents, Iraq’s soldiers became infamous for fleeing the battlefield, allowing waves of IS fighters to control key sectors of Iraq.

“The problem,” says U.S. General Buttercup, “was the training that had already been done not just in Iraq but throughout the Middle East. Those folks had trained for decades to be tribal theocrats, to be Sunni, Shia, and so on. Their traditions go back many centuries.

“For example, IS fighters are Sunni and most of Northern and Northwestern Iraq is also Sunni. Iraq’s government is dominated now by Shias, so the Sunni soldiers and tribesmen don’t want to fight fellow Sunnis. Nor do they want to fight for their Shia leaders.”

“It’s a case of a clash of indoctrinations,” says an American military psychologist. “Muslim sectarianism is deep-seated, because the Middle Eastern countries are tribal, meaning that from a very early age Muslims are taught to identify with only a subset of Muslims, not to mention a subset of other humans. That’s the start of their extensive training.

“Now Americans want to retrain Iraq’s soldiers’ to be liberal humanists, to see past their tribal and religious allegiances. Alas, each soldier has only one brain. American training techniques are unparalleled, but no matter how hard you train a brain that’s already been thoroughly trained to adhere to a vastly different mindset, you’ll run out of room in that brain to store your memes and mores.”

General Buttercup concurs with that analysis. “I told President Obama from the start,” says Buttercup. “We’ve got to give those already-trained Iraqis a second brain. Their brains were full of Muslim nonsense before Bush had invaded Iraq. We spent a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars training Iraq’s military to fight for Western values and interests. But how could even all of that overcome centuries of Middle Eastern history and tradition? 

It’s like flapping your arms to see if they’ll fly. No, it took millions of years of evolution to get them to work like arms rather than wings. You’re not going to overcome that anytime soon. But what if you could add wings to the human form? That’s what planes are for.”

For budgetary reasons, President Obama selected brains that have already been trained at world-renowned military bases in the United States. According to military sources, these soldiers’ sacrifice is part of the U.S. effort to win hearts and minds in the region.

“Their minds are opposed to ours,” says General Buttercup. “They’re Muslims and we’re Christians. They’re used to theocracies and dictatorships. We love our political and economic liberties. What we need is a meeting of minds, so we’re attaching hundreds of American military heads to Iraqi bodies.”

Instead of undoing Muslim and tribal indoctrinations, which would require beheading the Iraqis, the hope is that the new heads will compensate for the un-American worldview.

We don't do beheading. It's just not in our playbook, says Buttercup. If we could train the Iraqis to be American by beheading them, believe me I'd be all for it. But I can't go against my training.

“No one trains harder than us,” says USMC Staff Sergeant Kyle Killsalot. “You just wouldn’t believe how hard I trained. If you asked my opinion of whether I approve of having my head surgically attached to an Iraqi soldier’s body, you wouldn’t get it. I have no independent opinions since I serve my military collective, my brothers in arms. Believe me, I’ll whip that Iraqi into shape and there will be no more running from insurgents. If he tries to run I'll turn my head and spit in his eye.”