Emmanuel Macron: “Nationalism is the betrayal of patriotism.”

Recently, Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, said:

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By putting our own interests first, with no regard for others, we erase the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive: its moral values. “

In short, he said that patriotism is good, but nationalism is not. Such talk is systematically misleading, as my recent exchange on Facebook was equally misleading. In my posting, I tried to distinguish a nation from a country, claiming that a nation is a country with one language; whereas a country can have several languages, as does Switzerland. The objection was that there are nations without countries!

Obviously, I and my critic were using the word “nation” in different ways. Who was right?  Why did I use the word in the way I did?

Well, there is this phenomenon of people who do not have a country but who endeavor to create an independent country or “nation”, as it may be called. And these people can be called “nationalists.” They do not want to create just any country, but a country composed of people like themselves — an ethnically homogeneous country, which I called a “nation.”

My critic on Facebook responded that what I refer to as an “ethnic group” is, by his use of words, a “nation.” And he — I admit — has a point. The Iroquois League or Confederacy comes to mind. It was composed of five “nations”: Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca; and expanded to include the Tuscarora nation, thus, creating a confederacy of Six Nations. And I myself am prone to call such people without an independent country or State as diverse “nationalities.”

To complicate the matter further, there is the use of the term “nation” as synonymous with a “country” or “State,” as in the international (note the part “national”) “United Nations.” This organization is an organization of political States or countries. (Is “country” and “State” synonymous?)

And to complicate the matter further – in a negative way — there are the associations stemming from the Nazi Party, whose name is a shortening of the word “Nationalsozialismus” or “National Socialism,” producing a psychological antagonism to both the words “national” and “socialism.” [I may mention also the fact that the Russian bolsheviks,  by rechristening themselves “communists”, made the word “communism” also leave a bad taste.]

Now, if we associate the term “nationalism” with the Nazi program, then we will think of nationalism as trying to promote the superiority of a group of people over others. Nazi policy was “Deutschland uber alles” (Germany over others). And in the United States, there are what are called, White Nationalists, or White Supremacists — a carry over, I take it, from Southern slavery days.

This idea of superiority has contaminated the idea of nationalism, which from another perspective, is the almost (dare I say) instinctual desire for tribalism. “Tribalism,” as I use the term,  is the desire to be with people who are like you is some respects, primarily, in respect of language, and secondarily, in other respects — like race, religion, age, sexual preference, or whatever.

Tribalism —  this instinct to flock together — is distinct from chauvinism, or the claim of superiority. Unfortunately, Nazis and White “Nationalists,” have given nationalism a bad association. However, in more common or laudatory ways of understanding “nationalism,” it is a form of (innocuous?) tribalism, with no necessary connections to claims of superiority.

Complicating this discussion even further, is the recent overwhelming phenomenon of massive migrations  into Europe. Europe, although cosmopolitan is outlook, is composed of pretty much homogeneous ethnic groups or nationalities, and this linguistic and quasi-religious homogeneity has been severely disrupted in recent years, causing, what may be called, a nationalistic – although I would prefer to call it a tribal — reaction.

But when Macron said that patriotism is good, but nationalism is bad, he was ambiguously (or by conflation) expressing two different sentiments. The first – acceptable sentiment – is that nationalism with the connotation of superiority is bad, whereas patriotism, as the love and defense of country, is good. The second – unacceptable sentiment of a capitalist – is that tribalism in any form is bad, that no county should be endeavoring for any kind of homogeneity — linguistic, religious, or whatever; instead, all countries should embrace multiculturalism. Why is this the sentiment of a capitalist? The capitalist wants to atomize the population into self-centered individuals or families, which do not unite in any way to disrupt the commercial market. And for this reason, the capitalists of Europe, like Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, are in favor of multiculturalism and the influx of heterogeneous immigrants.

Addendum:

In my first take on Macron’s claim that “nationalism is the betrayal of patriotism,” I failed to take account of his “moral values.” These appear to be a rejection of:

1. National interests have a priority over international interests.

And the embracing of:

2. National interest should take into account the interests of other nations.

He seems to be claiming that if you accept 1, you have to reject 2. I do not see how that follows.

Think of countries as if they were isolated homesteads in the wild west of the United States. Each homestead had to be self-sufficient, and the priority was for its own survival and flourishing. And if another homestead failed, that was not due to any fault of the first homestead.

However, suppose these homesteads had the same river crossing through their homesteads; then the situation changes. What a homestead does with the river upstream makes a difference to the homestead downstream — and so, out of self-interest, some mutually satisfactory agreement has to be reached. This is not because one homestead cares for the good of the other, but because a compromise is necessary for self-interest.

Perhaps what Macron should have said is that no homestead (nation) is or can be isolated from another because not only is the river now contaminated by both homesteads (nations), but also the the soil is contaminated, the air is polluted, and the global temperature is too high.

In that case, Macron should have accused Trump, or anyone who thinks like Trump, of thinking that that 1 excludes 2 (as Macron himself seems to think); where in fact, 1 requires and depends on 2. The accusation should, then be, not about the rejection of moral values, but an accusation of stupidity.

But let’s be realistic. Neither the United States nor Trump are isolating themselves in all respects. The United States has a global military presence with nearly 1000 military bases. And it defends the interests of US international corporations, particularly those producing oil and military hardware. What can be said is that Trump is interested is short-term interests for himself and his cronies, but is interested neither in the short-term nor the long-term interests of either the ordinary people of the United States or of the world.

English is the lingua franca of the world — no bullshit

Woke up this morning, thinking of the series of videos on the dominance of the English language in the world, narrated by Robert MacNeil.  I think this was prompted by what I heard on Sunday.   On Sunday, Nov. 11. 2018, in Paris, during his speech commemorating the centenary of the First World War Armistice, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is its betrayal.”  I reject this for the following reason.  A nation is a country (or State) with one language. A patriot is someone who is loyal to his country — even if it is not a nation; while a nationalist is someone who aspires to create a country based on his language, or to preserve the existing Nation.

This made me think of how English is spoken everywhere in the world.

Below are the 9 videos “The Story of English,” broadcast in 1989, which was followed by the  publication of the book: Robert MCcrum, Robert MacNeil and William Cran, The Story of English, 3d ed., 2002. [496 pages]

1. An English Speaking World: Discusses how English has become the most dominant language throughout the world.
2. The Mother Tongue: Discusses the early stages of the English language, including Old English and Middle English.
3. A Muse of Fire: Discusses the influence of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible on the English language.
4. The Guid Scots Tongue: Discusses the Scottish influence on the English language.
5. Black on White: Discusses the influence of  Blacks on the English language. (Includes interviews with Philadelphia hip hop legends The Scanner Boys, Parry P and Grand Tone.)
6. Pioneers, O Pioneers!: Discusses Canadian English and the various forms of American English.
7. The Muvver Tongue: Discusses Cockney dialect and Australian English.
8. The Loaded Weapon: Discusses the Irish influence on the English Language.
9. Next Year’s Words: Discusses the future and new emerging forms of the English language.

1 An English Speaking World

2 The Mother Tongue

3 A Muse of Fire

4 The Guid Scots Tongue

5 Black on White

6 Pioneers, O Pioneers!

7 The Muvver Tongue

8 The Loaded Weapon

9 Next Year’s Words

Capitalism = Proletarianism

Definitions of capitalism stress freedom of trade. But trade has always existed. Well, trade is a necessary condition of capitalism, as is industrialization (mass production), but the other necessary condition — which is much too often omitted — is the existence of workers, who are drawn from the proletariat class. Proletarians are people who do not have a free access to land on which to subsist.

I don’t know any writer, other than Shaw, who understood and emphasized this existence of proletarians, and wanted to substitute for the term “capitalism,” the more appropriate term “proletarianism.”

In chapter 28 of his book, he makes his reasoning quite clear. (I have taken the liberty to emphasize some words.)


 

Bernard Shaw, The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, 1928


28
CAPITALISM

Nobody who does not understand Capitalism can change it into Socialism, or have clear notions of how Socialism will work. Therefore we shall have to study Capitalism as carefully as Socialism. To begin with, the word Capitalism is misleading. The proper name of our system is Proletarianism. When practically every disinterested person who understands our system wants to put an end to it because it wastes capital so monstrously that most of us are as poor as church mice, it darkens counsel to call it Capitalism. It sets people thinking that Socialists want to destroy capital, and believe that they could do without it: in short, that they are worse fools than their neighbors.

Unfortunately that is exactly what the owners of the newspapers want you to think about Socialists, whilst at the same time they would persuade you that the British people are a free and independent race who would scorn to be proletarians (except a few drunken rascals and Russians and professional agitators): therefore they carefully avoid the obnoxious word Proletarianism and stick to the flattering title of Capitalism, which suggests that the capitalists are defending that necessary thing, Capital.

However, I must take names as I find them; and so must you. Let it be understood between us, then, that when we say Capitalism we mean the system by which the land of the country is in the hands, not of the nation, but of private persons called landlords, who can prevent anyone from living on it or using it except, on their own terms. Lawyers tell you that there is no such thing as private property in land because all the land belongs to the King, and can legally be “resumed” by him at any moment. But as the King never resumes it nowadays, and the freeholder can keep you off it, private property in land is a fact in spite of the law.

The main advantage claimed for this arrangement is that it makes the landholders rich enough to accumulate a fund of spare money called capital. This fund is also private property. Consequently the entire industry of the country, which could not exist without land and capital, is private property. But as industry cannot exist without labor, the owners must for their own sakes give employment to those who are not owners (called proletarians), and must pay them enough wages to keep them alive and enable them to marry and reproduce themselves, though enough to enable them ever to stop working regularly.

In this way, provided the owners make it their duty to be selfish, and always hire labor at the lowest possible wage, the industry of the country will be kept going, and the people provided with a continuous livelihood, yet kept under a continuous necessity to go on working until they are worn out and fit only for the workhouse. It is fully admitted, by those who understand this system, that it produces enormous inequality of income, and that the cheapening of labor which comes from increase of population must end in an appalling spread of discontent, misery, crime, and disease, culminating in violent rebellion, unless the population is checked at the point up to which the owners can find employment for it; but the argument is that this must be faced because human nature is so essentially selfish, and so inaccessible to any motive except pecuniary gain, that no other practicable way of building up a great modern civilization stands open to us.

This doctrine used to be called the doctrine of The Manchester School. But as the name became unpopular, it is now described generally as Capitalism. Capitalism therefore means that the only duty of the Government is to maintain private property in land and capital, and to keep on foot an efficient police force; and magistracy to enforce all private contracts made by individuals in pursuance of their own interests, besides, of course, keeping civil order and providing for naval and military defense or adventure.

In opposition to Capitalism, Socialism insists that the first duty of the Government is to maintain equality of income, and absolutely denies any private right of property whatever. It would treat every contract as one to which the nation is a party, with the nation’s welfare as the predominant consideration, and would not for a moment tolerate any contract the effect of which would be that one woman should work herself to death prematurely in degrading poverty in order that another should live idly and extravagantly on her labor. Thus it is quite true that Socialism will abolish private property and freedom of contract: indeed it has done so already to a much greater extent than people realize; for the political struggle between Capitalism and Socialism has been going on for a century past, during which Capitalism has been yielding bit by bit to the public indignation roused by its worst results, and accepting installments of Socialism to palliate them.

Do not, by the way, let yourself be confused by the common use of the term private property to denote personal possession. The law distinguished between Real Property (lordship) and Personal Property until the effort to make a distinction between property in land and property in capital produced such a muddle that it was dropped in 1926. Socialism, far from absurdly objecting to personal possessions, knows them to be indispensable, and looks forward to a great increase of them. But it is incompatible with real property.

To make the distinction clear let me illustrate. You call your umbrella your private property, and your dinner your private property. But they are not so: you hold them on public conditions. You may not do as you please with them. You may not hit me on the head with your umbrella; and you may not put rat poison into your dinner and kill me with it, or even kill yourself; for suicide is a crime in British law. Your right to the use and enjoyment of your umbrella and dinner is a personal right, rigidly limited by public considerations. But if you own an English or Scottish county you may drive the inhabitants off it into the sea if they have nowhere else to go. You may drag a sick woman with a newly born baby in her arms out of her house and dump her in the snow on the public road for no better reason than that you can make more money out of sheep and deer than out of women and men. You may prevent a waterside village from building a steamboat pier for the convenience of its trade because you think the pier would spoil the view from your bedroom window, even though you never spend more than a fortnight a year in that bedroom, and often do not come there for years together. These are not fancy examples: they are things that have been done again and again. They are much worse crimes than hitting me over the head with your umbrella. And if you ask why landowners are allowed to do with their land what you are not allowed to do with your umbrella, the reply is that the land is private property, or, as the lawyers used to say, real property, whilst the umbrella is only personal property. So you will not be surprised to hear Socialists say that the sooner private property is done away with the better.

Both Capitalism and Socialism claim that their object is the attainment of the utmost possible welfare for mankind. It is in their practical postulates for good government, their commandments if you like to call them so, that they differ. These are, for Capitalism, the upholding of private property in land and capital, the enforcement of private contracts, and no other State in interference with industry or business except to keep civil order; and for Socialism, the equalization of income, which involves the complete substitution of personal for private property and of publicly regulated contract for private contract, with police interference whenever equality is threatened, and complete regulation and control of industry and its products by the State.

As far as political theory is concerned you could hardly have a flatter contradiction and opposition than this; and when you look at our Parliament you do in fact see two opposed parties, the Conservative and the Labor, representing roughly Capitalism Socialism. But as members of Parliament are not required to have had any political education, or indeed any education at all, only a very few of them, who happen to have made a special study, such as you are making, of social and political questions, understand the principles their parties represent. Many of the Labor members are not Socialists. Many of the Conservatives are feudal aristocrats, called Tories, who are as keen on State interference with everything and everybody as the Socialists. All of them are muddling along from one difficulty to another, settling as best they can when they can put it off no longer, rather than on any principle or system. The most you can say is that, as far as the Conservative Party has a policy at all, it is a Capitalistic policy, and as far as the Labor Party has a policy at all it is a Socialist policy; so that if you wish to vote against Socialism you should vote Conservative; and if you wish to vote against Capitalism you should vote Labor. I put it in this way because it is not easy to induce people to take the trouble to vote. We go to the polling station mostly to vote against something instead of for anything.

We can now settle down to our examination of Capitalism as it comes to our own doors. And, as we proceed, you must excuse the disadvantage I am at in not knowing your private affairs. You may be a capitalist. You may be a proletarian. You may be betwixt-and-between in the sense of having an independent income sufficient to keep you, but not sufficient to enable you to save any more capital. I shall have to treat you sometimes as if you were so poor that the difference of a few shillings a ton in the price of coal is a matter of serious importance in your housekeeping, and sometimes as if you were so rich that your chief anxiety is how to invest the thousands you have not been able to spend.

There is no need for you to remain equally in the dark about me; and you had better know whom you are dealing with. I am a landlord and capitalist, rich enough to be super-taxed; and in addition I have a special sort of property called literary property, for the use of which I charge people exactly as a landlord charges rent for his land. I object to inequality of income not as a man with a small income, but as one with a middling big one. But I know what it is to be a proletarian, and a poor one at that. I have worked in an office; and I have pulled through years of professional unemployment, some of the hardest of them at the expense of my mother. I have known the extremes of failure and of success. The class in which I was born was that most unlucky of all classes: the class that claims gentility and is expected to keep up its appearances without more than the barest scrap and remnant of property to do it on. I intrude these confidences on you because it is as well that you be able to allow for my personal bias. The rich often write about the poor, and the poor about the rich, without really knowing what they are writing about. I know the whole gamut from personal experience, short of actual hunger and homelessness, which should never be experienced by anybody. If I cry sour grapes, you need not suspect that they are only out of my reach: they are all in my hand at their ripest and best.

So now let us come down to tin tacks.

 

Comments on the Cenk Uygur and Tucker Carlson “debate”

The exchange between Cenk Uygur and Tucker Carlson was prompted by the Honduran caravan heading towards the United States.
The whole exchange was dominated by Tucker Carlson who made the following observations:

Carlson made a number of claims, which Uygur, by not disagreeing, tacitly agreed with.
There is poverty everywhere in the world.
Is it the role of the US government to deal with global poverty?
No. The primary role of government is to safeguard the interests of its own citizens.
These interests are, at least in theory, supposed to be safeguarded by the elected politicians who make and execute laws.
Now, there are existing laws about immigration and they should be executed.
It is another question whether these immigration laws should be changed.

By Carlson’s reasoning, immigration laws should not be changed. Why? Because of the principle of supply and demand. At one time in America, during the Industrial Revolution, there was a great demand for workers, and the US welcomed immigrants by the thousands. But this demand no longer exists. Industrial jobs have gone to places like China and elsewhere, and because of automation, even less workers are needed. In other words, we have a surplus of workers. The existing illegal immigrants compete for available jobs, and cause wages to drop. Adding more immigrants will only worsen the situation.

Carlson also brought up the issue that too much change is disruptive to societies, citing the work of Robert D. Putnman. Carlson mentioned that in the past we underwent an economic revolution from an agrarian to an industrial society, and now we have another major revolution due to technological changes based on computers, resulting in automation.

Carlson also claimed that multi-culturalism does not work. He noted that a country in order to be a country, must have some unifying principles, among which the most important is language; otherwise, the country will eventually break apart.

Uygur did not respond to any of Carlson’s main claims. He offered what I would call red herrings. For one, he complained about Fox news reporting in such a way as to suggest that the the Honduran caravan was about to sneak in or break through the border. Whereas, in fact, these are people seeking asylum. And then he went to say that Trump is planning to reject the request for asylum. And he reminded the audience of how some Jews were refused asylum during World War II —  the case where one ship was returned, with the result that a quarter of the passengers of that ship died in German concentration camps. His position is that asylum seekers should be listened to, and not rejected out of hand. Fair enough.

As to the main issue of supply and demand, Uygur had no comments. Instead he went off the track to point out that America is a country built on immigration, and that illegal immigrants are not responsible for most of the crimes. In response, Carlson said that he assumed that immigrants are fine people, but that this has nothing to do with the economic problem of supply and demand. Carlson also agreed with Uyger that undocumented immigrants may very well be innocent, but that there are 20 million of them. And he asked who benefits from this? Uygur gave no answer, but the answer is that it is employers.

The only remotely relevant answer to this problem  of supple and demand which Uygur gave, was to claim that there are certain kinds of jobs which Americans are reluctant to do. He cited cases where in the South, illegal immigrants were removed by ICE from chicken plants, resulting in employers complaining that there was no one to replace them. Carlson’s answer to this was that if employers paid more, they would find the workers among citizens.

Commentary on the Jordan Peterson – Sam Harris discussion


A major problem when criticizing or commenting on someone’s position is to avoid misrepresenting their position, resulting in an attack on a straw man. I will therefore try to restate their position in such a may as not to misrepresent them, and then add commentary.

Jordan Peterson presented their overall problem as the problem of grounding morality in facts. He further added that the grounding should avoid dogmatism, on the one hand, and relativism on the other; and Harris agreed.

As it turned out, both agreed that there are different categories of “facts.” There is, first, the category of empirical or experiential facts; second, the facts of mathematics and logic; third, the realm of subjective facts: such as likes and dislikes, desires, consciousness; fourth, there is the realm of social facts, including religions. I leave open the question whether there are other types of facts.

Sam Harris’ thesis was that many people base their morality on religions as expressed in sacred books. The narratives of these books can be taken literally (as by fundamentalists) or in some non-literal interpretation. And his position was that some of the prescriptions, taken literally,  in some of these books are not only harmful, but atrocious. The harmful ones are predominantly sexual in nature, as, for example, forbidding masturbation. The atrocious one are those which prescribe killing either of individuals or groups.

Harris adds that those who take the religious texts in a non-literal way, obviously have some extra-textual criterion for their reading. That criterion is an independent understanding of morality. Thus, the grounding of morality in texts is not necessary.

Peterson did not disagree with this. His interest was to understand religious texts from an evolutionary perspective, and that since any cognition requires a priori categories, he wanted to know what were these evolutionary a priori categories. [For the reader — a priori categories are those concepts or structures which are independent of experience, but which make human experience possible. Such categories include the concepts of time, space, causality, and substance.]

Harris said that morality is grounded in the fact that people avoid pain and seek contentment and flourishing. And from this we can generalize to see that life is a possible continuum from a miserable life, on the one end, to  a happy one, on the other. Peterson saw this as the religious distinction between hell and heaven.

Although Peterson agreed with Harris’ grounding of morality in the distinction between good and bad, he wanted a more solid grounding in some a priori structure. When pushed to elaborate, he insisted on what both of them called a “metaphoric truth.” The example Harris gave was of how one should handle a gun. The proper or heuristic manner of handling a gun is to pretend that the gun is loaded even if you know it is not. In other words, handle the gun as if it were loaded. [To the reader: Hans Vaihinger wrote a book, The Philosophy of ‘As If’]

Peterson tried to use this idea of metaphoric truth to make, what he claimed to be, a deeper insight into human behavior, namely, that people — including Harris, and other so-called atheists, in fact, act as if God existed.

When pushed to give a definition of God, it turned out to be a prescription or recommendation of how to understand the concept of God. God, as Peterson understands it, is some kind of a priori evaluative apparatus whose tendency is, like that of Medieval scholastics, to strive for the Good, the Beautiful, and the True. [I hope I did not misrepresent.]

Harris’ reply was that people normally do not think of God in this way.


During Peterson’s search for a grounding of morality and religion in an evolutionary framework, they found themselves focusing on the widespread practice of human sacrifice by primitive people. Peterson pointed out that historically, because of harsh living conditions, people had to sacrifice babies, especially crippled one, as well as useless old people — all for the sake of survival. And he tried to extract from this the principle that a sacrifice brings some greater good, and he offered the example of parents sacrificing things for their children.

By contrast, Harris’ position on the religious narratives was that they reflected a vacuum in knowing how nature worked, but a vacuum which, I may add, was filled with an imaginary narrative — using the technique of “as if” thinking.

Here is my answer:
What is the nature of this as if? Appealing to anthropology, primitive people have a picture of the universe as if totally composed of persons — a radical animism. Using the model of humans as well as animals, it is evident that all living things must eat to live, and that at some point when hunger is satiated, the animal will stop eating. There are visible animals like crocodiles, wolves, and lions which kill humans to eat them, and there are other tribes which kill human beings in order to take their possessions, and some of them are even cannibals.

Given the power of imagination, humans can envision by a process of extrapolation,  generalization, and idealization that there is a chain of beings — an evolutionary continuum — stretching from insects to some beings even superior to humans. These extraordinary beings are heroes and gods. Since humans eat and want goods, these superior beings — primarily, the gods — must want to eat also. Being choosy, they want the best of food — humans. And they do not want to eat old human meat, but young and tender children, just as we prefer suckling pigs.


I saw no disagreement between Peterson and Harris — but a difference in interest. Harris, believed that regardless of the origins of a belief or practice, it could be judged on its own merits on the basis of our present knowledge and practices. Peterson did not disagree with this, but insisted on finding an explanation in both evolution and a priori structures — a structure which he called God.


My disagreement with both of them concerns the foundations of morality. Both dismiss ethical relativism. This is their mutual error. What Harris describes is the ethics of Robinson Crusoe on an island without Friday. But by adding Friday to the island, the nature of ethics cannot be limited to what is good and bad for one person because there are different hardships being avoided and different goods pursued by different people; so, it must include inter-personal behavior. There is even a position that holds that morality is exclusively social — and what a person does with his own life is irrelevant, except when it impinges on the lives of others, which almost invariably it does.

The foundation of morality is to be found in agreements. These are either implicit composing customs and traditions, or explicit as formulated in moral precepts and laws. [Without further elaboration I send you to the writings of Gilbert Harman.   Here is one piece: Moral Relativism Explained]

Given the history and taxonomy of ethical theories, and the strain between the good and the right, Harris is giving priority to the good. Talk of what is good and bad is totally intelligible for a Robinson Crusoe on an island without Friday. Even talk of right and wrong is intelligible relative to things pursued, what Kant called Hypothetical Imperatives.  These are things which are prescribed on the condition that you want to achieve some goal X. For example, projects can be more easily and efficiently done by the use of tools, and even better by the proper or “right” use of tools.  However, on the island, Robinson Crusoe, in my view, has no Categorical Imperatives, despite what Immanuel Kant would say.

My reason for grounding morality in human agreements can be gleaned from sports and even games involving mortal combat. In these activities there are injuries and deaths. But the person who does the injury or causes the death is not held to have done anything immoral. Why? Because as long as he did everything by the agreed to rules, the consequence is irrelevant. The Categorical Imperative is to abide by your agreements.

Sincere Bullshitters or True Believers

As I was watching the Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris discussion, which, by the way, had some very important examples of methods to use in a discussion; and as I tried to understand what Peterson was after, the idea came to my head that a person could very well be sincere but deluded. To put it in another way, a person can be the victim of a myth or illusion.

When I first started thinking about bullshitters I took as my models sales people, politicians, and lawyers. From one perspective, they are all con men, trying to win by whatever strategy will work. They are all insincere in what they are doing. And so, I was not thinking of people who are sincere in what they are selling or advocating, but who, however, are mistaken — who are advocating something erroneous.

My model for the sincere bullshitter, or true believer, is the religious guru — the priest, the minister, the rabbi, the mullah. I say this because they are making incompatible religious claims, and I know that incompatible religious claims cannot be true together, and therefore, most of them — if not all of them — have to be wrong. By the same line of reasoning, most philosophies are erroneous as well — inasmuch as they are incompatible with each other. As to theologies, inasmuch as they are trying to systematize a set of dogmas or axioms, they are innocuous, but trivial, having the same status as an attempt to systematize Greek, Babylonian, or Scandinavian mythologies.

I believe that most religious apologists and most philosophers are sincere in their endeavors. But as it is said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The problem with sincere bullshitters, or true believers, is not in the fact that they are trying to propagate what they think is true or correct, but the fact that what they are, in fact, propagating is bullshit — error.

An interesting question to ask is: What are the psychological factors which lead one to erroneous beliefs? I have in mind — among other factors — cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias.


P.S. Here is the Peterson-Harris discussion. The admirable methodological point is that each of them — call them A and B — was to restate what the other claimed.  Thus, A was asked to state what A thought was B’s position, and what B objected to A’s position. And vice versa. They did not debate; instead they tried to understand what each was claiming.


Dana Ward on Anarchism

Dana Ward, to me, is the most dedicated and influential promoter of anarchism on the internet. For many years he has uploaded with the assistance of his students the classics of anarchism on his website at Anarchy Archives. I was pleased to find the following videos of three of his lectures.

“Anarchist, Insurrection, and Revolutionary Memory,” at the 2011 Clark Symposium: Pissarro’s Politics in Context – Anarchism and the Arts, 1849-1900.

2017 Classical Anarchism: An Overview

2018 “Anarchist History of Thought from Godwin to Occupy”

Chris Hedges, “America, the Farewell Tour”

I have watched Chris Hedges giving lectures and interviews on his recent book America, the Farewell Tour (August 2018). Watch the two below and find others to watch.

Hedges talks about many things, but the main thesis which he is advancing — in my view — is that American civilization is in decline. This is caused by the failings of corporate capitalism and the State. Hedges cites the idea of  Sheldon Wolin that America lives in an “inverted totalitarianism” — the control of the State by corporations, otherwise called “fascism.” The symptoms of the decline of the American State are a bloated militarism and a rising national debt which will result in a collapse of the dollar.

One of the causes of these failings is the dis-industrialization of America causing massive unemployment and poverty, especially among Blacks. Another failure is the ecological disaster, which now is practically inevitable. The socio-psychological symptom of this decline is, what Emile Durkheim called, anomie — a disintegration of a feeling of face-to-face community, leading to a sense of loneliness and despair, resulting in many cases in suicide, affecting mostly middle-aged white males. Hedges’  response to this situation is not to hope, but to resist and rebel — even in the face of the seemingly inevitable.

It appears to me that Hedges is a social democrat who thinks things can be changed by political reform and, if necessary, by revolution. He sees that both the Democrats and the Republicans are both an appendage of corporate power. He cites various abuses by the government, especially such measures as the Patriot Act which justifies violent methods in dealing with non-violent protests, such as the Occupy Movement or the Water Protectors.

The resistance which he has in mind is to go out into the streets to participate in massive protests against government policies, as, in fact, has and is happening, and should continue to happen. He says this frightens those in power to comply.

Corporate Totalitarianism: The End Game

Anarchism: The Unfinished Revolution

If my readers have not figured it out yet, I am a self-conscious anarchist.   Since people who call themselves anarchists have different interpretations of what anarchism is, I will be blunt and tell you what I mean by anarchism.  Anarchism strives to do everything through actual — rather than through delegated — agreements.  This means that it is based on direct democracy; not on a representative democracy. These agreements start with a small community of people, of such a size that everyone can know everyone else.   And the first thing that has to be agreed to is that anyone who wants to live independently of others may do so through receiving a free homestead adequate for subsistence.  It would, of course, be wiser to pool resources together for mutual benefit.

Now, given that the unit of government is a small face-to-face community which elects a council or councils for different functions,  grouping  of communities are organized through delegates to a higher level council of some workable size, and so on until the highest council is formed.  This is bottom-up democracy; rather than a top-down democracy, which exists everywhere in democratic States, where thousands or millions vote for a political candidate.

In order for people to learn and understand what anarchism is, I have tried to collect as much literature as I could find into one comprehensive bibliography, with links as I found them. Here is the link:

Anarchism: The Unfinished Revolution