September 12, 2012

The Nanny State Didn't Show Up, You Hired It


buckyballsboo.jpg

FLY, YOU FOOLS


The Consumer Products Safety Commission wants to ban Buckyballs, the magnetic office toy for "adults with Asperger's", because kids swallow them.  

("Hey, stupid, isn't the Buckyballs story two months old?"  I'm writing a book of pornography, it's taking up a lot of my time.  "Of?")

This is the kind of story that gets the public to unanimously cry, "We're a bunch of coddled babies!" and if you cried that, please recall my useful heuristic:  if you ever find yourself in complete agreement with the public, especially when "public" includes people you wanted to murder in the last election, then your position is not only wrong, it's not even yours.  You have been trained to have this thought, so the money is in understanding why.

Here is the mistake the conventional wisdom makes: it forgets it lives in the West.   It is free to compare risks because it believes all risks have been considered, by someone else.  This isn't a social problem, it is a philosophical one: we are taught to think like this. This is why an otherwise intelligent person still thought to say, "are you saying we should ban electrical sockets?  They kill more people than Buckyballs!"  That person is confused, but it isn't his fault.

Here's how it plays out.

Nine year old kid: Mom, I swallowed a Buckyball.
You: Oh my god, you are an idiot, I am so embarrassed. I want an abortion.

What would you do?  The balls are non-toxic and they can't rip out all your blood iron like Magneto.  So you do what every parent does, you call a psychiatrist and wait for your kid to poop it out.

Of course the problem is the balls clump together while in different parts of the intestine, pinching through the intestinal wall, kinking or twisting it-- and as he's dying you're saying, "well that serves you right for taking after your father."

Now that I just told you this it seems obvious, but would you have known this before I told you? Would you have known to take the belly pain of your child that seriously? That's the issue: that the toy is "conventional wisdom" safe, the precautions taken are the same as for regular ball bearings.

If you doubt this, please admit to yourself that you will be more careful with them around your children simply because you heard about the ban.   It is that warning that needs to be communicated by the product manufacturer.   "Well, it says it on the box."   As they point out in the complaint, however, the warnings so far have failed, kids are still swallowing them.  "They're stupid."  I agree entirely, however you've misunderstood me: the warnings have failed on the parents.  Note that "parents" here isn't your usual signifier for stupid parents (non-Asian minorities, Central Time moms, Christians, etc).  Buckyballs are sold at Brookstone with proof of subscription to Wired, that's the demo.

It's probably necessary for me to announce loudly that I am AGAINST THE BUCKYBALLS BAN, but the point here is why in 20XX such a ban is not only possible but expected. 


II.

Have you ever seen a bus and had the fantasy that if you got hit, you could sue the city for $5M?  While it's probably means you're a follower not a leader  (e.g. "I hate frivolous lawsuits, but if everyone else gets to do it...") I want you to focus carefully on the implication of this fantasy:  in the secret studio of your mind, even a bus accident is safe.

"Yes, we know, humans miscalculate risk."  No, they are very good at calculating it-- for other people.  No one ever thinks, "It would be awesome if my wife got hit by a bus and we sued for $5M."

"!HA! You're wrong, I think that every night!!!"  You're a tool.  And a cuckold.   It's not that you are more willing to take the "risk"-- you are not altruistic-- you're just 100% certain she would die if a natural gas powered leviathan hit her in the tits and 100% certain you would live.   (Sorry.  It's the porn book.)

It is this kind of example that trips up the "public" when judging things like Buckyballs because we don't think in large numbers and apply to one (statistics), we think in terms of ourselves and multiply by 6 billion (narcissism).   Here's a piece from an extraordinary video I am ashamed to admit I found on Metafilter.   Watch this dummy try to climb 8 stairs (spacebar to play):








She got up this time, but let's pretend she smashed her face in. What would happen next?  Lawyer crawls out from under a Horn And Hardart's and they sue the city for $5M in future earnings because she says Revlon now won't return her calls.  That story gets picked up by the internet and you, the public, have something to yell at.

You will no doubt observe she is overweight, which about 80% of you will consider of central  importance, and you'd be right for the wrong reason: it's not relevant to her fall, it's relevant to your hate.  Of course you know I picked her on purpose; but what you will forget to know is that Dateline and HuffPo and the others will have looked for her- or a black woman or a guy with his nose in a Bible- to be in their story about tripping and suing, to ensure you'd spit your soda all over the screen. "#frivolouslawsuits!"  The system wins. 

But now watch the director's cut:

 





From JimmyJames on Metafilter, who has a remarkable insight into the relationship between personal responsibility and what permits it:


On its own, when you see one person slip, you automatically assume that person slipped, was clumsy or not playing attention. But when you look at the aggregate, you realize that the failure isn't on the individual at all, rather the structures that cause certain people to fail with almost no fault of their own. And yet, without this data, they will very quickly ascribe the mistake to themselves.

It difficult to explain to someone that the reason they live their life the way they do because of the structures built to help them live that way. But imagine, instead of a stupid mislaid step, the faulty structure is a punitive late policy on a credit card, or a bank that has a minimum balance fee and very quickly the maintenance of the status-quo is laid bare.


This is a very smart insight, and no surprise this is one of the most favorited comments on Metafilter.  But it is still wrong, and wrong in a very specific way, the only way that matters: pro-status quo.  Wrong, to ensure that things do not change.

JimmyJames has it backwards.  The issue isn't the faulty step, it is all of the correctly laid steps.  That seems abstractly unrealistic to you, so I'll simplify with JimmyJames's own  examples: the problem isn't the minimum balance fee, it is the bank; it isn't the punitive late policy, it is the credit card.  

She didn't trip because the step was high, she didn't trip because she should have been more careful; she tripped because the city taught her not to be careful, in the same way you taught your daughter not to be careful when she crosses the street.  "Huh? I taught her to look both ways!"  Slow down, Hawthorne:


DAD:

Look both ways, stupid!

GIRL:

Um, isn't that your job?

DAD:

But I'm not going to be holding your hand all the time, you have to learn to do this yourself.

GIRL:

So let me understand you.  Your thesis is I am so mentally defective that unless you teach me to look both ways even when you're with me, I will not remember to look both ways when you're not with me.  Isn't it more likely that the omnipotence I attribute to your symbolic identity as Father is what causes me to be more dependent when I know you're with me?

DAD:

How dare you talk to me like that.  You should respect your elders.

GIRL:

I do respect my elders, that's the whole problem.  You have taught me that there is always an appeal to a higher authority.  Meanwhile, your cynicism has split my loyalties, you've made me highly suspicious of individuals in authority, yet simultaneously reflexively obedient to symbols of authority as long as there is no defined individual attached to it.    And when I get old enough to see you're just Willy Loman, I'll start looking for a more abstract, omnipotent, father, and his name will be "Someone Else's Ideology." 


DAD:

That sounds insane.


GIRL:

Don't blame me, man, I just lease the space.  I think we would both respond more reliably to this kind of dependency branded as self-reliance if it was reinforced through the medium of a car commercial.  Something that promises complete freedom of the road and superb handling responsive to my every wish, but knows when to deploy safety features.  That way I'll be able to text with both hands.

DAD:


Maybe I should let you make some mistakes, maybe get a little hurt, to teach you self-reliance?


GIRL:

Ha!  You won't even let me play outside by myself.  You're afraid someone like you will try and eat me. Or that if I ever got hurt, the lesson I'd learn is that you are an unreliable Dad, and there's nothing worse than an unreliable Dad, except---



III.


On the one hand, we live in a society that values free choice and personal responsibility, but we are told that it is safe to value those things only because people expect a certain amount of absence of choice and freedom from responsibility.  You assume you would not be allowed to make a truly dangerous choice. 

What you don't understand consciously is that your judgment of risk is based on the fact that you believe in God, and this is even more true if you think you don't believe in God.  I can sense your resistance to this idea because you think you don't believe in God, but sadly for your immortal soul, you do.

The reason you think "personal responsibility" is the answer to the Buckyballs problem is that Buckyballs already exist, and if they already exist they must be safe-- or "some other omnipotent entity" would not have permitted them to come to existence.  That is the problem of the West, and you cannot change it.  All of the metaphors of the West imply this omnipotent entity, from "free market" to "inalienable rights" to "peace in our time."

Imagine if when Buckyballs were first invented, the manufacturer decided not to bring them to market because they were too dangerous. What would you have been furious then?  You'd have thought: "meh."   That is because your brain is broken, and your brain is broken because the system broke it.  Again, it's not your fault.  The true danger of the "Nanny State" isn't that it limits your freedoms but that it causes you to want less freedom.

Note again and again that the instinctive reflex among the public is to blame the individual and protect the corporation, the system.  You'd think we'd be happy if the system caught an after-market danger, but clearly we aren't, it enrages us.  The rage isn't because the government intrudes into our lives-- it always has-- it's because it's evidence that the system wasn't-- and therefore isn't-- omniscient.   When a product isn't brought to market because it's dangerous it confirms that Dad is reliable, but when it's only discovered later it suggests Dad can be unreliable, and there's nothing worse than an unreliable Dad, unless it's an unreliable God.  Hence Buddhism.  

IV.

I get that this kind of theoretical model doesn't seem practically applicable to every day life, but you'll see the "some other omnipotent entity" everywhere if you look for its three characteristics: it is omnipotent; it opposes the existing (dis)order; its sole job is to protect you from yourself.  Not from the world: from your bad decisions.

Here's an easy example: other than me, Rana Foroohar is the only person still reading Time, and since she has a degree in English Literature and I do not, they gave her the job of Assistant Editor In Charge Of Economics.  Here she is with other assistant editors being in charge of economics.


rana foroohar.jpg


As you can tell, economics is hilarious.  She also somehow writes a column called-- take a drink--  "The Curious Capitalist."  I'll assume she means all of those words ironically.  Here's a sentence she wrote without any irony at all: 

In order to keep things afloat until politicians get their act together, the Fed needs new strategies.

Holy mother of Buddha.  Leave aside policy controversies, what should make your eyes bleed here is how easily, naturally, she went over the government, to a higher authority-- how easily she was able to find "some other omnipotent entity" to save us from ourselves.

This doesn't mean the Fed is always that other omnipotent entity, it means that Foroohar will always locate such an entity because she cannot live without it; her allegiances will shift but she will never permit herself to live only in the abyss-mal world of her actions. She is always on the side of "who can fix this," she is never on the side of "I helped cause this."  This isn't a political problem, it is a psychic problem: this is how all of us think.

And if that entity one day fails to save you, you'll feel the kind of rage you hear described on psychiatry blogs.  Which is what happened when Chief Justice Of The Supreme Court Of The United States Of America John Roberts seemingly turned his back on the conservatives and upheld Obamacare.  A lengthy legal explanation was of no importance, what drove people bananas was not simply his ruling, but that he didn't at least pretend to omnipotence, "I can rule however I want!"   Instead, he said out loud the unsayable, the terrible awful truth about himself:  "It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices."  You traitorous, black robed son of a bitch, how dare you reveal there is no God.


V. 


Try it the other way.

NYC Mayor Bloomberg's proposal is to ban soda sold larger than 16 oz.   Is it a government intrusion into our private lives?  Shouldn't we be allowed to make our own free choices about what to do with our own bodies?

The answer to both is a resounding yes, but nevertheless that's the trick.  The question that you should have asked, that you did not ask because you were hypnotized into asking the above questions, is: to what extent am I free to make the decision TO drink soda?

Soda was tested, refined and improved so that you would probably like it; but it was packaged and marketed so that you would like it regardless of whether you liked it, and "you" means you now, in this time, in this place.  Do you believe 10th century Viking marauders who previously described rejecting pop music would drink 3 sodas a day?  I saw Valhalla Rising

valhalla rising.jpg

The answer is no.

I just heard you say, "yes, they would.  Yes, they'd take a few sips and find it delicious and yes, they'd drink 3 bottles a day."  WRONG. 

If you believe that they would, then you are saying that marketing is unnecessary, all that money is a waste, the soda is delicious enough to hook anyone.  That the terms "market penetration" and "early adopters" and "branding" are meaningless.  But if this symbol


pepsi_logo.jpg




not the brown liquid, but that image-- which cost millions of dollars to create and promote-- if that strategy was necessary to making Pepsi a huge seller, more than the minor difference in taste from generic brand cola which no one drinks and thus no one needs protection from-- then you cannot say that your choice to drink soda is a free one. And it doesn't matter if the risk of diabetes with the liquid in the bottle labeled generic cola and the liquid in the bottle labeled Pepsi is the same, because product= object + branding: Pepsi is more dangerous than cola.

The vast majority of the people complaining about the Big Soda ban don't buy big sodas, and those most enraged about the Buckyballs ban either already have them or would never want them.  So the reaction has nothing to do with the products themselves, the rage is on a theoretical level, "I don't want government intruding in my private choices."  But they already do this in a gazillion different ways, bigger, more important intrusions.  The difference is that those are invisible.  You know you can't value the risks in airplane safety or radiation leaks so you trust them to do it, but you think you can value the risks of a soda and hate that they try to do it for you.  

I know you are thinking, "but I can resist soda; I understand the risks"-- never mind you don't even know the ingredients of soda, the point here is you are starting from you and multiplying by 6 billion.  

When you say, "personal responsibility!" you are really saying "this is safe enough for it to be a question of personal responsibility."   But you must ask yourself the question: how do you know Buckyballs and soda are safe enough for them to be about personal responsibility?  Because "some other omnipotent entity" allowed them to exist.  How do you know that Entity can be trusted?  Because it even tries to ban silly things like Buckyballs and soda.  The system is sound.

What is the final common pathway of all of this?  If the system is sound, there's no reason to obstruct the pressures of marketing.  That's what's at stake, not your safety or your personal freedoms.  The point of consumer protection is not protecting the consumer from the market, but protecting the consumer for the market.

The ban has the simple purpose of taking something deemed too dangerous away; but the purpose of the ban is to convey the impression of a watchful eye, so that when you say, "we live in a nanny state!" you are simultaneously saying, "and thank God!"  Hence your desire to get hit by a bus.

You're like a teenager who is perfectly happy-- strike that-- indignantly self-righteously deserving--  to live in his parents' house, eat their food, drive their car, "but for Buddha's sake, Dad, don't ever show your face if I'm hanging with my friends-- I can't have them thinking I have parents!!!"   No worry that their entire existence proves active parental involvement, but tell the kid he can't have get an Xbox or wear a miniskirt and it's an identity catastrophe, "how dare you try to control me!"  Dummy, they already control you in every way, so totally and efficiently that you believe that the miniskirt or the Xbox is a legitimate sign of independence.  The trick isn't that you have no freedom, the trick is that you think that is freedom.  All your fighting is for... consumer products.  "When I turn 18, I am so getting the hell out of this oppressive death hole!"  Where will you go?  "A four year undergraduate college!"

But the analogy goes a step further: all the other teens already know you have parents, they have parents, too-- but all must act collectively like they don't.  No discussion needed, all silently know to pretend that there is not the obvious 1 to 2 omnipotent adults you can immediately appeal to if things go sideways; that there isn't a huge infrastructure, plainly visible to everyone else, propping up your very material existence.  "Live free or die!"  Why specify a choice?  For you, they are exactly the same thing.


---


http://twitter.com/thelastpsych









Comments

Pretty good, TLP. I've mis... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2012 8:21 PM | Posted by Judge WIlhelm: | Reply

Pretty good, TLP. I've missed you.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 32 (36 votes cast)
This really fleshes out the... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2012 8:34 PM | Posted by M: | Reply

This really fleshes out the point you were making in the Heart Attack Grill article. Thank you.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 2 (12 votes cast)
This would be better if you... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2012 8:39 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This would be better if you didn't repeat yourself three times. Could easily be 1/3 the length.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -18 (82 votes cast)
Do somebody have tips of bo... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2012 8:57 PM | Posted by Nelson: | Reply

Do somebody have tips of books about omnipotence or somthing like it?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -3 (19 votes cast)
Isn't that the point, thoug... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2012 9:01 PM | Posted by Lt.Spender: | Reply

Isn't that the point, though? I mean, isn't a society supposed to provide a structure for individuals, to restrict choices and propel behavior in a socially acceptable way? There's a debate to had over whether consumerism is the appropriate "Other" to provide the authoritative backing, and urging insight is always a good thing... I guess I'm just not sure where this is headed.

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The world is swept away. It... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2012 9:17 PM | Posted by SeanM: | Reply

The world is swept away. It does not endure.

The world offers no shelter. There is no one in charge.

The world has nothing of its own. One has to pass on, leaving everything behind.

The world is insufficient, insatiable, and a slave to craving.

— Majjhima Nikaya 82

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I actually saw the collecti... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2012 10:25 PM | Posted by Lilana: | Reply

I actually saw the collective problem with the stairs before you said it--because I've been living it recently. I've been a center-city inhabitant for so many years that now that I live in a very lush suburbs environment, I'm in constant peril of walking into huge spiderwebs, complete with enormous spider in the center. I've been trained to walk in areas sans insects and their traps, cleaned by other human beings, taking this condition as a given. If these people using the subway were more used to climbing rocky hills, they'd never trip on stairs like these...instead they are a captive of the uniform building codes and will fail without them.

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Yes, I know spiders are ara... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2012 10:26 PM | Posted by Lilana: | Reply

Yes, I know spiders are arachnids. It's late, I'm tired.

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You think she's unattractiv... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2012 10:36 PM | Posted by Jim: | Reply

You think she's unattractively overweight?!

You have been watching a lot of porn.

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There is no spoon.... (Below threshold)

September 12, 2012 10:42 PM | Posted by ThisIsInsane: | Reply

There is no spoon.

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Here in SF, they are spendi... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 2:49 AM | Posted by DensityDuck: | Reply

Here in SF, they are spending millions of dollars to put a net under the Golden Gate Bridge, so that suicidal people can jump off it without dying.

It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that this is teaching people that the government is making the world so safe that it's impossible to kill yourself on purpose, let alone by accident, and therefore it's perfectly all right to do absolutely insane things because If It Could Hurt Then You Wouldn't Be Able To Do It. Whatever you want, go ahead, it's cool! Drive fast, drink, smoke, fuck strangers without a condom, vote Democrat. You can't hurt yourself or anyone else by any action you take. If you could, it would be against the law.

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Does this guy get paid by t... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 3:43 AM | Posted by SightSeen: | Reply

Does this guy get paid by the word? That's some of the most bloated writing I've seen in a long time. But that's not the main reason his post fails to persuade. The central problem is that it's built on a huge pile of premises (e.g. "if they already exist they must be safe") that neither ring true nor are shown to be true. So we have an exercise in vigorously manipulating questionable or false premises, leaving us with something that reeks like an intellectual masterbatorium.

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But try to assess risk with... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 3:43 AM | Posted by sydd: | Reply

But try to assess risk without an omnipotent being. Assume you are doing this very rationally, drawing a decision tree and calculating conditional probabilities and so forth. You'll stumble upon a minus infinity benefit (death), and infinity weights out any other benefit - you won't be getting out of the house any time soon.

One ought either to get over oneself some other way (hence Buddhism) or find some omnipotent power of sorts, to exclude death from the calculation - or, at the very least, make its effect quantifiable. Or then again, one can always be irrational.

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If It Could Hurt Then Yo... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 3:49 AM | Posted by SightSeen: | Reply

If It Could Hurt Then You Wouldn't Be Able To Do It.

And yet matches and knives are legal.

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You'll stumble upon a min... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 5:29 AM | Posted, in reply to sydd's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You'll stumble upon a minus infinity benefit (death)

Death is obviously not a minus infinity benefit, as it's fairly easy to imagine outcomes worse than death (60 years of torture followed by death, for example).

Rather, being dead has a benefit of 0. What you lose by dying is all the possible benefit in the future - which is finite simply by virtue of inevitable universe death.

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But then what is the relati... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 6:19 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by sydd: | Reply

But then what is the relative value of staying alive?

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Goddamn, I'm sorry to hear ... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 6:25 AM | Posted, in reply to DensityDuck's comment, by Christina D: | Reply

Goddamn, I'm sorry to hear about that net going in on the Golden Gate Bridge.

This is a tangent, but I've always had it in the back of my mind as an option if I'm ever diagnosed with Alzheimer's, etc. With a 98+ percent death rate, jumping off the GGB is the most reliable way to kill oneself on the first attempt. Other forms of suicide have much higher potential for failure; flinching away from a gun can leave you maimed but not dead, miscalculating a dose of pills can do the same, and so on.

Plus, specifically jumping off the GGB strikes me as the most practical of the ethical ways to commit suicide. If you jump off the bridge (especially at night), the current pulls your body out to sea, thereby preventing you from inadvertently ruining some innocent stranger's day when they encounter your body. Killing your body and ALSO disposing of it so nobody is ever traumatized by seeing or handling it is an unbelievably difficult proposition. My landlord might be a lazy dick, but he doesn't deserve to see my brains splattered on the living room wall by a shotgun. The Golden Gate Bridge is easy to get to, easy to jump off of, and if you time it right, you can make sure that no manpower is wasted on trying to save you or retrieve your body.

I guess I need to add here that I have zero desire to kill myself at the moment. Actually, I'm actively avoiding death. But there are some degenerative health conditions I am not willing to die from, and I'd like to have an easy, effective, and ethical way to kill myself if the need ever arises.

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"It would be awesome if ... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 8:56 AM | Posted by bussted: | Reply

"It would be awesome if my wife got hit by a bus..."
/blowing sigh of relief knowing i'm not the only one that thinks this

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This is longish. Sorry. </p... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 9:24 AM | Posted by themadstork: | Reply

This is longish. Sorry.

I think the word you are searching for is: fetishism. And, I think, the bit about god and the omnipotent isn't the right way to put the point. Here's why.

The example of the stairs reveals two interesting facts. First, we tend to be "narcissistic": I assume that I am immune from many risks, take myself to be the standard case, and so think the people who suffer must be defective. The stair example (like the bus example) shows we often do this and it's stupid. We're just like everybody else and often enough people suffer through no fault of their own, but rather, because they (reasonably) form expectations that get upset. That's the second point: we're conditioned by our environment to act in certain ways. Someone who grew up on the side of a mountain probably wouldn't trip on the step - but it would also probably take that person longer to climb the staircase. A combination of these points would mean that we tend to assume that we have a greater mastery over our environment then we really do. I assume it's safe out there for me because I have mastered the landscape. We're going to inevitably form these kinds of expectations in order to get around effectively, and that puts some constraints on our freedom, I guess. It just seems like an overly dramatic way of putting things.

There's an important difference between the layout of the woods, say, and the subway or what's available to you for purchase at a store. The latter two are the result of human decisions.The mistake we make is to treat our social landscape as if it were a natural landscape: whatever is in the marketplace is safe for me because it has the kind of regularity and constancy that a natural landscape does. Whatever is aberrant and bad disappears. I think it's wrong to say that we assume that there is someone making this decision and they are omnipotent. Rather, we act as if noone is making the decision, as if it just happens that I can buy Buckyballs but not similar balls made out of lead.

As "the Curious Capitalist" makes clear, once we recognize that we actually need to do something we're likely to appeal to some authority and to credit the authority with divine powers. But I don't think that's what's going on with the "nanny state" refrain. When people say "the market" should take care of a problem and not "the state" they really mean that noone needs to do anything: the world will take care of itself, like growth after a fire. That is, they don't think there is another person better qualified to fix the problem. They think that the world is already all set and those who have mastered the landscape will be fine and those who don't are defective.

Now, once it's pointed out that we're always responsible for the consumer products and the subway etc. then the attitude that what's available is safe for us only makes sense if we appeal to some god. But the ranters aren't committed to this because they fetishize the market and ignore that it is our own creation.

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I agree: Alone's been slipp... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 9:27 AM | Posted, in reply to SightSeen's comment, by Andrew R.: | Reply

I agree: Alone's been slipping of late. This one's disappointing, but it also follows on a really crap post that was the sort of "Arglebargle! I hate professors!" that you could find at townhall.com. I suspect that Alone needs to take a sabbatical from posting.

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This comment is pretty dang... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 11:30 AM | Posted, in reply to DensityDuck's comment, by DJames: | Reply

This comment is pretty dang good. It deserved more than an upvote, hence this reply.

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This same thing is going on... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 11:52 AM | Posted by Gabe Ruth: | Reply

This same thing is going on in pro football (management proactively taking responsibility for the safety of the players to demonstrate their humanity, because they would never endanger the players). I am perfectly certain the NFL will be regarded as a barbaric evil in 100 years (and the future may be quite correct).

A few days ago, this happened. And I felt the internal conflict, the part of me that says you can't argue with natural selection, but the other part that I hate consciously but is still there: they probably should have taken some precautions. But why? Because it was an unusually tall escalator? Because it was at a place where people are likely to be drinking? I (sometimes) work in the vertical transportation industry, and sometimes I page through the code book just for laughs. The contingencies the bureaucrats have prepared for on paper defy the imagination of most mortals, but they are nothing compared to human instinct for self-destruction.

The incredibly predictable and well demonstrated (not to mention intuitively obvious) relationship between the posted speed limit and traffic deaths is another instance of this official risk acceptability. Leaving aside how difficult it is to get along without driving, do you have the option of driving slower without mortal danger? Yes, but 65 MPH is the safe point fixed in the American mind. 75 is fine, 85 is getting a bit excessive, but 55? Are you crazy? People will be going out of their minds.

Why is all this? Sometimes I think it started as a form of population control, but as the leaders of the system changed over time the original purpose became obscure and the horror of the truth inhibited the new leaders' ability to logically deduce what was going on.

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I think you're missing the ... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 12:28 PM | Posted, in reply to SightSeen's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I think you're missing the point here, he's not saying that the government has it all figured out as to what's safe and what's not. This quote sums it up:

"Leave aside policy controversies, what should make your eyes bleed here is how easily, naturally, she went over the government, to a higher authority-- how easily she was able to find "some other omnipotent entity" to save us from ourselves. The point is about the appeal to authority, the idea that some "other" is handling our shit for us."

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One of the people advocatin... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 1:02 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

One of the people advocating for the net is the guy who survived a GBB suicide jump. I remember him during an interview saying how he jumped from the bridge, and then instantly realized he made a mistake. Duh.

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A few months ago, someone g... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 2:47 PM | Posted by Jay: | Reply

A few months ago, someone gave me some buckyballs.

I looked at them and thought, "My cat could eat those".

I took them back to the store.

When I heard they were banned, I thought, "Yeah, that makes sense".

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actually when you jump off ... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 4:01 PM | Posted by crumbskull: | Reply

actually when you jump off the golden gate bridge some poor fucker in the coast gaurd has to haul your gross body onto his boat with a gaff

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Sorry Christina D, but havi... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 4:24 PM | Posted by Tom: | Reply

Sorry Christina D, but having heard stories from former Coast Guard members about cleaning up the messes left by the GGB suicide attempts, one should find another way. The Coasties pull the smashed and bloody bodies out of the water. Not much is left that looks like the person that was. No open caskets and a lot of mess. Memories of dragging the bodies up still haunts them.

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The risperdal litigative ... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 4:28 PM | Posted by Harry Horton: | Reply

The risperdal litigative activity continues well into late August 2012. THe following are articles off the internet.

(1)Janssen Pharmaceutical's 181M settlement will flow into Missouri....Kansas City Business Journal- Aug 30, 2012.
(2)Oregon to receive 4.2 million in Risperdal illegal marketing.
(3) 258M jury verdict for State of Lousianna upheld- San Francisco Chroncile - Sept 4 2012.
(4) Tennessee settles Risperdal Marketing case - UPI.com - August 30, 2012.
(5) J&J settles Risperdal Mkg. case with 36 states seems cheap"
(6) Drug maker to pay record breaking 181 million to N.C. 36 other....equities.com - Aug 31, 2012.
(7) Johnson & Johnson - Life after the Patent cliff? Seeking alpha.

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No kidding this is bloated.... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 7:14 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by nevergonna: | Reply

No kidding this is bloated. There might be something here, but it's impossible to find beneath all the curlicues and glib BS. The laugh-riot continues when you realize "alone" (copious tears!) from time-to-time takes to criticizing other people's writing as "masturbation". This is gawd-awful, to say nothing of ignorant. To take one example:

"...and there's nothing worse than an unreliable Dad, unless it's an unreliable God."

Huh? Anyone who wasn't asleep during the Intro to Classical Thought can swat this one away.

I'll be back. I admit I love this blog - if your reading it, it's for you. And if you are "writing" it, it *is* you.

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Wow. I guess.I'm o... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 7:57 PM | Posted by Vizsla1086: | Reply

Wow. I guess.

I'm often wowed by the insights here, but at long last I'm sitting here thinking "either I've lost it, or TLP has no point whatsoever here."

Yes. We often see ourselves as "risk exceptions." Yes. Government usually tries to protect its citizens, and in a society as litigious as ours, most of what's being done makes sense (at least, up to a point), and one could long for smaller government and less protections, but reasonable people could disagreee on that point.

There are gobs of math/stat theory that address risk and the poor ways we often calculate it left to our own devices, but all I can figure here is that TLP must have had a lot of time on his hands that needed filling.

Lastly, I think Jim has it right. The woman's rather cute (albeit her face is somewhat hidden) and she's hardly overweight. That alone suggests maybe you need to revisit your thinking here.

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I love the article. But the... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 10:12 PM | Posted, in reply to DensityDuck's comment, by jonny: | Reply

I love the article. But there is a creepy dichotomous contradiction in the Nanny State's caring for its consumers.

They have had the technology to limit the capacity speeds of automotive vehicles since something like WWII. There are proposals published online which were submitted to governments around the world, dating back 20-25 years, calling for the state to regulate manufacturers to preclude the shipping of new cars to the market with capacity speeds of 150-180 mph. Good for crashes. Not so good for humans.

Proposals denied.

40,000 Americans die as a result of excessive speed on US roads, every year. The number of injuries sustained it the real horror. Whatever number you guess, you won't be close. It's not like anyone has been conditioned to believe speed is associated with cool, grown up, fun and sex, or anything.

This of course, is capitalism. But it makes the net under the Golden Gate Bridge a little...insulting.

"Please mind the gap between the train and platform."

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Assume you are doi... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 10:20 PM | Posted, in reply to sydd's comment, by jonny: | Reply

Assume you are doing this very rationally, drawing a decision tree and calculating conditional probabilities and so forth. You'll stumble upon a minus infinity benefit (death), and infinity weights out any other benefit - you won't be getting out of the house any time soon.

One ought either...to exclude death from the calculation - or, at the very least, make its effect quantifiable. Or then again, one can always be irrational.

It is rational to fear death so fervently that you forget to live?

One ought to exclude fear of death from the calculation. Caution does not preclude intelligent risk v reward analysis. Fear precludes everything and everything sane. Death is a part of life; it's not ironic that the fears of imbeciles who allowed themselves to be manipulated into being afraid of the Unknown (which is irrational), has created a world where everyone dies but I'm not sure anyone lives; I think we just survive until we fail at doing that, as well.

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The vikings are different b... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 10:43 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The vikings are different because of their society. They were exposed to propaganda -- Roman ideas and Catholic preaching and so on. They were more skeptical because they had never grown up in a society in which you could trust some random guy you'd never met to sell you safe beverages, he probably would have been much more skeptical of the whole idea. They were used to the idea that the other guy might not be friendly, or might be a cheat, or might like to put a knife in your back and have a few nights with your wench. So unlike modern people, they didn't assume that everything they saw, heard, or read was true. We do the opposite, we assume that no one would dare cheat us, or at the minimum that if they did, bad things will happen to them. So going back to soda, Pepsi makes sense because we assume that the people behind Pepsi are not going to lie lest the government or the lawyers come down on them. We assume that products are safe for use for the same reason -- we assume that fear of government would prevent a truely dangerous or addicted product could be sold.

A wolf is weary of strangers because he knows there's no one to save him from a mistake. If he doesn't know it's safe, he's in defensive mode, either ready to fight or run. A dog raised by humans looks to the humans and if the humans aren't scared, sees no danger. That's why your dog is not afraid to jump into a car. Try getting a wolf into a car -- you won't do it, and even if you do he's not going to do what a dog does -- quietly go to sleep in the back seat. He's weary of new because a mistaken trust can be fatal -- no master to rescue him, no one to bring him food if he gets trapped.

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when you jump off ... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 10:44 PM | Posted, in reply to crumbskull's comment, by jonny: | Reply

when you jump off the golden gate bridge some poor fucker in the coast gaurd has to haul your gross body onto his boat
...having heard stories from former Coast Guard members about cleaning up the messes left by the GGB suicide attempts, one should find another way. The Coasties pull the smashed and bloody bodies out of the water. Not much is left that looks like the person that was. No open caskets and a lot of mess. Memories of dragging the bodies up still haunts them.

Cry me a harbour. They shouldn't be working for a State that denies its slaves the intrinsic right of humankind to choose to exit the game with dignity and decency and under the supervision of professionals who have the capacity to ensure no one is traumatised or suffers unnecessarily.

The Coast Guard works for the State. If they have a problem with cleaning up after the State's obsession with manufacturing sustaining suffering and exploiting trauma for the purposes of control (watch the 'news', some time), they should stop collaborating with the enemies of Decency.

When Water Police whine about how they had to interrupt their pleasant day on the harbour (when, shock! horror! they had a job to do, and inevitably failed to solve squat), I - for one - am always one of the first to start sobbing.

The Humanity...!

Should we all have a group hug? I think we should all hug it out. Some horrid cliches and tender expressions of sympathy and insulting assertions that "everything is going to be okay", might be a nice way to find 'closure' on the emotionally unpleasant ordeal, as well. Don't you agree?

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We assume that pro... (Below threshold)

September 13, 2012 11:13 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by jonny: | Reply

We assume that products are safe for use for the same reason -- we assume that fear of government would prevent a truely dangerous or addicted product could be sold.

Like the product of war?

We...?

Imbeciles assume that products are safe because, in their powerless state, they imagine it suits their purposes to be Trusting instead of going to the effort of exercising what tiny power we individually retain over our own actions, knowledge and awareness of risk/s.

If you assume that "fear of the government" is going to keep you safe, you should take a stroll in Arlington Cemetery some time.

The reason imbeciles believe products like war, driving, fighting and breeding ain't no big deal...is because they have been conditioned to feel that way. Alone's argument re: Pepsi is brilliantly made. If you can't instantly understand that the effort undertaken was not redundant but required to condition 'our' preferences and choices in a way that leaves us imagining we actually have 'free will'; you should go ask your mother why she raised you to please.

We are all victims of multiple Protection Rackets; i.e. they are victims of their own stupidity brought on by their fealty to those who - when they failed to ensure transparency - simultaneously disclosed their intent to deceive by asserting we should Trust, Love, have Faith, Respect and give them the Benefit of the Doubt.

Otherwise, you'll just be paranoid.

Anyone who does this should literally never be Trusted, Loved, Believed, given Faith or the Benefit of the Doubt for the sole reason that to do so would be batshit insane. It's not whether or not they're maliciously lying to you; that they are is a given. The question is how malicious is their intent?

If they're hiding their malice from you, it's pretty bad. Their generic malice just flies over the heads of everyone.

Vassals fight and die for 'sovereigns' not because they love their overlords but because they have long since forgotten the moment of trauma when they glimpsed Truth and recoiled in horror. Terrified at the implications, they've been lying to themselves every since; curling up tighter and tighter under the wing of the dragon that made them afraid (for that explicit reason).

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FAWK YEW!!!! TLP can prattl... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 1:44 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

FAWK YEW!!!! TLP can prattle on all he wants. I'll read it all. I may or may not troll him afterward, but I WILL read and feel something, either anger or agreement or angry agreement.

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This makes me wonder about ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 2:45 AM | Posted by Or: | Reply

This makes me wonder about the stuff in the shelf of supermarket that is specifically branded as "not corporate poison" and costs twice as much. Do you buy it to make you feel like you are taking back control of your life, or because you specifically don't believe the state would protect you from corporate poison because believing in the state is terribly unfashionable, so you pledge allegiance to some other authority? Which is a more important identity to project, that you are independent, or that you are among those who see the truth?

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Whoops, pardon the grammar.... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 2:47 AM | Posted by Or: | Reply

Whoops, pardon the grammar. Alone's not the only one hitting the rum tonight.

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I think the problem here ar... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 7:57 AM | Posted by sunny day: | Reply

I think the problem here are the people acting like they're somehow oppressed by the decision to put a net under a bridge.

There are genuine end-of-life issues that have to do with the state, but they usually involve people with limited mobility. Those people aren't going to jump off any bridges. If you can jump off a bridge, you can jump off the top level of a parking garage and get the same result. Or figure out how to climb out of the net if you really must die on the Golden Gate.

The government does not exist to ensure that wannabe suicides have absolute freedom of choice in their methods.

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I think we're on the same p... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 9:46 AM | Posted, in reply to jonny's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I think we're on the same page -- the point is that essentially we're domesticated dogs whereas our ancestors are wolves. A dog will do a lot of things a wolf simply will not do. No wolf would herd a sheep for a master, nor attack another creature on behalf of their master, nor would they simply assume that a thing is safe simply because master is around and acting as though it's safe.

It's easy to get a domesticated animal to do things for you. Just make "good things" dependent on obedience and subservience. You want that dog biscut? fetch my slippers. in your mouth. You want to sit by the fire -- herd my sheep, all day long. Then they promise to protect you from dangers.

My point with the above story in my post was that once you are domesticated, you assume that your master will protect you, so your instincts for self preservation atrophy. You do things that a "wild" human simply would not do. You don't check on ingredients or health information (all of which you can access on a smartphone in your pocket). You assume that a product by virtue of being available is safe and approriate for home use -- more because you trust "master" than because you use information available to you (again, for most of us, on a smartphone). A Viking would check for the most part. He's aware that cheating is possible and likely. He's aware that not everyone is friend. He's not used to "master" vetting everything in his environment for him, so he checks himself.

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I love Ms. Foroohar's assum... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 10:05 AM | Posted by Jay: | Reply

I love Ms. Foroohar's assumption that, if the government just had more time, they'd stop with the bickering and fix things.

What does she think they're waiting for?

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Alone is describing a real ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 10:14 AM | Posted by antiSuffragete: | Reply

Alone is describing a real phenomenon, but that thing has mushroomed since we gave women the vote. It's the female mind writ large, and we're all being conditioned into it. Repeal the 19th Amendment or it will only get worse.

The Time editor example was perfect. That is EXACTLY how most women (and a few men) approach issues like this. That's fine, as long as they're doing so over dinner. When they're doing half of the voting, and more than half of the spending, that's a problem.

So the question is this: do you dislike today's status quo badly enough to remove some of the ingredients that make it like it is? Do you even dislike it badly enough to talk like that in public?

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There's a lot of good stuff... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 11:02 AM | Posted by cosmiccharlie: | Reply

There's a lot of good stuff in here, but a quick kvetch:

TLP frequently uses this argument form:

Vikings (or Somalians, or whatever) wouldn't choose x, therefore your decision to choose x is conditioned by your environment and isn't really free.

This is a total howler. The assumption here seems to be that acting on a preference is "free" only if that preference is innate or biologically driven or for whatever other reason shared with all people in all times. That's silly.

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Well if you study science, ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 11:51 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Well if you study science, the idea of free will is fairly sketchy to begin with. Their is some degree of cellular/atomicuncertainty and randomness, but basically the concept of free will is an experiential phenomen of a bunch of atoms bonded together in a complex play of cellular activity that generates the subective experience of "choice".

Your belief in will is proof positive you believe that your emotional self is an entity and a united "spirit" which proves that if you pretend to be an athiest while upholding this unproven believe you are not as objective as you claim about the existance of unproven myths that are kind to our psyche's.

The advertising psychologists/scientists/and professionals however are perfectly aware that the human is an animal that can be modified and controlled for business profits or whatever purpose with proper subliminal training--- and regardless of what harm this kind of training will bring to the humans manipulated in this way.

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What's sad is that there ar... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 11:55 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

What's sad is that there aren't very many ethical businesses in existance. Which means the standards of performance in ethical business are pretty high and job opportunities low.

You wouldn't think it, but working somewhere ethical is in fact a privaledge of able bodied/minded people. For the rest of us we slave to the corporations that will tolerate us and sell shit products/services to the masses as our corporate overlords command us to feed our children. It's the American Dream. Shit on everyone around you to make a buck and don't care how many humans you damage along the way. Well if it's between that and being unemployed, which is more ethical?

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This entry by TLP could be ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 4:07 PM | Posted, in reply to themadstork's comment, by Lester Barnwell: | Reply

This entry by TLP could be interesting extra reading for a jurisprudence class.

themadstork's observations remind me of the furor Duncan Kennedy created when he suggested in the mid-1980s that judges (or more accurately, their law clerks) write opinions by having a result in mind, and working backward to find cases and other authorities which support the desired result. "Legal realism" is what Kennedy called it (later softened under the name "critical legal studies"), but it upset everyone who imagined and wanted to protect the notion that judicial opinions reach results because of "precedent." Even the most Judicial Restraint-oriented fan of Tony Scalia or Clarence Thomas would laugh at the idea that "precedent" restricts, that it is a mandatory guide toward a given result.

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I would be interested in yo... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 5:04 PM | Posted by GOTO10: | Reply

I would be interested in your opinion on how to break out of this situation. Or if we even should!

I've been thinking about cigaretts and alcohol lately. Both are legit dangerous and kill people. The omnipotent authority has managed to successfully curtail cigarretts, but not alcohol. Why is this accepted? Why aren't people outraged by each alcohol death?

Is it only because we are taught from an early age about the dangers of these objects? Can't be. We were warned about buckyballs too.

Does alcohol fit in the system somehow? Drinking itself becomes a token rebellion to keep you plugged into the system. I'm told alcohol is dangerous but not THAT dangerous, therefore I'm proving my free will by drinking it. While at the same time the real dangers are transfered safely away. E.X. The fault of the drunk driver was the 'driver' irresponsibly becoming a 'drunk'. Transfer the blame to the individual, and you can keep drinking your beer. And the system will gladly pay the 75,000 deaths per year to keep the rest of us plugged in.

And maybe having a "god" is the right decision. Let people be free up to the limits of their agency, and protect them from what is beyond their ability to control. If you say 'no we must have free will' then are you willing to accept the deaths that will result? Would you rather be safe or free if being free makes your life a shit hole. Damn I need to go re-read brave new world.

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Imagine if when Buckybal... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 5:05 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Imagine if when Buckyballs were first invented, the manufacturer decided not to bring them to market because they were too dangerous.

You mean like marijuana or whatever other drugs we don't want the government telling us we can't use? (Yes I'm aware marijuana was once not prohibited, but that was so long before existence of anyone who cares about an issue like that it's irrelevant.)

YOUR brain is broken, Mr. Sees-The-Matrix.

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I would genuinely like to h... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 6:02 PM | Posted by anonymous 1151 1155: | Reply

I would genuinely like to hear the disagreement with my comments if the thumber downer would be willing to share.

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NO. You just get downvoted ... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 6:05 PM | Posted, in reply to anonymous 1151 1155's comment, by Arronski: | Reply

NO. You just get downvoted without debate. This is American democracy - not deliberative democracy.

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It's not that it's not a fr... (Below threshold)

September 14, 2012 8:35 PM | Posted, in reply to cosmiccharlie's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

It's not that it's not a free choice.

It's a bit more complex than that. My point is that most moderns much like domesticated animals have made a sort of general bargin -- more control and more trust of authority, as long as the "powers" (and these have been different things at different times) generally agree to keep bad things from happening. You dog does choose to come when called -- it's just that unlike other canines (wolves, foxes, cayotes) the context is that the powers have struck a bargin. But for a person or a creature that doesn't share the context, the idea is silly. Why do you trust Coke and Pepsi? As TLP mentioned, it's happening in the context of a situation in which we've essentially outsourced some of our self preservation to government, and thus since we assume that government (in the role of Power) is supposed to punish anyone the hurts us. My point is that it's a bargin, one made much like the dog whereas our medieval ancestors were much more wolflike.

It's all a free choice, at least insofar as any choice you make is free. But it comes in the context. We agreed to change the context to one in which we agree not to act like wild animals in return for stability.

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You're close, but there is ... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2012 12:25 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You're close, but there is no great difference among human eras regarding the security/freedom bargain. E.g., the feudal system was precisely such a bargain, and we are not that far removed from it. The Vikings were making the same trade. Heck, marriage is even that kind of bargain. The only thing that varies is the terms, i.e. what kind of freedom you're trading for what kind of security.

Which I guess means that TLP has no point at all.

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You are definiterly not cor... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2012 12:59 AM | Posted, in reply to SightSeen's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You are definiterly not correct. Perfect example: Green light means passing through the intersection is safe. If it was't, there should have been a red light. or: Red light means passing through the intersection is un-safe. If it wasn't, there should have been a green light. Theoretically, there should be no accidents in intersections. Since that is not the case, traffic light are meaningless, and therefore should not exist.

If I ever run a red light and hit someone my argument will be, "Well, the other guy passed through a green which is supposed to mean safe. Since that is obviously not true, the cause of the accident was neither he nor I, it was the light's fault."

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Nice post. Reminded me of t... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2012 2:05 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Nice post. Reminded me of this: http://lesswrong.com/lw/gz/policy_debates_should_not_appear_onesided/

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Who made the light? Not God... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2012 8:33 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Boo: | Reply

Who made the light? Not God nor natural selection: people made it as safe as they could.

Freedom is consumption by scut-work. No one invents the internet where people have to hunt and farm their own food.

Are we essentially domesticated animals? Yes, but for our collective benefit, by ourselves, and at least a little changeable.

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So many things I'd like to ... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2012 10:00 AM | Posted by Roger Moreira: | Reply

So many things I'd like to comment... Well, I'm a lawyer in Brazil, and yesterday I was talking to a friend that I don't even remember how I used to think, how my mind used to work before Law School. Before I gain the knowledge that almost everything is under some rule. But I'm sure I was too naive. I believed I was much more free than I really am.
That reminds me when I used to take a bus to campus. Good to make friends. And I met a girl, she was studying History. Well, in Brazil if you don't study law, medicine, math, economics or some other kind of "serious things", that's for sure you are a leftist. And she was. And for her I was a bourgeois pretending to not be. Well, we started talking about this exact topic. And during this conversation, just to prove her that my studying field was very important, cool, exciting et cetera, I started to point how everything around us was under some regulation that she can't even imagine the existence. And that it was necessary, and good for society, and so on. Well at the end of my own talk, I got hit by the enlightenment. First time I understood what you are saying.

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going to law school tends t... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2012 7:27 PM | Posted, in reply to Roger Moreira's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

going to law school tends to sharply increase one's social dominance orientation, whereas studying social sciences or humanities tends to cause it to decrease, though less markedly.

this of course is based on studies in North America, I wonder if the same would be true of studying law in Brazil?

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Maybe I'm not supersmart, b... (Below threshold)

September 15, 2012 10:12 PM | Posted by Anonymouse: | Reply

Maybe I'm not supersmart, but I didn't get the "hence the Buddhism" part. Was that a "hence the rum, haha I'm so cynical and cool and alcoholism-is-romantic-in-a-Hemingway-sort-of-way" statement equating Buddhism to another mindless analgesic? Thank you in advance.

P.S. Reader of a few months, first time poster. Appreciate the blog mostly.

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I remember playing with th... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2012 8:17 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I remember playing with those shiny buckyballs as a kid. I loved them. What about marbles though? They are pretty (kid-attracting) and pretty much the same. So, if there's good reasong to ban buckyballs, we should ban the colorful marbles too. It is true I think that since colorful marbles have been around for so long (my grandad played with them and kids used to trade them in the olden times, now they're more decorative) they must have been tested enough so as to determine they're not lethal.

You are right that this faith in the system may be misguided but I think what people are thinking when naming the buckyballs ban silly is that there are so many similar things around that are not banned - so that makes the decision to ban this particular type of round, shiny thing questionable. A ban should give better reasons - I dunno if the fact that they're magnetic & made of iron makes them worse than marbles - maybe it does. A ban should prove that buckyballs are somehow more dangerous than other similar non-banned things to have the support of the public.

I think it has to do with the fact that it's one single company that makes them, so it's easy to ban them - just sue them. Marbles and other little things have been around for so long, that even though they may be just as dangerous, it's harder to control their distribution.

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I think I actually see what... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2012 10:24 AM | Posted by JohnJ: | Reply

I think I actually see what you mean this time. You're saying that people think some "ultimate arbiter" will see how well-intentioned they are, and so they don't have to actually do anything. This excuses them for failing. It excuses them from even trying, because all they have to do is "care", which is a lot "safer" (to the psyche) than actually doing something. But when we see that what we cause to happen is what makes the difference, then we overcome our fear of doing. Inaction is the "status quo". "The system" promotes inaction, while at the same time also encouraging people to "care" in place of action, because to act could endanger the system.

I think.

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"Maybe I'm not supersmart, ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2012 11:45 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"Maybe I'm not supersmart, but I didn't get the "hence the Buddhism" part. Was that a "hence the rum, haha I'm so cynical and cool and alcoholism-is-romantic-in-a-Hemingway-sort-of-way" statement equating Buddhism to another mindless analgesic? Thank you in advance."

Don't feel bad, a lot of this shit flies over my head too. I think he means Buddhism is an answer to an unreliable god b/c in Buddhism the god is the self, and you are responsible for your own enlightenment or entrance into heaven, Nirvana, etc.

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Well, lawyers tend to behav... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2012 1:54 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Roger Moreira: | Reply

Well, lawyers tend to behave as alpha males. Very proud of themselves and competitive. Also, Brazil is a very burocratic society, and the knowledge of how things work gives a omnipotence feeling.

The full knowledge of the government structures and law is not accessible to ordinary people. Even the most educated people are not able to deal with it. And that's a lack of democracy for sure.

Internal critics named Brazil a "Republic of Graduates" in the early 20th century. And that heritage still lives, as majority of government officials and state employees are... Lawyers. It's very difficult for others pass the qualification tests and choice process to this jobs. Wages are very good, far above market value.

In the other hand, Law Firms are a family business. Grandsons and sons of great lawyers become great lawyers. It's not enough to be the best, market is very competitive and you also need to have a name and know the right people. I belive in USA is not that different, is it?

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BRILLIANT! ...though it wo... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2012 2:40 PM | Posted by tess: | Reply

BRILLIANT! ...though it would take me 50 years to decide if it's actually sophistry. ;-)

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To different degrees yes. ... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2012 5:19 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

To different degrees yes. But Vikings weren't medieval yet. They were more tribal. You were part of a tribe that sure you traded, but you were also farming, raping and pillaging. You were responsible to the tribe, and the tribe was supposed to have your back. Sure, they weren't at each other's throat, but at the same time, if you weren't in the same group, you were distrusted.

Personally, I think we've slipped so far into the domesticated side of things. We expect not only to be protected form other people's bad behavior, but our own as well. We don't bother to worry about whether a toy is safe enough around our kids, so long as the government says it's safe.

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Another excellent, thought-... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2012 7:22 PM | Posted by James: | Reply

Another excellent, thought-provoking article.

However, you need to take a break from the porn.

Before watching the "director's cut" of the video, I thought that the woman who trips on the steps was doing something that we've all done. I didn't hate her, I didn't even think she is significantly overweight.

If this is what you thought, or worse, if it is what you expected us to think, you need to ask yourself where this hatred and cynicism are coming from.

And, in answer to the question, "Have you ever seen a bus and had the fantasy that if you got hit, you could sue the city for $5M?" No, never, the thought had not even occurred to me. Same comment as above.

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One of the people advoca... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2012 7:27 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by James: | Reply

One of the people advocating for the net is the guy who survived a GBB suicide jump. I remember him during an interview saying how he jumped from the bridge, and then instantly realized he made a mistake. Duh.

If the net had been there, he wouldn't have realized his mistake. It's only if he'd crawled to the edge of the net, jumped again, and had nothing between him and the sea except air, that he would have got the "duh" moment.

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If the people don't underst... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2012 8:18 PM | Posted, in reply to Roger Moreira's comment, by Jay: | Reply

If the people don't understand the laws, why do you think the laws are being followed?

Are you sure it's not the lawyers who are fooling themselves about how tightly the people are controlled?

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People doesn't need to unde... (Below threshold)

September 16, 2012 10:03 PM | Posted, in reply to Jay's comment, by Roger Moreira: | Reply

People doesn't need to understand or even know every law to live their lifes. The whole point is how much of your life is ruled by other people, by government and law without your knowledge. To live a ordinary life you just follow common sense, tradition, your mother sayings and the bible. That's what everybody does here or in America.
But I'm talking about Brazil, a very burocratic society as I said. I'll let you say if there are similarities.
Here for every product you buy, you pay taxes, companies need register and license to exist and work, there are labor laws, security regulations, technical regulations to production, consumers rights, corporative laws, trade laws, property laws, market regulation, and so on.
And that's for every aspect of life you can imagine. Wanna marry? Divorce? Have children? Did your testament? There are a lot of "family rights" in Brazil.
Drive a car? Traffic laws. Wanna buy a house? Oh, that's very burocratic too. Travel? You'll need a passport. Stay in the country? Immigration laws. Politics? Laws. Elections? Laws. International affairs? Laws. Ecology? Laws.Criminality? Laws. Education? Laws. Food? Laws. Medicine? Laws. City laws, state laws, federal laws.
I can go on the whole day and night, but I think you got it. Not every law is to be known or understood by you, but it's there. That's the point.

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the reasoning is that if ma... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2012 5:12 AM | Posted, in reply to cosmiccharlie's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

the reasoning is that if marketing couldn't influence people there would be no need to spend millions on it. And it's difficult to argue that the success of pepsi is due to the unique taste

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The young adult commercials... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2012 10:03 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The young adult commercials really get me. I see these commercials branding identity with film and clothing brands. You hear a Sprite commercial that says "Be yourself. Drink Sprite."

But here's where the market wins. The "smart" listener says to themselves "Well I'm smart. I won't just obey some adverstising that tells me to drink a soda to be myself." And that's how the market really gets you. Because it feeds you this to make you think you won. You think advertisers aren't aware that commercial is blatantly obvious to the average listener?

"Be yourself. Drink Sprite."

Yes they are aware that while that will work on enough people to be worth it, that another market of consumers is "above" being swayed by advertising. You think advertisers aren't aware of the work they need to do to catch the demographics that believe they are "above" advertising?

What do really think is being done with huge tons of demographic information being compiled daily by the billions from facebook and google and tracking sites that log user information and computer use?

I do wonder if advertisers ever wake up in the morning ask themselves "What kind of work would I do if I actually had a system of ethics that involved other human beings than myself and the people I selfishly care about."

All you need to do to get the markets that are "above" advertising is pull up their musical interests and purchase history. You think that isn't easy info these days?

"I like to make ethical purchases."

So after the illegal immigrants harvest the vegetables they just need an "organic" label and the market wins. Themarket doesn't have a consience, it will do what it can to ensure the sale, and to make every appearance of being what consumers want without actually caring if it is healthy for consumers or anyone else.

It is the reality that in a sense, Americans in business are opposed to ethics. Not just shy about ethics but OPPOSED to ethics playing a role in the consumer market. Free market means zero ethics. The American Dream. And whoever suffers as a result gets sold by the press as an object lesson in stupidity and human failure. THIS GUY deserved his heart attacks from eating hamburgers. He did it to himself.

But when you buy a hamburger occasionally, you're not signing up for one. You're different. You're responsable and think through your decisions and weigh risks and take a reasonable amount of risks. If something bad happens to you, then sure it would be your fault but you know it won't REALLY happen to you and after all it's worth the risk. Whe YOU make the same decision, you're not the same as the fool whobrought disaster on themselves. You're different because when you do the samething nothing bad happens, proving you're smarter.

Advertisers know all of this a millions times over. All the common cognitive distortions, just world fallacies, false sense of internal locus of control. It is what they live for understanding intimately. How to make you dance for them like monkeys and not know it. How to get the sales, regardless of how the service/product affects the people who get influenced to consume it. Regardless of how the workers are affected by producing the product/service.

The only way to stop this is to KNOW the businesses you interact with. And I mean know where their shop is located, know how the employees are treated, know how much effort they put into environmentally sound production, know how much effort they put into producing products/services that are compatible with human health and well being. Do the underlings have a chance to move up? And it also means valuing the means of production and quality of production over cheap. Which is a hard sell on Americans who believe that cheap is the most noble ethic in the marketplace, no matter how much harm occurs to make it happen.

What's interesting is that cheap itself is a conceptthatbasically means someone produced a quality product and is not being paid well so that you can have that product for less. The concept is itself built on treating employees badly. The idea is that the cutis coming from the people at the top. They have billions and can afford to produce quality products forcheapbecause they care about low income and middle class Americans. But the cut doesn't come from them. It comes from sweatshop labor instead of American labor. It comes from low wage employees who will never know what it's like to work a part time schedule because they have the income to take that luxury, to be secure in retiring, to take vacations, to flex work hours spend time with family, to spend time on interesting pursuits, to take a break from hard physical labor when their bodies and minds feel like they have reached maximum capacity for work load.

Cheap is the mantra the overlords use to keep the working wo/man enslaved to businesses that treat employees like crap and proud of themselves all the while. The cut doesn't come from the people at the top. It's taken from the working poor and then sold back to them as a way of life-- like feeding cows beef to fatten them up for the slaughter.

And the rich get richer.

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Personally I think it's tim... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2012 10:24 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Personally I think it's time we stop suggesting "poor" people are ethically compelled to make unethical purchases in the name of cheap. For one thing, most people think they are poor, making this ethical lifestyle of "I HAVE to shop at Walmart, I'm too poor to afford ethical purchases" the norm rather than the exception. I think we need so stop excusing poor people from makind ethical decisions. You don't HAVE to toaster made buy children in a sweatshop just because you're poor. YOU DON'T EVEN ACTUALLY NEED TOASTER. You don't HAVE to buy a vaccuum cleaner, or a new couch, or a computer, or a dishwasher or a lamp. You realize human beings survived thousands of years without any of these things? The illusion is that any of us needs any of these things other than basic food and protection from the elements.

And that if we are poor than we must therefore be slaves to the mantra of cheap and all the unjust practices business use to convince us we "need" things we don't really need, to be dependant onconsumer goods that are irrelevant to survival or evenquality of life and make us agree that sweat shop labor or poorly treated employees are a necessary evil to serve these "needs" that the meanwhile advertisers had to spend billions to convince people were "needs" rather than flippant wants that might not even be healthy for human beings or society as a whole.

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I was thinking about the ki... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2012 10:39 AM | Posted by Gin and Tonic: | Reply

I was thinking about the kid crossing the street. I didn't much pay attention to the advertising blah blah (I barely watch television and haven't for years) but I thought about when someone knows you and what is going on with you really well and how as odd or enfuriating as it can be there is something kind of nice about it as well. Maybe that is the intimacy thing people talk about. When someone gets really deep down in there it feels kind of hot, even if it's not sexual it has a lot of potential for it. I had forgotten, as often as i tell people that the sex is an expression of the self not an obfuscation of it--- I had forgotten that, and it's important. That's where the heat is. That's where the self is.
But now i've waaaaay passed my daily limit on intimacy. (Smile). And as usual, I took this piece in bits and pieces and did what I wanted with it. Just, sometimes it is not so bad if someone cares a little bit especially when you can't do it yourself.

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For another symptom of the ... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2012 1:19 PM | Posted by TheGooFromSpace: | Reply

For another symptom of the rejection of authority paired with trust of seemingly omnipotent entities, see also: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2692#comic

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I remember being a child go... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2012 2:13 PM | Posted by Vandal: | Reply

I remember being a child going on my first big roller coaster and my older brother told me "they wouldn't let people ride on it if it weren't safe" and that comforted me and gave me the bravery to try all the rides (despite being below the height limit for most of them). Something about that always stuck with me when thinking of infrastructure. That it must be reasonably safe if engineers and business folks above me and surely smarter than me approved of it. Along with thousands of people trying these things before me and not dying yet.

Now I'm almost done with my engineering degree and realize they/we (engineers) think the public is stupid and design around that. Also not everything is safe just because an engineer approved of which I say because now I'm almost an engineer and can't trust myself as any higher authority, though hopefully someone with their PE can sign off for me and validate me while taking all responsibility/risk for that.


But the public is treated like it's dumb because it is. You're all thinking of seat-belts and helmets but it's everywhere, even your computer is only giving you some control because it doesn't trust you. Yes you, who keeps putting off the auto-updates until your computer forces it on you. "OH god, how dare my computer shut down without me telling it to!" Because you suck at keeping up with updates that are required so it doesn't bum the hell out, idiot. Bitch about cars with back-up warnings and "accident-awareness-detection" being for poor drivers and asian women but the current car-death in America is staggeringly high and it's because you're an idiot. Don't worry though because engineers and policy makers are going to try covering that in bubble wrap so you won't have to demean yourself to paying attention in a safety-driving class.

But it will all be "optional". The knight-rider will just suggest politely that you shouldn't swerve left because there's a truck in your blind spot (that you didn't check). It's up to you not to swerve and you don't. But you can't blame an accident on Kitt/car-company because he just suggested and the "choice" was all yours. It's the same reason your speedometer is inaccurate by a few miles below. So the car company isn't possibly liable for your accident.

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It's easy to get a... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2012 3:04 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by jonny: | Reply

It's easy to get a domesticated animal to do things for you. Just make "good things" dependent on obedience and subservience.

Ah yes. 100% on same page. Sticks & Carrots is how we raise human...dogs. Whoever heard of explaining motive, or rationalising preferred behaviour or making the logical case to children (or to 'criminals'of passion) for why they should want to act in their own best interests.

We just hit them, "Don't!" Throw them in prison to teach them not to [kill their three teenage daughters again for talking to boys].

But how can we expect that father not to raise daughters again to their teen years, only to kill them again for profit? The judge declared his actions sane. He killed his teenage daughters for embarrassing him in his imagination, and this was in his own best interests! This is sane behaviour. Intriguing.

The Norwegian mass murderer who gunned down 77 people including children for their parents' religions beliefs...he was also sane, apparently. I think if you assert that murdering children is sane, Society should promptly Rest you In Peace.

>GOTO10: Does alcohol fit in the system somehow? Drinking itself becomes a token rebellion to keep you plugged into the system. I'm told alcohol is dangerous but not THAT dangerous, therefore I'm proving my free will by drinking it. While at the same time the real dangers are transfered safely away.

Jesus didn't turn the water into wine for no reason. He could have turned it into Pasteurized milk - well no he couldn't, but then why aren't we arresting literally every Christian and forcing them to explain this outrageous discrepancy?

Jesus turned the water into a toxic drug of dependency, alcohol. I think they keep it legal because it's the sleaziest, creepiest, most deceptive and dangerous of all drugs. I'd rather smoke heroin than get drunk because...it would be safer. Alcohol is by far the most emotive drug of all (and I have dabbled across the board). I think its primary utility might be to surreptitiously trick children into falling for the old "You're not old enough to have fun. Don't drink until you're old enough! You were warned."

That Ten Commandments play never gets old.

Alcohol is more dangerous in many respects than hallucinogens, primarily because it's so deceptive. You feel you're in control, until you face-plant (or hit a stationary object when you're doing 80mph). Whoops. On LSD, you might have a tiger chasing you and you might not know if the tiger is actually there, but you know you're not going to fall over playing it safe. Intoxicated with alcohol, you'd take out half a dozen others with you just trying to reach the door.

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It's all a free ch... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2012 3:38 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by jonny: | Reply

It's all a free choice, at least insofar as any choice you make is free. But it comes in the context. We agreed to change the context to one in which we agree not to act like wild animals in return for stability.

And we're no longer on the same page. How can you assert it's a "free" choice when it's so clearly an insane choice to make? The government cannot protect you, because the government needs to validate the necessity of its existence. This means War, routine and never-ending War (or vassals would just get too comfortable and start questioning what the government was good for).

I can see the validity of your argument if the choice was not so clearly a decision against the individual's best interests. I can use Alone's argument winning trick here to prove this point; if it could even be plausibly argued to be in the individual's best interest, they wouldn't need to start drilling nationalist and racist emotional poison into children from the moment they're impressionable. They wouldn't need to be so furiously obsessed with brainwashing children to be exploitable in times of War.

Honour
Loyalty
Fealty
Identity
Heroism
Bravery
Respect
Dignity
Self-sacrifice
Nobility
Superiority / Inferiority
Heritage
Cowardice
Love
Idealism
Sentimentality
Betrayal
Treason

It's all Queen, God & Country stuff. It has been ever since butchers were turned into 'sovereigns' by the Holy Roman Emperor at Munster in 1648.

This is the Patron System, the feudal ages. They never ended, they're doing this shit to vassals all over Asia. And the US and Europe, of course; it's just more pronounced in SE Asia. Our Protection Racketeering patrons (Religion & the State) just got a lot better at conditioning children to grow up wanting to die for illusions, killing or getting killed in bloody wars against the slave armies of nearby (or distant) plantations.

Once the emotional corruption begins, nothing is a "free choice". The child might believe they chose but they were manipulated. From the moment a child is sold a single lie, nothing they choose from that point forward is of their "free will". So until their first Xmas, if they're lucky.

On the issue of governments acting in the citizenry's best interest, I prefer to bluntly state the obvious:

ไม่มีเหตุผลใดที่เราจะป้องกันไม่ให้เกิดจากการสื่อสารที่

I'm certain you can see my point.

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could you restate the obvio... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2012 6:17 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

could you restate the obvious in English. I don't speak Thai.

But even a bad decision is a free choice. People freely choose to become alcoholics, people freely choose to become dependent on states, people freely choose to go base jumping. Just because a person does something obviously bad for them doesn't mean that they didn't choose it.

Secondly, yes a dog does lots of things a dog wouldn't do, as it's simply easier to be a domestic dog than a wild dog. I don't think that means that dogs don't on some level choose to obey master. Dogs still break the rules, jump on the furniture, nip at your ankles. A dog can turn vicious if abused enough. So to say that once a dog is domesticated, it never makes another real decision, that's not true. I think that it's sort of easier for the dog, even a working dog, to live with the status quo rather than risk everything on the wild life. But even then, both humans and animals reject that life.

I do think that the longer a creature lives the domesticated lifestyle, the harder it is to go back to the wild state. The longer people live within a system that rewards obedience and punishes disobedience, the more they learn to trust master, the harder it is to question that system. I've seen it on some issues. People literally cannot conceive that in the event of a major bank failure, the FDIC cannot possibly bail out everyone who has a bank account. The math says so, but people need to believe that the government can save them. They also cannot conceive that the government might have agendas that are literally against the people.

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The Holy Bible.... (Below threshold)

September 17, 2012 10:52 PM | Posted, in reply to Nelson's comment, by Harry: | Reply

The Holy Bible.

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ไม่มีเหตุผลใดที่เราจะป้องกั... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2012 6:51 AM | Posted by GT: | Reply

ไม่มีเหตุผลใดที่เราจะป้องกันไม่ให้เกิดจากการสื่อสารที่

From some online translation websites:

"There is no reason for us to prevent the communication"
"There is no reason that we will prevent it from the communication."
"There is no reason that we will prevent it from the communication."

Yes, what reason does the government have to stop pushing what is in its best interest even at the expense of the individual?

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I decided to list some fu... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2012 2:01 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I decided to list some further news on the risperdal litigation going around the country even though it has no relevance to the article here. There have been some interesting developments and twists and turns on the news front.

"J&J CEO Alex Gorsky talks Risperdal, via deposition with lawyers..."
"WHistleblower honored in Texas, fired in Pa." Philadelphia Pa.
"J&J's CEO should be forced to testify, Texas lawyers say" Bloomberg.
"J&J sees male breasts and quickly settles risperdal suit."
"J&J admits no guilt in paying off states for risperdal"
"J&J loses appeal of 257.7 million ripserdal verdict" Businessweek - August 31, 2012.
"J&J's settlement over risperdal marketing comes with a twist" Ycharts Ed Silverman. September 06. 2012.

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Was wondering what he was t... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2012 4:35 PM | Posted by Roman: | Reply

Was wondering what he was talking about with the whole "You believe in God even if you don't" bit. He was talking about this:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/uk/beyond_the_reach_of_god/

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God, the state, and the fat... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2012 6:15 PM | Posted, in reply to Roman's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

God, the state, and the father are all concepts that tend to be linked in the mind, at least unconsciously. this is a pretty standard psychoanalytic claim, and almost sure to be what TLP was referring to.

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OK, so humans create instit... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2012 6:48 PM | Posted by Eneasz: | Reply

OK, so humans create institutions to make their environment safer, and then offload their own responsibilities onto these institutions. I’m not sure it's fair to say this is bad. An individual human can only do so much. Individual humans are weak and small, and we can do things of Power only by combining our efforts. To do something noteworthy, we much focus on our specialty and trust others to do focus on theirs. To create a strong meta-individual, we cannot all be completely responsible for everything – we need some specialists in responsibility as well. Not every cell in the human body can fight off hostile invaders. Most of them have other tasks, and the body couldn’t function if every cell was a white blood cell.

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Yelling at people to stop b... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2012 7:59 PM | Posted by Eneasz: | Reply

Yelling at people to stop being sheep and start taking responsibility hasn't ever worked. Crazy guys on street corners do it all the time and they're ignored. We need to formalize a mental self-defense class. Some sort of Defense Against The Dark Arts http://www.deathisbadblog.com/?p=93

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this is a rather narcissist... (Below threshold)

September 18, 2012 8:06 PM | Posted, in reply to Eneasz's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

this is a rather narcissistic collectivism you're describing.

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You write: The ... (Below threshold)

September 19, 2012 4:50 PM | Posted by Phan: | Reply

You write:

The rage isn't because the government intrudes into our lives-- it always has-- it's because it's evidence that the system wasn't-- and therefore isn't-- omniscient. When a product isn't brought to market because it's dangerous it confirms that Dad is reliable, but when it's only discovered later it suggests Dad can be unreliable, and there's nothing worse than an unreliable Dad, unless it's an unreliable God. Hence Buddhism.

I just don't get it - even after living in this country so many years. Where does the urge to throw mud and cry foul come from, immediately upon discovery that the wall has its cracks and fissures? Thereafter, one lives with no more ambition than raise their middle finger and jump off a bridge to prove the point?

But isn't the discovery that your father, God, system, or whatever baking your muffins isn't perfect, that you are, in fact, a fallen angel cut off from grace and exceptionalism a cause for celebration? Yes, celebration, because you have now more freedom to truly observe and learn, instead of just being a cog in a perfectly run machine.

What I observe of American culture, at least one side of it, exhibited by many grade-school children as compared to, say, non-Western (or as you hinted, Asian) children is their desire for power, as if it's food and shelter. They learn young to crave it in its many forms as status. Yet, the infected youth, for every dream of wanting to be a hero or superhero, there is, internally, individually, that doubtful, shameful sense of powerlessness that crushes them completely. It's epic Americanism, this generation sourpuss.

I almost think that this narcissism you're describing is just the vehicle keeping them perpetually in a state of arrested development, and they shall grow old still the same disillusioned, insecure selves fumbling for meaning but no skills to see beyond the step ahead. At any given point, things are BOTH never as good AND bad as one thinks it is.

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The rage isn't because t... (Below threshold)

September 19, 2012 8:24 PM | Posted by James: | Reply

The rage isn't because the government intrudes into our lives-- it always has ...

Not true. In Britain at least, a famous passage from A. J. P. Taylor begins "“Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman."

Since the United States was founded on principles of restraining the power of the State over the individual, I would guess that the same was true there for a time.

We tend to forget how much the power and budget of the State increased in the course of the 20th Century.

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I don't ... (Below threshold)

September 19, 2012 10:46 PM | Posted by jonny: | Reply


I don't speak Thai.

Perhaps a less narcissistic way of phrasing that would be: "Thais don't speak English".

Neither do the French. Neither do the Germans. Neither do the [insert Westphalia plantation's vassals here]. When you understand why they don't speak English and aren't being taught to communicate with Humanity in the Year of Our Overlords 2012, you will understand something arguably insightful about who speaks English and who does not.

The Americans do not. The Canadians don't. Neither do the Australians. Neither do the English, for that matter.

When you understand how the above is irrefutably true for the ever-increasing majority (pidgin babble is not a language one can use to communicate intelligence or insight so much as a butchered abortion resembling baby-talk or babbling which can effectively be used by emotional Toddlers for the purpose of expressing emotional sentiment) - then, and only then, will you understand the indescribable horror of the Patron System, and the role of government in Society in all its traumatising and incomprehensibly insane - and reductive - nature.

It's not natural. It's merely our Reality.

Let me try phrasing it this way:

IT NO NATURAL1!!!!!11 IS MER3LY OUR RAALITY111!!1 LOL

This is what the human species is being reduced to. We've been reduced to it. It's the inevitable endgame that results from the religious perception that humans can be taken 'advantage' of. Such a thing is really only possible in theological terms. When you devalue those you value - as you do every time you lie (which happens to be non-stop, even when you imagine you're telling the Truth about how you feel and what you saw and how you processed whatever data you were able to salvage from your hopelessly corrupted five senses) - in Reality, all you're really doing is devaluing your Self.

3500 years of this and...and 30,000 children under the age of 5 die every single day and no one cares. If that is not evidence of the human race being reduced to near zero, then it's evidence of the fact that value - when it has been reduced - does not bottom out at zero.

There are some negatives to devaluing your Self.

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But even a bad dec... (Below threshold)

September 19, 2012 11:39 PM | Posted, in reply to GT's comment, by jonny: | Reply

But even a bad decision is a free choice.

Nonsense. Bad decisions are made by virtue of corrupted processing. I jumped off a rocky ledge when I was 14 into a rock pool 20 feet below. I did not check water depth nor did I check for submerged hazards. The water was too murky, in any case. I didn't even want to jump. I was not given the option to make that decision.

If you believe I had free choice in that spot, then you would have been very unpopular in high school. You would have been more sane, perhaps; but I did not have free choice. I jumped.

And my head caressed a submerged rock and I came up bleeding. How many millimeters to the left for quadriplegia? How many for death?

We are victims to our conditioning. I was conditioned to please.

People freely choose to become alcoholics, people freely choose to become dependent on states, people freely choose to go base jumping.

Nonsense. Humans are coded to seek pain relief. Those who conditioned us to fail to act in our own best interests achieved this corruption of our sense of Self via remarkably transparent (if ingenious) means.

Just because a person does something obviously bad for them doesn't mean that they didn't choose it.

Nonsense. That's exactly what it means. But as you're clearly no longer impressionable, I would have to use force or coercion to get you to freely choose to see things our way.

GT: Yes, what reason does the government have to stop pushing what is in its best interest even at the expense of the individual?

I feel this is the wrong question. The right question is "What reason does the government have to fail to push what is in its (perceived) interests in order to benefit the individual?"

The answer is one of perception. Eisenhower once gave a speech warning of a very specific threat.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Eisenhower was an imbecile.

Oh I think I could prove the fact. Governments exploit humans. They do not facilitate humane behavior.

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Individual humans ... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2012 2:51 AM | Posted, in reply to Eneasz's comment, by jonny: | Reply

Individual humans are weak and small, and we can do things of Power only by combining our efforts. To do something noteworthy, we much focus on our specialty and trust others to do focus on theirs. To create a strong meta-individual, we cannot all be completely responsible for everything – we need some specialists in responsibility as well. Not every cell in the human body can fight off hostile invaders. Most of them have other tasks, and the body couldn’t function if every cell was a white blood cell.

If you read the Holy Bible, you'd realise how insightful your argument is (presumably accidentally). Religion started the lying to children. Religion not only invented misogyny, it codified it. Religion effectively reduces every human into being a white blood cell. And for 3500 years, the body of Humanity has not been functional. Prepare for Peace and you will be a sitting duck for sociopaths who prepare for War. Read Numbers 31 and you will understand what power is exclusively used for. In a sane world, the very construct of power would be an anathema.

We can do things of Magnificence only by combining our efforts. To do something noteworthy, we must focus on our specialty and permit others to focus on theirs. To create a productive meta-individual, we cannot all be completely responsible for everything. Not every woman or child or peaceful civilization can fight off hostile exploitation (never mind sociopaths using pretexts to take what is not theirs). Most humans have other tasks beyond protecting themselves from exploitation by those they Trust/ed, and the body of Humanity cannot function if every child, woman, thinker, artist, inventor, philosopher, architect, builder, designer, visionary, writer was (as we are all) forced to be a soldier or a manipulator obsessed with protecting themselves, first and foremost.

Numbers 31 (King James Version)

1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Avenge the children of Israel...
3 And Moses spake unto the people, saying...avenge the Lord.

Who's avenging whom? For what offence? Ahem.

7 And they warred...as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.

Sanity can never see Insanity coming. Prepare for peace in this horrifying abortive world created by the Abrahamic religions and you will be destroyed by those who prepare for war.

9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.
10 And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.

"If I can't use it, nobody can!" This is called Love.

13 And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp.
14 And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host...
15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?

Uh oh. In the Bible, humane humans are not permitted to go unpunished when they commit Crimes for Humanity.

16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel...to commit trespass against the Lord...and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.

Don't be humane. Or else.

17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

This is sweet. But then I'm yet to find a Christian doctor or a Christian willing or capable of clarifying how, exactly, the distinction between women (who were no longer virgins) and women children (who were virgins) could have been determined.

25 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
26 Take the sum of the prey that was taken, both of man and of beast...
27 And divide the prey into two parts; between them...who went out to battle, and between all the congregation:
28 And levy a tribute unto the Lord...one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep:
29 ...give it unto Eleazar the priest, for an heave offering of the Lord.

1 in every 500 persons to be burned as a human sacrifice to God.

32 And the booty was...
35 ...thirty and two thousand persons in all, of women that had not known man by lying with him.

32,000 "women children" virgins. This was a very large peaceful civilization obliterated by sociopaths in a single day.

40 ...of which the Lord's tribute was thirty and two persons.
41 And Moses gave the tribute, which was the Lord's heave offering, unto Eleazar the priest, as the Lord commanded Moses.

32 girls burned as a human sacrifice to God.

48 And the officers...came near unto Moses:
49 And they said unto Moses, Thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which are under our charge, and there lacketh not one man of us.

Not a single sociopath died. Was this God's work? Or merely Sanity's incapacity to see Insanity coming? Prepare for Peace in an Abrahamic religious world and you will be obliterated by Christian Soldiers.

51 And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of them, even all wrought jewels.

Religion 101. Religion invented Government. No people, in all of (known) History, have been as unlucky as the Chosen People; if only because they don't understand they've been chosen to be exploited.

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What a disappointmen... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2012 5:51 AM | Posted by Phineas: | Reply


What a disappointment, TLP.

I like your blog, but when you stray from psychotropics and into societal matters, there is just a flurry of confused ideas. Then again, I suppose it may be popular to write with conspiratorial overtones and defend you're "observations" based on psychodynamic analyses of your readership.

"What is the final common pathway of all of this? If the system is sound, there's no reason to obstruct the pressures of marketing. That's what's at stake, not your safety or your personal freedoms"

If it's circular arguments that are entertaining, you've certainly earned a paypal donation or two.

Regards,

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hahahaha what?... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2012 10:53 AM | Posted, in reply to jonny's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

hahahaha what?

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Seriously if your idea is t... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2012 11:01 AM | Posted by crumbskull: | Reply

Seriously if your idea is that ppl in the coast guard deserve the trauma of fishing out your flabby body from the water as punishment for serving a system (these areen and women professionally largely converned with saving lives hahahaha) that makes it prohibitively difficult to end your own life then lol

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those monsters lmao... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2012 11:02 AM | Posted by Crumbskull: | Reply

those monsters lmao

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the comments about free cho... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2012 11:42 AM | Posted, in reply to jonny's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

the comments about free choice are good, I don't kno9w why people down voted them. But when you take incidents between individuals and use them to make a statement about humankind in general or politics or the arms race, that can become problematic. If anything, I'd guess you'd have to compendate for nicer, kinder impulses that individuals show each other, and disregard those, though. But that's a guess, I'm just assuming that since politics and the behavior of groups tends to be not about niceness and since violence increases in groups, etc. you might be right about being prepared. Which is sad, because in a sense it plays into what those right wing Christians you hate so much want- a proliferation of weapons. Also, as we all know, not to pay taxes. I guess the middle class and poor will be paying for those weapons...

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Seriously if your ... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2012 4:52 PM | Posted, in reply to crumbskull's comment, by jonny: | Reply

Seriously if your idea is that ppl in the coast guard deserve the trauma of fishing out your flabby body from the water as punishment for serving a system

What are they guarding the coast from?

You have to get away from the religious construct of entitlement (and its counterpart, punishment). I'm not saying they deserve the inevitable (and unenviable) aspects of the role they're employed by the State to perform any more than a soldier deserves to be traumatised for life or killed; I'm merely pointing out that when they whine about it, they sound like pathetic Toddlers who whine about having to return from lunch or tea break to do jobs they don't want to do.

So why are they doing them? I know the answer. Do you?

They're _______. (Hint: starts with s and rhymes with waves).

"I'm not a slave. I get paid! I get half a dozen days off work every year to celebrate religious and state holidays! I get a fortnight of leave per annum where I am free to whine about hotels not treating me like the VIP I'm not and don't remotely want to be but really want to be insulted as if I were! Then when I get home, I can bore the crap out of the world with the evidence I took to prove that I did absolutely nothing interesting except get sunburned!"

If you don't like your job and you're not a slave, then quit.

"But I can't."

Why not?

"[insert circular fallacy tendered by slaves-in-denial for why they _choose_ to be slaves here]"
__________

The reason why it's against the Law to kill yourself but not against the Law to pretend to kill yourself in order to get attention from those who are ignoring your worthless feelings is the same reason why the State would be motivated to put a net underneath the SF bridge rather than permit humans to exercise their "free will" to die with dignity (sans pain / trauma; i.e. euthanasia).

You are slaves. Your life is not your own to take. You are the property of the State. You're allowed to Suffer; the State will even Prohibit pain-relieving medication for your benefit. And replace Desoxyn (and its generics) with the toxic, habit-forming, non-controlled controlled substance ignorant imbeciles somehow manage to confuse with methamphetamine. That's Pain-'relief' as a substitute for Pain-relief. It's very lucrative for the State but it's tantamount to genocide.

From Wikipedia:

Methamphetamine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in treating ADHD and exogenous obesity in both adults and children.[8]

Methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug in the United States and is sold under the trademark name Desoxyn.[8]

Desoxyn may be prescribed off-label for the treatment of narcolepsy and treatment-resistant depression.[9]

I don't know what toxic street poison is killing humans after first rotting away their teeth and/or turning them into (allegedly) demonic, soulless, violent criminal junkies but I would bet the lives of this entire planet that it's not pharmaceutical-grade methamphetamine. I'm reasonably confident that, for all their faults, the FDA would not be indicating meth for the treatment of children suffering from ADHD or obesity if Desoxyn turned children into street prostitutes and violent criminals.

But I'm not sure Alone is in the position to talk about scandals of this magnitude. But I certainly am and so I do, and I do so entirely Selfishly.

But you only care about you and I respect that; my argument is that you suck at being Selfish when you do that. Intelligent Selfishness requires caring about those who can deliver happiness or suffering directly to you.

But if you insist on caring only about you to the exclusion of everyone around you, good luck with that game plan. You're going to be miserable. You're going to suffer. And you should know that you are not allowed to end your Suffering. How dare you! You do not belong to you. You are the property of the State, which values you far too greatly to permit you the option to choose to die with dignity and without suffering or resorting to trauma-creating methods of ending your pain.

You're allowed to Suffer. The State will literally guarantee it. You're not allowed to end your Suffering.

That's against the Law, you know.

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Interesting. I've often fou... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2012 5:49 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymouse: | Reply

Interesting. I've often found myself curious about what Alone's perspective on Buddhism might be, given that he talks so much about narcissism and the construction of identity based on externalities, a realm that most forms of Buddhism deal with directly (Chogyam Trungpa's articulation of spiritual narcissism/materialism comes to mind).

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"Intelligent Selfishness re... (Below threshold)

September 20, 2012 10:50 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"Intelligent Selfishness requires caring about those who can deliver happiness or suffering directly to you."

care to explain how this isn't narcissism in a nutshell? I'd really love to know.

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"Intel... (Below threshold)

September 21, 2012 9:17 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by jonny: | Reply

"Intelligent Selfishness requires caring about those who can deliver happiness or suffering directly to you."

care to explain how this isn't narcissism in a nutshell? I'd really love to know.

Probably the best way to explain it would be that if the above was narcissism, not only would this blog not exist, but none of us would be reading the Internet. We'd be doing something incomprehensible to us here, now; but the Internet might have come and gone 1000-2000 years ago.

If the above was narcissism, there wouldn't be an 'ism named narcissism. It wouldn't be considered a problem.

I'm not saying it can't be narcissism. I'm just saying narcissism, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as it is defined and understood, is not sane.

The above description of Selfishness is the definition of Sanity. Confusing that (which is what our DNA code screams at all of us) with...whatever people are when they imagine they are being 'selfish', is where the species took a very wrong turn.

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I realize I was mistaken. T... (Below threshold)

September 21, 2012 10:35 AM | Posted by JohnJ: | Reply

I realize I was mistaken. That wasn't your point. That was your basis. Your point is that this news article is an example of how the system works to promote inaction, by appealing to people's narcissism to discourage action. Your point is that the system is, in fact, promoting that article because it will have that effect. The article becomes popular by appealing to people's narcissism, and by it's popularity it promotes the idea that everything is safe because some ultimate arbiter has everything under control.

The system works BY appealing to narcissism TO promote inaction (which protects the system from change). Which means the system actually needs and encourages narcissism. The system promotes narcissism as a byproduct of its goal of promoting inaction because narcissism helps the system promote inaction.

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I was asking for a translat... (Below threshold)

September 22, 2012 10:15 AM | Posted, in reply to jonny's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I was asking for a translation. I actually don't speak Thai. It's a weakness, I admit, to not speak every language on the face of the earth.

Now as to the guy who thinks that bad choices are conditioned, I think not. If you look at people in the same situations, there's variation in how people respond to the situation. You could have 2 people in poverty, inner city, gangland. One would join the gangs and run drugs, the other scraps his way into a college and becomes a businessman. Two women in high school, one drinks, drugs and becomes pregnant, the other doesn't. People make choices all the time.

In fact, I think the idea that we don't make our own choices is narcissistic. It's a fancy way to say "sure my body did something stupid, but it wasn't me". It's not my fault I got into a drunk driving accident, I'm alcoholic, so it's the disease that got the better of me. I'm not really the type of person who would do that, it was "-----ism", as though the condition is a demon that can compel behavior. Even when you jumped into the lake, it was you that did it. Your brain told your muscles what to do, you had a mental rationalization for it (popularity), it's you. You just rewrote the movie so that you aren't really the type of person who takes stupid risks so as to be popular. It's a narrative, not a reality.

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that is funny how you split... (Below threshold)

September 22, 2012 10:24 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

that is funny how you split choices into such extremely good and such extremely bad scenarios. are you always so extreme? it kinda smacks of judgment. I suppose you must feel pretty darned pleased with what you've done with your life, and feel it was due largely to your own good choices?

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do some reading about the u... (Below threshold)

September 22, 2012 10:31 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

do some reading about the unconscious (Freud) and the shadow (Jung) and maybe you'll re-think that mostly baseless opinion of yours.

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I don't think so. Look, I'... (Below threshold)

September 23, 2012 8:55 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I don't think so. Look, I'm no angel, but I think the worst thing a person can do is act as though somehow when they do something bad for them, that there's some agency causing them to do that. I don't think so. If I drink, I took that drink. If I speed, again, I chose that. There's no magical entity that forces me to do that, or more properly nothing outside of ME making those choices. Even the choices that aren't explicitly conscious, yes you did choose that. Most of the denials of free will are simply denial of the bad things people do. When someone denies free will, I've never heard them deny that they chose to do something society likes. No one says that it's the unconscious when they help little old ladies across the street. No one denies free will when they resist doing something evil. No one denies free choice when they help out. It's when they're doing destructive things, when they stab someone in the back, when they ignore someone needing help, or when they decide to drink and drive, or when they wake up after a night of sex with someone they don't know. In other words, I think the reason people like to deny that they chose to do or not do is that they don't like the kind of person they would be if they really chose to do that. If it was really about free choice, then why is it never denied that you did something that you want to be seen as doing? Why do people deny free choice when it means that you didn't choose to take change out of a collection for charity when you knew no one could see you, yet if you donate under the same conditions, no one would deny choosing it.

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<a href="http://www.interfl... (Below threshold) "No one denies free will wh... (Below threshold)

September 24, 2012 10:37 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"No one denies free will when they resist doing something evil. No one denies free choice when they help out. It's when they're doing destructive things, when they stab someone in the back, when they ignore someone needing help, or when they decide to drink and drive, or when they wake up after a night of sex with someone they don't know. In other words, I think the reason people like to deny that they chose to do or not do is that they don't like the kind of person they would be if they really chose to do that. "

You. You sound like this kind of person, ironically or not.


Also, unless a person's kind of immature, doing some 'bad' thing- screwing a stranger on the L, while on X---
it's not the totality of their being. If one interpreted it as such that'd be an issue. Even some 'good' thing: getting married a virgin and going the other direction, (o see things as opposites, which they aren't, but never mind)
- you'd be, in my opinion, a little off to assume he 'got' the totality of your virginity and something massively changed, for the better. Then years later you get divorced- are you going to feel as if something, true love or whatever, is irretrievably lost, your virgin self? It isn't. (I know one woman who actually felt this way at 40 when she finally gave it up, it really can happen). Then all of the sudden your good choice becomes a bad one,ut having put a considerable amount of what you could call agency behind it, is it your fault?
Life is hopelessly complex and probably shouldn't depend on one's opinion of other's 'bad' actions for formulating an opinion as to how 'it' or life, is. That's kind of sad.
But also, to be a good person, isn't it useful to acquire some knowledge and experience of how hard it can be to know what the right choices are, and how oftentimes for many, probably most, people it can be largely about shades of grey, not black and white. Life can be confusing.
When I think of a narcissist, I think of someone who thinks it was all about their own good choices, they were a star in their movie, and if other people would just do right like they did, the world would be so much better..... probably any bad things that most people would think of as such would get swept away beneath consciousness or explained away as just this time or for the greater good. I'm guessing. Even upon getting caught it'd probably lie beneath or become due to someone else's bad behavior, I bet. If my son wasn't such a screw-up I'd never had to steal that money...if my wife were different... but I'm guessing, it's not my area of expertise.

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"When someone denies free w... (Below threshold)

September 24, 2012 6:06 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by anon sept 22 '12 10:31: | Reply

"When someone denies free will, I've never heard them deny that they chose to do something society likes."

because when we choose the light we are not living in contradiction with our (true, real) self.

when people choose to do 'bad' things, these choices are not coming from an integrated mind, but rather a fractured one, in contradiction with its self. the true self is buried in the unconscious, barely able to influence inner experience let alone outer action.

also, your emphasis seems to be on persona, without much explanation...there's a lot more to this than how other people view one's actions and existence.

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freedom is slavery... (Below threshold)

September 26, 2012 3:05 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

freedom is slavery

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These are annoying to read ... (Below threshold)

September 26, 2012 7:05 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

These are annoying to read when you make weirdly specific accusations in the second person. "The reason you think "personal responsibility" is the answer to the Buckyballs problem..." stop right there, I don't think that. In fact, I don't think most of the things you tell me I think in these articles. You're occasionally right, but you do this so often that it's pointless.

Maybe these articles aren't for me? "If you're seeing it, it's for you." Wait, what?

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I was asking for a... (Below threshold)

September 26, 2012 2:33 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by jonny: | Reply

I was asking for a translation. I actually don't speak Thai. It's a weakness, I admit, to not speak every language on the face of the earth.

The translation isn't what's important. Almost everything gets lost in translation; at least all the important aspects of communication get shredded for the sake of functionality, by necessity.

It's a weakness not being able to communicate with a human who cannot effectively communicate with you. It's a greater weakness for those who are raised to speak a native dialect that 7.2 of 7.3 billion humans will never speak.

For this handicap, they have their government/s to thank. Your government handicaps you in similar ways.

Now as to the guy who thinks that bad choices are conditioned, I think not. If you look at people in the same situations, there's variation in how people respond to the situation. You could have 2 people in poverty, inner city, gangland. One would join the gangs and run drugs, the other scraps his way into a college and becomes a businessman. Two women in high school, one drinks, drugs and becomes pregnant, the other doesn't. People make choices all the time.

Humans make choices based on their perception of a great many variables. It is not remotely ironic (but it is tragic) that they don't realise their perception of Reality is a crude distortion that isn't remotely accurate.

__________
Imagine you're an Intelligence officer tasked with reporting directly to the Shadow Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. He's asked you to produce an urgent analysis on the military coup underway in Papua New Guinea (Intelligence assessments inevitably require a degree of judgement calls / personal opinion / bias / interpretation / potential for human error / etc).

Unbeknownst to you, your CO has been directed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to sabotage your efforts. He intercepts the Intel you've requested from your Unit's HUMINT source on the ground (a source you have personally rated A1 based on a long history of high value Intel gleaned, and also the fact that he is your wife's younger brother) and replaces the A1 sources's information with bogus data.

Without any possible way of knowing you've been back-stabbed by your (military) chain of command, you produce an intelligent, insightful & comprehensive report for your civilian boss, the Shadow Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. But of course, it's based on misinformation.

As you submit your report, the MP (who has a high degree of confidence in your professionalism and competency) asks you for your personal level of confidence in the report's conclusions / recommendations. I.e. "How confident are you in the reliability and quality of this assessment, overall?". As you have had a professional and personal relationship (for many years) with the HUMINT source on the ground in PNG, and because you've compiled the assessment yourself, you respond accordingly.

Your boss then embarrasses himself in Session as a result of your choice to deceive him; and that's the end of his career. And, of course, the end of yours.

Why did you choose to end both his and your careers? It was, after all, your choice to do so. People make bad choices all the time.
_________________

They do when their perception of Reality is at odds with their Reality; i.e. when they've been betrayed by those they Trusted to give them the unemotional Truth.

"Free will" ceases to exist the instant you've been lied to by someone you Trusted. There was no motive for them to Confidence Trick you into Trusting and Loving them, except for the 'purpose' of deception. From the moment your perception of Reality becomes distorted, everything you perceive, process, analyse or conclude from that point forward will be a lie.

You cannot move forward if you're always looking back. Lie to children and the only way they can avoid wallowing in the mistakes of their past will be to continually rewrite History or suppress the trauma.

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<a href="http://www.dw.de/d... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2012 5:54 PM | Posted by Bill Jones: | Reply

http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,2143663,00.html

In the Netherlands, transport planner Hans Monderman has pioneered a new method which involves removing traffic signs, lights and in some cases, road markings.

This concept has successfully been tested in the small Dutch town of Drachten, which has had traffic lights removed.

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"The translation isn't w... (Below threshold)

September 28, 2012 6:16 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"The translation isn't what's important. Almost everything gets lost in translation; at least all the important aspects of communication get shredded for the sake of functionality, by necessity.

It's a weakness not being able to communicate with a human who cannot effectively communicate with you. It's a greater weakness for those who are raised to speak a native dialect that 7.2 of 7.3 billion humans will never speak.

He speaks english as well, considering that this is an English language website, I think it's reasonable to assume not everyone would speak Thai. I know spanish, I'm working on German, and I'd like to learn Korean. I only have finite time. But go one and impress me with your Berber or Xhosa.
It's simply not reasonable to assume that people on an English language site hosted in an English speaking nation are all going to understand you when you post in a language that is spoken by less than 5 million people.

"Imagine you're an Intelligence officer tasked with reporting directly to the Shadow Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. He's asked you to produce an urgent analysis on the military coup underway in Papua New Guinea (Intelligence assessments inevitably require a degree of judgement calls / personal opinion / bias / interpretation / potential for human error / etc).

Unbeknownst to you, your CO has been directed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to sabotage your efforts. He intercepts the Intel you've requested from your Unit's HUMINT source on the ground (a source you have personally rated A1 based on a long history of high value Intel gleaned, and also the fact that he is your wife's younger brother) and replaces the A1 sources's information with bogus data.

Without any possible way of knowing you've been back-stabbed by your (military) chain of command, you produce an intelligent, insightful & comprehensive report for your civilian boss, the Shadow Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. But of course, it's based on misinformation."

Exactly which point do I lose the ability to choose? I choose to write the report, I choose to not double check the facts by an independent source, I choose to hand in said report. Nothing about getting bad information has anything to do with my deciding how to act on that information. I still decided, it was just a decision based on bad information. Columbus miscalculated the size of the Earth, it has nothing to do with how he chose to behave. He still sailed West, he still refused to turn around even when the crew threatened mutiny. Bad information has nothing to do with the question of free will.

""Free will" ceases to exist the instant you've been lied to by someone you Trusted. There was no motive for them to Confidence Trick you into Trusting and Loving them, except for the 'purpose' of deception. From the moment your perception of Reality becomes distorted, everything you perceive, process, analyse or conclude from that point forward will be a lie."

Free will means that I can choose to act or not act. It does not mean that I can only choose to act on good acurate and complete information. It's simply that I have the choice based on my own mind to act in a certain way or not. I can choose to eat the hamburger, or I can choose the salad or I can choose the tuna, but since I'm deciding between options, I still have free will, even if you told me that the burger is good for me and the salad is poisoned. And besides which, you choose the sources you trust, for the most part. I don't trust American media on American politics, based on how things are reported. people make such decisions all the time.

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How exactly do all us indiv... (Below threshold)

September 29, 2012 11:54 AM | Posted by jaskho: | Reply

How exactly do all us individjuls build a city without agreeing on standards? How does one prevent his thermodynamically constrained brain from learning and making use of the patterns it finds in the world? Why couldn’t a body of clear-headed folk decide to delegate certain risk management activities to a committee, thereby freeing up time for things like enjoying the thrill of engaging in risky-seeming but covertly safe activities?
This we’re-all-sucking-our-thumbs-on-the-lap-of-an-imaginary-Omniscient-caretaker story gets its appeal from another, also insidious kind of psychic infantilism. Because the proposed alternative of “personal responsibility” is exactly the same kind of turn to a fantastical transcendent ideal. Show me an actual, autonomous “individual”. Give me a rigorously rational description of “responsibility.” The omniscient god Rationality will ALSO not save you.

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"When someone denies fre... (Below threshold)

September 30, 2012 6:06 PM | Posted, in reply to anon sept 22 '12 10:31's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"When someone denies free will, I've never heard them deny that they chose to do something society likes."

because when we choose the light we are not living in contradiction with our (true, real) self.

when people choose to do 'bad' things, these choices are not coming from an integrated mind, but rather a fractured one, in contradiction with its self. the true self is buried in the unconscious, barely able to influence inner experience let alone outer action.

also, your emphasis seems to be on persona, without much explanation...there's a lot more to this than how other people view one's actions and existence.

It still sounds like fancy ways of saying "It's not me, I'm not the kind of guy who would do that." Sure you have unconscious motives, but let's be fair to the arguement -- why is it free choice when, say, the FDNY firefighters chose to run up the world trade center? I mean, assuming that you are average like everybody else, you probably do as many good things as bad things, so why are the FDNY firefighters acting on free will, while the people fleeing are not?

I see where you're going with the persona thing -- it's simply a question of choosing observable behavior. I can't see inside anyone else's head, and no one can see inside mine. Sometimes it's even hard for me to catch my own thoughts. If we're going to have a conversation on the validity of the free will concepts we have to be honest about the types of things we're taking out of the "free will zone". And as I see it, the only things being rationalized into a deterministic system are things that we would rather we hadn't done. Nazis are explained by determinism, but not NYC firefighters.

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there's nothing determinist... (Below threshold)

September 30, 2012 10:15 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

there's nothing deterministic about an explanation of behavior that points to unconscious motives. I really don't see how the issue of free will or determinism is relevant here.

I didn't say it wasn't free choice when someone does bad. I was suggesting that it does not come from a place of rational choice.

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randomish comment on free w... (Below threshold)

October 1, 2012 12:24 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

randomish comment on free will: I think I've heard of an idea where there's free will and true will. Anybody have any comments?

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The remarkable trick that g... (Below threshold)

October 1, 2012 9:22 PM | Posted by Crush T Velour: | Reply

The remarkable trick that government advocates have pulled off is to convince everyone that their blessing of planes and foods prevents the planes from falling out of the sky and everyone from being poisoned--as though no planes with government certificaion come down and no dies from consuming regulated food items.

And of course, airlines and pepsi have no problem with plane crashes or poisoning their customers. Where's the profit in worrying aobut killing your customers? Right. So we can't expect them to regulate themselves.

Here is how the Nanny State moves forward: "Oh look! Here is something that is not 100% safe and perfect. Sometimes the situation is unfair. Sometimes people get hurt. The government HAS TO DO something the because the free market has come up with a 'solution' " (a Solution is here defined as "a remedy that is always fair and no one get's hurt...ever).
"Does that mean that government regulators will come up with a "solution" like that? Or will they come up with something that is worse and continually devolves as it fails to keep up with change?"
"That's an unreasonable demand!"
"Why is it an unreasonable demand for government solutions but not private sector solutions?"
"Because the government doesn't have to be accountable."

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Some good points! I really ... (Below threshold)

October 1, 2012 11:08 PM | Posted by Ekol: | Reply

Some good points! I really don't see the need to introduce psychoanalytical talk of abstract father figures, hidden desires etc. though. It's a matter of needing to have structure and rules, and delegating the responsibility to create this due to practical considerations, but still wanting this structure to reflect our wishes.

Yes, these wishes are subject to a lot of manipulation that aren't always aware of, but theres no need to dip further into guesswork about unconscious desires to explain that structure and safety provides a sense of freedom, but that it must be balanced with our desire to feel autonomous.

The danger of using this kind of language (in the tradition of psychoanalysts since Freud) is that it smooths over the transition between scientific observation and creative storytelling, attributing real phenomena to spurious, unobservable mental processes.

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I forgot to include the exa... (Below threshold)

October 1, 2012 11:16 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I forgot to include the example in my previous comment: The reason we wouldn't have cared about buckyballs not being released on to the market at all does not necessitate doublethink and unconscious thoughts about a dad figure.

Presuming we knew about buckyballs even if it wasn't released; it could equally likely (or even more so) be due to loss aversion or experience with it leading us to feel that it is safe. When it is then removed, we feel our sense of autonomy is threatened. No need for or proof for subconscious fears that daddy isn't watching.

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<a href="http://www.gornaho... (Below threshold)

October 2, 2012 2:34 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Gabe Ruth: | Reply

This site has alot about the True Self, or the True Will. The post linked to is a little bit tangential but relevant to the idea.

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The t... (Below threshold)

October 3, 2012 9:45 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by jonny: | Reply

The translation isn't what's important. Almost everything gets lost in translation.

It's a weakness not being able to communicate with a human who cannot effectively communicate with you. It's an unthinkable disadvantage for those who are raised to speak a native dialect that 7.2 of 7.3 billion humans will never speak.

For this handicap, they have their government/s to thank. Your government handicaps you in similar ways.

He speaks english as well, considering that this is an English language website, I think it's reasonable to assume not everyone would speak Thai. I know spanish, I'm working on German, and I'd like to learn Korean. I only have finite time. But go one and impress me with your Berber or Xhosa.

What in the...what are you babbling about? You cannot even be communicated with in English! Your linguistic ability has no relevance to the patently obvious point; governments are focused on domestic exploitation, first and foremost. As proved by nationalists which handicap entire generations in viciously cruel and degrading ways. Why, some of these poor kids grow up to discover they cannot communicate with 7.2 of the ~7.3 billion entities which comprise our interconnected species.

I'm not talking about Thais anymore. I was merely using their example to illuminate one of the most obvious arguments in the world. But your narcissism is a real problem, isn 't it? It is when it renders you incommunicable. You lack fluency in English! Why would you bother learning other languages when you cannot hold a conversation in your native tongue?


It's simply not reasonable to assume that people on an English language site hosted in an English speaking nation are all going to understand you when you post in a language that is spoken by less than 5 million people.

Omg.

If you could stop with the insane narcissism for just one or two minutes, just try and imagine how hard communication must be for them! Unnecessarily so, because the only reason they cannot communicate with Greater Humanity is to ensure the survival of the leeches who, in order to ensure their survival, exploit the young...and round and round the religious insanity goes.

If you were even moderately capable of introspection, you would appreciate you have a great deal more in common with the exploited than you can imagine.

You're exploited. Your exploitation exploits me. My exploitation exploits everyone I come into contact with. And this is the freaking insanity of it all; we're all exploited by the exploitation of others. It's to no one's advantage that we're disadvantaged; you'd have to be emotionally insane to be confused.

This is the argument I'm trying to induce criticism of; but going around in circles with Toddler imbeciles who cannot even realise how transparent their insanity truly is.

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If they're exploited becaus... (Below threshold)

October 3, 2012 10:25 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

If they're exploited because they speak a rare language, they'd also be exploited at the elimination of that language. I hope I don't have to explain why, but I can.

Calling people insane babbling toddlers, no matter how tempting, does not lead to high quality debate and makes you sound insane and overemotional yourself. You might want to cool it. Try to empathize with them a bit and re-phrase what you're saying with some respect thrown in. If it's hard, post on that til you get it right.

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You may not be Alone for lo... (Below threshold) well, there is an interesti... (Below threshold)

October 3, 2012 4:42 PM | Posted, in reply to jonny's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

well, there is an interesting point in here, if i'm reading it right, which is difficult to know since it's so poorly written itself. Calling exploitation 'religious insanity' makes an interesting point about what part of a person certain behaviors might spring from, psychologically. We tend to assume certain bad behaviors appeal to self-interest first and formost; in other words, people know what they're doing. But what if that is not true?
The suggestion would be that bad behaviors- exploitation- and other things are all religious insanity would suggest...I'm not sure, I'm not a shrink- but something bad to be assuaged in the ego or superego is what it suggests to me. I was taught that much evil or what we call evil is simply an attempt to repress certain instincts by silencing them or reminders of them in others, often brutally. It makes sense that to someone like this, the others might be full of 'insane babbling toddler nonsense.' Stuff like this probably would be more towards ideology and squashing of emotions. 'I'm rational, you're not.' But to turn it around and say "the exploiters" are insane babbling toddlers is interesting.

But probably, communication between me and Jonny being what it is, i've totally missed any point and am aboiut to get flamed.

It is interesting to think about someone's...superego needing to be assuaged somehow by the suffering of others. that's horror-movie stuff, gross. But when you combine religiousity with the idea of exploitation, that's what i think of.

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I don't recognize the relig... (Below threshold)

October 3, 2012 4:48 PM | Posted, in reply to Gabe Ruth's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I don't recognize the religion. I don't like it (I glanced at some of the posts) but what's the religion? I don't do too badly with esoteric stuff, although it's not my thing either, but I would like to know what this is called.

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If you could stop with t... (Below threshold)

October 3, 2012 6:13 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

If you could stop with the insane narcissism for just one or two minutes, just try and imagine how hard communication must be for them! Unnecessarily so, because the only reason they cannot communicate with Greater Humanity is to ensure the survival of the leeches who, in order to ensure their survival, exploit the young...and round and round the religious insanity goes.

OK so narcissism is not personally learning every language on the planet? What about the narcissism of speaking English yet insisting on issuing a quote in Thai? That's my point, I wouldn't have made that assumption -- If I were posting on a nonEnglish site, I would post everything in the language of the site, which obviously would be understood by the readers. I don't think that's unreasonable. It's unreasonable for me to post on a Thai language post in English, and just as unreasonable for someone to post in Thai on an English site. especially, as the rest of the post is in English meaning ... he could have translated the quote into English and have been easily understood by everyone here.

If you were even moderately capable of introspection, you would appreciate you have a great deal more in common with the exploited than you can imagine.

You're exploited. Your exploitation exploits me. My exploitation exploits everyone I come into contact with. And this is the freaking insanity of it all; we're all exploited by the exploitation of others. It's to no one's advantage that we're disadvantaged; you'd have to be emotionally insane to be confused.

It depends on what you mean by exploited. Anyone living in America lives an upper middle class lifestyle compared to people living in the third world. Most people in the third world would dream of living an exploited American lifestyle. They would dream of having the life of the poorest of us. They dream of having basic antibiotics so their kids don't die, they dream of being able to scrape together the cash so that one of their kids can go to school. Some of them dream of the luxury of not having to sell their kids into prostitution to keep the rest of the family fed.

You talk about "exploitation", but be fair, you are most likely American or European. You've never had to really worry about food, clothing or shelter. You've never had to worry about scraping together cash to take your kid to a doctor because their finger is infected and turning green. You don't dream that one day your kids will learn to read. You work an 8 hour day, come home, watch TV and play on the internet. You don't worry about working a 12-14 hour day, and hoping to have enough to buy food, used clothing, and a shanty. You never have to worry that your kids will be child soldiers. You've never taught your kids what to do when they hear air-raid sirens.

Not to say that the West has no problems. Yes we're manipulated, but to compare our "exploitation" to a girl in India who's going to be sold as a sex slave so her family can eat, I'm sorry, but you simply ARE NOT in that bad of shape. You aren't even as bad off as people in the inner city of the US who hear the sound of gunfire every night. So please, tell me how bad you have it. Tell me that you stay up nights worrying about sending your kid to college, that you worry that you won't be able to retire to Florida, or that you might have trouble with arthritis. Not that they aren't real problems, but you don't understand what exploited means. If anything, you are the exploiter, not the exploitee. Your First World existence means that all kinds of bad things happen.

This is the argument I'm trying to induce criticism of; but going around in circles with Toddler imbeciles who cannot even realise how transparent their insanity truly is.

As I said, I think the problem is one of perspective. It's one thing to talk about exploitation, it's another to pretend that you suffer as much as a third world family. You don't. It's simply BS to call people insane to not feel exploited when they live pretty well compared to the rest of the world. OK. Not going to mess with you. I make $8.50 an hour. If I took the job to most places on earth, I would have people lined up around the block to apply for it. They'd fight for the chance to work at a non-union retail shop that most Americans would turn up their noses at. To most Americans, that wage is "exploitation," yet in a lot of other places, that's a rich guy's wage. Exploitation is somewhat relative.

And being exploited by what one person writes to another on a website, it's not even on the list. Go tell a 13 year old Indian sex slave that you feel exploited by the words of a random poster on the internet. See what she says about it.

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Alone, have you heard about... (Below threshold)

October 20, 2012 4:39 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Alone, have you heard about the beef recall in Canada, dubbed the "XL food crisis?"

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What do you think third wor... (Below threshold)

October 20, 2012 5:14 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

What do you think third world country means? The poorest countries ever? Because many third world countries don't have 50% of their population poorer than a homeless American. Why would you even think that?

Besides that, we aren't in Cold War anymore, stop saying "third world country". Say "developing country". It's not a bit less offensive, but it's at least historically accurate.

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The poor people of the US g... (Below threshold)

October 20, 2012 8:49 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The poor people of the US generally have such luxuries as cell phones, cable/satilite TV (usually more than one TV) and so on. That is better than an Indian slum or an African village in which most people don't even have electricity let alone cable TV. Illiteracy in some parts of the world is still a major problem. In many parts of the world, it's not unusual to hear gunfire at night. Considering the ease with which most of us live in this country and the problems that come with those luxuries, really, even a guy on food stamps in the US is pretty well off compared to people in Bangladesh or Ethiopia.

My point is that I have a hard time considering Americans and Western Europeans exploited as for the most part we live a life of ease compared to placed in the developing world where actual oppressed people live. We simply can't argue about how we are exploited and oppressed with a straight face when compared with others. We DO have it good. We in the West (America and Western Europe) are freer and better off than most of the planet. We sit in air-conditioned homes and offices complaining about the difficulty of saving for a second childhood after age 65. We worry about sending a kid to college lest he have to "settle" on some form of manual labor. We whine about the money in our elections without realizing that many people around the world have never known the luxury of even our currupt political system -- they don't even get to pretend to vote. In other words, our tears over exploitation and oppression are incomprehensible to people who live elsewhere and don't get the goodies we get.

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What good does it do to poi... (Below threshold)

October 21, 2012 12:50 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

What good does it do to point out that we have it good compared to people who live in a near perpetual state of intense physical and mental suffering? As important as it is to have a sense of perspective and gratitude for what we do have, it's incredibly stupid to assert that because others have it much worse than we do, we should just shut up and tolerate whatever evils are being foisted upon us, and even appreciate those evils as relative goods.

I agree that the complaints of the average American would be totally incomprehensible to someone living in a developing country, with limited to non-existent access to the many resources we take for granted. However, this doesn't make any difference. The corruption that the average American deals with is not rendered any less of a problem by the fact that any sensible person would prefer it to much more severe forms of corruption and exploitation.

Gratitude is helpful and good. Complacency is not. We have to aim higher in order to progress, and progress ultimately entails the development of higher expectations, i.e. taking things for granted. This is inevitable. Bewailing it is stupid and unhelpful.

Would you console a man who's wife had died by saying "hey, at least you have both of your legs"? Not unless you are an unbearable jackass. Likewise, you shouldn't counter complaints about political corruption, wasted tax dollars, and the American definition of poverty and drudgery by saying "just be grateful you aren't dying of malaria or getting raped every day". It's nonsensical. Of course things can always be worse, up until the point that they finally kill you. So what? "Preferable to living in squalor, misery, and constant danger" =/- "guess this is good enough, if it ain't broke don't fix it".

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Add me to the list of peopl... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2012 4:48 PM | Posted by fmbandit: | Reply

Add me to the list of people who would appreciate an explanation regarding the "Hence Buddhism" comment, rather than relying on my best guess from context clues.

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The point is that we need t... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2012 9:24 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The point is that we need to keep a perspective. It's easy enough to start crying for an "exploitation" that really isn't as bad as we make it out to be. I'm not saying be complacent and not try to change things, I'm saying that before you start hyperventilating about your exploitation, take a minute and think about other people's exploitation problems. It's one thing to think about how you can make things even better, and another thing to cry about problems that the rest of the world can only dream of. I think it's a Western narcissism to make a big deal about being exploited, yet never think -- really think -- about other nations and cultures. Sure Americans are Racist, Sexist dogs, but really it's not nearly as bad as the plight of women under the Taliban who burn to death lest they escape a burning school without a hijab on. Sure women are exploited -- 70 cents to a man's dollar, but you have to take it in the perspective of the rest of the world, not just the American movie-set in which we find ourselves.

That's a real perspective. And I do think it's in poor taste (to say the least) to pretend that our problems are simply horrible terrible and evil, while never thinking about where our problems fit on the scale. We've thrown away that scale, because we don't want to give up the pity party. But how is it not complete narcissism to proclaim how bad we have it -- we in the West are not "all that", and yet we don't think about the other. They don't exist if all you can think of when you hear "exploitation of workers" is an American Wal-Mart not allowing unions, rather than Chinese workers living in miserable conditions working 16 hours a day. Both are certainly problems, but there is a certain amount of national narcissism in considering the lack of unions in American retail while never saying "but what about those poor sods in China or Vietnam or wherever?" -- If you can't even look at the other parts of the world when defining oppression, you lose prespective.

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In a sense your absolutely ... (Below threshold)

October 22, 2012 10:52 PM | Posted by Trajan: | Reply

In a sense your absolutely correct, by definition. There are always something more extreme to point at for consolation if needed. And I agree if you're saying that we should lift our perspective, look further and indeed be grateful for the things that aren't fucked up indeed.

As for real perspective and poor taste, I'm afraid it is a fact of life that we judge our situation in accordance to our possibilities, and not least comparison with our peers. Exploitation have many forms and while I'm personally are not suffering from being exploited by chinese capitalists, it would be ludicrus to suggest it to be the sole standard to which complaints can reasonably rendered. Those Chinese workers are lucky bastards compared to say sex slaves.

Look, I have no idea where you're heading but for me - human, flesh, emotions - there is an subjective standard and my problems are personal. Someone else might think of them as next to nothing.

I would love to eliminate my petty problems and engage major global ones, like sex trade or factory slaves. Really. But for now I have problems with controlling myself and I'll probably soon be a full blown heroin addict. I need control and perhaps compassion and emotional support. That's my first world problem. Seems like it need to be addressed before I'll be in any position to engage the situation of say chinese workers condition.

In theory it's quite simple: first things first, then...

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Andrew, perhaps you are doi... (Below threshold)

October 24, 2012 5:41 PM | Posted, in reply to Andrew R.'s comment, by Rio40Degrees: | Reply

Andrew, perhaps you are doing exactly what Alone is criticizing. Maybe you are expecting him to give you a pre-packaged answer to all your existential questions? For me his articles do not need to have a specific conclusion, and I don't have to necessarily agree with everything he says. Maybe one of his goals is to make us think - which it is more than can be said from most media.

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Where I'm heading is that w... (Below threshold)

October 26, 2012 6:13 PM | Posted, in reply to Trajan's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Where I'm heading is that we've lost all perspective on what real problems look like. If you have no such perspective, then EVERYTHING is exploitation. That's why I think we complain so much. We aren't thinking about whether in the grand scope of things our pain is a big deal. Yes it's real, yes it hurts, but there's a danger of people raised in a narcissistic country full of narcissists and not given a real perspective on what life is like in various nation thinking that their pain is all that matters. That's why a lot of our cries are over relatively minor things. This whole discussion started over a guy feeling exploited based on another guy's post. Sure the words probably did hurt, but at the same time, it shows the lack of perspective Americans actually have. We think that our problems are severe because we literally cannot think about people living beyond the edges of our suburban existence. WE are real, OUR pain is real, but for most of us, we don't actually act as though other people exist, certainly not those poor people in India or Bangladesh or Iran. Heck, we don't act as though our own poor people exist. That's the point. We're so narcissistic that we don't ever act as though other people suffer far worse things.

Yes fix our problems too. I think that's important. We have problems in this country. We have poor people (or at least relative to American standards), we have racism, sexism, bigotry, and other such things. Our government is large and runs a lot of things that IMO should not be under government control. All problems. But at the same time, racism in America is minor compared to other places (Bosnia for example), so is Sexism (compared to Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan). Poor people in America own cell phones, TVs (with cable), and so on. Poor people in other countries tend to not eat.

I'm not saying don't feel no pain, I'm saying that we should act as though other people have problems too. We should not be so into ourselves that OUR stuff is the only real stuff. Not easy to do, I'm not much better than you are. I see a lot of things as horrible that wouldn't even raise an eyebrow elsewhere. I get that stuff. But it must be called what it is. We are being narcissistic when we make our minor pain much more important than another person's major pain. If I can't see past my splinter to the guy who's just had his face burned off, I'm a narcissist.

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This article presents a fal... (Below threshold)

October 28, 2012 7:54 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This article presents a false choice: some of us are opposed to the nanny state but perfectly fine with non-state nannies (such as the Underwriter's Laboratory).

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So if TLP trips and falls o... (Below threshold)

November 12, 2012 10:06 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

So if TLP trips and falls on his face during one of his fabulous leaps of logic, who will he sue?

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But...but I don't even like... (Below threshold)

November 21, 2012 5:55 PM | Posted by Jess H: | Reply

But...but I don't even like soda!

Really, though, who would want to get into an accident? How could anything ever be worth the pain of being hit by a bus? No amount of money could redeem it; I would probably welcome death if I had been hit by a bus, or by any other vehicle.

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What a coincidence! I don't... (Below threshold)

November 21, 2012 10:39 PM | Posted by Vanonymous: | Reply

What a coincidence! I don't like soda either but I do drink it, probably because of the commercials. Don't we all want to be cool?

Soda is one of a handful of topics filling my mind, right up to the edge. I'm at a point where it must go, vanish. In several ways it is too expensive, especially for someone who doesn't even like it.

Fashion change with time, so it doesn't fly as well with my friends as it used to. I'm not sure in this, but today I believe a friend of mine (or not) might have said that he'd stop seeing me unless I switched to beer. He is good person and has always been supportive. His plea for me making the switch made me uncomfortable and I think it actually induced an impulse for the continuation of soda. Isn't that strange? Wouldn't any alternative be better? I could put the soda on the shelf and start drinking beer with him, or just cut away both him and the soda. Instead I felt like continue drinking soda and metaphorically spit him out, but it was just for a brief moment.

It will be easy to kick the habit of smoking, in addition to drop soda. They aren't thought of as close and caring friends. And more importantly, it looks like I'm being blessed by a fortunate convergence of events, all which point to a future where every joule of energy available is needed.

It can be difficult to discern between wants and needs. There has been thought of needing someone to mind , a special someone to share life with. At least, I'm sure I want it. The idea of someone close seeing every detail of my life make me revel, if not just for the opportunity of being told what I need from someone trusted, and just as important: being influenced.

In addition to soda, communicating is occupying my space, I think. Perhaps I'm naive but I'm dreaming of relationships without big power struggles. That probably require several qualities, a touch of humility to name a quick one.

More?

- motivation/skills in listening.
- a balanced communication, perhaps where both sides express the others POV just to make sure.
- Respect. Might become an issue if there is an imbalance in power. I do it - "cause I can".

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Should have added that give... (Below threshold)

November 21, 2012 10:45 PM | Posted by Vanonymous: | Reply

Should have added that given a few premises, I think beautiful things will happen if there are willingness to do the old fashion talking, with each other. Not to the cat.

It's that simple, and that difficult.

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Buckyballs are magnets. The... (Below threshold)

November 27, 2012 2:40 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Buckyballs are magnets. They do have a warning. Conventional wisdom of MAGNETS is that you get help for swallowing them. The message didn't /fail/ to reach the parents. The PARENTS are stupid. They acted like magnets were safe to eat. We should limit the sale of children to stupid parents.

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Good read, though a bit lon... (Below threshold)

December 6, 2012 2:24 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Good read, though a bit long. The concept could be summed up by saying that people have been domesticated. Like a dog, they like to run around and do what they want to do, but they rely upon a Master to keep them safe.

This is somewhat inevitable, when you get right down to it. Modern civilization has too many moving parts for one person to accurately assess all risks. That said, there are alternatives to the Nanny state, and you touch upon them here even if, perhaps, you don't realize it.

Brand identity is a strong private method to achieve this, and that's why many companies spend so much money assuring the public at large that their products are safe (see car commercials, for example). Then one can say "well, I know that Pepsi hasn't directly killed anyone recently, 'cause reporters would generally jump on that, and yeah, it makes you fat, but I'm okay with that." You don't necessarily have to research all the ingredients to make reach that conclusion. Of course, as you say, if you invest the time to do so, you'll probably switch to generic soda.

So yes, since you cannot assess the risk of everything by yourself, you need to make some assumptions about the world in order to function in it. The issue with the Nanny State is that it presumes it knows better than you do how to assess risk (and many people trust that it does, despite all evidence to the contrary). The State has the opposite assumption. It isn't one person times 6 billion. It's 6 billion people as a statistical aggregate. You may 'save' 5,000 lives with some new regulation, but 'kill' an unrelated 5,000 some place else by so doing. Generally speaking, an intelligent person who can do a moderate amount of risk assessment can outperform the government in terms of safety (yes, this is an uncited statement -- I don't care).

Of course this still leaves the question open about what to do with stupid, ignorant people (of any age) who swallow buckyballs. Sounds cruel, but we've short-circuited Darwin through technology for a long time. Maybe it's not so bad after all.

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You need to decide what you... (Below threshold)

December 17, 2012 12:46 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You need to decide what you think before you start writing. This stream-of-consciousness mess is entertaining but ultimately devoid of content.

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TIL my dog is actually not ... (Below threshold)

December 19, 2012 2:30 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

TIL my dog is actually not really stupid, he's just still wolf-like.

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Are you a doctor, you pathe... (Below threshold)

December 21, 2012 4:09 PM | Posted by Overweight: | Reply

Are you a doctor, you pathetic toad?

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Just found this blog. Anoth... (Below threshold)

January 8, 2013 9:50 PM | Posted by Adam: | Reply

Just found this blog. Another excellent article. By the by, you wouldn't happen to have read the works of philosopher Max Stirner have you? Your keen insights into "believing in "god", especially if you don't think you believe in god" reminds me a lot of Stirner's criticisms of his fellow (allegedly) atheistic Hegelians (the German "Left-Hegelians" specifically) at the time.

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A lighthearted comment : I ... (Below threshold)

January 12, 2013 10:24 PM | Posted by Sarah: | Reply

A lighthearted comment : I laughed so much at the subway stairs! My first thought was 'what do you mean, ONE stair is higher than the others?' ... I live in Paris, and I think it must be difficult to find two stairs the same height ^^ Also, congrats on your writing.

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"I can sense your resistanc... (Below threshold)

February 15, 2013 4:54 AM | Posted by Ava: | Reply

"I can sense your resistance to this idea because you think you don't believe in God, but sadly for your immortal soul, you do. The reason you think 'personal responsibility' is the answer to the Buckyballs problem is that Buckyballs already exist, and if they already exist they must be safe-- or 'some other omnipotent entity' would not have permitted them to come to existence."

The astonishing thing about the writing on this site is that you seem content to condemn the entirety of humanity, addressing things with an accusatory "you" rather than a general term like "people," while seemingly making no mention of the fact that you are somehow miraculously not plagued by these afflictions that haunt us so. Oh, how marvelous to be you!

Why don't we talk about your consumption of porn? Have you ever drunk soda? Does that make you an undereducated brand consumer who chooses to believe that giving himself the title "psychiatrist" qualifies him to make generalizations about the whole world?

Oh, look. I can use "you" in sentences too. You're probably way too "independent" and "totally a smart thinker and shit" to need another writer on this site, but it seems that your shtick is easy to replicate so I'm totally up for being hired.

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"In the land of the blind, ... (Below threshold)

February 15, 2013 11:24 AM | Posted, in reply to Ava's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king"

Can we address the idea without attacking the person, even indirectly? He seems to present a fairly good argument that everyone on a subconscious level believes in God. This isn't an argument for God's existence, but an argument about the interpretation of facts about human psychology. In other terms, this could mean we are all deeply connected on the level of nature or essence with the source of all being, or that we are deeply deluded, or both.

And one point, I think, we should make careful observance of:

Nobody actually admits to their use of porn. So like the story of Amy the comedian admitting to some risque behavior, there are two possible explanations. 1. It is part of a fabricated or exaggerated persona; i.e. the person exaggerates their drinking or porn usage to make themselves small against their ideas, or 2. they are in an environment where speaking of such a thing (whether truly or falsely) would be funny, and the more exaggerated the more so.

Nowhere does the author claim to not be plagued by these same problems. In fact, if you haven't figured it out yet, "that's the joke." And in truth, *if you can see clearly yourself* you can determine whether what the author says is true or not regardless of whether he is a narcissist.

You are a lady.

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well, because the blog is n... (Below threshold)

February 15, 2013 5:40 PM | Posted, in reply to Ava's comment, by Dovahkiin: | Reply

well, because the blog is not about the psychiatrist. That's the thing. We keep derailing actual useful conversations on the content for silly arguments about WHO TLP is, whether he/she/it has done X, what the significance of his/her/its porn consumption is, and so on. In other words, we're doing the stuff that's most likely the exact reason that TLP doesn't give any real details about him/her/itself -- the fact is that once we know (or think we know) something about the messenger, we make the whole thing about the messenger. We're no longer talking about why we feel the need for a nanny state, or whether we really believe in God or Free Will -- we're too busy arguing whether a random porn comment is the same as admitting to a gender.

I think the fact that we're so interested in the speaker is that the speech has hit just a little bit too close to home, and we're seeking a way to make the messenger more important than the message. If TLP was giving movie reviews, we wouldn't be worried about gender or porn use or rum. It's not relevent to whether or not a given movie is any good. Tell you something that you're desparate not to hear, and you'll spend most of your time arguing about WHO gave the message and is it hypocritical to talk about Pepsi when they drink Rum.

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"You are a lady." I've spen... (Below threshold)

March 11, 2013 4:28 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Ava: | Reply

"You are a lady." I've spent a good long time on the internet, and that has to be the most ineffective response I have ever read. As far as you know I'm an eight-tailed space monkey, but yes, you inferred correctly from my name--I am. How does that factor into anything, anonymous?

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I can see why you would thi... (Below threshold)

March 11, 2013 4:32 AM | Posted, in reply to Dovahkiin's comment, by Ava: | Reply

I can see why you would think it hit too close to home--of course there have been things said on this blog that have; that's probably true for most of us. I don't consider myself to be a psychiatrist, nor do I claim to be. I consider myself to be a writer, and language is power. The way we use it is significant. I am not attacking the writer or truly asking to know more about him, her, it, whatever. I also don't claim to know anything about them. Their points would be equally as valid either way. I am questioning his or her or its use of "you," an open-ended pronoun that automatically excludes oneself. That's it. There is really no hidden agenda.

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I'm not saying that I'm not... (Below threshold)

March 11, 2013 8:49 AM | Posted by Dovahkiin: | Reply

I'm not saying that I'm not doing it too, I get that. I want to know a little bit about TLP. But when you think about it, he/she is irrelevent.

I also have an annoying habit of writing with "you" and "we" even when I'm talking about my self. It's a bad writing habit. It's easy enough with me to get to what's really going on -- just replace "you" and "we" with "I" and "me" or something. It's just a habitual writing style, in my case something I picked up in High School and college -- it's for whatever reason the way I learned to write. And also around here, good for pissing people off. Maybe it's just the way people are taught to write. Any essay I do tends to sound that way -- you and we, though I don't talk about rum and porn nearly as much. It's a writing style, and I don't see anything wrong with recognizing that.

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This article made me want t... (Below threshold)

March 27, 2013 8:48 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This article made me want to drink a big glass of soda, and I did, bad choice, but still good.

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I've had my bucky balls sin... (Below threshold)

April 26, 2013 4:16 AM | Posted by Jerry Simpson: | Reply

I've had my bucky balls since my kids were born. I put them out of reach and kept them away from them. Maybe some personal responsibility would go further than a cure?

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"we think in terms of ourse... (Below threshold)

May 21, 2013 4:49 AM | Posted by Brunny: | Reply

"we think in terms of ourselves and multiply by 6 billion (narcissism)"

You can then picture the whole mass of $billion your country moves every day? Can you picture in your head The whole universe? Or the species that live in the deep of the ocean?

I'm poor because I can't. And I don't think this is because the system. I know some powerfull people can, they're have been taught by the elites of the system. But not me, not the average person. I don't think the brain is designed for that. I believe the brain is very plastic and you can teach it how to do such BIG equations but I don't think it's its purpose, just by the way we've been evolving and so.

So, what if narcissism it's just a product of how our brain it's made? Not like it isn't my fault and I can't do anything to change my narcissism and then the world (I can still teach my brain), but then... it would be not the system's fault, the system would be our narcissism's fault.

(I know you know that, it's just you seem to forget to say it)

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I hope people dislike you e... (Below threshold)

June 18, 2013 7:43 AM | Posted, in reply to antiSuffragete's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I hope people dislike you enough not to propagate with you at least. Everything wasn't headed EXACTLY this direction before the 1920s? Who actually voted this comment up???

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Would you define yourself a... (Below threshold)

June 18, 2013 7:54 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Would you define yourself as "poor"?

Sometimes it's not about the lamp; sometimes it's about food for your children. Sometimes even that decision requires penny pinching and shopping somewhere with doors the ethical-un-poor needn't darken.

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I do think the female and p... (Below threshold)

June 18, 2013 8:43 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Dovahkiin: | Reply

I do think the female and poor vote have changed things to be more about the "safety net", because when people voting are not the ones building the economy, they don't necessarily think about whether the safety net is sustainable. If you're getting, you just assume that the system will provide. Not to say that the other side is 100% right either, they tend to only see safety nets as a cost.

It's simply that we need to have a balance -- the rich shouldn't get everything, but neither should the poor. Voters should look at all sides before deciding.

Personally I'm not so concerned about the demographics voting nearly so much as the education level of the voters. Not Schooling, education. there are so many people voting on issues that they cannot explain. they have an opinion on things like SSI, but they don't know very much about what it is and how one gets on the system. People argue about how to lower unemployment, but don't know how the rate they're arguing about is even calculated. Or it will be something like CPI vs Chained CPI in the SS debate, and not only do they not know the difference between the two, but they don't know what factors are used to calculate either one. I think that should be the minimum for being allowed to vote-- being able to name the people and the issues that we're voting on and how they work. We don't so we listen to pundits and talking heads to tell us what we think about issues. Why bother to vote if your opinion is based on what someone told you to think?

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If you're "educated," not s... (Below threshold)

June 18, 2013 10:16 AM | Posted, in reply to Dovahkiin's comment, by Kelsey: | Reply

If you're "educated," not schooled - as you accurately describe - why vote at all. Your choices are jokers and puppets; your "choice" is non-existent.

Why bother to vote if your opinion has no meaning, and your choices reflect that reality.

This is not a democracy. Your voice doesn't matter.

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I tend to protest vote. I ... (Below threshold)

June 19, 2013 6:00 PM | Posted by Dovahkiin: | Reply

I tend to protest vote. I know it doesn't change much, but it makes me feel better.

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I just bumped into your blo... (Below threshold)

June 20, 2013 12:24 AM | Posted by Manuel Nino: | Reply

I just bumped into your blog, read about 12 of your entries, I have laughed, had my head explode, and I just wanted to say.

Way to go, you aren't fucking around lady!

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^ about the post about voti... (Below threshold)

December 26, 2013 2:25 AM | Posted by J: | Reply

^ about the post about voting

If I'm not mistaken then the theory of people being rational economic and political actors is essentially bourgeois (these sort imagine themselves autonomous and free of ideology but clearly are not, seeing as how their lifestyles are often directly supported by debt-lifestyles--a vested interest in maintaining a facade). The poor just want to survive and thrive. They don't care about the over-all economic well-being of the nation (and nor should they since so little money goes to entitlements programs anyhow). If they were rational voters they wouldn't vote Republican, but here in the South AKA the Land of Poverty and Miseducation, they vote for the image more often than the reality. This may be true of all modern "democracies" but it's certainly true in my experience.

So the poor ought to vote in their own self-interests. The wealthy do, but then again, they don't need to vote.

I watched a fascinating documentary recently. It's called The Century of the Self. It singlehandedly undermined my faith in the Jeffersonian experiment in about 4 hours. It traces the legacy of Freud, Freudian marketing, anti-Freudian anti-repressive marketing, marketing to ego, marketing to "limited ego," and eventually portrays the modern political system we have now: a vast wasteland where nothing you vote for matters because you're not living in reality anyway. You vote in the same way you buy clothes that say who you are even though philosophically this is basically schizophrenia. "What do these jeans/politicans say about me?" Answer: schizophrenia.

I recommend the documentary. Depressing.

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"So, what if narcissism it'... (Below threshold)

December 26, 2013 2:39 AM | Posted by J: | Reply

"So, what if narcissism it's just a product of how our brain it's made? Not like it isn't my fault and I can't do anything to change my narcissism and then the world (I can still teach my brain), but then... it would be not the system's fault, the system would be our narcissism's fault."

I think by definition narcissism is A) pathological and B) constructed, not innate. Every human being (probably--there are some strange theories about the ego floating around out there, whether it's real or not or a contingent product of the ascendancy of the bourgeoisie and their capitalism, associating agency with buying-power and extending self-concept onto objects in circulation qua Marx) has a sense of self that is the center of the universe. This in particular isn't new, I don't think, there were ancients writing poetry about similar things, but like everything else we have and do today, it's mass-multiplied.

So. To be self-centered is probably wholly natural for a species of ape like ourselves, but to be pathologically self-centered is to be narcissistic. If it's damaging you and you can't stop you have a personality disorder. But the debates range on--the is personality a disorder or simply mal-adaptive to a particular social and historical era? If being a narcissist today makes you more evolutionarily fit, if it means you have a better chance of making money having power and reproducing with similar mates, is it still narcissism? This is a constructivist-essentialist debate and I don't think either side has absolute answers.

One thing's for sure: our current economic and political program could not exist without narcissism. It's in part our consumer culture and how we relate to ourselves and each other through objects and images, which *defines* practically what narcissism is, and it's in part our capitalist structure that pits us into competition and gradation since toddlerhood. Weber talked about this, the formal rationalization of society--I mean really you're thrown into a school where you're taught from an extremely early age to judge yourself according to a *letter* you receive from an authority figure, I mean, what's not narcissistic about that?

Althusser wrote a lot about your concern. His thesis of structuralism focused on the role of the unconscious in determining our reality, even though we can't control anything and consciousness is basically an illusory composite of externalities which drive and pull you hither and thither. Basically, for him, what you do is what you don't notice other people doing. Freaky stuff but I buy some of it.

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Not on an airplane, not in ... (Below threshold)

February 12, 2014 12:48 PM | Posted, in reply to SightSeen's comment, by ama: | Reply

Not on an airplane, not in government buildings, not in schools...

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not on airplanes, lately...... (Below threshold)

March 21, 2014 3:38 PM | Posted, in reply to SightSeen's comment, by babaganusz: | Reply

not on airplanes, lately...

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forget about "fair to say i... (Below threshold)

March 21, 2014 4:27 PM | Posted, in reply to Eneasz's comment, by babaganusz: | Reply

forget about "fair to say it's bad" - it's certainly not worth reducing to such a simplistic phrase as "x = the distinction we don't want out of the only two distinctions available".

fortunately, tlp doesn't mind unpacking a little/lot, while still leaving room for thought.

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disagreed with bits and pie... (Below threshold)

March 21, 2014 4:46 PM | Posted, in reply to jonny's comment, by babaganusz: | Reply

disagreed with bits and pieces of yours upthread, but i can only hope the downvotes to this comment came from grudge-holders who didn't actually read it.

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ha! that's what i get for ... (Below threshold)

March 21, 2014 5:32 PM | Posted, in reply to ama's comment, by babaganusz: | Reply

ha! that's what i get for not reading to the end first. (and hopefully it's clear by now that thread-necro is not something that bothers me.)

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<a href="http://disenchante... (Below threshold) If you still have no idea w... (Below threshold)

July 18, 2014 4:16 AM | Posted by Kizi: | Reply

If you still have no idea what this means, don't worry about it, because you can always...
Kizi

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I really want a McDonald's.... (Below threshold)

October 14, 2014 10:52 AM | Posted by SonataRoof: | Reply

I really want a McDonald's.

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Smart kid. Is she the same... (Below threshold)

October 23, 2014 4:05 PM | Posted by ubercube: | Reply

Smart kid. Is she the same one who read the Echo and Narcissus story?

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