The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Month: February 2016 Page 1 of 5

Practical Theoretical Ethics

No, no, it’s not an oxymoron.

The problem with most philosophical ethics is that it takes a single rule and wants to rule the entire world with it.

This is noticeable in utilitarianism. “The most good for the most people.” This rule, applied, can lead to ethical abominations, to treatment of minorities and so on which is beyond the pale.

The story “The Ones Who Leave Omelas,” by Ursula LeGuin, is an examination of this problem (and highly recommended). In the real world, this leads to things like torture (what is a few people’s pain compared to the benefit for all?). It leads to accepting dire poverty as the result of our economic system due to an assumption that our system is the best and because, after all, the system benefits those in charge and in core nations the most. Call it hypocritical utilitarianism, but it’s real enough as a justification.

The discipline of economics, as it stands, is an exercise in hypocritical utilitarianism. Capitalism produces the best outcomes, therefore its shortcomings should be overlooked. It’s not clear it produces the best outcomes (certainly not if you are an Ethiopian or Congolese), but the point is larger than that. Even if it did, can a system which appears wedded to so much poverty, inequality, violence, and so on really be acceptable? By utilitarian standards it might well be.

And yet utilitarianism has a core of hard truth in it. It is easy to see the cases where utilitarian reasoning leads to horrible outcomes; it is intuitive to think that society should be run for the most benefit for the most people.

Again, the requirement to have one rule is what kills philosophical ethics. You must have bright lines, duties, and principles and you must know what the good is.

The first step is to have those bright lines. Do not rape. Do not torture. Stuff you do not do, no matter what. You unilaterally take some behavior off the table. You establish a minimum. If you do not, utilitarianism will always descend into barbarity, usually through specious argumentation, though not always.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing, and want more of it, please consider donating.)

The second thing you do is establish positive duties. These are meant more for the social level than the individual, but cannot exclude the individual if they are to have efficacy. You might say here that everyone should eat if there is enough food in society and agree on how to triage in the very rare case that there is not. Women and children first, perhaps. Or workers in manual trades first. Or whatever. It doesn’t really matter, so long as it is generally regarded as fair.

You can extend this. If society has the means, everyone should have housing and clothes. Everyone who wants to work, and is capable of working, should have a job, perhaps. In a society which requires more work (not ours, we need less, too much of our work is harmful), you can say that everyone who is able should work. Add to this much of civil liberties: the right to jury trial and face your accusers, maybe.

Most of this boils down to an ur-rule. People all deserve to be treated with dignity, and everyone deserves the basics of life when they can be provided, which, in a society with vast over-surplus like our global society today, is the case.

A duty is something that applies to everyone. Everyone gets to face their accusers. Everyone gets to eat.

Having established your bright lines and your duties, you add your principles.

One of them might be: Civilians should not be targeted in war and every reasonable care should be taken not to harm them.

Another one might be: War is acceptable only in self-defense might be another one.

Yet another one: Everyone should have equal access to the determinants of success like education.

And so on.

Principles are about things you can’t achieve. You will never have a totally equal society, nor would you want one. We might want no war, but giving up the right of self-defense puts us at the mercy of the worst people in the world. If war is necessary, some civilians will be killed, but we should strive in every way to keep that to a minimum.

After having completed these steps, you are ready to add utilitarianism. Given meeting all the above, “the greatest good for the most people” is now the goal. You can use utilitarianism at this point because its worst associated problems have been taken off the table. You do the above things even if you think they don’t produce “the most good for the most people.” They are non-negotiable.

If you wish, you can order the above principles for triage, from most important to least important. But save in grave periods of crisis, it is almost never true that you can’t do all of them. You can both feed people and give them fair trials. If you can’t, you’ve gone wrong somewhere, as in the US, where the drug war has led to locking up millions of people who should never have been charged with a crime. You can’t give everyone in the US a fair trial, because there aren’t enough judges, juries, lawyers, prosecutors, and so on. That is an indication you need to be arresting less people, not that you need to compromise their right to a fair trial.

When making utilitarian calculations, you must always resist the urge to turn common sense and basic decency on their heads. If you find yourself excusing cruelty, in any way, you have gone wrong. If you find yourself excusing fraud, you have gone wrong.

There is no one ethical rule to rule them all. But at the same time, this need not be particularly complicated. Be kind. Treat everyone with dignity. See to everyone’s needs. Fight only in defense.

The further you extend this, the better your society will be. A decent concern for the fate of both other humans and other living beings would have served us well, and likely led to us avoiding much of the worst of the environmental disasters which have already come and which are yet to come, while avoiding almost the entire mess in the Middle East.

Do not descend to sophistry. Do not defend the indefensible. And if you want the most good, extend your circle of belonging out as far as it can go.

The Kindergarten Ethics We Need

When I first started blogging, some 13 years ago, I blogged about sophisticated matters. Economic theory, military theory and practice. Lots and lots of charts.

As time went by, I noticed that these posts, even when they did well, were not what my readers needed. Most of my readers were not at the level of maturity and reasoning that allowed sophisticated policy posts to be useful to them.

Their problems were deeper; they were ethical and moral problems. My readers seemed unable to reason from first principles, they did not understand the relation of ethics to politics and politics to economics. The first principles they did have were axioms whose results, if too many people followed them, would create widespread suffering.

They had grown up crooked. Their adult lives had made them more crooked. They did not think, they engaged their prejudices.

There is no point in sophisticated analysis of how to be kind to large numbers, if people prefer something over kindness.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing, and want more of it, please consider donating.)

As a result, I started descending the ladder of reasoning. I found that I had to explain that killing civilians was worse than killing soldiers, and that killing less people was preferable to killing more people. I had to explain the difference between ethics and morality. I had to explain why and how they had grown up twisted.

I found myself trying to teach, in effect, versions of the Golden Rule. That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be kind. Kindness is the best policy.

I came to understand that the sages, from Confucius to Buddha to Hillel to Jesus, taught these rules–these simple rules–because they met people where they were. This is the level of teaching people require. Most, I fear, are not capable of learning even this, not innately, but because they have been twisted by their upbringing.

If you want some econo-speak, variations of the Golden Rule produce strong positive externalities and when enough people in a society use the Golden Rule and unite to take away the ability of predators to do harm, that society prospers.

The Ancient Greek version is as follows.

When old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit, a society is great.

All economic theories are ethical theories. They are theories about how one OUGHT to act. Under capitalism, one should react to profit and price signals, and seek to maximize personal “utility,” for example, while living in a manner which deprives one of the ability to meet ones own needs.

This is an ethical theory. It is not scientific, it is based on axioms which can’t be proved, and which are highly questionable (people aren’t rational, don’t maximize utility, and I’ve yet to encounter a useful definition of “utility” which isn’t circular).

It is about HOW people should live.

As such, economics is also a political theory. Capitalism requires a great deal of executive and legislative work to set up, starting with depriving most people of capital. You probably don’t believe me, because you were never taught history properly, but this is well understood by sociologists who study capitalism. Start by reading Karl Polanyi’s “The Great Transformation.” This process happened both at home, and in great waves of imperialism which disrupted and impoverished much of the world.

All political theories are ethical theories. People OUGHT to have rights and those rights are inalienable. Legitimacy comes from the people’s consent, or it comes from God. A person who gets there first owns what was there. We should be able to own more than we can use. We should obtain the goods required for our survival from the market (not true for most of history.) A man or corporation who files a patent or copyright should have exclusive use of that creation. Corporations should shield their owners from liability.

These are prescriptive statements. They are ethical propositions about how the world should run.

All politics and economics, boiled down, is either OUGHTS, technical details about how to get to those oughts, or moralizing about why these oughts and means are good, and why other systems’ oughts and means are bad.

What we have today in the West is a mishmash of systems, with neo-liberal capitalism and representative democracy as the foremost. Some areas have technocratic bureaucracy as their foremost value, like the EU and Singapore.

You can throw in words like “enlightenment values” and “humanism” as well.

It’s hard to disentangle all this. So many different ideologies have been created and so many of them still have strong influence on us.

So I’m going to simplify. Cut through the knot.

Greed, selfishness, and pride, combined with tribal identity.

You love your child, yes? You would let a hundred people die to save your child?

You are a monster.

Most other people would.

They are monsters.

You would kill for your group. They would kill for their group. Your group may be a religion, a nation, an ethnicity, a neighbourhood, or a wide variety of other associations or identities.

You are a monster.

You work to make sure your child has a “competitive advantage” over other children. Those parents work to make sure their child has a “competitive advantage over your child.”

You are monsters.

In every way, your needs and wants are more important than anyone else’s. Then your family’s. Then your friends.

This worked when humans lived in bands or even smaller tribal societies. This included almost everyone, and it allowed an easy apportionment of work. “Feed yourself and your family then everyone else.” (Though, in fact, the nuclear family wasn’t usually prioritized in hunter-gatherer bands.)

It sort of worked in agricultural societies, but only sort of. Which is why you have the above sages with their various golden rule variants.

It doesn’t work in the modern world. The interconnections are too dense. You affect too many other people. Societies have too much violent and coercive power.

The sheer volume of negative externalities created by a culture of “me first” and of meanness overwhelm the positive externalities, creating vast hell-zones. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about most of Sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh, most of India, all the Chinese who hate the new economy and loved their villages, the inner cities of America, or the exurban wastelands, or the hopeless neighbourhoods in London or Paris which occasionally riot.

They are all overwhelmed by this “me first, my family second, my friends next, my identity only after all that, and fuck everyone different.”

It is impossible to overstate the damage “me first” has done to the world. It includes all the damage that will be done by climate change, imperialism, and vast amounts more.

To be sure, the so-called altruists have done great harm. But when you liquidate entire chunks of the population, you aren’t an altruist in fact, only in rhetoric. Just as capitalism, properly understood, has not proved to be the best system for most people in the world.

I’m going to tell a slightly perverse story. When I was a child, I read a science fiction military story which was half fantasy. The protagonist has a vision in which he bombs a city from orbit, and sees that his child is in that city.

The protagonist is determined to avoid that war if possible, but he is not determined not to bomb his own child. He says, “Were I to decide whether or not to bomb a city based on whether my own child was there, I would be a monster indeed.”

So let us come down to our first axiom:

Your life is not worth more than anyone else’s. Your pain does not hurt worse than anyone else’s.

Some time back there was a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

This is kindergarten level ethics we are dealing with here. This is what is broken–the stuff you should have learned when you were five and had reinforced as you grew up.

  • Don’t hurt other people.
  • Share your toys.
  • Don’t take more than your share.

And if someone doesn’t live by those rules, what do you do? You give them a time out. During that time out, you don’t torture them, you don’t allow the other kids in time-out to beat them or rape them. Instead you try to help them so that after the time-out, they won’t do it again.

Perhaps everyone in the world should just sit down and for one day, heck, one hour, just not hurt anyone else. Just do nothing.

You can get rich, you can get famous, you can get what you want by being a mean and violent bastard. Let us not pretend otherwise. But the knock-on effects of doing that, for everyone else, are terrible. True democracy will happen when the population is ethical enough, and willing enough, to simply not allow this. “No, no, off to your time-out you go.”

This will be sneered at as Utopian. No doubt it is. But this is the Pole Star, the guiding light you aim towards. The closer you sail to it, the closer you come to some semblance of a world worth living in for the majority of people.

If we do not aim for this, we may solve some temporary problems for a temporary period, but there will be no remotely stable good society.

Everyone’s life has equal value to yours. Everyone’s pain is equal to yours.

Fundraiser Update and Bitcoin Support

We have raised $4,692 in one time donations and $160 in new subscriptions. Counting subscriptions at 3X, that puts us $5,172.  At six thousand, I will write 12 book reviews on books which have strongly influenced me and six that are more topical.

Should we make $9,000, I will write a thirty- to fifty-thousand word booklet on the Construction of Reality. It will deal with technology, culture, geography, mass psychology, and so on, to show how we’ve created the world we live in today.

In general, the more I receive the more I will write. If you want more of my writing, please consider giving. Of course, only give if you can afford it. If your food, medical, or housing is insecure, please don’t give.

Due to a few requests, I have also added Bitcoin support. My wallet is at:


If you would like to give, please go to the DONATE PAGE.

Watch, Feel, and Think

Do it. Many of you desperately need to.

The Barbarism of Donald Trump

I go where the logic and numbers take me, which is why I said that Donald Trump’s economic plan will work if he actually follows it.

But Trump is beyond the pale, and I’m not talking about his support for deportations and various racists statements and policies, I’m talking about this:

The water fills the hole in the saran wrap so that there is either water or vaccum in your mouth. The water pours into your sinuses and throat. You struggle to expel water periodically by building enough pressure in your lungs. With the saran wrap though each time I expelled water, I was able to draw in less air. Finally the lungs can no longer expel water and you begin to draw it up into your respiratory tract. It seems that there is a point that is hardwired in us. When we draw water into our respiratory tract to this point we are no longer in control. All hell breaks loose. Instinct tells us we are dying. I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You know you are dead and it’s too late. Involuntary and total panic. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It would be like telling you not to blink while I stuck a hot needle in your eye. At the time my lungs emptied and I began to draw water, I would have sold my children to escape. There was no choice, or chance, and willpower was not involved. I never felt anything like it, and this was self-inflicted with a watering can, where I was in total control and never in any danger.

I didn’t allow anybody else to try it on me. Inconceivable. I know I only got the barest taste of what it’s about since I was in control, and not restrained and controlling the flow of water.

But there’s no chance. No chance at all.

So, is it torture?

I’ll put it this way. If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I’d take the fingers, no question.

It’s horrible, terrible, inhuman torture. I can hardly imagine worse. I’d prefer permanent damage and disability to experiencing it again. I’d give up anything, say anything, do anything.

The Spanish Inquisition knew this. It was one of their favorite methods.

It’s torture. No question. Terrible terrible torture. To experience it and understand it and then do it to another human being is to leave the realm of sanity and humanity forever. No question in my mind.

This is the torture that Trump thinks is mild.  He’d do worse things.

This is my bright red line. I don’t know where yours is, but when a regime starts torturing or raping as a matter of policy, I’m out.  This is why I have no tolerance for any bullshit about Pinochet with his rape rooms and trained dogs to rape women. This is why I have no time for George Bush.

One can make lesser-evil arguments, and I have with respect to various despots–Saddam tortured, Qaddafi tortured, Assad tortures, the Egyptian regime tortures.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing, and want more of it, please consider donating.)

These people all cross the line. They are all evil. One can then say, “What will happen if we invade is worse,” and be right, but that does not signify approval of the regimes.

It would be easy enough to rid ourselves of such regimes if we were willing to run a rich world, where things were getting better for everyone. Look at pictures of Kabul from the 70s, or Pakistan. A world order which believes in a genuinely good ideology, which provides better futures, which doesn’t torture and rape itself can deal with such regimes. The great flaw of the post-war world was that it was offering prosperity but refused to offer it evenly to everyone (though it was better than the neo-liberal era), and certainly didn’t believe in Democracy.

Your ideology, your stories, only work properly for you if you actually fulfill their requirements.

But back to America. I don’t know if Clinton will torture. I know Bernie Sanders won’t. I know there are options available in the American election that don’t sell the tattered remains of America’s soul.

Yes, Trump’s economic plan will work, but the cost is your soul. Bernie Sanders’ economic plan will work too, and it doesn’t cost you your soul.

Let’s be explicit: For a time, fascism works. It worked in Italy, it worked in Germany.

It is time-limited, which is why Germany had to start grabbing, but it works.

You get yourself Trump, he’ll make the economy work. But his plan has leaks, like his insane tax cuts, which will show up in time. If he only wants eight years, no problem. If he wants more, he’ll have to find victims to prop up his economy. War is the ultimate stimulus, so is looting.

But he’ll be very popular. America will follow him off the cliff. They followed George W. Bush after all, and he wasn’t half as popular as Trump will be.

In the macro sense there is no free lunch. You cannot run a good industrial economy for long without determined recycling of money and without controlling the oligarchy. That means high tax rates. The only other solution is looting.

And in the meantime, Trump will be torturing people.

Americans have a real, progressive option on the domestic front. I have my problems with Sanders, but if you want a chance at a good economy without giving up all human decency, I suggest you go for him.

As for Clinton, I cannot in good conscience endorse her. I believe there is little that Clinton wouldn’t do. A woman who embraces Henry Kissinger has claimed her circle in Hell as well.

Trumponomics – How the Trump Economic Plan Will Work

Ok folks, let’s say what people keep refusing to say:

Trump’s economic plan makes sense and will work.


What Trump wants to do is to use tariffs to return production to the United States. He has mentioned a 35 percent tariff on cars produced in Mexico, for example.

Donald TrumpThis is not crazy, this is not insane. This is how economies were largely run for most of capitalism’s history.

If a country is running a trade deficit, that means it has more demand than it is filling domestically. If it has unused capacity, and less than full employment (both are true in the US, I would want to see the US running under 2 percent unemployment consistently for years before I was sure it was at full employment), then the stuff it is making overseas, which can be made at home, should be made at home.

Blah, blah, blah—competitive advantage. I’ve written the articles on why comparative advantage is irrelevant most of the time. Read them.

Free Trade is Betrayal

Ricardo’s Caveat 

Ricardo, who created the doctrine of comparative advantage, thought that free trade did not work under the circumstances in which the US now finds itself.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing, and want more of it, please consider donating.)

Free trade, if you don’t have full employment, is a rounding error. In that case, the only things you should be importing are things you need which you literally can’t make yourself. And if you can’t make them because you don’t know how, you should be learning.

Free trade works when countries have full employment and capacity utilization. Only then does it make sense.

Trump wants bilateral trade deals. Country X sells America what America can’t make for itself, and America sells Country X what it can’t make for itself.

Keynes, by the way, felt that countries should produce almost all of what they needed for their daily consumption, trading only in that which they absolutely could not make and luxuries.

Trump is right.

Trump also wants full universal health care. That will free up a lot of money.

Trump wants to tax the financial industry, that will give him a lot of money.

As for his nativist policies, well deporting millions of people while at the same time not allowing the industries which hired them to leave the country will result in increased wages and employment for the working class. Immigration is a great thing, and a net economic positive, when you are running full employment and protectionist policies. If you refuse to have full employment due to deliberate government policy, well, then immigration’s so great not for the natives.

(See “How the Federal Reserve Crushed Wages for Over 30 Years.”)

As the Rolling Stone article about Trump pointed out, Trump is winning because Trump is telling a lot of truth. Other politicians are beholden to big money interests and cannot possibly work in your interest because they are already bought. (This includes Clinton, but not Sanders).

This is simply a fact.

The policies which work for ordinary people are well known: bilateral trade deals, protection of core industries, the ability to feed your own nation, tight labor markets, etc.

Trade is often a bad thing. It creates a race to the bottom, allowing countries to compete against each other for the worst wage, the worst treatment of workers, and the worst pollution. It isn’t always a bad thing, but it is best when managed, not when free, and a country is most securely prosperous when it is primarily reliant on its own domestic market.

Now Trump won’t do all of what should be done. He won’t, for example, radically raise taxes on rich people. But he despises the financial industry and will hammer them, he will put up tariffs, he will redirect domestic demand to domestic industry.

You may not like it, but Trump’s economic plan will work. It will produce a MUCH better economy for his supporters than did Obama or Bush (or even Clinton).

Can he get it through?

Well, he will be a Republican President, so presumably he will have Republican majorities in the House, Senate, and Supreme Court.

Let’s say they balk, though. After all, he will be hurting a lot of their owners.


Most people don’t really understand what that means because Presidents rarely use their full power.  Trump controls the NSA and the CIA, for example. They spy on Congress (no, don’t waste my time pretending they don’t). They either know or can find out every little bit of dirt on every member of Congress.

The vast majority of Congress members are corrupt. Again, don’t even try and deny it. They are almost all subject to corruption charges if the President wants to push it through the Justice Department. They can vote for his plans, or they can go to prison.

Now, the DOJ has immunized most of Wall Street and the Big Bankers for their crimes leading up to the 2008. Do you believe they have stopped committing crimes?


Now let’s look at the Federal Reserve: All members of the Board of the Federal Reserve, except for the Chairman, can be fired by the President for cause, i.e., not doing their job. The Federal Reserve has two mandates: controlling inflation and maintaining full employment.

Right. They buckle, or they are gone.

Now, forget all this. Watch a Trump rally. Note how he treats hecklers, how he talks of wanting to punch them, and how gives license to his supporters.

What do you think will happen to lawmakers who oppose the great Trump when they go back to their districts and encounter Trump supporters?

Context: There are many stories of working class men punching out their bosses and so on when they insulted FDR.

Trump is running as the fascist version of FDR: He’s the class traitor. He’s a billionaire who knows how the game is played, knows it is crooked, and is going to betray his own kind to work for the American people.

He will be popular. Once his economic plan works, he will be even more popular. He will be idolized by those who support him. The people who hate him most will be deported, powerless, or crawling on their belly for his approval (most of the media).

Remember, FDR improved the US economy.

But Hitler and Mussolini, they really improved Germany and Italy’s economies.

This, my friends, is why I kept warning that current elites were setting the conditions for the rise of a man on horseback, from fascism or the far left.

People will only tolerate economic failure for so long.  After that they will go with anyone, and I do mean anyone, who promises that they will fix it, and who seems credible and, most importantly, not part of the elite who caused the problem in the first place.

Trump will crush Clinton if he runs against her, because she is the very essence of an entitled elitist. He will destroy her in ways you cannot even imagine. It will be ugly, really ugly, but his core critique will be the same as his core critique of Jeb: “You are part of the group that fucked up America.”

And he’s right.

Bernie, on the other hand, is not. Whether he can win against Trump, I do not know, but he is not nearly as vulnerable to the charge that he’s one of the elite, and, by the way, minus the nativism, his economic plan and Trump’s are a lot alike.

A lot.

Sanders plan will work for the same basic reasons Trump’s will work.

But people need to stop deceiving themselves. Trump is not a joke, he is not stupid, and he is not incompetent. He will almost certainly be a popular President amongst the people who voted for him, who are, by the way, the part of the population most willing to be violent.

If Trump becomes President, he may be President for a very long time.

Trump Wins in Nevada

Donald TrumpNot precisely a surprise, or anything. Barring an airplane accident, or some such, he’s the nominee.

Most polls show him winning against Clinton (and losing against Sanders).

Get used to the idea of President Trump, it is your very possible future. If he improves the economy (quite possible, politicians and central bankers have refused to do all the obvious things to improve it), he could be your President for quite some time.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing, and want more of it, please consider donating.)

The Culture of Meanness

One of the most striking things about much of American culture is the simple meanness of it. The cruelty.

Most of this seems to come down to three feelings:

  • My life sucks. I have to work a terrible job I hate in order to survive. I have to bow and scrape and do shit I don’t want to do. You should have to as well.
  • Anyone who doesn’t make it must not be willing to suffer as I do, therefore anyone who doesn’t make it deserves to be homeless, go without food, and so on.
  • Anybody who is against us needs to be hurt and humiliated, because that’s how I see my superiors deal with people who go against them.

“Life is shit, therefore your life should be shit.”

“What you’ve got is what you deserve.”

There is also a culture of punching down, as commenter Lisa has observed. America has a high-violence, high-bullying society. As Lisa noted you can have a high-violence society in which it is considered unacceptable to attack the weak (doing so is viewed as cowardice), but that’s not the case in America.

In American culture, the weak are the preferred target. Failure is punishable by homelessness, suffering, and death.  Sick people sure don’t deserve proper pain medication. Poor people are poor because they “don’t add value.” If you’re poor, you definitely shouldn’t have good healthcare, because if you don’t have money, you don’t deserve money, and that’s because you’re a waste of space.

This appears to be a result of something simple: At every stage of American life, it’s a zero or negative sum game, and who gets ahead is decided by authority figures. Need to get into a good university? You need good grades from adults, you need to have done the right extra-curricular activities, you need references from adults.

On the job, only a few people will be promoted, and the competition is fierce. But worse, in many fields, people are often let go, and the competition to avoid getting fired or laid off is severe.

Who decides? Your boss. You’d better get down on your knees and do whatever your boss wants, because if you’re fired or let go you may never work again, and if you do hang on at a bottom-wage job, well, your life will suck.

When dealing with police, the constant American attitude is OBEY. If you don’t obey, then whatever the police do to you is justified. The police are like bosses in a way. One cop can ruin your life, even if you aren’t killed, beaten, or raped by them. A criminal record means you will never have a good job again.


On your knees, citizen.

(I am fundraising to determine how much I’ll write this year. If you value my writing, and want more of it, please consider donating.)

And as my friend Stirling once noted, the next demand after, “Kneel!” is, “On your belly, worm.”

Failure to comply means your advancement is over, and maybe your job.

Americans are desperate for the approval of those in power, because without it, they are destroyed. This is true to a lesser extent in many other Western societies, certainly in Britain.

Having learned that the right way to treat anyone who is weaker than them is with demands for acquiescence and dominance displays, to many Americans, to interpret any sign of weakness as requiring them, as a moral duty, to dominate and hurt the weak person.

People become what is required of them. They learn from authority figures how to behave.

The desperate need of certain demographics to keep, say, women or certain minorities down is part of this. These people need to know that there are some people who, no matter how degraded their own situation, are always lower than them, can always be beaten down.

Contrary what many right-wingers think, dominance structures aren’t innate to humanity. Evidence supports that, for most of human existence, we were hopelessly egalitarian. But surplus combined with scarcity changes that, as do large populations.

Still, while high-density agricultural and industrial societies are innately more inequal than paleolithic hunter-gathers, there is plenty of variation, and within that variation plenty more variation as regards to the level of meanness and cruelty–how much a culture can be defined as “bullying.” In the modern, Western world, America ranks high as a mean, bullying culture.

The effects of this cascade, and can be seen as high up as America’s constant wars, drone assassinations, and the routine torture in prisons, and as low down as cities passing by-laws that the homeless can’t be fed or the desperate competition amongst parents and school-children for those few elite university slots which virtually ensure one’s future.

The entire process makes America a far more unpleasant place to live or visit than is necessary. The structure of dominance, meanness and cruelty is palpable to the visitor, and distressing; even as it warps the best inhabitant.

I find myself without a real conclusion. Obviously (I hope), this is BAD. Obviously it should change. But it’s hard to change something that people have taken and turned into a moral imperative: Be mean to the weak and poor, who deserve their fates. Kick down, kiss up, because a failure to pucker up can have you thrown out of the charmed circle, and obviously higher-ups want to see you acting like them, imitation being the most sincere form of flattery.

It’s all very depressing, all very unnecessary, and all very much in the interests of the people who run your society.  Meanness in the chattel means they can rarely get together to challenge the masters, because they hate each other more than they hate the masters.

Kindness is a revolutionary act.

Page 1 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén