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

The Lack of Belief in Good

Are humans good, bad, or neutral?

It’s an old philosophical debate and not just in the West. Confucius thought they were born neutral, for example, while the later Confucian Mencius felt they were good, noting that everyone who saw a child fall into a well would be horrified. Others, including many Confucians and the Christian church, with original sin, have felt that humans are born bad, and they have to be made good.

This is also the general view of the ruling ideology of the West: Ecnonomism. Humans are greedy, selfish, and only care for themselves. Popular biology, derived from books like Dawkins “The Selfish Gene” and 19th century social Darwinism has led to similar views.

If you think humans are bad, the question becomes how do you get them to do good? Traditional Christianity’s answer was, “Hit them while they’re kids, a lot, that’ll make them good.” (spare the rod, spoil the child), which can be judged fairly by Christianity’s record: “judge by the fruits” being reasonable when dealing with people who claim to follow Jesus.

Economism’s answer is, “If they’re greedy and selfish, give them rewards for doing what you want.”

Strangely, giving lots of rewards to bankers, CEOs, executives, and politicians has not made them better.

Now, of course, a pure selfishness/greed/incentives disciple might reply, “But they are the ones who decide what they get rewarded for, and that doesn’t make them good. You have to reward people for doing good!” But those same disciples are the folks, or descendants of the folks, who argued that the only thing corporate executives were responsible for was raising stock prices, and that giving them stock options was how to do that.

Didn’t work out. Teaching greedy people to be more greedy by rewarding their greed had the results one would expect: even more greed, in a lovely spiral upwards, while the middle and bottom of society had its heart cut out.

My own observation has been that when incentives are removed people are more likely to do the right thing. You don’t want doctors to own stock in drug companies, or make more money the more surgeries they do. Conversely, punishing surgeons for bad results actually lead to surgeons being unwilling to do risky surgeries which were still medically indicated: they wouldn’t want their success/fail rate to go down.

I’ve written in the past that I consider most humans neither good nor bad, but weak. They do more or less what their group wants. But really I’d say that humans, absent fear and incentives, have a slight bias to good. Most people like helping people, don’t like hurting people, and so on, as long as they themselves are not hurting or blinded by greed.

The moment a lot of people become chronically scared or greedy, however, that goes away. The scared are defensive and ready to be angry and hate, the greedy become sociopathic or even psychopathic, concerned only for themselves and, sometimes, a few people around them. Furthermore, incentives always cause tunnel vision — people pursuing incentives ignore everything that doesn’t get them to the incentive, and even well designed incentives leave out much that should be done.

As horrible as the idea is to us, the best thing to do with people is for leaders to be selected because they are kind and good, to set goals for oganizations without significant incentives (this doesn’t mean don’t track and correct), and remove fear from people. Make sure they know their needs will be met, and that no one wants to hurt them, and that help is available.

In such circumstances, strangely, people blossom. Happy people are more productive. About half of business literature can be summed up as, “If you treat employees well, they are way more productive, but most bosses are cunts who don’t want to do this, despite a huge preponderance of evidence.”

But when people are happy and not scared, of course, not only can you not get most of them to do evil, they don’t act servile and hop-to-it at your every command. For most bosses, ordering people around is the primary pleasure of the job (no, don’t pretend), even more than profit.

And since, with neoliberalism, they can be rich and have scared serfs jumping at their every statement of “frog,” recompense having almost no correlation with productivity or even profits, they can have the best of both worlds: rich and with what amounts to slaves, without the responsibility of caring for their servants.

This lies at the heart of all the screams about how Covid has made people unwilling to work at shitty minimum wage jobs, and government needs to stop giving them money, so they have no choice but to go groveling back to their masters for work they hate that may not even pay rent on a one-bedroom apartment.

If you insist on saying people are bad, then treating them badly, if you must be obeyed and show no concern for your slaves, then don’t be surprised if you live in Hell, and if the only thing keeping Hell from your own doors is having a TON of money.

There is another way, and maybe one day, having tried every evil thing, we’ll give it a shot.

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Once More Unto Covid and Schools


The Art of Measurement


  1. Plague Species

    It all depends on one’s definition of what constitutes good and bad. That definition not only changes over time, but each culture within civilization at the moment has differing definitions with some overlap of course.

    Within Western culture for example, it seems some are born bad and some are born good and some are born neutral, at least according to what constitutes good and bad within contemporary Western culture.

    My wife can attest to this considering she teaches children from 3-6 years of age. Some are born under a bad sign, others are likened to the Buddha and then there are the milquetoasts.

  2. bruce wilder

    Rather than “good” or “evil”, or behaving as sinners or saints, I think people are social and co-dependent on the social groups in which they find themselves. People are capable of surviving a solitary existence, but just barely. Their nature is social and — this is an important part — their social behavior is strategic. And, here is a second important part: humans are not alike; evolution has differentiated humans in their social behaviors/characteristic strategies.

    Philosophers and social engineers overlook the implications of strategic social behavior at their peril. We are a social and a disputatious species, cooperative and rivalrous, loyal and jealous; some of us zig and others will zag.

    A lot of what people claim to believe religiously or politically is denial of strategic social behavior, the propensity to devise and play social games with complex roles and calculation.

  3. Feral Finster

    Power is to sociopaths what catnip is to cats.

  4. Willy

    I think of the Norwegians. In one age they’re a bunch of monk-raping pirates. In another, they’re so peaceful that for them warfare means building better ski facilities. I suspect that there may be something to this “culture” thing.

  5. Ché Pasa

    A story, possibly of Good and Evil (and yes, I know I personalize things):

    I was assaulted by a neighbor’s houseguest a few weeks ago. He’d “escaped” from a treatment facility where he’d been sent by the court after he went joyriding in the police chief’s car. I didn’t know him and I didn’t know any of this until after he’d assaulted me, and I found out I wasn’t the only one he attacked during his few days out of treatment.

    During the episode and before I’d learned anything about him, I saw him and characterized him to others as a “demon” — evil, in other words. My neighbor had known him all his life and insisted she never thought he would be violent, but I found out later he’d been convicted of assault previously and had a lengthy criminal history despite being only 25 or 26; he’d already served numerous jail and prison sentences.

    I also learned he was diagnosed schizophrenic with violent tendencies and was prescribed several anti-psychotic medications which were taken from him at the treatment facility, and when he started acting out, he was taken to the hospital for observation. He checked himself out and went to my neighbor’s house from where he started threatening and assaulting me and others until he was arrested a few minutes after assaulting me.

    So as I look at this situation — which is not uncommon, by the way — I can see how the whole concept of Good and Evil becomes a confused and tangled mess in practice. This guy was wrong to threaten and assault people, but was he Evil? When he’s on the right medications, he’s apparently odd but not violent. When those medications are withheld or he doesn’t take them for some other reason, he apparently becomes the “demon” I and others encountered.

    Kind and generous leadership would have long ago ensured that he and people like him received the kind of care they needed to function in society and maintain a decent life among others. Instead, he got essentially the opposite when his treatment facility took his meds away, despite their intent to Do Good.

    We see so much of the same thing throughout government and corporate behavior. They declare Good Intent and then do almost exactly the opposite. It’s not just greed. No, it runs much deeper in the systems.

    Radical solutions may be the only ones.

  6. Willy

    My mama used to tell me that evil is as evil does. And the rest is usually bullshit. Sometimes I wish that others had known my mama.

  7. Soredemos

    “Popular biology, derived from books like Dawkins “The Selfish Gene” and 19th century social Darwinism has led to similar views.”

    I’m sorry, but this is nonsense. Have you actually read the book? Dawkins doesn’t use ‘selfish’ like most people use it. His point was putting the emphasis for evolution at the gene level, and that genes will always push for their own reproduction and long-term survival, and, crucially, that this doesn’t always mean at the level of the individual gene. It doesn’t even have to operate at the level of a full individual organism, because from the perspective of the genetic level there is no difference between the macro structure that is an ‘individual’ and the macro structure that is offspring.

    So 1. Dawkins and biology aren’t making an ode to selfishness, and 2. the selfish gene concept is slowly on its way out anyway in favor of more holistic models that don’t focus solely on the genetic level.

  8. NL

    There are no ‘people’ in general, there are only people adapted to the environment in which they live and to the way of life that they lead. Clear examples are the adaptation to high-altitude among the people living in Tibet or the adaptation to extreme cold among the Inuits (“Researchers have found unique genetic mutations in the Inuit genome that make them more adapted to cold as well as a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, with the side effect of shorter height.”) Pastoral nomads can digest animal milk, settled agriculturalists can not.

    Confucianism was one school of thought that appeared during something called the Hundred Schools of Thought period. Yangism was another school of though that appeared in the same period. Yangism was all about egoism and individualism. Confucianism has survived, Yangism not so much. Being ‘good’ is good for China.

    We are the descendants of nomads. We can digest milk in adulthood, while hardly anyone can do this in China. Puritans emerged in a period sort of similar to the Hundred Schools of Though in England. Levellers were another group that emerged at the same time. Levellers were ‘nice’. But Puritan spirit is still around and not so much Levellers. So, being ‘bad’ is good for us. Trying to stop being ‘bad’ is just as bad and impossible for us and stopping being able to digest milk.

  9. Hugh

    Good is a moral concept. And morality is about how we live in society together. If you live on a desert island, there is no morality because the only person you can affect is you. Aristotle said that happiness was the highest good but then he also said they were social animals. That is our happiness is tied to how we live and act with others. Our rich and powerful try to get around this by saying they merit what they have and the rest of us merit less, or that we have less due to vast impersonal forces no one can control, so get used to it.

  10. Hugh

    Saying that genes push for anything is an anthropomorphism.

  11. Astrid

    I find Benthamite utilitarianism (primitive, not the more evolved versions that incorporate more subjective opinions) to be a useful guide to good and evil. Take people as they are and think about whether my actions are likely to result in more overall suffering or less. Know that I probably can’t change anyone else’s behavior or generally speaking, don’t know them as well as they know themselves. Usually the best thing to do is to leave people alone and just try to be helpful on the fringes.

    Where it breaks down for me is human v. natural world. If I think about the harm I personally inflict in the natural world, suicide asap would be the only ethical option for me. Yet would my passing actually change anything or would another even more mindless consumer take my place and meanwhile making my family and friends sad (assuming they’re not lying when they say they like and generally care for me). But I for one would welcome human extinction, though I will not do anything to push it forward being not personally procreating.

  12. Willy

    Leaving a nephews wedding reception which had been at a historic building in a historic district in a historic small town, I went to fetch the car for my wife. I pulled out slowly past the sidewalk so she could get in. But I startled a drunk old townie stumbling along who hadn’t been paying attention. He then cursed at me and threatened me and threatened to invade that wedding reception to let everybody know what assholes we all were. So I got out to confront the man who was far smaller than I. But he only got worse. So I looked around to make sure there were no witnesses, then bullrushed him into the alley and made sure he wound up in a dumpster.

    I quickly got my wife and hustled her into the car but she could hear noises coming from the dumpster. After telling her it was nothing and quickly driving off, I made the decision to explain it all to her. I was just trying to keep the reception mojo free from some crazy old town drunk and that guys like that needed to be taught a lesson.

    She then called me the evil one, and she hadn’t known that evil side of me, and then I got that silent treatment you give evil people, after I refused to go back and check on the guy. This was before video phones and Youtube instructional videos made for not-evil people to know better how to handle such situations.

    Anyways, after 10 years of marriage and 4 kids my nephew’s wife left him for a muffler shop guy. I brought both situations up with my wife and she told me that while I’d still been evil but in a reflexively misguided sorta way, that the nephews wife had been far more evil. It’s good to get this off my chest. I guess what I’m saying is that there are degrees of evil.

  13. Joan

    @Che Pasa, oh my gosh, I’m sorry that guy attacked you! That must have given you quite a fright and I hope you’re not injured. I wonder why on earth the treatment center took that guy’s meds away.

    @Astrid, on humans vs. the natural world: you can do a lot of good just by identifying your resource-intensive habits and eliminating the top three. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You don’t have to walk off a cliff or go full-Amish.

    You’re already helping the world by helping the human population contract. That is much needed, and that also means the kids who are being born right now might still have access to resources in the future.

    If you want to do more to reduce your footprint/resource impact/what have you, then writing out what you could do, and what you’re willing to do, is a great way to brainstorm and get started in that direction. That’s what I did, at least! My two cents with a dash of salt.

  14. Joan

    @Willy, your wife calling you evil is a bit harsh! Maybe I’ve just had too much of a hellfire upbringing.

    Your story gave me a chuckle, though I bet the town drunk is going to have it out for your family now! On the other hand, letting him terrorize the reception would’ve been bad.

  15. Plague Species

    …assuming they’re not lying when they say they like and generally care for me…

    I’m not lying when I say I not only don’t like you and don’t care for you, but I actually despise you and many more like you who haunt The Net.

  16. Hugh

    There are a fair number of people in Congress who could use with a more intimate knowledge of a dumpster, and on a regular basis. Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz come to mind.

  17. Astrid

    Plague Species,

    When internet trolls make it into the list of people I care about, I’ll consult you and Hugh on your feelings. I guess I have my own carve out from pure Benthamite utilitarianism, I don’t consider minimizing suffering to assholes to be a priority.

  18. nihil obstet


    Dawkins was Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford when he wrote The Selfish Gene. He’s incompetent if he thinks that publishing a book called The Selfish Gene from Oxford is not going to communicate to most of the public the understanding that humans have a gene that makes us selfish. I read the book not long after it came out. You’re technically right on what he wrote if you read carefully, but there is lots of bad faith communication in the book. The point that the book advanced the ideology of selfishness is correct.

  19. Hugh

    An appearance by Astrid always raises the question is she off her meds or on the wrong ones.

    Bentham’s utilitarianism and hedonistic calculus are cute but pointless attempts to quantify the unquantifiable. The real question is are we building and sustaining the kind of society we want.

  20. Ché Pasa

    I agree with Nihil regarding The Selfish Gene — and Dawkins knew exactly what he was doing.

    On the other hand, our genetics can have a profound effect on how we behave, and I see no reason why a gene to be selfish as opposed to cooperative couldn’t dominate in many people.

    @Joan — thanks for your concern. It was quite an experience. I was injured, not severely, but there was much blood from a head wound that looked much worse than it was. 🙁 Luckily law enforcement arrived within minutes and took the guy into custody. Not only was he armed with the ax he hit me with, he had two knives in his pants pockets. From what I’ve learned, the whole series of incidents was a systems failure that shouldn’t have happened.

  21. Astrid

    The guy probably couldn’t control himself, but the relative who was in denial and allowed him to harm others was… evil. Being in denial or negligent doesn’t absolve responsibility for allowing harm to come to others.

  22. someofparts

    Astrid – The next time we have an open thread I would be interested in hearing what you think of all the big changes that seem to be underway in China.

    As to the current topic at hand, my contribution is the observation that as humans, we literally install some of our own instincts. Unlike our primate cousins, we are all born prematurely before our full suite of instincts are in place. Those final instincts are provided by whatever upbringing we get in our youngest profoundly formative years. A lot of what makes us who we are, for good or bad, are installed in our little psyches in those initial years by the people who are around to socialize us.

    My source for this is a favorite book – Woman, an Intimate Geography, by Natalie Angier, science journalist and wonderful writer. Seems to me that any discussion of human nature probably needs good information about how mothers fit into the picture.

  23. nihil obstet

    Last week I discovered that Ken Burns had done a film on Huey Long. I’m a fan of Long, never having understood the level of corruption accusations against him. Given a number of topics covered in posts and comments here over the last year or two, the film was fascinating. It was the usual Burns — a little narrative followed by snippets of quotations organized into different viewpoints where you don’t know how they were solicited or selected.

    The poor people interviewed all loved Long. The lawyers, judges, other legislators, journalists, and Robert Penn Warren opined that he did some good things (like Mussolini getting the trains to run on time! I kid you not), but not the way he did them. They argued that dictators have to do things for the people, so they’re a danger to democracy, apparently unable to wonder why democracy couldn’t do things for the people. The best statement was from Russell Long, Huey’s son, who said they liked the form of democracy but not the fact of democracy.

    The anti-Huey people finally said that Long wanted power, and individual power is just wrong. How do they think that generations of poverty had subsisted in Louisiana without the exercise of power? That’s one of those questions that I guess you just don’t ask. You just condemn someone who seeks power and uses it to bring the means of a dignified life to the poor.

    So was Long a good man? I care a lot less about that than about the good things he brought to the poor. Our system is based on “democracy” being unexamined and the outcome of rules serving as judgment on the system.

  24. Jim Harmon

    “I actually despise you and many more like you who haunt The Net.” – plague

    Is it their fault that nobody likes you?

  25. Willy

    Ever notice how when certain people show up around here, so do suddenly lots of other new names?

  26. Astrid

    I’m tempted to venture as a guess as to why PS is quite so much of a jerk, but I suspect he’s in a very sad and stressful situation and I don’t want to make it worse. Still, I always thought this applies very well to the situation:

    “If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.”

    Raylan Givens Justified

    As for Hugh. I appreciate his smooth recursion to his usual baseless ableist ad hominem. Kinda illustrate my point for me. Remember folks, this may well be your PMCer under their controlling superego.

    Someofparts-what I hear coming out of China sounds great to me newly radicalized ears. I don’t have special insight though. I really have no way to assess how realistic it is to carry out or imagine what it’ll look like 5-10 years down the line. All I can say is it sounds good to me, as I should sounds good to sensible people everywhere. China is not a paradise, most people in China know that very very well. But it’s encouraging to see a government that appears to be improving the lives of its people, rather than parasitize on them.

    Let’s just hope, for everyone’s sake, that there’s no serious cold or hot war, and China can continue to offer the developing world a better deal than the IMF/WorldBank/SWIFT regime. The utilitarian in me hope people can have as much agency and happiness in their lives as possible, until climate change and resource depletion takes us all. I don’t wish failures on anyone except imperialist oppressors, corporatist sociopaths, and US politicians (sorry I repeat myself!)

  27. Astrid


    Thank you for demonstrating that you can’t keep a promise, ever. Or stop baselessly insinuating dishonesty in others. I’m sorry that your shitty life experience lead you this behavior.

  28. Astrid

    (whereas my life apparently soft boiled my brain into early dementia and incoherent sentences…)

  29. Willy

    Yesterday I had to get a stack of 20’ rebar at Home Depot and so parked my truck with my rebar carrier on top in the trailer slot, since other spaces are too short for these long whippy lengths of metal which can damage other cars.
    When I came back I found that somebody had parked their large SUV to within inches of my tailgate. Lucky for me, it wasn’t during busy hours and I pulled 10’ forward into the car aisle so I could load up safely without damaging the vehicle behind. Still, why would anybody in their right mind park that way when there were plenty of other spots?

    The owner came back, a 30-something educated looking white woman, with one bag of thinset. I calmly but firmly stated: “Do you understand why I parked here?” After a couple tries I finally stated, calmly and firmly: “You parked so close behind me that I couldn’t load anything up.” She tersely, without making eye contact or showing any emotion whatsoever, said “My apologies” and then quickly left.

    Now, maybe she’d lost her mind a little after losing an argument with her husband about not getting enough thinset. Maybe her tile job wasn’t going the way the nice lady in the Youtube video said it would. Maybe she confused my dangly red flag hanging off my rebar carrier for the hanging tennis ball her father had trained her to use when parking in the garage, because it was certainly touching her windshield.
    Whatever. This wasn’t enough to create a Karen video or to fret over. But it was just enough to annoy and more than enough to get me to wonder why the hell people do things that 99% of the general population wouldn’t even consider.

    I decided then to call such people and situations “Astrid”.

  30. Soredemos


    Wow. You’re a douche.

    As for PS, he writes like a schizophrenic, and isn’t worth attempting to debate with.

  31. Joan

    @Che Pasa, he came at you with an axe?! That’s terrifying! Oh my gosh. I’d’ve fainted and then been axed I guess. Yeesh! Maybe my adrenaline would have kicked in and saved me. I hope your injury heals quickly.

    @All, this thread got a bit mean. Let’s go take a walk outside and smell the fresh air?

  32. Hugh

    Well, let’s see, Soredemos waves his cane at Plague Species and you Willy, but not Astrid. A pattern?

    It is surprising but not that unusual for people to do things that you just shake your head at and wonder what they were thinking, immediately followed by the realization that they weren’t.

  33. Soredemos

    Gee, it’s almost like Astrid doesn’t habitually post nonsense, or something.

    I wrote PS entirely when he was screeching about how Yves Smith was a John Bircher. I’m convinced he’s just genuinely mentally unwell, and there is absolutely zero purpose to trying to engage with a crazy person.

  34. Astrid


    Thanks for your kind reminder. Yeah, I’ve been trying to avoid engaging them for my own mental health, but even my banal first comment draws out the usual baseless and personal ugliness from that quartet. I wanted to engaged enough to show I’ve not cowered by them and remind others that yeah, that what a lot of so called liberals and progressives are like underneath their PMC skin.

    I do want to ask you, because Hugh’s gaslighting sometimes does get under my skin… do I come across as trollish or lumped in with them in the mind of others here (people whose opinions I do care about, which includes you and Che and most regulars here who are commenting on good faith, even if I don’t agree with them on a lot of things).

    Thanks also for your kind thoughts about reducing my environmental impact. I’m pretty constricted right now from my primary vice, we used to take 2 to 3 international or long distance trips a year and they’re the highlights and mileposts of our life. We don’t really miss them the way other people seem to go stir crazy, but passage of time is even swifter without the trips and I miss learning about new landscapes and cultures and foods. I made my peace about my carbon footprint. We drive as little as possible (we always lived in one bedroom apartments before our current house, to minimize commutes and ensure easy access to public transit, current house was also picked to be a short drive to work and amenities), keep our HVAC to the lowest usage that’s sufficient to keep my husband comfortable, does probably 1/10 of the laundry that my in-laws do (my MIL wants fresh bulky bath towels everytime, we get by on washing our quick dry Turkish towels every other month), do household chores ourselves (when just about everyone we know IRL hire cleaners and yard services) and practice regenerative growing practices. But we still eat a lot of meat and seafood (grass finished and sustainably harvested, but still highly energy intensive) and by virtue of living in suburban US, we have big carbon footprints. I made peace with that because ultimately I don’t think what we do matters at all. The die is cast. What I do and don’t do is more about making me feel better than actual impact, unfortunately.

  35. GlassHammer

    Not only should you be cautious when it comes to incentives, you might want to avoid making them uniform across many disciplines.

    From what I have seen, if you create a uniform set of incentives across an organization you get one type of worker with one set of traits, talents, and motivations.

    You get a monoculture that can’t adapt to any significant change because each member of the group comes up with the same answer to a problem.

  36. Willy

    …remind others that yeah, that what a lot of so called liberals and progressives are like underneath their PMC skin.

    Yeah, they couldn’t possibly be effected by the ever increasing daily stresses of living in a declining society led by sociopathic elites, or capable of acting out like completely different people if they’d been living in a more liberal and progressive age.

    It sure looks like our sociopathic elites have done their job well.

  37. Joan

    @Astrid, I do not think you’re a troll! Admittedly I don’t read the comments section every time, and I’m not online as often these days, but you strike me as a genuine person.

    It sounds like you are doing some things to lessen your environmental impact, so I think that’s good. What I try to encourage other people to think about is not giving in to either extreme: you can approach Catholic levels of scrupulosity in nit-picking your life (I know someone who is an evangelist vegan “for the environment” but she’s exhausted and looks awful, so I had to enforce some space and let her figure that out herself), or throwing your hands in the air and giving up completely. There’s a lot of middle ground where productive work can be done.

  38. Trinity

    Ian, this is great advice. Accountability with a purpose, in other words. I worry that the “one hundredths of a percent” have so much money now, accountability will never happen without some kind of disaster.

    “She tersely, without making eye contact or showing any emotion whatsoever, said “My apologies” and then quickly left.”

    Being female, I would guess she is avoiding conflict. It’s a much scarier world for women than men. I could be wrong but in the US, her response is almost required, because you just can’t know who has a weapon and might explode. Seriously. And it’s even possible she learned this lesson the “the hard way”. (I don’t think you would, Willy, I’m saying she didn’t know you wouldn’t.)

    Astrid: no. Absolutely you do not. Information, even if anecdotal, is still information and should / could be shared. The listener (or reader) makes a choice whether to believe it or not. The problem, for all of us, is discerning what’s true. It isn’t easy at all, but that also doesn’t imply support for hate speech against someone whose view differs. It can just as easily be ignored (both ways). I learn things from you, and if i’m not sure or don’t agree, i just ignore it. We all walk a separate path, and as noted very well here, we are shaped by our own experiences and the people closest to us. I believe if we (collectively) could stop attacking each other, we could best the ones who are hurting us (collectively) the most.

    Also, my sense is that the US will continue to have problems with China’s pivot, because China (like the indigenous peoples) present a generally more desirable state for common people, the antithesis of US’s approach.

    We could all use a little more “live and let live”, but the main problem being we are all scared shitless.

    “Yeah, they couldn’t possibly be effected by the ever increasing daily stresses of living in a declining society led by sociopathic elites.”

    This is so true (as sarcasm). The stresses are becoming larger, the risks we face also, and life is getting slightly more unpleasant every single day. I had to drive the DC Beltway twice over the last two days, which should make any sane person start questioning the sanity of the decision makers. The one thing I couldn’t get out of my head during the ordeal was “How could anyone think this is okay? Or even sustainable?”. That’s what is so terrifying, this normalization of insanity.

    And to finally close out this post: evil can only exist if good also exists. They each define the other. There is no up without down, no front without back, no beauty without ugly, etc.

    “Lao Tzu seems to have said that the distinction between good and evil is really a wrong-headed human contrivance … It will be argued that he recognizes two kinds of evils. The first kind of evil is that which causes human sufferings in the world. They are supposedly originated in the assertive use of the human will. The second kind of evil is the human sufferings caused by the first kind.”

    Good then is about “going with the flow”, allowing things to be (but only the things that don’t cause human suffering). Because we are now dealing with global scale evil, I would add my usual “humans and other living things” of which the destruction of nature (any of it that is unnecessary and based solely in greed) also causes human and nonhuman suffering. The evidence is abundant.

    For more, just google “taoism and evil” or similar.

  39. Willy


    I didn’t see your little opine there. Douche! I haven’t heard that word since grade school. I had a great time in grade school. If I had more time I’d engage you in a thrilling game of “I know you are but what am I.”

    On a more serious note, I honestly had no idea that it was you going into that dumpster. Had I known, I would’ve given out a big Welsh bro hug and spotted you a couple bucks towards your next bottle of mad dog. For that little faux pas please allow me to say:

    My apologies.

  40. Willy

    Trinity, I think it’s reasonable to assume that telling my little anecdotes has been a bust. They play a lot better out in meatspace. The dream here was to get older, wiser others to share their own experiences about dealing with a society in steep decline, and that hopefully mutually fruitful discussions would ensue. Instead, we just become easy targets for people looking to unload their angst on somebody. Or to try and ruin “lefty” discussions, I dunno.

    The Youtube agorithm in Its infinite wisdom deemed me to be somebody who’d be into large lizards and started sending me videos from reptile aficionados. To humor Mr. algorithm, I watched a few and scanned some of the comments from these folks and man, those places are full of support and knowledge and freely dispensed wisdom. I’m wondering why if the large lizard folks can do it, then why can’t we have a community like that around here?

    In the meantime, it’s seems wiser for me to focus on commenters having far worse undeserved situations thrust onto them, than the occasional town drunk or ice bitch. Like Che. He seems a wise and intelligent gentle soul who just wants the best for the regular guys. I honestly don’t know what I’d do in that situation. Maybe that should be my focus henceforth.

  41. Soredemos


    Confucianism survived, and eventually came to dominate, because the elite found it very useful for dividing up society and ensuring stability by making sure everyone ‘knew their place’. Reading up on the Neo-Confucianism of Joseon Korea and Edo Japan, these were two of the worst, most miserable societies in history, particularly for women (the Korean variety mostly didn’t even bother to teach elite women to write; baby factories didn’t need to be literate). The peasants who made up 90% or more of Japanese society were likely one of the most brutalized classes of people in human history.

    One of the supposed virtues of Confucianism is loyalty to family, but from what I can tell what mostly happens is that everyone becomes subservient to the needs of The Family™, which is the public perception of the clan and a very different entity from the actual family. This leads to things like turning your back on family members, eg disowning children, who have brought too much shame on The Family™.

  42. Joan

    I second the claims by others here that this comments section could be nicer. By and large I’d say it is, but then there will be a few bad apples and someone will have a bad day, and then we’ll turn into “crabs in a bucket” as Astrid so aptly put a while ago.

    Trinity’s sentiment of “We all need a little more of ‘live and let live’ these days” is very appropriate I think. Also “Be kind: the road is hard for everyone” which points out that you don’t know how much a person is suffering in any given moment, or how much they will end up suffering in their life. That shouldn’t forgive mistreatment, but it should delay a person who might jump someone’s case.

  43. Plague Species

    No, I will not let fascists live. You do not live and let live when it comes to fascists because fascists do not live and let live. Fascists deserve nothing more or less than death.

    The way you strike at the dark heart of fascism is to cut off its head and the head of fascism is the wealthy elite. Without the wealthy elite, fascism and fascists cannot be.

  44. Willy

    Joan, maybe I could use some advice.

    There was once a commenter here when I arrived right after Trump was elected, who continuously demanded violent revolution and railed against “the left” as being weak. The punch line was the he also wouldn’t be joining us in any revolution or even offering advice on the way. Then he’d target and name call individual commenters and hammer them as being “too weak”, not smart enough, not nuanced enough, etc… no matter what the topic was.

    There was another guy, an anti-lefty wingnut who routinely called everybody else stuff like “stalinist snowflakes”.

    I became suspicious when the two appeared to support each other. So I did a little investigation and discovered that they’d meet in the comments on long dead threads to virtue signal and otherwise hobnob about their manly strengths and lefty weaknesses. You can say that my attitudes were weaned in that environment.

    Both guys have long gone but my suspicions about commenters motives remain, especially after learning just how far corporate conservatives are willing to go to fund and maintain their culture of “personal responsibility” (social dysfunction). As with most relationships, sometimes it’s hard to know who really believes what until it’s too late.

    So how does one know who’s acting in good faith and trying their best to be intellectually honest?

  45. Trinity

    I’ll jump the gun and reply before Joan, but hopefully she will reply, too. She usually says things better than I do.

    “So how does one know who’s acting in good faith and trying their best to be intellectually honest?”

    Your gut, really. We can’t really trust our emotions, they are fleeting anyway, and our emotions are exactly what they (evil people) repeatedly target in order to persuade. Our emotions are our weakest “link” or access point. So trust your intuition, your personal knowledge and experience, and like you said, a little investigation will also help.

  46. Plague Species

    Are you the same “Trinity” who posts the racist tripe over at The Unz Review with all your white nationalist friends? If you are, what in thee hell are you doing at this venue?

  47. Joan

    @Willy, I second Trinity’s reply, and you ask a really good question that has made me think.

    In history class in high school, the teacher would make everyone stand up, then she’d choose a flash point in history, divide the class, and make them one by one debate each other. It didn’t matter if you didn’t agree with your side; you had to properly debate (I had to defend the Confederacy’s secession, for example). It drove home that there are human beings on every side of an issue.

    The teacher had a list of criteria that warranted immediate dismissal, and the student would have to sit down and leave the debate. Since I gained internet access in college, I’ve used that mental list to filter things I find on the internet, and then afterward I bounce it off different people in my life to get more perspectives, and it helps that I read very different opinions online.

    I wish I could remember the exact list, but I’m sure it was originally developed from sources on structuring an argument. Things like the strawman, unsupported claims, name-calling, insinuation without substantiation, all of that doesn’t amount to a proper argument, and you’d have to sit down.

  48. Willy

    Thanks guys. I just saw a spot about how half of all American girls are depressed, mostly about their futures. I’ll opine that the active destruction of faith in established institutions has as it’s primary goal, increasing The Lack of Belief In Good, so we all ya know, are inspired to go out and buy more corporate products that’ll make us feel all better.

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