Sunday, September 23, 2012

Immortality Goes Private

Continuing from Hope and Future, Part 2: Hope and Future, Part 3, or "Immortality Goes Private."

Formally privatizing something is no worse, in and of itself, than managing it unjustly in the clothes of a government, be it that of a dictatorship, an uneducated democracy, or a purchased republic. As mentioned in Part 2, being starved, beaten, or locked up for twenty-four hours of solitary with a sexual predator 100lbs heavier than you is the same whether or not it was done by an employee of the State of Texas who has low benefits and makes $32,500 a year, or by an independent contractor working for the Corrections Corporation of America, making $24,000 a year with no benefits.

Privatization is really a moral victory for the superclass: a way of further shutting off any sense of shared claim to human accomplishments. With "property," then "money," elites tricked the rest of the populace into killing, dying, and working, while simultaneously not believing they were entitled to the fruits of their suffering. Many humans--most?--still revere the hoarding overlords for their supposed victories in the mostly-fair playing field they desperately believe in. If you've already figured that particular ruse out, what makes privatization interesting is the emotional investment of the elites: the metaphysical slap in the face to the rest of humanity, to not even allow them to pretend any longer that they have participated in any given accomplishment by virtue of "citizenship," and instead, to make clear that they had no part in whatever they and their laboring great-great-great grandparents, and everyone else in between, spent their lives working on. Like a wife beater shouting a few final drunken insults at a wife already dead, privatization is an extra, unnecessary, rubbed-in-the-face reminder of powerlessness: the same people would be pulling the levers and collecting the dollars and prizes anyway, but the nuisance of allowing the proles to feel pride when the space shuttle went up or the flag was driven in would be taken care of.

Here, David Brin becomes useful again. Yes, Brin is a vile racist, but it would be entirely inappropriate, incorrect, and wholly wrong to accuse him of being part of a modern-day propaganda effort directed against the U.S. population. According to his Wikipedia entry, for example, Brin has advised the Defense Department and the CIA, but his mysteriously successful literary work stands on its own merits, and has no connection whatsoever to any political activities he may or may not pursue in his own time. Although he is rude and insulting to any potential non-centrist-American book purchasers, this is only because of his strongly-held personal political convictions, and has nothing to do with his sense that his books will show successful sales records that grab industry attention no matter what potential customers think of him.

It would, therefore, be wholly inaccurate to use Brin's regular public speeches, essays and novels as any indication of what American intelligence agencies want the public to become accustomed to. These aren't the days of J. Edgar Hoover, stuff like that never happens anymore, and this certainly isn't Soviet Frickin Russia. It's not like our tax dollars are funding ghostwritten Isaac Asimov ripoffs promoted by public libraries and major retailers with the purpose of properly ordering society and acclimating a target subgroup to certain political ideas, dude.

However, as a talented futurist, Brin's suggestions can be useful aides in verifying what elites are up to. He suggests that privatization is the future of spaceflight, and he's quite right. The great ventures of humankind will all be "trickle down" in the truest, most Reaganite sense of the term: give us your labor, money, and support, and we'll know much better than you what to do with it.

What does privatized spaceflight mean? It means that the voyage to Luna, Mars, or that neat civilization a few galaxies over, is no longer even tokenly feigned as an achievement for life, or humanity, or America, or even NASA, but an achievement for Dutch East India or Standard Oil or Blackspace or whichever foundation or individual it is then. The experience of looking on the Earth from space will be a commodity. So? Everything else already is. If you can't afford that trip to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon or the Louvre, you simply never go, and if you were just a harder worker/better person/smarter, then you'd've already gone. Old news, for those who've already figured this game out, but where does it lead?

Eventually, it will be time to say goodbye. As the collected elites prepare to transfer their consciousness into immortal bodies, the privilege will be a commodity. There will be no more resources available for outdated humans. The "trickle down" argument will still be there, though, as elites promise that with their new immortality the rest of the species has worked for over millions of years of evolution, they can gain further resources that can be used to rescue the dying organic husks of their old hosts. And then, we'll all be immortal! We're doing it to help your children! It isn't just going to be Little Lord Fauntleroy and the Bush twins that live forever, and decisions won't be made on the basis of any kind of caste discrimination, but on merit alone.

Will there be, then, a chance of stopping these new perpetual terminators, before they eliminate Humans v. 1.0? Before they take their ships and leave the stripped, dying world full of non-prime-movers?

For those past the simple illusions of "the Africans are poor because they're stupid, not because they've been murdered for centuries," or "things are getting better because war is cleaner now," or "voting for a mass murderer is okay if she or he kills fewer people than the other mass murderer," one of the next steps in development is to perceive where the train is headed. Their guns will keep getting bigger, their opulence more extravagant, and their detached cruelty more refined. As the technological power at their command grows still greater, it will reach a level where they no longer rely on their organic bodies to endure, and where they can process energy, outsource creative thinking, and become passive pleasure recipients forever. They will, then, be dead--their goal, antilife, since the beginning--and in the process, will have starved off the lesser beings who got them the orderly, endless power they wanted.

Where to, from there? Succeeded in Part 4, You Can't Beat the 7 Orc Rush.

Hope and Future, Part 2

Continuing from Hope and Future, Part 1.

Who are the new demons of trickle-down economics? Like the old ones, they are numerous, powerful, and everywhere. They are the Gates Foundation, privatizing schools; they're "corrections" companies, privatizing prisons, and Halliburton and friends, privatizing war. Any traces of the idea of humans using the notion of "property" to own, through a semblance of democratic government--whether or not that's good--is falling.

Following in the tradition of the Dutch East India Company and necrotizing fasciitis, correctional facility and military service privatization, and their associated integral abuses, are more commonly recognized as bad for most humans. Halliburton and Blackwater, during the brief national discontent with President Bush, demonstrated the collusion, treasury theft, unaccountability, and massacring associated with the sell-off of these functions. Prison privatization is less popularly known, but a brief description of how it works will usually sway those who might've once been displeased with Bush's actions.

Aided by Obama and Gates, privatized education has been recently slipping from the realm of conservative craziness and into pragmatic liberal goodness. Diane Ravitch offers a good breakdown of the day-by-day over the past several years here, here, here (Gates!), and here.

Long did the traditional conservatives push for this selling off, and one of the brilliant tactics of the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama quadrilogy has been to slide the exaltation of elite greed, and its salubrious effects upon the weak, out of the territory of a "no way" v. "yes way" liberal v. conservative debate, and into the "all right, but let's talk about HOW" position, where the privatization is presupposed.

Does it matter? The surface designations largely don't. Having the Corrections Corporation of America contract to run jails only if a state guarantees 90% occupation for its cells is honest thievery, but considering the prison system CCA is replacing, and the people who own CCA--who are the same people, or the heirs of the same people, who were previously running the state governments, prison suppliers, courts, local politics, et cetera--the difference is only stylistic. Whether King, Mayor, Judge, or CEO is running the prison, the prison is still the prison, and the laws and associated rituals that fill its cells come from the same sources in each case. Mercenaries running wars or torturing prisoners, rather than "state armies" doing the same, exhibit similarly small numbers of differences, except that when anyone gets caught doing something wrong, the other side can always relate the infraction to the nature of the respective beast, be it inefficient, poorly-paid state soldiers or honorless mercenary dogs. The difference is meaningful only if you perceive a difference in the people running the show, and at the highest levels, they ultimately were, and are, the same people.

Continued in Hope and Future, Part 3: Immortality Goes Private.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wealth and Power, Part 2

Succeeding Part 1.

Disadvantages of Bloodless Currency

The trade-off the elites made in switching away from publicly-acknowledged blood and toward dollars was that dollars could, theoretically, be amassed by someone irrespective of non-elite birth. Non-elites could always, in small numbers, meld with the system by being chosen for marriage or honored service, giving to their descendants the ability to be born elites. Consider the ability of, say, Sir Paul McCartney to amass a lot of money and be blessed into permanent elitehood (assuming he isn't tricked into charitably defunding his future line by placing his wealth into the hands of elite nonprofit managers). The rare non-elite who manages this is no threat to the system, because the only way to safely hold all that money is to put it in the hands of the bankers, who diffuse it through corporate stock to water-down concentrated voting power. McCartney, or whichever fabulously-salaried professional basketball player you like, is given a lot of toys for his service, but over a generation or two, the wealth breaks down and returns to the system. For the rare, savvy lottery-winner, exceptions can be tolerated.

The real danger comes from savvy middle-classers who figure out the true nature of money and use the game as a sword against the elites. Through confluences of luck, skill, and the avoidance of flashy behavior, over generations, savvier members of the Outer Party can threaten to attain a level of wealth that can sustain itself--wealth that can grow, endure inflation, and become part of the political process, just like the real wealth already passed down through the generations by the elites.

Orwell discussed this struggle between middle class and upper class in 1984; the goons of the Inner Party understood that the Outer Party (or its equivalent caste) had always been trying to overthrow the Inner Party and become the Inner Party; the Outer Party would occasionally attempt to enlist the support of the proles in doing so. If they were acting sensibly, the proles would target the real wealth and power to change their lot--they would target the Inner Party. Insensibly, and realistically, their anger is kept deflected at different parts of the working class by the elites, to keep it from pointing fully at the elites. Measuring wealth by "income" is a big part of this.

Measuring wealth by income works in a world built on the surreality of power through money. Like learning about the distance between stars in light years, most people do not fully understand how big the numbers involved in calculating real wealth truly are. Say that Warren Buffett, for example, has a "billion" dollars. If you believe in money, this is a ridiculous amount; an obscene amount. A pretty fair generalized value for a human life in America--in terms of a civil lawsuit where someone (someone not too old, when it drops by hundreds of thou) was irresponsibly killed--is around a million dollars. So, Warren Buffett could accidentally manslaughter a thousand people and pay it all off. Warren Buffett, by laying in bed for a week and speaking not a single word nor lifting a finger, can earn more money in dividends and capital gains than six chiefs of obstetric surgery can earn with thirty emergency procedures during the same week, combined with what their boyfriends earn billing 240 hours on a corporate IT account. He could buy every single house, shop, street, sidewalk and car in a medium-sized town that was fifty years in the building by hundreds of people, and still have enough money left over to do it again. And again. No matter how cool and superman-like Buffett is at gambling in stocks according to the fawning corporate press, he is not "worth" that many lives and that much effort and skill.

An easier, more understandable target is income. While it's hard for most people to understand the absurd quantities of money electronically attributed to certain people, most people can easily understand simple multiples of their own salary. A guy making $25K a year can easily look at a doctor making $250K a year and say, "He makes ten times what I do." That, in an astronomical sense, is a much smaller figure. It's real, so it can be attacked. Ergo "income" defines "rich" in the corporate media. More people are able to be more convinced that that is what separates them from having a reliable life, a safety net, and access to any political power or self-determination. For the doctor, though, much of life can be spent working on low sleep, paying off loans and paying for life, with financial catastrophe only one extra family emergency away from breakdown, and no more access to political power than any other worker.

Similarly, for people without savings--most Americans--it's hard to understand that elites gain their wealth from property holdings. To many people, even the richest of elites are still "working," even if it's by holding meetings over golf or chairing the meeting of the board of directors. Suggesting that wealth and richness be based (literally and should-be-obviously) on "riches" rather than on any given year's income can be hard to swallow if you don't understand savings, so the easy target is the measurable paycheck: the resident doctor making her first $150K/yearly salary is "rich," despite her $400K in compounding student debt. The doctor has a negative net worth for several years, while earning, on paper, far more money than someone with $15 million dollars in inherited holdings ("savings") who has good accountants/lawyers to disguise even the tidbits of income that show up on a balance sheet that has already been designed, decades ago, to thoroughly conceal anywhere near the full extent of real gain ("income"). The old money, meanwhile, not troubled by payroll taxes and regular income taxes, gets richer, while the doc has her savings capability trimmed ~40%.

Those income taxes are necessary not just to keep prole anger directed at high-waged laborers, but to trim down the numbers of potential elites. By using the government to extract large percentage chunks of money earned through labor, while exempting capital gains and completely ignoring lingering feudal holdings, elites make it difficult for Outer Party members to save their way over a generation or three toward the numbers that might make the money system work in their favor, and take them out of the laboring pools.

Wealth and Power, Part 1

Background

This one discussed here the false conflation of income and wealth, and long ago, Chips in the Casino discussed the washing-out process of the Outer Party/middle class. Gawker, not being disposed to brightness, offered a counterargument that clearly states the talking points for the preferred elite narrative of worker v. worker.

For those utterly unacquainted with money creation via debt, the Wizards of Money offers a lengthy mp3 series of programs, which transcripts can also be more swiftly read in html.

For those utterly unacquainted with the Ancien Régime, it's the traditional image of stuffy, unjust lords who rule by birth. Follow EL and think of "Three Musketeers" remakes. The French Revolution that you think of as The French Revolution supposedly got rid of it, making the world, like, fair again.

From Blood to Gold: the Enlightenment

Money became the currency of peerage after the Ancien Régime took off the cuffs and collars and became ordinary citizens/progressive business leaders, and Christianity began becoming Science. The Ancien Régime, and other "post" feudal regimes about the world, had used illusory properties of blood to separate powerful from powerless, divided by a thin "middle class" of skilled laborers and managers (of the Robe) who acted as the HR department for the Nobles of the Sword, interfacing between the powerful and the masses. The traditional American narrative expresses this as the divide between upper class, middle class, and lower class; Orwell identified it as Inner Party, Outer Party, and Proles.

During the Ancien Régime, conflict arose primarily between not the masses and the lords, but between the lords and the rising "middle classes": merchants, craftsmen and traders who had amassed a lot of real wealth in coin and property, yet who were treated as second-class citizens even by "poor" nobles because the middle classes did not have a title. Or, if they bought a title (titles "of the Robe" could be purchased), it was treated as a false title by the nobles, sort of like the difference between a Harvard MBA and an almost-anywhere-else MBA. The conflict exposed the falsity of the Ancien Régime's claim that nobility was what mattered. "Bought" nobility, just like sending a bunch of lower-class people to state college, did nothing to bring about social justice. It just resulted in a lot of people with worthless BAs and patents of nobility, who believed they were now supposed to be respectable and secure. In fact, the only thing that really mattered all along was the true power wielded by the older elite families--the same power they'd been wielding to control Europe for generations.

The middle classes were able to use their wealth to force a restructuring of the organizational chart. With their revolution, they managed to actually kill a few of the upper elites, and a few middle class members forced their way into the echelons of a redecorated elite power structure based around money, rather than around blood. Luckily for the elites, most of them were already fabulously wealthy, so by assimilating a few of the middle class leaders into their fold, they were able to keep the system running to their benefit while convincing the starving, laboring masses that there had been a sea change. It had been becoming unpopular enough, anyway, to use blood as the prime currency, whereas "economic theories" were convoluted enough that, like the divine right of kings, the new divine right of inheritors became complicated enough the proles would swallow it.

You can find serious, scholarly stuff, filled with hundreds of footnotes and put out in musty journals by university presses, written by eminently respectable people, making this essential point: that the French Revolution largely represented a "readjusting of social attitudes," and not so much a complete removal of all the elements of power of the Ancien Régime. While this couldn't have been said by anyone reasonable or responsible immediately after the Revolution, the passage of hundreds of years loose those kinds of restrictions on acceptable scholarship. In another few hundred years, the things High Arka will soon conclude will no longer seem controversial, but rather, boring food for academics to argue over, while the immortal cyberbrain of Steven Pinker kindles a book on why sending fleets of nanobots to poison the silicon plants and eat the genitals of the forty trillion inhabitants of Canis Major, who foolishly chose to live in the path of the new and efficient Blackwater Wormhole (TM), is a big improvement over drone strikes.

Money Dissipation

Money, now, is valueless. It's not valueless in a romantic way, in the sense that any piece of paper currency isn't edible, but valueless in terms of establishing dynastic power, until it reaches a certain critical mass--say, ten million dollars, and probably higher. Regular economic crises, taxes, inflation, costs of living, and transfer fees whittle away at holdings, gradually reducing them toward zero. Even better if the minor millionaire thinks of her- or himself as wealthy, and spends accordingly.

The real value in money, and the value that the elites have always understood since they made the Enlightenment switch, is the power it represents in sufficient quantity and type of investment: the power to never have to work again unless you want to. The power to have a say in "government." To maintain this kind of power, elites think generationally. It's not enough to be "rich" in the "now." To actually be rich, you need to be so wealthy that your holdings can generate enough income on their own to:

1) Replenish themselves over generations, weathering inflation.

2) Maintain luxurious lifestyles/appearances for the family.

3) Tithe the process that sustains you, by buying candidates, media, and controlling social policy through charities. This is the real "tax" that elites pay among themselves, like country-club membership fees in the Earth Club.

Flashes in the pan can sometimes manage (2), or very rarely (3), through savings alone, but as long as they spend it up within a few decades, they're not really part of the system: they're Cinderella at the ball, and everyone else knows the trappings will disappear at midnight. The next ball will include the regulars, but Cinderella will be gone, possibly replaced by a different version of the excited, breathless, temporary pretender.

Continued in Part 2.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Might Makes Right

In response to A Racist Interlude, Darth Imperius advocates a defense for the original Brin quotes and their motivating spirit.

Operative background quotes follow.
"Western" civilization (as David used it, ergo this one's choice to use the term here) is probably superior to some of the civilizations humans have tried here, or if not wholly superior, may have a number, or a majority, of "more positive" aspects. Are you suggesting it's wholly better? What makes it so?

In your closing, you suggest that realpolitik, or might makes right, is the essential nature of [what we conceive of as] the world, and that it is a delusion to believe that anything can be better or different. Is that your point? Survival of the fittest?

Invoking Godwin, presume that Russia had fallen faster, or Germany developed the atomic bomb first, and the Nazis had won World War II. Are they, then, right? In a universe where that happened, were their actions "good," or at least "superior"? Do people judge Hitler as evil only because he lost? Would you be a proud subject of his political successors if he'd won, and lecturing an alternate-reality High Arka on how mentally ill she is for suggesting that gassing Jews is not more humane than other modern wartime acts?
~High Arka

And from Darth Imperius:
I would probably answer yes to all of your questions. If you answer no, then the onus is on you to justify your belief in some inherent universal morality beyond "might is right." I have never seen anyone do this successfully, though there have been some good tries.

The point I make repeatedly with "leftists" and "liberals" is that their ideology is as easy to deconstruct as that of "rightists" and "conservatives", being generally rooted in Judeo-Christian slave morality. People like Hitler challenged those assumptions, and though they were militarily defeated, their ideologies certainly weren't, because at their core they are essentially correct.

We live in an age of almost universal delusion; in the Endarkened future, I am confident that Hitler will be recognized and respected as the Satanic prophet that he was.

"Mankind has grown strong in eternal struggles and it will only perish through eternal peace." --Adolf Hitler
-Darth Imperius

/end quote history

Darth, thank you for being willing to defend Brin's viewpoints. Most people retreat in fear from the easiest comparisons, so it's refreshing to see you honestly advocating evil, rather than playing the shadow games of modern political prose.
"Phooey, I say, on all white-shoe college boys who edit their campus literary magazines. Give me an honest con man any day."
~Zooey Glass, via Salinger.

Let's first assume that you're accurate in arguing that might makes right. Answer, then, another question.

(1) Which is the stronger Third Reich?

A) A Third Reich that expends massive resources creating inefficient labor camps and execution sites to remove several million potential citizens from existence, after having already invested years or decades of food, education, and housing in said citizens.

B) A Third Reich that accepts the several million potential citizens and successfully encourages them to live, work, flourish, and be part of a stronger nation.

The correct answer, of course, is (B), provided that the said Reich can manage it. The current crop of murderous tyrants understands that they can get more work out of more people, which is why they spend a great deal of time enforcing some degree of "diversity" on captive labor populaces, and greatly reducing the number of at-home executions, while diverting the extra resources to an even-more-efficient slaughtering of outsiders.

But, is that slaughtering of outsiders necessary? Hitler found the demonization necessary to advance his government, just as our own tyrants use better-worded, modern demonizations and cleaner kills to keep their own shows running. Frightened proles are often obedient proles, ergo a short-term gain to the Inner Party by slaughtering outside populations.

This, though, does not result in a stronger society/species/planet overall. The "king of the hill" game of "might makes right" only appears successful if you view it in an extremely limited context--say, a few human lifetimes. For example, right now, it's a good idea for Barack Obama to litter the Middle East with depleted uranium. His fellow elites in the defense industry make a lot of money at it, it poisons and kills off foreigners that might resist him, and it poisons and kills off American soldiers who might otherwise linger for longer and result in more domestic health care costs. It helps Obama/Bush/Whoever rise to the top, perpetuating the health and power disparities between certain nations and certain individuals.

Ergo, in the short run, things look great. Obama is rich and powerful, Romney is rich and powerful, and their children and grandchildren are likely to be so. Presume, then, that an advanced civilization from another galaxy encounters us in a few hundred years, and we need the resources of our entire planet to survive the encounter. Unfortunately, the billions of people we've slaughtered over the years have lost us so many undiscovered geniuses that we're intellectually behind the other civilization. Our infighting has littered the planet with tribal hatreds that make unity too slow (or impossible) to come by in response to the alien encounter, so we're unable to work together to throw off the invaders. Or, we need resources that were already burned up long ago in the pursuit of short-term pleasure by elites in the 21st century.

If we're the only life in the universe (assuming that there "is" a "uni"-verse, and that there's nothing more out there that we or anyone else ever discovers) and the example of a non-Earth civilization doesn't move you, let's assume we're just colonizing nearby solar systems. Which is a cheaper, better way to do it? A) in the wreckage of centuries of war, torture, and planetary environmental irradiating, or B) without the stuff in (A)?

A more diverse genetic population--more workers, thinkers, colonists, engine techs--will make us more successful. There are challenges aplenty for us to overcome without shredding our own young to stay "strong." It is infantile, and terribly close-minded, to believe that by bullying weak members of our own populace, we'll grow stronger. That is the attitude of the big, fat dude in the tribe who can't really hunt. We need to ensure that this planet is not the only place humans can survive; we need to be ready for Sol going red giant in a few million years; we need to be ready for interdimensionally escaping a potential Big Crunch if the dark matter equations really work. There are so many fixed physical challenges for us out there, that sitting on this planet and killing or out-inheriting one another "to be strong" is like playing video games in your parents' basement all your life instead of looking for a job.

What, too, is might? We know, from looking at the most powerful men in the world, that physical strength doesn't matter. Health doesn't matter, long-livedness or quality of life doesn't matter in determining what we'd call "might." Technology doesn't matter, either; what matters is the ability to inherit and manipulate cultural illusions so that grunts with technology are willing to kill to keep you in your place. Is that really a successful "might": old women and men with high computerized bank balances? That definition of "might," again, only applies within the very limited playground of "humans, right now, who subscribe to and are affected by the illusions of the inheritors."

To think further on the problems with how we now define "might," think of the downfall of "General Motors," a "company." Across its many divisions and brands, managers--each eager to get individual promotions, increased funds, and more prominence socially--would push to have their own brand or division develop models that would end up competing directly with other divisions of the company. For example, Pontiac's managers, in order to get more engineering and marketing funds under their control, would push for the development of a sedan that would end up competing directly in-class with an almost identical sedan under the "Chevrolet" brand, while the managers of the "Chevrolet" lines would develop new pickups that competed with the "GMC"-branded pickups, while the "GMC" line would come up with SUV crossovers that ended up competing with "Buick" SUV crossovers, ad nauseam.

While increased funding helped each individual manager get higher salaries, promotions, and retire (cut ties to the system they had harmed), and may have helped that brand relative to the rest of the company, it harmed GM overall. All the GM brands fought with each other for sales, and lost out in the outside market to companies that had consolidated R&D funds into fewer brands. Individuals acting within a system will do things that hurt the system if it results in the individual pocketing a short-term gain. GM's top people ultimately had enough cash reserves to bribe themselves access to the U.S. Treasury and continue the show, but that model plays out where systems are designed to reward individual greed. Above, when this one asked, "Is this demonization necessary?" the answer is that it's necessary only to keep a particular set of elites, with a particular set of policies, in power. Without the Jews/Arabs/Whatevers to be afraid of, proles would be less likely to accept the tax and labor burdens placed upon them. In exchange for the massive worldwide inefficiency of tribal divisions, we receive exalted, super-wealthy chiefs, at a net loss to our overall productive capability, intelligence, and strength ("might").

The Iroquois were able to consider seven generations of impact, and it's possible humans could learn to pair technological development with an understanding of being part of a continuing system, rather than just squeezing what you can out of this particular planet during your 80 years here, then giving the finger to everyone else on your way out. That plan can be justified as "self interest" only if you assume you're not going to be forced to come back here, and you can't prove you won't be returning anymore than you can prove there aren't aliens who might someday invade and find us still squabbling and unprepared. Upgrading all our units, rather than hyper-consolidating goodies in the hands of a few, will make us far stronger. Any other life out there that is looking to the distant future of all of its exploitable assets, instead of gushing over the temporary brilliance of its current Potentates, will kick our respective, backward asses if the time comes.

There is an inherent "universal" morality beyond "might is right," but we don't even have to start there. Its policy conclusions coincide so closely with an intelligent "might is right" that the pair might as well be sisters.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Racist Interlude ~ Updated

For later reference, logging a couple of vile gems from David Brin, followed by a still-relevant Kipling. (Typographical errors are David's; these are direct cut-and-pastes.)
We should press China HARD about such things as ecological harm and labor rights etc. And intellectual property. They are definitely more positive than negative. But they need pressure.

and...
it never ceases to fill me with hilarity that fellows like you fail to notice that YOU are a living example that your statement is wrong. You and tens of millions of others... not “white” but “western”... shre the self-critical and other friendly reflex that you express so eagerly, never pausing to realize that NO OTHE SOCIETY ever raised such a large fraction of its children to be critical toward the incomplete moral development of their own culture.

Updated: David Brin just offered this latest commentary on the natural cowardice, femininity, and corruption of the Chinese:
Understand, most empires that behaved that stupidly, for that long, across history, were dismembered FAR WORSE than China had been, by 1911, when the people finally got fed up and found the cojones, with lots of private American help, to rebel.

This noxious stuff is old-hat to anyone who's read Christopher Columbus' journals, or even just the selections from them that Zinn provided in his People's History, but what makes Brin useful, even in such a well-traveled area, is the way he has modernized the language for PC consumption. We no longer say, "The Chinese are inferior. They need the guiding hand of the white man." Instead, we say, "The Chinese need pressure from the west." Post-racially, "the west" can even include western-minded Chinese businessmen, so as to insulate the speaker from accusations of racism. After all, he has a lot of black friends, so it's okay.

The secret is that this evolution in diction has happened before. As time passes, old methods of classifying and hating people based on non-individual characteristics (for reasons of actual "race," or, far more often, social caste or expressed culture) fall out of favor and have to be replaced with no ones that accomplish the effects while appearing clean, modern, and acceptable. Here's how the evolution looks:

Western racist, 1800s: "Chinks are stupid, lazy and worthless. They ain't good for nothin' but settin' the dynamite in the mines."

Western racist, 1900s: "Chinks sure are dangerous. Some of them all right, but gotta watch them close. Without Jesus and modern stuff, they'll stay savages forever."

Western racist, 21st century: "The rich, diverse Chinese culture, despite much evolution and its many advances during the twentieth century, during the various Anglo-American invasions and sanctions regimes, needs continued pressure from us in order to thrive."

The language has been sanitized, but the underlying sentiment is the same: "People from this other culture are not as good as my people. My people must use violence, or the threat of violence, to pressure them to do things the way they want, because their ways are not good enough the way our ways are." Although David Brin may sound mature and kind to the 21st century ear when he declares that the Chinese can't be trusted to live without western pressure, the nice sound is to our ears only, just as hundreds of years ago, impassioned speeches about invading the Americas to "civilize" and "Christianize" the indigenous people sounded modern, necessary, and benevolent to many Europeans.

This is why elite-pushed books and movies crow with delight at portraying yokels from prior times, or analyzing old movies, books and newsreels, where the characters have the poor manners to say, directly and honestly, "I hate those [members of any given ethnic/cultural group]." Showing current forms of group-hatred is unpopular, both because modern audiences would have a hard time understanding it, and because elites necessarily don't want any part of the pattern recognized until the words have evolved to the next stage. By disparagement of the old rituals through which the condescension was expressed, the new hater is able to emerge, born-again, as racism-free. Each new generation, we can congratulate ourselves on no longer being bigots simply because we don't express cultural superiority in the same way that our forebears did. Watching The Help is a cleansing experience, because casting aspersion upon such garish, obvious racism as formally segregated America proves that Wormtongue's latest whispers--revised for 2012--are not, in fact, all about using superior military or economic force to pressure eastern culture into line with western European culture.

Here's someone better-spoken than Brin who did a great job demonstrating upgraded language in the year before the latest Anglo-American Iraq invasion:
"America treasures the relationship we have with our many Muslim friends, and we respect the vibrant faith of Islam which inspires countless individuals to lead lives of honesty, integrity, and morality. This year, may Eid also be a time in which we recognize the values of progress, pluralism, and acceptance that bind us together as a Nation and a global community. By working together to advance mutual understanding, we point the way to a brighter future for all...

Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields. Muslim members of our Armed Forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction, upholding our nation's ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace."


George W. Bush, December 5, 2002

And long before both of them, in response to America pressuring recalcitrant Filipinos, Rudyard Kipling:

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

(Full poem here.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hope and Future, Part 1

Is there any hope?

Jack Crow, probably in violation of any number of written and unwritten laws, wishes here that Americans had more firsthand experience with war. He offers a pretty good coagulation of discontent, directed at the feeble populace that has spent centuries reveling in the banality of its own disinterest in its ultimate doings.

In other places and other times, Mr. Crow and some adherents made High Arka their greatest enemy, for this one's crime of not wishing terror upon the populace of the current hegemon. Conjoined with their wish for Americans to experience the pain and terror brought to others in non-American places, Crow and others spent much time in the company of IOZ, agreeing with IOZ here that:
Living creatures change the environment and sometimes affect the whole of the global climate and it is perfectly plain that we billions of viral mammals are in the process of fucking Brother Earth without so much as the courtesy of a reach around . . . but okay, unless the liberal program involves rapid depopulation, consider me under-impressed. No "environmental" political position is anything more than a social signifier, about as meaningful as opposition to gay marriage. Do you support wind farms and renewable energy? Good for you, but even if the world converts to 100% solar tomorrow, we'll still be cracking nitrogen and running industrial ag to feed our ever-more-gaping human maw; we'll still be stripping the top layer off of Western China to make components for your computer, etc.

High Arka had, at the time, this to say:
You sad little fatalist deathwisher[, IOZ]. Life, including the bigger-brained hairless apes of this particular planet, is greater than the limits of your current anarcho-religious understanding of what we are all capable of. You are the Greenwald today, you pitiable creature.

One can argue the Christians, the neoliberal war apologists, and the endlessly whining radicals down to the same essential point: "humans inherently suck, life inherently sucks, and we're all gonna die, so why not just go tribal while we wait?"

I'll break this more later in service of the children born a thousand generations after IOZ declared the experiment doomed, but for now, this is whatcha get.

A longer response, more to Greenwald than IOZ, found shape in Deceptive Whispers.

Here's angry Jack Crow, from the same IOZ conversation:
Five thousand years of recorded "Western Civilization." Five thousand years of creditor-priests using labor to build ivory towers and Great Monuments. All the justifications and appeals to glory and unity and hope, with the same elision of the death, suffering, destitution, labor and alienation.

You're just restating their plan, according to the same old schema, with a few extra trimmings of hope tacked on to the blueprints. And an identical refusal to take into account how and for whom the Great Projects are built.

And this one's response:
Mr. Crow, if you allow that we can develop new technologies, do you allow also that we can develop new systems of resource allocation and, say, government? Hope isn't just, or primarily, about starships and laser pistols; its first function is in the value and potential of people. They love their powerful demagogues, and fear their inevitable dooms; perhaps we might show them a better way.

Much more there, and much truth in Crow's words. What made the discussion particularly interesting is that High Arka was not responded to for the words High Arka said, but as a mask for all the things Crow feared. The essentials of the conversation were:

Crow: Mankind is doomed because of environmental mandates.

Arka: Our technology could overcome these mandates.

Crow: The technology would be in the control of evil tyrants.

Arka: We could also overcome evil tyrants and build better societies.

Crow: You are ignorantly idealistic. You ignore that the evil tyrants will always control things.

High Arka wasn't ignoring it, but suggesting that it could change. Nonetheless, that's where that one ended up. Crow's fear was not based in irrationality; his recitation of history ("creditor-priests using labor to build ivory towers") was essentially correct, along with all the associated butchery.

The horrible face that Crow feared--feared to such an extent that even a reminder of humankind's technological potential brought it to the fore in his mind, so strongly that he saw this one as its representative--was that of the lords, and their trickle-down planning. The current American saw "trickle down" was most literally exemplified by Ronald Reagan, who suggested that reducing taxes on the rich would benefit the poor, but that type of economic/power "theory" has always been there, as a ruse to explain why some have and some do not. Holy men, chiefs and nobles have always justified their positions as good for everyone. Nobles do not say "I am noble just for me," but "I am noble for all of us." Or, "By leading you, I use all the stuff in a way that ultimately benefits you." Under, say, the Ancien Régime, the superiority was literal--that's what made them nobles. They've formally done away with their titles, and now, in the crux of imperial horror, America, formal noble titles are not recognized by most. Reagan's trickle down economics made a modernized version of the same claim, arguing that giving the money to the rich would result in it going to the poor in the form of the rich being more able to grant the poor permission to work for them. This is the honest, blunt philosophy of Sade and Sun Tzu, and the deceptive philosophy of Machiavelli and Rand.

The essential claim is patently ridiculous; it's the claim of the burglar that "I will enjoy your stuff so much more than you will." It takes a lot--a lot--of civilizing and social pressure to get people to believe that handing over their things to lords will be better than using their things for themselves. Taxes are constructed directly from this rationale.

Reagan/Rand/Saint-Fond are relatively easy to spot in their old forms, but the evolution of selfishness is ongoing, and worth examining in its new clothes. Which tracking will bring us into the realm of more cultists worshiping at the altar of avarice. Crow projected the wrong face onto this one's blank, but that shifting nightmare of his is out there, and it is very real. All the "nutty, crazy, backward" Ayn Rand/Machiavelli/Ronald Reagan stuff has undergone a diction upgrade that will make it long survive the generational discontent of those who are now figuring out that, say, Paul Ryan is greedy.

It's the wolf you don't see that gets you; not the one casually licking his paws a quarter mile away in the open, under that obvious tree. The one who makes the first all-out sprint at your ankles is not the one who brings down the body weight on your neck. That seemingly foolish, purposefully-failed first charge was made to get you to sprint, so that you'd be burned out when the rest of the pack hooked around a little down the trail. You saw the one under the tree because you were meant to.

Continued in Part 2.