Here are some accounts of my recent travels, studies, and ideas.  A lot of it is sarcastic and crude.  Very little, if anything at all, will provide any sort of insight or catharsis whatsoever.  At the very best it may erode you generally as a human being.  Please contact me for permission before using any part of this web log in any way.  Cheers.

Published in: on 4 March 2010 at 12:12 am  Leave a Comment  

A Discussion of O-A (O:WIBN)

From my first non-travel log post here.

“We have been discussing in our Media, Peace and Conflict Studies class whether objectivity is possible, whether it is practical, and whether it is good.  I think it can, under the right circumstances, be all three.  In any event, this has been an imperative for me to actually formulate and write down the principles that I believe in.  This is not a prescription for anyone else, just what works for me.”

Well, this issue has come up again with salience, and I thought I’d stimulate the mind during this narguile session by elaborating on the principles I wrote down here last September.

On the Six Principles of Objective Altruism

I think that objectivity and altruism are necessarily interdependent for the following reason.  For both of these frames of being, the first step is to look, think, feel and endeavour outwardly.  The foundation of objectivity is to eliminate the subjectivity of the self.  In antithesis to the Ayn Rand conception of objectivism, anything resembling real objectivity requires that we favour ourselves no more than anyone else (and no less).  Even if the Nobel prize-winning peace maker or the Secretary General of the United Nations or the woman or man on the brink of discovering the cure for cancer perceives evidence that suggests their life has more value than that of a serial rapist or someone about to take their last breath, it’s important to remember that we have no idea of really knowing what is valuable, and therefore no one can have more objective value than anyone else.

Altruism requires the same, to endeavour toward the needs of others at least as much as one would toward their own.  However, if this is done out of desire or inclination, such as the missionary who clothes and tends to lepers in Calcutta because it satisfies religious imperatives, or the doctor in Zimbabwe treating tuberculosis because it fulfills and brings meaning to their life, then I don’t think it can be called real altruism.

I would argue then, that real objectivity absolutely requires altruism, and that real altruism absolutely requires objectivity.  Now as for the principles themselves.

1. There is no right, there is no wrong. There are no truths, only half truths.  ”True Aim” is understanding “half truths” as they are; “Untrue Aim” is believing them to be truths.  All conflict stems from Untrue Aim, all peace stems from True Aim.

(Inspired largely by Alfred North Whitehead).  This is the big one. Ideas should never be manipulated into facts, and we should never believe anything absolutely, or at all without reason and knowledge, even if and especially when we find ourselves desiring to.

There might seem to be a glaring contradiction here.  If there is no certainty, if nothing can be perceived as really true, then how can this principle itself be true or hold any weight?  This is a “caveat” called Pyrrhonism, and it was problematic in the 4th century as well.  The issue I take with this skepticism of skepticism, is what it leaves us with- specifically nothing.  If I hold a red apple in my hand and announce that the apple is red, a skeptic might say “well, how do you know that it’s red?  Does having red skin make it red?  Is that what constitutes redness?  Can the light refracting off the fruit’s surface really be said to define it?”  And I would value these questions.

The Pyrrhonist standing next to him, however, would question the skeptic further, asking “how do you know that the questions you’re asking have any value?  What do words mean?  Can you really determine what Jared really sees, thinks or believes by asking him how he knows the apple is red?”  And I would lower my head and exhale in exhaustion.  And then the Pyrrhonist standing next to the other Pyrrhonist would say, “but my fellow Pyrrhonist, how do you know that the questions you’re asking the skeptic have any meaning or value?  What does ‘red’ even mean?”  and the third Pyrrhonest would ask “how can that question have any meaning?  Even what I’m saying now is completely meaningless, because if nothing can be known with certainty, then we can’t even know that nothing can be known with certainty.”  Do you have a headache yet?  I do.

So rather than resign all thought to oblivion, I choose to accept the one truth that nothing can be completely true or right- there are always unknowable victims and unknowable perpetrators, often in the very opposite places that we might imagine them to be.  If someone breaks into your car and steals your stereo, do you indulge your emotions and blame them?  Do you consider yourself a victim deserving of sympathy, and the thief a perpetrator to be reviled?  Consider the sociological evidence that crime is overwhelmingly a result of societal mores that hold material gain to be the only real indicator of success, while at the same time denying the opportunity for material gain by legal means to significant portions of the population?  Are you not at least partly responsible for your stereo being stolen by accepting, living in and contributing to the societal structure that necessarily made it happen?  Some people relax with Zen Buddhism, but this objective realization brought me peace and tranquility the first time this situation happened to me as a teenager.

The most important application of this, I think, is to war and peace.  Is it possible to wage violent conflict against another group or nation or state, without believing the half-truths you perceive to be whole-truths?  Is it even possible to consider them an enemy?  Could Palestinians launch RPGs into Israeli civilian territory, or could Israelis deny food and water but give generously white phosphorous to Palestinian refugees, or could Al-Bashir employ the Janjiwid in Darfur, or could the Sri Lankan government put Tamils in concentration camps, or could any other atrocity in history have been endeavoured without otherwise good men and women taking the half-truths of their positions and perceptions, and transforming them into whole-truths to be rallied under and bloodthirsted for?

To hold the concerns, fears, angers and rationales of another, of one’s enemies, to equal weight, importance and value as one’s own, is to make peace.  Is to be peace.  To help conflicting parties to find the common ground to reach this point, I think, is to be a peacemaker.  And all this really requires when you get right down to the heart of it, is simply to understand half-truths as being what they are.  That’s all there is to the key component of objectivity.

I’ll be updating this one principle at a time… If you’ve any interest, check back periodically.

Published in: on 3 March 2010 at 11:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Objective Altruism

1. There is no right, there is no wrong. There are no truths, only half truths. True Aim” is understanding half truths as they are; “Untrue Aim” is believing them to be truths.  All conflict stems from Untrue Aim, all peace stems from True Aim.

2. Act always to serve others rather than to please them; these are often diametrically opposed paths.  Be aggressively passive and resented more than appreciated, and you will better both yourself and others.

3. There is inclination and there is duty; this is a dichotomy.  If duty is endeavoured out of inclination, it is false.  If duty is endeavoured solemnly, it is service.  Indulging inclination is the path of Untrue Aim, service is the path of True Aim.

4. Emotion is the forbearer of inclination.  It belongs exclusively in private life.  Reason is the forbearer of service.  It should reign in public life.

5. Believing or disbelieving without adequate evidence is indulgence in inclination.  It is Untrue Aim.  Instead be always questioning and critical, this is service and True Aim.

6. In all things, act and speak as though the world was as it should be, not as it is, and in doing so you will help to make it so.  You will be perceived as a fool, a meager sacrifice.

Published in: on 3 March 2010 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Hippies and 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.”
– Daniel J. Boorstin

A few minutes ago I received an electronic letter inviting me to a presentation on… and I swear this is real…  “the ONENESS of LIFE“.  It started out pretty reasonable- problems with media, education, structures, leaderships, dilemmas presenting possibilities of their collapse, and et cetera.  From this followed ideas for change and resolution through alternative media and educational reform, which struck as naive-but-sane.

And then: “Most of you probably already know there is LIFE beyond the Earth in the stars“, and I’m thinking “oh jesus fuck he’s a Scientologist”.  And then I read the line that came right before that.  Because I’m dyslexic, I guess.

Most of you probably already know that 9/11 was a lie“.  It was at this point that I realized it was possible for me to take this letter less seriously.  My first thought was “wow”, followed by the confusion of how this had anything to do with the rest of the e-mail, followed by another head-shaking step backward from my faith in humanity.  Either the fine chap who sent me this is completely detached from reality or has reason to think that most people feel certain enough to “know” that the 9/11 attacks were “a lie”.  Just to be safe, I feel compelled to prepare for the improbable latter.

I think most North Americans are generally bored, and somewhere in between ennui and imagination, I can understand the appeal of these kinds of constructions.  To be fair, here is the extent of the entirely speculative “evidence” presented for these arguments, to my awareness.

Loose Change | Zeitgeist | 911Truth.org

The idea is that the 9/11 attacks on the world trade center were “a lie”, that is it was set up by the American government with controlled demolitions explosives inside the building.  It’s a pretty exciting idea, even if you’ve never set foot in the U.S. or known anyone who lives there.  It’s the stuff of Ian Flemming, that evil megalomaniac despots in the highest seats of power are using mind control and death rays to take over the world.  Who wouldn’t want to buy into that?  V for Vendetta is one of my favourite films!

Alas, if only we were brains in vats.  Many independent institutions and organizations have physically disproved these kinds of ideas with the help of experts from the fields of engineering, architecture, pyrotechnics, mathematics and physics, but this should probably be redundant; the real problem for the 9/11 conspiracy theory is the problem that it means tens of thousands of average, everyday construction workers, policemen, firefighters, paramedics, bystanders and public officials kept one of the greatest lies in their country’s history a secret.  For no personal gain.  In the most hyperpatriotic nation in the world.

The attacks did happen, and though I don’t find it personally exciting to my enmity (I thought those “I <Plane> NY” T-shirts were hilarious) I can understand how these allegations of 9/11 being a lie could be significantly damaging to the emotions and psyches of people who lost people they loved.  In addition to being completely retarded.

To perform an immediate 180 degree turn, there is some evidence for considering that there could have been something fishy going on.

The Project for a New American Century has been and continues to be one of the most influential groups for policy making in the U.S., and to summarize and simplify heroically, the 9/11 attacks and Iraq War drew out as if strictly following the PNAC principles and objectives like an actor reading a script with the occasional ad-lib.

This is what can be called circumstantial evidence.  It “makes sense”, and the possibility that Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kristol and Rumsfeld met privately with Bin Laden in a dusty Afghan shack or a fucking submarine or something, would seem to be cognitively balanced with reality.  This would hardly make 9/11 “a lie”, it would only mean that there were a few white people involved in the killing of other white people instead of only brown people.  Why is that so much more terrible for some people?

The bottom line is that there’s really no solid or even solidish evidence for any of this, and therefore to believe it is simply a demonstration of what a person desires to believe.

And this brings us back to hippies, but first let me state my personal definition of the word.

Hippie: n [hip-pee] a sampler or dilettante in a cause or belief system who relegates the dilemmas or devotions of others into their own distractions.  See also: Hippiness, Hippie-esque, Hippitastic.

I see the population of “The West” as inclusive of two types of hippies, what you could call minor and major for want of better terminology.

Minor hippies practice astrology, believe in fairies, drink yerba tea, see auras and/or do kundalini yoga.  These hippies are fine, I can love and respect these hippies.  Theoretically I would respect them more if they weren’t hippies, but you take the crazy with the fun.  The defining characteristic of a minor hippie is that their practices are exclusively internal; they don’t really affect anyone else.

Major hippies are defined by the externalization of their dilettantism, and can be identified by their adornment in little rubber bracelets which indicate the dilemmas they choose to distract themselves with.  Also beware of anyone who drinks fair trade coffee, drives a hybrid, wants you to give peace a chance, or who is proud of anything they have done for its vague and indirect effects that they can’t actually explain or demonstrate… to be safe you should probably also avoid anyone wearing green.

If you encounter the major hippie, there are some basic things that you should know to avoid an excruciating and condescending lecture, or at the very best, a boring conversation.

  1. Do not indicate ignorance on any issue, problem, dilemma or cause.  Not even imaginary ones- just play along.  If you do show the hippie that they can “teach” you something, it will prompt the hippie to bore you with endless overviews, simplifications and snippets until you pass out from boredom.  If this happens, the hippie may shave off your hair to give to PETA for human-fur coats.
  2. On the other hand, never allow the hippie to realize you actually know something about any issue, problem, dilemma or cause in question beyond the shallow drivel they get from Keith Olbermann and the Utne Reader.  This capacity to make the issue real for the hippie may spook them into blindly fleeing from the situation, possibly hurting or even killing themselves by running in front of a canola-fueled bus or something.  Remember, hippies are people too.
  3. Don’t make sudden eye or hand movements, as it may cause the hippie to attack.

Major hippies are some of the most dangerous people in the world, because they habitually construct these hazy clouds of trendiness and pseudo-compassion for causes and dilemmas they haven’t bothered trying to understand, thereby creating the illusion of support and awareness for any dilemma in question.

Why would the Canadian or U.S. governments take any action in Darfur or Gaza or Sri Lanka or the Congo or Bolivia when so many their citizens are already so pleased with themselves for wearing a T-shirt or maybe handing out some fliers?

Why would the international community make a meaningful commitment to address food security and grotesque socioeconomic inequality in the Global South, when the MakePovertyHistory campaign already solved the problem?  They did, right?  Remember all that finger-snapping Sean Penn did?  I mean, when the popular trend changes from poverty to climate change, indicated by the change in colour of bracelet people are wearing, it can only mean that poverty is over.  Right?

It’s great to seek and promote inner peace and positive attitudes, but when this replaces the imperative for rational and realistic ideas, arguments and solutions to the very real dilemmas that people and populations face,  we begin to enter into galactic douche territory.  I want to see everyone heralding this brought to a Tamil camp in Sri Lanka so they can tell the malnourished, amputee mother of three live children and fifteen dead ones that she should have had “a better awareness of her connection to and relationship with and relationship to LIFE”.  Or brought to the next summit on climate change, and try to overcome national interest stalemates by explaining to them the “essence of the ONENESS”.  That’s probably bordering on harsh, but I think this is something worthy of indignation.

Love in Erasmus.  Pura vida.

Published in: on 2 March 2010 at 1:56 pm  Leave a Comment