Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Parable of the Sheep and Wolves

There was once a flock of sheep. Contented sheep. Shepherds kept good care of these sheep. The shepherds led the sheep to cool water. Through the shepherds work green grass was always available. At night the shepherds led the sheep to a sheepfold for their protection. Life was good for the sheep.

There were also wolves. Life was not so good for the wolves. The shepherds were an nuisance to the wolves. Sheep were good food. In the absence of the shepherds the sheep would be easily obtained food. So the wolves decided something had to be done about the shepherds.

The sheep were individualists. They believed in the ideology of individualism. Each sheep was, or at least should be, responsible for its own wellbeing. It was wrong, the sheep believed, for sheep to believe someone else should be responsible for an individual sheep’s wellbeing. To believe one was entitled to some benefit whether one worked for it or not was a violation of the idea of individualism. Individuals as individuals had to take personal responsibility for their own welfare.

The sheep also believed in the law of just deserves. Individuals received just what they deserved according to the effort they put into life. Individuals who put great effort into life got great rewards. Those sheep who put little effort into life got little reward. Those who put little effort into life should not complain when the received little reward. Those sheep were simply getting that which they deserved.

The wolves saw opportunity in these ideas. They convinced the sheep living under the control of shepherds was bad for them as individuals. They pointed out some flocks had been under the protection of very bad shepherds. These bad shepherds had killed sheep just for the pleasure it gave the shepherds. The wolves referred to these bad shepherds as socialists. They then referred to the shepherds caring for this flock as “socialists” simply because the shepherds took care of the sheep. If the sheep did not want to live under the rule of evil socialists they needed to consider getting rid of the shepherds because all shepherds were at heart socialists. Since the sheep did not want to live under socialism they took this under consideration.

The wolves then pointed out how the shepherds work was opposed to the law of just deserves. Shepherds led all the sheep to cool water. So the sheep got cool water whether the deserved it or not. The shepherds led the sheep to green grass. So the sheep got green grass whether they deserved it or not. The shepherds led the sheep to a sheepfold at night so the sheep were protected in the sheepfold whether they deserved it or not. So the sheep came to believe having shepherds around was a violation of the law of just deserves.

Then the wolves showed the sheep how living under the care of shepherds led to a mentality of entitlement. Because the shepherds took care of the sheep the sheep could come to believe they were entitled to care whether they worked for it or not. The wolves pointed out a mentality of entitlement was bad for sheep who wanted to believe in individualism. They pointed out sheep who accepted the idea of entitlement no longer believed in the law of just deserves. They then reminded the sheep of how living under the care of shepherds led to a mentality of entitlement. So the sheep began to see living under the care of shepherds wasn’t so good after all.

Finally the wolves claimed there was an invisible hand that would protect the sheep far better than would the shepherds. This invisible hand made it possible for wolves and sheep to have an one on one relationship without anything bad happening to the sheep. The wolves then claimed sheep could not accept as true the idea of individualism unless they also accept the reality of the invisible hand. And the wolves then claimed sheep could not accept the truth of the law of just deserves unless one accepted as true the idea of individualism. Since the sheep were convinced of the moral truth of the law of just deserves they could not argue against the idea of individualism. Since they could not argue against the idea of individualism they could not argue against the reality of the individual hand. So the sheep found they had no choice but to trust the wolves and replace the protection of the shepherds with the protection of the invisible hand. So the sheep got rid of the shepherds and relied on the invisible hand to protect them form the wolves.

So the wolves got what they wanted. There was a one-on-one relationship between wolf and sheep. The sheep did not last long under this relationship. The invisible hand, it turned out, was no protection. The wolves simply ate the sheep. Then they moved on to find another flock they could con in the same manner.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why AP is right and Robert Spencer is wrong

One of the big problems truth has in the present age is the mainstream media’s idea of equivalency. If one side in a controversy describes things as they are and the other side describes things using nothing but rhetorical tropes which benefit its position the main stream media will use both terms interchangeably in order to not be seen as taking sides in the dispute. But because of the damage the controversy over the Park 51, or Cordova House, project is doing to our ability to fight Islamic extremism the Associated Press has decided to abandon the use of the popular rhetorical tropes used to describe this project. They wish to abandon the term “ground zero mosque” in favor of the more accurate term “mosque located 2 blocks from ground zero.” The rational part of the world sees nothing wrong with this.

Of course the Islamophobic part of the world has a different idea. Robert Spencer complains this amounts to taking sides in this dispute. He likes the term “ground zero mosque.” From the point of view of an Islamophobe this is an excellent term. It motivates people to hate the mosque, the people who support its building, the organization behind it, and, hopefully, Islam in general. When AP banned its use it made spreading Islamophobia by attacking Park 51 more difficult. As both a professional and a devout Islamophobe Mr. Spencer is most upset by having one of his most effective weapons taken from him.

Unfortunately for Mr. Spencer the argument over the location of the community center is a case of accuracy in description vs self-serving inaccuracy in description. The building in question is in fact 2 blocks from ground zero. To call it the “ground zero mosque” is to imply it is at ground zero. While this is obviously effective in rallying opposition to it in fact we are dealing with a purposeful misrepresentation of reality for the advantage of those who are so misrepresenting reality. In somewhat more familiar but perhaps less accurate language Mr. Spencer and his friends are lying. So when AP banned the use of the term “ground zero mosque” AP was simply taking the side of truth in a dispute between truth and error. To be more accurate AP has decided to stop being a propaganda outlet for Mr. Spencer and his friends.

And about time. One of the big reasons for the mess this country is the mainstream media’s willingness to be used as a tool for the spreading of right wing propaganda. Its leadership is afraid of being accused of liberal bias when the facts are on the side of the liberals. So it believes in balanced reporting between truth and nonsense. Over time many people come to believe in the truth of pleasant sounding nonsense. At this point it becomes difficult to impossible to convince people the ideas they believe in oar not accurate descriptions of reality as it truly exists. So we elect politicians whose policies are based on fantasy and illusion. Sometimes dangerous illusions such as the idea we can treat all Muslims as the enemy. In the end this last idea is what the argument over the building of Park51 is all about.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hello, I'm a Mac, <em>and I'm a PC</em> -- Here's How I Help Fuel the World's Deadliest Conflict

But many of these products come from China. Not only will the Chinese continue to buy conflict minerals they will turn around and sell weapons to the warring parties.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Americans Simply Don't Do Sacrifice Anymore

Two words:Jimmy Carter. Of course the President isn't going to ask Americans to sacrifice to get ourselves off of fossil fuels. This is what Jimmy Carter did back in the 70's. All it got him was a lost election. 30 years of Conservative rule have put us far behind in the effort to find replacements for fossil fuels. We would be far better off if President Carter had not called for sacrifice as a means of solving the energy crisis of the 70's.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What Did You Expect

On today’s Huffington Post there is a article claiming today’s college students are more self-centered and competitive than those of the past. Now there is a saying that a system gives the outputs for which it was designed. And a system based on the thought of Ronald Reagan, Robert Looking out for Number One Ringer, Milton Freedman and the sociopath loving Ayn Rand is going to give the results noted above. Since these have been among the leading intellectual influences of the politically dominant conservative movement since the birth of the present college age generation it is no surprise today’s college students are more self-centered and competitive than ever. Self-centered highly competitive persons are what today’s conservatism creates. In the world created by the modern conservative movement such personalities are the only ones that can survive.

We no longer have a society. We have been reduced to 300 million isolates motivated by greed. Our only goal is to acquire the largest pile of things before we die. Woe to anyone who for any reason tries to take something off that pile. This is why our debt is so high. This is why we have high taxes and entitlements. We are quite willing to take but unwilling to give. This is a world in which there can be no such thing as the common good. It is a world of a few winners who take everything and millions of losers who have next to nothing. In order to survive at all one must be among the winners. This means acting ruthlessly in defense of one’s own self interest defined as taking what one wants by any means available.

The failure of the left in general and the Obama administration in particular is to believe one can have a change in public policy without having a change in attitude. The teaparty movement gains its strength from people who see the society created by modern conservative thought as the best of all possible societies. They object to the Obama administration’s policies because they assume and will promote a different kind of society. The people who win under the present mode of social organization see no reason to agree to this. The problem is millions of the losers agree with them. The losers have become convinced human freedom requires the hyper competitive self centered society advocated by modern conservatism. So long as people confuse freedom with sociopathic self centeredness it will be difficult to do anything about the problem described in the article referenced to above.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hope College Refuses To Change Policy Condemning Homosexual Acts

For conservative Christians it is a question of authority. Defending the ultimate authority of scripture means denying the fact homosexuals exist. Accepting the fact homosexuals exist means accepting the ultimate authority of fact. Accepting the ultimate authority of fact makes one a liberal Christian. So for conservative Christians rejecting homosexuals is a matter of life or death, at least the life or death of conservative Christianity.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, April 30, 2010

Goldman Sachs and Libertarian Ethics

The men and women who run Goldman Sachs see nothing wrong with how they sold their products. Nothing at all. They made money for themselves and their company. That is what they were supposed to do. Isn’t looking out for number one and maximizing a company’s profits regardless what has to be done to do so what businessmen and businesswomen supposed to do?

This wasn’t always so. The fictional investment banker George Wilson, of Tom Clancy novel fame, is concerned about his clients. Their money is his money and he treats it as such. Goldman Sachs, on the other hand, sees its clients as marks. They are suckers to be duped into putting their money into junk so Goldman Sachs can maximize its profits. This is the way of the modern business world. Businesspersons have become sociopaths who care only about themselves and their own welfare. Freedom has become the right of the strong to prey on the weak. Any attempt by the weak to protect themselves is labeled socialism. And the rationalization of this way of life has the nerve to call itself conservatism.

Libertarianism as it exists today is an attempt by the wolves to convince the sheep they can live without a shepherd. Through willpower alone the sheep can make themselves into wolves and protect themselves. Indeed they must do this. The shepherd, after all, limits the freedom of the sheep. It is obvious the shepherd limits the freedom of the sheep. If the sheep wish to become free they must tell the shepherd to go. Because the sheep want to be free they tell the shepherd to go and attempt through willpower to make themselves into wolves.

But willpower alone isn’t enough to make a sheep into a wolf. It is obvious the only animal to profit from this process is the wolf. Wolves find sheep lacking a shepherd easy prey. So libertarianism is not conservatism. Libertarianism simply leads to the world described by Thomas Hobbs. A world where every person’s hand is held against his or her neighbors. A world where life is mean, nasty brutish, and short. One wonders how people who consider themselves conservatives can support it.