Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Clarity of Concepts

I once had a passionate argument in a coffee shop with a philosophy student who tried to convince me that the concept of ‘truth’ was entirely man-made. ‘Truth’ does not exist in the world, he said, in the same manner as a rock or a tree. ‘North’, he insisted, has not existence at all.

Of course not, I replied, but so what? ‘Truth’ is a category of ideas containing those ideas that have been validated by the senses. Categories – or concepts – do not exist, of course, no more than the concept of ‘tree’ exists. The concept of ‘tree’ is just a category of sense-experience, describing those entities that share the properties of trees.

As to ‘North’, well of course it doesn’t exist, but the truth value in the assertion ‘Toronto is north of New York’ can be objectively established. The physical locations of the two cities, relative to the magnetic field of the Earth, can be determined through measurements. Thus, although the concept ‘North’ does not exist as an objective physical entity, the statement ‘Toronto is north of New York’ can be validated relative to objective physical entities – and so gains objectivity without requiring physical existence. This is not rocket science – it has all been thoroughly established for the past four hundred or so years, through the ‘logic plus reproducible, empirical verification’ approach of the scientific method.

I have staunchly maintained for years that concepts are not at all complicated. They are intangible, but objective, in the manner described above. Time and time again, however, I’ve run into the most patently ridiculous arguments against the objective validity of concepts. I could understand this if I was Francis Bacon taking on medieval scholasticism, but this is an age where intelligent people should not have any real difficulties understanding the power and accuracy of logical concepts, validated by sense-experience.

The sad fact is that the relationship between concepts and entities has been so thoroughly mucked up by Platonism, mysticism, superstition and religion that it has become almost impossible to see it with clear eyes. But it’s really not that complicated.

The human mind, thankfully, is capable of great errors in relation to sense-experience. I say ‘thankfully’ because without our capacity for ‘error’, we would have never figured out that the world is round – because it looks so flat! Similarly, the fact that we are moving around the sun, and not vice versa, would have remained similarly misperceived. So all praise to our capacity for error – it is the avenue to greater truths!

Because we can err, and because we cannot perceive basic truths about reality through the senses – not because the senses err, but because we are limited in our perspective – we must use concepts to organize sense-data into categories. This is a simple matter of efficiency, and arose with the use of language. ‘Did you round up the sheep?’ is just easier to say than ‘Did you round up all the little four legged white fluffy things that keep moving around when you don’t round them up?’ Similarly, those apes which learned to say: “A leopard! Run!” did a whole lot better than those who played the grunting charade of saying ‘a cat-like thing that has spots and runs really fast and likes to eat us and is coming now!’.

The simple fact that nature and matter is organized into categories – liquids, rocks, trees, sheep – is the reason why concepts are both possible and accurate. If atoms weren’t stable, and if nature didn’t require pairings of genetically-similar animals for reproduction, then everything would be random, and concepts wouldn’t be possible. Concepts are valid for the simple reason that trees are like other trees, and rocks are like other rocks. Trees are similar because they are a very efficient organization of self-reproducing cells – and rocks because the matter that makes them up behaves in similar, predictable patterns, being subject to the same universal forces of physics – and, so, geology.

Concepts, then, are just descriptions of physical similarity – and there’s nothing very complex in that. Of course, concepts can describe other concepts, but at some point physical reality must come into play. Even something as abstract as the theory of relativity was able to predict the bending of light through a gravitational field.

To take a short example, the concept of ‘numbers’ is nothing more than the description of discrete attributes of matter. ‘Two rocks’ is a description of a physical reality: there is a clump of matter, with a space, and another clump of similar matter. There are two of them, and so we get the number ‘two’. Very simple, don’t you think? Everything that is more complex comes out of such simple observations.

Also, concepts work, which is another proof of their validity. Through concepts, astronomers can predict the motion of planets. Using concepts proves concepts, since those that accurately describe the current nature of matter can accurately predict the future motion of matter. The scientific method for validating the truth of individual concepts – logic plus reproducible predictability – also validates the idea of concepts as a whole.

So why is there such mud around the idea of concepts? Why are such simple facts subjected to such endless mental static?

Well, wherever lies are told, just look for the money, and all will become clear.

Churches obviously profit from muddying the basic truth about concepts, since concepts only have value relative to sense-experience, and so gods cannot exist. But there’s much more to it than that. Some Jewish friends of my wife’s are being asked to contribute hundreds of dollars a month to their synagogue – and they don’t even have to believe in God! They just have to want to be ‘Jews’ – which of course is a concept without any roots in physical reality, since it is not a race. If it were rooted in physical reality, of course, it would not require an entrance fee – I don’t have to pay anyone to be white, or male, or bald.

Political and military leaders regularly get people killed to defend non-existent concepts – and of course they don’t start wars to defend the concepts, but use the concepts to declare the war, so that they can tax and threaten the non-combat citizenry.

Parents also use non-existent concepts to bully their children into dull, conforming compliance – cultural pride, the innate superiority of parents, fear of disapproval, the one-way, exploitive virtue of being ‘good children’ and so on.

Government employees – from bureaucrats to teachers – also require the false concept of ‘benevolent violence’ to justify their paychecks and privileges. The same is true for all the myriad leeches which feed off State power.

Sports teams also benefit from irrational concepts like ‘my team better’, as do unions, with their ‘bad bosses’ mantras.

So many parasitical groups profit from false concepts that it is not hard to understand why so much mud is thrown into the simple waters of conceptual accuracy. The methodology for fighting this corruption is the same as it has been since the age of Socrates: follow the money to the falsehood, reveal the false prophets, and free the truth.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Historical Causality

When I sat down to figure out what I wanted to do for my Master’s degree, one of the topics highest on my list was rescuing the reputation of the Industrial Revolution (IR). I presented this topic to my condescending (and very short-lived) thesis advisor, who patiently explained to me that the Industrial Revolution had no root cause.

I found this rather fascinating, and questioned him further. If the IR had no root cause, what on earth could? The IR was the single greatest event in the history of our species –it rescued us from a hundred thousand years of slavery to brute nature and callous rulers. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of the IR seem to be from completely different worlds. From rural ignorance, poverty, disease and starvation, mankind vaulted – in the span of a generation or two – to a self-subsistent and growing world of urban opportunity.

How could such an unfathomable transformation not have a root cause? If an ancient desert was suddenly replaced by a fertile valley, wouldn’t agriculturists and climatologists be fascinated? If a stable land mass suddenly sprouted a massive volcano – wouldn’t that excite geologists? If human beings suddenly developed immunity to all forms of cancer, wouldn’t that propel the greatest medical investigation in history?

The IR – which was even greater than all the above – merits no such investigation. Instead, we rely on resentful liars such as Marx and Dickens for ‘analysis’, and muddy all penetrating questions with smug assertions of ‘historical complexity’.

The common historical approach is that the IR was the result of complex interactions of unrelated factors. The improved horse harness of the eleventh century produced more crops, as did the upgrading of crop management throughout the 12th and 13th centuries. The re-discovery of Roman law sped up urbanization, and the plague decimated existing social structures – especially the Catholic church. Protestant ideas contributed a new ethic of saving and hard work, and the invention of certain technologies sped up the potential for industrialization.

All these factors – and a thousand others – are then thrown into a magic cauldron which somehow produces the IR.

This is the most ridiculous approach that can be imagined. I got a Masters degree from the University of Toronto – how would these ‘historians’ explain that? Well, I attended this class, ate that meal, took that exam – and somehow it all came together, and I got the degree! That is the purest nonsense! The question is not how I got my degree, but why? Why was I even interested in getting a Masters? ‘How’ anything happens in history is unimportant – only the why is relevant, because only through the ‘why’ can we understand the future.

The central premise of the Ptolemaic system of astronomy was that the Earth was the center of the universe. However, to explain the baffling retrograde motion of Mars, incredibly complex ‘circles within circles’ were posited – sometimes into the hundreds. How they calculated the orbit of Mars is now unimportant – no one studies it these days. Why they took their approach to their calculations is important, and forms the fundamental principle called Occam’s Razor. Their calculations became ludicrously complex because their central premise was wrong – which is an invaluable lesson for the future, courtesy of the past.

In the same vein, how I took my Masters – the specific steps – is utterly uninteresting. Why I took my Masters was:
1. to gain access to a better career
2. to make more money
3. to pursue my love of knowledge

If we look at my first reason – a better career – the real question is: why does having a Masters help my career?

The answer is two-fold. Either the free market places a high value on a Masters degree, or some regulatory body requires me to have one. Since I have a Masters in History, and no regulatory body requires that, it must be because the free market values a Masters.

So why weren’t people getting a Masters in the Middle Ages? Quite simply – because there was no value in it. And the reason there was no value in it? Because the free market did not exist, and no regulatory body required a Masters degree.

How do we know that the free market did not exist in the Middle Ages? Well, there were no property rights (other than vague ‘historical inertia’ squatting privileges), and because ‘trade’ was subject to endless reams of violent coercion. Guilds controlled the production of goods, requiring years of pointless ‘apprenticeship’ in order to make something as simple as a pair of shoes. Sons were forced into the trade of their fathers. Advertising was illegal – in a medieval market, even sneezing as a potential customer passed by was illegal, since the passer-by was required to say ‘bless you’, which might lead to a conversation, and so a sale. Both the Church and the aristocracy conspired to keep usury illegal – and, because interest was disallowed, it was impossible to start a business. Foreign trade was strangled with punitive tariffs.

Why all the coercive bullying? Well, both the Church and the aristocracy stood to lose if the middle class was allowed to develop – the Church because the optimistic materialism of the entrepreneurial spirit directly opposed the death-cult and guilt-metaphysics of Christianity – and the aristocracy because when wealth depends more on capital than land, the political power of land-owners is undermined.

The answer to the question ‘why did people not take a Masters degree in the Middle Ages?’ is thus simple: because they were not allowed to gain value from it. If men are not allowed to choose their own professions – or their professional associates – self-improvement becomes a net negative. Where there is no competition, there is no need for excellence – and so self-improvement is a complete waste of time and resources.

George Orwell makes this point in ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’. He mocks the pompous sociologists who wax on about how a ‘gypsy spirit’ or ‘sense of restlessness’ keeps tramps on the move. Tramps keep moving, he says, because they are compelled to keep moving. If they stay more than one night in a particular locale, they are thrown in jail.

Tramps keep moving simply because it is illegal for them to stay in one place. People were poor in the Middle Ages simply because it was illegal for them to become rich. It really is as simple as that.

This approach also answers another essential question about IR, which is: why did the IR occur in the 18th-19th centuries, rather than at any other time in human history?

There is absolutely no reason why the advances of the IR could not have occurred in Ancient Rome, or Greece, or China – anywhere in fact. Physics hadn’t changed. People weren’t magically more intelligent or entrepreneurial or materialistic in the 18th century. No accidental alignment of multiple factors produced the IR, because those ingredients had always existed, all throughout history. Romans dabbled in steam power, but the existence of slavery made labour-saving devices pointless. The growth of political corruption in ancient Greece – always synonymous with increased State power – created a world where ambitious men were certain to make more money through politics than business – thus escalating State coercion at the expense of the productive economy.

The results of this were inevitable. Rome fell for one simple reason: the massive increases in taxation and conscription required to support a brutal and expansionist foreign policy. Rome could only profitably tax and conscript those who lived in cities – thus, as taxes rose, people fled the cities for the countryside. Unable to conscript its own citizens, Rome had to hire more mercenaries – which in turn required more taxation – which drove even more people out of the cities, further lowering the taxable population. This vicious circle destroyed Rome remarkably quickly. When Rome ran out of money to pay its mercenaries, they marched on Rome and destroyed it. Violence always begets violence. Taxation always destroys the State – and, sadly, this destruction only occurs after the State has corrupted the population to the point where they cannot function without a brutal State.

So – why did the IR happen in the 18th and 18th centuries? The answer is quite simple, and can be traced through the growth in property rights, destruction of the guilds, and the limitations placed on arbitrary State power:

The Industrial Revolution occurred because it was allowed to occur.

Or, put another way:

People became productive because they were no longer punished for being productive.

The IR could have happened at any time throughout human history – and tens of thousands of years of pointless suffering could have been averted. The endless famines, wars, plagues – the misery of millions – were all completely unnecessary.

Why, then, do modern academics refuse to point all of this out?

The answer is quite simple: because the State pays them not to. This is a very common pattern. The State always takes money from the general population, then uses that money to pay moralists to justify State power. For the aristocracy, these moralists were priests – now, for secular demagogues, they are academics and school teachers, who continually praise the State that pays them.

All the above underlines an essential truth about human society, which should be obvious to any historian:

All general social patterns result from universal (i.e. State) coercion.

Here are some examples:

· If people do not engage in trade, it is because they punished for trading.
· If people do not lend each other money, it is because they are punished for charging interest.
· If people accumulate useless knowledge, it is because they are punished for practicing their profession without it (this applies to academia, apprenticeship programs in the trades – as well as the ten years of medical school required to write a prescription for antibiotics or refer someone to a specialist).
· If people do not accumulate wealth, it is because they are not allowed to, or because their wealth can be taken arbitrarily.
· If a large number of businesses fail, it is always due to State policies, usually to do with the money supply, taxation or punitive regulation.
· If people become warlike, it is because the State is paying them to be warlike – either through direct pay, in the case of soldiers, or through subsidies, in the case of arms manufacturers.
· If a group of people do not criticize the State, it is because they are directly benefiting from the State. Some examples:
o The media must apply to the State for operating licenses, and rely on the State for news.
o Teachers and academics are paid and protected by the State.
o Large businesses need State regulations to punish potential competitors.
o Scientists rely on State grants and academic appointments to survive.
o Health care professionals rely on State coercion to limit competition and price-cutting.
o The old, the sick and the poor receive massive payments from the State.

…the list goes on and on.

This is the simple truth of historical causality. Random factors do not affect all people simultaneously. The only force powerful enough to affect the whole of society – to choke, enslave and define the actions of the entire body politic – is the universal power of the State.

When the State is eliminated, and historians no longer have to be court toadies to the power that pays them, this simple truth can finally be made clear.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Lateral Paranoia

Last Saturday night (March 12, 2005, if it’s of interest), I had one of the most predictable arguments in the history of political thought.

I was arguing against the welfare state, and I was told – perhaps for the millionth time – that we have to have coercive taxation because there are mean, stingy people in the world who wouldn’t help the poor.

I responded, as I always do, that I had been arguing against the welfare state for over twenty years, and in all that time, I had never once run across a person who rubbed his hands and said: ‘Oh, man – I’d love to get rid of taxation, because I hate helping the poor!’. Every single person I have ever talked to immediately expressed deep concern about the fate of the poor. Or the sick. Or the homeless. Take your pick.

This is fascinating. Obviously everyone I have ever argued with believed in the existence of this vast majority of mean people, but had never in fact ever met any of these ‘mean people’. In other words, they are not in favour of taxation because they have met so many mean people. They believe in the prevalence of ‘mean people’ because taxation exists – a complete reversal of cause and effect. This is the similar to the 1930s belief of many Germans that ‘the Jews must be being persecuted because there are so many bad Jews.’ The laws create the facts.

What I want to know is this: what on earth made us so hostile and suspicious of each other? Doesn’t that seem strange? At a personal level, almost everyone I meet is kind, considerate, generous – altruistic to a fault. (Politically, they are all totalitarians, but that is another matter!) Stop your car and ask for directions. People quiver to help. Struggle with a large package. People will open doors for you. People hold elevators. Let you ahead in line if you’re desperately late. Give you shelter in emergencies. Give billions to the victims of natural disasters. On a personal level, people are, by and large, lovely.

Sure, there are bad people. So what? Have you ever spent any real time with them? Can you confirm their prevalence? Of course not! They’re just theoretical entities.

Also – as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in my essays – no system of taxation ever catches the money of these mean people. They are criminals anyway. They don’t give to charities, and they don’t pay taxes. Crime is a cash economy. Taxes only hit the honest and conscientious – who would help the poor anyway.

So if there aren’t very many bad people – and taxation doesn’t get their money – then why are ‘bad people’ such popular justifications for State power?

First of all, very, very few people can actually think for themselves. In fact, they think so badly that they actually think they can think! Because they can’t think, they attempt to construct theories from immediate evidence, like primitive physicists who imagine that the world is flat because it looks flat. They sneer at any contrary evidence because they do not understand the limitations of their immediate senses. But economics and morality are logical disciplines because reality is not obvious – if it were, we wouldn’t need logic; we could get by on instinct and adrenaline, like dogs. But we are not dogs, and we are not gods, so we need to think.

So – how are we turned against each other? The ‘why’ is simple, and it is a useful maxim to understand that anyone who says you have any enemy – without empirical proof – is the enemy.

To turn us all from allies to enemies, human nature must be deemed foul and self-serving – and so must be commanded into virtue by wise and violent masters.

This, of course, is the portrait of a certain type of parenting (i.e. almost all) – children do not understand what is good for them, and so must be bullied and coerced into doing good. In other words, virtue is a square hole, and the soul is a round peg, which must be forever pounded into shape.

‘Politeness’ is a good example of this. ‘Be nice!’ parents growl – and so of course children are confused and bewildered – and ultimately resentful of the hypocrisy. This style of contradictory parenting translates well into the language of the State: ‘help others’, say the politicians, while holding a gun to your head.

Of course, the politicians do not want to reveal this gun to you – no more than parents want you to figure out that they are bullies concerned with their own vanity and power, not your moral development. Politicians have to hide the gun so we can fantasize that we are participating in the process. The politicians use three layers of deception here:
1. there is no gun
2. there is a gun, but it’s a last resort
3. there is a gun, and it’s not a last resort – but we only use it against bad people

In this way, they strive to reassure us that the guns are not pointed at us. But of course the gun is only pointed at the moral, conscientious people, because the people don’t pay taxes, or are above the law. Bad people are either criminals (local theft) or politicians (global theft). Criminals don’t pay taxes, and politicians are above the law. (If you don’t believe the latter, then recognize that business people go to jail for false accounting and advertising practices, but no politician has ever been even charged for lying about a deficit or breaking a promise.)

The guns are pointed at people who have regular jobs. The guns are pointed at the good people, not the bad people. They are pointed at those with something to lose – with spouses and children. They are pointed at those who value liberty, and have done something productive with their lives. They are not pointed at bad people by good people. They are pointed at good people by bad people. Targeting good people is not a regrettable side-effect of targeting bad people. The bad people are invented so that the good people can be targeted.

As it is with the State, so it is with parents. Parents do not bully their children to be good – they create a contradictory standard of ‘good’ in order to bully their children. For instance: parents say: ‘be considerate of others’ feelings, or I will lose my temper.’ Very well. So when a boy meets a girl who is not considerate of his feelings, he loses his temper. Surely that is logical! But of course he is not praised for his moral behaviour – he is further condemned.

So he struggles to understand the rule. He is told: You have to be nice to people, even if those people aren’t being nice to you! Very well. Then he does not have to be nice to his parents, since they have to be nice to him no matter how he acts. Oh, but that is not allowed either!

The real ‘rule’ is: Don’t cause me trouble. Don’t embarrass me. Don’t interrupt me. Don’t disturb me. Obey my whims!

Of course – that is not a rule at all. That is rank subjectivity. It’s like me ordering you: don’t like music I don’t like. That’s not a rule. That’s just subjugating your individuality to my whims. It cannot be a universal rule, since it only applies to one side of the equation of interaction: you do what I please! That is just bullying.

So of course both parents and politicians resist rules and definitions of any kind. They create dictatorships of whim, wherein the child can never predict the right course of behaviour. This is about the worst form of abuse, since it causes the child to spend his entire existence in fear, trying to read the whim-indicators of his rulers – both his parents and, sadly, his political masters.

So the next time someone tells you that you have to subject yourself to the power of the State because there are so many ‘bad’ people out there, simply ask:

• How many bad people are there?
• Am I one of those bad people?
• Are you?
• Is anyone in this room a bad person?
• How many have you met in your life?
• How did you know the bad people you met were bad?
• Have you ever seen any studies establishing the prevalence of these bad people?
• And, even if they are as prevalent as you think, how does taxation help? Surely bad people don’t pay taxes

And, finally:

• If there are a lot of bad people, then there must be a lot of bad people in the government, right? So how does giving the power of violence to bad people make the world a better place?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Why The World Is Sick

My wife is a psychotherapist, and so one of the most fascinating discussions we have (among many!) is whether the world is sick because of politics, or philosophy - or because of the family.

Her belief, of course, is that everything starts with the family. Politicians are mentally sick because they were treated badly as children. Raise the standard of parenting, she believes, and the world will be well.

I find her theory (and not just her theory!) extremely seductive. It is so important to understand what is making the world sick, so that whatever it is can be opposed. You don’t want to fight for cleaner air if the pollution is in the water.

And there is no doubt that she is right. Parenting is universally abysmal. Children are ordered and managed, not listened to and understood. Even liberal parents shut out their children’s unpopular questions and opinions. ‘Politeness’ is a great scourge, of course, since it enslaves the child to the shallow opinions of vain people. ‘Culture’ is another great child-killer, since it inflicts false pride and empty conformity. ‘Religion’ replaces clear reality with bullying language and hellish intimidation. Parental authority is a pure lie, since most parents are little more than empty incompetents, more than half-children themselves.

The only problem with my wife’s excellent formulation is that it tends to be a little circular, like much psychological causality. Why are people sick? Their parents are sick! There remains no First Cause.

One of the greatest problems that parents face is that they base their authority on the logic of universal morality, without being themselves logical to the slightest degree. ‘Respect your parents’ is an obvious example of this kind of illogic; there are countless others. No wisdom is objectively granted to people through the mindless act of giving birth. Rather, it would seem that parents are far more corrupt than children, since children themselves don’t have dependents, and so have little power to abuse the helpless.

It is very important to understand what sorts of ideas the parent is compelled to bully the child about. Very few parents bully their children about the fact that it gets dark at night, or that a mattress is softer than a rock, or that chocolate tastes good, or that food is kept in the fridge. In other words, no parent needs to bully a child about what that child experiences directly. No parent yells at a child about the fact that objects are subject to gravity, or that a bike has round wheels.

In other words, what is true does not need to be inculcated. Valid and verifiable ideas do not need to be inflicted through emotional pressure. If a child wonders whether a cat is in a closed box, no mother must manipulate the child into believing either way: she just opens the box, and they see. It is all very simple.

However, the parent faces a great challenge when he desires to get a child to believe something that is false, or self-contradictory – for which there is no evidence, either rational or sensual.

For my wife, one of these was that ‘Greeks are best’. This was played out a number of ways ‘Be proud of your culture’. ‘Our religion is the best’. It was a short step to another chestnut: ‘Not only are Greeks the best, but we are the best Greeks.’

Now of course this is all nonsense. There are only two possibilities for Greek virtue: either Greeks are best because they possess specific virtues – such as honesty – or Greeks are best because they come from a specific geographical location. If honesty is what makes Greeks the best, then anyone who is honest is equally good – and any dishonest Greek person is not the best. In other words, being Greek has nothing to do with being the best. If geography is the key, then there is no reason to suppose that being from Greece is better than being from any other place. Also, is a Muslim born in Greece better than a Greek person raised in Saudi Arabia?

Finally, ‘Greece’ doesn’t even exist. Land and trees and water exist. ‘Greece’ does not. Greece is a fiction with passports – which are also a fiction. ‘Culture’ also does not exist. Even ‘beliefs’ do not exist in any verifiable manner, since they can change minute by minute, and only the person who is reporting that he holds those beliefs knows if he in fact does or not. If you ask me: ‘are you thinking of the colour blue?’ is there any way to verify whether my response is accurate or not? There is no truth-value to subjective statements. They are absolutely immaterial, ethereal opinions without substance. They exist as a category, as the category ‘clouds’ exist, but they have no more reality than the specific shape of an invisible, shifting individual cloud in deep space behind the moon.

In short, who cares?

Now parents have a great problem on their hands when they have children.

There are so many things that parents believe that are not true, and here they have coming into their lives inquisitive, rational, empirical and honest creatures. How are they to establish their authority in the face of their own falsehoods – especially given the natural rationality of children?

Well, either they must give up their own illusions, or they must bludgeon their children’s fresh minds with the ghostly clubs of their own fantasies.

The first fantasy, of course, is authority. ‘Authority’ is a singularly silly concept, since reality is the only real ‘authority’ in human existence. If I cannot breathe, I will die – no human ‘authority’ can deem otherwise. A knowledgeable scientist may be deemed an authority, but his authority is based only on his knowledge of the facts of reality. Knowledge of reality is all that counts. But of course parents have almost no knowledge of reality – they prefer mad fantasies such as patriotism or religion or social conformity. And it is for that reason that they must compel and bully and humiliate their children into surrendering their integrity, honesty, morality and mental health to the sick fantasies of the vast majority.

And it is for this reason that families are so unutterably lonely. I can only relate to you through tangible reality – we cannot merge minds, and we cannot meet in dreams. Only through our physical senses can we meet, through speech, vision and touch. Yet most human sicknesses arises from the direct rejection of reality – and those who deny reality deny contact, comfort, intimacy and all the sweet solace of love. Yet people remain addicted to all their alienating fantasies about the supremacy of concepts, rather than accept the simple facts of the senses.

My wife and I almost never misunderstand each other. If she says that she is hungry, I don’t imagine that she is secretly rebuking me for not feeding her. If she feels sad, I do not fantasize that she is going to leave me. And why would I? She has given me no evidence to! Yet most relationships lurk in this murky world of imagined slights and intentions. And how could they do otherwise? Children, forced to comply with the lies of their parents, learn to read people, not reality. They strive to divine the impossible – the secret mind of another.

Many years ago, I was on a beach in Mexico. I was reading Nietzsche, because I am a relentless philosophy geek, and I was watching a bird peck at grains of bread buried in the sand. And the thought came to me: my primary relationship is with the sand, not the bird! It is physical reality that I must relate to and understand – not the motives and thoughts of others. If others want to share their thoughts, good. I may be happy to listen. But I will not attempt to divine their motives, since that is impossible. Even if, after hours of thought, I was able to perform such a miracle, those motives would have likely changed. It is like trying to paint the ocean, with each wave simultaneous and correct.

So – my wife is right, and I am right. The world is sick because of the family, and the family is sick because fantasies have taken the place of philosophy. To save the world, we need better parenting – and to save parents, we need true philosophy.

One last thought, or perspective perhaps. The question which always seems to arise, to me anyway, is: why do people believe so much nonsense?

Ah, that is simple – and perhaps already understood by those who have read a number of these essays. People believe nonsense because they are taught nonsense. And people teach nonsense because they are well paid to do so, and would not be well paid otherwise. To understand this at its most elemental level, imagine how successful a sadist is in a slave-owning society – and imagine how unsuccessful a sadist is in a free market. By beating and terrorizing the slaves, he breaks their will to escape – and so reduces the cost of ownership. However, in a free market, a boss who beats his employees will go to jail.

It is far from likely that the sadist will be able to change his nature – and so, knowing that the difference between slavery and freedom is, for him, the difference between wealth and jail – he will do everything possible to ensure that slavery remains the law of the land.

Think of a priest. How would he receive his money if his lies were not believed? Think of the Vatican, or the synagogue? How would Catholic or Jewish leaders reap their millions without poisoning the minds of the children?

For parents the ‘virtue of the family’ is a highly profitable fiction since they get to be taken care of in their old age. We are all constantly told that blood relations are the most important, and that obedience and forgiveness are the highest virtues. There are almost no parental misdeeds which we are not supposed to forgive. We can divorce our spouses for mere differences, but never our parents, with whom we have even less in common as the years pass. When our parents finally get old and frail, they need our time, money and attention – and what do they have to offer us in return? The pleasure of their company? Not likely. At least when we were children we received, food and shelter for putting up with them – what is our benefit when they get old?

Like all bad people, the only thing that parents have to offer their children is: relief from a pain that the parents themselves are inflicting. In other words, like priests, parents provoke guilt, and then offer relief from that guilt in return for slavish obedience. And because children know nothing of philosophy – and very little of reality – their behaviour is ruled by the needs and desires of those around them, rather than the objective reality of the situation. As mentally-crippled emotional dependents, adult children fear nothing more than disapproval, regardless of its source. Thus aging parents get taken care of – reaping all the rewards of virtue – simply by repeating and cashing in on the prevailing social views that only bad people don’t care of aging parents.

It is impossible to imagine that people who are benefiting from a scam will act to change it. Thus it is up to the adult children to refrain from supporting parents who are not good people – and this includes parents who did not promote individuality and rationality in their children. (Most parents, in fact.) If we do not stop rewarding sickness, we cannot ever expect the world to be healthy.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Targets of War

Who is the Iraq war being fought against? The answer to large and complex political questions is always very simple: follow the money.

The Iraq war – like all wars – centers around a massive transfer of money from the majority to a minority. Your money – and your children’s money – is being stolen through taxation. A tiny part of it goes to the troops – and the vast remainder goes to well-connected war profiteers.

It is crucial to understand this reality: your money is not stolen so that the troops can go to Iraq. The troops are sent to Iraq so that your money can be stolen.

If this seems cynical, imagine the following scenario: your brother says he needs $500 from you because he has to fix his car. You are about to give him the money, when you suddenly remember that he sold his car a year ago. “Oh,” he says, without missing a beat, “I meant that I have to fix my roof.” Again, you are about to give him the money, when you frown and realize that he lives in a rented apartment. You bring this up, and he says: “Sorry, I meant that I need $500 to get my guitar back from the pawn shop.” However, he has never played guitar.

Is it so hard to figure out what your brother is really after? Every story he makes up has to do with getting $500 out of you. Every time you point out a flaw in his request, he changes his story. He doesn’t want $500 from you to satisfy a particular need. He invents random needs to get your $500.

The relevance of this analogy to the Iraq war is obvious. The American government has gone to war in order to steal from the American population. All other reasons change, but the cost of the war – and the fact that it is not being paid for by any reductions in government spending – is the one constant, as it is for all wars. The ‘enemy’ is merely the means: the taxpayer is the end.

This much should be familiar with everyone who reads Orwell – what is not as often mentioned, however, is the relationship that taxation has to the ‘free choice’ of soldiers.

I had an argument once about the US Civil War. My opponent said that, by freeing the slaves, the government did a good thing. I replied that the freeing of the slaves was irrelevant. What was relevant was that, through the draft, the government enslaved hundreds of thousands of men – killing many of them – to fight the Civil War. Enslaving men to fight slavery is logically foolish and morally evil. (Besides, it was the government that made slavery legal in the first place by refusing to add property rights to the Constitution.)

In the same way, it is not that important whether the soldiers in Iraq are there because they want to be there. What is important is that current and future Americans are being enslaved at gunpoint to pay for the war.

We must save the soldiers by fighting the violent taxation that makes it profitable to have them out shooting and dying. We must reclaim our own freedom, because war is the greatest evil we shall ever face, and wars will never cease until we are free.