Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Irrational Humanity

During World War I, a number of bohemian, pacifist, rich-enough-to-wait-out-the-war-in-Zurich, artistic types, looked at the insanity of that conflict, and decided that it was an indictment of western rationalism. They formed an art movement called "Dada" (which is either German for a child's toy or is simply a nonsense word) and glorified the IRrational. Somehow or other, this rejection of the rational would produce a better world than the one of industrialized mass-murder and domination of European so-called "civilization."

Personally, I was always confused as to how that was supposed to work. It seems to me that the insanity of World War I (and previous and later instances of large-scale insanity such as The Inquisition, Stalinism, World War II, The Holocaust) although clearly the work of thousands of seemingly sane individuals calming working away within functioning bureaucratic structures, were examples not of the dangers of rationalism but of how root-irrationalities can inspire ordinary people to commit monstrous acts. This is to say, that it is the kernel of irrational belief that infects all the surrounding rational actors working to fulfill a final goal based on nonsense. Religious delusion. Racism. Nationalism.

It has always seemed so clear to me that embracing the irrational was dangerous. In this I was inspired by the writings of Bertrand Russell who said that emotions and appetites can lead people astray. Anger, lust, love, pleasure, despair, etc., ... letting these dominate the self can make a person bounce around like a pinball from one temporary diversion to another, or even lead to premature death. Russell said to always let your actions be governed by calm reflection away from the heats of passion. I tried to subscribe to this to the best of my abilities. But, obviously, it was impossible. To my chagrin, reading a biography of Russell revealed to me that he was even less successful in following his own prescription. Oh well.

So, the other day I read this interview at Vox.com with Justin E. H. Smith, author of  Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason. About the book:
Discovering that reason is the defining feature of our species, we named ourselves the “rational animal.” But is this flattering story itself rational? In this sweeping account of irrationality from antiquity to today—from the fifth-century BC murder of Hippasus for revealing the existence of irrational numbers to the rise of Twitter mobs and the election of Donald Trump—Justin Smith says the evidence suggests the opposite. From sex and music to religion and war, irrationality makes up the greater part of human life and history.
Bits n' pieces of the interview:
Sean Illing
Some examples of this will help clarify what you mean, but first let’s back up a little. We have this idea, which goes all the way back to Aristotle, that human beings are distinguished from other animals by their capacity for reason. Is this a misleading picture? Should we not think of humans as uniquely rational creatures?
Justin E.H. Smith
This is the traditional view. There is a counter-tradition, however, which says that human beings are the uniquely irrational animal. On this view, animals are rational to the extent that they do not get mired in deliberation and hesitation, but always just cut right to the chase and execute those actions that are perfectly suited to the sort of creatures they are, while we human beings stand there paralyzed by doubt and worry.
I am sympathetic to this view, though it can be carried too far. Obviously, we have been able to choose the correct course of action enough of the time to survive long enough to reproduce. We are a successful species, but not exceptionally so, and as far as I can tell not in virtue of being exceptionally well-endowed with reason.
Sean Illing
That’s certainly one way to think of rationality. By that standard, you might say that human beings are cursed with too much consciousness, that our obsession with thinking creates more problems than it solves.
Justin E.H. Smith
You might say that. But it’s not as if we think just because we are obsessed with thinking. Presumably, we human beings, as well as our hominid and pre-hominid ancestors, thought for a very long time before we began thinking about how this is possible and how it can go wrong.
Sean Illing
I wonder where all this leaves us. There are obviously limits to reason, and we can only do so much to curb our worst impulses. At the same time, we want a world that is more intelligent, more wise, more compassionate. But we also have to base our social and political systems on a realistic model of human nature.
Justin E.H. Smith
I don’t really have any formulas to offer here. Caution, pragmatism, case-by-case consideration of questions of justice, all seem advisable to me. I am not a political theorist, let alone a policymaker, and I think I manage to get to the end of the book without pretending to be either of these.
In spite of everything I’ve said, I believe in some amount of redistributive justice, including taking away about 99.9 percent of the fortunes of Bezos, Zuckerberg, and others, and turning the big tech companies into public utilities. I just think this should be done with good laws and broad public support, in such a way as to make it inevitable and ultimately painless for everyone (after all, these men would still be multimillionaires after the great confiscation).
Sean Illing
I’ll ask what might seem like a strange question: What’s the utility of irrationality in human life? How do our irrational instincts actually serve us?
Justin E.H. Smith
I place a lot of good things under the heading “irrationality” — not just dreams but also drunkenness, stonedness, artistic creation, listening to stories by the campfire, enjoyment of music and dancing, all sorts of orgiastic revelry, mass events like concerts and sports matches, and so on. I think most people would agree that these things make life worth living. And I think it’s impossible to account for the value of these things in purely utilitarian terms.
Personally, I'd say it's not so much trying to impose rationality on people. It's deluding yourself that your ideas/beliefs are so fucking rational that everybody has to conform to them or else they're stupid fuckwads who must all be slaughtered. Which is to say: "Irrationally imposing one's own belief system on others produces even more irrationality." That, plus the fact that to live as a functioning animal demands that we believe in things even though life is pointless.

But, you know, having studied a lot of history from the perspective of the British/US-American/Anglo-Canadian historians, I'm sympathetic to the idea that the way of gradual, incremental change is the most lasting way forward. Say what you want about the British ruling classes, but you can't deny the longevity of their social structure. And however much this is based on their being able to develop on an Island fortress, and from wealth stolen from other lands, or any other reason; some of that longevity must come from the way they have been able to incorporate change. Some of this change included incorporating ideas from revolutions planned and carried out elsewhere. But flexible stability is flexible stability.

I have, for a long time, decried the idea of some vague, all-encompassing revolution, to solve all our problems. I also reject overly-complicated strategies that require everything to fall into place and quickly. I have long argued that "Workers as Citizens" is both simple enough; in conformity with hegemonic ideas enough, and etc., etc., enough that it is the way forward.

Well, that's it for today. Maybe I'll put in some links later. But I've got shit to do.

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Green-NDP Electoral Alliance

The NDP is moribund in the polls. But their support is still higher than that of the Green Party. (Last time I checked, the NDP is at 17% and the Greens fluctuate from 7 to 11%.) Under our antiquated FPTP electoral system voting for either party is often a complete waste of time. (Which is why dreamy Justin Trudeau broke his promise to replace FPTP when he won his majority.)

Reflecting back over the years and years that the NDP leadership strove to become almost indistinguishable from the Liberal Party of Canada, I'm now forced to confront the purpose of saving this moribund institution. But then I remember the grassroots membership who have become increasingly sullen and angry and whose support for the party has been sputtering to the point of going out. THEY aren't going to vote Liberal. And the ideological origins of the Green Party reveal an overall disinclination to address the increasingly important area of social class. And I also recall how Jagmeet Singh showed himself personally responsive to the membership as he took baby-steps away from the party brain-trust's disgusting support for the coup in Venezuela (wherein Justin Trudeau and Chrystia ["fascist family"] Freeland have ENTHUSIASTICALLY aligned themselves with the detestable Donald Trump and John Bolton) in response to the membership's howls of outrage.

The two parties should come to an agreement not to compete against each other in those places where either of them has clearly done better than the other. They should even run as a coalition and promise to implement electoral reform.

And there must be no referendum on this. 20% of the population is so debased that they vote Conservative. There's another 20% (at least) of Liberal zombies. Both of these groups of partisans want to keep the system that often grants them majority government power. They'll never give that up. And their protests in the face of the imposition of a superior electoral system should be disregarded as the partisan demand that the votes of supporters of other parties continue to be null and void. Fuck them and their hypocrisy.

So, right off the bat, 40% would reject electoral reform. Add to that something from 10-20% who would find the whole thing tedious and confusing and if they were subjected to a six-month media campaign to inform and educate them about their choices, would walk into the polling station and stare in confusion at being asked a question about electoral reform.

Again; we're not talking about taking away anyone's vote. We're talking about making every vote count. Because the Liberals and the Conservatives are (respectively) almost useless and less than useless when it comes to the apocalyptic threat of climate change. Both those parties are comprised of imperialist scum. This country desperately needs an electoral system that forces them to consider the opinions of people who aren't partisan shit-heads.

Monday, April 22, 2019

A Hillary-Bot Being Wrong on the Internet

So, I'm going to talk about a discussion I had in another guise somewhere else on the internet. And, yes, it's true that arguing with people on the internet is often a total waste of time. Two anonymous nobodies having a disagreement. But it's also true that actual political movements in meat-space are comprised of large numbers of nobodies. For example, getting a white supremacist to let it all hang out on the internet can give you an insight into the mind of one of those Canadian "Yellow-Vest" shitheads who deny climate change, hate Muslims and want to help take away everyone's access to public health care.

So it is in that spirit that I summarize what I heard from a loathsome Hillary-bot. A "Hillary-bot" is an individual who cannot process the fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton is an awful person who was an awful candidate because she was an awful Secretary of State, an awful Senator and an awful First Lady. She was, and remains, a selfish, self-centered, entitled psychopath who descended into mind-boggling cynicism and corruption. She was an imperialist war-monger. A craven tool of Wall Street and other capitalist criminals. But, as I said, a Hillary-bot cannot process this. To them, Hillary was "the best candidate EVAH!" simply by dint of repetition. She was the "most qualified." Why? It's never said. I once asked one specimen to explain to me why she was the most qualified and he told me to do my own research. Hillary Clinton is a historically significant figure and part of the reason for that is that she was such a shitty candidate that she depressed the Democratic vote and made it possible for an utter buffoon, a racist, misogynist con-man imbecile, like Donald J. Trump to eke out an Electoral College victory. Therefore, all the anonymous minions who helped produce that debacle and who refuse to accept responsibility for it and who continue to push for the unpopular political goals of the Democratic Party establishment that might just give Trump a re-election, are likewise historically significant. It's important to see how they think.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Doug Ford and Donald Trump

There's a recording somewhere of Doug Ford talking on the phone with the mother of an autistic child. She had complained to his office about what his changes to autism funding in the province were doing to her family and so he called her. I didn't listen to the recording because the sound of his voice (stupid, arrogant bellowing) and the sight of the man's face (with that maniacal, artificial grin) disgusts me. But there's one part of the recording where Ford attempts to sympathize with the woman's struggles and he tells her she deserves a gold medal. She tells him she doesn't want a medal. She wants sane policy.

Now, some people might take the fact that Ford reached out to a member of the public and tried to explain what he was doing and also expressed his sympathy for her, as evidence that he cares what his constituents think, that he believes he's doing the right thing, and that he's not a heartless thug.

My take on it is that if he believes he's doing the right thing, then he's stupid. I'm pretty sure that Doug hasn't thought too much about anything that he's doing. Cutting taxes and cutting government are (in the right-wing world he inhabits) simply magical actions that produce magical results of growth and prosperity and sticking it to "libtards." Once he's set on an idea, that's it. Nothing more to think about. Therefore, he'll confidently get on the phone with someone on the receiving end of his blithering idiocy and attempt to sell it to her. Obviously, this will go badly for him because his policy is based on ignorance and delusion. As far as his expression of sympathy, reading the transcript reminded me of nothing so much as the feigned concern of a bully after they've hurt someone. After they've injured someone they'll ask "Are you okay?" Maybe their rage has passed and they're semi-concerned. But more likely they're sociopaths. They arrogantly imagine that if they affect the sounds and the words of a person who cares about another person, then that acting job coupled with their own special greatness, will make the recipient of their abuse feel better.

Moving onto Donald Trump. The man had already lowered himself beyond redemption but I have to say that his vetoing of a bipartisan resolution to end US support for the Saudi-led genocide in Yemen is historically monstrous. Millions of lives. Millions of innocent men, women and children, are going to continue to die because Trump, the moral imbecile, doesn't want to affect the profits of US weapons manufacturers. This is testimony to the supreme moral degeneracy of the US political class. Obama and H.R. Clinton both countenanced this mass-murder. And Trump is using Obama's legal weasel-reasoning on Libya to justify his veto. And everybody's so fixated on this stupid Mueller Report that the continued US support for the slaughter of MILLIONS of people will quickly disappear from the news-cycle.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Doug Ford's Doings

"My friends!" Doug Ford likes to say ... "Help is on the way!" Now, just like the ignoramuses in the USA who were ignorant of Donald Trump's serial acts of con-artistry; ignorant of his hypocrisy, entitlement, etc., etc., ... who voted for him because said he'd bring their jobs back; there are ignoramuses in Ontario who looked at the disgusting neo-liberalism and corruption of the Ontario Liberals and thought they'd replace them with the "straight-talking" Doug Ford. Ford, after all, was "for the people." He was for "the little guy." (Just like their favourite newspaper The Toronto Sun is for the "little guy." So long as he conforms to the dominant white culture and knows his place and only complains about liberals and socialists.)

So, how's that working out? Disastrous obviously.

Doug Ford canceled the scheduled minimum wage increase to $15 an hour. Leaving it at the $14 per hour that Kathleen Wynne had raised it to. Given that more people are working at or near the minimum wage than ever before, this is a wholesale attack on the well-being of the "little guys and gals" that Ford is constantly bellowing about. The whole policy is premised on discredited right-wing bullshit theories and because Ford, as an employer, is very much the enemy of the "little guy" class that he pretends to represent.

In burst of petulance, Ford reduced the size of Toronto City Council by one-half, DURING AN ELECTION. This is because Ford is dimly aware that he's a stupid fuck-face and Toronto City Council was one of the first and only places where people were not cowed by him and they informed him of his ignorance and stupidity on a daily basis. And, let me tell you something my friends, that hurt. Hurt bad. Ford was even prepared to utilize the "notwithstanding clause" of the Constitution to get his way.

Doug Ford cut funding for autistic children. Then, when there were howls of outrage, he came up with some stupid, brain-dead formula of yearly allowances for families, based on the idea that all autistic kids are the same and that there should be an income cut-off line.

Doug Ford is cutting the education budget, reducing the number of teachers employed, increasing class sizes, and imposing online classes. The whole thing has been a disastrous, needless cluster-fuck. Doug Ford did not campaign on cutting the education system. Doug Ford is a lying, stinking, criminal piece of human garbage. Predictably, he responded to a massive protest against his cuts as being organized and led by "union bosses and thugs." (That's called "projection." After all, Doug Ford has been found to have ordered all his MPPs to stand up and applaud him like trained seals and he ejects from the caucus anyone who refuses to debase themselves on his behalf.)

Doug Ford cut funding for women's shelters. Because, you know, there's a lot of waste and inefficiencies there and ... for gawd's sake, I can't stand it.

While Ford has been cutting public services and demanding restraint from everyone else, he put an inordinate amount of time trying to get family friend, Ron Taverner, to be the head of the OPP. Taverner might have been among those cops who informed Rob Ford (and Doug) about the Toronto Police Service's surveillance of Rob as that nitwit was staggering around town and smoking crack with gangsters. Ford changed the job requirements for the OPP Chief so that Taverner could apply, fired the cop who called him on it and then sharted himself.

Doug Ford never imagines that he has to set a good example for anyone. While he's been slashing services he asked the OPP to build him a van for his personal use and put it on their own budget. "Pimp my ride."

And, of course, being a stupid, super-corrupt, callous, ignorant, barf-ugly, yellow-haired, bloated freak, Doug Ford has decided to privatize the health care system entirely. He's invented a super-committee that can make decisions without questions or even oversight to do this.

This leaves out a lot of Doug Ford's other super-stupidity. But my typing fingers are getting tired.

Remember, this scum-bag campaigned on a nothing platform. He said that services wouldn't be cut. Jobs wouldn't be lost. But he's taken a meat cleaver and a bone saw to so much. And, personally, I'm sick of it. I'm sick of ignorant, racist, know-nothings voting for human garbage like this. And, given the fact that "conservative" voters and the "conservative" media have no problem defecating on the principles of representative democracy, and given the fact that their ignorance, stupidity and hypocrisy negatively impact my life, I have no problem with anyone, anywhere, going absolutely ape-shit to stop this bloated, ugly goon and his entire swarm of sycophants and shit-heads.

We don't need to wait four years to take a baseball bat to the skull of Doug Ford's government.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Thoughts on Doug Ford

Lately I've been writing condemnations of "progressives." Because that's the team that I used to play on. They're the folks whose values seemed to line-up with my own. Also, in general, they appear to be far less stupid than what passes for thinking on the right-wing of the political spectrum. So it pains me to see them lose their minds over things like "Russia-gate" or to become shameless hacks for neo-liberal political parties. That is why I have yet another post critiquing progressives' stupidity underway. But lately, I've been growing increasingly disgusted with Ontario's premier, Doug Ford, and I think it's high time I wrote some thoughts about him.