Freedman

Pessoa wrote:

Freedom is the possibility of isolation.  You are only free if you can withdraw from men and feel no need to seek them out for money, or society, or love, or glory, or even curiosity, for none of these things flourish in silence and solitude.  If you cannot live alone, then you were born a slave.  Though you may be possessed of every superior quality of spirit and soul, you are still nothing more than a noble slave or an intelligent serf, you are not free.  But that is not your tragedy, for the tragedy of being born like that is not yours but Destiny’s.  Woe betide you, though, if the very weight of life itself makes you a slave.  Woe betide you if, having been born free and capable of providing for yourself and leading a separate existence, penury forces you into the company of others.  That tragedy is yours alone, which you alone must bear.

Some people are suited to work.  Almost everybody, in fact, but good luck getting them to admit it.  A UBI would destroy the average man, turn him into a criminal, a drug addict, a member of the Underclass.  At the very least make him fat.  Most people get meaning, social connection and a sense of accomplishment from work.  They get promotions and go up levels and receive new desks and baubles and recognition, just like in a computer game.  For that matter, I don’t enjoy computer games much either.

As a young man, like every other troubled young man with more brains than sense, I read Notes From The Underground and it, like, really spoke to me, man, I really got it.  And all that nonsense.  We were supposed to view the narrator with contempt, but I kinda liked him.  He’s a lot like me – weird, oversensitive, unpopular, arrogant and he probably smells bad too.  He says at the start that he’d inherited a little money from an aunt and that it was just enough for him to retire and live a frugal life without needing to go out into the world and do any more work.

I thought, I’d kiss a cow’s arse for that.  I’d give my left ball for that.  I’d draw my Gran’s beating heart and present it to munificent Kali for that.  Think of it!  Never needing to work, ever again!  Being free!

The reader might here be misunderstanding me.  I’m not especially lazy – having things to do is fine.  Rather, what I abhor about work, and I think here I’m as one with Pessoa, is needing to deal with people.  All day, every day.  All those workplace dramas, politics and stresses, faux pas, lunatics, angry people, disappointed faces, mistakes, inadequacies, insecurities, and on and on.

To be free of it . . .

Not free to necessarily sit on a beach and drink cocktails, or to work on magnificent projects, or to chase magnificently nubile ladies.  Just free to not have to deal with all of that trouble.  Not rapture, not ecstasy; just a mild and reasonable freedom, like what an eccentric English gentleman might once have had when he collected stamps or shrunken Papuan heads.

I think this is what my life has always been leading to, though I did not always know it.  From the first moment I became aware of this concept of freedom, it has had an allure for me like that which gold, power, fame, fast cars or beautiful women have for other men.  Saving money instinctively, without budgeting, is a natural outgrowth of this underlying desire to be at peace.

Work is not the same for all of us.  For some it is a daily horror.  Any job would be so for us – perhaps aside from home-based stenography – because it involves being out there in a world we would prefer to avoid as much as possible.

I like to go out sometimes – once or twice a week is good – but that is enough.  The rest of the time I prefer to be secluded.  I live like that on my breaks and it is not glorious, it is just . . . peaceful.  Quiet.  After holidays colleagues say I look different – cheerful, relaxed; my face gets fatter and I sometimes even smile.  Yes, me – smile!  Might I one day become one of those smiley people, like Jonty Rhodes?  Oh, that might be going too far.  Way too far.  I generally wear a beset and mournful expression.  But perhaps I might one day look less beset and mournful.  I guess that would be an improvement.

Luisman worries I’ll blow all my money.  Adam reckons I’ll get bored.  Well . . . soon we shall know.  For whatever goes wrong in my new life, you can expect to encounter reams of whining about it here on the People’s Blog.  So you’ve got that to look forward to.

Advertisements

The days are long but the years are short

As has been timelessly noted, the swiftness of time’s passing is a subjective thing.

As my kind reader no doubt noticed, the first three weeks of June, 2018 were the longest in recorded history.  Nasa data confirms that the earth slowed in its orbit over this period and those three weeks actually took three months.

That was also the three weeks before my break.

The following weeks, it goes without saying, raced by with unprecedented speed.  There is presumably reliable data to back this up.

And yet, when I think of ‘last year’, the whole horrid thing seems like Read More

You just believe what you’ve been told

Yes, you do.

You.

You do.

I know that you think you’re all independent-minded and free-thinking and open to new evidence and all that.  Don’t you?

But you’re not.

At most, during your lifetime, your views will only modify a little bit.  Switch from Democrats to Republicans?  Whoop-di-doo.  Become more free-market, then less so?  Like those mites that live on your eyelids, this move is too small to see without a microscope.

I know you still don’t believe me.  You’re thinking, this guy’s full of shit.  And while you’re reading this you’re going to have a mental debate with me, thinking you’ll win.

You’ll lose.

Okay, ready?  Climb aboard the Real World Express!  Toot-toot!  No hanging your arms out the side or you’ll lose them and have to eke out a living doing gay amputee porn.

Let’s start with a few questions about your existing beliefs.  Please play along.  No sneaky skipping forward.  If you jump ahead, I will know.  And I will be very disappointed in you.

Religion

What religion Read More

The loneliness of humanity

How exciting the Age of Discovery must have been.  Men risked their lives to travel literally uncharted waters, discovering new continents, species and previously unknown peoples.  They brought back unbelievable stories of Japanese with their blackened teeth, Pacific headhunters, the human sacrifices of the Aztecs, and the advanced seafaring technology of the Chinese.

Today we peoples know each other well.  Maybe too well.  What people, now, are still exotic?  What cultural practice still surprises us?  We have grown worldly.

In those more innocent times, any problem might have its solution just around the next Read More

The broad village, the narrow world

One of G.K. Chesterton’s best paradoxes is that the world is small, the village is broad, and the family is enormous.

If one travels the world, one can locate and socialize with those who are very similar to oneself.  In a small village we must put up with all types.  And in the narrow confines of the family, we must not just tolerate but also love those who are completely unlike, and insufferable to, ourselves.  Travel limits the mind; our home town and kin broadens it.

This is even more so in the modern world.  Formerly, only the very rich, adventurous or desperate could leave their village.  Even those who sailed to the New World often did so with their family, and recreated their old village with their fellow countrymen once they arrived.

Today, any old dipshit can Read More

Despise da feelz

Every now and then my ignorance sneaks up behind me and gives me a mighty rogering.  So it was the other day, reading Arian’s history of Alexander the Great.  I’d studied Stoic and Buddhist philosophy, but belatedly realized that the parallels between them are not the result of some cosmic order in the universe.  Rather, once the Macedonians reached then-Buddhist/Hindu India (there was not always such a great distinction between them), there was much disseminating and cross-pollenization.

A common element in both philosophies is Read More

Reading the right thing at the right moment

I read a lot, and every now and then the material is so perfectly apt to my present thoughts or circumstances I get a little superstitious.

The other day I was feeling down.  I was thinking, fifteen more months in this bloody country.  I was thinking, things might get even worse.  My mind ran through the various grim possibilities, some more plausible than others.  The new boss being a nut.  Being refused an exit permit.  My company being nationalized.  I also thought about war breaking out but that would actually be a good thing – Read More

What makes you happy?

In an essay of Montaigne he discusses the three things that still make him happy during his advanced years of pain and declining health.  These are: conversation with good friends, enjoying whatever intimacy he can still manage with his ladies or the fond memories thereof, and spending time reading and pacing about his library.

Is it not fine to reach an age when one finally knows what one wants to do?  So many people do not reflect on this foundational truth, instead mindlessly pursuing money, popularity, drunkenness, promotions, fame, a big house, or a sporting trophy, only to be disappointed once they get it.

Imagine for a moment that you had ample Read More

Nietzsche is not for the common man

Book review of Thus Spake Zarathustra by Nietzche, Part II

If Nietzsche represents all the happened in the Twentieth Century, and that continues into this one, he also represents all that went wrong.

Nietzsche rejects traditions. He mocks the idea of morals and religions. He cautions against marriage. Nietzsche teaches that only one thing makes sense: to further oneself, to extend oneself according to one’s self-chosen virtues in order that mankind may create or become something greater than itself – the Superman. Man is not a goal but a bridge to something higher.

But this philosophy, now a reflexive part of western cultural DNA, has been a disaster. It is causing the erosion of Western civilization as we turn away from our own hard-won achievements – great art, freedom, scientific progress – and instead sink into the base superstitions of Read More

The Day I Converted to Satanism

It wasn’t a rock and roll concert. It wasn’t a passing gay pride march. It wasn’t even a former Catholic’s fit of pique.

It was a girl.

After I had to cautiously break up with a psychopathic girlfriend, I took the bus home thankfully unstabbed and with both my little balls still attached and I thought, that’s enough. I can’t do this any more. I’d had a string of awful breakups with mad partners – some suicidal, some violent – and I’d had a gutful.

I decided I would only date casually.

Some time passed and I ended up dating two Read More

What Confucius Really Say

Book review of The Analects of Confucius.

Confucius lived at around the same time as the great Greek philosophers, when thinking and learning were becoming more possible with the rise of cities and non-farming opportunities. Dusted off and misused by modern ChiCom tyrants and incompetent Korean bosses, his philosophy is not quite the ‘rote learn piles of useless rubbish and do as you’re bloody well told, dirty peasant’ line pushed by those who assume their material-obsessed populace will not actually read his work.

The Analects are collected sayings of the old teacher as reported by his students, similar to the Islamic Hadith literature. So let’s have a look.

The Master said, ‘Learning without thought is labour lost; thought without learning is perilous.’

Every tiger mum should have this tattooed backwards on her Botoxed forehead. The Asian obsession with ridiculous hours of ‘study’ (memorization and repetition) is hopelessly inefficient. Even though we are far lazier, the west continues to lead in many areas of technological innovation. This must at least partly be a consequence of Asian anti-education, that is, the practice of training children to merely listen, obey and to turn off their brains altogether. Thinking and curiousity are essential.

The Master said, ‘The study of strange doctrines is injurious indeed!’

I disagree. One should study everything. The brilliance of western Enlightenment is our realization that we are able to consider and entertain a concept in our minds without actually being convinced by it. This is something that Medieval Europe and many contemporary, more primitive cultures cannot get their heads around.

Read the Koran. Read Mao’s Little Red Book. Read Mein Kamph. Don’t forget the Nirvana Sutra and maybe some femo dross to round it out. Only a fool need fear that he will become a Muslim, Communist, Nazi, Buddhist or Feminist merely according to whichever of these he had read last.

Mind you, this is a genuine fear for fools. The unintelligent should be discouraged from reading significant texts and their education should focus on practical skills. This group consists of the greater part of the global population.

In high school I knew this dickhead called Jim. He would consistently be swayed by whatever ne’er-do-wells happened to be letting him hang around at the time. Years later I ran into him and he started going on about how he’d become involved in one of those wog separatists movements. I immediately thought, of course! How could he not get recruited into one of those eternally dissatisfied organizations? Though he was not one, I suppose this is where suicide bombers come from. The tenuous point here is, simple people should indeed be kept away from strange doctrines.

The Master said, ‘Yu, shall I teach you what knowledge is? When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it; – this is knowledge.’

This is very similar to what Socrates said, although he claimed to know nothing at all. Certainly there is great foolishness in arrogantly believing things we could not possibly know for sure, such as the existence of the Gods, fairy tales about the creation of the universe, or anything much in the realm of morals.

The Master said, ‘They who know the truth are not equal to those who love it, and they who love it are not equal to those who delight in it.’

It is remarkable how few individuals and cultures in history have delighted in truth. Most hate at least some aspects of it and try to keep it hidden, most especially regarding religion, morality and politics. And more recently, race and sex. The average person abhors the truth and gets offended if it is spoken aloud, though the particular truths that will have them brandishing pitchforks vary according to time and place.

Like the Greeks, Confucius sensibly avoids discussion of spiritual matters. You can only do what you can do. I like to fancy that, had he been born in freer times, he would have said exactly what I say, but who knows.

The Master said, ‘What the superior man seeks, is in himself. What the mean man seeks, is in others.’

Want of forbearance in small matters confounds great plans.

How true. The world’s lesser people are unable to endure the difficulty and delayed reward of study, the tediousness of contraception or the frugality to save and invest. In fact, lack of forbearance is probably the primary cause of poverty in the developed world, and in lots of the rest of it, too.

Confucian thought has influenced the West in various ways since his teaching was translated by the Jesuits in the 1600s. The idea of the consent of the governed had an impact on the Enlightenment and the American Revolution, though few Patriots would have known this. The concept of education for all led to mass schooling first in Prussia then in many other places. The idea that the educated should govern led to the Chinese public service exams, a concept now embraced by most parts of the world and excluding a few that have gone backwards for reasons of political correctness. It seems that the people getting the top scores did not adequately resemble those clip art photos for the search term ‘office team’.

Those ‘Confucius say’ jokes were always dull. There was only one that was ever funny. This is it:

Confucius say: “Man who go to bed with itchy bottom wake up with smelly fingers.”

Nietzsche’s Original Satanic Bible

Book Review of Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, Part I of III.

What should Man do with his life?

Satan whispers in his ear, ‘Whatever you like.’

The Stoics insist, ‘True happiness is found in virtue!’ Jesus moans, ‘There is no path to heaven but through faith in me!’ The utilitarians whine, ‘Make the world a better place!’ The Socialists wheeze, ‘Destroy capitalism and racism and patriarchy!’

But there is Satan, in the back of Man’s mind, still whispering his seductive refrain: ‘Do whatever you want. Why not?’

A hermit named Zarathustra spends many years high in the mountains with only animals as companions. One day he reaches enlightenment and climbs down the hill to inform mankind of what he has discovered.

He reaches the people and he teaches them: Read More

Philosophy as Proto-Study

There used to just be Philosophy, which was inquiry and thinking, trying to figure things out. From it sprang the family of learning:

From Natural Philosophy was born Science and Physics.

From Logic was born first Mathematics, and later Computer Science.

From Ethics, Politics and perhaps Economics.

But Philosophy itself remains, its current areas of study not yet broken off under a new label. What makes these fields different?

Philosophy continues to hold under its umbrella fields such as Read More

How to Heal the World, Part II

Part I appeared on Monday

She showed little affection for the boy, perhaps blaming him for her predicament. She hit him. She sometimes toyed with his emotions, playing hot and cold, relishing the only power she had every held over a male. She normally ignored his birthdays but when he was five she bought him a parrot and told Johannes how much she loved him. She let him imbibe a good five minutes of happiness before breaking the creature’s neck in front of him and laughing that he had believed Read More

How to Heal the World, Part I

Stewart went to a good, private high school in Brisbane so he got into a prestigious university where he studied for a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Philosophy and Sociology.

In Philosophy he became convinced by the ethical framework of utilitarianism – that is, one ought to act so as to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. Sure, one can always imagine convoluted scenarios where it could lead to barbarous outcomes, but for real life it seemed like the most fair and logical approach to secular ethics.

Stewart read books and articles by Peter Singer, who points out that the three hundred dollars you spend going to the opera could instead be used to save several lives if donated to a third world charity. Should we really spend more on ourselves than is necessary for frugal comfort when our discretionary funds could achieve so much good elsewhere?

Stewart, thoroughly persuaded, chose the path of the secret, secular monk. He got a high-paying job in Read More

Things Not to Read

Adam Piggott published a good article a while back.  In it, he pointed out that serial pest Clementine Ford scribbles absurd things only because she thrives on attention like extremophiles thrive on boiling hot sea bed vents.  She needs the blowback in order to cry ‘poor me!’ and sell her ‘books’.  Adam points out that she is a woman in desperate need of being Read More

Your Ignorance

serveimage.jpg

Image credit: Russian Schoolroom by Norman Rockwell

You may have heard of the Dunning-Kruger Effect: those who are most ignorant on a subject stupidly think themselves the most expert.

For example, someone who works as an administrator in the prison system might say, “I know quite a lot about the problems in our corrective institutions, although I recently read some new research that made me question some of my long-help assumptions.”  The average layman who’s read about prisons in the paper might say, “I’ve heard the gangs run the place and drugs are everywhere.  I shudder to think what else goes on in there.”  Someone who has never read about or even considered the issue before at all will say:

If there is one fault common to all bloggers and their commenters (except you and I), it is that they think they are experts on everything.  Too rarely does somebody say, “I don’t really know much about that.”  But no one can be expert on everything.

[An exception would be Slate Star Codex, yet he manages to come across as more arrogant than anybody.  Why is that?]

We get around the psychological discomfort of uncertainty by adopting our team’s view of the world.

For example, in medieval Europe everyone knew that God made the world in six days, the Catholic Church is his institution on Earth, and that everything in our world is the way it is because God made it that way.  For us.

On the left, everyone knows that Trump is a fascist, public healthcare is the most efficient, and all differences in outcomes between races, sexes, religions and sexualities (etc.) is due to discrimination.

On the traditional right, everyone is sure that Western societies were much better in the 1950s and have been weakened by promiscuity, abortion, divorce and atheism.

And so on.

But you and me – we’re different.  We’re brave enough to point out some areas where we are utterly ignorant, even though our ‘team’ has firm views on them.

Here are a couple of mine:

Health policy

My experience is limited to having lived in various countries and using their systems.

This is what I know: The public health care system in Australia has largely covered some very expensive, life-saving treatments for many people close to me.  The Japanese public system is okay but the doctors sell the medication themselves so they have an obvious incentive to over-prescribe, which they consistently do (especially antibiotics).  The doctors are often arrogant and don’t listen properly to what you say.  Privacy is limited – you don’t always get to close the door before pulling your pants down.  The nurses are tasty.  I have also had broadly positive experiences of other Asian health systems – you can get what you need but have to wade through some baffling bureaucracy.

This is what I don’t know: Are privatized systems really more efficient?  I’ve heard that Singapore and Thailand have pretty sweet set-ups but I don’t know anything about them.  I’ve heard that the US government spends about the same as other developed countries but gets much poorer coverage.  I’ve also heard that the US system incentivizes expensive research into new treatments.  I don’t know the veracity of any of these claims.

Australia’s defense policy

What I know: the main part of our policy is the alliance with the US, which means we slavishly follow their foreign policy no matter how stupid we secretly think it is, in the hope that China and Indonesia will assume the US would back us in a conflict.  Whether the US would actually help would depend on various practical considerations at the time.  A lot of our defense policy focuses on protecting the air-sea gap between us and the rest of the world.  I read an interesting story about how the government found it hard to find a use for Australian forces in the Second Gulf War – most non-SAS ground forces were not equipped for taking on the Iraqis.

What I don’t know: I read that there is no plausible threat to Australia, and that if someone did attack Australia we would not be equipped to defend ourselves independently.  Written in the same sentence by the same author.  If not contradictory, these two facts at least seem to sit uncomfortably next to each other, like two white office workers who don’t know each other finding themselves seated together on the Tokyo subway.

I don’t know whether Australia should have more independent foreign and defense policies, or how much that would cost.  I heard somewhere that it might involve raising spending from around 2% to 4% of GDP.  I don’t know if this figure is accurate.

I have no idea what we ought to spend the money on if we went down that path.  Someone said submarines for asymmetrical warfare against the much larger Chinese military.  Someone said cheaper and more effective Russian planes to replace the apparently useless Joint Strike Fighter, which looks and fights like origami.  Why don’t we just train a local militia with AK-47s and IEDs?  This seems to be the totality of technology possessed by our enemies in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and is quite sufficient to bog down even the mightiest, well-armed forces in an endless dunny-flush of hard-taxed treasure.  I have no idea about any of these things.  If I were appointed Field Marshal today we’d be speaking Chinese by Thursday afternoon.

What about you?  Anyone out there man enough to admit where your areas of ignorance lurk?  Let us know in the comments.