Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas.

I know it's not politically correct, but neither am I. None of this "Happy Holidays" crap.

It's Merry Christmas and best wishes to my small band of readers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Intellectual Ebola and HIV.

The Ebola virus was first recognised in 1976 and is one of the most deadly viruses on earth. It has a mortality of close to 80% (depending on the figures) and cuts a spectacular path of destruction. Spread is through the exchange of bodily fluids(including semen). The illness initially resembles a a typical cold but rapidly progresses to altered consciousness, bloody vomiting and diarrhea, bleeding, and a quick and gruesome death.

First recognised in 1981, the HIV virus is also spread by bodily fluids.  Infection initially causes a cold like illness and then the virus apparently seems to do nothing for a long period of time. The host, bearing no stigmata of the disease or any ill effects, carries on with the same behaviours that initially caused infection. Slowly the individual realises that something is wrong as opportunistic infections take hold. Without treatment, the mean time to death is ten years. Untreated, mortality is close to 100%.

The mode of death between the two illness is worth noting. In Ebola, the stigmata of the disease become readily apparent and the patients death is spectacular. In HIV, death's ensnarement is more leisured. For a long while the individual appears unaffected, even healthy initially, dying only years after infection.

The HIV virus is estimated to have killed approximately twenty five million people. Ebola, on the other hand, has killed roughly 1,800.

Two viruses, roughly discovered at the same time and with approximately the same mortality, yet the the death toll of one is four orders of magnitude greater than the other. Why?

Ebola's spectacular viciousness in claiming its victim alerts those unaffected of the danger in their midst. The malignity of Ebola is obvious and individuals can easily recognise the danger approaching and take appropriate steps to stop it. The afflicted are obviously unwell and the unaffiliated flee from them. Ebola consumes it's host before it is able to spread. It path of destruction thwarted by its obvious efficiency in killing.

HIV, on the other hand, is a more congenial fellow. After a mild illness, it leaves its host alone for years, minding its own business and slowly spreading. Bearing no stigmata of illness, the afflicted does not affront anyone and normal precautions are not implemented by others, allowing the virus to silently spread. The threat of HIV is not obvious, yet it kills to a greater degree than Ebola. It's evil is subtle as opposed to Ebola's gaudy display.

HIV is a less apparently obvious killer than Ebola, and its this subtlety which makes it far more dangerous. It's subtlety allows complacency.

Ideas can resemble viruses as well. Some, such as fascism, are seen as malignant early on and thwarted.  Others, such as communism, are just as malignant but for many years not recognised as such by huge swathes of the community. Over a hundred million dead trying to implement the Communist idea, that superficially, was meant to make the better place.

What got me thinking about this topic was this comments thread over at Jim Kalb's. Commentator Thursday wrote.
Yes, they do. Slumlord/The Social Pathologist, he who has posited absolute truth as the sole basis for conservatism, and the one who pointed out the Feser article to me, has made the argument that everybody is always the worse for having sex outside marriage. Plus, being raised in church and going to church schools, we were always being told about how the minute you had premarital sex, your life would just fall apart and you would be permanently damaged by it.
Perhaps the most dangerous ideas are the ones, which in the short term, seem harmless or are beneficial but which are toxic in the long run. The aim of diabolical genius is to allow tactical victories whilst aiming for strategic defeat.  The bovine populace, fixated as it is on the "here and now", never sees anything in particular going wrong in any single or particular act, yet not being able to see the big picture, wonder why society is crumbling around them.

Take radical liberalism for instance. It seems to have wilted both the identity of the West and its ability to respond to external threats. This comment by Steve Sailer deserves quite a bit of reflection.

In WWII and the Cold War, we faced enemies the caliber of Wernher von Braun and Andrei Sakharov. In the War on Terror, however, a strikingly large fraction of Muslim would-be terrorists, such as the recent Underpants Bomber and the Times Square Fizzler, are screwups.
Criminal masterminds turn out to be more common in movies than in real life. Even Osama bin Laden got lucky. A video shows him admitting gleefully that he hadn’t expected the World Trade Center towers to come down. And without George W. Bush’s campaign against airport profiling of Arabs, Mohammed Atta likely wouldn’t have even made it onboard.
Conservatives of all stripes bemoan the rise of Islam, but they look at the problem the wrongly. Sailer has got it right. Objectively, the Islamic world would be utterly crushed by a determined West. Islam is only relatively strong because the West's current cultural ideology renders it weak. Islam is opportunistically expanding in the West.

Secular democratic liberalism may yet  prove to be Western Society's cultural HIV.

(Image from Life magazine)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Intelligence and Wisdom.

Ferdinand Bardamu has put up quite a good post on the subject of intelligence. For the most part I agree with his views but it has got me thinking on the subject of wisdom and intelligence.  I suppose want to start with a few definitions.

Intelligence: The capacity to process information.
Wisdom: The ability to get things right. (I've chosen this definition because by implication the wise man always chooses the correct course of action, while the foolish man gets it wrong)

Now, I disagree with Ferdinand, in that I think we can measure intelligence. From the moment Binet started measuring intelligence, naysayers had always found "flaws" in his testing and all sorts of objections were raised against them. Binet's response to his critics was that the people who society considers intelligent are the ones who do well at his tests. I think this is fairly self evident.

The HBD crowd place a great deal of emphasis on the faculty of intelligence, seeing it as a some sort genetic Calvinism, separating the elect from the damned. Personally, whilst I think it is very important, I feel it's uber-elevation in amongst the HBD crowd is misplaced.

To make crude analogy IQ can be rougly compared to computing power. The high IQ man having a supercharged Intel processor, the common dullard, a simple transistor.

Now the quality of the processing is only as good as the data being fed to the processor, as the old computer adage goes, "garbage in, garbage out". What's happening right now amongst many of our high IQ set is that many of their input variables are simply rubbish.  Despite their high IQ, the conclusions that they form from their thought processes are wrong.

In a specialist fields such as physics and maths, reasoning is constrained by hard data, universally agreed upon constants and formulae,  and the rules of logic. There is very little "garbage in". As such the quality of the output is contingent upon the quality of the processor. Ultimately the test of any theory is its concordance with reality, and amongst the physical sciences this is easy to demonstrate.
Smart people have it easy in these fields and thrash their lesser endowed competitors.

The problem of the clever sillies really starts to rear its head when it comes to less defined subjects or subjects requiring data from broad spread of seemingly unrelated inputs. Here data does not resemble X=y, rather I believe X=y or let us assume that X=y. Here the predicate data may or may not have any bearing on reality. Crappy inital data produces crappy output, no matter how good the processor and the problem with many of the "high intelligence" advocates don't seem to recognise is many of the high IQ crowd have problems when it comes to non-rigidly defined input data.

The silly physicist does not approach the subject of the weight of carbon as an opinion, but as a fact. On the other hand, that same physicist's love life may be miserable because his assumptions about women, which are completely wrong, are treated and processed like facts. Likewise his finances may be a mess because of his financial beliefs, i.e house prices always go up, which are similarly treated as facts. In my experience, many of the intelligent people I know are usually very smart within their fields but go along with the crowd for everything else(SWPL). High intelligence is no protection against unrecognised erroneous assumption.

Sometimes the assumption is not erranous, but deliberately willed and information which directly contradicts it is filtered away. (See Orwell. Crimestop and Thoughtcrime). Paging Phil Jones.  Sometimes the assumption is simply not investigated because of time or dispositional constraints. The bottom line here is that no matter how good your brain is, if the underlying assumptions under which it operates are false then its conclusions are going to be wrong. The implicit assumption by the  HBD crowd seems to be that universal data objectivity is somehow correlated with high IQ. That assumption is tenuous at best.

These assumptions, with which a person operates with on a day to day basis, can best be thought of as a person's weltanschauung, and the average upper middle class man's assumptions can be thought of as conforming to the Liberal world view. As I have argued before, many of the liberal assumptions are wrong. It's no wonder that our managerial class gets it wrong on so many issues, despite it being the best and brightest.

Wisdom in a certain sense, precedes intelligence. Since wisdom requires an accurate(and reality conforming) weltanschauung. Wisdom's quality, lies not so much in an ability to process information, but rather, in not having faulty premises which will corrupt reasoning. It is a form of knowledge, and its correlate with age, simply a result of false assumption being "mugged by reality". It's also why simple people with modest intellects can frequently get things right whilst their smarter "betters" get things wrong: They don't start off with stupid premises. Wise people have a global grasp on reality.

Klaus Fuchs was without doubt a brilliant nuclear physicist. But his naivete about the rest of the world was astounding. He confessed in the false hope that he would be allowed to return to top secret nuclear weapons research work (after being found out as a spy for the Soviets!). His confession, an excellent example of the clever sillies.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fundamentals of Conservatism: Empirical Problems.

It may be worthwhile for some readers to read this post before proceeding.

Empiricism is the theory that the only valid knowledge is knowledge that is confirmed by sense data, and the strict empiricists leave no room for knowledge that is inspired by faith. As mentioned in the above linked post, a graphical representation of the strict empiricists conceptual schema can be represented as thus:

The green area and white areas represents knowledge which can be independently verified by way of sense data, the yellow are is falsehood. As mentioned previously, anything which lays outside the "sense barrier" is dismissed as unscientific knowledge. 

However, let us consider the following situation. Suppose there are two strict empiricists, one of whom has the faculty of sight, the other, is blind from birth. 

Now let us consider the proposition P, where P= raspberries are red in colour.

Now if we map P onto "epistemolgical space"we find that P lays within the Non-Blind empiricist's perception of reality and is outside the blind empiricist's perception.

Now, from the blind empiricist's frame of perception, there is no way he can verify that raspberries are red. On the other hand, the non-blind empiricist can easily verify that raspberries are red.

Now if our blind empiricist is a strict empiricist(in the Dawkins sense) he will declare the Proposition P= "that raspberries are red" is false as he is unable to independently verify the proposition. This of course is a logical error. Since  the correct answer from the blind person's perspective is that P is unverifiable. The blind empiricist can only be agnostic on the matter of the colour of raspberries. Any blind empiricist who dogmatically asserts that raspberries are not red is not being empirical about the matter at all. By saying that raspberries are not red he is making a positive statement about reality which exists beyond his sense barrier, a reality which he can in no way verify.

Now,  our blind empiricist may acknowledge that he is limited in some way, and defer to his sighted colleagues on the matter of the colour of raspberries. But his knowledge of colour is then not based on any "empirical" observation but is based upon the truthfulness and his trust in his colleagues. He is not being "empirical" about the matter at all.

On the other hand, our blind empiricist may be a Marxist or Postmodernist, and believe that the whole concept of colour and sight is an oppressive mechanism by other blind empiricists to keep him subjugated. He would be logically consistent though, because being unable to verify sight, he-- being a strict empiricist--would have to accept that the phenomenon is not real. In order to liberate himself from the chains of oppression he would have to wage war against those who claimed that they could see.

The point that point that I am trying to belabour here is that realities can exist beyond the "sense barrier" which we have no way of proving. This is and was the conservative view. The acceptance of "religion"as a valid source of knowledge stems from this conception of reality. How men gain knowledge of what's on the other side is a subject which I will deal with later, but suffice to say that whatever's happening on the other side of the sense barrier is empirically "unprovable".

As I have said before, Conservatism is the philosophy of living according to the truth of things. People who are intellectually, as opposed to dispositionally, conservative motivate their actions according to a perception of reality. As their knowledge of reality is improved, their behavior is modified. Conservatism is about living rightly, not living "oldly".

Conservatism therefore does not have a problem with logically consistent empiricism, where the problem lays is with logically inconsistent empiricism. An empiricism that makes positive claims about what exists beyond the "sense barrier" is logically inconsistent, since according to Empiricism, it's the senses which either positively confirm or deny a theory of reality. Atheism therefore represents a series of statements which resemble religion more than the scientific method. The only honest statement an Empiricist can make about what exists beyond the sense barrier is that it is unverifiable: Agnosticism.

It's this logical inconsistency which places Atheists outside the Conservative camp. The Atheist's conception of reality is at odds with the Conservative's one.  Conservatives accept that valid knowledge can exist "beyond the sense barrier",  this for an Atheist is intolerable since such knowledge is empirically unverifiable and therefore arbitrary or false.

The question is then, how do you rationally determine what is beyond the sense barrier? The answer is you can't.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Yes Vladimir, it's all About Transparency.

Mr Assange seems to have some pretty powerful friends.

Vladimir Putin has chimed in for the cause.

Yeah...........Vladimir is all about openness and accountability.

Just ask Anna Politskovkaya and  Alexander Litvinenko. 
(Notice, no Russian cables.)

Perhaps he will support him financially. The Batcave needs a Batmobile.

Anyone for some polonium?

Something's Not Right.

I don't like Julian Assange. I feel that his compromise of the U.S. diplomatic cables should earn him a spot in prison. I know many people disagree with me, but I have a feeling that his supporters will end up with egg on their faces.  Whilst I think he should go to prison, it should not be on the grounds of rape, as clearly his actions in Sweden in no way constitute rape.  Roissy's take on the motivations of probably spot on. These "victims" are spurned groupies who want their "revenge". The fact that a country like Sweden has criminal prosecutors who can construe rape out of what many people would consider consensual sexual relations, shows just how politically correct Sweden has become. Sweden is ruled by a Feminist Taliban.

Whilst many people are hot under the collar about the rape charge against Assange(justified) I'm more interested in the man and his motivations. Several stories have been slowly been bubbling up on the internet, and whether this is a third party source of disinformation, I don't know, but they seem to point to a less than savoury character and someone who is not entirely objective when it comes to "transparency"

The first article is from Der Spiegel. ( I regard this as a reliable source of information):

Wikileaks Spokesman Quits.

Firstly, I wasn't aware that there was such disagreement amongst the staff. I understand that employees can disagree with the boss and his style of management but this quote seems to indicate something else at play.

Take the US Army Afghanistan documents at the end of July, for example. The video of the air strike in Baghdad in 2007, "Collateral Damage," was an extreme feat of strength for us. During the same period of time we also could have published dozens of other documents. And through our rising recognition in the last six months, we have again received a lot of material that urgently needs to be processed and published. 


Schmitt: No, pressure from the outside is part of this. But this one-dimensional confrontation with the USA is not what we set out to do. For us it is always about uncovering corruption and abuse of power, wherever it happens -- on the smaller and larger scale -- around the world. 
It appears that "employees" want to expose corruption around the world, Assange seems more intent on highlighting the U.S.'s shortcomings.  I'm not an uncritical supporter of the U.S. but why the slant? Why don't the Russians, French, Polish, etc feel the heat?

More of the same from this article.

The next article is,  TIME's Julian Assange Interview: Full Transcript/Audio.
(I regard time as a less reliable source than Der Spiegel, but reliable still)

JA: Let me just talk about transparency for a moment. It is not our goal to achieve a more transparent society; it's our goal to achieve a more just society. And most of the times, transparency and openness tends to lead in that direction, because abusive plans or behavior get opposed, and so those organizations which tend to commit them are opposed before the plan's implemented, or it's an exposure or something previously done, the organization tends to lose a [inaudible], which is then transferred to another, and then we [inaudible] organization. For the rise of social media, it's quite interesting. When we first started, we thought we would have the analytical work done by bloggers and people who wrote Wikipedia articles and so on. And we thought that was a natural, given that we had lots of quality, important content. Surely it's more interesting to write an article about top-secret Chinese [inaudible] or an internal document from Somalia or secret documents revealing what happened in [inaudible], all of which we published, than it is to simply write a blog about what's on the front page of the New York Times, or about your cat or something. But actually it turns out that that is not at all true. The bulk of the heavy lifting — heavy analytical lifting — that is done with our materials is done by us, and is done by professional journalists we work with and by professional human-rights activists. It is not done by the broader community. However, once the initial lifting is done, once a story becomes a story, becomes a news article, then we start to see community involvement, which digs deeper and provides more perspective. So the social networks tend to be, for us, an amplifier of what we are doing. And also a supply of sources and for us.

That's right. Julian decides what's necessary to achieve our Just society and in collaboration with Journalists feeds it to the proles. The social media merely a mechanism to spread prole feed. He is about controlling information to achieve a "just society". This isn't an orginisation meant to "energize" and empower the people, it's an organisation designed to control the people. Note, the important role the official media gets to play in this. This type of selective reporting to achieve a "just society" has been seen before.

Then there is this article in the Haaretz (Reliable source but left wing.)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday defended his disclosure of classified U.S. documents by singling out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an example of a world leader who believes the publications will aid global diplomacy. 

"We can see the Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu coming out with a very interesting statement that leaders should speak in public like they do in private whenever they can," Assange told Time Magazine in an interview on Wednesday, days after his online whistleblower published thousands of secret diplomatic cables. 

Look, even Israeli's regard their politicians as corrupt. No matter what your position on Israel, Julian's blessing of Netanyahu is a bit rich. This from one of the leaked cables.

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, is “elegant and charming” but never keeps his promises, according to a cable from Cairo.
The "corrupt" Americans think him a liar but Julian is pushing him as some kind of fellow traveller.
What gives?

Normally I would regard articles from the Syria Truth as pure tinfoil, but as several commentators have pointed out, damaging cables concerning Israel have been rare. Particularly, comments concerning the recent war in Lebanon against Hezbollah. This is odd, given the enormous interest that the U.S has in Mideast politics. Sometimes what's interesting is not what's in the cables, but what's not.

This article seems to suggest that Assange met with the Israelis in Switzerland and they bought him off. (Use Google translate) Perhaps Assange's desire to negotiate with the U.S. state department was not only based on a desire for harm minimisation. You sort of wonder? It could all be bullshit.

I want to make it perfectly clear that I don't think that Assange is an Israeli agent, rather, he is a "businessman" who is prepared to do deals. I think that had the U.S. state department been a bit more "pragmatic" far fewer cables would have been released.  Maybe this is all unwarranted and my distrust of Mr Assange unfair.

But check out Wikileaks new headquarters.  
Clearly, they're doing it tough.

I think his supporters will be disappointed.

(Note. Any Anti-Semitic comments will be immediately deleted. Fair criticism of Israel is acceptable, but if I feel it crosses the line, it's deleted. No argument will be entered into. I'm quite happy to censor.)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

David Hicks Has a Friend.

The majority of my readership hails from the U.S. and given the U.S centric nature of its media, many of my readers would not know who David Hicks is.

A brief bio of the man can be found here.

The pertinent point is that Mr Hicks has admitted that he trained with a muslim militant camp linked with Al Qaeda, fought on their behalf, and was a member of their organization at the time of his capture in Afghanistan. When he was captured, he was a combatant of a proclaimed enemy of the U.S. and by implication, Australia, who is it's ally.

Americans have a chequered history with regard to the treatment of their captured combatants, though in the past their behaviour to prisoners was far better than nearly all the other nations of the world. I imagine the decline in their current treatment of prisoners mirrors the decline in their societal moral standards and the gradual re-acceptance of the use of torture as a legitimate intelligence gathering technique.

I personally feel that captured Al Qaeda, by forsaking the conventional rules of warfare, forsake the right to claim POW status ( and its legal protections). Though this does not mean that I approve of torture of prisoners. However, on the balance of probability, I imagine that that some of the captured Al Qaeda were tortured at Guantanamo and Mr Hicks probably was as well.

As an Australian citizen, I am concerned that an Australian is being mistreated whilst in a U.S. prison but on the other hand I'm appalled that he is in league with the enemies of my country, our allies  and my religion. The moral question then is what should Australia have done upon knowledge that he was captured by the U.S. forces and sent to Guantanamo?

Idiotic right wing commentators in Australia seemed to think that any form of punishment or torture is justified against Al Qaeda members. They fail to understand that torture doesn't only dehumanise the victim, it dehumanises the torturer as well. By accepting the practice of torture, we are corrupting ourselves.

Lefty commentators on the other hand, seem to think that the government should have petitioned more vigorously for the release of Mr Hicks from Guantanamo, as if his membership of Al Qaeda was an irrelevance. Their continual harping for his release showed their total unconcern for his membership of a terrorist organisation. An organisation which tortures, kills and treats prisoners appallingly and pushes its policy of expansion through deliberate non-distinction between civilian and military targets and whose purpose if realised, would trample those very liberties which the Left holds dear. By being a mistreated prisoner of the U.S. he gained moral legitimacy. His willingness to take up arms against the West was ignored, never mind his just deserts.

Our idiot lefty media, even arranged for him to confront the Prime Minister and I suppose the irony was lost on them; championing the man, who, if successful in his aims, would of have ruthlessly suppressed their very freedom of expression. Their idiot glee further proof that most men do not have the common sense to ensure even their own survival.

In my mind the Australian Government were excessive in their concern for Mr Hicks. They pressured the U.S. government for an early trial (he was fist cab off the rank) and argued for his humane treatment. I would have only argued for his humane treatment and kept his in prison till Al Qaeda was defeated. As it turned out, he was transferred to Australia where the predictable legal response occurred. He served just under seven months. The judiciary can be counted on always.

David Hicks is a evil man who was mistreated by the U.S. government, any moral evaluation of Mr Hicks must incorporate both these factors. The deliberate refusal to weight both aspects of his situation is an example of bias. To make him out as some type of martyr is Anti-American or Anti-West bias. It's as simple as that.

So which idiot has now come out in support of David Hicks? That's right Julian Assange

Mr Assange, 39, said his treatment by the federal government raised questions about what it meant to be an Australian citizen. ''Are we all to be treated like David Hicks at the first possible opportunity merely so that Australian politicians and diplomats can be invited to the best US embassy cocktail parties?''

That's right, he feels that David Hicks was wronged, which in my mind quite clearly illustrates the direction of Assange's moral compass. Al Qaeda laughs at the idiot West.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Social Progress.

It's coming to a jurisdiction near you.

And remember if you oppose it, you're a bigot.

And on a another note,

I personally think Julian Assange should be put in prison. With the current tensions in Korea, the release of the these diplomatic cables was probably not in the public interest.

I've always thought the Chinese have had far less influence over the Norks than is commonly believed. I have also always thought that the North Koreans were more a danger to China than to South Korea. If the Norks believe that the Chinese are prepared to "stab them in the back", it's probable that the the Norks may want to aim some of their nukes at China.

A pen and paper analysis shows that North Korea would easily be defeated by China in an all out war. The question is, would China want to go to an all out war with North Korea?  Especially as it has recently modernised after much hard won effort . Modern China is different to Mao's China, and I'm not so sure that China is prepared to loose 3 or 4 cities in order to fight North Korea. North Korea does not need have to have the capacity to destroy China, only enough capacity to deter the Chinese. I mean would G.W Bush have attacked Saddam if Saddam had the proven capacity to nuke Houston? Hmmm.

The North Koreans clearly don't play by the rules and I can imagine several horrible scenarios with regard to North Korea. I've got a sinking feeling that I'm going to be right about this one. I hope I'm wrong.

Oh, and by the way, U.S. document security is a joke.

Monday, November 29, 2010

PC: The Theology

Bruce Charlton has been writing quite a bit on the subject of PC. On his post, Pure Abstract Altruism: the underlying ideal principle of political correctness he writes:
The argument in brief:

Political correctness is a logical extension of a this-worldly (secular) and materialist (not spiritual) perspective of pure abstract
altruism - untainted by personal feelings.

In other words, PC aims at the attainment of altruism in this world.

And the altruism aimed at is abstract - not the altruism of individuals. 

PC aims at the submission of the (inevitably selfish) individual to abstract systems of pure altruism.

Submission, ideally, even unto the destruction and death of everything that is valued. The test of ultimate sincerity. 
I would argue that he is close to an understanding the symptoms of the phenomenon, he in the end does not understand the nature of the disease.  PC can't be reduced to one overriding principle, instead it is a convergent product of several human and cultural influences. Still, if one had to had to identify the big idea behind PC, it is not altruism but its antecedent, Utopianism. PC altruism is directed towards achieving its Utopian vision.

Religion told men that heaven was unable to be achieved on earth, Socialism told them that they could do it. With the demise of religion, Socialism's Utopianism, if not Socialism itself , has assumed the moral imperative in modern "ethical" Western societies.  I think this is an important point to recognise as it reflected a fundamental shift in Western man's understanding of the cause of problems in the world. Christian religion, particularly the doctrine of original sin, placed the locus of evil in our world squarely in the hearts of men. The implication of the doctrine of original sin implied that there never was going to be a perfect world since man was imperfectable. Lurking in the heart of every man was the capacity to go bad.

With the effective demise of religion, several ideas converged to replace man's metaphysical understanding of evil and the problem of suffering in this world. These were:

1) Atheism which mainly came about as a consequence of strict empiricism and from which the denial of any transcendental value originates.
2) The idea of scientific progress. The spectacular advances of science led weak minds to believe that every problem was solvable with this method .
3) Socialism, with its own version of original sin, "structuralism". Now socialism taught that the inequities of this earth were due to power structures which exploited one group for the benefit of another.  Hence the PC crowd tend to view the world within this context. They view the world as comprising  of victims, oppressors and "good people". The "good people" being the elect, those building the better world.
4) Socialistic understanding of social pathology. According to socialism, evil was the result of "oppressive" power structures which placed one group above the others in an exploitative relationship. Socialism tends to view life within a zero-sum frame.
5) Consequently "heaven on earth" could only be achieve by the elimination of exploitative structures.
6) Furthermore, Socialism taught that man's misery was due deficiencies in his environment and that with rectification of his educational and material means, he would become perfectible.

In effect, PC is the secular religion of materialistic Utopianism.  This religion's most toxic component however is its understanding of evil; structuralism. It's this understanding of "evil" that motivates the most destructive aspects of PC. Anything that claims that it is better than anything else is seen to be an instrument of oppression as it is attempting to introduce a "hierarchical structure". Any claim that man is better than women, is oppression. Any claims that white is better than black is oppression. Any "exclusion" is oppression. Any claim to absolute truth is an oppressive mechanism. What PC is aiming at is the elimination of any hierarchical structures (except its own).  It's only when all hierarchy is destroyed will a new age of universal happiness bloom.

It is why PC is such a difficult to recognise (and kill) Hydra. People think it is about feminism, racism, economic socialism and so on. Where in reality its about destroying any system of values (apart from its own) that can show that A is better than B.  It's inimical to Christianity since Christianity aggressively asserts there is a good and a bad.

According to the PC crowd, the people who share their view clearly "get it". Any one who does not get with the program is clearly a reactionary and appropriate target of censure or opprobrium.(The reaction is dependant on the host culture. In North Korea you get shot, in Sweden you get counseling) Anyone who puts forward that A is better than B is clearly a racist, sexist, homophobe, evil capitalist and so on. So like all religions PC has its "saved" and its "damned".

Curiously, the democratic idea is in "synch" with the PC program. While democracy is not essential to PC, it does condition men to moral relativism by asserting that all men are equal. Everyone's "lifestyle" choices are the same.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Traditional View of Conjugal Relations.

It's all meant to be a bit of a joke, but I suspect that it was close to the truth for "respectable" people.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sometimes it's Hard to be Pope.

As a conservative Catholic, I've been quite intrigued by the latest comments by the Pope on the use of condoms in the prevention of AIDS. Personally, I think the comments were both nuanced and overdue. The Catholic Church has received a lot of heat with regard to the subject, especially with respect to the AIDS epidemic in Africa and it's opponents frequently beat it over the head with the issue. Despite the Left wing's positive reporting on the matter, the reality is--at least in my mind--that there is nothing doctrinally new in his statements. Rather what I detect is a shift away from traditionalism to what I would call doctrinalism, applying our understanding of the faith(doctrine) to current circumstances rather than apply what previous men thought about the faith to current circumstances. There is a difference.

The Pope has not "approved" the use of condoms, rather he has simply stated that the use of them in the context of where deadly infection would be spread by the sexual act, is a lesser sin than knowingly not using a condom and infecting the other person. And a lesser sin is not a virtue. However by "considering" the welfare of another person, the Pope concedes that the "act" of using a condom shows that person may be developing the rude beginnings  of a moral conscience; something which may grow over time. Really there is nothing new over here and I've always thought that this is the way that the Church should of approached the whole AIDS in Africa issue.

What has been interesting is the public commentary with regard to the issue. The Left Wing Press has generally been highly supportive of the Pope. It's interesting to note that even the photographs used in the story have been more flattering than usual. As usual the "open minded" left wing press are happy to lay on the charm when the Pope is in "sync" with their views but the love ends soon as there is disagreement. The more interesting response has been from the very traditionalist Catholic community. The hard core Catholics seem to be having some problems with the comments. What's interesting with regard to the Conservative criticism is their arguments resemble the arguments Liberals use when dissing papal Authority.  The same guys who hold a fairly hard line with regard to Papal authority seem to have a bit of a hard time with it when the Pope says something they don't want to hear.

That's the problem with the Papacy, The liberals think you're too hard, and the trads think that you're too soft. Sometimes it's hard to be Pope.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On PC motivation

Bruce Charlton has recently been contemplating the phenomenon of PC.   I'm rather lukewarm on Mr Charlton, especially since he is a bit negative on my "homie", and especially as he hasn't posted several of the comments I have made on his site. But hey, his blog, his rules. I'll live.

He is close (but not there yet) to a good understanding of the PC phenomenon and he does have some valuable insights. He has put up a rather good post which conservative thinkers need to take heed of.  Why is political correctness utterly immune to evidence is a very good post. I think the pertinent quote from that post is this one:

My point is that political correctness has now reached such a level of abstraction that no evidence could ever challenge it. Reform is impossible, on principle.

This means that those who oppose political correctness should not waste time and energy on rational argument with people who are
truly PC.

There is no way into the system of sincere PC, no possibility of modifying or moderating it - merely of delaying it.

Of course, political correctness will destroy itself, but in doing so it will inflict damage upon its host societies - the scale of which damage increases with every passing year. 

I think Charlton is absolutely correct,  there is no point in arguing with the PC crowd as they simply do not admit any evidence which will falsify their world view.  My interest is why and what does this mean for conservatives?

Our world is full of injustices and miseries. The desire to rid the world of them is laudable and noble. Utopianism is a desire to make the world a better place, and it's from this messianic Utopianism that the PC crowd get their sense of moral superiority. They are always on the "side of angels" and therefore better than the "non-believers".  It should not be underestimated of just how powerful a motivant is this sense of belonging to a Utopian creating movement is. As Orwell repeatedly reminds us, the best fighters for socialism weren't the apparatchiks, but the men who honestly believed they were building a better world.

One of the great themes of the end of the Belle Epoque was the sense of "boredom" amongst the youth. When World War 1 erupted, men suddenly had a purpose to their lives. Several commentators on Fukuyama's End of History expressed regret that their were no more enemies left to battle. I sometimes wonder whether the continual allure of Utopianism is because and women generally lead boring lives. It is an escape from the monotony and gives them a sense of meaning. Amongst these individuals, any attack on the "Utopian vision" is not just a logical refutation of the dream, but a negation of self worth and hence there is a powerful incentive to counter arguments or outright refusal to acknowledge the error.

The other operating factor at play here amongst the more intelligent PC crowd is their innate sense of intellectual superiority and subsequent pleasure in themselves. This sense of superiority is expressed as a dismissal of any "inferior" opinions. These individuals latch onto socialism for the same reason that tradesmen and the peasantry do, it's a simple idea for simple men.  It's ready made for the credulous and half-educated, particularly those with "book-smarts" as opposed to "street-smarts". And by half educated, I mean credentialed as opposed to "educated". There is a big difference between the two and it's an important distinction. Many of our universities are nothing more than colleges of advanced technical training and as such our universities are designed around producing skilled thinkers graduates, not thinkers. The effect in a left wing academic environment is that the skilled technicians leave with left wing views  under the impression that they are "educated", and hence intellectually superior to the proles. Where in fact the prole may be less skilled but is perhaps more "real world educated" than the university graduate.

This combined sense of messianic utopianism and intellectual superiority are probably the most common motivant factors in the high caste PC crowd.  This "priest caste " is so sure of its intellectual superiority and so sure of the moral rightness of its vision that any attempt to dissuade them is going to fail. I agree with Charlton, there is no point, it's a waste of time. The conservative movement needs to circle the wagons, not negotiate with the scalpers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Give Me the Child at 7 and I will..............

Modern social policy reaching it zenith.

Understatement of the day.

If I’m going to do it, Mum would rather I did it at home with her or at a house party with friends, than go down the park like some chav,’ says Sophie.

That's right, a proper young lady has standards.

England, Oh England
Even in enmity past admired
Thy glory has departed
The fair rose is a whore.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Orwell On the Intellectual Mechanisms of PC

It is a shame that Orwell is appreciated as a great writer instead of a profound cognitive scientist. But that's the danger of being a good writer;  people enjoy your prose instead of grasping your ideas. Orwell is the "go to" man for an understanding of the mob cognitive mechanism and the "intellectualism" of the Left.

In my post, Dalrymple on Sentimentality I wrote:

In some instances their refusal to "see" what they are doing is a product of habituated thought-filtering, but most of them are just stupid.  Not stupid enough to be what Catholic theologians would call "invincibly ignorant", and therefore morally inculpable,  rather men and women who can't think past the obvious. Essentially, they are capable of first order thought, thoughts which stop when they feel right about a solution.  The best (and therefore least culpable) simply cannot comprehend how something that feels so intuitively right is so utterly wrong. The worst, suspect that they are wrong but fear of psychic pain stops them from pursuing their thoughts. Their intellect is constrained by their feelings. They can't think past the pain and hate those who make them do it. 

Well it appears that Orwell recognised the phenomenon as well.  He even gave it a name, Crimestop. According the Orwell the characteristics of Crimestop were:
"The faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. In short....protective stupidity."
It needs to be understood that phenomenon is observed amongst the unthinking right as well and is a characteristic of individuals who prefer an ideology (of any persuasion) over the truth. The cognitive mechanism at play here is a preference of an ideology above reality. The practical operation of the mechanism results in either reality avoidance or reality suppression when it challenges ideology.  That's why PC is a form of cognitive censorship, a policing of thoughts.

It's why the HBD crowd (I'm a lukewarm supporter) is so despised on the left. Whilst the Left can dismiss the religious, attributing to them superstitious beliefs and intellectual stupidity the HBD crowd are far harder to cognitively dismiss. Being atheists, the HBD crowd argue with the Left on the Left's term's, i.e through secular methods.  It's the ugly head of reality prodding the PC conscience.

Hat tip, Parapundit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prole Feed.

I'm no foodie. Unlike many hipsters and gourmets I find excessive fussiness in food off putting. On the other hand, I find most junk food revolting. It's not that I have anything against junk food, it's just it tastes bad and that with a little bit of effort, home cooking clearly surpasses it in flavour. That doesn't mean that I don't eat junk. If I'm running late or its been a psychologically exhausting day I'll order some takeaway or gets something from Mc Donalds.

I think the whole "healthy eating" thing is a bit overblown, the worst fanatics approach a meal like an industrial chemist, analysing it for its chemical composition. I like to enjoy my food, watch my portions and have the occasional indiscretion. As they say, everything in moderation.

With that in mind, I'd like to say that I'm a great fan of Jamie Oliver. I find his whole approach to food appealing. He's not to fussy, his flavours are great and most of his recipes can be fit into a busy family schedule.  He seems cognisant that most families are time pressured and food has to taste in a way that appeals to the whole family. I have nearly all his books and my kids by and large like his meals.

I applaud his school dinners project and its been a fascinating to see what the public response to it has been. Conservative commentators should study the phenomena as it exposes what I think are the weak spots in the modern conceptions of democracy and mainstream conservatisms lauding of the "common man"

For those who are unaware, the Oliver initiated the  school dinners program after witnessing first hand the appalling "junk" that British kids were fed at school. His aim was to improve the nutrition of kids at school (and help the fight against obesity) by offering more healthy and flavoursome choices. Oliver was not attempting to force some weird vegan diet on the children, "look kids dried soy, yummy", rather he wanted them to stop eating rubbish continuously. Given what we know about nutrition you would imagine that he would be lauded for his efforts. Not so.

If you imagine that the prole class are just like you and I only just a bit poorer , you're sadly mistaken.

While he was given lots of support by government officials and the media, he was reviled by the people he was intending to help. In fact his school dinners program has failed  in the U.K. and he was pilloried in the U.S. His harshest critics being the proles and the libertarians.

What's going on here?

Even if you don't agree with what Oliver serves up, you've got to agree that it is better than most of the rubbish that children are fed at school. So why is he on the receiving end of so much heat? Why are the very people he is trying to help his harshest critics?

The modern American democratic model, the model upon which most of the modern Western states are based on, is premised on the assumption that the choice that the public makes is inherently good.  Yet how legitimate is a democracy when it starts to make objectively bad decisions? Most of my middle class friends stared in horror at the Jamie Oliver episodes, aghast at the pig ignorance of the parents and children who demanded it as their "right", to eat whatever they wanted and not to be coerced into eating reasonably healthy food. How can people be so stupid? How is it that they want to fight for the right to destroy themselves?

Conservative commentators, especially those with a belief in universal democracy and hatred of "elites" should study this phenomena closely. While our current "elites" are rotten, the prole class is not much better. Disestablishment of our governing class is unlikely to give birth to a world of classicism and high art, instead a dictatorship of the capitalist proletariat is likely to see a "Burger King on every corner" and free porn on every TV.

Many conservative commentators believe that the "elites" are responsible for the mess that the West is in at the moment. They fail to see the elephant in the room. The West is rotting from the top and the bottom.

An insistence on totally free market economics and the legitimacy of consumer choice in a moral vacuum results in a market that reflects the value of the lowest common denominator. The dumbing and coarsening down of mainstream culture is not a product of elite conspiracy, more an end result of proletarian demand in capitalistic culture.  Jamie's school dinners project is not failing because of elite conspiracy, it's because the proles won't eat his food. They prefer to pay for Mc Donalds. Pearls before swine.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dalrymple on Sentimentality.

Political Correctness has many causes, but at its core, it is the elevation of sentimentality as a legitimate end of actions. What matters is not being good but acting to "feel" good.  It is the real world manifestation of the philosophy of Utilitarianism. Dalrymple gets to the heart of the matter:

Sentimentality is hardness of heart, or even contempt, masquerading as feeling. It is to sympathy what incontinence is to urination (except, of course, that it is voluntary, and is vastly more destructive). It is mental and emotional laziness, a refusal to discipline the gratifying glow of self-regard by deeper reflection. It has rotted us through and through; it is the reason why it is necessary to remind our rulers that the protection of the population from crime is not an optional extra for the state once it has paid for the sex-change operations of those who want them, etc, but comes very close to the state’s whole raison d’ĂȘtre, and that rulers who fail in this regard are no longer legitimate, but parasites upon the body politic.
Where I disagree with Dalrymple is in the comment "a refusal to discipline the gratifying glow of self regard". That comment would seem to imply that many of PC are conscious of what they are doing, that they are fully aware of what they are doing. They are not. Many of the PC crowd are "nice" well mannered people who are "concerned" about others. Their motives are not malign and they are capable of making great sacrifices for their cause. They are not consciously plotting evil, rather they are hoping in their own eyes to build a better world.

In some instances their refusal to "see" what they are doing is a product of habituated thought-filtering, but most of them are just stupid.  Not stupid enough to be what Catholic theologians would call "invincibly ignorant", and therefore morally inculpable,  rather men and women who can't think past the obvious. Essentially, they are capable of first order thought, thoughts which stop when they feel right about a solution.  The best (and therefore least culpable) simply cannot comprehend how something that feels so intuitively right is so utterly wrong. The worst, suspect that they are wrong but fear of psychic pain stops them from pursuing their thoughts. Their intellect is constrained by their feelings. They can't think past the pain and hate those who make them do it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Frank Frazetta on Love. (NSFW)

One of the blogs that I like to visit occasionally is David Apatoff's Illustration Art. One of the artists that get's mentioned quite a bit is Frank Frazetta, a quite famous artist who was responsible for giving us the image of Conan The Barbarian.  Whilst I can appreciate his art, I'm not that much of a fan of it. Frazetta died earlier this year and David Apatoff, on his requiem post, put up some works of his that I had never seen before. They were extremely moving and I think they are by far his best works. Below are a few examples which are typical of Frazetta's work.

It's all very sexual, muscular and "primitive" for want of a better word. In my eyes it's competently executed but quite schmaltzy.  The overriding feeling that his work engenders is raw, powerful and latent sexuality. But most of his art was done for the purpose of illustrating comic book art so I image it, more than enough, served its purpose. However the his works which really struck me were these two:

Here his work is of a totally different character. The paintings are those of his wife Eleanor, whom he loved deeply. The first image is, as my wife would say, "serenely happy". There is delight and dignity in the subject matter that is all the more striking given the contrast with Frazetta's other works. There is an absence of raw sexuality, rather its an emphasis on his wife's radiant femininity and dignity.  I think what we are seeing here is how Frazetta "saw" his wife. A beautiful, dignified, ladylike, woman whom he clearly loved.

The second image is clearly sexual, but it's sexual in a way that does not seem pornographic or dirty. Here, what we have is a rarely achieved balance of femininity and sexuality, of romantic love and sexual desire. What he manages to convey here, is not only the idea of a woman we would want to "bang" but a woman we would prize and want to be with.  Strangely, the impression this work gives me is that what we are seeing is how Frazetta saw his wife. Paradoxically, even though her eyes engauge mine, I feel like her desire isn't for me but for Frazetta.  What he's been able to capture is an intimate moment between him and his wife only, we have been invited to this moment only through Frazetta's eyes. We get to see the intimate scene through his head so to speak. (He is almost bragging)

What he saw in his wife was the perfect woman. What I think is so powerful about these last two works is that he manages to capture a masculine of view of perfect love. Both images capture the ideal, that of a woman we want to be with, and a woman who wants to be with us; exclusively.

He died a year after she did. They were one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Subtext. Belonging to the crowd.

The Age is a local newspaper that models itself on the left wing Guardian paper in the UK. It readership is considered to be middle class and it pursues an editorial policy that is politically correct. Today it ran an  article titled,  Sex vs Porn.  It deals with the issue of women being "pressured" to perform sexual acts seen in porn movies, particularly anal sex. Now the article itself is of no significance, but the analysing the question posed to the author is instructive as it demonstrates female social processing and the state of modern social mores.
My girlfriends and I were having a chat recently and many of us seem to share the same dilemma: our boyfriends take it for granted that we want to participate in a range of sexual acts, including "back-door" sex. Some of us don't really enjoy this, but we don't know how to tell our partners without seeming uncool, prudish or uptight. Instead, we say nothing and go along with it. How can we let them know we don't want to do this without appearing boring and old-fashioned?
Apparently to this group of women it is preferable to literally endure a "pain in the arse" rather than to appear boring and old-fashioned. This is an illustration of women would rather physically suffer than not belong to the "in" group.  The second point to mention here is that being "old-fashioned", or traditional, is definitely not "in". Note, that even though the "old-fashioned" group are engaging in behaviours that women would like to emulate, i.e no anal sex, women do not want to join the group which is behaving congruently with their desires for fear of social opprobrium. In fact the answer given to the question is textbook example of subliminal female social programming. The bold comments are mine.

The bottom line (pardon the pun) is that all sexual acts are supposed to be pleasurable. Nothing is compulsory, and you certainly should not feel obliged to do something just to keep your partner happy.(Reaffirming that self satisfaction is more important than partner satisfaction. Yay Feminism, but.....)

In our modern "raunch" culture, acts that were once taboo are now considered mainstream.
(Implicitly implying anal sex is mainstream, generating social anxiety in a woman who does not belong to the "mainstream")The accessibility of explicit sexual material causes some people, especially young men, to think that every woman wants to perform like a porn star.

There is nothing wrong with "back-door" penetration, as you describe it, and many women enjoy it.
(Once again implying that it is socially approved and it is enjoyable) But it is not for everybody, and precautions must be taken if it is to be enjoyed.

Whether your lack of interest is due to distaste, discomfort or embarrassment, you need to deal with the situation. Cleis Press has a well-researched Ultimate Guide series of books that offer sensible information about a range of sexual practices. The Melbourne Sexual Health Centre would also be able to advise you, or speak to your doctor. (Implying that there is something "wrong" with the woman for not enjoying it.)

But if you are sure that you will never enjoy it, no matter what techniques are used, you had better talk to your partner. Don't raise the subject when you are making love. Wait for a time when you are getting on well and have the privacy to talk. Tell him that, while you love your sex life and he gives you great pleasure, this is not something that you enjoy. Explain that your objections are not based on prudishness and you do not have sexual hang-ups - you just don't enjoy it.
(It's OK not to do it but....)

It is possible that you might be able to negotiate a mutually satisfying compromise
(Currently the relationship could be in trouble). For example, you might agree that this is something that you might enjoy occasionally, when you are very turned on, (You should try to do it sometimes)but not as a matter of routine. Let him know that you will tell him if this is the case, rather than have him ask you every time. ( Make him happy by initiating it occasionally)

If you definitely never want to go there, tell him. Also tell him what you do enjoy, and see if there are other things you might experiment with that would give you both pleasure. Initiating this conversation might feel awkward, but persevering with something you don't like might spoil your entire sex life. 
(Take home message. Don't do things that make you uncomfortable event though most other mainstream ie "normal"  people are doing it)

Ok, so what the advice column has told our audience is that they shouldn't do anything that makes them uncomfortable,  but  because the act is uncomfortable there may be something wrong with them, as everyone else is doing it and enjoying it . The "advice" is meant to generate fear and social anxiety in a woman for not enjoying anal sex.  Subtle social programming.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

More thoughts on PC

In my previous post I put forward the proposition that PC was partially a product of Anglicanism. In this very good series of essays, author Ron Rozien outlines the impact of ultilitarianism on English morality. Sorry for the long quotes but it's such a good collection of essays and it succinctly summarises the intellectual precursors of PC.

For another, English Protestantism had experienced a seemingly endless ramification of new and divisive sects. As Willey (p. 6) pointedly put it, religious differences had reduced points of faith to mere controversy. Surely the Reformation's originators had not expected that the placement of faith squarely on the biblical texts would lead to so many conflicting interpretations. But disputed exegesis had in due course become the dominating reality, and the more conflicts arose, the more thoughtful men and women came to realize the necessity of judging matters on the reasonableness of conflicting views. Hence, a new spirit of rationalism was often the silent inheritor of Protestant dissension — much as it had been when Protestantism first assembled its attack on the Roman Church. Quite naturally, Catholic observers might look on Protestantism's story of diversification and conflict with amusement, and also with wonder that so many small groups might declare themselves the one true faith. But in England, at least, such diversity was not always viewed as an evil. For one thing, it bred toleration — many English thinkers, "seeing that men unavoidably differ in profound speculation," as Stephen put it, "...learnt to admit the innocence of error" (1902, vol. 1, pp. 75-76). Also, while detractors might focus on the differences across Protestant sects, more hopeful souls might look instead at what remained constant and necessary across all of them. In this way the very diversity of Christian belief set in motion more or less empirical quests for its essential and common denominators. By now, too, generations of Protestants had learned that the Bible was not altogether complete in its capacity to provide moral guidance on questions of everyday life or political choice. The Bible, after all, was made up of histories, of stories, of a mass of particulars and not of the general principles that the new era had grown accustomed to equating with knowledge in the highest sense.
In several important ways, then, Natural Philosophy or science spoke to the most vexing difficulties of Protestant faith. Science was universal, and could be expected to speak as truly to the English as to the Chinese. Science was also general, and might provide a unified body of principles for the governance of the moral as well as the physical world. Science also meant rationality, and seemed inherently antiauthoritarian in its perspective. And if these advantages were not enough, was not it true that the most stunning achievement in Natural Philosophy so far had been made by an Englishman, Newton (1642-1727)? Thus did Natural philosophy in the late 17th and over the whole of the 18th century come to be regarded as "God's Other Book," the study of which was suitable, along with the Bible, for providing the hearts and minds of faith-seeking men with a clear vision of His character and will. It was to be sure a rosy vision of the relationship between religion and science, one undoubtedly made possible (as Willey suggested) by the
...fact that the findings of science, up to date, could fuse harmoniously with the presuppositions inherited from Christianity, which, though shaken by controversy, still remained as almost unquestioned certainties in men's hearts. For what had science revealed? Everywhere design, order, and law, where hitherto there had been chaos. (Willey, 1961, p. 5)
Protestantism's troubles, science's ascendancy, the century's taste for Natural Theology and distaste for Hell — all were parts of the general intellectual climate of the English eighteenth century. Whether one looked at God (Walker, 1964), at Nature (Willey, 1961), or at man (Sheriff, 1982), benevolence and good-naturedness abounded. As Willey put it (p. 10), the century lost its taste for the tragic sense of life. Naturally, there were detractors, critics, and renegades to this movement of thought as well, but even in disagreement they were obliged to speak in the vocabularies most men used. Nothing said so far differentiates utilitarian thought from a broader field of philosophical opinion. What was it then — besides the happiness principle — that defined and united utilitarians? What differentiated them from others?
Utilitarianism descended from a great tradition of English moral philosophy that stretched back to the Reformation (My discussion is based on Whewell (1858) and Stephen (1902, vol. 2.) One of the chief consequences of the Protestant Reformation had been the implication that parishioners' relationships to God would now be much more direct. The priestly intermediary had been removed and the confessional had gone with him. Lacking both, Protestantism was obliged to take a fresh perspective on sin and the events of the human conscience. If clergy could neither absolve sin nor clear consciences, what was their appropriate function to be? Perhaps the best that could be offered was moral instruction — which is to say, lessons in how to control oneself. The prevention of sin would have to replace its repentance. Since the provider of such instruction had no special authority or link with God, it followed that in moral matters "he was obliged to give his proofs as well as his results" (Whewell, p. 3). These considerations seem to have provided the foundations for English moral philosophy.
The earliest writings in this tradition were "casuistries" — detailed compendiums of cases in which right conduct was unclear. An early example of such work was entitled The Whole Treatise of Cases of Conscience, distinguished into three books, taught and delivered by Mr. W. Perkins, published about 1600. The historical tendency of such literature was to move from issues of conduct to issues of conscience. There was a preference for the happenings of the mind, thus anticipating a long English preoccupation with subjective sensibilities. One reason for this focus was the Protestant conviction that the conscience provided a person's direct link with God's moral sentiments. Conscience, thus, came to be the ultimate test of good and evil. Yet another tendency moved this literature away from case-by-case commentaries and toward generalized principles of right conduct — that is to say, toward "Moral Philosophy." Whewell saw the seventeenth century as the zenith of these trends: he terms it, "the Epoch of the acknowledged authority of Conscience as the ground of Morality" (p. 10).
Hobbes shocked contemporary opinion with the notion that this moral sense, so revered by English moralists, might simply be the product of men's fear of one another. But it was John Locke who provided the starting place for the utilitarian branch of ethical thought. Locke's singular contribution was his exclusion of innate ideas from the human conscience — with them went innate moral ideas as well. Locke could find only the desire for happiness and the aversion of pain in the human mind — a sort of proto-utilitarianism. His embargo on innate ideas laid down challenge to subsequent English moralists: Could the moral feeling — which gives us approbation for the honorable act and hostility toward evil — be accounted for without recourse to innate ideas? In a broad sense the conflict here is between Locke's unwavering empiricism and the legacy of a Protestant commitment to direct communication between man and God.
Locke would win. Utilitarianism's point of departure from this tradition turned on the question of innate moral ideas. Gay's essay (1731) is the most convenient starting place. Surely there has never been an essay less likely to win a solid place in the history of ideas than John Gay's "Dissertation Concerning the Fundamental Principle of Virtue and Morality," for it was (1) published as a preface to someone else's book (Edmund Law's translation of King's Latin Essay on the Origin of Evil [1731]); (2) published anonymously; (3) Gay's only published work; (4) quite short; and (5) inclined to be overlooked by subsequent utilitarian writers who owed it acknowledgment. In any event, Gay lighted the way toward a Lockean/Utilitarian solution to the "moral sense" problem.
He began with with the universal utilitarian assumption of a Radically Benevolent God, in a passage I have already cited. A variety of themes may be read into Gay's paper, but the important line concerns his handling of one crucial question: How is it that men come to attach approbation or opprobrium immediately upon witnessing an action. The problem was this: Gay believed that happiness flowed from virtuous action. Thus, men's enlightened reason, alone, might lead them to be virtuous. But Gay was aware, too, that men experienced feelings of approbation or opprobrium when they witnessed actions that could have no bearing on their own happiness. Also, one might feel good about his own act without knowledge of its future payoff in happiness. How did men come to feel these emotions? Gay stated the problem thus:
the generality of mankind do approve of virtue, or rather virtuous actions, without being able to give any reason for their approbation; and also, that some pursue it without knowing that it tends to their own private happiness.
Here we have the phenomenon that the "moral sense" had in the past been called upon to account for. In a sense, Gay has already solved the fundamental Lockean problem. What Locke saw as the non-answers of happiness and pain, Gay has invested with moral implications. In Gay's hands, happiness and pain become moral loadstones. For Gay, God places happiness in men so that they will know how to behave, and men who follow the happiness loadstone, then, make themselves and their communities happy. This is theory distilled from a thickly theological brew. All that remains for Gay is to answer how men sense the virtue in action (which is to say, the happiness it will produce) when they cannot know or anticipate the happiness reward.
Gay's answer is that men come to associate the pleasurable rewards of past experience with the anticipated consequences of future action or action merely observed in others. He wrote:
We first perceive or imagine some real good, i.e. fitness to promote our natural happiness, in those things which we love and approve of. Hence...we annex pleasure to those things. Hence those things and pleasure are so tied together and will also occur. And the association remains even after that which at first gave them the connection is quite forgot, or perhaps does not exist, but the contrary (p. 783).
Gay gives the example of money: Men may start out in life desiring the things money can buy, but will in the end come to enjoy the acquisition of money for its own sake. He tells us that
...they join money and happiness immediately together, and content themselves with the fantastical pleasure of having it, and make that which was at first pursued only as a means, be to them a real end, and what their real happiness or misery consists in. Thus the connection between money and happiness remains in the mind; though it has long since ceased between the things themselves.
Mild as these comments may seem to us, this was a radical departure in perspective for Gay's contemporary readers. It would set in motion a chain reaction going from Gay to the associationist psychology of David Hartley, to Priestley's abridgment of Hartley, and thence to Bentham and James Mill. The crucial point was that Gay had managed to provide an empiricist explanation of the apparently internal moral sense. The theory also provided just what was wanted by both secular and theological camps. When secular utilitarians looked back on Gay, they saw a solution to both the vexing problem of the feeling of an interior moral sense and to the equally vexing fact that this feeling might operate at times when an action's consequences were not in clear view. On the other hand, when theological utilitarians looked back on the same writer, they saw a God who (1) made happiness the direct consequence of virtue, and (2) contrived matters so that happiness was remembered or associated with the moral actions that initially prompted it. In this way men's morality could persist beyond the occasions in which they directly experienced virtue's payoff. English utilitarianism, whether secular or theological, incorporated these two essentials, the happiness principle and an associationist model of moral sentiment.
(Utilitarianism as Part of the English Moral Philosophical Tradition)

In a nutshell, English Protestantism began to fracture, and in order to maintain a civil society tolerance was encouraged and eventually habituated.  Under the influence of Utilitarians, English Protestantism began to associate happy "feelings" with goodness, and science was given moral legitimacy. It was these ideas that permeated throughout the enormously successful and culturally influential English  society of the 18th and 19th Centuries. The main "beneficiary" of this inheritance was the Anglosphere, particularly the United States. The military and economic triumph of the United States in the 20th Century ensured that these WASP ideals reached non-Anlgophone countries.

However what happened during this period of cultural transmission was that religion was effectively displaced by secularism, so what was in essence left was a structure and culture whose whole ethical premise was based on a morality of the sentiments. Remember, according to the Utilitarians, that which was pleasant was good and unpleasant bad.

PC= WASP Protestantism minus God.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Thoughts on PC.

The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone. For respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.
(Oscar Wilde)


There have been several notable posts recently on the phenomenon of Political correctness otherwise known as PC. Jim Kalb's, PC: The cultural Antichrist and Ferdinand Bardamu's, Citizenship Sola Fide; Or evidence that liberalism is a natural outgrowth of Protestantism.  One of Jim Kalb's commentators, Bruce Charlton, has chimed in and has put up a few intelligent posts on the subject matter. These commentators have reawakened several rudimentary thoughts that I have been mulling over for some time.

I'll start first with a comment from Jim Kalb's post:
Something that trumps normal considerations so completely must have transcendent importance. It's clear that PC relates to something big.

What it relates to, in fact, is a sort of new religion: the gospel of inclusiveness. It's a religion of salvation, and what PC stands for is the salvation of the world. It's going to destroy the demons of the past--hatred, bigotry, division--and open up a new age of freedom, equality, unity, world peace, and unbounded horizons.
Whilst I agree with Mr Kalb that PC is in fact a new religion, the meta-religion of the middle class, within which all other religions are incorporated and subordinated to, I think he is wrong with regard to the nature of its "gospel". PC is certainly capable of exclusion, after all people who don't follow it's precepts are excluded quite easily,  rather the gospel of PC, at least within the Anglo-sphere, is the gospel of "niceness"

By niceness  I mean the "virtue" of not causing offense to anyone and the "virtue" of trying to make the world a more agreeable place for all. As such this virtue has both a redemptive and a missionary character. The redemption comes from the self-exertion of "niceness", a man rising up the moral ranks to the degree by which he possess wit, charm and pleasantness and by performing the missionary component which manifests itself in "helping" others or things less fortunate.

In many ways this philosophy resembles the Christian gospels with their concern of "helping" others and it is quite interesting to note just how many Christians seem to have hitched on to the PC bandwagon. However where the Christian concept of charity is directed towards doing what is good (with a capital "G") ,the PC concept is directed towards doing what is "nice". Now this is an important distinction because working out what is the "good" thing to do in a particular situation is frequently quite hard, a lot of thinking has to be done, therefore the apprehension of goodness is a function of the intellect. On the other hand, doing what's nice is usually intuitive and is a function of the sentiments. in other words, it's an imperative based upon one's feelings. Political Correctness is the religion of agreeable feelings.

Now it needs to be understood that what's agreeable and what's good can sometimes concur, but it's also apparently that sometimes what seems most agreeable can be evil, and it's this "overlap" which frequently confuses the issue.

Christianity's relationship with PC illustrates this quite clearly. PC has no problems with the "soft" virtues of Christianity. Helping the poor with funds, forgiveness, the "social justice" gospel etc, never get any censure from PC. On the other hand Christian precepts which are "hard" such as the prohibition of fornication, euthanasia, homosexual marriage,  etc( the ones which cause people to feel "hurt" or "exclusion") get the PC hurt. In PC theology, that which causes psychic pain (and hence is not nice) to anyone is "sinful".

Being a "logic" of sentiments so to speak, PC has its appeal at most to the "half educated". The bovine masses, nearly always operating on self interest and primitive sentiments can be "nice" but only to a limited the degree. The intelligent see that the whole logic is ridiculous. It's that middle level of intelligence, the credentialed yet unreflective, who are its main proponents. Secondly, being a logic of "feeling" it "syncs" and finds a home more easily with women than with men. Feminism, almost by necessity is its handmaiden and PC most naturally finds its home amongst the respectable "middle class".

How did it arise?

I think Ferdinand has a point when he says Protestantism is its original source,  but it was not Protestantism alone which caused this, several other factors had to converge. Protestantism did its bit by providing the theological justification for effectively everyman his own Pope, it allowed a man in the privacy of his own "conscience" to determine to determine what is "good". Religion is practiced by people, not theologians, and by giving people who think with their feelings the moral justification to act as they see fit, most people would act in a way which most agreed with them, not in a way which was intellectually rigorous, with a firm knowledge that God was on their side.
Paradoxically though, being a hard core literal "Sola Scripturalist" protected one to a certain degree against intellectual gymnastics which would justify anything agreeable. The literalist "Bible thumper" who ardently believed in creationism was also likely to believe in the prohibition of fornication, his scope for theological creativity was limited by the insistence on literal conformity.  I was the more "elevated" or "intellectually mature" Protestant who was liable to the seduction of PC.  Intellectually then, the Protestant camp can be though of as split along two lines: the Fundamentalists, and the others. ( I know that there are numerous further subclassifications but this is a blog, not a doctoral dissertation).

The other factor is historical. The industrial revolution resulted in England amassing enormous wealth, power and prestige. England's military victories and world domination ensured that not only would England wield military and economic power but that it would exert a powerful cultural influence on the entire world. England's culture, which by the standards of the day was remarkably liberal,  thus spread and was most emulated by the Anglophone middle classes. It think people seem to forget just how much a "style" and "fashion" capital London was until the Second World War. Looking back at B+W films of the 30's it surprising to see just how many upper/middle class American, Australian even Asian characters spoke with an Anglicised accent. America may have been rich but England had class, and anyone aspirational(middle classes) wanted some of it. What in the end happened is that people emulated the habits of the British middle to upper classes, particularly their manners. Men wanted the habits of a Gentleman, women a Lady.

Here is Newman writing on the manners of a Gentleman (1852):
It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them. The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast; — all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets every thing for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny. If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blunder. [From The Idea of a University, 1852] 
(My underlining)

Note whats going on here. The idea of a gentlemanly behaviour is to be nice and agreeable to everyone. Could you see such a man opposing open borders?

Protestantism unintentionally provided the theological justification for agreeable behaviour. Agreeable behaviour became the accepted norm amongst British upper classes.  Britain's power and influence made it a cultural force throughout the world and the behaviours of the ruling classes were emulated.

Now whilst the religion was considered important, it moderated the extremes of "nice behaviour", it set limits on what was tolerable. However with the secularisation of Britain beginning in the second half of the 19th Century, these limits were removed and the habit of niceness  became the overriding virtue of the middle class. It became its "default" morality. Anyone familiar with G.K Chesterton's newspaper articles from the early 1900's shows that the English middle classes already possessed many of the idiotic ideas that are today part and parcel of PC.

Membership of the middle classes is not simple a function of income, its a function of behaviour, and a man wanting membership of the middle classes is expected to behave in an appropriate manner. He is expected to be nice above all else.  Niceness or agree-ability is the religion of the middle class and it is from this class from which the managers of the modern state are drawn. The lawyers, doctors, teachers, analysts, civil service administrators and so on. The PC state is not so much a product of any conspiracy, rather it is the product of middle class habits devoid of any other cultural modification. When nice people rule the world, they're going to behave a lot like Newman's gentleman.

BTW, I'm not trying to diss Protestantism, I think there are many good things in it. However I do believe that Protestantism has a "structural flaw" which permitted the birth of PC.

P.S. Someone else is thinking along the same lines as I am. Quote:

Professional prominence or position will not secure a place in the class any more than mere money. In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (just ask Justice Clarence Thomas), or even president (Ronald Reagan), and not be taken seriously by the ruling class. Like a fraternity, this class requires above all comity -- being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs. Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment's parts.