Against All Hate

Behold, the vicious misanthrope,
The hater of the differences in skin,
The hater of the differences in kin,
The hater of what others would believe,
The hater who would hate without reprieve.

Behold, the vicious misanthrope,
The hater of the greatness man achieves–
When faced with man-made beauty only grieves–
The hater of the makers and the wealthy,
Who’s only happy when you are unhealthy.

Behold, the vicious misanthrope,
Who sees man as a plague upon the earth,
Denying humans have inherent worth,
Repulsed at all mankind has built–
Who wants us to dissolve in shame and guilt.

The ones who want us full of guilt and shame,
Inventing reasons humans are to blame–
From poverty to wealth and exploitation
To laziness, defenders of the nation–
This is the vicious misanthrope.

The nihilist denying life has meaning,
That value, values are a lie–those leaning
On nothing for support would dare deny
All beauty, justice, truth–say they’re a lie–
This is the vicious misanthrope.

You lovers of mankind, the rich and poor,
The individual–open the door
Of greatness, creativity and life–
Deny life’s haters, creators of all strife–
Oppose the vicious misanthrope!

Altruistic Racist Warriors vs. Selfish Tolerant Pacifists

In the Vol. 318, 26 Oct. 2007 issue of Science there is a fascinating article on pg. 636-640 titled “The Coevolution of Parochial Altruism and War” by Jung-Kyoo Choi and Samuel Bowles, with an accompanying review article on pg. 581-2 by Holly Arrow titled “The Sharp End of Altruism.”

Using computer simulations, Choi and Bowles show that if you create beings with the following traits: either altruistic (A) or non-altruistic (N) and either tolerant (T) or parochial, or anti-stranger (P), you end up with two stable populations, depending on the conditions. Under peacetime conditions, you get “a society of selfish but tolerant freetraders” (Arrow, 581), but under wartime conditions, you get “a warrior society in which people help one another but are hostile to outsiders” (581). The other two combinations — selfless, tolerant people and selfish racists — seem to be unstable combinations, though more stable under peacetime conditions than under times of war. The researchers observe that one doesn’t even need war to be that common for the PA combination to quickly dominate.

These conclusions make a lot of evolutionary sense. Without making the mistake of thinking of behavior as simply a choice between P and T genes, as behavior is more complex than that from both a genetic point of view and from a social point of view, by treating them as overarching behaviors that can be selected, we can see, nonetheless, that certain behaviors are more adaptive than others. Part of this has to do with territorialism. All land vertebrates are territorial to varying degrees. This allows individuals and groups to have enough food and water to continue to live. Protecting territory protects food. So we should expect species to protect their territory — which they do. Now, if a species is going to protect its territory, it must confront those who wish to intrude on or take that territory. Various rituals have evolved that allow many confrontations to end without violence. But sometimes that breaks down. And more, in chimpanzees, we see an outright preference for attacking and killing members of other groups when the balance is in favor of the attacking group. This assumption was used by the researchers, and it led to the creation of a preference for racist altruists — those that will sacrifice to protect family and tribe, but who hate and will attack those not in the tribe. Tolerant groups are less likely to attack first, meaning the racist groups are more likely to both attack first, killing the tolerant people of other groups. The end result is that the human race has evolved to be racist altruists.

Now, the fact that we evolved to be racist altruists who love war in no way excuses such behavior. But it seems that this combination is the most stable one under conditions of periodic war. The other combination is predominant under periods of peace: the TN individual. These people are tolerant of others and are willing to engage in interactions with people from different groups, yet are selfish. This is the paring most associated with Americans — and it is no doubt because America’s isolation from the rest of the world, keeping us out of constant wars, encourages the development of TN behavior. Does this mean PA is completely replaced? The authors don’t say, but let me expand on their research a little with some thoughts on my own. It seems likely that wars may have resulted in natural selection for genetic PA’s, though behavior, being complex, can still have other kinds of attributes built on it by society. So in the U.S., for example, while people may be more likely to be genetic PA’s, we have adopted the TN meme, and use it more often than we do the AP genetic tendencies we’re born with. But as the Japanese learned in WWII, it is not difficult to awaken the “sleeping dragon” of PA behavior latent in people.

It seems, though, that so long as there are wars, the PA genes-memes will continue to dominate. However, the bad news for many of the peace activists on the Left who are TA’s is that peace will not produce more of them. Rather, it appears that it will be more likely to produce more TN’s — people who are more and more likely to believe in and engage in free market economics. My guess is that Ayn Rand would be one of the few not surprised by this outcome.

Ridiculous

When someone is laughing at us, it seems cruel –- if we take ourselves seriously. But people who laugh at themselves cannot hate others. Hatred of others come more from taking ourselves seriously as children take themselves seriously than from anything else. There is no one more serious than a child –- and no one is more easily hurt by others.

Mature people know not to take much seriously, and that not all things should be taken equally seriously at all times. Adults know that not every action done by others involves them or that, if an action turns out to be harmful or hurtful to them, that the person doing it did not necessarily always mean it that way. Adults are aware that not everything is meaningful, and that not everything is as it may at first appear. In other words, adults are aware of irony. Only children do not understand irony. And those who find meaning in everything are of a totalitarian spirit.

People who laugh with each other about each other do not want to kill each other. They do not even want to hate each other. Laughter dissolves meaning in a meaningful way, so we do not take each other so seriously we see each other as a threat. And when people do not take us seriously this way, we should not be offended –- they are learning to love us through laughter. But only if we laugh along with them. If we choose to get offended when people laugh at us we in turn show them that we are contemptible, that we do not or can not have a sense of humor. If we are perceived not to have a sense of humor, we will be taken seriously –- and if we are taken seriously, we are in danger of being hated.

However, we want people to laugh with us, not at us. All laughter is aimed at folly –- when we are acting good, we cannot be laughed at. Self-deprecating humor fits here too: people laugh with us as we laugh at our own shortcomings. Good people see the world as serious, but funny (as Aristotle says, serious people don’t take much seriously –- and know when to take something seriously). Good people laugh the most. Beware of the humorless -– even they know they are not good people.

Let me make a serious suggestion. How do we recognize a bad law? Can it be laughed at? Can we make a joke about it? If so, it is a bad law. Who jokes about the laws against murder, theft, or rape? You cannot vilify the good. You can only ridicule the ridiculous.

3 Kinds of Human Interactions

There are three basic ways in which humans interact:

1) slavery – the interaction wherein I tell you that “unless you do something good for me, I will do something bad to you.”

2) economic cooperation (profit) – the interaction wherein I tell you that “if you do something good for me, I will do something good for you.”

3) generosity (gift-giving) – the interaction wherein I tell you that “I will do something good for you, and do not expect you to do something good for me.”

These are in what we have historically perceived to be increasing ethical order. Of course, rarely are our interactions purely one of these – nor are they perceived to be. And the interactions are oftentimes very complex. And this can get us into trouble, since 1) is always unethical. But what is happening if I am an employer, and I hire someone? Certainly this is 2), but if I hold the threat of firing the person if they do not do their job properly over them, it is perceived that the interaction is also 1). But is it? Just because I withdraw 2), it does not mean that the interaction I am having with the person is in fact 1). The worst I can do is fire the person from the job that it was mine to give him. And when he ceases to do something good for me (do a good job), then I am under no obligation to continue doing something good for him (keep him employed) under interaction 2). If I were to keep him on, it would be due to 3), which is not the purpose of a place of employment. The purpose of a place of employment is to make everyone working there profit – to make everyone there better off than they were before they entered into interaction 2).

Any time a government interferes with either interaction 2) or 3), it is interacting with people with interaction 1), and thus is acting unjustly. Only when government works to prevent others – including itself, from engaging in interaction 1) does government act justly.

Envy and Covetousness

In poor and humble homes, in cottages,
In hardship and disaster, hearts are joined
More lastingly and truly than where ease
And opulence with envy are combined,
In regal courts and splendid palaces,
Where cunning and conspiracy you find,
Where fellow-feeling long extinct has been,
Where there’s no friendship that is genuine.

–Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso CANTO XLIV, 1

Ariosto here observes that it is among the wealthy and powerful where envy is found, not among the poor. Indeed, those who preach the gospel of envy are always the right and powerful—those looking to gain and maintain political power. I grew up working lower-middle classed, and most of the people I knew and was related to were the working poor. I never heard any of them spontaneously express envy of the rich, but I have heard them express gratitude toward those who hired them, who signed their paychecks. It’s only among the relatively wealthy (or those on generational welfare) who I’ve heard express envy. And the envious wealthy in turn project their own feelings on the poor, who they’ve never known nor met nor intent to ever actually get near enough to really know them.

The resentful longing for what others have primarily seems to be a trait of those who already have a great deal. This is perhaps not surprising, since that longing can be expressed in three ways: as greed, as covetousness, or destructively.

If it’s expressed destructively, the person will likely seek to destroy the goods, property, or relationships that person has. It’s the attitude that if I can’t have it, nobody can have it. This is what you seen when protestors against “greed,” free markets, and free trade riot and destroy businesses.

If it’s expressed as greed, the person will likely act to get similar things as those they envy. I would also expect that the “longing” for what others have is less resentful when it leads to a desire to acquire similar things to what others have. At its most positive, people build businesses and contribute to society through mutual exchange; at its most negative you have scammers and white collar crime.

And then there is covetousness.

“In coveting is evil’s root” (Chretien de Troyes, Eric and Enide, Ruth Harwood Cline, tr. line 2935).

Consider this line in light of the commandment that “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife or goods.” Indeed, without the sin of covetousness, there would be no need for “Thou shalt not steal” nor “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” I would venture to guess that there would also be no need for “Thou shalt not murder,” either. When one covets what others have, one wants precisely that thing that they have, and not just something like it. Coveting results in theft, adultery, and even murder, as well as resentment, which incidentally gives rise to redistributionary economic and political theories, giving rise to taxation, the welfare state, and the various forms of socialism, especially communism. When one covets, one can even learn to hate the good for being good.

As noted above, if one wants the kinds of things others have, one is typically compelled to work hard to get those things, to provide others with goods and services. This attitude is the very basis of capitalism. But if one wants the exact thing someone else has, one is guilty of the sin of covetousness, which leads to theft, adultery, and any number of other sins. We have typically failed to differentiate between these two attitudes toward what others have. That too, it seems to me, is a great sin as well — for then we cannot tell the difference between good and evil.

The problem is that people do not differentiate among these different responses to envy. Some responses to envy have positive social outcomes and thus are moral; other responses to envy foster resentment and have negative social outcomes and thus are immoral. Wanting to destroy what others have because they have it is immoral. Wanting to have the exact things others have and taking it from them (or having a third party take it from them for you) is immoral. If you are destructive or covetous, you have bad character. There is not and can never be virtue in these attitudes and the actions they provoke.

 

 

Good, Bad, and Evil…and Education

An engineer who is good at building bridges is a good engineer. The steel he uses must be of high enough quality to do the job – it must be good steel. When building begins on the bridge, it can only be done in good weather. A good engineer is good at being an engineer. Good steel is steel that can be depended on to do the job at hand (being dependable to do the job at hand is also a feature of being a good engineer). Good weather is weather that provides favorable conditions for what work the person wants to do – in this definition, rain is good weather for a farmer, but bad for our engineer. A good person is thus a person who is good at being a person. We must work at being good – ethics is work. But ethics is not necessarily what works. One has to keep in mind the end at which one aims. We need an idea of proper ends, a proper target at which to aim. The proper end of our engineer is obvious: to build a bridge that will span the gulf at hand and remain intact. He must design and build a bridge that does the work of a bridge.

From the example above, we can now distinguish between bad and evil. A bad engineer is one who is not able to design a bridge that will do the proper work of a bridge. An evil engineer is one who is able to design a bridge that will do the proper work of a bridge but who chooses instead to design a bridge that will not do the proper work of a bridge. For the bad engineer, the destruction caused by his bad bridge is incidental to his inability to design a good bridge. The bad engineer is bad because he is ignorant. He would build a good bridge if he could. For the evil engineer, the destruction caused by his bad bridge comes about because he chose to make a bad bridge so that it would cause destruction. The evil engineer is evil because he knows the right way to build a bridge, but chooses not to do so. He can build a good bridge, but chooses not to.

When education experts choose to use teaching methods like the look-say method of teaching reading, when it is well-established that it does not and never has worked, over using phonics, which we know is the best way to learn how to read, then which one of these categories do you think America’s educators fall into? And what about our choice not to teach children foreign languages when we know they can learn them –- before they reach puberty? Or using the “tally” method to teach “comprehension” (it does the opposite, and we know it does)? Isn’t it time that we started providing our students a good education, rather than the one we have been providing them which has failed both them and this country?

Why So Much Sexual Harassment?

Is there really more sexual harassment happening now than in the past? That seems very unlikely. We see murder, rape, and other violent crimes going down over the long-run, and with ever-increasing awareness of sexual harassment and more widespread feminist attitudes, it’s likely sexual harassment has been following the same pattern.

Which doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Men shouldn’t be treating women as mere means to reach the ends of their sexual desires. Treating people as means to an end is the worst kind of dehumanization. But people with power are used to treating people that way, and when you combine that with the high priority most men give sex, you have a formula for the creation of institutional sexual abuse in places like Hollywood and government.

The reason you are hearing so much about sexual harassment–and worse–from Hollywood executives and politicians is that these people have a great deal of power over other people. A Hollywood career means fame, fortune, and a bigger voice for your favorite causes. An actress could easily justify making millions, having a long-term career, and doing much good in the world in exchange for a single night with someone like Harvey Weinstein. And, obviously, many women did. It’s likely that Weinstein discovered that there were women willing to sleep with him to get a part, and then, realizing he could get women to sleep with him to get a part, he starting expecting it. It’s not much of a leap from expecting it in the sense of expecting actresses to sleep with him to get a part to expecting women to sleep with him whenever he demanded it. Which leads to the rape accusations.

Politicians are typically the kind of people who want to have control over other people. Why else would they be attracted to that kind of power position? More, people who are attracted to power positions simply for the power are also more likely to do underhanded things to get that power–certainly more so than someone who may think they ought to run for office because they sincerely want to accomplish certain things. Such do-gooders don’t stand a change against a plotting sociopath. Which is why legislatures are full of sociopaths–likely at overwhelmingly higher percentages than one finds in the general population. Such people are also likely to abuse their positions. Since they love to control people, and they expect that people should and ought to be controlled by them, this will extend to their sex lives. Since they interact with the world almost exclusively through coercion (legislation), they think all interactions ought to be through coercion–when this extends to sex, that’s sexual harassment and rape.

The purge of sexual harassers at these levels of power is a good thing. It’s likely a pressure-release on the increasing resentment our society is feeling towards the powerful. With ever-increasing regulations (don’t believe the lies of “deregualtion”), ever-increasingly powerful and intrusive bureaucracies in practically every aspect of life (making us all feel powerless), and ever-increasing self-righteous politically correct preaching from people in Hollywood, politicians, and government-schools-brainwashed college children, it’s not surprising that people are feeling increasing resentment and are lashing out more and more. President Trump is a result of that lashing-out, a “two can play at this game” reaction, handing the Left the mirror image of themselves, as perceived by the general population.

This purge of the powerful isn’t over. Black Lives Matter has brought our attention to the systematic abuses of African-Americans by the powerful (through the police), and now we are seeing the degree to which there has been systematic abuses of women by the powerful as well. The problem is that few are recognizing that these powerful are big-government supporters of every stripe (don’t fool yourself that the Republicans favor small government–they’re almost as bad at the Democrats on many things, and worse than them on others).

Those who run our biggest cities where African-Americans are most abused are big-government supporters whose rhetoric almost always puts them on the side of African-Americans (never mind their policies have actively destroyed African’ American families and lives and jobs). And those who have proven to be most abusive toward women (or men, in some cases like Kevin Spacey) have often been those most vocal about being on the side of women and feminism. Everyone in Hollywood knew about Weistein, yet nobody was feminist enough to do anything about it.

I don’t suppose anyone should be surprised at the hypocrisy of the powerful. That’s one of their ways to get and maintain their power. But we need to stop making excuses for those in “our tribe” who are behaving badly. When you make excuses for someone’s abusive behavior toward those weaker than them–especially a politician–just because you agree with a few of their political positions, you are showing your (complete lack of) character.

The Malady of the Age: Resentment

“Thus ressentiment becomes the constituent principle of want of character, which from utter wretchedness tries to sneak itself a position, all the time safeguarding itself by conceding that it is less than nothing. The ressentiment which results from want of character can never understand that eminent distinction really is distinction. Neither does it understand itself by recognizing distinction negatively (as in the case of ostracism) but wants to drag it down, wants to belittle it so that it really ceases to be distinguished. And ressentiment not only defends itself against all existing forms of distinction but against that which is still to come.

The ressentiment which is establishing itself is the process of levelling…a reflective and passionless age hinders and stifles all action; it levels. Levelling is a silent, mathematical, and abstract occupation….No one can be at the head of the levelling process alone, for in that case he would be the leader and would thus escape being levelled….The levelling process is the victory of abstraction over the individual.

The dialectic of the present age tends toward equality, and its most logical—though mistaken—fulfilment is levelling, as the negative unity of the negative reciprocity of all individuals.”

—Soren Kierkegaard, The Present Age

“Thus do I speak unto you in parable….ye preachers of equality! Tarantulas are ye unto me, and secretly revengeful ones!

Therefore do I tear at your web, that your rage may lure you out of your den of lies, and that your revenge may leap forth from behind your word ‘justice.’

‘Vengeance will we use, and insult, against all who are not like us’—thus do the tarantula-hearts pledge themselves.

And ‘Will to Equality’—that itself shall henceforth be the name of virtue; and against all that hath power will we raise an outcry!

Ye preachers of equality, the tyrant-frenzy of impotence crieth thus in you for ‘equality’: your most secret tyrant-longings disguise themselves thus in virtue-words!

Fretted conceit and suppressed envy—perhaps your fathers’ conceit and envy: in you break they forth as flame and frenzy of vengeance.

Inspired ones they resemble: but it is not the heart that inspireth them—but vengeance. And when they become subtle and cold, it is not spirit, but envy, that maketh them so.

But thus do I counsel you, my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!”

—Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Resentment perhaps drives more evil than any single thing. Other than covetousness. And the two are not unrelated. We resent those whose things we covet. We resent people whose husbands or wives we covet. But resentment goes beyond covetousness. We also resent the boss for telling us what to do; we resent the teacher for telling us what to think. We want to punish the powerful and bring them down to our level.

And therein lies the problem. Why do we want to tear people down rather than lift ourselves and/or the weak up? Of course, it’s easy to create equality among the trees by shopping them all down, while if we nourish them all equally, we will find that the trees will still manage to develop differently on their own.

And this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t want to bring down the powerful. We should bring down governments when they become too powerful and oppressive. We should bring down institutions when they become too powerful and oppressive. We should bring down anyone who gains power through imposing their will on everyone.

But we should not resent, we should not want to bring down anyone who has gained through mutually beneficial exchange. The great artists, the great scientists, the great entrepreneurs, the great inventors should hold nothing but our highest esteem. Resenting them only shows just how much we hate the good for being good; hating them only shows the degree to which we hate humanity itself.

It’s the Small Things

David McElroy has an interesting piece in which he laments the decline of general competence. As he points out, we are seeing this more and more. Being concerned about people misspelling words may seem a bit much, but what happens when even highly educated people are often misspelling words? What happens when school teachers and administrators misspell words or make errors such as using “could of”?

While there is a degree of carelessness and, worse, not caring, there is also a strong degree of miseducation and, even worse again, false confidence. Everyone thinks they can write and don’t need an editor. Except that, no one can write and literally everyone needs an editor–especially if you’re a regular writer (it’s simple math: the more you write, the more errors you’ll make; it’s also psychological: the more you write, the more confident you are, and the less likely you are to catch your own errors). Excellence matters, and it is precisely excellence which it being put aside throughout our culture.

The biggest problem is precisely the problem of false confidence. And it extends well beyond writing. While I have had former students insist they were good writers because their teachers loved their writing and told them they were good (I always told those students they should go back and sue those teachers), we see people insisting on competence in teaching when they have only graduated a year ago, we see people insisting they know how to fix the economy when they haven’t had a single course on economics, and we see people having opinions about cosmology and biology when they don’t know the first thing about either. In the U.S., math competency is among the lowest in the developed world, and math confidence is the highest.

But these are hardly the only small things. Etiquette is long gone. And so are manners. People are rude, they won’t hold open doors for you, they consider everyone an inconvenience–one could go one an done (and I invite you to include examples in the comments). It seems a small thing, but etiquette is the foundation of ethics. They show what kind of character you have. If morals are the rules that help us live together in social groups, then etiquette is the foundation of morals. Every time you’re rude or call someone a name or bully someone because of their world view, politics, religion, lifestyle, whatever else you want to think of that makes people different from you, then you are acting unethically. Each violation of etiquette is a violation of ethics.

So I think David McElroy is on to something in his pointing out the little things. The little things are the foundations of the big things. Chip away at a dam long enough, and it will break and release the flood waters.