I have closed my eyes, bowed my head, folded my hands, and recited countless prayers. In desperation I have petitioned and beseeched.
"Thank you" are the only words I have ever truly prayed.
In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him to quit his work, and every different want would call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune, would be death; for, though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.
Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other: and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.
from “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine
An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.I've often puzzled over the perceived necessity of "growth." This unattributed parable demonstrates the conflict between the mandate to maximize profits and the value of a life that's worth living. How much greater is this tension when the growth in question is of an increasingly catastrophic militarily-industrial brand of capitalism, the cross of iron on which humanity has hung itself. Buckminster Fuller coined the term livingry, the antonym of weaponry. Our economy should serve the way we ought to live, not the other way around.
The Mexican replied only a little while. The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senior."
The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise."
The Mexican fisherman asked, "But senior, how long will this all take?"
To which the American replied, "15-20 years."
"But what then, senior?"
The American laughed and said that's the best part. "When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."
"Millions, senior? Then what?"
The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
Too much cannot be said against the men of wealth who sacrifice everything to getting wealth. There is not in the world a more ignoble character than the mere money-getting American, insensible to every duty, regardless of every principle, bent only on amassing a fortune, and putting his fortune only to the basest uses... These men are equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil. There are not very many of them, but there is a very great number of men who approach more or less closely to the type, and, just in so far as they do so approach, they are curses to the country.
[They] combine to bring about as much financial stress as possible, in order to discredit the policy of the government and thereby secure a reversal of that policy, so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their own evil-doing... I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule this free country—the people through their governmental agents, or a few ruthless and domineering men whose wealth makes them peculiarly formidable because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate organization.
~ Theodore Roosevelt
The most important thing to teach your children is that the sun does not rise and set. It is the Earth that revolves around the sun. Then teach them the concepts of North, South, East and West, and that they relate to where they happen to be on the planet's surface at that time. Everything else will follow.
~ R. Buckminster Fuller (from the transcript of his final interview, 1983)
Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.
But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you,
So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.
And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
“What is it about politics that makes people so dumb?”
From his perspective as a pyschology researcher, Philip Tetlock watched political advisors on the left and the right make bizarre rationalizations about their wrong predictions at the time of the rise of Gorbachev in the 1980s and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. Liberals were sure that Reagan was a dangerous idiot; conservatives were sure that the USSR was permanent. The whole exercise struck Tetlock as what used to be called an “outcome-irrelevant learning structure.” No feedback, no correction.
Tetlock's summary: “Partisans across the opinion spectrum are vulnerable to occasional bouts of ideologically induced insanity.” He determined to figure out a way to keep score on expert political forecasts, even though it is a notoriously subjective domain (compared to, say, medical advice), and “there are no control groups in history.”
So Tetlock took advantage of getting tenure to start a long-term research project now 18 years old to examine in detail the outcomes of expert political forecasts about international affairs. He studied the aggregate accuracy of 284 experts making 28,000 forecasts, looking for pattern in their comparative success rates. Most of the findings were negative — conservatives did no better or worse than liberals; optimists did no better or worse than pessimists. Only one pattern emerged consistently.
“How you think matters more than what you think.”
It’s a matter of judgement style, first expressed by the ancient Greek warrior poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing.” The idea was later expanded by essayist Isaiah Berlin. In Tetlock’s interpretation, Hedgehogs have one grand theory (Marxist, Libertarian, whatever) which they are happy to extend into many domains, relishing its parsimony, and expressing their views with great confidence. Foxes, on the other hand are skeptical about grand theories, diffident in their forecasts, and ready to adjust their ideas based on actual events.I came across the link by way of a climate-change related post on The Stone, the New York Times philosophy blog. This entry pertained to the nature of "expert consensus" vis-à-vis democracy constituted by "the ignorant many." The argument proffered by our NYT blogger: laypeople, per their non-expert status, have no basis to refute the conclusions of experts (climate scientists in this case, and their view that human activities are warming the planet).
Bottom line… The political expert who bores you with a cloud of “howevers” is probably right about what’s going to happen. The charismatic expert who exudes confidence and has a great story to tell is probably wrong.
And to improve the quality of your own predictions, keep brutally honest score. Enjoy being wrong, admitting to it and learning from it, as much as you enjoy being right.
~ by Stewart Brand
Since the beginning of time, high priests and other "experts" have predicted apocalypse for their societies - and increased their standing and power in society by purporting to provide a cure. These predictions of apocalypse all have one thing in common: they are always wrong.So when I see Al Gore on television advocating a rush to large-scale political action to combat the eminent demise of our planet due to human-generated climate change, I am compelled to roll my eyes. Monolithic thinking dominates the American political landscape (the childish absurdity of the current debt-ceiling debate* punctuates this), and the vision of a free society comprised of and legitimately governed by well-informed citizens is fading. Perhaps my roll-of-the-eyes is better seen as a heavenward plea on behalf of the foxes.
I could end the deficit in five minutes. You just pass a law that says that any time there's a deficit of more than three percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election. Now you've got the incentives in the right place, right?
It's capable of being done. And they're trying to use the incentive now that we're going to blow your brains out, America, in terms of your debt-worthiness over time. That's being used as a threat. A more effective threat would be just to say, "If you guys can't get it done, we'll get some other guys to get it done."
A widely accepted convention of psychology is that the sociopath is one who is unable to integrate emotionally with others. Humans seem to need ethics to be sane. Ethics not only tells us when it's safe to cross the street, but when others' priorities overrule our own immediate needs and even direct our own emotions toward others' needs. What [better] example is there than empathy? We can feel with all things, from birds to foreigners. Indeed, Hammurabi parlayed respect for others into a codified system which encouraged commerce and vastly increased not only wealth, but the spread of good ideas. Concepts like Justice, Liberty and Rights, intangible though they appear, are more effective in securing our prosperity and viability as social groups than any amount of enforced order.
So, yes, Ayn Rand, we are free to act individually to maximize our individual happiness and prosperity, but our basic nature requires that we take all other aspects of our surroundings into account if we are to preserve sanity. The neocons' paradigm of "creating our own reality" is illustrative of the fallacy inherent to wishful thinking. And on any given day, more than ninety-nine percent of seven billion human beings lives and works side-by-side with others in peace because if for no other reason, it's more efficient. Neither can children be raised nor crops be grown amid conflict. ~ Martin W.
[Part of a response to a philosophy post on the New York Times website.]
The illness that the western world faces isn't liberalism, or capitalism for that matter; it's the distortion of these 'isms' based on the delusional hubris that man has in regard to himself. When people value themselves over their community, society begins to deteriorate. ~ Cliff E.
[From a discussion of individualism on a friend's blog.]
A Republican [sic] is, at root, a person who has concluded that economic selfishness is the heart of morality, ensuring that the worthy get their reward and the unworthy their punishment. If you'd like to advance from political arithmetic to political algebra, substitute "powerful" for "worthy" to derive this: "A Republican is, at root, a person who has concluded that government works best when it serves the economically powerful, even at the expense of the economically disadvantaged they grow wealthy by exploiting."
This health care issue is not ethical rocket science, folks, it's pure power politics. Executives with top-notch insurance policies, insurance companies, overpaid hospital executives and physicians who as specialists often earn in excess of $500,000 per year for 20 hours of work per week don't want national health care. It simply has nothing to offer them that appeals to their powerfully developed sense of selfishness and entitlement. ~ Douglas B.
[Response to an old Washington Post article about health care. This comment is overtly partisan, but I feel it effectively exposes a core ideology of what the first commentator briefly referred to as neoconservatism (if not "Republican" - I take issue with obsessing over the two-party system; corruption is corruption, it abounds everywhere). A planet scorched by global implementation of an ideology that consecrates unregulated rapacity is not a place where I want to live. It might suit Newt Gingrich and his million-dollar Tiffany's expense account, but it ain't for me.]
 Hard-Boiled Eggs
Boil water (enough to cover the eggs by an inch). Gently place eggs in water with spoon. Reduce to low, simmer for ten minutes. Remove eggs, serve immediately or chill in cold water.
 Microwaved Bacon
Place bacon between two double-layers of paper towels on a microwaveable plate. Zap for about three minutes. Bacon should be light and crumbly.
We have to create culture. Don't watch TV, don't read magazines, don't even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you're worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered. You're giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y.
This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. This is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told no, we're unimportant, we're peripheral. Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.
And then you're a player, and you don't even want to play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that's being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world. ~ Terence McKenna