Saturday, December 20, 2008

In the absence of good...

...evil prevails. I address this to those of you who believe that abstaining from the burden of moral decision-making is commendable, that fence-sitting is practical, that apathy is permissible: the side of good needs all the help it can get. There's no such thing as too much support for a moral idea. When you withdraw your support, you are leaving the way clear for the truly evil people to attack that idea, and try to tear it down. You think that because you abstained, you'll be spared the consequences. But the evildoers are often against you, too—perhaps it's because you're a woman, perhaps it's because you're a Westerner, perhaps it's because you work hard to make money—and against the foundations of the very culture that permits you the choice of abstaining, the Enlightened West.

By withdrawing your voice from the debate of principles you turn your back on the traditions of liberty that this culture enshrines and you pave the way for the brutality and abhorrence of institutions like Islam, Liberalism and Communism. At risk of quoting that too-oft quoted poem, "First they came...", I invite you to consider the world you tacitly promote: one in which nobody will speak up for you, as you always refused to speak up for them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Evil Corporations

A conversation with my father - a man whose sociopolitical views could hardly be more opposite to mine - highlighted very well a fundamental lack of reason so characteristic of those who say that corporations are evil.

Father: Cigarette companies just make their money off the backs of the helplessly addicted.
Me: Ha, ha! You're joking, right?
Father: Certainly not! Cigarettes are a chemical addiction.
Me: ...Yes, but you don't really think that cigarette manufacturers are motivated to produce on that basis.
Father: Smokers are completely addicted to cigarettes. It's that that keeps the money coming in for the cigarette manufacturers.
Me: Demand for cigarettes is cultural, though. It originates from a time before people knew that it was bad for you (and if I recall correctly, they thought it was actually beneficial).
Father: No. Smokers can't stop buying cigarettes, they're addictive.
Me: Yes, but they weren't addicted before they started smoking, were they?
Father: ...

I really never got an answer to that. Do people not think at all before saying things like this? It's the matter of seconds to realise that the demand for cigarettes can't possibly originate from the addiction (I won't get into the idiocy of implying that chemical addiction is somehow irreversible, or nearly irreversible, or even that it has any great power over people. Especially considering my father brags about how easy it was for him to give up smoking!), because the demand must exist before the addiction is created.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Law-Abiding Citizen

Quoting from a recent Samizdata post,

It is only people who behave suspiciously who should – and quite rightly deserve to – fear. That is the purpose of having ID cards!”
“Like my friends and acquaintances, I cannot understand how a law abiding citizen can object to the proposal or how they will limit or infringe my “civil liberties”.
- Unnamed members of the public quoted as endorsing the Home Office view
This reminds me of something Ayn Rand said, "The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws." Once your identity is known and recorded, it isn't going to change. Something like how nothing that is put on the internet ever comes off again. The same can't be said for the law. The phrase, "law-abiding citizen" does not contain any information about what "law-abiding" means. Giving a government power to change the law is good; how else would we be able to update it in light of new knowledge? Giving them both power to change the law, and one's own biometric data, is scary.

Not to mention: people who behave suspiciously? Let's just read that again. People who behave suspiciously deserve to fear. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?! Not people who do wrong, but people who look wrong? Did the person who wrote that have any idea what they were saying? Did they think before they began speaking? In this person's dream society, looking suspicious - which could mean anything; people are fallible! - is going to earn one a knock on the door at two in the morning. That is the purpose of having ID cards? Digusting.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The IT Crowd

A few days ago I overheard my father watching a TV comedy called "The IT Crowd". As far as I could gather, the main characters had just received some compensation money, and they were discussing how much they should give to a charitable cause that a third character had told them to donate to. The dialogue as I remember it went something like this:

A: How much do you think it's worth giving to ?
B: Well, under normal circumstances I'd say about a fiver, but considering that we've just come into all this money.... fifty quid?
A: ...Let's split the difference and call it a tenner, shall we?

I could say a lot of obvious things about how wicked this attitude is, about how they lack any standards for figuring out how much money IS appropriate to give, and about why it makes no sense for the amount of money that it's right to give to increase as they get richer. Instead, I'm just going to say one thing about it.

Look at how the show presumes that the Communist attitude is the right one. The joke is that character A is miserly. It just assumes that character B's attitude is the right, kind, nice one, and that the joke is on A for being unwilling to go along with A's Communism.

I don't think there's any big conspiracy here. It's just a bunch of light comedy writers making a joke (character A happened to be Irish, which made it quite funny). I'm not interested in spitting acid at the writers of The IT Crowd. I'm much more interested in the fact that this is an accepted belief right now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Higher Values

It is both dangerous and justificationist to aim for 'higher values' and seek to attain them. That way lies tyranny. One risks an imbalanced understanding of morality—those who do not also either seek or possess said higher values become evil, rather than no longer useful to you.

It is not moral to live one's life in incessant condemnation of evil. Disregard it, disrespect it and focus on improving yourself. One is not required to spit acid in order to demonstrate a thing as evil as it is, if that is what concerns you. "If a thing is truly good, it can be shown to be so" works in reverse. Bitterness and hatred are emotions, and they do not add anything to a good explanation of either the rationality of a good thing or the irrationality of an evil thing.

If one were to focus, not on attaining a given higher ideal, but on improving piecemeal and with no guide but reason, one would no longer be required to spend one's days in paroxyms of condemnation. One would no longer tend towards the tyranny of infallibilism. One's understanding and reason of an idea at a given moment in time—which is all we really have to guide us, anyway—may be used freely now to inform us of the most moral decisions to make.