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  • Archive for the 'Human Behavior' Category

    Across the Great Divide

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 7th May 2021 (All posts by )

    Peter Watson, The Great Divide: Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New (New York: Harper Perennial, 2013)

    As my reviews tend to do, this one will highlight some negatives, but which I will get out of the way early on. Peter Watson is a highly successful author and journalist who has rather more than dabbled in archaeology along the way. I am … somewhat less of an authority. Nonetheless, The Great Divide is kind of a mess, but one that ends up being sufficiently thought-provoking to be worth the effort.

    Fun stuff first—shout-out to Jim Bennett for recommending the book; and here are my ideas for relevant musical interludes while reading the following:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Book Notes, Christianity, Culture, History, Human Behavior, Immigration, Judaism, Latin America, North America, Personal Narrative, Religion, Russia, Society, Texas, USA | 45 Comments »

    “Believing Untrue Things”

    Posted by Jonathan on 3rd May 2021 (All posts by )

    AVI:

    Believing Untrue Things

    More Motives on Untrue Things

    Summary: People believe in the truth of ideas that don’t withstand even casual empirical scrutiny, e.g., that American police kill more black people than white people every year. Why do so many of us believe in and even defend vehemently the validity of bogus ideas when contrary evidence is easily found?

    You can find many examples of this kind of thing in Amazon reviews of controversial books such as Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean:

    5-Star Reviews

    1-Star Reviews

    The respective authors of the five-star and one-star reviews appear to inhabit separate factual universes. In one universe James Buchanan was a distinguished laissez-faire economist and originator of public-choice theory. In the other universe Buchanan, the Koch brothers and other prominent libertarians were members of a racist conspiracy. How can people on one side of a controversy remain ignorant about the other side’s arguments and even basic facts?

    AVI suggests possible explanations that are worth reading, as always. I think the main problem is the poor quality of our primary and secondary educational systems, particularly in the teaching of history, math and basic statistics. Another big problem is the ignorance of journalists who were educated in our lousy schools, and modern journalism’s clickbait business model that incentivizes the promotion of controversy and conflict even more than was the case back in Front Page days.

    Discuss.

    Posted in Book Notes, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, Systems Analysis | 23 Comments »

    Father and Jack: Conversation as Life Preserver

    Posted by Ginny on 1st May 2021 (All posts by )

    My grandsons wonder about life in the fifties, life in their mother’s mother’s village, state. So here’s a personal narrative. Each family was unique, but this does describe another time & place.

    Jack was one of my father’s friends, indeed his best and closest. And I’m pretty sure my father was Jack’s. A bit of a narcissist, still, he would sob about my father’s loss if we ran into him for years after my father died. I doubt the depth of sentimental drunks, but he thought the affection was real – for all I know it was. My father was moody; I suspect he always saw himself (as did those around him) as unfulfilled and unproductive. I brought home a boyfriend well on the way to being an expert in Italian medieval history; he was surprised my father wanted to talk about meta-history – what was true and what wasn’t about the great arcs. I wasn’t surprised my father wanted to talk about that – that was the kind of thing he liked. If your life is unmoored, you want to make sense of it. I suspect he spent some time wondering about those arcs – what was real and what wasn’t, what they meant. He had plenty of time to speculate and Jack was his companion. Conversation went late into the night, beginning when Jack showed up at our door.

    Neither Father nor Jack had much self-discipline, though a lack of self-discipline for those maturing in the dustbowl and enlisting in World War II, husbands and fathers in the fifties was not the immaturity of pajama boys living in their parents’ basements. My father felt some duty: to friends, town. And to tradition in a broad sense – it drove him and the Missouri Synod minster to start the Kenesaw Great Books Club, it made the Legion a social focus, kept him Presbyterian and Republican.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Crony Capitalism, Human Behavior, Lit Crit, Personal Narrative | 10 Comments »

    “Yom HaShoah and the importance of recognizing when the rules of the game have changed.”

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th April 2021 (All posts by )

    Worth reading.

    Sarah Hoyt summarizes:

    Not just the conviction that “it can’t happen here.” There is also the deep in-built certainty that tomorrow will be more or less like today, and the worst that can happen within relatively safe bounds. Even while everything is shifting against you. From Pompeii to Nazi Germany, from Alexander’s conquests to Communist Russia, the normalcy bias has killed more human beings than any other factor in history.

    See also Note 12 here.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History, Human Behavior | 42 Comments »

    A (partially successful) attempt at a reasoned response

    Posted by Ginny on 20th March 2021 (All posts by )

    to Harris/Biden in Atlanta on Friday. Or an exercise explaining Why I swear at the tv. Mid-way to rational thought, it is at least better than ***!!!###. Aside: Posting here is a great gift. Writing – like speech with others – forces us to use words. Our founders would use the word deliberate, to move from gut response to reason. Let’s begin with them for perspective:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . . “

    “Hate crimes” violate not only our laws but our core belief that in each (and all) is a divine spark, that is one way we are truly equal. However, “hate” for an individual or a random act of pointless violence is also hate. Inchoate anger is hardly virtuous. Haters choose the weak, the dependent, the isolated, the outlier; they want neither consequences nor pricks of conscience. “Knock out” punches throw the weak, the elderly, the unprepared to the ground and are often too random to easily assign blame; knowing society identifies less with such victims makes quick punishment less likely; an important distance comes from convincing one’s self such a victim is not “equal”, is not human – that stills the conscience.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, COVID-19, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Immigration, Politics, Texas, Tradeoffs | 59 Comments »

    To Disappear in Dreams

    Posted by David Foster on 6th March 2021 (All posts by )

    An article in Wired says: The future of virtual reality is far more than just video games. Silicon Valley sees the creation of virtual worlds as the ultimate free-market solution to a political problem. In a world of increasing wealth inequality, environmental disaster, and political instability, why not sell everyone a device that whisks them away to a virtual world free of pain and suffering?

    and quotes John Carmack,  Doom co-creator and the former CTO of Oculus:

    People react negatively to any talk of economics, but it is resource allocation. You have to make decisions about where things go. Economically, you can deliver a lot more value to a lot of people in the virtual sense.

    Actually, I doubt that there is any kind of tech-industry-wide conspiracy to cool the people out and keep them from revolting by enmeshing them into virtual worlds…mostly, this is just about making money and doing cool technical stuff…on the supply side that is.  On the demand site, it should be of more than a little concern that escapism is so important to so many.

    I’m reminded of some of the reactions when the movie Avatar came out.  CNN reported at the time:

    James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle “Avatar” may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.

    According to the article, there were more than 1000 posts to a forum for people trying to cope from the depression they experienced after seeing this film..and not being able to stay within it permanantly.

    Neptunus Lex responded: “Some folks don’t get the point. You have to come home when it’s over.”

    But we seem to have an increasing number of people who don’t want to come home when it’s over…who don’t want it to ever be over…but want to stay in that virtual world permanently.

    And, relatedly, there is also pharmaceutical-based escapism, legal or illegal.  Various forms of addiction, already at concerning levels, have risen considerably over the last year.  And, apparently, it has long been true that considerable numbers of people find an ordinary trip on an ordinary commercial airliner to be so stressful that they medicate themselves beforehand.

    In my 2010 post on the Avatar reactions, I said:

    I immediately thought of the old Chinese opium dens…which were largely inhabited by people whose lives were so miserable that their desire to disappear in dreams was entirely understandable.

    But what misery or bleakness are the would-be permanant habitués of the Avatar den seeking to escape?

    And this question can be extended to other types of addiction-dens, as well.

    The title of this post was inspired by a line in Tom Russell’s song Ambrose Larsen and another song on the same album, The Dreamin’.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Media, Society, Tech | 29 Comments »

    Helter Skelter Redux?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd February 2021 (All posts by )

    The stated aim of that murderous freak Charlie Manson and his deranged family of dropouts and druggies in committing the brutal slaughter of seven people in 1969 was to incite a race war. The murderers deliberately left bloody graffiti at the murder scenes, attempting to frame the Black Panthers – yet another set of murderous and equally racist freaks active in that period. In Manson’s twisted vision, the Tate-LaBianca murders would set off a brutal race war; black against white, in which whites would be enthusiastically genocided. During this mayhem Manson and his followers would hide out in a vast underground city. They would then emerge to take command over what remained of society. Manson was a particularly noxious racist, unsavory qualities which were veiled by the last putrid remnants of the hippie commune culture, which let his cult family fly under the social radar as it existed in the afterglow of the so-called “Summer of Love” in the formerly golden state of California. (Jim Jones was another one of those super-organized racist-cult freaks of the era, whose’ commune was slightly longer-lasting and successful, until suddenly it wasn’t. Yeah, a supposedly race-prejudice-free socialist commune, with a white leadership cadre and mostly dead black bodies when it all came crashing down some years later.) Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Crony Capitalism, History, Human Behavior, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Urban Issues, USA | 31 Comments »

    Belated Valentine’s Day

    Posted by Ginny on 18th February 2021 (All posts by )

    Without Wi-fi since Sunday, I’ve spent the last two hours going through e-mails and trying to catch up on Chicagoboyz. One e-mail was a Valentine’s Day greeting from a charming friend, whose later-in-life marriage and three children have been as deeply fulfilling as her scholarly career. She is often a contrarian in the bitter world of academia – partially because of the joy she finds in uniting these passions. So, here is an intro to her article, from a more casual forum than she usually chooses:

    As a chivalric literary historian who has studied the origins of the holiday, I find this [“for the birds”] a shame. When the notion of Valentine’s Day as a day for romance emerged in the 1380s it was all about love as a natural life force – birds choosing their mates, the freedom to choose or refuse love and the arrival of springtime. But even then many people did not understand or value these things. In fact, that is why it was invented.

    The first to write of Valentine’s Day – a feast day with ancient pagan roots – as a holiday celebrating love and lovers were the 14th-century English squire Geoffrey Chaucer and his friend, the internationally admired knight and poet Oton III de Granson, from Savoy in modern-day France. Both poets were recognized in their own time as chivalrous advocates for human rights. And in tandem, they seem to have concocted Valentine’s Day as a day for lovers.

    Chaucer and Granson encountered one another in the service of Richard II of England and admired one another’s poetry. Their poems about Valentine’s Day show them operating as an international chivalric team to address pressing issues in the theory and practice of love, then and now.

    Posted in Academia, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Diversions, Feminism, Human Behavior, Lit Crit, Poetry | 2 Comments »

    Degrees of Toxicity

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th February 2021 (All posts by )

    The Daughter Unit clued me in this week to a humongous ruckus which brewed among Air Force contributors to military-oriented discussion boards on Reddit – a ruckus which involves the current Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force – which for the laymen audience, means the very tippy-top enlisted, that singular and exemplary senior NCO who supposedly sits at the right hand of the highest military commanders in the land, to keep them appraised of the interests of the enlisted men and women. The Daughter Unit keeps track of this military ‘gen on a more regular basis than I do, as my two-decades long service was a good while ago, and I walked away from it all and constructed another life and long-term interests in writing, book-blogging and publishing. I will confess to some sentimental feelings for my service, as it provided me with a lot of fun, foreign travel, a decent paycheck and benefits (to include the pension and retirement benefits), a chance to hang out with some amazing people (as well as a soupcon of psychos, amiable freaks and the severely mal-adjusted), and a kind of mental grounding, even a rough sympathy when it comes to people who work for a living and get their hands dirty and their fingernails broken. But enough about me, and my not-particularly-rewarding career as an enlisted minion, toiling away in the bowels of the mighty military public affairs machine some two- or three-decades past.

    The office of the Chief Master Sergeant of any service is a huge thing, in all the military forces: the name of the current Chief-Master-Whatever is one of the things military recruits to whatever branch are expected to know and recite on demand when in Basic Training. General officers there are, in legions, and the multi-stars roost en masse like grackles in the highest levels of command – but there is only one Chief Enlisted, for all four (five counting the Coast Guard) military services. This one – CMSAF JoAnne Bass – is the first female to take up that exalted office for any of the services. I wish her the best luck in the world. When I began serving, there weren’t but a bare half-dozen of female senior enlisteds in the Air Force, and a fair number of the junior enlisted that I served with were the first or second females in certain traditionally male specialties which had just been opened to females. Unfortunately, as things are shaping up in the first months of her tour of duty, Chief Bass had better buckle in, as it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy flight. She put her foot wrong, straight off the bat, when a young NCO (innocently, or perhaps not so innocently) inquired on the CMSAF’s FB page as to how her last name was pronounced – like the fish or the musical instrument?    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Conservatism, Current Events, History, Human Behavior, Military Affairs, National Security, Personal Narrative, Predictions, Trump, War and Peace | 30 Comments »

    Narrowing Horizons

    Posted by David Foster on 31st January 2021 (All posts by )

    William Shirer, on his experiences in Germany during the early Nazi era:

    I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a café, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for the truth, said they were.

    Even though Shirer had plenty of access to outside news and information sources, and was well aware of Nazi lies, he still found it difficult to escape psychologically from the effects of the stiflingly-constrained information environment.

    Many of us have wondered how intelligent people–some of whom we may know personally–can fall so completely under the spell of the Democrat worldview, as it exists in its present ‘woke’ state…a worldview which is replete with ‘the most outlandish assertions,’ to use Shirer’s phrase.  But consider: if one gets one’s news from CNN, MSNBC, and even the traditional networks, and from newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times and their imitators…and one’s entertainment from mainstream movies and musical groups…and one works for a company, university, or ‘nonprofit’…then one is living within a highly uniform information and opinion environment. Yes, you might be exposed to the occasional dissident opinion on social media or directly from friends and acquaintances, but you will develop ‘antibodies’, inculcated by the approved sources, which lead you to dismiss such opinions as conspiracy theories, brainwashing by Trump, or something similar.

    It is, of course, much easier to find dissenting voices in 2021 America than it was in the time and place of which Shirer wrote.  (Shirer does say that ‘in those days, in the Thirties, a German listener could still tune his dial to a score of foreign radio stations’ without taking much risk…but most didn’t, evidently, or chose to disbelieve what they heard from outside sources.)

    The psychological drive to conform reinforces the controlled information environment and discourages explorations outside of it.  In my post Oxytocin and Conformity, I cited some research on how the ‘cuddling and belonging’ hormone oxytocin affects public and private conformity, and recalled one of the episodes of the TV series The World at War in which a German man spoke about the temptation to conform.  He had been strongly anti-Nazi, but admitted that he had felt a strong emotional pull to join the rallies and be a part of the the movement.  (He said it much more eloquently than the foregoing sentence would suggest)  I also cited a blog post whose author, after critiquing the craziness of the extreme “progressives,”  went on to say:

    I’m going to be very real with you for a moment, and take off my hat has a blogger, an author, and whatever else I may be, and just speak to you as a man.

    This could have been me.

    Does that surprise you? There was a time I skirted so close to falling under this spell, it would shock you. I felt the guilt, the social pressure, the desire for conformity. Despite the terrible weight such ideology carries on the mind, it is absurdly easy to fall into it. Every day we are assaulted by the agitprop. It is so easy to just say “yes, it’s all my fault, I will submit and obey.”

    It will bring momentary relief, because you will no longer have to fight a narrative that is bombarded upon you 24 hours a day. That mental effort is, itself, rather exhausting on the mind. But if you accept the chains, that is a far greater weight, one that will destroy you. The chains are seductive. They call, because of the enormous weight of social power behind them.

    The pressure is both great and subtle. Imagine a conversation about the weather, innocent enough on its own. A friend might say “wow, that global warming sure is kicking in today!” You’ve a few choices here. You can challenge him, but the immediate counter is likely to be something like “well, 99% of scientists agree, sooooo….” The implication, of course, is that you are stupid for disagreeing with 99% of scientists (whether or not there is any truth to that claim, either). You could remain silent because it’s easier. Or you could just give in, regardless of the truth of the matter, because it’s easiest. Meanwhile, if you counter your friend successfully, you may be down a friend by the end of the night.

    So whether or not a lot of folks believe this thing, soon consensus is reached, as much to peer pressure as anything else. Then it is, further, easier to agree on welfare, tax policy, affirmative action, black lives matter, social justice, etc… Each one has a superficial rhetorical argument which sounds nice, and which has enormous media programming and social pressure behind it.

    A thousand such chats happen every day, both in the real world, and the social media world. The sum total of which is designed to move you, via peer pressure and Weaponized Empathy, toward self-hatred, and intense personal guilt for things which you neither did, nor were capable of preventing.

    Soon a man might find himself agreeing with lunatic propositions that all Republicans are literal Nazis, and Donald Trump is worse than Hitler because… well, nobody really knows the reasons.

    Submission is always the easier short-term choice. Long-term, however, it just destroys a man’s soul.

    I am not asserting that the present-day Democrat belief system is identical to Naziism (although there are indeed some disturbing similarities as well as differences), or that the control of the information environment is as tight as what existed in mid-1930s Germany…but still, when you step back and look at all the ways in which a consistent worldview is being promulgated and views from outside that worldview are being suppressed, then the information horizons–especially for those people who don’t have a particularly strong need to think for themselves or willingness to challenge accepted beliefs–are narrowing at a pretty frightening rate.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Science, Society, USA | 52 Comments »

    Smashing the State

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 9th January 2021 (All posts by )

    There won’t be any surprises in this one for anyone who knows me at all well, but I’ll try to at least make it entertaining.

    My very first lasting memory of a news event with political content took place on the afternoon of Sunday 21 January 1968. A B-52 with four hydrogen bombs aboard took off from Thule AFB and crashed somewhere in the Arctic, location unknown.
    Ten days later, the Tet Offensive began.
    Nine weeks and one day after that, Dr King was assassinated.
    Nine weeks less one day after that, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.
    Twelve weeks to the day after that, I first saw real human blood shed live on television via cameras above the intersection of Michigan and Balbo as the Chicago police attacked demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention.

    I was eight years old.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Big Government, Book Notes, Chicagoania, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Libertarianism, Management, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 42 Comments »

    Book Review: Year of Consent, by Kendell Foster Crossen

    Posted by David Foster on 5th January 2021 (All posts by )

    Year of Consent, by Kendell Foster Crossen

    —-

    This is a pulp SF novel from 1954, which has uncomfortable relevance to our present era.

    The story is set in the then-future year of 1990.  The United States is still nominally a democracy, but the real power lies with the social engineers…sophisticated advertising & PR men…who use psychological methods to persuade people that they really want what they are supposed to want.  (Prefiguring “nudging”)  The social engineers are aided in their tasks by a giant computer called Sociac (500,000 vacuum tubes! 860,000 relays!) and colloquially known as ‘Herbie.’  The political system now in place is called Democratic Rule by Consent.  While the US still has a President, he is a figurehead and the administration of the country is actually done by the General Manager of the United States….who himself serves at the pleasure of the social engineers.  The social engineers work in a department called ‘Communications’, which most people believe is limited to such benign tasks as keeping the telephones and the television stations in operation.  Actually, its main function is the carrying out of influence operations.

    One approach involves the publishing of novels which are fictional, but carry implicit social and/or political messages…via, for example, the beliefs and affiliations of the bad guys versus the good guys. Even the structure of novels is managed for messaging reasons: romance-story plots should not be boy gets girl…loses girl…gets girl back, but rather boy gets girl, loses girl, gets different girl who is really right for him.

    Some methods are more direct, although their real objectives are not stated.  One such objective is population control: If the fertility rate is running a little low, advertising is ramped up for a pill called Glamorenes, which are said to create the “rounded, glamorous figure of a TV star…remember–it’s Glamorenes for glamor.”  Actually, the real function of Glamorenes, which is top secret, is to increase a woman’s sex drive and expand the fertility window.  On the other hand, if the birth rate is running too high, the ad emphasis switches to Slimettes for women and Vigorone for men, both of which have a contraceptive effect.  The book’s protagonist, Gerald Leeds, is one of the few who is in on the secret, and when he hears a Glamorenes ad, he realizes that this is the real reason why his girlfriend, Nancy, has been acting especially affectionate lately.

    Few people, even at the highest levels of government, realize just how powerful the Communications Department really is.  “Even the biggest wheels only know part of it.  They think the Communications Administrative Department exists to help them–and not the other way around.”

    The computer known as Sociac (‘Herby’) accumulates vast amounts of data on individuals, including such things as shopping, dining, and vacation preferences. “Thus, when the administration wanted to make a new move, they knew exactly how to condition the people so that it would be backed. Or they knew exactly what sort of man to put up to win a popular election.” Telephone calls are tapped, but are rarely listened to directly by government agents; rather, they are fed directly to “a calculator” (perhaps a front-end to Herbie) and added to “the huge stock of intimate knowledge about the people.”

    Those individuals who resist the conditioning and are found to hold unapproved opinions–or find themselves to hold unapproved opinions–are said to have “communications blocks,” and good citizens will act on their own to request treatment for such blocks. The first level of treatment is the Psychotherapy Calculator, an interactive system which will help the patient change any objectionable opinions and behavior.  But in some cases, the PC determines that stronger methods are necessary, and in those cases, the patient is referred for a lobotomy.  The escorting of patients for mandatory psychotherapy and lobotomy procedures is done by a white-uniformed police force known as the Clinic Squad.

    Citizens are, of course, expected to report any instances of unapproved beliefs or actions.  When the protagonist’s girlfriend Nancy overhears one of her colleagues expressing sympathy for a man who is in serious trouble, she reports the girl immediately. (“For the moment I disliked Nancy,” says Gerald.  “Then I felt sorry for her.”)  Nancy herself is concerned that there may be something wrong with her, and has considered reporting herself for voluntary automated psychotherapy.  “If I did have (something wrong with her), I’d want to be purged of it quickly before it could make me do something awful like that poor Mr Shell”…Gerald notes that her hand was shaking as she lifted her glass to finish the drink.

    Gerald, the protagonist, works within the Communications Department…unknown to his superiors, he is a member of a resistance organization which aims to overthrow the existing system of government and to restore individual liberty. He must feign agreement when his immediate boss talks about how wonderful the system is and how misguided are those who oppose it:

    Never has there been more freedom anywhere than in America today.  We’ve done away with police and even prisons.  Crime has been almost wiped out since we recognized it as a social disease.  We’ve done away with poverty. There are fewer restrictions on people than ever before in the history of mankind.  For the first time they’re really free.

    Gerald reflects:

    Even if it hadn’t been dangerous, I wouldn’t have argued with him.  He believed what he was saying. His faith was the faith of a Torquemada backed by science.  There was no way to make him see that the social engineers had taken away only one freedom, but that it was the ultimate freedom–the right to choose.  Everything…was decided for them and then they were conditioned to want it.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Russia, Tech, USA | 16 Comments »

    Undeceptions Series

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 14th December 2020 (All posts by )

    C.S.Lewis wrote about self-deception throughout his career. It was his belief that the illusions we embraced did not only damage us spiritually, but impaired our ability to reason. Under the influence of personally convenient myths, we gradually can no longer even know simple things. Ideas which appear at first glance to be intellectual errors are revealed under examination to be something more emotional, more spiritual, more psychological. When I first began reading him I recognised not only the errors of others, but very quickly, favorite little theories of mine that were exploded in a minute under the force of his logic. His logic is a force, yes. Not always pleasant, but often profitable. In my twenties I considered it a challenge to my courage whether I would pick up another of his books.

    Enjoyable, though. Fun, even, and quite quotable. You can use him to expose the ideas of others even if you have an ability to dart sideways yourself.

    Not everyone here is a fan of Lewis, so I have no intention of cluttering up the front page here with a series of essays on him. However, I do link to the whole group for those who have interest.

    1. Undeceptions 

    2. Undeceptions II – Biographical Notes 

    3. Self-Deception 

    4. Undeceptions III 

    5. Undeceptions IV – The Ransom Trilogy and The Great Divorce

    6. Undeceptions V 

    7. Undeceptions VI – Till We Have Faces 

    8. That Hideous Strength.  Not actually part of the series but added in for convenience

    9. Self-Deception Anecdote. A later addition.

    Posted in Human Behavior | 4 Comments »

    Reopening — III (Theory ∧ Practice)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 27th November 2020 (All posts by )

    “We should act incrementally as prudent risk minimizers and pursue any effective no-regrets options. We do not have to wait for the formulation and acceptance of grand strategies, for the emergence of global consensual understanding, or for the universal adoption of more rational approaches.”

    — Vaclav Smil (Global Catastrophes and Trends: the Next Fifty Years)

    This post is an attempt at synthesis; those just grazing in (Midwesterners don’t surf) are directed to Reopening — I (Practice) and Reopening — II (Theory) for accounts of my earlier action and contemplation, respectively. For my third installment, I can do no better than lead off with a quadrant diagram of my own devising:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Bioethics, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Human Behavior, Management, Medicine, Miscellaneous, Science, Tech, Tradeoffs, USA | 28 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading and Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 26th November 2020 (All posts by )

    It’s been a while since I posted a link collection, so here are quite a few…

    The highest-resolution snowflake photos ever captured.  

    The real kind of snowflakes, not the metaphorical kind.

    Stella’s best leaf jumps of all time.

    A lot of enthusiasm

    Spot, the Robot Dog, goes to work on an oil rig.

    Bet Spot can’t do what Stella can do.

    The recent discussion of port congestion reminded me of this very interesting website, which shows the world’s maritime traffic in real time or very close to same.

    And on a more somber note:  November 10 marked the 45th anniversary of the Great Lakes ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald, an event memorialized in song by Gordon Lightfoot.

    Still on the subject of transportation: the implementation of Positive Traffic Control for US railroads, which has been a huge and complex project, is almost complete.

    I’m not sure that this mandate really represented the best possible safety-return-on-investment for the money expended.

    Turkish trash collectors built a library for abandoned books.

    Visiting cards and actual visits, as a Facebook equivalent in 1800s Russia.

    Reminds me of a passage in one of Fielding’s novels, in which a woman takes great pleasure in going through the visiting cards of people who called on her, which made me immediately think of like-collecting of Facebook.

     

     

     

     

    Posted in Dogs, Human Behavior, Photos, Russia, Tech, Transportation | 3 Comments »

    Advanced Degrees and Deep Resentments

    Posted by David Foster on 24th November 2020 (All posts by )

    The Assistant Village Idiot links an Economist article and summarizes:

    People with advanced degrees who are not prospering are often deeply resentful, certain that something must be wrong with “The System”*. I have worked with them for years, MSWs who believe that in a just world they would be entitled to the salaries that other people with their number of years of education get.  Other measurements, such as relative value to society, difficulty of the task, level of risk, and the like do not factor in…That they may have been lied to by the educational establishment or their upper-middle-class expectations (“For a good job, get a good education”), that they may have made poor economic decisions due to Following Their Dreams™, or that they may have chosen one of the easiest of Master’s degrees to pursue does not occur to them. It is largely political, cultural, and attitude training.  

    I don’t like the title of the Economist piece…”Can too many brainy people be a dangerous thing?”…which confuses intelligence with credentialism, but I think the point about highly-degreed and resentful people is spot-on.  I was reminded of a comment by Francis Bacon, who wrote 400 years ago that that one cause of mutiny and sedition in any polity is breeding more scholars than preferment can take off.

    And 50 years ago, Peter Drucker noted that:

    Individually he (the knowledge worker) is an “employee”…but the knowledge worker sees himself as just another “professional,” no different from the lawyer, the teacher, the preacher, the doctor, the government servant of yesterday.  He has the same education. He has more income. He has probably greater opportunities as well…This hidden conflict between the knowledge worker’s view of himself as a “professional” and the social reality in which he is the upgraded and well-paid successor to the skilled worker of yesterday underlies the disenchantment of so many highly educated young people with the jobs available to them.

    Drucker was talking about people who are frustrated by their lack of status even though they are well-paid, as with the Silicon Valley protestor who complained that ‘tech workers are workers, no matter how much money they make.’  As I said in my post TechnoProletarians, as any field becomes a mass employer, it is likely that a substantial number of the people working in that field will feel that they are not getting the high status and rewards that they should have.  And the frustrations about which Drucker writes are surely greatly exacerbated when large numbers of people in a field are concentrated in the same geographical area.

    And these frustrations are become extreme when the ‘knowledge workers’ in question are not highly paid…PhD-holders working as low-paid adjunct professors with no real hope of promotion, for example, or increasingly, tech workers facing downward salary pressures from H1B visa holders and the offshoring of programming work.

    The media and authority figures that these individuals were exposed to them in their formative years were almost unanimous in the view that get a good college credential and everything else will pretty much take care of itself.  Consider this poster:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism | 32 Comments »

    Learning from Experience, Not

    Posted by David Foster on 21st November 2020 (All posts by )

    A high-school friend had a father who worked in a factory.  He had a story…it seems there was this guy who got his left arm caught in one of the machines and horribly mangled.  He was out for months, and when he came back, the other workers crowded around him, asking “How did it happen?”

    “Like this,” he said, demonstrating with the other arm.

    Maybe just a made-up story…but I’m reminded of it a lot, these days.

    We have a century of evidence of what happens to a society when it falls into the traps of centralized economic planning, suppression of free speech, and the categorization of people–especially ethnic categorization.  But an awful lot of people, including powerful and influential people, seem to want to go in these directions.

    I can have some sympathy for people who became Communists and/or advocates of world government back in the 1920s.  The theory of centralized economic planning is very seductive (see this, for the actual practice), and the slaughter of the First World War led people to grasp at any possible way of avoiding such horrors in the future.

    I have a lot less sympathy for people who have refused to learn from a century of experience.

    In Walter Miller’s great novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, a global nuclear was has devastated everything.  Over a period of centuries, civilization has been gradually rebuilt…and, once again, nuclear war threatens.  The abbot of a monastery speaks plaintively:

    …“Brothers, let us not assume that there is going to be war…We all know what could happen, if there’s war.  The genetic festering is still with us from the last time Man tried to eradicate himself.  Back then, in the Saint Leibowitz’ time, maybe they didn’t know what would happen.  Or perhaps they did know, but could not quite believe it until they tried it—like a child who knows what a loaded pistol is supposed to do but who never pulled a trigger before.  They had not yet seen a billion corpses.  They had not seen the still-born, the monstrous, the dehumanized, the blind.  They had not yet seen the madness and the murder and the blotting out of reason.  Then they did it, and then they saw it.”

    “Now—now the princes, the presidents, the praesidiums, not they know—with dead certainty.  They can know it by the children they beget and send to asylums for the deformed.  They know it, and they’ve kept the peace.  Not Christ’s peace, certainly, but peace, until lately—with only two warlike incidents in as many centuries.  Now they have the bitter certainty.  My sons, they cannot do it again.  Only a race of madmen could do it again—”

    And we today, know, with what should be dead certainty, where Communist and Fascist approaches to the organization of society lead.  We have seen the hundreds of million corpses, the suppression of spirit, the needless impoverishment.  Surely, only a race of madmen could do it again…

    Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, Human Behavior, Leftism | 37 Comments »

    Did the Computers Report or Structure Voting Results?

    Posted by Ginny on 17th November 2020 (All posts by )

    My brother sent this link to three engineers from three different party backgrounds who have examined the patterns in Michigan precincts. They seem quite sure that an algorithm has been applied to the precincts that were more heavily Republican; the pattern in these precincts are remarkably similar. They seem to have had some experience not only with computers but with voting machines (one is an election commissioner and another had run for office).

    I remember my awe years ago at Shannon Love’s analysis of arguments in the Lancet and how interesting and insightful his analysis was. I have learned nothing since then, so can’t judge these men’s methods but their graphs do appear to make their points – ones that fit my intuitions but perhaps it is merely my hopes.

    I would like to know what the many more knowledgeable people here think about their presentation; it is longish and could be smoother, but I’m thankful for their effort to reach people like me and found it absorbing.

    Posted in Elections, Human Behavior, Politics, Statistics | 47 Comments »

    American Weimar or American Habsburg?

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd November 2020 (All posts by )

    Aaron Sibarium has an interesting article on the Weimarization of America thru the normalization of political violence and intimidation…it is a trend I’ve raised concerns about in the past, for example, here:  The United States of Weimar?  An article by Dominic Green, though, argues that Weimar is less of a threatening precedent for American today than is the Habsburg monarchy of Austria-Hungary:

    The Habsburg monarchy was riven with ethnic division, but:

    Where the Hapsburgs had nationalism, we have ‘identity’. Like the Hapsburgs, we have racialized nationalism within an imperial framework. The result is what English-speakers call ‘Balkanization’. You need only look at the history of the Balkans in the half-century before 1914 to see where our current path leads.

    I was reminded of a quote from historian AJP Taylor:

    The appointment of every school teacher, of every railway porter, of every hospital doctor, of every tax-collector, was a signal for national struggle. Besides, private industry looked to the state for aid from tariffs and subsidies; these, in every country, produce ‘log-rolling,’ and nationalism offered an added lever with which to shift the logs. German industries demanded state aid to preserve their privileged position; Czech industries demanded state aid to redress the inequalities of the past. The first generation of national rivals had been the products of universities and fought for appointment at the highest professional level: their disputes concerned only a few hundred state jobs. The generation which followed them was the result of universal elementary education and fought for the trivial state employment which existed in every village; hence the more popular national conflicts at the turn of the century.

    Taylor also noted that the ethnic conflicts were exacerbated by the government dominance of economic life. “There were no private schools or hospitals, no independent universities; and the state, in its infinite paternalism, performed a variety of services from veterinary surgery to the inspecting of buildings.” The present-day US doesn’t have that level of government dominance, certainly, but the degree to which many nominally-private activities are now government-funded (universities, healthcare)–combined with the extreme politicization of everything from coffee to football–is helping to drive those same behaviors of intergroup squabbling.

    Also from Dominic Green:

    Above all, the typical affluent young American, the sort who in a more stable time might have thrown in his or her lot with the bureaucracy or a management job in the Mittelstand, the corporate heart of the economy, now resembles no literary figure so much as Ulrich, the protagonist of Robert Musil’s 1913 novel The Man Without Qualities.

    Ulrich is a forerunner of our college-educated millennials: morally enfeebled, sexually frustrated, professionally stunted. He has acquired enough sophistication to see through the forms of politics and social life — ‘critical thinking’, as the imposters of our schools call it — but not enough conviction to act in a way that might improve his life by bringing him into authentic contact with ‘reality’, which he knows is somewhere out there but cannot touch.

    I’m reminded of some comments by the deposed German Kaiser and by the writer Goethe, 94 years apart…not sure how directly relevant these points were to the Austria-Hungary of the time, but they are relevant to America today:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Education, Europe, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Leftism, Society, USA | 16 Comments »

    Apropos of nothing, really: The Browder Boys

    Posted by Ginny on 31st October 2020 (All posts by )

    Jay Nordlinger’s National Review article has stuck in my mind – an interesting family history of curious (in both senses) people and how complicated man and his loves and choices are. I know nothing about math and little about American communists, who seemed (and seem) to me quite foreign.

    But the Browders were broad in their abilities: perhaps the effect on of Russia and America, communism and western values, might draw observations, especially if readers are more familiar than I with their lives. Bill Browder “goes around the world campaigning for “Magnitsky acts” — laws in honor of the murdered lawyer” who had represented him, battling Putin who was behind Magnitsky’s persecution and death. His grandfather is probably not a familiar name today, but he represented the Communist Party in America for decades and was famous for what we may (I’m sure my parents who were more his contemporaries would) see as absurd, the concise argument: “Communism is 20th-century Americanism.” The generation between – three sons – were remarkable American mathematicians.

    The complexity of human nature? What we learn from our parents and what we believe and how we rebel? How remarkable talents are handed down and how some families are able to cultivate those talents? How math can deliver real answers and politics become fuzzy as consequences, empirical evidence, is ignored? Oh, well, at least this may entertain as we await Tuesday’s verdict on our culture – perhaps a temporary one but important nonetheless.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Business, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, National Security, Political Philosophy, Science | 11 Comments »

    Is Free Speech Too Exhausting?

    Posted by David Foster on 25th October 2020 (All posts by )

    A group of Duke Law students, demanding the disinvitation of visiting speaker, used the phrase ‘we are tired.’  Jonathan Turley remarks:

    Those three words sum up a great deal of the anti-free speech movement growing on our campuses. Students and faculty have grown tired of free speech. Opposing views are now treated as threats and intolerable for students.

    It does seem that a lot of people these days–especially, perhaps, people of college age–find it incredibly wearying and even threatening to be presented with any views that contradict their own.  Reading the above, I was immediately reminded of a remark that a young woman made (to writer Ida Wylie) during the Nazi era:

    We Germans are so happy.  We are free from freedom”

    There definitely seems to be a reaction against free expression going on in America today…how strong it is and how deep it goes remains to be seen.  But as one indicator, a survey by YouGov shows that 43% of those who identify as Liberals favor firing an executive who *privately* donated money to Trump, and 22% of those who identify as Conservatives favor firing an executive who privately donated to Biden…the numbers are 50% and 36% for *strong* liberals and conservatives respectively.

    What are the causes for the apparently-growing hostility toward free speech in the US?  Part of it, perhaps, is a hankering for security.  David Brooks suggests that:

    The values of the Millennial and Gen Z generations that will dominate in the years ahead are the opposite of Boomer values: not liberation, but security; not freedom, but equality; not individualism, but the safety of the collective; not sink-or-swim meritocracy, but promotion on the basis of social justice…Distrustful people try to make themselves invulnerable, armour themselves up in a sour attempt to feel safe… start to see threats that aren’t there.

    I’m not generally much of a fan of Brooks’ analyses and conclusion, but even a stopped (analog) clock is right twice a day.  Perhaps he has a valid point here?

    Another factor, I suspect, is changes in family structure.  Kids who are put in a day-care situation at a very early age may develop a lifelong or at least long-term tendency to identify with the group…whatever that group might be…more than those who are raised in a traditional family situation, and especially so if there is only one parent in the home.  As one data point, here’s an interesting article by someone who was raised in a collective situation in an early Israeli kibbutz.

    And perhaps the threats and realities of Islamic terrorism have also had an influence…for 20 years now, there has been a constant (if low-level) sense that ‘if you say anything that the radical Islamists don’t like, they may kill you.’  Has this led to a habit of speech-guarding that has been generalized into many aspects of life?

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Israel, USA | 38 Comments »

    The Politicization of Yelp

    Posted by Ginny on 14th October 2020 (All posts by )

    I noted recently the steps of twentieth century nations toward the abyss of totalitarianism; these were summed up in a Firing Line conversation with Richard Pipes.

    First, clear the stage for a one party state, then give omnipotent power within the state to the political police, and finally enforce that power with deadly terror and “re-education” camps.

    The last decades revealed the United States is not immune to the use of “political police” when the swamp – bureaucracy, media – is aligned with the executive, breeding a “one party state” (whether of city, state or country): governmental oppression of Tea Party and religious groups – using the great power of the IRS as well as EPA, OSHA, etc. – or arresting a hapless filmmaker after Benghazi, etc. Power changed, and the Russia hoax demonstrated swamp power alone could baffle and thwart executive and legislative power, leaving them at the mercy of institutions they theoretically led and funded.

    Then, in the petri dish of covid isolation and a presidential election summer, “woke” power grew. A friend e-mailed Yelp’s classification punishment for establishments bucking Portland’s politics. The service seemed useful if easily weighted, but some anarchists perceptively saw its potential as a map to bring the unwoke into line through violence. Clearly Rioters Trash Portland. . . But Black Owner Just Got the Last Word was the logical consequence. Of course, Yelp, as many grander and prouder institutions before it, lost credibility – but that was intended. Only the party, eventually, remains. Still, real men, real Americans, lead:

    But Jackson will have the last word. Not only are people of good will planning to eat at his restaurant as never before, but he told Fox News that the attack “solidified my Trump vote. I’m done with this weakness and we need some real strong leadership.”

    However the next paragraph is also telling; men like Jackson are fewer as the models and narratives that give us courage are destroyed as well:

    Day of Ragers also targeted the Oregon Historical Society, bashing windows and ripping out several historical items, leaving them trashed on the street.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Education, Elections, Human Behavior, Libertarianism, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 4 Comments »

    Worthwhile Watching

    Posted by David Foster on 14th October 2020 (All posts by )

    A thoughtful video in which a young woman (who first worked as a teacher and later as a nurse) explains her reasons for walking away from the Democratic Party. Long, but interesting.

    1.4 million views and 32,000 subscribers so far.

    Posted in Conservatism, Education, Elections, Health Care, Human Behavior, Leftism, Video | 4 Comments »

    Paint it Black

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th September 2020 (All posts by )

    Well, if this isn’t a good reason for a grad student passionately interested in English literature – meaning the study of classic literature written in English (starting with Beowulf and running all the way to Tom Stoppard) to avoid the U of Chicago and embrace a program of self-education then I don’t know what is. It’s akin to being invited to a grand, lavish multi-course banquet and then only allowed a single tiny plate of hors d oeuvres. Which you must consume, and praise lavishly, and not even consider looking over at the main course. Or for another comparison – be fascinated by American pop music all through the 20th century, and then only be permitted to specialize in Motown. Because … reasons. Anyone fascinated by Chaucer or Tin Pan Alley is just plain out of luck, because of systemic racism, and overwhelming whiteness of the culture and the stain of slavery, et cetera, which is usually the reason given. Frankly, I think it’s just momentarily fashionable to Paint everything Black. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 30 Comments »

    “We Live Here Together” – Comments?

    Posted by Ginny on 26th September 2020 (All posts by )

    Executive Order on Combating Race & Sex Stereotyping

    A taste

    Context: “From the battlefield of Gettysburg to the bus boycott in Montgomery and the Selma-to-Montgomery Marches, heroic Americans have valiantly risked their lives to ensure that their children would grow up in a Nation living out its creed, expressed in the Declaration of Independence.”

    Descriptions of critical race theory workshops subsidized by the government.

    Its position:

    But training like that discussed above perpetuates racial stereotypes and division and can use subtle coercive pressure to ensure conformity of viewpoint. Such ideas may be fashionable in the academy, but they have no place in programs and activities supported by Federal taxpayer dollars. Research also suggests that blame-focused diversity training reinforces biases and decreases opportunities for minorities.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Anti-Americanism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Human Behavior, Politics | 15 Comments »