There’s a debate between me and another guy. I would appreciate very much if you would watch the video and give me your support (I’m Pro, meaning Pro for the argument that rights pre-exist).
Now, I don’t actually believe that, which made the debate challenging. Rights don’t exist. They’re human-created fictions. That’s self-evident, because “rights” exist nowhere in nature. Yet it was the side I disagreed with least, and, because I have terrible luck, Qallout chose it for my debut. I think I did the best I could, but at the end of the day there aren’t many ways to argue for something that you know logically isn’t true.
I should have won the debate, for these reasons.
First, Con explicitly admitted twice that government does not create rights. He explicitly admitted twice that, at most, they violate one person’s rights and transfer them to someone else. This is literally not a creation of rights. None of the other discussion matters; Con made this statement twice. Twice he pointed out that government restricting a person’s right to free travel is a violation of their rights. I rightly pointed out that, in order for this to be true, then there must already have been something there for the government to violate.
Your votes would be greatly appreciated. There’s money on the line, and it would make moving to New Hampshire even easier.
It’s not my best debate. Check out the debate with Matt Kuehnel if you want to see me actually arguing rationally and logically. But when you rationally know your position is wrong (just less wrong than the other side’s, because it’s not “government” that creates rights but power–and you’ll see me in the debate trip up on this because I agree with it, and he said it offhandedly… For fuck’s sake, “Beyond Words & Labels” is about precisely that, you know?), you don’t have many good ways to make an argument. The tautology argument (because we did define “rights” to mean “innate”), the loose logical argument of the fact that there was no government to grant the founders the “right” to rebel… In fact, I’m kinda agitated now, because Con also explicitly admitted that no government gave the founders the right to rebel. So where did it come from?
Your votes would be greatly appreciated. And your shares. Not just to help me win, but to spread the word and help shatter the notion that government grants rights. Even Con admitted that they don’t.
It was years ago that I sat down to evaluate and rebut Matt Slick’s modified Cosmological Argument for the existence of a deity–a common Transcendental Argument for the existence of God, although modified slightly so that Slick took the “existence” of the Logical Absolutes, and the alleged characteristic of “transcendence,” and attempted to hold them up as proof that a deity exists. In that paper, I pointed out that Slick’s primary mistake was in misunderstanding the nature of the Logical Absolutes, because they are not things with existence; they are events, or, to be more specific, they are extrapolations of events into generalized form.
The easiest way to explain this is to take the first of the three Logical Absolutes–that something is what it is, and is not what it is not–and to say that “A tree is a tree.” It may seem a silly statement to the uninitiated, but the tautological nature of this statement forms the very basis of all possible knowledge; it is neither trivial nor silly. Before we can “know” anything, we must establish the parameters by which we can know things, and this is the purpose of the Logical Absolutes.
Anyway, “tautologies are true” is essentially the first of the three, which itself is a tautology and presumed to be truth only if it is already true. If tautologies were not true, then our tautology that “Tautologies are true” could not be true, and we end up with a logical paradox. We’ll come back to this.
It’s not because of any transcendent property of nature or reality that we would say that “A tree is a tree,” and it’s not an existent thing that allows us to make that assessment. It is an observation of an event–the verbiage should be instant giveaways. “Is,” after all, is a verb, and it means that something is presently engaged in being or doing something. The statement “A tree is a tree” is shorthand for saying “A tree is presently engaged in the act of being a tree.” We could ask, if we wanted, whether it was possible for the tree to be engaged in the act of being anything else, and that is where the Logical Absolutes come into play, but prior to that it’s nothing but the observation of a subjective being.
Whether the tree is actually engaged in the act of being a tree cannot be ascertained. To make this a statement of “truth,” we would need to modify it further, such that we’d say, “It appears that the tree is presently engaged in the act of being a tree.”
However, such a statement contains its own ellipsis, just as the initial one did. “It appears to me that the tree is presently engaged in the act of being a tree,” is what the sentence actually says, once we remove those banes of non-native English speakers that make grasping the language so difficult. This is because English often assumes one perspective or another, and hides the assumption in an ellipsis that the average native English speaker isn’t even aware of. Quite literally, they are unaware of the assumptions they are making, because the language of expression provides the means by which they can hide their own assumptions away from themselves and instead claim to be Heralds of the One True Value System.
And yet, what did we say? What were the words we initially used to express this sentiment?
“A tree is a tree.”
The English language is so full of self-deceit. The only way to begin to think freely and without this self-deception is to think in concepts rather than the words we use to (allegedly) represent those concepts. Language is infinitely valuable for communication, when it is built on the basis of the Logical Absolutes, which thereby allows us to agree that when we say “tree” we are both referring to the same thing, which is itself. But the language is only useful if the word “tree” actually calls up in your mind the essence of a tree. If you instead picture a flying fish, then communication is impossible, and one or the both of us is engaged in considerable self-deceit or a butchering of the shared medium of communication.
As always, it’s important to remember that we did not move from “A tree is a tree” to “It appears to me that the tree is presently engaged in the act of being a tree” accidentally or arbitrarily; we got to here by dissecting the statement and pointing out possibly errant assumptions.
First, how do I know that you aren’t lying? How am I to know how a thing appears to you? The English language allows us to make this statement of subjective experience as though it’s objective fact, but I cannot tell you whether or not “a tree is a tree,” because I can only tell you whether the tree appears to me to be presently engaged in the act of being a tree. Perhaps you’re wrong, or perhaps I’m wrong–we’d have no way of knowing.
If our senses are reliable, then they would report to us that they are reliable. We would not commonly see things that turned out to not be there upon closer inspection. Except… this does happen, doesn’t it? And quite regularly. Just last week I experienced an extended period of sleep paralysis where I not only saw a scythe-wielding reaper standing before me, but actually saw and felt a woman lift up my leg and stab me in the foot with a knife. These ghosts appeared entirely real–and, in my condition, I thought that they were–but closer inspection revealed that my ocular information had to be discarded as pareidolia, and the pain of having my foot stabbed was entirely imaginary. There are also mirages, aural and ocular hallucinations, feeling bugs crawling on the skin–why, just by suggesting it to you, I can make you feel like there is a spider crawling very slowly on the back of your neck.
More to the point, it’s a logical paradox that reliable senses could report that they are unreliable in the first place, because this would be a falsehood, and reporting falsehood to the perceiver would make the “reliable” senses unreliable. Reliable senses can only ever report that they are reliable.
Unreliable senses, however, have the freedom to report anything they like–they can report that they are reliable, as long as their consistency is unreliable. If this was the case*, we would find ourselves perceiving things and regularly having to evaluate them further, to determine whether or not the initial perception was accurate. Sometimes it would be, and sometimes it wouldn’t be, and there would be no immediate way of knowing when we perceived something whether it was one of those reliable pieces of input or an unreliable one. They could not regularly report that they were unreliable, as this would make them reliable, which is another logical paradox.
Alarmingly, this is precisely what we have found. It appeared that the Earth was flat and orbited by the sun, for example. I’ve no doubt that we all have experiences that we can point to where something appeared to be one way, yet turned out to be entirely different. Whether our correction of the situation and recognition of it as “something different” to what we initially thought is any more “correct” than the initial one of appearance is immaterial, because the truth of the matter is simpler: “Initially, we perceived one thing; upon closer inspection, we perceived something else.” The truth or falsehood of the perception has no bearing on how the subjective being experienced it, and neither does it matter that our unreliable senses are the metrics that we used to separate what we came to think of as “falsehood” (the initial perception) from “truth” (the modified perception).
Of course, this isn’t to say that we should stand in the street and question whether the oncoming car is actually there, or whether our unreliable senses are relaying inaccurately to us that we should probably move out of the way of the vehicle. For whatever reason, it appears to me that we must make assumptions as we go about our lives, and there couldn’t possibly be anything inherently wrong with that–neither does being an assumption make it any more or less likely to be true–but I do think it’s important that we not lose sight of the fact that we are making assumptions.
One such assumption was my critique of Slick’s work, wherein I didn’t dispute the notion that the Logical Absolutes are transcendent. First, what does “transcendent” even mean? “Above or beyond the range of human experience,” according to Google, which is fair enough as a definition but needs expansion. For something to be transcendent, it must not be dependent upon any particular perspective and must be universally true without regard to perception.
“Possibly, but probably not,” then, is the answer. They can appear to be transcendent, but whether they are or aren’t cannot be determined by subjects who rely upon perception to experience the world–perceptions that are dependent upon perspective in the first place. I cannot say whether the Logical Absolutes are transcendent any more than I can say that the tree is a tree; I can only say how they appear to me–or, in the case of the Logical Absolutes, how my fallible and weak human mind can imagine them to be.
Once more, we are not dealing with reasonable certainty here, but claims of absolute certainty. One can be reasonably certain or not that a car is coming down the highway, but one can never be absolutely certain of it. What is “reasonable” to one person isn’t necessarily reasonable to another, either.
TheraminTrees did a wonderful video on this subject, where he posed the hypothetical that you were having a party. A friend is known to be clumsy, and gets drunk, exacerbating his clumsiness. He breaks your lamp and apologizes. Most people would agree it’s reasonable to accept the apology. Then he breaks your television. At this point, if you were to fly into a yelling rage at the friend and demanding that he pay for the damages, many people would decry you as responding unreasonably to the situation. But surely if your friend is prone to clumsiness, he has incorporated that into his life such that he takes responsibility for it? Is it not unreasonable to allow someone to come into your home, get drunk, and break your things?
Where you or I disagree on what is reasonable is also irrelevant; the point is just that there is no universally agreed criteria where something qualifies as “reasonable” or “unreasonable,” and too often it’s nothing more than a matter of perspective. From the limited and narrow sense that shouting at a friend and demanding they pay for something is unreasonable, our hypothetical partier is unreasonable. From a greater perspective (I would probably argue)–one that takes in a wider view of the situation–it is, in fact, unreasonable of the friend to ignore their own mistakes and shortcomings, particularly when damage is caused to their friends.
So I can say that “I’m reasonably certain that the tree appears to me to be presently engaged in the act of being a tree, per my understanding of what it means to be and per my definition of what a ‘tree’ is,” and this is a statement filled with quite a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity. Not everyone seems equipped to handle that level of uncertainty, and thus–the English language, which provides them with the means to hide from all that uncertainty by presenting a tenuous and unfalsifiable statement of subjective experience as an absolute truth.
* As part of my attempts to dissect the English language, this is intentional. “This” is singular, and there is no good reason that it should be treated as though it is plural.
That is to say: he’s flat, stiff, homogenous, and mostly uninteresting, but he adequately suffices if one wishes to use him to launch oneself to greater heights.
His latest article, not content to simply be wrong and leave it at that, sees him dragging Nietzsche’s name through the dirt, proposing some sort of conflict between Nietzsche and Dawkins’ Gene Machine, while also fundamentally misunderstanding the root cause of what he calls “white genocide.”
Now that we’ve got all the links out of the way, allow me to clear the air: Storey is wrong, and doesn’t grasp what is happening.
In fact, there is a single source of the white guilt that Storey refers to–a condition whose existence I don’t deny, because it’s obvious to anyone who cares to look that a shockingly large number of white liberals spend much of their time denigrating white people–and it is derived wholesale from arrogance.
Pictured: modern liberals and the alt-right taking up the White Man’s Burden to carry the “savage races”
Whereas in the 19th century, White Man’s Burden consisted of the notion that it was the duty of the educated and enlightened white race to take care of the world’s “savage races” (a sentiment expressed clearly in Storey’s idea that white people are “spreading democracy”), in the 21st century… it consists of the idea that it’s white people’s duty to make sacrifices of themselves for the benefit of the “savage races.”
It’s hard to understand how Storey (or anyone, for that matter) misses the obvious strains of Manifest Destiny running unchecked through modern liberalism. Just look up any video along the lines of “What white liberals think of…” and you’ll find countless examples of this playing out in increasingly absurd ways, from the idea that black people can’t work computers to the arrogant notion that black people can’t find a DMV.
Considering such videos usually come from alt-right sources, I’m not even sure what Storey is talking about.
Nothing has changed since the days of Andrew Jackson, which saw a U.S. invasion of the Philippines and widespread slaughter of the indigenous people (for their own good, of course). The obvious similarities between those atrocities and more recent ones–like the spread of “democracy” to Iraq, which entailed more than 100,000 dead civilians (again, for their own good)–shouldn’t necessitate pointing out, and neither should this idea’s representation on the left, which manifests in things like white guilt.
The conceit, naturally, is that black people are too weak, too stupid, and too defenseless to stand against Mighty Whitey, and that if they don’t take up the burden of self-hate, they run the risk of allowing the Omnipotent White Man to rampage over all the non-white people who just don’t stand a chance. The entire basis of the idea that the power of white people must be checked through self-hate and sacrifice is that, if it isn’t checked, then poor, weak black people just don’t stand a chance. Their contention is that the only thing that can stop Mighty Whitey is Mighty Whitey.
And so we end up with positively bizarre statements that paint minorities as helpless, stupid, bumbling straw people who are completely and totally at the mercy of nearby white people, and it is the burden of the educated, liberal white person to take up their defense against the other white people; after all, no one else can do it.
The modern liberal truly believes that Voter ID Laws (I’m not expressing a position on them in any direction) are racist, and will mince no words in stating that this is because minorities are often unable to get to a DMV (black people can’t afford cars, of course, or buses), unable to navigate a GPS menu to even find a nearby DMV, and totally flummoxed by one of them new-fangled compooters anyway, making the whole thing irrelevant. I’d only be moderately surprised to hear a modern white liberal say that they don’t think minorities can spell “ID.”
It’s worth pointing out that these are not my contentions; I don’t believe that crap. I’m not the one walking around college campuses saying that black people don’t know what GPS is and can’t find the DMV. I recognize that bullshit as the ignorant, racist trash that it is, yet it does seem to be the official liberal position, given that their official stance is anti-Voter ID, and the official reason is that they are racist because minorities run the highest chance of not being able to obtain an ID. As a black dude in one such video asked, “Who doesn’t have an ID? What kind of person doesn’t carry an ID?”
When challenged on this, the liberal quickly backpedals and clarifies: “No, we’re talking about minorities in rural, white communities.”
That doesn’t change anything, though. It’s still an expression of the same idea: “The poor, weak black people need to be rescued from the powerful white people.” Changing the location of the imagined travesty and racist fix from a city to the country doesn’t change anything else.
I recently wrote that it’s easy to earn someone’s pity, but it’s much more difficult to earn their respect. In addition, pity and respect are mutually exclusive: if someone pities you, then they can’t respect you, and, if they respect you, then they can’t pity you. This is because pity comes from a place of dominance and supremacy, as anyone familiar with Nietzsche knows: compassion is a luxury afforded to the comfortable.
It’s quite clear that modern liberals take pity upon non-whites, which hails from the same presumed supremacy that gave us Jackson’s Manifest Destiny. Pity is something that only a powerful person can have, and it can only be held toward a weaker person. Any statement of pity carries the connotation that “in this area, I’m better than you.” If I pity Bill Nye for how he’s fallen to liberal propaganda and statism, it stems from the notion that, at least in terms of resistance to propaganda and allegiance to free thought, I am superior to him.
No one pities an equal or a superior, because that isn’t how pity works.
So yes, it’s easy to get someone to pity you: simply convince them that they’re better than you are. Since natural human arrogance probably leads them to believe this anyway, it’s like purposely trying to be struck by rain. The real test of humanity is to not succumb to that arrogance.
Storey rhetorically asks what is driving the “white genocide,” and then postulates his thoughts, which is particularly hilarious given the same underlying tendency drives it as compels his own self-engrandizing image of the Glorious White Race as the Saviors and Bringers of Democracy and Enlightenment ideas. Of course, Storey cultivates this picture with all the self-righteous Quoxotic nobility and grace of the man in Blake’s “The Poisoned Tree,” and the identification of an individual with a “greater” collective serves the same purpose, because the vengeance-seeker in the Romantic’s poem does not view himself as an evil monster but an enforcer of justice and higher cosmic principles that supercede trite, little things like dead people and quaint thoughts of morality. The age old cry of the oppressor, wrapped in a new mask: “What are a few dead or enslaved civilians, compared to the greater good?”
As a person whose skin is definitely white, I hate to say this, but if we’re ever going to smooth over race relations in the United States, many white people are going to have to do something they haven’t yet been willing to do: stop being arrogant. You’re not God’s Gift to Earth. You value enlightenment ideology because you came up with it; enlightenment ideology is the set of values that you use to ascribe value to other value systems. There’s nothing inherently better about your ideology, and you merely think it is because your ideology forms the very basis of the value system you use to determine the relative value of other ideological systems. It is, in essence, the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
This conceit that our values are objectively the One True Value system (which anyone who understands Nietzsche, rather than asininely tossing his name around) is the problem. It simply manifests in two different ways: in Storey’s own alt-right, and in modern liberalism. This extends to my own anarcho-capitalist ideology, as well, and I’ve applied that same lens to it, beginning with the statement that there is no objective reason that non-violence is better than violence, and attempting to reconcile that discrepancy between Nietzscheanism and the NAP.
Storey should be more careful whose name he throws around, especially since his article drips with indications that he has no idea what Nietzsche had to say. If someone wants to rile me, that’s the best way to do it: put silly statements into Nietzsche’s mouth. My own arrogance leads me to want to write “There isn’t a person alive who understands Nietzsche better than I do,” but I don’t actually think that; I will say, though, that if you think there’s a conflict between Nietzsche and any evolutionary thought, then you clearly don’t understand Nietzsche as well as I do. For fuck’s sake, Nietzsche was literally the person who broke ground by writing that compassion is a vice of the strong, and that sympathy for the botched is nihilistic in evolutionary terms–for reasons that are obvious. A species that cultivates weak organisms in its own gene pool corrupts and poisons its own lineage. No, Nietzsche wasn’t proposing racial segregation or eugenics, but the point remains indisputable, and it was Nietzsche who made it. Dawkins came after and explained the science behind it. There’s no conflict between Nietzsche’s statement that ensuring the survival of weak genes in a species undermines that species’ own chances of survival, and Dawkins’ statement that we are all Gene Machines motivated and controlled by genes whose sole function is to procreate within the species rather than the individual. If you think there’s a conflict, then you have grossly misunderstood something.
Which wouldn’t be terribly surprising, honestly, since Storey somehow missed and misunderstood the arrogance that ties his own ideology directly to the “white genocide” that he hates. Notice that Storey and other alt-right people focus their biggest concerns on white self-hate, and they don’t seem to have the slightest bit of care when non-white people hate white people. So North Koreans hate Americans and white people? Meh. Big deal. Oh, no, Syrians hate white people? Whatever shall we do? Oh, Venezuelans call us “White Devil?” Yawn… But when other white people express the sentiment, that is when it gets dangerous. It’s the same idea that motivates liberals: Storey has no fear of all the non-white people in the world hating white people, because he believes, at a deep level, that white people can take them all on. And, to be clear, he’s probably right: an Oceanian war against the rest of the world would probably result in NATO victory (assuming that NATO is drawn on racial lines, which it largely is, but not exclusively so). Regardless, he perceives no real threat from black people who hate white people, or Asians who hate white people; the real threat comes only when white people stand against white people because, just as the liberal believes, he believes that white people are the only ones capable of standing against white people.
I think it’s all nonsense and that only a weak and insecure person would consciously choose to identify with a collective rather than themselves, their own self-worth, and their own accomplishments. I don’t need to identify with white people who came before me, because I’m secure in who I am and don’t need to try to usurp the victories of others (while, naturally, refusing to acknowledge their failures and sins) for myself.
Isn’t it curious how an innate sense of insecurity can lead a person to project such arrogance? It’s rather like the guy with a tiny dick who drives a huge truck and drives around beating up people half his size. Feeling threatened and inadequate, Storey and the alt-right find themselves cowering while also trying to project an image of fierce strength at the bear they imagine to have cornered them. And yet, they simultaneously truly believe in their own strength and grandiosity, such that the basis of what they are arguing is that only people who share their characteristics are even capable of standing toe-to-toe with them.
There are three main threads through everything that I write:
A rejection of absolutist black & white thinking.
Strict adherence to the Non Aggression Principle, to the extent that punishment becomes off-limits in favor of forgiveness and prevention of future crimes.
What I now call Nietzscheanism*–that is: morality is a human construct that primarily exists to keep the strong from abusing the weak; it is a luxury of the middle class, one not allowed to the lower class and one that the upper class isn’t held to.
It’s immediately clear, from the second two bullets–the first is only mentioned because it simply is a common thread, but it’s not the point of today’s discussion–that there is a conflict.
Can there be a greater example of middle class morality than the NAP? In fact, I would say that the NAP is the shining bastion of middle class morality–fully swearing off and condemning all force, violence, and coercion and asking that everyone else do it. Obviously, this can only happen in a world where everyone compromises the middle class. This is the crux of anarcho-capitalism, and the reason I insist that Nietzsche would be an AnCap if he lived today, knowing what we know.
Goodness, there’s just so much ground to cover to bring my ideology full circle. It’s always difficult to explain to people exactly what I advocate, because it is very much circular, and that makes it hard to pinpoint a beginning. Here, we’ve started from Nietzscheanism and objectivism, and that works, but only if there isn’t a deity. After all, if there is a deity giving some sort of meaning to our existence, then life does matter. So before I could really get anyone on board with Nietzscheanism, I have to get people on board with atheism–Nietzscheanism, after all, is nothing but Applied Atheism. But before I can get anyone on board with atheism, there is a whole lot of groundwork to lay, and it’s groundwork that I’m not going to attempt to lay, because atheism and theism are irrelevant to the larger point. I can be right or wrong about individual pieces regardless of the existence of a deity.
However, I would say that before I could attempt to convince someone that there isn’t a deity, I would have to convince them the value of reason over emotion since, by any measurement, faith is an emotion-based position. We will keep going back and back and back until we arrive right back at subjective value determinations, which lands us right back in the territory of Nietzsche and the Austrian economists. I actually made a few years ago a document–a flow chart, for the most part–where one ideology led to the next, and it was clear by the end of it, after I was able to connect Nietzscheanism back to subjective value determinations–because the essence of Nietzscheanism is that morals are subjective–that I had just created a giant web. I know I still have it somewhere, but I can’t be bothered to find it, and it’s not that important anyway.
Morality, Very Briefly
There is no such thing as “morally good” or “morally bad.” These are values that we prescribe to various acts based on the consequences of those acts, the motive behind those acts, and the circumstances around which that act was committed. This is virtually a tautology at this point, but I will take the time to explain it anyway.
Let’s say that I push you down, causing you to break your arm. I have assaulted you. Everyone would agree that I was morally wrong to do so.
However, let’s say that I push you out of the way of an oncoming train that, for whatever reason, you aren’t aware is coming, and I cause you to break your arm. Suddenly most people would call me a hero and say that I’d saved your life.
In both scenarios, I did exactly the same thing: I pushed you, you fell, and you broke your arm. However, in the first scenario I was just being an aggressive bitch. In the second, I was saving you from being hit by a train. Yet the act itself and the consequence of that act are the same in both scenarios: the act was that I pushed you; the consequence was that you broke your arm.
What changed? In reality, what changed were the imagined consequences of me not pushing you. See, morality, as Henry Hazlitt observed in The Foundations of Morality, arises as a result of imagination, that wonderful characteristic that homo sapien has but so few animals share. It is our ability to imagine that gives rise to morality. Without even realizing it, so gifted are we at doing this, we imagine hypothetical alternative scenarios where I did not push you, and we compare the likeliest result of those scenarios with the reality that transpired. Marvelous creatures, we humans! And, in this way, imagination is literally the cause of morality, as it is precisely what allows us to envision these alternative realities.
In the first example, the most likely hypothetical alternative is that you continue standing unassaulted, and your arm is not broken. You go on about your day without a broken arm. By most criteria, that is certainly a better outcome for you, and since I am the reason you do not get to enjoy that superior outcome, it is determined in a fraction of a second that what I did was morally wrong. We do this innately; I’d almost say that we conceive these hypotheticals instantaneously, and the speed and proficiency are the reasons why we forget that morality is the result of imagination.
In the second example, the most likely hypothetical alternative is that you continue standing unassaulted right up until a train plows into you and utterly destroys you. By most criteria, that is certainly an inferior outcome for you, and since I am the reason that you were spared that inferior outcome, it is determined, perhaps instantaneously, that what I did was morally good.
These value statements themselves, though, are built on a few assumptions:
Empathy: This person is generally like me, and I should do unto this person what I would like this person to do for me. In most cases, what I want is much the same as what this person wants.
My own preferences: I prefer to not be in pain. I prefer pleasure. I prefer happiness. I prefer to not be sad. I prefer to remain alive.
By combining our own personal preferences with an extension of them onto other people–the very essence of what “empathy” is–we arrive at a criteria by which we assess whether something was good or bad. It’s by no means a perfect system–how could it be, when we are imperfect creatures?
Whenever I think of empathy and the application of my preferences onto others, I recall the time in college that I was behind the desk unplugging my laptop because class was over. While back there, without even asking, I took it upon myself to unplug my neighbor’s laptop, because he was in the process of packing his backpack. It seemed perfectly reasonable to assume that he’d like me to go ahead and unplug his while I was back there. Because I have all the social graces of Dexter, it didn’t occur to me at all to ask if he’d like me to do it; I simply did it. And I immediately learned that his laptop’s battery didn’t work, and that I did a cold shutdown on his laptop. Not a big deal, but something that has always stuck with me about assuming that our preferences automatically apply to others. They don’t. However, generally, they do. I mean, what are the odds that his laptop battery wouldn’t work at all? Under 95% of circumstances, the person would have said, “Oh, cool, thank you!” instead of “Oh, hold… What the hell? Did you unplug me?”
Nietzsche described good as “the will to power” and happiness as “having power.” From a strictly Darwinian perspective, he’s not wrong. He’s clearly not wrong; he can’t be wrong. However uncomfortable it makes us, he’s right. If our criteria is “survival of the species,” then the only thing that makes sense is to let the powerful do what they can. Do the powerful want to wipe out the weak? Turn them into sex slaves? Install governments throughout the world and use those governments to control the weak? Then they must be allowed to, under this perspective, because we do live in a universe that is trying to kill us, where only the strong survive. It’s a straight line from there to Eugenics, to forced breeding programs to breed the “most capable human.” It’s a sickening path.
Now, to be clear, Nietzsche most certainly did not go that far, and he did not advocate any of that. He was merely arguing that morality is a tool used by the weak to neuter the strong, creating three classes of people in the process: the middle class who were strong and obeyed the morality, the lower class who were weak and therefore didn’t have the luxury, and the upper class who were strong and rejected the morality.
With all the above being true, we can see that the moral statement “force, violence, and coercion are unacceptable” is the epitome of Middle Class Morality. For one, this maxim is as close as we can get to a universally applicable morality. Is it true that absolutely no one wants force, violence, and coercion done to them? Certainly not. It’s no longer acceptable to say for some reason, but there are people out there who would genuinely like to be raped, for example. I’ve met a few, and their problem is always the same: they want to be raped without consenting to it, but giving someone permission to rape them is consenting to it, and the odds that a random stranger is going to rape them are not good. Beyond that, if they ran around clearly looking to be raped–wearing excessively revealing clothes and being unnecessarily sensual–it is passively consenting to it. I raise all this to make the point that they don’t want to consent to have it forced on them; they want it genuinely forced on them.
Rumor has it that Angelina Jolie once paid a hitman to kill her. She genuinely wanted someone to do violence to her, assuming it is true–and I don’t care whether or not it is, because there have been enough suicides by cop that it’s provable that some people genuinely want violence done to them. My own mother apparently sought out violent and coercive men. So obviously these things are not going to be universally applicable, because nothing is universally applicable to a species filled with individuals as varied and wild as we are.
In essence, all rights can be distilled to the following: we have the right to not have force, violence, and coercion used against us unless we consent to it priorily. This statement is all-inclusive. Just as you have that right, as does everyone have that right. This means, then, that you do not have the right to use force, violence, and coercion against someone without their consent. The right to free speech, free religion, free trade, free employment, and free everything else–they all stem from this basic right to not have force, violence, and coercion used against us. They are applications of this maxim to specific issues.
Are these inherent rights? Perhaps and perhaps not. It could be argued you have the right to attempt to stop someone from using force, violence, and coercion against you; in essence, it could be argued that you have the right to try to be strong, and, by being strong, subjugate the weak. It depends upon our subjective values–our criteria for determining morality. If we go with the Darwinian approach, then we arrive at this latter system of rights, where one has the right to do anything they can–this is an underground system of rights, the one that lives in the underbelly’s shadows in society, when certain behaviors are outlawed and black markets thrive.
Because that is, after all, the essence of the black market: a place where the forced middle class morality doesn’t apply because it happens in the shadows. The black market is generally created when the state outlaws something it has no business outlawing**, creating a new dichotomy of the strong and the weak, instead of the trifecta of those who can’t, those who do, and those who don’t. Since middle class morality ceases to apply to anyone, you’re left with only the strong and the weak–the victims and the aggressors.
It follows, then, that if outlawing things leads to the creation of a black market–which we know it does, from indisputable proof and countless examples from the drug war to abortions to ration stamps–that is differentiated from society by the fact that middle class morality doesn’t apply at all and we’re left only with the strong and the weak, then if we outlawed nothing, we would utterly eliminate this black market characterized specifically by the rule of the strong and Darwinian morality.
Application of the NAP Against Nietzscheanism
There are two things that must be done for the NAP to be realized, for middle class morality to be universally applicable–as much as it can be, at least. First, the lower class has to abolished and lifted up into the middle class. So let’s state this loudly and clearly:
No nation other than the United States has come close to eliminating its lower class.
This isn’t a bad thing. We look around the United States and, yes, we have a lower class still, but they aren’t really “lower class,” not in the grand scheme of things. They aren’t poor like the man in Ethiopia who throws out middle class morality to steal food for his family. By an overwhelming degree, the American poor abide middle class morality, though they have no qualms about stealing from the state. Seeing as the state is stealing from everyone, I don’t think it’s fair to condemn them for that one. Besides which, without the state and taxation, they wouldn’t be able to game the system to get “back” finger-quotes-wink-wink ten thousand dollars anyway.
Our “lower class” has electricity, clean water, running water, indoor plumbing, heating, air conditioning, vehicles, iPhones, laptops, steroes, flatscreen TVs, cable/satellite, Internet connections… Our lower class is so high on the totem pole that they’d be considered upper middle class in most parts of the world. This is actually part of the problem, since our lower class, our “poor” have totally lost all perspective on how luxurious their lives are.
To clarify the phrasing, the goal is not to kill off the lower class, not by any means. That’s horrible. No, the goal is to lift up the lower class and bring them into the middle class. Yes, this creates a new middle class, because humans naturally form hierarchies, but none of that matters. The point is that the applicability of middle class morality must be extended to the lower class and, if it is, then it is also true that they are not generally facing the threat of starvation, which is the escape clause that gives them an out from middle class morality in the first place.
Secondly, the upper class must be made to abide middle class morality. Currently, they don’t. I couldn’t even begin to guess how much shit the upper class gets away with in the United States. I’m positive that a solid portion of them engage in child sex tourism and pedophile rings. I’m not referring to the Podesta leaks, but a lifetime of hearing whispers and accusations directed at the upper class. It all may be false, but, in most cases, where there is that much smoke there is usually a fire.
But beyond that, does the upper class get away with theft? Holy crap, absolutely. Not only do they take part in the state and steal from us directly while calling it taxation, but they also use the mechanism of the state to create things like intellectual property and eminent domain, utterly gutting our property rights in the process.
Does the upper class get away with murder? Again, holy crap, yes. The death toll of the 20th century was 160,000,000 from war alone as upper classes in various parts of the world put the lower class to use killing lower class members who were fighting for other upper class groups. They call it “war,” but it is murder.
It’s indisputable that the upper class doesn’t just reject middle class morality; they do so brazenly and openly, in full view of everyone else, and they get away with it by using carefully constructed euphemisms, deceit, and manipulation. There are countless people who will insist that taxes aren’t theft. Except… they are, by any definition of theft. And sending a group of armed people to go kill another group of armed people is unequivocally murder. We cannot allow euphemisms and a refusal to face the truth obscure these basic facts.
So yes, it is true that we are animals who need to be strong in order to survive, and that our species as a whole must embrace strength and shun weakness. This does not mean a lack of compassion, though, as I’ve explained elsewhere. See, we have mistaken “compassion” as being hardly anything more than getting down in the floor with someone and crying with them. That is fake sympathy; it is empty sympathy.
If you are a herd of gazelle [humans] and are trying to get away from lions [the universe that kills the weak], and you have a loved one who is injured [weak, for whatever reason], then you are doing no one but the lions a favor by laying down with your weak gazelle friend and crying with them. This is empty sympathy. This is virtue signaling. This is nihilistic.
True sympathy leads one to help the other gazelle get up, heal their injuries, become strong themselves, and flee the lion.
We absolutely must have compassion and must be guided to help the weak–it is why we have our middle class morality. It is as close as we can get to “objective morality,” after all. However, if our gazelle friend refuses to get up, if they instead embrace their injury and their victimization, refuse to try to heal, and refuse to try to escape the lion, then we must cut our losses and flee before the lion gets us, too. There is a line between sympathy and nihilism.
Based on observable cause and effect–since it is impossible to speculate too much into our hypothetical alternate realities, and since we lack omniscience and can never know exactly how anything would really have played out if we had acted differently–we know that leaving the gazelle to be eaten by the lion would be bad, and our application of empathy derived from our own personal preferences compels us to help the gazelle. We know with reasonable certainty that the lion would eat the gazelle, and that, if we did not help, we would bear a portion of the blame in that.
We should all be strong; we should all be middle class, with no one enshrined above [through the state] or below [through poverty] anyone else. Now, what is the mechanism that allows that to happen? What mechanism eliminates the state that allows the upper class to escape culpability for their moral violations? Anarchism. What mechanism has provably lifted up virtually the entire population into middle class territory, where the fear of starvation is exceedingly remote? Capitalism.
So how do we create this world of people abiding the NAP, of all people being strong and none being weak?
* Thanks to the overwhelming number of angst-ridden ultra-emo millennials who think nihilism means “life sucks and death is cool,” I’ve been left with no choice but to change the label, but that’s fine; Nietzsche wouldn’t have approved of “nihilism” as the label anyway. Of course, these people have never read a word of Nietzsche and don’t fully understand the philosophy, because:
and they get lost on that second part: nothing matters. They don’t fully apply it, though, or they would realize that it doesn’t matter that nothing matters. That is completely and utterly meaningless.
** Anything they outlaw is something they have no business outlawing.
Unless you’re one of 500~ people who like the page Shit Kyle Wagner Says, then you’re probably not going to get the reference in the title. If you’re an anarchist, voluntaryist, or libertarian, though, go to that page and enjoy what this self-professed “former anarcho-capitalist who ‘woke up’ and became a libertarian who ‘woke up’ and became a liberty-leaning conservative who still calls himself a libertarian even as he says some of the dumbest shit you’ll ever see” has to say.
I got into a discussion with someone recently about Socialism versus Capitalism, and the argument ultimately sank into emotional territory; after it was all said and done, the question asked of me was this:
There are four million homeless people in Spain and eleven million houses that are empty. This is a waste of resources, and it’s morally wrong.
At first glance, this is not a good argument but a great one, for how can he be incorrect? Is it not clearly a waste of resources for so many houses to go empty while so many people need houses? Is it not obvious that the efficient use of those resources would have produced exactly as many houses are needed and would have left no one homeless? We can address the “morally wrong” statement later; for now, are these things not obvious?
They are, but only at a surface glance–and a limited one that sees only the first ten feet. It is a car driving around at night whose headlights reveal only the next thirty feet of highway, so the driver assumes he can relax and take his hands off the steering wheel, never considering that there is a sharp turn thirty-five feet away. “I can’t see it, so it’s not there!” the driver proclaims. If you’d dispute this assessment, then you should go and read the actual comment chain, where the socialist argues exactly that, saying that because he can’t see the value of x job at thirty-five feet away, it must have no value.
What a strange notion.
Let’s examine, for a moment, what’s happening here. The anonymous socialist–who is almost certainly the same guy who gave a competing answer to the question–is making a valuation judgment on the use of these resources, saying, “They are without value.” Obviously, he is being hyperbolic, and I’m not faulting him for that. What he means is that the job has almost no value; there’s no way he means that the job has absolutely zero value to anyone. If nothing else, the job has value for the person who does that job, so we have to assume that he meant “The job has very little value.”
However, we know that all valuation judgments are subjective. He is deciding that this job has no value based on his internal understanding of what has value and what doesn’t, and his understanding is colored by his own biases and predilections. To see what I mean, let’s look at another value statement.
“Drugs are bad.”
Sure, most people would agree, but why are drugs bad? Well–for a moment putting on the appropriate hat–they are damaging to society and to the individual.
Okay, but why is “damage to the individual” bad? Why is “damage to society” bad?
We’ll find that these questions are actually impossible to answer. We can do this with any value statement. What we find are value statements built on assumed value statements. Drugs are bad because damage to the individual is bad. However, when pressed, when we trace this seemingly-infinite regress back to its source, we are left finding ourselves saying, “Because it just is!” Let’s do another, more controversial one.
“Murderers are bad.”
Again, virtually everyone would agree–as would I–but why are murderers bad? Because killing people is wrong. But why is killing people wrong? Because it’s a violation of their rights? That’s not an answer–it’s rephrasing the assumption. Why is it wrong to violate people’s rights? Again, we are ultimately left with only “Because it just is!”
It’s not a problem that we build our value judgments upon assumptions that are built on assumptions that are built on assumptions. I firmly agree that murderers are bad, and I would certainly say that they’re bad because killing people is wrong because it’s a violation of their rights. The point is that it can’t be demonstrated. It isn’t objective. This value that we’ve set–even if 100% of all people agree with it–is not objective. Murder is no more objectively wrong than homosexuality is objectively wrong. This is what led Nietzsche to his observation that power is good, and that which causes a will to power is good; what is bad is weakness. Strictly speaking, Nietzsche is more right with his valuation judgments than anyone else, but only because his good and evil–a Blue and Orange morality if ever there was one–is built on the notion that survival of the species, ensured through power of the individual, is critical. This, too, is an assumption–Why is it good for the species to survive?–and Nietzsche was well aware of that. However, we’re getting into topics here that aren’t really related enough to warrant this much attention.
In effect, what we have from this socialist are two subjective valuation statements that are being said as though they are objective truths. “The resources are wasted in this manner,” meaning that the value of the resources is higher than the value of how they are presently being used; “this is morally wrong,” meaning that this state of affairs is “bad.”
Not only are these built upon assumptions, but how are these comparisons even made?
As Henry Hazlitt observed in The Foundations of Morality*, what is happening here is that the socialist is comparing an is to an ought. I’ve spoken about this before, how we humans do this constantly, comparing one state of affairs to another, and often one of those hypothetical states of existence is an idealized perfect one. Hazlitt put it best, though–we are looking at what is and comparing it to what ought be.
Obviously, though, we have a problem. Our imagining of what ought be is based on our assumptions of what is good and what is bad, and our assessments of good and bad are built on other assumptions. We might say “The world is in poor shape because people still kill one another, and we shouldn’t.” On the surface, yes–absolutely. However… We are comparing the state of the world as it is to how we think it ought be. So how do we think the world ought be? It ought be free of murder. Why do we think that? Because murder is wrong. Why do we think that? Because a violation of someone’s rights is wrong. Why do we think that? Because it just is.
My contention here isn’t that these subjective value statements derived from various assumptions are wrong. How could I even begin to make such a case? That they are wrong is, itself, a value statement, which is, itself, built on other assumptions. Beyond that, though, I agree–“It just is” wrong to violate someone’s rights. Far from arguing that these assumptions must be discarded, I firmly agree that these assumptions are critical, otherwise we can’t get anything done.
After all, every single day we assume that reality is real. Why do you get out and go to work? Because you assume that you’d really starve to death and really become homeless if you didn’t. Are these assumptions valid? Probably–but we can’t say definitively. Maybe you wouldn’t. Maybe everyone else would, but you’re a magical human being who doesn’t need to actually eat. Can you say you’re not? Have you ever tried? Maybe you’d experience the pains and mental anguish of hunger but would never actually die from it. Can you say this isn’t true? No. Does this mean you should chance it, and sit at home and wait to see if you die of starvation? No–make the assumption that you would starve, and take your ass to work.
I don’t demand that we stop assuming things and that we stop assigning values based on these assumptions.
I’m simply saying that we need to be aware that they are subjective statements built on assumptions, and that not one of us is objectively or demonstrably right about any value statement.
We can see, then, the immediate flaw in the socialist ideology. Not only does it contend that the state can set values correctly, thereby assuming that a thing has objective values and thereby assuming that the state can find them, but it proceeds on that assumption as though it is an objective truth. In fact, I could–and did–make the argument that it would be a waste of resources to give the houses to the four million homeless.
Think about it like this. I have a spare $100, even after I’ve put money into savings. It’s just spare money for me, completely disposable. A hooker comes up to me and tells me that she’s got STDs and is addicted to meth, and that she spent all of her money on meth and now doesn’t have money to buy food. The socialist’s position is that it would be a “waste of resources” and an “inefficient use of resources” if I told her no and kept my money to myself, saving it for another day. “You should give it to the prostitute,” says the socialist, “because she can put it to use buying food.”
The value statements can’t end there, though. What is the value of this woman having food? She will continue going through the streets fucking dudes and probably giving them STDs in the process. This must be included in the assessment of efficiently used resources. Maybe her survival means that she gives birth to a kid who grows up to be the next Stephen Hawking. This must also be included in the assessment. To make any definitive value statement requires omniscience–that is what I’m getting at. We must be able to compare an is to an ought, and we must be able to identify every single variable and every single consequence of the action. This is an impossible task.
Regardless, I don’t see how forcing me to give $100 to a drug-addicted, disease-ridden prostitute is a more efficient use of the money than if I just kept it to be used at a later date. They may be equally efficient, and letting me keep it may be more efficient. We don’t know. We can’t know.
But the socialist claims to.
* A fantastic philosophical work, though I have to confess that Hazlitt is occasionally pretty hard to read. However, if you can get through Nietzsche and things like Thus Spoke Zarathustra**, then Hazlitt shouldn’t be a problem.
I want you to imagine a group of people who communally share their resources. No one person owns anything; everything belongs to The Group, not to an individual. Each individual contributes according to the rules of the group, and they receive some restitution for their labor. There is a hierarchy in this group, however. At the top of the pyramid are elected people who set the policies that they are voted to set, and, though these elected people have authority, none of them can just take the group’s resources and run. Instead, what allotment of the resources these elected officials receive is determined by a sort of another group–a board of people.
When a person needs to use part of The Group’s resources for something, they fill out some paperwork, which is in turn sent to people who are higher on the totem pole, and someone approves or disapproves of the requisition. However, each person is guaranteed a specific amount of the resources as part of their labor agreement, and these guaranteed resources can be used in whatever way the individual wants. Strictly speaking, additional resources could be requisitioned for any reason the individual wants, too, but it’s more likely that a requisition will be approved if the request for additional resources is more an investment than a consumption.
What did we just describe?
Or a corporation?
We have to focus more on what things are than what they are called, and this is precisely why. If I were to tell someone that corporations are socialist in nature, I would be laughed out of the room. Yet here we are. The above description could describe either a communist society or the inner workings of a corporation. This is not a word game. It’s not a pun, and it’s not clever linguistics. This is what they are.
Putting anarcho-communism aside for a moment–because the majority of communists aren’t anarchists, and neither are most socialists–the one distinguishing factor between corporations and the socialist society would be that, ideally, in the socialist society, everyone’s personal “restitution for labor”–that is, “wages,” but I avoided that word purposely–would be equal.
This is always a question that we must ask the communist: do you truly believe that the McDonald’s worker and the President of the United States deserve an equal wage? Does the socialist truly believe that the Wal-Mart stocker and the Congressional official deserve an equal wage? For those rare individuals who would answer affirmatively, there is little more to be said; we cannot argue with people who believe that these people are making equal contributions to society.
The question of wages is a strange one, because we have not long been selling our labor in such numbers. Throughout most of human history, a person’s sold labor was a supplement; we did not buy food and clothing, because we grew our own and made our own. We sold our labor when we needed to purchase those things that we could not produce ourselves; when we needed to visit the blacksmith, for example. While there were blacksmiths, of course, who did primarily sell their labor as a means of living, they were still rare–artisans, craftsmen, and tailors constituted a middle class.
Recent times have redefined human society such that virtually everyone sells their labor, no one grows their own food, and your kids would be laughed out of school–you might end up facing criminal charges, as well–if you sent your children to school in clothing that you made. This is a relatively new state of affairs, though. Throughout most of human history, you put in the work to grow your own food and, if you did not, you starved.
This is where communists and socialists wholly break with nature. It is the responsibility of an animal to secure its sustenance, either through predation or production–hunting or gathering. That it would even be possible for one animal to contribute nothing to their own survival, yet still survive, is a new development. Remembering that compassion is a luxury, the Johnson family would not have been willing to share their food with the Lennox family when the Lennox family chopped down a few trees and proclaimed, “There. I tried.”
A fundamental truth has been lost in the nihilistic fervor of western society: the universe doesn’t give a fuck about us, we are animals, and it is the responsibility of an animal to ensure its own survival. In the event that it cannot, compassion should probably be afforded to the animal by those who can afford that luxury, if they so choose, but that we can have this conversation in the first place shows that we have lost all semblance of reason and sanity. What the hell do you mean that I must have compassion?
Suffering is made contagious by pity.
We have reached this point where we are today because of capitalism. Let there be no doubt about it. It was capitalism that allowed us the luxury of deciding that we must not send our four-year-old children to be maimed in glass factories. If you went to Victorian London, do you know what you would see?
When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ” ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.
There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved, so I said,
“Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.”
And so he was quiet, & that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight!
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black;
And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins & set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run,
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.
Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.
And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm;
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.
During the Irish Famine it was not unusual for parents to sell their children. We look back on those 19th century atrocities and condemn them–as rightly we should–but we condemn them without understanding them. Parents sent their children to work in glass factories to be maimed for life because they had no choice. It was that or starve. Parents sold their children into slavery–or worse–because it was that or starve. What would you do, if you went back in time and saw these things happening? Would you come forward and outlaw it? Would you say, “No! If I see you sending your children to work in glass factories, I will throw you in prison”?
Then you would condemn them to death.
It was not legislation or happy feelings that put a stop to this practice. It was not people slapping their foreheads and proclaiming, “Oh, shit. You know? It’s probably not a great idea to sell our children.”
It was capitalism.
It was prosperity.
People stopped sending their children to be maimed in factories when it was no longer necessary, and shortly thereafter we condemned and outlawed it. It was a necessity born of poverty–a poverty that stretched back to the time when peasants grew their own food, something that had become increasingly unfeasible.
Look to China today. How much sweatshop labor and child labor is there in China today? Oh, there is still child labor and sweatshop labor, but it has been drastically reduced from what it was thirty years ago. People in China are now buying vehicles, building better homes, securing more stable electricity–why? Why are the Chinese prospering?
Because of capitalism.
We are such a curious species.
We use these tools to climb to such high plateaus, and then we cast off the tools and condemn them, insist that we don’t need them because we have better tools, and then we flounder on the side of the mountain, thrashing about and asking stupidly, “What went wrong? We had it all figured out!”
The greatest example of this is how Trump is being condemned for expressing that he uses his power, fame, and wealth to cajole women into sleeping with him. Even if Donald Trump never touched a woman without her consent, the same people would be condemning him, and for the same reason.
Good for you, Donald.
We are animals–stupid, petty, violent, horny animals. Unfortunately, at some point during our evolutionary line we developed sentience, which in turn led to an out-of-control ego, which we immediately fed by convincing ourselves that we are anything but animals, despite all evidence to the contrary. All the evidence suggests that nothing but your own perceptions separates you from the chair you’re sitting in, and nothing but ego distinguishes you from the wolf.
The difference is that the wolf has forgotten what it is. It’s a stupid, petty, violent, horny animal, and it has no delusions about it. So the wolf survives, doing what it was programmed by biology to do. The wolf has no compassion because the only things the wolf could conceivably have compassion for is its prey–and it cannot be allowed the luxury of compassion for its prey; its own survival depends on it.
We humans, though… What is the soul?
The soul is two things. It is a delusion that we are immortal, and it is a symbol of our own vanity. Ask any person who believes they are immortal* whether animals have souls, and they will almost all answer the same: “No.” The soul is what allows this delusion to persist today, when, by all rights, it should have been cast off when it was proven beyond all doubt that personality is an electrochemical reaction in the brain, and that neither personality nor self exist external of the brain. Yet it persists, a delusion that we cannot let go of.
It is the greatest of ironies that, yes, we can be better. We can be better than the other animals with whom we share a planet and a lineage. We do have a sense of self, and we are afforded the luxury of compassion. It would be foolish to suggest that we forego this luxury in the name of some Neo-Luddism insanity. We are what we are, and “what we are” includes wonderful potential–a potential that has actualized and allowed us the luxury of compassion.
But we must not forget, as we exercise that compassion, that it is a luxury, and the very things which purchased that luxury are the very things we must control if we are to show compassion.
* Let’s not mince words about it–this is what advocates of “souls” are suggesting.
Now, those familiar with me know that I consider myself a nihilist. I am also well aware that Nietzsche–the father of modern nihilism–would be appalled to learn that we call ourselves nihilists. We don’t mean it in the same sense that Nietzsche meant it, and I’m going to get into that momentarily. We mean it in the sense of ultimate objectivity, refusing to allow emotions a place in shaping our knowledge, and a strict separation of emotion from reason. This leads to a lack of attachment and loyalty to existing institutions. We don’t look at the educational institution and say, “Well, it’s bad and could be replaced, but we’ve had this one for so long…” Instead, we stop at “Does it accomplish what we want it to? If not, replace it.”
Nihilists do not advocate arbitrarily destroying socioeconomic institutions just because. We advocate destroying them if they don’t do what we want them to do. This requires objectively looking at them and their results. Nihilism is a constant battle between what we believe and what is, and not everyone is capable of accepting “what is.” Religion is a great example. I have a friend who agrees with me almost completely about religion, and even agrees that people use deities as projections of their own beliefs and opinions. Yet, he still believes that there is a god–in the deist sense. This is an example where he will not accept What Is because of What Ought.
It’s funny that nihilists recognize that every value that we assign to things is subjective, while also striving to be as objective as possible–objective, in this context, meaning “not allowing emotions to alter the value we ascribe.” Nietzsche would absolutely be an anarcho-capitalist if he lived today: Austrian economics is the application of this subjectivity to market values. Nietzsche spoke primarily of assigning moral values, but the principle is the same for market values, too, and he has long been recognized as an enemy of the state. It was Nietzsche, after all, who said:
Everything the state says is a lie, and everything it has, it has stolen.
If there’s anything that you should take away from this preamble, it’s that I understand Nietzsche and I understand what we call Nihilism. I am a nihilist. For the rest of the article, though, I don’t mean “nihilist” in that sense. I mean it in its Nietzschean sense: advocating ideas and opinions that are ultimately self-destructive. This is what Nietzsche meant when he characterized Christianity as nihilistic. From The Antichrist:
What is more harmful than any vice?–Practical sympathy for the botched and the weak–Christianity…
We Americans, too, are increasingly nihilistic, yet it has nothing to do with religion. It does have to do with the same thing that Nietzsche criticized, but I think Nietzsche was wrong here. I don’t think compassion is a problem; in fact, I encourage compassion. I think that we tend to come up with extremely short-sighted, non-functional solutions, propose them, and then tie our compassion to them, so much so that anyone who then disputes our proposed solution is written off as lacking compassion. That’s a bit long-winded and technical, so let me give an example.
I am against welfare. I am adamantly against stealing from one person to give their money to someone else, and this is what constitutes “welfare” in western society. Whether you think it’s just or not is irrelevant; that’s simply what happens. When I tell people that I am against welfare, I am universally met with the response of, “You just want poor people to starve to death?”
Published alongside me in V2: The Voluntary Voice was Matthew Weber, who told a story about his voluntaryist-oriented band played a show, and at one point said some anarchistic stuff. Someone threw a bottle at the drummer and shouted, “Without the state, where would I find housing?”
Without even being conscious of it, they have formed a false dichotomy where the choices are “the state” or “people starve and go homeless.”
Nietzsche wrote from a perspective that was, really, Beyond Good and Evil. He was not concerned with what he called Middle Class Morality–a profound realization in its own right, that the rich don’t abide morality because they don’t have to, and the poor don’t abide it because they don’t have the luxury. Nietzsche realized that morality is a luxury, and it is from here that we proceed, because compassion is also a luxury. The child starving to death surely has no compassion for the robbery of Kim Kardashian. The woman dying of cancer surely has no compassion for a stranger’s flu.
When people begin starving, morality is the first thing to be thrown away, as morality was the force responsible for creating the vacuum in which they went hungry. The man starving to death has no moral difficulty with stealing a loaf of bread. The family going hungry has no moral difficulty using the state to give to others for their own benefit. So, too, is my critique of this theft as immoral a luxury of the middle class–and my morality does not apply to them, because they have discarded it. When thrown with others into a survival trap like in the movie Saw, we would have no moral difficulty in poisoning the doctor to ensure our own survival.
Certainly, I would argue that it is good that we have our Middle Class Morality, and I argue that both the poor and the rich should have to abide it. Many Americans argue that the rich should have to, but leave the poor out of this requirement. We criticize Wells Fargo for stealing, basically, from its customers, yet we give a thumbs up to the poor who use the state to steal. My entire position as an anarchist is that everyone must follow this Middle Class Morality that forbids the use of force, violence, and coercion, and that this mandate must include the rulers–who so often are given a free pass to violate the tenets of our morality.
However, I am not concerned with what the middle class says is right or wrong. Here, as Nietzsche did, we focus our efforts higher than that, and go beyond that; we look instead at survival and the species. There is no one as nihilistic as millennials, and this is a problem that we must address.
Millennials despise people being rewarded for their effort.
Such a sweeping statement! And, obviously, it will not be true of all millennials–I am a millennial. However, it is true of the majority of them.
They embrace an economic system that deliberately does not reward people for their effort. It doesn’t matter how we dress it up. If a person believes that a doctor, an attorney, an engineer, a physicist, a Wal-Mart cashier, and a burger flipper deserve equal wages, then they ipso facto reject the notion that people should be rewarded for their effort.
As I wrote for Cubed3 regarding Star Fox Zero, this extends to most areas of life: millennials simply want to be given stuff, and they legitimately don’t understand why effort should be rewarded. We’re told that we’re entitled if we want the physicist to be rewarded for their years of training and education with a higher wage. We’re told that we’re entitled if we want the doctor to be rewarded for their years of training and education with a higher wage. And, yes, we’re told we’re entitled if we want the effort we put into beating a video game rewarded.
This mentality–that rewarding effort is bad–is the same one that gave us participation trophies, and it becomes nihilistic when we know that the primary reason that people do stuff… is for a reward. Psychology has made this abundantly clear. You don’t punish bad behavior; you reward good behavior. We all want to be rewarded; this is fundamental to being a human being, or a cat or a dog. We are dealing with primal forces that we cannot control here, and we cannot predict the longterm consequences of making sure that Billy, who sat in the grass eating bugs, gets exactly the same trophy as Michael, who hit fourteen homeruns. How hard will Michael work the next year, if he knows his effort won’t be rewarded or even acknowledged?
Donald Trump has been assaulted recently for making more lewd remarks about women, and for remarking on the fact that, when you’re a rich star, women tend to let you do whatever you want. Yes, they clearly do tend to:
Notice the words “tend to” here, and remember that we’re not speaking in absolutes. We’re never speaking in absolutes.
If Trump grabbed women who didn’t want to be grabbed, that’s an issue, and we can discuss that, but we can’t pretend like Trump is a monster because he uses his riches and fame to sleep with beautiful women. We hate Trump because he reminded us of what animals we are. He breaks that self-delusion that we are better than that, that we are greater than that, that we are more than animals.
But no. We’re not.
Donald Trump is a wolf who has filled his cave with dead prey, and is standing in front of the cave whistling at lady wolves, “Hey, baby! Look at all the prey that I got! Yeah, I did that. Don’t you want to let me fuck you?”
The greatest amusement to me are the guys who say, “No! I would never use my power and wealth to attempt to sleep with women.”
Yeah, well. Okay.
And that’s why you don’t have power and wealth.
Do you know why every human being does like 99% of the things they do? I’ll give you a hint.
It’s not just men; it’s women, too. It’s humans, period. We are sexual creatures. The desire to reproduce is ubiquitous through us–even though we all deal with it in different ways–and it made us all very, very horny. It’s our Middle Class Morality that keeps us from fucking as the cats and dogs do, but it’s a constant battle against ourselves. Regardless of the question, “To get laid” is almost always the answer. Not always, but most of the time. It is an underlying motive for practically everything that humans do.
So why do some men seek riches and fame? To sleep with beautiful women.
This isn’t wrong. It can’t be wrong, because there are plenty of beautiful women who want to sleep with men who are rich and famous. I would guess that the lottery winner there lost his virginity to that woman and that no one slept with him when he wasn’t rich and famous. Suddenly he was, and suddenly found the love of his life.
There’s a difference, obviously–there’s a large, unidentifiable difference between a woman who would be willing to sleep with a dude because he is rich, and a woman who would be disgusted by the idea. Donald Trump knows damned well that his female campaign manager would never sleep with him, regardless of how much money he has. I’m not defending Trump. I’m pointing out that there are things we have to accept and things we have to discuss, because trying to undo it is nihilistic.
If you take away the financial rewards of effort, then you take away the motivation of people to become rich so that they can have sex with supermodels. Can you imagine the wondrous innovations and technologies we have today because someone wanted to get laid?
Millennials hate the rich because the rich represent that: reward for effort. The rich are evil because they want their effort rewarded, and it’s selfish and entitled to want effort rewarded–but like totes 4 real not selfish and entitled to want to be rewarded without effort.
Millennials hate individual responsibility for the same reason. It’s all tied together. They hate themselves; they hate their own humanity. So they attempt to destroy it by denying that individual responsibility is a good thing, by denying that autonomy is a good thing, by denying that a person wants their effort rewarded, by denying that a person is motivated to put in effort by the rewards it offers. Yet all of these things are reasons our species survives to this day, and reasons that western society has thrived.
Hating these things is a luxury provided to them by the very things they hate.
Remind me to never, ever argue with theists about whether morality is subjective again. My contention is pretty simple:
Morality is subjective because humans are subjects who assign values to things.
It’s a tautology, and it is self-evident. It is as self-evident as a statement can get. It needs no argument, no substantiation, and no more evidence than direct experience. We are humans, and we assign values to things. As we are subjective beings and our experiences and existences are subjective, it follows that the values we assign are subjective.
Then theists come along and say, “No! The values we assign are objective!”
Why are we even discussing this? The burden of proof is so obviously and completely on the people arguing for objective morality that no more of my time should be wasted trying to explain a tautology. If you want to argue that the values you assign are objective, then you have to demonstrate the source of those objective values. Until you can do that, the entire conversation is moot.
So I spent a little while arguing on Facebook–banging my head against the wall would be more accurate–and in the course of the conversation I said two things that really pissed people off:
That is utter nonsense.
You can’t possibly be that thick.
These were taken as personal attacks. I’ll grant that the second one comes pretty close to being a personal attack, but the first one is obviously not. “That is utter nonsense” clearly refers to a statement, and not a person. Ergo, the statement has been attacked. What statement did I attack?
I’m not going back to the thread right now because they’ve kept going and I’ve washed my hands of it, but basically I pointed out that the very fact that we have disagreements about what is moral and what is immoral is strong evidence that morality is subjective. He replied something to the effect of, “So if one person thinks that something is more morally wrong than someone else does, obviously he’s measuring that with some objective criteria.”
No, it doesn’t make sense. Yes, it’s obviously utter nonsense. It’s such utter nonsense that it’s honestly not even wrong, and I wouldn’t begin to know how to explain what is wrong with it. So that two people use internal criteria to assign different subjective values to things is somehow a demonstrate of some external, objective criteria? What? When the guy threw this statement back at me as a “personal insult,” I gladly stood by it. What he said was nonsense. “The sky is blue because the sky is blue, so clearly the sky is red.”
And no. No one can possibly be thick enough to believe such a ridiculous statement. These two insults were tied to the same comment, I should point out; I said them both in reply to this utter nonsense. I stand by that, as well. No one can be thick enough to really believe something so horrifically nonsensical.
But it’s not my goal here to reiterate the argument. They are responding too quickly and Facebook’s medium too limited for it to take place effectively. Moreover, they are repeating themselves and denying that the burden of proof is on them, even though my contention, from the start, has been that morality is subjective because we are subjective individuals and we assign values to things.
Tell me: how shall I convince you that a circle is round?
For more than a decade, I have been arguing with people on the Internet and discussing things with people. I have engaged in undoubtedly thousands of online arguments, started probably a fourth of those. And in my career of arguing with people online, I have never been called “emotional” or “overly emotional.”
Until last year, when I officially switched from being a male to being Aria.
In the past year, I have been called “overly emotional” at least ten times in various online arguments. I am not exaggerating when I say that this never happened when I presented myself as a guy. It never happened, and no one who knows me could agree that I’m prone to becoming emotional in discussions. If I was, I wouldn’t have evolved from pro-life Republican and die-hard Christian to dyed-in-the-wool socialist liberal to pro-choice anarcho-capitalist. My loyalty is to reason, not to emotion, and I’ve written a goddamned book on Nihilism, which is an utter rejection of emotional thinking. It’s not finished, though it’s about 200 pages in.
It wasn’t even that long ago that Thomas Knapp corrected my position on libertarians and abortion, by making me see that I was wrong, and that pro-life people weren’t automatically un-libertarian. Yes, I’m so emotional I reversed my old position because it couldn’t be rationally supported. Totally ruled by my emotions. It totally explains why I’m still saying that Austin Petersen isn’t a libertarian because he’s pro-life.
Except… Oh, wait. I did change my position. I did ease up on Austin Petersen. I still don’t think he’s a libertarian, but it’s because he rejects the NAP, not because of his abortion stance. Recently I wrote specifically about abortion and that libertarianism isn’t automatically pro-life or pro-abortion. This is where a bit of a fracture comes in, as you can see in the comments there. I’m also not a big fan of abortion. I’m really not. I don’t think it’s right, because there are so many ways to prevent pregnancy in the first place. I’m 29, and I’ve only once gotten a girl pregnant. She aborted, but that was beyond my control, and it was only last year that it happened.
I’m certainly not pro-abortion, though. I’m pro-choice. Part of the problem is that most people do take “pro-choice” to mean “pro-abortion,” and it doesn’t really mean that. It means pro-choice. It means being in favor of people having the choice to get an abortion if they so choose, not being happy about them getting an abortion. A pro-choice person can still choose to reject abortion and condemn it, after all.
Recently, a girl on Twitter challenged me to demonstrate sexism in the United States. No, I honestly can’t do that. I could, if I cared to spend the time doing it. I could run two simultaneous online presences for the next year, carefully tabulating the results that I get. It would take too much effort, though, and it’s not worth it to me. I know what I’ve experienced.
And what I’ve experienced is that no one ever accused me of being overly emotional until they knew I was a female. Yes, the anarcho-capitalist who recently made a video called “What is Capitalism?” that said “being poor is a state of mind” is “overly emotional.” For pointing out that an argument is absurd and undermines its own point, and for saying that the person who made the argument couldn’t possibly be “thick” enough to believe it–which some could take as a compliment, honestly–I’m “overly emotional.”
And no one ever said that to me when I wasn’t wearing lipstick, you know?
As a cool little bonus, because this came out shorter and filled with more digression than I wanted, here is a chapter from Shattering the American Illusion that I’ve been writing.
Chapter 6: Morality
Warning: We are about to ask a LOT of “What if…?” questions.
Many arguments are presented by theists in an attempt to give their god something to do, and one of the most common among these is something along the lines of, “Oh, yeah? If there’s no God, then how do you explain morality? Western Law is built on the Ten Commandments!” Before we proceed much further, let’s stop and bask in the unabashed glory of this argument—and the one that says “America was built on Christianity!”
A precursory glance at the latter claim will reveal why Science and Christianity have stood at odds for so long: a little bit of reading is a very dangerous thing, especially to the theistic reasoning. Written in 1796, under the leadership of George Washington and John Adams (two of the people directly responsible for the creation of “America”), the Treaty of Tripoli is as follows:
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of [Muslims]; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries (Dawkins “God” 40).
Let no more be said (ever, preferably) of the idea that the United States was founded on the religion of Christianity. At best, what can be said is that our ancestors fled to these shores to escape religious persecution and then embraced the notion of religious freedom, which requires a secular state by any measure. Not only did our forebears reject the notion of any state-sanctioned religion, they would be scandalized to see the state of American politics today, when a man or woman’s religious beliefs is listed as the second or third most important attribute of them (generally followed only by their name and political association—Democrat or Republican) (Dawkins “God” 40). This is a deplorable state. Using a person’s religious beliefs as a motivation for voting for or against them sets us on the path toward abolishing the separation of church and state.
Moving on to our main discussion, there is the question of morality and why humans have a notion of it if there is no god. Many ideas have been put forth to explain morality, but before we get into that, we must ask: “What is morality? What is moral behavior? What is immoral behavior?” These questions, whether you “feel” the answers intuitively in the form of examples you can easily imagine, are not really so simple to answer as “doing good” and “doing bad.” In fact, it’s very difficult to explain moral and immoral behavior without using words like “good” and “bad.”
In the simplest terms, moral behavior can probably be defined as “doing to others as one would have done to themselves,” and immoral behavior can be defined as “doing to others as one would not like to have done to themselves.” You’ll notice the teaching of Christ buried in this philosophy; that is not accidental or coincidental. I doubt you’ll ever find an atheist who claims that Christ had nothing useful to say (though what he said was certainly not original). At any rate, these definitions don’t really help us very much, because what one person would like might be different from what another person may like. One person may dislike what another person would like. One person may like what another person may be indifferent to. One person may be indifferent to what another person likes.
We have no “universal person” who we can use to make these assertions that any given act “would be liked” or “would be disliked.” So we haven’t really come any further with these definitions than if we simply had attributed them as “good” and “bad” behaviors. Henry Hazlitt, in The Foundations of Morality, likens moral behavior to attempts to “make an is from an ought,” and this is difficult to get into without explaining the context around which he says this (5). We’ll still show, after explaining what he means, that he’s wholly incorrect because “is” and “ought” are just as subjective as anything else we’ve tried so far.
“The world ought to have peace” would be an exemplar statement, but the problem here is obvious: the conditions we’ve created with the word “ought” are an illusory world that is most certainly not the one in which we live. In order to make such an “ought” statement, we must be capable of comparing the “world as it is” to a hypothetical “perfect” world wherein “what ought, is.” Making such a comparison, of course, requires being able to compare any two states of existence (regardless of the disparity between them), and this therefore goes quite a long way in explaining why dogs and cats don’t have such a system: they lack the cognitive processes to imagine this “world of oughts.”
“Women ought to have equal wages” would be another example, and it has the same problem; in the world currently, there is not peace and women, even in the United States (bastion of “freedom” though it is) women do not earn wages equal to men. In fact, one of the presidential debates of 2012 established that women earn 76% of what their male counterparts make.
Moral behavior, then, is a vehicle with which we travel from “what is” to “what ought be.” The actions we take toward establishing peace in the world (as ought be) would be considered moral actions, just as the actions we take toward giving women what they actually deserve would be considered moral behavior (as this is what ought be). Moral behavior is any action that decisively transitions “what is” toward “what ought be.” But this is a minefield of problems, because it automatically presumes that “the greater good” is better than “a local good,” and we can’t justify that.
For example, what if the only possible way, after every other avenue has been explored, to achieve world peace is to nuke the Middle East and turn the entire region into a deadened tundra of snow and ash? Do the many (the rest of the world) outweigh the needs of the few (the Middle East inhabitants)? Would we be justified in killing hundreds of millions of people if we were to spare some countless number of theoretical future victims from dying in needless wars?
I can’t answer this question for you; it is one you must ask and answer for yourself. But I presume that you, like me, would say, “Absolutely not.” I say this because the people in the Middle East are real—we can see them, touch them, love them. They feel as I feel, they think as I think, and they know as I know. The theoretical future people that may be spared from needless wars are not quite so real, even if they are potentially of infinite number. I cannot condone the sacrifice of real people to protect the lives of imagined people—and I sincerely hope that you cannot, either. My sense of empathy forbids it.
What about a simpler, less illusory example? What if you could go back in time to 1940 and kill Hitler? What if you knew that killing Hitler would (somehow) immediately end World War 2 and would cause all the imprisoned Jews to be released from the concentration camps? What if you knew (thanks to your coming from the future) that Hitler would go on to be responsible for all those deaths if he lived and you knew that a great many of those deaths would be prevented by the death of Hitler? You can kill him, press a button on your wristwatch, and return the present, with no negative repercussions on the world as a result of your tampering with the past. What if the only outcome of going back in time to kill Hitler was that there would have been deaths prevented and those people went on to live normal, productive lives? Would you kill him?
I tend to think the average reader would. If my intuitions are in touch with the average reader’s, then I am correct, because I know that I would kill Hitler in the above circumstances. That’s right: I would take the life of another human being. And I wouldn’t even feel slightly bad about it, and I doubt that you would, either. Why is this? Why is it that we can murder a human being and not feel, at the very least, immoral, much less can feel that it was the most moral thing we could have done? Why is it that you could approach a random person in the street and murder them, and this act would then be judged immoral, but you can murder Hitler and (I imagine most people would agree) the act would be judged moral?
In either case, you’re performing exactly the same act: killing another person. You might hold up a gun, take aim, and pull the trigger, ending the life of the victim—in both examples. But in one, you are moral (or, at the very least, morally neutral) and in one you are immoral.
This fundamental truth (that statements of moral value are subjective, rather than objective) is universally true, even for such contemptable acts as murder and rape. Though we would be hard-pressed to imagine up any scenario in which rape would be considered acceptable, we can do so, no matter how far-fetched that scenario might be. It follows, then, that rape cannot objectively be immoral, as it depends upon other factors and circumstances. Even though such circumstances would be so rare that they are unrealistic, any proclamations that we make that rape is immoral are still dependent upon circumstances that are almost always true.
The problem with moral claims is that they cannot be demonstrated, for the most part, as moral or immoral, because we lack omniscience and can never identify all of the effects of a given cause.
 The exact wording is “Musselmen,” which is antiquated term that means “Muslims.”