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Matus1976 Blog - Philosophy, Science, Politics, Invention
Are you Proud of your race?
Are you Proud of your race?
In a forum I frequent a poster stated that she was proud of her race. I would ask why are you proud of your race? Now it is important to emphasize the correct word here, I am not asking why she is proud of *her* race, or proud of her *race*, but why she is *proud* of her race. One should not attach any special significance to their race because that, in itself, is a form of racism.
Consider the negation; you are ashamed of your race. Everyone immediately recognizes why that is wrong. Being ashamed of something implies that it is wrong and you have erred in some manner. How can you err in your race? You have no choice over it. If it is wrong to be ashamed of your race then it must necessarily be wrong to be the opposite, proud. The fact is, implying you are proud or ashamed of your race corrupts the very notion of pride and shame. Pride and shame direct our actions. You can not be proud or ashamed of things you have had no choice in.
She later gives the example of a fat women being proud of her weight? Why? What is good about being fat? Coming from someone who struggles with his weight, it is unhealthy and makes you more likely to die in any number of ways, including significantly increasing your risk of cancer. What is there to be proud of? Perhaps if they tried really hard to be fat and it was her goal, they can be proud of it. If not, and this is what her statement really implies, than you can be proud of anything you want for whatever reason, which again undermines the very idea of pride.
You should only be proud of things that are good. Consider the modern ghetto culture of America, or the Yobs of Europe, which derive value and pride from intimidation and violence. Are these proper things to be proud of? They do not bother concerning themselves with why something should make you proud, you simply must be proud or you are inferior. So people become proud of whatever they want, it is a form of value hedonism; a wanton embellishment of whatever arbitrary whim happens to catch ones fancy. It means a person’s self esteem and is based on nothing specific and is blown about in the wind by the slightest breeze.
Being proud of a race, class, or family heritage is nothing more than an attempt to gain value through the hard work of other people. Being proud of the great accomplishments of the Chinese as a group because you are Chinese means you think you are better because other people that are like you in some particular arbitrary manner accomplished something more than what you have accomplished, so you get to feel good about yourself. Being proud of your race is just as wrong as disliking someone else because of their race, both are based on the same misconceptions, group think, and arbitrary valuation of attributes people have no control over. The truth is the only just way to judge yourself is through your own actions, and the consequences of your actions are the only things you should be proud, or ashamed of.
One of my best friends is Greek, and he jokes about all the great things the Greeks accomplished. They sure accomplished a great deal; about 2,000 years ago. But he jokingly implied that this somehow makes him special. Is he proud to be Greek? He didn’t accomplish any of those things. Yet many modern Greeks try to 2nd hand a lot of value from the accomplishments of all other Greeks to such an extent that native Greeks exhibit a form of ancestor worship hardly paralleled in any other culture. It is all just a form of group think and it is all an attempt to steal and create false value and a false sense of self worth.
If you can be proud of your race can I feel bad for you because of your race? Gee, it’s too bad you are Chinese, or Vietnamese or black. I feel sorry for you, because group XXX hasn’t accomplished much, and therefore you will not accomplish much. All of these attitudes absolutely destroy the concept and the value of the individual. Or, to put it another way, if you can be proud of your race, are you ashamed of it for its atrocities? Are Germans ashamed of the Holocaust and feel guilt because of it? Japanese ashamed of who they are because of the Rape of Nan King, Whites for the conquest of the New World, Vietnamese for putting Pol Pot into power? No one should ever suffer from un earned guilt, and conversely, revel in un earned pride. Being proud of something that is completely arbitrary corrupts the notion of pride. Try to define the concept of pride and you will see what I mean.
Let us take a look at Aristotle’s definition, from Nichomachaen ethics. “With regard to honour and dishonour the mean is proper pride, the excess is known as a sort of 'empty vanity', and the deficiency is undue humility;” and further “A proper sense of oneself is based on a reverent love for the truth” Being proud of your race is an empty vanity just as being ashamed of it is an undue humility. Your race has no moral value, it is a non moral attribute.
In the future we will be able to choose our height, weight, eye color and skin color as easily as we choose our hair color now. What will we derive our value from then? When any *person* can choose to be man or woman (or both) and choose to be any *race* (as if were even a real concept in the first place) what will they then base their sense of self on? They are going to have to derive their value the good old fashioned way, through what they have accomplished and the kind of person they are and have chosen to be.
Furthermore, by crying about discrimination against Asian Americans she was actually being racist. What is an Asian American? Well it’s an individual one is lumping into a group to be judge as a group and to have political interests as a group, instead of as an individual. It is discrimination in general, in all forms that must be fought. Not just against Asian Americans or Black Americans or Sweedish Americans, but against the concept of pre-judging someone based on an un-chosen attribute. Violence against individuals that should be adamantly opposed, not violence against groups.
Consider other alternative groups you can be proud of, and the absurdity becomes obvious. Am I proud of my blue eyes? A lot of blue eyed people have accomplished a great many things. I should be proud of the heritage of the blue eyes. Am I proud of my brown hair, well us brown hairs have also accomplished a great many things.
You have to be proud of things for a reason, not just simply because they are a part of you. You need to learn to think of yourself as an individual, not a foggy conception of a group. Being proud of your race is a form of racism, as racism is defined by judging someone or attributing something to them merely because of their race. You are not a race or a gender, and if you use either as your primary identifier of yourself then you are not an individual but a foggy conglomeration of a lot of other individuals.
Whos got it all figured out?
I hear a lot of people make comments that supporters of particular parties or politicians are idiots or stupid, people who voted for Bush, people who voted for Kerry, people who voted for Badnarik (who you ask?) They are all to each other stupid people and they can’t all be right, but can they all be wrong? Well, yes. It’s wrong to be that confident of your assessment of the situation when the world is as large and as complex a system as it is, and that disrespectful of theirs. It is right to be confident enough to vote on your judgment and to consider it just when adequately examined, but it is not right to wholly condemn millions of people because they have a different opinion from you. No one has ‘it all’ figured out and no one has any crystal ball foretelling the future, and you are not really that clever. Perhaps in the future, when some benevolent Artificial Intelligence which can read, understand, and conceptualize every book, idea, fact of history, interpretation and story, will we be able to consider something to have ‘it all’ figured out. But not now, and not anytime soon. Socrates brought out this idea to its logical extreme when he said “All I know is that I know nothing” He was executed on charges of ‘corrupting the youth’
Consider that if you start with someone having a political opinion at all, you are starting on common ground, even if their opinion differs from yours. At least they care about the world enough to form an opinion. Many people do not. Most people have very similar values; they want to see the same thing accomplished which is generally the best life for the most number of people. How do you accomplish that good life for the greatest number of people? Do you do it with a controlled economy and lots of regulation or with a free economy and little regulation? Or do you do it with no government at all, as some people assert. Each of these people holding these beliefs will assert that they are the best ways to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people
I must digress into a short discussion of ethics here, that of Kantianism and Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism literally is the greatest good for the greatest number, even if at the expense of a few. A utilitarian is just in killing one person to save many. Or killing their rich grandmother in order to pass the money to her 10 poor grandchildren. Those ‘lifeboat’ scenario ethical dilemmas usually center around utilitarianism. Few people are literally utilitarian, but some prominent people are, John Rawls, the author of “A theory of Justice” an inspiring piece to many modern political philosophers, and Peter Singer, a prominent figure in the Animal Rights movement. Kantianism, on the other hand, is the idea of holding individuals to the highest level of respect, of never treating an individual as a means to an end (that is, using them to accomplish something) and to always treat them as an end of their own. Thus many acts are just under utilitarianism but unjust in Kantianism. The short hand ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ is used by political philosophers in the utilitarian literal sense, but it is usually used by average people to indicate a system of utilitarianism checked against Kantianism. That is, certain fundamental rights are respected, rights to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, property, etc, while the greatest good for the greatest number is desired without infringing on those rights (at least not too much)
So when you condemn a person for his political beliefs you are asserting that according to your information that your interpretation is the best way to accomplish your values and his is not. However, it is physically impossible for you to be cognizant of all the relevant information to make a completely informed decision in such a matter, and that other person can very well be just in asserting that according to his values and information set that his conclusions are correct. In fact his values may very well be identical as yours but through his information set he has come to a completely different, albeit still logical and rational, conclusion. After all, we haven’t all read the same exact things.
Now clearly some value sets can differ, but I feel most people are very similar in their value set, and where value sets diverge greatly (for instance in literal collectivists, those pro-slavery, or neo-nazi’s) then we have a reasonable cause to make a moral condemnation of ideas which are so obviously destructive and deadly to individuals and to freedom. The value set of these people clearly does not start with any conception of greatest good checked against individual rights. But most people, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, objectivists, anarchists (both socialist and capitalist) in general have a similar goal in mind; that of a good healthy society where people are free and live long lives and the world and environment are in good shape. It is always important to recognize this common ground.
Additionally the dichotomy presented in American politics is clearly false, why did the leader of the Labour party in the U.K. support the Iraq War? Any cursory examination of the political parties of the liberal representative democracies will reveal divisions that do not abide by American divisions, they are not all split along ‘Democrat vs Republican’ lines, just with different names. Clearly the major parties present in America are not the only mindsets that a large number of people find rational. Even in the fringe parties, the Internationalist libertarians and libertarian party in France supported the Iraq war, while most of the libertarians in the rest of the world opposed it. Who was right? Based on what values and what information set?
All of this begs the individual to identify and define their values, and to have a very clear, rational outlook data sets. Having a good interpretation of your data set is also extremely dependant on logical thought and the ability to recognize fallacies of logic (that is spotting things that sound as though they are true but have a clear logical reason why it is not rational to believe them to be) Most students of skepticism and logic despise the current education systems treatment of the subject, we feel it is primarily because if students were taught early on the basics of reason and logic that they would not end up believing 90% of what those in power try to drill into their skulls. But even so you can still come out with different opinions, as me and many of my friends well versed in logic and rational thought have (some of them might notice a fallacy of logic in my comment on Socrates)
So I have to laugh at people who ‘it all’ figured out, and feel a bit sad for them. I am an atheist and a neo-libertarian, and sometimes I will call myself an objectivist. I also voted for Bush last election and the libertarian candidate in the election before that, and Bill Clinton in the election before that. If you want to call me stupid for doing so, go ahead and pick which ever affiliation I was stupid during so you can feel superior. But perhaps first you should examine my value set and find out if it is similar to yours and then trade our information sets. If you do so, perhaps one of us or both of us might change our conclusions. This is why I have just as many close friends who despise Bush as I do close friends who like him. None of us are infallible and we all recognize that, because none of us have value sets that vary widely. None of us are conservative Christians and none are members of the Workers World Party. Each of us recognizes the complexity in the world, respects each other’s rational judgment, and knows we all, in the end, are looking for the same outcome.
This post was written to VietPundit, a Vietnamese American who writes a popular blog. Someone accused him of being a 'chickenhawk' and this was my response to him.
First let me thank you sincerely for taking the time to create and maintain this blog, America is severely lacking in voices which tell a more accurate story of the Vietnam War. As an <30 year old American, I was not around during that war, but I have done my best to try to educate people on the vicious aftermath of the war and deride the hypocrisy of the anti war protestors who could not give a shit about the people of Vietnam, as evident from their complete and total evasion of everything that happened there, and in Laos, and in Cambodia. It is disgusting.
As for being a ‘chickenhawk’, don't consider yourself one, or even consider the term a valid criticism. As other posters have pointed out, one can certainly have beliefs yet not drop absolutely everything they are doing and follow those convictions whole heartedly, if that were the case you would not be allowed to have opinions on anything except the one thing you devote your life to. Besides, if you are a productive hard working American, and you voted for an administration that seeks to spread liberal democracy and freedom, then you are putting actions to your values. I think in your fight for freedom you have all ready been through enough anyway, far more than any of these ‘chickenhawk’ crying coffee shop Marxist warrior bums could ever imagine, so tell them they can go to hell.
I consider the ‘chickenhawk’ argument is fallacious for the following reasons
1) It asserts that someone must do absolutely everything to follow a conviction, e.g. if you support the war you should be fighting it (as opposed to preferring to see more freedom in the world than less) But I also support freedom for the people of Iran, Syria, Cuba, Vietnam, Burma, Laos, China, etc, etc, etc. Must I take up arms against everyone of these brutal dictatorial governments? No. Yet the anti war activists are the ones that are opposing, every step of the way, any effort to remove these murderers from power. I am also pro choice and support gay rights, but that does not mean I am required to partake in marches and parades, nor invade countries that brutally supress such things. Interestingly most people who support these things are the ones that would call you a chicken hawk and who themselves would do nothing to stop the worst of the oppression of gays and women; that in fundamentalist ruled Islamic countries. Which leads me to point 2
2) Those making the claim that we must draw out every belief to it’s full logical conclusion and act on it wholly themselves do not abide by it. If they oppose the Iraq war, then continuing to work and be a productive American is contributing to the spread of an imperialistic murderous bush tyranny (according to them). Yet I do not see them pulling any Ted Kaczyisnkis and living off the grid and no longer contributing productively to the perpetuation of a government they see as murderous. So by asserting you are a chickenhawk they are also acknowledging that they are hypocrites.
3) it ignores the concept of division of labor. War is a dirty and nasty thing, often bloody and painful. So is being an Emergency Medical Technician or a Doctor or a Police Officer (as you point out) yet they are perfectly content paying other people to do that dirty work for them. They believe they have the right to be free from aggression and are perfectly content in paying other people to enforce that right. Similarly we believe all people of the world should be free and some are perfectly content in paying other people to bring that about.
The main point is that all of us make compromises in our lives between the world we want to see and the world we want to live, the supporters of the war and the opposers of it. The chickenhawk argument is basically asserting that no compromises can be made, but that means they themselves also can not make those compromises.
The End to War
War, disease, famine, murder. What would you say if someone knew a cure for them? A way to achieve a veritable utopia on earth, free of oppression and pain and suffering? Well, if you are like most Americans, and many people of the world, you might call him a nazi, a terrorist, or a dictator.
There is a cure for these terrible things, and it is called democracy. Now before you cringe, lets clarify democracy. Democracy is not (as it is used commonly now) a simple majority rule. If you think so, then let’s you, me, and my friend partake in a vote to take all your money from you and divide it between my friend and I, and see how ‘democratic’ you consider that process. Though the phrase originally meant a literal majority rule, a modern democracy has a specific meaning. It is representative rule and liberal (liberal in it’s classical sense, meaning it respects the rights of its people) has laws that are equally applicable to all people, and for the most part let people determine the course of their own lives. Former Soviet gulag victim Natan Sharansky promotes a even simpler definition, fear. Go to the town square and criticize your government. If you do that in Vietnam, you will get thrown in jail. If you do that in China, you will get beaten and thrown in jail. If you did that in the Stalinist Soviet Union, you would be thrown in jail for years, beaten routinely and tortured, as Natan Sharansky did…if you were lucky. If you were not, you were worked, literally, until you died. If you did that in Iraq, you were murdered, male family members were murdered and female ones raped, then murdered. Saddam Hussein murdered 50,000 Shi’ites (about how many Americans were killed in Vietnam) post Gulf War I his murderous Anfal campaign sought a final solution to the Kurdish question and murdered over 100,000. If you find yourself afraid to actually speak your mind then you are in a fear society. One that operates, rules, and is based on fear. If you find yourself able to speak your mind, you are in a free society.
Democracies do not commit mass murder, they do not murder large numbers of their own people, they do not start wars, they do not get in wars with other democracies. They do not have famines, they promote and produce freedom, increased standards of living, longer life spans, and in general much more wealth and prosperity. All of which has been empirically proven.
Democrats, who so despise Bush as to vilify anything he could possibly do as evil (instead of rationally recognizing these aspects are good, as Christopher Hitchens and Peter Beinhart of The New Republic have) seek to undermined the very concept of peace and freedom. Not able to vilify Bush’s policy of spreading democracy and bemused by the success of the first election in Iraq, they instead attack democracy itself. For the majority of this century every academic, member of the intelligentsia and liberal elitist knew and recognized the value of liberal representative democracies in the world and rightly despised totalitarian dictatorships. Now, because what Bush is doing is right, they all the sudden change their minds. If democracies are no good, what then is? They highlight the few isolated cases of conflicts between democracies while those countries were neither liberal nor representative (but might have been majority rule) and suggest that the very concept of democratic peace is flawed. Their ideological hatred of Bush clouds their mind to such an extent that they now belie the greatest governmental form humanity has yet devised and the very source of all the great things they themselves value so much in life, like freedom of speech, press, and expression.
Now I am no coddling party line Bush supporter. I am an atheist, a libertarian, and extropian, all of which conflict with the vast majority of Republican ideals. However, I am also a freedomist, I value the freedom of the people of the world. And Bush for his part is doing his best to promulgate that freedom.
The leading proponent of democratic peace these days might be political science professor R.J. Rummel. Rummel has authored 24 books, was a runner up for the Noble Peace price, and is author of the most sighted book in academic history. Rummel has spent more time than anyone alive studying the murderous effects of power in government, showing that governments have murdered 170 million of their own people in this century. Far more than have been killed in wars between nations. Visit his extensive website at http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/welcome.html for more information.
The Pain of Bad Ideas
If you had an idea about something and started telling that idea to other people and as a result of adopting that idea some of those people were injured or killed, are you in part morally culpable for their deaths?
This is not meant to be some esoteric discussion of metaphysics, but instead is a real question dealing with practical realities. Consider a man in a farming tribe. He convinces his fellow tribesman that if they sacrifice all their seed and cattle in a great holy fire to the gods that they will never starve again and will be blessed with food from the sky. They do so, and all die as a result. Was this witch doctor absolutely sincere? Did he truly believe he would free his brothers from hunger, or was he actually malicious and suicidal? In truth, one can never know in such circumstances what the motivation of somebody truly was, since we can not read their minds. However, do we really need to know what his motivations were to condemn him? The simple fact is that as a consequence of adopting his idea many people died, perhaps including many who never even had the oppurtinity to embrace or condemn his idea. Is it really any less wrong that someone killed many people for no reason at all versus killing for some reason? At least the malicious person must deal with a guilty conscious, the ignorant person acting on benevolence can always find solace in the fact that he *meant* well, no matter how many bodies he racks up.
Thus, we are morally culpable for the consequences of our actions *and* of our ideas. The reason why this is an important concept is because far more people have probably been killed by people promulgating bad ideas based on good intentions that have been killed by evil or malicious people. Yet very few of us fear the former, and most fear the latter. The most striking example of death based on ignorance + good intentions is malaria, which makes Rachel Carson the worst mass murderer to have ever walked the planet. If you don’t know who she is, she was the author of ‘Silent Spring’ which told the horror stories of thinning egg shells due to DDT. She virtually single handedly spring boarded the modern environmentalist movement and triggered a nationwide consensus of fear about pesticides, primarily DDT, which neither thinned egg shells nor caused cancer. What DDT did do however, was kill mosquitoes, and it did a damn good job of it. And what mosquitoes did was kill people, and they did a damn good job of that. During the height of DDT spraying the number of deaths due to malaria was around 10 – 100 per year *in the entire world* Today, that number, by best estimates, is probably around 1 million per year. Those are completely and wholly preventable deaths. Most of those victims are poor black children in Africa. While AIDS gets all the attention, it kills less than 1/100 the number of people that dysentery, diarrhea, and malaria do. Since DDT has been banned by the UN for nearly 30 years now, estimates of the deaths that banning has caused range between 30 million and 50 million deaths. That is nearly twice the number of people killed from battle during WWII. This is the single most egregious case of western hypocrisy and depraved indifference in the world today. It is the single worst cause of the most easily preventable deaths in the world. One million people every year. 30 – 50 million people total. Numbers that are completely incomprehensible. While Eastern Equestrian Encephalitis and Avian Bird Flue and West Nile virus scare us into mosquito nets and closed widows and face masks, those flying self replicating used needles, the most efficient pathogen transmitters to buzz the earth, enjoy a life free of fear and harm while mankind, their biggest victim, holster their only effective weapon out of completely twisted, misguided and anti-scientific hysteria.
You better get your head on straight, arm yourself with the proper tools to recognize poor logic and bad reasoning, and dethrone ‘good intentions’ as the ultimate moral justifier, replacing it with ‘good consequences’ because the people who will probably kill you don’t know they will and certainly don’t mean to.