Month: September 2013

Communication

Of the many excuses people have for their relationships failing, the most common seems to be lack of communication. This assumes that the usual “blame something external” drive hasn’t registered and instead of saying that the economy or the patriarchy or the Steelers’ offense caused your relationship with your spouse or boss to go south, you take responsibility. So, in other words, among adults, the most typical excuse for relationship failure.

The reason might have more to do with language and the way we use language than some mystical perception of compatibility or moral turpitude. We live in a culture where, because we look at life through an individualistic lens, opportunism is the rule. That’s fine and all, but of course the language adapts to this; we have euphemisms for everything, we cast a political light to almost every conversation that involves accountability, and blame-shifting is a national sport. Being to obvious about this looks bad, so people have sly ways to direct and re-direct each others’ attention and blame can get passed on without anything resembling a direct accusation of wrongdoing.

The English language has an awful lot of words compared to other languages, and many of them are ostensibly factual but, when examined, very political. Just think about the difference between “Rights”, “Liberties”, “Powers”, “Entitlements”, “Expectations”, and “Prerogatives”. Do these words describe something that’s actually different outside the individual’s perception, or just different attitudes towards the same concept?

Marketers run the West, particularly in the information age.

So, maybe the issue of people having trouble communicating isn’t so much that they don’t talk. People talk plenty. The issue is more likely that they simply have trouble communicating honestly. No one will come out and say, “I demand that you do this”, as it runs too counter to our desire for freedom, so we end up just manipulating and also not understanding what we actually want.

Maybe this isn’t really trouble so much as a simple inability to win a propaganda war, and rearrange relationships into what we want them to be. In a society that refuses to accept hierarchy, the ability to bullshit people into thinking that a subservient position isn’t really a subservient position holds together many relationships that, if discussed honestly, would clearly be damning to one side in some way. So the real question is, should people be honest? Is bullshit the only thing holding together large numbers of productive interactions? And if so, does this say something damning about people’s views on their place in the world?

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Leaders and Men

The individual of individualist ideals can be divided up into two types.

Most people – whether they look at themselves this way or not – believe in succeeding in a world that’s “fair”. Only in a world of justice does their failure tell them anything about their true ability. If they fail in an unjust world, then it isn’t their fault. 

Others – real men, specifically men, and those who can lead men – believe in succeeding in a world which in not fair, and yet they succeed anyway. They would seek to lead ordinary men to a place where they can achieve “according to their ability”, which is another way of saying, according to standards they would like to be measured by, not the standards that are. Leaders look terrible odds in the face and find a way to succeed anyway, with no one showing them a yellow brick road upon which to find guaranteed success. They would typically seek to make the world more fair, for the sake of others. 

This is how it always rolls for the leader. Authorities create justice out of an unjust world. Ordinary people enjoy the created world, and soon enough take it for granted.

The leader would like some appreciation, but creating justice merely garners only temporary thanks which soon vanishes, and rightly so. The standards of fairness are purely relative; an old man’s “too easy” is a young man’s “too hard”, as befits the trials of their time.

Of course, ordinary people never get tired of tales describing incompetent leadership. Absolution is delicious.

Vote on the Issues? Why?

You hear it all the time: people should vote on the issues, not on the minutiae of the history of an individual running for office. You seem to hear it a lot when the speaker’s candidate has some skeletons in their closet.

Not that I recommend voting, or democracy, anyway, but let’s think about this for a second.

Even if you particularly know something about a particular field, like economics or political science, the average voter does not. It’s a specialized world. Do you really know enough about energy policy, infrastructure, education, military policy, finance, or simply the values of your culture to make these kinds of decisions?  WHY should your vote on the issues count? You never have the necessary information.

As an economic action, voting shouldn’t make sense given the paucity of data that can be justified. The epistemology of anything outside our immediate environment is terrible in this world, not to mention our complete lack of good data about the future. Keynes saw this decades ago when discussing the actions of entrepreneurs and investors. His explanation for why people took such risks with so little data?

He called it “animal spirits”. In Nietzschean terms, the mind seeks power and will take somewhat serious risks to get it. Having power is like having food, water and air.

 

I’ve made it clear in the past that I don’t think people should vote on their gut perception of character: http://praxamericana.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-efficiency-of-being-dick.html

The issues are no better. Democracy has to assume the people have information that is honest, clear, and well-prioritized. So once again, the people are in a state of raw dependency on an institution, and that institution is the media. The media, by the way, is not elected.

As the principles of choice work out in the field of information, then naturally, people prefer to listen to the information they want to hear. There is no objective standard about what data should be prioritized where; the media decides it, based on their values and the desires of the consumer. The further away we get from the small, parochial community, the worse this dependency gets.

The calculus behind democracy is a moral calculus, made with Judeo-Christian assumptions. It assumes those with power are bad and the people are good. It assumes that the powerful must be made accountable… to a people who get its information from unreliable sources.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone when those with power try to control the information. By the rationale of democracy itself, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Not doing so is begging for their enemies to control it. Nowhere in this can truth be assumed or even be likely.

Can we just admit that democracy is garbage? That egalitarianism is ridiculous and the myth of the well-informed voter is just that and nothing more?

No, probably not.