Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maturity and Rebellion

Subcultural conformism by age makes true youthful dissent easily dismissed by the establishment as simply thoughtless, reactionary, and sensational, as opposed to having any true intellectual merit. Unfortunately this is all too true, as these stereotypes have an unnerving basis in fact. Many rebellious youths will burn out or assimilate, out of fear, disappointment, or conversion. They will invariably accept that the stereotypes are indeed true, and those who do not are dismissed as immature.

However, immaturity and nonconformism are two entirely different concepts. In many ways, they are opposing ones as well.

It is the mark of maturity not to come to terms with the establishment, but to come to an understanding of oneself. The oft repeated former talking point is merely propaganda propagated by a set of self-preserving systems, that seek to delegitimize dissent, and thus establish ideological orthodoxy for the purpose of preserving the status quo. Not only is that completely contrary to the reality of an emergent society, but due to that fact it, this philosophy, will invariably be detrimental to humanity on an exponential basis over time the longer it is permitted to permeate our views and rule our perceptions.

We must recognize that at any given time our views inherently cannot be perfect. It is all we can do to strive for intellectual and ideological, individual and social betterment. The best way we might accomplish this is through free discourse and consideration of all ideas, no matter how contrary to established views. We have nothing to lose but outdated viewpoints, for if our current views are the best we have, we shall of course keep them, and if there are some that are better, we may adopt new ones. There is nothing to fear from such freedom and openness of mind.

In this way, and this only, may we form a more perfect union of humanity, society, and nature in which all parties benefit.

The Oft-Shirked Responsibility of the Privileged

People of privilege have a duty to appropriate their economic, political, and ideological power in the most socially responsible, progressive, and beneficial manner possible.

We must do so even to our own cost, to the extent of foregoing some of our own innumerable luxuries we oft take for granted.

We must do so because others less fortunate will be forced to foot the bill for the unpaid sum of our self-indulgence, apathy, and inhumanity, as represented in our choices of institutions.

You cannot separate a corporations' actions from their products. If you watch House, M.D., you support the slanted, sickening, system-preserving conservative infotainment that is Fox News. It simply is not possible.

I do not say that you are wrong for supporting that which is wrong. I only say that you are wrong if you know that what you do is wrong, and yet still do it for personal gain. And even then, being wrong is not so bad, if you can learn and change from it.

We, as our societies, are emergent. We make mistakes, learn from them, and emerge stronger, more perfect. This does not make us any less good, or lesser in worth. In fact, it makes our strikingly unique beings in that we have the capability to make ourselves more perfect, in an inherently imperfect universe.

Knowing this, it is our duty to fulfill that responsibility. We will always make mistakes; but we must also always learn from them, correct them, and thus emerge bettered. It is our obligation.

Capitalism is Dead

The World Bank and IMF only exist to perpetuate a capitalistic system whereby entire nations are subjected to economic exploitation and political submission. Their only real purpose is to further aggrandize the established elites in charge of this clandestine economic empire.

They are necessary for the world economy because the world economy is based around aggrandizing less than 1% of the population over the lower 99+%'s economic well being. The economy is already in shambles, because it's inevitable that a capitalistic economy destroy itself by nature of the greed that drives it.

If you really look around, most of the jobs that exist today aren't really necessary. Banks and Stock Markets produce nothing and yet account for millions of jobs on their own. The vast majority of industrial occupations could be eliminated through automation. Managerial occupations thereof would also vanish, and most of the rest of the service industry could be automated if we put a nominal amount of resources into it. The military is only necessary in a world based around nation-states. But that would leave a lot of people without jobs and cause a total, near instantaneous collapse of the global capitalist economy and hegemony. So people work several dead-end jobs, support their nations and religions and "free market", and are stripped of the leisure time they could be having, while potential alternatives to this insanity are constantly marginalized or assimilated into the capitalist system....

The economy is already dead to everyone except the kings and oligarchs of the capitalist establishment, and sooner or later this will catch up with them too. It's just a matter of time before the system destroys itself, and we had better come up with an alternative before things reach the tipping point.

An Open Letter to the Zeitgeist Movement

I would like to address the treatment of Communism by this movement.

There are many generalizations made about Communism and Socialism in the movement. I wish to point out that there has never been any large-scale implementation of Communism, and certainly not by any nation-state. The various references made to Communism and Socialism by the movement's materials generally cite the former USSR and China as being communist or socialist states: this is simply not true. They are mercantile-totalitarian, or mercantile-absolutist states. Communism as an ideology is a stateless system; there seems to be a basic misunderstanding about the tenets of Marxist theory that is unfortunately perpetuated by TZGM.

In fact, in many ways, ZGM and the Venus Project are a much-needed update for Marxist theory in the 21st century, accounting for new understandings about our emergent society and the ridiculous nature of Utopia, as well as incorporating new technological developments into the attempt to free mankind from needless labor.

I believe that you may already know this. I understand that you wish to separate this movement from the stigma of others. This would explain your decision to differentiate Z-Day from traditional protests quite well.
However, you must understand that by separating yourself from the communist ideology, you separate yourself from all the leftist movements that continue to struggle for, ultimately, the same goals. By dividing ourselves against each other we perpetuate the oldest of problems among leftist organizations: detrimental decentralization. We cannot succeed without having all of our activists on one team, and with the casual dismissals of both communism and participatory democracy (through the plan to delegate all important decisions to computers), you alienate our most basic resources: the already existing and operating leftist activists laying largely dormant.

Use us. Please. Reevaluate these two points of the movement, and the global bloodless revolution that we strive for, and we all so desperately need, will at last come to pass that much faster.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reexamining Convention: Part Two - Nations, Politics, and Other Human Inventions in Society

Section One - Politik in the USA

The United States is a strange place.

On November 4th, 2008, the United States held an election for the office of President of the United States. 131,257,328 people voted; approximately 60-63% of the total population that was eligible to vote, which was somewhere between 200 and 212 Million. Barrack Obama won the election with about 52% of the popular vote; this would put him at having won about 30% of the total eligible voters in the nation. This was the highest voter turnout in about half a century by a significant margin.

But, as ridiculously unrepresentative these votes were, they were not even counted. Although the office is a national one, due to the convoluted election system in the United States the votes were counted in a far different manner.

When voters went to the polls last November, they were led to believe they were voting between two candidates. In reality, they chose between electoral representatives: though not named on the ballot, the elections were actually to choose this position, not the office of president. These "electors" are nominated by their political parties, and are elected by state, not on the national stage. A prescribed amount of the electors is allocated to each of the fifty states. They technically have the freedom to choose any candidate for President. However, the political parties discourage such behavior, called 'faithlessness', by nominating high-ranking party officials or, more commonly, loyal associates thereof to the office. Then, some time after election day, the electors cast their votes to actually determine who wins the Presidency. However, since their votes are basically guaranteed to go one way or another, we saw who 'won' on election day.

Now, why would this system be utilized? It is immensely and unnecessarily convoluted, and seems to serve no greater purpose.

That is, until you examine the context more closely.

The "Founding Fathers" of the United States established the electoral college system essentially because they did not trust the common people to actually elect their representatives.
"A popular election in this case is radically vicious. The ignorance of the people would put it in the power of some one set of men dispersed through the Union, and acting in concert, to delude them into any appointment." -- Delegate Gerry, July 25, 1787
Essentially, Elbridge Gerry was speaking for the whole convention when he said that he feared the common people could be easily fooled manipulated in choosing their candidates from a very small pool of people, all closely associated and essentially conspiring to control the Union. They feared, basically, that Democracy would undermine itself; so, they created an oligarchy of sorts, whereby the States would choose the President of the United States. In this way, they were sure, no clandestine organization would ever be able to swindle the American public out of their votes: they had already been taken from them, and distributed in such a diluted manner that no organization in 1787 could possibly control the election.

Ironically, this would ensure the total hijacking of American politics by a small, tightly-knit elite. This was also achieved across the world in every democratizing, industrializing nation of the time.

All but one of the Founding Fathers joined two "political parties" by 1792. Alexander Hamilton began the Federalist Party, which recruited most of the Northern states and delegates, promoted banking interests, and was dominant for the first part of the United States' politics until 1800, when it began to fade. Thomas Jefferson established the Democratic-Republican Party, which recruited the Southern states and delegates, promoted the interests thereof (most notably slavery's continued existence), and was dominant from about 1800 to 1824. Thus began the dualistic nature of American Politics.

Do note how incredibly similar this dualistic system is to Christianity's, Judaism's, Islam's, and to a lesser degree all major world religions' systems of ethics and morality. In all of these systems, there is an absolute spectrum of dualistic morality, with the extremes anthropromorphized in the form of deities. This system of morality ignores the complexity of the human condition, and promotes adversity, and thus competition. This will be explored in more detail later on.

Now, there has never been a single time in American Politics where there have been more than two major, dominant parties. There have been many third-party organizations, but their significance has largely been moot. American political history has even been divided up into five eras, with different sets of political parties dominant in each period.

Political power in America has always been controlled by two political parties. And those have always been controlled by the rich.

From the very beginning, the delegates and politicians who became known as the Founding Fathers were essentially synonymous with the richest men in their states; everyone else was too busy with , while their wealth freed them to travel great distances and have their households managed by slaves, servants, and wives (While the Founders generally did little to improve the lot of those who did their share of work for them, they instead empowered and enriched themselves).

As time passed by, a new upper-class emerged from the ruthless capitalists of the late antebellum and gilded ages. As they utilized the "Free Labor" system, slavery was in direct competition with these industrialists' plans for market-share expansion all over the US, and eventually the world.

A short word on the Free Labor and slavery systems: These are just two, generally similar, methods of managing "human resources". Slavery is the ownership of such labor through direct ownership of the human being providing it. It was very inefficient for the antebellum South, because although it requires no wages and provides a monopoly on the labor from the slave, the slaves must be continually housed, clothed, fed and watered, which is an extreme drain on profit margins. Thus, most slave plantation owners were only breaking even year to year by the 1840s, while the slave traders, Northern merchants, and industrialists were reaping exponentially increasing profits annually. In addition, slave labor generally decreases the efficiency of the labor because the enslaved people (rightly) see no benefit to themselves or possibility for their future in the system.
However, despite requiring managers and industrialists to pay wages, the "Free Labor" system allows for the illusion of freedom and a productive future for the participants, thus improving productivity. It also is much cheaper than having to provide all the necessities to the workers, as in slavery, for people can always work more than one job. This spreads the responsibility for wealth around amongst the industrialists, creating reason for cooperation and collusion, as well as increasing overall productivity of the system. In addition, this spirit of collusion among the new business interests will quickly tie them inextricably into the political scene of the United States, without actually having to participate openly or directly in that field until much later, and thus operating without most peoples' knowledge.

Moving back to our narrative, slavery was a direct threat to continued market expansion, and thus the industrialists' profits, because not only did slave labor dominate and thus stunt the economies of half the Union, it threatened to expand even further across the newly acquired western territories the industrialists' had put much money into. They had pushed Congress and various Presidents to put centralized military force into seizing from the natives and the Mexican state, through the use of their political sponsorship and patronage. So, they provided even more patronage to the emerging Republican party, which opposed slavery's spread. (Monetary support for political campaigns will be their main tool for controlling the politics of the state for their own benefit throughout American history).

So, with tensions running high, the Southern states saw their economic system being slowly outmoded and dismantled by the industrialists. It should be noted that the legislative system was engineered specifically to balance pro and anti-slavery political forces by giving roughly equal say to both sides in Congress, rather than favoring one over the other. This is why we have a bicameral legislative system: one where all states have equal say, favoring the smaller states, and another where the more populous ones do, favoring the larger ones. By the 1840s, if one side got one more state than the other, it would upset the balance of power in the Senate and allow one side to pass a law definitively saying yes or no on the slavery issue. Many compromises, large and small, were made until the presidential election 1860 turned up a Republican leader, backed up by corporate sponsorship, whose 30% of the popular vote was barely enough to secure a pluralistic victory in a freak four-candidate race (basically the only one without any major, dominant parties due to various splits in the parties): Abraham Lincoln. At this point the South realized they were on the losing team, and decided to retreat away from the progress happening before their eyes. Thus, they seceded, militarized, and followed through by seizing Federal forts in the South. Thus began the Civil War.

What is important here, though, is that slavery was not abolished through the, undoubtedly tireless, efforts of the abolitionists. They were viewed with contempt in both the North and the South even through most of the Civil War itself, dismissed as dangerous reactionaries and subversives much as anarchists are today. The Civil War was waged because the corporate sponsors of the Republican party, the industrialists, thought it would benefit them. So, they supported it. What's even more sickening is that these are the same people who had swindled the American public out of millions of dollars in government railroad contracts, gold miners out of life savings, the same people who provided substandard supplies to soldiers on both sides through government contracting, and whose sons and grandsons would partake in the unimaginably brutal repressions of striking and unionizing workers of the late 1800s. The Civil War was waged not for ideals, but for profit, as all wars generally are, and certainly all wars the US would take part in afterwards.

But what's even more revealing is that these two competing systems, slavery and "Free Labor", only work to the benefit of the established elite. In slavery this is obvious, in a Free Labor system it is somewhat less so. However, this situation becomes much clearer when you realize that if practically all resources, services, and industries are privatized, and that in a "free market" eventually one party or several closely-knit ones will emerge largely dominant in every economic sector, and have total freedom to squash competition and unions, there will be a very small oligarchy of businessmen that control the economic, and thus political, aspects of the given society. Which is exactly what happened, and how the United States continues to be run; with religion subservient to the nation, and the nation subservient to the economic, or "special", interests. This hierarchy will only grow more pronounced over time.

Thus, there is no real "left" or "right" in American politics, there are only two parties which control politics, which are in turn controlled by established economic interests. There is only the vast majority, organized into two political parties, and backed up by the same economic elites, and the tiny minority which exists only because they are too insignificant politically, economically, and socially to pose a real threat to the establishment. This majority, despite believing that there is an "other" or "enemy" in the other party, are really being manipulated into not recognizing that both parties have essentially the exact same agenda, and very similar platforms. Despite invented issues which are comparatively minor or completely irrelevant issues that play on dividing people based on religious or racial criteria, in the overall scheme of things:
  • Both parties support the war in Afghanistan
  • Both parties support the war on drugs.
  • Both parties oppose freedom of movement into the United States for refugees from the nations that were exploited, corrupted, and ruined by economic interests based out of the United States, acts often permitted and subsidized by U.S. military support
  • Both parties support "free trade", a method by which whole nations are exploited for human and material resources, mostly by American economic elites
  • Both parties oppose socializing any part of the economy when unnecessary for economic stability, and thus domination by the economic elites
  • Both parties support the free-enterprise system
  • Both parties supported the financial "bailout" plan, which further aggrandized the banking industry's failed and corrupt executives who enriched themselves monstrously at the cost of millions of peoples' jobs and homes, as well as perpetuating a failed economic system while making no plans to eventually abandon said system, in addition to being contrary to the very ethics of the "free market" system they aided.
  • Both parties are financially supported by the sitting economic interests
The similarities could go on, and on.

Even more unnerving is that most people would not agree with any of these premises if they were properly educated by them. Unfortunately, the news media is largely controlled by the same establishment interests as support the political parties. This shows just how complete corporate dominance of society really is.

"Left" and "Right" exist only to further play on that system of dualistic morality that has been imposed on people since ancient times through religion. Think about it. How often have you considered people of "the other party" just fundamentally wrong, without even thinking about it? Or perhaps, without even knowing anything else about the person, except that they are of "the other party".

And what of those independent of this system? They are kept well marginalized. This is because the corporations realize that it is easier to control the political spectrum when it is a simple as possible, while still giving the illusion of choice: so, there are only two parties. To carry this out, independent candidates receive little to no funding from corporate sponsors, and thus are, as a group, made politically negligible on the state and national levels.

Basic political power and currency rests in how well advertised a candidate is. This is called a "campaign". The only way to have a good campaign, and thus be politically competitive as a candidate in any "democracy" with a capitalistic economy, is to be backed by the economically influential. Thus, although we all vote on who gets to go into office, our votes are made insignificant in every way, as compared to the CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies. Which makes sense. After all, they're the ones in charge.

So, Capitalism undermines Democracy. "Neither can live while the other survives", in fact.

As for your favorite public figures: no politician belonging to a major party is "too moral" to refuse corporate sponsorship. First of all, the major parties amount to corporate sponsorship in of themselves, taking in billions upon billions in indirect campaign contributions, which are then funneled to their candidates. Second of all, any politician who would refuse all kinds of such sponsorship would immediately become completely unsuccessful, and thus of moot importance. Thus is the nature of corporate control of democracy: clandestine, hard to detect, but ever-present.

There is no evidence or possibility that a capitalistic economic system can coexist with a political system will produce consistently honest, representative, and competent officers of the state. True, lasting, and real reform rarely occurs in capitalism. It costs too much.

In reality, it is the corporations who run all politics, sponsor both parties and candidates thereof, and keep ideas dangerous to the status quo in check. In reality, it is not the Left versus the Right: it is the common people versus themselves. The Left and the Right are illusions, just like God and the Devil, which:
  • Makes people feel part of a team, thus
  • Gives them a sense of moral superiority, and then
  • Establishes an enemy for them, and thus
  • Relieves them from the moral complexity of the world, which inevitably
  • Distracts them from the reality of their social situation.
These are all just illusions, and that's all they've ever been. They're only as "real" as we imagine them to be. Money, crucifixes, flags, they're all symbols. Symbols of the illusions we've grown to accept, become complacent under the weight of.

We can stop living the comfortable lives any time we want, and start making real changes to our mindsets and in our society that will put us all better off, all with what we need, all as one humanity.

It is possible.

Section Two - Global Politics, 1492-2009

These illusions are far from new.

Exploitation based on national, religious, and racial grounds (all human inventions) has been a staple of European politics since 1492.

In the colonial era, dominance passed first from Portugal in the 1400s, to Spain in 1500s, to the Dutch in the 1600s, and Britain for the 1700s to the 1800s, and would maintain major colonial possessions until the end of the second world war. But it didn't stop there.

As early as the late 1700s the U.S. was engaging in counter-piracy operations in North Africa. In the 1840s the United States invaded Mexico, seizing about half of Mexico which today is divided up into the states of California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and many others, doubling the size of the nation. In the 1860s slavery was abolished after a war and the appropriate war-profiteering, eliminating an inferior system for controlling labor. In 1896 the U.S. invaded Cuba, marking it's very first extracontinental military-colonial operation. Cuba would be dominated by U.S. business interests and corrupt dictators for another 60 years. In 1917 the U.S. was motivated by U.S. business interests and German provocations to enter the first world war, ending that final, most destructive war of colonialism decisively in favor of U.S. allies. In 1941 the U.S. entered the second world war, again due to U.S. business interests' encouragements and Axis provocations, and essentially ended Western European colonialism in its victory, beginning a new era of Soviet and U.S. domination of the world.

Throughout the post-war and cold-war periods, the U.S. created an economic empire for its business interests. It supported monstrous dictators and squashed nationalistic movements in nations exploited by U.S. businesses, and even engaged in acts of terrorism, such as assassinations, against leaders deemed unacceptable, and directly invaded or bombed many nations in order to eliminate particularly persistent resistance movements and aggrandize military contractors at the same time.

After the cold war ended with the economic collapse of the Soviet Union, military spending threatened to drop. An entire industry had been developed around military contracting, and they had an obvious vested interest in continuing to militarize. So it came as a great victory for many business leaders in the U.S. when on September 11th, 2001, three towers and part of the Pentagon fell in upon themselves after strikes by airborne objects in the most catastrophic military failure in U.S. history since Pearl Harbor. Clearly, some enemy was at work here, and this surely meant someone would be warred upon until they were defeated. Soon after, the President of the United States declared war: but he did so not on a nation, or an organization, or even an individual. He declared war on a tactic. And thus, the War on Terrorism began.

Why would he do that? That's an inherently unwinnable war, for somebody will always be able to use that strategy. It's very arguable that war in of itself involves terrorism inherently, especially the total war employed in the U.S. civil war and both world wars. The United States itself even utilized terrorism near constantly in it's foreign policy operations for the 60 years prior, and would continue to do so in the War on Terrorism. Something doesn't make sense here.

He did so, for profit.

The War on Terrorism was not supposed to end. It was supposed to provide the military-industrial complex, and all of its contractors, with an extended reason for existence and continued profits. In addition, in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly every part of the war, even some of the actual combat, was privatized. Companies such as Haliburton, Blackwater, and many others ripped off the U.S. government, and thus U.S. taxpayers, for billions upon billions of dollars. Dick Cheney, then vice president of the United States, was a former Halliburton CEO, and many in the Bush administration were involved or had associates in the corporations employed in the war effort.

So really, the corporate media directly demonizing Islam, or giving airtime to open, proud bigots, comes from no different logic than that of the 16th Century Roman Catholic Church, which labeled Africans and Native Americans as inferior, and thus useful only for enslavement. Racism, Nationalism, and Religious bigotry constitute most of the oldest motivations for warfare, and they continue to be used to this day.

It should be noted that all of these ideas are social inventions. They don't actually exist on their own. Nations are socio-political constructs. Races are classifications based on skin tone and facial characteristics. Religions are just as much human conceptions as nations are. There is no ground to the assertion that any of these concepts have a basis in reality. But then, their purpose has never been to based on reality. It has been to appear real, and provide feel-good justification for horrible atrocities and shameless discrimination, for the purpose of profit.

Is that acceptable?

Section Three - Reasons for Illusion

Capitalism is at the bottom of this.

The profit motive is the single most destructive societal concept, ever. It has caused and promoted the vast majority of neuroses that result in common theft and crime, to the grand slaughters of war, along with every single other act of corruption and greed since the very organization of sedentary society.

Religion and Politics were invented to keep people in line, thus preserving the status quo, and also provide justification for ultimately meaningless slaughter. They would not exist in a sane society. Ultimately, they do not solve problems, they create them. In summation, they do not bring people together, they divide them. Consequently, they are not the cornerstones of civilization as they are often touted, but rather the hallmarks of a backwards, capitalistic society.

We must find a way to run our society without all three of these institutions. They are inherently unfixable, because they are not fundamentally built to solve social problems: they are there to create them.

They are no longer necessary.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reexamining Convention: Addendum Two - Utopia and Societal Improvement

Perfection is unattainable.

Yet, we live on. Accepting this, how should we act?

Apathy is simply surrender to the status quo. It is, contrary to popular belief, not the lack of a statement, but the ultimate expression of conservatism.

So, clearly apathy is among the worst of our options, and we can do much better than it. Our only real alternative to apathy, or directly destructive behaviour contributing to problems in ourselves, our views, and our societies, is the perpetual striving for betterment.

It is all we can do. It is all we can do to support progressive causes in our society, discuss different viewpoints with others both with a thoughtful mindset and on a regular basis, and set realistic goals for improving our own behaviour and character. But we must never lose our inner desire for utopia, despite that it may never be totally satisfied.

It is this desire that should provide the driving force for our society. Not profit, not redemption, not debt, not division, but a common desire for betterment. It is possible to form a society around this concept, as others have been along the others. The only difference is that this, as opposed to the others, will provide a more perfect humanity.

Reexamining Convention: Addendum One - Freedom and Responsibility of Thought

It is necessary for the clarity of this essay to address another issue that goes beyond directly examining society, and ventures into the treacherous waters of individual thought.

Among the most treasured of our precious liberties, freedom of thought must never be infringed upon. Each individual must come to his or her own conclusions of their own volition, and be given all ease possible in attaining evidence and information pertaining to these conclusions.

At the same time, with this right comes responsibility.

Several, in fact. For one, the responsibility to continually reexamine one's viewpoints and conclusions on a frequent basis, as impartially as possible. Without this, our opinions quickly become obsolete and irrelevant in our changing, advancing society.

Second, we must engage in a measure of debate with others who hold different opinions than our own. This second measure reinforces the first with exponential force. This is already practiced extensively in the scientific community with respect to their pursuits, a testament to the usefulness of this strategy.

Third, we must always strive for greater truth. Sometimes, this is not easy. It is hard to admit you are wrong. To ease this, we as a society should erase much of the stigma that revolves around being incorrect; in reality, admitting a wrong is only a positive step, and should be encouraged thusly.

Other times, it is difficult for a different reason. Our opinions often, if left untouched, under glass, and regarded as sacrosanct, they become comforting. Opposition to outside ideas emerges not out of intellectual dissent, but an emotional reflex towards 'protecting' the familiar, comforting, old thoughts. If shared between a whole people, they become traditions.

These must be challenged.

In reality, we protect nothing by isolating logic from an opinion. It achieves absolutely nothing besides intellectual stagnation. There is nothing to fear from new thoughts based on rationality, logic, and the application thereof to new and relevant information. In fact, it is a moment of greatness unrivaled by few other events in the human experience.

Traditions must be challenged, but not reflexively rejected; this is merely the same reaction as the one the traditional itself likely originated from. Not all traditions are false; they are simply old ideas that must be examined with all the skepticism that would be given to the most outlandish new idea. They should thus be given respect, but not deference.

Without challenging these traditions, we doom our opinions to unnecessary obsolesence, ourselves to perpetual ignorance, and our society to equally unnecessary and vast ignorance. Therefore, we must question everything.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Reexamining Convention: Part One - Personal Outlook

Section One - Logic versus Anti-Logic

When humanity first ventured into the river valleys, began to farm and become sedentary, create cities and societies, they also invariably created inventions to make their lives easier. Some of them are easily recognizable, common amongst all those disparate societies, and permeate society to this day. We've heard of most of them: The Wheel, Irrigation, Masonworking, and Religion.

The purpose of an invention is to fulfill an end. It is usually, but does not have to, make the life of the user easier somehow. They also must be examined periodically, and replaced if deemed obsolete. The principle exception to this trend is the Scientific Method. This invention is unquestionably the most unique, and certainly one of the most significant of the last several thousand years. Its potential uses are broad. Its current primary use is finding the most accurate truth possible, given known facts. When applied by millions of scientists worldwide, simultaneously, it yields a truth-finding mechanism unrivaled in the rest of human history. It can be applied quite successfully to decision-making as well, although this use has not been explored yet much. The Scientific Method is the product of thousands of years of logical and scientific progress, and has upheld its reputation as the best way humanity has at understanding the universe for hundreds of years with solid, and improving, success and consistency.

Religion, to the contrary, is not based on science or logic. The most fundamental concept common to all Religions is the idea of Faith. Faith is acceptance of tenets or ideas without proof. This is the antithesis of deductive and inductive reasoning, and logic as a whole, which represents the foundation upon which the Scientific Method is built. Justifications for and defenses of Faith usually incorporate a sort of perverted "innocent until proven guilty" concept: that something is true until proven decisively otherwise.

This logic fails within the circumstances for a number of reasons. First, nothing can be proven completely true in Science, largely the real-world application of Logic. Science is, by definition, constantly reexaming itself and its own theories, conclusions, laws, and facts. Things can be proven to be almost certainly true, like Gravity, but still they are not considered beyond reexamination; we continue to preform experiments with modern technology, such as satellites, lasers, and robotics, to review Newton's several hundred-year-old theories. In fact, to dispel all doubt regarding anything, you would have to possess complete knowledge of everything in the Universe, something already being accepted as utterly impossible by recent advances into quantum physics. Nothing is considered sacred, above question, in true Science. This is part of the reason why it is so consistently successful; it takes nothing for granted, and is arguably the humblest of all human pursuits. It is ironic at first glance, but profound and impressive upon further examination, that in the most anal, precise, and calculating of all human activities, nothing is ever considered certain.

Second, the idea of accepting truth until it is proven false is the complete opposite of Science's basic principles. Facts must not be accepted until proven true, and supported with more evidence than any other potential explanation; even then, they may be unseated from their throne of being the accepted truth, or rearranged into a more comprehensive, complete, and true worldview at any time, pending further research and discovery.

Hypothetically speaking, if Faith and the Scientific Method arose simultaneously in human society, culture, and consciousness, it is quite possible that Scientific Method would have emerged the dominant concept and means by which we explain both the most mundane and extraordinary phenomenon in everything from our daily lives to the strangest aspects of the far-flung universe. As it happened, however, Faith achieved a foothold that is only now being slowly, but steadily beaten back by Logic and Rationality's finest champion.

Now, we should proceed to examine, armed with the Scientific Method (it being the most powerful tool for rational discernment currently available to us), what the majority of humanity believes, who have used Faith to explain phenomena and events in their lives.

Section Two - Theistic Tradition

All religions are based upon a belief in one or more gods. A god is a very old way of describing natural forces that, on the invention of this concept, defied all explanation. Literally, it is the manifestation of one or more natural forces. Attributing the unexplainable to a god, or multiple gods, is the simplest, oldest, easiest, and least scientific way of explaining natural phenomenon.

As humanity developed methods of determining how the world worked around them, through progressively stronger and more reliable science and scientific instruments, the study of theology developed as a way to explain why proof of these rather powerful entity or entities rather didn't show up in any in-depth search whatsoever. A sort of arms-race developed, with Science not so much trying to disprove God as merely reporting its findings, and Theology trying, progressively rather desperately, to justify why a god hasn't shown itself in the face of hundreds of years of scientific measurements, or ever had any reliable testimony to its existence as opposed to the usual sensational, unfounded claims and assumptions common of all religions.

Science as a whole has not tried to disprove theistic traditions on the whole. There has been no systemic analysis of the subject, ever. The vast majority of scientists are atheists or agnostics, but on the whole have made little attempt to spread their beliefs. Atheism is the fastest-growing 'religion' in the world, make up close to a fifth of the United States' population, and yet do not send missionaries on their behalf. Despite this, many religious adherents, in particular Christians, have grown increasingly alarmed at this news and redoubled their efforts, as a system, to reaffirm their basic tenets. Thus, the relatively recent reemergence of religious fanaticism in Islam and Christianity over the past few decades.

Imagine how these theistic traditions would react if atheism acted like they have done over the past millennia. If they sent out missionaries, centralized, indoctrinated billions of children to (in this case, not) believe.

The fact is that there never has been, and there isn't, any significant proof for the existence of any deity. The belief systems that affirm this belief in spite of this complete lack of evidence exist only for two reasons. First, they have simply existed for so long, and have been passed down from generation to generation by essentially manipulating childrens' natural openness to ideas and trust of their parents, that they have stuck. But even this would not have been truly sufficient without societal intervention. For the second reason religion has existed for so long is because it is a vital part of a larger system: society.

This is not to say that society could not function without religion. It is certainly possible, and perhaps far easier, to run a just, peaceful, and kind society without religions. Religions are used to divide and unite people on essentially rediculous, arbitrary distinctions the same way race and nationality are; in addition, all three are also destructive human inventions that society would be far better off without.

What role does religion serve in society? Its function is to organize the collective morality of a group in ways that benefit the society. From this we get some beneficial shared morals, general rules like not to kill or steal. However, this is not all a religion does. It also plants psychological cues, enables appeals to irrationality that may override all other reasoning. This is evident from the various crusades, holy wars, and general 'special' circumstances in which the usual laws of morality are completely subverted under direction from the institutions which provided them in the first place. Finally, the last major 'contribution' that religion has given to society is the dilution and compartmentalization of logic. Through its sensationalism it works to disassociate rationality from individual's opinions and perceptions of society. In this way it is extremely similar to the way capitalism's inevitable and excessive materialism functions in society. The irony is that the two systems are often at loggerheads; which only serves to further distract people from important issues, which is simply the shared purpose of both subsystems. In this way, they fulfill their function, purpose, and niche within society as a joint unit: a rarity in the natural world.

Section Three - Concluding Thoughts about Morality and Logic
God is Dead.
These are the words of Friedrich Nietzsche. To many, shocking and vitriolic despite its brevity, its simplicity. It has been repeated often by many, too many of whom do not understand what meaning they were intended to convey.

The phrase does not intend to impart the belief that a literal God had existed, and now has died; rather, the implication is one of a serious, yet momentary moral crisis that all those who reject theistic tradition generally face. He means to say that now that religion has served its purpose, and has become obsolete, we now must find some other source for our morality and sense of purpose. This temporary confusion inevitable from any major values shift is often cited by the religious in order to casually dismiss the rejection of their value system as patently ridiculous.

However, that choice remains as serious, legitimate, and possible as ever.

Despite scare tactics and claims to the contrary, it is an achievable, and even necessary, goal for every individual to separate their own morals from any unnecessary and useless societal controls like religion. Such controls are used by society to manipulate personal convictions, and thus public opinion, to positions that will promote the society's interests. Unfortunately, this usually does not coincide with the best interests of the majority of individuals in that society. This will be explored in following essays with greater detail.

Now, allow me reiterate the conclusions of the following chapter:
All theistic traditions are outdated belief systems that have been, since their inception, used by societies to control and conquer hearts and minds. This turns thinking individuals into unquestioning believers, flocks of sheep with subliminal and emotional triggers that may be invoked to control them.

Knowing this, it is unavoidable that we must confront the problem of morality in an non-theistic mindset. Morality must be based off of certain basic principles; that much, society may and must provide. This includes basic things like a certain respect for living things, teaching not to steal or kill, and a desire to do no harm. However, beyond these principles society must not indoctrinate or train its citizens, especially children. It may and must educate, but only with a cautious air and constant encouragement of free thought at all times. Children are most susceptible to indoctrination; their minds must be protected from authoritative learning environments of all kinds.

So, morality should take the form of a few basic principles, necessary for societal preservation and individuals' safety, and many subtle ones, which individuals are free to decide for themselves without any social pressure whatsoever.

This is only possible in a society without mainstream religions, nation-states, and capitalistic economies. Even then, it will require diligent vigilance on the part of its citizenry.

But we can do it.

Section Four - Exhortation to Moderation

There has been some deception in the above essay.

I do not wish to use secrecy or deception to get points across, so I will be open with you. Let me show you at least some of the biases in this paper.

Faith is not an inherently bad thing. In fact, it is necessary to function in society. Without it, we could not get beyond Rene Descartes' conundrum; how do we know what we sense, exists? We cannot; thus, we take it on faith, and function in the world based on that fundamental leap.

However, beyond that initial leap, faith is unwarranted unless backed up by evidence. It is impossible to know everything about the universe, or even a particular situation, and all too often not even enough to make a confident decision. However, we must minimize how much faith we use in all circumstances. Unnecessary faith is the crutch of intellectually dishonest, weak cowards. Some faith will always remain; and that is acceptable. Nothing is entirely certain; but that must not dissuade us from the pursuit of knowledge and rationality, despite the impossibility of total certainty.

We must not be driven from the pursuit of perfection, merely because the ultimate goal is unattainable. The path is its own reward.