Monday, April 25, 2016

Nazism, Political Correctness, and Censorship

In recent years we have seen the resurgence of Nazi ideology. Claims such as that holocaust never happened and that Jews are in control of everything extend beyond the obviously ignorant and have gained the attention of some people of intellect. This is quite disturbing, but there are ways to counteract this malignant trend.

Nazism is actually quite easy to refute. There is no such thing as a Jewish conspiracy; there are all sorts of Jews, and they disagree with each other on many important issues. There is no such thing as a superior race; for 1,000 years that were the Dark Ages the white man was at the bottom of the world and could not hold his head up to China, India, Baghdad, Timbuktu or Meso-Americans. And if Jews were in control – and if Jews were evil – then these neo-Nazis would all be facing a firing squad. That they are instead free to spread their propaganda shows that either the Jews are not in control or that the Jews are so good that they would even let live the people who want them dead.

Why did something as obviously wrong as Nazism get as big as it did? Probably for the same reason as did Communism and Islamic Jihadism. The human brain has an endless capacity for self-delusion, most of it harmless but some not harmless at all. Fortunately along with this capacity for self-delusion there is also the capacity for reason; and it is to this that I appeal in confronting Nazism.

I do not come to this from the position of political correctness. I detest political correctness, and I've done more to fight it than have most conservatives. My response to the politically correct is that there is no need for their censorship. The real arguments against Nazism are weighty enough that there is no need to silence them. There is a need to do what academia is supposed to do: Confront wrong ideas with better ideas and refute the delusion that comes their way.

I am a Jew. I make no apologies for being a Jew; I was born that way. I did not crucify Jesus. I do not support Karl Marx or Sigmund Freud. I refuse to be made accountable for the sins of my ancestors. In the same way as I refuse to make my daughter accountable for the sin of Eve.

Most problems have solutions; and the solution to wrong ideologies is refuting them rather than censoring them. As Thomas Jefferson once said in a debate, “Sir, I detest everything you have said, but I'll fight to my death for your right to say it.” Nazis should have the right to say what they have to say; and I in turn have the right to refute them. That's how the process is supposed to work, and doing so is doing the right thing by democracy.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Alcohol and Sickness

With drinking, there are four directions in which it is possible to go. It is possible to have a problem and think that one has a problem. It is possible to have a problem and think that one does not have a problem. It is possible to have no problem and think that one has a problem. And it is possible to have no problem and think that one does not have a problem.

If you have no problem and think that you do not have a problem: You're fine. If you have a problem and think that you don't have a problem: You're in denial. If you have no problem and think that you have a problem: You're hypochondriac. And if you have a problem and think that you have a problem: you need help.

It is possible to test whether or not you have a problem. Commit yourself to drinking one glass a day for a week. If you can pull it off without negative consequences, you are fine. If you cannot pull it off, seek help.

There is nothing wrong or shameful with seeking help. In Alexander Pope's words, do not be ashamed to admit your mistakes; all it means is that you are a wiser person today than you were yesterday. The problem is that not all of the solutions out there are for everyone. Alcoholics Anonymous wants people to quit drinking completely. This is overkill. Most people can have a glass of wine for dinner or some beer while watching a football game without experiencing negative consequences. Alcoholics Anonymous is for those people who cannot manage alcohol. Admitting this is not shameful, and doing so does not make one a loser. It simply means that one has a problem and wants to fix it, which involves much more courage and honesty than letting problems fester.

Is alcoholism, as AA people say, a disease? There are clearly people with genetic predisposition for alcoholism, such as American Natives and Australian Aborigines; but then there are many others who simply do not know how to handle their liquor. Somewhere along the way they lost control and became unable to manage their drinking consumption. I see no problem with seeing that as an illness and treating it through group therapy. However the message that all alcohol consumption is symptomatic of an illness is a wrong one.

The less becomes the stigma of alcoholism, the more people who need help will seek it. If that means that they need to see themselves as sick and go around helping each other, I see no problem with that. However not all people who drink cannot manage their alcohol consumption, and it is important to determine who is who and who needs what measures to either quit entirely or to exercise self-control in how much one drinks.

Arts and Sports

There are many people who think that there is no use for arts. My question to these people is, What is the use of football and Nascar? Yet none of these people want to do away with such things.

What is the use of art? Any number of things. Good art produces beauty, which is a virtue in and of itself. Also good art gets people to think; which likewise is a good in and of itself.

In fact, people owe a lot to those whom they do not think immediately to be valuable. Good ideas take time to mature. And the people who do not see that stand in the way of solutions for people's problems – a stance that prevents solutions from being realized.

If sports are to be respected, then so should be the arts. In both cases we see a non-productive activity that benefits people. And if the person respects the sports, then so should he the arts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Non-Governmental Organs of Tyranny and Corruption

One argument recently made is that “a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything that you have.” It occurs to me that this does not only apply to the government, and that a private economy that is big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take away everything that you have.

I should know. I've been on both the winning and the losing sides of capitalism. And while the attention of liberty-seekers is directed at confronting the government, many non-governmental organs of tyranny and corruption grow up outside the scrutiny of these liberty-seekers.

These organs include, but are not limited to: Tyrannical families, suffocating communities, oppressive religions, dishonorable businesses and corrupt networks in law and medicine. All of the above entities are unelected, unofficial, unchecked, unbalanced and unaccountable. Which means that all of them have potential for unlimited tyranny and corruption.

Are governments capable of tyranny and corruption? Of course they are; and in recognizing this and putting into place effective corrective measures the founders of America did a great deed for the whole of mankind. But they have failed to see how non-governmental organs are also capable of tyranny and corruption. I would rather be dealing any day with the Obama government than with Texas Oil, the mafia, religious cults, the Fatherhood Foundation or crooks on Wall Street. The first is elected, official, accountable, checked and balanced, which means that there is a lot done to correct its potentials for wrongdoing. The same is not the case for the others.

So that while it remains imperative to continue checking the government in its propensity for corrupt and tyrannical practices, it is also important to recognize that the government is not the only entity capable of such things. An entity that is unelected, unofficial, unaccountable, unchecked and unbalanced can, and will, possess unlimited potentials for tyranny and corruption. And a person who is truly dedicated toward fighting such things will not limit himself to oversight over the government and will also scrutinize unelected organs of power lest they also become tyrannical and corrupt.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

America and Elites

There are people who claim that the regular people are – or should be – socialists and are being preyed upon by conservative business and military elites.

There are other people who claim that the regular people are – or should be - conservatives and are being preyed upon by liberal media and academic elites.

Both are part-right.

First of all, what is an elite? An elite is a group of people who got good at something or other. An ethic that celebrates success and achievement should see elites in a positive light. The people who claim America to be the most successful society in history, while viciously attacking the “liberal elites,” are hypocrites. They value success when they have it and attack it when someone else has it.

The people who are described derisively as “limousine liberals” are, in my mind, heroes. They are people who found out the way to make do in a very hostile climate, while keeping alive their noble ideals. I have nothing but good things to say about these so-called liberal elites. In my experience of dealing with them, they were kind, intelligent and compassionate. And they were willing to act in a humble and respectful manner even though their accomplishments far exceeded my own.

Of course not everyone in the elites is a good guy; but then neither is the average person. There are plenty of people who are not a part of any elite whatsoever, who are complete jerks. There are many average people who beat their wives, rape their children, slap “hos” and do any number of other ugly deeds. Elites do not own evil. It cuts across social boundaries, and while some people in the elites are indeed evil so are many people who are not part of the elites.

To claim one's society to be the most successful one ever created, while in the same breath attacking “liberal elites,” is complete hypocrisy. If success is a good thing then other people than oneself who get success should be respected; and if one impugns “liberal elites” then he is impugning success. These people need to make up their minds as to what they value. From what I've seen, they see liberals who don't have success as losers and those who do have success as evil. With some people you just can't win.

I've been on both the winning and the losing side of capitalism; and in no way am I against success. I am however against hypocrisy, and that is what we see here. If success is a good thing, then liberal elites should be credited with the success that they have achieved. And if they are to be maligned for it, then so should the conservatives who are successful. In either case, it is important to make up the mind. Is success a good thing (and thus the elites should be respected)? Or are the elites to be hated, and also – with them – success?

I believe that a true American will be respectful of successes that people accomplish, even if those people are nothing like himself. For centuries America has stood as a shining beacon of greatness that people can accomplish. A true American will have respect for the academia, the media and other pursuits that advance the civilization. He will respect the “liberal elites.” And in so doing he will be making good on the true great promise of America.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Better Relationships With Former Partners

It is quite common for women to go for friends of their exes; but it is not common for a woman's ex and her present partner to get along. Usually these people hate one another, and in case of friends sharing a woman their friendship is often ruined by them wanting the same woman.

I am in an unusual position. I am on good terms with my ex-wife's husband, and I remain good friends with her.

I hope that more people in such situations do the same.

There can be any number of reasons for why a relationship would not work out; but that does not mean that the partners have to become enemies. Remaining friends with an ex is good for the children, and it is also good in and of itself.

Relationship breakdown can be a spiritual test that challenges us to act in a rightful manner. If you love someone, then you should continue to love – or at least like or respect – them even when you are not together any more. Failing to do so invalidates the love that you've had for them and feeds the voices of cynicism, misogyny, misandry and predatory law practices that want people to have no such love and maliciously abuse it wherever it is to be found.

It is frequently said that the best way to lead is by example; and that is what I am doing here. I am showing how exes can get along. I hope that more people take this example and treat their exes right instead of killing them or screwing them over. It is a spiritual test; more importantly it is also a personal test as well as something that contributes to benefit.

The more people do this, the better will be the world.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Sociopaths, Narcissists and Good Conduct

There are some people who are of the conviction that a sociopath or a narcissist by definition cannot be a good person. This of course militates against basic rationality. If people are responsible for their behavior then anyone can act rightfully; and if some people cannot act rightfully then people are not responsible for their behavior.

As someone who's been described as everything from a humanitarian to a sociopath, I stand as living proof that anyone can choose to do the right thing. That is even the case with sociopaths and narcissists. If their heart fails to do the job, then bring in the mind to compensate; and in this way be a conscious source of righteous behavior.

I have found that there is more to recommend someone who came from a bad place to a good place than someone who's always been in a good place. The reason is that such a person is conscious of what it took for him to get to a good place and can communicate the same awareness to others. The people who've always been good should be admired for that; but there is also much to recommend someone who came from a bad place into a good place, and this needs to be stressed.

No psychologist or psychiatrist ever accused me of being a sociopath; in fact, even when I broached the subject the response always was, Absolutely not. But there have been any number of non-psychologists who accused me of sociopathy and narcissism and were very insistent about making these claims. The problem with people knowing a bit of psychology is that they think that they know the whole of psychology; and this leads them to behave in arrogant and destructive manner where they think that they speak for sanity and that everyone other than them is insane.

If you actually are a sociopath or a narcissist: There are ways to address your problem. Use your mind where the heart fails you and operate from a position of genuine caring and compassion. Intelligence has always been the true saving grace for humanity; and that is also the case for people who otherwise would behave terribly but are willing to make a choice to the contrary.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hypocrisy of Muslims and "Rednecks"

I once received an email about a situation that happened in Germany. Some Middle Eastern guys attacked Jewish passengers on a bus, shouting “Jews out.” The police came in and beat the crap out of these men, for which they got positive reviews from the writer of the email.

I bear a more than passing acquaintance with Russian Jewish expatriate community; and from what I've seen these people hate Muslims with a passion. They see them as arrogant, brutal and lazy scumbags. The Muslims keep claiming them to be immoral, but these people see Muslims as far more immoral. Specifically, they see the Muslims as jerks; and, given recent events, there is a lot to recommend that view.

Are all Muslims jerks? No, but neither are all Jews or Russians. There are however problems that run through all sorts of cultures, and that is the case both with the West and the Middle East.

One problem I've noticed with the more conservative cultures is that they claim to be moral while in fact acting in very immoral ways themselves. One example of that are the “redneck” auto mechanics. They constantly gouge their customers and rip them off if they think that they can get away with it. Then they claim that they are true moral hard-working Americans and that the liberals are destroying America and that they represent the true values of America.

I've noticed some very unethical practices in Muslim businesses just as much as there are among the “rednecks.” It is outrageous that these people get to claim that they are moral and that the rest of us are not. These cognitions need to be challenged on a wide scale and thus put an end to this hypocrisy and the wrong deeds that it allows under the banner of traditional values.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Science, Spirituality and Positive Middle Path

Whatever explanations are proposed to spiritual matters, they have to pass two criteria with me. One is that it has to be consistent with scientific fact; and another is that it has to be consistent with the very real spiritual experiences that I have had. And if I, for claiming the truthfulness of these experiences, am to be regarded a lunatic, then so be it.

Science and spirituality have to relate in a positive middle path. I do not mean just any middle path, as the middle can be found in all sorts of undesirable places; I mean the positive middle path that combines the virtues of both while doing away with the flaws in each. Thus, science should be affirmed in its capacity to provide knowledge and invention, and checked when it starts to militate against spirituality. And spirituality should be affirmed in its capacity to produce wisdom and beauty and checked when it starts to attack science and technology.

Ultimately, science and spirituality are part of the same pursuit. They both are truth-seekers; they just use different methodologies to get to the truth. As such, science and spirituality should be allies rather than enemies. The result will be people getting faster and more reliably to the truth than through either path acting alone. And the outcome will be both science and spirituality achieving their real purpose without there being unnecessary animosity between the two.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

In Honor of Henry Biddle

My former mathematics teacher, Henry Biddle, died last year.

He was an extraordinary man. He had great enthusiasm for his subject, and he was able to convey that enthusiasm to all sorts of people who otherwise would not have cared about mathematics one way or another. He could be entertaining, playing Columbo the detective as part of explaining the scientific method. And he was able to reach people and get them to think, even when these people would otherwise not have been able or willing to do so.

Henry Biddle continued working long after his retirement, teaching mathematics at a local community college. And I am sure that he inspired a lot of people there as well.

Henry Biddle was a devout Christian; and when I asked him how he reconciled Christianity with mathematics he said that there was no contradiction. According to him, mathematics was a pathway toward understanding God. The universe was a revealed treasure of divine truths; and in understanding the universe – mathematically and scientifically - one understood God.

I consider myself privileged for having been the recepient of this man's instructions. He had a lot of wise things to say. More should be done to empower people who have this kind of insight. He is no longer alive; but his legacy lives on in the hearts of his students. And I consider myself privileged for having been one of his students.

I Died for Beauty

"I Died for Beauty" - Emily Dickinson

I died for beauty – twas my choice
To end my life this way;
In every note of her voice
Was universe at play:

Twas sparkling, shining, shimmering,
Twas elegant and bright,
In it the world was glimmering
As I then held her tight.

I died for beauty – as I did
My lifeforce to her went
And from the shackles it her freed
To live by her intent:

She needed lifeforce to be strong
And then to carry on
With universe to get along
And sing again her song.

I died for beauty, so it lives,
Is by me fertilized,
Shimmers and glimmers and conceives
And is now realized,

And though I died, what it gave birth
Was better than was I,
And now is set upon her course
To grow and multiply.