Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Everyone Shits"

One saying I've heard from people who've been around the block a few times is, “Everyone shits.”

That most certainly is the case. However it doesn't mean that that is the only thing that they do.

People do all sorts of things, both good and bad. Yes, everyone shits; but everyone is not limited to shit production. People do both good things and bad things; and the fact that some people do things that are wrong does not disqualify them – or others – from doing things that are right.

Yes, I shit. I also produce good poetry and useful thought on a range of subjects. Yes, Lillian shits. She is also very beautiful, intelligent and kind. Yes, my former wife shits. She has also done some excellent work by way of fighting domestic violence. That someone shits does not mean that they are shit or that shit is the only thing that they do.

One of the worst behaviors that I have seen has been equating people with the worst thing they've ever done. Supposedly because they did they are bad people. Yet many of these people have also done very good things as well. A fair appraisal of a person would not see in her the worst that she has ever done. It would be to see in her also the good things that she has done.

An argument against romanticism has been, Well how can you have such feelings for someone who shits? Once again, the fact that they shit does not mean that that is the only thing that they do. I have seen magnificent qualities in all sorts of people. These qualities deserve to be recognized and acknowledged. And then not only are they free to do for the world what the world needs for them to do, but you also get to enjoy the benefits of what such a person has to offer.

To hell with perfectionism and anything of the sort. Instead see the good in the other person. Allow the person to be good, and you and her will have a wonderful relationship. She does not have to be perfect to be good; she has to be good to be good. And many such women are just that.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Is Money Power?

A popular saying these days is “money is power.” It can in fact be that way. However that is not the only possible power that people can have.

In case of America, money really is power. But that has not always been the case. Atilla the Hun, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane did not have very much money; but they were able to conquer places much wealthier than their own home countries.

Is money power? It can most certainly be power. Money may make it possible to create devastating military machines or pay people to go to war. However as we see now with North Korea, it is possible to have powerful militaries without having much money. The same is the case with ISIS.

What really is the source of power? Well there can be any number of them. Muslims believe that power comes not from money but from belief. Certainly if you can get billions of people to agree with you, that can give you all sorts of power. And even if those people are poor, they can do all sorts of things to make their beliefs count in the world.

Jesus and Mohammad did not have much money, but both of them became vastly powerful. So did any number of others in all sorts of ways. Marx was not wealthy either, but for a while his ideas ruled half of the world. Money did end up defeating Communism, but it was not an easy victory. And now the power of money is facing challenge from North Korea and Islam.

Once again, is money power? Once again, it can be. But it is not the only form of power that is there. Conviction, military might and any number of other things can be a source of power as well. Money can be a source of power, but so can any number of others.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ward Churchill And Ayn Rand

Two writers that have been highly influential in my life were Ayn Rand and Ward Churchill. I came to the conclusion that both were part-right. Ward Churchill was right to affirm nature, wrong to attack the Western civilization as such. Ayn Rand was right to affirm the civilization, wrong to have no value for nature. They both had a part of the puzzle. The solution is to put them together.

Much can be said in favor of naturalistic worldview. Man has not created nature or anything approaching nature in intricacy or complexity, and it is wrong to see it as only resources for man's use. One does not have to be a “commie” to understand this. I am not a Communist, but I see it wrong for man to blindly pillage what he cannot recreate. This is not civilization. This is the worst of barbarism, and one that impoverishes the world.

At the same time, much can – and should – be said in favor of the civilization. It has produced the computer, the mobile phone, brilliant art and thought and philosophy. An anti-civilization stance is worse than unrealistic, it is blind, ignorant and destructive. The civilization has come up with many good things, and they are a function of people applying their talents toward making something of their lives. Doing which – may I say – is the best of liberal values.

The solution is to neither support nor oppose either nature or civilization. It is to arrange the two in a way that makes the most of both worlds. It is to support and contribute to the civilization while making the burden lighter on nature.

One part of the solution is clean energy. With clean energy, civilization fulfils its needs in a way that makes the burden lighter on nature. I happen to be privy to a technology that makes this possible. It is called the Hydrogen Transmission Network, and it is spelled out on http://htnresearch.com. That way the civilization continues to grow without being destructive to nature.

Many of the best technologies are brain-intensive rather than resource-intensive. There is not much material expended in constructing a mobile phone, but now even the rural people in Africa have ones. Intelligent technologies leapfrog the existing technologies. They deliver utility in a way that is less burdensome on the natural resources. They make the most of the mind and less of destruction. A truly efficiency-oriented mentality will support such technologies wherever they may be.

Neither nature nor civilization are either good or evil. Both are capable of both. Nature can mean anything from Yosemite Park to deadly bacteria. Civilization can mean anything from Oracle Corporation to fracking and predatory lending schemes. It makes no sense to side with one at the expense of the other. It makes sense to support both when they produce beneficial results – and check them when the results of their processes are for the wrong.

Both nature and civilization are essential; and both need to be in the best shape that they can be. This is very much an achievable goal. With technologies such as the Hydrogen Transmission Network, this goal stands to be fulfilled; and it becomes up to us to make such a thing possible.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Altruism and Stalin

Seeing abuses of the concept of altruism by Communists and any number of others, Ayn Rand came to the conclusion that the problem was with the concept of altruism.

She was very wrong.

Anything that has any kind of appeal to people will see someone using it for wrong. This is as much the case with moral values as it is with things such as money, intelligence and beauty. That Stalin and any number of others appealed to the value of altruism to do wrong, no more damns altruism than does the fact that some scoundrels use beauty industry for wrong damns beauty.

Once again, anything that has any kind of appeal to people will see some people use it for wrong. We of course see that with beauty. We see predatory fashion industry professionals convincing already beautiful women that they can't be beautiful unless they keep coming for treatments. We see people using the excuse of intelligence to portray as stupid people who have spiritual experiences. And there is no limit to abuses of money or the government.

Can altruism be used for wrong? Of course. But it is in no way the only thing that can be used for wrong. Once again, anything with any kind of appeal will see some scoundrel wanting to exploit it. This is as much the case for people's moral values as it is for their financial or personal interests.

One statement I've heard is that “wanting to save the world is a front for wanting to rule it.” I for one have no interest in ruling anything whatsoever. I do however very much care about the world in which my daughter is born, and I will do what I can to make sure that it is a good place. I have no interest in ruling anybody at all. I know that I would make a terrible leader. I do not seek power; I do however seek to have influence, and it is motivated primarily by concern as to what kind of world my daughter will have to face when she grows up.

So no, altruism is not always a power trip. Once again, anything that has appeal to people can be used as a power trip, and that also is the case with their moral ideals. That some people use altruism to pull on people a power trip does not damn altruism; it damns them. There are all sorts of people who appeal to altruism who do not have any interest in ruling anyone whatsoever. And it is these people rather than Stalin that deserve to speak for the ideal of altruism far more.

Friday, April 07, 2017

English Language and Poetry

I have heard it said by a number of Russian authors that Russian language affords more opportunity for poetry than does the English language.

Most likely the reason that they said this was that they understood Russian language better than they understood English language.

I am a non-native English speaker, and generally people respect my command of English language. When your learning has been conscious rather than unconscious, you understand it better than if your learning has been unconscious. For that matter a person who went from being a bad person to being a good person will understand more about what it means to be a good person than someone who's always been a good person. That is because, when you've had to get from point A to point B, you understand the process better than someone who's always been at Point B.

One claim in Eastern religion is that spiritual truth is inexpressible. I take issue with that claim. I think that anything is expressible, if you are good enough at expressing.

Does Russian language offer more opportunity for poetry than English language? I think not. Some of the most beautiful poetry in history was written in English. Russian language, like Italian or French, is more naturally musical than English language. But if you understand the English well enough, you can write in it poetry as good as what we see done in Russian.

I have translated five books of Russian poetry into English. A professor at Georgetown was saying that my translations are too Russian in style. That is not a bug; that's a feature. I want to transmit the feeling of the original poetry. And in so doing to bring Russian poetry to Anglophone audiences.

So no, I reject the claim that Russian language offers more opportunity for poetry than English. It is possible to write good poetry in any language. Even the Germans came up with beautiful poetry; and there are few people who think that German is a poetic language.

The solution is not to see one language as being better than the other. The solution is writing good work in whatever language you know. In my case, that very much is the English language; and I recommend to these people developing command of the English language in order that they can write works in English comparable to what they write in Russian.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

War and Character

There are many people who claim that, because the World War II generation has been through the character-building experience that was the Second World War, they developed a better character than baby boomers, who did not go through such an experience.

My response to that is that there are all sorts of ways to build character that do not involve slaughter of millions of innocent people around the world.

Different places have different approaches to building character. The American approach is to overcome challenges. The Russian approach is to endure suffering. The Muslim approach is to rigorously follow the edicts of the Quran. In all of these cases, character is built, and most of them do not involve gas chambers or anything of the sort.

In many places where wars take place, character is not what is being built. Very little of any kind of character was built by the genocide in Rwanda. Instead hundreds of thousands of people were raped or murdered. Certainly many of the people who endured it did develop personal strength. But it was not the right way to go about doing that.

Milton Freedman opposed war, but he was in favor of military training. He believed that military training built character; and in many cases it does. But there are other situations in which it does not do any such a thing. In Russian dedovschina, 5,000 people per year die of torture. Maybe some people build character that way; but it results in vast losses to the country.

It is desirable to build character; it is not desirable to have innocent people slaughtered. There should be ways to build character that do not involve such a thing. There are many ways to build character that do not involve mass murder; and it should be possible for people to practice them.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Infrastructure and Reality

Everyone thinks that they know what is reality; but their ideas on the subject vary widely.

Businessmen and engineers think that the economic infrastructure is reality, and that nothing else is.

Scientists think that the physical universe is reality, and that nothing else is.

Seriously religious people think that God is reality, and that nothing else is.

They are all right to affirm the reality of the world that they inhabit. They are wrong to claim that it is the only thing that is real.

The economic infrastructure is real enough; but it is wrong to claim that it is reality. It requires for its existence the Sun, the Earth and the people to work within it. When such are forgotten or denied, the results are disastrous. People blindly plunder the planet without sight for the future. People trap other people into all sorts of bad situations. People destroy for temporary gain the priceless natural treasures that they cannot conceivably recreate.

The physical universe is real enough; but it is also wrong to claim that it is the only thing that is real. There are all sorts of real things that these people do not compute. Whenever anything spiritual happens, these people claim that the people experiencing them have lost their minds. In fact the world is full of all sorts of accounts of all sorts of spiritual activity. These people claim that they are the only sane and intelligent people on the planet; and that is a ridiculous stance to have.

With religion, we see in many cases real powers but a bogus cosmology. The Earth is not 6,000 years old, nor does the sun revolve around the Earth. I believe that God is completely real; but I refuse toward that effect to adopt a bogus cosmology.

What we see in all of those cases is people seeing different aspects of the same thing. They are right to affirm what they are working with; they are wrong to deny the rest.

Things should be known by their proper name. The economic infrastructure should be known as economic infrastructure – which it is – as opposed to as reality, which it isn't. It is rightful to advance economic interest, not rightful to destroy what one cannot recreate. The mindset that it encourages should likewise be known as the mindset of the infrastructure rather than as reality. It is not reality; it is a mindset.

By all means advance economic well-being. But do so in a way that leaves the world richer rather than poorer for yourself having been in it. Encourage innovation and ingenuity and disincentivize blindness and destruction. Make sure that your economic reality impinges well rather than wrongfully on the rest of reality. And then make the most of reality both for people and for Earth.