Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mein Kampf: The Science of Hope and Change

The history of scientific insulting is now becoming more clear to me.  It begins with Karl Marx.  Hitler advanced the science.  Then Gordon Ramsay brought the science of insults to perfection.  After having read a collection of 19th century histories and communist writings, it seemed fitting to follow up with this Mein Kampf.

I have a little time to read, but didn't want to spend money on Hitler's work, so pulled a .pdf version down to my iPad for perusal.  The first half of this 500 page rant has now passed in front of my eyeballs.  Hitler is mostly condemning everything, but he has not yet proposed any program.  Everyone knows he is anti-Jew and anti-Marxist.  What I had not known is that he is equally anti-Slav and a bit anti-French, but everyone is anti-French.  The part that for some reason is missed by Dr. Wiki is that Hitler was also vehemently opposed to "international capital" and stock corporations to the same degree that he was anti-Marxist.    Somehow he managed to confound the two, since Jews were prominent in both international capital and Marxism, so that he considered these to be part of the same conspiracy and was oblivious to the fact that they are mutually exclusive.  This error was related to a separate error, that the Jews were all of one mind, thus, he completely failed to understand that just because some Jews might be pimps and pornographers, they weren't all of this profession.  His single minded attribution of every evil in the universe to a grand Jewish conspiracy seemed to me as a conspiracy theory worthy of The Matrix.  Other groups that Hitler condemns are the monarchists, the parliamentarians and the bourgeoisie.  The bourgeoisie is condemned because they are wealthy, comfortable, and consequently unwilling to take a course of action that might be risky.  Clearly I am a bourgeois slug, although he would probably still be astounded at the degree of self-destructiveness achieved by our Republicans.  Other targets of his vitriol are the press, the pacifists and the sick perpetrators of "modern art".  Then there were the scum who married outside of their race, with me as a prime example.

The fun part of this is Hitler's take on marketing and motivational speaking.  The principles are universal and are as valid for selling tacos as for politics, but Hitler claims to having mastered the field by studying the Marxists.  This amounts to finding a message that is simple enough to be grasped by the average person, then pushing it relentlessly.  For some reason all this comes naturally to most Marxists.  Hitler mastered this and threw it back in their face.  He chose red as his party's symbol and introduced "socialist" into NAZI for the purpose of deliberately goading the Marxists.  He then targeted the proletariat and turned their techniques against them.  Part of Hitler's success was undoubtedly simply because much of the population was longing for someone to talk back to the Marxists.  It is tempting to wish that America's conservatives might learn from this, but only for a brief time.  Hitler knew where he wanted to lead Germany, but America's conservatives have no such agenda, whether it be for good or evil.

So much for the first half of this.  Diagnosing the ills of a fallen humanity is the easy part.  The second part of Mein Kampf is supposed to tell us what he intends to do.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Sikh Religion, Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors, by Macauliffe

Several years ago an elderly Sikh man who looked to be in his 80's started waving at me frantically as I was driving through the neighborhood.  I stopped and he jumped into my car and started saying something like "gudwara".  It was quickly clear that he didn't know a word of English, but was frantic to get somewhere.  I pondered the situation for a moment and decided that there should be some entertainment value to following this elderly gentleman's instructions, so started driving ahead and pointing different ways at the intersections to see if he approved.  After several miles we drove into a neighborhood that I wasn't familiar with and onto a "Gurdwara Road".  This quickly brought us to a Sihk temple where a number of other elderly Sikhs were waiting outside for my client.  I dropped him off and everyone waved, but I was almost as much in the dark when this was done as when I started.  My next door neighbor is a Sikh family.  Yet I know almost nothing about Sikhism.

Librivox.org has this work on the Sikh religion which I though it good to listen to for my commutes.  So far I am into the introduction which has shed a little bit of light onto the subject.  The religion was started by Guru Nanak in the 15th century.  I learned that the English officers encouraged their Sikh recruits to be good followers of their religion, since this facilitated military discipline, bravery and loyalty.  Although we might argue about loyalty when discussing the assassination of Indira Gandhi.  There was also some discussion of the pre-Sikh history which begins with the Brahmins driving out the Buddhists, and later the Mohammedans forcing their religion into India with the most brutal techniques known to man.  

Macauliffe explains his goals of providing a text on the subject that was as accurate as possible, avoided slanders, and met the approval of the Sikh gurus of his day.  These goals seem to have been met in their entirety.  This has me pondering the modern intellectual who will do almost the exact opposite with Christianity:  To meet scholarly approval, a work on Christianity must slander, defame and twist, ideally along new directions that had not previously been considered.  Anyway, I am glad to have such an introduction to Sikhism.
Something that I have wondered about is regarding the exodus of westerners from Christianity.  Even the Pope is ashamed to be known as a follower of Christ and chooses instead to be publicly known as a disciple of Marx.  In this mad rush, westerners have settled into all kinds of religions, but I have yet to see one embrace Sikhism.  Why is that?

Macauliffe tells a little of his problem of bringing Sikhism to the Western reader.  This relates to the original gurus preferring the vernacular, which is now a dated version of Punjabi.  To this is mixed in Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic, with some special terms that only the gurus can explain.  This creates an extraordinarily complex linguistic problem that can only be addressed in India in careful consultation with the gurus.  A related problem is that the Sikhs themselves might not be terribly well informed of their religion.  The first volume of this is 14 hours of recording, and it seems that there are 6 volumes to the set.  If I survive this will I achieve nirvana?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Origins of Life: What is Life?

Lecture three goes over the difficulties of coming up with a clean definition of "Life" that separates the living from the non-living, while keeping in mind that there is the formerly living category or images of the formerly living as would be the case of fossils.  This is one area where all parties can agree there is a problem.  Helpfully, one of the definitions includes a notion of life being "that which can undergo Darwinian Evolution", which tries to achieve a definition of life by invoking a term which intentionally isn't defined.

Professor Hazen reiterated the method he intends to employ as he considers origins.  He intends to proceed step by step identifying the various parts of life and then considering how they might come about.  My reaction is that this is exactly the method that I use for doing complex engineering software projects.  Initially I can't see my way to the goal, so I start out by identifying a few steps that I deem necessary and program them.  A method for testing the subsystem is devised, then I find another step that takes me towards to final product and repeat.  Eventually a path clears through the fog and I have a few dozen algorithms strung together over thousands of lines of code that solves a difficult problem, although some rework and false starts are usually part of the process.

So the problem that I have with professor Hazen's proposed approach is that it doesn't appear to be in any way distinct from intelligent design as I do day by day in my engineering work.  From the other direction, it is also not distinct from the rhetoric of "Darwinian Evolution", since this is exactly the same process that Darwinists use.  All this brings me back to one of my assertions:  The human mind is wired such that it is only capable of thinking in Intelligent Design paradigms.  Even if Darwinian Evolution existed as a distinct mode of explanation, I do not believe that any professor could find a way to employ his mental faculties in a way that wasn't overwhelmingly based on Intelligent Design.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Origins of Life, by Robert Hazen

This is the new noon time series for work.  We are on the second lecture, which purportedly dealt with the classical notions of the origin of life that would be deemed "scientific".  Professor Hazen mentions Democritus in passing, whose atomic atheism is well known, but fails to note the crucial point (from Aristotle's On The Heavens) that Democritus was a Flat Earther.  The reason this is significant is that Professor Hazen implies that Democritus was operating independently of the religious views of the time, but the religious view held by the astrologers was that the earth was spherical.  In this the astrologers were obsessed with hard evidence, mathematics and theory and would exceed all others in their scientific detail for a thousand more years.  Democritus was almost undoubtedly developing his views with little serious reflection.  Instead, he was simply reacting to other views that he found unacceptable for theological reasons, although the pretense of science needed to be maintained, so this fundamental reactionary principle could not be admitted to.  Likewise, much of what academia puts out today is also "science" and "ethics" by reaction that is devoid of any inherent substance.

The much larger oversight in Hazen's discussion, however, was the Epicureans.  Their view of spontaneous generation by the interaction of countless atom types over an infinity of time and space was more developed than all the other classical philosophers that we know about combined.  As I have noted elsewhere, however, the modern intellectual has extreme difficulty facing the Epicureans, since their abuse of science in the name of science exceeded all others, and the result of their "philosophy" was endless sophistry and moral license.  To study the Epicureans fairly, the modernist finds a creature too much like himself staring back.

An important part of this introduction is the relationship of science to theology in origins.  Hazen cites Aristotle as an example of the science only view, but this fails because Aristotle in his Physics puts theology as a key part of any philosophy and would never have accepted such a distinction.  For origins, we are really only given two options:  There is Creation, and there is Spontaneous Generation.  There are no other alternatives, so that even space aliens planting life on Earth would simply move the question back further to the origin of the space aliens.  

With that in mind, Creation has generally been rejected on, um, theological grounds.  That is, intellectuals (and modernist theologians) find the notion of a God who is outside of nature and could or would do such creative acts offensive to their chosen theological notions.  Likewise, Spontaneous Generation was rejected on scientific grounds.  That is, if we mix silicon crystals, copper, lithium and glass into a blender, and run it for a trillion years, we are never going to get out a working iPhone.  The simplest biological life forms are simply many orders of magnitude more complex than could possibly occur unless there were an infinity of universes.  And even here, we are operating on speculation.  

But then we have the modern intellectual, who proceeds under the theological premise that everything he believes is automatically "scientific" since it does not explicitly invoke God.  He must return to Spontaneous Generation, because his theology compels it, yet he must likewise insist that it is science only that drives him to this, since his theology does not permit him to admit that he is motivated purely by theology.  This series will be fun!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Friday, July 03, 2015

Capital by Marx: End of Volume 1

Purgatory will not be so bad.  Marx goes on to project every evil of the last two centuries onto the capitalist, regardless of which continent it occurs on.  That petty tyrants of foreign nations were involved in the slave trade is noted, but it is the capitalist who is at fault.  The same goes for the massive transformation of Ireland both before, during and after the famine.  Listening to Capital does help clarify why it is that the only language Marxists understood was the language of the gun.  Marx's goal was to fill his followers with an all consuming and unquenchable hatred that would seek domination at all costs.  What Marxists lack to this day is any notion of forgiveness and reconciliation, which is a key component of Christianity.  They also had no notion about how they would improve on anything.  There was only a notion that if only they could grab all power to themselves, things would automatically improve.

As I have already noted, there is not a single crime of the capitalists that the communists didn't commit, and while the capitalist had the excuse of being too narrow in focus and blinded by capital to see the consequences, the communist can make no such claim.  The famines of the Ukraine, China, Cambodia, North Korea, ... all were man made, rather than the product of something like the potato blight.  Yes, there were mass migrations due to capitalism, but when the communists took over, it was the proletariat fleeing for survival to the more generous bourgeoisie, with the communist first putting up fences to stop them and later shooting them in the back.  Early capitalism was hard, but compared to the gulags, work camps and re-education camps?  Capitalism may facilitate prostitution, but where do we find a state like Cuba enticing pedophiles to engage in prostitution for foreign exchange?  When was there a tyrant in a third world country that was too vile for the communists to deal with for natural resources?

It is tempting to pronounce a curse on the Marxists.  This would be a wish that all the punishments that they had determined to be merited by the capitalists be given to them in eternity according to their standards.  But still, I must restrain myself since as Christians we are to ask for forgiveness of others and not vengeance.  May God bring some of these madmen to their senses.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Hegel's Constitution

In spite of the confusion in The Philosophy of History (1830-1831), there are a few things of interest.  One is the note on the gradual devolution of languages from their more pure and sophisticated grammatical form.  Another point that Hegel shares with me is that there are "rights" and there are "wrongs".  Today, both are placed under the heading of "Human Rights".  He considers the family - i.e. the human family according to the laws of nature - to be sacred.  Being a good German, Hegel is very much tuned in to the fact that different nations and cultures have different characteristics, a different spirit and a distinctive life.  Americans view everyone as being the same as us, but with some inexplicable peculiarities.

Hegel also is reluctant to embrace the Greek belief in the circular nature of government from aristocracy to oligarchy to democracy, and instead tends towards a view of humanity in a state of progress.  The Germany of his time might be a candidate for this belief, since the German people had been raised upon from barbarism to an advanced state by Christianity.  The idea that we are in a cyclic situation didn't seem to fit.

What really stuck out to me is the idea that the constitution of a country would necessarily be distinctive in that it reflect the religion and culture:

"We shall have to show further on that the constitution adopted by a people makes one substance — one spirit: — with its religion, its art and philosophy, or, at least, with its conceptions and thoughts — its culture generally; not to expatiate upon the additional influences, ab extra, of climate, of neighbors, of its place in the World."

If this is the case, the secularists attempt to decouple the constitution from religion and culture will have some complications:

"... for in secular matters only force and voluntary subservience are the principles of action; and the forms which are called Constitutions are in this case only a resort of necessity, and are no protection against mistrust."

My sense is that Hegel is doubly right as we apply this to our current era.  We haven't really succeeded to move beyond the principle that constitutions are derived from religion, but instead have embraced this notion to its fullest:  The SCOTUS has duly recognized that America has a new religion and culture now.  Before we were a Christian nation.  Now we each worship our lusts, desires and envy.  These are our gods.  Hard work was our former culture value.  Sloth is the new one.  Before we wrung our hands over slavery.  Today we have embraced slavery to vice sponsored by the government and available to all races.  Our art is the art of desecration.  Yes, our Constitution perfectly reflects our religion.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hegel and the Philosophy of Senility

This is embarrassing.  I am nearing the end of Marx's Capital, Volume 1, but wanted an interlude.  Since Marx and Engels were both reported to have had some connection to the German philosopher, Hegel, I decided to listen to the one work that was on Librivox.org by Hegel:  The Philosophy of History.  At about half way through the work I was reflecting on this missing author in my study of philosophy, and was beginning to research some minor details, when I noticed that a blogger by the name of Looney already posted on this topic on March 24, 2012.  Not only that, but this imposter did a very good job of imitating me and, per the comments section's discussion with Delirious, it appears that he had already connected Hegel to Marx.  OK, it was likely me, but somehow I completely forgot having posted on this topic, which does have me wondering how much of my blogging is simply repeating myself.  (Please don't enlighten me on this.)

Perhaps we can formulate an opposite principle to déjà vu for this:  ne l'ai pas déjà vu.  It is when you see something old and feel that it is entirely new to you.  Others might call it Alzheimer's syndrome.  From a metaphysical standpoint, it is proof that there is a part of you that didn't come from a former existence.

But back to Hegel, I still agree with my former post.  The only thing I would add now is regarding Hegel's ignorant worship of the Goddess of Liberty.  I tagree with the Greeks even more on this now, that the Goddess of Liberty will always, eventually reveal herself as the Demon of Licentiousness and Lawlessness.  Then she will proceed to devour her followers.

As to the connection between Hegel on the one hand and Marx and Engels on the other hand, a comparison can now be done.  All three were senselessly long winded so that only the mentally ill would try to listen through to the end.  But Marx and Engels rejected sophistry that revolved around theo-philosophical techno-babble, and instead pursued down-to-earth topics like the computation of profits for the factories.  Hegel's discourses were entirely pointless, whereas Marx and Engels never deviate from their point regarding the need to destroy civilization as we know it.

There is one quote from Hegel that I both admired and would like to highlight:  "Among us, the so-called 'higher criticism,' which reigns supreme in the domain of philology, has also taken possession of our historical literature.  This 'higher criticism' has been the pretext for introducing all the anti-historical monstrosities that a vain imagination could suggest.  Here we have the other method of making the past a living reality; putting subjective fancies in the place of historical data; fancies whose merit is measured by their boldness, that is, the scantiness of the particulars on which they are based, and the peremptoriness with which they contravene the best established facts of history." - The Philosophy of History

This is from the earlier chapters of this book which are coherent and sensible, unlike the later three quarters.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Taxing Experience

I never take taxis in the US, so an exception needed to be made.  This one put a television in front of my face and expected me to watch advertisements the entire way to the airport.  What kind of people take taxis these days?  I requested the driver to turn it off, for which he at least killed the sound, making it bearable.  This stands as one more reminder that I am an alien here in the US.


On the way to the airport my driver caught the attention of a policeman, and we got stopped.  He pointlessly explained to the officer that I was late for my plane, even though I had said nothing on that subject and I was actually an hour earlier than I needed to be.

I wasn't much into photography for this trip, so will just leave the one picture below.  The young lady at the hotel desk tried to interest me in paying a higher fee to get a room with a better view, but I refused, so this is from the lowest floor.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Capital, Volume 1 by Marx: Onward Luddites!

This section I am listening to now touches on the concept of machine depreciation.  A problem of industrialization is that the return on capital is maximized in machine intensive operations by running the machines 24 hours a day.  We have three 8-hour shifts now, but this was arrived at in an uneven manner.  The power of machinery also had the wonderful affect of equalizing women and children with men, thus, turning natural relations upside down.  Each new improvement to machinery resulted in workers being thrown out of work, while the amount of excess value attained by the free portion of the laborer (i.e. the labor beyond what would have resulted in zero profit) necessarily increases, thus, increasing the degree of blood sucking that the capitalist is doing.  In our era we recognize that only through a net improvement in productive efficiency can living standards be improved, but Marx only sees evils in this.  He goes on and on and on chronicling the improvement in efficiency of the factories, as if this were self-evident proof that the factories were evil.

Marx has repeatedly come back to accusations of genocide, which has been expanded to the accusation that factory work caused women to lose their natural instincts leading to infanticide.  Of course infanticide (i.e. abortion) has been universally decreed by his followers as being a moral imperative.  This gets into the big problem with all this howling:  The population of England doubled in the 18th century and quadrupled during the 19th century while life expectancy improved and surplus population was exported to America and Australia.  There was also net immigration to England from elsewhere in Europe, due to better conditions.  Certainly there were plenty of horrors to document in the 19th century factory system of England, but the observation remains that Marx has not offered a single opinion on how to make things better, nor has he done this indirectly through the many quotes he includes.

Update:  Marx clarifies a bit later that while the fury of the workers at the machines is understandable, it is misplaced:  The true crime is that of the capitalist who employed the machine and the machine is actually innocent.  I would really like to know what Marx would think of The Terminator.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Capital, Volume 1, continued

The first 11 hours of listening to this work were a rehash of classical economics, whereby Marx successfully proves that money exists, along with capital, labor and profits.  At the end of this section we have the notion that the worker spends a certain amount of his time working for himself, and another part doing free labor for the capitalist.  This reminds me a bit of our "tax freedom day", which is the initial part of the year that we spend working exclusively for the government followed by the part that we get to work for ourselves.  As noted in the last section, Marx quibbles here and there, but he has neither contributed to economics nor contradicted anything of substance.

The work transitions to a narrative similar to Engels writings about the laborers in England during the first half of the 19th century.  There is a lot of rhetoric directed at capitalists, who are likened to vampires and everything else evil.  With all the documentation and detail, it is notable that there is almost nothing in the way of comparing the English laborers lot to those elsewhere.  Would life have been easier in Africa?  Since the situation got much better for the English laborer in the latter half of the 19th century, this all seems dated now.

The section I am at now is about 20 hours, of listening and Marx is now giving us a brief history of the machines of the industrial revolution after having spent considerable time discussing the difference between a machine and a tool, which is a subject of interest to me.  It is good to be a bit more than half way through this.  So far I don't recall a single instance of Marx making a recommendation about how to make anything better.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Capital, Volume I, by Karl Marx

The full name of this work is Capital: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production.  Engels adds to the preface, which is really the first of three volumes, that "Capital" is the "Bible" for the working class.  This raises an eyebrow, because Engels complains elsewhere that workers don't even know who Samson was, and this "Bible" of Marx, being a lengthy discourse on economics, has so far never risen above the dryness of the most dry portions of the Bible, plus, the length of Marx's volume one at 40 hours of listening is the same as for the entire Bible.   Clearly only the mentally ill would read Marx's work through, or if they had not already been mentally ill, then they certainly would be if trying to read and follow all his arguments from beginning to end, which I must keep in mind as I proceed!

At this point I have listened to a few hours of discussions of how many yards of linen is worth a coat as Marx tries to develop the concept of value.  Marx has now sensitized me that my last sentence used both the Latin word "value" and the Teutonic word, "worth", indicating my conflicted capitalist upbringing that resulted from a blend of the passionate Irish with the calculating Anglo-Saxon.  This eventually proceeds into the concept of money and price, which still needs a few hours of clarification.

One feature of any economic discussion is that it can never be sufficiently caveated and remain finite in size.  Thus, Marx finds cause to quote and quibble with everyone, but I am in doubt as to whether or not any of Marx's quibbles put at risk the content of an argument.  Mixed in with this are a number of remarks going back to classical writers such as Homer and Aristotle.  So what I see so far is that Marx is discussing capitalism, coming to descriptions that are essentially identical to capitalist economists, while having left a record of quibbles.

Having gone through several of the works of Marx and Engels, I am now leaning to a viewpoint that is quite different from the one that I held before I started.  Namely, that Marx and Engels never defined a system and to speak of "Marxism" is nonsensical.  All that was proposed by Marx and Engels is that capitalism should be overthrown.  Marx has the notion that social circumstances change over time, necessitating different political conditions which should naturally evolve, but capitalism has thwarted this process.  Capitalism stands in the way of this natural evolution.  I tend to an opposite viewpoint, that capitalism is the natural process of evolution, whereas intellectuals forever desire to impose themselves, creating chaos.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Two Short Pamphlets by Marx

The first of the was Eleven Theses of Feuerbach.  He is dismissive of Feuerbach for thinking abstractly, whereas reality is only concrete.  I know nothing of Feuerbach, so can't comment, beyond the point of noting that the man who has the grandest of all unifying abstract "sciences" should find fault with someone for talking abstractly.

The second is Wage Labour and Capital.  This work was originally by Marx and brought into an updated edition by Engels.  There is much that corresponds simplistically with economic views of supply and demand.  Marx seems to be making the case for a "living wage", since the fact that a wage can be insufficient for a family to survive is highlighted.  Engels adds a preface to this edition because it was produced after Marx's death from previous articles.  In this preface, Engels explains that the point to be noted is that, whereas the fair price should go to the value of the labor (errr, labor power) + the inputs, there always seems to be a markup, which is related to the corruption of the Bourgeoisie.  Marx notes that the markup can be negative as well as positive, so it isn't clear to me that Engels and Marx are on the same page.  This work was originally a series of articles published in the Rheinische Zeitung, which was closed by the government before the series was completed, so we really aren't in an easy position to say what Marx's aim was.

I haven't been keeping score, but will note that Marx, along with Burke and Paine who I have read recently, all use "Jew" as an insult.  Or so I have heard each one of them do this at least once.

Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844, by Frederick Engels

This is 12 hours of listening to the itemizing of the social ills of England, Scotland, and Ireland over a ten year period.  For reference, Dickens work, A Christmas Carol, was written a year earlier in 1844.  The discussion covers a large amount of territory, beginning with the long, hard work in the factories, the accidents and diseases, and ailments such as asthma from inhaling metal dust.  The pay amounts to barely enough to cover an existence, which is of the most horrid sort, given that masses of workers are thrown into common housing.  The result is stunted growth, whether it be physical or mental.  Added to this are the social problems caused by women and children working, destroying family relations, encouraging prostitution and leading to illegitimacy and the spread of STDs.  It is a painful bit of listening, and no doubt there is much truth to it.  Compounding the problems were about a million Irish immigrants looking for work, but we must note that the Irish Potato Famine doesn't occur until 1845.

Mixed in with this longwinded description is a large quantity of vitriol directed at the Bourgeoisie and Christianity.  More specifically, he was hostile to capitalism, Christian education and monogamy.   One argument that caught my attention was his rejection of the possibility of Bourgeois charity.  His  argument is that if the Bourgeois hadn't cheated the Proletariat, they should have had no money to give, while also noting the Proletariat are more generous among themselves and the Bourgeois charity is negligible.

My response to all this is that yes, there were a lot of horrors in the early stages of industrialism, which were largely rectified over the decades.  We cannot say the same for his communist children, however, as these horrors all live on today in Communist countries.  Yes, the Bourgeois can be unfeeling, but communist leaders have been even more brutal and callous over time than the Bourgeois.  And besides this, there have always been poor in every country and every age, thus, this work had shock value only to the naive.  After all this fist shaking at the Bourgeoisie, I am finally wanting to ask him in return, "What about you, Fred?  What do you propose?  After you burn everything down, what would you put in its place?".

Monday, June 15, 2015

Marx and Engels continued

I am on travel, so there is plenty of time to listen to windbags.

Revolution and Counter-Revolution, or Germany in 1848, outlines the communist reaction to a tepid revolution(s) that didn't succeed.  These events correspond to the transition from feudalism (Lord-Surf) relations to capitalist (Bourgeoisie-Proletariat).  The main lessons drawn by Marx and Engels are that revolutions must be all out and there must be no scrupling about legalities and niceties of any kind.  Even a suicidal revolt that leads to a defeat is beneficial, since those who survive will be permanently harboring feelings of revenge.  Finally, they see a middle class revolt as being that of useful idiots who are clueless in the unlikely event that they actually get power, since they will set up a system of checks and balances and seek a consensus.  Instead, the communists don't seek a revolution, but to revolt against the revolution.  All this helps me understand much better what Trotsky was ranting about in his works.  So what is it that they want to accomplish?  Stamping out religion, monogamy, and classes are clearly stated, but what are they to be replaced with?

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, by Engels, 1880.

This is a short history of the invention of industrial machines, and how they transformed manufacturing in several waves.  That productivity increased by orders of magnitude in the weaving industry is noted, but Engels is one to note that the glass is half empty.  Billions of yards of cloth were produced employing thousands of people, but the output apparently was exported out of the galaxy, since we have no idea who benefited from the cheap product.  Some things are noted in passing that beg to have Engels stopped for some cross examination.  For example, he notes that a factory requires an officer core in the same manner as army.  Yet he only leaves rooms for a bottom class and a top class that is idle.  There are no traders nor are there agents looking for markets nor are there sailors or trains or ships in his "scientific" socialist analysis.  All Engels sees is that there is a wage given to the worker who adds value, and an idle industrialist who sells that work at a higher price.  Subtracting the two prices, we obtain the exact value of the oppression, according to communist accounting.

We must also consider boom and bust cycles, which have continued into our current era.  When there is an over supply, factories clearly need to be shut and workers cut.  This is an oppression too, even if the industrialist goes bankrupt.  The only solution proposed is to confiscate the property of the rich and give it to the poor.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Communist Manifesto, by Engels and Marx, 1847

I spent a long time going through European histories as a prelude to going through the works of Marx and Engels.  The Communist Manifesto is a shorter rant from 1847 that I vaguely remember some reading of when I was young.  It is good to go through it again.  The observations of social upheaval associated with the industrial revolution are noteworthy, although it would hardly need a communist to observe the obvious.  As I am writing this, I have also started "Revolution and Counter-Revolution, or: Germany in 1848", by Engels and Marx.  The social changes were causing upheaval in social structures and politics, with the main change being the old aristocracy being superseded by a Bourgeoisie (i.e. a prosperous middle class).  The give and take associated with this messy process was certainly great fodder for rabble rousers.  Marx seems to think that the trend would eventually lead to some international brotherhood of oppressed workers who were mutually sympathetic and supportive.

One thing that sticks out is the fact that the communists wanted to abolish the family on the grounds that it was invented by Bourgeois capitalists for the purpose of exploiting women.  Fast forwarding to our own day, much of America - particularly the black underclass - lives in a family-less dystopia that is the inevitable consequence of such behavior.  Meanwhile, intellectuals continue enraged at the institution and desperately pushing for change which is quite literally "for the hell of it".  But back to women.  In the process of identifying class and class struggle, it seems that the class of women is one more to be indoctrinated with exploitation theology.

Universal, government supplied education is proposed in here, which is hardly novel.  I am wondering how Marx would view our current age where class struggle and exploitation indoctrination is spoon fed to the indigent classes through the Bourgeois designed, government schools.

So what remains?  We can always divide people up into categories based on different features, then compare their relative prosperity.  If the contrast of situation is great enough, we can then exploit these differences for the purpose of stirring envy and riots - and - if we happen to be a well positioned Bourgeoisie, we can profit from the chaos.  But Marx and Engels noted this as well, as they observed that the clever wealthy classes quickly jumped onto the socialist bandwagon.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Escape from San Francisco?

It didn't go quite as I had planned, but then I again, I am not as capable as Snake.  A heat wave has finally come through the East Bay and I had plans of taking my beloved to the ocean to cool down in the fog.  Household chores took up our morning, so it was early afternoon before we commenced with our "escape".  We got onto Highway 17 headed for the redwoods and Santa Cruz, only to be caught up in a jam that went for miles.  Eventually it became apparent that the highway was likely jammed all the way to the coast, so I took an exit at Los Gatos and made my way down to Saratoga, then up Saratoga Gap road to my old bicycling haunts where I know all the secret routes through the redwoods.  This went without too much trouble, and I was having visions of ice cream and fresh berry pies at the country store in Pescadero, but then the unexpected happened as a highway patrol car blocked the road and I came to a stop where an officer was waiting to chat.  He informed me that a motorcyclist had gone down, and they were doing an accident investigation, and that we would need to wait a half hour or more since they had sent for a coroner who would need to complete his work before the road was re-opened.  My condolences to the family of the man who died.  Since we had already passed the top of the ridge between Silicon Valley and the Pacific, we had gotten a nice view of the cool fog along the coast.  Disappointed, we turned around and retraced our path to Saratoga, although perhaps we had the consolation that we did all this safely and weren't in an accident.  I wasn't willing to make any further attempts to drive out to the ocean, even though there were more routes to the coast, so instead we went to a little shop for some iced coffee, lemonade and chocolate cake.  Then back home for a nap.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Donner Expedition: Living with the consequences

Having finished The Expedition of the Donner Party and its Tragic Fate, by Eliza Donner Houghton (1843-1922), the book is not at all what I expected.  The story of the Donner Party's tragedy is just the first quarter or so of the book.  The remainder is about the Donner daughters being scattered as orphans who would not be together again for many years.  Eliza and her youngest sister end up at a German family, where they are raised speaking German, dressing like little German girls, imbibing a German work ethic and eventually translating German correspondence.  The German mother speaks to her Swedish neighbor in French.  Later the girls are sent to boarding school where they have Spanish speaking classmates, while one of the Spanish nuns was formerly engaged to a Russian officer who died before their marriage.  News of Eliza's father's grave is brought to her by a Cherokee Indian (from the East Coast of America), so we have a story of displaced peoples from all over being thrown into the California crucible during the Gold Rush.  This is entertaining and informative in a completely different way from the story of the wagon trains pushing west.

Yet it is still about the Donner Party, because these girls are tormented by the awful rumors of what happened in the snowy mountains in '46-'47.  They hope to be anonymous, but can't escape, because someone always lets out the secret about their past.  The worst of the rumors is from the last "Relief" effort that was sent to rescue those from the wagon train.  Actually it was a salvage operation in which those who went were promised half of what they brought back, and they were disappointed to find a lone survivor, having made no provision for bringing back any survivors.  This was the man who saw Eliza's mother last, and he was accused of killing and eating her.  He was accused by those who were engaged in the salvage operation, and it was their testimony that made it into the papers.  Later in life Eliza was finally able to meet the poor old man who had been accused and who went through the rest of his life as a pariah.  Eliza went through all the documents and testimony that she could, and finally convinced herself and another writer that the old man was innocent and the accusations falsely made by those who lusted for the wealth of the Donner family, since they brought considerable sums of money and valuable goods with them to California.  What the complete truth of the matter is will remain a secret until the final judgment.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

The Donner Expedition - 1846 to 1847.

There are a few great events in Northern California history that form our identity, at least for those who have been here more than a few years.  The Gold Rush is one.  Then there were Zoro and Dirty Harry.  But the one that really stands out is the Donner Expedition where 87 immigrants were stranded near the present town of Truckee, California and next to what is now Donner Lake.  Heavy snows came early that year, burying the trail and making it impossible to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains in their weakened state.  I know roughly of the story from the plaque that is stationed there.  These days Intestate 80 makes travel over the pass a two hour journey, but it still shuts down for heavy snows and I have a 4-wheel drive because I really don't like dealing with putting chains on and off the car.

The version of this that I am listening to is "The Expedition of the Donner Party and its Tragic Fate", by Eliza P. Donner, who survived this trip as a 3 year old girl.  She had few memories herself, but compiled her work from notes of others and the memories of her sisters.  Of the original 87, only 48 survived.  The problems began in Wyoming when an adventurer promised a shortcut to California, and the group succumbed to the temptation.  This resulted in much wasted energy and time crossing the Wasatch mountains in Utah, followed by a terrible ordeal crossing the basin of the Salt Lake.  The group distrusted each other, spread out, and made themselves a tempting target for Indians.  The situation was already terrible before they reached their winter camp.  The starving time soon set in, and a few were reduced to cannibalism to survive.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Age Of Reason (Final Notes) by Thomas Paine

There is a certain fatigue to listening to eight hours of someone mocking, accusing and condemning your religion.  There is hopefully a constructive goal in all this beyond simply blurting "same to you".

One curious claim that Paine came up with is that God would never use human language to communicate with humans, because human language is imperfect.  Of course human language is imperfect because humans are imperfect, so we are left concluding that any attempt by God to bother with humans would be beneath His dignity.  Certainly we can argue that way, but it begs the question of why a deist would concern himself with God in any way.

Since Paine has denounced all classical studies as being useless, unless it is to criticize the Bible, I would note the points where Paine has taken on a classical viewpoint unwittingly.  Since I have no doubt that most of his opinions arrived from somewhere else, I doubt that they are independent.

The first area of similarity being Paine's claim that under deism God can never make an evil command.  This was first noted by Epicurus, who claimed that his gods who never interacted with men likewise never commanded anything evil.  Of course such gods never commanded anything good either, nor did they ever reprimand anyone for doing evil or speaking falsehood.  For this reason, Plato in his Laws asserted that both atheism and deism should be condemned equally, since those who embraced this viewpoint would not be restrained by anything.  It must also be noted that Epicurus was the one who popularized the notion that he believed in "science", not religion, and this was done about 300BC.

This gets to one of the key points: Paine asserts that organized religion is the source of evil.  Christianity asserts that evil has its origin in man, so that with or without organized religion man will be evil.  That some evil men would concoct religion for their purposes is hardly surprising.  If religion were good, evil men would corrupt it, as they will do with everything.  At this point Paine and I aren't too far apart, except that he has not taken the step of acknowledging that man is by nature evil, and instead has blamed evil on something external to man.

Another point where Paine seems to match the ancients is in the employment of attack tactics similar to the Academics.  It is never the case that evil isn't intertwined with some specious form of good, so that we usually have to temper an attack by separating these things out and weighing the overall recipe.  The academics indiscriminately attacked everything.  The Roman emperor Julian's attack entitled Against The Galileans was a similar diatribe.  Their opponents  (e.g. Epictetus) simply note that this kind of attack rhetoric can be employed against everything, including anything that the academic finds necessary for the tolerance of life.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Flat Earth Notion according to Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine has a short note on the Flat Earth that deserves to be put into my collection.  After a brief note on Galileo, he gives us this:

"And prior to that time Virgilius was condemned to be burned for asserting the antipodes, or in other words, that the earth was a globe, and habitable in every part where there was land; yet the truth of this is now too well known even to be told." - The Age of Reason

The theory of the antipodes and whether it is agreed to or disagreed to both presumed a spherical Earth.  It assumes that the Earth is mostly water and that there might be widely separated land masses where men cannot sail between.  If men existed on these separate land masses, then we can dispute over whether or not they were descended from Adam, as we might now dispute whether men - or intelligent life - could exist on a different planet.  Paine clearly misunderstood the nature of this dispute.  Since Paine wrote long before Washington Irving wrote his fictional account of Columbus being opposed by clerics convinced of a flat earth, it appears that atheists had been actively working up this myth in the 18th, rather than the 19th century as I had previously thought.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine

This work invites a lot of comment on many subjects.  Given that I have been through several of Paine's earlier works, it should be first noted that he was a person whose every opinion was so self evident that anyone who disagreed was guaranteed to be deficient in their mental faculties.  This is all part of his extended world view, which is that his generation is the first to have encountered the phenomenon that we call "reason", it having been completely unknown to all prior generations.  Everything else derives from this.

One thing that Paine highlights is that the only things worth studying are science and technology.  Based on that viewpoint, I should have tossed his work away early on, especially since I am a technologist by profession, but I have persevered on in spite of this being a waste of mental resources.  We find that all ancient writings are mythology or errors, so we have nothing to learn from them, while Paine's generation had rediscovered, embraced and extended science, which was previously invented and known exclusively by the ancient Greeks.  A corollary is that there is nothing to be gained by studying dead languages, so only a handful of linguists need concern themselves with these matters.  Since Monarchy comes from ancient times, it is clearly wrong and needing to be reformed.  The same applies to religion.  His fury, however, is exclusively directed at Christianity, so the later half of this work is dedicated to proofs of the fabrication of the Bible.  For example, he clearly proves that the author of the book of Judges was not named Rabbi Judges, thus, this work has no authority.  This is so self evident that only a moron would disagree, and for making this great discovery, Paine is deemed a "philosopher".

My own opinion is that Reason has always been with mankind, this having been given to us by God.  The problem is that Reason is morally neutral, so that it can be employed for either good or evil, or to pass on truth or falsehood, depending on the character of the one who employs Reason.  It is Paine's failure to observe this most basic, self-evident truth that places him and his like-minded intellectuals purely into the class of Sophists, while entirely excluding them from the category of Philosophers.  So there.

A final point that I will note is that Paine calls himself a deist, while crediting his parents for giving him a good moral teaching from the Quaker religion.  Yet at the same time, he expects to live after the grave, while having no expectation of judgment for sin.  This seems to me to be just one step removed from Quakerism, since this religion was always closer to deism than to Christianity.  He wants to credit Jesus as a moral teacher, while rejecting any teaching that he doesn't like as being fraudulent.  The inconsistency in all this is his belief that deism is inherently superior morally to Christianity, yet acknowledging the moral upbringing that he owed to Christianity.  In the end, this sort of deism is doomed to moral decay, as it has proven, while at the same time it boasts of its morality more than any other religion.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Give Me Snarky Or Give Me Death: Thomas Paine continued

This is mainly some comments on the second half of The Rights of Man, and also includes a number of excerpts from Common Sense which are collectively entitled The American Crisis.

The reason for the title is that Thomas Paine's writings give me a sense of an early version of Baghdad Bob or Tokyo Rose.  It is an endless series of long winded articles full of sarcasm and mocking.  But then I found that Paine was from a Quaker family, thus, it all makes sense, since this was the manner of their founder, George Fox.  But now I am descending into the same morass so that perhaps I am hearing myself in the mirror.  The main thing that stuck in my mind was the alternation between claiming that the American colonists had been oppressed by taxation whereas elsewhere the English peasants were mocked for being poorer than their American counterparts.

The Rights of Man come across as a series of articles like Common Sense was.  The beginning part of this is a declaration of the Rights of Man by the French, which sound to me extraordinarily reasonable, but perhaps this is due to our current situation where those rights have multiplied astronomically.  An objection I had to the fixation on Rights was that it had nothing to say about Responsibilities, as if mankind should be utterly lacking in these.  This objection seems to have been raised at the beginning, and Paine's rebuttal is that their can be no Rights of Man unless their our Duties to protect the Rights of others.  While I can see some sense in this, it seems to me that if the Rights which were self evident needed to be explicitly enumerated, how much more so should the Duties of Man, since these, being derived from the Rights, should necessarily be less obvious.

A complaint that Paine gives is against governance by precedence, since the wisdom of the present age should be as good or better than precedents.  I will just note that America's judicial system continues to work by precedents to this day, under the name of case law.  A repeated insult hurled against monarchies is the epitaph of Political Popery.  America at this time included a number of Catholics, so I wonder how this was received.

The theme that Paine keeps returning to is taxes, which are outrageous due to the wars.  A key goal of his reforms is to shrink government by eliminating armies, thus, eliminating war.  But we must wage war to have the freedom to eliminate war.  He laments that in the process of raising taxes, government has intruded into vast areas of human industry with regulations designed to raise money or hamper trade so that monopolies can be engineered.  An evil associated with this lust for money is the raising of debt, and he blast those who take on unseemly levels of debt, and then boast of their wealth because of what they have been able to buy with the debt.

Finally, Paine makes some modest proposals for what could be done with the, um, Peace Dividend that would arise.  We could use a small sum to pay young families so that they could afford to pay to have their children taught.  A little more might be used to provide for those who were too old and worn out to continue at their labors.  Little did he know where that would lead.