The internal view is not always accurate

Continuing from the previous blog, I want to consider further the relationship between understanding a culture, or a situation, and living within it.

First, a person who follows a religion may not know very much about that religion at all; they may not know much about what other followers of the religion do, or what the holy books of that religion say. An outsider could easily know more. In many cases, the outsider might even know more about the individual follower. Let’s say that James is a person who follows a cult leader. He’s been thoroughly brainwashed by that cult leader. Surely, it would not be reasonable to think that James has a terribly accurate idea about the cult culture in which he lives? A similar observation might be made about people in abusive relationships; it is common for those who are victims of abusive relationships to fail to grasp that they are, in fact, in an abusive relationship, even when this fact is obvious to outsiders.

Furthermore, two people within a given culture can have completely contradictory views of that culture. This is amply demonstrated by debates over whether or not the United States has a rape culture.

I do not deny that living within a situation, or a culture, can give a person an advantageous position from which to observe that culture. What I do maintain is that living within a situation, or culture, does not inherently make a person more qualified to talk about the realities of that situation or culture.

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You don’t need to BE me to ‘get’ me

There is this odd notion that I’ve heard, primarily from the regressive left, with the idea that a person from one demographic can never understand a person from another demographic. I find myself somewhat perplexed as to why a person would argue this and stop there, instead of going further and saying that no person can ever understand another person at all – after all, if I’m incapable of understanding a person with a different skin colour, what makes these people think I could understand someone who looks similar to me, either?

The thing is, though, that wherever this notion comes from, it’s a load of bollocks. Sure, maybe you don’t see a situation the same way that I do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t understand my point of view! Maybe you see that I’m working on mathematics, and that I’m happy, and I tell you that I’m ecstatic because I just figured out an important step in a theorem I’m working on. You might think to yourself that you can’t understand what I’m feeling, because you don’t like maths. But let’s back up a moment: you know what it is to feel ecstatic, right? And you know what is making me feel ecstatic? Then congratulations! You understand how I’m feeling.

As another example, perhaps you are not the sort of person who gets attached to pets. One day you see I’m sad, and I say it is because my pet rabbit just died. Now, that happening to you might not make you particularly upset, but: you know what it is to feel sadness, and you know what is making me sad. You understand how I’m feeling.

Similar remarks apply to just about any two people, however. I read the remark by a white college student saying ‘I know I cannot understand how people in the Black Lives Movement feel.’ Really? Have you tried, I don’t know, asking them? Because they’ll come right out and tell you they are angry and frustrated. So: do you know what it is like to feel angry and frustrated? Do you know what it is like to feel like your life might be in danger (I do, through medical issues)? Then guess what. You understand how they feel. In fact one might also think that you would feel the same way, assuming that you agree with their premise. After all, if you agree that there’s a great deal of violent racism going on, are you really such a demographically absorbed asshat that you are incapable of being upset by it unless you belong to the demographic of the victims? I’m not palestinian, but I’m upset when I see palestinians losing their homes because Israel is screwing around again. I’m not jewish, but I’m upset when I see victims of anti-semitic violence.

Concomitant to this idea that people can’t understand others outside their demographic is this odd idea that a person who has lived through something (say, a culture, or an event) knows more about it than others. This is an absurdity. Let’s take some event like the battle of Waterloo. A soldier who participated in the battle probably knew a lot less about the battle itself than any historian – some soldiers who were present did not even realize they had been in a major battle until other people told them. As another example: who knows more about, say, Irish culture? An Irishman who lives their whole life in one town in Ireland, or a Frenchman who extensively studies Ireland and the Irish? I think it is pretty clear that the latter will know a great deal more about Irish culture than the former. The idea that this could never be the case seems to derive from the idea that people cannot overcome their own bias. But there are two points about this:

  1. If people can’t overcome their own bias, then being born into and living in a culture does not let you understand that culture, because you yourself are biased. In other words, if you think an ‘outsider’ can never understand a thing because of bias, then you really have to conclude that nobody can understand a thing. Because being ‘inside’ will carry its own set of biases. If a non-Irishman can never understand Irish culture because of their biased viewpoint, then an Irishman can’t understand it either – because of their biased viewpoint. If outsiders are incapable of true knowledge because of bias, then everyone is incapable of true knowledge because of bias.
  2.  The fact is that we can overcome our biases, and we constantly work on methods to do so.

Finally, I’d like to note, with regards to the idea that being an ‘insider’ grants greater understanding of a thing: people often don’t even understand themselves. People go to psychologists so that they can understand themselves better, and often the psychologist understands more about that person than they do about themselves.

Self-deception and victimhood

I realized something very peculiar about myself today. For background, I have anxiety-triggered depression as well as OCD. I dislike telling people this, not because I’m embarrassed about it, but because I don’t want them to treat me differently. Unlike SJW professional victims, I do not care to be treated as a victim by others. I realized, however, that I have been – on a largely unconscious level, I believe – treating myself differently.

I am pretty good at manipulating people. Unfortunately, this extends to manipulating myself. In this instance, my self-manipulation was of the form that, when faced with things I didn’t want to do, I began triggering myself to feel like I were getting a panic attack. Now, you might ask why I would do this; very simply, it would make me feel like I had a valid excuse to avoid the thing that I wanted to avoid. Just wanting to avoid it didn’t strike me as a good reason, though, so I was subconsciously providing myself with what I thought of as a better reason.

Of course, that’s not to say I think all my feelings of panic are brought on this way. Sometimes, they are not, and are instead genuinely brought on by the situation at hand (example: being stuck in traffic on the highway). But the fact remains that I began to actually make myself panic in situations that would not, in themselves, make me panic, simply as an excuse for not wanting to be in those situations. And again, I didn’t do this deliberately or consciously.It was largely a subconscious thing.

I think, more broadly, that this is a danger in encouraging people to think of themselves as victims at all. When we tell someone that they have a status which entitles them to sympathy and special treatment, that status takes on a certain quality of attraction, and consciously or unconsciously people may be tempted to try to prolong or increase that status (whether that status is ‘being a victim’ or some other characteristic).

Bathrooms, genitals, and transgender rights

Okay, I want to talk a bit about transgender rights, and about who can go into which bathrooms.

First, I want to say, I completely support homosexuals of both genders. In fact, I support any person marrying any other person (although reproduction is another matter – to be discussed elsewhere). Marriage, in the legal sense, is about one person having legal access to certain aspects of another person’s life. How can I say that one person should not have access to another person, legally, if they both agree to it? To disagree, would be to defy my belief that each person should be autonomous over their own body (including over whom else to give access to it).

By the same token I believe that people should have the right to modify their own bodies. If you want to chop off your own genitals, and replace them with something that resembles those of the ‘opposite biological sex,’ go ahead. Be my guest. I completely support you. I will even call you by the pronoun that you want. I don’t care what pronoun you want. So, I completely support transgender people getting operations, and being treated in public as whatever gender they identify with.

But, the issue is, some transgender people want to be able to enter restrooms based upon the gender with which they identify, rather than based upon which genitals they have. And there, I cannot agree.

Okay, let’s move back a moment. Who gets to decide who uses a public restroom? Well, public restrooms are not a matter of personal autonomy over one’s own body, exactly. I mean, at first glance, where you go is your choice, right? Yes – except this is not a special place, or even a public place. This is supposed to be a place of safety. A place of safety for whom?

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but a place of safety for people based upon what type of genitals they have. Yes, not upon what sort of ‘social gender’ you might choose, with which to identify, but rather, with the kind of physical genitals you have.

What do you say, to the female who says, ‘I believe I should get to have a place to relieve myself, apart from those humans with penises?’ To those with vaginas who say ‘We want a place to engage in intimate hygeine, apart from those with penises?’ Why do you believe it is more important to say ‘Any person should be able to go into any restroom, just because they say they “feel like a woman”‘?

Historically, gender separation was based upon a desire (by the male biological sex) to keep the female sex from being accessible to the male sex (either in terms of tempting the male sex or available for rape). Now, the female sex, the biological sex, asks for privacy from cocks, but transgender people say, ‘No, we ought to let people with cocks go to the bathroom with cis-women, just because these people with cocks claim to feel like women.’

Does this really make sense? I cannot say that it does. Ultimately, I don’t believe ‘gender’ has any meaning, as a social term. Oh, sure, some people talk about gender. Yes, we make judgments based upon the ‘gender’ we perceive. But ultimately, when we are really asking about ‘gender’ – we either mean: ‘What kind of genitals do you have,’ or else, ‘what sort of chromosomes do you have?’ At least, that is what I mean. And as such, when a bunch of people with vaginas (‘women’ in the sense of biological sex) say ‘we want restrooms where we can guarantee nobody in there has a cock,’ I support their request.

Now, some people have said that making such a law would mean that, to enter a restroom, a person would have to show their privates. That is clearly inane. No, such a law would be enforced by saying that, if someone goes into a restroom for one genital type, and were later proved to have the other genital type, they would be subject to further penalties, rather in the manner by which an assault with a deadly weapon is more severe than an assault as such.

So, if anyone wants to say this is transphobic, I guess they will have to do so.c

Skeptical Atheism vs. Atheism

It occurred to me today that ‘atheism’ is probably far more broad than most atheists give it credit for – and that this is not necessarily a good thing. Of course, one of the benefits of the term ‘atheism’ is that it is so open – it literally just means not accepting the any hypotheses that entail the existence of a god or gods (by contrast, I would say an ‘agnostic’ is a person who doesn’t accept such hypotheses and also believes it is fundamentally impossible to obtain evidence for or against them – in practice, most agnostics are technically atheists, and most atheists probably lean towards agnosticism a bit).

But that still leaves many possible beliefs in unsubstantiated hypotheses. This first came to my attention when debating with someone who claimed it was possible to be an atheist and also to believe in karma as a ‘law of conservation.’ Of course, it’s not really a well-formed hypothesis; it doesn’t make any testable predictions whatsoever. But, since this person denied that this law was a god, or even a ‘depersonalized god-like power,’ technically, they could also say they were an atheist.

Here are some other claims that could be made alongside with a claim to be an atheist:

  1. A belief in reincarnation.
  2. A belief in ghosts.
  3. A belief in faeries.
  4. A belief in ceremonial magick.
  5. A belief in invisible personal powers that surround us – ‘daemons,’ to borrow a Greek term – but which are not actually ‘gods’ (whatever that means).
  6. A belief in unicorns.

So, from henceforth, I would prefer to identify myself as a ‘skeptical atheist.’ What I mean by this is that I’m not just an atheist, but that I also reject hypotheses unless they are either a. testable, b. allow us to make well-defined theories about the nature of the world, or let us simplify those theories somehow (basically, I am willing to consider various theories of ontology, even though many of those aren’t testable per se, because we need to have a theory of ontology in order to make well-defined theories about the universe – unless we are going to be pure pragmatic positivists and not ask about what the fundamental building blocks of the universe might be, and even then, theories of ontology can help us simplify our hypotheses about the universe).

As an example of the latter sort of theory, I accept the anti-solipsism hypothesis that other people also have minds. But technically, this is not testable. We cannot prove that other people have minds that have experiences like ours. So why should a skeptical person want to accept this theory? Because it greatly simplifies the world. Otherwise, we would have to say ‘There are all these human bodies, all of them going around acting like me, but somehow, I am unique in having a mind.’ So the anti-solipsism hypothesis simplifies our picture of the universe. The pure pragmatic positivist meanwhile would be forced to avoid accepting or rejecting the anti-solipsism hypothesis, because it is not strictly testable.

By this sort of reasoning, I would therefore reject belief in ghosts, reincarnation, karma, and unicorns, because they are either untestable without simplifying our picture of the universe, or else there is no evidence in favour of them, and plenty of evidence against them.

By calling myself a ‘skeptical atheist,’ I think I am describing myself much more accurately than the term ‘atheist’ alone.

PART II

I’m going to give another example of this second type of theory, or rather, three examples. These are all ontological theories, they will take some time to explain, and they don’t help to illustrate the above point about atheism vs. skeptical atheism. So, most readers would probably want to stop now. If you go on, you have been warned.

Let us first consider what a ‘mind’ is. Our mind is made up of a collection of many experiences that are experienced together (our current visual sensations, audible sensations, emotions, etc.), which flow into one another as time passes. So I would suggest that whenever there is an experience, it is had by a rudimentary mind. If those experiences exist in a complicated combination which flows into the future, we get something of a more complex mind like the human mind. Of course, one mind could influence another and then cease to exist, but pass on some of the information which it contained by influencing that other mind before ceasing.

First theory: ‘Materialism.’ The being of matter does not always involve any minds. Matter exists by itself without any minds in most cases. But in some cases, it exists in conjunction with a mind.

Second theory (really, a variant of the first): ‘Materialism with inherent mental potential.’ Matter does not always exist in conjunction with a mind, but it has the potential in certain combinations to give rise to experiences.

Third theory: The ‘James and Nietzsche’ theory. This is inspired by the ideas of William James (in many of his papers on ontology and epistemology), and Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil, 36). All matter is inherently comprised of experiences – not necessarily the sorts that we have, and not consisting of long-enduring sequences of experiences like our minds, in general, of course. A given molecule might consist of a millions of minds every second, popping into existence, acting in some manner, and popping out of existence again, influencing their ‘descendants.’ (This is merely illustrative; whether molecules are in any way fundamental to matter is a question for physics – suffice it to say that the fundamental building blocks of our universe, according to this ontological theory, are lots and lots of little collections of experiences, i.e. minds). But of course these tiny combinations of experiences, when put together properly, can form much larger and longer-lasting minds.

Now, none of these are testable. But, on the grounds of simplicity, I am split perhaps 50% in favour of the James and Nietzsche theory, 40% for the second theory, and 10% for the first. I dislike the first theory because it requires an ad hoc addition of a mind. The second and third theories are therefore much simpler (although arguably the second theory merely is the first theory, with an ad hoc ability added – still, it seems much simpler). The third theory is arguably a bit simpler than the second, but I don’t see it as tremendously simpler, so it’s hard for me to decide between those two.

(It’s worth noting that one of the reasons for the third theory, historically, was the question, brought to light by British empiricist philosophers Hume and Berkeley, of whether it is possible to have a well-formed concept of ‘being’ apart from ‘mental being.’ I, like William James, believe our immediate experiences are not merely ‘static impressions,’ the way Hume and Berkeley described them, and thus, like James, I maintain that we have well-defined notions of things like activity, causation, and power – notions which Hume believed were empty.)

I’m not tolerant

Except that I am.

Okay, let me explain that a bit further. There are some people – the ‘regressive left’ – who practice ‘tolerance’ of other cultures But I fear that I am not one of them, even though this might mean the regressive left tells me that I’m not a liberal.

But I am not here to get labels from other people. I’m here to say what I believe, and for what I stand. So let’s back up a moment and ask what morality might be.

Morality is a sort of value system. And what are values? Well, there are two types of values: instrumental and intrinsic.

Something with positive instrumental value is a thing that helps in the achievement of an intrinsic value or helps to prevent something of a negative intrinsic value. Something with a negative instrumental value is something that helps to prevent something with a negative intrinsic value, or makes something of a positive intrinsic value harder to achieve.

But, what things are of an intrinsic positive or negative value? We can say ‘You ought to value this.’ But what does that mean? What is this ‘ought?’ ‘Ought’ implies ‘Do this, or suffer something of lesser value.’ But that, in itself, presupposes a value system. Therefore, even with intrinsic values, there is no way in which we can say ‘this value system is less valuable than that one,’ unless both we, and those with whom we converse, hold a single set of values in common.

Very well. Then what are moral values? Well, they are a certain type of preference. A certain type of value. Historically, the notion of moral preferences developed with the evolution of human society. However, humans now have an ethical side, in addition to the other sides. That is to say, we have a sort of preference. A preference that may or may not be evolutionarily advantageous. Maybe our morals will be evolutionarily disadvantageous. But the beautiful thing is, that we humans have evolved to the point that if some group embraces some moral standard, that is, some standard of values, we can eliminate those others that disagree.

Okay. So, to me, what is intrinsically valuable, is that each individual person should be autonomous over themselves. As such, I approve of people choosing to live with different cultural traditions. But I do not approve of cultures that take away our autonony over ourselves.

Now, to my mind, the morality of the individual, is the set of things for/against which the invidiual will exert themselves. I will exert myself so that each person may be autonomous, and so that nobody will be dominiated from without! That means, however, that I will oppose certain ‘other cultures,’ and also that I will oppose my own culture, the culture of the U.S.

In general, my moral values are not ‘tolerant’ of cultures. That is to say, I tolerate humans making choices for themselves, but I do not tolerate cultures that inflict or impose upon individuals their choices over themselves. That means, I do not tolerate a culture that wants to dominate the world in the sense of dominating every individual (even if that culture is one I happen to enjoy; I do enjoy many aspects of Irish-American culture, even when that does not approve, e.g., abortion). Nor do I tolerate a culture that attempts to dominate a given gender. Or a given profession. Or a given race.

From where, however, do morals come? Well, in the end, if you choose not to agree with our morals… be excluded. That is, apart from the punishment, all any moral code can give you. For morality is a system of values. But all values are either intrinsic or else relative to an already accepted value – so intrinsic values must be agreed upon ‘arbitrarily.’

However, what is most important is, that I do not care about most of the things in which different cultures differ. I do not care, for instance, if a film decides to break into song partway through (as Indian films tend to do). The basic thing about which I care is about individual freedom: is everyone free to live their lives free from bullying?

More anti-white racism

On Etsy, no less! A ‘white tears mug’ t-shirt.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/258974341/white-tears-mug-screen-print-t-shirt-in

Seriously, how will we have an egalitarian, colour-blind society when the right-wing is engaged in anti-‘non-white’ racism, while the left wing is engaged in anti-white racism? Perhaps we could just be people who deal with other people as people? That would work, but I doubt the right or left wing could handle it.

As an actual egalitarian, it can feel quite lonely at times.