Saturday, September 28, 2013

two gods of fanatics

A few years ago, I noticed that "fanatic" comes from fanaticus: "inspired by a deity, frenzied, from fanum temple" and wondered who the god of fanatics might be. Bill Colsher left this comment:
Of course there's a goddess of fanatics! Two of 'em: 
Juvenal uses fanaticus in Satire 4 with reference to Bellona and in the 2nd (along with Livy) with regards to the priests of Cybele. The word is actually pretty rare - Perseus showed only 18 instances, mostly in Livy and those mostly refer to the galli.
Bellona was a peculiarly Roman goddess of war. The sister (or wife or daughter) of Mars, her temple is where the senate would convene to meet with persons who could not enter the city, e.g. commanders still holding imperium. Her priests, in a Spring festival, would dance and stab themselves in the arms and shoulders with knives. 
The galli, priests of Cybele, as is well known, would castrate themselves (presumably only once) in an ecstatic celebration on March 24th. Roman citizens were prohibited from joining this cult until the time of Claudius.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Loving grids: I'm an agnostic atheist left libertarian (if you trust grids)

ETA: Lines are one-dimensional, grids are two-dimensional, reality is multi-dimensional. So don't put too much faith in any model of human behavior.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Socialist Bible verses: Proverbs 14:31

As usual, the KJV is pretty:
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
But the NIV is clear:
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Brother Will says: Nothing. How do you improve on that?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A spoiler-free observation about this week's Breaking Bad, subtext, why Walter White's a great tragic hero, and good endings

1. A surprising number of people took the final speech in this week's episode at face value. I didn't expect that because two great performances—by the speaker and especially by the primary listener—should've told everyone that more was being said than the speaker's words implied.

But subtext is often missed.

2. Walter White's a great tragic hero because he never stops believing that he can fix everything if he just tries hard enough.

3. Most stories have one possible emotionally right ending. Two episodes short of the conclusion of Breaking Bad, I don't know whether the right ending is Shakespearean devastation, or some degree of redemption for the survivors, or a hollow victory in which Walter never fully realizes the price everyone has paid.

My socialism is democratic socialism

Continuing my thoughts in My socialism:

My socialism is Democratic socialism. Like most political terms, it encompasses competing ideas; I don't pick one because my stress stays on "democratic". I look at history and trust people to work things out as best they can.

Two quotes by democratic socialists:

Rosa Luxemburg:"Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element".

Eugene Debs: "I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition."

The problem with calling yourself a democratic socialist in the US is the Democratic Socialists of America are unwilling to run candidates against centrist Democrats, which effectively makes "democratic socialist" a synonym for "neoliberal". But their FAQ is still useful: What is Democratic Socialism?

Monday, September 16, 2013

How much puts you in the US's Top 1% by Wealth and Income?

Measuring the Top 1% by Wealth, Not Income - "The Times had estimated the threshold for being in the top 1 percent in household income at about $380,000, 7.5 times median household income, using census data from 2008 through 2010. But for net worth, the 1 percent threshold for net worth in the Fed data was nearly $8.4 million, or 69 times the median household’s net holdings of $121,000."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

If U.S. Land Were Divided Like U.S. Wealth

Rationalizing Animal: The Righteous Mind

Why Won’t They Listen? - "The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others."

The article's worth reading, especially for the point that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. A successful socialist party will have to promote values that appeal to both groups.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My socialism

Robin Hood, Superman, Jesus, and John the Baptist made me a socialist. Robin Hood taught me that heroes take from the rich and give to the poor. Superman taught me that an advanced society like Krypton shares the world's resources with all its people, and if you can't live in an advanced society, you help people where you are to make a better world. Jesus taught me it's easier for a camel to get through a needle's eye than it is for rich people to get into Heaven, and John the Baptist gave the simplest explanation of how a sharing society works: If you have more, share with someone who has less.

Karl Marx only helped me understand how capitalism works: the ruling class owns most of the things that make wealth, and the working class works to survive.

Though I suspect I've always been a socialist, for decades I thought I was a liberal. I believe passionately in democracy, and one-party systems in Cuba, China, and the USSR made me accept the logic of people who do not believe in progress. Like them, I thought what had not been, could not be.

But then, like the first people who dreamed of democracy, I realized that what had not been, must be. That's my definition of progress.

In my life, the world has made enormous strides toward increasing personal freedom while the gap between the rich and the rest of us grows greater. People who don't understand the United States say this is a rich country, but the truth is it's a country ruled by the rich. The US's median wealth is not first in the world—that's Australia's, which is $193,653. The US's median wealth is 27th in the world, at $38,786. Half of Americans live below or near the poverty line80 Percent Of U.S. adults face near-poverty and unemployment.

Tell me Americans are lucky because we're not as exploited as people in some other countries, and I'll tell you house slaves should not be grateful that they're not field slaves. The world is rich enough for everyone to live in comfort, if only the resources were shared.

So I'm a socialist. I'm not an ideological socialist—I don't feel like I know enough about Marx to be called a Marxist, and I certainly don't know enough about Marxism's many splinter groups to claim membership in any of them. In his lifetime, Marx looked at one group of self-proclaimed Marxists and said, "If that is Marxism, I'm not a Marxist." I suspect he would say that of every group which wastes time sniping at potential allies.

I'm a pragmatic socialist. Defining my socialism calls for two adjectives:

1. Democratic—I would rather lose under a fair system than win under a biased one.

2. Libertarian—I believe adults should be free to do as they please, so long as they do not limit anyone else's freedom.

If you need a label for me, the best is probably left-libertarian, but you could also call me a Christian who believes in Jesus's teaching about how to live in this world.

To come: Why I believe socialism is practical.

ETA: Top 1% of USA take biggest income slice on record

The social chasm in America

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to survive a mobbing (that mostly happens online)

I learned about mobs as a boy, when the Ku Klux Klan targeted my family. Since then, I've despised mob justice, no matter what the offense or whether the mobbing happens online or off. And yet, to my shame, I participated in online mobbing when I thought it was for a good cause. I failed to understand the negative form of the Golden Rule: Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you. Or, if you enjoy conflict but have a protective streak, consider this version: Do not do to strangers what you would not have done to your family and friends.

I learned that the hardest way. I don't know if I made every mistake the target of a mob can make, but I made the most common ones. This is the post I wish I had read the day before I was mobbed:

The internet does not read charitably. Making that problem far worse, many web sites follow the first law of tabloid journalism: If it bleeds, it leads. Whether their audience is liberal or conservative, feminist or men's rights, white or black, Christian or Jewish or Muslim, gay or straight, scifi fans or fantasy fans or romance fans, they know one truth: Outrage is google juice, because outrage junkies need their daily spike.

If you are targeted, the outraged will denounce you at your sites and theirs. What you said will be exaggerated for maximum effect. If you were pseudonymous, people who usually defend pseudonymity will proudly hunt down your real name and share it. If you're female, you will probably get rape threats. Regardless of your sex, you may get death threats—online if you're lucky, in your workplace or delivered to your home if you're not. Attempts to destroy your career may include calls to your bosses. When you have been declared a transgressor, you become an "other" and the mob will excuse almost anything a mob member does to you.

You'll get two kinds of mobbers, haters who want to abuse and threaten you, and concern trolls who want to enlighten you. If the only mobbers were concern trolls, you could treat them like evangelists at your door. But the haters will be far more noticeable. When a lynch mob screams that you've rustled a horse, the ones who would like a nice talk over tea about whether you found the horse or even know that a horse went missing will be far less noticeable than the ones waving nooses.

The most important thing to understand is that you will go a little insane. At the very beginning of the mobbing, when the right response is crucial, adrenalin will kick in and you'll shift into fight or flight or freeze response. You'll be torn between anger over being attacked and despair for the consequences to your reputation. You will desperately want to do anything that will make things better, but you won't have a clue what that may be.

Your instinct to make the mobbing end immediately will be more correct than you will know at the time. The longterm psychological efforts of mobbing can be so horrible that most members of a mob would be ashamed if they knew what they were doing, no matter what they thought you had done. Most mobbing targets have to deal with some degree of adjustment disorder.  Some kill themselves. During and after a mobbing, you may have trouble sleeping. You may eat or drink more. You may be unable to focus on your work. The depression and obsession that can be caused by a mobbing may drive away the friends who had stood by you during the mobbing, starting another and deeper cycle of depression and obsession.

Which is why I'm sorry to say there's no perfect solution.

But I can tell you how to keep from making a mobbing worse.

1. If you think you were wrong, or you are willing to lie for peace, apologize. Don't try to justify or explain what you did. Apologize without reservation, accepting full blame for what you did. Show that you understand your mistake, you are ashamed of it, and you know you do not deserve forgiveness, but you hope you'll be given a second chance.

Your apology will be scrutinized. The most extreme outrage junkies may not forgive you, but most members of the mob will be pleased that you've seen your sin and want to be part of them.

2. If your sense of pride or integrity will not let you apologize, follow this general guideline: Do not hide, and do not engage.

Your goal is to survive with the least damage. Flames spread too quickly on the web for anyone to put out every one. Trying to fight the flames is far more likely to fan them than end them. You must let the fire burn itself out.

But you can't do that by hiding. The mobbers will make and share screencaps of what you said. Any attempt to hide will not only be futile; it will further enrage the mob as it thinks you are trying to escape from justice.

Follow these steps:

1. Do not shut down comments on your post. The outraged people want their chance to speak at the site of the outrage. By letting them vent at your site, they will vent less elsewhere.

2. Add a note to the beginning of the post and in the comments saying that you're leaving the comments open so people may respond, but you won't reply to anyone now because you need time to consider what they say. If you're aware of specific errors in what you said, mention them, but don't try to say more.

3. Do not try to defend yourself. To the outraged, you are now the face of all they think is evil. You are not a human being. You are the effigy they may pummel because they can't hit Satan or whatever they have decided you represent. Nothing you might say will change their minds—they're attacking you because they are committed to a worldview. Anything you offer in defense will become fuel for their fire.

4. Tell anyone you care about to stay out of the mobbing. Anyone who defends you will only become the mob's next target.

5. While the flames burn, spend time with people offline. Go for walks or bicycle rides or something that's physically and mentally engaging. Clean your home. Volunteer to help someone have a better life. Make art. Remind yourself that the people who treat you as inhuman can be treated in a similar but better way, by being ignored.

6. If you suspect the mobbing is hurting the quality of your life, talk to someone you respect, a psychological counselor or a religious person or anyone whose advice you'll seriously consider.

Good luck.

Related: Social Mob Justice: The Outing of Zathlazip


Friday, September 6, 2013

Down with kerfuffles, up with celebrations!

I do not want to know about any more kerfuffles. By "kerfuffle", I mean an internet outrage focused on something said or done by someone who has no power to change society. This includes every News At 11 issue I can imagine:
  • Men complaining about women
  • Women complaining about men
  • Old people complaining about young folk
  • Young people complaining about old folk
  • White people complaining about black folk
  • Black people complaining about white folk 
  • Trans people complaining about cis folk
  • Cis people complaining about trans folk
  • Fans of one kind of art complaining about fans of other kinds of art
  • And anything else in which anyone with no power is declared to have the wrong opinion.
I do want to know about people doing great things for people, because I love people who do great things for people.

And I want to know about powerful people doing bad things, because I want to do whatever I can to stop powerful people from doing bad things.

But the one bad thing I can stop right now is participating in outrage culture. So I'm opting out. If you tweet about a kerfuffle, I'd appreciate a kerfuffle warning of some sort. If you don't, I'll forgive you, but odds are good that if you keep doing it, I'll quit following you, no matter how much I love you.

The best advice St. Peter and Malcolm X ever gave was "Respect everyone." That doesn't leave any room for outrage culture, but it leaves all the room you need to work to make a better world.

Katy Perry as Jungle Queen - Roar

Katy Perry - Roar (Official) - YouTube:

Read what you want without apology: on the Paul Cook Kerfuffle, and misogyny vs misandry in f&sf

The kerfuffle du jour is about Paul Cook's When Science Fiction is Not Science Fiction. The buzz words are "girl cooties" and "misogyny". Cook's post may make you roll your eyes wildly—mine spun. I think his silliest notion is that Orson Scott Card influenced Gene Wolfe. But that's not the reason for the kerfuffle.

Cook starts his piece by praising Marion Zimmer Bradley. He praises Lois Bujold's early work in the middle of the piece. In the comments, he says one of his favorite books is by Pamela Sergeant. And yet he's accused of being anti-female. The most roundly mocked part of his post is in this:
Bujold tips her hand in the eloquence of her language (normally a good thing) and the attention to detail that only women would find attractive: balls, courts, military dress, palace intrigues, gossiping, and whispering in the corridors. All of this is right out of Alexander Dumas. True, these intrigues and flourishes do happen in the real world (or they used to), but Bujold, over time with novels such as Miles in Love and Cordelia’s Honor, you can see that Bujold is a closet romance writer. Not that this is a bad thing, but some of us aren’t that interested in romance.
Whether Cook's being ironic or sloppy when he says "attention to detail that only women would find attractive" is "right out of Alexander Dumas", I dunno. At that point, my eyes were still spinning over his distaste for The Shadow of the Torturer, and his not liking Dumas only made them spin harder. But I strongly suspect he knows Dumas was a male writer who is loved by male readers. So calling him misogynistic for not liking work that he says was influenced by Dumas seems odd to me, especially given his "not that this is a bad thing".

What Cook seems to like are Boy's Books. He doesn't like major romance plots, and he doesn't want fantasy tropes in his scifi. He has a traditional male taste in reading that I, a Dumas-lover who believes most great books include romance and who couldn't imagine writing a book without romance, simply don't get.

But I also don't get women who only or mostly like Girl's Books.

And that's fine. It's okay if you like the kinds of stories that are traditionally associated with your gender. Liking old school scifi is not misogynous; liking romance is not misandrous. No one should apologize for what they like to read.

For some people appalled by Cook's taste, my last sentence may be controversial. Would they mock a woman who chose to marry and stay home? Would they mock a man who supported her? It seems to me that in real diversity, there's room for everyone.

Perhaps the oddest criticism of Cook's post is that because he doesn't like zombies in steampunk, he's sexist. Or perhaps he's sexist because he doesn't like zombies and doesn't like romance. In any case, I agree that no one should recommend any zombie love stories to him.

There are people claiming they're speaking up and calling out because dangerous opinions must be opposed. But where is Cook's power? He's a geek in the old sense, someone who likes something that's not popular. He can't influence the field. If you're concerned about power, call out Patrick Nielsen Hayden or another white man who publishes a lot of books by white men with white men on their covers. I'll think you don't understand capitalism if you do, but at least you'll be bravely calling out someone with power in publishing.

ETA: Don't miss Emma's observation in the comments.

Monday, September 2, 2013

For those who love dance: DID I MENTION I LIKE TO DANCE- Flynt Flossy

▶ DID I MENTION I LIKE TO DANCE- Flynt Flossy (@Turquoisejeep) - YouTube:

Updating Thomas Paine on wealth-sharing and the basic income guarantee

If I had to pick one American everyone should know, I'd choose Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, the book that made the argument for the American Revolution. If I had to pick one quote to sum up my philosophy, I'd choose this, from his The Rights of Man: "I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good."

Paine noted in Agrarian Justice:
It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.
Because we are all the world's shareholders, he thought governments should:
Create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.
 Perfectly calculating what money was worth in other times is impossible, but it can be done in broad strokes. 1000 Pounds notes, "A typical landless farm laborer might earn £30 a year--- about the same wage as a school teacher."

The median American school teacher pay is $54,270, so, if the US had adopted Paine's proposal, today, at the age of twenty-one, every US citizen would get about $25,000, and would be paid $18,000 a year for life on becoming fifty.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The liberal outlook vs liberal politics, or Why there are liberals in every political philosophy, and not all political liberals are philosophical liberals

I became aware of the problem with "liberal" when I was active with the Unitarian Universalists, who define their faith as a liberal religion. It's a religion that rejects authority and respects difference of thought. Though Unitarian Universalism attracts many politically liberal capitalists, it also attracts people to their right and left, from right-libertarians and Goldwater Republicans to left-libertarians and anarchists.

Bertrand Russell's "liberal decalogue" from “The best answer to fanaticism: Liberalism” explains the liberal attitude well:

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.
Censorship is the easiest test of philosophical liberalism. Political liberals who try to silence their opponents are not philosophical liberals; political conservatives and socialists who believe in free speech are liberal conservatives and liberal socialists.