Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Gun Control Debate Accepts the Catalyzing Tragedy As a Given

When it comes to those who go what we used to call "postal," both sides of the gun rights/control kabuki "debate" accept the death of the homicidal suicide as a given and focus instead on trying to save the suicide's potential/intended victims.  Gun rights activists want to arm everyone to increase the chances of knocking off the homicidal suicide before he can kill others.  Gun control activists want to disarm everyone the point of a one-shot blunderbuss, forcing the homicidal suicide to use the only sure shot he has on himself.

Why can't we see the homicidal suicide himself as a tragic figure, a victim of something in his own way? In almost all "going postal" instances, gun rights activists portray the homicidal suicide as an evil "criminal," even if he wasn't one before his crime.  In almost all "going postal" instances, gun control activists portray the homicidal suicide as a deranged right-wing gun-nut, even if he wasn't one before his bout of insanity.  There is no room left to view the homicidal suicide as an innocent victim-- or even as a human being-- because the crimes he committed as a result of his own despair eclipsed the life he led before.  The tragedy he owns masks the tragedy that was his.

Am I saying that we forgive the homicidal suicide for his homicides?  Not at all.  I'm just saying we should not ignore what led him to killing others to give his own death meaning: the fact that he knew with certainty that his life meant nothing to anyone.  We-- Society-- teach the homicidal suicide that he is worth more dead than alive.  Is it any wonder that sometimes he comes to collect?

If you want a much wordier and (I think) opaque dissertation that makes similar points, you may enjoy Surly's essay more.

P.S. A local gun shop here in the Bay Area told a friend of mine today that they had sold more assault rifles in the last two weeks than they sold all of last year, and they are out of stock for another four months.  Gun control "debates" are great for the gun business.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Phoenician Tale: Duping the Polis into Believing It Is Owned by the State

A key element to Plato's "antipolitics" is conning the polis into believing it has no real say in how it is managed. When successful, as it is in the US today, the con transforms the polis into little more than chattel owned by the state.


Politics are Antipolitics

Tonight, I picked up Alan Ryan's On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present.  In Chapter 2, he argues:
Almost all accounts of the history of political thinking begin with Plato.  This is a paradox, because Plato's political thought is anti political.  Readers of the Republic see that in the polis of Plato's imagination, there is no politics, and are puzzled; but throughout European history there has been a current of thought that seeks the resolution of the conflicts that "ordinary politics" resolves in the creation of such a degree of social harmony that the conflicts which everyday politics resolves have simply disappeared, and politics with them . . . The founder of European political thought is the founder of anti political thinking.
But there is no paradox, as "European" (more properly "Western") political thought seeks to marginalize and eliminate the role of the polis in how it is managed.  The point of "politics" is to provide the masses the illusion of power, not actual power.  And whenever the "politics" of antipolitics begin to fail, we find those who pretend that antipolitics failed because of the polis.  And those same people decry the violent reaction of the polis to being violated.

But why should these masters of society complain?  They are the fittest, after all.  They will obviously survive, so why do we lesser men need to worry about them?  They'll take care of themselves.

Hint: a con man is only "the fittest" so long as his marks remain conned.

Emperor Caracalla Built Something Beautiful. Really?

Educated folk often become enamored with history and its wonders, but are we really this stupid?:
"The emperor Caracalla was cruel, but he built beautiful things."
Emperor Caracalla didn't build anything, and even if he did, he couldn't have built something so massive on his own.  More likely than not, masses of slaves build this "beautiful thing" at the direction of artisans who designed it.  Certainly, slaves worked this "beautiful thing" out of the sight and, therefore, out of the minds of those who enjoyed it.

The decadence of opulence should not be admired but condemned.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Thoughts On Economics

Robert Vienneau has a new thought-provoking post up today.

At least I found it thought-provoking-- and on many levels.  Here's why:

  1. On the one hand, I believe that all human social interaction can be explained through a fractal function of cognition.  So, in that sense, I believe that reductionism is possible in a fractal sense.
  2. On the other hand, I agree with the J. E. King's quote of Kincaid is correct in arguing that reductionism is not possible when it comes to social sciences.  Why?  Because social sciences are not part of the natural world but an entirely human construct meant to secure, entrench and perpetuate the power of the dominant faction of society (aka, "the elite"), which is a long-winded way of saying that the social sciences are, first and foremost, propaganda.  I cannot see how one can reduce fiction to fact.
  3. As a complete aside, as no hands are available, it strikes me that King may be a neoliberal in Post Keynesian clothing because his anti-reductionist argument works in the favor of orthodox neoliberal economics and against heterodox economic theories.  For example, Steve Keen well-reasoned attacks on the shaky (read non-existent) "microfoundations" of neoliberal macroeconomics are what give his macroeconomic theories their weight: by creating a theory of microeconomics that address the existence of money, credit and banking, his macro theory is logically consistent and creates a proper foundation for a new theory of finance.  I fear that King's work may well be used to "disappear" Post Keynesian analysis, just as prior economic theories have been disappeared.