The Lies We Live With – Independence

I contend that it is impossible to live an absolutely honest life. We all live with lies (and by this I mean the simplest definition of a lie: “an inaccurate or false statement,” whether it is intentional or not). This could be the result of any number of things – indoctrination, propaganda, self-defense, who knows. One of the lies I lived with for a long time was related to my indoctrination into the modern liberal mindset, a process I had very little choice in.

But I’ve lived with a variety of other lies. Human memory is faulty, and so we may come to believe things about our past that are untrue. During my exile in Utah, only after deep reflection and a painful confrontation with my past, did I learn that I had convinced myself of an outright falsehood which had fundamentally altered the way I approached relating to other people. How or why this happened, I cannot say for sure.
This is why my ideal is to strive for ever more honesty; we can never be perfectly honest, I think, but we can try.
In what is the first of an intended series of posts, I want to take a closer look at the lie of “independence” in the West, particularly among modern liberal (and by this I mean the type discussed in my link above) thinkers. We are all raised to value our independence and we fancy ourselves independent thinkers, workers, citizens, etc. Most people’s first taste of “independence” is when they get their first car at the age of 16 (anecdote: I’ve always relied on mass transit). Independence is valued in our society and enshrined as a sort of virtue.
Only an extremely small minority of us are independent, however. In fact, most of us have crippling dependencies on “the system” and on society at large. If, overnight, the entire *American infrastructure were to be swept under a rug (the roads, the system of distribution for foodstuffs and water, just to name a few), we would find that most people would quickly die in short order. As a culture, we fancy ourselves as industrious and deserving of our place in the world. When one talks about their hard-won job or hard-earned achievements, they always talk in terms of their struggles inside the system, spending hours and hours studying at the universities or working long nights or whatever the case may be. Their analysis completely ignores the fact that they had a system to work within at all.
For example, I am absolutely positive that there are people who have been born in less advantaged places in the world who were either equal to me in capacity, or superior. However, I am just as certain that they died well before they reached the age of 21. Why? They lost the “genetic lottery,” and that’s it. They had the poor misfortune of being born into a terrible part of the world that does not have a grand infrastructure like the United States*. If they did survive, it is because they learned how to be truly independent – how to grow their own food, build their own home, and eek out their own living.
So, while we fancy ourselves independent, we can think all sorts of absurdities. I was recently talking to someone who expressed that she could never imagine herself “shackled to a man” in a marriage, how this would be absolutely catastrophic to her “independence.” She did not think it was fair game or even relevant for me to point out that she was absolutely taking for granted her day to day dependence upon the social system that has been set up for her sustenance. She does not want to be “dependent” upon one man (a husband), when in reality, she is dependent upon countless men (and some women) who pay taxes and work for the state to build and maintain the institutions she uses to survive.
This thinking is poisonous. We devalue community and cooperation in favor of “independence,” but yet again, we’re not even talking about “independence.” True independence would be off-the-grid living, growing your own crops and perhaps tending to your own herds for sustenance. Such living is often ridiculed as backwards and “crazy.” So when people talk about how they’re very “independent,” what they’re probably talking about is how they’re very ignorant and very irresponsible. They feel no responsibility to society and see no reason why they should contribute back, and often pursue purely luxurious endeavors – things like art. (Art is great, and I am a fan of it. But it contributes nothing to our survival.)
Yet another example, methinks, of a thought-terminating cliché or doublespeak. I would love to see all those enlightened, “open-minded” college students (in whom these attitudes seem to be very prevalent) have to do things like build their own schools, pave their own roads, provide for their own defense, make their own budgets, grow their own food, and on and on… They might finally learn what being “independent” is really all about.
*I mention the US specifically, but these arguments could apply to any civilization. If you do not grow your own food and provide for your own basic sustenance and survival needs (to include defense from hostile aggressors – be they bandits or be they invaders), you are not independent, and in fact you are dependent upon the system to provide a method for you to acquire the things you need to survive. In case you’re wondering, I’m entirely dependent. There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with being dependent, but there is something wrong with being ignorant about it.
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Communication Loss – Loose Lips Sink Ships

There’s an old saying in the military that “loose lips sink ships.” This is a reference to operational security, in that gossiping to people carelessly about the location of your unit or your deployment plans could start a chain of gossip that eventually falls into enemy hands and compromises missions.

I think loose language can “sink ships” too, by which I mean to say that careless language can have catastrophic consequence. The catalyst for writing this post was the musings of one blogger who likened Plato and Socrates unto poets (actually, in her words, “Plato and Socrates WERE poets”), despite admitting to having never read either of them.
In the grand scheme of things, this is a relatively minor misuse of language with little consequence. Sometimes it is fun to make metaphors and explore them, though the responsible thing to do would be to assert your metaphors as such, rather than as facts. (It is one thing to say that Plato and Socrates were poets, metaphorically speaking, and quite another to say that they were poets and leave it at that.) However, I believe this is representative of a modern tendency to expand the meanings of words with vagaries that bog everyone down with needless communication loss. Nuance and ambiguity have their applications and value in certain arenas (literature, poems, “art”) but the increasing intrusions of such sensibilities into everyday language and more mundane pursuits (such as science, debate, and politics) is irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst.
I’ll give an example to illustrate my point.
SCENARIO 1
Imagine, if you will, a good natured, attractive and popular girl in high school who is genuinely kind to everyone. (Yes, this is a hypothetical situation.) She often tosses around the phrase “I love you” or any variation thereof (“love ya,” “lots of love,” so on and so forth). Suppose she sees a boy sitting by himself at lunch, and emboldened by her noble spirit, deigns to sit with him and have a chat, as she feels it is wrong for someone to eat lunch by themselves. Suppose also this boy is known to be something of a pariah, not the sort popular people should be seen with – this does not deter our young heroine. Once the lunch period breaks after a pleasant conversation that seems to have cheered the boy’s mood considerably, she departs, finishing the conversation with her ritual employment of the “I love you” phrase. This creates a wellspring of emotion in the boy, who understands love as a very serious concept shared only by very important people. He tries to actively pursue this girl, perhaps coming off as creepy, and only after several months figures out that she did not mean the word “love” in the same way as he understood it, and winds up dejected and heartbroken as a result.
Who is at fault here? Should we be angry with the girl for her careless use of language, or should we attribute culpability to the boy who should have known better? Before we start playing the blame game, maybe it would be informative to look up the word “love” in a dictionary. I propose we use dictionary.com, as it is a freely available web dictionary which many people probably use to try and get a clearer sense of what a word means. Here’s what dictionary.com has to say about love:
love  [luhv] Show IPA noun, verb, loved, lov⋅ing.
–noun
1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3. sexual passion or desire.
4. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
5. (used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, love?
6. a love affair; an intensely amorous incident; amour.
7. sexual intercourse; copulation.
8. (initial capital letter) a personification of sexual affection, as Eros or Cupid.
9. affectionate concern for the well-being of others: the love of one’s neighbor.
10. strong predilection, enthusiasm, or liking for anything: her love of books.
11. the object or thing so liked: The theater was her great love.
12. the benevolent affection of God for His creatures, or the reverent affection due from them to God.
13. Chiefly Tennis. a score of zero; nothing.
14. a word formerly used in communications to represent the letter L.
Clear as mud! There’s obviously some non-sequitur definitions here, but there’s also a lot of room for personal interpretation. Definitions 5, 9, and perhaps 2 might support the girl’s interpretations and defend her from blame, whereas definitions 1, 4, and 6 lend themselves to the boy’s interpretation. Moreover, the preponderance of definitions that deal with sexual matters lend credibility to an interpretation of “love” more serious than the one understood by the girl, giving more favor to the boy. But before we go around blaming people for the nasty feelings and disappointment the boy wound up with, let me change the scenario just a hair.
SCENARIO 2
Imagine the scenario is exactly the same as before. The girl and boy still have all the same qualities, to include the girl’s motivation for engaging the boy in conversation. Suppose now that the only difference in the situation is that, through the course of conversation, the girl feels a deep and profound emotional connection to the boy. She begins to see him in a new light, and she thinks that she might be falling for him. When the lunch bell rings and they have to part ways, she has only a small window of opportunity to express her epiphany, and she expresses to the boy “I love you.” Later, the boy carefully considers the situation and perhaps even looks up the word “love” to help guide his actions. He knows that she is given to using the word “love” rather freely, and he is hesitant to emotionally invest himself in a prospect that seems likely to end in disappointment. He therefore concludes that she meant “love” in a less profound way (more like definition 9, say) – after all, she was probably just taking pity on him for sitting alone and was being a good Samaritan, love they neighbor and all that. The girl is anguished over the boy’s seeming rejection and complete indifference to her profound expression of her deepest feelings and now feels similar levels of disappointment and dejection as our boy had felt in the previous scenario.
WHO TO BLAME
If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s kind of a trick question. Neither the boy nor the girl is at fault nor responsible for the miscommunication and resultant emotional harm caused, in either scenario. Sure, perhaps we could chide them for not being “more clear” or not “elaborating” more, but life is rarely perfect and there are times where we only get one shot at phrasing something. Perhaps I could have concocted a more compelling situation to convince you of the “one-shot” angle, but that’s ultimately irrelevant to my main point. My main point is that our language has become too vague, and there are, often, far too many different definitions for the same word. Simple math will tell you that as you increase the number of disparate definitions for the same word, you increase the odds that the speaker and listener of any conversation will have different operating definitions of that word.
What do I mean by operating definitions? I contend that people are not dictionaries, and they do not walk around carrying seven different definitions for the same word in their head – at least not for every single word that has multiple definitions. In general, it is more natural for a person to pick one definition and stick to it – though they may be aware to varying degrees of competing definitions. There may be cases where they are totally unaware of the different definitions a word has. In any case, the operating definition a person has is their assumed definition – the one they use when they either speak or hear the word.
In scenario 1, the girl’s operating definition of the word “love” was, we’ll say, definition/meaning 9 provided above. The boy’s operating definition was, we’ll say, definition/meaning 4. It is natural to assume, when conversing with another person, they understand the definitions of the words that we use – especially very common words, like “love.” When the girl used her operating definition, she meant to convey meaning 4, and assumed that the boy received meaning 4. What actually happened was that the boy received meaning 9, because he had a different operating definition of the same word. Meaning 4 and meaning 9 are different enough that, at one point in time, they used to be separate words. Instead of saying love when we meant meaning 9, we might say something like “I like you” or “I care about you.”
The only change in scenario 2 is that the operating definitions are reversed, more or less (to get real technical, the boy didn’t have an operating definition, perhaps because he was cognizant of the disparate definitions available to the word love, and reasoned his way to definition 4). Sometimes we get the opportunity to work out miscommunication that results from different operating definitions of the same word – questions like “what do you mean by that?” provide an opportunity to clarify what’s really going on in a conversation. But it is naive to assume that we always have this luxury, and especially in the high-pace arena of politics and public debate, rarely is time spent working out the definitions of important words under discussion. (See this post for an example of some slippery words. Other ones off the top of my head: communism, socialism, feminism, Marxism, universal health care… there’s probably others, but I don’t watch the news overmuch because I easily get peeved at careless use of language.) Miscommunication that would be relatively harmless in the private sphere suddenly becomes a matter of national import and grave concern.
Perhaps you think I am exaggerating? I think “feminism” more than proves my point. Most people have an operating definition of feminism as being a movement that is concerned chiefly with “equal rights for equal work,” (operating definition A) but that is a far cry from what feminism actually is. Some critics, who are familiar with what feminism actually is (operating definition B), decry it. Their message is often dead on arrival, however, because most people assume that operating definition A is what is under assault when they hear the word “feminism.” This doesn’t even account for the slipperiness of operating definition A (any time I hear the word “equal” in the context of political discourse, I become wary) either.

SO, WHAT CAN BE DONE?
I see two possible solutions. Perhaps this means I am stuck in a fallacious way of thinking (the false dilemma), who knows. In any case, the first option is to have all of the dictionaries of the world revised overnight to remove ambiguities from every definition, and to ensure that each and every word means only one thing. The second option would be to have the speaker of the word clarify before transmitting their message precisely what operation definition they are using. “I love you” becomes something like “I love you…by which I mean to say like a neighbor.” Alternative options may exist on some kind of gradient between the two, and allowing for the listener to ask for clarification when possible.
I believe the most sensible and practical approach is to hold the speaker more accountable for misuse of language or vagaries. The speaker has more opportunity to clarify intent before speaking than the listener often has opportunity to clarify after something has been spoken. This is especially the case in one way communications – things like emails from your boss that you cannot respond to. In two way communication, things can be more efficient and productive if the speaker exercises caution and carefully considers what words are employed, clarifying murkiness as it comes up. For example: “I think that feminism – by which I mean the virulent brand promulgated by…”
Nobody can be perfect, and I know I am not. But we can all strive to be better speakers and be more mindful of what we say before we say it. Creating ambiguity and nuance is great when we’re writing literature or poems.
But, as I hinted at when I started this post, we’re not all poets. Intentionally inflating the definition of “poet” (for example) to include everyone (such as people who do not compose poetry) represents a behavior that is antithetical to the way I approach communication.

Disassociating with Liberalism: The Lies of Moral Relativity and Equality

The problem with my previous post was that I did not, at any point, identify clearly what it was I was going on about. This is partly my fault and partly the fault of the slippery nature of the language under discussion (and often, critique); those that generally call themselves “liberals” today employ a lot of terms in an absolutely false way.

So, let me start by defining some terms. I will provide each term with a connotative definition, which is what I feel the word means in the modern context. The denotative definition is the one most people assume the word still holds. Because of these assumed definitions, there can be massive problems in communicating ideas clearly. Just think if you were in the era when the word gay was coming to mean homosexual – every time you heard it, you assumed it meant happy, but the speaker was assuming you knew the new connotation. If the connotation was never expressly defined for you, you’d have a hard time figuring out what was going on.
Without further adieu, it’s time to dig in and redefine some terms that have been massively abused as a result of political agendas:
Liberal
  • CONNOTATIVE: I mean the group of people who most commonly identify themselves as liberals. These people tend to be very intolerant of differing viewpoints. These are the types of people who militarize PETA and bomb research centers that use animal testing. These are the type of people who shout “tolerance!” on one hand but condemn pro-lifers on the other. These are the type of people who use political correctness as a shield to insulate themselves from open critique. These are the type of people who rely on “feminism” to sound legitimate, since most people misunderstand what feminism (currently) is. They have an absolutist world-view where their way is the only right way, but shield themselves from criticism by claiming they hold a relativist viewpoint that condemns no one and accepts everyone. They are slippery, confusing, and generally blind to their own inconsistencies and hypocrisies. (I know I was!)
  • DENOTATIVE: Dictionary.com actually provides a reasonable definition. “Favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression.” The problem with modern liberals is that it is pro-choice or bust. Animal rights or bust. Their way or the highway. Liberalism has lost the implicit tolerance that would be necessary to permit absolute freedom of action in regards to matters of personal belief or expression.
Moral Relativism
  • CONNOTATIVE: This phrase is mostly doublespeak jargon or a thought-terminating cliché. It is used by liberals (see actual definition above) who, under assault for their absolutist views, trudge this term out to conjure up associations that exist due to the assumed definition below. In this capacity, the term functions as a red-herring, though I don’t know if the younger generation of liberals (having been indoctrinated since birth) can really be accused of intentionally committing logical fallacies, since they mostly regurgitate what they’ve been taught.
  • DENOTATIVE: An understanding of moral theory as being particular to either individuals or cultural groups but having no basis in physical reality. This contrasts sharply with absolute moral theories, whereby our moral rules have some kind of absolute basis in reality to give them further weight. For example, strict religious interpretation of the bible tends to lead towards an absolute moral view, whereby the Ten Commandments (and other scriptures) that describe certain moral rules are the literal word of God, and obeying these moral rules will get one into Heaven and disobeying them will land you in Hell. A more relativist mindset recognizes that morals exist only “in the brain,” so to speak, and have no corresponding implications on physical reality (such as heaven or hell); such an understanding of moral systems leads to the conclusion that no one moral system is objectively any better or “more right” than another moral system.
Equality
  • CONNOTATIVE: A nebulous and vague idea that makes everyone feel better about everyone else but has no basis in reality. This phrase borders also on being doublespeak jargon or a thought-terminating cliché like moral relativism. Examples are when one makes statements like “all men are born equal” or “men and women are equal.” This serves only to ignore unpleasant differences like physical prowess or the different distribution of intelligence quotient among human beings. Ignoring these fundamental problems causes lots of misattribution when it comes to describing social disparity and injustices (it may even cause one to perceive injustice where none exists).
  • DENOTATIVE: A mathematical phrase that describes two values of the same quantity. For example, 2 x 2 (two multiplied by two) is equal to 4. Equality is something that can be proved, demonstrated and double-checked. There is no mystery in establishing equality, and only those quantities which are known to be equal are asserted as such. Saying that 3 is equal to 4 is nonsense.
To recap, the CONNOTATIVE definitions are the ones I’m examining from here on out. I reject all three terms based upon their connotative definitions (ie, those that are more accurate at describing what the terms currently mean or how they are used). I will be referring to the connotative definitions when I use the above terms unless otherwise specified.
Describing Modern Liberalism Generally
Exposed for what it truly is, liberalism seems to be little more than thinly-veiled hedonism. The over-arching common theme in a lot of modern liberal agendas is to be able to have more freedom to do whatever it is we may “want.” You want to do drugs? Legalize ’em! You want to have sex without consequences (ie, be less discriminating with your sexual partners)? Pro-choice! You want to go back on your vows and commitments? Divorce him (or, rarely, her)! You want to go back on your vows and commitments without any financial repercussion and “maintain a quality of life you’ve become accustomed to?” Alimony! And so on.
Understood this way, liberalism is just trying to philosophically justify the indulgences and whims of a child. A child rarely has a good reason for wanting something beyond his or her own immediate desire. Most people recognize that constantly indulging a child will (generally) result in a very maladjusted, problematic teenager (and usually, adult). When you refuse a child the candy he or she wants, the child will kick and scream and holler. You may provide good reasons as to why the child should not get the candy (he or she has already had enough sugar for the day; the candy does not provide any nutritional value; the chemical preservatives are harmful; you’ve already prepared a more healthy but still sweet alternative that is waiting at home; and so on) but these may not suffice in silencing the child. Furthermore, if you indulge the child because he or she kicks and screams, you merely teach him or her that hollering is a good way to get what is desired.
It seems to me that our nation has committed itself to a policy of legislation that amounts to little more than indulging the child that kick and scream the loudest – if only to shut out the cacophony of hooting and hollering for a little while. But indulging people for no good reason never satiates their desires (as you will learn with children), and they will always find something new to want. Furthermore, they’ll continue to use the strategy that rewarded them the first time. It is only by taking a firm stand, demanding good reasons as to why such a desire should be fulfilled and not indulging until those demands are met, that you can properly teach people how to behave (and reason).
Liberalism has, however, managed to isolate itself from criticism by relying upon several powerful doublespeak terms and thought-terminating clichés. Feminism and political correctness contribute to this engine of irrationality, but this post is going to drill-down on the confusing terms of “equality” and “moral relativity.” These elements of liberalism make it appealing, particularly to young people who don’t know any better – it is much easier to cope with a world you believe is “fair,” where “all people are born equal,” where everyone should be “tolerant,” and those that disagree with these ideas are “intolerant” (but uh-oh! I’m getting ahead of myself and naming thought-terminating clichés already).
Equality: The Well Intentioned Misnomer of Disastrous Proportions

It is easy to understand why the concept of equality caught on quickly and appeals to so many different people. It is notoriously hard for humans to admit defeat. We all buy into the propaganda that tells us we can be whatever we want to be, so long as we really put our hearts into it. Equality helps us buy into this world view – we’re all born “equal,” and furthermore, have “equal opportunity” to excel. This stands in contrast to a large body of literature and evidence that builds towards the conclusion that, in fact, we cannot. I’ll take an example that doesn’t even require hard proof (ie, a good study or article or something): Not everyone is of (denotative) equal intelligence.

We all know this is true. It doesn’t need to be proven – just think about the people that you know. Surely some are more intelligent than others? It is recognized that intelligence in human beings is roughly distributed (like most other human attributes and parameters) along a bell curve – with most people being of average intelligence (after all, just think about what the word “average” really means!), some people being above or below average, and a few rare exceptions being “mentally handicapped” or out-and-out geniuses.

“But that doesn’t mean people aren’t equal,” pipes up the liberal. “A person who is not very intelligent may be gifted in another area – such as having a high degree of social graces, or being physically gifted. In the end, our unique strengths and weaknesses balance out and everyone is equal.” Or, at least, that’s my highly condensed summary of the logic that most liberals would use to defend this notion of equality they cling to so dearly.

Even if we grant the liberal that, for every strength a person might have, there is a corresponding weakness (even though this may not necessarily be true – ever met someone who just seemed to be gifted at damn near everything? Physically attractive, strikingly intelligent, socially charming, a great athlete or otherwise in great shape, with a happy and healthy attitude? I’ve met one or two), how do we go about assigning values to each of these strengths and weaknesses to establish equality? An IQ of 120 adds 10 to your score, whereas being rated a 6/10 subtracts 3? Nevermind the difficulty in quantifying things like ugliness or figuring how detrimental it is to be ugly in life compared to being beautiful (without first establishing a common standard for success).

As Angry Harry alludes to, equality is a concept which is infinitely regressive. It is impossible to prove. At best, it ends up distracting us from useful distinctions and lines of inquiry. For example, if we really wanted to improve the physical capabilities of women, wouldn’t it make sense to study precisely why it is women tend to only have half the upper body strength of men, or why the average woman has only 70 to 75 percent the aerobic capability of the average man? Once we understood why, we could next work on figuring out an agreeable solution to the problem. Instead, conventional wisdom has us completely ignore the problem by changing the standards by which men and women are evaluated, creating the illusion of equality.

Don’t believe me? There are plenty of examples of the evaluative standards changing based solely upon gender out there (and I’ve linked to some in this post already), but I’ll give you one that hits a little closer to home – the United States Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test. Read and weep, my reading audience – women receive 100 points for running 3 miles in 21 minutes, while men receive 100 points for running that same 3 miles in 18 minutes. How is this “equal?” (When women argue it is “equal” because it adjusts for the fact that women are on average less capable then men, they ironically admit that equality between the sexes does not exist.) The only event that is truly equal on the test are crunches – women are evaluated by a completely different metric for upper body strength than are men! (Men must perform dead hang pull-ups in a consecutive fashion; women must merely perform a flexed arm hang. Women who hang on the bar for 70 seconds without straightening their arms or dropping off score the same in upper body fitness as males who are able to perform 20 dead hang pull ups consecutively without getting off the bar.)

The Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test at least has men and women performing all the same events, but here the standards are adjusted even more blatantly. The chart in the link outlines the bare minimums for passing the test, broken down by gender and age; here’s a link that has charts for the maximums too. (I’m too lazy to find a full chart, but if you’re really interested, I’m sure you could find one.)

The problem here is that both fitness tests are absolutely crucial to determining who gets promoted and when – women are given quicker promotions for less work in a job field (military!) that desperately needs physically tough leaders. Yaaaaaay “equality!”

Lastly, equality can be used to generate thought-terminating clichés. When you bring up reasoned arguments as to why women should not be in the military, for example, equality justifies the thought-terminating cliché that labels you a misogynist. If one were to bring up reasoned perspectives about the differences between various ethnicities, equality trudges up another cliché – only a racist would pay attention to differences between ethnicities!

Equality is best understood denotatively, and we should discuss fairness instead of equality as it is currently understood. How is it fair that women get a leg up on men when it comes to promotions in the military? How about, it isn’t? The requirements of a job do not change depending on what gender the job applicant happens to be; if you cannot meet the standard, then you cannot meet the standard! The demanding reality of physical combat won’t care or notice if you are a man or a woman, but it will notice if you are unfit. (This is entirely separate from the issue of whether women should be in the military at all – I’ll leave that pariah for another day.)

Moral Relativity: An Extended Analysis

You’ll most often hear about “moral relativity” from a liberal when you try to demonstrate how decidedly closed-minded they have been. They’ll drag out the phrase and silence all opposition by conjuring up its denotative meaning, even though it does not apply in any way, shape or form, to the liberal that trotted it out. In this way, the phrase is a thought-terminating cliché. Moral relativity is intoxicating because it is impervious to criticism – it is the ultimate “tolerate everyone” philosophy, and how can you really be critical of that? Most of what I said about the doublespeak nature of equality above applies also to liberal interpretations of moral relativity, and I don’t think it’s necessary to cover the same ground again.

So let’s take a moment, instead, to look at the actual philosophical idea of moral relativity.

Moral relativity seems to make a lot of sense as a matter of public policy. It certainly seems like it is impossible to establish one system of morality as being “better” than another system – and it certainly seems to be the case that various moral systems arise as a combination of cultural and environmental factors (that is to say, various moral systems are unique to various cultures, and it seems more likely they result from a response to those cultures than from anything else). In light of these perspectives, it seems unfair or perhaps even foolish to persecute any specific system of morality, as a matter of public policy.

Moral relativity allows the individual (be it an individual person, an individual society within a larger society – such as a Christian society within a nation – and so on) to come to their own conclusions about morality without the State having to make that decision for them, so long as that individual learns to respect the morality of other individuals. So far, so good. Everyone has the freedom to choose whatever it is they would like so long as nobody else is being harmed.

Or so we think.

See, the problem here is that morality essentially describes what is good and bad behavior. In other words, a person’s sense of morality (or lack of morality) is what is going to determine how they treat other people. Public conceptions of harm tend towards more obvious harms – such as physical assault. So long as people behave lawfully, then they are allowed to believe (and do!) whatever they would like to do.

Laws are an expression of a culture’s morality, in a way. Somewhere along the way, people decided it was “wrong” to murder other people or take their belongings – if not for religious reasons, then probably for good and practical reasons, like because it would be impossible to have a healthy society without such rules. People recognized that desire was not sufficient cause to allow people to do as they pleased (so people who wanted to kill other people to satiate their bloodlust, for example, were not found to have good reason to be allowed to murder). However, “thou shalt not kill” was not found to be a universal maxim – soldiers need to kill, law enforcement agents may need to kill, and people need to be able to defend themselves. Therefore murder (which is basically “unjustified” killing) was prohibited and a precedent for requiring good reasons to do things was established.

There is no physical law (like the law of gravity) that dictates humans should not kill each other unless they are actively employed as a soldier. In fact, if you observe nature, there are plenty of examples of wanton slaughter in the animal kingdom. Moral relativity hinges upon the fact that morality does not exist like physical laws do. I reject the idea that, merely because morality has no discernible physical law governing its tenants, we have no reason to prefer one system of morality over another.

For MRAs, I think this concept can easily be demonstrated – the loosening of restrictions on natural sexual impulses (particularly women) has led to all kinds of unintended consequences for society, and society is mostly worse off for it. Even though morality may have no basis in physical laws, I believe it is possible to measure the impacts it has on a society. The evaporation of moral practices and ideas that led us to respect and cherish marriage and the family, for instance, seems to have had a disastrous impact on the quality of all of our lives.

Attempts to be more tolerant have tragically and somewhat ironically backfired. The law is rife with language about being non-discriminatory, and it is true that alimony laws apply the same way to men as they do to women. However, these “unbiased” laws fail to account for the natural differences that exist between people of different genders (for example) and lead to their unequal application. It might be argued that the law is not yet truly relative, since it offers up rewards to one party in divorce situations (when instead it could offer up no reward, for example, eliminating a possible incentive for divorce) – but I think it would be hard to argue contrary to the interpretation that these changes to our society were pursued earnestly with the idea of moral relativity (tolerance) in mind.

Moral relativity reminds me a lot of the idea of equality. It sounds great on paper to say that, objectively, no one moral system is any better than another and we should therefore tolerate all moral systems. However, it seems that in endorsing tolerance we are also endorsing chaos – if there is no authoritative guidance on what is right or wrong behavior, our society runs a grave risk. Whoever is the most eloquent and resonates with the most people will be able to have the most adherents, regardless of the merits of their moral system.

Moral systems have a tangible impact on society. Just look at what the lack of consensus on morality has done to our society. At least when we were on the same page, we were progressing towards something. The facts of the world are thus: the world will never be fair and it is probably impossible for every person to always be happy all the time.
Why, then, do we waste so much time trying to make the world fair and make everyone happy? Why not work on more tangible goals, like increasing literacy, decreasing poverty, decreasing hunger (note that “perfect” states in each of these categories are likely impossible – 100% literacy, 0% poverty, 0% hunger – but “better” states are almost always bound to be achievable) and so forth? Utopia is impossible. Improvement is not.

Obligatory Disclaimer to Preempt Criticism and Provide Possible Clarification
I am not saying that society should dictate to you whether or not you believe in God, for instance. But I am saying that society should dictate how you treat and relate to other human beings in a way that increases tangible results – healthy growth of things like GDP, birth rates, health care, life expectancy, and so on. I think this can only really be achieved through moral education from a young age -people must be taught to not think in such a narrow and selfish/egocentric way. They must be taught to respect other people, not just listen to lip service about how we should respect everyone. The list is endless and my energy is declining after several hours of writing. Hopefully you get the point.

Preliminary Thoughts of Moral Relativity (Unclearly Stated)

I’m afraid that this post will almost necessarily be long-winded, rambling, and maybe even incoherent to some. It was difficult to write and I may one day come back to it, but for now, here’s what you get:

This is the first of what I intend to be three posts regarding my rejection of what I term “modern liberal ideals” – which I was basically born into and indoctrinated with from the public education system. To me, modern liberalism is an essentially hollow philosophy, but one which is readily accepted – unquestioningly – by a disturbingly high number of people despite being little more than thinly veiled hedonism and “feel-good” mentalities. I see it comprised of, essentially, three constituent doctrines: feminism, political correctness, and moral relativism. It is my intention to deal fully with each subject in turn, but this post will focus on moral relativism. It is the element of liberalism which I held onto the longest – sometimes without even realizing it – and probably forms the basis for the other two ideas. Being almost a purely abstract idea, however, it requires less research and evidence to refute, and thus why I will be writing on it first.

Moral relativism has a lot of appeal in the modern world, which is extremely complicated and admittedly hard to understand. It requires a lot of mental energy to consider the values, morals and ethics advocated by competing societies or cultures, and attempt to arrive at a sound and reasonable conclusion as to why a person should prefer one over the other. And especially in our youth, when we are given (and encouraged) to pursue whatever is our fancy, it is easier to digest the platitudes that relativism offers than to take a more considered stance.
Why do women in the Middle East wear veils and why should that concern us? It shouldn’t concern us, relativism answers, and furthermore, it doesn’t matter! The way Arab peoples want to run their societies is their business, and ultimately, they are no better or worse than us. Relativism might even offer some more theorizing as to why this may be the case; Arab culture evolved differently due to different starting conditions, such as a different environment and different socializing tendencies. Ultimately, “good” and “evil” are constructs of the mind that do not exist in nature, says relativism, so judging other societies by such metrics is hypocritical and short-sighted at best, and the cause of war and genocide at worst.
Fair enough, one might say. That seems to make good sense and it seems an answer that would apply in every case of differing culture and belief systems that one encounters in the modern world.
The fatal flaw of moral relativity is its tolerance of all behavior, however. A person who is trying to lead a “good” life will inevitably run into problems with relativism. If you follow the tenants of relativism to its logical conclusion, no way of life is better than any other way of life. One is, in effect, permitted to do anything. When one is permitted to do anything, how does one begin to answer the question “what should I do?” After all, we may be permitted to do anything, but that does not mean we will have the opportunity to try out everything. Many choices we make in life open doors but simultaneously close off many others. If the ultimate goal of life is to be as happy as we can be (which is an ancient idea I tend to agree with – but that’s for another discussion, perhaps), how can we be sure under a relativist understanding of the world that the path we have chosen for ourselves will guarantee us maximal happiness over the long run compared to other choices we could have made?
Additionally, the idea that every behavior is of equal value should ring out as patently false for almost any person. I do not think any sane person would tell you that an adult who chooses to rape and murder one’s way through life is of equal morality to one who chooses to neither rape nor murder. Yet relativism would logically demand that we regard the two as equal. Morals, after all, are just a human construct, and they have no bearing on physical reality, and therefore neither person is “right” or “wrong” in their behavior.
In this sense, relativism seems to be a hedonistic philosophy that could be used to justify whatever placates one’s temporary indulgences. It is the philosophy that undermines feminism, for instance, when feminists shout that women should be able to do whatever they want to do without any sort of personal accountability, simply because it is what the woman wants. (That it is ironically applied in a non-relative and narrow manner is another matter entirely.) The only real justification one needs for one’s actions in a relativist moral world is that the actor wanted to perform the action; that’s it.
Indeed, relativism seems to be a very slippery idea that can seemingly be used to justify any sort of action. Long after I’d rejected feminism and political correctness, I still held on to relativism, not quite aware of its poisonous effects on my thinking. Here is an example from a letter I wrote, justifying in part my decision to enlist (a very complicated and multi-faceted decision, as you might imagine):

[I] no longer [have] an active, seething hatred, but something different. A kind of acknowledgment that humanity is flawed, over-arrogant…The kind of attitude that leads to relativism, the idea that my life is worth no more than any other life is worth no more than any other life. That extends to everything – your viewpoint is no less convincing than my viewpoint than any other viewpoint. There is justification for anything in this world. And right and wrong are moral judgments, and morals are a strictly human construct – there is no physical law that correlates to “good” and “evil” in the universe, or to “right” and “wrong.” “Right” is what an organism must do to survive, and “wrong” are actions that doom that organism to death. And with these kinds of attitudes, I can join the military with no qualms. Send me to Iraq, give me a gun, tell me to shoot whoever, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care.

Relativism also seems to inform mainstream ideas regarding equality. Equality, from a rational and objective analysis, is a patently absurd idea that will always be impossible to achieve. Angry Harry goes to lengths to explain this under the context of male-female relationships here, but really the analysis applies to any measure of “equality.” However, relativism teaches us platitudes like “all men are born equal” or “that’s just your opinion” or any number of other thought-terminating-cliches that sound authoritative and considered. A favorite appeal of the relativist for legislating equality is by mistakenly referring to the phrase “all men are created equal” as appearing in the Constitution when it in fact appears only in the Declaration of Independence, which is not a legal document by any means. (The Constitution never ceases to impress me.) The word “equal” (to include “equally” – “equality” does not appear) appears six times in the text of the Constitution, each time referring to divisions of votes and power of the various agencies of government; never to the abilities or even rights of citizens or non-citizens, nor human beings. The next time it shows up is in the 14th Amendment, where it applies to equal protection under the law. This is a dangerous use of the word, considering again it is logically impossible to have equal enforcement/protection of the law – we can certainly strive for “more fair” or “more nearly equal,” but we will never attain legitimately equal. In any case, it says nothing of humans being equal. The final time it appears is in the 23rd Amendment where it again is rightfully used as a mere mathematical term. Equality only makes sense as a mathematical concept, not a political ideology. A statement like 2 multiplied by 2 is equal to 4 is easily understood and demonstrated. Statements like men are equal to women or all men are equal or all women are equal, aside from being literally false, only ignore useful distinctions, raise questions and create confusion. Fairness is a much more reasonable ideology to advocate, so long as it is understood that perfect fairness is the ideal we strive for even if we may never attain it.
Of course, relativism isn’t actually adhered to, even if its platitudes are often cited. Instead what we have is an engine that creates many doublespeak ideas like “equality” and thought-terminating-cliches like “you’re just saying that because you’re a racist” or “you’re just saying that because you’re a misogynist,” which congeal into ideas like political correctness and feminism, ultimately destroying rational thought and considered debate.
The sobering fact we must own up to is that the world is not fair nor will it ever be. No amount of social engineering is going to change the fact that human attributes, such as physical prowess and intelligence quotient, are distributed unequally. This does not endorse a ‘might makes right’ notion of morality, however, where intelligent people are justified in manipulating less intelligent people merely by virtue of their superior intelligence (or whatever other permutation of “might makes right” you might conceive). What people have forgotten is that morality is the ultimate equalizer. Morality does not depend on any sort of measurable capacity – you are not more or less moral for being more or less intelligent, more or less strong, and so on. Generally, morality is concerned with the responsible use and application of one’s talents and abilities – regardless of how numerous and masterful those aforementioned gifts may be. You cannot legislate morality just as much as you cannot legislate equality, but you can certainly create a society that rewards good morality and punishes bad morality to foster moral growth and encourage, overall, increased moral behavior.
It is impossible to be “more moral” in a relativist system, however. Trying to discourage people from a “might makes right” disposition in a relativist system is hypocritical, even. Logically, you must tolerate all views as morally equal. And this is not conducive to a healthy or vigorous society. Shouldn’t we strive for the best instead of tolerating everything, to include the worst?
Moral relativism is intoxicating because while adhering to it you can never be wrong. It is ludicrous because while adhering to it you can never be right.

I just read this, and it is good.

An Analysis of "Sexual Utopia In Power" Part 1

I’ve been reading, among many other things, Sexual Utopia in Power by F. Roger Devlin, Ph.D. and apparent regular contributor to The Occidental Quarterly. I was not previously familiar with either the author or the publication, but on the basis of this stunningly well-written (and, presumably, researched, with thirteen sources listed for approximately 27 pages of writing) article, I will have to become more intimately familiar with both. The entire article is worth commenting on; I had intended to merely pick “the best” parts but found myself copying entire paragraphs or pages in preparation for this analysis. Let me start by suggesting that perhaps the best course of action is to not read anything I am about to write, and to go read the article yourself.

Still here? Well, perhaps I can convince you to read it by quoting the parts that stuck out to me, with some of my own commentary. Devlin begins quickly and makes an important point about the basics of male-female relationships: that women, ultimately, do the choosing, while men do the competing. Women have a natural advantaged state in this regard. They do not need to “prove” their worth or suitability – the dictates of nature demand that men compete for the mating privilege of women. In the words of Devlin:

Nature has played a trick on men: production of spermatozoa occurs at a rate several orders of magnitude greater than female ovulation (about 12 million per hour vs. 400 per lifetime). This is a natural, not a moral, fact. Among the lower animals also, the male is grossly oversupplied with something for which the female has only a limited demand. This means that the female has far greater control over mating. The universal law of nature is that males display and females choose. Male peacocks spread their tales, females choose. Male rams butt horns, females choose. Among humans, boys try to impress girls—and the girls choose. Nature dictates that in the mating dance, the male must wait to be chosen.

Why does he bring up this point? Because his main aim is to then discuss “sexual utopias,” or the ideal sexual situations that could exist for men and women alike. He discusses the ideal sexual utopia for males and compares it with the ideal sexual utopia for females. He tackles males first, who “are in every respect simpler” when it comes to the matter. A male sexual utopia, Devlin argues, is much what you might imagine it to be: a harem for every man with women constantly coming to him in droves for sexual attention. Marriage, it seems at first, would get in the way of that:

Marriage, after all, seems to restrict sex rather drastically. Certain men figure that if sex were permitted both inside and outside of marriage there would be twice as much of it as formerly. They imagined there existed a large, untapped reservoir of female desire hitherto repressed by monogamy. To release it, they sought, during the early postwar period, to replace the seventh commandment with an endorsement of all sexual activity between “consenting adults.” Every man could have a harem. Sexual behavior in general, and not merely family life, was henceforward to be regarded as a private matter. Traditionalists who disagreed were said to want to “put a policeman in every bedroom.” This was the age of the Kinsey Report and the first appearance of Playboy magazine. Idle male daydreams had become a social movement.

But reform could not have been brought about without the consent of women, Devlin posits, and thus begins his analysis of the ideal sexual utopia for women. As you might imagine, it contrasts quite sharply with sexual utopia for men. He dispels the myth that women are naturally monogamous – something I don’t think needs dispelling if you’ve been paying much attention to the relationships that men and women have even in your own daily life, not to mention what you can read about in news articles and magazines and see on “reality” TV or read about on the internet.
Devlin describes female sexuality as naturally hypergamous (a term I was not previously familiar with), which can be understood with a simple analysis: “They are always satisfied with the best. By definition, only one man can be the best. These different male and female “sexual orientations” are clearly seen among the lower primates, e.g., in a baboon pack. Females compete to mate at the top, males to get to the top.” Thus, in an ideal female sexual utopia, she is able to mate with the hypothetical “perfect” man and is able to get him to commit at the same time (to commit meaning to cease mating with all other females). Just as James Bond appeals to men for being a work of fiction that relates to male sexual utopia, so does the pulp fiction romance novel appeal to women, says Devlin. But just as everyone knows it is impossible fantasy for every man to have his harem, so to is it fantasy to suppose a hypergamous utopia can exist: “The fantasy is strictly utopian, partly because no perfect man exists, but partly also because even if he did, it is logically impossible for him to be the exclusive mate of all the women who desire him.” At best, then, only one female would be able to live in the utopia. In a world of approximately 6 billion people (and approximately 3 billion women), a hypergamous ideal does not seem to be the best way to organize society for the maximum happiness of all.
Devlin draws a further distinction between monogamy and hypergamy:

Hypergamy is not monogamy in the human sense. Although there may be only one “alpha male” at the top of the pack at any given time, which one it is changes over time. In human terms, this means the female is fickle, infatuated with no more than one man at any given time, but not naturally loyal to a husband over the course of a lifetime. In bygone days, it was permitted to point out natural female inconstancy. Consult, for example, Ring Lardner’s humorous story “I Can’t Breathe”—the private journal of an eighteen year old girl who wants to marry a different young man every week. If surveyed on her preferred number of “sex partners,” she would presumably respond one; this does not mean she has any idea who it is.

It is at this point that I suspect a reader with a feminist bent might criticize myself or Devlin for being misogynists by daring to suggest that women are anything but perfect. “Women are not fickle,” they might shout, stamping their feet, “you must either just hate them or you have a small dick!” Maybe they would complain that we’re only saying what we are because we never get laid. Maybe they’d be incensed at the suggestion that there are differences between men and women that are biological as opposed to social. Perhaps only a few years ago, I would’ve had to submit to such shaming tactics and been shouted down; thankfully, I’ve found the resources that enable me to have civil debates with those who would disagree but want to carry on in a rational manner with that disagreement. We can, thankfully, ignore those that would just shout down discourse.
Moving on, then!
Devlin goes on to say that an important part of hypergamy is the rejection of most men. Obviously, not every man can be the best man – hell, not even most men can be the best men – so in a hypergamous utopia, there’d be a whole lot of rejected men. He has some choice words to describe women which, again, would incense most feminists – saying that rather than being naturally modest, they are actually naturally vain, being inclined to believe that they are deserving of only the best suitors – even if this is a logical impossibility. Devlin asserts that the feminist movement was an attempt to realize this female utopia:

The sexual revolution in America was an attempt by women to realize their own utopia, not that of men. Female utopians came forward publicly with plans a few years after Kinsey and Playboy. Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl appeared in 1962, and she took over Cosmopolitan magazine three years later. Notoriously hostile to motherhood, she explicitly encouraged women to use men (including married men) for pleasure.

It is at this point that feminists might critique myself or Devlin for not knowing what feminism is all about, bellowing that it’s all about “equal rights for equal work!” I would suspect such a commentator is not at all familiar with feminism, and suggest he or she get acquainted with what feminist leaders have to say on the matter of male-female relations. And to those who would say that the extreme opinions of the few are irrelevant in the end (even in light of the last essay), I would say: not so!
Moving on, then!
I’ll skip the play-by-play and cut to the chase. There’s a lot I’d love to comment on from Devlin’s work, but hopefully at this point, I’ve convinced you to go read it yourself. I am going to offer up only the parts of the article that resonate most strongly with my own experiences and opinions before posting this.
After an in-depth analysis on the myth of date rape – exposing it for the lack of personal accountability that it is, rather than a rape in any meaningful sense of the word – Devlin goes on to say this:

I sympathize with the young woman, in view of a miseducation which might have been consciously designed to leave her unprepared for the situation she got herself into. But as to the question of whether she was raped, the answer must be a clear no.

I’ve already linked once to the essay I wrote years ago in school that attempted to debunk feminism on several fronts, one of which was the way in which “rape” has been virtually weaponized as a political tool to achieve political ends. Others have begun to notice and take action, trying to raise public awareness about the insidious effect that such deplorable tactics have had on relationships, men and women. Aside from critiquing feminists for exploding the definition of rape to be practically useless (in the words of Catherine MacKinnon: “All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman,” and therefore, one would presume, rape) which has been done elsewhere, Devlin offers up a cogent reason why we should oppose legal reform that seeks to explode the definition of rape:

To anyone who believes that a society of free and responsible persons is preferable to one based on centralized control, the reasoning of the date-rape movement is ominous. The demand that law rather than moral principle and common prudence should protect women in situations such as I have described could only be met by literally “putting a policeman in every bedroom.” However much we may sympathize with the misled young people involved (and I mean the men as well as the women), we must insist that it is no part of our responsibility to create an absolutely safe environment for them, nor to shield them from the consequences of their own behavior, nor to insure that sex will be their path to happiness. Because there are some things of greater importance than the pain they have suffered, and among these are the principle of responsibility upon which the freedom of all of us depends.

The only way to protect against rape, as feminists define it and as they attempt to legislate it, is to enter into a Orwellian world of Big Brother and totalitarianism. How else can we protect against the fluid and changing situations under which women discern whether or not they consented to a sexual act, and to absolutely guarantee that no man continue to “go” after he has been told to “stop” even if the woman worked him up into a frenzy up until the point she decided she wanted to stop? There is no way. This is why we must reject such expanded interpretations and return to a moral code that promotes personal responsibility and accountability. Devlin goes on:

It is a cliché of political philosophy that the less self-restraint citizens are able to exercise, the more they must be constrained from without…Human beings cannot do without some social norms to guide them in their personal relations. Young women cannot be expected to work out a personal system of sexual ethics in the manner of Descartes reconstructing the universe in his own mind. If you cease to prepare them for marriage, they will seek guidance wherever they can fi nd it. In the past thirty years they have found it in feminism, simply because the feminists have outshouted everyone else.

I disagree that it is simply because feminists have outshouted everyone else, and would argue it is because feminists have outmaneuvered everyone else; other than that, however, Devlin makes a fine point. And before someone goes whining about generalizations (as so often seems to be the case in discussions like these), it is implicit that Devlin means ‘most human beings cannot be expected…’ Certainly, there are some who will work out such systems of ethics on their own (I might argue I am one of them, though, only to a certain degree of ‘being on my own’) but they are far and away in the minority. And we are speaking of proper ways of organizing a society, for the maximum benefit/happiness of all.
And maybe that’s the most important point of all, and a good one to end on. Devlin does go on to talk about the benefits of marriage and what can be done to save us from our desperate situation, but the real take-home point I’d like people to consider is this. When we are afforded a system that allows us to do whatever it is that we wish (and feminism certainly seeks to allow women to do whatever it is they may wish), we end up, among other things, misbehaving like a spoiled child that is allowed to follow its impulses whenever it pleases. In the words of Devlin: “In a word, [we] learn to think and behave like spoiled children, expecting everything and willing to give nothing.” Expecting everything and being willing to give nothing is a recipe for disaster when it becomes the social norm.
On an entirely unrelated note, I would still consider myself “single and looking,” by the way. Just not looking to get (ab)used, is all.