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The New Socialist: An Achievement in Illogical Radicalism

Posted by Jerry on March 14, 2012

Knowing leftists and socialists, you can count on them being unable to string a coherent sentence.

So, reading leftist material and theories become akin to watching static noise on television; there’s absolutely no sense in what is actually on the screen, but if you stare long enough, you can imagine some illusory patterns.

That’s how it feels reading leftist articles. As much as I can, I try to practice the virtue of having an open and critical mind by reading divergent and opposing view points to ensure that my beliefs are not faith-based dogma. Hence, despite my annoyance at the lack of coherence and logic, I try to slog through some of these articles to glean some basic patterns and ideas in their thought–to see if I need to address them in any way.

I recently checked out the Canadian magazine called The New Socialist. They are a group of people who want to build a radical militant and democratic movement to abolish capitalism and class society.

Okay. How do they propose to do that?

“Only the mass struggles of workers can abolish capitalism and begin creating socialism. No government, radical elite or party can deliver liberation from above – it must be won by workers and oppressed people themselves, from below.”

The Legacy of Socialism

The legacy of the Left

Let’s think about that for a moment. Note that abolishing capitalism from “below” would actually require that the ones “doing the abolishing” become a force powerful enough to ensure that the banishment endures. Lest, one could have constant fluxes of free people creating capitalism and those opposing it trying to abolish capitalism. In other words, a struggle to abolish capitalism will itself give rise to a clan of “radical elite” party workers or socialist government of the proletariat. This inexorable logic was amply manifested in the socialist experiments of the past century in Bolshevik Russia, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, the Khmer Rouge, and more–with clearly genocidal consequences.

Next, they say:

“To develop both the power to challenge capitalism itself and the understanding that capitalism must be replaced, we need militant and democratic movements fighting to defend past gains and win new ones.”

Again, you can either have a “militant” force to replace capitalism or you have a democratic one. You cannot have both. Because, free peoples under a democratic system may choose to actually continue with a capitalist arrangement of society, wherein every individual has rightful ownership of his or her own property and labor.

However, if you have a militant force, then by definition, you will need to use the militant force to suppress dissent and ensure that the capitalist system is not “democratically” selected back into the order of things–even if the people wanted such a system. So, it has to be one or the other. And it’s clear here what the preference is.

They say:

 “Capitalism and systems of oppression gain much of their power by isolating us from others facing similar issues.”

This is a ludicrous statement right on the face of it. Really? Capitalist economies thrive on isolating people from each other? Let’s see: which economic systems pioneered innovations in global mass communication systems?

Which country invented the Internet, email communication, VoIP, Facebook, Google, Skype, etc.?

Which countries have been most conducive to oppressed minorities like queer and LGBT individuals connect with each other on a global scale and create virtual communities to interact, network, and form support groups?

Was it Communist North Korea? Communist Cuba? Communist China? Communist Laos? Communist Vietnam?

Facts and logic are inconveniences that distract the purist from their ideal socialistic theories.

There’s more:

[The new left] needs to be non-sectarian, in other words to put the interests of workers and oppressed people ahead of the interests of any group or current.

Socialism explained

So, who gets to represent the interests of the workers and oppressed people in an official forum? And wouldn’t these groups of people be classified as “groups” with “interests,” too? So, isn’t this itself already sectarian?

Finally, what gets to be classified as “oppressed people”? Can we classify capitalist business owners as oppressed people in a country that is dominated by socialist rulers and proletariat representatives? In this case, will the capitalist business owners be treated fairly and given their freedom from oppression? Would that mean allowing free capitalist economic activity? Would that mean undermining their own socialist system then?

If you think all this sounds confusing, then you are not alone. Even the founders of the New Socialist Group are confused as to what they really want. One thing they know for sure is that they are against capitalism. That’s it. What they are for is a more difficult question that they’re just not able to figure out.

“The NSG is committed to working with others to help build the next new left. No one knows exactly what form this new left will take. But it’s clear that a new left is needed.”

Well, good luck. Because in the absence of any logic, they’ll need all the luck to carry them through the day.

————-

“Sure, you can muster the most heroic in you to fight lions. But to whip your soul to a sacred white heat to fight lice…!” — Ayn Rand, We The Living

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Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Pressures of being an Intellectual

Posted by Jerry on November 11, 2011

220

Tehelka Magazine

The pressures of being an editorial columnist, journalist, or some kind of published intellectual can put real strain on your abilities to reach rational, honest conclusions. Because, in this information age, we interact within a massive marketplace of ideas–a market that is constantly and rapidly updating itself with newer, better, more provocative, more sensational ideas.

Thus, to really stand out–to win, to be noticed in this marketplace of ideas–especially, if you are in the business of peddling some and your survival depends on being noticed for your ideas, one has to either be a savant genius and genuinely innovative or be at least an imitative provocateur.

Ashis Nandy of the Tehelka is an example of the latter. It appears that he has succumbed to the pressures of grabbing eyeballs in this fiercely competitive marketplace of ideas by resorting to gymnastics–of the mental and provocative kind. His latest piece is particularly demonstrative and revealing.

In an article titled “The Pursuit of Happiness and other Absurd Ideas“, Nandy picks three ideas that he regards as particularly egregious and poisonous to human civilization: (a) pursuit of happiness; (b) progress; (c) secularism.

Now, if your hoping to encounter some definitions of these terms, you will be disappointed. Nandy proceeds blithely through these ideas without ever pinning down their exact meanings or how he uses them.

To begin with, Nandy makes this highly debatable–even untrue–statement: “Our value systems, even in India, are increasingly based on reason. Which is why, perhaps, we constantly feel like we are a country sitting on a tinderbox — riots, terrorism, insurgency, discontent.”

First, it is unclear what he means by “reason” in the claim that India’s value systems are increasingly based on reason. Next, given a common sense understanding of “reason”–as the faculty of human consciousness to identify, evaluate, and integrate the facts of reality–his statement is squarely false. If anything, the world–and India included–is marching towards irrationality, mysticism, new age spiritualism, whim-worship and hedonism, and overall irrationality than anything resembling reason. The global economic crises and the European bankruptcies are arguably great demonstrations of what short-term, hedonistic irrationality gets you.

What’s more interesting is that three of the four consequences Nandy cites here of the use of reason, namely, riots, terrorism, and insurgency, are all actually variants of the use of force. Now, any sensible analysis of force will reveal to you that force is the destroyer of reason. Nandy would perhaps retort here that it is precisely our reason that has convinced us of some superior “right” to use force against other people. For instance, some religious groups have somehow reached a “conviction” that their use of force is justified.

But that line of argument is fallacious. Force and reason are opposites. The ability to reason (to think, to evaluate, and to choose) ends immediately when a gun is pointed at you. A gun is a command to action, not a syllogism to persuade. It appeals to your fears not to your reason. Indeed, as it is empirically evident and proven for any honest person to see, it is only when reason, dialog, discussion, persuasion, and argumentation is abandoned that force becomes the means of settling disagreements.

Having disparaged reason, Nandy proceeds to attack the three “poisonous” values of pursuit of happiness, progress, and secularism. This is where the article derails from any semblance of intellectual rigor and enters into the territory of the absurd. Indeed, the absurdities leap out of the screen at you. For example, in explaining the origins of the idea of happiness, the author states that “all societies deny the idea of death”. Really? Which one? He does not say.

What he does say, immediately thereafter, is this: “In successful capitalist societies–bereft of religion, afterlife, rebirth, or any of the philosophies that transcend death–the panic [about death] is profound.”

That should qualify as the most uneducated statement of the year. If any country can be considered as a successful “capitalist” country, it has to be the United States of America more than any other–and this is also perhaps of all advanced economies the only country most rooted in the faith of Christianity, in the Protestant ethic, in the belief in life after death, salvation and damnation, and the transcendence of this material world!

Nandy goes on to make another risible claim: that “Both the disease called unhappiness and the determined search for happiness afflict the more developed societies.” Meanwhile, in the world of his own mind, the under-developed societies of repressive Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Nigeria, Somalia, Burma, etc. are veritable paradises of–what?

“Happiness, like school uniforms, has now become compulsory,” he says. Is he implying that the ideal human condition need not be one of “happiness”? Is Nandy suggesting that a human life lived in unhappiness or banality is just as optionally preferable as a life of happiness? If you answered NO to be charitable to the author, you are wrong. He explicitly states his intention, saying: “We need to be practical and reconcile to live in this imperfect world with our normal unhappiness.”

Yes, my dear readers. He just said that we should learn to live happily with our unhappy lives. Whatever that means.

National Socialist Workers' Party of Denmark

Nazism

If you think Nandy is just innocently unwise, again you would be wrong. Nandy belies a high degree shrewdness and sophistry. As evidence, note that immediately after citing history’s two most murderous, collectivist, tyrannical regimes–Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany–as examples of societies that enforced “utopian” happiness and thereby inflected untold atrocities upon its people, he goes on to allude that the modern conception of (poisonous) happiness is an outgrowth of the philosophy of individualism. The mental gymnastics that is required to at once connect the epitome of collectivistic horror with the philosophy of individual freedom, self-autonomy, and liberty is not possible without some intentional sophistry at play.

To be charitable, the author does introduce a brilliantly benevolent, correct, and pleasant thought into his otherwise vapid article; unfortunately, the thought is not his. “According to philosopher KJ Shah, the strength of a human relationship should be measured not by the absence of quarrels, but by how much quarrelling the relationship can take.”

The implication of this view–correctly–is that happy people are not unmoored by momentary disappointments. That happiness is not an experience of the moment, but an orientation towards life. Sadly, however, the author is unable to see that such an orientation towards life as that of happy people is not possible without reason–without a philosophy that promotes the exercise of the rational faculty. As the philosopher Ayn Rand noted correctly, happiness cannot be achieved by the pursuit of irrational whims and hedonistic pleasures of the moment. A rational man projects the task of happiness across the entire span of his lifetime. Thus, he seeks his happiness not in the mindless fraudulent pleasures of the moment (although he may choose to indulge in legitimate relaxation), but in the experience of a joy that comes without penalty, guilt, shame, or contradiction. Happiness is the state of consciousness that comes with achieving the non-contradictory values of one’s life.

Indeed, from a psychological perspective, happiness is an important signal about the successful state of our lives. It is the emotional barometer of human consciousness, which informs us about our success at living life. Happiness and suffering are parallel indicators about the physical issue of life or death, pain or pleasure.

Moving on to his criticism of “Progress,” Nandy states that progress is the major source of violence globally. He says we should “hang our heads in shame when using” the word Progress. Again, his distortions are unbelievably confounding. In his attack on the concept of progress, he raises yet again the repressive regimes of Soviet Russia, China, as Cambodia as examples to fight his case. However, the connection that he wishes to forge between these regimes and progress is one that is founded on non-essentials, and is therefore simply untenable. The common ideology that underlies these regimes is not simply “progress” as a vague, general goal–but a *specific* approach to achieving their own conception of progress, namely, a collectivized, classless, communist society achieved by force and revolution. This is diametrically opposed to the classical liberal and democratic approach, which also had as its goal “progress” for the human condition. The results are evident and history has offered its verdict.

The author conflates the failures of socialist ideologies with the legitimate and praise-worthy goals of human progress–without, notably, ever defining what he means by progress. Then, he identifies a phantom relationship between secularism and the genocides of socialist regimes, such as that of the Soviet Union, North Korea, and Khmer Rouge. Perhaps, he is blind to the fact that National Socialism (Nazism)–the originator of one of the most hateful periods of human history–was virulently anti-secular, anti-atheistic. It

Nazi German propaganda poster: "Danzig is...

was at the same time socialistic and religious. The Reich, or the German State, cloaked in Christianity, was elevated to divine status with the blessings of Hegel, Heidegger, and Nietzsche. If the modern Catholic Church is seen as a benevolent and benign dictatorship, the Nazi regime was an evil and violent one.

One should also wonder if the perpetrators of the Crusades, Inquisitions, Islamic wars, and other religious wars had access to the kinds of modern weaponry, would the scale of their murders be just as vast?

Ultimately, what drives maniacal men to genocide is not and cannot be a “belief in non-belief” — or atheism. It has always been a belief in some assertion–either that of the Divine God or the Divine State or the Superiority of the Collective.

But Nandy is apparently convinced about something that’s paradoxical (and perhaps because it is so, given his antipathy towards reason): he believes that any desirable society must bypass the idea of progress because progress is essentially “anti-life.”

Now, to take that seriously, one would first have to know what he defines as “progress,” because in the general understanding of the term, progress means the general enhancement of the living condition. To illustrate it simply, if the average human life span in the 18th century was 30 years, today it is 70. And that is progress. Period.

Turning to the “third killer in [the author’s] violent lexicon,” we are confronted with an insidious analysis of “secularism.”

SecularismIn a very disconcerting claim, the author argues that one must not keep religion and politics separate. However, quickly, the reader realizes that the author does not really understand the full implications of what he advocates. At one point, you are even confused about the author’s take on secularism–does he hate it or like it? Because after disparaging it for a while, the author appears to defend secularism when he refers to the “hindutva” movement–claiming that Hindutva is actually secular. Wikipedia describes Hindutva as a Hindu Nationalist movement. So, is he implying that Hindutva is as good as secular or as poisonous as secular?

Indeed, much of this article is a (deliberate or not?) mix of conflated terms, inaccurate and ill-defined usages of words, and flat-out contradictions of ideas.

It appears to me that Nandy gunned for a shock-treatment approach to writing this piece, by employing “toxic” vocabulary to describe values that are–in the right spirit–actually some of the pillars of a civilized society. Perhaps he did this so that he could gain some eyeballs, shock a few people, and win a few uncritical nods at the seeming profundity of it all. To this end, the author achieves the goals. But he does so at the cost of exposing the goals themselves and at the risk of our evaluating such pursuits and such methods of trying to appear “intellectual.”

Posted in Atheism, Culture, General Work/Life, India, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Religion, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Weather Today

Posted by Jerry on January 15, 2008

Metereologist and founder of The Weather Channel, John Coleman, has this to say about global weather:

image[Global warming] is the greatest scam in history. I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming; It is a SCAM. Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data to create an illusion of rapid global warming. Other scientists of the same environmental whacko type jumped into the circle to support and broaden the “research” to further enhance the totally slanted, bogus global warming claims. Their friends in government steered huge research grants their way to keep the movement going. Soon they claimed to be a consensus.

[HT: John Stossel’s article in The Atlasphere.]

Posted in Culture, Environmentalism, Favorite Quotes, On Collectivism, Political Issues, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Morality in the Jungle

Posted by Jerry on September 23, 2007

A moral code is a set of integrated, non-contradictory body of principles that guide man’s actions. This implies the existence of a volitional consciousness to which a moral existence is an objective value (regardless of whether this is recognized or not).

Because there is no such conscious entity as a “group” or “society”, moral codes cannot be premised upon a society or group. In other words, a system of morality is applicable primarily and directly only to individual human beings.

Only individuals have consciousness, and only humans have a volitional and conceptual consciousness; therefore, only individual human beings can act as moral agents. This is why a proper moral system should be concerned with how an individual must act in a given situation–regardless of how many other people he is surrounded with.

However, moral systems like altruism and utlitarianism are flawed at their very foundations because they ignore this simple fact: they are “other-centric” and collectivist at the fundamental level; they disregard the fact that societies or groups are not moral agents; only a single individual human being can be a moral agent. They construct their theories on the premises of “society” or a group of at least two individuals while ignoring the fact that morality is not concerned with how many people exist in any given situation to practice it.

Other-centric moral theories focus upon an individual’s actions in relation to another as the basic framework of a moral situation. A lone individual presumably has no need for a moral system to guide his actions.

It is illogical to confuse the fact that men live and function in society with the false assumption that moral codes have to focus on this social nature of man and be derived from it. A moral code offers a guide to a man’s actions—one man’s actions; each man’s actions.

More fundamental than man’s nature as a social being is his nature as a rational being. A fundamental quality is that which accounts for or explains the greatest number of that entity’s characteristics. Therefore, a moral code should be derived from and be harmonious with this rational nature of man because that is his fundamental nature; the morality of social interactions are secondary and derivative to this.

First, we must answer what is proper and right for a man to do in order to survive on this earth given the nature and identity of his being. The answers to this question also contain the answer to how each man should interact with each other.

Notice that the moral codes of altruism and utilitarianism provide absolutely no moral prescriptions to an individual in the privacy of his own mind, except with regard to his existence among others.

To illustrate, think of a man alone on a deserted island; altruism, utilitarianism, Kantian duty ethics, and so on are useless moral systems to an individual who chooses to live alone or finds himself marooned on an island, because they are divorced from the reality he is faced with. All such moral systems ignore the fact that an individual human being is the most fundamental unit of a moral framework and the only agent of any moral action.

On a deserted island, one must either choose to act to survive for one’s self or choose to do nothing and die. If one chooses to live, he has chosen (implicitly) to be an egoist; this is the first and most basic meta-ethical act of choice, a choice that makes all other ethical acts possible. If you choose to live, you now have to discover the best and most efficient way for you to ensure your survival.

Egoism is the only moral theory that focuses properly on the individual–and how each individual should live his own life. Egoism points out that you should primarily hold yourself as the beneficiary of your actions, because it is in harmony with your meta-ethical choice to live; your own happiness is your highest moral purpose in life; the pursuit of values is predicated upon the standard of what is life-sustaining; and reason is your only most competent tool for evaluating the prudence of your actions.

Alone in the jungle, you must use your reason to ensure your survival and protection from animals and the elements. In fact, it doesn’t–shouldn’t–matter where you live; insofar as you choose to live and act according to the objective requirements of a life qua man, you are acting morally–egoistically–whether alone in a jungle or in the middle of a bustling metropolis.

In other words, egoism is not only a moral system that can be practiced consistently anywhere and without mutual conflict; it is also the only moral system that is useful, sensible, and practicable both in a society full of people as well as on a deserted island by yourself.

The moral is also the practical.

[Of course, living in a society of productive individuals is an immense source of value for an egoist because of all the products, discoveries, inventions, and services that are introduced into his life from the division of labor, i.e., a capitalist society; therefore, an egoist properly finds it in his self-interest to support, encourage, and foster a society of civilized and rational individuals, a society of laissez-faire capitalism.]

Related posts: Moral Evolution; Altruism and Egoism; The Right to Life

Posted in General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 58 Comments »

Moral Evolution

Posted by Jerry on September 20, 2007

My previous post discussed how altruism has come to broadly represent even the most general sense of benevolence toward others. Also, given this understanding of a badly defined and broad conception of altruism, biologists have been recently finding evidence for some kind of biological root to an “altruistic instinct.”

First, altruism is a conceptual principle, and as such, it is impossible for any concepts to have physical-genetic roots in the human body. The most sensible way of me to comprehend any possible genetic roots to the “altruistic instinct” is to consider it as a genetic tendency or rudimentary impulse–certainly not as a genetic predisposition like having the genes for black hair is.

Second, whatever genetic basis of “altruism-type” impulses that may have been discovered (I’m not conceding that they have been, yet), may be the evolutionary vestiges of the survival instinct in pre-modern man. Hunter-gatherers and nomadic men quite possibly evolved with instinctual motivations to live, hunt, and congregate in groups or tribes; early savages (uncivilized men) were faced with innumerable threats from other savage nomads, tribesmen, animals, and the natural elements. It makes sense that grouping (or roaming and living in herds) was a survival strategy for the early man, and over time, this grouping tendency became internalized as an evolutionary impulse for survival.

However, civilization is the process of setting men free from men; it is a progression from a nomadic life lived in the open spaces of a jungle to settlement in private and discrete spaces for individuals. The climb to privacy and the realization of individualism is the progression toward civilization.

Notice that the less civilized a section of society, the more public are their activities and general existence; economic wealth plays a peripheral role perhaps in how civilized a culture is–a rich man can also be highly uncivilized and mutatis mutandis for the poor man.

In this light, the impulse to be in groups or herds is an obsolete concern today. To borrow Ayn Rand’s insight, today we don’t protect ourselves from savages or tribes by ganging up into groups; we draft the Bill of Rights. Man’s nature today has evolved into being a conceptual and rational one. Reason is our most competent tool for survival–not groups, herds, claws, sticks, or clubs. The supremacy of reason and its efficacy in human life has been firmly established by the advancements following the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution.

Therefore, recourse to rudimentary, biological impulses of groupism or other-centrism should be properly evaluated by our faculty of reason to assess its validity and relevance in our present nature and conditions of living. Moreover, remember that what some biologists and altruists are eager to subsume under altruism need not necessarily be altruistic in the proper sense. Therefore, if biologists find that we have genetic impulses to gang up into groups or mobs, we must use our reason to evaluate the relevance and the moral status of these impulses before we choose to act on them.

Since we know that altruism cannot be practiced consistently, we must note that if the principles of reason are consistently applied to the problem of survival, egoism will be the only logical, rational, and moral outcome.

[Related post: Morality in the Jungle; Altruism and Egoism]

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Indian Democratic Lawlessness

Posted by Jerry on August 29, 2007

Last night on Indian national news, I was shocked and physically disturbed to watch the most gruesome video footage of mob and police violence in recent memory: a gang of savages–including two police officers–were most brutally clobbering, stomping, kicking, and beating an emaciated young man as punishment for his crime of trying to steal a necklace. I’m not posting the video here because it is too gruesome to watch; those interested, can follow the link to watch the video. 

According to some reports, the clobbering lasted for close to 30 minutes. In this wholesale celebration of savagery, tribalism, and sub-humanism, there were two enthusiastic police officers willing to take this extent of brutality to a higher level: one of the officers tied a rope around the man’s feet to his motorcycle and dragged him–bare-bodied–along the road for about five meters.

Further similar incidents involving law-enforcement officials (who make a farce out of that term) have occurred in various parts across India.

In November last year (2006), police constables in Mumbai mercilessly beat up a group of blind men. A group of blind protestors had gathered to demand better job opportunities for themselves outside the state secretariat – when the police used brute force to break up their agitation, mercillesly [sic] lathi-charging them and bundling them into police vans. [bold added]

In India, democracy has a new meaning—violence as the voice and medium of expression of a sub-human mob.

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Related posts:

Dangerous Democracy and Fundamental Freedoms
The Contradictions of the Indian Constitution
What Can Indian be Proud of?

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, On Collectivism, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dangerous Democracy and Fundamental Freedoms

Posted by Jerry on August 13, 2007

[I posted a modified version of this post earlier. But it warrants resurrection as we approach the day of India’s independence.] 

Democracy can be a very dangerous thing. Indeed, Aristotle described democracy as a “necessary evil,” but an evil nonetheless. A democratic country can be a threat to its own citizens as well as to other nations. Consider the threat of democratic, nuclear-capable Iran; or that of the democratically elected Hamas government of Palestine; or even that of the largest democracy in the world–-India.

Democracy, translated in practice, means that the majority gets to decide what the rules of the game are. If the majority of Indians are not “comfortable” with legalizing homosexuality, for example, well then the human rights of the homosexual minority can and should be trampled.

As Farah Baria, a writer for the Indian Express, stated in her article on the criminality of homosexuality:

“Replying to a petition filed in the Delhi High Court by Naz Foundation, an advocacy, AIDS control and gay outreach organization, the Government claimed that Indian society was “not ready” for the practice of homosexuality. In fact the 42nd report of the Law Commission opines that society’s disapproval was “strong enough to justify it being treated as a criminal offense, even when adults indulge in it in private.” The penalty? Imprisonment for ten years or even life.” [emphases mine]

At some point in the future, if the majority decides that they do not like eating broccoli, they can simply pass a law criminalizing its growth and consumption. It would be a strong enough justification to treat it as a criminal offense.

Democracy is the political application of Utilitarianism–irrelevant of all its variations–as the greatest good for the greatest number–and they are both equally evil. Morality is contorted into a statistical game of numbers, where the standard of good is the number of people that can be gathered on any one side; thus, exterminating the Jews in a majoritarian Nazi society would have to be a good thing by such a moral code.

What is the better alternative to democracy then?

In my opinion, the democratic institutions in India as they currently exist are instrumentally causing the decline of liberty and the move towards the fascism of a vocal collective. These legal and democratic structures need to either be dissolved entirely or reformed radically. A new legal structure needs to be introduced—one that is based on the recognition and guarantee of fundamental human rights, not on the guarantee of a majoritarian democracy, a thuggish minority, or one that is based on the expediency of the moment.

One effective and immediate way to achieve this would be to introduce a constitutional amendment declaring certain laws based on objective, fundamental principles as off-limits to a democratic vote. For example, laws such as the guaranteeing of the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech and individual expression (including artistic expression or romantic expression between consensual adults), the strict separation of religion and state, and the repeal of institutionalized discrimination based on caste, religion, or race should be taken off the voting table regardless of popular opinion.

We must outrightly reject the current idolization of democracy as the “sacred” voice of the people. We must reject the current, long-winded Constitution that seeks to enumerate every application of law in every concrete situation; instead, we must call for and adopt a parsimonious moral framework based on objective, fundamental principles that are common to all applications of moral laws and human rights. The current judiciary system more often acquiesces to the laws created by the “representatives of the people” rather than examining the legitimacy and constitutionality of those laws.

Fundamental freedoms, rights, moral laws should be off-limits to the voting of legislators or the public. For example, the recent voting in the legislature based on caste, religion, and origin of birth–including on all the issues surrounding the disgustingly institutionalized terms of discrimination such as “muslim quotas,” “backward classes,” “other backward classes,” “scheduled castes,” and so on, should have been declared illegitimate by the courts and in violation of the right of an individual to choose and express his self-identity without having to be oppressed under the accidental identities of his birth. These are not matters to be put to vote–neither in the legislature nor in the general election. These do not fall within the domain of democracy. No man has the right to label another man as a member of a “backward class.” Man is a self-made being; he should have the autonomy, liberty, and right to not associate with his religion, his caste, his race, or his tribe.

In every election cycle across India, political parties campaign on explicitly religious grounds, with campaign promises that are religious-based (like building this or that temple). Such campaigns should be banned outright–without vote or debate–and such political parties should be barred from elections until their manifestos clearly reject all religious references. The principle of separating religion and state should not be a matter of debate or democratic vote. The government has no right nor any freedom to practice its own religion.

Similarly, in the areas of art, media, television, opinions, blogs, etc., the government has no right or duty to interfere. Any interference must be swiftly restrained by the legal system in order to ensure the principle of freedom of speech and expression. Likewise, the acts of consensual adults–homosexual or heterosexual–are not matters for a democratic vote. These are private affairs of the concerned individuals, and their right to self-expression and autonomy should be respected by the government, upheld by the courts, and protected by the law-and-order system.

Democracy can be a very dangerous thing if let loose in the hands of the majority. Without the restraint of fundamental, unchangeable, irreplaceable moral laws guaranteeing the rights of the smallest minority in the world–the right of an individual–a democracy can be a threat to human life.

John Stuart Mill derided the “tyranny of the majority”; indeed, democracy can be dangerously similar to fascism in that there is no one single dictator but an entire mob that collectively dictates the terms of the existence for the entire population.

===============

Related posts:

The Contradictions of the Indian Constitution
What Can Indian be Proud of?
Indian Democratic Lawlessness

Posted in Culture, India, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

The Irony Does Not End

Posted by Jerry on August 1, 2007

This is so funny, really. I have a commentor on my blog insisting that my identification of “class distinctions”  and class identity as a crucial motivating premise and defining element of Socialism/Communism is false and a strawman.

At the same time, The Rational Fool posted on a Socialist/Fabian dinner guest who came over to the Fool’s house and argued the exact opposite of his comrade! Read this:

Fabian: I’ll not be satisfied, not until everyone is conscious of his or her class. Without universal class consciousness, we cannot achieve an egalitarian society. Increasing political awareness through education is the only means to create class consciousness.

Fool: Class consciousness towards what purpose? I suppose, it is the means to make everyone happy?

Fabian: No, material prosperity is irrelevant. Class consciousness is an end in itself. When the masses are made politically aware and conscious of their class and that of the oppressors — through peaceful and democratic means — then only they’ll be truly free!

Read the entire post–it’s really interesting. And read my own post where the commentor insists on contradicting the views of his socialist comrade Fabian.

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Class Distinction

Posted by Jerry on July 31, 2007

The crucial motivating ideology behind Socialism and Communism is the elimination of class conflict; the Communist ideology is fueled by the struggle of the lower class demanding emancipation from the supposed oppression of the higher classes. Indeed, the accusation is that Capitalist societies foster the most brutal class distinctions, whereas Communism promises an egalitarian utopia of just one big happy family.

I find it rather ironic, then, that the lines of class distinctions should be so pronounced in India–a highly socialist country for more than 50 years of its independent existence–than in the United States–a highly capitalist country for all of its independent existence.

Any Indian will agree that the manner in which we interact with our colleagues at work, for example, is vastly different from the manner in which we interact with our maids, manual laborers, store clerks, bus drivers, and just about anyone on the street. Even members belonging to the same group–like say all college students in one class–make highly conscious assessments of each other’s status in social strata and behave discriminatingly. 

Indeed, the irony is only heightened when I consider how the Indian socialist governments throughout our history has officially sanctioned class distinctions in its laws, quota, education, and reservation systems and in the government-owned railways (our trains have First Class and Second Class coaches, for the rich and the poor, respectively).

In contrast, consider the United States–where capitalism breeds men of great wealth and huge income gaps. Yet, in the United States, even the lowly waiter, the bartender, the plumber, the carpenter, the bus driver, or the maid servant are accorded the dignity of their labor and treated with respect and congeniality.

Then, consider the changing economy of India and the advent of capitalist market influences over the past decade or so. Today, when I enter a crowded shopping mall, I do not see a consumerist, materialist symbol of moral decadence; I see crowded shopping malls as the great Indian class equalizer–I see people from across the social strata shopping, eating, and socializing at the same place, seeing each other eye-to-eye as equal trading partners; I see young men and women working at the stores in these malls being accorded with some dignity and respect; I see class distinctions blurring and the dignity of labor taking over.

Then, what credibility does Socialism and Communism have when their most fundamental motive premise of is undercut and contradicted by the reality of their application? It’s a rhetorical question: the answer is obviously clear–Communism has never been an ideology consonant with reality and human nature; indeed, it blatantly admits that human nature has to be forcibly contorted to fit its collectivist/altruist ideology–and therein lies its evil.

Posted in Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | 27 Comments »

It Pays to Remain Poor

Posted by Jerry on June 20, 2007

There is so much that is wrong with the new anti-poverty experimental program in New York being instituted by Mayor Bloomberg; even the one seemingly postive factor that the program will be funded by private money as opposed to tax dollars is actually not redeeming.

By private money, obviously, Bloomberg does not mean to indicate his own bank account but most likely that of large corporations, whose monetary support is actually extorted by soft coercion rather than fair and mutual benefit. [See end of this article for an instance of this soft extortion from corporations.]

The program works as such that selected poor people in New York will now be paid for “good” behavior like visiting the doctor and getting vaccinated; presumably, the monetary incentive is to encourage positive choices that will help the poor escape some kind of “vicious cycle” of poverty and improve their lives.

The theory behind cash rewards is that poor people are trapped in a cycle of repeated setbacks that keep them from climbing out of poverty. A person who doesn’t keep up with his vaccinations and doctor’s visits, for example, may get sick more often and struggle to stay employed.

Bloomberg, a billionaire Republican, said he believes paying people in such circumstances to make good decisions could help break those patterns. The program “gives New Yorkers in poverty a financial incentive to look ahead and make decisions that will improve their prospects for the future,” he said in a statement.

Among the possible rewards in New York’s program are $25 for attending parent-teacher conferences, $25 per month for a child who maintains a 95 percent school attendance record, $400 for graduating high school, $100 for each family member who sees the dentist every six months and $150 a month for adults who work full time.

So, for example, I get paid if I remain on a job that pays! But, what if all this payment coming in makes me reach a level of wealth just above the defined level of poverty, in which case I would lose all the incentives I have been receiving thus far! Hmmm… I think I have a *greater* incentive to continue remaining just below the threshold of poverty–now, that would be comfortable living!

And what about the rest of the folks who make decisions like visiting the doctor regularly, getting vaccinated, scoring good grades in school, staying on the job, etc., on a regular basis simply because this is the rational self-interested thing to do!? Do we get any monetary rewards to continue being rational? Why not?

The incentive to be rational is simply that it makes survival and living so much easier and pleasurable. Visiting the doctor and getting vaccinated just means (among other things) that I can more often avoid being sick and enjoy my health with friends and family. Having good grades in school just means I can get better jobs or better higher education to improve my prospects of earning a higher income. Staying on the job just means I will continue to have some disposable income that will enhance the kind of leisurely activities and vacations I indulge myself in.

Are these not incentives enough? Is the rational self-interested pursuit of happiness in life not a strong enough incentive for the poor (or ANYONE!) to make good decisions? If money–pieces of paper–is the incentive to make good choices, then one must ask–to what end will the money be used? Is money inherently pleasurable or is it a means to further happiness? If money is the means to happiness, then why is the *end*, i.e., the happiness, the achievement of values, not regarded as the proper incentive instead of regarding the *means* as the incentive to that end?

If you believe that the poor are “trapped” in some cycle of poverty beyond their control, then it would seem that never in the history of humanity–over all millenia–did any one poor person ever escape the shackles of poverty on their own accord. It implies that every poor man who climbed out of poverty did so with the help of some hand-out, some charity, some morsel thrown at them. It implies that man is incompetent, inefficacious, and the universe is malevolent and unresponsive to our rational actions–that no matter what actions we take to improve our condition, the universe (reality) is inherently antagonistic to our betterment (This is the “malevolent universe premise” identified by Ayn Rand). It implies that altruism is the only answer to poverty, that man can only hope to survive if someone else is willing to support their survival for them.

There is so much wrong with all of this. I could go on… but I won’t.

On the related note of soft extortion of corporations being asked to support causes and programs not related to their own benefit and at the point of the altruistic gun, see this article of a documentary film that is explicitly against consumerism and shopping.

The film follows the white-suited, big-haired Rev. Billy and his 35-member choir as they hit the road in two biodiesel-fueled buses in December 2005.

They invade shopping malls, megastores and Starbucks coffee shops with a message preached in mock-religious fervor that there is evil — a looming “shopocalypse” — at the heart of U.S. consumer culture.

The movie has received early praise.

But director Rob VanAlkemade said the movie’s message makes it a tough sell to potential distributors.

“Major distributors have backed away because Wal-Mart pushes half of their DVDs,” VanAlkemade said after a sold-out screening of the movie on Sunday at the Silverdocs documentary festival near Washington.

Starbucks — a frequent target of Rev. Billy which got a court order to keep him out of its California stores — pulled out as a sponsor of Silverdocs. The festival is presented by the American Film Institute and the Discovery Channel.

Festival spokeswoman Jody Arlington said Starbucks expressed discomfort with the movie and raised security issues, but it let Silverdocs keep the sponsorship money even as it withdrew its logo. [emphasis mine]

Posted in Ayn Rand, Culture, Economics, General Work/Life, My Theories and Ideas, Objectivism, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Swear to Socialism, or else…

Posted by Jerry on June 15, 2007

S.V. Raju tried to register a new political party in India expressly oppossing Socialism and advocating free market economy. He wrote to the Editor of Mint telling what his experience was like:

I have been trying to register a party that is expressly opposed to socialism and that I have made very little headway. In fact, I tried to register the old Swatantra Party (there was no registration required in the old days) but my application for registration was rejected.

An amendment to the Representation of the People Act made when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister [of India] stipulated that the constitution or the rules and regulations of political parties should contain a provision swearing loyalty to democracy, secularism and socialism. The Election Commission sent me a form for registration which I completed and returned, accepting democracy and secularism but rejecting socialism, as the Swatantra Party was opposed to it in principle. The registration was turned down.

A friend and I filed a writ petition in the Bombay high court in December 1996. The writ was admitted. It has still to come up for hearing. This is the hurdle. Under current law, no party that refuses to accept socialism can get registered as a political party. So much for our democracy! [bold mine]

Posted in Culture, Economics, India, Mumbai, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, Rights and Morality, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Lego Lessons in Collectivism

Posted by Jerry on March 29, 2007

I had read about this story a while ago, but I was reminded of it now by John’s post. Basically, a private school in Seattle is teaching some of its kids that private property, ownership, and capitalism is evil. More specifically, the teachers are trying to get the kids to believe that property rights and individualism are the causes of social evils.

The children in the story ranged between 5 to 9 years old, and were involved in some Lego construction activity–the kids picked their own Lego pieces and constructed a sizeable Legotown, with airports, coffee shops, etc. However, as the teachers observed the children engaged in this building activity, they noticed some patterns of behavior that they found disconcerting.

From the article:

Into their coffee shops and houses, the children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive. As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.

Given this concern, the teachers decided to simply ban legos for some time, because in their opinion, the activity encourgared capitalist tendencies toward inequality in the ownership of the lego pieces. The teachers wanted to shape the children’s understanding of ownership from a “perspective of social justice” before allowing the kids to return to constructing Legotown.

Thus, over a period of several months while legos were banned, the teachers began exploring political and moral issues of fairness, equity, social justice, etc., with the children. At the end of this period, the teachers decided to re-introduced legos and allow the children to rebuild Legotown according to the new principles of social ownership they now learned.

Some of the new instructions were:

“All structures are public structures”

“All structures will be standard sizes.”

“A house is good because it is a community house.”

“We should have equal houses. They should be standard sizes.”

“It’s important to have the same amount of power as other people over your building.”

Now, as the kids rebuilt Legotown according to the new framework they had been taught by their teachers, the children learned some new lessons:

Collectivity is a good thing; personal expression matters; shared power is a valued goal; moderation and equal access to resources are things to strive for, “we should all have equal houses. They should all be standard sizes.”

As teachers, we were excited by these comments. The children gave voice to the value that collectivity is a solid, energizing way to organize a community — and that it requires power-sharing, equal access to resources, and trust in the other participants.

With these agreements — which distilled months of social justice exploration into a few simple tenets of community use of resources — we returned the Legos to their place of honor in the classroom.

Children absorb political, social, and economic worldviews from an early age. Those worldviews show up in their play, which is the terrain that young children use to make meaning about their world and to test and solidify their understandings. We believe that educators have a responsibility to pay close attention to the themes, theories, and values that children use to anchor their play. Then we can interact with those worldviews, using play to instill the values of equality and democracy.

I shudder to imagine a world where all structures are the same standard size, where there is no private ownership and no personal accountability, and where every decision has to be arrived at by a consensus among a bureaucratic group or committee. In fact, I am witness to such a spectable quite regularly in the socialist style of housing quarters and housing societies in Mumbai, for example, the Bank of India housing society, the Air India quarters, etc. These are gated communities of exactly the same kind of structures, all of drab colors, unimaginative architectural design, and corroding bodies that are rarely mended due to the lack of personal accountability and endless bureaucratic processes.

Contrast this image with the spectacular skylines of any American city–bastion of free and private ownership, incredible skyscrapers–each proclaiming its pride and individuality–and breathtaking architectural achievements.

To end this rather disturbing post, I’ll quote John’s distillation of the matter in his simple rhyme:

I see a little Howard Roark,
Banned from building his own New York,
Held back from letting his towers rise –
All must be a standard size!

Posted in General Work/Life, On Collectivism, Political Issues, Rights and Morality | 3 Comments »

In Defense of Superiority

Posted by Jerry on March 12, 2007

In a world where mediocrity is not only permitted but also defended on the grounds that this is the nature of life and reality, wherein the “common man” is the level of existence that all men must aspire to reach, where “warts and all” is considered the distinguishing trait of human existence, a voice that unflinchingly fights for and reveres human heroism, the human practical ideal, is sorely missing.

 

Notice, much of modern jabber is in apologetic terms; almost as if everyone wants to apologize to everyone else for whatever it is that they are, do, or say. And when one does state terms in black and white, unapologetically, and with conviction, they are derided as insensitive, rude, antisocial, naïve, or idealistic.

 

Notice, it is considered praiseworthy by society to defend the weak, the retarded, the disabled, and the poor: in other words, it is considered noble to dedicate your life as a social worker to “human flaws, lacks, failures, miseries, vices, and evils, to the morally, spiritually, intellectually or psychologically inferior–to those who lack value, with the lack of value as the claim and the incentive.”

 

Notice, here, that an act is made a virtue only if it is done in service to vice, an evil, a failure, a flaw, a lack, a zero. It is virtuous to help the retarded, the alcoholic, the drugged-out pothead, or the poor; whereas, society is indifferent to an act of kindness towards what a man actually values. There is indifference towards an act of kindness for a friend, or appreciation for a loved one, or praise for an achievement at work, or generosity toward a deserving man. These acts are not considered virtuous at best, indeed, a vice at worst: for what value is in it to love your friends. Love your enemies more.

 

Thus, the standard of evil is the self and the standard of the good is others. That which is of value to oneself is selfish and therefore must be avoided.

 

If a person were indeed “motivated by a love of values and a desire to relieve human suffering, she would not begin in the slums and with the subnormal: she would look at what our present society does to the talented, the unusual, the mentally superior children, in schools, in colleges, and in their subsequent careers; she would go out to fight for them and to help them, before they perish psychologically in loneliness and bewilderment.”

 

A social worker like Mother Teresa, whose entire adult life was dedicated to the weak, the flawed, the diseased, the disabled–has contributed nothing from a long-term perspective to the preservation of values and human life. Beyond the momentary range of her efforts (for which she heavily depended on wealth-producers), no lasting benefit has been derived for the advancement of humanity.

 

Society does not climb out of the jungle of primitivism and tribalism by the efforts of people like Mother Teresa. Humans do not achieve civilization by dedicating their lives to a valueless ZERO. So long as one advocates charity as a primary act of virtue among men, one promotes parasitism and poverty. Just as a trader needs another person to trade with, a giver needs and sustains someone to take what is given.

 

Human beings stepped out of the cruel existence of the jungle on the shoulders of men of superior intelligence who chose to think. “There is only one great debt that men owe others–and it’s not a material one. The only real benefit we receive from others is the benefit of the accumulated thinking of the men who preceded us, or of our own contemporaries who have superior intelligence. It’s the thinking, the ingenuity of the exceptional men who discovered and showed me better ways of doing things, which I would not have discovered myself.”

 

“The lesser man gives the genius only a material product; the genius gives him a material product–plus the knowledge of a discovery that adds to his, the lesser man’s, effort.”

 

“No man produces any extra material value for another man–except the man of superior intelligence and to the degree of that intelligence. Most men just carry their own weight. Some do not even do that. And some give an inestimable extra benefit–free–to all mankind: the thinkers, the new discoverers.”

 

These are the ones who invented the wheel, discovered fire, learned how to cultivate land, make weapons, build roads, erect homes, construct skyscrapers, travel at the speed of sound, study the universe, and create a unparalleled standard of living for generations past and those to come, here on Earth.

 

Rand’s life and work was to boldly champion and revere such men, and the greatness possible to man. She believed in human perfection, heroism, and the achievement of the practical ideal. Indeed, there should be no doubt that she herself stood as the best evidence of and a testament to the fact that such greatness was possible to man.

 

“In 1934, [Rand] wrote a letter to thank an actor she did not know, whose performance onstage ‘gave me, for a few hours, a spark of what man could be, but isn’t… The word heroic does not quite express what I mean. You see, I am an atheist and I have only one religion: the sublime in human nature. There is nothing to approach the sanctity of the highest type of man possible and there is nothing that gives me the same reverent feeling, the feeling when one’s spirit wants to kneel, bareheaded. Do not call it hero worship, because it is more than that. It is a kind of strange and improbable white heat where admiration becomes religion, and religion becomes philosophy, and philosophy–the whole of one’s life.”

 

*Note: All quoted text has been taken from “Letters of Ayn Rand.”

Posted in Ayn Rand, General Work/Life, Objectivism, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif | 24 Comments »

Self-Identity

Posted by Jerry on February 21, 2007

I have always denounced holding any sense of identity that is merely accidental and not consciously chosen. For this reason, I reject automatic allegiance to nations, cities, ethnic groups, races, families, tribes, or any other accidental aspects of one’s existence.

Patriotism, jingoism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, casteism, and racism are particular identity-characteristics that I revile. If you are patriotic merely because you were accidentally born within a certain geographic location, I pity your mind; and if you are willing to fight and die for this accidental geographic location of your birth, I will have no words to express to you the tragedy of your decision.

In essence, the matter of assuming accidental identities is a matter of accepting unchosen values; indeed, the concept of an unchosen value is itself a contradiction because if it has not been chosen by the individual himself, then by what and whose standard can it be legitimately regarded as a value? Thus, it is utterly meaningless to claim love and allegiance for nation or family simply by virtue of the fact that you were born into them, without regard to their philosophic virtue and character. It undermines those objects of your choice that are indeed of value to you.**

Those who heckle you on the streets and condemn you for your lack of allegiance to a nation are demanding that you shut off your mind, ignore the volitional faculty of your consciousness, and embrace whatever they offer as your own value. And the moral code that powers their ammunition is the moral code of altruism. Their moral code condemns you for holding your own life and selfish interest as the standard of your values and offers in exchange the value of a nation full of undifferentiated billions, whom you are supposed to love merely because of the accidental matter that “we are all Indians, therefore, brothers and comrades!”

The same hecklers are also thrusting their morality of altruism and self-sacrifice down your throats when they condemn you for choosing a self-made family of friends in exchange for the one you were accidentally born into. They argue for some mystical, supernatural view of blood relations that is supposed to usurp every rational choice you make with regard to the people you associate with. And the only argument they offer you in self-righteous justification is that “you owe it to them; they are your family!”

The mindless, jingoistic zealots who have instituted the habit of singing the Indian national anthem before the screening of every movie in theaters–and making it underhandedly compulsory through coercion by the mob–are banking on people to be as mindless as they are; they hope that through some mystical means of osmosis or through the repeated chants of the anthem, the audience will gradually turn into zealous patriots.

As Rand said, where there is no reason, there is force. These Indian jingoists know that they are incapable of erecting a rationally persuasive argument for their moral code (altruism), their political philosophy (socialism), their social philosophy (collectivism), their personal philosophy (irrationalism and mysticism), and their Indian nation that is formed from and embodies all of these constituent philosophies (the democratuc rule of the mob). Hence, since they cannot appeal to man’s reason, they resort to force to demand that you value their moral code and their nation. And a docile mind that decides to march to the frontier of his nation in defense of this philosophy purely because he felt compelled to it by his fellow compatriots is as immoral as the philosophy he defends: since he has already surrendered his mind to the mob and has replaced their slogans for his syllogisms, he may has well complete the sacrifice with his own life and body.

Objects regarded as values accepted from others or by virtue of existential accidents are no values at all, regardless of whether or not they turn out to be good for you. You cannot substitute the autonomy of your own rational mind in choosing values with the randomness and arbitrary nature of accidents or with the mind of someone else—you are not living their lives with their minds and there is no such thing as a collective consciousness.

The values you hold invariably leads you to gravitate toward others who hold similar values. The crucial matter here is ascertaining whether your values are ones that you chose willingly or are ones that you accepted unquestioningly from others–are these values the result of rational decisions or due to nothing more than accidental facts? The only way to answer this question for yourself is by using your own mind.

**Note: For the same reasons, I reject the notion and the widespread practice of citizenship based on location of birth; I argue that citizenship must be chosen freely by an adult–or by a child’s parents for the child–[regardless of where the individual or the family is located at that time] and should be granted by the society on ideological grounds.

And in corollary, I argue that citizenship can revoked by a society or surrendered by the individual on ideological grounds. If I had to draw an analogy, I would refer to the Catholic rite of Confirmation, wherein a young adult–typically, of 18 years of age–consciously and of his own free will chooses to be a Catholic, accepts Catholicism as his religion, and chooses to belong to the Universal Catholic Church, regardless of where he is located in the world. However, as a child, this decision to be Catholic, is made by the child’s parent until he is of age.

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Personal, Philosophy, Political Issues, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Culture of Unaccountability

Posted by Jerry on February 19, 2007

When the individual self is suppressed, all concepts hierarchically dependent on the concept of “self” is fundamentally undermined until their meanings become completely invalid. For example, when there is no individual “self,” the concept of private property (and ownership responsibilities that come along with property) do not exist. Everything from property to romantic love to familial relationships and national culture is undermined–until it totally disappears–with the loss of the sense of self.

A selfless man seeks to gain no property, and thus, exists as a parasite on someone else’s property. If a nation’s character is to be selfless (the antithesis of capitalist societies), then you have the nation as the collective owner of all property, which means, everyone collectively owns everything; or, in other words, no one truly owns anything. As a result, no one feels responsible for owning anything because the next person is an equal owner. With this attitude in the psyche of a nation, we get a billion people like in India who care less about the streets and roads they use–because it is everyone’s property (or, precisely, no one’s property)–and litter, spit, urinate, trash, hawk, and do whatever else strikes their fancy in public spaces.

The very same psychological attitude of selflessness allows them to shrug off responsibility and place the burden on someone else: the government needs to clean the streets because the government owns the roads. The government needs to monitor our television viewing habits because we are not (or cannot be) responsible for what we watch. The government needs to police our morality because we are not responsible for what we do.

Undermining the individual self and glorifying the “other” makes an individual incompetent at handling the world he is faced with. Thus, he always looks out at others–or the government–to remedy his situation or provide guidance in practically all matters. Moreover, in what appears to be a paradox, he then complains that the government is not doing enough or that the government is doing too much and is interfering in his private matters.

However, the concept of “privacy” is also hierarchically dependent on the concept of individual “self”; hence, an appeal to privacy or private matters is moot when the underlying premise of one’s ideologies, beliefs, or national culture is one of selflessness, collectivism, and the supremacy of the “other.”

In Ayn Rand’s words, I find the corroboration to my own thoughts above. Of course, Rand presents the matter most persuasively and in vivid language that gets right to the root of the matter—a culture of unaccountability made possible by the men of perceptual mentalities: “a desperate creature that struggles frantically against his own nature, longing for the effortless ‘safety’ of an animal’s consciousness, which he cannot recapture, and rebelling against a human [conceptual] consciousness, which he is afraid to achieve.”

The abdication of the self is a salient characteristic of all perceptual mentalities, tribalist or lone-wolfish. All of them dread self-reliance; all of them dread the responsibilities which only a self (i.e., a conceptual consciousness) can perform, and they seek escape from the two activities which an actually selfish man would defend with his life: judgment and choice. They fear reason (which is exercised volitionally) and trust their emotions (which are automatic)–they prefer relatives (an accident of birth) to friends (a matter of choice)–they prefer the tribe (the given) to outsiders (the new)–they prefer commandments (the memorized) to principles (the understood)–they welcome every theory of determinism, every notion that permits them to cry: “I couldn’t help it!”

It is obvious why the morality of altruism is a tribal phenomenon. Prehistorical men were physically unable to survive without clinging to a tribe for leadership and protection against other tribes. The cause of altruism’s perpetuation into civilized eras is not physical, but psycho-epistemological: the men of self-arrested, perceptual mentality are unable to survive without tribal leadership and “protection” against reality.

Posted in General Work/Life, India, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Personal, Philosophy, Political Issues | Leave a Comment »

An Argumentative Indian? Am I, really?!

Posted by Jerry on July 1, 2006

Well, now that I’m in India… I thought, oh hum… let’s get aquainted somewhat with this Indian culture and the scholarly commentaries on it. I mean, heck, I am afterall, biologically of Indian ancestry. Moreover, I have almost entirely assimilated into the Indian masses: like them, even I now leap on and off trains and buses on my way to work; like them, I push and shove and jostle to find flat ground to rest my feet while hanging off the side of a train or a bus; like many of them surely have at some point, I too, sprained my ankle after I jumped off a slow-moving train inorder to avoid the tsunami of Indians clamoring to climb onto it (my ankle is still swollen, btw); and finally, like many of them, after a long day’s work, I stop by the road-side open-air food stall and indulge myself in one of those tasty, finger-licking, Indian “chaats.”

Basically, I am now an Indian! 🙂 

So, in order to learn more about the intellectual side of this culture, I decided to go into one of the many swanky new shopping malls in Mumbai and buy “The Argumentative Indian” by Amartya Sen.

It is a collection of essays written by this Nobel prize winning economist of Indian origins. Thus far, the book has proved to be an interesting, easy, almost “light” reading (I say “light” because I’m comparing it to the dense scholarly articles I have to read everyday at my job, and in that sense, Sen’s book is certainly a treat).

I have already found some basic disagreements with his approach, interpretation, and analysis of the Indian culture and identity. Sen is quite famous–aside for his achievements in economics–for his argument against the isolation of an ascribable human Identity. Sen argues:

to speak of a person as “a Muslim” to the exclusion of other facets of his personality–leads to the “miniaturization of human beings.” And this, he avers, is Not Good. It is also Not Accurate. And Unhelpful. And Divisive. And Dangerous. [OpinionJournal, April 21, 2006]

His thesis is similar to what I have also believed and argued on many occassions regarding the issue of identities (here “identities” is used to denote the various labels one ascribes to oneself, such as, American, Christian, Athlete, Homosexual, etc.).

Sen further states:

“The same person can be, without any contradiction, an American citizen, of Caribbean origin, with African ancestry, a Christian, a liberal, a woman, a vegetarian, a long-distance runner, a historian, a schoolteacher, a novelist, a feminist, a heterosexual, a believer in gay and lesbian rights, a theater lover, an environmental activist, a tennis fan, a jazz musician, and someone who is deeply committed to the view that there are intelligent beings in outer space with whom it is extremely urgent to talk (preferably in English).” [OJ]

The difference in his and my theses is that while he wants to remind us that humans generally have more than one interacting and complex layers of self-identity and that any one should not be isolated or reified, I argue for a complete shedding off of those layers that, in my opinion, conceals one’s true and only identity: that we are fundamentally individual, thinking, human beings.

I argue for a total and complete renunciation of unnecessary and accidental identities above and beyond that which characterizes one’s own essential self, such as American, Muslim, Heterosexual, Hanoverian, etc. I agree and understand that for many, such identities afford them the solace and comfort of larger groups of other people who hold similar identities. For example, a gay man internalizing his sexual orientation as the crux of his identity finds comfort in discovering other gay men in a predominantly gay neighborhood, doing mostly gay-friendly activities, etc. Nonetheless, one can–and I argue that one should–in due time wean one’s self away from such labels that do not actually describe the proper essence of who and what we are.

I am not advocating that one practice complete anti-social and isolationist behavior. I am fully in favor of choosing to associate with people with similar interests and ideas (eg., Objectivists). What I argue against is that we must not accept labels or associations and reify them as our core, essential psychological identity. Thus, I am an Objectivist in the sense that I subscribe fully to this philosophy. Yet, I am primarily and essentially an individual, thinking, human being before I am an Objectivist. Thus, my identity is consistent with my nature–with who I am–and that takes primacy over what I believe or what my interests are. 

In fact, some of the more pernicious examples of internalizing these non-essential identities to destructive extremes are fanatic nationalism (like the Nazis, North Korean Commies, Hamas, etc.), religious fundamentalists (like the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Ayatollahs), and racism. Identifying to notions above and beyond one’s own self (such as to one’s nation, race or religion) creates a fertile breeding ground for Collectivist mentality and behavior. When one’s self-identity is not properly anchored in one’s own self but in some thing other that one’s self, then individualism is surely sacrificed.

Posted in India, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy | 2 Comments »

Dissecting the Indian Male

Posted by Jerry on May 29, 2006

[Refer to this post for a more formal treatment of this issue: Disecting the Gay Indian Male.] 

So, at work, I sit beside this handsome, Indian boy; he’s tall, has broad shoulders, a sharp face, and wears rectangular, thick-framed glasses. As I said, he’s quite handsome.

Anyway, the point of my writing this post, however, is not to explore the details of his attractiveness, but to consider his non-verbal interactions with me in light of the larger attitude of masculinity and collectivist mentality in India.

This handsome bloke (yes, we speak British here) has this habit of nonchalantly placing his hand on my thighs while talking to me; or holding my hands in his and looking directly into my eyes when he’s asking me for some help or advice (typically, in matters of editing and studying).

Needless to say, being that I have the “hots” for men, or in other words, being that I fancy young blokes, his non-verbal style of communicating with me is only slightly uncomfortable – oh, but I’m NOT complaining! Just merely stating the fact that it’s a wee bit uncomfortable – especially the hands-on-my-thighs part.

And no, he is not gay – that is a fact. I’m certain of it. In all other matters, he displays the kind of typical straight boy goofiness that young, straight American males tend to display – a kind of hollow excitement of being perpetually at the cusp of puberty, only just becoming aware of their raging testosterone, and consequently going berserk!

His physical frankness with me is not unusual as a manner of behavior among Indian men. One could argue quite persuasively that India is an androgynous – if not an outright feminine – culture; its men are very well-adjusted to displays of sensitivity, emotional depth, and homosocial intimacy (I wonder if Bollywood has a big role in shaping the Indian male psyche as such).

It is not rare to see men walking around the city-streets hand-in-hand, or arms over their shoulders, or displaying other signs of very intimate affection towards each other. This one time at the train station, I saw a group of young men caressing each other’s hair, one of them combing the other’s lengthy locks with what seemed like so much love in his eyes, while the other men in the group carried on a lively and animated conversation among each other.

Well, all of this means, it gets awfully hard for *actual* gay men like to me to figure out who’s in who’s “camp” – if you know what I mean. It’s incredibly risky to assume someone’s gay, or someone has the “hots” for you just by their non-verbal behavior and displays of intimacy.

I suppose this could possibly lead to a further psychological burial of a gay man’s homosexual expression because of the ambiguous nature of homosocial behavior he observers among the men around him. Moreover, this ambiguity probably leads Indian gay men to try and seek satisfaction and fulfillment of their psychological desires to be intimate with another man in such homosocial relationships (i.e., in safe homosocial intimacies with straight men) thereby repressing a full-blown expression of their proper sexuality with other gay men.

All of that (and other socio-psychological causes) then probably leads some Indian gay men to delude themselves into thinking that they are in fact bi-sexual, or maybe even straight! And not as a matter of fact, but as an act of conditioned force upon their own minds – undoubtedly, with terrible consequences for themselves and for those they come in close contact with.

The collectivistic influence:

The collectivist expression in all of this is the apparent lack of any notion of individual space and personal privacy. It is deemed rude and disrespectful for one to insist on privacy among friends, colleagues, co-workers, relatives, or family members. In fact, insisting on privacy on any matter is also looked upon with suspicion.

For example, if I insisted on closing the door to my bedroom, certainly it must be because I have something to hide! What is it that I do that cannot be shared by others?

In fact, at work, I am routinely subjected to all kinds of questions about my personal and professional life that I find quite intrusive and unnecessary for them to know about. One of my co-workers insisted on finding out my middle name and my official signature – and I barely know the guy!
Yet, insisting on privacy or declining to answer such questions casts you in a suspicious light; you are considered as possibly dishonest, or at least obnoxiously conceited.

It is also regarded as offensive to maintain personal space between yourself and another person. Why would you want to maintain such a distance (a distance that Indians would find inordinately greater than necessary)? Is it because the person has foul odor? Do you not like being next to the person? Maintaining personal distance also could be construed as your unwillingness to be friendly with the person.

Thus, everybody wants to be in everyone else’s business and everyone else’s personal space. That is the culture. It is a clear expression of its collectivist influence. The psychological mentality of collectivism and the physical reality of a highly over-populated country exacerbate the rampant disregard for and stifling of individualistic notions.

This collectivistic influence probably plays a fueling factor in the kind of social, non-verbal behavior Indians exhibit among themselves. Even when they are being hospitable towards each other, the manner of their hospitality borders on force, coercion, and then even suspicion. It’s too much to get into right now.

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, Homosexuality, India, Love and Romance, Mumbai, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Personal, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | 20 Comments »

Let’s Kill Them All (And They Say Atheists Cannot Have Morals!)

Posted by Jerry on May 26, 2006

Following the example of the Muslim savages and the Christian idiots, the Hindu crackheads are now getting on the bandwagon of banning all free speech, killing all heretics, or in other words, protecting their religious sentiments with loyal diligence.

Here’s the latest (via Philosophy Now, Issue 55):

Let’s All Join In

A Hindu group in India is offering a reward to anyone who beheads the artist M.F. Hussain, who produces edgy reinterpretations of Hindu deities. “Those who are endangering our religion and nation should be eliminated for everyone’s good,” said Ashok Pandey, president of the Hindu Personal Law Board. “Anyone who kills Hussain… the Danish cartoonist, and those in the German company printing pictures of Ram and Krishna on tissue paper…will be given (the reward) in cash… Peace will not prevail on Earth unless such people are eliminated.” Pandey commented that Hussain was as guilty of degrading Hindu deities as the Danish cartoonists were of defiling the Prophet Muhammad. A senior advocate at the Lucknow High Court said that the comments were “just an attempt to gain cheap publicity.””

What I had discussed in previous posts regarding the unholy alliance of collectivism and religion in such regions of the world like India, the middle-east, and some countries in Africa is further corroborated by the recent incidents mentioned above.

Notice this: Japan, China, Korea and other East Asian countries are terribly collectivist societies, but where there is no ideology providing an explicit and systematic code of ethics – either political (eg. communism) or religious (Christianity), there is seldom such instances of mass violence and violations of human rights.

In other words, Japan is a collectivist society (to its core), but it lacks the cohesion of moral beliefs provided by a systematic code of ethics. Japanese people are not religious – many practice Buddhism, but in its various, lose forms. The Japanese have a variety of superstitious beliefs, but no universal system of religious or ideological moral system today. And very seldom, if ever, do we hear of human rights violations or religiously incited violence occuring in Japan, (I’m not including the pre-World War II Japan, which was very strongly monarchical/dictatorial. A dictatorial monarchy fills in the role of a Diety, its royal dictats serving as a code of ethics or value-system that creates the requisite mental cohesion among its peoples).

Now, contrast the collectivism of Japan that is unaligned with any cohesive ethical system with the collectivism of China and its communism, or of North Korea and its communism, or of Nepal and its dictatorial monarchy, or of Pakistan and its Islamic dictatorship, or of Indonesia and its Islamic predominance, or of India and its Hindutva majority (80% Indians are Hindus).

Posted in My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism | 5 Comments »

Further Evidence of Collectivism and Religion

Posted by Jerry on February 22, 2006

This news report provides further evidence for, and therefore corroborating my argument that religious doctrine by itself is not a sufficient motivator for mass violence and mob riots that happens to take on a particularly religious tone. There needs to be a reciprocal synergy between a prevailing culture’s collectivist mind-set and their religious beliefs. The former without the latter has absolutely no moral grounds to stand on (not even a mystical moral ground), whereas the latter without the former is impotent to incite large scale violence that can sustain any significant period of time.

According to this AP news report, the bloody violence in Nigeria is between Christians and Muslims, and their religious tensions have been dire since 2000. Apparently, the Christians were retaliating against the Muslims after some Churches had been razed and some Christians had been initially attacked.

The report says:

“Residents said soldiers had opened fire on a mob of ethnic Igbo Christians that tried to enter the military barracks after reports ethnic Hausa Muslims sheltering in the barracks had attacked a nearby primary school, killing a number of children.
The claims could not be verified and it was not clear if the soldiers killed anyone in the mob.
The deaths brought to at least 96 the number of people killed in Nigeria since sectarian violence first erupted Saturday in the northern city of Maiduguri, where Muslim protests against cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad turned violent, razing 30 churches and claiming the lives of 18 people, mostly Christians.”

Mob violence – regardless of what religious garb it disguises under – is mostly fueled by a collectivist mind-set. Religion importantly plays a role in legitimizing the patently evil acts of a collectivist mob by giving them self-redeeming philosophical and psychological ammunition such as: martyrdom, heavenly reward, after-life, sin, evil, moral, God’s command, army of God, etc.

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Posted in My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, The Best of Leitmotif | Leave a Comment »

Marriage of Collectivism and Religion

Posted by Jerry on February 16, 2006

Collectivism is an ideology that trumps the supremacy of a group over an individual. It is the lack of a strong or coherent identify of the individual self. Many philosophers believe that it is impossible to know, let alone define, what the “self” really is. They argue that identity is only derivable from the Other-than-Self. Sartre, among others, held this belief as the crux of his philosophy and his formulation of the Being-for-Itself. In fact, according to Sartre, a person would be acting on bad faith and would be insincere in making any claims of “I am” because not only is one’s consciousness always changing and never static but also there isn’t any concept of self-consciousness that is unamendable to objectification by the Other.

Sartre’s entire metaphysics places individuals in a state of constant conflict against each other. According to Christine Daigle who discusses Sartre’s key concepts in Philosophy Now, Issue 53, “Sartre made such a good case for this conflictual relationship [that] he had made it impossible for him to elaborate a workable ethics…. Sartre is struggling to establish an ethics that rests on reciprocity and authenticity.”

My own view is that a metaphysic that does not recognize the identity of the individual is a metaphysic of Collectivism. And any such metaphysic that is based on collectivism simply does not allow or permit any coherent and consistent ethical or moral theory to be formulated which can be applicable universally without individual conflict. Hence, every attempt to extrapolate an ethics from such a metaphysic will inevitably run into problems and dangerous inconsistencies.

Collectivism, by definition, has to mean the supremacy of the ethic of a group over the individual — the repression of a minority voice or opinion, the lack of self-determinate autonomy. Any mob mentality has to smother individual mentality. Human beings do not think alike, behave the same way, and have similar tastes or opinions. Thus, the concept of majoritarianism (the basis of democracy), mob mentality (collectivism), sacrifice of the one for the many or the other (utilitarianism and altruism), necessarily has interpersonal conflict inseparably built-in to the ethical system. A universally applicable ethics of no conflict cannot ever arise from such a system unless it is accompanied by force or divine dogma, which itself presumes a conflict and is therefore a contradiction. (This hopeless of view of universal ethics has been so deeply and unquestioningly accepted by society that now people believe it is impossible to live in a society where there can be no conflict among free and rational human beings.)

People can gather in groups and be affiliated with collective bodies based upon their chosen or accepted values. However, the attempt to spread those values upon an entire population by force or doctrine without accepting or recognizing the right of the other to choose their values is the essence of ideologies based on collectivism – at their very fundamental root, they begin by the violation of the rights of the individual; thus, they cannot possibly sustain any ethical principle that can be universally applied to all individuals.

This is where religion comes into play. Religion and cultural collectivism share an insidious synergy. An alliance of religion and collectivism necessarily leads to gross, widespread, and unspeakable violations of human rights in all cases. As I said earlier, collectivism is an ideology that simply cannot justify any ethics that could even fake a veneer of benevolent morality. Religion, however, comes in and easily paints a layer of supernaturally justified morality on the ethics of a collectivist ideology.

Violence and the violation of human rights comes most easily to those societies that have no concept of individualism; hence, no idea of individual human rights. What religion provides is a unifying and collective vision to rally around; but even more importantly, it provides a moral–and often claimed to be divine–justification for collective action. Thus, religion firmly grounds the locus of morality outside and beyond the rational faculties of an individual and in some irreproachable dogmatic authority of a supernatural Being.

For example, the collectivist tribalism observed among Africans engaged in looting, plundering, rape, and chaos reflect the interplay between their faith and their collectivist culture. Many of these Africans are Christians and many of them are Muslims, both engaged in bitter tribal war and “ethnic” cleansing. They equally revel in their depraved existence in violence; although, for the most part, the Christian Africans concede to their own genocide and thus remain consonant with their religious ethic of self-sacrifice whereas the Islamic Africans remain consonant with their religious ethic of jihad against the “infidels.”

Collectivist mobs in India have incited many protests and riots over religious, political, cultural, and social issues: each mob justifies their enforcement of morality by their respective religious beliefs: Hindu, Islamic, or Christian beliefs (e.g., Shiv Sainiks plundering cybercafes, Islamic Jihad against the “decadence” of the free West, and the Christian demand to violate freedom of speech by banning offensive movies). 

The tendency of collectivist cultures to quickly take up arms and tear the limbs off of other people or destroy someone else’s property reflects not directly a zealous practice of their respective doctrinal beliefs of religion, but their mind-set of non-identity, drowned in a mass of collectivism, that recognizes no individual body, no individual property. Religion only provides the veil of moral justification.

Their claims to religiously motivated actions merely cloaks their tribalism and evil in glossy euphemisms of “moral fiber,” “unity,” “community,” “traditional mores,” “martyrdom,” and “heavenly reward.” Their religion provides them with the psychological and spiritual justification for their violent actions that their collectivist ideology cannot possibly provide. 

In the above examples, regardless of how many voices speak out in dissent of those activities, if collectivism is the mind-set of the majority, all they need is religion to paint a veneer of a high-minded moral principle in order for them to feel justified in not only suppressing the minority dissent, but also in carrying out their dastardly evil acts.

Collectivism is not only just a philosophical ideology; it is an incredible evil in itself.  It is not enough to just study philosophical ideologies as abstract principles; rather one must think of the ramifications in concrete reality if those principles were to be put into practice. By advocating the impossibility of defining the notion of “self” and thereby abdicating the “self,” philosophers like Sartre are committing grave errors in thought, which has often led to grave evils in reality.

Posted in Culture, General Work/Life, India, Islamo-loony, My Theories and Ideas, On Collectivism, Philosophy, Rights and Morality, The Best of Leitmotif, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

 
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